Monday, August 30, 2010

More Surprises At The Box Office, The Emmy's and the week in Horror on DVD

It was a big weekend, to say the least - not only did horror unexpectedly win the weekend at the box office, we had the Emmy's. First off, I don't think anyone expected "The Last Exorcism" to win the weekend... and it did, but in a photo finish with "Takers". In fact, when final numbers come in, they may switch. Anyhow, "The Last Exorcism" was produced by Eli Roth and it's shot like a documentary, so it's sort of a mockumentary horror. It was directed and edited by Daniel Stamm and the story is told from the perspective of a disillusioned evangelical minister that decides to participate in a documentary chronicling his last exorcism, which he thinks will expose the fraud of his ministry... and, let's just say, the 'found footage' may tell a story that the good minister didn't expect. There's a couple of other interesting things here, as well. One, which I really liked, was the viral campaign that they did for the film using Chatroulette - you can see what I'm talking about here. The other thing that I find interesting is that supernatural horror films just seem to always deliver... and especially when there's no big star or name attached. Lately, "The Unborn", The Exorcism of Emily Rose" and "The Haunting in Connecticut" all did surprisingly well. That goes without mentioning "Exorcist: The Beginning", "The Amityville Horror" and "Stigmata", all of which came out in the last 5 years or so and also did alright. I guess it's a good sub-genre to play in. I also quickly wanted to mention the Emmy's, where a few dark and horror-themed shows got nods, including: "Dexter", "Breaking Bad" and "True Blood". It's interesting to note that HBO, far and away, is the leader when it comes to award winning shows and they do it by pushing the envelope... however, on the flip side, pushing the envelope may get you awards, but it doesn't always get you advertising revenue. So, take all that for what it's worth. Anyhow, let's check out the week in horror on DVD. As usual, you can go to our Youtube Page to check out all the trailers and you can click on the titles to be taken to the films Amazon page where you can read more and/or buy the film.

Speaking of horror on TV, "The Vampire Diaries: The Complete First Season" comes out on both DVD and Blu-ray this week. It premiered on The CW Network on September 10, 2009... and I watched the first few episodes, but quickly lost interest. It's really more for the "Twilight" crowd. No surprise, it's based on a book series of the same name by L.J. Smith. The first season won a People's Choice Award and seven Teen Choice Awards... the second season starts on September 9th.

I've never heard of the "Red Riding Trilogy", which is available on DVD and Blu-Ray this week, but I'll be getting my hands on it soon. The trailer is enough to hook you... good God. It's a British deal and it's a TV adaptation of English author David Peace's "Red Riding Quartet". It's set against the backdrop of serial murders and they deal with multi-layered corruption and feature several recurring characters across each film. They did get a theatrical release here, but no one seemed to notice.

"The Spell" is apparently based on true events... it's about a young girl that gets wrapped up in the occult after she meets a handsome stranger. She then stumbles down a path of haunted dreams and demonic possession and, subsequently, seeks help from friends, doctors, psychiatrists and religious leaders... but they don't believe her. The film looks like it has some budget behind it and looks good. It could definitely be worth checking out.

Troma is releasing a couple films this week, "Dead Eyes Open" and "Heavy Mental". "Heavy Mental" is your typical, shot on DV, nudity and gore filled romp and it even features Llyod Kaufman himself. If you're a Troma fan, you know what you're getting here and you're going to pick it up. "Dead Eyes Open" looks crazy, but mostly because it's a full feature shot on Super 8. First off, I love the look of Super 8 and it's extremely ambitious to have shot an entire feature on it... especially as it's usually tough to do sync sound. Not a problem here, though, as it has subtitles.

Last... and definitely not least, is "Brainjacked", which looks awesome. The look and feel scream late 80's, early 90's excess - tons of sick gore. The trailer sort of reminded me of Richard Stanley's "Hardware" meets Abel Ferrara's "Driller Killer", with a zombie spin. It's written and directed by Andrew Allan and it's about a teen runaway that discovers a sinister mind control plot... that involves drilling into people's heads. Check out the trailer, you won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Look at Robin Kasparik's Short Film, "Seance"

Okay, this came across my inbox and I definitely wanted to share.

I received an email from Robin Kasparik and he was hoping that I would check out his short film, "Seance", and give it a bit of a mention on the site. Well, I'm going to do that and more. The film is fantastic... it's shot well, it's well acted, it's very creepy and it works on a lot of levels. Plain and simple, it's top notch work. Lucky for you, he's uploaded the award winning short to Vimeo and I have it embedded below.

To be honest, I would've loved to do an interview with him, but he's Czech and I thought there would be a bit of a language barrier. And I mean no offense to the Czech people... in fact, I'm of Czech decent myself. Anyhow, I watched the film and he had attached a lot of information, I got quite excited about it and... I wanted to share sooner than later. Why? Because if you're looking into making a short film for the festivals, this film is what you should aspire to. "Seance" screened at more than 20 fests, including Screamfest, Rue Morgue Festival of Fear, NYC Horror Film Fest and won Best Short Film at the Dark Carnival Film Fest and the South African Horrorfest. Not only that, it's been seen by numerous master of horror, including Tony Randel, William Malone and Jack Ketchum, and they've all given it great reviews.

So, what about Kasparik? Well, he's 24 years old and currently attending the Film Director's course at the Tomas Bata University in the Czech Republic. Because of that, I'm assuming that he had the resources to give the film the rich look and feel that he did. Lord knows that I would murder innocent people to have the resources I had when I was back in film school, but I digress... Kasparik is hoping to continue working in the horror field and is now preparing his next short film, "I Am the Doorway", which is an adaptation of the Stephen King's short story.

