Raised on a steady diet of b-movies and ’80s video store goodness, filmmaker Joe Lynch is finally able to make the kinds of things he loved watching as a kid. He’s directed the direct-to-video horror film Wrong Turn 2: Dead End, a segment in the film Chillerama, as well as the loving ode to LARPing that is Knights of Badassdom, but he’s finally letting his love of John Carpenter, base-under-siege movies, and obscure German horror films show, along with some (possibly unintentional) sociocultural issues of gender, in his new film Everly which screened at Fantastic Fest this year. It concerns a woman (played by Salma Hayek) who has to defend herself and her daughter in her apartment from an onslaught of people hired by her mob boss ex-boyfriend to kill her. A very common story. We spoke to Lynch after the film, and a heated Q&A, about his influences and making movies for cinephiles.
Nerdist: First of all, I thoroughly enjoyed Everly and it immediately evoked Assault on Precinct 13 for me.
Joe Lynch: LOVE! I have so much love for that movie. I remember – I had seen it in the advent of the mid-90’s laser disc boom, that was when everybody started putting out all John Carpenter’s stuff. I had grown up with all this stuff, but I never saw it widescreen; I didn’t know how amazing all of his anamorphics were. We just never got any of those. And there were a lot of movies that just weren’t available. Assault on Precinct 13 and Dark Star were two movies that I never saw until way later in his career. I had seen everything up until that. But that, Elvis, and Dark Star were movies that were just lost to me.
N: I actually worked for a while at Scarecrow Video in Seattle and that was film school for me.
JL: There’s a video store that’s kind of the East Coast, or the Long Island version of Scarecrow, called 112 Video. It was basically this guy’s collection – his vast video collection. He was like, “I don’t want to let this shit get moldy, so let’s just rent them.” That, to me – I went to Syracuse for film school, but in the summers I’d work at that video store, and I saw everything! And not only did I see everything, but I was able to recommend Assault on Precinct 13, or a weird, obscure German movie called Violent Shit. Or the Lone Wolf and Cub collection. I would have never seen the Lone Wolf and Cub collection if I didn’t work there.
N: We probably did the same thing where someone would come up to rent something that was derivative of something else, we’d say “This isn’t what you want; hold on.”
JL: Oh dude! When someone would come up and ask for Scream 2—
N: Oh jeez…
JL: Yeah, I know. But I was like, “Oh, I’m so sorry, it’s out. But have you ever seen Friday the 13th Part 4?” Or “Have you ever seen The Prowler?” It would be those slasher movies that just didn’t get enough love, you know? Or Murder on the Orient Express. It was like “We want something that’s kind of ensemble-y, it’s got a little bit of a murder mystery….” I’d be like, “Do you like Sean Connery? Boom! Do you like Sidney Lumet? Bam!” That was such a joy to me to be able to have a dialogue about film.
That’s part of the reason why I make movies, is just as an excuse to sit here with you and other film fans, like myself, and just engage in a conversation, because it’s what we love!
N: I think that’s what I love about Everly. It feels inspired, but it doesn’t feel derivative. It feels very much like I want to show somebody this movie, and when they say “That’s cool – I like that part,” I can recommend three other movies.
JL: It’s the same kind of feeling I get when I watch a Tarantino movie. This movie – I don’t talk about it much, because it’s a weird thing. A lot of people don’t say, “This was inspired by Tarantino.” It’s usually the media that says it, but very few film makers say “I’m making a Quentin Tarantino movie,” and I think part of that is because he’s alive and kicking and still kicking major ass.
N: You can say “I’m going to make a Hitchcock movie.”
JL: Yes! Or, “This was derivative of John Carpenter,” mainly because John Carpenter is not really making movies anymore. He’s sitting at home with his Xbox. So I think a lot of filmmakers feel like they have to take the mantle, in a way. Here are the things we love about these movies. Let’s apply it to this so that we elicit the same kind of visceral response, like when you watch Doomsday, you go, “OMG, it’s as if John Boorman and John Carpenter are f***ing! It’s amazing!” And [director Neil Marshall] was the first person to say “Absolutely. It is.” Down to the fonts!
But with Everly — Tarantino could get away with all of these tonal shifts, and being able to sort of ‘kitchen sink’ certain things. You go, “Wait – what? Peter Green is violating Ving Rhames? Twenty minutes ago I was watching John Travolta dance! How is this possible?” But that’s what’s exciting about movies! If you walk into a movie and go, “I know exactly how this is going to begin, middle, and end,” why watch? Go watch a movie that you love that does that same thing. I was always under the impression that people want to be surprised, or at least people want to be impacted, and not know what to expect.
So that’s really kind of where that inspirational element came from. What are the movies that really got a reaction out of me, whether it was Ichi the Killer, or Léon: The Professional, or Blood Simple – these movies that would take genre tropes and just give us a little bit of a different spin.
N: I feel like that’s what’s happening with cinema now. We had a really great summer with movies like Planet of the Apes and Guardians of the Galaxy and Edge of Tomorrow which not nearly enough people saw–
JL: Dude – Edge of Tomorrow f***ing rocked me! That is what we all remember, seeing summer movies – that feeling, I mean, maybe it’s just the 80’s or whatever, and it fell into the 90’s with Bruckheimer, Bay and Simpson, or whatever. But that glee of the movie, whether you’re watching big sentient robots killing Tom Cruise, or the way that the elliptical story telling is unfolding – I laughed, I cried, I was exhilarated, and I walked out grinning from ear to ear. I was like, “God, I want this more!” Why doesn’t this happen more? Why is it that I subject myself and give away my hard earned $17 and sit there and go, “I probably just saw that to see it, because I wanted to make sure that I saw it and that people knew that I saw it.” Not “I really want to see this!” And that’s so few and far between.
