Last week I had a chance to talk with independent film director Joshua D. Bruce. A New Jersey native, Joshua has gotten into indie filmmaking probably quite a bit earlier than most other filmmakers have, primarily due to his love of (more…)
I loved Scott Stine’s book TRASHFIEND: DISPOSABLE HORROR FARE OF THE 1960s & 1970s out on HEADPRESS and Scott was cool enough to grant SHU-IZMZ an interview! He gave some great in-depth answers to a lot of questions and definitely makes for a wonderful read!
Having just read your book Trashfiend: Disposable Horror Fare of the 1960s &1970s published by Headpress, how would you define (more…)
Shu had a chance to talk with Director Adam Rehmeier and actress Rodleen Getsic about their latest film, THE BUNNY GAME, a controversial film about a prostitute that hitches a ride with a trucker who has more in mind than just giving her a lift. The Blu-ray comes out from Autonomy Pictures this month and I will be reviewing it here at SHU-IZMZ, as well as having a follow-up interview with Adam and Rodleen to talk about the film. (more…)
DAVID GREGORY, most famous for being a very talented and visionary director of many featurettes and documentaries included on some of the most important films in the horror, cult, and exploitation genres such as TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE SHOCKING TRUTH (2000), THE SPAGHETTI WEST (2005), and THE GODFATHERS OF MONDO (2003), had a chance to talk with SHU-IZMZ RADIO about his latest artistic endeavors of creating a horror anthology modeled after the Theatre Guignol entitled THE THEATRE BIZARRE. Gregory directed the short entitled “SWEETS“, as well as being the creative talent behind the genesis of the whole project and organizing it. Gregory tells Shu all about the film and the filmmaking process behind it, as well as how he divides up his time between making feature films (as he did with directing PLAGUE TOWN) and running SEVERIN FILMS. (more…)
Director Richard Powell and Producer Zach Green granted me an interview regarding their new short horror film FAMILIAR, which recently just played in the Chicagoland area at the Chicago Fear Fest this month. For those of you that missed me talking to Zach Green on SHU-IZMZ RADIO several weeks back, this interview should make up a little bit for missing it. Director Powell also answered some of the questions and offered his input. Questions specifically answered by Zach Green are noted. (more…)
Having just seen and reviewed Scott T. Barsotti’s KILL ME, a play that explores suicide and immortality put together by the boys and girls at WildClaw Theater, I thought it would be interesting to ask the writer of the play a handful of questions and get the perspective of a writer for playwrights. I have never interviewed someone from the theater community, so I thought it would be a unique perspective on things in the horror genre for readers. I threw in some questions about movies and the genre to keep my horror movie fanatics interested. Enjoy! (more…)
If you happened to catch my radio show, then you were privileged to hear director LEWIS JACKSON talk about his newly restored and mastered film that just got released on dvd by SYNAPSE with all the bells and whistles for its 30th Anniversary, including not one but TWO commentaries with director Jackson himself, along with one that has cult director JOHN WATERS chatting with Jackson, as well as outtakes, deleted scenes, storyboards, and auditions. Check out my exclusive interview on SHU-IZMZ RADIO with the director himself HERE!
Fortunately for fans of horror and Santa Clause alike, Lewis Jackson will be traveling with his 35mm print to only 3 very select locations for screenings. Here are the locations with the theaters, times, and links to the theaters.
——————in Chicago, IL:
12/12 Saturday at 9:15 p.m.
4050 N. Milwaukee
Chicago, IL 60641
Presented by HORROR SOCIETY, Christmas Evil starts around 9:15pm, including 2 other feature length films and a short.
——————in Los Angeles, CA:
12/15 Tuesday at 10 p.m.
New Beverly Cinema
7165 West Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
one block west of La Brea
12/15 Tuesday at 10 p.m.
—————–in Austin, TX:
12/22 Tuesday at 10 p.m.
Alamo Drafthouse Downtown
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
320 E 6th Street
Austin, TX 78701
12/22 Tuesday at 10 p.m.
Brad Dourif is one of the finest character actors to grace the screen, and has been in so many of my favorite films. We are talking about an actor who had me enraged over his performance in Milos Forman’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest as Billy Bibbit.
I was enraged because I loved his character so much. I was emotionally vested in his character and was in utter shock at learning his demise in the aforementioned film. I believe that I was even more irate than Jack Nicholson and his own character. That showed me how well a performance Dourif gave in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.
Brad Dourif, when he portrayed Charles Lee Ray, the super-bad criminal whose time as a character in human form very short, but as an evil doll portraying Chucky (from Child’s Play), probably the most iconic evil doll EVER-had me hanging on every word that was uttered from the Good Guy doll. Brad’s voice even epitomized pure evil.
Dourif’s range in talent shines through, as he can play a very vulnerable and sweet character, as in the case of Billy Bibbit, or he can play evil in its purest form, as his voice was used for in any of the Child’s Play films or his performance as the Gemini Killer in Exorcist 3 and redneck Deputy Clinton Pell in Mississippi Burning.
I surely can’t leave out his sinisterly evil ways in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers or The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King as Grima Wormtongue, whose presence made me want to vomit as I was so appalled by how nasty the little cretin was in the two films. There are few actors for me that truly have always left a major impact on me, no matter how big or small the films, no matter how good or bad the film that he is acting in is. Brad Dourif is one of those truly unique actors that even if the movie he is in is not the greatest, his performance will always be memorable and the characters’ that he portrays I will never forget.
Brad Dourif is going to be in the upcoming independent film Fading of the Cries, directed by Brian Metcalf (Sorrows Lost) and acting alongside Hallee Hirsh as Sarah , Elaine Hendrix (The Parent Trap) as Maggie , Thomas Ian Nicholas (American Pie) as Michael, and Mackenzie Rosman (7th Heaven) as Jill. The film, judging by the trailer and from my interview will be heavy on the visual effects and I am looking forward to seeing this film. The trailer looks very slick!
I was fortunate to be able to chat with Brad about his upcoming movie while he was in L.A. for a couple of days working on another project and he was kind enough to call me up for an interview. As the film, Fading of the Cries is deep in post-production, there is no definite release date for the film except for sometime in 2010.
Synopsis of FADING OF THE CRIES (2010):
Jacob (Jordan Matthews) a young man armed with a deadly sword, saves Sarah (Halee Hirsh), a teenage girl, from Mathias (Brad Dourif), while in search of an ancient necklace that had belonged to Sarah’s Uncle (Thomas Ian Nicholas).
I said to Brad that his character, Mathias, seems to be an evil sort of character, at least that is what I gathered after watching the trailer for the film. Is he a sorcerer? What exactly is he (Mathias)?
“He is a necromancer. He is able to control demons and he is pretty handy with a sword.”
Just based on the trailer, it had seemed to me like the setting is a modern-day setting, a modern-day tale.
“Yeah, it’s a modern-day tale and setting and it gets pretty other-worldly at times. I mean, we shot a lot of green-screen and we shot a lot of partial sets and so forth so that we could create a much more elaborate and kind of hearkening to older times and so forth.”
This character, Mathias (the necromancer)…by looking at the special effects in this film…(by the way they look awesome-they look really cool)…and reading about the film’s description…”hordes of demonic creatures”…it sounded like your character is, obviously, a dark character.
“He is about as dark as you go. He is one seriously fueled, pardon my expression, ‘one pissed-off guy.’ “
In some of the characters that Brad Dourif has played, they generally have been darker characters (Chucky in the Child’s Play films, Grima Wormtongue in the Lord of the Rings films, and Jack Dante in Death Machine) so I assumed that this generally darker role would have come pretty easy for Brad to tap into himself and come naturally for him and I asked him about that.
“Did evil come naturally for me? Uh, yeah, of course evil comes very naturally for me. I mean, ya know, I think it comes naturally for me like when you are driving the car down the road and someone is passing you and if you probably are like most people, the violence that goes through your head is pretty extreme. You know, it pops in and pops out. Ya know, you think you boil people in oil in your imagination all the time. I draw upon it on my own (imagination) and there is plenty of it there.”
So just with regular everyday experiences…
“You know, I have been acting for a long time and it’s very easy for me to draw from there and make it that natural and that immediate so I just know how rotten a human-being I can truly be. It is easier now for me than it certainly was when I was younger.”
Were there any special techniques that you used in preparing for this role of the character Mathias?
“Kind of what I did do was I got to work with some people and I learned a few moves with swords. Now I didn’t have as much time as I would have liked but it was fun. I mean, it really was a good time. Fighting and working with stunts I have done tons and tons of that but that was much more taxing physical and dangerous for me. Swordplay, although it was not so dangerous, it was really fun.”
This film comes out in 2010. When did you begin working on this film?
So its already in post-production then?
It’s steeped in post-production. It’s DROWNING in post-production. People in post-production are SCREAMING FOR AIR.
(SHU starts laughing)
I see. How was it working with some of the actors and actresses on the film? Have you worked with any of the actors and actresses before?
“No, I hadn’t worked with anybody on the film except for one make-up guy and it was great. Everybody was great. I know it sounds real boring, but I just loved everybody. I’ll tell ya what, the only tension is that we were working very fast and that can be difficult at times, but that was the only difficult part and green-screen can be tough. We did a lot of it (greenscreen). But sometimes it just depends on the day- things can be so easy for you and then other days things can be really, really tough, feeling like things are falling apart.”
As this film is not yet rated, do you think, in terms of gore and violence, is Fading of the Cries going to garner an ‘R’ rating?
“Yeah it’s R, definitely an R. There is a massive amount of killing going on. You don’t want the killing to be non-gory. Basically you are finding human beings as meat. “
Yeah, that sounds pretty intense (and R-rated).
“I really believe if you are going to do violence that the consequence of it should look horrific.”
What was your favorite part of the film? Are any scenes that you really enjoyed filming? I don’t want to give away any spoilers in the film, but….
Brad explained to me that “when you find a way of doing things, and like I say, we were working quickly, there were times when we were at a location and we had to jump, and so forth, something that was really hard and then it clicked. We were juggling between a little bit of swordplay and then working on a little dialogue and then jumping back to swordplay.. “
Was it hard for you after becoming your very evil character, a necromancer, and acting it out- was it difficult for you to shed that skin of your role and shrug it off and be normal again?
“By the end of the day, I was done killing. I was ready to go back home and be bossed around by my family.”
Again, I laughed at Brad’s explanations drizzled with humor.
When asked how Brad obtained the role of Mathias, he told me that “the role kind of evolved” in his agency. His agent gave him a script, he read it, and then his agent asked him if he wanted to do it, and he said, “Yeah.”
As I was researching Brad Dourif and his career, one source quoted Brad as saying pretty much,…I’m a whore, if you got a camera, a script, and a crew-then I am up for acting. I just want to be working….
“That is my line. I’ll tell ya what, there was a period in my life, before I had children, that I was really careful about what I selected. But when ya got kids, the whole thing switches around. I really wanted to have a sense of humor about it. Acting can be a real nightmare if you wanna make it that. I really care about acting.”
I told Brad that, “I think you are a phenomenal character actor. Say, for example, there is a dry spell in jobs, though, and there are not many roles that are offered for you-say a role came along that you had always said to yourself, ‘I would never stoop so low as to take that role.’ Would you say,’No, I can’t do that’, or would you just take it?
“If it would be dishonest for me to take a role. I guess there are two criteria: 1- If I read a script and I have this feeling that I couldn’t show up to work and there have been scripts that I have read that have done that to me because I just don’t wanna deal with this. And just everything in me says FUCK THIS BULLSHIT, you don’t wanna do this. I won’t do it. It’s not fair to the people who hired me. And 2ndly, if there is something that is seriously, morally objectionable to me…and Horror is not part of that and Science Fiction is not part of that, either.”
What other projects do you have coming up?
Actually, myself and Brian (Brian Metcalf, writer and director of Fading of the Cries) are scheming. Brian and I also have this shared passion for alchemy. I was seriously into reading Carl Jung and his stuff on alchemy. I don’t know why because it’s pretty dense stuff and it would be hard for me to read more than 20 pages a day. I read a great part of one series and I just couldn’t stop doing it for some reason.”
Brad went on to describe the subject matter of alchemy and Carl Jung as being very interesting and rich with ideas and telling me that him and Brian are “scheming kind of and coming up with a movie” and “a parody maybe about this alchemist.”
Before this interview, I had no idea what alchemy was. I actually had to look up the subject matter and read up a bit on it and Carl Jung. Like Brad Dourif said, it is “dense” and is something that I would have to invest quite a bit more time into researching, more so than I did earlier. I guess it would be safe to say that Dourif and Metcalf really enjoyed working with each other and hit it off, as they already are thinking of plans to work on another project together.
When asked if Fading of the Cries is coming to theaters or direct to video,
Brad said, ” We really don’t know yet. At the moment, Brian owns it and he is the one I was referring you to that is drowning in post-production. (Brian is not only a director and writer, but also a visual effects artist.) Brian, in case that you didn’t notice, is a goddamn wizard at this and he has done over a 1,000 special effects for this (Fading of the Cries) and he has not finished it yet. He has been working on this for a year (special effects and post production). Everytime I have come near him he has more special effects stuff that he has created. So, its pretty amazing.”
I have a friend that is a director (Emile Hyde) of his own film (The Landlord) and he handled all of the post-production and special effects and that had taken him a very long time. It is not easy or, at times, fun work.
“Oh for sure, it depends on the movie and a lot of the times its getting the money and getting it going is what really takes a long time and is the most frustrating and difficult part of it.”
That was the driving force that wanted to make me watch your film (besides the fact that you were in it!)- the special effects. I think that the most difficult part in horror and sci-fi are the special effects. If they look cheap or shoddy, the audience won’t believe the fantasy that is to be believed in the movie. If the fantasy looks bad, then the whole film will look bad. The audience won’t believe what the filmmakers are trying to pull off. Filmmakers really need the money to pull off the fantasy, or do simpler effects.
“So you have to pick your battle…if you’re an independent and your doing special effects for it you have to write it that way. That is the lesson there. If you can’t afford the special effect then you have to figure out how to make a scary movie without it. And if you think that you can’t do it- just remember: Tobe Hooper created a multi-billion dollar industry on one movie which he shot for nothing.”