I, for one, am very anxious to see what Kasparik comes up with next! The film is embedded below and for more information, you can go to

Seance from Robin Kasparik on Vimeo.

Monday, August 23, 2010

"The Expendables" Keep Kicking Ass at the Box Office and A Good Week For Horror on DVD

On a weekend where five new films received wide releases, "The Expendables" remains in the top spot. Unbelievable. Then again, those five releases weren't exactly tough competition. "Vampires Suck", the "Twilight" - based spoof film, came in second and pulled in just over $12Million. What's amazing about "Vampires Suck" is that almost three quarters of its audience was under the age of 21, which means that it skewed even younger than the "Twilight" films themselves. The let down, I guess, is "Piranha 3D", which came in sixth, behind "The Expendables", "Vampires Suck", "Eat Pray Love", "Lottery Ticket" and "The Other Guys". I read a lot of negative reviews and there's a lot of bad sentiment about it out there, but I'm thinking that a lot of people just don't get it. It actually is the third installment in a series AND it's intentionally campy and ridiculous. Granted, I didn't rush out and see it, so maybe everyones just like me. I don't know. Anyhow, it's a decent week for horror on the DVD shelves, so let's check out some of the highlights. As usual, you can go to our Youtube Page and see all the trailers, plus you can click on the titles to be taken to the films Amazon page, where you can read more and/or buy the film.

For the zombie freaks, you finally get "George A. Romero's Survival of the Dead", the sixth film in the "Dead" series. The film follows a group of mercenary National Guardsmen that briefly appeared in "Diary of the Dead" and it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival back in 2009. It had a very limited theatrical release, was released on VOD in April, aired for one night on HDNET movies in May and now comes out on DVD this week. Odd release schedule and I'm surprised that I haven't actually seen it yet. Anyhow, it seems like this week is the week that I'll finally get to check it out. Also, I can't help but notice that our buddies are re-re-releasing "Night of the Living Dead: Reanimated" this week. They must be looking to capitalize on Romero. Either way, I won't turn down another excuse to plug "NOTLD:R".

The Lifetime Movie Network isn't really known for its horror releases, but they do release them. This week, on DVD, you can get the Lifetime Original's, "The Haunting of Sorority Row" and "Devil's Diary". Lifetime Movie Network is a cable channel that's part of Lifetime Entertainment, which is a subsidiary of A&E Television Networks... and generally, they make women-oriented films. "The Haunting of Sorority Row" is about a young girl that joins a sorority, but there's something not quite right about the whole thing... and "Devil's Diary" is about a group of high school kids that find the Devil's Diary and accidentally unleash hell and destruction on their entire community.

"Metamorphosis" was originally released back in 2007 and is about three young Americans that pick up an attractive stranger who takes them on a journey... well, the stranger turns out to be a vampire and they end up having supernatural forces chase them down. "Highlander"'s own Christopher Lambert plays a vampire, but don't worry, he's not the "attractive one". He plays the one that the attractive one leads the three young Americans to.

Joe Mantegna shows up in "House That Jack Built" as a dying father, asking his only son to preserve the family estate and never tear it down. A year later, the cocky young music producer demolishes the estate and builds a "party palace". Then, on the night of the house warming party, a monstrous entity returns to murder them all... one by one, until only the cocky young music producer is left.

Don't mistake "Ninjas Vs Zombies" with "Alien Vs Ninja". They're not the same. Not even in the same family. Not even distant cousins. "Alien Vs Ninja" is the Japanese release that's, well, awesome... if you're in to over-the-top Japanese films. "Ninjas Vs Zombies" is the low-budget cross between "Clerks" and "Evil Dead" that's an homage to everything inbetween and it's, well, awesome... if you're in to low-budget homage's to horror films that are dear to your heart. Looks like a must-see to me.

"DIEner (get it?)" probably didn't need to add the "get it?" to their title because I do get it. The blatant capitalization makes me get it... and asking if I "get it" is like asking if I get a joke. If I don't, you shouldn't have told it. The more I think about it, I can't believe they called it "DIEner - get it?". Anyhow... it was an official selection at Horror Realm and Hollywood Film Festival and they pitch it as "Pulp Fiction" meets "Zombieland". In any case, title aside, the film looks like it's got some decent budget behind it and it looks like it could be quite good.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Tales From An Aspiring Screenwriter

It was about a year ago, maybe just over a year ago, when I made a public announcement that I was going to make a concerted effort to write one quality, sellable (in my mind) screenplay per year. I came to that conclusion after making a few short films, writing on the blog, working with other filmmakers and trying to figure out just how I was going to attack this whole "career in indie horror" thing. Truth be told, ever since film school, I've enjoyed the screenwriting process the most. That's where you get to puke all your ideas out, that's where you can be the most creative and that's where it all starts. That's where iconic characters and places like Camp Crystal Lake and Elm Street are born. That's the artsy, romantic side. The other side is, it doesn't cost a fucking thing, but time, to write a screenplay. Very economical. Anyhow, if screenwriting is to be my key... how do I open the door? The way I look at it, I've got three options.

