For those of us not
in-the-know, tell us The Scott Phillips Story to
It’s a sad and stupid tale, really. I kind of grew
up at the drive-in, there were a bunch of ‘em in
town in those days and my family used to take me
all the time, so I saw lots of crazy stuff. I
started making little movies on Super-8mm when I
was a wee lad, like 8 or 9 probably. When I saw "Night
of the Living Dead" at ten, the filmmaking bug
really took hold and I spent my teenage years
making movies, doing makeup and writing scripts
instead of chasing girls like I should have. I
worked on a couple Hollywood productions that came
to Albuquerque (including John Milius’ "Red
Dawn") when I was 19-20, but things really got
moving about ten years later when I wrote a script
called "Road to Ruin" and moved to LA. I
sold that script and it became a movie called
DRIVE, directed by Steve Wang and starring Mark
(Brotherhood of the Wolf") Dacascos, Kadeem
Hardison and a barely legal Brittany Murphy. Since
then I’ve written a whole bunch of scripts, some
that got made (like "Horrorvision" and "Cryptz")
and some that didn’t (like "Fist of the North Star
2" and "Blood on the Moon" for Steven Seagal). I
got pretty fed up with the Hollywood system and
moved back to Albuquerque, and with the guidance
of my girlfriend Shannon Hale (who produced "The
Stink of Flesh"), I rediscovered my indie
Where did the idea
for “The Stink of Flesh” come from?
Well, when me and Shannon decided we wanted to
make a feature, I knew it should be a zombie
movie, since I had never made one and "NOTLD"
was such a huge influence on me as a kid. I
thought about doing a story that’s been kicking
around in my head called "Dead as Hell",
but it was just too big for us to make on our
budget (although after making "Stink", I
now think we could pull it off). There was one
particular scene in "Dead as Hell" that I
thought might work if I expanded on it, and that
became the script for "The Stink of Flesh".
With ALL the zombie
movies that seem to be coming out everyday, how
did you try to set yours apart, make it unique?
Well, you’ve gotta understand -- back when we
decided to make "Stink", there wasn’t a new
wave of zombie movies. "28 Days Later" had
yet to be released in the US (it came out about a
month before we started shooting) and the "Dawn
of the Dead" remake was still months and
months away. So it wasn’t like I was trying to set
"Stink" apart from all of those movies...
instead, I just knew that I wanted to avoid the
usual “bunch of people trapped in a house and
arguing about how to survive” kind of thing. I
figured, I’m making a zombie movie, and that means
I’m playing in the Romero Universe, so why not
just tell a story about people who are trying to
get by in that sort of world?
did you determine the cast for the film? It’s an
extremely varied and interesting bunch of people.
Yeah, I love my cast. Most of them were friends of
mine and a couple of them auditioned. We were very
lucky in that we knew a bunch of talented folks
who in turn knew other talented folks.
Did you know
Kristin Hansen’s uncle was the legendary Gunnar
Hansen when you cast her? What was Kristin like
to work with?
Oh yeah, I’ve known Kristin for about ten years or
so, I think, so I was aware of her lineage. In
fact, I wrote the part of “Sassy” specifically for
Kristin and knew that, in order to carry on the
family legacy, I was gonna have to make her a
doozy. Kristin is great to work with, she’s a
terrific actress and really nailed the part.
Your zombies look
like the “traditional” Romero shamblers and yet
you have the “hyper zombies” which I would
classify with Zack Snyder’s zombies from the
remake of “Dawn of the Dead”. Was that a
conscious decision, to incorporate different types
of zombies? You even have a “Fulci zombie” in one
Actually, the hyper-zombies are a direct steal
from Umberto Lenzi’s "Nightmare City" (aka
"City of the Walking Dead"), which was the
first movie I saw that had fast-moving zombies in
it. People tend to forget that the zombies ran
like hell in "Return of the Living Dead",
too, so "28 Days Later" and the "Dawn"
remake certainly didn’t originate the idea. But
yeah, it was a conscious decision to mix zombies
from various sources of inspiration.
Where did you come
up with the original idea of having your hero a
martial arts/nail driving horn dog? And where did
you find Kurly Tlapoyawa – he is amazing!
Well, Kurly is an ass-kicking Brazilian Ju-Jitsu
brawler, and when he got involved the idea was
that he’d choreograph the fights. We used to get
together for lunch and hash out ideas -- Kurly
actually came up with the notion of using the
hammer and giant nails to dispatch the living dead
during one of those lunches. But back then, I had
no intention of casting him in the part; he fought
me for it until he wore down my resistance. I’ve
known him for about 12 years; he used to come into
a video store I owned and hang around for hours
back when he was 17 or 18. I’m really glad I
finally gave in and put him in the role, because I
can’t even imagine the movie without him now.
And speaking of
original ideas, which your movie is full of, what
inspired you to have this bizarre “family” out in
the desert where the wife is a nympho, her husband
“fetches” her toys for her AND watches and her
sister has an icky Siamese twin? Sounds like
Southern Gothic on steroids.
that all stems from my appreciation for the work
of Tennessee Williams, so Southern Gothic is a
great way to describe it. I just like the bizarre
family dynamics in stuff like "Cat on a Hot Tin
Roof" and "Streetcar Named Desire". I’m
also a huge fan of Joe Lansdale, and I suspect
some influence crept in from his fine work, as
well. The Siamese twin angle was just me wanting
to make Kristin’s character really out there,
really give her something crazy to do. She’s
Leatherface’s niece, after all.