Sorry, I didn’t mean to go off on this. So many people who have said that this was a shitty summer, but I go, “I don’t know about you guys, but we got Guardians of the Galaxy, we got a Godzilla movie; whether you loved it or not, we got a f***ing Godzilla movie!”
N: With Everly, one of the things that I love is that you have a social commentary that’s happening throughout the whole film that’s interesting. I got into a debate last night with somebody about this. They said the film was anti-women, and I said “No…”
N:I was like, “I don’t know if you saw the same movie I saw, but I saw a movie that was showing the plight of these women, and how hard it is for this person to fight against that.” If I’m wrong, please tell me – do you actually hate women? [laughing] I don’t want to be on the wrong side of this.
JL: [laughing] No! You’re totally wrong – I totally hate women… Absolutely not! I think that the fact that there are two laughs that are derived from [the line] “That’s a lot of dead whores,” – just the fact that that’s even in the lexicon of the dialogue, I think that kind of threw people off. But first off, I never wanted to make a movie where you were like, “Look! It’s a woman in a Die Hard role!” Never! If I hated women, then where would the mother and the daughter – that whole paradigm – come in? Yes, you know, I put them through hell and back, but never once was there ever the idea that, “Wait – is this misogynistic?”
Are we trying to say that women are just confined to this room and they’re all prostitutes and pieces of property? The whole scene where all the different girls are coming in – yes, on a purely visceral level, it was just like “How much more craziness can we throw at her at the time?” And one of the things that Salma and I worked on was that moment where here’s a woman that’s shooting at her, and then 30 seconds later, she’s trying to help her. There’s that humanity that’s there. If anybody hated women or anybody, I don’t think that would be in there at all.
N: I took it as, to those women, killing Everly meant their freedom.
JL: Mm-hmm. Exactly. It was survival. Whether it was women or the yakuza that were in that as well – if any of them – setting up the idea that Taiko [the villainous boyfriend] is this veritable force, that he could kill you all with the snap of a finger. Just having that threat there, and setting him up as this benevolent force that kind of looms over everybody – no matter what, these girls coming in are not doing it for anything more than “This could get me out of here, so why not?” It’s better than “I just want to see you die!” No, not at all.
N: In my mind, the best example of the fact that it wasn’t exploitative, for some reason people have lost sight of analogy, and the nudity in the film was like, “All right, she’s stripped bare – she’s rebuilding from here.” You’re seeing somebody rebuild themselves.
JL: At their lowest. Yes, exactly. This whole thing is the phoenix rising, and that’s part of the reason I wanted kind of a god-like view on her at that moment, to show us how small she feels she is. She is trapped. She thought she was doing the right thing, and she got severely punished for it, and she’s essentially saying “Goodbye.”
Her last vestige of hope is gone. She’s got nothing left, so she kind of relegates herself – she’s like, “I might as well put myself out of my own misery.” And then through a weird course of events, she just kind of snaps, and that’s kind of the crux of the story, but it was always – it was never to titillate. If I was in that world, then the moment that she’s showering would have been shot completely different. I even said “Too much side boob! Too much side boob!”
I didn’t want it. It was more important to me to get what the story elements in that were, which was she’s cleaning herself, obviously the grime is coming off, and we see this tattoo. I remember seeing this old – I can’t remember what the movie was, but it was a samurai movie from the 60’s where a woman who’s got this beautiful tattoo on her back, she had a geisha on her, and when she was showering, it looked like she was crying. I was like, “I am getting that! I need that moment in there.” And then she puts f***ing body wash through her wound, which I just giggle every time I see that.
N: You got some great performances out of people that only show up for a few minutes. One of the best is – I can’t remember, I don’t even know if we learn his name – the guy on the couch.
JL: Dead Man. Yes, his name, his official name in the credits is Dead Man. Akie Kotabe is a British actor, and he does a lot of voice over stuff. He’s actually doing a voice over on – I believe it’s a Cartoon Network show right now. He really is – he’s the emotional center, and he’s her conscience, basically. One theory that I love, that someone actually brought up last night but hadn’t thought of in a while, but it was something that Aki and I talked about all the time, was – I think he’s dead. I think he’s really, really dead, and she’s talking to a corpse, because if you watch the movie again, and I watched it again last night, with that in mind, it actually could be true. Because the one moment where Edith comes in and she’s like, “Who is this?” No one ever really talks to Dead Man. The only person that talks to Dead Man is the little girl. She could just be talking to a corpse. Yeah – he was fantastic.
N: You set up a really cool idea for a sequel starring the little girl, Maisey. Is that the plan?
JL: There’s been talk already about a sequel, and that it would be called Maisey. It would be her story next. We’ve talked about it for months. My producer Adam [Ripp], he’s already – we’re already furiously writing down – we were already saying “Everly’s story is Everly.” That’s why we pushed so hard for that story to be titled Everly. Everyone’s like, “That’s a terrible title!” I was like, “Yeah, but so was Gloria.” It’s this woman’s story, this character’s story is her name, so now we can go two different routes. We can kind of progress the story and do Maisey. It’s funny how many people said “I wanted John Wick vs. Everly.” I was like, “Done!” Salma Hayek and Keanu Reeves in a movie together? I’m f—ing sold.