The easiest, although costliest, is entering screenwriting contests. I used to be extremely weary of them, but the credible ones do offer a great service to unrepresented, up-and-coming and aspiring screenwriters. I've talked to a few contest winners and some of the people who run the contests and festivals and none of them have anything but good things to say about the process. Some of the contests give coverage and notes, which is invaluable, and I'll get a good idea of how I'd fare against other scripts in similar sub-genres. To navigate this properly, I'm going to have to research the different contests and festivals, then figure out which ones to enter. First off, I'll look at the contest itself. Is it horror specific or does it have a horror section? There's no way that my blood-soaked, serial killer homage to "Taxi Driver" is going to compete against "Gone With The Wind 2" in a generic screenwriting contest... Next thing to consider is, what kind of exposure will it get? No offense, but if I'm choosing between entering Shriekfest out of L.A. or Utah Bob's Horror Screenplay Contest, I'm picking Shriekfest. Granted, if Bob's is free, I might as well enter it, as well. So, what's my goal in this whole option? Well, really, it ain't about the prizes, it's about the exposure. If I can win one of these, chances are I'll have managers or agents calling me... and, not only that, I may get an award to hang my hat on, which may open some doors when dealing with my next option.

If I bomb at the contests or nothing comes out if it, the next logical step would be to attempt to get an agent or manager on my own. How's that going to happen? Two ways, I figure. One, the traditional way... I write up a query letter and I spam it out to every agent in town. I could also use one of those online deals, where you write the query letter and they spam it out to every agent in town. Basically, these guys approach all of the agencies and production companies and get them to say what they're interested in. Then, when you say, I've got a horror film and it's about X, Y and Z, the email goes out to all those who are interested in that sub-genre. Then, they'll request your query letter... then, they'll request a script. It's a good idea and something that I may try. The other way is the blood, sweat and tears way. I carefully read the trades to watch for which agents are representing other screenwriters who are writing similar stuff, then I approach them. The good thing about doing it this way is that I can cater my email or query letter directly to them. The bad thing is, the result, after a lot of hard work, may be the same. There is another option and it's something that I'm definitely going to explore... and that's getting in touch with anyone I know that has an agent and asking them if they could pass my stuff on to them. It's worth a try and is, generally, an easy in... if the guy you're asking likes you.

So, last option... I tank at the contests and no agent wants me. What's next? I guess the last attempt would be to approach independent production companies. Really, I don't think this is that much tougher than writing query letters to agents and managers. I mean, I'm not talking about approaching Warner Bros or Universal... I'm talking about approaching the small, private ones. Almost every actor in town has their own production company set up, I'd approach them. All it would take is a bit of research to find an actor or director that has done similar projects, or is interested in similar projects, then finding out if they have their own little production company. If they do, it won't take that much googling to figure out the address or a contact. Then, I just write up a query letter that's catered right to them and send it off. Then, sit back and grow old waiting for a response.

So, that's where I'm at right now. I'm going to finish up the last tweaks to the script and then I'm going to come up with my game plan. What do you think? Am I missing anything? Do you have any other advice for myself or anyone else who's in the same shoes as me? Let me know... please. In any case, I'll be sure to keep you posted on any news and how it all turns out.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Interview with writer/director Robert Filion

It's amazing to me that we've done something like 150 interviews with indie filmmakers. That's an unfathomable amount of insight, lessons and trials & tribulations about the indie and micro-budget film world. I've archived a few, but years have gone by since I've added more to that list. I know, I know, I've done a piss poor job, but I swear, one day... one day, I will do them all justice. Until then, guess what... you're just going to have to keep checking in or going back through our posts.

So, that got me thinking... ten years from now, I'm betting that I'll go back and look at all these and one or two of the filmmakers that we've talked to will have made it. Made it big... and hopefully they remember me. Really, there's just too much talent, too much imagination and too much spirit and drive in here, that it's impossible that someone doesn't make it. The big question is, who's it going to be? Every time I read through an interview, that thought crosses my mind. Could it be this guy? Could it be that guy? Could it be you? Maybe it's me... or maybe it's Robert Filion... who's Robert Filion? Well, let me introduce you.

Robert recently finished a short film called "Lot 66" and, quite frankly, it's a cool little piece. He's worked on quite a few different projects and he has a few things in the hopper, so I expect to see more and better things in the near future. He's obviously skilled with both the camera and the computer, as he did all the CG effects for the film. "Lot 66" is a tense thriller with some great effects and it's certainly worth checking out. I'm going to embed it right before the interview, so you can either watch it now, then read what Robert has to say about it, or read the interview, then scroll back up and check it out. Either way, check it out and check out the interview that follows.

Lot 66 ©2010 from Robert W. Filion on Vimeo.

Tell our readers a bit about "Lot 66".

Lot 66 was a sort of test short. I was curious if I could make something tense in a short running time and have it take place mostly in the light. I also wanted to give my friend Michael Melendez a good role since he’s been helping support my addiction to filmmaking for several years, and I traditionally have only tossed him police officer roles. The story is based on a game I have played with my wife in the past, but I can’t really talk too much about that since it could spoil the experience. We shot it right before Christmas 2009 over a two day weekend in Fort Mill, SC with a solid crew and small cast. The rough cut was completed within 2 days, and all of post was completed about 3 months after due to the voluminous VFX pieces required.

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

The budget was less than $300 and that bill was carried by Lee Miller, my producing partner, so he got the Executive credit on this one… thank you, Lee! Of course, there are always intangibles and favors involved in the equation which drastically impact the overall production value. For example, a local company will periodically lend me a jib for use during a weekend shoot if it’s not being rented, or the cast and crew will largely cover the cost of fuel… these things are really what make shooting possible. On this project, a friend of my family lent me a rather expensive spec home to shoot in, so the production value in that home elevated the whole piece.

The camera work was great, what did you shoot on?

