Horror fans have known him as Choptop and Otis Driftwood, and even heard him belt out a tune in Repo: The Genetic Opera, but never have they seen him as an evil, child-eating clown. That’s about to change, however, because the curtain is due to rise on Bill Moseley as Crepitus this October.
When Moseley took his iconic genre status and considerable talents to Cheboygan, Michigan to fulfill the lead role for Ginger Knight Entertainment’s independent horror feature Crepitus, it was a development that immediately shifted the eyes of the horror community to a town of less than 5,000 people roughly 300 miles from Detroit.
Moseley’s name may have offered Crepitus immediate credibility, but the reality is that Moseley simply strengthened a story that had plenty of muscle to begin with.
From Ginger Knight’s press release:
Seventeen-year old Elizabeth and her younger sister Sam are thrust into circumstances more terrifying than life with their abusive, drunken mother when they are forced to move into their deceased Grandfather’s house. Frightened beyond belief, they are forced to learn terrible things about their family history. Never mind the ghosts in the house, there is something far worse that takes an interest in them…a cannibalistic clown named Crepitus.
On Tuesday evening, iHorror chatted with Moseley over the phone to discuss the David and Goliath nature of Crepitus and IT, the redefinition of finger foods, and elements of the script which drew him to the role. Moseley also shared several stories that will leave you both laughing out loud and counting the days until Crepitus’ October 15 release date.
As Moseley hopes genre fans soon discover, Cheboygan kicks ass in the independent horror world, because it’s where Crepitus calls home.
BILL MOSELEY: Not at all. I had no trepidation whatsoever. There’s only one Sid Haig and there’s only one Captain Spaulding, so I didn’t feel like I was poaching on his turf. I think of Choptop from Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 as pretty clowny — kind of an evil clown, kind of a clown cousin — so playing Crepitus actually felt like a good idea.
iH: Speaking of IT, while they’ll be two different films released a month apart, what are your thoughts on Crepitus playing the David to IT’s Goliath this fall?
BM: I think that sounds like a great marketing idea, but I don’t really think there’s much similarity in the two of those projects. I love IT, by the way, I think that’s just such a cool story. I love the idea that there’s a clown down the storm drain, it’s just cool and creepy. I think any comparisons can only benefit Crepitus (laughs), I think it’s great. Good for Crepitus to have another clown movie and kind of turn it into David and Goliath, but they’re two pretty different experiences, I suspect, and I think horror fans are going to appreciate both of them.
iH: The Crepitus filmmakers bumped into you at Motor City Nightmares a couple of years ago and sent a script your way, and it sounds as though the fact that Crepitus spoke in riddles appealed to you. How long did it take you to decide that you wanted in on this project and ultimately, what was the selling point that put you all-in?
BM: I like to work, and my favorite genre is horror, and my favorite medium in horror is probably the low budget, independent feature. It’s just so much fun because you can really stretch your wings, so to speak, but I got this script via my manager and she said “It’s a clown that speaks in rhymes” and I was thinking, “Well I don’t know about that.” But then I thought, I need to at least read the script and see what’s going on, and it was a script by Eddie Renner and his wife Sarah with a little help from director Haynze Whitmore. And really it was very cool, it was very weird, it was a different kind of story. A lot of times I think one of the things that kind of hurts the horror business is that there are a lot of remakes and lot of similar story and plot lines, but I thought this was actually pretty cool, pretty unique, I liked it.
I’m a singer, I’m in a band called Cornbugs, used to be with Buckethead and Spider Mountain, and now most recently with Phil Anselmo, we have a little album out called Bill & Phil, so I write lyrics, I like rhymes and I just thought it was very cool that Crepitus spoke in rhymes. Especially because Crepitus is really a very evil clown (laughs). I mean, when you eat children’s fingers as a snack, that’s not a good sign. The fact that he speaks in rhyme I think makes him even more dangerous because on the surface he’s more clowny, when you speak in rhymes you have kind of a sing-songy, funny attitude, but when you’re eating children’s fingers that means there’s something terribly dark behind those rhymes (laughs). So I liked that part.
iH: Whitmore said that he’d just caught a random viewing of The Devil’s Rejects and thought you’d make “the most demented clown ever,” and the writers Renner noted that your singing with Cornbugs was what convinced them you’d be perfect for Crepitus. That said, while reading the script and in preparation for the part, where did you find the character?
