Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Straight out of the '90's

Looking back the 1990's weren't all bad. There was a lot of crappy films and television sucked for the most part. But there was some good stuff that came out of the '90's. One of was pre-Tom Katie Holmes. From 1997-2000 I'd have done almost anything for a date with her. For me she was at her most delectable in Disturbing Behavior. Not having seen it since, well it came out I decided to give the DVD a watch with a second helping of Katie in Teaching Mrs. Tingle. Another film I haven't watched since back in 2000. Save for some dated music and slang both held up well. Both also suffered from heavy studio tampering which most likely hindered them from being more popular then they were.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Happiest place on Earth?

We don't get to choose our family. But who our family is determines certain things about us. Were we grow up, go to school, the people we get to be friends with. The families we get inform these aspects of our lives growing up. Shaping a bit of who we grow up to be. Such is the case in the first issue of Terrance Zdunich's The Molting “Chapter 1: Guilty Susie”. The co-creator/co-star of Repo! The Genetic Opera self-published labor of love opens in Muscoy in the summer of 1961. Anthony and Susana Deveraux are placed in the foster care of their slimy aunt and uncle after the death of their parents. The aunt and uncle just want the money that was left to the children. What happens next to the children out at desolate home of the aunt and uncle will not only have repercussions for the Deveraux children but it will also weigh heavily on the generation to come.

"Chapter 2: The Happiest Place on Earth" picks up in the '90's with Susie married to an aimless husband Abe and two sons, Joseph and Trevor. Susie lives a life very distant from her family. Keeping to herself and occasionally fighting with her husband. The house is also infested with roaches, which become a recurring motif in the following chapters. Her sons try simply to make it from one day to the next. Their juvenile delinquent antics get them in a few tight spots with the law and a local gang in "Chapter 3: Ootheca". In "Chapter 4: Lethal Raids" we're introduced to a recurring flashback of caveman. Not only their violence but also their capacity to be artistic. Joseph's very sexy female teacher takes notice of Joseph's own artist talents and presents him with a chance perhaps develop it farther in an art contest.

What I truly love about Zdunich's The Molting is the twisted American Gothic feel that's reminiscent of Alan Moore's Swamp Thing run. That sense of something supernatural just under the surface of boring everyday life. We get the sense that there's more to Susie and her Orphan Annie eye then just being emotionally vacant. The way she uses a glance and her voice to influence people's minds around her. From the first issue to the fourth there's a sense of hopeless desolation. Be it in the desert of the 1st issue or the suburban setting of the next issues. The art style and coloring perfectly convey this. But at the same time it's not a depressing story. There's a innocent hopefulness to it. From the brothers, to their father Abe (Who reminds me of Tommy Chong for some reason.) and Susie herself. My favorite parts of the story so far are the times we get to see a glimpse of that bond between this family. Though they are very dysfunctional, there's still a "something" (Love?) that comes out in their interactions.

Like I said earlier Terrance Zdunich is self-publishing this and it's a true labor of love. That love comes across in every drawn line and written word. None of it feels like wasted space or filler. Every scene adds to the overall story. I highly recommended it to fans of horror comics and fans of independent comics.

Get The Molting here.

A Pre-Screening of the short film CREEPY


A Pre-Screening of the short film CREEPY

Before its World premiere at The Action on Film International Film Festival next month will be taking place:

Tuesday June 29th, starting at 8PM at Space 1520

(Sunset & Cahuenga)

It is going to be a fun night of Scary Entertainment, Food and Drink!

If you can make it out I would love to see you.


Necrotelevision by Fidencio Casas

John by Vito Dinatolo

Creepy by David Stay

Lost Tales from Camp Blood by Andrew Ceperley

Devil’s Land by Jonathan Kutner

Now Rock On!


Thursday, June 24, 2010

Dreamers vs Parents - Mom Threw Out My $7,000 Monster Magazine

Writer/director and friend of the site Paul Kyriazi was kind enough to share this article he wrote. Enjoy!

by Paul Kyriazi

Film directors Steven Spielberg John Landis, and Joe Dante were forbidden during their childhoods to read 'Famous Monsters of Filmland' magazine. My friend Tony was caught reading the magazines by his mother. She sent him to talk to their church priest who reported to her "Don't worry. He's okay."

My mother was no different. Even more so.

At age 12 I loved the 1960 movie 'The Time Machine'. I had to secretly go to the theater because my mom wouldn't let me see movies with monsters in it.

I tried to explain that this movie was made from a famous novel and the 'monsters, 'the 'Morlocks', were just a small part of the story. She said no so I sneaked of to the theater to see it.

I got the promotional comic book of the move which had a great color cover of Rod Taylor in his time machine, but because there was also a Morlock on it she made me throw it away. (See above photo.)