Yeah, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is phenomenal.
“Well, all you have to do…ha ha…yeah, I mean all you have to do is have an extremely original genius idea. It’s so simple.” (laughs)
(I laughed at this as well. I am currently waiting for my very own original genius idea!)
“Nothing to it, as long as you have the idea.”
Aside from the alchemy project, are there any other projects that you are thinking of doing or are in the works?
“I gave just a couple of minutes of work on this film called PRIEST, but I am in a very, very small part….They were happy.”
I asked Brad if he had any more thoughts on the overall aspects of Fading of the Cries, in general.
“I guess when you are working this much in greenscreen, this much on sets that you can’t really see where the set is, and then you see little by little and get really involved in something else and then you really go, WOW. I didn’t see those 600 people coming at me with a sword. That’s cool. The post-production is kind of fun.”
How did Brian direct you or anyone else for total greenscreen shots?
“Generally you don’t say I want a sad face here and …well, if ya really wanna..I have a daughter in acting and its very difficult for her. I am so used to being an actor. what a director does is he says here is what there is in the scene for you to react to , here is what there is for you to react to.. This is the direction that i want you to take the character in. You cant really execute it, emotion can take you to it. If you thought about properly in your head and you know and have good instincts about what you need to tell the story. Emotion Its much better if you let an actor come up with that themselves and they might surprise you and surprise themselves. Stuff can happen and stuff can happen what you haven’t thought of and stuff can happen what the director hasn’t thought up of and those usually are the best roles.. What a director does is says ‘here is what is happening and here is the direction I want the character to be taken in.’ The one thing that is totally unique to every individual is their imagination.”
You have starred in some huge Hollywood films, as well as many smaller budgeted Independent films. Do you have any advice, words of encouragement, or words of wisdom for any aspiring actors or actresses?
“I think for young people it is to respect the craft. There really is a craft to it. You have to respect the craft, and it’s really a craft. There really is something said for trying. You really need to try to be a great actor. There is a lot to learn here. No matter what you do you can always really, truly set the bar high. I was trained to be a primadonna. I really was trained to be a primadonna. We needed to understand how to work with playwrights. We needed to learn to be primadonnas.”
Brad went on to say that, “We were taught to really, really say like ‘hey’, in a rehearsal, ‘this doesn’t work. I’m having a problem here, lets do something about that’ but to also understand that as far as a play goes no play is the same. In the movies, a screenplay is like the skeleton. Great art is in the camera. The camera is the poet. You serve the director. You have to be a primadonna and say, ‘this is the problem’. Also respecting that when you have to work fast you have to work fast. Its hard- its a tough call.”
And of course because Rob Zombie is one of my favorite directors, I had to ask if I could ask one off-topic question, so to speak, of Brad’s experience of working with Zombie when he played the role of Sheriff Lee Bracket in Halloween and H2, the remakes of John Carpenter’s classics.
Brad said, “Sure.”
Your portrayal of Sheriff Lee Brackett was played perfectly…to a tee. Now that Rob Zombie is no longer on board for Halloween 3, would you be in it anyways, with a different director, if you were called back to be in it?
“Well, I say that I have to be very careful how I answer this question. I certainly am going to read whatever they send me. I can’t be stupid. I’m not gonna be like if Rob’s not gonna do it I am not gonna do it because it might be great. I really, really loved working with Rob Zombie. I haven’t seen the movie and so I don’t know what it is, all I know is that considering the difficult situation that Rob Zombie was in, I was amazed how well he did. I mean, he was given the script, given a couple of months. He had it prepared for him, that was written by people who couldn’t speak English, to come up with this screenplay from Japan. He didn’t even know what they really meant to write. I mean, they could have been brilliant but God only knows what…he was re-writing and didnt have much time. It was an incredibly difficult undertaking. I just think that if you are going to spend a lot of money, that you should do it carefully.
For a guy that plays very loud Rock n’ Roll, he is a very quiet dude.”
When asked about what his plans were now he replied, “I am in LA and ready to do a little work.”
I thanked Brad for his time could not wait to get it posted up on SHU-IZMZ.
This was my first phone interview with ANYONE, and it just so happened to be with an actor that I admired immensely and I hope that Brad Dourif did not think it was too bad an interview. If anything, I learned that researching and studying who you are going to interview is key. I did only have two days to prepare, but that is no excuse. Brad was a very nice man and really elaborated on many questions that were pretty standard. I will be talking about the day that I interviewed Brad Dourif for years to come. I can’t wait to see Fading of the Cries and hope that it is another memorable performance by Dourif in another evil and sinister role.
I had a chance to drum up some interview questions for the ladies of The Evil Dead. Myself and zer0hal0 over at DVD RESURRECTIONS, an Australian website that covers horror, cult, erotica, and exploitation that I write for, just published the interview over there. I really enjoyed teaming up with zer0hal0 and think you should check out the site, as well as the interview. It may seem that I have not been posting as much, which I have not been, but that is because I am busy working writing for other websites, as well as making sure SHU-IZMZ RADIO is the best two hours of horror, cult, and exploitation that it can be. Soon more reviews will be posted here, as well as the reviews that I have done for other websites. So here goes the link to the Betsy Baker interview. Enjoy!
Recently, I had a chance to interview Scream Queen Brinke Stevens for DVD RESURRECTIONS. Check my interview with her at their website!
Ted V. Mikels is a director, writer, producer, actor and an extraordinary man that takes on filmmaking with a passion and zest that sometimes is truly unequaled in the world of independent films. The director of The Corpse Grinders, The Astro Zombies, Girl in Gold Boots, and The Doll Squad and many others gave Shu a chance to interview him about his career in films. Find out here what Ted V. Mikels has to say.
When did your fascination with castles, weaponry, and your interest in a sort of Medieval lifestyle first come about?
My first fascination was evident when I was putting together castles with card-board, and making ” knight’s armor” with card-board wrapped around my shins, thighs, chest, and a cardboard mask. The buildup to my castle life near Hollywood was the fulfillment of those dreams many many years later. In the castle, I had collected hundreds of swords, medieval weapons, shields, etc.
In your opinion, what was the finest film you ever made?
As any artist will attest about his work, there is NEVER any satisfaction about the finished piece of art, whether it be a painting or a movie. I’d like to think my best film is yet to come. They all involve a tremendous input of blood, sweat and tears, so you always hope the next movie will be the best.
In Blood Orgy of the She-Devils, The Corpse Grinders, The Corpse Grinders 2, The Doll Squad….you have some very beautiful women acting in your films but never shown nude in any scenes. Do you find that having beautiful women cheapens your films or the integrity of the film? Why is there, generally, not much nudity in your films? Is it out of respect for women?
It certainly is out of respect for women. In addition, for some reason nudity seems to actually cheapen your movie. The people who are offended claim you would only use nudity because there is not much else to draw attraction. I’d like to think my movies did not require nudity.
In regards to doing this interview, you had told me that you were packing up your studios equipment because you no longer needed it because everything was being shot on digital film. Will you ever make a film on on film again, or are all your films going to be strictly shot on digital film?
In this past two months, I gave away for FREE, tens of thousands of dollars in 35mm movie production and editing equipment, moviolas, sync blocks, editing tables, splicers, 35mm recorders, 35mm dubbers, nobody was buying anything at any price, and a lot of it went straight into the dumpster. SAD to have done away with it when all of it was such a huge part of my life. I also dumpsterized an enormous amount of linear equipment, decks, recorders, etc. Nobody wanted it either, even for free, so after three months of dealing with it, putting it in the dumpster was the only way left to go. I also cut up and destroyed hundreds of set flats, wall sets, etc. It took 23 truckloads to get it all off to the city dump, couldn’t give it away. I also threw out over one hundred thousand feet of film on reels, 35mm mag stripe,etc. No, I can’t imagine trying to shoot 35mm anymore when it costs about $1.50 PER SECOND in film, developing, etc., and that’s a hundred times more expensive than digital. Is there any logic to shooting film with that knowledge in mind? Who would provide the financing?
Will you miss making films on actual film?
What was your favorite film to make?
I loved making all of my films. I have made many that are not even known, as fans seem to navigate to the genre they prefer. I just live to make films ( movies) I love shooting, being a cinematographer as well as writer- producer-director, doing lighting, etc.
As a famous filmmaker, what is the greatest compliment a fan ever gave you at the many fests and conventions that you have been to over the years?
A fantastic compliment , one of many I have been given over the years, was from a 35 year old news reporter living in New York, and attending one of the shows where I was a guest. She pointed out, at my table, what she said was her most favorite movie OF ALL TIME. IT WAS "GIRL IN GOLD BOOTS" (Yahoo says it's their 14th biggest seller in the nation. Maybe one day, I'll get a royalty).
Of all the beautiful women and actresses you have worked with, which actress was your favorite? Tura Satana said in an interview once that you saw her dancing in a club and you went home and wrote a film just for her and inspired from seeing her dance in a club. Can you tell me a bit about the thought process for developing that movie and what so influenced you, in regards to Satana?
What made you decide to move out of the legendary castle that you lived in while in Las Vegas?
I left the castle with a promise by stock brokers that they would get financing for a studio and financing for my movies if I would move to Las Vegas. I trusted that would happen, and came to Las Vegas anticipating a new world of filming activity. It never happened. I opened my studio myself in 1992, and last week finished closing it after the seventeen years of keeping it in filming mode.
About how long does it take you to write a script and story for one of your films?
I studied all of the mysteries about witchcraft, attended seances, etc. for two years, made tons of notes, then wrote the screenplay for "BLOOD ORGY OF THE SHE-DEVILS" in ten days. Other times I take many months, even years to develop what I think will be an entertaining movie. It usually takes so long to put together any financing, you make many versions of a screenplay you may be writing before actually making the movie.
Do you still use the board with the various note cards and your ideas on them brainstorm ideas and think of creative films?
Yes, I still write out 4 x 5 inch cards, tack them onto a large backing,, then arrange and re-arrange them to tell the story in the order that I think it should be.
What do you think is lacking in films made today in the horror genre?
Most of what is lacking in today's average horror film is a story line that makes sense. Too often, new film-makers want to string together clips, not realizing that they must make sense out of the story. Plots are essential and often are missing.
Being an independent filmmaker, are there any names in Hollywood or projects that you have seen and can admire as a filmmaker?
I admire anyone who puts together an entertaining movie and gets it out into the world for viewers and fans to see and enjoy. It's a difficult process, and anyone who accomplishes it is to be admired.
What genre of film do you generally prefer to work in, if there is one genre?
At what age or point in your life did you know that you were destined to make films?
I knew by the time I was twelve years old that I wanted to make a life of making movies. Every comic-book hero was my dream of being HIM. Then I felt I could make movies with similar plots. So, for sixty years now, I have been making movies from my dreams.
Are you a collector of film-related memorabilia?
No, I do not collect movie memorabilia at all, although I have been sorry that I did not keep a lot of the props I used in my own movies. A lot of fans have asked if I still had any for sale. Now, I do have a few of the items I have used in my more recent films. I hope to sell some on E-bay.
Who were some actors that you have worked with in the past that you want to work with again or wish you still could work with on future projects?
Everyone who has ever worked for me in any of my movies would like to be in any project I am doing, if I had a part for them. I have retained a friendship with absolutely every person I have ever worked with, and would have any of them involved again if i needed them for a part.
Do you think there is any possibility of you making a sequel to The Doll Squad?
Would you ever consider co-directing a movie with another director?
When you were growing up as a little boy, what were some of your favorite movies you remember seeing?
What do you think of the low-budget B/Z-films coming out on dvd these days? Do you feel that they had as much passion and interest in making a great film on a tiny budget or do you feel most filmmakers are just making cheap films intending to make a quick buck?
Too often, persons are just desiring a make what they call a movie, any movie. Sometimes there is passion involved and a good film is made. Other times, clips are just strung together to make what a wannabe movie-maker calls a movie. As far as making a fast buck, THERE IS REALLY NO SUCH THING IN MOVIE-MAKING, it's just a dream..
Was there ever a point in your career where you wished that you could be in charge of making a very largely-budgeted film, either in Hollywood or outside of Hollywood?
Do you think that the big-budgeted films coming out have just as much thought and talent put into them as smaller budgeted films or do you think that most of that money used for making the film has been unwisely spent?
Actually, it's on a one-by-one basis, not always the same. They have always said that paying big money for a well-known star did not work if the movie itself was not good.
Was there any film that you made that you were completely surprised at how successful it became when it came out or even in later years?
Did you ever think that your films would ever achieve “cult status”?
I never once thought about " CULT STATUS". Didn't even occur to me that such a thing happens. Only when sufficient numbers of fans love a movie does it become a CULT favorite. I used to think that the word "CULT" was offensive to me. Now, it is not a stigma, it's an honor, (I guess).
How many films would you like to have completed when you decide to stop making films, if you every decide to stop making films?
I can't imagine ever stopping to make films. I'll get movies made if I have to crawl to the set, and be held up behind the camera. I have always said I will not slow down until I hit age 104, then I'll slow down, maybe even retire(if I can afford to).
Are you disappointed that your dream project of casting Arnold Schwarzenegger in an adaptation of Beowulf never came to be? If Arnold agreed to be in it, would you still make it now?
I have dreamed of making my 'BEOWULF:KING OF THE VIKINGS" for over sixty years now, but I think Arnold would agree that we might need a younger Beowulf now, although he would still make BEOWULF, THE KING IN HIS OLDER YEARS, a winner.
How did you enjoy being part of the documentary, The Wild World of Ted V. Mikels, directed by Kevin Sean Michaels, showcasing your career? Were you happy that John Waters narrated it?
Have you ever given thought to doing a women in prison flick?
I don't know what you mean: have I given thought to making a women in prison flick? Catch up on my movie (1979) "TEN VIOLENT WOMEN", it's about as much of a women in prison movie as you can get. Are you aware of it? It's presently a big DVD seller by ALPHA VIDEO.
What city or state do you think is the easiest one to make a movie in?
