Hellbender interview with co-directors John Adams and Toby Poser

Last week, I got the pleasure of interviewing the Adam’s family on their newest in-house DIY film Hellbender which to me plays like a DIY A24 film that would make Ari Arster proud. It’s such a profound film and the performances are excellent including Toby Poser and Zelda Adams. We also talk about making films with your family and the fun that can bring each day.

AJ: Hey, Toby and John, so great to see you and talk to you guys again,

Toby: You too, AJ.

John: Great to see you too. Always a pleasure. And I love, uh, being friends with you on Facebook

AJ: With hellbender how did everything come together for it? Cuz you guys have done the deeper you dig previously and this is like the same format. It’s so low key and it’s done within house within your family. So what brought this to you guys that you really wanted to make it done this way?

John: Well, you mentioned the, you dig in one of the things we kept seeing in reviews and from people that we were talking to was that they loved the mother-daughter relationship. And so we also loved that and we thought we really wanted to make a movie that delved into that. And we could have a lot of fun with that within the horror genre. So that was really important to us.

Toby: We had our band hellbender, but the are sixes and that came before the film and we had started making some music videos and just this like kind of really witchy sort of vibe was just naturally popping up for us. And we were like, damn, and we’ve got this wonderful music that John’s writing so we were like, let’s just explore this hellbender deal.

John: And lastly, Toby found out that the father she grew up with wasn’t actually her biological father. And so she was going through a whole world of emotions and we just figured, wow, it just poured some blood all over those emotions and we have everything we need to make this movie.

AJ: Right. And Toby, your chemistry with Zelda this is amazing and she gives a breakout performance if this as well. So how was it like working with your daughter on a hellbender?

Toby: Oh, thanks AJ. It’s the best, I mean, I know I’m biased cuz she’s my daughter, she’s our daughter, but Zelda is so much fun to work opposite from. She just brings it daily. She’s like a one take cookie and you’re like, damn, I better like step up. And it was just fun, you know, she and I are really close. So it was kind of funny as the film progresses and there’s a little bit of antagonism and power play. That was funny for us because we’re just like mellow, you know, buddies. It was great.

AJ: And John, how was it like, working with your wife on this as well? Cuz you two, are codirector is on this, right?

John: Zelda actually is a director on this

AJ: Right.

John: We loved it. You know, one of the things about us is we don’t generally argue about anything on set. If every, if people have different opinions, we shoot it three different ways. And so in a sense, a lot of the directing is like you voice your opinion and people do what you ask and then they do what they want. So it’s kind of it’s easier to direct within your own family because everybody does ultimately get to do what they want.

AJ: Right. And when this film was doing its festival run last year, was there any responses that kind blew you guys away by how people were reacting to it?

John: The whole response blew us away. We were still blown away. It’s been an amazing experience. The horror community’s been wonderfully supportive and inspiring to us.

Toby: I’d have to say one of the biggest surprises was when we got to go and do a, you know, last drive in with Joe Bob Briggs

AJ: Right. I was about to bring that up

Toby: Mind blowing that was sort of like, whoa, that was the curve ball I wasn’t expecting. And, and we’ll, we’ll try to hit it, you know,
Yeah. Him and Darcy and the whole crew. There were wonderful.

AJ: Yeah. And speaking of which that had to blow you guys away cuz he is been doing this sort so long since the movie channel and TNT with monstervision and having it on Shudder thats a match made in heaven. I bet you guys, once you got there were like had to pinch ourself for a second. Right.

John and Toby: We had to pinch ourselves from the day they told us, that we had the opportunity to do it till we’re still pinching ourselves. And again, one of the reasons we’re pinching ourselves was because of how wonderful him and his crew are. Like. And also it was quite scary because he’s super smart, like right. So we knew that cuz we know him and, and, and we’ve watched him. And so that was scary because I, you know, I was very, I personally was very nervous because I don’t feel that smart. And I know he’s real smart and I was pretty scared and so in the beginning, when I walked out there, I was just holding onto the couch because I was so nervous. I was like, don’t look nervous, try not to look nervous. So I just held onto the couch. Then, and the more you do that, the more nervous you actually like.

Toby: Yeah, exactly, exactly.

Toby: Or not to like wipe out when we were doing the performance numbers with John Brennan and the bigfeet, it was like, oh my God, please don’t let me wipe out.

AJ: and you know, this is getting ready to come out on DVD and digital. It’s already been on Shudder for a little while. So what are you most looking forward to with coming out on DVD and digital for more people to be able to see it that doesn’t have the streaming service?

John: Yeah. I think I’m really interested in people’s opinions cuz it’s a different set of horror fans. So it’s like the shudder has a specific kind of horror fan that I love. So now we’re kind of gonna step out a little out of our, out of our zone and that’s gonna be interesting. We’re gonna learn a lot

Toby: Also on the D V D wonderful special effects guy, Trey Lindsay has this incredible kind of video essay of, um, like his magic that he does and it’s super informing and wonderful. So I’m really jazzed that people have the DVD will be able to see that kind of stuff. Right.

AJ: Oh wow. And you know, what’s next for you guys after hell bender? Or do you have anything in the pot right now that you’re working on? Oh

Toby: Yeah. We’re making where the devil roams and it’s uh, takes place in the 1930s on a dying carnival circuit. It’s

AJ: Oh, that sounds amazing.

Toby: We call it a cross between Bonnie and Clyde Frankenstein and the grapes of wrath.
And we’re having a blast filming it, meeting some terrific actors and actresses and we feel really good about it and we hope people out there are gonna enjoy it as much as we’ve enjoyed filming it.

AJ: Right. And you know, you can’t make a carnival film without having, you know, inspirations from freaks and the original nightmare alley as well. Right.

John: Right. Exactly. Actually we watched nightmare alley, like about when we were halfway done shooting, we were like we should watch this just because it’s, you know, it’s right up. It’s kind of what we’re doing. And in the first 10 minutes I was like, holy shit, we’re so screwed because the production value of that is insane until looked at me. She’s like, we’re doing the exact opposite thing. Like our Carnival’s just gonna be so dirty and nasty and broken. These guys are shiny and it’s a beautiful film and it’s really well done and ours is gonna be dirty and nasty.

AJ: Well, I look forward to it. It sounds amazing. And guys thanking you so much for taking the time out and talking with me today and we can’t wait until the next thing that Adam’s family does.

John: Thanks. And for inviting us,

Toby: AJ, I love your, I love looking at your stuff online, cuz I love your opinion. Yeah. You have great opinions on film. So thanks

AJ: Thank you so much for that. Toby.

Written By: AJ Friar

Hellbender is now available on Videos on Demand, Shudder, and DVD

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