Director And Special Effects Master Joe Castro Talks About His Past And Present Projects In An Interview

April 24, 2019

Written by Kelli Marchman McNeely

Kelli Marchman McNeely - Horror Fuel CEO & Executive Producer Email: [email protected]




Anyone who really knows me is aware that I love special effects, so of course, I was really excited when I found out that SFX master Joe Castro had agreed to speak with me.

Joe is the man behind the effects in horror and sci-fi films like Blood Feast II, Bonehill Road, The Dawnseeker, and The Haunting of La Llorona. But he’s not only any a special effects master, he’s also the director that brought us the Terror Toons franchise, Xenophobia, and many more.


Joe sat down with me to talk about how he fell in love with filmmaking and effects, as well as some of his projects, and his journey.



Horror Fuel: “How did you come to realize that you wanted to work in special effects?”



Joe: “Basically, when I was seven-years-old, I was being babysat by my father who worked on a ranch in Texas. My mother was away for the weekend. I had a real fondness for dinosaurs and he sat down in front of the TV and said, ‘Watch this son, you’re gonna like this.’ He went out to the garden to work and it was Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster. It was like the first movie that I saw by myself. When that movie was over I knew exactly what I wanted to do, I wanted to direct horror movies and do special effects.”





Horror Fuel: “That’s an awesome story. Most people don’t know what they want out of life until they are adults.”



Joe: “That is it. I remember that moment very well.”



Horror Fuel: “Are you still into dinosaurs?”



Joe: “I still am into dinosaurs. Yes, absolutely.”



Horror Fuel: “I am too. I still collect fossils.”



Joe: “Just look at the first job I was going to do, was paleontology. That’s what I wanted to do, dig up dinosaur bones.”



Horror Fuel: “Me too.”



Joe: “You know exactly what I’m talking about. Sometimes my partner and I will watch the Discovery channel and they’ll be digging up bones or some sort of rock thing, and I’m like, “That’s what I would have been doing.”



Horror Fuel: “It would be great though, finding a dinosaur.”



Joe: “Yeah. I remember collecting rocks as a kid, that turned into creativity, seeing rocks and thinking about what they could be. I come from a family of hunters and sportsman. I never really wanted to do that. All my family on my father’s side are all talented. He had four brothers and they were all extremely talented, painting, sculpting, drawing, carving, but they did it with taxidermy and animal bones. It’s really very dark if you think about it. Taxidermy and special effects go hand in hand. I never got into anything like that but I got all my talent from my father’s side.


Joe: “Absolutely. I remember seeing like a deer antler that my uncle had carved half of it into an actual knife. He carved a feather into the other end of the bone. You could kill someone with that thing. That’s where everything transfers over for me to the dark and the monsters, the blood, and the gore.”



Horror Fuel: “That’s awesome. My dad was a hunter. I grew up at a hunting club so I’ve seen a few deer cleaned.”



Joe: “So you know. It even goes a step darker. We had a slaughterhouse on our property. I saw animals literally getting butchered, but very quickly. With the carcasses, if there was any bones or skulls and stuff left over, it would be taken to the back of the property and they would dump the bodies. There would be coyotes, but if they didn’t get them over a year or two the bones would dry out and there would be skulls and stuff to play with as well. I don’t use real animal parts anymore, but that’s where I learned anatomy from.”



Horror Fuel: “Speaking of blood and guts, you actually hold the Guinness Book world record for highest body count in a film. Will you tell our readers more about that?



Joe: “My partner Steven Schroeder and myself hold the Guinness Book world record for the highest body count in a slasher. That’s 155 on-screen kills. Yeah, that was something that we set back in 2011. I’m looking at the certificate right now. It’s hanging over my fireplace.”




Horror Fuel: “How did you fit 155 kills into one movie?”



Joe: “Here’s what I’m going to say about that: there are very specific things that you must accomplish to make that happen. I don’t want to give that secret away until you see it. So I’m encouraging everyone to go out and see this movie. It’s called The Summer of Massacre. It speaks for itself. When it came out, it got a lot of attention. It was THE most illegally downloaded movie for, I believe, two months in a row. It was uploaded to the internet around eight years ago. There was a lot of jealousy behind it. My partner and I kept it secret while we did it because we didn’t want anyone knowing we were doing it. But it’s one of our best accomplishments to this day.”



Horror Fuel: “I can imagine. It’s very impressive that you could kill that many characters and take the record. The movie is brutal.”



Joe: “It is brutal. When you think about it, 155 kills, that’s more than one kill a minute. In some cases, they come even faster.”



Horror Fuel: “When you’ve had a bad day and want a gory movie that’s the kind of movie you need.”



