Halloween is just around the corner and screenwriter Carl Dupre has plans to make it as scary as he can. His latest movie, the Robert Englund-starring Inkubus, hits theaters across the Unites States this month and its writer promises to gross you out, but in a good way.
As well as writing a handful of horror sequels (including Prophecy 3: The Ascent, Hellraiser: Hellseeker, Hellraiser: Hellworld) and being a prolific short story writer, Dupre is also a dab hand at comedy. I have been a fan of Dupre’s writing since he wrote one of my favorite movies, the hilarious KISS-centric Detroit Rock City. In a recent interview with Dupre, the screenwriter gave me some insight as to how he wrote Detroit Rock City, what is was like on set, and getting to meet KISS.
But first things first: horror.
Geeks of Doom: So, Inkubus – how did that come about?
Carl Dupre: I had lived in L.A. for about 10 years and during that time I had written Detroit Rock City, it had gotten produced and all that and then after September 11, I decided to move back home to Rhode Island…which is not exactly Hollywood east, you know what I mean?! I started making contacts out here and one of them was a guy named Michael Corrente…he was one of the executives at this company called Verdi Corrente Productions…basically they were looking for 10 horror screenplays that could be made each one for a million dollars so there were like a lot of restrictions and a lot of parameters. I was able to get a meeting with him and his team and I pitched him this idea about a sort of dark stranger that enters a police station with a severed head and basically starts confessing to all the unsolved murders throughout history. At the end of the interrogation quote unquote, it’s more like a confession, at the end of it he promises that he is going to kill every single officer working in the police station at the time and nobody’s going to be able to figure it out.
I wound up setting to work on this script and at the time it was called Shift Change…I wrote this script and as it turns out they liked it a lot and it…wound up in the hands of a director named Glenn Ciano…they shot it last year at this old police station in Cranston, Rhode Island. Robert Englund signed on and a few others: Jonathan Silverman and Joey Fatone from N*Sync and a very, very talented guy named, er, oh jeez, he’s a very talented guy. Hang on a second, I’m having a brain fart. The guy from Raising Arizona and Deuce Bigalow (Male Gigalo). William (something). Hang on, this is embarrassing.
Geeks of Doom: Forsythe!
Carl Dupre: William Forsythe! Yeah! He seriously is one of my favorite actors and I was so spellbound there that I couldn’t remember his last name! William Forsythe which, actually, for me was a huge deal to have that guy working on this movie. It was a great experience. It was an unusual experience for a writer because I’d never been able to sit in on the making of one of my scripts from day one until the last day of shooting and that’s what happened. There was a very ambitious shooting schedule but they did it in under a month and I was there every single day they shot. That’s really unique and it’s wonderful for a writer to be able to have that happen.
Geeks of Doom: Cool. Did you have Robert Englund in mind when you were writing it?
Carl Dupre: No. Who did I have in mind? I actually had pictured, and I don’t even think he’s an actor, but Criss Angel (Illusionist) was the person I had had in my head when I was writing it. The original script was about this dark stranger…really without description. In the original story Inkubus had long hair that was in front of his face and he was non-descript looking. From a distance you couldn’t see any details on his face and he didn’t even have fingerprints so that if there were any eye witnesses to any of these murders the people describing him sound like they actually did the murder. That’s from a lot of crimes where people have gone to jail (when the police) found out that the people who were reporting these crimes and saying what had happened were lying, they were making up this person. It’s always the same person, it’s always the same thing. It’s someone that’s very difficult to describe, you know, sort of long hair, maybe a beard and a big long jacket so that the police don’t know exactly who they’re looking for. And it’s just one of these tricks.
There are people who commit murders and they say someone who is very hard to describe actually committed them and what I wanted to do was make Inkubus that thing, that entity, that people keep describing over and over again. So this Criss Angel matched that description pretty well.
