The new horror film, “Butcher Boys,” which released to VOD on Sept. 6, was originally supposed to be a sequel to “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.” But after the rights were lost, writer Kim Henkel (the original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”) turned to Jonathan Swift’s satirical essay, “A Modest Proposal,” as inspiration for “Butcher Boys.”
In the film, a group of teenagers are celebrating a friend’s birthday when they encounter the Butcher Boys, a group of cannibals who roam the cities of the world – looking for any human they want to eat.
Directors Duane Graves and Justin Meeks were unavailable for an over-the-phone interview with the Chico Movie Examiner, but they were able to answer some questions via email about “Butcher Boys.” Check it out below.
David Wangberg: This is the first I’ve heard of you guys, but I see you’ve been working together for 10 years. How did you meet, and what led you two to working as a directing duo?
Duane Graves: Justin and I met in college at Texas A&M in Corpus Christi, TX, while studying TV/Film in the late 90s. So we started off competing against each other, but quickly realized we'd be much better off working together. It was there at A&M that we took a year of screenwriting courses under Kim Henkel, whom we kept in contact with after graduation. He went on to co-produce a few of our horror shorts, and eventually our first feature length film “The Wild Man of the Navidad,” which premiered at the 2008 Tribeca Film Festival and eventually released internationally by IFC Films Midnight. The success of that small backyard creature feature convinced the “Butcher Boys” producers to give us the job, mainly because we were able to do a lot with a little.
Justin Meeks: It seemed that Duane and I shared the same passion for film, and writing, so after college we decided to do a trilogy of horror shorts. Kim Henkel started to notice our body of work (production, as well as writing) and came aboard as a producer on many of them. We found that we complemented each other well and pushed each other further than we had gone before. We formed Greeks Films in 2001 and have three features and over 40 shorts, videos, and commercials. It’s worked very well for us, as we are at the end of our third feature as co- directors.
DW: There are several directing duos out there, like the Farrelly brothers and Coen brothers. What are the advantages of having two directors for a film, rather than just having one?
DG: It’s definitely not the easiest thing to do, so that's why there's a single director 90% of the time. It’s not really something you can learn, either, but when it works it’s definitely advantageous to have two people policing the story. To us, it’s more about a unique compatibility than anything else. Working creatively together for as long as we have has allowed us to develop a bit of an instinct; a shorthand communication, if you will, that permits us to read each other very quickly on set. One of us will back down if we sense the other is more adamant about a certain decision/idea. It's mainly about communicating in a way that doesn't force us to stomp each other’s toes. If you have a lot of discussion during pre-production, it's not as difficult as you might think.
JM: I would say that it is rare to find a great directing duo. However, it works great for us. Egos are checked at the door, and the film is our child, so to speak. Usually, we are the writers, producers and directors; giving us a tighter grasp of the overall vision. The co-directors who are successful, such as the Coen bros. or the Farrelly bros., tend to have very special films. Two heads are better than one, especially if they are trained together and work together very closely and tightly. Duane and I have been working on all parts of film for the past 10 years, and I feel like we are in a rock ‘n’ roll band that doesn't miss a beat.
DW: I saw that the screenplay was originally going to be a sequel to “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” but it was changed after the announcement of the recently released 3D film. There are still a lot of references to “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and cameos of characters from the film. Did you want to try to make this kind of a spinoff to that film?
DG: Kim Henkel wrote “Butcher Boys” back in 2008, and at first it was meant to be the next installment in the “TCM” franchise. They lost the rights to it for a couple years while “Texas Chainsaw 3D” was being developed, and then got the rights back in 2010. Kim decided to re-write it as a new franchise that stood on its own. It was then that Justin and I got involved and brought on as co-directors. We were one of the firsts to read the re-write, and it was immediately obvious that it still had a lot of familiar themes from “Chainsaw.” We found its insanity beautiful and loved the abundance of colorfully loony characters, and felt that its odd combo of humor and fever pitch landed it somewhere between the original “TCM” and “TCM 2.” Although there are always minor details that change during production, we were dedicated to Kim's script, and wanted to bring his story to life without unnecessary alterations. The cameos seemed like a great way to embrace its “Chainsaw” roots, and a nice way to honor all the wonderful actors/actresses that brought to life the original and all its sequels/reboots. Kim had remained in contact with most of them over the last 40 years.
JM: It is, in a way, the “Chainsaw” movie that never was. Kim wanted to bring the “Chainsaw” family into modern day, and “Butcher Boys” was the cure. Putting the old “TCM” alumni in the film seemed to work out great. Being that so many of them live in and around the Austin area, they were open and available for the parts – especially since the roles were different from what type of roles you might expect them to play.
DW: I kind of went in blind to this movie. I saw the poster, and that was really about it, so I expected a pretty gruesome horror film. But for the first 40 minutes or so, we don’t see that the villains have cannibalistic instincts. As filmmakers, what made you decide to hold off on showing that instead of just diving right into it?
DG: You don't have to show all your cards right off the bat. Sometimes it's nice to throw a curve ball, too. “From Dusk Till Dawn” did that in a way that is most memorable. “Butcher Boys” starts out like your typical teen horror flick, then morphs into a car/foot chase movie, and then takes an unexpected turn when Barbie realizes that her sexual powers are useless against the Butcher Boys, who have a “different” desire for her.
JM: The script called for a long chase, therefore postponing physical proof of cannibalism until later in the film. However, the chase is what tenderizes the meat. The adrenaline from a fleeing victim tenderizes and increases the potency of the flesh, which, in turn, has huge addictive and euphoric qualities.
DW: What’s your guys’ next project?
DG: We are just now moving into the last stages of post production on a dark western titled “Red on Yella, Kill a Fella.” We shot it all across Texas in late 2012, and we hope to premiere it in the first quarter of 2014. It also features a handful of cameos from various horror icons such as Edwin Neal, Michael Berryman and Bill Johnson. It’s made in the image of the great spaghetti westerns: stylish, character driven, brutally violent and shot in splendid anamorphic widescreen. We can’t wait to show it to everyone.
JM: Then, we have several scripts written; it's just a matter of picking one and doing it. I would say that by January or February we will be in pre-production for another feature – probably a post-apocalyptic movie this time.
This concludes the interview, but the Chico Movie Examiner would like to thank Duane and Justin for taking time to answer the questions.