Up and Coming Film Maker and Artist Toby Johansen
S: “G’day Toby, thanks for taking some time out from you busy schedule to answer a couple of questions for the people of EXTREME HORROR CINEMA.”
TJ: A great privilage it is to take a detour on my raves in the graves to give a scream to all the children of the horror world!
S: “First off I just have to state that I really enjoyed your film HACKSAW: DOCUMENTARY OF A PSYCHOKILLER. I have watched it a few times now and am impressed you kicked this off as a 16 year old.”
TJ: Thank you so much! It was really fun making that snuff number, breaking every bone, ripping every limb, eating through layers of flesh and gallons of blood to make it happen, you could say I was a growing fetus just waiting to explode to cause as much mayhem as possible, but with feeling.
Anyway let’s get into it…
TJ: It’s going great!
I have all the footage shot and saved to my hard drive, and every time I look back on all that tasty footage it’s screams awesome to me and hopefully this could save the Vampire genre for all that it’s worth (you know, after a certain pop culture sensation that taints the very soul of Vampires and Werewolves in general over a certain female protagonist that just makes you want to stick a hook up your ass and rip your insides out though that instead)…
Anyways, this will actually be a short film, I figured after going to Fright Night Film Fest last year and having a blast meeting more gorehounds and filmmakers like myself, I had to make another movie to go with my blood stream of film, but figured I’d take a step down from a full-length feature and just do what my Dad told me I should do and that’s to make a short, which i have to say is a good idea and feel bad I dissed that scene early on, but I’m redeeming that past with this.
I have to say, it’s definitely a lot more story-driven, a coherent narrative about a man who is rather odd while observing but seems very sympathetic too, counting up the days to Halloween he starts having nightmares and bad memories of his ex-fiancee. All the while he’s being stalked and tormented by this man who happens to be the Vampire in the story who really wants to sink his fangs into this guy, but there’s something about the two of them that connect…and that’s all I want to share in the story department, you HAVE to watch it to understand what it is and it’ll come together.
While Hacksaw was my first film which I’ll always have a soft spot for being an interesting take on the insanity of a mad man and how it’s more of a crazily-edited documentary, Backyard Vampire is more dramatic and I’ve stepped up on the makeup and special effects for it which I was really impressed with and I think everyone will be too!
Alas, I have to get my computer fixed, it says it’s low on memory which causes to have some of the footage have their audio and others don’t, which sucks because I need all those, y’know. I’m going to send it back to Dell and so they could fix the motherboard if that IS the problem, if I get it back and if it’s working then yay! But if not…I’ll scream and may have to put my film-making on hold to save up for a new computer. I can’t be shook up about it, I love film-making and I’ll never stop making movies, I just have to have a good computer to do it.
TJ: I’ll tell you, when I was growing up as a kid I loved, and always will love, horror movies! I loved watching any kind I could get my hands on at Blockbuster, even when my Mom would want me to watch something more kid-friendly, but nah, I’d rent Freddy movies, Jason movies, Demonic Toys, Chucky…the list goes on as I grow up. Violence in fiction and the creative monsters they come up with always fascinated me it was fantasy and how dark things can become and how it could freak me out and shake me up some times, but I loved every moment of it I’d even skip to the scenes with the creative death scenes and where the monsters would be in the scenes.
I love the monsters, the gore effects, the T&A of course, I love the 80s aspect of these movies especially, it just seemed like a magical time for horror movies, makes me wish those days were still here where it’s about creativity (crap or not) and not about remakes and such, and I ESPECIALLY love indie cinema for how much free range they get with their creativity than mainstream films these days. Every time I enjoy watching the movies and how amazing the effects were, I was told by others I should try to do something like that, just the thought of that blew my mind of the possibilities!
When I watched more of these movies, they had behind-the-scenes features where they come up at the very end of how they made the effects and how they shot everything and counting up to the age of 14, I wanted to make horror movies, for the rest of my life, I didn’t care what had to come first, I just went out of my way to try and make my nightmares come to life or my love for horror creations that I could have my own spin on to crawl from my skull to devour others’ minds and hearts with blood-gushing fear!