Joe: “It’s definitely for funzies. It’s a fun film.  It brings a lighter side to murder. We tried to wrap it up with a little bit of color, a little bit of fun, but there are plenty of kills in the movie for everybody. At the time we made it I was going through a motion graphics computer school in Burbank, California. I was learning how to do CGI at the same time I was doing it, so I was incorporating my schoolwork into the film. I went as far as I could go with what capability was at that time.”





Horror Fuel: “Do you think you’ll ever try to outdo it?”



Joe: “Oh, yeah. There are already plans (laughter).”



Horror Fuel: “You have a new movie coming out.”



Joe: “I do have a new feature film. It’s called Xenophobia. My partner and I produced it an directed it along with a friend of mine, Thomas Churchill. We all three directed and produced the movie. It’s a whole new adventure, a new style of filmmaking. It’s my first PG13 movie. This is a science fiction, thriller film. There’s no real horror in it. It has all practical special effects, all practical aliens. It’s like Star Wars and the old school Star Trek. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m excited for everyone to see it.”





Horror Fuel: “When does it come out?”



Joe: “Xenophobia comes out in August. It stars a lot of really cool people, like Star Trek: Renegades’ Manu Intiraymi, Kristen Renton from Sons of Anarchy, and of course, Brinke Stevens who is in all my movies. I think she’s been in like 200 movies. Nick Principe who was in all of the Laid to Rest movies and The  Purge: Election Year.

I’m just excited for everyone to see it. It’s a whole new…I’m trying to reinvent myself. I’ve done blood and gore for so long. I want to try and do something completely different. I think it’s going to open to a larger audience, knock on wood. It’s a very cool sci-fi type of feel. We’re bringing back all the nostalgia from the 70s and 80s. ”



Horror Fuel: “Who doesn’t love the 70s and 80s? That was a golden era for horror. And a lot of people love sci-fi, I know I do. I’ll take an 80s horror over a blockbuster any day.”



Joe: Yeah, a lot of the 80s stuff is just now coming out on DVD and Amazon Prime. Stuff we forgot about. We recently watched a movie called The Devonsville Terror. How you heard of it?”



Horror Fuel: “I don’t believe so. But I do have Prime and time on my hands.”



Joe: “It’s actually a really cool film. It’s directed by Ulli Lommel, he’s literally considered the worst horror film director of all time. But it’s such a cool movie. It’s about these three witches that are burned and tortured in the witch trials and three hundred years later their ancestors return to the town to get revenge on the descendants of the people that murdered them. And there are some really cool practical effects. Check it out. I think he’s the same man that directed The Boogeyman in the 80s.”



Horror Fuel: “I definitely will. The worst horror film director ever? I could debate that. Clearly, you have never seen Black Devil Doll From Hell. That director deserves that title. It’s doesn’t get any worse than that. It’s free on YouTube.


We got off track (laughter). We were talking about aliens and sci-fi, you did the effects for Dawnkeeper.”



Joe: “I did. It was an honor and a privilege to work with Justin Price and the entire cast and crew. What a wonderful group of people. It is an independent company that makes these really cool big budget looking independent films away from Hollywood and all over the country. Justin makes me want to bring my A-game.

This movie was shot in Oklahoma. I built the creature suit, the head was built by someone else.  Justin flew me to Oklahoma and I had like three giant suitcases filled with my props and special effects supplies. We shot out in the woods in Oklahoma.”



Horror Fuel: I think the world of Justin. He’s a good guy and he’s very talented.”



Joe: “He is really talented. He’s a real industry professional. I’ve worked with him twice now on set. Both times it was such an amazing experience, very bonding and life-changing experience. One of those that experiences that make life worth living.”





Horror Fuel: “I’m so happy to hear that.

Speaking of filming, what are you working on now?”



Joe: “I have a big budget action film called Nation’s Fire that we’ll start filming this year. There’s another movie that I just started on a huge sequel to a movie that everyone knows, that I’m not allowed to announces at this point. There’s also a movie called The Haunting of La Llorona that I believe comes out this month. I believe it’s this week or next week. I got the greenlight week before last to make a giant creature for a creature feature. I’m finishing up another giant creature for a movie directed by Jason Balsamo called It Wants Blood. It starts the actress from Michael Jackson’s Thriller, the girl that played his girlfriend in the movie. It’s such an honor to be one degree from Michael Jackson.”



Horror Fuel: “Wow, you are a busy man! What can you tell us about The Haunting of La Llorona?



