The Hole in 3D: Interview with Joe Dante part 2

The Hole in 3D

Format: Cinema

Release date: 22 September 2010

Distributor: E1 Entertainment

DVD release date: 17 January 2011

Director: Joe Dante

Writer: Mark L. Smith

Cast: Chris Massoglia, Haley Bennett, Nathan Gamble

USA 2009

92 mins

In the second part of Alex Fitch’s interview with Joe Dante, the director discusses his other recent project available to UK audiences, an excellent new horror film for kids called The Hole in 3D, his interest in the new technology that made the film possible and his hopes regarding the next film on his slate.

Read the first part of the interview with Joe Dante about his new TV and web mini-series Splatter.

Alex Fitch: It’s interesting that The Hole was out in UK cinemas at the same time Splatter was on TV. Splatter is a very quick, low-budget series designed to be shown on small screens while conversely The Hole is being shown in 3D cinemas using the newest 3D technology, and the film has won an award for 3D cinematography…

Joe Dante: I guess I just embrace any technology I can get my hands on! (laughs) The Hole wasn’t initiated in 3D. When I first got involved with it, I suggested it might be enhanced by shooting it in 3D now that the new system is far superior to the one that I grew up with. We did win an award at the Venice Film festival for ‘Best 3D’, and it was the first time they’d given that award. The way I approached it was a little less aggressive than I think people expect. There are some things that come out of the screen at you, but to me that’s not the appeal of 3D. After a while you get tired of having spears thrown at you, and I think the real value of the medium is to be able to envelop the audience in the story and make them feel as if it’s happening to them, and that’s what we tried to do with that.

Obviously the 3D technology has improved exponentially; when you saw 3D films when you were young, did you think, ‘If I ever get the chance to make films, I hope the technology will be considerably more advanced and I get to make the film that I wish I was watching now’?

I think I was too young at the time to have been thinking about having a career in anything, let alone movies, because 3D died off when I was about 10 years old. There were efforts to revive it later on that, for technical reasons, weren’t really very good. But I always loved 3D, in fact the movie that got me interested in movies was It came from Outer Space, which was shot in 3D in 1953, and I was very impressed with it. So I’ve always followed 3D. I’m part of a revival group that we have here in California that every so often – once a decade – runs all the 3D movies that are extant from the 50s in a sort of film festival, and we’re still looking for some of the ones that haven’t come to light. I’ve always been a 3D fan, but I can’t say I’m a 3D fanatic; I don’t run around proselytising that everyone should make every movie in 3D, and frankly I’m a little worried about the future of 3D because of the endless parade of fake 3D movies that have come down the ‘pike, movies shown in 3D that have been computerised to look that way and are far inferior to the results that you get when you actually shoot in 3D.

It seems very odd that various companies are releasing 3D TVs when there doesn’t seem to be enough product to show on them and no evidence that this revival of the format isn’t going to be another flash in the pan.

Well, there is something about this 3D TV thing that has all the retailers excited because everybody gets to replace all their equipment – that’s what they love. It’s like 8-track tapes, then they went to cassettes and then discs… They love to be able to sell you everything three times!

The Hole is a horror film for young adults – it’s not nearly as gory as Splatter or your early films such as Piranha and The Howling – and it has ended up in UK cinemas showing at the same time as the tail end of the theatrical run of Alexandre Aja’s Piranha 3D, so you’re kind of competing with a sequel to one of your own movies, which must be quite funny…

It’s not quite for the same audience, though. Piranha 3D is a gore fest of proportions I couldn’t have imagined being allowed on British screens during the 70s – back then in Britain every Western would have a splice when the gun went off. You didn’t see the guy die! It was very strict in those days, but now obviously things have changed. Piranha 3D is a really, really gory film and The Hole is not, it’s more of a psychological film. I don’t think it’s the same frat boy audience…

Looking at the history of 3D films, even Hitchcock made a movie in 3D – Dial M for Murder – in 1954, or maybe it was converted, I don’t know the technology behind it…

No, he shot it in 3D and it’s one of the best 3D movies ever made. Very few people have seen it in 3D, because it came along at the end of the cycle but it’s the movie that was a template for me when I was doing The Hole.

That’s what I was wondering, because it seems about time that someone – and I’m glad that you have done so – made another thriller in 3D, not relying on the technology just to exaggerate special effects, but using it as another way of making the special environment that the thriller is set in sinister, because the camera can move in a larger number of directions.

Yeah, I’m hoping that if 3D does catch on – if it does manage to survive this wave of crummy 3D movies – it will become a tool, a useful tool like Cinemascope was, something that is not suited to every story but in certain circumstances can enhance the movie and make it more of an immersive experience.

I read that your next film is going to be a behind-the-scenes fictionalisation of Roger Corman’s The Trip

I’m hoping that’s my next film. You know how it is these days with independents, I hope I can get it financed, it’s very tricky in today’s environment to get films off the ground. It costs so much money to make films, to release them, to make prints and advertising. It’s daunting, so you find the ones that get made are films that are very, very cheap or tent-pole, very expensive gambles. Often, they’re not really gambles as they’re usually remakes of TV shows or have the title of something you remember. Films about showbiz are always tricky to get financed because financiers think that audiences don’t relate to that sort of thing.

Even though there is a fascination among movie buffs for the history of the media?

Movie buffs alone don’t sell the tickets, and all the ancillary effects they used to expect from movies – you know, they would finance a movie and if it didn’t work theatrically it would make money on DVD – are no longer there, now the DVD market is getting soft and it’s turning into video on demand and no one is quite sure how the accounting of that works. So there’s a lot of uncertainty and even fear about the future of the entertainment business.

Why are you interested in making a film about that era? Is it down to your fond memories?

I was actually sent the script by the writer Tim Lucas…

From the magazine Video Watchdog?

Yes, he had written it on spec, basically, and wanted to know what I thought of it, and I liked it so much, I said I would love to do this movie. It’s been a challenge, but it’s a movie I want to see! My whole credo is that I don’t make movies that I wouldn’t go see and his is one that I would like to see, so obviously nobody is going to make it but me and I’m trying to get it off the ground…

Joe Dante is presenting a Director’s Night on the Horror Channel on 25th November where he’ll be introducing his selection of movies including Splatter, Bay of Blood and The Bird with the Crystal Plumage.

Interview by Alex Fitch