Biehn there, done that: Actor takes helm as writer/director of The Victim

by Mark Burger

Michael Biehn knew he wasn’t breaking new ground with The Victim, in which he stars and also makes his bow as writer and director, but he was determined to give genre fans what they want.

An unabashed thriller in the B- movie mode, The Victim (now available from Anchor  Bay Entertainment, see review Page 52) stars Jennifer Blanc (Biehn’s real-life wife) and Danielle Harris as Annie and Mary, a pair of small-town party girls who decide to get down and dirty with a pair of off-duty cops (Ryan Honey and Denny Kirkwood).

One unintentional murder later, and Annie finds herself pursued through a barren wilderness by those cops, determined to silence the only witness to their crime. Bruised and battered, Annie finds an unlikely savior in Kyle (Biehn), a reclusive survivalist (of sorts) who has eschewed civilization for a simpler, more rustic existence in the woods.

Kyle and Annie find themselves attracted to each other, even under such dire circumstances, yet there are still secrets to unfold for all the characters, with tempers and tensions rising to the boiling point and ultimately exploding into bloodshed.

The Victim was a family affair. In addition to starring, Blanc (billed as Jennifer Blanc-Biehn) produced the film, which was shot on a breakneck 12-day schedule on a budget of less than $1 million.

For first-time writer/director Biehn, it was almost a matter of shooting first and asking questions later.

“My expectations, I can’t tell you how low they were,” he admitted. “When I went into the editing room, I didn’t realize what we had. I thought it was just going to be kind of a grindhouse movie. This was a movie I thought people would watch on their phones, that would hopefully do well on homevideo….

“Then the whole thing exploded,” he continued. “I just can’t believe it. It’s surpassed anything I thought it was going to do… it’s a real mind-blower.”

Biehn has starred in several main- stream projects throughout his career, including The Lords of Discipline (1983), the true-crime TV miniseries “Deadly Intentions” (1985), Navy SEALs (1990), Tombstone (1993) and The Rock (1996), yet he’s also a cult star thanks to such high-profile fantasy favorites as The Terminator (1984), Aliens (1986), The Abyss (1989), the sci-fi mini-series “Asteroid” (1997) and the Quentin Tarantino/Robert Rodriguez B-movie blowout Grindhouse (2007).

The genesis for The Victim came together very quickly, forcing its writer/ director/star to hit the ground running. “It wasn’t easy,” he said. “We basically did it out of our house: Three weeks to write the script, three weeks of pre-pro- duction, then 12 days of shooting.”

Biehn jokingly described his directorial technique as “a combination drill sergeant and raving lunatic.”

The Biehns have attended theatrical screenings of The Victim, where they talked up the film with fans. Critical reaction has been mixed but audience reaction mostly favorable. (The Victim is very much a genre film in the tradition of The Last House on the Left and The Strangers.)

“It’s been a busy couple of months” Biehn said. “We’re pretty exhausted and exhilarated at the same time.”

“It’s exciting,” Blanc-Biehn chimes in.

“We’re thrilled.”

Making the move to directing is one that Biehn considered for some time. It was Rodriguez who finally convinced him to take the plunge. The film includes a special thanks to Rodriguez, and that Kyle’s last name in the film is Limato is a tribute to Hollywood legend Ed Limato, who died in 2010. “He was my agent for 25 years,” Biehn said. “Glad you caught that!” During his 30-year career, the ageless Biehn has worked with a number of illustrious directors, some more than once, including James Cameron, Franc Roddam and William Friedkin. Longtime friend Bill Paxton has also made a successful transition to directing while maintaining an acting career.

Of the two films he made with Friedkin, Rampage was held up for US distribution when the De Laurentiis Entertainment Group went bankrupt in 1987, finally surfacing in 1994 from Miramax. The glossy 1995 whodunit Jade proved a failure with critics and audiences alike.

“I would go so far to say it was a very bad movie,” a deadpan Biehn opined.

“We were more than halfway through the first script reading when I realized I was the heavy. But Rampage was a very good movie, and I have more respect for Billy Friedkin than anybody.”