Joe: “I did the character makeup for La Lorona. I also did some practical, floating ghost effects. I did some hearts getting ripped out. The actress, Mari Mijangos, who played La Llorona was such an amazing actress. She totally nailed La Llorona. I’m excited for everyone to see her performance in my makeup. I would cake on this makeup. I wanted her to look like if you cut her open, she would look like the same color on the inside as she was painted on the outside, grey, and dead. That was important to me. I painted her mouth, her teeth, everything, I painted everything the camera could see.”



Horror Fuel: “How long did the transformation take?”



Joe: “I would say under an hour. La Llorona drowned her children, so I would make her look like she rotted in the lake water. I put this one last technique of her entire body this mixture, kind of like slime mixed with a coffee color and I would wrinkle it all over her body so that she looked like she had just risen out of dirty, slimy lake water.”



Horror Fuel: “I have seen a few images of her. She looks great. That slimy coating really pulls it together.”



Joe: “Very cool. Thank you. It was a great experience to work with that cast and crew. That is the second time I made La Llorona. I did the makeup for the original La Llorona movie that I believe came out in 2006. It was called The Wailer. The poster is just the makeup I did on her face.

When I went to work on this production, the director and I were talking about the way she looked and I distinctly remember sending him a picture of the first makeup and he was like, “Yeah! That’s what I want!’ It’s a fun film.”





Joe: “I’ve been talking to Jackie Kong, she made a bunch of movies back in the 80s. She made one of my all-time favorite movies, The Being. We’ve been talking about the possibility of making a movie with her and that’s a total bucket list opportunity. It would be an amazing thing to happen. Being able to meet her, to talk with her, and work with her, that would be amazing. Knock on wood (*knocking) that will happen. The Being is one of the all-time best. You can watch it on Amazon Prime, it looks like they did a full restoration. It’s a great monster film.



Horror Fuel: “You worked on Uncle Sam, which is a classic. How do you feel about him coming to Halloween Horror Nights: Holidayz in Hell?”




Joe: “I didn’t know he was coming to Halloween Horror Nights. That movie was directed by Larry Cohen. I was 23 at the time. I was very saddened by his passing. What a great homage to his career. He was such an amazing, kind man.

This is what I remember about Uncle Sam: I was responsible for painting the mask that Uncle Sam wears out in public. It was a weird, old man kind of mask that was vacuum formed. There was five of them. I painted that mask. And I babysat the young actor on the cast and keep up the burn on the side of his face. I talked to the young actor and touched up the burn makeup, took it off and helped put it on. I would talk about the Stars Wars characters with this kid because he knew all of them. They put me in charge of making sure he was okay.



Horror Fuel: “That mask is iconic now.”





Joe: “Yeah. They were like, ‘Give it to Joe he can paint a cheesy mask.’ That’s happened to me so many times in the past. People have bullied me, beat me down, told me how horrible I was. They always regret it. I recently saw this meme that is the perfect fit for my life. ‘You can’t beat someone who never gives up.'”



Horror Fuel: “And we’re glad you didn’t give up. But I’m sorry that people treated you that way.”



Joe: “Thank you, Kelli. I appreciate that very much. That’s how I keep going. People encouraging me.

It’s funny, I spent my earlier career making unique things, now that I’m turning 50, everyone wants everything simple and mainstream, paint inside the lines, something for everyone. Everyone wants something neat and clean without all that extravagant stuff.”



Horror Fuel: “Everyone does that with their movie these days.”



Joe: “Because it sells. The real fine line is doing something without offending everybody.”



Horror Fuel: “And that’s a challenge these days.”



Joe: “I recently did a movie where a guy gets stabbed in the leg with a knitting needle. It’s probably the only scene with gore in the movie. It’s PG13. The distributor was like, ‘We only need to see that once, or we’ll never get to see it on TV. Whereas in the past it would have been a whole scene.”



Horror Fuel: “Would you ever consider doing a dino film?



Joe: “That’s an amazing question because I was given the opportunity to do a dinosaur movie in 2013. It was going to be called Dinosaur Camp and it was going to be a PG movie with big dinosaurs. I have made a couple of big dinosaurs. But the project fell apart. But I was young and it was probably for the best. But in the future, hell yeah. I’d love to. I’d love to do some of the other time periods. There have been many different time periods with different types of dinosaurs, with different kinds of them running around. ”



Horror Fuel: “I’d love to see more about a mosasaur or that giant dinosaur that alligators are the descendant of.”



Joe. “Exactly. There have been so many.”



Horror Fuel: “I’m a little obsessed with dinosaurs.”



Joe: “Yeah. For me, it started with dragons, then Godzilla, it opened a whole world for me.”



Joe has so many projects coming out, but be sure to keep an eye out for his sci-fi film Xenophobia and look for his creature in It Wants Blood and The Haunting of La Llorona and his future films. To stay up to date on what Joe’s working on follow him on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.



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