FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION, BEST PICTURE, “HONKY HOLOCAUST”
AN EXCLUSIVE Q&A AND MESSAGE FROM DIRECTOR Paul McAlarney
Available on Troma Movies YouTube
” HONKY HOLOCAUST” directed by Paul McAlarney (above) is set for release on Troma Now in February.
Since its inception 42 years ago Troma’s founders Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz have been championing movies of the future and independent, innovating and disruptive filmmaking. Among the upstanding and Oscar-worthy films selected by the Troma Tream for their 2016 line-up is, “Honky Holocaust”, a film that directore Paul McAlarney says is, “Totally informed and influenced by classic Troma movies like, “Return to Nuke ‘Em High: Volume 1″, “Terror Firmer”, “Tromeo and Juliet” and, “The Toxic Avenger”. With the exclusive release of, “Honky Holocaust” to Troma Now VHX channel slated for February, Troma Entertainment has released an exclusive Q&A with the director published below along with a message from McAlarney available on Troma Movies YouTube Channel, it was announced today by Lloyd Kaufman, prexy of Troma Entertainment and creator of, ” The Toxic Avenger”.
Films from the Troma library have consistently demonstrated the shock, shlock and relish for goofs and the grotesque since their earliest raunchy-sex comedies like, ” Squeezeplay” and ” The First Turn-On”. “The Toxic Avenger”, Troma’s 1984tour-de-force, was way before it’s time in broaching issues of bullying gone awry resulting in the creation of New Jersey’s only superhero, the beloved Toxie, a sensitive mutant on a vigilante rampage. Not to be overlooked is Troma’s thematic interest in exploring and satirizing socio-political injustice, beginning with overt investment in anti-fascism, as seen in, ” Surf Nazis Must Die” and later with comedic spoofs criticizing evil corporate conglomerates and issues of eco-terrorism, as in their recent release, ” Return to Nuke ‘Em High: Volume 1″, along with issues of bullying and the perils of teen-sex.
Recent Troma acquisition, “Honky Holocaust” , directed in 2014 by founder ofUngovernable Films, Paul McAlarney, is a sincerely Tromatic horror-adventure that unapologetically confronts racism from both a modern and historical perspective in an ultra-violent, unsettling twist on racial inequality. In a world in which the genocidal horrors of Charles Manson have come to fruition, a young woman is thrust into a terrible reality where segregation, loathing and interracial brutality are the modern condition. The trailer for, “Honky Holocaust”,which is set for release on Troma Now in February is available on YouTube.
In a personal message from McAlarney available on Troma Movies YouTube channel Paul discusses his artistic development and the impact of Troma Movies on his filmmaking. Also, in the Q&A published below, the director expouses on his intention with ” Honky Holocaust”, the social and political implications of the film and the historical references he is making in terms of storytelling and as a “grindsploitation” filmmaker. “Grindsploitation, the new and up until now, unexplored avante-garde in contemporary cult movies, is enthusiastically ushered in by McAlarney and Troma Entertainment.
Q&A WITH “HONKY HOLOCAUST” DIRECTOR PAUL McALARNEY
Why did you want Troma involved in “Honky Holocaust”? What history did you have with Troma Films as a young artist and filmmaker, did any Troma Films specifically influence “Honky Holocaust”?
Long before the inception of “Honky Holocaust”, we wanted to involve Troma in any and all of our films, but were never sure how to go about doing it. Troma was an enormous influence on myself and the other producers, and some of our cast were chosen simply because of their mutual love for Troma and other exploitation icons. For instance, one of our youngest actors (Casey Tervalon, who played Young Kendra) walked into her audition with a healthy lead ahead of her competitors because her father had announced that he was an enormous Troma fan; that, and his daughter was incredibly talented. However, the film was finished before we saw our chance to include Lloyd, and later Troma, in the actual film. The biggest influence on “Honky Holocaust” that we can attribute in large part to Troma was in the schlock factor. We couldn’t afford squibs, we refused to use CGI for any of our FX, and we were inexperienced in gore FX, but since we had set out to make a Troma-esque film, rife with unabashed violence, sex, gore, and taboos, the schlock came naturally to us, and we sometimes set out to make our FX look as cheesy as possible, such as using a completely unaltered sausage as intestines.