Astro-Zombies M3 Cloned is your latest project that you are working on? Can you tell me a little bit about that movie, who has been cast in it, what budget are you looking at, filming locations, etc...?
Are there any other future projects that you have on the back-burner that you would be willing to chat about?
Future projects are always in the works, and I have two or three I would like to make, but what can be substituted for financing? Any ideas where to get money?
I had a chance to interview the director Philippe Mora. Head over to DVD RESURRECTIONS, an Australian website covering reviews, news, and interviews on movie genres of all types. Head over to this link to read the full interview.
Philippe Mora Interview- Click here!
John Pata is a brilliant director, writer, and producer of Independent Horror Films and a close personal friend of mine. He has let me sleep on his couch, eat his food, shit in his toilet and now he has granted me an interview that I have waited for longer than anyone could ever have imagined. (cue drumroll….) The wait was well worth it, as John Pata has gone into great detail in every question that he has answered. Hope all my readers enjoy this epic interview!
Who are your influences, director-wise, in the genre of horror or non-horror?
Well, there is only one way not to sound cliche here, and that is not to name drop all the typical influential horror directors. So I won’t. But yeah, all the typical directors, for sure. Probably two directors that top my list are Lloyd Kaufman and Robert Rodriquez. Both are such DIY, independent directors who have really established their own way of filmmaking. Lloyd’s attitude, perseverance and integrity are extremely encouraging. Having watched all his films and making-ofs, reading all his books and seeing him many times at conventions, he continues to inspire me. Meeting him in 2006 is what finally pushed me to write Better Off Undead. At the end of the credits there is a personal thank you to Lloyd.
As for Rodriquez, fuck, is there a better example of a director who does what he wants and how he wants to? He doesn’t film in LA or NYC, pretty much Austin or Mexico. There is so much about that man that I completely respect and admire. On many of his films he is pretty much a one man show. He writes, directs, edits, operates the camera, scores the film and films in his home town. He does all his post-production in his garage for fuck sake. The way I made BOU is like how he makes his films. Except for he is far more talented. And rich. And makes better films. With bigger budgets. And is extremely innovative. Fuck, okay, so I am nothing like him. Dammit.
When did you first start getting into horror movies, watching them and/or directing them?
Watching them, seriously as long as I can remember. I have a brother that is seven years older, so he was in middle school and would have friends sleep over and I remember watching horror movies with them. When I was probably 8 or 9, I was in a Blockbuster with my dad and he came up to me and said, “John, you like horror movies, have you seen this one?” He held up a VHS, I responded no, which he then went to the counter and talked to employee into selling him that movie, which was Night of the Living Dead. He said if I liked horror I had to see that one. Aside from NOTLD I pretty much saw the more mainstream horror when I was younger. Then my life changed when I was 10. My best friend Sam and I rented The Evil Dead based on a recommendation from the video store clerk. Holy. Fuck. I was blown away. It was that point that I wanted to watch all horror, no-budget or big-budget. It didn’t matter. If it was horror, I wanted to see it. No film to this day has had an impact on me like The Evil Dead.
As for “directing”, I started making backyard movies with Sam and our friend Eric when I was in middle school. Night of the Living Seizure People was our first one, then the next day we made Dance Party Slaughter. They were spur-of-the-moment, complete improv movies. A couple followed, Jaws 1999, which was half live action/stop motion with a toy shark. Our culmination of backyard cinema was Night of the Living Seizure People II: Shake, Rattle and Die. Better Off Undead was my official first time directing a horror film.
How long did it take you to write a fleshed-out script or screenplay for Better Off Undead?
2 and a half months is probably a reasonable answer. I started writing it in my Northern Renaissance Art History class. I had that class Tuesday and Thursday, and every day I would write the script in my notebook instead of taking notes. I would say 60% of the script was written then. I would write out scenes that came to mind, or bits of dialog. I didn’t exactly have the context of it all, just the subject matter. Once I filled up the notebook, I would spend my Friday and Saturday nights in the 24 hour computer lab on campus typing it out. This is where everything was pieced together. I was taking the individual scenes or chunks of dialog and try to figure out how to have them fit.
Where did you come up with the ideas for Better Off Undead?
Well, a lot of the dialog was either conversations I had before, or have been thinking about. For example, Jordan Brown and I did set up a bet about ejaculating four times in an hour. I was a senior in high school and he was a junior. For the record, I was saying he could NOT get off four times. We had everything worked out, what the rules/guidelines were, and so on. He was adamant he could do it, yet he never put his money where his mouth was.
When I was younger I used to get so upset at the end of A New Hope because Chewy never got a medal. I’m pretty sure I expected it to happen one of those times, sadly I was disappointed every time.
I did find my dad’s porn when I was 14. I didn’t jack off to it, but I did think about how weird it was to hold the vary magazines that my dad jerked off to.
For most of the dialog, I thought about who was going to play the characters. I pretty much knew who was going to play who, and I knew no one had an experience, so I wanted the dialog to be as natural for them as possible. I was fearful of clunky, uncomfortable and awkward dialog. In turn, I wrote like we talk.
There was no doubt in my mind that whiskey was going to be included. The cast and crew of BOU are my close friends, and we spent a lot of time watching horror films and drinking whiskey. We watched all kinds of horror, but we particularly liked zombies films. It was only appropriate to write a zombie script and include whiskey.
Anytime I was coming up with ideas about gore/action, I thought about what we had available and what we could afford. The budget came straight out of my pocket, so I knew it wasn’t going to be much. I came up with a mental list of what I knew we couldn’t pull off: fire/explosions, gun shots, etc. and in turn came up with a list of what I thought we could pull off. I figured I could make some shitty squibs at the time, so guns were out of the question. I figured hitting someone with an axe and baseball were much easier than shooting someone. We used a real axe and bat as much as possible, but when someone got it, the fake weapons were used. I made the fake weapons out of Styrofoam.
Were there any scenes shot that seemed like they would look better than they did once you reviewed them on film?
There’s a couple, mainly when the characters make their way through the comic book shop. The audio is kind of rough there, mainly because we didn’t figure out we had a mic cord long enough to make a boom mic. But the scene I was hoping would be better than it is takes place after the main characters have their first run in with a zombie. They are walking down the street and talking about what happened and what to do. I had this idea it would look really impressive to do as one long tracking shot, no cuts and no different angles. Well, I fucked that one up. First off, the shot is over exposed which bugs the fuck out of me. Second, we didn’t have a steadycam so the camera bounces a little more than I’d like. Also, we had some issues with the audio, and while the deliveries were good, there is some dialog that gets missed because it’s a little quiet. We should have broke it up considering there is a lot of dialog there. I toyed with cutting that scene all together, but decided against it because cutting that scene would mean cutting out parts later that reference it. Oh well, fuck it. We learned from it, and that’s all that matters.
Something similar is jokes I thought would get more laughs than they did. But comedy is difficult, because it all depends on the viewer and their sense of humor. I like paying attention during screenings to see what gets the most laughs. BOU showed at the CryptiCon 2008 Film Fest in Minneapolis, and in that screening there were laughs I haven’t heard before. That was an incredible feeling.
Here’s a quick story about jokes falling flat (Quick? Who am I kidding? Look at how fucking wordy this whole thing is). From the get go, I was nervous about the humor. I was nervous the humor might not come across, and I feel the film relies on the humor to set it apart. Once I had the film finished, I held a “private screening” for the everyone who worked on the film, the bands and close friends and family. I bought a bunch of food and beer for everyone, which was about 40 people total. And this was going to be the first time any of them saw any of the film. I decided to have a little fun, and cut together a “different” version of the film, which is on the DVD, Better Off Gay. For those that haven’t seen it, I re-cut a scene and dubbed most of the dialog. So now the scene plays as two characters making an agreement to trade hand jobs for blow jobs. No one knew I was going to do this. So I gave a quick spiel and started the film, which was Better Off Gay. Everyone laughed and once it was over we really watched BOU. There was hardly any laughs. It was fucking quiet. Dale, Drew and Brown (the main cast) laughed at each other, but that seemed like that was it. Halfway through I felt like we completely failed. I just sat by the beer and started slamming them down. I was so down. I felt so fucking shitty and was in a position where I didn’t know what to do. The next day we recorded the commentaries and I felt a little better. I was talking with Dale about it, and he said he really thinks showing Better Off Gay killed it. Even though everyone laughed, he thought everyone was so excited that the little tease but a dampen on the excitement. Regardless, let’s just say I was very relieved when we had the public premiere with two sold out screenings, over 500 people total, and the laughter took over the theater.
What type of camera did you use to film Better Off Undead?
Whoa boy, time to get technical. We used a Panasonic AG-DVC30P, which is a 3CCD using digital format with a external RODE NTG-2 mic. This is the camera our DP, Colin, had so it’s the camera we used. Not only did we use the camera for filming, but was used to record all the sound effects and music.
You said the film cost around $700 to make. Where did most of the money go into?
Looking back, I sometimes ask myself that question. After seeing the film I occasionally think 700 bucks sounds like more than it looks. The majority of the budget, which came straight out of my pocket, probably went to video tapes and corn syrup. I provided food when we’d film, but it was always really shitty; pretty much sandwiches made of bread, meat and cheese and potato chips. I fair amount of money went to props. We went with pretty basic make-up, so not much money there. To be completely honest, the money didn’t go to the special effects, that was pretty much the cheapest part. I handled the special effects, and tried to figure everything out the cheapest way possible. I used some latex, which I got a small bottle from a hobby store for 6 bucks. All the intestines were made from pantyhose stuffed with cotton, so that was extremely cheap. Anything you see a zombie actually chewing on something, or biting into something, it’s a loaf of Italian bread covered in fake blood. The loaves of bread were only 99 cents each. The body casts were made from packaging tape, which my mom got for free from work. So to answer that question, I have no fucking clue. I might have to pull out all the receipts and take another look.
What part of the whole filmmaking process was your favorite?
It’s so fucking difficult to pick a favorite, here’s why I: each step of the process is fucking exciting. I know it’s probably cliche and generic to say, but fuck it. It’s true. When all is said and done, I really like post-production, that’s really when everything comes to life. Especially on BOU. Keep in mind, this was our first time doing anything like this, so we had no fucking clue what we were actually doing. I thought about it a lot, and prepared as much as possible, but during filming I wasn’t sure if anything would be usable. Then came post-production, and I realized that we actually did kind of know what were doing. So that was really exciting for me. Plus, I seriously fucking love editing. Before BOU, my only editing was done VCR-to-VCR. In high school I made a film for a class, and got to use the AV room where they had editing equipment for VHS tapes. Then BOU was finished filming and it was my turn to learn editing on a computer. Colin (the DP) had a computer with Adobe Premiere so that’s what we used. Colin cut together a few small scenes, just to show me how to do it. All in all, he showed me the program for about 3 hours, and then I took over. I went editing crazy. The first day I edited I worked for 27 hours. I probably spent close to 200 hours editing, and that was just for the visuals. We recorded every sound effect you hear, and that was fucking awesome. Especially creating all their gore sound effects. A lot of work went into the sounds. For example, there is a head crush in the film which the sound of that is comprised of 11 different sounds.
Your least favorite?
Getting everything together.
As a filmmaker, do you prefer to run the whole show and not deviate from your plan, or do you take advice or suggestions from your peers in a teamwork kind of way?
I definitely took ideas from others. Sometimes the ideas were great, and worked out. Other times I didn’t care of them, so they were scraped. It think it important to listen to other people’s thoughts, because one person can’t think of everything. There were times someone suggested something to complement what was written in the script and I was dumbfounded I didn’t think of that. Sometimes the suggestions were so obvious, but there was so much going on I didn’t think of it. At the same time, I think you do have to be strict and stern sometimes. One suggestion can quickly turn into everyone suggesting tons of ideas, and it gets out of control quickly.
One thing that was important to me was for the dialogue to seem as natural as possible. For all my scripts, I tell the actors that the words on the page are essentially a foundation. Those are my words, the way I speak. Not everyone speaks the same way as I do. I always tell them if they can say the same thing but in different words, and it is more natural for them, do it.
Drew’s roommate (the one he got to suck face with during the dream sequence) is pretty attractive. Do you see yourself using her in any more productions as some nice eye-candy? (hint hint: nude scene!)
Well, she now lives in Louisiana, so we would have to have a pretty good budget to fly her up here. But I would like to see what else she could do. Some people don’t pick up on this, but she is in the dream sequence and the roommate that got bit. In the dream sequence you don’t really see her face much, so I can see why people would not catch that. She was pretty nervous about her dialog, so I kept trying to calm her down. When the day of filming came, we rehearsed once and she fucking nailed it. After the first rehearsal, I was like, “Fuck it, let’s start rolling.” I thought she did great and would like to see what else she could do.
And I am going to say something here that you, and others, might not like. I know it’s not very “horror” to do, but I don’t have any intentions of having nude scenes. Well, at least nude scenes of females. Bring on the dick! There needs to be more dick shown in films. Don’t get me wrong here, I love tits as much as the next guy, but dick needs some love too. However, there has been a fair share of appearances by dicks in films lately, especially in comedies. But not enough. There’s never enough dick.
Do any of the actors have any prior acting experience?
No, not really. Jordan (Evan) Brown had done a little acting in some shorts our friend made. But those were made pretty much on the spot. No one that worked on the film, cast or crew, had ANY formal experience/education.
John, did you come up with the dream sequence? ( I really liked that part and was sorta surprised that he was just dreaming)
Why do you even ask that question? Do you doubt my ability to write such an awesome scene? I am offended. Fuck yeah I wrote that shit.
Okay, truth is that Drew (Marcus) came up with it. Well, actually he HAD that dream. I was writing BOU and he told me about this dream he had and asked if there was anyway I could write it in. I found the spot and wrote it into the script. I am so happy he shared that dream with me.
Will you be working on any new films in the near future??
