This year marks the 10th Anniversary of the release of SLC Punk! Directed by James Merendino and inspired by his true life story. This movie has raised James Merendino to the rank of Cult director and is still finding new audiences all over the world. I heard a rumor that James Merendino had now set his sights on revolutionizing the Horror genre. That sounded interesting so yours truly could only try to find out of that was indeed true.
Tracking him down was no easy task. There is definitely a shroud of mystery surrounding James Merendino life. Lots of weird rumors. Like the one about him being kidnapped by drug dealers in South America and held for ransom. I can reassure all his fans and say that James is alive and free. He agreed to meet with us at the Elephant in New York City East Village. Dressed Mod style with a Serpico style hat and wavy long red hair, James is indeed the eccentric director we were expecting. He is also very warm and passionate about his art. But let’s see what we could get out of him.
Hello James, good to finally meet you… We are celebrating this year the 10th anniversary of the release of SLC Punk! Everybody I know has seen and loves this movie. Lots of kids just discover it and think it is fantastic. How do you explain the timelessness of this movie? Were you expecting this when you shot it?
No I was never expecting anybody to go and see this movie. I can’t believe it’s been 10 years. It feels like I have just made it. I am not sure what to tell you about the interest of kids now for this movie. Maybe it has to do with the tools that are necessary to survive high school and college but eventually they get in the way of moving on and you have to discard them. Like that quote in the Bible“I played as a child and understood as a child but when I became a man I put down childish things.”
It was really hard to track you down… Can you tell us more about being kidnapped in Latin America? How did you escape? What were you doing down there anyway?
I don’t know anything about kidnapping, that’s silly. Peter Hoffman and I were working on a production together which fell through. I decided to leave the country and sharpen my teeth on South American films for a while. I always wanted to shoot a movie in a different country and in a different language. I was at a festival in Argentina when I was offered to make a movie.
How did that go? What can you tell us about South American cinema?
So I made this movie in another language that I did not speak and had to rely on the visual aspect of the media in order to tell a story. However going all over South America I was meeting a lot of filmmakers working in the horror genre. I was already getting tired of the invasion of Japanese horror into American Cinema. So it was refreshing to see a totally different attitude towards that gender. The films are uncompromising, relentless, witty and knowledgeable. I began to realize that particularly Argentinean horror somehow had been influenced by the post trauma of a country that had suffered a Nazi regime supported by the US in which between 30,000 to 60,000 Argentineans were tortured and killed during the seventies. Some of these torture techniques are so unmentionable that I could not put them in a horror movie without public outrage. Anyway many of the directors that I met were either children or even as old as college students at the time and had lost friends and lived in constant terror. A green falcon would pull out in front of somebody’s house and they would drive away with somebody that nobody would ever see again. Notwithstanding this influenced all these horror films that are being made today and have urgency, toughness and acutely chocking quality yet with a very sick sense of humor that is totally missing for all the Japanese influenced horror movies in the US. I wanted to study this genre and bring it back to the United States.
So is it what you will do in the project everyone is buzzing around your upcoming movie?
I am working on a horror film that Lisa Hammer and I wrote together and that she is producing and I am directing, it is definitely influenced by all those nasty films I saw in South America. I intend to make it aggressive, rough, genuinely funny, state of the art skeptical, not a Grind house or Grudge like. Something new, fast paced, little exposition, easy to understand, simple so the audience feels they are riding a roller coaster that might actually kill them.
Any other projects?
Of course but right now we are focusing on this movie.
What are you calling it?