Unlike most souls who spent decades, sometimes entire lifetimes, fumbling about in search of their life’s calling, Michael Kallio figured his out pretty early on.
“I saw Star Wars when I was 6 1/2 and knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” says the local filmmaker. “And from there I just consumed anything movies. I’ve had a one-track mind since.”
After spending his adolescence churning out Super 8 films, at age 20 Kallio decided it was time to make a real independent movie, but he was at a loss where to start. Thus, he penned a letter to one of his idols — Bruce Campbell.
In case you’ve never heard of Birmingham native Campbell, he’s the reigning king of B-movie actors and a bona fide cult icon. Campbell got his start with MSU chum Sam Raimi (you might have heard of a little film Raimi recently directed called Spider-man) by writing, producing and funding the now-infamous indie horror flick, Evil Dead, 20 years ago. The sequels Evil Dead II and Army of Darkness soon followed and became instant cult classics, even spawning a legion of devoted fans known as “Deadites.”
Inspired by the DIY method of Evil Dead, Kallio turned to Campbell for guidance.
“I wrote him the most unprofessional, anti-business letter in the world. It was like, ‘Dear Bruce, I’m 20 years old and I want to make a movie but I don’t know what I’m doing. Can you give me some advice?’”
A realist, Kallio never really expected a response.
So, he was more than a bit surprised when Campbell called him just two weeks later.
“I literally dropped the phone,” he grins.
That was 12 years ago. This Thursday, Hatred of a Minute, a psychological horror film produced by Campbell and written by, directed by and starring Kallio, opens at the Novi Emagine Theatre for a weeklong run.
The film was inspired by an Edgar Allan Poe poem titled “To-” and weaves the tale of a serial killer who falls in love but is unable to cease his murderous spree due to his mentally and physically abusive past.
“I used a lot of Edgar Allan Poe’s ideas, stuff from ‘Telltale Heart,’ and themes from a lot of his stories, because they’re so universal.”
It was originally intended to be a simple Super 8 short — but the fateful phone call from Campbell changed everything.
“It became a fun little hobby that I got sucked into like a vortex,” says Campbell in a phone interview from his home in Oregon. “I sat in on a couple of investor meetings in Detroit, and then I just wound up producing the damn thing.”
So why would Campbell, a successful actor, take the time to respond to such an “unprofessional and anti-business” fan letter from some 20-year-old kid?
“That’s probably why I called him back. He wasn’t pretending to be someone he’s not,” says Campbell, who has a reputation for being accessible and open with fans. “I had a guy who influenced me a lot and I was happy to tutor Mike. I enjoyed being his mentor … or rather, tormentor.”
The film features another famous B-movie actor, Gunnar Hansen, aka Leatherface from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
All principal footage for the film was completed in 1995, but it took 12 years to complete the movie. Why?
“Lack of money, plain and simple,” sighs Kallio, over Bloody Marys at the Music Menu. “We’d raise some more money and work a little bit more and then we’d run out, and then we’d raise a little bit more money, and work some more, and run out …”
Scruffy, sarcastic and dead funny, Kallio looks a bit like filmmaker Kevin Smith — a very tired Kevin Smith. He’s been running on about two hours of sleep a night over the past few weeks, and is exhausted and relieved to see his 12-year labor of love finally coming to fruition.
“It’s the hugest weight off my shoulders, because it’s done, and I don’t have to deal with it anymore,” Kallio says through a cloud of cigarette smoke.
This is actually the second premiere of Hatred of a Minute; the original premiere took place in February 2002 at the Royal Oak Theatre, but the version that will hit the screen this Thursday is the digitally remastered final cut.
“This is the way it was meant to be seen,” says Kallio.
Campbell is unable to attend the premiere due to his filming schedule for Spider-man II, but is thrilled about the final product.
“I’m excited for the audience. It’s a 100 percent homegrown Detroit movie, and truly independent,” says Campbell, who has two cameos in the film. “There are a lot of independent movies that say they’re independent, but are actually financed by Fortune 500 companies. There were no studios telling us what to do here.”
“But,” Campbell adds with his trademark dry wit, “on the other hand, there are no excuses either, so if it sucks it’s totally our fault.”
Hatred of a Minute opens at the Novi Emagine Theatre on Thursday, May 15, and runs until May 22. For show times, call 248-319-3456 or see www.emagine-entertainment.com. Join the cast and crew for the official after party on Thursday at the Buddha Lounge, 21633 W. Eight Mile Road, Detroit. For info, call 313-535-GONG.Sarah Klein is a Metro Times staff writer. E-mail her at [email protected]