UKHS Does The Nasty! NIGHTMARES IN A DAMAGED BRAIN (1981) Part Two: Code Red Nightmare: An Interview with LEE CHRISTIAN

Amaray Wrap.EPSUKHS Does The Nasty!

NIGHTMARES IN A DAMAGED BRAIN (1981) Part Two:
Code Red Nightmare: An Interview with LEE CHRISTIAN

In Part One of our Nightmares In a Damaged Brain spotlight [which you can read HERE], Matty Budrewicz gave an extensive analysis of director Romano Scavolini’s iconic Video Nasty. Featured within was Lee Christian, the self-confessed exploitation film nut who curated and moderated the extras on Code Red DVDs US release of the film back in 2011. Here, Matty chats to the special features main-man about the film, the notorious problems of getting the Code Red disc out there, and his opinions on censorship…

 

UKHS: First off, I’d just like to ask how did you become involved in Code Red?

Lee Christian: Basically, my involvement with Walter [who now runs Scorpion Releasing] and later Bill Olsen came about because of a movie called Slithis. Ironically, Bill would later release this film without a commentary track, which is another long story. Anyway, back when I was twelve years old I had seen Slithis in my home state of Iowa, where that film’s producer, Dick Davis, resided as a theatre owner. When I was older, I managed a number of movie theatres that he owned and worked with several of his associates. Fast forward to about eight years ago, I had been a regular attendee of the monthly Grindhouse Festival here in Los Angeles and I asked Eric Caiden and Brian Quinn who run it if they’d be interested in playing Slithis if I could locate a 35mm print for them.

They loved the idea, so I called Dick Davis’ son – Dick had passed away by this time – and to my shock and horror, he told me that all known film elements had been destroyed in a fire where his father had been foolishly keeping them in the closed-down concession stand of a long since closed drive-in theatre that he owned. BUT, he added, there were these two strange guys from Washington state who were trying to secure the DVD rights to it. Maybe, they might have found some film elements, he said. So he gave me their phone number and I called it, but there was no outgoing message on the voicemail that picked up, so I didn’t leave a message.

Then I got a call back from Walter Olsen who was curious why there was a call from Los Angeles on his caller ID; I was curious as to why they didn’t have an outgoing message on their phone, but whatever! Anyway, we talked and he was sufficiently impressed not only with the fact that I knew so much about Slithis, but also that I knew a lot about – and worked directly for the producer of – a film once known as The Hazing, which was released on VHS and DVD as The Curious Case of the Campus Corpse. I also tutored Film History class in college and have a bizarre obsession with exploitation films, and they asked me if I wanted to moderate a commentary track for them. They had moderated some of their own commentary tracks and reviewers had made fun of their accents! The first movie for which I moderated a commentary track was Campus Corpse, which was followed by Beyond the Door, among others. And that was that!

 

Lee Christian

Lee Christian

UKHS: I take it it’s something you enjoy doing, helping piece the extras together and moderating the commentary tracks?

LC: I absolutely love doing it, and that’s not just a line! I love doing the research and the surprising answers. Like I said, I tutored Film History class and I love documentaries so it’s a very grounded interest.

 

UKHS: The Code Red DVD of Nightmares In a Damaged Brain (under it’s American title Nightmare) was a long time coming. How did you get involved with it and what were the problems that delayed its release?

LC: It took it so long because basically Bill and Walter were hoping to find a better source print than what they had. They did complain a lot that people on the internet were demanding that they use only the camera negatives. Having known them both as long as I did, I can say with confidence that if camera negatives were available, they would’ve used them. Both have maintained that the negatives were located and passed over to Jim Markovic, one of the film’s uncredited original editors, who was – at the time the DVD was being prepared – doing telecine work, or similarly related stuff, for Technicolor. Unfortunately, when Markovic opened the cans, he found that the negative was so badly deteriorated due to improper storage that it was unusable. According to Bill and Walter, in fact, Markovic’s exact words were, “Get it out of here. It stinks!” So they continued to search for better film elements.

Meanwhile, another controversy erupted. Apparently, Markovic had advised them to release the film full frame because of how the shots had been composed. I don’t know if you know much about 35mm film and how aspect ratios are actually generated, but basically, a frame of film is closer to square dimensions. Most films that weren’t shot with an anamorphic – “scope” – lens were shot with the aperture wide open, resulting in a square image, hence why boom mics sneak into the top of a frame. Anyone who has ever worked as a projectionist can tell you, there is a lot of space at the top and bottom that is blocked off when you actually project a movie; something that goes back to to the movie industry trying to come up with a means of competing with television, but not quite convinced that Cinemascope was going to last. This is why when some films were released to VHS, you would get more picture information from top to bottom than was exposed during theatrical exhibition.