Let’s list the
number of “taboos” that are in “Stink”:
pedophilia, necrophilia, adultery, voyeurism,
murder. Did you want to see how far you could
push it with audiences without completely losing
them? And that has to be a first in zombie movie
history – a human getting it on with a zombie.
Was that why you had that in there?
Y’know, honestly I wasn’t even thinking about
“pushing the envelope” or anything like that. I
just told the story I wanted to tell while keeping
in mind that I was making a horror movie and
groceries must be delivered. For instance, when I
realized I wanted a naked zombie girl chained in
the shed, it only made sense that, to pay that
off, somebody was gonna have to pay her a little
pants-down visit. I really dislike movies that
don’t deliver on what they promise, and I wanted
to make sure "Stink" wasn’t one of those.
The pedophilia thing actually sprang from some
on-set goofing, where we were just trying to gross
each other out suggesting things for Mr. Rainville
to do -- it wasn’t really in the script, except
maybe on a subconscious level. While we were
joking around, I realized it worked, so we went
with it in the movie.
references to many classic horror movies in
“Stink”, which is one of the fun things about your
movie. Was that intentional? Like giving your
main character the name “Matool” and sitting back
to see how many people catch on?
Oh hell yeah. Although some people read references
into the movie that weren’t there in my head
(like, I sure as hell wasn’t thinking about "Total
Recall" with the Siamese twin -- I’m a big fan
of carnival sideshows and that’s where that came
it true that your budget was only $3,000 and you
shot for only 12 days in New Mexico? How did you
manage to make such a great looking film for only
$3,000 and in 12 days? Thousands of producers and
directors are anxiously awaiting your answer.
Yup, we made the flick for three grand and in 12
days. I can pretty much give you two words as to
why the movie looks so good: Richard Griffin. He’s
an amazing director of photography and could do
anything with one light and a piece of foamcore
with some holes cut in it.
Your DP, Richard
Griffin, did an amazing job shooting the film with
a DV camera. Just out of curiosity, why not go
for the grainy 16-mm look which seems to be coming
back into vogue with so many horror movies lately?
The truth is, we were moving so fast we didn’t
have time to think about giving the movie a
specific look, although we talked about movies
like "The Crazies" and whatnot before we
started shooting. I love that grainy 16mm look,
but it’s kind of been done to death these days so
I’m glad we didn’t go for it.
The zombie SFX
in “Stink” are amazing (even though you did run
out of “Zombie Blue” paint midway through the
shoot) – who gets props for making the zombies
really LOOK like zombies?
Thanks, I’m glad you like the way the zombies
look. Our main makeup guy was a fellow named Damon
Aho, but -- if you’ve watched the extras on the
DVD, you know this already -- he flaked out on us
and ran out of makeup on our biggest zombie extra
day. Then he disappeared into the desert. Shannon
Hale, Steffi Leighs, Sara Lehmann and Lisa Toth
picked up the reins after Damon ran out and did a
great job. Shannon and Steffi made the big wound
on Andrew Vellenoweth’s chest for the scene where
Dexy is peeling the shirt away. So the credit
really has to be spread around.
What kind of viewer
feedback have you gotten for “Stink”? There are
quite a few button-pushing scenes for the
right-wingers out there to get all in a wad about.
We’ve had a great response overall, with no right
wing backlash whatsoever. And only one reviewer
has made me want to punch him in the throat.
What horror movies
have had the biggest influence on you?
"Night of the Living Dead" and the original
"Dawn of the Dead", obviously, but a list
of influences would be long... early John
Carpenter, the original "Texas Chain Saw
Massacre", "Shock Waves", "Evil Dead",
"It's Alive", on and on and on...
What’s up next for
Scott Phillips? Perhaps a sequel to “Stink”?
Start a new zombie franchise?
now I’m discussing the possibility of doing a
little side project with a friend of mine, but I
can’t talk about it just yet. Beyond that, though,
I wouldn’t mind doing a sequel to "Stink".
I kind of see Matool as sort of the
zombie-apocalypse Conan the Barbarian, so there’s
a lot you can do with that. Besides that, my "Friday
the 13th" novel, "Church of the Divine
Psychopath", was just released and you can get
it at your favorite bookstore!
Tell us about
“Gimme Skelter”, which I read you describe as “an
oddball slasher flick”.
I’m writing the script right now and there’s a
bunch of cool stuff going on with the project
that, sadly, I can’t talk about just yet. If all
goes well, we’ll be shooting in November. It’s
kind of like "I Drink Your Blood" meets "Magnolia"
and I think it’ll be pretty cool.
What is the significance of the
name of your production company, “Exhilarated
Despair” (great name)?
Actually, that came from something Kristin Hansen
said to me when she was going through a tough time
personally: “I’m living in a state of exhilarated
despair.” I thought it was a great name for a
production company, although most people have a
hard time spelling it. I found out much later that
it’s a term that Francis Bacon apparently coined.
Would you care to
add anything I may not have asked that you think
our readers must know?
I used to write porno stories for “Barely Legal”
magazine, pretending to be various 18-year-old
girls, during which time I learned way too much
about things like Urban Decay lipstick.
What is something
about Scott Phillips that you would like people to
know that they probably don’t.
very very ticklish.