Future-Kill (1985) Retrospective

SUMMARY
A group of fraternity brothers decides to kidnap one of the anti-nuclear activists. Unknown to them, they have captured the founder of the entire movement, Eddie Pain. In an attempt to rescue their leader, Splatter not only kills one of the frat boys, but Eddie Pain as well, thereby becoming the new leader of the anti-nukes. They inadvertently get framed for the murder of the mutant leader and are hunted through the abandoned buildings and dark streets by a crazed Splatter and his gang.

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DEVELOPMENT/PRODUCTION
This movie, Moore’s first feature, grew out of the producer-director’s friendship with Edwin Neal, a friendship that began before Moore had ever seen Texas Chainsaw. “Although I’m a big fan of the picture,” says Moore, “I didn’t see it when it first came out back in ’74. It probably wasn’t until ’78 that I finally saw it and I had already known Ed Neal since the year before. We were both interested in old-movie posters. I had heard tell that the University of Texas had a large collection and I went to see it. Ed was the curator of that collection. After that first meeting, we got together quite a bit and talked about eventually making a film somewhere down the line.”

Moore has worked in various capacities on films shot in Texas, but the movie credential that he stresses when talking about putting together the Splatter project is his experience in the exhibition of movies. “I had come from a background of working in movie theaters and doing promotion campaigns,” explains Moore, “so I knew the distribution end very well. ! had managed a movie theater for about four-and-a-half years, and after that amount of time you get to know the types of films people come to see. It’s not just dollars and cents on paper. You’ re right there on the spot; you hear what the people are saying when they’re walking out at the end of a film, and that’s something that I don’t think a lot of people within the movie industry get to see very often. That’s something within the exhibition end. That’s one thing I’m really confident about; after almost five years, I’m able to look at films and know how they’re going to affect the public or what the public’s going to think about it.”

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This instinct for public tastes was still in the making when Moore graduated from the University of Texas in May of 1982 and tried to get his first feature film off the ground. He recalls; “I finished a script called Death in Crimson, a nostalgic, 40’s-style detective film. I tried to get financing for that picture till about November of ’82. At that point I could see I was getting nowhere very quickly: people just didn’t see a real fast market in that project, so I got together with another film graduate, a friend of mine named John Best. He and I were sitting around one night having a few beers and trying to decide what movie we could do that would be a whole lot of fun, real commercial, and let us sink our teeth into something that would give us a feature credit. We’re both good friends of Ed Neal and we thought about doing a horror film named Splatter. The idea for the film was really conceived by taking a lot of films that we liked and putting them all into one new feature-film idea. Chainsaw stands out as one of the biggest of these influences, along with Night of the Living Dead, and films that were futuristic, like Escape from New York, films that were somewhat graphic, had a lot of violence and a lot of action. Splatter is not so much a straight horror film as it is an action movie.”

The concoction that Moore and Best came up with takes place in 1988. By this time the anti-nuclear movement in Western Europe has produced some offbeat side-effects. The fervent movement has taken hold in America as it has in Europe, and this Americanized branch has subdivided into two factions: the Truists and the Mutants. The Truists are concerned primarily with pure protest, while the Mutants have taken the most bizarre, theatrical side of the hard-core members of the European movement: skulls painted onto faces, wild, unsettling outfits, and any other devices used by anti-nukers to dramatize the potential effect of nuclear war on humans.

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A bunch of fun-loving fraternity brothers have decided that a neat way to spice up their upcoming spring party is to kidnap the leader of the local Mutants, a guy named Eddie Pain. These frats regard the Mutants as a joke, but soon learn the error of their ways. When they go to the ravaged downtown section of town where the Mutants live, they find that Eddie Pain has been assassinated by his ambitious subordinate, none other than Edwin Neal in the title role of Splatter. Splatter convinces his henchmen that violence is the wave of the future and he tells them to take care of the frats before they can leave the city. The fraternity brothers sense that something unpleasant is in the works and they take off for the city line. After their car is destroyed, they try to get out of the city on foot. The Splatter henchmen move in and, as Moore puts it, “it’s one fight after another as the frats try to get out of town,”

With this story in mind and Edwin Neal lined up in the title role, the next piece of the production puzzle fell naturally into ’place. One of the characters in the story is Eddie Pain’s girlfriend, a mutant woman known as Dorothy Grim. In the words of Moore, “It just hit us like a ton of bricks one day. We figured, as long as we can get Edwin to do a part, we should get Marilyn Burns also. Let’s have a re-teaming of the main characters of Chainsaw.”