Recognizing the opportunity to include Lloyd in the film, even just in the capacity of a voice actor, and taking advantage of that opportunity, was probably one of the best decisions of my life. And throughout production, we agreed that “Honky Holocaust” would feel most at home in the hands of Troma, and were thrilled when that came to fruition.
I still remember when I saw my first Troma film. I was about fourteen or fifteen and going through a phase where I was totally obsessed with the phenomenon of Neo-Nazism. I couldn’t believe that there were actually groups out there that believed in and lived by the philosophies of Hitler’s National Socialism. It fascinated me, and Neo-Nazis and Neo-Nazi groups seemed like real-life villains, and since I have also always been obsessed with cinema, I would naturally scour the local video store for films about Neo-Nazis to rent. Around this time I came across “Surf Nazis Must Die” and I had no idea what to think when I watched it. I couldn’t tell if I loved it or hated it, it was unlike anything I’d ever seen before, and I didn’t think about it much after returning it. Then a few years later, I saw “Unspeakable” at a friend’s house and was instantly enamored. Then came “Tromeo and Juliet”, then “Toxic Avenger”, and before I knew it, I was making this connection between the films, and to other non-Troma films like “The Warriors” and “The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly”, that there was a major genre that encompassed all these deliciously hedonistic and unapologetic works of art: exploitation film. Before I knew it was a genre of sorts, that spanned dozens of other subgenres, I just knew that I loved them, and then I could connect them by this title. And, at the core of this massive and incredible underground genre were legends like Roger Corman, John Carpenter, Sergio Corbucci, Dario Argento, Jack Hill, Jesus Franco, John Waters, and, of course, Lloyd Kaufman and Troma.
How does Helter Skelter and Charles Manson tie into the “Honky Holocaust” story?
“Honky Holocaust” was conceived in its entirety while I was on the crapper. True story. I was with Nick Norrman one day and we had just wrapped the filming of Nick’s short film “Moonsmilers”. He showed me clips from the film “Goodbye Uncle Tom” , a 1971 mondo film, because he had used one of Riz Ortolani’s score tracks as inspiration for a score track he composed for “Moonsmilers”. Nick suggested we shoot a feature film that summer (2012) and I went to take a shit and while I sat there, I thought about what we would make a feature film about. The ‘kill whitey’ part of “Goodbye Uncle Tom” we had just watched popped into my head and I thought to myself, “Why don’t we make an entire film just like that scene?” I immediately thought of Charles Manson because I wanted the plot to be something that most people could relate to, and I had researched the hell out of Charles Manson’s Helter Skelter predictions before. I have always been amazed at history’s talent for sweeping Charles Manson’s genocidal intentions under the rug and focusing just on the murder of Sharon Tate, so I wanted to exploit that and bring it to the forefront so people could experience Helter Skelter in some way. The character of Charles Manson is integral to the creation of the alternate universe utilized in “Honky Holocaust”, but it is not the same Charles Manson that exists in real life, because our Charles Manson was successful in starting a race war, it just didn’t necessarily turn out how he expected.
Troma has a longstanding history of creating shit-disturbing films, your film deals explicitly with racism, why is this sensitive and controversial topic something you went out on a line for as a filmmaker?
