Parry Shen dies harder than Bruce Willis.
No one ever stated it quite as succinctly as my friend Muse when she paraphrased Ice T. On his third character in the HATCHET franchise, Shen has more than established himself to be the cinematic pain in Kane Hodder’s ass.
As VICTOR CROWLEY (2017) writer and director Adam Green often says, “Parry Shen is the final girl of Honey Island Swamp.” From Shawn and Justin in the first two HATCHET movies, to Andrew Yong in the most recent installments, Shen has proven impossible to eradicate. And no one is complaining.
With the fifth anniversary looming for the utter shock and surprise that was the unveiling of the fourth film of the series in August of 2017, we arranged a phone call with the franchise’s true MVP.
Before Shen embarked on day trip last Friday, we spoke about the secrecy that surrounded VICTOR CROWLEY, the struggle to keep a straight face acting alongside Dave Sheridan, a moment of “method acting to [Shen’s] detriment”, and whether he’d be down for a fifth flick should Green decide to resurrect the Bayou Butcher one more time
But before we dive into the interview, please note that we said “should” Adam Green decide to do another HATCHET movie.
Nothing is in the works. There are no definitive plans. Again…if. Not to put a damper on things, but it had to be said.
“Now, enjoy the rest of the album!”
Parry Shen, everybody.
NIGHTMARE NOSTALGIA: So, Adam Green reaches out one day and says that he wants to make a HATCHET movie. In secret. Walk us through that conversation.
PARRY SHEN: Adam emailed me the script. It was all through email, I believe, the first time. And I was kind of astonished because I thought [HATCHET III (2013)] was it. He was pretty sure that the third one was going to be it, and I remember him on the set just kind of observing–he was writing HOLLISTON at the time and B.J. (McDonnell) was directing–and I was like “this is it, huh? He said “yeah,” but I saw a glimmer in his eye, like if there is a fourth one, the gears were running in his head, “it would have to be just…you.” (Laughs) He knew how the third one ended, because he did write it, and that came to fruition years later.
I remember thinking, because the first three took place consecutively, with revisiting and making it literally ten years after the first one, it just made sense logistically, the story made sense about how to bring Victor back in a new way and I was like, “oh wow, this is really cool.” And it was cool to be front and center for the first time in the franchise, through deathocracy you know, everyone was gone! (Laughs) It was just a really cool challenge to have more weight on my shoulders.
The whole secrecy of it, I though, was really cool. We, people who were a part of it, thought that it had ended, so the fans for sure thought that. To have them a couple of steps behind while we did it was kind of awesome.
NN: I spoke with Kane Hodder at a convention a while back and asked how y’all managed to make a movie and no one had a clue. He said “that’s a good question! I have no idea!” Do you ever stop and marvel at the fact that no one said a word for two years?
PS: Everyone was so on board with how cool that concept was that nobody wanted to mess it up. It was like, why would you do that, you know? So much had been set up in terms of the three (films), that’s the trilogy and that’s it, and after a while it became very easy because we just didn’t talk about it. When people would ask me what projects I had, I would tell them other things and just keep it pushed to the side. When it was time to release, and seeing teasers from Adam–this is going to be the trailer once the world knows–I was like, “oh wait, that’s right! I did shoot that (laughs). Because I never talked about it for a year afterwards, it was like out of sight, out of mind. Oh wow, that’s right!
NN: Speaking of Kane. Across the board, cast and crew mention how terrifying Hodder is when he emerges for a scene. Grizzled veteran of Honey Island Swamp that you are, has Kane lost any of that affect on you?
PS: No, he hasn’t lost any affect because every iteration, the makeup gets better every time, so there’s always something that’s different. And Kane always brings a level of ferocity (laughs) to the performance. So yeah, it’s never lost upon me.
NN: You’re on your third character in this franchise, but with Andrew Yong, you got your first opportunity to pick up where you left off. Is it more challenging to come in for a new role or the continued portrayal of an established one?
PS: They’re both different. It’s probably the most challenging to create a new character from scratch. You’re doing a different back story, whether Adam gives it to you or coming up with it for yourself with the clues of the dialogue.
It’s probably easier to have an existing character because then you have something to springboard, having things to go off of for Andrew, his experiences from the third movie to roll into the fourth. But, at the same time, there’s a lot of stuff that popped up that wasn’t there that was like new information that I had to do homework on. His past history with Sabrina (Krystal Joy Brown), his ex-wife, and Adam had written the actual book I, Survivor after we had shot the film. That would have helped out a lot (laughs) in terms of providing back story. 300 pages of back story.
NN: On GENERAL HOSPITAL, you sprint through filming 100-plus pages per day, but with HATCHET flicks you’re primarily shooting at night, in the elements, and in a constant state of panic. As an actor, how arduous is that particular pivot?
PS: They’re actually fairly similar because for both we’re moving at a very quick speed for different reasons. With GENERAL HOSPITAL, it’s the sheer amount of material that we have to get through because we have a new episode that airs every day. For HATCHET, it’s a lot of material in the constrained amount of time that we have to shoot for budgetary reasons. And also because we’re fighting daylight because we’re filming at night.
Those skill sets, of being able to make choices quickly and making the most effective choice (chuckles) quickly was kind of the same. It’s not an easy thing to do because there are a lot of people who need time to ramp up, which is very understandable. But at the same time, I think one helped me with the other. My experiences on GENERAL HOSPITAL helped me to get back into the saddle with the pace of HATCHET, and my experience with HATCHET helped me get ready for the fast pace of GENERAL HOSPITAL.