The job then remained of getting the money to make the picture, something, Moore points out, that “they don’t teach you in film school. With Death in Crimson, I went ahead and had the script finished and then I put together a budget based on that and went out to try to raise the money. That didn’t work. With Splatter. I decided to get the money first and build the film around it. I put together a prospectus for the film before I even had a script. All I had was about a two-page treatment of the story. I also had a budget I had prepared, and storyboard designs of costumes and makeup. I put it all in a package and started showing it to people. I had quit my job so I could work full time on getting this thing off the ground. I had to borrow money from friends to keep myself going, and at one point I almost quit. But then I got lucky.”

Moore’s break came through a man named Don Barker who was forming a new company called Magic Shadows Distribution. Barker started the company for the purpose of distributing Moore’s projected film and eventually became the film’s financier and executive producer in order to make sure that he would have a picture to release. At present, Magic Shadows is considering re- leasing Splatter locally in Texas first to test- market the film on home ground before venturing out to wider distribution.

To set the scene of a Mutant hangout in a city of 1988, Moore and his crew had to set up a devastated urban location, which turned out not to be very difficult. Moore found that just about any downtown area of a city would not be too different from the rundown setting he had in mind. “All we had to do really was take over a downtown section of the city and just dress it up accordingly a little trash thrown around, appropriate graffiti on the wall, that sort of thing.”

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Some problems arose, through, while Moore was filming on the streets. “Most people who watched us shoot were very cooperative.” says Moore, “but we got a lot of flak from real punks who thought we were putting punks down in our Mutant scenes which had nothing to do with what was going on. So they started bombarding us with bottles and we had to run for cover. On another occasion we were getting it from the frats also, who came out at one point and hollered at us for putting down fraternities. So we were catching it from both sides.”

For the special effects in Splatter, another Texas Chainsaw Massacre veteran was called into service. Bob Burns, who was the art editor on The Hills Have Eyes and The Howling as well as Texas Chainsaw, was hired by Moore to handle the effects work generated by the desperate confrontation between frats and Mutants in Splatter. Moore promises that some of these effects will be quite horrific, ranging from bloody to bizarre.

Within this setting of violence, the parts played by Edwin Neal and Marilyn Burns, as described by Moore, sound like they could be quite meaty. As Chainsaw fans would hope and expect, the Splatter character played by Neal is mighty ornery, “When John and I were doing the script,” says Moore, “the original concept for Splatter was to make him the ultimate bad-ass to ever appear in a film. We wanted this guy to have 40 ways on him to kill somebody. He’s got a Gurkha knife on him, a rack of spikes on his forearm, a blade, claws, a machete, and he’s got a sub machine gun off to the side. He’s like a walking death machine. He’s also got infrared visor vision so that he can track people at night. Plus, the guy’s a speed freak with a speed-injection system on him,”

Marilyn Burns, on the other hand, plays against type. Whereas in Texas Chainsaw she spent most of her screen time screaming her head off while being dragged around or tied in chairs by cackling Neal and friends, she now has the chance to turn the tables. As the girlfriend of the Mutant killed by Splatter, she tends to take a dim view of Ed Neal’s lifestyle, if not his very existence. Moore says, “She’s out for vengeance against Splatter and ends up helping out the frats. She’s not a helpless victim this time: in fact she becomes the predator in this one. And, I think, she gets a lot of satisfaction at the very end of the film.”

Director Ronald Moore on Future Kill
In production it was called Splatter. Now it’s called Future-kill. Texas-based Ron Moore changed the name of his directorial debut because he didn’t want to confuse the market place with two films in simultaneous release with similar titles, the other being Splatter University. Also the word “splatter” now has a connotation that Moore felt didn’t reflect the content of his movie at all. as he is adamant in claiming it isn’t a blood and guts film.

So what is Splatter/ Futurekill about? Moore explains it this way. “Well, don’t groan, but basically it’s about some fraternity members on a “hell night”. They have tarred and feathered another fraternity’s president and have to make amends by kidnapping a ‘No nuke’ protester to make him the mascot of a party they have planned. The nuclear movement is based downtown and the guy they eventually grab turns out to be the very radical leader of the whole group. That’s the character Splatter. It becomes a race to get to the city boundaries when Splatter puts the word out that the fraternity is responsible for a mythical murder. The film is set in the near future – about 1988 I’d say – and is a very conceivable plot if the peace movements carry on the way they are. I suppose it is a hard film to categorize as it combines a wide range of things like a New Wave score, camp humor, serious statements and a smattering of gore. I think it will catch audiences off guard as it starts out as a comedy and switches to being quite nightmarish.”

