Monday, November 30, 2009

New Horror Out On DVD This Week, sort of including "Silent Night, Deadly Night"

Well folks, here we are... the last day of November, mere hours before we enter the last month of 2009 and less than 3 weeks until "Avatar" comes out. At the box office, "New Moon" continued to dominate, pulling in another $42Million, boosting it's grand total take to over $230Million. "Old Dogs" came in 4th, with a take of over $16Million and "Ninja Assassin" came in 6th, with a take of just over $13Million. "The Road", which I did NOT get to go see, but really wanted to, came in at 11th... but it was in extremely limited release, only coming out on 111 screens. The good news? It DID have the highest average, per theater, take... at $13,721, which is really cool. Reviews have been great and I do hope to check it out soon. As for what's coming out on DVD tomorrow, well... you can check out all the trailers on our Youtube Page, which you can find by clicking here, and you can click on the titles to go to their page on Amazon, where you can read more and/or buy them... otherwise, read on.

I put up "Silent Night, Deadly Night" because Amazon was promoting a box set of all of them, but I just saw that it's been "discontinued by the manufacturer". So, the title links to the latest rerelease of the original... and I put it up because, well... it's December tomorrow and "Silent Night, Deadly Night" is probably the best Christmas horror of all time. Check out the trailer on our Youtube Page and tell me that it doesn't make you want to check it out again... I dare you. "You made it through Halloween... Now try to survive Christmas".

For all you Ash fans, it looks like there's yet another rerelease of "The Evil Dead". I'm not sure what the reason for this particular rerelease is, but it was a great excuse to watch the original trailer again. Do yourself a favor and go check it out on our Youtube Page. That trailer makes me want to go shoot something... "Evil Dead" was really the birth of indie horror. Bless this film.

I couldn't find the trailer for "Little Red Devil", but it's a shot on HD, indie horror from Tommy Brunswick, the guy who brought you "Biker Zombies", "They Must Eat" and various other indie horror films. This stars James Russo and Daniel Baldwin and it looks like the story revolves around a guy that's in a dead-end life, where he's searching for his long lost girlfriend... when he makes a deal with the devil and becomes an unholy servant in a deadly game of evil revenge.

"Deadline" stars Brittany Murphy and she plays a screenwriter that's recovering from a psychological breakdown at a remote Victorian house. Her deadline for the script is approaching, but... the place is haunted and she finds some disturbing videotapes in the attic. Really? Yawn...

"Deader Country" is the sequel to "Dead Country", from Andrew Merkelbach. We discussed the first film with Andrew and you can check out the interview here, if you'd like. In any case, he's back... and he promises more zombies, naked nymphs, aliens, animated cats, warlocks, cyborgs, strange hybrid creatures, nude vixens and ghostly apparitions. Once again, he's got it all covered.

I've gotta say, "Poker Run" actually looks pretty good... It's from Julian Higgins and it looks like "Saw" meets biker exploitation. Basically, a couple of weekend bikers are thrown into a warped world of violence, where they're forced to follow a series of bizarre clues that include doing some crazy, psychopathic tasks, after their wives are kidnapped by a pair of psycho bikers.

"Hair Extensions" is one of those films that could only come from Asia... and I mean that in a "I wish I could see more films like this" way. So, this guy makes wigs and hair extensions from the hair of dead girls and, of course, the extensions carry the grudges of the original owners and can attack people at random. It won the Horror Jury Prize for Best Film at the Austin Fantastic Fest.

I couldn't find the trailer for "Sins of The Father", but it's from Brain Damage and it's about a guy that returns home to uncover the truth about his family's murder.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Black Friday, The Weekend in Movies and a couple of press releases...

Well, it's Black Friday... the biggest shopping day of the year. The only thing that I'm wondering is, what are people buying? Like, we've had the year of the HDTV, we've had the year of the gaming console, people are always buying surround sounds systems, computers, camera's... but what's going to be big this year? Personally, I think gaming is going to be big again... the early adopters all own consoles and so do most casual gamers. However, now the late adopters and the masses are getting into them, as the consoles have really taken ownership of the "media center" space and, believe it or not, I think that's good news for the DVD and home entertainment industry. The studios and distributors just have to figure out how to get their content in there. Netflix appears to be blazing the trail, at this point, but watch out for companies like Sony to change the game. In any case, I'm not buying anything today... I'm waiting. Now, taking a quick look at what's in the theaters, it's a fairly weak weekend. "Old Dogs" and "Ninja Assassin" are the two big releases and, sorry... I'm never going to see "Old Dogs" and "Ninja Assassin", the Wachowski Bros produced ("Matrix") and James McTeigue directed ("V for Vendetta") 80's throwback doesn't look theater worthy... but I could be wrong. If you check it out, let me know what you think. I'm teetering on this one. For you artsy folks, "The Road" is getting a limited theatrical release this weekend and I really want to check it out. It's based on the 2006 novel, of the same name, by Cormac McCarthy, the guy who wrote "No Country for Old Men". It's about a father and son in a post-apocalyptic wasteland and I'm a sucker for post-apocalyptic wastelands...

Other than those ramblings, I just want to pass on a couple of press releases that I found in my inbox, both for indie horror's that we've been following. The first one is on "The Creek", an indie horror that we covered a while ago... and the second is on "The Vampires of Bloody Island", an as-of-yet to be released indie horror out of the UK. Both bits of news are interesting, for different reasons. Now, this post is going to be long, as I'm going to cut-and-paste both releases, but if you're planning a press release or are interested in how people do them, you should give them a read...

Here's the press release from "The Creek", I like the way that Erik's using free content to promote his new release... From a marketing perspective, I think this is pretty smart... check it out:

ANNUBIS PRODUCTIONS RELEASES A FREE DOWNLOAD OF THEIR AWARD-WINNING FEATURE FILM THE CREEK FOR IPHONE – THIS IS A LIMITED TIME OFFER FROM ANNUBIS PRODUCTIONS.

Lebanon, PA - As of November 24, 2009 Erik Soulliard’s award-winning feature film The Creek will be released as a free download for the iPhone for a limited time. The Creek has quickly become a cult favorite in the world of independent horror and it is now available to everyone for free. This is a complete version of the feature film. Preceding the film is the trailer for 12 Bells (www.12bellsmovie.com), Annubis Productions next project which is currently in pre-production.

This download is available through The Creek’s download page which can be reached via their website at www.thecreekmovie.com. There is no fee and no signup required. Annubis Productions has also added free iPhone ringtones that can be downloaded as well. Each ringtone features one of the many highly popular lines from the movie.

Erik Soulliard wrote and directed his feature film debut The Creek in 2006. In 2008, the film was released to all major DVD outlets through Ryko Distribution & Indie-Pictures. The Creek received Best Horror Feature at the Illinois International Film Festival 2007 and was and Official Selection at: Full Moon Film Festival, Milwaukee County Massacre Horror Convention, Atlanta Horrorfest, Spooky Movie Film Festival, Wildwood By the Sea Film Festival, Ava Gardner Film Festival. Erik runs his production company, Annubis Productions, through which he has helmed a music video, worked on a video project for the New York chapter of SMPTE, compressed web videos for McGraw-Hill and is currently working on the feature horror film 12 Bells and a documentary film for the Lebanon Mental Health Association.

Summary - On the fifth anniversary of the death of their friend Billy, six friends are forced back together by his ghost. Billy's death was officially considered an accident but old suspicions and conflicts return. When people start dying they all must ask themselves if it's his ghost, one of them, or because they returned to The Creek?


Now, here's the press release on "The Vampires of Bloody Island". I also like what they're doing here. They're making this press release very personal, which, in theory, should let the reader into their world, making the reader take virtual ownership of the project...

When we last wrote, Pamela and I were just handing over a rather delayed test copy of "The Vampires of Bloody Island" to the British Board of Film Certification for their very expensive rubber stamping, without which we can't sell a film in the UK. They returned the favour by giving us an invoice for the sort of money that could buy a small family car! OUCH!!!

In jubilant spirits, we went off for a pint to celebrate the fact that we are now, on paper anyway, Movie Industry Moguls. (Only one pint though! We're not the sort of Moguls who can afford a proper night out!)

The BBFC said they'd take about a week. By now we've learnt that everyone takes twice as long as they say to get anything done, .but a friend emailed us mentioning he was mates with a film examiner at the BBFC! Result! We had a man on the inside! Pressure would be gently applied!

Failing that, another friend was ready to whip up a crowd of 100 vampires to picket the BBFC demanding they pull their fingers out! And she would have done it too. It really would have been great publicity and we were very, very tempted. But we hardly wanted to piss off the one organisation we needed on our side right now!

