Yesterday, we shared part one of Joel Soisson, who has worked on some of our favorite movies such A Nightmare on Elm Street 2, Phantoms, Pulse, Trick or Treat, The Supernaturals, The Prophecy and so many more.
With the release of his new film, My Best Worst Adventure, available on Amazon, Comcast, FandangoNow, Vudu, Verizon Cable, Overdrive and Vimeo, we got the opportunity to discuss his incredible career.
B&S About Movies: You said, “I’m locked into making low budget movies that are not meant to be permanent. They are not meant to be revisited at in ten years. They are not meant to be paragons of art or social commentary. They are just meant to entertain somebody for 90-minutes and then they go on about their day.”
Are you surprised by the permanence of film?
Joel: Yes, I really am. Because there are two types of films in my world.
There are the ones that are like newspapers in which you put out your best work. And whether the end result is good or bad, it’s old news on the next day. Then there are the ones that every now and then you look at it and realize that now, this is possibly timeless. This might be a little bit of a cult classic. This might even engender some sequels and some more business and some fan appreciation.
Those early movies we discussed — until I got into the Nightmare on Elm Street world — my resume was not one of permanence. I mean, except for you. Thankfully there were people like you that are out there holding the torch for those old days.
B&S: You realize that I love Trick or Treat.
Joel: Okay, now you finally got to one where I actually have some real affection.
I like that film too. It was just a sort of a simple, you know, glam rock story about bullying and not particularly deep. We were hired by Dino De Laurentiis to do a version of A Nightmare on Elm Street with obviously different characters. But he wanted a Freddy Krueger. Rhet Topham dreamt up a new version with a guy named Sammi Curr.
That movie wasn’t a breakout hit but it has the longest legs of practically any movie that I’ve ever worked on. I still have people emailing me and leaving messages about how that movie got them through a real rough patch in their teen years.
B&S: That’s why I’m excited to be able to tell you, I was that Ragman character growing up. So the movie means so much to me because it really feels true to my teenage experiences. You know, without the presence of a rock star returned from hell.
Joel: Actually t was amazingly pervasive and I was kind of that kid too except I was a little bit before heavy metal. My salvation was the Allman Brothers and Eric Clapton-type stuff but it’s the same thing. It’s just like taking refuge in the music. When you feel like you’re tortured and bullied when you go to school…so yeah. I have a real fondness for that film.
B&S: It’s a movie that’s beloved by metal bands, too. What always comes up is that it feels like one of the few movies that understands what it feels like to be saved by music. It isn’t fake where the soundtrack and metal ideas were grafted on. It wasn’t a tie-in just to be commercial. It just feels honest.
Joel: But we did have a great soundtrack with Fastaway. And we had Gene Simmons, who was a trip. Have you ever interviewed him? He is a very, very big fan of Gene Simmons.
This is a story about Charles Martin Smith, who directed the movie, and Gene.
You know, he was an actor before, he was in American Graffiti and Never Cry Wolf before going into directing. A great guy and a talented director, so here he is flying into Wilmington, NC to make Trick or Treat and he finds himself sitting next to Gene Simmons, who was coming in to play Nuke.
Gene is reading the script and Charlie leaned in and said, “Is that the script for Trick or Treat?”
And Gene answers, “Yeah, this some piece of shit that my agent said yes to before I had the chance to say no.”
Without pause, Charlie says, “Hi, I’m Charlie Martin Smith and I’m the director of that piece of shit.” (laughs)
The same thing happened to me with O.J. Simpson.
B&S: Hambone and Hillie has an amazing cast.
Joel: That was the first film that I wrote, so I was excited to be on set. He walked up and I had no idea who he was outside of the fact that he was a football player and was in those airport commercials, but when I said, “Hello, it’s nice to meet you,” he informed me that his agent had two stacks of films, ones that OJ was taking and ones he wasn’t. And the agent screwed up the stacks and he was stuck making my movie. So that was how I met O.J.
B&S: He should be so lucky. I mean, that cast is really special. You have Candy Clark, Alan Hale Jr. and Lillian Gish!
Joel: Now that I watch her silent films, I think that nobody was better than Lillian Gish. I’ve really developed an appreciation for what the silent movies were and what she did was pretty fantastic and I almost have come to the notion that those damn talkies came along and spoiled a good thing.