Anyway, in some scenes, Scavolini had allowed some crucial information to be framed slightly below or above the 1:1.85 area of the frame. One example was the decapitated head in the bed. Another was the scene when George goes to visit the Times Square peep shows; some hooker masturbating action gets lost below the frame in that instance. THAT is why Bill and Walter had announced that they were going to release it full frame. Naturally, that pissed off everyone! Eventually, Bill released it matted at 1:1.85, but what no one knows is that he cheated on that: when significant information would be lost, he simply arranged for the telecine technician to custom modify the framing accordingly for difficult shots. In other words, if you were to watch the film theatrically, the framing would not have been as selective in a movie theatre because once the movie starts, the projectionist sets the framing appropriately and then leaves it set that way for the remainder of the show.

 

niadb scavolini

Romano Scavolini

UKHS: I understand there was a bit of an issue trying to get the ninety-odd minute interview extra with Scavolini subtitled too?

LC: That’s something that’s always pissed me off. And frankly, although I wrote up several of the questions for that interview, I’ve never watched it. Bill and Walter had found someone who could visit with Scavolini in Italy and conduct the interview, and he was instructed to conduct it in English. Apparently, as they sat down to do it, Scavolini had asked the interviewer if it would be alright for him to answer in Italian because that was more natural for him, and the interviewer obliged. According to Bill, the interviewer apparently thought that the interview could be effortlessly subtitled in English by the same person who was subtitling movies for Media Blasters, a company that Bill and Walter were engaged with at the time. But supposedly, the guy who did subtitling for Media Blasters had already committed suicide! So obviously, he wasn’t available and Bill and Walter had already spent a lot of money on this release and were likely still pissed off that the interview had not been conducted in English in the first place.

There were also other people involved with the film that Bill and Walter were persuading to participate in the DVD too, by the way; some of which have since granted interviews for Bill’s upcoming Blu-Ray release of the film. Bill had been trying to talk the film’s credited editor, Robert Megginson, who went on to write the screenplay for F/X (1986), but he didn’t want to be involved with the DVD because he’s not proud of the movie. Bill also claimed to have difficulties getting a commitment with Nightmare’s unit manager Mik Cribben; but he’s since done an interview for Bill’s Blu-Ray release. We were all hoping to get an interview with Tom Savini as well, but that wasn’t going to happen.

In short? Nightmare’s DVD was delayed due to an ongoing and unsuccessful search for better film elements, getting the film’s original participants to take part in the DVD extras – most of whom declined – and that goddamn interview that should’ve been conducted in English in the first place!

 

NIADB 7 Savini

Tom Savini

UKHS: What’re your thoughts on the Savini controversy?

LC: Well, one person that I managed to track down in an attempt to get to the bottom of it was Christine O’Keefe [who played Tatum’s mother]. Scavolini has maintained that Savini did the effects, Savini denies having done the effects, Ed French says that HE did the effects; so who on the film could give a definitive answer to this question without having a reputation to protect? Christine O’Keefe! Someone had to make a mould of her head for the beheading scene, right? So I called her and she barely remembered the film; she’s never seen it, but she did say that there was an effects guy who she was told at the time was a really big deal who was working on the movie. She referred to him as “Tom Savino” when I talked to her. I tried hard to persuade her to do an interview and although she considered it, she eventually politely declined. Mostly, she didn’t want the film coming back to haunt her at this stage in her life: it was very clear from our conversation that she’s not proud of having worked on it!

 

UKHS: From what I’ve read, Scavolini didn’t have final cut on the film did he?

LC: No, but I get the feeling he saw his role more as a hired hand anyway. Ultimately, he more or less had to wash his hands of the film and move on when it went slightly over budget and the producers wanted to get it released Stateside through 21st Century. From what I understand, there was some friction between Scavolini and John Watkins – who raised the money for the film and also played the “Man with the Cigar” – which probably didn’t help matters, either. At the time, Scavolini was also dating Sharon Smith, so he may have lost interest in the film to some extent since he had that going on.

There’s an interesting adjunct to this though. Baird [Stafford] told us – and this is in the DVD commentary track – that the gore effects scenes were shot in alternate versions; once for what would’ve – at that time – resulted in an X-rating, and once for an R-rated cut. It’s interesting because it does seem to imply that Scavolini was mindful of the American rating system to the point of preparing for a truncated version to appease the MPAA. And 21st Century did end up releasing an R-rated version in 1983, but as far as I know, there are no prints of that version still around and no one seems to know what happened to the more restrained effects footage that was, according to Baird, shot alternately.