I wrote to the 'Time Machine' director George Pal for a photo from the movie. This was when no one wrote to a studio. What a miracle, Pal sent me a photo and a letter. My mom found them, tore them up, and thew them in the garbage.

Four years later 'The Time Machine' was on TV and she watched it with me. 'What a nice movie', she said. Aha victory of sorts.

With all my Time Machine souvenirs gone I persisted on getting closer to that movie. In 1977 I got to meet director George Pal. In 2007I hired the two stars of 'The Time Machine' Rod Taylor & Alan Young to narrated two of my novels turned into a audio-books. And my mother??? ......

....... Now we go to Science Fiction conventions together (with my dad) and I point out to her the first issues of the magazine 'Famous Monsters of Filmland' that she made me throw out. They are now ($5000 to $7000 each. Issue #1 pictured above.) And we laugh as she says "Well, we were so worried about you with those monster magazines and movies. We didn't know you were interested in the movies. We worried that you were interested in monsters."

She did help me get into the movie department of college and paid for it. And I ended up directing six feature films and many documentaries. And my dad? We watched 'The Thing' many times and then got to meet the star Ken Tobey and talk to him about it.

And the good news is that I'm still going to movie conventions with my parents. We just saw the new 'Wolfman' together. Violent as hell, but my mom loved it. Go figure?

The moral of the story: Give your parents time to catch up with you.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hump Day Posters: Slasher films part 1

Well the '80's are all done. Time to move on. This week it's something I truly love. Slasher films.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

They were young and in love. He was crazy. She was dead.

Horror House on Highway 5 (1985)

Director: Richard Casey

Writer: Richard Casey

Starring: Phil Therrien, Max Manthey, Irene F., Michael Castagnolia, Susan Leslie, Randy Daitch,

"Hey Joe, tell your Dad to eat shit!"

Not the house.

Um...Well. Really? What the hell? There's really no way to make my brain stop hurting. Between the crazy Nazi scientist, the brain maggots and a killer dressed as Richard Nixon! This film's like a drug trip without the drugs. Add to it that the acting ranges from hammy over acting to non-acting on a somnambulist level. Then there's the soundtrack, it'll have your ears bleeding. It ranges from ridiculous surf music to what sounds like a cello getting murdered by a one-armed strangler. If your not careful this trip to Horror House On Highway 5 could lead to Lovecraftian madness.

Nerd hot.

After the titles, which really don't prepare you at all for the coming insanity, we meet Dr. Mabuser (Therrien) and his slow sidekick Gary (Manthey). The Doc is instructing his goofy sidekick about what certain Tarot cards stand for. Then as we try to wrap our heads around the fact that the good Dr. Mabuser insists the the death card means love the film cuts to another scene that seems to have nothing to do with the Doctor and his pal. Only minutes in and my brain was already angry with me. A somewhat plain looking woman is doing some housework when some dude in a Richard Nixon mask scares her. Is Tricky Dick her boyfriend or maybe her husband? We're never told. But the credits list her name as simply Housewife, so judge for yourself. Maybe someday I'll write a prequel fanfic about these two...or maybe not. Anyway nonplussed by Tricky Dick's antics she decides to take a shower (naturally) and sends him out to the car to get something. An unseen killer hiding in the back seat offs Tricky Dick. The woman finishes her shower and we get a very unwanted look at her in a gratuitous t&a shot. Thankfully the killer shows up now wearing the Nixon mask and after a brief case that ends with the woman gingerly falling onto a glass table, shattering it. Her wrist cut open by the glass, after a bit more of stalking she's dispatched by the killer.


Plugged or not plugged? 

Next we cut to to a college classroom full of the oddest looking collage "kids" ever assembled. The sweatiest professor (Daitch) I've ever seen is telling his "students" about the town of Littletown and a deceased Nazi scientist named Bartholomew, who supposedly created the V2 rocket. He wants three of his students go to Littletown and research Bartholomew and make replicas of his rockets. The three that are "lucky" enough to get this assignment are: Louise (Leslie), who's like Velma from Scooby Doo (Right down to the can't see without her glasses weakness), Then there's Mike (Castagnolia) the stoner, who looks a helluva lot like a young Dario Argento, and lastly there's polka dot dress wearing Sally (Irene F.). Sally goes to see Dr. Mabuser whilst Louise and Dario Argento take the Mystery Machine to Littletown for some rocket making.

Dead. Cat.

