The following interview is from the now defunct site, Website 9.
Website 9 Interview, 2003
John Borowski is the director of the upcoming documentary on serial
killer H.H. Holmes. He has spent years putting this project together by delving
into the sick and twisted mind of a psychopath but none of that could prepare
him for....NINE QUESTIONS!
1. First off, tell us a bit about your background. How did you get involved with the business of making movies?
Since I was a kid, movies have been my passion - especially horror movies, the classics like Frankenstein and Dracula. Then, after falling in love with making 8mm films, I enrolled into Columbia College film school, where I made a short film loosely based on Jeffrey Dahmer (State of Mind). After graduation, I began directing commercials, music videos, and short films.
2. Who is H.H. Holmes?
H.H. Holmes is America's first serial killer. He was the first documented killer to be called a multi-murderer. He is also considered the greatest criminal of his age, being an evil genius and criminal master mind of numerous cons, swindles, and frauds. He is known for his "castle" building, which he designed for disposing the bodies of victims visiting the 1893 Columbian Exposition (aka "World's Fair") in Chicago. The 2nd floor of the murder castle contained asphyxiating rooms, greased chutes, and secret passages. The basement was a torture dungeon containing acid vats, a crematorium, dissection tables, and a medieval rack. Holmes would sell his victims' skeletons to local universities and medical schools. Check out http://www.hhholmesthefilm.com for more.
3. What attracted you to take on the enormous
task of putting Holmes' story on film?
First, I learned about the castle of horrors, which really captivated me. It seemed very easy to make a film based on the gore and horror of the castle, but I looked forward to the challenge of bringing his whole fascinating life story to the screen. It truly is a great real-life story.
4. How much research has it taken to put together a film like this?
An enormous amount of research goes into every film that I direct/produce, I am a consummate perfectionist who pays attention to every detail. Being a fan of literature, music, and movies, nothing infuriates me more than when a story/tale is told and it is untrue to its source. I was lucky enough to find and film in Holmes' New Hampshire childhood home and the Philadelphia courtroom where his trial was held.
5. Do friends and family think your nuts for taking a few years to make a serial killer movie?
When I was a kid, people were scared to come into my bedroom, because I would have monster masks and horror movie posters decorating my walls. I practiced special makeup effects while a teenager, making masks, fake blood, and old age makeup. Once, I made fake blood and stored it in a ketchup bottle in the fridge. When an uncle went to use the ketchup, I had to stop him from eating the Karo-syrup-blood, screaming, "That's not ketchup, that's blood!" So by now, my family and friends are used to my macabre interests.
6. Why did it take over 100 years for somebody
to finally tell this story?
Holmes started construction on his castle in 1888, around the time of the Ripper murders. Being an unsolved mystery, the Ripper case engrosses people and in the long run may have overshadowed the Holmes case, which was solved. Also, people may have been reluctant to accept what happened and attempted to erase history, like when they burned Holmes' castle down or when Ed Gein's farm was burned. It is also a story that can be difficult to convey on film because it is very unbelievable. I had a specific vision of how to portray Holmes's life, based on my interests in Edgar Allen Poe's works, classic monster movies, and a great love of Vincent Price's work.
7. How much money has gone into the making of this film? From the photos and previews on your site, it looks like it has a much higher quality than most movies of it's size.
Lots of time and money have gone into the Holmes film. I traveled to New Hampshire, Michigan, St. Louis, New York, LA, and Philadelphia for location footage, research, and interviews. I exceeded limitations to bring the audience my vision, by filming reenactments and creating digital effects on the photographs so there is continual depth to the film. I didn't want the audience to be staring at still pictures for an hour - I wanted to keep them engaged in the film.
8. How did narrator Tony Jay get involved
in the project? I'm sure most people probably wouldn't know him by name but
once you hear that voice you recognize it immediately.
I have admired Tony Jay's talent ever since I heard him play the Asylum Keeper in Disney's Beauty and the Beast. Tony possesses this uniquely dark sound in his voice (that's probably why he usually plays the bad guy characters in films.) He blew me away when I saw Disney's Hunchback, and then I heard his voice in the videogame Legacy of Kain. Shortly after, I contacted him and expressed being a huge fan and felt his voice was truly a perfect match for Narrator of the Holmes film. The rest is history. He is truly a great human being, a refined gentleman if I've ever met one!
9. Besides the Holmes movie, what other projects can we expect to see from you in the future?
I really want to create the definitive Ed Gein docudrama, being more narrative than documentary. There are films out on Ed, but I have an intense desire to show the vision of his story that is in my head. I am interested in dark subjects like the supernatural, zombie films, monster movies, and gothic horror. In addition to horror films, I also have interests in creating films that utilize classic story and character archetypes from mythology, religion, and Native American Indian beliefs.