 

NIADB 5UKHS: What do you think of the films status as a Video Nasty here in the UK? I’d love to hear your American perspective on such a strange part of British pop-culture history.

LC: When I first saw it when I was sixteen, I was watching it with a friend of mine and as the credits started to roll, I specifically remember turning to my friend and saying out loud, “That was the sickest movie I’ve ever seen!”. Obviously, by this time I hadn’t seen Cannibal Holocaust or Salo: 120 Days of Sodom! But for that reason, I find it fascinating. I don’t know of anyone who has watched Nightmare and then decided to go out and kill someone. So my own perspective is, if you watch a violent movie, isn’t that the point? In ways, I think Nightmare is more morally responsible than, say, Terminator 2, where Schwarzenegger shoots countless policemen in the kneecaps while the audience laughs.

It’s certainly a more responsible movie than movies like Rambo and Red Dawn, where the audience is encouraged to cheer when someone is killed – however, I don’t think any of these movies should be censored either. During the 2012 Republican primaries here in America, presidential hopeful Rick Perry actually got a round of applause for having overseen – at the time – over 300 executions as governor of Texas. I find that kind of blood-lust and America’s obsession with guns FAR more disturbing than anything in Nightmare, which, to be sure, is a disturbing movie. And I don’t think the rapidly escalating gun violence we’re having here in America has anything to do with movies like Nightmare. People who murder abortion doctors, for example, are doing so based on their religious convictions, not because they saw a slasher movie.

 

niadblc1UKHS: So you don’t think it has the power to corrupt the masses as the British government and press feared?

LC: I don’t even think British parliament believed it at the time! Perhaps they wanted to believe it but… From an American standpoint, I’ll relate the Video Nasties to something that we’re going through here in America right now. We have a culture of blame and fear-mongering that’s getting progressively worse: poor people are ridiculed as being “takers”, gun legislation can never happen because the NRA convinces enough gullible people that the government is “out to get their guns”, and gays and lesbians are demonised as tearing apart the moral fabric of America. Basically, the Video Nasties era came down to this: Parliament was wanted a “Them” that they could bully around and blame for society’s problems. They were looking for a made-to-order “Bad Guy”. That’s all it was and that’s all censorship is ever about. Well, not quite: it’s also about controlling people and their ability to think for themselves. That’s pretty much my take on the Nasties scandal.

But going back to, as you said, the American perspective again though; we really haven’t had that level of censorship since the advent of the MPAA’s rating system. There’s been a few hiccups along the way; Former Attorney General Edwin Meese’ Commission on Pornography being one. Further back we had the President’s Commission on Pornography and Obscenity, and neither one of these stood the test of time, but each one wreaked its own havoc on free speech. Neither one was the outright ban on several specific films like the Video Nasties scandal was, however. Perhaps due to mostly successful free speech that we’ve enjoyed on this side of the Atlantic, we tend to get a little spoilt and lose sight on just what true censorship really is. You may recall the scandal that erupted when the “Duck Dynasty” idiot spewed some racial and homophobic comments and A&E was poised to suspend the show. A&E is NOT the government and they DO produce the show, so it’s their right to suspend or even cancel it if they want. But American fans of the show screamed censorship – this was NOT censorship – and A&E backed off their plans to suspend it. So Americans really haven’t been exposed to true censorship for some time, fortunately!

 

nightmare_1981_poster_01The Lee Christian Files

As a very special treat to UK Horror Scene readers, Lee has very kindly allowed us a sneak peak into his vast library of script, prep and research notes. Below you’ll find a few bits and bobs Lee used whilst helping to assemble the extra features on the Code Red Nightmares In a Damaged Brain/Nightmare disc. Read Lee’s comments and simply click on the prompts for this superb and exclusive insight into his moderator process!

Please click on each link and this will open up the scripts in PDF format , then hit the back button to return to this article !!

Lee Christian: Here’s four samples of Nightmare’s original screenplay, under the title “Dark Game”. This first one is from the beginning of the film which, as you can see, doesn’t start with George Tatum in bed like the finished film.

[CLICK HERE FOR NIGHTMARE SCRIPT SAMPLES 1 – BEGINNING]

LC: Now, this is the scene that does open the film as released – George wakes up frantic but there’s no decapitated head in his bed.