Then when Glenn came aboard he liked the idea of giving Robert Englund another character to kind of immortalize and sort of do the opposite of the Freddy Krueger thing; the scarred up face. Have him have all of his features visible and actually the way the movie is shot a lot of Inkubus is in the shadows quite a bit anyway so he is kind of hard to describe. When you see his face it’s great because as you probably already know Robert Englund is a very talented actor. Very professional. One of those guys that I think he could have easily done and made straight dramatic work. He did to some extent but if he hadn’t found the horror genre to work in I’m sure he would have shined as a very good straight dramatic actor.
Geeks of Doom: Absolutely, he’s a great actor. What were Robert and Glenn like to work with on set?
Carl Dupre: Oh they were great. Glenn, that was his comfort level. For a director to allow the writer to sit in tells you something that the director is not only open to other ideas, he’s very confident in what he’s doing. Robert Englund (was) very approachable and like I said very professional. When the cameras were on he’s very much all about that, he’s all about working. But we would have lunch or something or maybe we would go out after a days shooting and he’s very knowledgeable about a wide variety of subjects. It’s great talking to him, just a great conversationalist and I learned about stuff when I talked to him…he’s encyclopaedic and just all around good guy.
Geeks of Doom: What do you think of the movie?
Carl Dupre: Very scary. It’s a very scary movie. It’s gross, but in a good way! At the end of the day it’s about this demon that just gets into your head and I think it does a pretty good job of delivering that paranoia…like you know how you realize, ‘oh my god, Hannibal Lecter – he’s been in my head the whole time!’ That’s the feeling you get from Inkubus. And it’s very tight, it’s not like a big, sweeping epic, it’s very personal and intimate. I think it hits you where it counts. It’s my kind of movie put it that way!
Geeks of Doom: It premieres at the Rock and Shock Convention [the interview took place before Rock and Shock] and makes a limited run across cinemas in October. Is that exciting when you know your film is going to open in cinemas?
Carl Dupre: Yeah, yeah. This is really awesome. This is really great stuff, very exciting. And the timing couldn’t be better with Halloween and all that. I’m pretty stoked to see what the world thinks of Inkubus. He’s been with me for a long time now but curious to see what everyone else thinks of him. He’s going to scare people a lot, he’s going to scare them pretty good! We’re going to be showing it at the Rock and Shock Convention, that’s going to be great and we’ll have our official premiere a few weeks later in Providence, Rhode Island. That’s going to be really cool. Yeah, I got the butterflies going!
Geeks of Doom: Well I can’t wait to see it, hopefully it will come to Europe at some point.
Carl Dupre: Oh yeah that’s got to happen…I think you’re going to enjoy it very much judging from your taste.
Geeks of Doom: I hope so, the trailer looks great. Most of the screenplays that you write have been horror movies like the Prophecy 3 and a couple of Hellraiser sequels. What is it that draws you to horror screenplays?
Carl Dupre: I always enjoyed reading horror and seeing horror movies, too…I was turned onto horror by Stephen King, basically…I’d read other authors here and there but the first few books that he put out I would say that was my introduction to the genre. And, yes, I did read some Clive Barker also. I didn’t read The Hellbound Heart until much later but I was reading his short stories about 10 years after King. I liked reading horror fiction and I saw a lot of horror movies. I remember I really liked Phantasm a lot, that was a really cool movie. And of course A Nightmare on Elm Street. Anything Wes Craven did was automatically like a license to scream. I would enjoy horror movies but also I felt like I did have something to add. I think that’s the thing; just about any writer is paying homage to the people that came before them but also reading stuff in books and saying, ‘that would have been scarier if they had done it that way.’
Geeks of Doom: That thought of ‘I could do this’?
