Media Interviews and reviews It Came From South Jersey: By James Sullivan

It Came From South Jersey: By James Sullivan

 It Came From South Jersey:

A Conversation With Director and Horror Guru Warren F. Disbrow
By James Sullivan

Almost since its inception, the horror movie genre has had its icons – legendary figures that manifest our deepest fears. In the 1930s, Universal Pictures fueled our nightmares with Dracula, Karloff ‘s Frankenstein monster, the Mummy and the Invisible Man. In the 1980s, Freddy Krueger became as iconic as Ronald Reagan to the American public. Even today, while some argue that the genre is in decline, we have Jigsaw of Saw movie fame.
Then of course, there’s Hate. A long-haired Satanic serial killer who hides his face in a glistening silver skull mask. An unstoppable murderer of mysterious origins. His creator, however, is Warren F. Disbrow, 54, of Neptune, NJ, who conceived the character for his 2008 movie Haunted Hay Ride, shot on location at Brock Farms of Freehold. “In Hay Ride, the story is set at Halloween and is more of a traditional horror film. In Slay Ride, I had Hate go after churches and temples and made him more satanic. I always want there to be a real threat going in my films, and showing weakness takes away that threat for today’s audiences.”


”What doesn’t kill you makes a better movie.”
In Hate, Disbrow conceived a ruthless killer unintimidated by the bounds of life and death in his thirst for victims. To make a character so hauntingly memorable has always been a life dream for Disbrow, who shoots all of his movies on various locations throughout New Jersey and is currently at work on a new movie of the haunted house genre: Haunting at Holly House. When he’s not making movies, he’s usually partaking in his other great passion, sculpting replicas of monsters from classic horror movies. Taking a break from pre-production, he sat down to talk about his passion for filmmaking and share his encyclopedic knowledge of horror movies.
Was there one particular film that made you want to make movies?
I saw the original 1954 Creature from the Black Lagoon on TV late at night when I was five years old and the Gill Man was mesmerizing. Many years later I met Ben Chapman who played the Gill Man – I spent some time with him going over the costume. To me, it’s the best monster suit ever made even by today’s standards. In bright daylight, it looks alive.
How would you describe your own work?
For the very restrictive budgets on which my movies were made, I think they turned out really good. They look better than some other horror movies made on much higher budgets. Could they have been better? Absolutely, but I don’t think anybody, if given the same exact working conditions and minuscule budgets, could have made these movies any better. The flaws in them are strictly budgetary. Despite the budgets they all got distributed and have remained in distribution consistently around the world ever since. They’ve also been reviewed world wide and appeared in magazines, newspapers, TV, the Internet, books, all kinds of media, the NY Times and Variety. Not bad for such humble beginnings. My goal has always been to make the next movie better than the last one.
What do you do for inspiration?
I watch horror, sci-fi, fantasy movies and TV shows daily. I also read books on horror, sci-fi and fantasy movies and the people who make them. I collect movie memorabilia and go to horror conventions when I can. I finally was fortunate enough to find a soul mate who also appreciates all this imaginative and exciting stuff and she’s now my partner in life and in making these crazy movies.  Her name is Deborah A. Taylor. She read my monthly column in a local newspaper where I’d talk about making movies and she came to one of my signings and purchased DVDs of my movies. When we finally got to talk she knew everything I did about the old horror actors and horror movies and it just clicked between us. She took on a role in “Hate’s Haunted Slay Ride” and proved to be a very good actress too. When not in front of the camera Deb helps behind-the-scenes in many capacities. We did several horror conventions together too like Saturday Nightmares in Cherry Hill and Zombie Walk in Asbury Park, NJ, and she appeared with me on a Rutgers Radio talk show. We’ve been watching old Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi movies like The Black Cat (1934) and The Raven (1935) and recently she bought me the Universal Studio’s 1932 Mummy mask for my collection.  I’m very lucky to have Deb in my life. She “gets it” and I love her.
You’re mentioned in a college level textbook, what did it say about your movie?
The book was “Reviewing the Arts” and basically said that real movie critics don’t compare big budgeted movies that have all the advantages, with more modest budgeted movies, which should be reviewed in the context of films in their own separate category, which to me is only being intelligent. There was obviously more to it than that but that is the essence of it. I was just happily surprised they chose “Invasion for Flesh and Blood” as one of the movies to learn the proper way of reviewing movies with.

How does your family feel about your writing? Has their impression of you changed?
My family and friends mostly understand that with small budgets you have to make a certain kind of movie or it will never get it distributed, or reviewed, or it might not even leave the shelf in your studio. I’m sure many thousands of movies get made each year that do not get released. That hasn’t been a problem for me so far.
How would you describe your workspace? Your ideal workspace?  