[NIGHTMARE-SCRIPTSAMPLE-2-GEORGEINTRO]

LC: This third sample documents the moments before and after Kathy’s death. You can kind of get an idea of just how far this film skewed from the script in this ten page chunk.

[NIGHTMARE-SCRIPTSAMPLE-3-KATHYDEATH]

LC: This final bit of script is the last few pages. It ends on page 167! [Note: one script page generally equates for a minute of screen time, giving you a rough idea of just how long a film is supposed to be – Ed.]

[NIGHTMARE-SCRIPTSAMPLE-4-ENDING]

LC: These are scans of the index cards that actor Baird Stafford wrote up for me. Bill, Walter and I met him at the hotel they booked for him. We did the on-camera interview in his hotel room. I reviewed the cards briefly at that time, but then used them extensively when I modified my commentary track questions. We recorded the commentary track at Crossroads of the World on Sunset Boulevard the following day. You’ll also see a note that Baird wrote at the top of the page stating that Scavolini had allegedly had some kind of favorable relationship with Vangelis [Chariots of Fire (1981), Blade Runner (1982)] and was planning to ask him to compose the music for the score! I think we talked about this in the commentary track and frankly I’m skeptical that Scavolini had such a friendship. If it’s true, however, and had Vangelis done the music, Nightmare could’ve boasted an Academy Award winner in its music credits!

[CLICK HERE FOR BAIRD STAFFORD NOTES]

LC: Lastly, this is a scan of the commentary questions I brought into the recording studio with me. Actually, I had – as I always do – a set of questions to ask that are scene-specific with the timecode info off to the side. Unfortunately, of all the junk related to commentary track interviews that I’ve kept over the years, the commentary track questions for “Nightmare” seem to have, sadly, disappeared.

[CLICK HERE FOR PDF OF NIGHTMARE COMMENTARY QUESTIONS]

____________________________________________________
NIADB Code Red logoOnce again, a massive, massive thanks to the superb Lee Christian.

Code Red DVDs essential limited run blu-ray of the film, under its American title NIGHTMARE, is out now. Get buying it from their store here: http://codereddvd.bigcartel.com/

Find Code Red on Facebook HERE and twitter HERE

To go back to part one of this feature, click HERE

Follow Matty on twitter @mattybudrewicz

#UKHSNasty

THE CHAIR: An Interview With Creator and Producer Peter Simeti by Matty Budrewicz

THE CHAIR:
An Interview With Creator and Producer Peter Simeti

chair1

A potent blend of twisted psychological horror, savage violence and hard-arsed prison drama, Alterna Comics’ cult 2008 graphic novel The Chair is about to make the big screen adaptation leap. The story of a perhaps wrongly imprisoned man’s fight against the brutality that surrounds him – barbarism most often meted out at the hands of one truly sadistic warden – The Chair has all the potential to become a fine mind-bending indie splat-pic classic; well, crowdfunds pending. In a UK exclusive, we got in touch with The Chair’s creator and now adaptation producer Peter Simeti for a quick confab about all things Chair related, and how you guys can help get this peach-in-waiting made…

UKHS: You’re a comic book mogul and now a movie producer; you’re not even thirty yet! For readers of UKHS who may not be too familiar with you, would you mind giving us a little background on yourself and the Alterna Comics brand?

Peter Simeti: Well that’s the first time I’ve heard it all put together like that! I’m not sure if it quite fits, but I won’t split hairs about it [laughs]. So a little about me, I created Alterna back in 2006 as a means to get my own work out there under a label so it wasn’t just a self-published work. It was just something to make it all seem a bit more official. But shortly after, I started receiving submissions and a lot of the stuff was actually really really good. I thought maybe I could help creators get their work out there and in turn we all would help each other. Alterna’s got a community aspect in that way. The books are all creator-owned, similar to publishers like Image, so Alterna doesn’t own any rights other than publishing and distribution.

chair2UKHS: How did the The Chair come about as a graphic novel? I understand that after you’d done your first book, Spectrum, the only good thing you took from it was realising that you didn’t want to do comics that were just superhero based.

PS: Yikes! We’re digging up the dirt here, huh! What an awful book Spectrum was [laughs]! Yeah, well the only really good thing that came from it was actually the fact that I had created Alterna Comics as a label to house my self-published work. Years later, Alterna’s published about sixty to seventy titles and because of that, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some really talented people.

The Chair though was mostly spawned from the idea of having a character that was morally ambiguous. I really wanted to create something that would make people put themselves in the situation of these characters and decide on whether or not they’d behave the same or different. I think all the best stories do this kind of thing, showing a mirror up to the reader and making them think or feel the way the characters do. So with that, I created the Warden who has a bit of a sadistic and psychotic streak to him but at the same time, he’s a character that many people could probably relate to – which in itself is a bit odd, right? He’s kind of like a judge, jury, and executioner all rolled into one.