Thank you, I shoot with a JVC GYHD110U in HDV 720p. I’m typically my own DP as I have yet to find someone who shoots like I need my projects shot (at the price I can afford). I’m not really a micromanager, I just have a very strong visual sensibility, and need things to look a specific way lighting wise and compositionally.

There were some great tracking and dolly shots, did you have a crane or a dolly? If not, how did you accomplish the shots?

Most of the short was shot with a 6’ Porta-Jib. It’s my hallmark tool as it’s quick to setup and maintain with a small crew – I’m saving up for my own Porta-Jib Explorer.

The effects at the end were awesome, tell us how you accomplished all the gunshot wounds and splatter.

Because of the complicated nature of shooting in a practical location, there is seldom the budget in place on my short films to do interior makeup effects work like splatter. I mean, there’s the potential of breaking things with pyro, splattering walls with fake blood, causing ants and other insects if you don’t clean all of it up properly, carpet soiling… the list goes on. On this short, all of the splatter was composited in after the shoot, to include the entry wounds. There’s no greater fun than tracking in an entry wound on an actor’s cheek as he descends backwards to the floor, or compositing splatter in a 3D space. Of course, I’m being sarcastic… it was not difficult work, but tedious and time consuming. I live for the completed piece, not the imminent work caused by my over-exertive nature.

At any rate, there were additional effects shots perhaps not immediately obvious… I had to create a digital version of the house and modify the windows a bit for some exterior dolly shots as I cannot afford the equipment to pull this level of shooting off practically. So one of these shots involved me creating and animating a thunderstorm and hundreds of trees as I pull out of a second story window and descend into the forest. A neat shot, and I could have spent even more countless hours perfecting it further, but I set goals for myself so I can complete work; I don’t like working on the same short for years as some of my peers do. In yet another instance of VFX work, I had to create a basic prison environment… a sort of mental confinement for our protagonist. In this digital set, I had another dolly out through bars as his mental demons were frolicking about in front of spot lights so as to pique his terror. This was something I had not created to this complexity prior, and I found the bitter limits of After Effects, I can tell you.

Now, tell us a bit about yourself. What are your influences and what got you in to film?

I have been a filmmaker since childhood, and have always wanted to direct for the big screen. I was born in National City, CA, and as we were a military family, moved several times until I found my way on my own in Rock Hill, SC (just outside of Charlotte, NC). I have been building myself in this area since the late 80’s. The Army put me partially through college with the GI Bill, and upon graduation, I went for 5 years working as a wedding videographer, stage hand, editor and news videographer… just experiencing the whole freelance landscape. Around 1999, I began to really push myself out as a filmmaker. Now, I have never made enough money at what I’m passionate about to do it full time, so I have always held down a full time day job as either a computer technician, web designer or freelance video professional. With all this on me, I still seem to get work out and finished in a fairly slim amount of time. As for what or who inspired me, I’d have to say my late mother greatly inspired me. She was a multifaceted artist, and gave me appreciation for the arts. In respect to filmmakers who have influenced me, I’d have to say George Romero, Sam Raimi, Peter Jackson and Danny Boyle.

Film school: yes or no?

Kind of, but not really. I have a degree in television production, and always wanted to make motion pictures. I decided I couldn’t afford film school, so went with its less creative cousin. That did help, but I’ve spent years getting out from under that mindset. I would never shoot a news segment like I shoot a short film. It seems obvious, but once you learn a certain style, and have it ingrained in your psyche, it’s difficult to get out of that box. I had to teach myself to pull out from my subject and not fill my frame up with over-information, and that negative space was a good thing.

Talk about your goals behind making “Lot 66” and your other short films. Is it for accolades, for a reel, for festivals? Did you accomplish your goals?

Everything I do is a step toward making a feature film. The shorts I have been making have been honing my skills and the skills of my casts and crew and getting our names out there. The misstep I always seem to make is that I never allocate enough money toward more festivals… they’re expensive, and you have to choose carefully if your budget is $0. Festivals largely don’t seem to care about that as it’s difficult to get feedback from them if you don’t make the cut, and if you do (get feedback), it’s sometimes as though the reviewers didn’t actually watch your short, but enough with the rant. My thought on any of these short films is to get a quality product out there that everyone can be pleased with. Nothing is worse when you freely invest your time in something than the work falling short of quality… that negates what we’re supposedly pushing for as filmmakers. Success cannot be measured at this point, however, I can say I’m making strides toward my goals... like an inchworm moving a mile. As for the brass ring, nobody has given me a real shot yet… I suppose some of my work is about just that – you won’t give me a shot, well, how about I, or we give me or us a shot with our own resources, and when we’re further in this life, you’ll be kicking yourself for not wanting to help when we needed you. I don’t even know if that makes sense to anybody but me. I hope so.

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

Well, gone are the days of pioneering filmmakers like George Romero, John Carpenter and Wes Craven. These guys by today’s standard had it easy because there was so little quality competition doing what they were doing. Now, “Hollywood” has been so inundated by poor quality, redundancy, internet garbage, etc. that they have all but closed all doors to the indie market. Getting in is only by force majeure. The only thing I can see to do since I’m so far removed from “the system” is to keep putting out solid work and hope that someone notices. I try to attend conventions to meet people and get stuff seen, but so far, there has been little movement. This all sounds bleak, but there are opportunities. I can see private investment in my projects as possible as I can compete with the bigger guys with even fewer resources. Also, the internet is a powerful ally, and there are websites setup to give assistance to the indies. OpenFilm, Vimeo, and YouTube are integral pieces of the puzzle, and I feel are the sites viewers will be going for years to come for entertainment.