We also received an email from Brendan Foley, the director of 'The Riddle' (a Vinnie Jones, Derek Jacobi film I was in a couple of years ago) suggesting we prepare several versions of the DVD cover with all possible BBFC ratings, so that when the mad panic comes we could just grab the right one and go! A handy tip! I made up different artworks with the 15 and 18 ratings and pinned copies up on my wall with glowing pride.

However, we could hardly sit back and relax. The UK is merely one country in this massive world, and due to that damned computer crash we had we were still quite some way behind on the USA & Canadian version.

The American DVD is being made in California by a company owned by Amazon. This has a few handy perks for us as Amazon really "look after their own", a great help in promoting and selling the DVD across the Atlantic!

However, on a technical note, they need the film and all the DVD extras in the American NTSC format. As yet, everything we have exists only in European PAL.
We'd always assumed that converting from PAL to NTSC would be a fairly straitforward job, but apparently it's a very slow, long winded process! All 198,500 frames of the film have to be passed through the edit suit a number of times to have the picture size, frame rate and colour intensity changed! All because of the antiquated way in which USA and European video conventions operate. Blimey! This is NOT the fun part of film making!

Because of the computer crash, we're skating uncomfortably close to the edge of our schedual in terms of a USA Christmas release. We're crossing our fingers and fangs that we don't drop too far behind schedual, but we've been advised to prepare a B-Plan to push the USA release back to January! What, and miss Christmas? We really hope it doesn't come to that!

Meanwhile, the media in both the UK and USA have been getting wind of "The Vampires of Bloody Island" and we've been getting a stream of requests for photos, details and interviews. I'm sure you've noticed there's a lot of vampire film stuff going on right now, with TWILIGHT, NEW MOON, TRUEBLOOD and THIRST all being gossiped about, so the press are quite interested in what we've got and in what way we're different.

However, the press really need to know a release date, and with the delays in both the UK and USA releases I'm still not in a possition to come up with that! Grrr Irritating!!

I sent out a press release saying the DVD would be 'out soon'. A phrase I've actually been saying for over a year and I'm as fed up hearing falling from my lips as everyone else is!

The press release was quite well received and at last count has been pasted, posted, rewritten and rehashed on over 40 horror and film websites around the world.
Ooh! No pressure on us then!!! (Google the film or Wibbell and see what you find! we're deffinitely hitting the mark!)

For the last week, while London has been buffeted by heavy rain and storms, we've been boarded up at home updating the press section on the website and dealing with the tech specs for America. Then, yesterday lunchtime, a soggy and windblown postman turned up with an equally soggy envelope, stamped with the mark of the BBFC!
Pamela and I took a corner each...
We tore open the envelope...

WHOOPEE! The British Board of Film Certification have passed The Vampires of Bloody Island with no cuts!! We're rated 15 and must include the warning "Contains strong language, sex references and sexualised nudity".

Fan-bloody-tastic!!! I immediately phoned the factory in High Wycombe who are making the UK DVD and instructed them to urgently go ahead with full manufacture and packaging of the UK "The Vampires of Bloody Island" DVD! Yay! DVDs in time for Christmas? It certainly looks that way!

Let's hope we can also make a similar phone call to California very soon!

Next time we write we should be standing in a warehouse full of "The Vampires of Bloody Island" DVDs. Do excuse us, we might be giggling a lot!

Put the Champagne on ice people! We'll write again soon!

Allin Kempthorne and Pamela Kempthorne: Producers, stars and cheque-writers of "The Vampires of Bloody Island" Oh, PS. Please please please do tell your friends about the journey we're on and "The Vampires of Bloody Island". Forwarding them a copy of this would be a good start, and tell them to join the mailing list at http://www.wibbell.co.uk/ or our facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Vampires-of-Bloody-Island/109759167900

We'll make sure that everyone on this list gets the DVD for a special price, and we've got a few other special offers in mind too!

Press resources are at www.wibbell.co.uk/vampire_press.html

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Interview with Brian Wimer, the writer/director of "Mantra" and "Eat Me: The Musical"

Considering that 75% of you are taking the next two days off, this could be my last post of the week... maybe. Well, I may just go through my inbox and pass some stuff on to you on Friday. We'll see, stay tuned...

In any case, we're going to take you in to the holidays with one of the better interviews that we've done in a while. It's with Brian Wimer, the writer and director of the yet-to-be-released, "Mantra". It screened at a few festals, it won a few awards and you'll probably be seeing it on store shelves and on Amazon soon enough. As for the film, it's an indie horror... obviously. We wouldn't be covering it, if it wasn't. However, I've gotta say, it's a different kind of indie horror. The production value is fantastic and it's got a great look and feel, but so do a lot of films... in fact, you better have a great look and feel if you want to compete in this market. What makes "Mantra" stand out is that it truly is a unique voice in the genre... it's highly stylized, it's psychedelic and it revolves around Buddhist themes... and it has a naked blue girl with great breasts in it.

Personally, I think that the indie world is about having an independent voice and being able to do unique and daring things. Hollywood is not. Hollywood is about groups of people trying to emulate each other for market share. To succeed in the indie world, I would urge you to write about unique characters, new stories and intriguing situations... do things that haven't been done or tell stories that people are too afraid to tell. Push that envelope. Brian Wimer does all of that in "Mantra", plus some... and, lucky for you, he offers up a very entertaining and informative interview about it here. It's a great read. Enjoy... and have a great holidays!

Tell us a bit about “Mantra”

Mantra is a Buddhist horror film. (Yes, Buddhist.) Buddhism is largely a meditation on desire and suffering. So are horror films. The marketing pitch is: ten minutes of nudity, twenty pints of blood, Four Noble Truths.

Six strangers on a spiritual retreat find themselves hunted by their lives’ transgressions. No one saves them. The story was inspired by my experiences studying “bardo” death-state meditations with monks in Dharmsala, India.

It’s all very psychedelic. Nude, six armed, blue goddesses. Death state trance tunnels. And a woman giving birth to herself. Carl Jung would have had a field day with this film.

If you don’t mind us asking, what was the budget and how did you go about securing financing?

Let’s just say the budget was below $100k. A lot of it was out of pocket (mine). Some was secured through what I like to call “Enlightened Micro-Financing”– small good-karma investments with no guaranteed returns.

One thing that really stood out for me about the film was the acting. Talk a bit about the casting process and your directing style.

Method Acting … or manufactured authenticity. Subjecting my cast to hypothermia, malnutrition and sleep deprivation at a shadowy, deserted sleepaway camp helped me conjure up those rare, raw performances. The trembling, goose-bumped, wide-eyed freaky stuff - all 100% real. (So are the pig brains.) We edited out the part where my nude, freezing, blood-soaked actresses started screaming obscenities at me.

The only significant casting obstacle was Kali, the naked blue goddess. After failing to persuade several actress to do full nudity – I trucked on down to Richmond’s adults-only Club Velvet and was treated to a dare-we-say inspiring audition by the beautiful, talented Lara Blake.

The other thing that really stood out for me was the location. Did you write “Mantra” with this location in mind or did you find the location after writing it?

Fall Appalachian foliage and the perfect 70’s Y-camp atmosphere basically landed in our laps (exactly as it was written). Bunk beds. Graffiti. We named it Camp Waywayanda – which is the actual name of a place in the Poconos I went as a kid. Coincidentally, I was there just one week before shooting, “journeying” with a Peruvian shaman while vomiting bitter, green ayahuaska in a plastic bucket. Quite inspiring.

Tell us a bit about yourself. What are your influences and what got you into indie film?

I studied Drama at Yale alongside Ed Norton and (briefly) Jennifer Connelly. Ended up in advertising, writing for Taco Bell Chihuahua commercials. Worked on two indies in NY. Then launched my own studio Amoeba Films, which went on to win a shelf-full of indie film awards. Low-budget, guerilla shorts. But always good writing. Eat Me: The Musical was the first feature-length endeavor. Mantra was Amoeba stretching its artistic legs … and licenses. Influences? Everything from Dario Argento to Tobe Hooper to Russ Meyers (still carry a Faster Pussycat Kill Kill lunchbox). And I did a lot of Bertolt Brecht in college, so I’m comfortable alienating audiences.

Film school: Yes or No?

Nope. Learned it all on set and in front of the computer – especially compositing. Mantra has numerous visual effects adding up to quite a bit of eye candy. Much of it owes to an old copy of Tom Savini’s gore makeup bible Grande Illusions, which I’ve kept since I was a teenager. The rest is Final Cut Pro, Motion and After Effects.

