Trent Haaga

PopHorror Interviews Director Trent Haaga About His Film ’68 Kill’

Director, writer, and actor Trent Haaga has worked on some pretty wicked horror films throughout the last several years. I first saw him in the Troma film Terror Firmer and continued to love his work in things like Deadgirl and Cheap Thrills (see our review here). Most recently, though, I fell in love with his movie 68 Kill (see our review here). I’ve never seen anything like it before, and I loved every second of it. It takes you on one hell of a ride and has some pretty fucked up moments. Trent talked with us about how he got in the filmmaking business, his previous films, what inspired him to make 68 Kill, and more.

PopHorror – Hi, Trent, hope you’re well! What inspired you to start working in the film industry?

Trent Haaga – I am well, thank you! I’m the last of the pre-VCR generation, so movies were something that you had to go to the theater to see unless you were lucky enough to catch an edited and commercial-laden broadcast on TV. So movies were sort of like magic to me… They represented a special adventure as opposed to “something to do on Saturday night.” My parents used to take me to the drive-in in Kentucky when I was a very small boy and those experiences are some of my earliest film memories…

PopHorror – Sounds like some exceptionally fond memoriesDid you know you always wanted to work in horror?

Trent Haaga – I was a horror kid long before the internet made it okay. Don’t know what bent me that way, but yeah. Later on, when I was in high school and worked at an independent video store, I became more exposed to things like Taxi Driver or Jaques Tati movies or the other things outside of the horror genre that I love.

PopHorror – Awesome! I appreciate all genres as well. One of the first films you ever did was the Troma Film Terror Firmer. What was that experience like?

Trent Haaga – It was the first feature film I ever worked on. And it was like the first hit of an addictive substance that I can’t kick. It made me truly realize that the film set was the place for me. It was a life-changing experience to make that movie. I was only an actor, but I hung around in between sets and after wrap to help clean up – whatever I could do to learn. I was almost like a PA who happened to be a lead actor in the movie as well!

PopHorror – Sounds like a great time and I can only imagine what that experience was like, being a Troma film and all. You’ve gone on to do great things throughout the years, including the Killjoy films, Deadgirl, and Cheap Thrills. Based on your movies, you definitely seem to have a love for twists and turns as well as messing with the viewer’s head. Do you think that’s a bit of a trademark of yours? To keep people always guessing?

Trent Haaga – I love movies and I’ve seen a billion of them. There’s nothing quite like seeing something you’ve not seen before or thinking that you know what’s going to happen but then finding out you’re wrong. I simply try to make movies that I – a guy who watches a lot of movies – would be surprised by. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But I guess that it’s my main modus operandi!

PopHorror – I can definitely tell! Speaking of Deadgirl, that is a beloved film by many. What was your inspiration for that?

Trent Haaga – It’s funny. I wrote that script right after doing The Toxic Avenger Part 4. If you look at the two movies, they share a lot of locations – a school, an abandoned mental hospital, etc.

I was a little burned out on Troma-style filmmaking and figured maybe I could go back to the same locations and make a grungy little movie. Never happened. The script sat around for years until Gadi and Marcel read it and decided to make it. I suppose I was heavily influenced by location scouting this huge abandoned mental hospital for Citizen Toxie, combined with my love of depressing, juvenile delinquent films like River’s Edge.

PopHorror – All great films. Recently, your film 68 Kill came out. It is based on the book by Bryan Smith. What inspired you to make a film based on that book?

Trent Haaga – I’ve been a fan of Bryan’s writing for years and have read it all. 68 Kill was his first non-horror book. It was much more of a pulp thriller, which honestly is my favorite genre. I read the book and thought to myself, “Man, this would make a cool movie. And I think I could actually pull it off and do a good job of it.” So I contacted Bryan directly, optioned the book, and started to adapt it into a screenplay. Bryan is a great writer and still somewhat undiscovered. I hope that this movie expands his audience and that we get more movies made of his work. He’s the best!

PopHorror – Can’t agree more! His work is phenomenal. How did the casting process come about for the film? Did you have an idea of who you wanted the characters to be played by right away or was there a process? You definitely nailed it either way!