Oh man, do I have some projects. Where do I start. Well, last summer I began working on Among The Dead, my full length zombie script. ATD is not a sequel, but takes place at the same time as BOU. While BOU takes place on the first day of the outbreak, ATD spans across the first seven days of the outbreak. The script is completely different. I look at BOU as a Troma-esque fun film. ATD is a serious script, there is some humor throughout, but nothing goofy like BOU. In fact, I don’t exactly think calling it a zombie script is appropriate. It is a character driven horror film. The zombies are really just a second thought, they set the scenario for what takes place. Anyway, we ran into all kinds of trouble filming and as of right now, ATD is placed on the back burner. Looking at the situation, I have realized that ATD might be a little too ambitious for right now. I flat out love this script. It is definitely my favorite script I have written so far. I want to see this film made, but only when the time is right. For the whole scoop on how we got shit on and fucked over, check out the blog at myspace.com/amongthedeadmovie
Aside from ATD, I co-write a slasher script with my best friend Sam Warnke called Phineas, which is about Phineas Gauge as the killer. For those that don’t know who Phineas Gauge is, he was a railroad worker who survived an accident in 1848 where a railroad spike went through his head and severed the two halves of his brain. Even though he survived, he was not able to control his emotions. We watched a shitty dramatization video of this in high school, and pretty much talked about making a slasher script based on Phineas since. Phineas follows a church group of 20-somethings at some cabins on Lake Michigan recently purchased by their church. They are there to tidy up the places and have a run in with some partyers who are camping out on the beach. But something, actually someone, is lurking in the woods…and it’s Phineas Gauge. Sure, he died in 1860 and it makes no sense for him to be killings people in 2009, but who the fuck cares? Sam and I talked about this concept for many years, and it more or less came down to what kind of people do we want to kill off. A bunch of Christians came to mind. All I will say is that Phineas is a very ridiculous script filled with tons of blood.
That does it for my full length scripts for now. I have many shorts written, and have begun taking a couple of them past the script stage to the very early pre-production stage. Almost all of them are horror, or at least horror based. I just recently opened a screen printing shop (enter shameless plug here: theoffbeatpress.com) so my time to film has been severely limited. It will happen soon. Since Grindhouse came out, I have had an idea for a fake trailer for film called Sascrotch. I’m not going to say anything more about that, just that I would really like to get around to that soon.
Have you ever considered exploring any other genres besides horror?
For sure. I can say this, horror is the genre I plan on working the most in, but I will definitely dabble outside horror. I have a ton of shorts written, one is a comedy titled 44oz., which is about if forced to, would you rather drink 44oz. of semen or diarrhea. I love comedy. I think comedy is such a great genre, but I feel not many people do it right. I think comedy is hard to pull off. Nowadays so many comedies start out hilarious, but then loose the humor in the third act to get serious and bring together the story. Which can be fine, but the first half and second half feel like completely different scripts. I am a big fan of drama films with the right amount of comedy mixed in. Two examples that come to mind are Stand By Me and The Shawshank Redemption. I would love to make a film on that level someday.
If you are working on some new films, do you plan on using any of the same cast or people that worked on Better Off Undead??
For sure. You will see familiar faces in a lot of projects I do. I can almost promise the main people who worked on BOU will work on most my projects. Whether or not that is in front or behind the camera, time will tell. After all, I know those suckers will work for free.
Where is the one place in the world that you would want to film in the most??
I don’t think I have a specific location I’d want to film in. To be honest, I never really thought about it before. Sure, it would be awesome to film on the land where The Evil Dead was filmed, or in Martha’s Vineyard where Jaws was shot, just to name a couple.
I know this isn’t exactly specific, but I want to film in non-traditional places. In other words;
Sure those cities offer a lot, blah blah blah, but we’ve seen it how many times before? I’d like to film in the cities that get overlooked. My dream would be to film a bigger budgeted film in Oshkosh and the Fox Valley. Now when I say “bigger budgeted”, I don’t mean “big budget”. We filmed BOU for $700 for fuck sake, I am not talking Transformers 3 here.
There was some very cool punk rock in your film. What are some bands that you really want to have in any of your upcoming films?
Before I answer that, I want to acknowledge the music that we used. All the music you hear, aside from The Suicide Machines, is from local bands. The Suicide Machines are my favorite band, and I know the singer a bit so one day I wrote to him asking about using a song or two. Instantly, he said yes.
Dale, who plays Chris, is the lead singer for The Lemurs and he told me they wanted to write a song for the film. One day, he tells me about a title the bass player, Crowley, came up with…Better Off Undead. At this point I didn’t have a title for the film, even though we were halfway through filming (the working title was Untitled Zombie Story Full of Stupid Dick Jokes written by John Pata). I thought about it for a bit and BOU was so much better than anything I had in mind, I called Crowley and asked for his permission to use the title and said then they get the theme song. And let’s face it, that song fucking rocks.
Back to your question, I don’t know if I can really answer that because I feel each project warrants its own music. I could easily say I want to use this band or that band, but only if the music fits. From here on out, I only plan on using a song if it fits. I am much more interested in using music composed for the film than trying to fit in a band’s song. I think it is safe to say there will always be some sort of punk rock elements to all my films, because punk rock music is what I know, it’s what I have spent more than half my life listening to. But I have to face it, I definitely plan on using The Lemurs again. Hell, in my mind, they get dibs at writing songs for all of my bigger projects. Even if it’s only used in the ending credits, I will use them somehow. I do like the idea of using as much local bands as possible. As for specific bands, fuck, there’s too many. There are some non-punk rock bands I wouldn’t mind using; Angry Johnny and The Killbillies, and lately I have been thinking of The Who’s “I Can’t Explain“, I think that song could really add to a scene. I adapted a short story from a Pig Destroyer album that uses The Pixies song “Debaser“, which is pretty fucking awesome considering I am a huge Pixies fan.
Any last words?
Did anyone read this entire thing??? Holy fuck, I need to learn to shut up. Jesus. Christ.
First and foremost, thank you Shu, for not only giving me some time here, but for supporting independent cinema.
We are a bunch of schmucks who wanted to have fun and make an attempt at making a film. We did this solely for fun and because we love horror. If any of this sounds interesting, and you wanna find out more and/or check out Better Off Undead, go to myspace.com/better_off_undead or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We have DVDs and T-shirts for sale, both are 10 bucks each. The DVD comes with over 3 hours of special features, including a 30 minute making-of, 4 commentary tracks, a built in drinking game including a cast and crew commentary of us playing the drinking game. All the money from the DVDs and T-shirts go into our next projects, not our pockets. If your friend(s) have a DVD, make a copy for you and all your friends. We just want people to see what some jackasses in Wisconsin did for fun one summer.
Keep creating and supporting independent horror, and not just horror but everything independent.
Again, thanks Shu for letting me have verbal diarrhea for way too long. You fucking rock buddy. Take care and so long.
I have met Putrid several times at horror gatherings in and around the Chicagoland area and the Midwest, most recently at a horror elite party in Aurora, not so recently at Horrorhound not too long ago earlier this year. I felt it was time for my readers to read about Putrid and know about his grisly artwork a little bit about him as a person, whether he digs slow-moving zombies or super fast zombies on crack. For these are things one needs to know about someone, at least for those of us that live and die for HORROR!!!!!
Since not all of my readers are into Grindcore/Death metal/ Black Metal/Dark Metal or plain old metal, let me start out by asking you when did you start drawing grisly, gory artwork?
Did you start out drawing with the intent for you work to be used for bands’ album covers, or you just started drawing and bands started to request you to draw up their albums’ artwork?
Where did you come up with your name, Putrid?
Do you collect comic-books and if yes, has certain artist artwork been an influence on you?
How many album covers have you done?
What is the process when making a new piece of artwork? What materials do you use? Pencil, ink, paint, etc….
Having run into you a few times at conventions, how many conventions do you normally go to a year to sell your artwork?
What convention do you enjoy going to the most and which one is usually the most profitable for you and has the most fans of your artwork in attendance?
Of all the awesome horror films out there, which films are some of your favorites?
Which horror films have influenced you and your artwork the most significantly?
When someone asks you to design something for a band or a website/flyer, etc… do you take ideas from them or just kinda do your own thing with little or no guidance/suggestions?
In your opinion, what are some of the most difficult or “trying” things to draw?
What things do you really enjoy drawing and hope people ask you to draw for jobs?
How high in demand is Putrid and do you ever have periods where you just get to relax because their is no job lined up?
Do you collect a lot of horror films, paraphernalia, etc…?
What is one of your favorite horror items that you own and could not live without?
What are your views on religion? Specifically organized religion?
Of the two specific types of zombies, slow-moving or fast-ass track-letes, which do you prefer and why?
What bands album cover was the most enjoyable for you to work on?
If I were to want to contact Putrid because I had a job for him, what would be the best way to go about it?
Thanks for your time and I will probably be running into you at another killer horror convention or horror film-fest!
And remember, watch out for John Dugan when he is drunk!
Ryan Nicholson is the director of Gutterballs, a must-see film that blew my away with its outrageous gore, sex, and violence! He also runs Plotdigger Films with his father and director of the upcoming film, HANGER, due out Spring of this year.
Ryan, Gutterballs is the first film that I have seen of yours that you directed. If anyone has read my review, they know I loved it! What I felt was unique about Gutterballs was incorporating some hardcore sex scenes (blow-job scene) with some hardcore gore and effects. Usually a film that has hardcore scenes in it that would garner the film a X-rating or harder does not focus on such elements as a storyline, great gore effects, and some very humorous dialogue. When you made Gutterballs, was there ever a question as to what direction the film was heading in- either less graphic nudity/ sexuality or more gore and effects? In my opinion, Gutterballs gives you the best of both worlds, sex and violence.
There was no question in mind that I wanted to push all the boundaries I could. I really wanted to get away with as much as possible. I knew that there would be no way in Hell to get an R-rating for “Gutterballs“, so I just went for it. My first feature “Live Feed” was made in a similar fashion…with no regard for ratings. Although the distributor of “Live Feed” got an R-rating for that picture after several cuts were made. They put out the Uncut version as well. I only direction I like to head in is the one that makes people uncomfortable. The subject matter of all of my movies gets under peoples skin.
In Gutterballs, were all the actresses and actors comfortable with the amount of sex, knowing it they were in a horror film?
They all seemed okay with it. I’m very easy-going when directing and I never force a scene down an actors throat if they’re having issues with it. I’ll sit down and go through the process…make them comfortable with me as a person first. Trust is a big deal with an actor and a director. They’re trusting me not to exploit them and trusting them in giving me what I want, what I need to make the movie successful. In the end, I think all of the actors were proud of “Gutterballs” and their work in it. They’re a very talented group of actors. It’s tough on them because I wanted the movie cheesy and campy. Some viewers don’t get that, and some reviewers as well…so critics and certain viewers will hate on the acting but it’s exactly what I wanted. All of the actors in “Gutterballs” are trained actors and would’ve delivered anything I needed. Camp is what I needed. So it’s unfair to hack on the acting, the swearing, etc…if you don’t get it, don’t see it’s cheese, then you shouldn’t even attempt to watch my movies…any of them.
How long did it take to make Gutterballs? What scenes took the longest to film?
Gutterballs was shot in the Summer of 2007 for 3 weeks of “all-nighters” at the bowling center. Then we had three days of studio pick-ups. It was gruelling and very tough. A night schedule is tough to say the least. It’s very trying getting people motivated at 4 in the morning. The rape scene took the longest as did the “death room” scene at the end of the movie…that was two days, as was the rape scene.
When filming Gutterballs, were you ever intending to make a film that was going to get an R-Rating and/or a theatrical release?
No, not at all. I know my audience. I know what I need to do to deliver what my audience expects of me. It is certainly not R-rated. I’m not saying I couldn’t make an R-rated film…I can…but it wouldn’t appeal to the hardcore viewers. The movies I’ve made are all very near and dear to me. It’s the kind of stuff I like to watch.
When you go into filming an idea for a movie, do you ever think, “this film is going to be made to get a major release so I probably should go light in this area or that area”, or do you just say, “Im making whatever the hell I want and if it gets an R-rating, so be it.”
I don’t think about the release at all actually. Mostly because I know my films see a limited audience…a very niche market. I don’t feel the need for mass appeal. I like writing and shooting with no expectations in mind. If you shoot with something like an R-rating planned, in my shoes, you’d be very limited as to what you could shoot. It’s all thrown out the window when I yell “action”, whatever happens, the more depraved it is, the better.
I read in some interviews that you are very close with your family and they supported your needs in horror, so much that your father took you to see some pretty intense horror films, even getting stopped from getting into some for being R-Rated. First of all, can I trade your parents for mine because mine HATE horror and don’t want me having anything to do with it. I can imagine that having the support of your family made getting into making horror films that much easier. What was the first horror film you saw and was it one that your family suggested or did you seek it out on your own? How old were you?
It’s odd that you just brought this question up, the timing that is. The reason being…my parents had a very close set of friends when I was younger, when they were younger….and over the years….my parents lost contact with those friends from way back…they hadn’t spoken in years. My Mother received a letter in the mail the other day from this said friend who completely trashed my work, calling it pornography, calling me a scumbag….calling my parents “evil” and everything under the sun. It was an awful letter that was very uncalled for. They were judging my parents based on my body of work. First, I’d like to tell them, the ex-friends, that we’re all very happy with what we do in our lives…secondly, my parents to condone nor condemn what I do…because I’m their son, they know how to seperate fantasy from reality…what I do in my movie work is clearly not reality…it’s a form of cinema and I don’t care who agrees with it or not…I don’t care at all. My parents wouldn’t tell me to stop making movies because they know it is my passion. So for these judging individuals that have the nerve to write such hate, they need help, they obviously cannot make the difference between something real and something that is onscreen…and that is scary…those are the kind of people that snap and shoot up their fellow employees with an AK-47. But answering your question, my Father took my to see “The Fog” and it was awesome!! I was a Carpenter fan since “Halloween” although I was young, I knew that John Carpenter was a genius film-maker. My interest in horror was self-explored. I was and still am very fascinated by horror cinema and the art of making movies.
What are some of your favorite films of all time?
I’ve added the films and actors together. Gene Hackman “The French Connection” and “Mississippi Burning“… Willam Devane from “Rolling Thunder” and “Marathon Man“. Jon Voight “Midnight Cowboy” and “Deliverance“. Stephen Chow “Kung-Fu Hustle” and “Shaolin Soccer” and Anthony Wong “The Untold Story” and “Ebola Syndrome“….there’s so many.
