Interview with Joe Zaso
by Mario Rakocevic
are obviously influenced by european genre films..
Would you agree that this is one of your favourite genre and why?
European genre films are indeed my
favorite genre...because they are so
distinctive, they are sophisticated and fun. In general, American genre
films have a very predictable air about them. American horror is not daring,
it's almost always comical and formulaic. The plots, the settings and the
production elements of American films are so cliched and bland that I always
find myself craving Euro-movies. Where European genre films excel is in
their distinct editing style, music, esoteric plot elements and character,
the settings... I'm sure that this may seem mundane to Europeans, but I find
it definitely breathes life into American genre films. Easily. If only more
American film makers would try to craft their work a little better, we
wouldn't have so many disposable direct-to-video nonsense!
Do you agree that the "certain"
telephone scene in GUILTY PLEASURES
is inspired from the film DIAL:HELP ?
I thought "DIAL:HELP" was a fun little film. Claudio Simonetti's score is
fantastic. Parda and I both love Charlotte Lewis. And, again, the Euro
setting definitely gives the film a stylish, sophisticated air. The sequence
with the abandoned phone service office, with the doves and the spinning fans
has the kind of poetic, stylishness one tends to associate with Euro-genre
What do you think of the latest films from
Argento ? some people
say his films are very dissapointing compared with his older films..
I have always admired Argento's
work. Always. But I just saw his
lastest film, the long-awaited "PHANTOM OF THE OPERA" and I must say that
this is first Argento film that left virtually no impression on me AT ALL.
It was truly disappointing. I was in Rome last year, at the time it was
premiering and I returned home two days before it opened. I kept wondering
if I should have found a way to stay for the opening...to be in Rome for the
premiere of an Argento film...no loss. I love the film, "TRAUMA" which I
know is universally loathed by so many Argento fans. The film is definitely
lighter and less intriguing than his best efforts, but it's still enjoyable,
moody, impressive at times. "PHANTOM OF THE OPERA" is purely a wasted
opportunity, especially at a time when Italy has such an unhealthy horror
film market and especially when you consider how few film makers have the
luxury of a $10 million budget. I do like "THE STENDHAL SYNDROME" which is
another film many Argento films seem to despise. The film as a whole is
enjoyable and manages to entertain even after the first 15 minutes.
I understand Argento is set to do another giallo, once again in America.
I would absolutely EMBRACE the opportunity to act in that project!! But, I
also heard a rumor that "SUSPIRIA" is being re-made by an American production
company (I think the one who produced "BATS"). If that is so, then I am
REALLY losing respect for Argento. I don't believe in following formulas,
but in the case of Argento, perhaps it's best that he stick to what he does
In the first story of GUILTY PLEASURES, are
certain quotes to hear..
are you interested in philosophy and such things ?
I'm not as philosphical as
Joseph F. Parda, but I enjoy studying the
deeper aspects of certain subject matter. There are certain basic
philosphies I believe in, such as fate (ie What goes around, comes
around....) and certain Zen philosphies ("When you stop chasing after
something, it will chase after you."). I don't want to sound like a living
fortune cookie. I can't say that I explore allegorical things. In
"Nocturnal Emissions," the first episode of "Guilty Pleasures," several
topics are presented, such as narcissism and anger, and what's beneath the
surface. It's funny - when Parda and I were discussing plans to do "GUILTY
PLEASURES," we had a meeting. I had just come from the gym. He asked me if
I went every day and I said that I nearly went every day. He laughed and
said, "You're crazy. You're a narcissist!" That, I believe was the spring
board for my character.
Would you direct a big budget film for a
producer, who want´s to
have his "own" film, not independent ?
I would love to have the
opportunity to escape the underground. I
wouldn't want to compromise, but if I was commissioned to direct a film for
someone who wants to have his/her "own" film, I would probably deliver the
goods with as much of my own signature style as I could. If the film ended
up botched, I would not want to be credited. It's different when you're
commissioned to direct because then it's very likely that you will be a
by-the-numbers director-for-hire. You're really not the AUTHOR of the film.
It depends how strong a creative relationship a director has with his/her
producer. Each situation is different, but I definitely see an erosion of
vision when certain directors take on big Hollywood projects. Less chances
are taken, less freedom is allowed. As long as there's steady work and
successful distribution, I would perfectly welcome the opportunity to work on
an indie film.
Do you think the european horror cinema is "dead" compared with the 80´s, early 90´s ?
Definitely. There are so
few and so few good Euro-horror films being
made any more. The market seems to have dried immensely. When I was in
Europe recently, I noticed that American A-movies seem to dominant the world.
I recently watched the Roan Group's "ZOMBIE" laser disc and heard Ian
McCullough's commentary. He mentioned that around 1980, 365 feature films a
year came out of Rome, now it seems that only 36 features per year are
produced. It's a shame because I wish the boom would start up again. I'm
sure the rise of direct-to-video has a lot to do with theatrical films
slimming down, but there is a definite shortage of European horror cinema.
What was the last real good film, you´ve seen ?
I think the last good film I've
seen is "RUN, LOLA, RUN!" It was
exhilerating and imaginative and provocative. I am about to see "SLEEPY
HOLLOW" (as I'm a Tim Burton fan). I'll get back to you on that one!
You mentioned, that you and Parda love
Any certain reason?
Well, just look at Charlotte
Lewis. Any further questions? Her face is
beautiful, but for me, her accent is the most charming part.
Do you like the other films from Ruggero Deodato, like Cannibal Holocaust ?
I wouldn't say that I am a
Deodato fan. I have seen quite a few of his
films, all except "PHANTOM OF TERROR" (the Michael York one). All of his
films are efficiently made with interesting touches here and there, but
ultimately they all disappoint. They're all dressed up with no place to go.
"CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST" has an interesting premise and a great score, but it's
just a vicious gimmick. "CAMPING DEL TERRORE" (Body Count) has a lot of
potential that is purely wasted. "DIAL: HELP" was fun, but again, flawed
Do you think Censorship is unnecessary in horror films ?
Absolutely, censorship is
unnecessary for horror films - and all films.
Argento films, especially.
Do you have a favourite soundtrack?
that's my favorite topic! To me, music is the icing on
the cake. I love to listen to film scores and assist in the creation of film
scores for my own productions. My favorite soundtrack would have to be,
without a doubt, "The Omen." Not just for the obvious elements, but because
it is well orchestrated. I always enjoyed the "Omen" trilogy scores. My
favorite composers include Jerry Goldsmith, Pino Donnagio, Ennio Morricone,
Goblin and Danny Elfman (in that order). Favorite film scores include any of
the Argento films, "The Cassandra Crossing," "Piranha," "Dressed to Kill,"
"Gremlins," "Creepshow," "Exorcist II: The Heretic," "Perfume of the Lady in
Black," "Sisters," and the list goes on.
THANKS for the
Joe Zaso Filmography :
5 DEAD ON CRIMSON CANVAS (actor, producer)
GUILTY PLEASURES (actor, producer, director : "Method to the Madness")
EVIL STREETS (actor, producer )
ALIEN AGENDA - ENDANGERED SPECIES (actor)
CREATUREALM - FROM THE DEAD (actor)
ADDICTED TO MURDER 3 - BLOODLUST (actor)
THE WEREWOLF (actor)
5 DEAD ON
GUILTY PLEASURES SET
Joe Zaso and
Debbie Rochon, Box art from AA: Endangered Species (UK)