Trent Haaga – Thanks! It was a process that took a while. All of the parts have to fit together perfectly. We actually had a bigger star than Alisha Boe (at the time, anyway) who was interested in playing Violet, but I didn’t think the match was quite right. It was really difficult to say, “No, thank you,” to someone with some star power, but we had to do what worked for the film. Later on, I met Alisha, and even though she had done less work at the time, I knew she was right for the part… I was like, “This girl has star potential!” I was right, I guess, because she landed 13 Reasons Why (see our review here) immediately after 68 Kill and I’m certain she’s got a long career ahead of her.

We used some friend connections and some outside suggestions, but our casting director, Samy Burch, was instrumental in getting any cast at all. Never, ever underestimate the taste, capability, and importance of a good casting director!

PopHorror – I absolutely love Alisha! She played one of the best characters in the film and I adore her in 13 Reasons Why as well. I’ll definitely take your thoughts and advice into consideration as should everyone else! This film has so many crazy moments. What’s your favorite out of all them?

Trent Haaga – Hmm… I’m pretty pleased with the whole movie, but there’s something about the moment that Chip sees Violet in the house for the first time and chases her… It feels like the first moment in the film where it’s saying, “This isn’t a real world – it’s a world of its own making and we’re having some crazy fun here. If you’re along for the ride, then let’s do it!” There are a lot of batty moments in the movie, but I really like that little sequence for some reason.

PopHorror – It’s definitely the moment shit hits the fan. If you could have played any character in the film, who would it have been?

Trent Haaga – People kept asking me what part I was gonna play in the movie, but I’ve decided that I’ll probably never do that (act in a movie that I’m directing). I managed to stay out of my first film, Chop, as well. I don’t have enough confidence in my own acting to put myself in my own movie.

I suppose if I had to be in it, it would have to be a smaller part… Maybe Leroy? I’m glad that I’m not in it. In many ways, I ended up making Matthew Gray Gubler into my avatar – I cut his hair and styled it a little similar to mine. Some of Chip’s costume came straight out of my closet. That’s the fun part of being a director – it’s almost like acting but using way more talented people to do it for you!

PopHorror – (Laughs) They’re talented, but so are you! The film is receiving a lot of positive feedback by critics and fans alike. Did you expect this reaction and outcome?

Trent Haaga – I can’t say that I did. I went into this saying, “I want to make the kind of movie that I’d like to see,” but I just assumed that there aren’t that many people with my taste. I have to credit the film’s good exposure to Travis Stevens, IFC Midnight, and my amazing cast – they’re the ones that put their name on a film, thereby vetting it, and made people interested enough to watch. I worked hard to make it what it is, but it’s their belief in me and the material that gave it this level of exposure.

People will say, “I want to see the new Snowfort or IFC Midnight or Matthew Gray Gubler or AnnaLynne McCord movie,” not, “I can’t wait to see the new Trent Haaga movie.” So I owe all of this exposure and love to them – they’re the ones that made the movie popular. I just made the movie!

PopHorror – It was a team effort and you guys created something amazing. Absolutely crazy and chock full of bloody intense moments. You’ve worked with a lot of people in the industry. Is there anybody that you really want to work with, but haven’t had the opportunity yet?

Trent Haaga – Of course! I’ve been fortunate enough to work with a lot of my filmic heroes and people that I admire. But there are still tons of people that I’d kill to work with in some capacity – Tarantino, John Waters, Herzog, Refn, Roger Corman, Alex De La Iglesia. Just some of my all time favorite and most respected filmmakers out there.

PopHorror – Fingers crossed for Tarantino. I want that to happen like yesterday. Any upcoming projects that’d you like to talk about?

Trent Haaga – I’m constantly stirring pots and trying to bring them to boil, but I don’t like to talk about them until they do. It’s a personal superstition. But I do have a few completed projects coming soon. I co-wrote a giant ant movie called It Came From the Desert that will be premiering at Germany’s Fantasy Filmfest next month. I also wrote the screenplay for a big video game entitled The Evil Within 2 that comes out on Friday, October 13th. It was created and produced by Shinji Mikami, who created Resident Evil, which is super cool. I’ll keep making things as long as people keep watching or playing them!


About Tori Danielle

Tori has had a passion for Horror and music ever since she was a little girl. She got bit by the writing bug in high school where she was involved in both the school newspaper and the yearbook. While getting her Bachelors degree, she took Journalism and Creative Writing classes where her passion grew even stronger. Now, in between work and family, she spends all of her spare time indulging in music, Horror movies, and nerdy fandoms, all while running/assisting one of the biggest Horror groups on Facebook and writing for various websites.

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