I need a studio twenty times bigger than what I have! I need space not only for making the movies but also for sculpting and painting. I love sculpting. I’ve sculpted the 1942 Mummy’s Tomb mask worn by Lon Chaney, Jr. I like recreating old monsters like that.  I’m currently sculpting a very large Beast from 20,000 Fathoms that might turn into a garage kit. I love this stuff and always will.
Have you ever had to abandon a project? What was that like?
Yeah, it was awful. Rulers of the Apocalypse was an animatronics dinosaur movie and we built several full size dinosaurs that looked better than the low budget dinosaurs in the movies Roger Corman made following the release of Jurassic Park.
I sculpted the heads and skins and my father did truly amazing work building the complex frames and internal moving parts and motorizing the legs so they could walk supported by cables from above. My father has always supported my filmmaking dreams both as a valuable craftsman and as an actor. Ray Harryhausen’s dad did the same thing for him even when he was making movies like Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers. His dad made the miniature flying saucers Harryhausen animated to attack Washington! His father also made the animation armature for The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms and my dad has figured out and built anything we needed for all my movies too. My dad is 91 years old and still invaluable to my movies. I love him.
I was shooting Rulers in Super 16 film which is very expensive and I had people who said they’d invest but turned out to be all show and no money. Far too many of those types out there. I started filming out of my own pocket and with a quickly shrinking bank account, I was forced to pull the plug. It would have been a great movie and someday I still want to make it. We still have the full size dinosaur puppets in storage and rubber molds to refresh the dinosaur skins.
What do you like most about your work?
Editing is the most exciting part because you see all the visuals, performances and sounds evolve into a movie. Having said that, I covet directing and writing the most. But I want to be able to make movies on a larger scale so I don’t have to be my own crew. As I said, with Slay Ride I ended up in the hospital. I had plenty of people around me but none of them had technical knowledge. So I lit the sets, ran the camera, dealt with recording the audio, and the special effects, make-up and costuming all while trying to direct the actors. By the end of the night, I was always burnt out and angry.
 What is your favorite reaction to your films? Do you have any particularly memorable fans of your work, or especially hard critics?
Movie critics like Bill Gibron, Johnny Scareshock, Joe Bob Briggs, The Angry Princess and others have been very supportive. Jason Meehan of Zombie Walk fame is always helping us out. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from fans and those who buy the movies. One buyer said Haunted Hay Ride was his favorite horror film. I’ve heard from others that they do parties around screenings of Invasion for Flesh and Blood. Some of these movies have obviously become cult films. It’s just nice to hear words of appreciation.
If you were given a limitless film budget, what would you do? What movie would you make?
I loved Iron Man one and two; the three Sam Raimi Spider-Man movies, Thor, The Avengers, things like that. The last three Batman movies were fantastic too, especially The Dark Knight with the Joker. It would be wonderful to make movies like that.
I would have loved to have done The Green Hornet movie the right way. That movie was a big letdown because it didn’t treat the story and characters with the respect they deserve. They should have made it grimly serious like the Batman movies, and then it would have been more successful and spawned sequels. The old 1966 TV show was superior to that big budgeted new movie; pretty sad. Van Williams as The Green Hornet and Bruce Lee as Kato were great.
What advice would you give to aspiring filmmakers?
Studio filmmakers just have to go up the corporate ladder like any other business. Independent filmmakers have to understand that making the movie itself can be easier than dealing with The Suits and getting your money back, plus hoped for profits. You need a very good entertainment lawyer and accountant to protect you from “Creative Accounting” which can cheat you out of your earned rewards. George Romero said to me “Don’t let the bastards get you down.” He lost millions of dollars with  “Night of the Living Dead” and I too got burned in some of my deals. It takes more than just talent. It takes “luck” and “tenacity” to be in the game at all. Making an independent movie is like buying a very expensive lottery ticket – if you are lucky you can get a movie made with all of the elements that appeal to your target audience. Then you have to convince the businessmen that your film can make them money and if they pick up your movie for distribution you still have to worry if they are putting enough money into marketing and if they are smart enough to come up with an effective ad campaign. If you self-distribute, you still have to find a way to get the public to know your film even exists. The internet doesn’t seem to have the social impact that an old-fashioned theater release still has. With the evolving technology, we all have to figure out the best way of reaching the public. It’s not simple. On one hand, digital technology has made filmmaking easier. On the other, it has allowed the market to be flooded with bad amateur movies and your good movie might get lost in the crowd. Competition is greater today than ever before. All I can say is good luck and stay tenacious.

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Now Available!

Hate's Haunted Slay Ride

DVD Details:

16:9 Widescreen
Running Time: 1 hour 56 minutes
Region 1
Unrated Directors Cut
Not suggested for children
Special Features:
Commentary Track
Featurette: The Making of Hate's Haunted Slay Ride
Featurette: Visual Effects Artist Michael Christopher Lee featurette
Warren Disbrow Movie Trailers  

List Price: $16.95       

Haunted Hayride The Movie:

DVD Details:

Commentary Track featuring Writer-Director Warren F. Disbrow, Stars Jenny Hill, Dan Bartkewicz, Joey West, Warren Disbrow Sr
Featurette:  Movie location Brock Farms, NJ
Featurette: On movie location Dracula's Domain Haunted Hay Ride, NJ
Featurette: The Making of HAUNTED HAY RIDE: THE MOVIE
Video Interviews with Cast and Crew members
Promotional Free music tie-in WITH LOVE, FROM HATE by Butterfly Suicide

Warren Disbrow
Movie Trailers

List Price: $16.95