While perhaps most known for directing the 1980 video nasty The Boogey Man, German-born Ulli Lommel’s career dates back to the 1960s and has seen the multi-talented artist working both in front of and behind the camera in a variety of genres. The son of a famous comedian, Lommel was performing in front of audiences from the age of four, before embarking on an acting career while still in his teens. His first significant role came with Fanny Hill, a co-production between Germany and the United States from cult filmmaker Russ Meyer, then best known for his nudie cutie The Immoral Mr. Teas.
In 1968 he met director Rainer Werner Fassbinder and the two collaborated on Liebe ist kälter als der Tod (Love is Colder Than Death), which would begin a prolific partnership that would last throughout the following decade. Lommel’s own career as a filmmaker gained momentum in 1973 with Die Zärtlichkeit der Wölfe (Tenderness of the Wolves) which, much like Fritz Lang’s 1931 masterpiece M, was inspired by the gruesome crimes of Peter Kürten, the Vampire of Düsseldorf.
At the behest of Roger Deutsch, an American distributor, Lommel travelled to the United States to meet legendary artist Andy Warhol, who would assist in the financing for Lommel’s next two features, Cocaine Cowboys and Blank Generation. But following the success of John Carpenter’s Halloween the American film industry would turn its attention to low budget horrors, and so in an effort to capitalise on this Lommel wrote and directed a supernatural thriller called The Boogey Man. The project would be most noticable for Suzanna Love, the star and co-writer who had appeared in both Cocaine Cowboys and Blank Generation, and would subsequently become Lommel’s wife.
While the movie would be overshadowed by the success of another picture inspired by Halloween, Sean S. Cunningham’s Friday the 13th, Lommel would be approached to develop a sequel to The Boogeyman. Following the controversy of both The Driller Killer and The Evil Dead in the United Kingdom, both The Boogey Man and Boogeyman II would be targeted by the Director of Public Prosecutions and labelled as video nasties.
Ulli Lommel reminisces on the making and subsequent controversy of Boogeyman II.
How were you first approached about doing a sequel to The Boogey Man and were you proud of what you achieved with the first movie?
I didn’t want to make a sequel at all. I was young and rebellious and thought sequels were a stupid corporate exploitation idea. So when I finally did it I played myself – a director who didn’t want to make that movie. I am not proud of much anyway. Certainly not movies. When I can help a friend or a stranger, that makes me feel good. Pride is something I do not need.
Did you have any reservations about returning to your previous work and what kind of instructions were you given from your investors?
I told my investors if I can do whatever I want and call it Boogeyman II, then I would do it. They said okay.
How did you approach writing the screenplay and how come you chose to recycle much of the material from the first film? Was this a decision you had made from the beginning or was this due to a lack of inspiration?
It was ALL inspiration.
Were there any films in particular that inspired you during the writing of Boogeyman II and how did your investors feel about the script featuring a substantial amount of material from the first?
Reactions were split. Some hated it, some loved it. some suffered, others laughed. But that was THEN. Today I would do it differently.
How would you describe the experience of shooting the second film? Was it as enjoyable as the first and do you have any major regrets?
No regrets at all. Shot most of it at my own house with friends and had a great time.
Were any excessively gruesome sequences shot and did you feel under pressure to cater to the slasher audiences that had seen the previous film?
I never catered to anyone ever. We just had fun. Like with the first one. I never expected anyone of them to be successful.
How long did principal photography last and whereabouts did the filming take place?
Ten days at my house and three days on location in California.
What themes would you say you were exploring with Boogeyman II and do you feel these translated well onto the screen?
Selling out, getting corrupted, revenge. My favourite three themes back then. I made the movie I wanted to make, but since i work in symbols and metaphors and subversively, sometimes ten people get it, other times ten million. Makes no difference to me.
How was the movie received by both fans and critics and were there any issues with the MPAA?
Rating boards ALWAYS have issues with me. Fans and critics were split, most negative.
What kind of controversy did you encounter as a result of these films and did you come under attack from the censors or media?
Sure, there have been attacks, plenty of them. But at least attacks create action and movement. Always good in a society of sleepers.
How do you feel about the treatment of your films and the notoriety that they caused in the UK? Do you feel the government and media overreacted and why do you think this happened?
You’d have to ask the patient (society) itself, once he wakes up from the coma. I have just completed Rock the System, a film that sums it all up. Hope to show it at Cannes 2010.