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Moore wrote Futurekill with two other people – Kathy Hagan and John Best – when the idea for another film seemed to be going nowhere. “It was called Death in Crimson but it needed financing beyond a limit I could locate. So John and I devised Futurekill and brought Kathy into the project so we could amalgamate her anti-punk fashion designs and Ideas.”

Next Moore set about providing the most complete package ever to induce a major financier to take the first tentative step into film production. “I had completed story- boards, a cast and crew already lined up, the look of the film outlined on color plates and some of the music already composed when I went to see our prospective backer, Don Barker. He’s a private entrepreneur in Austin, Texas, who has a lot of companies to his name. Anything he could ask me was down on paper somewhere, even a breakdown of how similar films had fared in the market place. Futurekill cost just under a million dollars to make, and I must say I felt extremely responsible for all that money. But in Texas, your dollar does go further and I feel we have achieved a higher quality look than most other films in our price bracket. We even shot it on 35mm Panavision panaflex to make it as good as we could.”

Another major reason why the film got financed in the first place was the inclusion very early on in the casting process of Edwin Neal. Neal was the cannibalistic hitchhiker who put Texas on the map forever in The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. “I met Ed when I was a student at the University of Texas. He would sell us film posters. I pulled Ed into the project very early on because I realized the Chainsaw hook was potent enough to get possible backers interested in the project. It turned out that he had maintained a good friendship over the years with Marilyn Burns, the victim in Chainsaw and when we were discussing one of the characters in the film, Dorothy Grim, it both hit us at the same time that she would be perfect for the part. As she is the character to kill Ed’s Splatter, I think she certainly gets a sort of revenge on him for all he put her through in Chainsaw\Wayne Bell, our soundman, Murray Church our production manager and Robert Burns who did some of our special make-up effects, all worked on The Texas Chainsaw Massacre too. Everyone else on the film was in my age range.”

Moore has always been interested in film and has been involved one way or another when he worked for Texas Instruments making 70mm seismological films for oil companies and managing theaters for the American Multi-Cinema chain. “It was a good solid bate but nothing really prepared me for the rigors of full-scale film production. It was obviously unlike any other experience I’ve ever had. But as it progressed. I got more fluent and it became easier to deal with. My inexperience made me more open to ideas and I gave a lot of autonomy to the different departments. For example I told Kathy to go wild with the costume designs. ‘Grab an idea,’ I said, ‘And go with it.’ That’s why we have such marvelous things in Future-kill, like Splatter’s intravenous, electronic speed system, where all he does is push a button and amphetamine is automatically injected into his arm. It was the same with my director of photography, John Lewis. Although I had basic guidelines, I wanted him to throw everything he had into the film. This attitude really kept us all going and created a very positive approach. That is why the film is so dynamic in all areas.”

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Moore realized very early on that Splatter as a title had to go. “We were pushing it slightly, don’t you think? John and I were trying to name the characters in the script in the same manner as pop stars like Billy Idol. You know, a really rugged surname teamed with a homely first one. We made a list and Splatter just seemed so right for the character and the title. But whenever we talked about the film for publicity purposes we got the reactions you would expect. So it became a collaborative decision to change it. The splatter is still there but it’s cut to a minimum. There is one death inflicted by a gurkha knife but for the most part the violence is tasteful – one is shot behind a sheet of tin for example, leaving more to the imagination. I certainly didn’t want to get lumped with Splatter University or any other gross offerings like that!”

BEHIND THE SCENES/INTERVIEWS

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Interview with actor Ed Neal

What can you tell us about Future Kill?
Ed Neal: It’s a real interesting story. We wanted to make a movie about young people, and we didn’t want to make a message film perse, but we wanted to at least do something that people would think about, not just another cut’-em-up movie. We didn’t have any interest in that.

