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Spider Baby 2023

Interview: Spider Baby with Director Dustin Ferguson

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Dustin FergusonOn Halloween, we celebrate the red carpet and world premiere of the official remake of the Jack Hill cult classic, Spider Baby.

The inbred children of the Merrye Estate fight to protect their beloved home and deranged way of life by any means necessary from their greedy relatives, who try to repossess the estate.

Directed and written by filmmaker and horror film enthusiast Dustin Ferguson, Spider Baby blends the nostalgia of the 1967 classic with a modern twist. Further cementing the bond between the original and the remake is the inclusion of the original cast member Beverly Washburn, who played Elizabeth in the original Spider Baby. Washburn returns to the deranged Spider Baby world in a new character, alongside Ron Chaney, the grandson of horror icon and leading man original Spider Baby Lon Chaney Jr. 

Ferguson shares with us the inspiration behind pursuing the remake, his favorite horror films, and what it was like to work with cult film icon Jack Hill.

Bonilla: What are some of your favorite horror films?

Ferguson: The original Texas Chainsaw Massacre from ’74. Halloween III: Season of the Witch, which is my all-time favorite movie. I also love Halloween one. Of course, House of 1000 Corpses. That was a big inspiration for Spider Baby. And Terror in the Aisles, which is a compilation from the ’80s.

How did you become inspired to go into filmmaking?

I’m a big horror movie fan. I grew up collecting them. I ended up having a collection of about five thousand horror movies on DVD, VHS, Betamax, and LaserDisc. That kind of actually led me into editing. I started as an editor. I edited Sleepaway Camp IV: The Survivor. The producer of that hired me and funded my first feature film, which was Terror at Black Tree Forest in 2010. And I just kind of obsessively kept making them since then. 

Before I moved to California, I used my horror collection to open a video store in Nebraska called Old Skool Video. I had it open for 11 months. Then my regular customer offered to buy it from me so that I could take the funds to move to California to do filmmaking full time.

Do you remember the first time you saw Spider Baby? How did it impact you?

I want to say I was 14 or 15. Because I got it on Something Weird Video on VHS. They had released it then. I didn’t know much about it. And I only knew of the reference from the White Zombie song, which lead me to check out the movie. 

I really liked the movie. It always kind of resonated with me. And I ended up coming back to it. 

What inspired you to make this film?

I have 143 films I’ve done. But they’re all mostly like micro-budgets, CGI kind of things. I never really felt like those were movies that demonstrated my full potential as a filmmaker. It’s just stuff I was hired to do, stuff I’m cranking out to make money. 

And so, I was sitting there thinking that I really needed something that would be like my House of 1000 Corpses. My calling card. The thing I’m really known for. Then, I thought about Spider Baby. Spider Baby is the movie that influenced movies like House of 1000 Corpses and Texas Chainsaw Massacre. So would it be great to actually go back to the source material and really do my version with the OG. 

So, I reached out to Jack Hill about it. And he was all about licensing the title and approved the script. We were already shooting before we knew it.

Jack Hill is an absolute icon. What was it like having him be a part of this film?

Very intimidating, because he’s done classics like Coffy and worked with Pam Grier back in the day. And made so many of those blaxploitation movies and carved a niche market for himself. 

From the very beginning, when I first approached him, my email was like, “I want to make sure that you like approve the script and approve the story. Because if I do this, I want it to be something you consider yourself a part of.”

And he was so sweet. He’s like, “Oh, don’t even worry about that.” But I still sent him the script. And he read the script. He only had one little suggestion. I messed up the name of a character or something. So, he had no changes creatively for it. 

He was always very kind. He was very accommodating. And so he was very supportive through the whole process.

What’s your favorite scene in the original Spider Baby?

I’ve always really liked the opening scene with the mailman. Because I feel like that really sets the tone. It’s one of the worst and [most] gruesome scenes in the movie and it’s scary. 

You can tell what really inspired The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the walking up to the house in the country that’s desolate. I thought that that was really, really eerie.

I think all of the scenes with Virginia are like gold. Like, I really love her character. I like the part where she captures her uncle. And that’s when it sort of like crosses the line. We realize how perverse they really are. That was so ahead of [its] time. I don’t think there was any movies about incest that had been seen by mainstream public at that point. So, I thought that that would really is what set that film apart. 

And so that was an element [we] really wanted to play up with the reboot, because the reboot actually takes place in the ’80s. We sort of took the sentiment and everything about that family as if they were just in the ’80s instead of in the ’60s. So, […] the kids now watch junk TV and eat junk food. And all the things in the ’80s. But it’s still really disturbing and with more weight because it’s them.

Spider Baby 2023 2When making this film, what challenges did you face in remaking the cult classic?

I feel like the point of a reboot, typically, is to update a film, but I didn’t really think the story would work so much in 2023. You could just call the police on your cell phone and there’s no more movie. So, I wanted it to be modern enough that it could feel relatable to modern audiences. If you set it in the ’80s or ’90s, before any real modern technology, it really allows for the story to play out the way that it should. 

I really like that era. That’s the era I grew up on. I think all the best movies came out then. We were really able to use it as a way to also sort of showcase homage to other stuff that were inspired by Texas Chainsaw Massacre and House of 1000 Corpses, just like their scenes from Spider Baby in them. So, it’s really like a just an ’80s variation of it, I’d say. 

For me, it’s very important as a fan to make sure that the fans of this film approve it. I don’t want to make something that people are gonna say are trash, or they think it’s crappy, or we’re just exploiting it. So, I wanted to make sure that it was my heart was on full display with this movie. That you can tell I’m a genuine fan. And I understand the little intricacies that make the original what it is, so that we really pull that through to the screen in this.

You have two versions of the film. How did you decide on having two versions?  

Not everyone knows there’s a black and white one we did as well as a color one. I had a lot of people initially ask me if it was gonna be black and white. I was like, “Well, it’s kind of the defeats the purpose of a remake.” I was remaking a black and white movie to be color. 

Then what actually happened was, I saw a trailer on YouTube for Rob Zombie’s The Munsters that a fan did in black and white. I watched it. I loved his Munsters reboot anyway, but seeing it in black and white, it totally changes the vibe and the perception of it. So, I tried it with Spider Baby. And I was like, “Damn! We have to have a black and white version, too.” So, I definitely made two.

I think we’re gonna show the color one at the premiere, but I’m gonna make the black and white one eventually available, too.

You’re going to have the premiere on Halloween. How does that feel?

It just kind of happened that way. Because we had it aimed when we started production for a premiere in October. That’s what we told all the press and all the big websites, that this was premiering in October. And then when it came down to it, it was really important for us to get Beverly Washburn at the premiere. But she had some event that was going through October 30th. So, the only way we could do it still in October was on Halloween. I was like, “Well, that’s fitting, I guess.” So, it just ended up working out that way.

What do you hope audiences will take away from seeing this remake?

For me, it’s very personal. Because, like I mentioned earlier, I kind of have a reputation for making bad movies. And I really wanted to show I can make a good movie with this. I thought that this was the kind of material I could really resonate with. That I could lean into, and my skills would really shine with this. I really hope it’s something that people see and they kind of look at my films and my filmography differently. 

I also want them to go back and watch the original. I want it to be a movie that’s similar enough that it feels familiar. To me as a fan, that’s always kind of the most important.

Spider Baby screens Tuesday, October 31st.
7pm
Tickets

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