Meanwhile Richard Nixon stalks a couple of victims in the moonlight. This scene is probability my favorite scene in the film. It features a girl who appears to be auditioning for My Cousin Vinny 2 and her boyfriend, a drunken David Naughton wannabe. Drunken Naughton also has some of the worst acting in the film and the best lines. With Nixon outside their car our drunk friend gets out a hollers "Hey, I'm gonna fuck you, man!" Then socks Dick in the face. Tricky Dick beats the hell out of Mr. drunk and then gets run over. Not that'll stop the 37th President of the United States! Drunken Naughton dies from his injuries and his gal pal runs off. Long story short: everyone seems to end up at said Horror House. Dr. Mabuser, Gary, Sally, Louise and Dario, all of them and Richard Nixon too! Brain maggots, attempted drilling and boob ironings ensue. Boob ironing!

Our 37th President

Did someone slip me drugs? This film is plain nuts! Once in awhile you come across a film that not only makes you question the filmmakers sanity but yours as well. There's the killer wearing a Richard Nixon mask who's played Ronald Reagan! How about Louise's non-acting. Mike discovers a dead and very fake looking cat in the back of the van. Louise reacts to it like someone just told her library card was out of date. Making it even stranger is that earlier in the film when she's sitting poolside there's a cat sitting next to her that looks like the dead one! Another weird thing about her is that halfway into the film some scenes she's wearing a very obvious wig! There's an unseen "thing" in the house's basement that makes swooshing nosies and cuts people. We never get to see it or even told what "it" is. You have to witness Dr. Marbuse's black magic Boob ironing ritual with an iron that appears not to be plugged in. To top it all of the ritual ends with Three Stooges style antics and sound effects! There's so much more madness in this film besides what I've mentioned. You sort of have to experience it for yourself.

Bloody Dick

Doing a little digging online that Bill Pope credited as William Pope, playing the first guy to wear the Nixon mask before getting killed and listed simply as the Gentleman in the end credits is the same Bill Pope that's cinematographer on such films as Spider-Man 2 and 3, The Matrix films, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. Richard Meltzer who plays the drunken tough guy turns out to be a pioneering rock critic who got his start in the early '70's!

Beyond the door

It's in no way what you'd call a "good" film. But it's so damn weird and unhinged that it becomes something that you really can't categorize. If you what a quick weird film high you may want to take a trip to Horror House on Highway 5. Be warned though, you may not comeback the same.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Escaping the Torture Chamber: An Interview with Dante Tomaselli

Dante Tomaselli's fourth feature film, Torture Chamber, has just wrapped shooting. I was fortunate enough to catch-up with him as he gets ready to begin post-production.

You just wrapped filming on Torture Chamber. How many days was the shoot? And how did it go?

Dante: 19 days. 19 never-ending days...or nights...or mornings. After a while I had no idea what time it was. Filming was intense, sometimes painful, shooting for hours on end in mines and darkened underground tunnels, constantly fighting against the clock. I loved every minute of it. I am electrified now. As you know, as everyone knows, I've been foaming-at-the-mouth to create another movie. It's never easy to get to the point of actually doing it. I am very pleased with the footage. It's chock full of scare sequences. Torture Chamber has a new horrific energy, more serious and brutal, more shadowy, tactile and frightening. Even though the budget is low, Torture Chamber has a kind of epic exuberance. I purposely shot the film 2.35:1 so it is very wide and I'm able to feature a bigger canvas.

With a title like Torture Chamber, do you fear any comparison to the Saw and Hostel film series?

Dante: No. To me, the title just fit; I wasn't thinking of any other films. If anything, I was thinking of my own films. I like titles that are declarative, all-encompassing. Torture Chamber is a place, a location,
a state-of-mind. The title...It conjures death and horror. I think of dungeons and castles... gloom and doom. Torture Chamber. It feels like a pure horror film to me...and now that I shot the footage, I know it is. Gothic horror from beginning to end...I would say it's more colorful and stylized than any of my other films, more energetic. It's an interior journey. It's really about peeling back layers of pain and guilt buried deep in the unconscious mind. There are trap doors, mysterious holes, maze-like tunnels...Each set-piece leads you to the next. This is a film about eternal damnation. Torture Chamber is an all-out scarefest.

Vincent Pastore who plays Dr. Fiore is well known for his role in The Sopranos. How much of a departure is Dr. Fiore from the mafioso roles he's portrayed? Also, have you ever seen Black Roses? A 1988 horror movie that may be one of his earliest film roles?

Dante: I never saw Black Roses. Vincent brings real passion to his part of Dr. Fiore, which is really an Italian American homage to Dr. Loomis in Carpenter's Halloween. Vincent brings a sense of urgency to the role. I was happy to hear that he's a huge horror fan and we talked about lots of horror classics. He knew that I didn't want to bring the comedic element into the picture. He played it seriously and with a lot of warmth, a lot of fire. He's stalking the evil, trying to solve the supernatural puzzle, so he's the anchor for the audience.
Also, he's caring for Jimmy's mother, the mentally ill, Mrs. Morgan, played by Christie Sanford.

