A Year in The ‘Knife’ of A Low-Budget Horror Filmmaker: February

mjfeb1A YEAR IN THE ‘KNIFE’ OF A LOWBUDGET HORROR FILMMAKER : FEBRUARY

February is a strange month for anyone really, it’s your follow through month. All the things you promised yourself you’d change in the New Year are either cast aside or pushed forward with conviction. I think being an indie filmmaker is kind of like that all year round, you need to keep conviction and follow through to make sure that things get done and more importantly, finished.

mjfeb2This month I’ve been working feverishly on making sure that our latest feature Legacy Of Thorn is ready for its cast and crew premiere on February 28th. The film was supposed to be finished in October, however after our sound guy bailed in September with no notice. We spent 2 months trying to replace him, which only wasted more time, before I bit the bullet and took over sound duties myself once again.

This of course knocked the film back by about another 2 months, during this time I made the choice to add a mid credits sequence and that of course set us back a little bit longer, since October I have left the house about 6 times, it took over our Christmas, our New Year and countless other important things, but on Friday the film locked with everything in place and is now ready for its screening only one week before it’s premiere.

mjfeb3I couldn’t have done it without conviction, I had to knuckle down and just push through, it was tough, but that is the difference between a finished movie and an abandoned one. I learned the hard way with my first film that if you don’t take charge then it can slip away too easily and as a result that caused my first film Creepsville a delay of nearly 5 years. My point is that things go wrong, and like with resolutions, when things get tough, it’s easy to push it to the wayside and give up and that’s fine as long as you’re willing to accept defeat.

mjfeb4The price for that, though, is not finishing whatever it is you started. Sometimes you can’t make that an option. You have to have belief in yourself and your abilities in order to succeed in the movie industry, or almost any other industry, and some days that’s tough, especially when you feel like you’ve already given all you’ve got.

Yet in the end you have to remind yourself of one thing. Yeah, some days you work 20 hours and find yourself getting nowhere and some days…Well you get to spend your days pulling people’s heads off and crushing them til their eyes pop out. MJ

 

http://mycho.co.uk

http://iwasateenagefilmmaker.blogspot.com

http://slasherhouse.com http://legacyofthorn.com

The Tour – A Short Film starring Jessica Cameron !

tourSoon we will be having (courtesy of Dean Sills) with Damon Rickard. So then why not do a small article on the short film that is currently in the funding process which will be directed by Damon (and Alex Mathieson).

So I introduce The Tour .

 

Short Summary

 

The Tour is going to be a 10-15 minute horror film made by horror fans for horror fans but don’t worry, it will also appeal to those who just like a good scare.

This is the story of Darkmoor Manor, a house with a history so steeped in death it has gained the reputation of the most haunted house in England.

Closed to the public and now part of a local tour, the tour guide offers to give two American backpackers a  personal viewing, a side of England not available in a guide book. Desperate to get closer to the dark secrets buried with its victims, they accept, but do not expect the full horrors that await them inside Darkmoor Manor. Sometimes secrets are best left buried.

A mix of genres, The Tour will make you laugh, in the right places, as well as hold on tight to the edge of your seat.

The Tour will star two wonderful actresses

jessicacameronJessica Cameron (IMDB) – Margie

Jessica is currently touring with her directorial debut Truth or Dare which has been winning a variety of awards across the horror festivals including those for Best Actress, Best Director and Best Film.

She can also be seen in Silent Night, Intrusive Behaviour, A Grim Becoming, The Black Dahlia Haunting and To Jennifer among many others. She also had a recurring role on the hit comedy in the States, Brides of Beverly Hills.

AND

heatherdorffHeather Dorff (IMDB) – Cassie

This will not be the first time Heather and Jessica have worked together with them having most recently working on Truth or Dare.  Heather can also be seen in Urban Legends, Dark Realm and Yellow, among many others.

The Tour will be shooting in the UK and currently have a great Indiegogo page , where you can donate and they currently have some amazing perks where you can appear as an extra or even as a corpse !!

So please check out the Indiegogo page and help if you can , just a share of this article or of the funding page will be a HUGE help , as this is a small indie short film.

INDIEGOGO PAGE HERE 

And here is a little info from the directors!!

[youtube=www.youtube.com/watch?v=RmvjbCezbe4]

 

REJUVENATOR: A Look Back at a Forgotten Classic with Director Brian Thomas Jones

RejuvenatorREJUVENATOR: A Look Back at a Forgotten Classic with Director Brian Thomas Jones

I’d like to think that somewhere, in some far flung corner of the cosmos, there’s perfectly preserved prints of each and every horror film ever made, lorded over by some sort of sentient extraterrestrial being. This being- an other-worldly guardian, if you will, of scary cinema- would understand the importance of keeping this kind of meticulous horror archive, each film ready for the moment it’s finally called upon for a bells-and-whistles re-release.

They’d know you see, that if they didn’t curate such a thing, all these wonderful movies would one day just disappear; lost to time, like Roy Batty’s tears in the rain.Now, I’m not really on about The Exorcist, Dracula, Dawn of the Dead et al here, people. No, no- they’re the big boys, the terrifying titans that have all, in my eyes anyway, been ‘archived’ through different home video formats countless times already. I mean, heck- there’s enough Dawn of the Dead DVDs out there to sink a battleship for God’s sake! I’m talking about the little guys.

You know, the little fright flicks that have already begun slipping through the cracks.

The little fright flicks that haven’t even moved beyond their original big-box VHS incarnation, let alone been given a cursory vanilla disc.
The little fright flicks that once haunted video stores everywhere, but are now in danger of becoming nothing more than genuine ghosts themselves.
The little fright flicks… Just like Rejuvenator. Or, as I like to call it, One of the Very Best Shockers of the Eighties That You’ve Probably Never Seen.

rejuvenator1“Yeah, it’s never been released on DVD sadly,” Rejuvenator’s affable director, Brian Thomas Jones (pictured left) , says. “Nobodies ever contacted me to do a release either. Do I look back on it fondly? Of course! It was my first feature film and probably my best. It’s certainly the one I’m most proud of. It was so much fun to make- we had some crazy times!”

Rejuvenator tells the story of Ruth Warren [Jessica Dublin], an ageing former movie star bankrolling the research of Dr. Ashton [John McKay]. Desperately looking for a way to be young again, Ruth is delighted when, after three long years, Ashton’s experiments finally yield a quality result: a special serum that reverses the ageing process. Ignoring all of Ashton’s protests, Ruth insists she be the first test subject and, after an operation, has soon been rejuvenated into a younger, sexier woman [Vivian Lanko] again. Though initially successful, like all good tales of mad science it soon becomes apparent that Ashton’s serum has some particularly nasty side effects. Particularly nasty side effects of the icky, murderous and brain-munching kind…

A film I love dearly, Rejuvenator is a marvellous, Gothic sci-fi frightener- a kooky and ever-so-slightly-kinky hybrid of Cronenberg, The Wasp Woman and Billy Wilder’s noir classic Sunset Boulevard. “I’m mentioned in the same sentence as Cronenberg and Corman!” Jones laughs, modestly. “I’m glad you caught the Sunset Boulevard reference though. Ironically, I’m not really a horror fan. I’ve seen a lot of horror films of course, but it’s not my genre- I’m more of a Film Noir kind of guy. Man, I wish I could have been a studio contract director in the thirties, forties and fifties making some of the noir’s they did back then… There are some classic horror films I like: all the Universal Monster movies, which are really tame by today’s standards, Halloween, Evil Dead one and two and the first Saw. I’ve never been a fan of the ‘gorno’ type stuff though.”

rejuvenator2Fascinated with the filmmaking process from an early age, Jones’ first tentative steps into movie making were, like with so many others, through larking about with a Super 8 camera. “I’d shoot random things and then edit them together to the beats of songs I liked. I guess I was making music videos, but I just didn’t know it yet!”. However, it wasn’t until Jones began attended Virginia Commonwealth University that he really caught the film bug. “As a sophomore, I was taking all the film classes they had and one of our assignments was to go to the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. for the Fifth Annual Washington Student Film Festival. The judges there were Willard Van Dyke, a famous documentarian, and John Waters, who I think had just made Pink Flamingos. The top five prize winning films all came out of New York and I figured that that must be the place for me so I started transferring.”

