As far as horror résumés go, Charles Band’s certainly isn’t lacking in variety. He worked on the Puppetmaster series, The Gingerdead Man (starring Gary Busey), and Blood Dolls, and was a producer on everything from Re-Animator to Troll. Nothing with dudes in masks chopping up cheerleaders though—people can get enough of that boring stuff on the news. Band specializes in creature features, particularly of the “WTF, they made that?” variety. His latest, Evil Bong 3-D: The Wrath of Bong, features aliens that invade Earth via the most logical means available—a giant, sinister-looking space-bong with a wacky voice. Before checking it out on April 23 at the Orpheum, The A.V. Club chatted with Band to get some pointers on how “Boner 3-D” and “Smell-O-Rama” work, only to be teased with his multitude of tall tales involving Busey that were “too raunchy” to tell over the phone. Umm…gross?
The A.V. Club: So, Evil Bong 3-D. Can you explain what this is, exactly?
Charles Band: It’s definitely a stoner comedy with a little horror mixed in. We’ve already made two Evil Bong movies; they’ve both done real well. The first one was with Tommy Chong. We felt that the franchise had such a following that it would make sense to do a third one not only in 3-D, but with scratch-and-sniff, which we’re calling “Sniff-O-Rama.” You’ll go in the theater and you’ll get a card and they’ll be eight different numbers—you’ll scratch as certain indications happen on screen. It’s kind of new and different—I mean, it’s been around, but there are a lot of people who have never heard of it or the scratch-and-sniff stuff. With the theme of the film, the silliness, the 3-D, the scratch-and-sniff—it should be a lot of fun.
AVC: Is there a specific connection between pot and aliens in your mind? Where does an idea like that come from?
CB: You know—that, I have no idea. It just fell out of the sky, so to speak. We’re in a world where so much is so serious. You’ve got the big studio tent pole movies, which usually have a tremendous amount of sizzle and special effects and action, but not so much story and not so much character—we’re in a different realm here trying to make low-budget films. We’re trying to be a little bit different, a little out of the box. A movie that advertises itself as being in “Boner 3-D” sort of says it all. I’m also in a business where if you really get lucky, the title of a movie says it all as well. A movie called Evil Bong is just that.
AVC: The show at the Orpheum Theatre is playing in anaglyphic 3-D, the cheesy style with red/blue glasses, correct?
CB: Yes. We shot it in the new fancy-schmancy 3-D, which was cool—the film isn’t a conversion [from a 2-D print]. But to play in the large, old-movie-palace venues that I wanted to play this in, anaglyph works really well. We actually did a conversion from the way we shot it to a 35-mm anaglyph print, and it looks pretty damn good. But again, it was only because the venues we were going into just aren’t equipped with 3-D the way it works today.
AVC: Is that something you’re encountering moving into producing 3-D films? Does it make it harder to book venues?
CB: It does, but there’s something about seeing an audience of 600-700 people all scratching the numbers on the card at a certain time and watching a crazy, silly movie. Otherwise, you’re relegated to the chains—the chains have nice screens, but they’re smaller. We have a lot of merchandise, and the theme of everything we do is pretty irreverent, so it would be very hard in many cases to go into a 12- or 16-plex and put all our merchandise in front of theater seven and be next door to a Disney movie with Evil Bong. It’s restrictive on doing the sort of fun showmanship thing I want to do with this movie. You need a standalone older screen, and those are, with few exceptions, not converted to modern 3-D.
AVC: Are you channeling older, cheesy 3-D horror flicks then?
CB: Oh, for sure. This is cheesy. This is not Avatar; this is not the window into the depth of this and that. This is stuff poking out at you, the old style of, “Let’s have fun with this.” The 3-D approach today—there’s nothing wrong with it, but I think a lot of these movies take themselves pretty seriously. This is a throwback to what 3-D was in the ’60s and then again in the early ’80s.
AVC: How does “Sniff-O-Rama” make your job more complicated? Did you need to have a script supervisor to keep track of odors on set?