Where can people check your films out?, and

What’s next for you?

I’m currently wrapping up a short film I shot for the Halloween Horror Nights 2010 Competition called “The Promise Jar”, and have 3 feature scripts ready to go. Two from novelist Michael Louis Calvillo, and one from Chad Law and Evan Law called Abominations (I just finished shooting a teaser for investors for this one). I’m also currently attached as Co-Director on a feature called Ghost Trek. Lots going on, hopefully something sticks and we can all move forward with bigger gigs.

Monday, August 16, 2010

"The Expendables" at the box office and the week in horror on DVD

I was hopeful, but I didn't really think it would happen... but it did. "The Expendables" won the weekend at the box office. Unbelievable. A throwback action film, written and directed by Sly Stallone, beat out "Eat Pray Love" and "Scott Pilgrim". Further to that, it beat out "Rambo", which was awesome, and gave Stallone his biggest opening ever... although, that's not in terms of actual audience. In any case, a big day for the action genre. Does this mean that 80's style action movies are going to make a comeback? I doubt it, but... it does suggest that (a) put together properly, there's still a market for these films and (b) that guys like Stallone and Dolph Lundgren still have some fuel in their tanks. The way I look at it, it boils down to concepts. Twenty Five years ago, the concepts didn't need to be that big... or smart. Ex-Colonel has his daughter kidnapped by terrorists, Ex-Colonel kills all the terrorists. Reanimated dead soldiers do evil deeds, one with a good heart turns on them. Bad dudes hunt humans for fun, but accidentally pick on an ex-marine. Psycho Ex-Marine gets sent back in to Vietnam to finish the job... you get the picture. These days, those ideas may not fly when that's all it is, just a premise. However, big concepts wrapped around a simple premise will. Highly skilled mercenaries are commissioned to assassinate the dictator of a small South American island... and the group of mercenaries are played by ten of the biggest action stars of the last twenty five years. Layers, big concepts, clean ideas, solid and simple plot - easy sell. I think that a lot of screenwriters think that they need to over complicate things to make it more saleable in today's market... it's not complexity that they're looking for, it's clean, simple ideas with a good concept. That's why this is a success. Anyhow, let's move on to the DVD's of the week. It's not a great week for horror, but it'll do. As usual, you can go to our Youtube Page to see all the trailers and you can click on the titles to be taken to their page on Amazon, where you can read more and/or buy the film.

"The Lost Skeleton Returns Again" and "Dark And Stormy Night" both come out this week and they were both written and directed by Larry Blamire. Blamire's films are more like cult comedy, but they're definitely in the horror realm. His directorial debut was the predecessor to "Lost Skeleten", called "The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra". He followed that up with "Meet the Mobsters" and "Trail of the Screaming Forehead", before making these two. His films are throwbacks to old, old-school horror films from the 40's or 50's.

Quite frankly, based on the premise, I can't believe that "Burning Bright" got made. I mean, this film has some serious budget and the plot is utterly ludicrous. A young girl and her autistic brother are in the care of their stepfather, after the death of their mother, and he just pilfered her college fund to buy a tiger for his safari park... and now a hurricane hits them and the tiger gets loose in their home. I think I'm going to have to check this one out, just to see it.

If you want to pad your horror collection with some cheap, quality Roger Corman films, this week is your week. There's both the "Roger Corman Creature Collection" and the "Roger Corman Horror Collection 2" coming out and they're going for $6.98 each. The Creature Collection comes with "Attack of the Giant Leeches", "The Wasp Woman", "Creature From the Haunted Sea", "A Bucket of Blood" and "Last Woman on Earth". The Horror Collection comes with "The Little Shop of Horrors", "The Terror", "Dementia 13", "She Gods of Shark Reef" and "Swamp Women".

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Interview with writer/director Duncan Meece

You know how when you think about something, you see it everywhere? Like, for example, say you're in the market for a new car and you want a convertible. Prior to wanting a convertible, you don't take notice of them... so, you don't see many. However, once you make the decision to get a convertible and you put it in your mind, you see them everywhere. Not only that, you start to take notice of different things, you analyze them, you research them... before long, you're an expert on convertibles. I feel I'm getting to that point with short films.

Not that I'm an expert on short films, but I'm becoming an expert on where to find them, what's good about them and what they can do for filmmakers. I truly believe that short films are going to be what spec scripts were... sort of. Everyone had a spec script, not everyone has a short film. Short films are an easy entry into the game. A short film or a webisode that has tons of hits and views online will get noticed and, if it has enough hits, will get picked up. Hollywood likes anything that people watch, anything that gets eyeballs or readers or gets people talking. The fact that "Shit My Dad Says" is one of the most talked about TV shows coming up this Fall proves that. So, because I believe that a good short film can act as a calling card, I'm going to keep talking to filmmakers that are out there making short films. I want to know about their motivation. I want to know how they made them and what their plans are... and maybe, just maybe, I can motivate a few of you other guys to get off your asses and go make one yourself!

Today, we talk with Duncan Meece, who's put a few shorts out there. We're going to talk about two of them, "First Time" and "Cough".

Tell us about your short films, “Cough” and “First Time”

Both films are dark walks through troubled minds. “First Time” is about a young man’s dilemma when trying something new. Cough is about a smoker trying to hide from his troubled past. Unfortunately, since the films are so short, I can’t say much more without giving away their endings.

If you don’t mind us asking, what was the budget for your films?