It was whilst attending New York University Film School in 1976 that Jones began the journey that would ultimately lead him to directing Rejuvenator. Dropping out during the summer of his junior and senior years, Jones soon found himself working for a TV commercial production company. “I stayed with them for a couple of years and then started freelancing as a production assistant on indie and studio features,” he explains. “I needed a showreel if I wanted to be a director so I went back to NYU to make a narrative film. I finished my Bachelors of Fine Arts degree and made a little fifty-eight minute ‘featurette’ called Overexposed about photojournalists on assignment in El Salvador, which ended up as a semi- finalist in the North Eastern US region of the 1984 Student Academy Awards. I lost but a few days later, I got a call from a guy called Steven Mackler. He’d been on the jury for the student awards and he told that he was really impressed with what I’d done for no money and said that I’d only lost by two tenths of a point too! Mackler made a deal with Overexposed’s producer, Robert Altschuler, to take the film out to try and raise money to shoot another twenty minutes to sell it as a feature. Though that never happened, we soon started to look for other ways of working together.”

rejuvenator3So that’s how Rejuvenator came about then? “Well in the summer of ’87, Mackler called me. He’d made a deal with Sony Video Software- SVS Films- to make three feature films which would get a theatrical release before going to the home video market,” Jones says. “Sony had just started making their own VHS players after losing the VHS/Betamax format war and the idea behind SVS was to make low budget genre movies, put them in theatres and sell them to video store owners as a ‘straight to your store from the theater’ deal. Then they’d cross-market the movies with the video players.”

“Anyway, Mackler gave me a script called Skin by Simon Nuchtern [who also wrote and directed the 1984 slasher Silent Madness], which was written specifically as a vehicle for special effects make-up artist Ed French [the grue maestro behind the splatter in Sleepaway Camp and Nightmares in a Damaged Brain, amongst many others]. Skin was to be the first SVS film and Mackler wanted me to direct it because of our relationship. I read the script and, when I finished, I said to myself “I can’t direct this script, but I know how to make this movie. It’s Bride of Frankenstein meets Sunset Boulevard!”. I pitched the concept to Mackler and he let me rewrite it.”

Though keeping the structure largely the same and incorporating many of Nuchtern’s intended gloopy make-up effects, Jones performed a full page-one re-write in order to work in numerous ideas of his own. “Like I said, I’ve never really been a true fan of blood, guts and gore so when I was writing I tried to weave in all these themes of vanity, addiction, obsession and greed. I really wanted to make it my own movie- something really heartfelt and dramatic.”

rejuvenator4Personally, I’d say Jones was incredibly successful. In a decade teeming with latex excess and cardboard cut-out characters, Rejuvenator is a blast of fresh horrific air; a genuine creeper with an unusually firm focus on rich characterisation and human conflict. It’s just so happens that, underneath it all, there’s a rollicking great monster mash going on too! “The reviews of it in NY Daily News, Fangoria, Variety and Cinefantastique all mentioned the characters and story, saying that it really set it apart from the crowd [of low budget horror films],” says Jones. “One of the nicest compliments I got was from a professor of mine in grad school, who taught critical theory for art.

He watched the film and said that I “elevated the movie above the genre with a genuine affection for the characters”. That professor, by the way, is Carmine Iannocone and he just so happened to play the lead in Slaughter High, which came out the year before we shot Rejuvenator. Talk about coincidence and fate! He’s going to kill me for even mentioning it- he’s a very serious sculptor and professor now, certainly one of the best I’ve ever had.”
Citing it as one the greatest times in his life, it comes as no surprise that Jones remembers near enough EVERYTHING about the films production and shoot. “The original [filming] schedule was twenty days. I think we went over by about two days though and we had a day of pick-ups in a studio to get some missing transition shots once we had our rough cut,” he says.

“The whole thing came to about $230,000 after post and we shot on re-cans and short ends too. The first thing that pops into my head though is the beautiful fall day we started shooting, Day One. It was the mansion where the Ruth Warren character lived and I was stood on the second floor balcony, just watching all the crew unloading the trucks and setting up lights and scrims. I had this rush of excitement and just thought to myself, “Wow! This is all mine!””

rejuvenator5“It was this incredible property in New Jersey and we shot the first four days of production there. It was wonderful, a beautiful place,” Jones continues. “Ashton’s lab, though, that was more difficult to come by. I was in one of the production offices and saw these two Polaroids on the production manager Bob Zimmerman’s desk. It was of an old abandoned tuberculosis hospital on Staten Island that had been scouted by Zimmerman and the location manager, Phil Dolan. They weren’t even going to show me! It was perfect- one of the scariest places I’ve ever been to when we did a crew scout. They ended up using it later in the film Jacob’s Ladder too.”

“My favourite memory of the shoot itself though, is the night we shot the scene outside the nightclub. It’s where the monstrous, rejuvenated Ruth needs to use the payphone to call Ashton and there’s a woman- a nightclub dancer- already there. Anyway, we shot the dancers’ death in cuts: the blood and brains splat against the phone booth and the dancers’ body then just falls down the glass. It was shot in an alley in Chinatown so when we had dinner that night, we all went to the nearby Chinese restaurants and Ed French and his team brought back some Cantonese lobster and mixed it all with the fake blood! That’s the gore we threw at the side of the phone booth!” Jones laughs.

“The most absurd scene, where the monster melts down right at the end, that was so much fun too. That was obviously way before CGI was commonplace so it was all tubes of goo and blood and about a dozen people wearing trash bags and working these syringes and bladders and stuff. We had to get it all in one take so we had two cameras on it. The scene’s up on YouTube as ‘Gory Barfing Creature Woman’ and I think that pretty much sums it up!”

So how did actress Vivian Lanko- the rejuvenated and creature incarnation of Ruth, “Elizabeth”- find such an effects-heavy part? “Oh, she was committed. She endured hours of effects application and removal,” says Jones. “I’d only really ever considered her for the part, in truth. She was part of an experimental theater company- La Cucaracha- that I was also involved in so I was familiar with her talents from there. She was fascinated by the character and the transformation but a little uncomfortable with the nudity required for the role. Still, we cast her and her chemistry with John McKay, who plays Ashton, was just great. Now, I would never have thought John right for Ashton if I had just seen his picture, but when he came in… He just WAS Ashton! He and Vivian were two of the best things that happened with the movie and I think the movie works as well as it does because of them.”

Rejuvenator6Upon release, Rejuvenator played theatrically for one week in New York, Jones and producer Mackler’s plan being to use the the first round of positive reviews and good word of mouth it received in the local press to help re-market it as a modern midnight movie. Sadly, as Jones explained to me, a clueless SVS higher-up began to interfere, kiboshing the film before it even had chance to grow. “Yeah, it was booked into theaters for a week because he decided the film “didn’t have legs”. It had real cult potential but it just never ever got the opportunity.”

“The SVS executive was the same guy who changed the films title too, by the way,” Jones goes on. “We had a couple throughout, like ‘Scream Queen’ which thankfully never took off, before a sadly-no-longer-with-us friend of mine, Mark Carducci, came up with its original title Rejuvenatrix. To me, that title had the perfect ‘psychotronic’ feel but this idiot executive decided to call it Rejuvenator instead- probably attempting to cash in on the excellent Stuart Gordon film Re-Animator.”

Here in the UK Rejuvenator went straight to video, mercifully surviving its trip through the BBFC’s pruning shears unlike many of its contemporaries. Irregardless, it remains pretty damn obscure, languishing in curio limbo whilst two-bit chunder like Hellgate get the full on, special limited edition blu-ray treatment. Insane doesn’t begin to describe it…

“It’s not a brilliant movie, but I do think it’s a good one,” Jones sighs. “I’ve always been quite disappointed it never got the exposure or recognition I feel it deserved, even though it has developed its fans from those lucky enough to have seen it. The reviews and the fact it did OK on video… I probably should let it go but I’ll always hold a grudge for that SVS guy who didn’t understand the genre or its fandom and realise the potential of what he had.”