Discrimination in any form has always disgusted me, so I’m always looking for ways to combat discrimination, even if it’s just including subtle references to and satires of it in films. Obviously “Honky Holocaust” is in no way subtle haha. What I noticed, though, is that films like “Crash” (2005), “Driving Miss Daisy”, and “Glory” don’t change a fucking thing. They’re too gentle. They’re too “white”, so to speak. In other words, they’re made to be viewed by a white, non-racist audience, for the most part. They’re easily digestible. That doesn’t mean the films don’t contain good messages or encourage tolerance and discourage racism, but they are just too tame. When I watched “Crash” (2005), I remember being livid that people found it so “eye-opening” and “moving”, because I found it to be fodder for American self-righteousness. I wanted to make a film that pissed off and scared middle-class white America, made them realize that racism is not just a “bad thing”, it is a “dangerous thing”. People are allowed to have racist attitudes, I’ll never be a proponent of the “thought police”, but I’ll always do whatever I can to shatter the defense mechanisms comfortable white Americans have built up to deny that racism exists or that it’s a serious issue. The race relations in America, and all over the world, are disgusting and “Crash” (2005), “Driving Miss Daisy”, and “Glory” aren’t going to change a fucking thing. I don’t subscribe to some delusion that “Honky Holocaust” will save the world and end racism haha, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to make a film that doesn’t polarize people.
Something that has always infuriated me in regard to taboo vs. moral/social/political issues is the double standard that society espouses. Somebody will condemn the use of nudity, profanity, and violence in film and in the same breath call for the military invasion of some far-away country where thousands will be killed, or defend a cop who kills an unarmed black male, or (and this is the worst, in my opinion) be blissfully ignorant of or consciously deny that the hierarchies of class, ethnicity/race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, mental condition, etc., are completely disgusting and in direct contradiction to a “civilized society”. So the question remains: is having mealworms crawl out of a dead woman’s rotting vagina in a film or turning a blind eye to atrocities worldwide that leave countless dead in the name of money and power more harmful to our “moral standing”?
I have always admired Troma’s inclination to showcase some moral, social, or political injustice in all their films, while still managing to offend mainstream audiences via taboo subjects and graphic material. I’ve long believed that almost all the things that society deems “taboo” or “socially unacceptable” are not fundamentally wrong or unacceptable, and in many cases are not wrong or unacceptable at all, I’ve long believed that censorship is one of the greatest offenses society can commit, and I’ve long believed that blind political correctness is probably the greatest enemy of social progress. So Troma’s approach to storytelling has always been attractive to me, the complete disregard for society’s ball and chain of taboos, good taste, and tact, and fighting back is done best by pushing the envelope as far one can, confidently and determinedly.
Can you explain in your opinion of what makes a film “grindhouse” or “exploitation” and specifically how you brought those genres together in “Honky Holocaust”.
Obviously the label “grindhouse” can be a lot more exclusive than “exploitation” because films that are considered “grindhouse” are films that played in grindhouse theaters. But, aside from the pretentious “grindhouse film elitists”, everybody knows that referring to a film as a “grindhouse film” just means nowadays that it is a “low budget exploitation film”. What makes a film “exploitation” though is a lot more simple. An exploitation film, in my opinion, is the most intelligent and honest kind of film out there; the filmmakers understand what material the audience wants and it exploits the hell out of that material. My understanding is that exploitation film arose from the desire to get rich of filmmaking, so filmmakers would spend virtually nothing on a film full of sex and violence with a simple plot because they knew that somebody would go to see it, and if they could get a hundred or so somebodies from the billions of people who went to see movies, they would turn a profit. These films were chock full of, as mentioned earlier, sex and violence, but more importantly they were full of cliche plots, archetypal characters, and simple motifs and themes. The popularity of exploitation films is due to them exploiting the materials that an audience craves: sex and violence. The honesty of exploitation films is that the filmmakers know they are making a motion picture, a series of rapidly changing frames that tell a story and display images to entertain an audience. The intelligence of exploitation films is exhibited in the perfect mix of exploiting the audience’s desired materials (sex and violence), fun and schlocky elements because filmmakers should never take themselves too seriously since IT’S A FUCKING MOVIE, NOT THE GENEVA CONVENTION, and a clever but easy-to-follow plot with the audience’s favorite archetypes as characters.