He’s by no means a hero, but is he really a villain? And then the character of Richard Sullivan was created as a means to set up a conflict in the story; a character that you want to see where his journey takes him. But Richard also has a sordid and mysterious past, so is he really a guy to root for? That’s the kind of stuff people should be thinking about when they read The Chair and when they eventually watch the film.

UKHS: At what point did you start looking to turn The Chair into a movie then?

PS: I think it was around 2009 or so. We were getting approached by different production companies at the time but we always heard the same answer: it was a good story but just too dark for them. So we ended up putting it on the back-burner until about 2012 or so and interest started popping up again. Erin Kohut came up with the screenplay for the film and once we had that figured out, I got in touch with director Chad Ferrin about coming on board. I liked Chad’s indie mentality and I really enjoyed his film Someone’s Knocking at the Door so we thought he might be a good fit for The Chair. Chad loved the script and at that point we moved forward on finding a cast.

chair3UKHS: Ferrin is certainly the perfect fit for it. The Chair is every bit as dark and as uncompromising as The Ghouls, Someone’s Knocking or Unspeakable – which it’s very similar too – say. So how faithful an adaptation has Kohut crafted? Has anything been added or adjusted? How big a hand did you have in the scripts development as both the stories originator and the films producer?

PS: Erin edited the graphic novel as well, so that probably helped her to craft the screenplay since she was already close to the source material. The book is relatively short as far as feature films go, it’d probably be more like an hour of material. So for the most part Erin added some scenes, fleshed out characters, tightened up the plot and basically shored up any cracks that were in the book’s story. There really wasn’t a time where I’d read some of her changes and I’d ask her to change it back or to cut a part out. If anything, she really made it a better story than the book – how often does that even happen [laughs]?! So yeah I’m really happy with how it’s gone.

UKHS: It’s a creepy, oppressive and nasty book. Would you like to talk about some of your influences on it? You’ve said that The Twilight Zone was a major influence on you…

PS: Yeah it’s got a bit of Twilight Zone influence in there and probably some Batman as well, particularly any stories that had to do with Arkham Asylum or The Scarecrow since there’s a lot of psychosis involved. But there’s nothing that’s really derivative I think; something that you can pinpoint a scene and go “hey! that’s just like that other story!”. It’s more The Chair’s overall vibe.

chair4UKHS: How about your cast? It’s a very genre-friendly line up: Brian Thompson [The X Files], Eric Roberts [The Dark Knight], Zach Galligan [Gremlins]… There’s even two Ferrin regulars in there with Timothy Muskatell and Ezra Buzzington. How have they all responded to the material?

PS: Oh, everybody’s been so great about the material. Bill Oberst Jr. is just a perfect Warden, he’s going to be great in that role. Same thing for Brian [Thompson] too: he’ll be able to bring that vulnerability to Sullivan’s character, as well as that meanness and grit. All the actors have been very passionate about getting this film made, they all really believe in it. Naomi Grossman and Noah Hathaway are just tremendous additions as well – so talented. And we’ve got some great nods to comic fans with Susan Eisenberg, who’s the voice of Wonder Woman, and the voice of Green Arrow Kin Shriner in a scene together. Walking Dead fans will recognise Travis Love as the Commanding Officer too; it’s just a one after the other kind of cast. Just a great ensemble.

The crew is pretty terrific as well by the way, with a few notables like Tim Eckel who worked on Heroes and Veronica Mars; Paul Lacovara who was Tom Hiddleston’s stunt man in Thor, Thor 2, and the Avengers, and Charles Bernstein who composed the music for the original Nightmare on Elm Street. Between the cast and crew, it’s seriously a pile-up of who’s who in horror and comic films and I couldn’t be any happier!

UKHS: Now, I was going to bring up Oberst Jr. next. He certainly makes a strong impression in your teaser trailer [see foot of article]!

PS: Yeah, he’s great right?

UKHS: Completely! The face of the excellent Take This Lollipop app too… Anyway, let’s talk about that teaser. When and where did you guys shoot it? I take it you put it together as a taster for investors.

PS: Chad and David DeFino [The Chair’s gaffer] shot the teaser with Bill in Los Angeles, maybe about 2 months ago – some time in April. Yeah, we wanted everyone to have some kind of an idea of what they were in for and what the story would primarily be about. So we chose to highlight the Warden character in the teaser.
chair5

UKHS: The Chair is being crowdfunded right? How’s it going and can UKHS readers contribute? It is UK-friendly yes?