Who’s “we”?
Ed Neal: Ron Moore, the director, and John Best, who’s working with him. They wrote the script, along with a lady out in California, Kathy Hagan. Basically, it’s about a group of fraternity guys on “hell night.” They send some of their pledges down into the bad side of town to kidnap the leader of an anti-nuclear group. Before they can kidnap him, a psychotic, violent, anti-nuke person myself enters the scene. Now, this man is bad. He’s taken up permanent residence in the ozone. He’s nicknamed “Splatter.” The leader of the anti-nuke group is non-violent, so, see, we get both sides in there. We didn’t want to slant it one way or another, we just wanted people to think about it.

So in Future Kill, although we’ll stop short of calling it a message picture, there is a concern beyond who will survive and what will be left of them.
Ed Neal: Absolutely. Absolutely. In fact, we tried to de-emphasize the violence of it. It’s there, of course, but the killer is not just another demented psycho without the audience ever knowing why he’s a psycho. This guy’s trip is that he was once a nuclear scientist, terribly pro-nuke. And then he lost his entire right arm in a nuclear accident. Part of his upper body and head area are now covered by a helmet, and his right arm is hydraulic.

What part does Marilyn play?
Ed Neal: She’s a character called Dorothy Grim, the girlfriend of the leader of the anti-nuclear movement.

Has she been living in Texas since Chainsaw
Ed Neal: No. She’s been out in L.A. doing a whole bunch of projects. But her family’s in Houston, so she was glad to come back to Texas for a film.

What was the extent of your involvement in Future Kill, beyond acting in it?
Ed Neal: I helped with the publicity and I helped with the ideas and worked on the script a little bit. The way I met them [Moore and Best] is that they were students at UT (the University of Texas), and I was selling them movie posters. They knew me from Chainsaw and they’d always wanted to get into the film business, so they came to me and said, “Help us put this together” And I said, “You betcha. Let’s do it.”

How about your special effects?
Fangoria_034_0Ed Neal: We’ve got some great effects, and we’re real proud of the work that was done. We were fortunate in obtaining the services of Robert Burns, who did, of course. Chainsaw, as well as working on The Hills Have Eyes, The Howling, and some of the effects in Poltergeist. He’s done a whole bunch of stuff. He just got signed to do work for The Hills Have Eyes 2. He created a dynamite special effect for us. Splatter goes through a strange demise, and I think it’s going to be real interesting. All l can tell you at this point is that it involves nuclear energy. We turned Robert loose on that and he’s having some fun. We’ve also got some great machinery that was built for us out in Los Angeles. My costume has  and I don’t think I’ve ever seen this done before  an intravenous, electronic, speed [amphetamine] system. He pushes a button and it feeds a vial of speed into his arm. Because he’s in such physical pain all the time, that’s the only way he can keep going sometimes. And it works. It looks great on film.

So your character. Splatter, is the pivotal figure in the movie.
Ed Neal: Yeah, he’s the guy who chases everybody around and does all the strange things, and polarizes people’s attitudes. The fraternity guys, some of them, go through a polarization in the film. Some of them become anti-nukes, some become pro-nuke, based on their different reactions to what they see within the group of protesters. We tried to make it more than just a hack movie. We tried real hard.

And you think you succeeded?
Ed Neal: Well, I don’t know. Well have to leave that up to the critics. They’ve got to have something to do. You know, it’s not going to be Gone With the Wind, but we’re not going to be ashamed to show it. You know what I mean? We won’t have to hide. We’re going to spend some extra money and put some good music to it. Our executive producer, Don Barker, is a real fine individual who’s been willing to go extra miles with us. Usually, what you hear on the set of a movie with a budget under two million dollars is, “Well, we don’t have the time or money to do that so let’s just blow it off.” What we were fortunate enough to hear from him was, “Well, will it look right if we do it this other way?” and people would say yeah, and he’d say, “Then that’s how we’ll do it.”

Could you tell me something about your meeting with H.R Giger?
Ed Neal: I went to see him in Switzerland to pay him for the poster design for Futurekill. He did a wonderful, wonderful rendition of me on the poster and we were able to book the film into a lot of theatres that wouldn’t have touched It because It had no major star. But based on the artwork by the guy who did Alien they knew they could get a crowd In. So they said ‘We ll take it based on the poster alone” which doesn’t say much for the movie Industry. I made more money off the poster than I made off the film.