“Today, I’m making a living as a still photographer and teaching photography and film at community colleges,” the director says in closing. “Photography was my first love so I’ve fallen into shooting architecture and interior design commercially.”

rejuvenator7Would you ever make a return to the movies? “Well, it’d have be something that either just easily comes about or a script I’m really passionate about. I’ve been really lucky, I’m one of the few people in my class that got to make more than one feature film. I went on to co-write and co-direct another Mackler-produced SVS film, Escape From Safehaven, as well as an indie erotic thriller called Posed For Murder, and episodes of Monsters, Sweet Valley High and Big Bad Beetleborgs.”

“I still enjoy watching Rejuvenator every once in a while though. Those were the days, man! Shooting on 35mm film and editing on Moviola uprights and Steenback flatbeds, mixing in an actual mix studio. These days, filmmakers don’t know what they missed. Everything is Redcam, Final Cut Pro, Pro Tools, CGI, then output to digital files… However, if I had all that technology available to me back then, I’d have probably made more movies!”

I certainly wish you did, Brian. A Bride or Son of Rejuvenator would have been bloody terrific!

***********
A massive thanks to Brian Thomas Jones. Visit his photography website at www.brianthomasjones.com
For more ramblings, follow Matty Budrewicz on Twitter @mattybudrewicz

 

[youtube=www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZyT5cAkE-M]

 

 

 

The Exorcist: A BBC Radio 4 Production

E1The Exorcist (2014)

BBC Radio 4 Production

Based on the novel by William Peter Blatty, Adapted by Robert Frost

Starring: Robert Glenister, Ian McDiarmid, Lydia Wilson and Alexandra Mathie

In an unassuming town house in Georgetown, Washington D.C, a young girl is showing signs of being possessed by a demonic spirit. A man has been sent to help her. This man is The Exorcist.

Absolutely nothing is scarier than the infinite power of imagination. To have the terrifying images of a slowly rotating head or a bloody crucifix masturbation is one thing, but Robert Frost invites us to experience a truly heart-stopping prospect: What if you’d never seen ‘The Exorcist’ and were the completely blind witness to just the noise of dialogue lifted directly from the book, in all their horrifying glory?

Well ok, perhaps I set my hopes for what a retelling of a genuinely disturbing story could be too high as I have to confess, I found this adaptation to be slightly underwhelming. Even when given the full opportunity for scares of listening to it in the dead of night and all the lights off, it was never quite able to hit the heights of the terrifying visions that used to plague my dreams at even the mere sight of a picture from the film.

E2 That is not to say that this is not a superbly valiant effort. Indeed, with some of the special effects of the film now drawing laughs rather than frights for being “out of date”, the radio adaptation goes down the solely audible route to devastatingly chilling effect. Helmed by the masterful Gary C Newman, the program begins with the most terrifying clock ticking and chiming you will have ever heard in your life! Borrowing a neat trick from the film of the clock suddenly stopping and using it as a cue for when something scary is about to go down, this instantly puts you on edge. Simple, yes but hugely effective.

There is also a tremendous amount of time that passes before we are even introduced to Regan as a character. It is clear that Frost’s masterful intention here was to tantalisingly keep the audience constantly ill at ease as to just when the hell we were going to walk up those steps, until the tension reached breaking point and then the shivers down the spine instantly set in as soon as we hear Karras open the door.

With such an assortment of hugely atmospheric sounds, you feel completely immersed in the narrative and if you were to dare close your eyes, you’d swear the characters were stood right next to you. By far and away the best example of this came in the form of Karras’ plagued dream about rats at the end of the first half of the program. With the demon’s haunting voice-over, the scrabbling and scratching sounds physically made you feel unclean as you listened and was truly a perfect example of the radio’s underused power to terrify and move audiences.

E3In a couple of cases, the radio adaptation is able to pick up and improve on elements that were important in the novel and yet were underplayed or ignored completely in the film. Most notably of all was the move to focus entirely on the developments in the wake of Burke Dennings’ mysterious (and grizzly) death, making the piece play out almost like a heightened true crime thriller. Not only does this mean a great deal more of the entertaining Detective Kinderman, but also the mysterious possible Nazi past of the MacNeils’ housekeeper Karl is brought into greater and intriguing focus.

For me personally, the most underrating scariest moment in this adaptation came from Karras’ interview with the psychiatrist who had attended Regan, when he confesses that after dealing with her, he’s never been able to look patients in the eye again. A beautifully under-played moment of genuine chills and you could brilliantly hear the fear in the voice as he recounted his experience with her.

E4The glowing red weak spot? The portrayal and dynamic of the ‘demon’/Regan. Initially the deceptively normal and sweet sounding voice that seamlessly gives way to the elderly woman’s is clever, only for the realisation to quickly set in that frankly, it’s just too normal. The delivery from Alexandra Mathie almost feels too casual, despite all the horrible things she is saying and it makes the haunting spectre of Mercedes McCambridge’s performance towering that much higher over it.

Mathie has to be hugely commended, however, for learning to speak the backwards lines of dialogue organically. It is sadly the only real moment were her clearly talented voice is put to great and terrifying use and it feels that much more hauntingly authentic as a result.

E5 With a slightly limp and undercooked actual exorcism scene, the adaptation does end on somewhat of a whimper, but it should be remembered that the programs primary focus was on everything else around it rather than the possession itself. It may not linger in the mind or be as celebrated anywhere near as much as the film, but what this offered was a fascinating exploration into the disturbing psychology behind ‘The Exorcist’ and a at times, brutally frank character study on how it affected all the characters around it.  Propped up by some fantastic vocal acting work, in particular from Robert Glenister as Karras, it would be fantastic if this were the start of a new trend of classic horror radio adaptations! ‘Jason X: The Radio Adaptation’ Anyone?

Verdict: A strong chiller that delves deep into the disturbing psychological fear factor of ‘The Exorcist’, only falling down at the crucial hurdle of the potential to make the demon properly terrifying  7/10

 

We Belong Dead Fearbook – A Review by Stuart Anderson

 

fearbook1After reviewing the latest issue of the truly excellent Space Monsters Magazine in my previous blog entry of wonder, I subsequently received a message from Mr Eric McNaughton, the grand-master and all round dictator of the equally fabulous classic horror zine of We Belong Dead.

 

Now my long suffering  reader will know that not so long ago I penned a rather excellent, and some (well me) might say profound piece on We Belong Dead’s rise from the ashes of publication history to be reborn after a period of sixteen long years – and a triumphant return it was. In fact the return from the dead in the shape of Issue 9 was such such a success that it was decided to produce a collection of all the best bits and put them together into some form of, er, collection. It was to be called the The Official We Belong Dead Fearbook (see what they did there? – genius).

 

Although he didn’t say so in as many words, it is quite clear from our discussion that Eric was rather impressed with the blog article on Space Monsters magazine and so suggested that I might like to review Fearbook. Well, at least I think he ‘suggested’, there was quite possibly in retrospect some dark sub-text to his request that I just cannot seem to put my finger on.

 

So I recommend that you see for yourselves as the conversation ran something like this…..

 

Mr Eric McNaughton: Now then laddie!

 

MeEr, yes my lord?

 

Mr Eric McNaughton: About that article that you tried to write on the wonderful Space Monsters Magazine?

 

MeErm, tried?

 

Mr Eric McNaughton: Yes, tried. It’s a brilliant magazine that deserved much more than the frankly embarrassing attempt that you put together. I know that you tried your best so I suppose that counts for something. Well allright, I may be possibly being a little harsh, some parts of it were almost acceptable.

 

MeThank you, I think…….

 

Mr Eric McNaughton: So I’m giving you one more chance to redeem yourself and try to put together at least a few words with more than two syllables on my magnificent We Belong Dead Fearbook.

