EJ Moreno chats with Charles Band about his new film Don’t Let Her In, his career in horror, and pitching to Full Moon Features…
Charles Band has over 300 producer credits on his IMDb alone. He’s a master of low-budget horror and exploitation horror, and he’s back with another film. Reteaming with director Ted Nicolaou, Band speaks with me about Don’t Let Her In. He also dives into what got him into horror and his streaming service.
You are known for this infamous collection of horror films, but where did your love of the genre start? What were some early horror memories you had growing up?
I grew up in Italy, so, you know, I was sort of removed from what people were able to see here. I had an early diet of Marvel comics, especially the pre-Marvel pre-superhero comics where it was monsters and, you know, all that Atlas stuff. So there’s a little bit of that. Mix in some strange Italian art films, the great music of the sixties. You would see very occasionally a revival of a movie. Sometimes they brought to the art houses, like old Universal horror movies, just pictures like that.
But the movies that probably were most influential were Ray Harryhausen films like Jason and the Argonauts and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad. All of that fantasy landscape was super appealing. Those are the movies I wanted to watch. And of course, because this was way before you could dial up any movie you wanted. They were few and far between, so there was a real thirst for genre films. There are also movies with little demonic toys and puppets, not many, but some in the late fifties and early sixties. So, all of that combined made me want to make horror and sci-fi films.
Ha! That was pretty much it.
You have over 300 production credits. What keeps you inspired to keep crafting horror movies? What makes you wake up and go, ‘I want to make another weird horror movie today?’
You know, it’s kind of what I do. It’s fun when they work, and people respond well. And it’s also a challenge because these are all low-budget movies, and you have to be sort of fast on your feet.
I also think the body of work speaks for itself. A lot of them are pretty original, different, and weird. I don’t like following or copycatting whatever sub-genres over every decade. And I’ve never followed, whether they were slasher movies or torture horror movies. To me, if it’s different or original, it sort of stands the test of time.
And of course, the medium’s changed so many times since I began in the seventies. We are now in our digital realm, which is great in a way. We’re trying to find people who watched our movies at their local video store and bring them over to FullMoonFeatures.com, which is our streaming site. We are trying to build up our subscriber base so we can keep making these weird movies.
Well, that leads me perfectly into my next question. You were a pioneer in the early home video days. I mean, you distributed some of the biggest, most well-known horror movies, and then you had your own production companies, but now you have a streaming service. Have you embraced the world of streaming? How does that feel for you, going from the video days to streaming?
We were the video days. I was literally like the second guy on the block in 1976 with the home video company. This was when no one knew what I was talking about. So, that was truly the pioneer days.
We started our streaming site six months after Netflix, so many years ago. We’ve slowly built it over the years. And now we have the app, which is FullMoonFeatures.com. You can also get our channel on Amazon. So yeah, we were there from the beginning and. It’s great. It’s cool.
It’s just a different mindset because we now want to bring in more subscribers and keep the ones who signed up happy. We acquire or license other films so that it becomes more of an exploitation channel than just a horror channel. There’s a lot of horror movies in there, but now we got Euro cult movies and sexy movies. Just about everything you find in that cool section at your local video store, back in the day.
I know FullMoonFeatures.com is where you can find one of your newer projects, Don’t Let Her In. The first episode has a very different vibe from a lot of your other works. What attracted you to this project?
Well, first and foremost, it’s my relationship with Ted Nicolaou, going back to literally the seventies. He was the editor on Terror Trap, and we became close friends. He directed all the Subspecies movies. We wanted to do something really cool and different—kind of a creepy Rosemary’s Baby-esque show.
We came up with this idea and had to work within our means. We weren’t ready to fly to Croatia, where we were going last year to shoot the next Subspecies movie. So we thought, well, what can we do locally? This idea came up, and literally, within a matter of weeks, we were shooting it. And then now, it’s out. I’m really proud of the work; it’s really clever and character-driven.
How was filming this project in the pandemic era? How did you embrace it, or did it just feel too insane?
You know, the show must go on. I think if you gotta be dedicated to this craft. There are so many obstacles, to begin with, making low-budget movies, so this was just another at times. So, we have to wear a mask, and there’s a certain protocol and just go with it.
It’s definitely weird, especially for the actors, though. There’s this COVID compliance officer on-set, literally as an actor; I have to wear that mask until you actually do your takes. That’s definitely a little more of a mind trick, a little more cumbersome.
As a director or producer, you’re there; you wear it. It’s kind of there, but you know, on and off and on and off and washing your hands. It’s definitely weird for them, but we’re getting through it.
Going back to Don’t Let Her In, we have a character named Amber who makes movie posters. You are known for some pretty great movie posters. Are there any movie posters from horror history that stand out as your favorites? Either some of your work or something that stands out to you.
Oh my God, there are so many. I mean, not to sound big-headed, but quite a few of them are the ones we created. You need to get the message across, and we didn’t have the advertising budgets. Our movies, with few exceptions, were not released first theatrically, so there’s no awareness.
So back in the video days when you’re on a video shelf and as a horror movie, you’re next to Aliens and Terminator and movies that people were aware of before the video release. You got to stand out, and that’s all about the title of the image.
Whether it’s Ghoulies with a Ghoulie popping out of the toilet or even a movie like Puppet Master. As simple as the campaign is, it was pretty.
To wrap this up, I want to give anyone who is a big fan of yourself or Full Moon some advice. If someone was trying to pitch a film to Full Moon productions, or just Charles band himself, what would that project need for you to pick it up? What are some things that make you want to work on a film or series?
Well, it’s an interesting question because we’re going to announce something relatively soon that will open the doors to people. Literally pitching ideas and making movies. So that’s not for now. But you know, it needs to be original.
Just give me something that obviously has to have the elements that will pull an audience. Something with a horror audience or a hard sci-fi audience, or a thriller. Exploitation is kind of a big word, but it needs to be different.
I just don’t want to see the same movie we’ve seen 20 times by now. That’s a problem with these big tentpole movies, too. These are films that you don’t care about the character. There are endless fricking CGI explosions, and the world keeps getting destroyed and tidal waves, and it’s like, please, it’s moody enough over here.
So, something original. One of those weird, quirky movies that play well 20, 30 years later. High concept for sure, a title that grabs you, and a story that’s not something we’ve seen before.
Many thanks to Charles Band for taking the time to speak with us.
Don’t Let Her In, a sensual two-part horror film from famed writer/director Ted Nicolaou (Terrorvision, Subspecies, The Vampire Journals), is now available on the Full Moon Features app and streaming platform FullMoonFeatures.com. Watch the trailer here.