For our final interview before the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival and CthulhuCon wraps its tendrils around Los Angeles, we had a chance to talk with Brian Yuzna, who's been behind many of my favorite films including Re-Animator, Dagon, and From Beyond.
A director, writer and producer , Brian Yuzna was born in the Philippines, but grew up in Nicaragua, Puerto Rico and Panama before moving to the United States in the 1980s. Most of Yuzna's film work is in the horror genre, though he has also ventured into science fiction.
Like his friend and fellow filmmaker Stuart Gordon, Yuzna is a big fan of H.P. Lovecraft and has adapted several Lovecraft stories for the screen. With Julio Fernandez, Yuzna started Fantastic Factory, a label under Barcelona film company Filmax. Yuzna's goal for Fantastic Factory is produce "modestly budgeted genre (horror, sci-fi, fantasy) films for the international market (shot in English language) using genre talent from all around the world and to develop local talent."
You can visit Brian Yuzna at http://www.re-animatorfilms.com
You're a legend in the H.P. Lovecraft community. But how did you get started on all of this? What was one of the hardest things for you to learn?
I got started in the movies out of pure dumb ambition - ambition to make a movie even though I had no training whatsoever. And this was in the early '80s, before there were tons of dvd extras and 'making of's' telling us how to do it. I just wanted to make horror movies so I moved out to LA.
I got started with Lovecraft because the guy I put all my chips on to make my first movie was Stuart Gordon, and he had the idea to make a Lovecraft TV show based on Herbert West. He already had a script and within a year of meeting him the script was developed into a feature film and we began shooting.
Once I got Re-Animator done I thought that Dagon would be the sequel. I thought we would use the same actors and make a series of Lovecraft movies. We did make From Beyond pretty quickly, but then it was twenty years before we finally made Dagon. In the meantime I developed a number of other Lovecraft projects, most of which didn't ever get into production, but one that did was Necromomicon. By that time I had read just about every Lovecraft story and was a serious fan.
What's your favorite H.P. Lovecraft story?
That's kind of impossible to say.
Most people say At the Mountains of Madness - and that's a great one. Shadow Over Innsmouth is quite a complete story. I love Cthulhu because of the epic nature of it. But I must say that The Dunwich Horror appeals to me in a big way. The weakness of it is that the final resolution is just a magic spell - a bit of a letdown. Charles Dexter Ward - that's a great story. I guess I like the ones that have a mystery at the core.
What has been an unexpected surprise you've found when making horror films?
How hard it is to make something scary.
At least for me.
Although I love scary movies, somehow when I am making a horror movie I find myself reveling so much in the 'weird' aspects that I often drop the ball on the scares.
What's your advice to emerging film-makers considering taking on the Cthulhu mythos?
Don't think that using dialog and voice over from the original stories that somehow you will be true to the world of Lovecraft. Adapting a written story to a movie is a difficult thing to do - especially if you want to both be true to the source material as well as create a satisfying film.
I think that one of the best adaptations of a Lovecraft story to a movie is the job the screenwriters of Re-Animator did. Read that story carefully and then watch the movie. It is a good example of a successful adaptation.
What's a project you really hope to take on in the next few years?
What's your favorite music to listen to as you create your art?
I like to listen to Italian horror soundtracks from the 1970's.
Be sure to join all of us at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival September 27-29th at the Warner Grand Theater in San Pedro!