Did you enter the film in to any festivals? If so, how did it do? What are your thoughts on the indie horror festival circuit?

Mantra won Best Feature Film at the Fright Night in Kentucky and Best Soundtrack at Dark Carnival in Indiana. The circuit’s a trip – meeting the original Leatherface and multiple Jasons. Linda Blair took a copy of Mantra – which I assured her was: “about the gore level of childbirth.” The highlight was Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes) tracking us down and taking his hat off to my cinematographer Sallah Baloch.

The press has been fantastic. The Denver Daily News called it: “Scary yet thought-provoking … Defiantly different from anything else on the horror market.” The Richmond Times-Dispatch said Mantra was: “A new genre of art-house horror.” Another critic even went so far as to say it was, beyond the breasts and gore, “As horrific an art film as I've seen, and as artful a horror film as I've seen.”

Talk about distribution. What lessons have you learned and if you could pass on any words of advice to other indie filmmakers, what would that be?

We’ve been approached by three distributors (and I’m not at liberty yet to talk details, since nothing’s been signed). My advice: be wary. I know a few people who penned deals and haven’t seen a penny. Just because you’re on the shelves in Best Buy doesn’t mean you can quit your day job. I’m a big believer in the “Long Tail” of self-distribution – because I come from a marketing background. Create Space and Film Baby will one day be the bread and butter of all indie filmmakers.

Talk about the indie horror scene. Where do you think it is now and where do you see it going?

Mantra was made as the antidote to the current trend of “torture porn.” Why are we so attached to desire and suffering? When the Denver Daily News called Mantra: “A thinking person’s horror film,” I nearly jumped out of my skin. They actually got it. Like Cronenberg’s Crash, Mantra gets at the psychology behind horror. And it provides an answer.

I wrote Mantra to be a graphic, mind-altering meditation on desire, delusion, death and the origins of suffering – resolving in rebirth and redemption. To my mind, that would be a first for a horror flick. As I look at our projects in development, it won’t be the last.

We also had the chance to check out another one of your films, “Eat Me: A Zombie Musical”. Tell us a bit about that project.

Eat Me is an epic collaboration of hallucinogenic creativity between Amoeba Films and absurdist rockers The Falsies. An interactive rock odyssey, it straddles somewhere between Tommy and Rocky Horror. There’s no definition for it. A French critic tried to nail it down to a “cinemusical experience.” Satanic chickens, Buddhists dogs, preppy Scientologists and demonic dominatrixes with cameos by Jesus, Xenu, Mussolini, an entourage of redneck cannibals … and zombies. “Eat Me has the good taste not to be appealing to everyone.” - Gotta love the French.

Where can people find out more about “Mantra” and “Eat Me” or, better yet, buy copies?

Mantra info and DVDs:
MantraMovieSite.com
also on Facebook: Mantra Movie

Eat Me info and DVDs:
EatMeMovie.com
also on Facebook: EatMe TheMusical

What’s next for you?

We’re now shooting Dombie, a dominatrix zombie movie (it’s got a spiritual twist to it, as well). We’re also in development of Eat Me Too: Karmageddon. A lesbian vampire flick Menstrula. And a full-frontal skinny dipping co-eds monster movie: Beaver. Meanwhile, we’re taking Mantra and Eat Me on a European festival tour. Let’s see what those foreign minds make of all the madness.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

New Horror Out On DVD This Week: News On Twilight AND Slaughtered Vomit Dolls

Well, all the box office numbers for "Twilight: New Moon" are rolling in and it looks like it had the third highest opening weekend of all time, right behind "The Dark Knight" and "Spiderman 3", grossing over $142Million. What I find particularly interesting about the "Twilight" films is, they don't really have huge budgets... "New Moon" had a budget of $50Million and the original one had a budget of only $37Million, which means that Summit is really doing something right here... having said that, the marketing budgets for both of them must have eclipsed the production budgets. In any case, I was listening to some commentary on the "Twilight" series, where they were breaking down the make-up of the film and going through why it's so successful... it was pretty interesting. Like, how they're pushing the envelope on how cute and cuddly vampires can get and the way they designed the love triangle. It really is horror lite, mixed with the love story from "Titanic". In any case, we rarely delve into horror lite here... in fact, this week is not one for the mainstream crowd. As usual, you can click on the titles and go to each films page on Amazon, where you can read more and/or buy it... and you can go to our Youtube page, where you can see all the trailers... just click on that link.

Okay, well... just because it rules, I have to start with the rerelease of "The Monster Squad". This is the 20th Anniversary Edition and it's out on Blu-ray. Quite honestly, I can't believe it's been 20 years since this came out. Actually, it's been almost 22 years, as it came out in the summer of 1987. To be honest, I'm not sure how it did theatrically... it was no "Goonies" or anything, but it did inform us that Wolfman, in fact, did have nards and that's invaluable knowledge. The film gained a big following when it came out on VHS and there are definitely a lot of life-long fans of the film and it's great to see it come out... again. If you haven't seen it in a while, it's probably worth it.

I'm pretty sure that Dead Harvey is the only site that can manage to mention "Twilight" and "Slaughtered Vomit Dolls" in the same sentence, but here it goes... if you're looking for the complete opposite of the horror lite that is "Twilight", let me direct your attention to Lucifer Valentine's "Slaughtered Vomit Dolls". The film does it's best to answer the question, how deranged, demented and depraved can one person's existence be? Personally, I don't know the answer. However, I do know that the trailer is barely watchable... it wasn't the nudity (there was a lot and the film apparently gets very porn-like) or the blood and gore (in fact, that looked pretty good)... it was the vomiting. Lots and lots of vomiting. Go over to our Youtube page and check it out. Let me know what you think. Is this too much? Anyone seen this?

"The Witches Hammer" actually came out a few years back... it's a low-budget British film that's been gaining a bit of cult status. It first screened at Cannes on May 22, 2006 and then had its theatrical debut in Japan on December 22, 2006. The film also received a nomination for "Best Feature Film" at the 2008 Swansea Film Festival. As for the plot, it's sort of like "La Femme Nikita", but with vampires. After being bitten by a vampire, she's brought back from the brink of death by a secret government agency called Project 571 and trained to be a vampire assassin. I love the low-budget CG effects...

I've covered "Philosophy of a Knife" before, I think. It's about the true history of Japanese Unit 731, from its beginnings in the 1930's to its demise in 1945. The film is actually more of a documentary than a fiction piece, but it's a cool film, regardless. Unit 731 basically used humans as guinea pigs in an array of useless experiments... many of which they give snippets in, in the trailer. The story is told from the perspectives of a nurse who witnesses the horrors and a doctor who's falling in love with an imprisoned Russian girl.

If you're in to the CGI and animation heavy Asian films... or if you're into films that are adapted from manga and anime... or you're into films that are so out there that even Asians don't like them, I bring you "Devilman". It is adapted from an old anime and manga series that originally came out in the 70's. The series spawned video games, novels, music, lunch boxes, tv series', etc, etc... it was big. REAL big. Then, in October of 2004, they released this very film, directed by Hiroyuki Nasu, and... it was universally hated in Japan, even by the hard-core Devilman fans. It then went on to win the Grand Prize in Japan's Bunshun Kiichigo Awards (the Japanese version of the Razzie Awards, which are given to the worst movie of the year). Now, here it is, for North American audiences...

"La Hacienda" isn't actually a Spanish film, although it deals with Spanish... horror-like ghosts and stuff. Not sure why I had to mention that, but it is in English and it's currently not available and is out of stock on Amazon, which leads me to believe that there is no stock. I've got the trailer up AND you can click on that link to it on Amazon to see if it is, in fact, now available.

I couldn't find a trailer for "This Hollow Sacrament" on Youtube and that's a bit of a pet-peeve for me. For me, there's a bare minimum that you have to do to market your film and putting your trailer up, so that people can share it and embed it is one of those minimums. How long does that take? A minute? Anyhow, in silent protest, I'll just cut and paste the description from Amazon... Based on true events, the story revolves around the murder of four young women in Northern California in the late 1990s and the subsequent criminal investigation. The film follows the story of a tortured ex-soldier, now police detective, as he and his partner attempt to track down a bizarre series of disappearances, and the brutal slaying of the young women.

Friday, November 20, 2009

"Twilight", "Bad Lieutenant" or "Driller Killer"? Hmmm.... what to see this weekend.

