It’s been awhile since we’ve seen a feature film by director Joe Dante, but he certainly hasn't been forgotten. The cult around his films from "Gremlins" to “Explorers” or even 1993’s criminally marginalized “Matinee” (featuring one of John Goodman’s best performances to date), continues to loom large, and that certainly helps make way for a welcome return with his latest feature “The Hole,” a flick that chronicles the darkness looming inside an abandoned hole in the middle of a basement, and the three suburban kids who stumble upon it.
Yes, its right in the Amblin Entertainment sweet spot where Dante made his name, and you may have seen earlier today that Dante shared with us the four films that inspired “The Hole.” Well he was more than gracious enough to talk about the film as well, including the frustrations of the delayed stateside release, along with updating us on what’s next as he continues to work as feverishly as ever. “The Hole” opens this weekend in a limited theatrical release at the Downtown Independent in Los Angeles, California, along with several locations in Atlanta, Georgia, all playing the film in Dante’s preferred 3D format before it hits DVD and Blu-ray October 2nd. Just in time for Halloween, we might add.
Dante devotees will know that the filmmaker has used Academy Award-winning composer Jerry Goldsmith on every film he made from 1983’s “Twilight Zone: The Movie” to 2003’s “Looney Tunes: Back In Action,” but had to find a new collaborator following the famed composer’s passing in 2004. Apparently it only required a conversation with “Pan’s Labyrinth” filmmaker and multi-hyphenate Guillermo Del Toro to find composer Javier Navarrete. “I actually called Guillermo and asked to be introduced to [Javier], because I really liked his score a lot to 'Pan’s Labyrinth' – which I think is one of the most brilliant movies made in the past 10 or 15 years," he explained. "I thought that his music had the right kind of eerie quality, and yet was dramatic and personal. I knew I was not going to be able to replace Jerry in that sense, nobody was going to be the new Jerry, but I did want to find somebody who I had the sensibility to be able to communicate with.”
Dante certainly helped garner the sort of clout that Steven Spielberg’s production shingle Amblin Entertainment now has, with films like “Gremlins” and “Innerspace” among others, and felt a little burned when the Amblin-certified “Super 8” came out in 2011 – filling a decade-long void of high concept films that could appeal to the whole family. With “The Hole” left on the back burner, Dante explained, “That is the one I found a little galling when it came out, and of course everyone flocked to it, and I thought ‘That should be my movie, because I made that picture before they did and couldn’t even get it out there.’ So yeah, I think there is a market for that. The vagaries of 3D distribution have dealt us a bad hand theatrically on this picture, but I do believe there is an audience that is looking for retro ‘80s stuff, where you can take a kid to a movie and an adult to a movie, and they’d both come out seeing the same movie and got different things out of it.”
The relationship between Dante and “The Terminator” (among many things) Dick Miller is a storied one, with the actor appearing in almost all of Dante’s film’s starting with his co-directing credits with fellow Cormanite “Rock ‘N’ Roll High School” collaborator Allan Arkush on 1976’s “Hollywood Boulevard.” While Miller has since retired from acting, he does have a slight but humorous cameo in “The Hole” that will surely please his fans, as well as a documentary that received its funding though Kickstarter being made by “American Grindhouse” documentarian Elijah Drenner entitled “That Guy Dick Miller.” Dante confirms that “I’m in it,” and that “I’ve been working with the guys, and it’s on track to be really good.”
As far as a feature follow-up to “The Hole,” Dante has had a Parisian-set vampire/werewolf love story brewing for a while now, with the excellent comic writer turned screenwriter Greg Pak working on nailing down a solid draft of the script. Dante confirmed, “I just got Greg’s new rewrite today, which I haven’t read yet. I would like to think it’s [imminent], because we’ve been working on it for an awfully long time. You know how hard it is to get movies financed in this climate, and we finally found some people who were willing to back us, and all they wanted to do was to add some ideas for making it better and they were actually good ideas – so we incorporated them. Now we’re going to show it to them and hopefully set dates for doing it early next year in Paris.”
As for the long-in-the-works horror omnibus “Paris, I’ll Kill You” – which will see Dante joined by filmmakers like Paco Plaza ("[REC]"), Vincenzo Natali ("Splice"), Xavier Gens ("Hitman"), Ryuhei Kitamura ("The Midnight Meat Train"), Christopher Smith ("Triangle"), and French duo Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo ("A L'Interieur") – Dante states that “Supposedly that is indeed on the cards after a long time of gestation, because trying to corral together any eight directors at any given time is pretty difficult -- it's supposedly on the boards for January.”
With the Emmy-winning “Masters of Horror” series, and other small screen work like TV movies “Runaway Daughters” (starring a very young Paul Rudd) and the cult series “Eerie, Indiana” on his CV, Dante certainly considers a move into television a possibility. “There’s so little difference between television and features as far as you make the film. I mean, you have less money and it’s a little quicker, but the concept is all on television," he said. "I mean, movies are all geared to be basically under 25, and there all tentpoles, explosions, excitement and all that – they take advantage of the big screen, which is great. But as far as the nitty gritty, I think you get more of that from television now.”