There was no real budget for the films. All the props and equipment we used were things I'd already owned. I had the camera for a couple years before, which was about 600 bucks at the time I bought it. I lit everything with a couple clamp lights my dad had lying around his shop, which is also where we shot “First Time.” We shot “Cough” in my uncle’s abandoned house which had been made unlivable by a hurricane. And the actors are friends of mine and worked for free, of course.

You did a great job on the cinematography. What camera did you use and talk about how you accomplished some your favorite shots.

The camera I used was the Canon VIXIA HV 30. It’s a great camera for the price. In fact, it’s probably my favorite camera I’ve used. And no, Canon is not paying me to say that. After writing a script, I’ll make out a list of every shot I need. I very rarely storyboard because I’ll often modify my shots once I get on location anyway. The list works well for me because it tells me the essential shots I’ll need to tell my story and still leaves me room to improvise on set. The look of my films is more a result of the low key lighting rather than the camerawork as far as I’m concerned. Also, I think the video look gives it a strange feeling. It was shot in standard definition on mini DV tapes. So many people shooting on mini DV go to ridiculous lengths to try and make their videos look like film. I’ve even heard of people stretching pantyhose over the lens, whatever the fuck that’s supposed to do. It all seems pointless to me. People who draw with a pencil don’t try to make their drawings look like paint. Video is its own medium and it shouldn’t have to be ashamed of that.

I thought you did a great job on the sound, as well. What did you cut the film on and how did you score the films?

All the dialogue from the cowboy and the sound effects in “First Time” were recorded after shooting was completed. The only bit of dialogue that was recorded during shooting was the young man’s one line, “Can I have another beer?” which took about twenty takes to get due to microphone issues. The dialogue was recorded directly into the camera with a lavalier microphone, and split into two tracks. It was then run through a continuous noise filter to remove any extraneous sounds. The music is all electric guitar, recorded on a freeware audio recorder and processed into electronic sounds old school with various filters, ring modulators and assorted effects. It was edited with DC Art Millennium. All the audio work and the music was done by my father, Tim Meece. After I got the polished sounds back, I edited the film in Adobe Premiere Pro.

Now, tell us a bit about yourself. What are your influences and what got you in to film?

This is going to sound really strange but I remember the exact film that got me into filmmaking and the exact moment it happened. Believe it or not, it was the animated film “The Great Mouse Detective.” Particularly, the scene at the end where the rat falls from Big Ben. That really affected me for some reason. I remember going into the kitchen after it ended and telling my mom “I want to make movies when I grow up.” A couple years later I got my first camera and I’ve been making them ever since. As far as influences go, the top of the list has got to be Takashi Miike. I also like David Lynch, Kubrick, David Cronenberg, Gaspar Noe, Scooter McCrae, who did Sixteen Tongues and of course, Tarantino.

Film school: yes or no?

Well, it definitely wasn’t for me. I’m proud to say I’m a film school dropout. There are some good things about film school. You can get criticism from your teachers and classmates and it makes getting a job much easier. However, they teach you a lot of pointless bullshit in school. And they make you pay for it. If you’ve got the determination, you can make it without school. Anything they teach you there, you can learn for free on your own.

Talk about your goals behind making “Cough” and “First Time” and did you accomplish them?

My goals for making these shorts were primarily to learn filmmaking techniques and to develop my visual style. Also, since I didn’t go to school, I figured shorts would be an easy way to make a name for myself. I did learn some things that will hopefully make my next films better and I suppose this interview is evidence of me making a name for myself so I suppose I did accomplish my goals.

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

There are a lot of interesting films being made now. With all these fucking remakes coming out and polluting the mainstream horror world, the indie films are really the only good horror films but I suppose that’s always been true. Films like Paranormal Activity have proven that indie films can still make a lot of money, although I thought that film was extremely overrated. With the internet now, filmmakers that would never even get a second glance in Hollywood are starting to emerge. There’s as much shit on the internet as there is anywhere else, but if you sift through it, you can find something amazing every now and then. I think the future of horror and of cinema in general is with the internet.

Where can people check your films out?

You can see my films and hear my father’s music, at our website

What’s next for you?

I’m currently working on a script for what I plan to be my first feature. It will most likely be several years before I get around to making it unless someone reading this interview decides to give me a big pile of money (fingers crossed). When I do decide to make another short, it will be something different from what you’ve seen in my previous work. Also, I plan to start doing music videos. If you subscribe at, you’ll be kept up to date on everything.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The Box Office AND This Week in Horror on DVD

So, Will Ferrell's still got it and, let's be honest, "The Other Guys" is a Will Ferrell movie. It topped the box office, finally kicking "Inception" down to second place... in its fifth week? Or is it fourth week? Either way, "Inception" only declined around 33%, which isn't bad for being in the theaters for a month. "Step Up 3-D" had its ass handed to it, grossing the worst of all three "Step Up" films, bringing in only $15.8Million. "Salt" slipped 44% and came in 4th, "Dinner for Schmucks" slipped a whopping 56% and came in 5th, but that's to be expected... (A) it's a comedy and (B) another comedy came out this week. As for this week, this Friday comes with much trepidation for me... "The Expendables" finally comes out. It's a film that I would've given my left nut to see twenty years ago. Written and directed by Stallone, starring Stallone and, virtually, every other action star of note... besides Segal and Van Damme. Now, in 2010? Will this fly? I don't know. I loved the latest "Rambo" and it exceeded my expectations, let's see if this lives up to its potential. Other than that, on the 20th, we get the campy "Piranha 3D" and then there's a horror film coming out, pretty much, every week through September. We'll keep you posted on all of them. So, let's look at all the new and notable horror DVD's that come out this week. As usual, you can go to our Youtube Page, where you can see all the trailers and you can click on the title to be taken to the films Amazon page, where you can read more and/or buy the film.