So, any big movies coming out this weekend? I can't think of anything of note... Maybe you're going to see that new Sandra Bullock film, "The Blind Side"? No? "Planet 51"? Okay... I'll acknowledge the elephant in the room - "Twilight: New Moon" comes out today and, really, no joke, I think it's a good thing for the horror genre. I do. Sure, it's PG-13. Sure, it's a romance. Sure, it's for kids. However, it does have werewolves and vampires in it. I say that's it's good for the genre because "Twilight" may act as a gateway film for these kids... weed can lead to coke and "Twilight" could lead to f'ed up, unrated slasher flicks. Also, on a more believable note, it keeps the viability of horror characters alive. If werewolves and vampires can make money in these films, they should be able to make money in other films. Right? Regardless, I did see the first one and I'll probably see this one, but I won't be rushing out or waiting in line or anything. If I do hit the theaters this weekend, it'll be to see "Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans". Two reasons, I like Nicolas Cage and I've heard it's one of his best performances in years AND because the film garnered one of the best comments of the year when Abel Ferrara, director of 1992's "Bad Lieutenant", said, "As far as remakes go... I wish these people die in Hell. I hope they're all in the same streetcar and it blows up". So, go check out this Nic Cage version, then do Ferrara a favor and rent "The Driller Killer" and the original "Bad Lieutenant"... both ARE classics.

So, to take you in to the weekend, I've come across a few other things that I wanted to share...

First off, as you know, a lot of filmmakers think of the theatrical release as the pinnacle of filmmaking and we urge people to think of alternative distribution methods. Sometimes I feel like writing a book about all the different things that I've come across, but... well, I'm not really a success story, so who would care? Regardless, now I don't have to write the book because someone else has... and that someone is Jon Reiss. He wrote a book called "Think Outside The Box Office: The Ultimate Guide To Film Distribution And Marketing For The Digital Era". I haven't read it, but it has been recommended to me and I've read various reviews, all of which are good. If you're interested, he's got a site together and you can read more about it... and the book's only $20. Click on this to go to his site.

I'd also like to mention that the deadline for the 2nd annual Paranoia Horror and Sci-Fi Convention and Film Festival, which is coming up. We talked with Shane Russeck, the festival director, last year, and he offered up a great interview. You can check that out here. The coolest part about the festival is that it takes place on the haunted Queen Mary in Long Beach... just awesome. The actual festival is March 12 - 14, but the deadline for entry is November 30th, so get on it!

Lastly, I'm VERY happy to share a not-so-exclusive clip from indie horror legend, Bill Zebub. He JUST sent out this clip from his upcoming film, "Night of the Pumpkin". He's in the beginning stages of post on it and won't have a rough cut for another month or so... he just pumped this out to show people, just got it last night. Enjoy... and have a great weekend.



Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Interview With Phil Hughes, Writer and Director of "The Scare Game"

I was listening to an interview with Uncle Lloyd Kaufman this morning, where he was talking about how the conglomerate's are manipulating the theatrical experience and his Troma films don't get the theatrical releases that they deserve. He went on and on about how he shoots on 35mm and how his films are meant to be seen in a theater and that's how Troma fans want to see them.

Well, I hate to disagree with Uncle Lloyd, but... I love Troma with all my heart and I think I've seen one Troma film in the theaters... and that's the original "Toxic Avenger". The interview got me thinking and, really, there's a lot to take away from his comments, but the long and short is people still don't get the DVD and home entertainment market. Like, executives of major entertainment companies still don't get it. So many people are stuck in the theatrical release system and they're trying to apply those rules to a changing DVD and home entertainment market. Further, now they're trying to apply those same rules to online distribution. The reality is, we need to create separate, individual ecosystems for each. What works theatrically is not working for home entertainment and what works for home entertainment won't necessarily work for online.

I don't have answers, but I do have ideas. Truth is, a lot of people have ideas and I love to watch the trailblazers go out there and try new things. One such trailblazer is Phil Hughes, the writer and director of "The Scare Game", a web-based horror-comedy series. The series blends horror and comedy and has great production value... the budget is low, but you really don't get that feeling. It's well put together, fun to watch and as each episode will be 7 to 10 minutes long, they're easy to consume. Personally, I'm very interested in what the future holds for web-based entertainment, so I was quite excited to have the opportunity to discuss this project with Hughes.

First off, tell us a bit about yourself. What are your influences and what got you into indie horror filmmaking?

Well the basics are that I'm male, 32, born in Albuquerque, New Mexico but I've lived in a few different places like Texas, New York, and Japan. I have two degrees- one in computer animation and graphics, the other is creative writing with a minor in photography, so I'm kind of all over the place. I'd have to say my biggest horror influence was my dad. He would rent every ridiculous horror movie under the sun from the shop and let me watch most of them and then try to scare my crap out of me. I had a fairly traumatic childhood, but it was good times. When I got into filmmaking, I started making a variety of short flicks, but most of them were comedies or dramedies with a bit of romance. When I got a little more confident with the camera, then I started to delve into genre filmmaking.

Film School: Yes or No?

No, but I've taken a lot of assorted classes that all relate to the discipline. There wasn't any stellar programs around here so I decided to broaden my abilities and continue to make movies on my own (with a good group of friends, of course).Of course, 6 1/2 years working for a movie theatre can be a hell of a film education.

You've launched a web-based series called "The Scare Game", tell us a bit about the project.

The Scare Game is a horror/comedy about this group of friends whose love of horror movies leads them down some bizarre and dangerous paths. It's hard to get too deep into it at this point. The first 6 episodes all revolve around a mystery and then the back half launch into them dealing with the mystery. I wanted to take time to develop the characters before we started getting into the heavier stuff.

Is there a particular reason you developed this for online?

It's a new medium and the rules aren't set. It's also liberating filmmaking because you can focus your time and money into other aspects of the filmmaking as opposed to worrying if it is in HD and how will project and how will afford the repeated raping of film festival costs. There aren't any specific restrictions, so we can make things as long or as short and/or as risque as we want. The shorter episode format lets me tell a serialized story that's not really intimidating to someone if they come part way through- they can catch up fairly quick.

What is your approx budget for the whole deal and how did you secure financing?

The pilot was a little over a grand and that pretty much covered food, equipment rental, and art department stuff. It all came out of our own pockets (Especially Producer Brian Austin Wenrich's). The money for the 2nd and 3rd episode was donated to us by friends who really believed in what we were doing and wanted to help get the ball rolling. We would eventually like to be ad-sponsored and things like that, but that's probably a ways off. Until then, it's beg, borrow, and steal... and then beg some more.

Talk a bit about where you see the series going and what can people expect?

I answered that a bit in one of the earlier questions. I hope that we create a fun series where people laugh, dig the characters, and then occasionally get creeped out or jump out of their chairs. As it's mapped out now, things will get darker and go into some moral gray area which might be hard for some folk, but I'm hoping they will be with the characters if/when they make decisions that aren't always the most noble. We have very specific ideas and things are mapped out, but I don't want to box myself in. If certain things evolve thematically and tonally that I wasn't expecting, then we'll roll with it.

What's your ultimate goal for the series?

We would like to have the financing to where the team could get paid to get it out there. That way, it'd be getting out on a regular basis and we could really have a steady "dialogue" with the fans. I'd like to be able to pay the rent and the people who work to make this happen and look great. It would be nice to put it out on DVD and actually have a goodly amount of people pick it up.

How are you going about promoting the series? What would you pass on to other filmmakers that are considering doing an online project?

Well our other producer/writer/actor, Jenn Daugherty, has been hard at work on a online campaign. She sent out almost 600 emails to various blog sites and newspapers (mostly college) the night we launched the episode. Plus, she was working hard to get the local media to give us some notice so we can build more support at home and then grow outward through the web. She does a lot on YouTube to meet people and find like-minded individuals and invite them to the site, facebook updates, and twitter feeds (we have a few people working on that).

My advice would be- be prepared to put in a lot of time just trying to reach out to people and get to know them. Become part of the community and hopefully that community will embrace you and lift you up. Jenn says the publicity work she does is like staring into the void, but she keeps going- bit by bit.

Is there money in a web-based series? How do you see "The Scare Game" getting monetized? Talk about online distribution versus traditional distribution

Haha. Again, I answered this a bit. Our plan is to utilize the inherit trickiness of the genre by filming full on horror (nudity, violence, and language) and then putting the edited version onto places like YouTube to try and reach the greatest audience we can, but then point back to the main site for the full, uncensored episode which would theoretically be where the ads would be. We need a few more (haha) people before people would start to consider ads for us, but we'll keep having at it. We'd love it if we could do some product placement. That would be hilarious! Online, we have the power to make decisions about how and what we release- we just don't get paid for it. We don't have to negotiate with anybody over our product; we just have to worry about bandwidth.

