Interview with horror writer/director Harrison Smith

Another week closer to Halloween haunt heads! This week I had the pleasure of talking to Horror writer/director Harrison Smith of the upcoming feature "DEATH HOUSE"! 

Harrison is from Pennsylvania and worked with the likes of Oscar winner actually shot his movie "6 Degrees of Hell" at the Hotel of Horror! Make sure you check out his body of work here at He pulls no punches with his opinions, which I highly respect and recommend you see more of over at his blog, Cynema( where you can also see his "The Road To Death House" series.

What made you want to become a writer/director?

Jaws. I saw it in its original theatrical release in1975 and simply, it was the movie that me want to make movies. I was eight. A few years later I got a silent Super 8mm film camera and started shooting my own movies with friends in the neighborhood. I cut with scissors, spliced with Scotch tape and scratched all of my lasers in by hand with a needle on a toy light board. Movies were an escape for me as they are for most people. I think they are the closest thing humans can come to magic. We can do anything in a movie and it also allows us a taste of tangible immortality. One can "live forever" if onscreen or behind it. I think that's part of the allure for many. 

Why horror?  Why not? I love all genres but horror was always fun and it should be fun as a genre. I am not into it when it goes way too dark like "A Serbian Film." I have no interest in watching such nihilistic stuff. Fine for some people but not me.

I love the title of your blog, Cynema. Please explain the inspiration behind that.

Jaws the Revenge was the inspiration and my piece on the film on my Cynema site explains it all. Feel free to quote it. Cynema is not about movie reviews. it is about the impact of cynicism on filmmaking. Jaws 4 is used for that because it is a shining example of where filmmakers had a clear chance to make something good and instead didn't care. They just went ahead to benefit themselves and waste an incredible amount of money for their own benefit. There was never a plan to actually make a decent film. It was a cynical cash grab that the numbers showed had the potential for profit no matter how bad the film was. And the numbers were right. The film made a profit on its +20 million budget. No money certainly went into the script or effects. It definitely didn't go into creative. It was a piece of bad product pushed on the consumers and it all worked. The people who made it should have known better and they did. That's the whole pretext of "Cynema" when you have all the resources and abilities to make a good film and simply make the choice not to do so. I am not talking about low budget "B" films or even Ed Wood. Wood didn't make Cynema. He was convinced he was making some kind of art. He didn't intentionally set out to screw his audience. Filmmakers who churn out garbage like "Jaws the Revenge" can't say that. 

I have to say, listening to your interviews, you have a very healthy outlook/opinion on the industry, especially with your comments on "Creep". If you had a chance to take a movie that you saw and said to yourself "I could've done that better." what film would you tackle? "Ahh, I don't know if I would do that. I mean I would love to go back and remake some bad films. That I would like to do. But to say I could have done something better than a filmmaker's vision on something they worked their ass off on, is arrogant. However I would love to remake a few bad films and make them good.

Now we review haunts, and you did "6 Degrees Of Hell" with Corey Feldman and Jill Whelan, about a real-life Halloween attraction. Can you tell our followers some more about this movie?

It's a pretty popular Halloween cult film now. It is based on the "what if" idea that a Halloween haunted attraction was for real, and the people you see dying in there were dying for real. Corey Feldman does a great job as a paranormal investigator finding out what happened to his friend and associate. It's a fun Halloween type film and Joe Raffa did a great job directing it. I enjoy the movie a lot. it is available everywhere: Hulu, Redbox DVD, Netflix DVD, iTunes, Amazon streaming, VuDu....

Do you partake of haunted attractions? (If so, what do you look for, your favorite and why?)

I do but hands down I love The Hotel of Horror in Saylorsburg, PA. The owners and their staff of haunters do it right and that's why we chose to film 6 Degrees of Hell there. 

What would your advice be for a haunt actor if you could direct one like you do on set? Give it your best and don't be average or mediocre.

Now you're currently in post-production on"Death House, which is being referred to as "The Expendables" of Horror.  How did the story for this evolve, how were you able to secure such Titans and icons of horror?

Well the story on this came about is out there in a number of publications. We never called "The Expendables of Horror." The media dubbed it that term. You can find everything need on my Cynema site under "The Road To Death House" series. Feel free to use whatever you like from those three articles. 

The late, great Gunnar Hansen wrote most of the screenplay, how do you feel that this will attribute to his legacy? How would you hope he is remembered other than of course being the original Leatherface?

Gunnar wrote the original story and I rewrote his script into the screenplay we have now. He was a kind and gentle man who wanted to make the sure the film was not a cynical gimmick or cash grab. He signed off on my script and gave it his blessing. I hope he is always remembered as the kind person he was. In an alternate universe he would have been a great Santa Claus. He was noble and quiet and such a great human being. If Texas Chainsaw allows his name to live on great, but the film does not define him as a person. 

What does the future hold for Harrison Smith and Class of '85 productions? Where do you envision the Horror genre heading in the future?

I have a number of projects lining up and looking forward to my first comedy in January. It is called "Garlic and Gunpowder" and we have one hell of a cast lining up for it. It's going to be a lot of fun and a very funny action comedy. I am excited. As for what the horror genre is heading for...well that's subjective. However censorship is the biggest thing threatening the genre and all of our art and speech. This "everyone is offended" garbage is really just a form of censorship and whether politically correct or not, it is a way to control us. Resist censorship. You don't like something, don't watch it, turn it off, don't buy it. However you do not have the right to "not be offended." 

Thank you again so much, I had a blast just listening to your interviews, I can't to wait to marathon your movies with my wife:) Let me know what you liked best!

Reporter at large, Mr, BH Todd