What are some actors and actresses you would like to work with?
I’d love to work with certain actors just because their a directors actor…they really take their character to the next level. As a director, there’s nothing better than an actor that takes their work to that level, the one where they are the character you’ve written, they’re making your work come to life.
What type of horror film is your favorite to make, genre-wise? gore film, suspense, terror, torture porn, splatstick, etc…
I like making “campy” movies that have their own style. Looking back at “Live Feed” and “Gutterballs”, they’re very similiar in nature. The style of film-making is very “in the moment” with alot of improv. I love gore and sex in movies…my films have heavy helpings of both. I like dark humor…there’s many pieces of dialogue that are more comedic than horrifying…that is the style of Plotdigger Films.
What is your favorite sub-genre of horror film to watch and one you enjoy the most?
I like 80′s slashers…and 80′s creature features. I also like 70′s giallo and 70′s exploitation movies.
How do you feel about all the remakes, re-interpretations, American remakes of foreign films, etc…going on these days? Is there a lack of creativity or ideas out there?
I think it’s a win/win situation for everyone. The remakes that do big business at the box-office gives the little guys like myself more chances of wider distribution. Generally, distributors pick-up what is hot at the time…horror is usually always hot…and it’s thanks to the remakes and sequels that murder the box-office. The direct to dvd market is also a big one to thank….we keep putting stuff out and the retailers keep buying it….people want new dvd’s to watch every week…so their has to be the supply to meet the demand. I’m not saying I like it all…I’ll watch it all but I like bits and pieces.
As for remakes, I thought “The Hills Have Eyes” was wicked…as was “My Bloody Valentine” and “Last House on the Left“. They were all made horror fans, guys that grew up watching this stuff in its original form. I think it’s healthy for the horror industry. There’s still original movies being made that are amazing “Inside” and “REC” are a couple that come to mind.
At what point in your career did you say, ” I have done tons of make-up and effects on films, but now I would like to take a stab (no pun intended) at directing films”?
It was back around 2000, I decided to write and devoted time to writing treatments, scripts, synopsis, etc…I’ve always been into making my own stuff, I just never really took it to the level of showing anyone. I love make-up effects but I love them more in my own movies because I see all of the blood, sweat and tears that is put into make-up FX for movies…most of the film-makers, producers that make big-budget movies don’t see it or care not to see it…so that kind of turned me off doing big-budget movies after I had done a few. I like the little movies, then ones that appreciate the craft because they’re paying you so little, the pay you the rest in enthusiasm.
I read that you are a huge gorehound and collect all the books, dvds, magazines, model kits, toys etc…Has there been anything in your collection or that you read that gave you an idea for a movie?
I have a new script I’m writing and it’s very old-school horror movie influenced…I can’t give too much away because it will be my biggest budgeted effort to date. But I will say, it will be a very special movie dedicated to horror film icons from days way back.
Where do you find is the best place to pick up horror memorabilia? on-line stores, conventions, shops???
I buy alot of stuff off Ebay and also online. Conventions are cool but they’re so overwhelming, you’ll blow your load at one booth and then see something so damn cool at the booth on the other side of the room, you’ll be kicking yourself. There’s more control online…you can scroll through things and be picky about getting the best bang for your buck.
How did you come about starting Plotdigger films with your father?
I actually started it myself…”Torched” was just me. My father came on a couple of years later and co-wrote and produced “Live Feed” with me. Then came “Gutterballs” which he co-produced. He took a step back and did his own stuff while I did my new one “Hanger” with my other partners, Michelle Grady and Patrick Coble. But my father has been instrumental with our latest “Evil Feed”, the bigger budgeted sequel to “Live Feed”. We’re all a big family at Plotdigger Films…I work with the same team for the most part because I want everyone who helped me in the beginning to see bigger things happen and be here when they do. Has starting a company with your dad put any strain on your relationship, business getting in the way of family, that sort of thing? It’s been hard at times but he likes being onset and seeing his hard-work come to life. He’s not as into the gore and violence as me…he’s more so into the old school 50′s and 60′s creature features…but that is where I got my interest in horror, it was passed on through his interest. My Mother won’t watch my movies. She’s not into horror at all…but like I said earlier, she doesn’t condone or condemn what I do.
Was it very different starting your own production company than from starting your own special effects company Flesh and Fantasy, Inc? were there any similar pitfalls and obstacles that you found in starting both ventures?
They both cost money to run, the only difference is, with an FX shop, you need to pay for it when you’re working or not…the overhead can kill you if you don’t stay competitive. I just interest in the politics, the bullshit you go through trying to get a show. It doesn’t interest me at all anymore. The great thing about my production company “Plotdigger Films“, I just need my laptop. That is my office. Everyone I work with are all ready to shoot and all have their own editing suites, gear, etc…It’s awesome because they don’t depend on me for work…they all shoot music vids, other movies etc…with an FX shop, the people that work for you can become very combative of they don’t see you hustling all the time , trying to get work…it’s almost like I was becoming an agent for other artists in the end of my FX shop days…it was no fun…I had to hustle or my staff would get ticked off…it wasn’t what I had intended on doing or why I loved FX…so I ended that chapter of my life and started a healthy one, one that wasn’t so damn stressful.
What do you suggest to anyone who wants to start their own company in either field?
Work for someone else. Don’t start your own FX company unless you wanna get old real fast. As for movies, anyone with a camcorder can make the next big thing if they truly have the passion and vision to make some cool shit. So just keep at it, keep shooting…it will all come together. And if someone doesn’t like it…don’t worry about it…you can’t please all of the people all of the time.
Of all the horror collectibles you possess, what one is your most treasured?
I have alot of autographed memorabilia. It’s hard to say…but I’d have to go with the original “Serial Killer Board Game” that came in a real body-bag with a hand-painted board. It’s very rare and not too many were made. I own one of them. I also would say the “recalled” American Psycho CD soundtrack with the Huey Lewis and The News song on it. It was recalled before it hit the shelves because I guess Huey Lewis hadn’t agreed to the subject matter of the movie? I got one from a record store buddy before he sent them back. The “recalled” Twin Towers “Spider Man” poster is another treasured collectible I have.
What is your new movie about that you are working on, Hanger, tell me a little bit about that? Is it finished yet? I see that Lloyd Kaufman has been cast in it. How did that come to be?
‘Hanger” is really a Father and Son bonding story…they team-up to avenge the death of “Rose” after she died at the hands of her pimp Leroy during a back alley abortion. “Rose” was “Hanger’s” Mother…it’s very dark…there’s some crazy characters in it and it’s very prosthetic heavy. All of the main characters have full prosthetics. Actually two of the characters have two looks, one young, one old. It is very depraved with some scenes off the charts. It’s a bizarre movie. More like David Lynch and John Waters inspired than horror influenced, but it is still very much a horror movie. Debbie Rochon plays “Rose”…it was her idea to get her good-friend Lloyd Kaufman in there for a cameo…I grew up watching “The Toxic Avenger” and “Class of Nuke Em High” so I thought it would be a great idea as well. Lloyd is awesome! He’s a great guy that has inspired many film-makers.
Do you have any ideas for upcoming horror films in the future that you would care to share with everyone?
“Evil Feed” and “Star Vehicle” are happening this year. And then I’m hoping to have raised enough money to do my big horror film. I can’t give that one away…not even the title. The idea is the best I’ve ever had.
What are some recent films that have come out (horror films) that you were pretty impressed with?
I really enjoyed “Punisher: Warzone“…it was simple and effective with gratuitous violence…it was awesome! I also liked the “Feast” trilogy…very fun and deranged movies. The writing was great and the filming was top-notch…as was the FX.
Getting back to Gutterballs, were there any scenes that were filmed that you thought were “too much” or too extreme?
No, I think it ended up just perfect. The perfect balance of sex and gore. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Got anything to say to the millions of SHU-IZMZ readers out there???
If you keep watching them…I’ll keep making them! Cool…RY
Thanks for the interview Ryan! -shu
SHU-IZMZ got a chance to interview the ever so humble and gracious Shannon Lark, CEO of The Chainsaw Mafia, a group and website dedicated to help promote horror and support those in the field of horror, whatever that may be. Shannon also was Fangoria’s Spooksmodel Contest winner last year and an accomplished actress in horror films. Read on to hear what Shannon Lark is all about in the following interview.
In reading your resume and bio, you showed such an early interest in the macabre and horror at a really young age. I never had any support or acceptance from my family in horror, or anything else I do for that matter., but did your family support your interests in horror and let you explore those urges and wants for all things bloody?
I’ve always been the black sheep, but my family is incredibly weird to begin with, so it’s not that big of a step to the left. When I started my career, my Father flipped out a bit, because he was studying to be a Minister at the time (it was a mid life crises thing) and I broke our relationship off for 6 years. If you can’t support me, then I don’t need that sort of energy in my life. My Mother has been insanely supportive: she even watched Dead Alive by Peter Jackson and other flicks that I love. She thinks it’s weird and fun to do what I do and she always has a million questions every time I do a film or show. It’s wonderful.
What part of horror is the most creative for you and how you express are able to express yourself as a woman of horror-film, theater, dance, or otherwise?
I love dance and theater, but it’s so fleeting. When you are through, all the props get packed up and you go home. It makes me sad, although the entire process is thrilling. Film is really a medium that I can take home, and ward off other people with a long, poky stick until I’m ready to reveal to the world. I can always go back and relive it.
I can express myself as a woman through all those mediums though, and many more.
Was there any one particular film that profoundly affected you and your views on horror to this day?
Ooo. That’s a difficult question. I would have to say that Santa Sangre by Alejandro Jodorowsky has got to be the film that changed the way I look at film altogether. Besides Santa Sangre, a series of films I watched greatly affected my stance on what horror was, is, and could be. “The Shining, Dead Alive, The Elephant Man, Last House on the Left, I Spit on Your Grave, Wild at Heart, and Pink Flamingos.”
What film, in your mind, best portrays a strong female lead and a character women can look up to?
Lula from David Lynch’s Wild At Heart. She is a phenomenal female character who loves and truly lives. If only I was half as cool as she is.
What obstacles do you think are the biggest ones for women to overcame today in the film industry, or the Arts, in general?
Oh my goodness! I think the biggest obstacle is ourselves. We can now vote and go to work, just like men do, but many women live in fear of failure if they actually try something. In turn this can cause depression, feelings of isolation, and constant comparing of yourself to other women, particularly on the TV. This is not okay. Pop media preys on women who feel like this to purchase products and watch MTV. That’s why I encourage women to make horror films: take a little bit of power back in their hands. Stab a barbie doll. Do something! Anything! As long as it involves blood.
Who is one of your favorite horror directors?
Do you feel that the modern day slasher films show stronger female victims than in the past era of slasher films, say the ’80s, or do you think most slasher films of today are digressing in portraying strong female “victims”?
I think that it’s pretty much even. There are plenty of films (particularly coming out of Europe) where the females are strong and deadly, and sometimes even the predators. There is a flood of independent slashers that have and will continue to remake the same formula as their predecessors, but many of these modern films show incredibly weak characters, both men and women.
The first slasher films had an array of weak and strong females, but the weak ones were weak due to circumstance, not necessarily because they were stupid, ditsy women, even if their breasts were exposed. You would think the films were Christian propaganda, but the women who were promiscuous even had brains back then. Imagine that? The wonderful thing about this evolution is that more women are going to see horror films now more than ever. That means corrective marketing is going into effect. More films in general will have stronger female characters and go into the psychological and emotional fears instead of simply slicing and dicing. It’s always wonderful when it’s combined!
How did winning Fangoria Magazine’s Spooksmodel help you and your career? Were many more doors opened because of it? Did winning it hurt you or your reputation in any way?
It has helped immensely! I’ve received plenty of offers for work since I’ve become their Spooksmodel, although I worked for 6 years on my career before I gained the title. I was exhausted by the time I won, and it feels like it’s all just beginning. I’ve been very busy performing for them but in June my goals with Fangoria will alter a bit when the live performances shut down. I plan to milk this for all its worth. My reputation is built on the fact that I love horror, I love helping people launch their careers in horror, and that will always be. Fangoria has aided me in nurturing that, getting me out there in the genre and letting me take off with what they can offer. They are offering a platform. It’s up to me to use it to my best ability or leave it. I’m definitely choosing to use it.
As CEO of the Chainsaw Mafia, what part of your day is the most demanding?
The afternoon. It’s the emails, and they try to murder me with a stabstabstab motion. I crawl away at some point, sometimes leaving the laptop the next am. If I could clone myself, she would just answer emails. Although I would rather put my brain in a robot body…
Are there any Hollywood actresses or industry women that you think may hold some of the same ideals as to what the Chainsaw Mafia is all about or do you think Hollywood is hopeless?
Oh boy, what an awesome question! I try to find them, I really do. I think Laura Dern, Christina Ricci, and Adrienne King are a few. I know there are plenty of amazing actresses in Hollywood who do great things. But I have a hard time looking up to most mainstream actresses. They have so much power, and spend it on making sure they look hot. What ever happened to helping the youth of this country grow into people who are not Britney Spears lookalikes?
As stated in your bio on your web page, it mentions that you self-taught yourself a large amount of what you know about films and film-making by reading how-to books and asking those on the films you worked with questions about what was going on. Do you feel that part of the reasons so many would-be actresses, actors, directors, producers, etc…don’t make it in the movies is because they are not knowledgeable enough or don’t educate themselves enough to take advantages of situations or soak up all they can in productions they are in? Basically, are people just lazy or ignorant of opportunities that are right in front of them?
I think many people are afraid: afraid of looking dumb, afraid of not doing it right, afraid that people will make fun of them. Hollywood has painted this glossy picture over what filmmaking is like, and people actually believe it. I am a firm believer that you should learn every position on the set. Interested in being a director? Do sound and catering, and acting! It will make you immensely better at what you do. That goes for you too, talent.
Shannon, tell me a little bit about your short film you made with Amber Steele entitled “Brains”. What was your involvement in that film?