This week, you get a double shot of Eric Roberts with both "Killer Weekend" and "Project Solitude: Buried Alive" coming out. If you don't know, Eric is the older brother to Julia and I don't think they really get along. He's been in some great films, including, lately, "The Dark Knight" and "Final Analysis" and, back in the 80's, he was even nominated for an academy award. You can see him in "The Expendables" this Friday and he's involved in tons of upcoming projects... most of them low-budget, like "Killer Weekend" and "Project Solitude: Buried Alive". That's not to say they aren't good, they're just straight to DVD horror films. In fact, they both look alright and I'm going to check them out...

"Nightmare Alley" comes from Brain Damage and it's a micro-budget horror anthology, seven short films in one. I'm not sure if they purposely borrowed the title of a classic noir film from the forties, but they did... so, don't confuse it. As if you could. The film from 1947 has Tyrone Power on the front, this one has a sketch of a decapitated head and it boasts to have been shot in 'Grind-o-Scope'. It was a finalist in the Australia Film Fest, it won at Brunswick Film Fest and it was a selection at Schlockfest Australia.

I really want to know more about "Things". As of right now, it's out of stock on Amazon and there's very little information out there. However, it's been called "so bad, it's good" and "an obscure bargain basement shot-on-video horror that's utterly awful and inept". It's about a guy and his friend that get drunk and end up having to fight some ant-like sharp-toothed creatures that were born out of one the guy's sickly wife. Count me in.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Lessons For Indie Filmmakers - Following Up With Christopher DiNunzio

They don't write too many books on the business of indie film... at least none that I can find. I mean, there's a million books on film, lots on the film industry, and more than enough on screenwriting, filmmaking and producing. I'm talking about the gritty in's and out's of the business of indie film. Not "independent film", but true, micro-cinema. Dead Harvey stuff. I'm knee deep in a couple projects right now, but I'm seriously considering writing a book on the micro-cinema world. I've got some ideas on how it should work and I have PLENTY of content, so if you're in the book world and think you can help me out, let me know. Anyhow...

Somewhere in this lack of information is where we try to fit in. We talk to the festival directors, the filmmakers and the distributors and we try to let you in on how this all works. Quite frankly, we've got a long way to go until our heads are around it, so we keep talking to people and asking questions, then posting them for you to read. Today, like I hinted at a few weeks ago, we follow up with Christopher DiNunzio, the writer/director of "Livestock".

We originally spoke with Chris over a year ago, right as he was looking for distribution. You can read the original interview here. So, how did it go? Was he accepted to the festivals? Did he get distribution? Did he make some money? Let's find out...

Let's remind our readers about both you and "Livestock". First off, tell us about the film. What's it about, where did the idea come from, when did you start shooting and when was it released?

The short synopsis is "A mysterious cult and two best friends take a new direction in life and soon dark secrets are revealed when their worlds collide. " The idea started as a film based around online dating but it ended up morphing into this gangster horror film. We shot it in Fall of 2007 and it was released in November 2009.

Now, tell us a bit about yourself. What are your influences and what got you in to indie film?

My influences are Michelangelo Antonioni , Dario Argento, Sergio Leon, Kiyohsi Kurosowa, John Carpenter, Roman Polanski and many more. I've always loved film and I got into filmmaking after seeing Argento's films. That's the first time I saw film as an art and I knew this is they way I wanted to express myself.

Last we checked in with you, you had just submitted the film to the film festivals and didn't have distribution. First off, how did it go with the film festivals? Any lessons learned there?

"Livestock" was accepted into 3 festivals, so I'm pretty happy about that. We didn't apply for too many. Unfortunately the funds weren't there. I'm more aware now of which festivals actually support indie films, rather than catering to studio films. I've learned to make sure that the festival I'm submitting to is going to be a good fit for my film. With all that being said, it can still be a big crap shoot.

Now, let's talk about distribution. If I remember correctly, the film was picked up by R-Squared Films. Talk about the process of finding them and getting a deal.

They actually contacted me through my website, so I sent them a screener and they liked it and picked it up! The process was pretty easy, but you need to be patient. Also, you want to do as much research on them as possible to make sure that you are the right fit. We actually had a few people contact us and I even learned so much from them just from hearing what they had to say.

Looking back at the time from when the film was finished to now. What things did you do right and what things would have done differently?

I wouldn't do anything differently. The whole process was a learning experience and now I feel battled tested. Going through it a second time I feel even more comfortable. I believe that with each film I will improve more and more, becoming more proficient. You just can't be afraid to fail. That's the worst part about filmmaking. You have to overcome your fear of failing.

Let's talk about monetization. You don't have to disclose actual figures, but, generally, has the film been a financial success for you? Is there anything you can pass on to other filmmakers, as far as what they can expect to get back after they finish their film?

It's doing good, but it could be doing better. I would love to see more promotion for the film. But, I can't complain too much because it is widely available. You can purchase it on Amazon, Best Buy and soon on Netflix. My goal for "Livestock" was to just get it out there and prove that I could do it. You can't only expect money in return. You have to look at it as an opportunity to become a visible filmmaker.

Let's talk about the last year... overall, talk about the work that you've continued to do for "Livestock". Have any unexpected things come up?
Anything you could pass on to other filmmakers?