Talk about the indie horror scene. Where do you think it's at now and where do you see it going?

There was a brief time where a well made but SUPER cheap indie horror movie could be made and get a decent amount of money from a distributor to go into DVD and on to services like Netflix. I think that window has pretty much dried up. Indie horror has traditionally been the most accessible and profitable genre, but as with all indie film now, there is such a saturation of reasonable film equipment that everyone thinks they can make a movie. And then there are the ones that can, who are a small percentage, but in that saturated market, it turns out to be a lot of people so it's just that much harder to get noticed. As to where it's going... that's a hard one. Lower budget stuff will continue to look better and better, but it will take something truly original and mind-blowing to really break out of the pack. That being said, the web gives the hardcore fan a lot of material to peruse and that is just going to get easier and faster to find. I'm hoping that saturation will raise the bar of quality in general.

Do you have any other projects in the works?

I have a feature script that I am almost finished with and another 3 or 4 in the works, but most of my film energy is going toward The Scare Game.

How can people support "The Scare Game"?

They can go and watch it on youtube.com/thescaregame and then if they dig it and want to see the boobs, then they can roll on over to TheScareGame.com. If they like it, then they should get a few friends to see it. If they don't like it, still get a friend to see it. AND if they REALLY like it, then they can donate some change on the main site. Plus, we're a small operation so we don't need big companies to help sponsor us so we're always down for getting the word out to smaller companies and boutiques trying to get their wares out to the people. That helps everyone.

Monday, November 16, 2009

New Horror Out On DVD This Week, including: Taintlight

The story at the box office was all about "2012", but, really, it was the only thing that came out. The acclaimed "Pirate Radio" also came out, but only on a quarter of the screens. "2012" grossed $65Million, which is a good opening. In fact, it's the seventh highest grossing November opening ever. Looking ahead at the next few weeks, for us horror guys, these are the dark times... these are the times when there's a steady mix of sappy, Oscar-type film and big budget wide releases. The only thing that I'm really looking forward to, is "Avatar", which comes out Dec 18th, but until then it's going to be a strict diet of horror DVD's. Now, speaking of DVD's, it's not a bad week. Well, it's not a great week, either. It's okay. Whatever, there's enough to entertain us for the week. As usual, click on the titles and go to their page on Amazon where you can read more about them and/or buy them and you can also go to our Youtube page to check out the trailers.

"The Canyon" is, by far, the biggest budget release of the week. It's got Will Patton in it, as well as Yvonne Strahovski, from "Chuck". I read that it had a limited theatrical release on October 23rd, so... a few weeks ago. And, now here it is on DVD, on November 17th. It's a survival horror, where a couple of newlyweds are honeymooning in the grand canyon and they get lost down there after their guide gets bitten by a snake and have a wee bit of trouble getting out.

What's funny about "ThanksKilling" is that, back in film school, we used to joke about making a horror film that took place on Thanksgiving. We figured that almost every holiday was covered; Christmas and Halloween are overdone, there's been plenty of New Years films, April Fools Day, Valentines Day... but Thanksgiving is a big holiday and there were NO horror films based on it. Well, now there is. We came up with a plot revolving around rabid, steroid-riddled, mutant turkeys... "Thankskilling" is about a foul-mouthed homicidal turkey axing off college kids during Thanksgiving break. Awesome. Google "Thankskilling" and head to their site. It was shot for $3,500 over 11 days.

I was actually reading up on "Hanger", not knowing that it comes out this week. It's from Ryan Nicholson, the writer-director of "Gutterballs", and it's being distributed by a brand new company called Breaking Glass Pictures. They reached out to me and I'm going to try to do an interview with them and pass some information on them to all you... "Hanger" is about an abortion that lived, who's affectionately referred to as "Hanger", due to the fact that a pimp attempted to give his hooker Mom the abortion with a coat hanger. Now, he lives, and is out for vengeance.

I feel like I've covered "Breaking Nikki" before, but... I'll cover it again. If anything, it's got a wicked, original plot. It's about a hooker named Nikki who comes over to play the role of this guys ex-wife. However, it turns out that the guys ex-wife is actually locked up in the cellar and he tries to forcibly turn Nikki into his ex-wife... and even starts falling in love with her.

"Basement Jack", which was written and produced by Brian Patrick O'Toole, the guy behind "Dog Soldiers", "Evilution" and a few other films, and has a very "Halloween"-esqe feel to it. It's about Basement Jack, a 17 year old kid that went on a killing spree eleven years ago. Now, he's 28 and is being released and is coming after Karen, the lone survivor of his original attack.

I just assumed that "Call of the Hunter" was a low-budget mock-doc, as the film's about a documentary film crew that heads into the woods to shoot a film on The Legend of Herme the Hunter. However, I found the trailer on their website and the film looks to be shot in HD with great production quality. I believe it's out of the UK and it looks like it could have some decent gore.

I guess that "Vampire Party" is a French film and the trailer that I found is dubbed into German? I can't remember now. In any case, it's a foreign film and it's a strange looking horror/comedy about a big vampire party. Looks like it has budget and some good effects. Not my type of film, but... check out the trailer.

Well, it was just a matter of time before a true, low-budget mock came out about "Twilight" and here it is. Chris Seaver, the guy behind "Mulva: Zombie Ass Kicker" and "Terror At Blood Fart Lake", brings you "Taintlight", a full-on rip on "Twilight". The poster's classic.

Lastly, I just noticed that "Godkiller: Walk Among Us #2" is coming out and, well, I hadn't heard of "Godkiller: Walk Among Us #1", but this caught my eye. It's based on "Godkiller", which is a series of graphic novels, illustrated films, and novels created by award-winning filmmaker Matt Pizzolo and it tells the stories of human beings caught in the crossfire of warring fallen gods. Not only that, it's done in a very original way. Art, mixed with visual effects, mixed with some other crazy shit. There's some notable names doing the voices, too. Check out the trailer to see who's involved.

Friday, November 13, 2009

What "Paranormal Activity" Has Done To AFM and Positioning Your Film

Well, this is kinda lame... I was telling you about this great article called "Paranormal Fever at AFM" and it was the whole basis of this post and now it's not available. (Ted's note: just as I was about to post this, it came back live. Here's a link to the article)

Anyhow, horror tends to be a big thing at AFM because it's the best genre for international audiences. Things like dramas and comedies don't sell well, as what's funny in Des Moines, may not be funny in Saigon. However, a guy with a chainsaw is scary everywhere. Having said that, no one's buying at AFM this year because everyone's tauting their film as the next "Paranormal Activity" and they're clogging the pipeline. Basically, since everyone's claiming to have the next version of that one movie, AFM is oversaturated with one type of film, which drives prices down and leaves the distributors weary.

So, Brad was actually at AFM last weekend. I told him to write up a post on the experience, as he had a suppliers pass and talked to a few people about both Dead Harvey and another project that he's working on... hopefully we get to see that post soon. He said it was a bit of a gong show and that, really, AFM is all about low-budget horror. People are pitching ideas based on poster art and a name, people are pitching on having certain actors, they're pitching on just a logline. Everyone who's in the low-budget horror scene is there and it's a big, sleazy, sweaty pitch and sales fest. Just the brief conversation that Brad and I had about it made me want to have some project ready for next years AFM and attend. It sounds crazy... long and short, from his perspective, there was a lot going on and there was no shortage of projects.

Okay, so where are we at, then? There were tons of low-budget horror projects there, but no one was buying because everyone was saying that they had the next "Paranormal Activity". Now, I think I know why no one was buying. Remember, I come from the marketing and advertising world and what all these guys are not doing, and what you should always keep in mind, is something called positioning. Or, how you can position your film to stand out in a crowded marketplace like that. There's a whole book on this, called "Positioning - The Battle for Your Mind" by Al Ries and Jack Trout, and it's considered to be a bit of a classic marketing book. The long and short is, when someone's already positioned as the best no-budget film, you can't try to position yourself as the same and that's what all these guys are doing. You're going to fail. You need to position yourself differently. "Paranormal Activity" is a low-budget, first person, mock-documentary on ghosts... we're an alien abduction mock-doc. We're a first-person slasher film. They were confined to the home, we take the haunting on the road. Here's a better example, say you were selling me a car and you said to me, "I know you want a Mazda, but take a look at this Hyundai... it's basically a Mazda" I probably wouldn't buy the Hyundai, I probably wouldn't even give it a second look. However, if you said, "I know you're looking for a Mazda, but let me show you this Hyundai... it's the cheapest and most fuel efficient car in its class, plus it has a great record of dependability". Well, now I may take a look at it. You've positioned it differently and given me a reason to think about it.