Carl Dupre: Yeah, I can do this and I have something to add. I literally have a piece that goes into this puzzle…I think that horror for me is like sort of a way of purging myself. At one time in my life I was a very, very frightened person. And I’m not saying I’m super-courageous right now, you know I still have my concerns, but I exorcised demons by writing. That’s part of the process, besides obviously telling a story, is getting rid of something. If you’re writing a horror story you’re sort of freeing yourself of something…but there’s also something really rewarding about being able to scare the living crap out of somebody! I get scared too, but there’s an enjoyment there [laughs] of being sort of the puppet master of peoples fear strings. It’s pretty cool, I think there’s something very primal, something mortal, about horror that it just brings you in touch with your own mortality but in a good way. That’s a good thing about art and movies and literature is that you get that response and you experience that rush of adrenaline or that, whatever, the warm fuzzy if you’re watching a love story. You get that feeling if the audience feels like they’ve been through an experience that they wouldn’t have been able to go through in real life and experience some extremely heightened emotions.
Geeks of Doom: You also wrote one of my favorite movies, a comedy called Detroit Rock City. How did that come about?
Carl Dupre: That was a lot of fun. I think every writer in Hollywood has a dream of writing a script and then having it get shot right away and having it get released right away and having almost every word in the script be stuck to. And you know what? I had that experience with Detroit Rock City and it was totally by accident. I moved out to Hollywood and I became an editor and I was working with this guy, a huge KISS fan…I mean he was like hardcore. I saw KISS on the Alive! II tour at the Providence Civic Center, I bought their records and all that but as far as lunchboxes and action figures and all that, I did not (collect them). To me they were a rock band…what a show, what an incredible concert.
There was nothing else like that. It was an experience, it was like great theater. And plus their songs were really good! [laughs] But anyway I was talking with this editor, we’re working on this movie, it was one of the first movies I worked on. It was a movie called Skinner and it had Traci Lords in it and it was directed by a guy named Ivan Nagy who later became famous for being Heidi Fleiss’ pimp! [laughs] Like a year later we’re like, ‘oh that’s what Ivan Nagy is doing now!’ It was on that movie I talked to this other guy and like I said huge KISS fan.
His name was Peter Schink and actually he was the one who wound up cutting Detroit Rock City. He put the idea in my head. I was talking to him about a movie called I Wanna Hold Your Hand which is a Robert Zemeckis movie about…these fans that are going to see the Beatles at the Ed Sullivan show. I said somebody should make a movie like that but with KISS as the Holy Grail and this guy Pete he’s like, ‘I want to see that script on my desk on Monday!’ [laughs] He was like, ‘I really mean that, that’s what needs to be written and you need to write it!’ We wound up working on this other movie (with) James Melkonian, a movie called the Stoned Age.
Geeks of Doom: Oh brilliant film!
Carl Dupre: Yeah! Peter and I worked on that one also in the editing room. (James) loved the retro thing in the ‘70s and all that…I started putting sort of pen to paper and nothing was really sticking, I was writing this like bad Pulp Fiction rip off…and it was kind of a mess and I didn’t like it at all so I just threw in the towel. And then I go out to lunch one day with Peter Schink and this other guy James Melkonian, the director. I hadn’t seen him in a while and so Peter Schink goes [laughs] ‘oh yeah, Carl’s been working on this script about these kids going to see a KISS concert in 1978!’ and this guys eyes lit up. He’s like, ‘ooh that sounds awesome! When are you going to be done with it?’ [laughs] Peter goes, ‘he’s been working on it for about 6 months now, right Carl?’ [laughs] I was like, ‘oh I should be done with it inside 3 more months.’ So now I had this sort of absurd deadline and I just said to hell it with it. I just went for it. I read a whole bunch of books on screenwriting, I read a lot of screenplays. That’s the main thing that helped me just reading screenplays of movies that I liked a lot.
