David Hess has given us some of horror's nastiest nutbags, in the likes of The Last House On The Left and Hitch-Hike. Here, we ask him about his daily routine, life after death and of course slasher movies...
How would you say your characters in the unofficial 'trilogy'- The Last House On The Left (1972), Hitch-Hike (1978) and House On The Edge Of The Park (1985) differ from each other?
Hess: "They were developmental. I always took something from the last character and poured it into the new character. So they were really an outgrowth, an expansion of the previous character. By the time I was finishing with 'Last House...', and starting 'Hitch-Hike', it was clear to me that I wanted to research, for myself, sociopathic behavior and its effect on society."
Region 2 Anchor Bay DVD of Last House On The Left, you say that you never hurt anyone in your life. Yet on the Region 2 Hitch-Hike DVD extras, you say that you were very violent in your youth. Will the real David Hess please stand up?
Hess: "I've never hurt anyone, physically. In high school I was picked on a lot because I was two years younger than everyone else, so there was a lot of rage there. I became interested in martial arts as a teenager and it was a way to divert my anger. To feel violent, but not to practice violence outwardly, is not a contradiction."
Last House DVD sees you and a couple of other cast members recalling how scared you made Sandra Cassel and Lucy Grantham, during the forest scenes. Seeing as those actresses are conspicuous by their absence on the DVD's special features, do you feel any guilt for possibly disturbing them for life?
Hess: "First off, Lucy was never frightened, and Sandra was always frightened so it didn't matter."
Did you and John Morghen have fun trying to out-psycho each other in
House On The Edge Of The Park? Or was director Ruggero Deodato the biggest maniac?
Hess: "We all three had our share, I have to say. That movie was a blast!"
You directed 1980's To All A Goodnight, which was a nice little slasher movie. How did you like the finished product and why did it prove to be your one-and-only movie as a director to date?
Hess: "I'd like to direct some more. It's hard to do a better film on such a low budget - I'm just happy it has a beginning, a middle, and an end."
How do you feel To All A Goodnight stands up in the 'Santa slasher' sub-genre, as popularised by Black Christmas, Christmas Evil and Silent Night, Deadly Night?
Hess: "I haven't seen those films."
Do you consider the slasher movie's formulaic nature to be its strength or weakness?
Hess: "Both. If the slashing aspect is done well, if perhaps it's more psychological than a bloodfest, then that enhances the film. The weakness are inherent in that there's not that many ways you can slash up somebody, and slashing to begin with is kind of mindless."
I really like Deodato's slash-fest Body Count, but find it hard to explain why - it doesn't strictly hang together, editing and plot-wise...
Hess: "Most Italian horror genre films have a kind of subconscious fun to them due to the Italian nature in general. They have the ability to poke fun at themselves. It's more camp. The plotline and the paradigm that American audiences expect, Italians have a propensity to throw that out the window."
In the '80s, you popped up in the likes of The A-Team (Season Five's Dishpan Man) and Manimal (the first season's episode Illusion). Any stand-out memories from those jobs?
Hess: "Episodic television has no stand out memories for me. You do your job and then you go home. The mini series were more fun because you have the chance to develop relationships with other actors."
Describe a typical day in your life.
David Hess: "I get up and have a go at the breakfast, which is usually coffee and whatever I can grab before the kids do. Then it's on to the PC where I write and answer e-mails, then off to the gym for an 'old man's workout'. Sometimes I'll take a hike up the mountain in our back yard... lucky me! I'll do some work on a new CD, which has yet to become part of my consciousness. I then spend some time answering the intermittent phone calls requesting my services for free. Not all of them do that - and I occasionally do things for fun or just plain giving back. One of the things that I've learned in my 'not so storied career' is that work is play and out of work is work! Stuff like looking for the next paying gig. I read a lot at night and try to follow baseball, having grown up in New York and being a baseball freak. I spend time with my family - we usually try to have dinner together to discuss the day's happenings. I bore the shit out of myself trying to stay in shape. Meditation does help. I get to bed when ever I feel the urge. I may be approaching seniordom, but I haven't lost it just yet... thank you."
What do you believe happens to us when we die?
Hess: "I don't want to think about that just yet. Ask me after I die, I'll let you know."
Which one mark would you like to leave on the world?
Hess: "That I was the person I expected myself to be."
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