NN: Was it hard to keep a straight face with Dave Sheridan?
PS: Yyyes. Yes. His improvisation is great. It kind of sucks because I have to play the straight man in all of this, where I can only contribute to the improvisation that makes sense in the frame of things.
I always say that one of my favorite scenes from the HATCHET movies is when [Sheridan’s] saying “Austin’s dead.” And [Brian] Quinn comes behind me and says “dude, I’m right here.” And [Sheridan] says “Austin’s alive!” All I can do is give a shrug like “why would you…?” But I love that because the way the camera was framed, you could get so many actors and see their expressions, and seeing Austin pop up in the back is just so well done. The timing was great from everybody.
NN: Sounds like you had a bit of a mishap filming the scene where you emerged from the water outside the plane?
PS: The only mishap was that we all felt that it would be really cool for us to emerge from head to waist like we were really coming out of the water because we were submerged instead of just exiting the water. The camera crew, I think, were taking bets like “nah, they’re not gonna do it,” because it was cold. If you haven’t been in extremely cold water before, it’s hard to describe, because you’re breath is just sucked out of your lungs. You can’t even control it, it looks like you’re doing this fake acting (laughs) of being cold, but you really can’t control your body when it’s that cold. And it was that cold. It was at night and the water was freezing, but let’s just do it real quick. “Action!” and we did it. I even took a couple gulps of water like I was having trouble swimming away from Victor. I took a big gulp when they called action and the end result was us literally just walking out of the water (laughs). We didn’t have to do any of that!
And then I found out that Kane had pissed in the water. So, I had taken a mouthful of water for no reason and swallowed his diluted urine. It was so dumb, as soon as I swallowed I was like “they’re not going to see this. It’s so dark.” It was like method acting to my detriment.
NN: This is one of our favorite questions: be it at a convention, through your website, or a random encounter on the street–what is the strangest request you’ve received from a HATCHET fan?
PS: You know, I don’t get the weird ones (laughs). Usually that’s like Kane or Danielle [Harris] who get that stuff. I’m not a violent person in the movies, so no one asks me to choke them like Kane does, So, it’s going to be very boring. I can’t think of anything that’s been weird.
NN: OK, so a little more tame.
NN: Anything weird from the soap opera fans? Both are rabid in their own way.
PS: Sorry, this one’s gonna be a boring answer (laughs). I’ve been very fortunate to not have any weird requests. The only strange thing that’s happened was when I was in a restaurant. I had a story line (on GENERAL HOSPITAL) where there was a baby switch and I took someone else’s baby and kept him as my own, raised him as my own. Someone (at the restaurant) yelled “you give that baby back!” And I said “no, he’s mine!” (laughs).
NN: Bit of a sidebar here, but tell us about MADELINES.
PS: That was a movie I did with Brea Grant and Jason Miller, who I did a movie with called UNIDENTIFIED (2013). We just worked really well together. We have the same sensibilities. He’s my producing partner. Then he and Brea started working together and Brea wrote this script about this couple who invent a time machine, something goes wrong–the coding goes wrong–and basically she experiments on herself to go into the future.
But something goes wrong and we see the coding and realize that she is going to reappear at the same time every day for the next ten years, basically. So, 3,600 of her are coming every day for the next ten years and we have to figure out a way to get rid of them. And it gets kind of grisly. The only solution they have is to basically start killing them off one-by-one.
NN: And while we’re at it, Green’s Halloween short FAIRY TALE POLICE was so incredible. How is that not an actual series?
PS: I loved that concept and loved the shoot. I was so excited to possibly keep doing more in that universe with fairy tale characters and policing that area with Rachael Leigh Cooke. I watch it at least a few times every year. It’s so well done. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, you can find it on YouTube.
NN: Would you be down for a fifth installment if Green decides to give it another go?
PS: Yeah! I mean, it’s no secret now that he said that there should be one. He has some pieces in his head. They’re pretty ambitious, but we have to keep outdoing the last one, so with less budget and bigger ideas that he wants, does make it more challenging. It’s kind of always having the right things in place to be able to meet the expectations of what you have in mind. Your imagination (chuckles), right? Then meeting somewhere in the middle. Yeah, I’d be totally down. Ready to go.
NN: It had been 10 years since the journey began when VICTOR CROWLEY had its big reveal, and now we approach the fifth anniversary of that release. The HATCHET Army is fiercely devoted, but as a member of the inner circle, what does being a part of the HATCHET family mean to you?
PS: It’s a lot of different things. It’s obviously the fans. I went to a HorrorHound convention recently, and was able to visit with a lot of the fans over the years, and how they got introduced to the film. Some of them were stationed overseas in the military, and all they had was a few movies, and HATCHET were one of them. It helped them get through that time in their lives. Some people were bed-ridden from a sickness and it helped them get through that time. Other people are aspiring filmmakers, young students, and that sort of got them inspired to get into makeup effects and filmmaking.
And on the other hand, Adam just chooses very well the people he surrounds himself with. They’re like-minded and have become really great friends. You can see when we do the Halloween shorts, (Green) just gets everyone together and it’s just really cool when someone is indoctrinated into the HATCHET family, because we know that you’re in that club and you’ve got a good friend for life.