I directed and co produced the film, and acted in it alongside Steele. BRAINS was created because I was involved with the Living Dead Girlz, a zombie dance troupe. I managed, danced and did Special FX for the troupe from 2005-2008. We were obsessed with Kelly’s SHOES, which was a viral hit on youtube. I emailed Liam Sullivan (who created and plays Kelly) and asked if we could do a tribute. Voila! The film came together on a shoestring budget and became a hit on youtube as well. We have since signed a contract through Atom Films, which is owned by Comedy Central. You can check out the film here.
You have been involved with 17 films, or more, as of this interview there may be more projects you are working on, what were some of your most rewarding experiences and why?
Most recently I acted in a film titled Ludlow, that was amazing. I got to puke, freak out, and get beat up. It was an emotional roller coaster. Stacie Ponder wrote, directed, and shot it. It was a whirlwind of creativity. She made me look like hell, which I love. I don’t really commiserate with the “hot girl” character in films. I’m always going for the homely, slightly reclusive ones.
What are some of your favorite horror authors, present and past?
I was obsessed with Goosebumps when I was a kid, Stephen King in High School, Clive Barker, William Blatty, Poppy Z Brite, and Anne Rice.
Do you still get excited when you meet some of the legends in horror, such as great directors, actors, effects artists just as much as when you were not making, acting, directing or producing films? Are you still as much of a fan as you were before you were part of the horror industry??
Before I was making films, I never met these people. I lived in a hole in the desert and honestly wouldn’t dare let myself dream of being an actress, because then I would have to follow through! I simply lived vicariously through the films I watched, and made myself silently agree that I was going to be awesome one day.:) I still do get excited, because my mind pops with dreams of working with them (as I’m sure it does with everyone). I recently hosted panels for Last House on the Left, Christmas Evil, and Texas Chainsaw Massacre at the last Fangoria’s Weekend of Horrors. I was incredibly nervous at first due to never hosting a panel before and finding out I had to do them 2 days before the event, while I was in transit. It went wonderful though and by the time TCM panel came, I was over any fears I had. I am even more of a fan now, and could probably carry the weight of the genre on my shoulders if need be. I have so much pride for these people who are evolving the genre, and it’s not just filmmakers who are doing it.
What is your favorite part of going to horror conventions?
The people! The people are amazing!
What city do you have the most fun in while visiting for a Horror Convention?
It’s gotta be Chicago. So many people are artists: musicians, performers, filmmakers, painters. I love learning about the culture when I go. The weather depresses me, I love it! Also, I had an experience in Chicago when I was 12 where I saw a woman dragging her kids down the street in front of the police department. She was carrying a bat and screaming “get the fuck away from me!” While some dude chased them. No one did anything. Go Chicago!
I hear Chainsaw Mafia are going to be attending and part of Horror Society’s Women of Horror Film Festival this month. What films on the bill are you really interested in seeing?
We are not! And did not! WAH!
Of these 3 distinct horror genres, which one do you prefer to watch: Slasher films, Zombie films, or Monster films?
Zombies. Definitely zombies.
Who would win- Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Michael Meyers, or Leatherface?
Oh Leatherface, by and far!
And a personal question for you Shannon from me- Can I please get a photo with the ladies of the Chainsaw Mafia at Horror Society’s Women of Horror this month?
Obviously this past and we weren’t there, but I would be more than happy to send you an autographed photo of myself!
Thanks for your time and hope you enjoy doing the interview.
SHU-IZMZ had a chance to catch up with the very talented Kitsie Duncan, actress, producer, writer, and head of wardrobe for the upcoming film, LETHAL OBSESSION, and her own website, www.wickedpinup.com. Kitsie is also part of the Darkrider Filmworks production company. I first met Kitsie Duncan and the other producers, actresses, actors, and directors in Indiana at Horrorhound Weekend last month.
Who founded Dark Rider Filmworks?
Darkrider was something Chris and I had wanted to do for a long time, but it took us meeting the amazing people that now make up Darkrider Filmworks to make it the reality it is today. We had a lot of ideas on making films but we lacked the crew to do so. Now that we have the crew it is full steam ahead!
What type of films does Dark Rider Filmworks want to make?
We want to raise the bar in independent Horror films by inputting as many great elements into each film as we can. We don’t want to make films that just rely on one element to sell a film like boobs, or gore, or hot girls, or a great story, or hot guys, or a creepy mask, etc. We want our films to combine all of it, along with great acting to deliver the best film possible. It’s not to say that someday we may branch out of the Horror genre, but right now we have four or five solid ideas for amazing independent horror films. Lethal Obsession is just the beginning of what will make Darkrider Filmworks a driving force in Indy Horror films.
On the website, it states that you were the brainchild of the company,
originally coming up with the idea for it. Who did you contact first about
your idea and how did your idea turn into an actual reality? Give me some
history behind Dark Rider Filmworks…
I was by no means the brain child of Darkrider, it was a total group effort. We have an amazing core group that each of us brings something different to the table. Our core group consists of myself, Chris J, Larry McAtee, Jason Hignite, Mindy Steele, and Brett Pittman. We all wear several hats in th company right now. It’s kind of a running joke that in the end credits of our film, after our actors it will say that everything else in the movie was done by us
Chris and I met Jason, Mindy and Larry when we had done a little work at a haunted house. And we were fortunate enough to meet Brett through Jason’s ties at Dark Carnival (www.darkcarnivalfilmfest.com) .
You know what, when it works it works! I just consider myself so fortunate to have each and every one of these people in my life. And we all have one common goal, to have a Darkrider Filmworks jet.
Your first film, Lethal Obsession, is the story of:
An otherwise quiet college community is turned upside down when a serial
killer begins murdering beautiful women. The only apparent connection
between the victims is their employer, Elizabeth Waters (Kitsie Duncan),
owner of www.obsessioncams.com … a midwest fetish webcam site.
What makes these killings particularly heinous is that they happen live
while the women are performing on their site. The local authorities have
never had to deal with such premeditated gruesomeness. Only Detective
Dennett (Tony), having left the crime-ridden streets of Chicago, knows how
to approach this case. However, his recent departure from a metropolitan
precinct was due to his mental inability to continue dealing with mindless
Who came up with this idea for the film?
Lethal Obsession was actually my brainchild. I wanted to write a book on this theme. It was just a concept, that Chris actually took and turned into the story and the screenplay. It is an amazing story, that isn’t just horror, it’s a thriller and a who dunnit all tied up in this package that is now known as Lethal Obsession.
The synopsis of the film suggests the film will be a mix of horror and a
great deal of sexuality. Will there be a fair amount of nudity in the film?
Actually, I don’t want to give too much away. I want everyone to see the film in it’s entirety. There will be some (nudity) though. What’s a Horror movie without boobies . It was important to us though when writing to make sure we weren’t pushing nudity just to sell the movie. We feel that some films have a lot of boobs just to take your attention away from the bad story and bad acting. Any nudity in our film makes sense and does not take away from our story. As you see in our teaser there is a lot of sexy stuff but that is why that is a teaser.
Memphis and her husband are really good friends of Chris and I. They are both huge horror fans, so it only made sense to ask them both to be in the film. Memphis is a great gal, and her character reflects that.
Marv came to Darkrider through Jason Hignite. Marv is an awesome guy, and we are so honored that he was able to make time in his schedule to be a part of Lethal Obsession. He has already been in so many great independent horror films, and it is amazing to see him work.
Is this the first film you have directed and starred in as well?
I am actually not the director. Jason Hignite is our lead director, with Chris co-directing with him. He was the perfect choice, as he had just directed a theater production of Dracula. But yes, this is my first starring role in an actual movie. I am enjoying it so much, and learning so much as well.
Is the plot for the film, a fetish webcam site-is this maybe something that
you maybe would like to pursue outside of filmmaking, or is it purely for
the film and holds no interest to you?
No, I really can’t see myself being a cam girl. I am too much of a dork
Do the other makers of the film have a strong interest in porno film, as
well as horror?
Nope, at least not that I am aware of, and honestly this movie is so much more than that of the scantily-clad hot girls. I have heard though, that 99% of Horror filmmakers are all trying to break into the porn business. LOL, that is certainly not the case here.
Do you think that some viewers are going to go in watching this film thinking its
going to be filled with sex and lots of nudity, and not so much horror and
I hadn’t thought that at all until I read this interview, LOL. As I said, this film will have a little something for everyone, and the first and foremost will be horror, not to mention the amazing storyline and absolute mind-games this film will play with you. As long as they come away enjoying our film then they can think what they want going in. Once we get some more official trailers done for the film I think people will get a better idea of what we are doing.
How is the balance for the film in terms of sex, nudity, blood, and
Waaaay more blood and guts!
How long have you been shooting Lethal Obsession?
We started filming at the beginning of March. We did take a brief hiatus to prepare for the awesomeness that was Horrorhound Weekend. But we have fallen into heavy filming again and we are hoping to have filming wrapped up by the beginning of June.
What was Lethal Obsession filmed on? Hi-def, film, videotape, etc….
We are filming Lethal Obsession on HD-DV.
How did all those involved with Dark Rider Filmworks come to know each
other? such as you, Mindy, C.J., Jason, and Lawrence…
Well, Chris and I have been married for 14 years. We met Larry, Mindy and Jason at a local haunt called the Asylum House. Brett Pittman is our latest recruit and he and Jason are both on the Dark Carnival committee together. Brett started out as just the DP for Lethal Obsession, but has just brought so much to the table, that we have bribed him to join us on the dark-side .
Is your slated date for Lethal Obsessions release of October still stand?
Yes, at the very latest. We are hoping to have the premiere well before that. We really hope to have the film released by the end of Summer.
What have been some tough areas for the cast and crew in making Lethal
Obsession? Have there been any major setbacks, tech difficulties, strange and bizarre things
happening that make no sense?
LOL, where do I begin. We have always since the beginning called “Lethal Obsession” our learning experience, and it has been that and more. We’ve had to recast several roles including two of our leads. Actually last week, we had a shoot set up for my character Elizabeth and her assistant Jenna. Well, the girl we had casted as Jenna called 10 minutes before she was supposed to be there claiming she was 4 hours away because of some sort of an emergency. Needless to say, the entire crew was in an uproar. But Jason came through and found a willing actress who drove 2 ½ hours to come and play this part. It was amazing to see everyone band together for this film. We ended up getting the scenes we needed, and it probably worked out better than we had originally planned.
The only other setback besides casting has been our special effects. This is one area we are having to outsource, since none of us know anything about SFX (but we will learn). This has been a thorn in our side for several months now, but things are coming together and I think we have a lot of talent on board at this point. You can’t have a horror movie without gore, and we plan to have loads of it.
We have four or five good solid stories in mind for after the release of Lethal Obsession. We already have one story written by C. Ray McManus ready to be tweaked and turned into a screenplay. Our hopes are to head right into pre-production of the next film as soon as Lethal Obsession is released.
Kitsie, what are some of your favorite films-horror, sci-fi,
sex/exploitation, cult, etc…?
My favorite Horror films are Poltergeist and Rob Zombie’s Halloween. because as a kid that movie scared the shit out of me. I am still terrified to leave the TV on static. And Poltergeist . Rob Zombie’s Halloween, because it was just a mind fuck. I love when a movie takes you on an emotional roller-coaster. Oh yeah and A Nightmare on Elm Street, just because Freddy Krueger is a sassy SOB. I would have to say Freddy is my all time favorite monster. I like a guy with a great personality
I’m not really into Sci-Fi, but I am really dying to see the new Star Trek movie it looks awesome!
I am really a mainstream kind of girl, I love the blockbusters, but I am really trying to broaden my horizons. What films do you suggest?
What are some of your favorite authors, horror and non-horror?
This is a tough one, I honestly don’t do much reading. When I do it’s an escape. I like trashy romance novels. No particular author, if it’s entertaining I will read it.
If I stole your iPod right now, what would I find on it?
EVERYTHING except country. I seriously, love rap, top 40, old school Frank Sinatra, all 80′s pop and hair-bands. And yes I even have tome Britney Spears (but shhhhhh don’t tell anyone)
What was Kitsie doing before she had the brainchild of an idea to start Dark
I have done some modeling in the past, a little acting, and have been raising my kids.
Who came up with the name of the company, Dark Rider Filmworks?
That would be my better half, Chris. As I said we have wanted to do something like this for a long time. And he actually came up with the name a few years back.
What are some filmmakers or films that have inspired you to want to become a
So many, there is some real talent out there! But, myself and Darkrider have our own ideas and visions. We don’t want to be knows as the next “so and so”, we want to be known for our own visions and films.
Thanks for the interview Kitsie! SHU-IZMZ appreciates your time!
Darkrider Filmworks will be attending Horror Society’s Women Of Horror April 25th at the Portage Theater in Portage Park, Chicago and will have a table there with some items that fans of horror will definitely want to check out! Kitsie Duncan is also launching a website entitled www.wickedpinup.com! Be sure to check out that as well!
SHU-IZMZ was granted an interview with one of the following 3 creators of www.lostzombies.com, a zombie social network that is covering the outbreak and letting the people generate all documentation. Pretty cool idea, I think. Read on!
First of all, with whom am I speaking with?
Ryan, one of the 3 co-creators of LostZombies.
What do you do at Lost Zombies?
Along with one of the co-creators, I do all of the viral marketing. I manage the youtube, twitter, facebook, myspace, etc accounts.
When did Lost Zombies become a website, and was it always a website?
We launched May 1st of last year.
Who invented the idea for a zombie-themed community?
My brother Skot, one of the other co-creators, has a degree in film and I was a film critic in college, so we always talked about making a movie someday. Skot always wanted to break the Hollywood system of doing it, and he came up with the idea of a community generated film. From there, zombies came about because they rock, we love them and so do a lot of other people.
Has the website been hard to maintain, what with all the zombie outbreaks continually rising to greater and more epic proportions?
There have definitely been some growing pains. From designing and redesigning the site to be more user friendly, to dealing with rogue users, to dealing with the threat of a zombie apocalypse, there is never a dull moment on our end.
