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5 Horrific Questions with ‘Obstacle Corpse’s’ Hope Madden

The idea for Obstacle Corpse, Hope Madden’s directorial debut, came almost fully formed - and much of it had to do with death waivers.

“A few years ago, I was set to run one of those Tough Mudder-style obstacle course races with my husband, George,” the Tiffin, Ohio, native explains. When foot surgery kept Madden from competing, she went along to support her husband.

“The race handed out T-shirts that read ‘Remember, you signed a death waiver.’ Because you do, in fact, sign a death waiver,” Madden says, “and I saw how easy it would be to kill someone on these obstacles.

“By the time we were home, I had the plot just about figured out.”

That plot? A young woman, trying to prove herself to her father, accepts an invitation to run in an exclusive obstacle course race. To buoy her confidence, she enlists her best friend to run alongside her. Little do either know that one of the obstacles the race’s elite athletes must complete is the murder of a fellow racer.

While steeped in horror, the film is also quite funny, says Madden. Its humor comes from the joy obstacle course race enthusiasts bring to each race, dressing up in costumes and risking injury all in the name of a good time. That enthusiasm informed many of Madden’s characters.

”I had a lot of fun with the characters and what they hoped to get out of the race,” she says, adding that she plans to stick with the horror genre. “Oh, I'm all in with horror. I honestly can't see myself making anything else. I don't think I would even want to.”

Obstacle Corpse debuts Friday, Oct. 21, at 10 p.m. at Nightmares Film Festival at Gateway Film Center.

'Obstacle Corpse' director Hope Madden

The film bug bites

Madden grew up in Tiffin and settled in Columbus after graduating from The Ohio State University. A journalist and writer by trade, Madden was a film critic for various outlets before joining the independent weekly The Other Paper. She covered film for several international outlets, and focused a lot of her attention on local independent filmmakers for Columbus Underground.

“It seemed inevitable I would eventually bring all these experiences together and make a movie of my own,” Madden says.

Next up for Madden? The first draft of her second novel. Her first, Roost, published about a month before Obstacle Corpse went in front of the lens.

We recently challenged Madden to answer our annual Five Horrific Questions. Here’s how she answered:

Five Horrific Questions with Hope Madden

1. What makes a movie scary?

This is so subjective, like comedy. If it scares you, it's scary. For me, it helps if I honestly do not know where the film is taking me. When a filmmaker trusts you to keep up, follow along, make connections on your own – that keeps me engaged and paying attention. 

Also, anything in the woods. 

I'm terrified of the woods.

2. What movie frightens you the most?

The Blair Witch Project. I know it bores a lot of people, but it's a movie that hits on every weird nerve and primal fear that I have. I'm also claustrophobic, so Spoorloos killed me and The Descent scared me when I first saw it.

3. Who is your horror inspiration?

David Cronenberg, although I'm not sure Obstacle Corpse is a great reflection of that because it's a comedy. There's a lot of blood in my movie, but I didn't want the deaths to be humorous. I wanted the characters to be funny because people are funny, but death isn't funny. 

We were incredibly fortunate to work with David Greathouse for makeup FX. He did Kevin Smith's Tusk, among other great movies, so it was an amazing experience. 

He and I talked a lot about that. I didn't want a pile of organs to fall to the ground for laughs. I wanted people to be bothered by the carnage, but to laugh at the characters and their humanity.

4. Why do we like to be scared?

Little kids want you to read them the same books over and over and over again because it gives them a sense of control over a wildly uncontrollable world. 

I think that's a draw for people and horror movies. We see it, live through it, find catharsis, and then the terrifying unknown of it is behind us.

5. What movie or book would you want to turn into a horror movie? 

I feel like Ratatouille wouldn't take a lot. It could easily become a kind of Sweeney Todd thing, but with rats. 

Which is so much grosser.


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