We wanted “Honky Holocaust” to be as exploitative as possible. The original script had very little female nudity, mostly only male nudity, but the art director, Thomas Delcarpio, insisted that I add in more tits and ass. I wanted the audience to be truly disturbed and felt like male nudity is way more disturbing to the average audience than female nudity, especially if it’s primarily male nudity, and I didn’t want the audience to be distracted from the social message by the sex appeal. However, after some thought I decided that I didn’t want to leave anything out of “Honky Holocaust”, and I wanted to exploit everything, not just the audience’s distaste for male nudity, so I added the sex scene and way more female nudity. I’m glad I did, because I’d feel more selfish as a filmmaker if I excluded something the audience wanted just to make the social message more noticeable. Troma was a huge influence on me leaning toward Thomas’ perspective, because I realized the social message is not lost in the cleavage, so to speak. Thomas also used to show me clips from this filmmaker Bill Zebub because his films are some of the purest forms of exploitation that have ever been created. I was never a big fan of Bill Zebub’s films but they taught me to appreciate Thomas’s adage of “if you can capture something cool on film, why not capture something cool on film?” That “cool”, I learned from Troma, Thomas, and Bill Zebub, could be anything from torture to tits to taboo to dick.
As for the cliche plot twists and convenient dramatic dialogue, that stuff is just pure gold. There’s a reason we still read Greek mythology in school: the shit is pure exploitation gold. It’s our archetypes carrying out our fantasies and getting tortured for it, and everything they say and do is cliche. Overused motifs, plot devices, and cinematic cliches aren’t overused, they’re fundamental parts of our psyche. Carl Jung was right when he said we all have these archetypes and stories built into us, and exploitation film just takes those archetypes and stories, blasts them on the big screen, and fills the gaps with sex and violence. That is why I love exploitation film and will always prefer to produce exploitation films.
Tell us a little bit about your soundtrack and the role that played in moving the story along, how it may have tied into the social issues that drive “Honky Holocaust”
The soundtrack to “Honky Holocaust” was really an organic, chaotic development. My favorite genres of music are punk, spaghetti western scores, and almost anything from the 1960s, especially psychedelic rock. So before I started editing, I knew I wanted a powerful score reminiscent of a spaghetti western with a soundtrack full of punk. I wanted to include a lot of rap and hip/hop as a prominent part of the soundtrack, because I would feel like I was disregarding black American culture if I didn’t include music from black American popular culture, plus I like a lot of rap music. I really wanted to include songs that were in the style of 1960s motown and soul music, but due to our drained budget and the controversial subject matter in the film we weren’t able to get any modern soul musicians to produce music for the film. So the first thing I did was confer with Nick Norrman, an aficionado of punk music, about what artists he wanted to include. He took on the task of contacting about half of the punk musicians we ended up featuring, and I contacted the other half. I was able to make contact with John Esplen of Overground Records and Wipe Out Music Publishing in England, who not only secured me the licenses to a number of tracks from some of my favorite punk bands, but also taught me everything I know to this day about licensing music for films. When it came to rap music, a number of our actors were also hip/hop artists and were eager to have their music featured. I realized that the possibility of including some kind of 1960s-styled soul music was going to be something I had to work hard for, so I contacted musical genius Chris Hurley, who also played a henchman in the penthouse battle scene and had been a close friend since high school, and told him I wanted a theme song similar to the theme song from Fred Williamson’s “Boss Nigger” . I wrote the lyrics and he wrote the incredible song, which wound up being a mix between Judas Priest and the “Boss Nigger” theme song haha.
As for the score, I used classical music, spaghetti western score tracks, and a few tracks from “Cannibal Holocaust” as temporary place-holders and recruited four score composers to try and come up with some score tracks that worked as good replacements for the temporary score tracks. One of the composers, Rafal Sadowski of Poland, was able to bring the spaghetti western sound and the soul sound I wanted into the score in several different scenes. Chris Hurley, who did the theme song, wrote a good chunk of the music and also wrote the film’s overture/theme score track, in the composition style of a spaghetti western, and Bryan Hinkley did a few John Carpenter-esque tracks. But near the end of post-production, Timothy Fife came on board on the score composing team and was able to squeeze in two incredible tracks, one in the spaghetti western style, and Timothy has become our go-to score composer and coordinator to this day.
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