For those of us that have not had an encounter with a zombie or do not know anyone that has been turned to a zombie, what advice would you give them if a zombie came at them and attacked them?
The first thing is to know your surrounding. Can you run away, are the zombies fast or slow, are there any weapons around, are the people you are with slower than you? You need to be able to address all of these questions in a matter of split seconds in order to have a good chance of survival. If all else fails, either run if the zombies are slow, or try to put up a fight if they are fast.
Personally, what is your weapon of choice for battle in the zombie outbreak?
Kitana. But they aren’t the most common thing and I don’t walk around with them. So, ideally a Kitana, but a stick or bat are the most common for me.
Are there any post-outbreak literature that you can recommend for my readers?
Well of course there are the Max Brooks Books, World War Z and Zombie Survival Guide. There are a lot of stories and such submitted to our site that prove very informative.
Please tell me a little bit about this zombie book that readers are involved in creating?
The Scrap Book is a collection of user submitted stories and photos. If you have a zombie story to tell or one you have written or good pix you want to submit, we will take them and compile them all into a scrap book. The pieces that get selected, those users will be paid for their submissions.
Can people just type out accounts that they were involved in with zombies? Can the documented evidence be mailed in?
We are a very trustworthy group, so if you say you have evidence, we will believe you. So any stories or vids or pix you have, sent them our way.
How many Lost Zombie followers are there?
We have over 8400 registered members on the site.
In your opinion, who is responsible for the zombie outbreak and will it be able to be contained?
The exact origin is believed to be caused from a string of superflu. As far as whether or not that was aided by an evil doctor, or simply just mutation, we aren’t sure. Yes, there is always a chance for containment and survival. But not if we don’t work together and get educated on the subject.
Are there any zombie movies out there that you think accurately portray the current epidemic?
I think all zombie movies are a good thing because they all can at least get the viewer into the mind set of the panic that is bound to ensue. I would watch the Remake of Dawn of the Dead. That one seems close to what could happen in the very near future.
In your opinion, are the slow moving zombies more realistic or the fast moving zombies? Do both types of zombies exist?
Both types do exist. To me, slow moving zombies seem more realistic. The scary thing about them is they always come in hordes. Fast moving zombies are more of a quick burst and then they are gone, so if you can with stand the initial impact, you are good. But slow moving zombies will continue to attack and attack and its a much longer and scarier fight.
Is having sex with a zombie considered necrophilia?
A fast zombie “no”, a slow zombie “yes”.
Do zombies prefer any certain kinds of music? Goth, Industrial, Metal, Death metal, Grindcore, Black Metal, Rock?
My personal favorite band would be Danzig, so metal. If it’s good, I’ll listen to it. I don’t have one favorite type.
Do you feel the website, www.lostzombies.com, is doing a service to mankind?
I think so. We wouldn’t be doing it if we didn’t feel we were serving some purpose. For those believers, it is a place to have their voice heard and to share survival tips and stories and to band together. For the non-believers, it is a place to have fun and share in what they belive to be fiction tales. Hopefully, they are smart enough to take in some knowledge so that when the apocalypse begins, they won’t be the first to die.
If a close family member was infected, would you be able to kill them?
Sitting here now, I can say yes. But when it comes down to it, looking a family member in the eye and having to kill them in another story. I hope it never comes to that.
Is the traditional method of killing a zombie still the same, destroy the brain?
That is still the fail safe way to kill them.
What celebrity zombie did you like better, Bub the zombie from Day of the Dead or Tarman from Return of the Living Dead?
To find out more on the current zombie outbreak, go to www.lostzombies.com!
SHU-IZMZ had a chance to contact and interview Aaron Hortman – Owner/Editor/Writer of GRIND ON!! Magazine! GRIND ON!! Magazine is a webzine that is about to publish its first magazine print issue. I felt that this website needs to branch out and start covering some bands and music that are so influenced by horror and similar genres. So what better way to start this transition then by speaking with an owner of a magazine that focuses on Grindcore and Death Metal which gets massive amounts of influence from horror films. Besides, those two genres, along with Black Metal, are my favorite styles of brutal music! So lets hear what GRIND ON!! has to say about its new magazine and horror!
Grind On!! Magazine used to be a webzine. Tell me how the change of format came about and why?
Well, since I initially started GRIND ON!!, I had wanted it to be a magazine. But I decided to give it a little time to get more known, sort of get my feet wet so to say. After a while, I just figured it was time, man. My good friend Tony from Brutal Disorder Logos agreed to help out with the layout, and I got in contact with Taker, an acquaintance of mine who had done a zine in the past. He offered to help out with some writing to lighten the load. My wife offered to take care of inventory and financial stuff, which is great because when it comes to math, I can’t count the number of corners on a circle. It took a little time to build up to this next step, but now we are getting ready to release our first issue!
How long has Grind on!! been around, in either format?
It’s only a year old, man. It’s hard to believe that it’s only been such a short amount of time. In just 12 months, I’ve been able to work with some of my favorite bands, and make shitloads of great friends.
What prompted you to start up a webzine dedicated to grindcore and death metal?
I fucking love the music, man. It’s been a part of me for quite some time now, and it always will be. I just wanted a chance to help out with the scene, and work with some bands that I have admired for years, and to support underground bands that kick ass that no one really knows about. I guess, it was just about preserving the music I love. I fear that death/grind is becoming watered down sometimes, so I just want to help keep it in intact.
Does Grind on!! promote any bands or concerts? Help put on shows, that sort of thing?
Dude, I’m up to my balls in shit these days. Aside from being the creator and lead writer of GRIND ON!!, I am the president of TNDM Nashville. I’ve booked some mega fucking shows this year with some killer bands. Master, Embalmer, Cardiac Arrest, Rotten Sound, Pathology, Dead Flesh, Atrocious Abnormality, Insidious Decrepancy, and a shit ton more are ALL coming to Nashville this summer! Aside from that, I am in two projects, myself. And I am working about to start a label committed to traditional old school death metal style with also a few bands that are newer that I enjoy. And I am always up for promoting bands that I like, and doing whatever I can for them.
Are there any bands that are in your magazine that are not traditional grindcore or death metal bands?
I am willing to work with any band of the genre that I feel deserve it. I’ve worked with bands that are old school horror grind like Impetigo that I’ve always wanted to do something with, and also other bands that are extreme goregrind, grindcore, etc.. Doesn’t matter to me the style, or the genre. As long as they are a good band, and true to the music, I will help out.
Does Grind on!! support Black Metal? What are your thoughts on Black Metal?
I tend not to focus on black metal, because the magazine is really for the more death/grind side of tunes, but I do enjoy some black metal, as long as it isn’t over polished, or synth up the ass, I can listen to it, but it’s something I really have to be in the mood for. I like the old gritty, raw style of old Mayhem, Satanic Warmaster, Sargeist, Von, those sort of bands. I do enjoy working with blackened death metal bands though. Bands that are death metal but have a slight BM feel to them.
Personally, what are some of your favorite bands and albums?
Still, I think that majority of my favorites are older albums. Exhumed’s Gore Metal was a classic intertwining of death/grind/thrash that was perfect.
Then there is Impetigo’s Horror of the Zombies, one of the pinnacle horror grind albums to come out in my opinion.
Really enjoy Embalmer’s compilation of demos called There was Blood Everywhere, I find myself listening to it at least two or three times a week, haha.. Among those awesome records, anything released by Zombie Ritual, Frightmare, Blood Freak, Cardiac Arrest, Autopsy, Broken Hope, Carcass, Haemorrhage, General Surgery, Insect Warfare, Ex Dementia, Acid Witch, Fondlecorpse, Unleashed, and Repulsion are some favorites of mine, as well. There are too many that I could mention, we’d be here all day, man!
SHU-IZMZ is a website that primarily covers horror and anything to do with horror. Grindcore bands have a history of having some of the bloodiest and goriest artwork on their albums, along with brutal lyrics spanning the spectrum of themes that many horror films share as well. What bands do you think has the goriest and bloodiest artwork on their album covers?
Exhumed has some pretty intense art. I love the bloody chainsaw, the head in the microwave type shit. And I love anything dealing with zombies or cannibalism like the Impetigo covers. Though, Broken Hope’s Swamped in Gore probably had my favorite cover in relation with gore, artists like Putrid, Nev, Zornow and many others keep the gore flowing!
Does Grind On!! ever do coverage on horror films in its pages, or will it in the future if it doesn’t already?
Not really, however there is a lot of horror discussion on our online forum.. I think it would be really cool to do reviews of underground horror movies, but it hasn’t gotten to that point.. Mainly because I haven’t met the people that need their movies reviewed.
What are some of Grind On!!’s favorite horror films?
I gotta say man, I am a big fan of the first three Dead Series (Night of the Living Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Day of the Dead) films. Those movies, I have seen a thousand times at least! And I love movies like Dog Soldiers, Silver Bullet, Army of Darkness, Phantasm and House By The Cemetery. I also love the old universal horror movies. I’ve grown up on the old Dracula, Mummy and Creature films. The Wolf Man films were classics, too. I am also a sucker for anything that Alfred Hitchcock touches, the master of suspense!
Is Grind On!! going to be a monthly issue?
For the time being, it will be bi-monthly. At least until we get a better idea of how the response will be, and the time it takes to put it together. After that, who knows? It may be a monthly thing.
What is the grindcore/death metal scene like in Tennessee?
For the past few years, it has been a little stagnant in the Nashville area, while Knoxville and Chattanooga’s scenes are on the rise. That’s why I started TNDM Nashville. There are more local bands popping up, and people are starting to come out and see shows once more. I’d like for Nashville to be one of the premiere death metal scenes on the east coast, but it’s much easier said than done.
What is Grind On!!’s plans for the future?
Really, just to keep putting out issues, and trying to get people as involved with the music as we are. Like I said, we’ve been working really hard on getting the GRIND ON!! Forum up, and I’ve also been planning for a GRIND ON!! Compilation cd to come out some time this year. Lots of stuff are still in the works, we just have to be patient. I think for just one year, we’ve come a long way so far. Who knows where we’ll be after two years?
What are Grind On!!’s top 10 favorite zombie flicks?
I would say Day of the Dead and Dawn of the Dead have my tie for best zombie movie ever. Other than those, I’d say the Night of the Living Dead original and 1990 Savini remake of it would be close behind, and the list would wind down with Dead Next Door, Nightmare City, Dead Alive, City of the Living Dead, Re-Animator and Tombs of the Blind Dead.
I don’t much care for Rob Zombie’s films to be honest. They rip off too many other great movies, and do a very poor job of it, too! I really didn’t like the remake, and I was pretty disappointed to hear he was remaking the sequel, Halloween, which is one of my favorite slasher films of all time. I guess if I had to say which one of his movies sucked the least, it’d be House of 1000 Corpses.
Fan of slow moving zombies or hyper-fast running zombies?
They gotta be creeping, man. The new zombies that run add more raw aggression I suppose, but they don’t have the same sense of feel and of dread that the classic walking undead has!
What is Grind-On!!’s favorite scream queen?
I’m old school, man. I think I’ll have to go with the classic Psycho scene featuring Janet Leigh’s character, Marion. I also love how in the original Night of the Living Dead, Barbra’s character was so scared she was practically comatose throughout the entire film, haha! Classic.
Does Grind On!! prefer foreign horror films or home-grown American horror films?
If I had no idea what good grindcore/death metal albums were out there and had to go out and buy 10 cds, which cds should I go by?
Well, for me.. I would say that no death/grindcore fan should be without Impetigo’s Horror of the Zombies, Repulsion’s Horrified, Exhumed’s Gore Metal, Frightmare’s Bringing Back the Blood Shed, Embalmer’s There Was Blood Everywhere, Carcass’ Symphonies of Sickness and Reek of Putrefaction albums, and last but not least, Immolation’s Dawn of Possession. All of those albums complete classics that no one can deny! And the last album that belongs on the list would be one of my personal favorite albums of all time, which is Zombie Ritual’s Night of the Zombie Party. Amazing punk/grind. Gotta love them!
Thanks for your time, Grind On!!
Fuck yeah, dude. Thanks for the great interview. Buy our magazine, and GRIND THE FUCK ON!!!!!!
(Ed. Note: All the bands mentioned in this interview were linked! Click on the links to find more info on each band! They are brutal bands and will slay you! -shu)
I just saw “The Joe Spinell Story (2001)” that was included in the extra features section of Maniac.That documentary was one of the best I have ever seen, especially for being the added part of a film. How long were you working on that?
If I recall we were working on The Joe Spinell Story for about a year. Bill Lustig and I talked about it when I first moved out to LA to edit The Wicker Man Enigma. I suggested a basic making-of Maniac and he thought it would be more interesting to do something on Joe. The more he told me about Joe’s life and career the more I thought it would make a fascinating doc. Bill gave me a lot of freedom to shoot whoever I could get. And Luke Walter, Joe’s best friend and partner in crime, brought a bunch of the subjects in too. Bill and Luke and people like Robert Forster had a mine of stills and footage which really helped. And then there was that Spielberg footage which my girlfriend at the time who worked at the academy of motion picture arts and sciences helped me track down. Joe Live At The Dive. Stuff like that really made the show I think. Not to mention the fact that this guy was a very unique character who was truly adored by a lot of people.
Did you interview everyone personally?
On Joe Spinell I interviewed everyone personally except Jason Miller who died days after the interview was shot. On some projects the interviews are conducted by other interviewers, on occasions where it’s in another territory that it doesn’t make sense for me to be there. Or if it’s in a foreign language, sometimes I’ll be there but will have a native ask my questions.
How do you go about finding all the people you need to make the documentary as thorough as it needs to be?
The most time consuming part of the process is tracking down the talent, getting them to agree to participate, then finding an appropriate time to do the interview. That’s why I can be working on something like The Joe Spinell Story for a year or in some cases longer. But I’m always working on several projects at the same time so it’s not like I’m waiting around for the interviews to take place.
Have you ever started a project that you had to abandon because you just couldn’t get the interviews or the information vital to making the doc a success?