 

Me: Thank you Mr Sir – you know I won’t let you down!

 

 
fearbook2Mr Eric McNaughton: Well actually we all know that you probably will. However the Fearbook is my collection of my favourite selection of articles from the long out of print editions from 1993-1997 – so making sure people know about this chance to own some classic horror history is falling for the time being (so help me god) on your shoulders.

 

Me: Ok Mon Capitan, anything else that I should know?

 

Mr Eric McNaughton: In it’s 5 year incarnation WBD went from an amateur, shoddily printed zine to a slick, professional looking mag. It was indeed a learning curve, but along the way we assembled a most talented group of writers and artists, many of whom still contribute to the 21st century WBD. If you look at issue 1 almost the entire issue was written by myself, but that soon changed from WBD 2 onwards as our popularity grew. The production of the zine was very old school, remember these were the days before internet and email! I would have to type up ALL the articles which were mailed to me, do all the page layout by hand literally using scissors and glue! I remember my delight when I finally managed to get an electronic typewriter to put together issue 7! How the world has changed!

 

 
Me: Blimey, somebody has some passion!

 

 
Mr Eric McNaughton: Thats right my good man! Now get cracking on with it and don’t cock it up for once  – remember, I know people!

 

So on that not so veiled threat on my personage I began to read the whopping 120 page Fearbook and immediately began immersing myself In its nostalgic loveliness. As I initially ‘flicked through the pages’ my eye caught one particular feature hiding away on page 43 –  simply called, TV Horror. The introduction for which from Neil Ogley goes as follows;

 

fearbook3“During the first incarnation of We Belong Dead, I had the idea of pulling together a listing of all the BBC2 Horror Double Bill seasons to form an article for the fledgling fanzine. (I’m sure I wasn’t the only person who had that idea.) As a youngster, like many others I was often allowed to stay up to watch horror movies and I loved the weekly offerings that ran regularly throughout the summer. “
 

 

“Back then most people thought the horror double bill seasons ran from 1975 until 1981 however it seems that even though the BBC skipped a season in 1982, a final series of double bills was broadcast during the summer of 1983 although this season was entirely made up of the classic Universal horrors from the 30’s and 40’s all of which had been shown before, predominantly in the 1977 season Dracula Frankenstein & Friends.”

 

And what do you know? That particular paragraph could have actually written by me (though possibly not nearly as well), because the scenario that Neil described was something that completely parallelled my own introduction to the wonderful world of horror. I’ve mentioned in previous articles in this blog of wonder that I’ve often traced back my initial introduction to horror by being allowed to stay up late during one childhood Saturday evening to watch Son of Frankenstein from Universal Pictures. It’s a long cherished memory of mine, however, the problem has always been that I’ve never been able to remember exactly when this took place. That is until now, as this little snippet from the Fearbookshows.

 

DRACULA, FRANKENSTEIN AND FRIENDS 1977

 

Saturday 2 July 1977

 

23.05-00.25 Dracula (Universal1931)

 

00.25-01.35 Frankenstein (Universal 1931)

 

Saturday 9 July 1977

 

22.50-00.00 Bride of Frankenstein (Universal 1935)

 

00.00-01.25 Brides of Dracula (Hammer 1960)

 

Saturday 16 July 1977

 

22.45-00.15 The Mummy (Universal 1932)

 

00.15-01.05 The Wolfman (Universal 1940)

 

Saturday 23 July 1977

 

22.10-23.45 Son of Frankenstein (Universal 1938)

 

23.45-01.10  Kiss of the Vampire (Hammer 1964)

 

There you have it, the official birthday of the Fifth Dimension blog could very well be said to be ten minutes past ten on the 23rd July 1977 – how brilliant a discovery is that?!

 

I can hear what you are saying – “OK, big deal but is a relatively small piece of nostalgic memories really important enough to write about?” Well yes it blooming well is because nostalgia is exactly what this joy of a magazine is all about. It perfectly recaptures the plethora memories that we all of a certain age have when we discovered and experienced the wealth of horror from what many remember as the classic age of the genre.Don’t misunderstand me, my love of classic horror doesn’t mean that I regard the more contemporary fair as necessarily being sub-standard and not worthy of consideration, On the contrary, each decade since the 1970’s to date has seen some magnificent examples of movie making. Moreover, the current independent horror scene is as rich and exciting a period in terms of creative ambition as any time I can remember. No, what I love about this zine and others such as Space Monsters Magazine is that here we have a group of like-minded individuals who are reliving their personal recollections of creepy discovery, and with it, taking us along with them for the ride of a horror lifetime. Something which I and many others have no trouble in relating to and identifying with.

Classic horror needs to be kept in the wider public consciousness – this is magazine is the perfect way to do that.

The 120 page of classic horror loveliness is far too detailed for me to be able to review each and every marvellous article – but I will for now briefly mention three pieces of personal note.

 

fearbook4PHANTOM OF THE OPERA  by Eric McNaughton

 

This article from Eric originally appeared in the very first edition of We Belong Dead and has been revised and updated for the reproduction in the the Fearbook. It’s a lovingly detailed appreciation of what I would regard as the best movie version of the Gaston Leroux’s classic 1910 novel, and the one that features one of the giants of the classic age of horror, Lon Chaney.

 

Phantom of the Opera (1925) may put off some people by the fact is is silent and made in black & white, but that would be a mistake. It is a powerful creepy and highly atmospheric production that I and many others are still affected by when viewing in this, the most modern of ages.

 

The piece is a delightful loving account, not just only of the movie itself, but also of the behind the scenes work ranging from Chaney’s legendary attention to detail in preparation in make-up to his influence on the direction of the film. Eric clearly loves the movie, its theme and location and the article is simply a genuine joy to read.

 

 
fearbook5INGRID PITT – THE QUEEN OF HAMMER

 

I’ve never disguised my almost-clean and respectful love of Miss Pitt and her contribution and legacy to British horror. Gary W Sherratt, who wrote this marvellous piece in the 1990’s, when Ingrid was still with us, obviously shared that love too.

The article isn’t just lovingly written it is also accompanied (as in the rest of the publication) by a delightful collection of Photos, film posters and lobby cards of the genuinely delicious and talented woman who’s horror legacy was thankfully is as strong now as it was when she was still alive.

The effect of any article can often be measure in how much it makes one think – and after reading this lovely account I think I’ll now go my Ingrid Pitt collection and watch the whole damn lot this weekend!

 


fearbook6Dan Gale compares Romero’s original classic 1968 Night of the Living Dead with Tom Savini’s 1990 remake in the eighth edition of the magazine.

 

I along with every horror fan has their personal views on the qualities (or need) for remakes of classic movies. Indeed, a previous piece or two in this very blog of wonder has compared the merits of the odd remake with its predecessor. Dan Gale provides a well balanced and at times blackly humorous of the two movies and even (perish the thought) manages to say a few kind things about the remake – I know!!

 

What stands out about the article is that it takes place in the pre-Walking Dead and general Zombiethon climate that seems to exemplify a large chunk of contemporary horror. Reading this particular article in an age when Zombies hadn’t been done to death (see what I did there?) is a peculiarly refreshing experience and one that I thoroughly enjoyed.

 

For those of you who are wanting to purchase a copy of the We Belong Dead Fearbook then go TO THIS LINK

 

The We Belong Dead Facebook page can be found RIGHT HERE

 

 

Issue 12 of We Belong Dead is due out very soon!
fearbook7

I heartily give this 9 out of 10

DeCoteau DeCoded by Matty Budrewicz

dc1DeCoteau DeCoded


Director and producer David DeCoteau has had one helluva career. Whilst even his most ardent supporters would have a hard time describing it as illustrious, the Canadian-American schlock kingpin has certainly been prolific. Hell, a look at his IMDb slate should be enough to tell you that, with well over one hundred directorial credits (under a variety of eclectic pseudonyms) since the mid eighties alone. Factor in his producing, writing and assorted other credits and well… Well I guess it’s safe to say that dissecting his full body of remarkable, money-spinning work would be a meteoric task; a near impossible endeavour, in fact, that’d be better served by a wordsmith far greater than myself.

