Interview With Hank Braxtan, Director of ‘Snake Outta Compton’

Awhile back, I was on a run at my day job and was listening to the radio, where they were discussing a trailer for a movie called Snake Outta Compton. I’ll just say that the radio personalities were not very kind. I knew from their description that it sounded like the type of movie that I would love, so checked out the trailer. Yep, definitely looks like my type of movie! I can’t wait to check it out. While I wait, I had the chance to chat with Snake Outta Compton‘s director, Hank Braxtan, about his love of film, his career as a director, and what films he would love to make.

Hank Braxtan with James Remar and Ron Carlson

PopHorror: What made you want to pursue a career in film?

Hank Braxtan: I’ve always loved art and making things, and with film, I was presented with an opportunity to really touch people in ways that I didn’t feel I could in other ways. I love making people laugh, and filmmaking gives you a chance to really perfect a joke when you tell it. Of course, when it falls flat, it’s all the more disappointing!

PopHorror: What directors and films were the biggest influence on you?

Hank Braxtan: I suppose all the ’80s greats… Cameron, Spielberg, Lucas… because they seemed to dominate pop culture at the time, so of course that’s what I was most exposed to. Only later in life did I come to appreciate the myriad of underrated talented filmmakers. But that is my generic answer. Specifically, I was inspired by films. Star Wars of course, but also Ghostbusters, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Predator, The Terminator… anything with Ahnuld back in his action heyday.

PopHorror: You directed the horror comedy Blood Effects. How did you come to be involved in the project and what can you tell me about the film?

Hank Braxtan: This is a chapter in my life I’d prefer to remain closed. But needless to say, I learned a lot of lessons from it, relatively cheaply.

PopHorror: Your next film was the horror thriller Chemical Peel, which looks pretty intense and nasty. How was the story developed and what inspired it?

Hank Braxtan: This was one of those “let’s make a movie for $50 and have it all take place in a house” type of horror ideas. Although the I think story of a bachelorette party trapped in a house because of a toxic chemical spill is still pretty unique. It’s a better film that it should be for the budget, and worth your time if you like survival horror – and some good gore! Largely, it was inspired by The Descent and The Mist… the real monsters were us all along!

PopHorror: Your next project was Unnatural, a killer polar bear film starring James Remar and Sherilyn Fenn. What was it like working with these legendary actors?

Hank Braxtan: Growing up making films with your friends, and through film school working with unknowns basically at your level, I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was a bit intimidating at first. Some actors will take that power and run with it, while others will help you along because they realize a timid director won’t be good for anyone.

PopHorror:  You have a story credit on the horror comedy Dead Ant. How did you come to be involved in the project and how involved were you?

Hank Braxtan: I had written a treatment with my frequent collaborator Dan Sinclair, and my friend and other frequent collaborator Ron Carlson liked some of the premise. Our film was about demons, but he wanted to do giant ants, which I loved as well, and so we adapted it, worked on it a bit, and then he took over writing duties from there. I was initially going play a bigger role in the producing of the film, but had ultimately had scheduling conflicts. Indie films never start when they’re supposed to…

PopHorror:  Your latest film, Snake Outta Compton, is a film that looks absolutely ridiculous and hilarious and I can’t wait to see it. Where did the idea for this project come from?

Hank Braxtan: The concept came from Michael Lurie and Jeffrey Giles at Automatic Entertainment. I believe the legend goes something like, they came up with a title, and were looking for someone to write, produce, and deliver the film. Some friends of mine, the Kondelik brothers, were brought on board and did some development, but again, due to some scheduling conflicts, they felt they wouldn’t have the time to devote to directing the film, and so it fell into my lap. However, in order to get the film to a place I felt comfortable directing it, I had to re-write the script… with yet another longtime collaborator, Tim Johnson. I can honestly say it’s probably my favorite film that I’ve done/ It’s silly and ridiculous, but it has real heart… something I feel I’d lost on previous projects. With this one, I really found my voice as an artist again.

PopHorror: The film looks like it functions well as a parody as well as a full blown creature feature. Was this balance important to you?

Hank Braxtan: It was extremely important to me that we didn’t approach the film as a spoof/parody, but more of an homage to several films – some obviously so, others very subtle. I love a good creature feature too, so I wanted to make sure we delivered on that as much as possible. One of my inspirations to that balance was Mike Mendez’s Big Ass Spider, which really delivered a perfect creature feature experience.

PopHorror: The response to the trailer has been pretty overwhelming and word of the film has traveled fast. I came to know about the project through my local radio station in middle of Nowhere, Illinois. Have you been pleased with the reaction to the trailer?

Hank Braxtan: The response was quite overwhelming, to be honest. As an indie filmmaker, you’re always struggling to come out with something that people talk about – or at least have heard of. So to see it actually in discussions was very surreal. Along with the hype comes a couple types of responses -“This looks amazing!” or “This looks like the worst thing ever!” It can be hard not to get sucked into the negative comments, and you have to take a step back and remember that not everyone loves creature features, spoofs, or horror. I think something we all learn over and over again is that opinions can be quite varied, and believe it or not, not everyone sees things the same way you do.

PopHorror: When is the film being released?

Hank Braxtan: They’re still negotiating as far as I know, but I believe the plan is likely late spring, early summer 2018.

PopHorror:  If you could work with anyone in horror, who would it be?

Hank Braxtan: Robert Englund, with myself directing A Nightmare on Elm Street Returns.

PopHorror:  Any upcoming projects?

Hank Braxtan: Well, as the stock answer goes, I have a number of projects in various stages of development! But seriously, I have hundreds of things scribbled down… scripts, treatments, loglines… even just notes to myself. I struggle to stay on one idea because I feel like I come up with another great idea every day. Honestly, in my dream scenario, I would run an indie film studio where I could just hand out these ideas and budgets like candy to my fellow filmmakers and say, “Make it happen!” I would love to produce several films a year for other filmmakers, and just direct one here and there. I love investing in people and helping talent grow. I love artists.

About Charlie Cargile

Central Illinois based film journalist. Lover of cinema of all varieties but in love with films with an independent spirit. Elder Emo. Cat Dad. Metalhead.

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