Ever since playing Two-Bit Mathews in a 1990 TV adaptation of S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, David Arquette has not lost his penchant for quirky left-field roles. Best known for his role as Dewey Riley in the Scream trilogy, the actor gets on the other side of the camera in The Tripper, his directorial debut about a Ronald Reagan-obsessed maniac who goes on an axe-wielding, murderous rampage at a music festival. Part camp horror film, part political satire, Arquette phoned in to Baeble from Los Angeles to talk about how to make murder so damn fun.
Baeble: OK, so let’s say I’ve seen 1,001 horror movies. What makes The Tripper different?
David Arquette: It’s a throwback to the 70s kind of horror movies that are funny but it’s got a political slant to it. The fact that someone obsessed with Reagan is the killer really lends itself a tone that’s unique. Plus, Paul Reubens is in it, which automatically makes anything classic.
B: The movie centers around a bunch of hippies who get murdered by a Reagan fan. Is this a political movie wrapped up in horror or did you try to balance the two genres?
DA: Yeah, it definitely is a slight political statement disguised as a camp horror movie. I really wanted to show, and it’s not necessarily Reagan, but any leader of the world, that these guys that condone war are condoning the ultimate act of violence. To me, these are crazy movies and that’s real life. If they’re condoning that, then they have no foot to stand on when they’re complaining about violence in movies.
B: Was your original inspiration to make a horror movie and it later took on a political bend or vice versa?
DA: When I was 16 or 17, I was at an outdoor music festival called Reggae Rising in Humboldt County. I was sitting there with my friends, all wasted, sun going down, and then I looked around and we were surrounded by Redwood trees. There’s something creepy about the Redwoods anyway, so I knew I wanted to film something there. I thought it’d be crazy if some kind of killer came out of the Redwoods first and started hacking up hippies. But growing up in L.A. and seeing Reagan’s policies have an effect on the world around me, I wanted to make a statement about that. Then I saw a Ronald Reagan mask and it all kinda came together when I thought “Aww, Reagan killing hippies.”
B: How relevant do you feel this movie is to what’s going on in today’s climate?
DA: The movie itself isn’t all that deep. It’s fun. It was made to be fun and have the vibe of those outdoor music festivals. It’s having fun with the fact that the conservative right is hacking up the extremely liberal left. I think it has relevance as far as taking something a little further. Reagan, some of his policies [on mental health] have to do with why the killer’s obsessed with him so I wanted to comment on that.
B: Did you run into any obstacles getting the movie made?
DA: Yeah. No studio wanted to make it. They didn’t get it. A lot of people don’t really know what to make of it. Is it a horror movie? Is it a comedy? Why Reagan? He’s not scary. But you play it in front of a real true horror crowd and you can see that they get it and that’s really all that matters ultimately.
B: Did it frustrate you when studios rejected your work?
DA: Yeah, it did, especially when a lot of the stuff they do is the same-old rehashed thing. But that’s why they’re studios. They stumble upon hits. They don’t produce them.
B: What challenges did you face as a director?
DA: Well, raising the money was impossible. We just had to jump in and pretty much self-produced it. I filmed it in a Redwood forest so there was all kind of things we had to deal with, like not ruining the forest and finding a state park that would allow us to film something like this. Also, there was the six inches of expected rain, so that’s part of the reason why the budget ballooned. But the shoot was a blast. We really got in there and just kept hacking away. No pun intended.
B: Do you have more respect for directors now that you are one?
DA: Oh completely. There’s so much that goes into a film and more than that, I have so much respect for the first AD, production designer, cinematographer etc. You really respect what the crew goes through when you’re battling the elements with them.
B: Were you a big horror film growing up?
DA: Yeah, I love horror films. I remember seeing The Shining in the theatre and just being like, [screams]. Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Those movies were just so much fun.
B: What sort of preparation did you do before making the movie?
DA: I was filming a movie called Riding the Bullet and Mick Garris was directing. He gave me a book called On Writing by Stephen King and it was really helpful when sitting down and actually writing something. Also, I had to sit in a chair and get a lot of prosthetic makeup, so I’d be sitting there a chair for a couple of hours [a day] and ask my friend who was a huge horror fan to suggest different horror films. So I’d watch a bunch of Dario Argento movies, Don’t Look Now, Phantasm and stuff like that.
B: Why did you decide to kill off only hippies?
DA: Well, the hippies in the film aren’t the great hippies that tried to stop the Vietnam War. They’re like the new age hippies who’s really more into getting wasted and just complete drugheads. It’s like a homeless hippie wandering weirdo thing. There’s no “great” hippies in it.
B: So no one’s safe from attack?
DA: Yeah, it mocks everything and everyone.
To view the trailer for The Tripper, click HERE.
By Jason Newman