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Scary Good Logic

Austin-based Hell No goes viral and makes horror movies smarter

Texas Veggie Fair, Carol Adams
Hell No: The Sensible Horror Film. Photo by Marc Lee

Have you ever watched a horror movie and wondered how the hell the characters can be so stupid? Sometimes you ask, “Why would you go up the stairs to run from the murderer?” or “What kind of idiot would suggest splitting up while searching through the haunted mental asylum that’s overrun by a satanic cult?”

Most scary movies don’t run on a lot of logic, so a local director worked with other Austin filmmakers to make a trailer for a horror flick in which the characters actually think for two seconds about what they should do. Joe Nicolosi and others shot the short parody film, Hell No, which is already becoming a runaway hit on the Internet. He’s no stranger to web success, having created online classics such as The Matrix Retold by Mom and CSI: Legoland. Nicolosi took the chance to introduce himself and the story behind Hell No.

CultureMap: What's the inspiration behind Hell No

Joe Nicolosi: It was an idea that was originally pitched by the co-writer of Hell No, John Freiler, for our sketch comedy show in college. We both went to Ithaca College in upstate New York and made sketches together. There's always that part in a horror movie where you're yelling at the screen, and we were wondering what would happen if the characters actually took your advice for a change. 

"From my perspective, there are only benefits to shooting in Austin. The crews are amazing, and the talent is top-notch." 

CM: Was it filmed entirely in Austin? What are a few locations that some locals might recognize?

JN: It's filmed in and around Austin. The Cloverfield monster is standing on West Fifth and San Antonio Street downtown — that's the W Hotel on fire in the background there. The creepy cabin is in Bastrop, and the scenes at the beach were shot at Volente Beach on Lake Travis. The mill at the end is the Delta Millworks in East Austin. 

CM: What are some of the benefits or challenges of filming anything here in Austin? What made you decide to relocate here from New York to become a filmmaker?

JN: From my perspective, there are only benefits to shooting in Austin. The crews are amazing, and the talent is top-notch. The best part in my opinion is how supportive all of Austin's filmmakers are to each other. Everyone just does whatever they can to help each other's movies. I've heard it's not like that in other places. 

As for moving here, I read Robert Rodriguez's book Rebel Without a Crew in college and got the impression that Austin would be a good place to incubate as a filmmaker, over, say, New York or Los Angeles. It's been great for me. I was adopted by the SXSW Film Festival to make bumpers for them and that was a great launchpad for more films. Most of my shorts have budgets in the hundreds of dollars and there are only a few places where you can get away with that. 

CM: Who are some of the other local talents who collaborated with you on this? 

JN: My producer, Stephanie Noone, deserves a lot of credit; she took my script and did a lot of the heavy lifting in putting everything together. Arts + Labor also contributed to the production simply out of a love for independent film and desire to support local filmmakers, so that was great of them. All the talent and most of the crew was local. 

CM: You've already had plenty of success with making wildly popular online videos. Do you see yourself expanding outside of that realm in the future, like to features at some point? And what can you tell me about your next online video project in the works?

I've been working on some bigger projects recently — a feature and a TV pilot specifically. After I've finished with the scripts, I'll pursue getting one or both off the ground and plan on making short films on the side as I go. I'm making a follow-up to my Matrix Retold by Mom, where she watches Inception, right now. It's about 70% finished. She goes on some rather weird tangents, and for some reason, even after we watched the movie she still thought it starred Matt Damon. 

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Watch some more of Joe Nicolosi’s work either on his official website or his YouTube page, Pixels per Second.

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