This positioning thing is one of the main principles in marketing and advertising and if you're interested in reading more on it, I found a page that summarizes it all up, you can find it here. I think it's important stuff... stuff you should be thinking about when you're in the pre-prodution or writing stage, even. If there's a market leader out there, don't try to position yourself as the same. Figure out a way to position yourself differently, it'll make you stand out and, therefore, help you get noticed... which is really what you want.

Anyhow, that's all we got for this week. Have a great weekend and we'll see you on Monday!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Interview With Jason Horton, Writer/Director of the upcoming "Trap"

It's Thursday and we haven't posted anything new since Monday... I apologize. Yesterday was a holiday and, well, I didn't even think about writing anything until it was too late. By too late, I mean, by late afternoon I was knee-deep in some serious PS3 gaming, after having watched a couple of horror flicks. The two horror flicks? "Dead Snow", which is great fun, fairly original and very gory and "Antichrist", which is, well... um. Yeah. I think Lars Von Trier may have been using the film as a way to air some grievances. Anyhow, I can say that we'll try to make it up to you with quality back to back posts, today and tomorrow. As for tomorrow's post, I read a very interesting article on how the success of "Paranormal Activity" could actually be detrimental to the indie horror scene... very interesting, especially after talking with Brad, who was at AFM over the weekend. For today, we've got a great follow up interview with Jason Horton, the guy who made one of my favorite indie horrors of last year, "Edges of Darkness".

If you haven't seen "Edges", I highly recommend it. We interviewed Jason a while ago, last April, to be exact, and he offered up a great interview about the horror anthology. If you're interested in checking that interview out, you can click here. Now, I usually try to keep in touch with most people, just so I can keep up, offer help, keep up on the scene, but it's gotten pretty tough lately... especially as we've been working on a bunch of projects, ourselves. Anyhow, Jason reached out and said that he was working on a new film called "Trap" and I thought it created a great opportunity to do a follow up interview to see what he's been up to and find out how "Edges" is doing.

Last time we talked, you were about to release “Edges of Darkness”. Fill us in, how’s it doing?

I think it's doing pretty well, especially considering the type of movie it is and the budget it was made for. It's the first movie I've done where I can walk into most stores and see copies on the shelves for rent and sell. I walked into a Hollywood Video in Burbank on the release day and saw that they had over 12 copies on the shelf for rent (ALL RENTED OUT). It was really cool. I haven't gotten a sales report yet from Shoreline or Anchor Bay, but I expect one before the end of the year. I think it's doing better than they expected though, because there' s been some unofficial talk of a follow-up to Edges at a larger budget.

So, now that “Edges” has been out there for a while, anything that you would’ve done differently? Any new lessons learned that you can pass on to our readers?

I think you learn so many things with every project you do. On the paperwork side, make sure you have your deliverables together before you start shopping you film. If the distributor wants the movie, they MAY help with SOME of the more expensive items like Errors and Omission insurance or the HD and Digi BETA Masters, but they will not do everything. Know before hand what is needed, make sure you understand what ALL the items are and how to prepare them properly. It'll save you tons of headaches later. Producers do your research.

On the creative side, Edges was a rushed production from the writing of the script all the way through production. It was a situation where the opportunity to make the movie presented itself and I feared if we didn't move ahead as quickly as possible the money would not be there. So, I rushed and let some things go, script-wise, production-wise, performance-wise that I normally wouldn't have. Out of fear, I made several conscious decisions to settle for less than my and others best work. On a micro-budget production (well I guess any production) you're always going to have to compromise things due to budget or time, but there's a line that each one of must drawl when it comes to the artistic integrity of our work. I feel there are a few times in Edges that I stepped a little too far over over mine. Don't get me wrong, I like Edges and am very proud of the work and everyone in it. I just wish I would have pushed a little harder on the script and the production.

You’re on to your next project now, a film called “Trap”. Tell us a bit about it.

Trap is a relatively "quiet" piece, especially compared to Edges. It follows an abduction that goes bad when a middle-aged kidnapper falls in love with his 15 year-old victim.

It's basically a 3 character thriller/drama. There are two kidnappers, the middle-aged Walter and the younger Franklin. They quickly come to odds at how to handle the situation. Plus there a few cool twists. Like Edges it's very character driven and plays with the conventions of it's genre. But, unlike Edges it takes place in the "real" world. I absolutely love horror and want to continue to work in it. But, I wanted to follow Edges with something different.

What’s the budget for this one and how do you secure financing? Did “Edges” open any doors for you here?

We're still in the process of contracts with the distributors, so I can't go into the budget specifics now, but trust me it was very low. People will surprised when they hear the real numbers.

Trap was developed before Edges US release, but it was through the production and post of Edges that I met the financier. Also, I had pitched three horror project to be shot at one time to a production company a few years back. I had the scripts, breakdowns, art-work, promotional trailers, a full business plan. They weren't interested. About a week after Edges release I get an email asking to resend the proposal.

Last time around, you shot on the Sony Z1U, in HDV Format, and said you wouldn’t recommend it… so, what did you shoot on this time?

This time I shot on "old faithful" a dvx. There's a lot of bad feelings right now about DV, but I still think when used properly the dvx gets a great image that's comparable to the better HD cams. I know this camera better and was able to shoot with multiple cameras without renting. On micros it's all about what you have access to. I did use a lense package and did plenty of advanced HD blow-up tests using compressor and instant hd. This way I can deliver a quality 1080P version of the movie if the distributor requires it (and many do these days). Overall I'm much happier with the look of this movie. Although, due to budget constraints, I had to DP the movie myself. So at times between the technical aspects and monitoring performances, I was stretched a little thin. But due to the small nature of this project, I think I handled it well.

What stage are you at right now and what kinds of hurdles are you facing?

I just locked the cut and finished sound design. I'm still doing some minor color-correction tweaks, but plan to wrap everything up this week. The major hurdle I'm facing with Trap is going to be in how well it sells. The really cool thing about micros is they don't have to sell well, compared to bigger budget movie. But of course you want everything you do to be better creatively and financially than your last. Trap is the 1st movie I've done where I can't really rely on the genre to sell the movie. Edges for how creative and different it was, got a lot of traction just because it was a zombie/horror flick. Zombie/horror flicks even big ones don't need "names" or anything like it to sell. Typically, in bigger budget productions, a movie like Trap would be sold on the basis of star power. I chose to do Trap because, as an artist, it was the story I wanted to tell. I also wanted to show that I can do different things. I'm anxious to see how it is received.

Are there any examples of things that you screwed up on or learned from when doing “Edges” that you applied while making “Trap”? If so, what?

I didn't rush it. I still wrote the script pretty fast, but at least this time it didn't get a total structural overhaul 3 weeks before production. We still had a very short shooting schedule. The movie was shot in 6 days with no room for pick-ups (except a few 2nd unit exteriors). But I took the time to get that one more take and push things just a bit further. One of the biggest differences in the movies, in my mind anyway, is sound. We looked a little longer this time and found a single mixer that stayed with us for the whole shoot. Then in post, I've grown a lot as a sound designer between Trap and Edges, so I really think the sound work in Trap is much better.

And this time I have my deliverables all prepared including a complete behind the scenes package. I lost a lot of BTS footage on Edges and Anchor Bay didn't want include what little I did have. On Trap I have four quality BTS documentaries, 2 feature commentaries, deleted scenes with commentaries and a 5.1 mix. In addition my producer was able to secure a couple of songs for our soundtrack from Chubby Checker.

What are your goals for “Trap”? Will you be doing the festival scene?

I've already been talking to distributors and if the price is right, we'll have a sell before the end of the year. It's not that I don't believe in the festival scene, but with movie at this level I feel you're better off to sell them quick and move on.

Where can people find out more about “Trap” and/or follow your progress?

There's an official site still under construction but up. agpla.com/trap.html
But our facebook page is the one I work on the most. Please become a fan. You'd be surprise at how much that kind of stuff matters to money people and distributors.
facebook.com/pages/Trap/99112199205

We're also on myspace. myspace.com/trap_movie
You can also follow me on twitter @jhorton2003

So, any idea of what’s next after “Trap”? Any ideas brewing?

So many things in the pipes. Like I mentioned before there is talk of a follow-up to Edges and I have a kick-ass script just about done. It's more of a singular story than Edges and stand alone, so you wouldn't have had to see Edges or even know it exists. If this comes together I really think it could be the one that really puts me on the map.