This has happened on occasion such as when we were in talks with Sir Alec Guiness’ manager about getting him to talk about the Ealing comedies and it looked like we may be able to make it happen, then he passed away, which was a huge bummer. If we get approached to do a featurette on a given film we can usually find an interesting angle to explore so even if the director is no longer with us or the actors decline an interview, there’s always something that can be done. A good example of this was the Pino Donaggio featurette we did for the UK edition of Don’t Look Now even though you could argue that of all his scores Don’t Look Now is not particularly memorable. We got no response from Julie Christie or Donald Sutherland and we’d already shot Nic Roeg for a previous release so we ventured to Venice and shot Pino in his studio. That featurette turned out beautifully. We got him playing the piano theme, talking about how the gig led him to his long collaboration with De Palma and also plenty of footage of studio on the canal in Venice — very appropriate for Don’t Look Now.
With over 90 films and docs directed, around 50 films produced, in only the past 9 years or so, do you find yourself so busy that you have no time to just, say, watch movies?
I definitely watch fewer movies now than I used to, it’s true. But I still find myself the time to seek out interesting stuff. Just watched Deadgirl the other day which I thought was a very original approach to the tired zombie genre.
What was one of the strangest things to happen when researching and interviewing for one of your documentaries?
I can’t think of anything that would qualify as strange necessarily but there are no end of cool stories associated with the wide variety of people I’ve interviewed such as the fact that Franco Prosperi has a fossilized triceratops egg on a plinth in his garden or (Texas Chainsaw Massacre art director) Bob Burns’ house was not dissimilar to Dr. Jacoby’s in Twin Peaks complete with Hawaiian mural by his bed or one particular prima donna actress who welcomed us all in a fit of rage and proceeded to throw jewelry at her hired help etc. One of my favorite situations happened recently on the UK DVD of Polanski’s What? that we put out on Severin.
I had always wanted to know what happened to composer Claudio Gizzi who did two of my absolute favorite eurocult soundtracks Flesh For Frankenstein and Blood For Dracula. These along with What? and a couple of films for Visconti were his only film credits then nothing after 1973 except a one off electronic Kraftwerk-esque pop album called Automat. I assumed he was dead as whenever I asked about him in Italy no one knew of his whereabouts.
Anyway, What? came up and I asked our Italian coordinator to make one last effort to find out if he was still around. And lo and behold he tracked him down (with the illegal help of a friend in a government office!). Gizzi was happy to participate and in fact delighted that we knew of his work. He played the Dracula theme on an old piano, did a great interview, then asked what else I was up to. I told him I was in post on Plague Town. He asked to see it. I sent him a rough cut. He thought it was beautiful and haunting, so much so that he sent me a beautiful piano theme to use in the movie! Fucking awesome.
Of all the documentaries you have directed and produced, which were 3 of your favorites to make and why?
Again, another fascinating subject that very little had been written or filmed from the perspective of the filmmakers. There was a huge amount of material that was critical and full of assumptions but nothing that really considered what these guys were trying to do and what they accomplished. So to find out that these guys were not only dedicated filmmakers but also articulate, well-read, not to mention very colorful characters made for an intriguing documentary. And oldies like Joe Spinell and Texas Chain Saw are up there too.
Was it harder to make a documentary or to direct your film Plague Town?
It was definitely harder to make Plague Town. Particularly as we had limited means, I insisted on shooting on film, it was all nights in the Connecticut fall, the locations were spread all over the state, we had many children on set on many nights and there were an absurd amount of practical effects. But with all that said, it was an amazing experience that I want to do again…with even more hurdles.
David Gregory on set of Plague Town (left pic)
What inspired you to make Plague Town?
I’d always wanted to do narrative film but got willingly sidetracked with all the doc work and DVD releasing I was doing with Blue Underground, Anchor Bay, Dark Sky etc. I actually wrote a short film which never got made back in 2000 which is essentially the mid-section of Plague Town. Together with John Cregan, with whom I was working on the docs, we expanded it into a feature, then a few years of negotiation later we were off and running with Dark Sky Films. I hadn’t directed narrative since my thesis film Scathed in ‘95, which will be on the Plague Town BluRay.
At the time we wrote it there hadn’t been many, if any, killer kids flicks in years and there also hadn’t been that many lost in the rural flicks for a while either. Then bang! House of 1000 Corpses opens the floodgates for a million of the latter and in the last couple of years there’s been a fair few examples of the former too. But I was consciously trying to play off the clichés of these formulas so I think Plague Town still has a unique quality to it. Prior to writing Plague Town, the scripts I had written were a little more esoteric but still with elements of horror and I’d had no joy in getting any of them produced. So with Plague Town I wanted to do an outright horror film: an effort to combine the building of a thick, brooding atmosphere of dread, some original and bloody kills and a smattering of gallows humor.
David Gregory on set of Plague Town
Can you tell me a little bit about Plague Town….
It’s about a bickering family who get lost in the cold, wet countryside in the vicinity of a town of homicidal, deformed children. It’s been erroneously reported as being a zombie film but these kids are very much alive, and they like to play very brutal games. I tried to make it hauntingly beautiful like the Italian films of the late 70s/80s as opposed to the more grungy horror of the US in the 70s, as well as spend a lot of time building character and atmosphere which is certainly where the line between the admirers and the detractors seems to be drawn.
In addition I wanted to build a disturbing atmosphere before the mayhem really begins in earnest (with the exception of the first scene where we kill a priest in a rather nasty way). Also I wanted to take a bit of time to introduce our characters in a way that makes them recognizable if not necessarily likable. People often say that characters need to be likable in order for you to root for them in a horror film but that’s often not the case. Look at Marion Crane in Psycho, thief. Or the gang in the van in Texas Chainsaw. Or Jack Torrence. Now, obviously I’m not putting Plague Town in the same league as these giants but it illustrates the fact that as long as you can relate to the characters as people then the horror that befalls them can work. Anyway, whether you agree with this theory or not there’s plenty of gruesomeness for all to enjoy. There’s one particularly sweet kill which on several occasions at screenings has elicited a startled gasp in the audience followed by applause. That’s nice.
If there are any films that you really would like to do a documentary on, in the future, what would they be and for what reasons would you like to do them?
A doc about the shooting of Blood For Dracula and Flesh For Frankenstein would be fascinating too as there’s so much mythology surrounding the making of those films. And quite a cast of characters: Morrissey, Kier, Dallesandro, Rambaldi, Casini, Braunsberg, Gizzi…it would be amazing. But Image owns them and they’re not that keen on doing featurettes. Fire Walk With Me should be done properly because the featurette on the last release is one of the worst I’ve ever seen. The director tried to be clever by making it all weird but only evidenced a complete lack of understanding of the film and Lynch. Insulting and annoying. The Tenant is one of my favorites and really deserves the special edition treatment. Got commissioned to do one on Bitter Moon, another favorite of mine, but no one would participate except Peter Coyote. Everyone else was embarrassed of the film or something. Not Coyote, because he’s fucking badass in that movie! Shivers, Rabid and The Brood could use decent featurettes too.
When did you first start to get involved with making documentaries for films?
When my business partner Carl Daft and I started Blue Underground in ’97 we wanted to include little extras on our UK vhs releases of cult film like Deathdream, The Child, Roadkill etc. So we took a camcorder and shot interviews with anyone we could get. When the ban on Texas Chain Saw Massacre was finally lifted that same year we thought we’d capitalize on it so we made a feature length doc called The Shocking Truth. On the back of that I was asked by Bill Lustig to do the Wicker Man. The powers that be at Anchor Bay liked what I’d done so I became their in-house ‘making of’ dude. 150 or so featurettes and countless commentaries later, here we are.
What was your first horror/exploitation film experience in the movie theaters?
Actually unlike you lucky Americans we were not able to see horror movies in the theater in England until we hit 18 or at least looked it. All my early horror viewing came through TV and more importantly home video. I think I was 8 or 9 when we got the family Betamax early on in the video era. When we joined the local video store it was like Aladdin’s cave with all the delights on offer. I had a couple of horror books by Dennis Gifford and Alan Frank and wanted to see every film in there and watched on one of the three UK TV channels every time any film vaguely horror aired. But what was cool about the video store was that there were all these movies that weren’t in the books. A whole new world! The garish imagery on the big vhs boxes had me salivating and I rented every one of these crazy films from Italy, Spain, the US that I could. Then the nasties scandal happened a year or two later and it was all taken away from me. But then the horror collectors black market emerged and it became an illicit underground community working against the law to see the films we loved in 9th generation bootleg versions. Didn’t matter as long as it was uncut.
Into the Dark: Exploring the Horror Films (2009): You are the production consultant for this documentary. There are quite a few ledendary horror icons featured in this documentary coming out on Blaze Films. How did you feel about the production of this film, one you did not personally oversee every aspect of, not being the producer or director?
I’m not really involved. I’d be surprised if they keep my name on it in the final film.
About how much research goes into making a documentary on a film before you contact those involved with the film for questions and interviews?
Depends on the project but we try to learn as much about the production background and the careers of the individuals involved as we can so we’re informed before doing a given interview.
Can you tell me a little bit about how making the Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Shocking Truth went?
It was definitely one of the best filmmaking experiences I’ve had. Just driving round Texas with a couple of buddies and a camcorder was cool enough in and of itself. But every single person was just such a character. And mostly not really film people so they were all very welcoming and giving of their stories and time. Genuinely friendly Texas folk. I loved it. And TCM is certainly one of the finest films ever made so that helped too.
Do you find it hard for actors and those involved in the movies you are researching to remember films that were made more than 20 years ago and details of their involvement in each film?
Sometimes. But most often if they’ve agreed to participate then they have something to say. I’ve had the occasional difficulty with some of the older Italian writers and the occasional British actor for a simple reason: the work they were doing was like factory work. They went to the factory in the morning, did a day’s work, then went home at night. There was no passion or artistry in some cases, it was just a job. But this scenario is pretty rare and we’re quite good at spotting it before we commit to an on-camera.
The Spaghetti West (2005): Summarized as...A Visual history of Italian Western Cinema in the 60s and 70s.
How incredible was it to interview and talk with Ferdinando Baldi, Enzo G. Castellari, Alex Cox, Sergio Donati, Clint Eastwood, Ennio Morricone, Franco Nero???? I mean, some of the films these people made, directed, wrote, and starred in are complete legendary classics in cinema. Were you star-struck? Did you ever just freeze up? How do you feel as you are making the documentaries and talking to such fascinating and influential film-makers?
Actually Eastwood and Morricone were archive interviews so I didn’t get to interview them. Spaghetti West was a great experience though because it was a stand alone doc for IFC as opposed to something accompanying a film on DVD. So I got to tell the story of an entire genre from beginning to end. Very proud of that one. And yes, getting to meet all these masters of cinema is amazing. I actually got over the star-struck factor quite early on when I was assigned to interview a childhood hero of mine and he turned out to be not such a pleasant fellow. From then on, I’ve been able to not look at them as icons but as artists hopefully with something to say. Rarely had unpleasant people since, including that hero, who I subsequently interviewed a few times.
Personally, what types of films do you prefer to film documentaries on, is it horror, exploitation, sci-fi, cult, etc…?
It’s usually better if it’s a film I’m passionate about. And I’m lucky in that respect because I’m passionate about a lot of films. There are exceptions. Manhunter’s shit, for example.
David Gregory (left) with Wes Craven
Now, tell me if I am wrong, but I read that another inferior website to SHU-IZMZ dubbed Severin Films the Criterion of smut….or something to that effect. Criterion Collection films have a history of putting out some excellent dvds loaded with bonuses and extra features. Do you take this comment as a blow to Severin Films or as a compliment?
Actually we dubbed ourselves the Criterion of smut in our first press release, John Cregan, the Plague Town co-writer and mine and Carl’s other Severin partner, to be precise. He said something along the lines of “sure, right now we like to think of ourselves as the Criterion of Smut, but in a couple of years Criterion will be The Severin of Pretension.”
When we started out we concentrated mainly on lost euro softcore because it seemed like the least exploited area of exploitation on DVD. But as the months went by various horror, action and art films have come our way so we’re given them the special treatment too. As long as we like it, we’ll do it.
For example, I’m very happy we’re doing The Hairdresser’s Husband next month, an arthouse fave of mine. And that follows this month’s release of The Sinful Dwarf and then the month after that it’s Nightmare Castle, then Fulci’s last film Door Into Silence, then two Castellari classics Inglorious Bastards on Blu Ray and the amazing Eagles Over London. So there’s no boundaries for Severin. Just cool movies that need to be treated on DVD as if they were Citizen Kane.
What was your background? You grew up in the U.K., correct?
Yep. Went to film school in Boston. Moved back to England. Started Blue Underground. Made Shocking Truth. Moved to LA. Worked with Anchor Bay, Blue Underground US, Dark Sky and others. Formed Severin Films.
director Mario Caiano
Carl Daft and I started Blue Underground in the UK. When I went to work for Bill Lustig in the US producing docs he needed to form a company as a production company for the docs. He wanted to call the company Blue Underground so as to avoid confusion between the docs I was producing in England and the ones I was producing here. Then when he started his own label with me as one of his main employees he liked the name so much that he asked if he could use it for the label. I agreed. I worked with Bill from the inception of Blue Underground in I think 2001 to 2006 when Carl, John Cregan and I formed Severin Films. I’m very proud of the work that we did during that time wherein I made a shedload of docs and was one of the producers on amazing, sometimes impossible projects like The Mondo Cane Collection, Salon Kitty, Bad Boy Bubby etc. etc.
From our conversation back at FangoCon in Chicago, you told me that you now are residing in L.A. and like it. Do you miss the weather back in the U.K.?
The only think I miss about the UK is curry and the pub. I go over there a couple of times a year. See my sister and friends for a few days then I’m good for another 6-9 months.
Well, this interview has been a blast and one of the most informative I have ever had the pleasure of doing. I thank you for your time and your thoughts.
Thanks for giving SHU-IZMZ your time!
SHU-IZMZ has already reviewed The Sinful Dwarf, courtesy of Severin Films, and plans to review many more films put out by Severin Films. Keep checking out the website for future reviews of cult films, along with all things horror!