I ended up working as a lighting assistant with this film group’s short they were doing, my Mom was with me at the time, I only got to do one scene…while thereI met this awesome woman, I think her name was either Geno Reddish or Jenelle Rose, either way she was this nice lady that showed me how to make burn makeup which she did on my hand with toilet paper, liquid latex, some face paints and some stage blood and it looked great!
After that, I wanted to be the director, writer, producer, actor, makeup artist, special effects artist, costume maker, prop maker, cameraman…I wanted to do all of these and I currently am today and loving it, I love being behind the camera and seeing my vision come to life! It’s a bit iffy on my part as a director because I tend to go into discussion about a scene that confuses those I work with, it’s a learning process for myself and my friends and it’s a great feeling when we get it all together and shoot it. I take whatever money I save up, buy video cards or tapes for my cameras, call up my friends, make the effects work and the blood packs, write up the script and I’d just go out and make the movie I want to make!
Obviously I went out of my way to try it myself and to this day I still use it in my effects because of how awesome you can make anything out of liquid latex, be it gory flesh wounds or even monster effects, it’s amazing to create and warms my black heart to see my vision realized and how it can scare people. I never want to use CG for any thing, MAKEUP EFFECTS ARE UNANIMOUS AND SUPREME!!
So story-lines came after to make my love for monsters a reality, my first time writing screenplays was terrible, it was like a shot-list than more constructive story-telling on paper, but today I’ve gotten a LOT better at it than before, which is the beautiful of art, it’s a bumpy road in the start of it but it gets better when you keep going and never giving up.
TJ: The relationship between me and my Dad I think he was a little more tolerable, he’d still punish me if I walked out of line like times where I was a major weirdo kid (every kid is at that age and if not for that we wouldn’t be great artists) I’d chase pretty girls around Blockbuster and try to hand their tapes back to them while growling “TAKE IT!”…high light of the moment was where I dressed up as Chucky with a Freddy glove and freaked a neighbor’s kid from across the street…my Dad was pissed!
But my Dad is super supportive now than ever before, and loves what I’m doing and what I can create from my passion! So is my Mom, sort of…
The relationship with my Mom about this…was like an Ed Gein relationship, like she really didn’t like it when I was into horror or making horror movies, I’d ask her for a lot of help at the time since my Dad was always working at the time but she didn’t help. Now, there were moments when I was using real weapons on a scene and she’d have to intrude, which I’m happy she did because something bad could’ve happened, but when i make a fake prop to replace that she still say No to that. She was like that person who works for the MPAA (fuck the MPAA) and doesn’t want to be known as the Mom of a homicidal filmmaker.
Going through my list of movies to make, one in particular was just ridiculous where she strongly forbade me from shooting a “rape scene” in a goat people short I was doing to explain the cruel origins of the Poor Little Goat Boy (which is the footage you see in the movie to symbolize the killer’s unique among ignorant eyes), where I was going to have the camera looking up at me from behind as I’d hump a mattress where you don’t see the goat boy’s mom getting raped before she gets chopped up with an axe and such, I was so torn up by the constant “parental restrictions” of my creative atmosphere.
Sure it’s fucked up in the vision, but there should never be just one side of the coin to the world, you know? We can’t ignore the terrible things there are and having to do terrible things to learn from those things to make an ideal world, but I love it more in fiction where it helps shape my outlook on life as well as my own feelings and opinions.
So after that terrible stomp on my goat boy movie, I was sitting on the back porch of my house after yelling at my Mom who didn’t want to have anything to do with me, crying my eyes out, sitting outside terribly depressed and devastated for an hour or more…I then told myself that I can’t just keep doing whatever someone else tells me to do, I can’t just sit on my ass like this and cry about it of the things I CAN do and with so much creativity, I have to suck it up and just make the damn movie I want to make. With that I said fuck my mom, fuck everyone else who say nay to my vision, I’m making my movie!
The pure anger and psychosis of Dillon Mason in Hacksaw is my anger incarnate of all the terrible stress and the bottled up hatred of my Mom stepping in the way and the lack of support at the time, the fury I had it was all expressed freely in the footage, which I thought would’ve been much awkward if I watched it (seeing yourself do crazy things and such) but I was drawn to it and shed a tear for it at how beautiful it was. Determination for my art had given birth to another addition to the horror world.
My Mom today, she’s a little more supportive than ever, just rolls her eyes sometimes.