Christie Sanford has had a role in all of your films since your first, Desecration. How did you come to cast her back then?

Dante: I was only 23, living in NYC and I placed an Ad in Backstage Magazine looking for an actress to star in the trailer for Desecration. At the time the project was called, Mama's Boy. As soon as I met her for an audition I was hooked. This was the lady of horror I've been dreaming of. She's apparitional, ice blue eyes, a face like clay...We just clicked instantly. Christie is a real trouper. She's fearless...She'd hang from rooftops for me, completely soaked in blood, get strapped onto a wood burning stove in the coldest mine...there's just nothing she wouldn't do for my movies. We have a telepathic bond. And her eyes. When she's acting, they radiate holiness...and pitch black evil. Saintly mother? Or morbid angel? And her mouth...it transforms into the jaws of hell, spewing sadistic cackles. She doesn't realize it on a conscious level, but I think sometimes she's channeling Sheila Keith from Pete Walker's British horror films or the great Barbara Steele. I'm not even sure if she knows of those performers. Christie understands the multi-layered nightmare world I'm trying to create and she throws herself deep inside. She's been in all of my movies from the very beginning and I feel she gives her best performance in Torture Chamber. It's definitely her biggest role.

Speaking of using the same actors in your films, I've always enjoyed seeing say a Sam Raimi, Joe Dante or a Stuart Gordon film and looking for those certain actors they always employ. How much easier is it to use certain actors and crew over again in your films? Is it like a family reunion?

Dante: It does feel like a family reunion. I'm a very loyal person so hopefully I attract loyalty. The crew on this film was the best I've ever worked with. Every single person from the Cinematographer to the Assistant Director to the Production Designer to the Producers to the Special FX Supervisor and down the line...just all across the board, everyone in every position on the crew worked so hard under such harsh conditions and ungodly hours. It was so cold in the tunnels and mines and the walls were filled with all sorts of creepy unknown things. I didn't dare look up sometimes. Plus there were constant drips of water coming from the stony ceilings...echoing the sound of Chinese torture. At one point, when we were all underground for a while, everyone on the crew got sick with colds; we were all passing out Halls and Ricola cough drops non stop. It was so chilly underground...then we'd walk outside into sweltering heat.

In your last interview you mentioned that Scott Sliger is your Special Make-up FX Supervisor. What can we expect to see effects wise?

Dante: Scott did an incredible job with the effects on Torture Chamber. I'm sure you remember his throat slash in Satan's Playground. The highlight of the film. Scott and I worked together on Horror too. I really don't want to give away the mutilations, burns and deaths but I can tell you he really delivered the goods. Scott is part of my filmmaking family.

David Cronenberg once said in an interview that his films were like chapters in an ongoing biography of his life. For you is it the same? Do your films chronicle what you were going though at the time you made them?

Dante: Absolutely. Yes. There's the psychic debris of everything around, it attaches itself. Though my films are kind of trapped in a time warp. The child in my mind with endless nightmares takes over. Should all sinners be damned?

The horror genre is at its best when it deals with those dark things we all have inside and don't like to talk about. Should there be any limits on what horror filmmakers can portray on screen?

Dante: My films explore taboos. Even though there's no nudity. I like to take unhealthy emotions and situations
and present them. I think there's a subversive undercurrent, definitely not in your face...more subliminal. But I like it to be beautiful; I need a glowing, electrified surface. Torture Chamber is really about peeling back layers of pain and guilt buried in the unconscious mind. It's about a family in deep psychic pain. They're all connected, because they're family. It's hard to escape family. You can't escape. There should be no limits on screen except filmmakers should never harm animals. If I ever see that, I'm enraged.

Do you ever see yourself not making horror films?

Dante: I will always make horror films, one after another. I will only make horror films. I'm an unrepentant horror fan and there's so much to explore in the genre. The possibilities are endless. My passion is in conjuring horror movies. You'll never see me direct and write a romantic comedy about lawyers in love or something. I've wanted to create hallucinogenic horror movies for as long as I can remember. I was one of those kids with the bedroom decorated like a Funhouse. I was always fantasizing. And there was that period in junior high and early high school when I didn't know if I was dreaming or awake. My dreams were so real that they tricked me. I still have sleep problems. One time when I lived in NYC, I woke up walking around in my underwear in a Korean Deli.

What's your post-production schedule looking like?

Dante: I just wrapped shooting so now I'm getting to know every nook and cranny of the footage. Then I begin editing and soundmixing...my favorite part of all.

What's next after you finish Torture Chamber?

Dante: It could be The Ocean or Alice, Sweet Alice or a totally different horror film.
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