My producer is also really big on following up Trap. Not really a sequel but a movie that features a few of the minor character from Trap. It's a surreal action/comedy.
I have another dozen or so scripts circling around town, you never know when something's going stick. We'll see.

Monday, November 9, 2009

New Horror Out On DVD This Week: Where Is Dead Snow?

This last weekend at the box office wasn't exactly lighting the world on fire... however, there's a few interesting things of note. First up, after being well represented over the last month or so, horror birthed a couple of shit babies this last weekend. Two genre movies were released, "The Box" and "The Fourth Kind". "The Fourth Kind" fared a little better than "The Box", grossing $12.5Million as compared to $8Million... but both would be considered disappointments, both box office-wise and critically. On the other hand, the success story du jour is "This Is It", the documentary / concert film on Michael Jackson. The micro-hit "Paranormal Activity" is finally slowing down and the now the "never was supposed to be made into an actual film", "This is It", is storming the box office. It's in its second week of release and has now grossed close to $60Million. There's a story and/or a lesson to be learned here, as the two biggest successes of late are a film that was made for $15,000 and another one that was cut from footage that was never meant to be seen, but I'm not sure what it is. Crazy... anyhow, let's look at the horror DVD's that are coming out this week and, as usual, you can go to our Youtube Page and see all the trailers and/or click on the titles and go to their Amazon page, where you can read more about them and/or buy them.

First off, let's mention Chris DiNunzio's "Livestock", a film that we had the privilege of checking out a while ago and discussing with the filmmaker. It's a vampire, gangster-horror and it's definitely one for the Dead Harvey crowd. The acting is great and it's really well put together. If you're interested in reading our interview with DiNunzio's, click here. Definitely a good read...

"Summer's Moon" comes from Lionsgate and it's about a girl that's travelling across the country, but ends up captive in some guy's basement and has to make a choice: whether she wants to join up with this guy's family and do some killing... or if she wants to die. The film actually looks alright, but they're really hanging their hat on the fact that the lead is played by Ashley Greene, who plays Alice Cullen in the "Twilight" series. Hey, if you're in to "Twilight", maybe you want to see Alice Cullen in a more, well... compromising position. The trailer has her chained up in short shorts.

Speaking of films that are hanging their hats on, not only actors, but "Twilight", "Hurt" stars "Medium"'s Sofia Vassilieva... and "Twilight"'s Jackson Rathbone and it was obviously done a while ago. The film is described as a dark, Gothic tale that slowly unwinds into... something. I don't know, quite honestly, the trailer bored me. Having said that, the reviews are alright and the production quality looks good.

I don't know where "The Echo" went wrong, but I think the trailer looks pretty good and it was produced by the guys who remade "The Grudge" and "The Ring". It's a remake from a Filipino Film, originally titled "Sigaw" and Yam Laranas, who co-wrote and directed the original film, directs this remake. As for the story, it revolves around a young ex-con who moves into an old apartment building, only to learn his neighbor is an abusive police officer who savagely beats his wife and daughter. When the ex-con tries to intervene, he becomes trapped in a curse.

"Intruder" is a micro-cinema horror that looks really well done... it's from first time director Gregory Caiafa and it looks like it's a classic slasher film, where the slasher is a creepy dude wearing a very creepy clown mask. May have to check this one out.

"Devil Girl" comes from writer/director Howie Askins and I really want to know more about this film. It looks awesome... sort of like a Rob Zombie wet dream or something. I can't tell what it's shot on, probably 16mm with some other mediums mixed in? Very intriguing, really want to see this now...

I don't know what the deal is with "Dead Snow", but I'm going to find out. It's a Danish film, I believe, and it's about a bunch of snowmobilers that run in to a herd of Nazi zombies... or would it be a flock of zombie Nazi's? Group of undead Nazi's? Whatever. It played Sundance and is, apparently, gorier than all hell. It popped up on Amazon, but now says it's discontinued by the manufacturer. I'll get to the bottom of it and figure it all out... then report back. If you care, I've got the trailer up on our Youtube page.

Lastly, there's a few new Blu-ray releases of interest, including the all-time classic, which is being remade, "Near Dark", then there's "Mimic", "Scream" and Robert Rodriguez's foray into horror, "The Faculty".

Friday, November 6, 2009

Red Sox... Yankees... and The American Film Market. Trust me, it's sorta related.

I'm a passionate guy... and I mean that in the way that I get really caught up in what I believe in. When it comes to film, I've been in so many arguments about what's good, what's bad and why, that my more "mainstream" friends were almost afraid to ask my opinion on movies. I'll defend indie horror tooth and nail and I usually talk shit about big-budget, pablum for the masses, Hollywood crap. Really, I can feel adrenaline release when someone talks shit or laughs about the films that I clock so many hours watching. Now, I've come to realize that I need to let these things go and I've been a far more relaxed person of late... I mean, at the end of the day, what you like... you like. What I like... I like and if you don't like it, oh well. However, I'm also a sports fan. This is a tougher thing to be passionate about. In film, one filmmaker versus another filmmaker is totally subjective. However, in sports, one team succeeds at anothers peril. It's just the nature of sport. A winner produces a loser. So, in full disclosure, I'm a baseball fan and loyal member of Red Sox Nation. Everyone that I know, knows that. So, when the Red Sox nemesis and arch-rival, The Yankees, won the World Series a few days ago... I heard about it. A lot. And people didn't hold back. It's been a couple days and I'm finally settling down, but I'm still replying to scathing emails and posts on my Facebook wall... however, I'm going to drop it now and look forward to next season... and I do still have an NFL season to worry about in the meantime.

Anyhow, my spare time over the last few days have been dedicated to replying to friends and family that are Yankees fans. (My parents live right outside of New York) I just replied to someone a few moments ago and thought, that's it. It's over. I'm not going to retort anymore... Then, I stared at this blank post. Before just closing it up and forgetting about it, I decided to peruse some sites that I frequent and I realized that AFM is coming up. It got my mind off baseball and got me thinking. Now, for those of you that don't know about AFM, I'll cut and paste some information that I made up last year:

The American Film Market, or AFM as they like to call it, is coming up this November 4 - 11 (those are updated, 2009 dates) in Santa Monica and I thought I'd just tell you about it. It's an annual event that attracts over 8,000 industry people for eight days. Participants from over 70 countries converge in Santa Monica to buy and sell distribution rights for completed films or to gain financing for projects in various stages of production. It's not a festival, it's more like a massive tradeshow. If you attend, you'll be in the company of acquisition and development executives, agents, attorneys, directors, distributors, festival directors, financiers, film commissioners, producers, writers, press and an array of other people who provide services to the industry. Long and short, unbelievable networking and a wicked opportunity... however, that, of course, comes with a cost. A one day pass costs $275, a pass for the full eight days costs $895. That's a lot of money. Personally, I'd go down to Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel and/or the Le Merigot Beach Hotel, where it's all held, and hang out in nearby bars and restaurants... probably bars. You're sure to get people coming in for a beer or lunch. Save the $275 and spend it on drinking. It's a no-lose proposition.

When it comes to The Red Sox, I'm always reading books, going through websites and keeping up on all the current events. (Twitter is awesome when deadlines approach, by the way) Look, I'm a fanatic. Now, I do the same thing with indie horror because, well... not only do I aspire to be a professional, I'm also a fanatic. Not only do I read up on the indie horror sites, read books on the industry and watch as much as I can, I also look forward to Monday, when I look through all the new releases that are coming out that week... I also look forward to seeing what's screening at festivals, as well as seeing what people are trying to sell. And so should you. If you're even mildly interested in screenwriting or filmmaking, you need to keep an eye on what other people are doing and what's selling. Now, what's cool about AFM is, you can look through all the films that are on the market, as well as what's screening, and read about their status. Here's a link to their online film catalogue. So, go through the AFM site and look through that catalogue, it'll give you great insight into what the market's like and what other people are up to. It's great research.

So, there you go, enjoy... and have a great weekend. We'll be back on Monday. Go Packers!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Interview With Harry Sparks, Writer/Director of "Rotkappchen: The Blood of Red Riding Hood"

I think that nudity and horror go together like peanut butter and chocolate... a delectable pair. Really, horror has always had a certain sexuality to it and I think there are a few reasons. First off, it's about the audience. Who do horror movies cater to? Well, predominantly younger males, probably aged 18 - 34 and if you're trying to cater to that audience, give them more of what they want... boobs. I'm betting that this was the thinking throughout most of the 80's and early 90's. Then there's artistic reasons... when someone is naked, they're at their most vulnerable. So, when you're in the shower, getting changed or going for a skinny-dip, these are the times that you DON'T want to get attacked. Adding to that, there's a reason that one of the most common nightmares involves not having your clothes on, it represents vulnerability. Lastly, horror and sex are just linked... they're both primal. Hey, it's why guys take girls to horror movies, even though those girls don't like them. We hope they close their eyes and hide themselves in our arms. However, half the time it's the guys that are hiding and the girls that are cheering on the killing, but I digress...

