Interview with We Hate Movies, including the Spooktacular!
We Hate Movies entered it's ninth season earlier this year and is mid-way through its annual October Spooktacular, as of this writing. Far more than another "bad movie podcast," the gang includes film programmer for the Jacob Burns performing arts center, Andrew Jupin, "most contrarian film critic in the industry," Chris Cabin, and Stephen Sajdak and Eric Szyszka, each with their own successful careers in media and entertainment production. Now part of the HeadGum network, WHM has started touring to a greater extent and putting out a ton more content (check out their Patreon here), but they managed to take the time to answer a few of our questions in their signature hilarious and insightful fashion.
DVD Talk: Elevator pitch, what do you guys do?
Andrew Jupin: We take a "bad" film, usually something from the 80s, 90s, or early aughts, and use the plot, cast, and crew as inspiration for an improvised discussion that usually ventures into odd, loud, and crude tangents.
DVD Talk: For those unfamiliar with the show, what's the process? How do you determine what film makes for an episode?
Chris Cabin: It’s all very scientific, you see. Someone mentions a movie in the group chat and one of us watches it to confirm it’s worth doing. There’s a bunch of criteria to weigh but my big thing is how many wrong decisions were made. Our best episodes tend to come from movies that were meant to swing for the fences but then just crashed and burn when it came to actually making the film. If it’s a deep cut, we might have someone else take a look and confirm, but a lot of the time, someone has already recently revisited whatever title it is and we’re off to the races. Like I said, very scientific.
Eric Szyszka: Weird things are fun to elaborate on, like we just did an episode on Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth. Cenobites? My lord, we have a field day exploring whatever those are supposed to be. So generally silly things or things we can turn into silly. We’re a silly factory!
Stephen Sajdak: There’s no real list of “Must Haves” for a movie, so it’s case by case, but we like to see: Ridiculous set pieces (see our Transformers Episodes), plot devices that defy any form of logic (The Core), Actors we can do a passable impression of (Christopher Lambert, Gary Busey, etc) and we love any and all franchises (those rotten Alien vs Predator movies and many, many other examples).
Jupin: Usually when determining what makes a film an episode, we try and figure in things like: did the filmmakers try, in earnest, to make a real movie and fail horribly? Does it feel incredibly dated by today's sociopolitical standards? And could we honestly talk about this for 90 minutes?
DVD Talk: There's a lot of quick-thinking and impressions on the show. Does everyone have a background in improv?
Jupin: Steve and I have studied improv at UCB and Magnet theaters here in New York. We take some of the basic tenets of improv, like listening to your scene partners, supporting a person's thread, building on what others have already put out, and put those into the podcast. Every episode is essentially a performance. So while we don't perform improv anymore really, we're still flexing that muscle on the show.
Sajdak: Personally, I think the improv background helps, but the reason the show is so unique is because it builds on the 15+ year friendship we all have and ability to read each other and build a joke.
Cabin: I embarrassed myself thoroughly at an open “get to know improv" class. I didn’t really train at all but I definitely got some confidence as a performer by doing comedy in college with Andrew, Steve, Justin Case, and other friends.
Szyszka: I actually don’t have a background in improv, but what I DO have is an extensive background in hanging out and bullshitting. Can we say bullshit on DVDTALK?! I had always been interested in comedy though, but from a behind the scenes perspective and actually interned for Conan O’Brien before pursuing a career in television that sadly ended up being the furthest thing from comedy possible. So here I am, a reluctant hero shoved into the spotlight!
DVD Talk: You're doing the fan-favorite Spooktacular this month. Why do you think horror movies make such great fodder for laughs?
Sajdak: I think Horror is perfect vehicle for mockery because more than likely the overlying concept is probably pretty shaky, and also character logic normally gets chucked out the window. How many times does somebody have to yell at the screen “GET OUT OF THE HOUSE YOU IDIOT!” before a character listens? That’s kind of where a lot of the comedy comes from.
Jupin: Personally, I think there's nothing funnier than when a film takes itself so seriously and winds up falling flat on its face due to a horrid script or bad performances. And horror movies are probably the greatest for this kind of a laugh because when a film is trying to scare its audience and freak people out, and when that blows up in the movie's face, the results are hilarious
Cabin: The explanations of how this stuff is happening are either way too complicated for me to care or non-existent. Same goes for the production – horror movies depend heavily on effects and if they aren’t up to snuff, you have to fill in the gaps in your mind as to how all this happened. Horror movies tend to leave you with the most gaps to fill in when the whole thing is over, and that’s where we come in. And it’s exactly what makes it so sublime when a great horror movie is pulled off.