PS: Yeah, so far we’re moving along nicely with twenty-ish days left and we’re at the $21K mark out of $300K. Our Kickstarter is indeed UK friendly – and all other countries as well – with shipping rates specified for each reward. Your readers can contribute with a pledge and by sharing the campaign on Facebook and on twitter:
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/petersimeti/the-chair-a-horror-film-adaptation-of-the-graphic

UKHS: Finally, how far along are you in the films production? When are you hoping to have it before cameras?

PS: Other than the teaser trailer, we haven’t filmed a single second yet. That’s why the Kickstarter is so important. A lot of films get on Kickstarter to raise money for post-production work or to build buzz on their film and get rewards and pre-orders out to backers. But The Chair is still in pre-production and actually needs to raise its production budget. That’s why the mark has been set at $300K – to enable us to film a high quality movie with the cast that we currently have. If all goes as planned, we’ll start filming this October.

**********
Thanks to Peter Simeti.

Once again, check out The Chair’s kickstarter here:
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/petersimeti/the-chair-a-horror-film-adaptation-of-the-graphic

Dig on the flick’s teaser here:

[youtube=http://youtu.be/H66d9ppBScw]
Follow Matty on twitter @mattybudrewicz

 

 

 

MEET ME THERE: An Interview with Screenwriter Brandon Stroud by Matty Budrewicz

MEET ME THERE: An Interview with Screenwriter Brandon Stroud

meetmethere1New US indie Meet Me There has quickly become a real favourite here at UKHS towers.

The story of a young couple whose problems between the sheets leads them on a harrowing voyage of self-discovery through a weird little backwater town, Meet Me There blew both myself and Dave Wain away after we were privy to director Lex Lybrand’s early festival cut (you can read our thoughts on it HERE and HERE). Smart, scary and totally unique, it’s one of the absolute highlights of this year.

Continuing our coverage of this terrific flick, I recently caught up with Meet Me There’s scripter Brandon Stroud for a quick chinwag…

UKHS: So where did the movie come from? When I talked to Lex back in January he said you formed the screenplay from “a lifetime of stories”.

Brandon: I did. Destiny Talley gets our “based on stories by” credit because almost everything in the film is based on something horrible from her life. She grew up in a town called Atwood, Oklahoma, a town of 74 people that is nothing but a church, a few intersecting streets and a shit-ton of nightmares. She’ll just randomly drop stories about her hometown into conversation, like, “when I was a kid, I wasn’t allowed to go into the woods because of druids having ceremonies,” or, “one day a guy in town killed a bunch of dogs and lined them up along the street.”

brandon1UKHS: That’s nuts. So there is stuff in there that has actually happened?!

Brandon: Yeah, a lot of it. I think the scariest thing in the world is real life.
Back in 2003 I wrote a novel called Seven Hill City, and I managed to get it optioned for a film twice. Both times it lingered in pre-production hell, so I got tired of not having a movie and decided to write something quick and easy I could just make with my friends on the cheap. Total throwaway horror movie. About fifteen pages into it I thought, “shit, wait, I could make this good,” and started throwing in all of Destiny’s stories. Eventually it became a story about her life, about our lives, and about the desperate effort to cope with that feeling like everything bad that’s ever happened to you has stuck around and started closing in for the kill.

I’m happy with where it went. It went from something I was going to shoot as easily as possible and throw up on YouTube into something I wrote from the bottom of my heart and all the best parts of my brain, made with people I love, admire and respect, playing film festivals. It’s crazy.

meetmethere2UKHS: I really think you can tell that there is a lot of thought and a lot of heart behind it. Meet Me There is just so rich in its characterisation, which is something that doesn’t happen all too often in the horror genre. From what you’ve said then, I take it it was important for you to give your characters as much depth as you did? Obviously after you decided it wasn’t just a goofy DIY shocker!

Brandon: I probably put too much thought into the characters I wrote! Ada and Calvin [the protagonists] have entire back stories in my brain that I didn’t come close to exploring in Meet Me There. Marlow has an entire life we don’t see her living. I think every character is an opportunity, you know? If you can make them matter, make them real, you should. Some just sorta breeze into the story and leave, but the ones you spend time with should be able to hold a conversation.

UKHS: So how much of you is in Meet Me There?