TJ: My film-making story is like any other, I did little short movies with my action figures and toys I had, did some claymation stuff, did my own Chucky movie, a Goosebumps movie where I used the green monster mask from The Haunted Mask, and a short scene where I’m dressed up as Freddy for a few seconds…but I lost those somewhere! When I find them I’ll let you have a watch!
When I was 14-years-old I was going out to make my first horror movie, a backwoods horror movie where it was about a couple who get a letter telling them they won a house to get away for the weekend from the Trick ‘r Treaters, going there they find themselves in a shit hole where they’re tormented by zombie hillbillies from Hell, which I called Hellbillies (14-years-old at the time, just wanted to make a movie no matter how dumb the plot).
I had a great location where it was a part with three buildings out in the woods where it was once a Halloween scare attraction where I had worked on for about 5 years, such great memories there and I only got to shoot the opening at the location. I slapped on the makeup on my friend, myself and my little brother, my other friend holding the camera and my Dad was the first victim. Then the park was sold to the fire department and they had no interest in letting me shoot there.
I think it was because they’d think I was too stubborn not to use one building which had an elevator shaft in it, very dangerous, but even so I didn’t want to use it anyways, but they didn’t let me shoot there and I couldn’t find another place to shoot the rest of the movie, I didn’t have a cast of friends for the extra parts…so it got canned.
My screenwriting needed more work and it improved from last time, as did my makeup effects work, so I still kept at making my next movie…next up would be Twisted Dead which was about a group of about 7 kids making their own horror movie in the back creek, but there was a parasite in the water that escaped a science lab that if it gets into an open wound it turns you into a flesh-eating zombie.
It was a fun idea, and I did one photo of myself in one of the makeups and I was still trying to get more of my friends to help me with it, that seemed to be my biggest problem was just finding people who could act in my movies but I couldn’t find any…so with that it was canned and it just sort of got left behind, but I might see if I could use it in a future project me and my buddy Joe Meredith are writing right now.
Around my time for film-making, I felt like I had to hire real actors to be in my movies, oblivious as I was but still, I was high into Anime at the time and e-mailed voice actors I had met at conventions to see if they’d like to do something with this one slasher movie I was wanting to do, but it never happened for obvious reasons.
That slasher was called The Forestpine Slasher, the name based on the street I live on, where it was about a killer named Edward Rellik (R-E-L-L-I-K, killer spelled backwards heh..) that was about a killer who murdered a bunch of people on his street, until a group of friends that walked in from the woods find out about him and they run him over with their car and throw him into the woods only to have him return as a vengeful killer ghost who could only be seen through mirrors. It was fun writing it but it never happened…but then I kept him in mind for my next idea…
HACKSAW! But I don’t think it was called that in the beginning, it was called How to become a Psycho Killer, and Edward Rellik was in it, wearing a black turtleneck, jeans and carried a kitchen knife (I know, I was young at the time, super bland but anyways) it would be a snuff movie where Edward teaches the viewer how to collect people and how to kill them. I wanted to try to shoot everything in one take no cut-aways or anything. I was trying to get my friend to help me with it since he had green screen but at the last minute said there wasn’t enough and so I pushed the project aside for that, but never got rid of the idea which would eventually become Hacksaw.
I took few scenes here and there from the script, and kept the idea of it and changed it dramatically to being a movie looking like an authentic psycho slasher piece…but that came WAY after these last two.
The Zom was my next project which inspired me from the video game Silent Hill (this goes without saying, but I fucking loved how scary it was) and was a big inspiration. The Zom was about a horror novelist who has weird dreams of this sign drawn at the end of his street by a hooded figure which summons zombies and strange creatures from it and it grows bigger and bigger and the author’s town is taken over by the mayhem as he goes to try and save his friends. I wanted to use green screen for certain things whatever I could try. I shot the beginning of it and even a zombie attack!
But it was all canned after my Mom stepped in when I wanted to use a real hatchet on a young actress playing the zombie…understandable, but even when I made a fake axe she didn’t want me to do it…crushed as I was, it didn’t continue..I think I may have taped over that footage even…
One more attempt before HACKSAW came about…
The Poor Little Goat Boy was a grim fairy tale I had wrote and illustrated during art class at my high school about a lonely goat boy who tried to fit in with the other goat boys and goat girls but they killed him for his difference but he comes back through the voice of his mother to kill them both and make them his friends forever.
