If you haven’t heard, there’s a full-length feature of Headless, the movie-within-a-movie from Found (on DVD in September), in the works. From what we see in Found, it’s obvious that we’re in for some sick shit in Headless. We picked screenwriter Nathan Erdel’s brain to find out just how sick. Here’s the result of our email Q&A.
iHorror: I saw where you were talking about August Underground’s Mordum in a video on the Headless Facebook page. Should we expect Headless to be on that level of fucked up? From the descriptions I’ve been seeing, it sounds like anything is possible.
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Nathan Erdel: Mordum has definitely been on my mind these past few weeks, but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that Headless is going to be on the same level of fucked-up as Mordum – but then again, who am I to judge how fucked up the things I’m thinking up for Headless are? I’m not the best judge of my own level of fucked-up. Seriously, though, I’m sort of approaching Headless as The Last House on Dead End Street or The Headless Eyes – if they were to feature an iconic masked slasher instead of the “normal” slasher characters they featured.
iH: Have you been able to draw any specific influence from Todd’s [Rigney – author of Found] book for writing Headless, beyond what was already in the Found movie? I mean, he describes several scenes in great detail. Do you intend to write in any of the specifics from Todd’s story?
NE: I went back to Found, the book, and read through the “Headless” chapter. I definitely took some inspiration from the written word, stuff that was left out of the filmed “Headless” segment in the movie that I felt was visually impactful and fit what we were trying to bring to Headless, the feature. I talked to Todd a few weeks ago, and he seems to be excited that we’re trying to make Headless its own animal; we’re not specifically tied to anything other than the idea that Headless should be like a “lost artifact of the slasher films of the late 70’s.”
iH: In the book, the Headless killer specifically kills only black women, which was obviously already changed in the movie. In the novel, David [one of the characters] specifically makes a point to call Headless racist, which of course goes with that theme in Found itself. The racism theme was present in Scott’s film, but not really played up as much as it was in the novel. Is race going to play any role in Headless whatsoever?
NE: I’m not really interested in bringing race into Headless, and I feel that there’s justification in this by staying true to what Scott set as precedent with the “Headless” segment of Found. I definitely have some feelings about race and the horror genre, but, as a white male, I’m not really sure what more I could bring to the argument; there are more relevant voices in this conversation than mine.
iH: Are there any films that you’re drawing any kind of influence from or paying homage to in the writing of Headless?
NE: As I said before, I’ve been looking specifically at The Last House on Dead End Street and The Headless Eyes to give me the sort of atmosphere from which I’m drawing inspiration. I also took a week or so before I started writing and sort of just re-watched all of the classic slasher films that I could get my hands on; anything to get myself in that mindset.
I will say that while I’m not actively trying to reach the sort of depravity and utter hopelessness as Fred Vogel’s August Underground trilogy, I am hoping to get some of that same dread into Headless. The sort of bleak soullessness of Mordum, or A Serbian Film, or Antichrist is something that I find very cinematically appealing, and to get that from a slasher film would be pretty intense. We’ll also have some psychedelic moments in the film, though, and our inspirations have included The Cell, Inferno, and Coffin Joe’s This Night I Will Possess Your Corpse.
iH: How far along in the writing process are you?
NE: The story is complete. We have all of the major beats set up, with a solid idea of the casting requirements, and we’ve got some great ideas about some of the major set pieces. The script itself is in progress, and we should be working on some of the finer details in the next few weeks. I hope to be finished with the whole thing and working the script toward pre-production in August.
iH: How much input has Arthur, Scott, or anyone else had for the actual story?
NE: Once Arthur, Scott, and Leya Taylor approached me to write Headless, we had an initial meeting where we, along with Shane Beasley, Kara Erdel, and Kirk Chastain, all sat down for an initial groupthink to talk about what we’d want to see in a feature-length Headless. There were some initial parameters, mostly the time period (1978), the inclusion of some psychedelic elements, and the idea that we were going to explore some psychological aspect of the “Headless killer,” but, other than that, I was sort of allowed to take the story in my own direction. Arthur will ultimately have to approve the shooting script, but the ball is sort of in my court to get us there.
iH: From my understanding, you were the go-to guy for writing this project when Todd decided he didn’t want to do it. Did you immediately volunteer yourself or did they just ask you first?
NE: I was extremely lucky to be asked to write Headless, and I think a great deal of the reason I was asked had to do with the script I wrote for my short film, Unwelcome, which is now on the film festival circuit. I contribute, along with Arthur, Leya, Scott, and Kara, to Into-The-Dark.com, which is a horror/scifi/fantasy media blog, and I’m a bit of a horror geek as far as trivia and knowledge regarding horror films, especially slashers. Those reasons, and the fact that we enjoy working with each other, and had been looking for another project to do together, were what, I believe, led me to writing Headless.
iH: I see you’re credited as the back room video shopper in Found. Did you have any other role in the making of that movie?
NE: Sadly, no; I was much too busy researching my pivotal role as the back room video shopper to take on any other responsibilities on Found. Seriously, though, I almost wish I wasn’t in Found at all, because I love the film so much and want that love to come from a non-biased point of view. I mean, really, I’m in the film for seconds; anything good I have to say about Found, which is a lot, has nothing to do with what I brought to it. But, then again, this IS the film that Elvira called “as horror as horror gets,” so I really don’t think I should be minimizing my involvement!
iH: Can you describe your working relationship with Scott, Leya, and Arthur? How long have you known/worked with them?
NE: Working with Scott, Leya, and Arthur is definitely a positive and rewarding experience. We’ve been on the advisory board for the Diabolique International Film Festival (formerly the Dark Carnival Film Festival) together for years now, and Arthur directed Leya and I in the original Grand Guignol play Bloomington After Midnight. Leya shot a music video I directed, as well as my short film Unwelcome, so we’re all very used to working with each other, and sort of have a shorthand with each other. I think we play off each other’s strengths pretty well.
We reviewed Unwelcome (which features Friday the 13th writer Victor Miller) here. We also interviewed Nathan’s wife Kara Erdel, who is a producer on Headless. Stay tuned for that.
Headless has 12 days left on its Kickstarter campaign, and can still use some more support, so if you like what you’re hearing about the film, and are feeling generous, take a look. They’re offering some pretty cool prizes.