Now, by and large DeCoteau has been responsible for a fair amount of dreck, something that he himself would probably admit to too. However, for the more liberal, loon-minded cineaste- you know, those of us with a voracious appetite for hootingly good tripe, there is actually a whole lot to savour with ol’ Davey’s hokum. And, what’s more, there’s a surprising amount of artistry and craft behind it all too.

One of the standout directors of the late eighties-early nineties direct-to-video B scene, DeCoteau is certainly one of the strongest visual stylists amongst them. Unlike his contemporaries Fred Olen Ray and Jim Wynorski who prefer a more ‘locked-off’ camera approach, DeCoteau sports a keen eye for staging and pomp-filled composition. Favouring Dutch angles and deep focus, he possesses a strong understanding of how to get a slick, richly photographed film in spite of meagre budgets, schedules and resources. Just check out the sorely undervalued car boot sale classic and discount shop favourite Legend of the Mummy 2 (or Ancient Evil: Scream of the Mummy as it’s also known)(1999) for the proof: bottom-end it may be, but it’s wickedly photographed, with a look falling somewhere between classic Hammer and the glossy energy of Tony Scott.

dc2It’s perhaps with the late Scott that the best comparison lies. Like Scott was, DeCoteau is a populist filmmaker. Just consider the evidence: both were/are commercially safe and both filled/fill the needs and demands of their paying audience and financiers, churning out profit-making hits in their respective fields in spite of often vicious critical lambastings. Best of all, however, is how they both managed/manage to do so whilst remaining true to their own artistic sensibilities, elevating them far beyond that of a pair of box-ticking journeymen to the status of true pulp auteur’s. Sure, their budgets may be drastically different, but it can’t be denied they’re not a million miles away from each other, especially when one considers that beach volleyball scene from Scott’s ’86 smash Top Gun…

I refer, of course, to homo-eroticism DeCoteau’s defining trope. Openly gay himself, DeCoteau has been the figurehead of the niche homo-horror sub-genre since his minor video success with Voodoo Academy back at the turn of the millennium. A thoroughly enjoyable quickie (DeCoteau shot it all in four days), Voodoo Academy is one of DeCoteau’s finest, the story of six male students at a strange Scientology-tinged Bible School being seduced into kinky black magic by the resident Reverend and house ma’am. It’s effective and surprisingly atmospheric stuff, a sort of low-key hodge-podge of Suspiria (1977), Angel Heart (1987) and a Calvin Klein boxer shorts commercial.

Retrospectively, it’s easy to see DeCoteau’s distinctive blend of histrionic horror and sculpted, shirtless young men implicitly flirting with one another as the next logical step in his filmic evolution. Reworking and inverting the playful, girl-ogling sexiness that characterised his earlier gun-for-hire T&A jobs like Beach Babes From Beyond (1994), and infusing them with the same Queer Cinema sensibility that made his experimental black and white gay art-pic Leather Jacket Love Story (1997) such a festival hit, DeCoteau has turned post-Scream teen-centric terror into a girl and gay-baiting art-form a fact his longevity can attest to. Though perhaps a little too much for some, there’s without doubt a big and demanding market for DeCoteau’s kind of chilling chintz. I mean, just look at the colossal Twilight saga – what are they if not glorified DeCoteau flicks? Angsty teens, topless hunks, supernatural shenanigans…

dc3Ultimately, I think without Dave DeCee and, say, his Brotherhood series (2001-2009), Sparklin’ Edward Cullen et al just wouldn’t have been possible. The only difference is that the six-strong Brotherhood chapters are actually pretty damn good, unlike the god-awful Twilight, and the first three (I’ve Been Watching You, Young Warlocks and Young Demons as they’re known over here) especially so. It would seem even directorial titan Martin Scorsese isn’t above lifting from him either, what with his latest DiCaprio-starring hit bearing a strikingly similar title to DeCoteau’s 2002 lycanthrope romp Wolves of Wall Street. Oh, to see the faces of the people who unexpectedly stumble across that one…

Beginning his film career as a production assistant for the legendary Roger Corman back in the eighties, DeCoteau soon found himself at the attention of another iconic B sultan, Charles Band, with his first mainstream movie proper, Dreamaniac (1986).

The impact Band has had on DeCoteau is gargantuan and it’s often under the Full Moon head honchos auspicious guidance that DeCoteau has made a vast majority of his best stuff, such as the terrific should-have-been-a-series Shrieker (1998) and Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama (1988)- his most well-known film. Indeed, a lot of DeCoteau titles I’ve already mentioned have also been Band produced, occasionally – as in the case of Legend of the Mummy 2 – uncredited. However, the real treat of their numerous and fructiferous collaborations is 1991’s Puppet Master III: Toulon’s Revenge. For my money, it’s DeCoteau’s masterpiece.

dc4Retconning the timeline established in the first two instalments of the flagship Full Moon franchise, DeCoteau’s part III is a period-set prequel starring Mr. Sardonicus (1961) himself, Guy Rolfe. It’s Berlin 1941 and the Nazi’s- as they so often do, are unsuccessfully attempting to raise the dead for use as battlefield super-soldiers, via the experiments of the surprisingly well-meaning Dr. Hess. His superiors, the lecherous General Mueller and full-blown S.O.B. Major Kraus, are a different story however, and they take great umbrage when they learn, through Kraus’ driver and spy Lt. Stein, that master puppeteer Andre Toulon has been performing politically subversive shows with his anthropomorphic puppets. After a Kristallnacht-esque raid on his home in an attempt to grab Toulon’s secret life-giving elixir results in the death of his beloved wife Elsa, the heartbroken Toulon swears revenge and, with the help of his deadly puppets, embarks on a swath of bloody retribution against his wrongdoers.

Made whilst DeCoteau was closeted both personally and professionally, and purely because he was the only director willing to travel to the originally planned Romanian locations, Toulon’s Revenge is understandably free of his guy-candy fetishism. It’s for the best really too, as any sort of over the top eroticism would likely be out-of-place in the comic book-y series, lest of all between a gaggle of overly tactile male model types! Even without DeCoteau’s signature auteurist flourish though, Toulon’s Revenge is a far from perfunctory mercenary gig, packed as it is with his usual panache and creative bombast.

Transcending its modest budget, Toulon’s Revenge is a big-feeling picture, without doubt the most ambitious and most handsomely mounted of DeCoteau’s career. It’s part rollicking little horror programmer and part Where Eagles Dare-ish wartime adventure, just as DeCoteau and scripter C. Courtney Joyner envisioned it. This magpie, cherry picking knack is another goodie habitual to cinematica DeCoteau: his utilising of an obvious love of the movies to create interesting and often inter-textual cross-genre product. Take Creepozoids (1987) and Final Stab (2001) for example. On paper, both are nothing more than shameless rip-offs of Aliens (1986) and Scream (1996) respectively, with the latter actually going as far as to be being cheekily retitled Final Scream here in the UK. Now, I’m not going to dispute for one second that that’s not how they came about, but both transcend the usually awful ‘Rubbish Clone’ category by actually being quite inventively referential and self aware.

dc5The excellent Creepozoids, for instance, knows it’s fundamentally man-in-a-rubber-suit tosh and DeCoteau is more than willing to celebrate it, firing a whole manner of archetypal sci-fi and horror motifs at the screen with gleeful abandon: Aliens, a monster baby a la It’s Alive (1974), giant rats, an abandoned research facility, the fall of man, and a future earth thrown into ecological hell… It’s all there, delivered with a fair amount of wit too. Even better is that it’s all capped off by the, erm, ‘double delicacies’, shall we say, of Scream Queen Linnea Quigley.

The twisty-turny Final Stab meanwhile, is DeCoteau’s pleasing contemporary valentine to the golden age of slashers. It’s a wonderfully silly and loving patchwork of retro fun and sly humour, a shining minor gem vastly superior to more famous and truly chunder-some soulless Hollywood slash-arse like the Prom Night (2008) remake. In short, it’s much better than a casual glance would suggest.