CB: [Laughs.] No, it’s really grafted into the script. The timing is always interesting—most people haven’t been to a movie with a scratch-and-sniff card. It’s pretty simple: Number will come up on the screen, and you scratch that number. It ties into an action happening in the film. But it takes a moment or two for people to get the card and recognize that, say, number three has come up. People are smelling something or are reacting to a good smell or a bad smell, and it’s a little tricky to time it so the gag still works. But other than that, it’s just about inventing moments that will amuse people.
AVC: Is that whole system rooted somewhere in the history of kitschy cinema as well?
CB: There are few who will know this: There’s one person, William Castle, he was a phenomenal producer and filmmaker in the ’50s and ’60s who really was the guy who invented these gimmicks that theaters were rigged for back in the day. There was the “Tingler,” there were—he had ghosts flying around in the audience. He actually had one movie that had just a few seats, like 40 or 50, wired with a very small electrical shock. He was truly the gimmicky master showman. If nothing else, this is an homage to William Castle. Now, he eventually went on to produce Rosemary’s Baby, which is a terrific horror film, but he’s most well-known for his gimmicky films. That’s what this is: This is just come and have fun. I mean, “Sniff-O-Rama,” “Boner 3-D.” It’s a very fun movie, we’re doing a live presentation before, and it’s just a unique experience if you just want to have a good time.
AVC: Doing the live show, coupled with your encouragement of fans to create their own previews for the film—it seems like you have a pretty active dialogue with your fans. What’s it been like interacting with them while you take the film on the road?
CB: It’s been amazing. In Chicago, we had 500 people show up for one screening. It’s so hard to describe it. I keep thinking of a Rocky Horror Picture Show vibe where there’s interaction, but it’s not really a fair comparison. It’s sort of a demented variety act when I get up there on stage. I bring people up and we do—I don’t want to spoil too much, but there always seems to be someone taking their top off. So it’s a weird, bizarre sort of mini-Ozzfest, but as it relates to horror movies. It’s just silliness and fun—of course, the more you drink and/or smoke before one of these shows, the better it gets.
AVC: Are you hoping to see Rocky Horror-style memes emerging during screenings?
CB: We’re barely getting going, so who knows. It took Rocky Horror a long time to gather and garner that sort of attention and following. Still, it’s a lot of fun, and we’ll see what comes of it. It’s never been done before—this will be the first time someone will be able to see a stoner comedy in 3-D with scratch-and-sniff. Just combining 3-D and scratch-and-sniff is a first, and it’s hard to describe it unless you’re sitting there with 400 to 500 other people and they’re all doing the same thing. It’s pretty funny.
AVC: What’s different about creating films that straddle the line between horror and comedy?
CB: I love lacing dark humor into horror films. I think that’s what makes them clever. Whether it’s movies I’ve made—like From Beyond or Re-Animator in the ’80s, or later pictures like Ghoulies and Troll and Subspecies—they all kind of feel like they’re cut from the same cloth. I’ve never made a slasher movie—there’s nothing entertaining to me about a guy in a ski mask cutting people up. I mean, that’s every day, on the news. Or people are getting beheaded. That’s just not fun. Creatures, monsters, critters, puppets doing crazy stuff: I think a lot of us know that’s sort of pretend, and if you’re clever enough, you can creep people out a bit or make them laugh with some weird double entendre. I don’t know quite how to describe it, other than it’s another weird sub-brand of the horror genre.
AVC: Gary Busey was the original voice of the Gingerdead Man, correct? Any good Busey stories for our readers?
CB: Absolutely. You’ll have to come to the Orpheum, because these are raunchy stories. I worked with Gary Busey for one day, okay, and one day on the ADR stage when he was the voice of the pissed-off cookie. I must have 20 Gary Busey stories. Some of them are really hard to tell right now, in an interview, so they’ll all just have to show up and ask about things like him wondering, “Whatever happened to the bush?”