By CHRIS HABERMAN
In the small, Mayberry-esque town of Greensburg, Kentucky, stomach-turning things are going on in the enormous crawlspace of one decaying house. A demented marijuana farmer in his 50s named Roland is about to smash a young girl’s head in with a sledgehammer. Bloody brains will surely burst from the skull upon impact, which is probably why Roland is so giddy—he can’t seem to stop croaking long, raspy laughs (extremely unpleasant to the ears due to his laryngectomy). Also in this subterranean pit are two nude women trapped in chicken-wire cages, a hacked-up torso hanging from the ceiling by its feet and a mentally and physically warped character referred to on the set as “Hamburger Head” (seen in the first of the exclusive photos after the jump).
Ennis shares with Fango how the film came to be lensed under this ancient home, which is 200 years old and soon to be renovated into a bed and breakfast. “We found this location when I was working on my documentary HAUNTED KENTUCKY: SPIRITS OF THE BLUEGRASS. I was down here and they gave me a tour of the cellar, and I was like, ‘Man, this is perfect.’ We didn’t have to do a lot to it, other than building the cages. It would’ve cost a lot of money in Hollywood to construct all this stuff.”
The location info is nice, but the gnarly-looking Hamburger Head is all this writer can focus on. Ennis divulges some of the deformed lunatic’s backstory: “He was a camper or a hiker who got lost in the woods and couldn’t find his way out, so he had to start eating his own flesh to survive. He developed a taste for human meat, and Roland found him [almost] dead in the gorge, took him and made him like his son that he never had. He feeds him leftover body parts that he doesn’t use in his fertilizer.”
Though Roland is definitely the film’s main baddie, Jason Crowe’s portrayal of the nearly inhuman Hamburger Head nicely recalls Jonathan Fuller’s vicious yet pathos-laden Giorgio in CASTLE FREAK. Regarding the character’s severe facial abnormalities, Fango learns that while imprisoned by Roland, a disagreement between the two ended in Roland smashing the hiker’s face with a sledgehammer—on that day, Hamburger Head was born. Now horribly disfigured and stark raving mad, he’s more like a junkyard dog in Roland’s weird underground world. Chained to a structure that resembles a small shed or large doghouse, Hamburger Head spends his days waiting for Roland to bring him fresh meat—of any kind—to feast upon.
Roland is played by David Haney, a mild-mannered gent in his early 50s who has only been acting for seven years. “I enjoy this, because it’s such an escape from reality, but it’s still a lot of fun.” Strange words to apply to playing a cat who tortures the living daylights out of the rest of the cast, but actually quite rational—the vibe on the dirty, dusty, muggy set is very much lighthearted and jovial. The actor goes on to explain that Roland’s relationship with Hamburger Head is hardly that of a typical “father” and “son.” “It can be sinister at times,” Haney says. “A lot of times, he taunts Hamburger Head. He likes to taunt him…keep him in the basement. But naturally, he has to keep him away from main society because they would put him away. I do call him ‘son’ in a couple of scenes, so I guess there is a relationship there…”
RED RIVER reunites Crowe with his DEAD MOON RISING co-star Tucky Williams, who has a Drew-Barrymore-in-SCREAM-esque cameo in the beginning of the movie. On the set, Williams and co-star Christian Brooker are decked out in forest-ranger uniforms, checking out Roland’s lair. After finding jars filled with all sorts of human bric-a-brac, they decide to hastily split, only to come nose-to-twisted-nose with Hamburger Head.
FX artists Sven Granlund and Roni Jonah have been working on what Granlund refers to as a “Lloyd Kaufman melon head” for the brain-bashing sequence described above. As the camera rolls, the head is put in place and the sledgehammer is swung. Upon bloody impact, everyone waits to hear Ennis call “Cut.” Applause rings through the room after the director deems the take a success, but the carnage isn’t over. After an examination of the satisfying mess of bloody chunks on the dirt floor, the impromptu decision is made for Roland to stomp on the mashed noggin a few times. Now that’s production value.