Brandon: There’s a lot of me in it. That Smurfs story in it is totally true, by the way. It happened in Virginia and not Ohio, but yeah, I’m that dude who misses out on an absolutely pointless amusement park opportunity and regrets it for the rest of his life. The way-too-many wrestling references are me, too.

meetmethere3UKHS: Are you a horror fan, Brandon?

Brandon: I am, but I got into it late in the game. I grew up in a video store. My mom managed a place called “Video USA” when I was little, so before and after school I’d sit on a stool behind the counter and watch VHS tapes all day. I stayed away from the horror because the box art scared the shit out of me, and my imagination would always take me somewhere darker than actually watching the films would. I got into horror as an adult, actually, when I realised there was an art to it beyond putting gross faces on a box. I’m a huge fan of older psychological horror. It’s almost therapeutic for me now that I’ve lived a chunk of life. You know, and I say that as someone who still totally owns the Friday the 13th blu-ray boxed set. I like it all.

UKHS: I ask because I said in my write up of Meet Me There something like how it was both familiar and completely different all at the same time. There’s the characters with a troubled past, a town with secrets… It’s a classic set up but executed in such an unexpected and almost anti-genre way.

Brandon: I think a lot of horror tropes are born from something real. The unknown, not being able to come to terms with the past… Towns full of people you’ll never understand, and the paranoia that comes from that. What makes them tropes is how people lean on them. It’s easy to put jock, cheerleader, black guy and a stoner into a crazy town where everyone’s trying to kill them, but I think it’s much more entertaining to put somebody like ME in there, explore how they’d naturally react to what was happening, and play with it.

Calvin and Ada could exist in any film, and that’s what I love about them. I care about them because they were around before the film, and could be around after it. The genre is one that provides endless possibilities for creativity and interpretation, and damn, if I had forty million dollars and a franchise opening every October I’d sure as shit be swimming in the freedom. If something worked before, make it work again, but make it work differently. Make it work like your brain wants it to work, not like you think it has to. Even if you fail miserably.

MEET 001UKHS: Looking at the film, was Lex’s visual take on the material close to how you saw it whilst writing?

Brandon: It’s hard to say. Lex’s visuals are something I can’t understate the importance of. That’s one of the reasons I was so excited to work with him… He can take something from my brain, filter it through his and make it truly beautiful. That’s an incredible talent. In a perfect world, I get to filter my stuff through his brain a few more times before he’s too famous to talk to me.

UKHS: How do you think actors Lisa Friedrich and Micheal Foulk took to their parts? Were they what you envisioned when you wrote Ada and Calvin? What did they bring to it? Considering their backgrounds in improv, did they and Lex do much improvising or did they stick pretty rigidly to what you wrote?

Brandon: Micheal and Lisa are amazing. They’re both great actors and talented comedians and improvisers, so they basically took fictional versions of me and Destiny and brought them to life. They’re not “versions” of anyone now, they’re unique, fully-formed characters, and that’s largely thanks to their input and thoughts on the story. I’ve made sure to ask their opinions throughout every stage of the film, and it’s helped tremendously. The best part of working with talented people is utilising those talents… Why work with a genius if you don’t want to learn from them and make yourself better? I feel like I’m a better writer now having worked with these people. Lisa, Mike, Megan, Dustin, Jill, Lex, all of them.

There are a few scenes in the movie that are totally improvised, yes, but they stuck to the voice we set up in the script, so it’s hard to tell which ones. That’s killer. I fully expected Lex and the actors to take the script and say, “okay, we’re gonna throw out pages two through forty and do this,” but they didn’t. The respect they gave the story was tremendous, and tremendously flattering. I couldn’t have worked with a more constructive crew.

mmtnew2UKHS: You said earlier about the wrestling connections, so let’s touch on them a bit. You and Lex are both big wrestling buffs, right?

Brandon: Oh man, wrestling… I write about it for a living and work in the wrestling business now. I do a column called ‘The Best And Worst Of WWE Raw’ over at WithLeather.com – my day job, unbelievably – and ring announce for Inspire Pro Wrestling in Austin. Everything I write, EVERYTHING is full of wrestling references. When I wrote this, I challenged myself to not put any wrestling references in, and in the script, there are none. Then we thought, “Oh, we should cast Dustin Runnels for this,” and suddenly Goldust was in the movie. And when we cast roles, we ended up with Jack Jameson. He’s the guy in the cold open with the beard. He’s a pro wrestler.