Szyszka: Horror and comedy are very closely related, both provide you with sudden visceral reactions, I actually consider my voice to be a “sound scare.” Seriously though, the concept of boogeymen will never not be funny. Jason Voorhees? The Bye-Bye Man? Hilarious. I like horror as much as the next guy but I love horror that I can laugh at or along with.
DVD Talk: On the flip side of bad movies, what are some favorite or quality horror films people should check out? Either recent or classic.
Jupin: My favorite horror film of all time is Peter Medak's The Changeling. It's the most atmospheric haunted house film of all time and the whole thing revolves around a stellar performance by the legendary George C. Scott. As far as new stuff, Coralie Fargeat's Revenge is an absolutely brutal and masterful feminist horror film that upends the whole "revenge" genre in such a slick and savvy way. She's a filmmaker that folks should keep their eye on, because what a debut!
Cabin: Like everyone else, I was pretty knocked out by Hereditary and you would be doing yourself a disservice by not seeing it. This year, I also really liked Unfriended: Dark Web, which is a master class in building and diffusing tension, and Winchester, which attempts to reckon with America’s long-standing obsession with guns in a creative way. A director that I return to a lot is Kiyoshi Kurosawa. A few years ago, he put out a movie called Creepy that really does live up to its title, but he’s made a handful of bonafide classics as well: Pulse, Cure, Charisma, Loft, and Doppelganger are all seriously worth your time if you prefer getting freaked out over blood and guts. Also, you can literally never see the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre or The Thing enough times.
Szyszka: As far as “quality horror” goes, not counting comedy-horror, I like atmospheric stuff such as The Shining which I know is the most boring answer possible. John Carpenter is also great and handled the “boogeyman” better than anyone with that original Halloween.
Sajdak: I really loved Hereditary. It scared the hell out of me and legitimately think it might be one of my favorite movies of the year. I watched a few Larry Cohen movies this month (Q the Winged Serpent and God Told Me To) that are sticking in my brain, which is usually a good sign. Other than that I can watch Carpenter any old day of the week.
DVD Talk: Favorite episode you've done? Either for being on-point, comedy-wise or simple enjoyment of making it.
Jupin: It's funny because sometimes episodes that I think are sort of just so-so, I'll come away thinking, "Well, there's always next week," and then they sometimes wind up being total fan favorites. But there have been several times where we come out of the studio and I'm like, "Damn, I have the best job ever. I get to sit in a room with three hilarious people and talk movies and be ridiculous for a couple hours." One of those recordings recently was our episode on The Boss Baby. We always excel with accidentally inappropriate family material and after that recording session, my sides were literally hurting.
Cabin: I thought The Boss Baby episode really had us all firing on all pistons. Animated movies, not unlike horror movies, have a lot of gaps. I also really loved the Saw episode, if only because it’s rare to see people talk about how god-awful that whole franchise is and how it goes against what makes horror such a unique and vital genre to work in. I will get down from my soapbox now.
Sajdak: It’s kind of impossible to pick a favorite and I’m sure I give a different answer every time, but I really love Matrix Revolutions, the whole episode is packed with good criticism of a not great movie, and it has one of my favorite kind of bits: One that is incredibly specific to the movie but takes the movie into a real world situation and specifics and reveals it to be totally ludicrous. This is the bit we did exploring what a world of Agent Smiths would look like, if of course Neo was the only man left on earth. A fan did a fun YouTube video of it too (found here).
DVD Talk: Best episode for newbies? I know Halloween III has been mentioned before.
Jupin: Folks often tell us that a great gateway episode is Batman vs. Superman. I think it helps that it's a film a ton of people saw. Any time you have a film like that, where people who aren't necessarily fans of "bad movie" podcasts can still give a listen and know what you're talking about, it's really easy to get on board. Plus, that thing was traaaaaaaash so a lot of people relish in hearing others make fun of it.
Szyszka: I think it’s best to pick a movie you know pretty well and come along for the ride with us. Mortal Kombat or Attack of the Clones might be great entry points.
Sajdak: An episode on a movie that you’ve likely seen but didn’t like and would enjoy hearing thrashed around a bit. To that end I think Spider-Man 3 is a damn fun time.
DVD Talk: Anything else coming up to announce? A November theme month or any events/changes for the podcast?
Jupin: We have a really big theme month coming up in December. We're not ready to reveal what it is just yet, but it's going to be a big shift and probably piss off a ton of people, so keep your ears peeled!
Cabin: That will be followed by our annual Worst of Last Year month, which will definitely feature Venom and might feature a certain Mark Wahlberg movie. As always, stay tuned!
We Hate Movies publishes new free episodes every Tuesday, as well as several monthly Patreon-exclusive shows. Interviewer: Joel Morris
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