Interview with ‘Headless’ director Arthur Cullipher (Ginger Nuts of Horror)

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by Alex DavisPicture

“Well, mostly. A good magician never explains. I’m more of neutral sorcerer, so I just explain vaguely.”
In 2015 we reviewed a lot of movies, but there were very few that had the same kind of bone-crunching impact as Headless. Presented as a lost 1970s slasher, the story of our brutal, unnamed killer and his constant companion, Skull Boy, this was truly one of the most disturbing movies of the year. And we had the pleasure of talking to director Arthur Cullipher about this horrible homage to the field…
Alex: To start with a bit of background, tell us a bit about the relationship between Headless and the equally excellent Found.

Arthur: Found is about a young boy, Marty, who discovers his older brother, Steve, is a serial killer. Through the course of the film, Marty finds a videocassette in Steve’s room that he thinks may have inspired his killings. On that cassette is a 70’s era, grindhouse slasher called Headless. We shot about ten minutes of Headless and that’s really all there was ever intended to be.Alex: The movie absolutely lays out its manifesto in the first few minutes – was it a conscious decision to really go for the throat straightaway? 

Arthur: Really, I just wanted it to be the genuine article. I would’ve loved to have been able to have included everything that we saw in Found, but it just ended up bogging the movie down. The compromise was to just take the best parts and I think, ultimately, it was the most effective choice. 

Alex: One of the things I liked about Headless is that it had a good and well-developed backstory. Where did the ideas for this emerge from? 

Arthur: Scott and I sat and talked about what we wanted to see. Scott wanted to see someone in a cage. So we put the killer in a cage as a young boy and gave him an abusive mother figure. I had an image of Skullboy crawling out of the woods while Mom was butchering a rabbit and feeding the caged boy only the head. That scene was transported nearly whole into the finished film. We approached the group with what we had and asked what they wanted to see. Everyone gave their contributions and Nathan cooked it all together into the story we all know today.

Alex: Shane Beasley in the lead role is brilliant, practically animalistic. What led you to choose him for the part? 

Arthur: He originated the role. There was never anyone else I would have even considered. If he had said no, there wouldn’t be a Headless.

Alex: It must have been great fun capturing that 70s feel throughout – is that an era of horror you’re a particular fan of? 

Arthur: Absolutely! It’s sort of my comfort food. Those are the films I grew up watching. I was into horror at a pretty young age and was, honestly, somewhat disheartened by the slasher franchises of the 80’s. Not because I didn’t love those as well, but because, when other kids were old enough to be interested, that was all my friends knew of horror. “Oh you like horror? You mean like Freddy and Jason?” Well, yes, but no.

I feel with Headless, whether you like it or don’t, unless your filmic education includes a vast array of underground horror and occult movies from the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s, as well as the mainstream, it might be easy to misunderstand why Headless is the way it is. I don’t think I could be happier with it.

Alex: How important was it for you to have some of the comic relief that we get in the movie? 

Arthur: That was largely Nathan’s script, but as those types of movies are often unintentionally funny, we wanted to give some leeway for that to happen organically, as well. My primary concern was that it was as close to the ‘real thing’ as we could make it.

Alex: How did you go about achieving the special effects in the movie? Some of the gore is really unflinchingly presented. 

Arthur: Really, the whole film is a special effect. One big special effect. I wanted to give those who did grow up on those sort of films some things they hadn’t seen before, but in ways that were reminiscent of things they had. That should-I-be-watching-this feeling. I had an excellent effects crew and I encourage the audience to read each and every one of their credits and learn those names. You’ll be seeing them again. We worked around the clock and only used materials they would have had back in the day… well, mostly. A good magician never explains. I’m more of neutral sorcerer, so I just explain vaguely. For those with eyes to see and all that.

Alex: I was fascinated with the ‘Skull Boy’ character – what’s your take on that? 

Arthur: He fascinates me, too. He pretty much just showed up to the party. It’s not the first time I’ve seen a character manifest fully formed and it always lends a sense of the other to it. You can never be sure it came entirely from you.

Ultimately, Skullboy reveals himself to be more real than anyone else in the film or, rather, more pure. No matter what anyone else wanted, his was the plan that was executed. 

Alex: And I have to ask… what was the Wolf Baby trailer all about? 

Arthur: We had made a short film Dave Pruett wrote and directed, but we had vehicle issues and the film wasn’t able to be completed. When Headless came around, we thought it would be great to have an appropriately styled trailer to precede it and Gnaw Bone, with a change of just 4 letters, became the perfect candidate. I know I’m not alone when I say, I hope the feature happens some day.

Alex: Finally, can you tell us anything about what you’re working on next? 

Arthur: I’ve got some acting gigs coming up, so be on the lookout for my deleterious mug to blight your home theatre soon. The next film I’ll be directing is called SMUT, from my novella of the same name. It’s about a cult of porn ghouls using an adult bookstore gloryhole arcade to gain the favor an outer dimensional god bent on assimilating our reality, while the 3rd shift clerk tries to decide whether he cares or not. He’s got his own problems. It’s an F/X extravaganza. Based on a true story.

You can find Headless and keep up with Arthur’s other projects at: www.forbiddenfilms.net

You can find Arthur on facebook.com/arthurcullipher and at arthurcullipher.deviantart.com

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