BM: My wife really wanted me to do it, and maybe that’s just because she wanted me to get out of the house, I don’t know. I’m actually from Illinois even though I’ve been living in Los Angeles for the last 30 years, but I’m from the Midwest, so actually going to northern Michigan in the winter, to me, was very appealing. Especially going up there to Cheboygan, that appealed to me, and just the idea of playing a clown. And again, not to compete with Sid or Captain Spaulding, but it just sounded right up my alley. I’ve done a lot of different jobs, and some of them are more like money jobs where you basically do your best, but your main motivation is maybe financial, which is perfectly good. That’s why they invented money, I think, so that we would work for it (laughs). But I just wanted to do it, everything about the project was very exciting to me.
Also, I have children, so the idea of my personal revenge on a bunch of children (laughs), that was a good idea, too. Dad strikes back. The secret motivation. Actually, I love my kids, and they treated me very well for Father’s Day, we went and played miniature golf Sunday night here in Los Angeles, so that was a lot of fun. They did not let me win.
iH: We’d touched on the rhyming of Crepitus, and by all accounts you had a hand in some of that diabolical dialogue, as well. Whitmore noted that you unleashed some improv that left him in need a fresh pair of pants. Was that something you’d devoted some thought to or was it pure improv and came to you in the moment?
BM: It comes to me in the moment. What happens to me, I’m at my best when I’m in the moment, I’m in makeup, the camera’s rolling, it’s a story and you’re in the reality, that’s always been one of my strong suits, I guess. Certainly it came out to the nine’s with Choptop in Chainsaw 2. We didn’t really have that much of a script for the most part (in TCM 2), so we did a lot of improvising. Tobe Hooper was especially encouraging to me because, I guess I improvised well, so I’ve always done that. I’ve always felt like as an actor, you’re kind of an advanced scout of reality. You get sent ahead by the director and the writer and everybody else that’s doing it, and you say “Look, up ahead here I think I can add this or that doesn’t seem to work, but this thing would,” and you add some quips and ad libs and make some stuff up.
I love it, it actually makes me very happy and fires me up when a director is game for that. I’m not one who comes in and re-writes everything, there are actors like that, and they’re frankly insufferable, but what I do like to do is if I see something that enhances what the writer and the director are going for, I certainly offer it up for discussion and if they’re down for it, I’m all for it. Haynze was very good in that department, he was encouraging and liked some of the things I’d come up with, so when I get that fire under me I really like to go for it. Fortunately (laughs) it seems to have worked more than not since I’m still doing movie work 30 years later.
iH: We’d brought up Captain Spaulding earlier, and we know that Whitmore had occasion to tease with with some “Did you do your homework? Did you call Sid?” but you and Haig have a close relationship, so has there been any good-natured competitive back and forth between you now that you’ll both have donned the clown make-up?
BM: Not really, I don’t even know if Sid knows I did that movie. When it comes out, and if Sid ever sees it, he’s certainly welcome to give me the clown critique. It’s funny, his character, even though he is in clown makeup, I don’t really think of Sid’s character as really a classic clown where you do acrobatic moves and come out of little cars with a big red nose that goes honk, honk, honk. (Laughs) I don’t think I’ve ever seen Sid do any of that. I’m not so sure if there’s one of us out-clowning the other.
iH: Eddie Renner informed us that while filming a scene for Crepitus, a young boy was a bit nervous about his performance, but you whispered some words of encouragement into his ear which helped to get the shot. Can you elaborate on that?
BM: Sometimes in low budget features you end up spending your money on equipment, a name actor or two, locations or catering, so sometimes you end up with smaller parts that you tend to just look around the room and say “Hey Jerry, can your kid do that part?” or whatever. So you end up a lot of times working with kids, or for that matter adults who have never acted before. So they don’t really know what’s going on, and because it’s a “small part” you don’t really think about the impact of that until actually the camera starts to roll (laughs). “What’s that guy doin’ over there?” So in this particular scene I’ve got this kid, he’s tied on some kind of Satanic altar, I think I was about to chew his fingers off, something terrible was gonna happen to this kid, and I think the kid, in the story at least, knew he was pretty much up shit’s creek. And he was kind of lying there on the Satanic altar, a little bored, because he’s just a kid and making movies is a very slow process, so he wasn’t really coming across as particularly frightened.
A lot of times what’ll happen is directors and parents will try to upbraid the little kids and say “Look Johnny, act scared or I’m gonna kick your ass!” (Laughs) And that doesn’t ever seem to work. I do remember, and this is a digression, but I was doing a movie over in Poland and there was one scene, like a flashback into some adult actor’s childhood and he’s now a boy and he’s hunting with his father. There’s an animal and the father wants the kid to shoot the animal, the kid sights the animal with his rifle but then doesn’t want to pull the trigger because it’s a poor little deer or something like that, and the father says something to him or the father shames him, something happens so the kid ends up crying. I remember it was second unit, I wasn’t really on the set at the time or the shit would have hit the fan, but there was a little boy and he had the gun and he was supposed to cry, but he just couldn’t cry, he’s just a little kid, he’s not an actor. The director talked to the father and right before they started shooting, either the director or the kid’s father came up to the kid and just slapped him across the face (laughs). It’s like, “Shit man!” And the kid started to cry! Well, shit. “Roll tape! The kid’s crying!” You slapped him in the fuckin’ face, and I’m just thinking, “Shit dude.”
