In 2016 I had the opportunity to interview a well known name in the independent film scene, Brad Sykes. Nearly 3 years have passed since, and now with the upcoming release of a new film I once again got the chance to speak to the man about what he has planned for the future.

When we last spoke with yourself (https://www.horrorscreamsvideovault.co.uk/2016/06/exclusive-interview-with-brad-sykes.html), you mentioned a sequel to HI-8 was in the works called HI-DEATH. How has this project progressed and what can you tell us about it without giving away any spoilers?

We began production on HI-DEATH in Spring 2015, right after the release of HI-8 on dvd and vhs.  The movie took much longer to complete than we anticipated for a few reasons.  First, we had a couple of filmmakers who were originally involved and later had to drop out.  Some of the segments that were completed and delivered took longer than expected to finish due to cast and crew scheduling conflicts, and I had some health issues in late 2016 that kept us from shooting our own segment and the wraparound until the fall of 2017.  HI-DEATH was a much more challenging project than HI-8, which ironically had eight filmmakers involved (HI-DEATH has five) and yet only took around 9 months to finish.

The good news is that HI-DEATH was completed in early 2018 and began playing festivals all over the US (and the world) immediately afterward.  Our first screening was at the New Jersey Horror Con and Film Festival in March 2018, the movie played seven more fests, had its L.A. Premiere in February 2019, and has more fests coming up later this year.  HI-DEATH is coming to DVD, VHS and streaming 11th June 2019 from Wild Eye Releasing.

From the start, we wanted HI-DEATH to be a bigger and more professional movie than HI-8, aside from shooting all the segments in High Definition we also encouraged all the partcipating filmmakers – which in this case are Tim Ritter, Todd Sheets, Anthony Catanese and Amanda Payton – to go deeper and darker with their storytelling and tell longer, more ambitious stories.  And I think we definitely achieved that!  I’m very proud of the movie, which preserves the unconventional spirit of HI-8 while still taking the audience to new (and scarier) places.

Recently released was a comic book which serves as a prequel to your 2003 film GOTH. Can you tell us how this project came about and if we will see further issues based on GOTH ?

In 2016, Matt Brassfield, who runs the indie comics company Sparkle Comics, contacted me about doing a comic book based on my movie GOTH.  I thought it was a great idea and was very flattered, and we set about getting the rights sorted out with Brain Damage Films.  That took a while, but by 2017 we were in business and Natalie Claude wrote a very cool script for the comic that, as you mentioned, effectively functions as a prequel, and helps explain the Goth’s somewhat superhuman origin.  I provided some creative guidance to the project at the script stage and then another year went by while the artwork (by Damien Brunk) was done.  GOTH #1 was published in October 2018, just in time for Halloween.  I love what Matt and co. did with the book, he’s a true fan of indie horror and it shows.  And yes, there will be more issues, with a GOTH #2 and 3 underway as we speak.  It’s great to see GOTH getting new life in a different media format, something I never could have predicted would happen.

Do you have any other comic books based on your films coming out in the future if so which ones are they? If not which ones would you like to see be turned into a comic book?

There are a few other movies of mine that Matt is interested in and we are discussing, though most of the attention is being put into GOTH for now.  Personally, I think my 2008 sci-fi/horror movie PLAGUERS, which deals with space zombies, would work well as a comic.  The movie has a comic book feel to it and I even drafted up storylines for two sequels after the first film was released, which could be spun into comics in the future.

You have released your first book ‘Terror in the Desert‘ which is a film reference book about the ‘Desert Terror’ genre. How long did you spend writing and researching for this book and can we expect further reference books from you in the future on other genres?

‘Terror in the Desert’ is another project that was years in the making…do you notice a theme here?  I started writing the book in late 2015 and had a ‘final’ draft ready at the end of 2016, but honestly, in a way I’ve been researching this book for over 20 years, since I first saw THE HITCHER and THE HILLS HAVE EYES on cable or vhs and became obsessed with the Desert Terror genre.  As this was my first book, I leaned on my screenwriting background and created an outline before I really started watching (and rewatching) movies for it…there were hundreds to watch and I discovered a lot of cool films in the process like WHEN YOU COMIN’ BACK, RED RYDER? or BLOOD RIVER, to name a few.  When writing the text, I tried for a more narrative-based style, as I wanted to tell a story with this book and make an argument for Desert Terror as a unique genre, not just offer a numerical or alphabetical list of reviews.  I was happy with how it turned out and fortunate to find a good home for it, McFarland, who published the book in April 2018.

Reviews have been very good and in conjunction with the book, I began presenting the ‘Weird West’ film screening series at the Autry Museum of the American West; last October I hosted a 30th anniversary screening of GHOST TOWN and in February I introduced the 60th anniversary screening of the vampire western CURSE OF THE UNDEAD. 

And yes, I am currently planning on writing another film reference book.  I’ve been accumulating materials for it for the past year or so, and hope to begin writing this year.

What is your favourite film that fits in the ‘Desert Terror’ genre?

It’s so hard for me to pick just one! But the first title that comes to mind is Robert Harmon’s THE HITCHER.  It’s just such a classic Desert Terror movie , and has that perfect mix of beauty and brutality that is so key to the genre.  There’s a good reason why I chose a still from it for the book cover!

The CAMP BLOOD films have gathered a following since the first film and has spawned many sequels. Can we expect to see you return to CAMP BLOOD or do you feel you have told your story with that series of films?

It’s amazing, isn’t it?  If you had told me in 1999 that our little 3-D digital slasher movie would spawn a whole franchise that would still be going twenty years later, I never would have believed you.  I even had a festival programmer in the UK contact me last year about screening the original CAMP BLOOD and I persuaded him to show HI-DEATH instead!  I’m not currently working on anything CAMP BLOOD-related but I still have a strong love for the ‘woods slasher’ genre, so you never know.

What do you have planned next in terms of filmmaking, another anthology film or a feature film?

I’m breaking the news here: we are currently in production on a third horror anthology, HI-FEAR, which will follow HI-8 and HI-DEATH and involves many of the same filmmakers confronting their ‘greatest fears’.  Everybody loves a good trilogy!  I will say no more for now but plan on having it finished and released in less time than it took us to complete HI-DEATH… but such things are sometimes out of our hands due to the usual challenges of independent filmmaking.  I’ll keep you posted!

Thank you for your time once again. We look forward to seeing what delights you have to reveal to us in your future projects.

Interview by Peter ‘Witchfinder‘ Hopkins

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