The footage you see in Hacksaw is the footage I was going to use for Poor Little Goat Boy, I even had footage of myself playing a silly horror host with a black cape and fake knives tapped to my fingers and sharp teeth, it was silly but I was having fun making it and i still have that footage! I should dig all these up and post them on YouTube and a DVD sometime.
Due to a rape scene I wanted to do to make the Poor Little Goat Boy’s past tragic and fucked up, “parental restrictions” occurred and it stopped, but I didn’t want to leave it behind and felt it had emotional artistic purpose for Dillon Mason’s meaning, so I kept it in Hacksaw and it worked out really well.
S: “Along with your movie making endeavors I understand you are an artist and comic book writer / illustrator, what drew you into this and fuels your fire?”
TJ: It’s something that came to me instantly, I think it was something I saw my father draw and wanting to draw in general with anything I could pick up my drawings went from stick figures, to bubble figures, to muscle structure and more to my current style which is more realistic-and-cartoonish almost that gives it something more and I’m more in-tuned with the body anatomy from several sources in illustrations and movies, etc.
Drawing and writing is in my DNA, I was born to do this and loved how endless the creativity I can make from my mind and heart (two great things by the way), it was beautiful and I realized with this and with film-making I want to do this for the rest of my life to become a great story-teller and make a world with that to join other worlds of horror, fantasy, and more genres and what I can personally express through my pieces.
I loved to draw no matter whatever, even risking my school work to do so, anything to be an artist. Writing came way after, that was during my screenwriting phases, and slowly-but-surely I started putting more of that writing into my comic book writing for plot outlines that I would fill in later with the drawing and dialogue on my own. My first comics I did were for the library at my elementary school, Mercer Elementary, where I did my own Goosebumps-esque books of whatever I could think of and the librarian would have them out for people to rent and I felt great about it.
When I got to middle school I did a short comic book of a super hero that was dressed like a blue-colored Black Panther, had long Batman ears and had spikes on his shoulders that could stretch out and impale anything he found a threat. Blue Deman. That comic was about a man who cried over his love and prayed to God to help with the terrible crime that was happening around him (Atheism grew into me around this time as well), and his prayers were answered where both God and Satan came together and gave the man the Blue Deman suit to battle evil with, and this generic villain I made up who becomes his flaming demon with a jack o’lantern face is his enemy and such and so forth.
After that, I went on to make my first two mangas of all time, I really loved Anime and how big the fandom was for it and I wanted to be apart of it creative-wise, so I came up with The Cape Monster, I still have the two original mangas I made of this character.
The Cape Monster was about a boy, Toboki Coolioki (basically a Japanese version of Me, haha!), who moved back to his home town in Okayama, Japan, where there he meets a cute girl, Mayma, who he instantly falls in love with first sight, likewise with her, but she was working for a crazed nerdy psychopath, Siykes, with two machine guns who went around shooting people and has her take photos of his killings, otherwise he’d kill her parents if she didn’t.
Toboki tries to defend her and he becomes her love-interest, which Siykes despises and he kills Toboki right in front of her. Toboki is sent to a place called Deadland where all the souls go to wonder where he meets a two-bladed scythe-weilding reaper called The Resurrector, who tells Toboki he can resurrect him to be with Mayma again, but he has to become a monster during the night and to face off with other dangerous monsters and demons that want his power of immortality, which he agrees to and becomes a tall cape-wearing Monster with big gloves he could turn into weapons.
I made two long books of this story, but it got discontinued due to the way it was drawn and the endless typos…it was laughable, but I didn’t leave him in the dust with my next creation that I’m still working on today.
Atomic Chibi-ta was my next comic book creation which I’m still working on to this day, working on the fourth and final issue. These books are where I tried to work on my morbid and crude comedy and I loved it and how I could provide something for the Horror world but also for the Anime world. It’s my take on “disfunctional families” where three little boys; Sunji, Kamakashi and Heroromi who have cosplay caps are just vulgar and mean little bastards who fight all the time and when they try to epically fight over something stupid like a bottle of saki or a slice of pizza they play a game called “Death Play” where they try to kill each other (even though they live in a chibi world where they’re immortal) in a limited amount of time, the last one standing wins, but if time runs out they get murdered by a molesting, green killer bear.