Anyway, back in Cheboygan, the Satanic altar in the rec room of the high school, I think is where we shot it, and this kid isn’t looking scared. So I went up to him and I said, not like I’m going to kill your family if you don’t act scared, I said to him, “Hey kid, can you act scared?” And he goes (sarcastic child’s voice) “Yeah.” I said “Well, if you act scared and do a good job, I’m going to give you twenty bucks when you are finished.” And the kid went “Really?!” And I said “Yep, twenty bucks.” So they rolled and that kid looked fuckin’ scared.
And I did, I pulled that twenty out of my pocket and gave that to the kid when he had finished his job. That’s how you do it, man. Kids want dough. All that shit is expensive, the little Pac-Man and Walkman and whatever they got these days, all that stuff, it costs. You got your iPhone, take your best girl out to the movies, and for kids that’s like $15 a ticket to go see Wonder Woman, I mean shit man, you need some dough.
iH: Of course you’re the headliner for this picture, but paint a picture for our readers who don’t know as much about Eve Mauro, Caitlin Williams and Chalet Brannan. What do your co-stars bring to the table to make Crepitus a special experience?
BM: Well, Eve Mauro is a total babe. It’s kind of funny because she plays such a despicable person. Drunken, abusive mother, she’s always beating her kids up, it’s just horrible. On the printed page, she’s just real scum. (Eve) is a very smart, beautiful woman. I checked her out on Instagram and I was like, “Damn, man” she’s on the cover of sexy magazines, she’s awesome. I didn’t really work with her that much so I didn’t really have a lot of time to spend on set with her, but we wrapped the same day so we ended up missing the same flights and have a long, wonderful day of travel and I had a great time talking to her. I love Eve, I think she’s awesome.
Caitlin was also doing a great job, and I think she was a local hire. Haynze must have auditioned her, I think she’s from Cheboygan and I thought she did a great job. She’s a good actor, she did a good job in her part as Elizabeth, and from what I’ve heard she had a medical problem, but she soldiered through that (Williams is still battling Guillian Barre Syndrome, and you can make a much appreciated donation toward her medical bills here). She’s tough and she was a really good actor.
And, of course, little Chalet is a cutie pie. I think she has an Instagram, too. I guess we all do. She was there with her dad, but she did a good job. She’s 12 (11 when she landed the role), and acting is tough, the hardest part is just not being distracted. When you’ve got 15 people all moving around in the dark, you’ve got to hit your marks, you’ve got to remember your lines, you’ve got to make it real with the other actors, and it’s really tough. Chalet, I love her name by the way, it’s spelled like a Swiss house in the mountains (laughs), but I think she did a great job.
iH: Finally, what makes Crepitus unique? Share your sentiments that will convince readers that it’s not to be missed.
BM: We had a lot of fun making it, so that always helps. I don’t know if there were any spooky things that happened on the set, other than the crazy stuff that I was doing. I intended it with a sense of humor, but sometimes you wake up and someone’s been dug up from the local cemetery and they’re in your hotel room lying in your bed. Not a lot of people think that’s funny, but I do.
I think what’s going to make it unique, first of all it’s the name. When I was a kid at Camp Kooch-i-ching in International Falls, Minnesota, some of the other kids turned me on to something called the National Crepitation Contest, which was a farting contest. It was some. like, radio broadcast, very funny. So when I first saw Crepitus I thought “What is that? Is that about farts?” And as it turns out, I found out that crepitus is the sound of creaking bone. I think it’s when you’re all dried out and your bones are kind of groaning or cracking, making some kind of popping noise — that’s crepitus. That actually was good to know because that informed the way I moved as Crepitus the clown. It was kind of mummified in a sense, of just dried and popping every time I moved arms or legs.
I see that Haynze is not only the director who also helped to write it, but also is going to edit it, so I’m hoping that Haynze Whitmore is really on his game. It’s his first feature and I think everybody is behind him and pulling for him. We’ll see! I hope it’s awesome. I think it has a chance to be a really cool, scary little movie and I’ll certainly be shouting from the rooftop of my social media platforms, @ChoptopMoseley on Instagram and Twitter, I think that’s even my name on Facebook.
We’ll just cross our fingers and hope that Cheboygan really kicks some ass in the independent horror world.