Kenneth J. Hall’s The Halfway House is an ode to an era of film that knew no boundaries – the 1960s and 70s exploitation film. His movie deals with plenty of naughty girls, a perverted handyman, a monster in the basement and a wicked nun played by Mary Woronov. Kenneth just fired up the WayBack Machine and has taken us to a time when horror was fun, dangerous and sleazy.
Just less than a week before his Los Angeles premiere at the Hollywood Film Festival, we spoke with Kenneth and asked permission to poke around his house a bit.
How did The Halfway House come about?
I had not written a movie in years and it had been even longer since I’d directed one. I got burned out on the politics of the business so I took some time off from filmmaking. I knew I’d come back to it one day but wanted it to be on my own terms. With all of the great advances in digital technology, the time seemed right.
Once I decided to make a film, I then had to figure what the hell it was going to be about. I wanted to do something that had the mentality of the horror/exploitation films I grew up with in the 60s and 70s, especially the works of Roger Corman. I remembered an idea I had for something called “Gut-Eating Monsters From Hell”, which involved half-naked girls being fed to a monster in the basement. That was the starting point. As the script developed, I brought in other elements like the whole Catholic Church angle. Eventually, I decided to change the name to “The Halfway House” because I felt goofy titles have become a warning sign that a movie is going to suck.
Is there such a thing as exploitation cinema these days?
I think the closest thing to exploitation today are these outrageous reality shows but that’s not really cinema, is it? How much talent does it take to videotape some moron eating live worms or ramming his head into a brick wall? True, it’s sensational so, in that respect, it’s exploitation.
What I consider to be true exploitation cinema goes back to a more innocent time where audiences could be easily titillated, shocked, and offended. I am very proud of the fact that my movie, even in these enlightened times, manages to get the same reaction.
How did you assemble your cast for “The Halfway House”? To be more specific, how did you end up with Mary Woronov, the perfect person for the role of the evil nun?
I’ve always been a big fan of Mary and had her in mind when I wrote the character. During casting, other star names came up. Ultimately, I contacted her and pitched the project to her over the phone. She got it instantly so I knew I’d found the perfect Sister Cecelia. We’ve remained friends since the movie.
As for the rest of the cast, some were family and friends, others we found.
Was everyone cool with the rampant sex and violence going on?
Everyone was extremely cool with it. I was initially concerned that we weren’t going to find enough girls who could both act and be willing to do all the nudity. Early on, I cast one so-called scream queen (who shall remain nameless) who I later fired before shooting began. She had a bad attitude. Apart from that one instance, I was very fortunate to find such a talented and attractive cast. As an added bonus, they all have 100% natural breasts!
Were there any major stumbling blocks in getting “The Halfway House” made?
Since I put up most of the budget myself, I had a constant internal struggle between my director side, who wanted to make the movie look as good as I could, and my executive producer side, who wanted to spend as little as possible. Ultimately, I managed to reach a compromise with myself.
Sure, there were the usual headaches that come with low-budget production but, overall, it was the most fun and rewarding experience I’ve had in my twenty-plus year career.
What has the audience response been like for “The Halfway House”?
Our only public screening so far was up at the San Francisco IndieFest last February. The crowd was really primed for this kind of movie so they laughed and screamed and cheered in all the right places.
Any upcoming screenings?
I’m glad you asked that! We’re having our Los Angeles premiere Saturday, October 16, 9 PM at the Arclight in Hollywood. It’s part of the Hollywood Horror, Sci-Fi, and Fantasy Film Festival, which is sponsored by you nutty guys at Film Threat.
What’s next for you and BV Entertainment?
I finally started the screenplay for “Preggers”, which I announced several months back as my next project. This one will put a humorously exploitative spin on elements from 70s medical horror flicks made by guys like Larry Cohen, Brian De Palma, and David Cronenberg. It’s about a fertility clinic that turns childless women into nymphomaniac moms who give birth to monster babies! In other words, it’s a family film.
Last question – What alcohol goes best with “The Halfway House”?
As a conscientious filmmaker, I like to leave those decisions up to my audience. Of course, if you’re asking for a personal recommendation, I alternate between tequila and vodka (which I had a bit too much of last night).