Elsewhere, DeCoteau inverts the Death Wish (1974) vigilante formula with a female twist in his self-explanatory Lady Avenger- a cheap and cheerful blast of kinda-gritty action fluff from 1988. It’s an area DeCoteau would explore further with his producer only Steel & Lace (1991), a schlock hybrid of rape-and-revenge and the then blossoming DTV cyborg genre that followed in the wake of RoboCop (1987). Tailored towards what sells they both may be but, like Creepozoids and Final Stab, the glee in which they each embrace and toy with their own conventions is refreshing. Interestingly, Lady Avenger and Steel & Lace link pretty nicely thematically with Toulon’s Revenge, essentially creating a loosely connected ‘Vengeance Trilogy’ well over a decade before Park Chan-wook even began his. What? I’m just saying…

dc6In Toulon’s Revenge, perhaps the most striking moments (other than the ones of puppet carnage, natch) are those which allude to the classic Universal horror of the thirties, Frankenstein (1931) in particular. The similarities between actor Ian Abercrombie’s conflicted Dr. Hess and Colin Clive’s conflicted Victor Frankenstein are just as impossible to ignore as their shared use of stylised lab equipment.

It’s an obvious tip of the hat really, considering how Frankenstein’s director, the openly homosexual James Whale, is the progenitor of ghoulish camp. Fittingly, DeCoteau would later go on to helm his own revisionist version of the classic Mary Shelley tale, the kiddie-friendly Frankenstein Reborn! (1998), and even go as far as to cite Whale’s stupendous Bride of Frankenstein (1935) directly during a scene in 1999’s prequel to the prequel, Retro Puppet Master: “A world of God’s and monsters,” a young Toulon says, echoing the effete Dr. Pretorius.Stuart Gordon, a DeCoteau peer and fellow Band alum, and his debut film Re-Animator (1985) are another key Toulon’s Revenge touchstone.

In a fun visual quote, Toulon’s magical serum looks suspiciously like Herbert West’s glowing green re-agent from the similarly Frankenstein-like saga; who knows what kind of Freddy vs Jason franchise hopping this could’ve yielded too, had Re-Animator just kept the original H.P. Lovecraft stories thirties setting! The DeCoteau-Gordon back and forth doesn’t stop there, however. Exchanging the weird creepiness of William Hickey’s portrayal in the original Puppet Master (1989) for a more human and pathos laden take, the then seventy-nine year old Rolfe gives an excellent dramatic performance as the definitive incarnation of Toulon. It’s a turn cut from the same genial horror hero cloth as his part in an earlier Charles Band exec produced killer toys flick, Dolls (1986), directed by (you’ve guessed it) Stuart Gordon. Rolfe would return to the Toulon role three more times (or four if you count his archival footage appearance in the duff part eight, Puppet Master: The Legacy) before his death in 2003.

dc7Weirdly, and as if to confound even more the already incestuous nature of the eras B movie scene, Brit actress Sarah Douglas- best known as the villainous Kryptonian Ursa in Superman I and II (1978/80)- would later go on to star in Re-Animator and Dolls producer Brian Yuzna’s Return of the Living Dead 3 (1993). Unlike her part as the angelic Elsa in Toulon’s Revenge, Return finds Douglas as the driven military head of a scientific programme planning to raise the dead for use as battlefield super-soldiers. Just like Mueller, Kraus and Hess. It’s a convoluted web, no? Even more so when you think that Return’s producer, Gary Schmoeller, is the brother of David Schmoeller, the director of the first Puppet Master. Good Lord…

Ironically, just as Toulon’s Revenge stands as DeCoteau’s best, two of his subsequent entries in the series are amongst his worst: 1998’s Curse of the Puppet Master and the aforementioned Retro Puppet Master. Whilst bad scripting and a general air of rushed tackiness are forgivable, that both movies are so painfully dull is not; DeCoteau land is many things, but it’s never boring. It’s a shame too as Curse in particular boasts one of the most nifty but wasted premises of DeCoteau’s filmography; a Tod Browning-tinged tale of a madman attempting to turn one of DeCoteau’s beloved twinks into a human puppet. Thankfully, DeCoteau atoned somewhat with Puppet Master: Axis of Evil (2010), an interesting, amusing and again World War II-set Toulon’s Revenge companion piece.

Though the old rental medium that allowed someone like DeCoteau to flourish in the first place is now a thing of the past, it’s lovely to see that he remains as productive and as enterprising as ever. By embracing the online streaming platform, DeCoteau and his production company Rapid Heart have certainly proved themselves still relevant in the home entertainment arena, just as his recent 1313 brand shows.

Sure, the films may now be of noticeably lower quality than his giddy heyday (a truly horrifying thought if you’re one of the man’s detractors), but any filmmaker who still manages to regularly belt out gloriously goofy gay-tickling pap like Giant Killer Bees! (2010) and Hercules Unbound! (2012) deserves to be celebrated if you ask me. I mean, the MILF-tastic 1313: Cougar Cult (2012) alone is enough to warrant a look for the B curious, reuniting Quigley with fellow schlock sex sirens Brinke Stevens and Michelle Bauer, some twenty-four years after their last team up in DeCoteau’s Nightmare Sisters.

dc8A look around your local Tesco’s entertainment aisle will tell you Big Dave is as vital as ever too. Just last week a new DeCoteau joint, Bonnie & Clyde: Justified (2013), stormed into their charts top ten, whilst his endearingly naff Hansel & Gretel: Warriors of Witchcraft (2013) has been one of their bargain zone mainstays since its release back in March last year.

What with that and companies like 88 Films pushing his back catalogue out into the market again, there really is no better time to immerse oneself in DeCoteau’s stuff. You’d do well to give it a go. I think you’d just might like it.

********************************************************
For more ramblings, follow Matty on twitter @mattybudrewicz

 

 

 

 

Instagram’s 70’s Horror Week by Matty Budrewicz

instagramINSTAGRAM’S 70’S HORROR WEEK:
The Alternative Playlist

Our favourite social network, Instagram, is currently celebrating SEVENTIES HORROR WEEK amongst their lovely horror community. Whilst everyone should quite rightly be making it their utmost priority to be firing up bonafide classics like The Exorcist, Halloween, Alien and Dawn of the Dead et al, the more adventurous among you UK Horror Scene-loving Insta-cats might fancy trying something a little, well, different.
So, without further a do, here’s our pick of some alternative seventies pearls for you to devour over the next seven days- the gems of the genres finest decade that you may have missed. Just remember to tag all your Insta-pics with #70sHorrorWeek and a big fat #UKHS!

Private PartsPrivate Parts (1972)
Cult favourite Paul Bartel (Eating Raoul, DeathRace2000) helms this quirky and kinky shocker, the story of the nefarious goings on at a Los Angeles skid-row hotel and the young teenage runaway stuck at the centre of it. Voyeurism, gender confusion and bloody murder punctuate Private Parts, a lively frightener more than worth a couple of spins. How this uproarious, near-classic schlocker isn’t more well known is anyones guess…

 

Death LineDeath Line (1972)
aka Raw Meat
Investigating the disappearance of a prominent civil servant, eccentric detective Donald Pleasence soon uncovers the last survivor of a bizarre subterranean cannibal race, dwelling in an abandoned section of the London Underground. Darkly humorous and thoroughly gripping, Death Line is the kind of top-notch flick the lamentable Creep wished it was: an impeccably well made, vicious horror gross-out.

Ganja & HessGanja & Hess (1973)
aka Blood Couple
Duane Jones, so good as hero Ben in Romero’s immortal classic Night of the Living Dead, here stars as Dr. Hess Green, an archaeologist who turns into a vampire after being stabbed by an ancient, germ-infested dagger. Rising above its Blaxploitation framework, Ganja & Hess is a bold and thoughtful film; a truly remarkable and lyrical horror-drama. A tad too slow for some, open minded connoisseurs of low budget arthouse should find themselves in for a treat.

