An Interview with Rick Sloane, Director of Hobgoblins (part 2 of 2)
Mendo: You’re most known for (obviously) Hobgoblins and the Vice Academy series. When did you first become involved with these projects?
I wrote Hobgoblins before Gremlins, which I know no one ever believes. But there were no cute puppets in the script: the Hobgoblins were always hidden inside a film vault where all you would see were just their red eyes. They still created your wildest fantasies, but there were no cute throw pillow puppets anywhere to be seen.
At one point, it was really unlikely I would have ever made the film. I had skipped over it a year earlier to make The Visitants instead, which is about aliens from outer space who come to Earth on Halloween night and kidnap teenagers from costume parties. It’s one of my favorites of the films I’ve made, but few people have seen it. It’s drenched in a campy 1950s look. I was really trying to mimic the effects in Plan 9 from Outer Space.
The script to Hobgoblins would never have gone into production if it weren’t for Gremlins. There was no distributor interested in making the film, but once Gremlins was a hit, I rushed to rewrite Hobgoblins to have puppets. (Wish I had rushed to find enough money to build decent puppets). I still cringe when I watch Hobgoblins today, but if it had better special effects, then no one would still be talking about the movie twenty years later.
Most filmmakers would be humiliated to have their film get riffed by Mystery Science Theater 3000. I considered it an honor. It’s the equivalent of a celebrity who agrees to appear on Saturday Night Live. You know going in that there are going to be jokes at your expense, but sometimes you need to learn not to take yourself so seriously. It’s become public knowledge that I submitted the film myself to MST3k, which many people laugh about. I’ve never understood what the big deal was; at least I got paid to be humiliated by them.
I learned in the early ‘90s how to make films that lent themselves to being mocked during broadcast when Vice Academy ran on USA Network. I loved watching Elvira when I was a teenager, so I understood that some films are better with jokes later made at your own expense. The fact that Vice Academy lasted for six films total always reminded me to keep going back to the same well until it’s dry, and after that, to keep trying to milk it still further.
Even Hobgoblins became a franchise, with Hobgoblins 2 debuting on DVD June 23, 2009. It was a tricky sequel to make, because I had to recast everyone so they’d be the same age as the original actors from 20 years ago. It was fun and very nostalgic to return to how I started making films, by shooting the sequel with no budget, and intentionally recreating the same cheap special effects.
I wouldn’t say I made the sequel intentionally bad, but it had to look the same, so there is an intentional absence of CGI in the film. Everything was done in camera the way I made the original film in 1987. I think fans will enjoy Hobgoblins 2. It’s very faithful to the first film. I had planned a sequel to Hobgoblins back in 1990, and I even had a script for it. Instead, Vice Academy became the franchise, so there never was a second Hobgoblins, at least not for two decades. The new film is the same story as the sequel I would have made 20 years ago: McCreedy is locked up in a mental hospital for blowing up the film studio, and Kevin and his friends have to break him free to save their lives.
While everyone knows of Hobgoblins because of MST3k, few people know of the popularity of the original film when it was first released. Hobgoblins was my first hit film, it made me a working director, and there was even a bidding war between three distributors who wanted it. Charlie Band at Empire really wanted the film and to get me to sign a ten picture exclusive deal. I was too independent to be locked into an exclusive deal, plus the pay was too low, considering I already knew how much money these titles were bringing in from foreign sales. The film went to TransWorld instead, the same company that released Killer Klowns the same year.
Those interested in seeing where the cast of the original Hobgoblins is today should check out the cast reunion video, available on YouTube:
Mendo: Vice Academy has been accused of being “an excuse for porn actors to get real work”. What’s your take on this?
When you have no budget, you can’t afford a “name” actor, which normally helps sell a movie. Porn stars do have a certain “name actor” quality, though it’s mostly because of notoriety and fan curiosity. I never worked with Traci Lords, though I did approach her about playing the villain in Vice Academy 3. Ginger Lynn appeared in four of my films total. Once you’ve done porn, the two jobs that are the easiest to find are background girl in a heavy metal video, or star in a low-budget exploitation movie.
I had fun casting Ginger Lynn, then letting her keep her clothes on. She was almost a walking joke at times, because she brought her own porno wardrobe to set, so she’s the one who made sure she looked like a whore in every scene. I do give her credit that she had a great sense of comedic timing—she just wasn’t dedicated enough to memorize her dialogue to ever do drama. We haven’t spoken in years (our final film together was Mind, Body & Soul in 1992) but she’s still out there working, so good for her.
Mendo: Any interesting behind the scenes stories from Hobgoblins 2?
Where do I even begin? The funniest one was the first day of filming when one of the new actors asked if the creatures were going to be added in later with CGI. I pickup up one of the puppets and threw it at him, and said this is how they’re added to the film.
I had to change crews partway through filming, because the first one was ridiculously slow and the cinematographer was always arguing with me. When the second crew showed up, the gaffer walked around the room slowly, staring at all the actors in costume, then finally saw one of the puppets. He said, “Oh my God, this is Hobgoblins.”
A good chunk of Part 2 takes place in a mental hospital, where McCreedy has been locked away since he blew up the movie studio. The actual hallway in the film, where nurses and orderlies pass by, was shot at a real operating mental hospital. We had actually planned to eat in their cafeteria for lunch, but after the crew saw that the patients were the ones preparing the food, we decided to get pizza delivered instead.
The same puppets from the first film managed to last for twenty years, and were used in the sequel. Two decades had decayed much of the original latex, so every single day of filming, the arms and legs were constantly being torn off the puppets and being sewn back on. There was actually one crew person whose job it was to keep repairing the damaged puppets.
When Kevin breaks McCreedy free from the mental hospital, they escape across a parking lot, which is the exact same lookout point we used twenty years ago for “Reputation Road”.
I still had the same gold spandex pants Fantazia wore in the first film, and the new actress wore them in the new film. I forgot how dated spandex pants are; no one has worn them since the ‘80s. The actor who played the original Kyle brought in his own pink shorts, so I had to find another matching pair for the sequel. That was the most difficult costume to locate for the film.
Mendo: What about some of your other films, like Good Girls Don’t or Marked for Murder?
It’s funny that the two films I made with real budgets are never mentioned when people talk about me. Marked for Murder was my biggest film. It actually played theatrically overseas. It had name actors: Wings Hauser, Renee Estevez, James Mitchum, and a cameo by Martin Sheen. It looks like a real movie, because I toned done my sense of humor and garish colors to make it look more mainstream. It’s also my only film to gross over one million dollars, though after LionsGate took their share, I’ve yet to see anything after the cash advance I got 20 years ago. Welcome to the movie business.
Good Girls Don’t still remains one of my favorites of the films I’ve done. It had a great cast: Christopher Knight from The Brady Bunch, Renee Estevez again, Julia Parton, and Mary Woronov again. The story was heavily borrowed from Thelma & Louise, but twisted with my sense of humor. It has the most expensive locations of any of my movies. There’s a courthouse scene that only lasts 15 seconds, but we had to light an entire courtroom set to get it.
Good Girls Don’t wasn’t one of my more successful films, which I was always disappointed by. It wasn’t as campy as the Vice Academy films, but I still think it may find an audience when fans take the time to see it.
Well, you can’t get much more in-depth than that. I’d like to thank Rick Sloane for volunteering for this interview, and encourage all of you to buy Hobgoblins 2 on June 23:
And that’s our show! If you’d like to be one of Mendo’s Rather Interesting People from Around the Internet, feel free to contact me, and then go out and do something… rather interesting!