They have a buxom, G-cup-breasted Mom, Marin, who watches over them and takes good care of them even smothering them with her boobs and such it’s my T&A a bit of hentai-ish moments here and there but it was offensive humor I found funny and how extreme, but she’s not always a silly bimbo or whatever. The Cape Monster joins in with them, he was too cool of a character to push aside, his origins are the same but his and his lover’s names are changed, but he had crossed over into the Deaderlands fighting his way back to his world of Chibi-Turn to reunite with his love again. Oh, and there’s a silly cliched sub-plot about a mad scientist and a mysterious swordsmen but you’ll have to wait and read about it.
I’m still working on my masterpiece before I go back to do one more issue of Atomic Chibi-ta, I want it to have a good ending and answer a lot of questions or just be a fun epic random, bloody, perverse, silly story for all to enjoy in their own way. I enjoy drawing it. Both Atomic Chibi-ta and The Cape Monster I drew only in pencil and let the photo-copies do the inking for me, I didn’t feel like tracing them at the time.
Next up was my first ever horror comic which I was ambitious to make this comic, I went through crap and was even inspired by a little movie called “Hatchet”, Night of the Grizzler was born, where it was about trick-or-treaters talking about a local legend of a backwoods man who grew into loving Halloween but brutalized by his father blaming him for his wife’s death of giving birth to him he punished him so much he burned him alive, surviving the man worshiped the devil to let him celebrate Halloween, so the Devil gave him powers to eat people in front of the satanic alter to feed Hell more souls and he’d be immortal.
It was a fun comic and was also in pencil and copied for ink, but was the first comic in a while where I actually colored it in, wanted to give it those 80s colors to make it feel like an 80s horror movie of a comic book, the plot is very basic like any other, without giving too much away, I’m planning something big for my Grizzler character in a Night of the Grizzler movie I’m planning in my future here, and I’ll be giving him more to his character to keep him interesting and not just some Jason Voorhees rip-off.
Currently I’m working on my greatest masterpiece, it’s a story that exploits my love for Horses, being an Anti-Horse-Slaughter message about how companionship wins over survivalism, The Fake Horse. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic 2018, where a young man who wears a horse mask, Dawn Horse, is bent on protecting a herd of Horses from fallout savages while trying to make a meaningful life again in a world that’s ended. I’m loving the hell out of this book, it’s amazing every time I look back on every page for continuity stuff but my eyes are glued to it endlessly, the emotions I have in this book are amazing and expressed the way I want, it’s so beautiful and I know if I can be drawn into this story I know others will too.
This will be my first comic book I’ve ever inked in my life, tracing isn’t bad, I’m inking the characters first before I go back to redraw and ink the backgrounds and color in some of the characters and backgrounds for a nice effect to the black-and-white of the graphic novel when I send it in for printing. I’m close to the end of it, but I’m not rushing it in any way, I want it to be my carefully composed, untainted, flawless vision but it will get done sooner than later for sure. I’ll be posting up a promo for Indiegogo.com and get some funding for the printing. This book HAS to be seen by everyone, anything to save the Horses but to have an interesting story to the message than being all PETA about it to shove it down people’s throats. As well as the rest of my work.
TJ: Honestly, I rather remain underground with my creations. My books and my movies all of them I rather be more independent with these pieces however I can down the road, I’ll have my ups and downs when it comes to funding (knowing how terrible pirating is and how much it’s hurting indie cinema as it is mainstream), I may run into computer problems when editing my latest work..but you know what? It beats the hell out of selling out to a major studio where they’ll drain you of everything you got for their own greed, their own conservative ignorance, their way of doing business for the artistic side of film-making or for their commercial way of producing comic books to appeal a wider much more tamed and close-minded audience when something is much different than their own expectations.