Having said all that, there's a big difference between adding a couple topless scenes to appease the younger males and get that "contains nudity" rating and heading out and making soft-core porn. Now, I have nothing against soft-core porn, I passed out every night watching Cinemax in college, but I don't know where that line between teen boobie-horror and soft-core porn is crossed. Harry Sparks' "Rotkappchen: The Blood of Red Riding Hood" is one such film that rides the line between the two. Without question, the film is well done. Sparks stretched his budget to put together a wonderful looking film that gives us a very unique take on the story of Red Riding Hood. Further, simply from the perspective of cinematography, it's amazing. He really created a unique look and feel that works for the story. However, the film definitely pushes the erotic boundaries... and has excessive nudity. At the end of the day, the film is definitely worth checking out and, if you're interested, you can go to its page on Amazon
here, to read more about it and/or buy it. Before you do, though, I recommend checking out this interview that we did with Harry Sparks, the writer/director of the film...

Tell us a bit about "Rotkappchen: The Blood of Red Riding Hood"

Rotk├Ąppchen: The Blood of Red Riding Hood is the story of a German teenage girl named Rose who is brought to America by her mother to stay with her Grandmother. After her first day at her new school, Rose discovers that she just does not fit in with the other students and retreats into her own fantasy world of her favorite childhood story, Red Riding Hood. It is a fairy tale come to life.

You definitely went heavy on the erotic route, tell us a bit about your thoughts behind that. Was it an artistic decision or a business decision?

It was an artistic decision. I determined very early on, after extensive research on the Little Red Riding Hood story that it needed to be an erotic film. I discovered that the story was really about the loss of virginity and about sexual awakening. It was about travelling the road from childhood to adulthood and I wanted to explore that aspect of the story since we have not really seen that before. I felt telling the story from that perspective- exploring the emotions of a sexually adventurous girl dealing with the joy and terror of puberty, would be an interesting challenge. I know that there will be some people that, as soon as they see nudity or a sex scene, will dismiss it as porn or soft porn. But I don’t agree with that way of thinking. We are all sexual beings so why the false modesty? I feel very strongly that the film is as graphic as it is because it needed to be. So ultimately, I couldn’t worry about any criticism that may come my way and just make the movie the way I envisioned it.

If you don't mind us asking, what was the budget and how did you go about securing financing?

I think the production budget was around $30,000, which was a combination of contributions from friends, family, personal income and personal savings. But I think it looks like it costs much more than it actually did. Part of that is because we had the opportunity to shoot in several countries in Europe while visiting family in Germany. It gives the film the epic scope that I wanted. One of the interesting things about being an independent filmmaker with limited resources is that it forces you to be inventive. You don’t have to have a big budget to make good film. The challenge is how to get your vision from the page to the screen and I think we were pretty successful in doing that.

You got some great performances out of your actors, not to mention putting them in some compromising positions. Talk a bit about casting and your directing style...

Actually, some of the actors inspired the writing of the script before it was even written. The character of Rose for example was written for Stefanie Geils. I saw her one evening wearing a red dress, and felt inspired. And the character of Summer was written for Sativa Verte because I knew her as well. The rest of the cast, like Nicole Vuono and Chris O’Brocki, helped shape their characters after they were cast. After meeting Nicole and speaking to her, I knew she could play a great villain, although in real life she is one of the nicest people you will ever meet. And Chris s a great character actor who can play just about any role and I knew he would make a great David. I like to come to the set with a plan-either storyboards or I have a sequence planned out in my head. But I learned that part of directing is listening. Actors can contribute some great ideas, so if someone comes up with a great idea and if it works, I will use it.

I was extremely impressed by the visuals of the film. You mix black & white with color, you use lots of different effects and lenses. Talk a bit about creating the look and feel of the film.

The visual style evolved while researching the story, I discovered that the red cape actually symbolizes her menstrual blood and her readiness for sexual awakening. So I wanted to isolate the color red and desaturate the world around her. Notice in the film, Rose becomes infatuated with Summer only after she sees her wearing a red towel. For the fairytale world, I wanted very warm, saturated colors since this is supposed to be Rose’s imagination and for her this world is much more comforting than the real world. “Jaws” was the main inspiration for the wolf. One of the main reasons that movie worked for me was that for most of the movie you witness the attacks from the shark’s point of view. That is much more terrifying than seeing the whole shark, and I actually prefer that approach to seeing a CG monster because it forces the audience to use their imagination.

Tell us a bit about yourself. What are your influences and what got you into indie film?

I have always loved movies and going to the movies but I think I became interested in making them after seeing the original “Star Wars” in the theater. It must have had an impact because after watching The making of “Star Wars” on television, I set out to try to make my own “Star Wars” film using my classmates at school. I was only nine years old at the time so I eventually dropped that plan! But then when I saw E.T.-The Extra Terrestrial” in the summer of ’82, everything changed. That movie had such an emotional impact on me…I guess it was the right movie at the right time, but I said, “This is what I want to do. I want to be a director and I don’t care what anybody says.” You have to be stubborn and singled-minded if you are going to be a director. So I made my first short film at the age of 14, which didn’t turn out that great. But instead of getting discouraged, I became even more determined. I checked out filmmaking books from the library and studied them, while continuing to make short films with my friends throughout high school. So Steven Spielberg was and still is my biggest influence. He is such an amazing storyteller. I also admire the films of Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorsese, Tinto Brass, and many others.

Film school: Yes or No?

I think film school is very useful because you have access to a lot of equipment you may not otherwise have. It is also a great place to make contacts. I had some of the basic skills before entering film school, but film school helped me hone those skills. The thing to keep in mind though is that simply getting a degree in and of itself does not guarantee a job in the film industry. You really have to work hard and if you have the opportunity for an internship, you should take it. In the end, your reel will say more about you as a filmmaker than anything.

Did the film screen at any festivals? If so, how did it do? What are your thoughts on the indie horror festival circuit?

We haven’t entered this film in any film festivals yet, but may enter a few next year. It’s customary to let your film play the festival circuit for about year and then find a distributor, but I didn’t want the public to have to wait a year to see the film. We started building buzz almost two years ago through social networking, so we knew we had some interest. The entry fee for film festivals can be quite high, and after awhile that adds up. So we’ll choose the festivals we do enter very carefully. When I’m making a film, I’m really not thinking about winning awards. The person I am trying to please is myself and the audience.

Talk about distribution. What lessons have you learned and if you could pass on a word of advice to other indie filmmakers, what would it be?

The main lesson I have learned is that you can distribute your movie yourself. I have heard so many horror stories about distribution companies ripping off filmmakers it’s scary. If a filmmaker does go with a distribution company, they should hold out for a deal they are happy with and not always take the first one offered. But if you are like me and like to retain control, you may want to consider self-distribution. It is a lot more work and responsibility, but it can be more rewarding.

Talk about the indie horror scene. Where do you think it is now and where do you see it going?

I think this is a great time for indie horror. The success of “Paranormal Activity” shows that you don’t need a big budget to make a successful horror film and I’m sure that will inspire a lot of filmmakers. But I think if you are an independent filmmaker, you should try to push the envelope, which is what I tried to do with this film. Many studio films costs more than $100 million or more to make, so they have to take fewer risks to earn that money back and try to appeal to as broad of an audience as possible with a PG-13 film. But an indie film usually does not cost nearly as much and you can afford to take more risks without compromising your vision as much. If you feel in your heart of hearts that your film needs to be an R or NC-17 film, then that is the movie you should make. Eventually, your film will find an audience.

Where can people find out more about "Rotkappchen" or, better yet, buy a copy?

To find out more about Rotk├Ąppchen: The Blood of Red Riding Hood, people can visit the official website, RedRidingHoodMovie.net. The film is currently available at Amazon.com and will soon be available through Filmbaby.com, and eventually Netflix. If people want to get the movie through Netflix, I encourage them to contact Netflix and demand it.

What's next for you?

There are so many different types of stories I want to tell, its hard picking my next project. I really like erotic-fantasy and erotic-horror so I would like to do something else in those genres. I would also like to do a ghost story and a science fiction film. But whatever I do next, I am going to continue to push the envelope.