I've had to push the promotion here and there, but not too much.
Mostly I've been trying to move on to new projects. There's not too much you can do once you get picked up other than hope that the distributor does a lot to promote the film. Once you're done with the film you gotta just take a nice look back then move forward.

Have you been working on any other projects over the last year? What's next for you?

Absolutely. I just completed a feature length documentary "Viva!
Saint Agrippina". It takes place in Boston's historical North End and it's about the Saint Agrippina Benefit Society, who have been hosting an annual feast in honor of the martyred Saint since 1914. I loved working on it because its way out of the box for me. Most people who know me know that I'm not religious, but I've had family members involved in this for years. I thought it would be a perfect opportunity for me to try a different style of filmmaking. Overall I really loved the pacing and freedom of working on a documentary and would love to do more in the future. But, for right now I'm itching to do another horror film or a gangster film, but this time I don't want to blend the two. It has to be one or the other this time.

So, has your opinion on the indie film world changed at all and has this process encouraged you or discouraged you to continue making films?

I think my opinion has changed as far as what people expect from an indie film. It's just interesting that sometimes people assume just because you make a low budget horror film it has to be all tits and gore. Don't get me wrong I love all that but I wish people would give horror films more credit that that. It can be a very artistic subject if you want it to be. Horror has many faces. However I'm happy to know that there are a lot of people out there that are very supportive and more than happy to back an independent film. But I'm not discouraged at all. I'm hard-headed, so I won't quit!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Weekend Box Office and The Week in Horror on DVD

Over the weekend, "Inception" became the fourth movie of the year to go three straight weeks at number one. The other three? "Avatar", "Alice in Wonderland" and "Shrek Forever After". Also, "Inception" has now become the seventh highest-grossing film of 2010... So, batten down the hatches, folks. We've got a hit on our hands here. Now, if you haven't seen it, I do recommend it. It's a mind-fuck movie and it's got lots of twists and turns and great effects, but most importantly, it's Christopher Nolan and he's proving that he's a top-tier filmmaker. Also, I love that he came from pure indie roots. His first film, "Following", which came out in 1998, took over a year to shoot because the whole cast and crew had other full-time jobs and they only shot on Saturdays. Sound familiar? His next film after "Following" was "Momento" ...and if you don't know that film, I'm not sure what to say, but go get it... and now. As for the rest of the box office, "Dinner for Schmucks" was a new release and it did well for a comedy, coming in second. "Salt" was third, "Despicable Me" was fourth and both weren't new releases. "Charlie St. Cloud" came in fifth and "Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore" came in sixth, both were new releases and would be considered disappointments... I assume. As for the week in horror on DVD, it's not bad. So, let's get to it. You can check out all the trailers on our Youtube Channel and you can click on the titles to be taken to the films page on Amazon, where you can read more and/or buy it.

"Hoboken Hollow", written and directed by Glen Stephens, has a great cast, including Jason Connery, C. Thomas Howell, Michael Madsen, Robert Carradine and the late Dennis Hopper. I can only assume that Hopper's passing has something to do with this release, as it originally came out in 2005 and it didn't really do much then. It's sort of a hillbilly horror with some roots in reality. It's about a ranch that picks up workers, usually vagrants and poor folks, and then, well, tortures the crap out of them. Apparently this stuff happened, at least there's lots of urban legends about it. So, that tends to make it just that much more creepy... also, price is right on this DVD, they're selling it for $6.99.

I like the concept behind "Open House" and I think there's a lot of room for other filmmakers to explore this little sub-genre. I'll explain... horror is about fears, right? Taking things that people are scared of in real life and then throwing it in their faces. Well, there's something scary about buying and selling a home. In fact, there's LOTS of scary things about it. From having strangers and random people coming through your house when you try to sell it all the way to not knowing what kind of house you're buying or what kind of neighborhood you're moving in to? Get it? Really, it's scary stuff and there's a lot to work with in this whole concept. Anyhow, "Open House" deals with a couple that's trying to sell their house, but finds out that one of the potential buyers never left the open house.

Robert Beaucage's "Spike" looks a little odd and may not be my cup of tea, but... it could be yours. It did win an award at Shriekfest 2009 - best fantasy feature film, so I may be the odd man out. Actually, I haven't seen it, so I may be jumping to conclusions, but anyhow... The film draws heavily on Grimm's fairytales and, in fact, calls itself a Gothic fairytale. From what I can tell, a group of people head into the woods where they encounter a beast... but the beast leaves a poem behind for one of the girls. That's right, we're talking a gothic "Beauty and The Beast" horror here. Anyhow, it could be interesting. In fact, I'm actually turning myself around here, maybe I'll check it out.

"Secrets of the Clown", from Ryan Badalamenti, is also a bit of a rerelease... I only say that because I remember it from a while ago and it came out in 2007. It won best feature film at the New York International Independent Film & Video Festival and it preys on everyones favorite fear, the fear of clowns. Price is right on this DVD, as well... again, $6.99.

I have to comment on the Asylum double-pack, Blu-ray release of, "Haunting of Winchester House / I Am Omega", because I love Asylum releases. "I Am Omega" takes the "Omega Man" idea, where the main character is the last human on earth, and gives it a bit of an action spin. It came out right around the time that "I Am Legend" came out... Martial Artist Mark Dacascos takes on the zombies and does some serious ass kicking. "Haunting of Winchester House" was brought out after the slew of haunted house films came out, notably "The Haunting in Connecticut", which I'm assuming this was based on.