I showed it to this guy James Melkonian, he liked it a lot, and he goes, ‘what does KISS think of this?’ I said, ‘I don’t know, I don’t have any connection to KISS!’ [laughs]…and I realized I had written a script with a known entity in it without their permission. I immediately thought, ‘wow, what a big mistake that was!’ [laughs] So anyway the script sat in my drawer for about it was probably about a year or so. Finally I’m working on yet another movie. Again Peter Schink was in the editing room on this one with this other kid named David Feldman…(who) showed it to his friend Kevin Corrigan and then this chain of events happened that was just incredible. Kevin Corrigan showed it to his manager who showed it to an old partner of hers that was going to become a movie producer named Barry Levine who was the photographer for KISS back in the late ‘70s. So the coincidences were starting to pile up here…KISS was getting back in the make up and were doing their comeback, this was like 1996, they were actually in London so Barry Levine took this script with him on the plane from L.A. to London and he read it on the plane. When he got off the plane the first person he saw was KISS’ manager, he gave it to KISS’ manager and he said, ‘you have got to read this! This is the next movie I want to make and KISS is going to be a part of it.’
From my point of view what happened was I showed this script to this buddy of mine in the editing room of Barb Wire, you know that Pamela Anderson movie, and 10 days later I get a call from this producer Barry Levine. He goes, ‘Gene really loves the script.’ And I’m thinking ‘Gene who?’ He goes, ‘Gene Simmons!’ [laughs] I was like, ‘oh my god! You gotta be kidding me!’ It was absurd. The script went from becoming something that was collecting dust in my desk drawer to having been read by Gene Simmons…the script got greenlit very quickly and then they had this release date of the following year which meant they couldn’t tamper with it, they couldn’t rewrite it.
I’m just very grateful to have had that Detroit Rock City experience. It was a screenwriters dream come true and I was very happy.
Geeks of Doom: Was that your first screenplay?
Carl Dupre: Well technically I had written two other screenplays before that. Can’t remember the first one I wrote. Oh, yeah, I wrote a pirate movie long before pirate movies became fashionable!
I took the comments I had gotten for my first two scripts I kept them in mind quite a bit on Detroit Rock City and tried to keep things simple.
Detroit Rock City is about the rites of adulthood I guess you can say. A rites of passage that happen when you’re growing up and leaving childhood behind. Specifically I really did think of them as being on these quests and, yeah, ostensibly KISS is the Holy Grail but the Holy Grail is manhood. It’s becoming a big person, a big boy, you’re not a kid anymore! [laughs]
Geeks of Doom: So get in the car with Shannon Tweed! [laughs] What was it like on the set there?
Carl Dupre: It was very heady for me specifically because I was looking at sets, I was meeting actors, I was talking to the director and the director of photography, wardrobe people and props people who were bringing to life something that I wrote on a page and now they’re like real things.
It was like this Being John Malkovich moment or something where I was seeing what was inside my head!
Geeks of Doom: Did you get to meet KISS?
Carl Dupre: Yes I met KISS. I had actually met KISS a few years earlier on a photo shoot. Very cool guys. Gene Simmons the ultimate professional, consummate professional. Very, very polished guy which is always surprising because the guy’s standing there he’s almost seven-feet tall, he’s wearing this dragon make up and you feel like you’re almost talking to a college professor. Paul Stanley was really cool and Ace was very curious actually about the writing of the script. I thought that was really cool. I found myself having this conversation with him about how I came up (with the idea for Detroit Rock City). I was listening to their music when I was a kid and Ace Frehley (was now) picking my brain about how I wrote the script! Peter Criss…I grew up in an Italian neighborhood in Providence, Rhode Island and he reminded me of the kids that I grew up with. It was really cool.
Geeks of Doom: I still love that movie I was watching it before you called earlier.
Carl Dupre: Every once in a while I’ll meet someone and they’ll say ‘that’s my favorite movie!’ Usually they’re KISS fans but it’s touched some people in good ways. I’m very proud, very glad.
Geeks of Doom: Carl, thank you for your time and for agreeing to talk to me.
Carl Dupre: Oh thank you, Dan. You guys have a cool website over there!