How did that work out?
Ed Neal: Well, they couldn’t afford to pay me all the money they owed me so they said “Well, take these posters and sell them and you’ll get a bit of money that way”. Well the film became so culty and Giger’s artwork became so culty that I actually made more money selling the posters than doing the film. But that’s the reason we did it in the first place: we knew his artwork would attract interest in the film. He had requested we pay him in cash. A man of that stature gives you a list of conditions and if there’s nothing outrageous you say yes to everything because he’s so wonderful. It was a gift that he was doing it in the first place because he turned down a lot of Important people to do film posters, like 20th Century Fox. because he’s a really fine artist and he really doesn’t need to do them. But he was attracted to this and he loved Texas Chainsaw Massacre so that’s one of the main reasons he did Futurekill.

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What’s H.R. Giger like?
Ed Neal: Giger. Is one of the most fascinating men In the entire world. I was supposed to stay a couple of days, I think I stayed two weeks. The man is absolutely fascinating: before you die you must either meet him or visit his home. He’s definitely not like us; he’s very, very special. He sees things In a way that others cannot see them until he sees them that way and then they go “Oh yeah” It’s that real kind of Swiss ability to line things up no matter how many layers are there and still see underneath them. And they’ve been doing it for years and years and years with little tiny mechanical things that, no matter how many bolts and nuts they get crammed In there, they still know It’s going to fit. I don’t know what it is about the Swiss mind that they can do that, but I’m telling you there’s a whole lot of other minds that have trouble; particularly American ones, because we can’t see things in that many layers and Giger and a great many of the Swiss people have no problem with It whatsoever. He started out as an Industrial designer.

Next up I understood that Edwin Neal asked you to be in the sci-fi action flick ‘Future Kill’ as his mistress Dorothy Grimm which is a different character all together. Did you feel that this was definitely a role to play around with since you had a warrior type of outfit in this flick?
Marilyn Burns: Oh I definitely had a good time with that one. That was a really interesting film and that costume was very different.

Did this one make it to theater’s and what was the turn out to the fans since most considered it a horror flick since both you and Edwin starred in it? It was really a sci-fi film altogether though.
Marilyn Burns: Yeah it went to theater’s it had a big premiere we were everywhere Westwood, Egyptian, Hollywood Blvd. I went to the Dallas Red Carpet and all that mess.

 
H.R. Giger on the Future Kill Poster

 In 1985 you designed the poster for FUTURE-KILL. Did you have anything else to do with that film?
GIGER No. When Ron Moore, the director, visited an exposition of my work near Zurich he asked me if I would care to do the poster art for his film, which was being edited. Moore showed me a couple of photographs of this character with a skull-like head which looked just like it had been stolen from one of my works. I thought that since they had copied that so well  already I  might as well do the  poster.  Half  a year later I saw  the finished film and it was… how  shall I put it… it was very colorful, whereas my poster was  rather  black  and white. I liked the colors in the film, they reminded me  of BLACK  ORPHEUS.  But  the rest… the poster was well printed, though.

Ron Moore was sent to Switzerland on a mission from the company to come back with a Giger poster – or else. I was not in the mood to begin a new work. He said he had to have the poster and had to have it right away! I felt my only means of escape from this situation would be to pretend to be sick. This, however, drove Ron into quite a state of despair. Mia recounted a conversation with him wherein he tearfully confided to her that he would not return to his movie associates without the poster from me. Apparently he promised them too much. I spent a furiously busy week  creating a red and grey version of the desired poster. As soon as I was finished, Ron disappeared with his loot. I didn’t even get a chance to make reproductions of them. Later I heard that the poster turned out to be the most successful aspect of the entire project.  Ed Neal, who had another occupation as museum curator, made 1,000 copies of each version. Today the grey head is often used to illustrate cyberpunk themes. Ron, your strategy was good. Without the tears, you would never have taken home the poster  – H.R. Giger on film director Ron Moore

PROMOTIONAL/ADVERTISING

CREDITS/REFERENCES/SOURCES/BIBLIOGRAPHY
Samhain#28
Cinefantastique vol.18 no 04
HR Giger’s Film Design
Fangoria#33
Fangoria#34
Starburst Magazine#73
Samhain#28
racksandrazors.com
 

CAST/CREW
Edwin Neal as Splatter
Marilyn Burns as Dorothy Grim
Gabriel Folse as Paul
Wade Reese as Steve
Barton Faulks as Tom
Rob Rowley as Jay
Craig Kanne as Clint
Jeffrey Scott as George

Directed – Ronald W. Moore
Produced – John H. Best
Written
Ronald W. Moore
Edwin Neal
Gregg Unterberger
John H. Best

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