B&S: It’s obsessed by who could and couldn’t make the transition from the silents to the talkies.
Joel: I wouldn’t say she equaled her success, but she was in The Night of the Hunter.
So like a lot of us, I’ve gone inward during the pandemic and I just watch too much Turner Classic Movies or Netflix, but it’s all for work.So that has influenced the next two films that I’m writing and one is a loose remake of The Magnificent Seven with Danny Trejo is as the old Brenner part.
The other project that may be closer to my heart is a remake of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and updating and reimagining that story. I bring that up because it reminds me of The Night of the Hunter because it has Bogart being — like Mitchum — pure evil. Usually, when Bogie was playing bad guys, he was the antihero and you’d still root for him. But he’s no hero in that movie at all. And that’s just delicious to get to play with a character like that. You don’t have to do anything redemptive about him. He just isn’t worthy of it.
B&S: You should check out how Battle Beyond the Stars tells the same story as The Magnificent Seven. Robert Vaughn plays the same character in both movies. Now, it’s not great, but I was a Star Wars kid and couldn’t wait for a new sequel.
Joel: Have you ever noticed that there seems to be a before and after Star Wars for so many careers? There’s a whole generation of people that say that that movie is why they are in the business. And of course, the generations that came afterward, I don’t know why they’re in the film business! (laughs)
B&S: As a kid, having Peter Cushing be in the first movie legitimized it.
Joel: I mean, if you were a 70s monster kid watching horror hosts, I can see that. I’m a Cleveland boy and we had Big Chuck and Little John, Ghoulardi…he was the first person I ever saw that could superimpose himself over a movie and make fun of it. I still remember seeing him do Attack of the Crab Monsters with the Professor from Gilligan’s Island. And his son ended up being Paul Thomas Anderson!
B&S: So what was it like taking that experience with that cast into a young and unproven one with My Best Worst Adventure?
Joel: One of the reasons why I’m so proud of that film — and I’ve since become an even bigger silent movie buff — is because our two leads have been made functionally mute so they had to act in the way that actors did in the silent days. It was all about the visuals and the emotions that they conveyed through their looks, attitudes and actions.
B&S: The Prophecy is another big movie. I took a first date to see it and she walked out during the tongue biting scene.
Joel: (laughs) This girl wasn’t the one you married, I hope.
That’s probably my favorite franchise that I’ve ever been involved with. Look at the cast we had — Viggo Mortensen, Amanda Plummer, Elias Koteas, Virginia Madsen and Eric Stoltz before you even get to Christopher Walken. Oh my God, it was just a fun cast!
The idea was that these Hallmark angels in the Old Testament were not nice at all. They were brutal motherfuckers. And they just take you down. And I looked at it as they hated humans and then we have these predatory angels and nothing had been done like this before. Now, TV is starting to do things like Legion but in 1995, nobody was doing this.
The producers didn’t get it. They really liked the story but said, “What if instead of angels, they were zombies?” And we answered, “Well, that’s not the story.”
So we found Robbie Little who said, I’m going to give you too little to make this movie, but I will finance it.” And that worked out, because it had to be this outsider type of film because the mainstream wasn’t buying it. That’s what worked.
When I look back at all the genre things I did, that’s the one that I would remake or make another sequel. Yuy Greg White, who wrote the original script, made something as engrossing as The Bible and it’s just as full of paradoxes as The Bible. So whatever you believe, you don’t have to be Christian, you can interpret so many things out of the Scriptures. And the angels are mysteries that we can’t understand and it’s fascinating to me.
I love that we find this conflict between the angels, with Walken’s Gabriel leaving Heaven and trying to start a new Hell, but Satan comes to Earth and says, “Not on my watch.” And Satan helps humanity! There’s humanity and even some John le Carré espionage.
Don’t forget to check out Joel’s new flm, My Best Worst Adventure, available on Amazon, Comcast, FandangoNow, Vudu, Verizon Cable, Overdrive and Vimeo. We really appreciated the opportunity to speak with him.
Thanks, Mr. Soisson and also special thanks to Rachel Michelle at October Coast for setting up this interview.