HauntedWeen is a low-budget horror movie from the early 90s shot in Kentucky. It follows a fraternity, which needs to raise money to pay its dues, and ultimately decides to put on a Halloween haunted house – the kind of thing found in the fall in towns all across the country. The only problem is that the house they use happens to be the dwelling of a killer who has been hiding out for years, and the whole thing ultimately turns into a real horror show.
I’m not gonna bullshit you. HauntedWeen probably isn’t going to blow your mind as some lost masterpiece that managed to slip under your radar all this time. It’s just silly fun that’s best enjoyed after a few drinks, which tends to be the type of occasion on which I pull it out.
We caught up with director Doug Robertson, who hasn’t directed another film since, but has fond memories of his time working on HauntedWeen. Here’s our conversation.
iHorror: So the 20th anniversary DVD came out a while back. Looking back on the film now, are you still happy with it?
Doug Robertson: I’m very happy with my film. Mostly, because I know that it wasn’t the worst movie ever made. I surrounded myself with a great crew. And I encouraged everyone, especially the cast, to ad lib and offer ideas. I try to keep my ego in check at all times. I am a firm believer that more heads are better than my one. Even though I was the final say, there were a lot of fresh ideas added.
iH: Anything you wish you’d done differently?
DR: I would have put a recognizable “B actor” in my my movie. I simply couldn’t afford it at the time. We did the best we could with Nashville and Atlanta casting plus locals in Bowling Green and the surrounding counties.
iH: Were there any particular films you were drawing inspiration from in making HauntedWeen?
DR: I have loved movies for as long as I can remember. I still go to the theater 2-5 times per month. I’m not a film snob. I like everything. I am partial to comedies and great stories. Nothing inspired me more than my simple desire to make a film. I knew that the best time to make my movie was right after college. So I waited a couple of years and went for it. After writing 5 screenplays in Southern California, I decided HauntedWeen would be the easiest and least expensive movie to shoot. So I saved some money to live for six months, quit my job, and made my film. Even though it was hard financially for a few years after, I have no regrets. I think making my movie gave me the confidence to succeed in other areas or my life.
iH: On the movie’s website, you talk about the support you were able to get from businesses. I couldn’t help but notice an abundance of RC Cola imagery in the movie. Were they a substantial contributor to the project?
DR: My background and passion is marketing. I love selling ideas and products. HauntedWeen was a product. I had many local business’s involved in my film. I was able to run a successful radio promotion with the local Houchens store network. I attracted sponsors in exchange for radio promotion and, in some cases, product placement in my movie. Subway, Dominos, Dixie Cream donuts and RC cola were contributors. I saved about $10,000 in food, pizza, sandwiches, and soda for the 22 days we made the movie. Craft Services was a highlight on my movie. No one went hungry and some gained weight.
iH note: We should probably mention that you can spot the Noid in a behind-the-scenes documentary on the DVD.
iH: Having lived Kentucky for years myself, and having discovered HauntedWeen in a Kentucky video store about fourteen years ago, I’m not aware of how far HauntedWeen has reached geographically. The site says you were able to sell 2,000 copies of the video back when. What was the geographical reach like?
DR: We sold HauntedWeen in the summer of 1991 in Las Vegas at the VSDA (Video Software Dealers Assoc) convention. I paid $1,500 for a booth, made arrangements for some actors to join us and sell directly to video stores. At the time, we sold into 22 states across the country. I think we did close to $22,000 in sales. Even though I was offered three distribution contracts, I decided to go it alone. None of the offered contracts were money up front. So I figured, any sales we made was a good thing. If you sign a contract for a net deal, there will never be any money. If you sign a gross deal, on such a small movie, will likely leave you needing a lawyer to enforce the contract. Small films lose most every time in Hollywood. Now we are in an environment that direct to consumer sales are making small projects worthwhile again.
iH: What has the interest been like since the DVD was released?
DR: I’m impressed with the interest. Half of the sales are international. That only means other countries are buying my movie, making copies, and selling it in their country. That’s referrals. It cost about $7,000 to get my movie to the DVD state. I have recovered those expenses but HauntedWeen isn’t thriving. But it’s finally available in an updated digital format. So plenty of people can see it if they want.
iH: There’s a fantastic title song in the movie. What came first – HauntedWeen the title or HauntedWeen the song?
DR: Ernest Raymer, who was our sound guy, is credited with creating the HauntedWeen theme song. Bently Title made the music video, which is available on the DVD. In the same vein of promoting ideas and creativity, those two guys, along with Mike Reff, who shot the Music Video, made that on their own. I simply allowed them to use the equipment that I rented. What they did was nothing short of impressive. But I think the music video was completed about 2 weeks after shooting the movie.
iH: I see your lead Brien Blakely went on to appear on some major TV shows like The X Files and The Practice. I guess he has you to thank for getting his acting career started?
DR: Brien Blakely won the gene pool lottery. He’s a great looking guy and is smart. I don’t think HauntedWeen gave him a leg up for success. He was destined to get into acting and TV. Currently he is the morning news anchor at the Fox affiliate in Seattle.
iH: I’ll be damned:[youtube id=”AYoN-wsvSpU” align=”center” mode=”normal” autoplay=”no”]
iH: Based on your IMDb listing, it doesn’t looked like you’ve worked in movies since HauntedWeen? Did you just decide after the movie that filmmaking wasn’t for you?
DR: I truly feel like I could have made a living in filmmaking. It takes luck and talent to get to the top making movies and stay there. My goal was to make a movie. I really didn’t think about a career in filmmaking. Once HauntedWeen was on the shelf in video stores, I felt as if I accomplished my goal. I was offered a contract to make 5 porn movies shortly after HauntedWeen. I could have made millions back then in the late 80’s in porn. But I just couldn’t stomach that lifestyle.
iH: Any chance we’ll see you behind the camera again?
DR: My major at WKU was film and TV production. I made a few corporate videos after HauntedWeen. But I found my niche in medical sales. I’ve been doing that since 1992 and it’s a good living. I’ve always been a sales person and a marketing guy. At this point in my life, I am 50 now, I doubt I will ever launch into another feature film. But it was the most fun summer I have ever had in my life. And it was the best learning experience as well.
The challenges of making a film are ridiculous. Just when you think the day will be normal, 5 things happen to derail you offtrack. One thing I Iearned about myself is that I have a film making personality. I can tolerate utter chaos and make sense out of it. I’m very good and making decisions on the fly. If you are a control freak or a precise planner, filmmaking will put you in the hospital. You have to be able to go with the flow, let the film happen, and realize your crew is your best friend. But the circuitous route to getting there will be very interesting.
Now mix yourself a rum and RC, kick back, and give HauntedWeen a spin in your DVD player when you get a chance.