Q&A with Zak Hepburn, cult fiend curator


Cult Projections: You’re hosting Monster Fest’s A Nightmare on Lygon Street – A Freddy Krueger Marathon (A Nightmare on Elm Street Parts 1 -6) this Friday night, starting at 11:30pm, and then hosting the VHS Resurrection event on Saturday morning from 11am, both at Cinema Nova (Melbourne). You’re gonna be a zombie by Saturday afternoon! Perfect! Are you expecting a solid turn out of diehard fiends and freaks?

Zak: I love movie marathons and I think what I tried to present here was an experience for the viewer of being able to witness the evolution (or devolution) of a horror franchise. There's something about watching a series of films in a row that really appeals to fans but also has a curiously factor to viewers with a passing interest - I feel a lot of people, myself included, often see these cornerstone horror series out of order - for example I saw A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1986) first - so the idea of seeing them at the cinema, in order - was just too much fun not to do!

For the VHS event, I think that format is really emblematic of Generation X - if you were a young film fan, the idea that you could go and get a film education for $5 for five weekly cassettes - was really a head spin. The re-appreciation of the unique aspects of VHS is really hitting at the moment, which speaks volumes on it's importance in the history of media.

CP: What Freddy Krueger movie are you most looking forward to? And why stop at number 6? What about Wes Craven’s New Nightmare and Jason vs. Freddy? Just kidding!

Z: I love part 3 and 4 (The Dream Master) - they have a odd ball interchange with pop culture and the practical SFX make-up is ace! Parts 1 and 2 (Freddy's Revenge) also have a real intensity that I love. In the curation of the marathon we really wanted to present the original Nightmare series. I love New Nightmare but it's always felt more like a retrospective comment on the series, rather than an entry into the cycle of films.  


CP: What were your thoughts about A Nightmare on Elm Street when you first saw it? At the cinema, I presume, or was it on VHS?

Z: I actually saw it after I saw Dream Warriors on VHS. I remember having it rented for me, it was $1 at my local Premiere Video store, it had a blue VHS case and a still of the character Tina on the back ... I remember the moment the pre-credit glove creation scene finished - and the big red A Nightmare on Elm Street title came up - I was hooked! I got a Freddy Kruger show bag the next year - he was a media force to be reckoned with in the late 80s.

CP: If you could host another marathon, what series would you like to indulge in, or better still, a director’s retrospective?

Z: I'd love to play all 6 hours of the Mick Garris TV adaption of The Stand, that would be awesome, but I'd still love to do a Planet of the Apes day - all the great late Apes films that have fallen into obscurity. A Jodorowsky marathon would also be high on my list!

CP: What’s the earliest memory you have of a movie scaring the crap out of you? Or maybe it was something on TV? 

Z: I saw Howard the Duck when I was about three years old and it scared the hell out of me. There was also this TV ad campaign about AIDS which featured the Grim Reaper - they spooked me real good - now I just get scared by rental increases ... 

CP: When did your tastes for all things rare, weird, wild, and psychotronic – that cult appeal – first hit you? Was it a particular movie?

Z: When I was about 14 I dropped out of high school and went straight into a film making degree at RMIT University. On the first day they showed us some Stan Brackage short films, I thought they were crazy, amazing pieces. That was followed by Maya Deren's short art film Meshes of the Afternoon, which totally blew my mind. I then got word of this movie called Eraserhead, and the rest is history.

CP: Name three video nasties that really tickle your fancy.

Z: Cannibal Holocaust, Man From Deep River, Cannibal Apocalypse ... Can you see a trend?

CP: Name three video nasties that aren’t nasty at all. 

Z: By today's standards stuff like The Evil Dead, The Burning and Evil Speak really aren't all that bad - I mean episodes of The Walking Dead are more gory than these now days! 

CP: Name three video nasties that are genuinely naaaasty

Z: I think stuff like Faces of Death, SS Hell Camp and I Spit on Your Grave still have a real ability to confront and shock audiences; they are not easy watches, and rightfully so.

CP: What is it about the VHS format that appeals so much to the geekier of movie collectors?

Z: I think it's the physical nature of the product. For fans, the movie experience isn't just an intellectual experience, but rather one you want to hold on to. So having something you can return too is important - for a whole generation - that's what VHS represented. 

CP: Often it’s the cover art or poster designs that have lasting appeal to collectors; name some that you would or do have proudly on display. 

Z: I have quite a few one-sheets framed (and about a million in tubes). I'm a huge fan of Polish Cinema posters, they are just so insane and all artistic interpretations of the title or theme of the film. The original Cool Hand Luke poster is incredible. Horror Genre wise, one of my favourite posters is for Dawn of the Dead - it's just so iconic and simple in it's design. 

CP: Just how valuable are some of these VHS movies? Where can you fetch the best prices? 

Z: Like anything,  VHS tape is worth only how much someone wants to pay for it - eBay goes crazy for some tapes and in this country we are sort of limited to on line sales. But always do some homework before plunking down hundreds of dollars for an ex-rental, remember we used to rent these things for $1.

CP: What are the hardcore collectors specifically looking for in a VHS movie, or do they keep their agenda quiet until after they’ve made their acquisition?

Z: I think if your doing it for the right reasons you are looking for something that is important to you and the sort of films you love. If you are just collecting tapes to make money or have rare items than you're sort of missing the point.

CP: Finally, Leatherface, Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger, and Pinhead are in the ring together. In what order do they fall? Who is left and what will be left of them?

Z: Ahhhh ... Godzilla invades and steps on the building ... Game over.

CP: What else have you got lurking in the darkness?

Z: I have my weekly cinema program Cultastrophe at Cinema Nova - for that one we have a summer season of double features just about to kick off. I also in the process with a few associates of creating a boutique VHS label presenting film on limited edition tapes. If I'm working with films I am happy.


A Nightmare on Lygon Street - A Freddy Krueger Marathon screens as part of Monster Fest, Friday November 29th, 11:30pm at Melbourne's Cinema Nova.

VHS Resurrection (VHS Swapmeet, Video Nasties documentary, and a mystery feature) screens as part of Monster Fest, Saturday November 30th, 11am at Cinema Nova.