Messiah of EvilMessiah of Evil (1973)
aka Dead People
Seeking her missing father, a woman ends up suckered into the creepy goings on in the small coastal town of Point Dune… Flirting with notions of vampirism, zombies and devil cults, to say anything more about this canny chiller would be criminal. Dripping with atmosphere and genuinely unnerving, Messiah of Evil is one hell of a brilliant and unique skin-crawler that, sadly, has got a little lost somewhere. Seek it out!

FrightmareFrightmare (1974)
A Britsploitation Chain Saw twist, Pete Walker’s gloriously cynical terror-pic stars the inimitable Sheila Keith as Dorothy, a deranged auld cannibal bumping off and eating those she lures to her farmhouse with the promise of a tarot card reading. Flitting between charnal house horror and bleak family drama, the savage and intense Frightmare ranks proudly amongst the decades cracking best. Unsurprisingly, the critics of the day hated it. Boo, hiss, boo!

 

Shock WavesShock Waves (1977)
aka Almost Human
Forget the vastly overrated Dead Snow, Ken Wiederhorn’s Shock Waves is the definitive Nazi zombie opus. Packed with a suffocating, nightmare-like ambiance, this Florida-lensed cheapie stars HRH Peter Cushing as an SS Commander, hidden away on a secluded island, whose isolation is rudely interrupted by a bunch of ship-wrecked tourists… And the murderous, undead ‘Death Corps’ he was once in charge of. It’s terrific, frightening stuff.

The RedeemerThe Redeemer, Son of Satan! (1978)
aka Class Reunion Massacre
Poised somewhere between post-Omen Devil child-Satanic panic and the birth of the slasher film, The Redeemer tells the bizarro tale of a fanatical, possessed pastor bumping off a group of sinners at a bogus high school reunion. Deliciously cheap and cheerful, this wonderful proto body count flick is a fruity slice of drive-in goodness well worth checking out.

Werewolves in Siberia – Beyond The City Of The Dead (2014) Album Review

wisnewWerewolves in Siberia – Beyond The City Of The Dead (2014) Album Review

Beyond the City of the Dead is the sophomore album from Electronic horror guru Werewolves in Siberia; following on from their début The Rising, Beyond the City of the Dead showcases their talent, growing passion and knowledge they have of our beloved horror genre this release comes highly recommended.

 

From the opening track Everything is Gone desolate and downright sinister opening takes you to the eponymous city of the dead its sparse, haunting melody captures the isolation and paranoia the listener would experience during an apocalyptic catastrophe perfectly and from the get go has the audience tightly in the grasp of the music.

 

From the very first listen Beyond the City of the Dead drags you into a world that WIS have masterfully created and for the next ten tracks captivate the audience guiding them through an aural journey which they will be thankful they were along for the ride for and wanting repeated visits in the foreseeable future.

 

The range of musical sub-genres on display throughout the album is astounding and although WIS influences are worn on the sleeve like a badge of honour, never does the album feel like it is infringing on the works of Carpenter/Howarth and Manfredini but can certainly be classed among them using their styles to the advantage of the album creating a familiar yet alien world in the process.

 

The album also feels a lot more mature than The Rising; this is no way a knock on the first album which I wholeheartedly endorse but the cues on display work far better in generating fear and panic especially in the track “The Woods” is remarkable and shows the signs of a great composer.

 

wis2Broken Souls, the album’s third track builds on the pacing of its predecessor, the fantastically titled Lycanthropic Dream-scape and if Lycanthrophic is the metaphorical movie’s chase scene Broken Souls is the pay-off; atmospheric drums and electronic dread in four minutes. The elongated synth rises coupled with a catchy crescendo progresses as the drumbeat morphs into a more complex arrangement subtly lying underneath the electronic sounds in an almost jazz-like accompaniment.

 

Showdown With a Ghoul is a methodically paced entry the sweeping electronic rises and rich organ feels remarkably like the early universal scores and rings like a warning of the underlying terror, almost a beacon of lost hope.

 

The Carpenter influence is evident on Revenge of the Zombi, although the track is thoroughly modern using that influence to their advantage WIS take the familiar and spin it 360 degrees into something strangely compelling. Harking to the new generation of horror composers and firmly slotting themselves in the aforementioned company with ease.

 

The layers of depth that are created throughout; its runtime allowing the audience to visualise a horror film in their own heads while WIS provide the accompanying soundtrack; this would be the perfect for score for a late 60’s Zombie flick straight from the Italian masters themselves.

 

wis1The whole album feels like it has purpose and slots alongside each other each song leading into the next like a jigsaw becoming so much more rewarding once the final notes of the outro track and silence echo’s allowing the listener time to reflect and indulge.

 

Each track could be broken down and visualised into its own scene and this is the main reason the album works so well; not only offering the viewer to get involved emotionally but leaving them salivating for more.

 

I for one would love to hand each track to a different director and see the outcomes that each director envisions.

 

On the other side of the coin WIS’ Chris Cavoretto has a wonderful mind for composing and is both highly knowledgeable and respectful of past composers work and the horror genre, which is evident after just one listen of any of his songs. He encompasses a visual flair that will undoubtedly further his scope of work in the near future and allow WIS to expand and develop on each release.

 

Beyond the City of the Dead comes highly recommended and is due for release by the UK horror label Graveyard Calling on limited edition cassette and digital download on April the 1st..

 

Turn down the lights, lock the doors, and raise the volume. Let this magical sound scape wash over you and go Beyond the City of the Dead with the Werewolves in Siberia.

 

8.5/10

wis3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can check out Werewolves in Siberia on the following links –

Websites – www.werewolvesinsiberia.com/

www.werewolvesinsiberia.bandcamp.com/

Facebook – www.facebook.com/WerewolvesInSiberia

Twitter – www.twitter.com/Werewolves_I_S

 

And check out Graveyard Calling records –

www.graveyardcalling.bandcamp.com/

Facebook – www.facebook.com/GraveyardCalling

Twitter – www.twitter.com/GraveyardCallin

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Year In The ‘Knife’ Of A Low-Budget Horror Filmmaker – January: New Years Evil

mjjan3A YEAR IN THE ‘KNIFE’ OF A LOW BUDGET HORROR FILMMAKER JANUARY : NEW YEARS EVIL

So my name is MJ Dixon, I’ve been an indie filmmaker for well over a decade now. Of course my interest has always been in the horror genre, ever since I can remember.

Last year saw my first released feature Slasher House hit the shelves of major UK stores and is currently preparing for its US release in the next few months. On top of that Legacy Of Thorn, one of our dream projects, finally hit production and is due to for its first screening in February before its release on DVD later this year.

Of course that sets us up for a very exciting and interesting year in the low budget horror business and so the idea of these articles for the next 12 months is to follow our progress through our next production and to try to give you guys an idea of exactly how much, Blood (literal and fake), Sweat and Tears (All real) go into movies like ours and the hundreds of others being produced every year by people like ourselves.

January as a filmmaker is the month of ‘New Hope’, its the month when our drive and mjjan2ambition hits the ground running, With plans to keep on top of meetings, scripts, shoots and a whole host of other things. It’s how we set ourselves up here that will carry over for the rest of the year.

This year our ‘Big’ production is a Christmas Slasher in the guise of ‘Blood On Santa’s Claws’. A project that we developed in 2012 whilst we were working on Legacy Of Thorn. As you’ll see by each blog I write, seasonal horror is something of a love of mine and Christmas horror? Well, that’s like my mastermind subject. So where to begin? Well, as is common with film production, we’ve landed in the New Year about a month behind.

Ideally, I would like to have a finished script by now, but I decided to take another draft of it before we send it out to the cast involved. I think it’s important to get your first draft that goes to the talent involved just right, as they’ll need belief in your project to get them through the ‘hell’ that is production.

mjjan1All good horror starts with a great script and then everything goes to shit from there, right?But it’s something I believe has to be absolutely as good as you can get it. This is your foundation and you have to lay it down as best you can to build the rest of your movie on. Being an indie filmmaker in this regard has its pros and its cons. Your pros are, that you are never really answering to anyone, you become the bottom line. No one can tell you what to change if you don’t want to. The cons are, that you are never really answering to anyone, which can make you less objective about your own work.