I don’t ever refer to my pieces as “product”, because I don’t make products I make stories. Movies, books, these are art, they’re not corporate goods nor should they ever be corporate goods for the sake of profit. If you rely too much on the money that your work makes, you don’t care about the story you wanted to tell and your work suffers because of it unless you get burned cash from horrifically stupid people. Capitalism is good for some things, it’s not good for a lot of things, I do appreciate getting profit for my work, that’s good because then I can put it into my next project and it keeps the creation process going, but I never do the work to make the money, I want the ones who read or watch my work know that it tells them something. Anyone can make these things, it has to be in the right state of mind and heart to do it.
In my future, my skills for whatever I got to work with I know will become a vital part in the worlds of visual story-telling, I hope it inspires those who want to create but don’t know where to begin and to see stories like mine and to know how hard but so rewarding it all is to do it and to complete it and to read it or watch it and debate or embrace what you’ve created out of life, it’s like being god where you’ve created your own world, your own characters, your own theme, your own mind and heart of things of fantasy becoming a reality. That’s the beauty of it.
I don’t care what most of these critics say about independent cinema, from the crappy acting, to the show-string story-lines, the cheesy effects, independent cinema and independent comic books are great things because everyone gets to make whatever voice they want to give to help shape opinions or to make something they’ve always wanted to see or both, it’s an art-form, it’s a vital part to our existence, as it is with interacting with animals, nature, technology, science, it’s everything. Big ideas can come in any shape or size, the passion is where it matters most.
My skills will take me where ever they lead me and where I can take them the rest of the way, and I will NEVER stop for anything until I’ve told all the stories I wanted to tell.
“Project wise what can the world expect in the future in the way of Gory Pumpkin?”
Backyard Vampire I’m still editing before I get the music made for it and make extras for the DVD, but that’s after I figure out my computer troubles and fix them, but I know when it’s complete it’ll be a great gore-tastic addition to the Gory Pumpkin library.
After Backyard Vampire, I’ll be going off to work on my highly anticipated Hacksaw 2, continuing the Dillon Mason story but with a neat twist to take the story into a different direction so that it doesn’t borrow too heavily from the first movie, which is what can be a big issue with commercial sequels to movies. But keep your eyes peeled on the site for Hacksaw 2, there’s a lot everyone has yet to see to what’s expected of Dillon Mason and his bone-chilling return, I know it’s going to be a great turn.
I have a lot planned for the Horror world of Gory Pumpkin, I’m super-thrilled about it as anyone will be, I’ll definitely take a short break from Horror so I can expand what more of my dark stories I can tell where it can be more dramatic to my credit of genre, but make no mistake Horror is always my udder to drink from and I won’t disappoint myself or my fans!
Currently I’m working on my greatest masterpiece, it’s a story that exploits my love for Horses, being an Anti-Horse-Slaughter message about how companionship wins over survival-ism, The Fake Horse. It takes place in a post-apocalyptic 2018, where a young man who wears a horse mask, Dawn Horse, is bent on protecting a herd of Horses from fallout savages while trying to make a meaningful life again in a world that’s ended. I’m loving the hell out of this book, it’s amazing every time I look back on every page for continuity stuff but my eyes are glued to it endlessly, the emotions I have in this book are amazing and expressed the way I want, it’s so beautiful and I know if I can be drawn into this story I know others will too.
This will be my first comic book I’ve ever inked in my life, tracing isn’t bad, I’m inking the characters first before I go back to redraw and ink the backgrounds and color in some of the characters and backgrounds for a nice effect to the black-and-white of the graphic novel when I send it in for printing. I’m close to the end of it, but I’m not rushing it in any way, I want it to be my carefully composed, untainted, flawless vision but it will get done sooner than later for sure. I’ll be posting up a promo for Indiegogo.com and get some funding for the printing. This book HAS to be seen by everyone, anything to save the Horses but to have an interesting story to the message than being all PETA about it to shove it down people’s throats.
As well as the rest of my work, it’s going to be a great future for cult favorites and indies, I’m so excited I could eat a mutated zombie mole-creature and turn into six-winged demon to screw and convert several virgins into my horrific ghouls where we shall raise the dead and rule the world!
S: “Thanks for your time, it was very much appreciated Toby and good luck with your projects both present and future.”
TJ: Thank you kindly, I will. You do the same and stay gory, my friend!
GORY PUMPKIN http://psychosentinel.tripod.com
THANKS TOBY FOR SHARING IMAGES FOR THIS INTERVIEW : )