It’s a fine balance and I try and get as much feedback as I can from various trusted sources to try to be sure I’m on the right track or not. If people have too many questions you probably have more work to do. So I hope you guys will enjoy taking this journey with me. I hope that it will be educational to those who work in the same industry and entertaining to the those who don’t. I guess we’ll see. MJ

http://mycho.co.uk

http://iwasateenagefilmmaker.blogspot.com

http://slasherhouse.com

http://legacyofthorn.com

Rock Band vs Vampires – Set Report December 2013 by Luke Green

rock-band-vs-vampires-film-posterRock Band vs Vampires – Set Report December 2013 by Luke Green

It’s midday on a clear, crisp December Sunday. I’m standing on the platform at Queens Road (Peckham) station. The day is cold but bright. However, there is a sinister hardness to the light and the sun seems to be glaring down at the world through the freezing air. I’m here to pay a set visit to Rock Band vs Vampires, an independent horror comedy, currently in production. It is my first ever set visit and I am unsure what to expect. The last time I was in Peckham I watched a gang of school children try to destroy a coach they had just travelled on, using “For Sale” signs torn from people’s walls. My sense of apprehension is not abating.

rbvv1As I walk up the road toward the filming location, a police car shoots past, blue lights flashing and sirens blaring. A couple of hundred yards later, there it is, pulled up with three others and an ambulance. A policeman stands on the pavement. He looks ill. As I pass, he sneezes violently. This seems to startle him more than me, although I jump. By now I feel very uneasy.

I eventually reach the shoot venue, the chapel at the Asylum alms houses. It is a fascinating place; the alms houses converted into a more modern housing estate, with the chapel (now empty inside) taking centre stage in the middle of a terrace. A man walking some kind of bull terrier a couple of dozen yards away seems very interested in what I am doing and makes toward me without lowering his intent gaze from my person. The chapel is vaguely intimidating, but I like it more than dog walking man. I climb the steps and enter into a very small alcove. Through a small archway to my right, an eerie red light is glowing and I can hear voices beyond. I pass through the arch, the walkway bears left and I am suddenly on the threshold of a cavernous space, lined with stained glass windows.

rbvv2As I enter, I bump into a very kind and friendly woman with a camera, coming the other way. I explain who I am and why I am here and the woman (who it will later turn out is Trish, kind of an archivist for the film) guides me into the centre of the space and introduces me to Malcolm Galloway, writer and director of Rock Band vs Vampires. All about us is a hive of different activities. In one corner, make-up artists are diligently applying cosmetics to patient actresses, on the opposite side of the space another group of actresses are receiving vampire combat training, elsewhere a girl meticulously irons a green screen and all around people go about their business or chat with morning coffee and pastries.

rbvv3Fortuitously, Malcolm turns out to be just as welcoming and accommodating as Trish and we fall to chatting quite easily. It is always at the back of my mind that I should be perhaps following some more structured and official interviewing technique, but Malcolm is such a gracious and amicable host that I struggle to be “professional”. However, I manage to chuck a couple of questions into the conversation here and there.

Malcolm is an interesting and diverse character and, apart from writing, directing and acting in his first feature length film, he is also a doctor by trade (he was pathology consultant on TV show Murder on the Home Front), working three days a week and leads his own prog rock band, Hats off Gentlemen, it’s Adequate (check them out on youtube).

rbvv4In conversation, it transpires that Rock Band vs Vampires is not a project born from a love of the horror genre (although Malcolm does have a liking for the more sci-fi end of the spectrum), but was simply an idea which arose in the pub (where all the best ideas come from) and, as a writer and director, Malcolm is more informed by absurdist comedy influences, such as Edgar Wright and Monty Python. In terms of tone, Malcolm suggests the movie is similar to Flight of the Conchords, although he hadn’t watched Flight of the Conchords until other people had mentioned this likeness to him.

The plot, loosely, revolves around a conflict between two tribes of vampires, one “old skool”, occupied with all the debauchery and olde worlde grandiosity associated with traditional vampirism, the other a more business like and aggressive organisation. The titular rock band are a small, unsigned group, who traipse around the pubs and clubs of London, followed by their measly, yet loyal, number of supporters. When they are booked to play a club owned by the second vampire group, they must fight to save their fans and, so, are drawn into vampiric battle.

rbvv5As I move around the set, being introduced to other people, I come to chatting with head of production and actress, Loren Peta, who plays drummer, Pixie Coldwell, in the movie. Speaking with Loren, the trials and tribulations with making an independent film soon become apparent. Time and money are the main factors to be considered and everybody involved with the film is working on a voluntary basis (an official imdb credit being one attraction). Organising 200 plus volunteers and fitting production of the film in around everybody’s day jobs and other lives sounds like a migraine-inducing logistical nightmare to me, but Loren comes from a business development background, so is somewhat previously prepared for movie production.

rbvv6Even so, to expose yourself to that level of stress in your spare time sounds slightly demented, but then you soon realise that Rock Band vs Vampires is a true labour of love for everybody involved, which is, really, the way all good art should be. Make up girls act, visual effects artist, Raed Abbas is also co-director (he’s got experience) and everyone generally digs in and helps out. As you hear about everything that needs to be done and all the things that need to be attended to in order to achieve it, you wonder at the determination and force of character people like Malcolm and Loren must need.

Character, it appears, may be the key. Amongst the hundreds of volunteers, Rock Band vs Vampires does feature a couple of “star turns”. Stand up comedian, Richard Herring and daytime TV’s very own ex-Tory MP and professional camp Christmas jumper wearer, Gyles Brandreth both have parts in the film. When I ask Malcolm how he got these people involved, he answers very candidly, “I’ve never done this before, so perhaps I don’t know the boundaries, so I just phoned them up and was completely honest about what I was asking them.”

rbvv7In an industry renowned for its bullshit, you can see how this approach may be appreciated. It is the same approach that Malcolm has taken with everybody and, speaking to people around the set, you can tell that they are happy to be involved because they like and appreciate Malcolm. Thus the theme of determination comes around again; owing the responsibility of seeing such a huge project through to all these volunteers who have invested their time and effort in your vision would scare the bejesus out of me. Malcolm, however, seems to take it all in his stride, “I hadn’t thought of it like that.”

The realities of independent filmmaking return to slap everyone in the face with the news that major cast member (and lads’ mag favourite), Dani Thompson will not make it in today, due to ‘flu. This means a restructuring of the day’s schedule, as a pivotal scene cannot now be shot today.

rbvv8It is FREEZING in the asylum chapel and everybody digs in gratefully when hot roast chicken and chips arrive, whilst we wait for the sun to go down, so that shooting can begin on a massacre scene, where vampire assassins break in and slaughter the harem of their boss’ rival.

I have been on set now for over four hours and, a prior engagement down the road in New Cross means I have to leave, meaning that I, unfortunately, do not get to see the scene being shot. However, in a very kind gesture, stuntman, Wilfried Tah, and a pretty vampire called Nora offer to give me a demonstration of a ninja assassin vs vampire fight, so that I can see some action. It is great fun.

rbvv9Whether you like vampire movies, whether you like horror comedy, I would urge you to support the production of Rock Band vs Vampires; people who get off their bums and put in the effort to make things happen deserve that at the very least; maybe if we all did it, we would see more of the movies that we want to see. So like their facebook page, follow them on youtube, even offer your services – who knows, you could get an imdb credit to your name.

Luke Green                 Picture Malcolm Galloway(l) & Luke Green (r)

Ps – Special thanks to stunt and weapons coordinator, Dan, and his partner (and Rock Band vs Vampires archivist), Trish for taking such good care of me!

You can follow the progress on Rock Band vs Vampires through the links below –

Twitter – @rockvsvampires

Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/RockBandVsVampires

IMDB – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3326180/