And then when it was time to cast extras for the druid scenes we were like, “Who do we know?” And we ended up with a woods full of pro wrestlers. Folks like Leva Bates, Evan Gelistico, Addy Starr, Thomas Shire… These are all people who wrestle, all around the world, and they’re also people we know who are free to put on robes and mess around with blood and goats. Oh, and when it came time to pick wardrobe, whoops, suddenly Lisa’s in a Daniel Bryan shirt, or an UltraMantis Black shirt. I have a sickness, I think!

goldustUKHS: Completely! So what was Dustin “Goldust” Runnels like to work with?

Brandon: Working with Dustin was… I still haven’t totally been able to put it into words! This guy’s been a favourite of mine since I was eleven. He’s legitimately one of my five favourite pro wrestlers ever, and somehow he read a thing I wrote and liked it enough to want to be in it. It was serendipitous for us, too, because he’d shown up in the previous January’s Royal Rumble, but he didn’t have a WWE contract.

He shot our film, and then a few months later got his WWE job back. He’s forty-five and seemingly entering the prime of his career. He’s as good in the ring as he’s ever been, doing hurricanranas and Yoshi Tonics to guys and I get to say, “I made that guy wade around in a cow piss pond for a scene in our movie.” It’s unreal. Dustin’s an artist, man; he came in prepared and blew everybody away. His talent is absurd. We didn’t start writing Woodward with him in mind, but when he was sitting in that church saying the lines, we couldn’t imagine Woodward being anyone else.

UKHS: You said that Meet Me There is a project you’re passionate about. You must be thrilled then that now it’s starting to get out there it’s connecting with people in such a way. It’s got some real buzz behind it.

Brandon: I’m very happy with it. I had a moment during the New Orleans première about ten minutes in when people were laughing and reacting where I went, “Oh my God, this is real.” I don’t think I’d let my brain process it before then. One day I’m in a field outside of a church getting eaten up by chiggers, the next I’m in a theatre wearing a bow-tie, watching a movie I helped make. It’s my guts, and now you can see them!

mmtnew1UKHS: What’s your plan for it now?

Brandon: Lex handles a lot of the promotional stuff, but I’m happy to talk to anyone I can about the film. Getting it out there, getting it into festivals. We’ve even talked to distributors already, which is amazing seeing as we’ve had one official screening. Probably two by the time this goes up. I’m going to try to make sure I make it to as many of our festival screenings as I can. We’ve got one in Austin on the 20th that is kicking my ass, I can’t wait to show the film in the town it was born.

UKHS: Finally, how’re you going to follow up Meet Me There? Do you have any other film projects on the horizon, specifically any genre-friendly ones?

Brandon: The goal I’ve always had in mind is to make a movie, and have it do well enough for me to make another one, and just keep that going. There’s so much I’d love to do. The Seven Hill City adaptation will happen one day. If Meet Me There blows up and we sell out, I’ve got at least three great sequels in the tank before we’re doing a half-assed 3D reboot with Dustin throwing spears at the camera or whatever! There’s a really great part two in my head I want to get out. I’ve also talked to Lex about us collaborating on a sci-fi project, so that could be fun. Lots of stuff waiting to exist. I couldn’t be more excited.
**********
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COPS AND WEREWOLVES: A FULL ECLIPSE retrospective with director Anthony Hickox

COPS AND WEREWOLVES: A FULL ECLIPSE retrospective with director Anthony Hickox

fe1It’s not everyday that you get to chinwag with one of your all time favourite filmmakers. Then again it’s not everyday a social media stalking campaign actually pays off without resulting in a restraining order. You see after spending two weeks grooming them like I were an online pervert, I finally got the sort of response I was after: an email. An email from a mysterious account known only as ‘007’.

“Hey there!” it read, “Just don’t ask me about the end werewolf!!!! Hahahaha.”
Fast-forward a few days later – after a little hotmail back and forth – and I was making a transatlantic phone call to someone whose work I had religiously obsessed over since I was fourteen. Keeping my fawning fanboy screeching in check and whacking my serious horror journo head on, I was about to talk to Anthony Hickox. Our focus? His 1993 lycanthrope gem Full Eclipse.

“God, I can’t even remember. Tell ’em to go on IMDb!” the Brit maverick laughs when I ask him to give you lovely lot a breakdown of his beginnings and career up to Full Eclipse, his sixth feature. “It all started with Waxwork (1988) but I’m not sure how it got from doing crazy low-budget gore-fests to HBO saying “Come and do Full Eclipse for us”. I think I might have done Extreme, a TV pilot, before then but I don’t remember the dates. Or they might have been friends with Pete Abrams of Tapestry, you know, where we’d just done the Warlock sequel. It might have been that way; I can’t quite remember exactly how.” Well let’s see if we can fill in some blanks…

Hickox was born into a film making family. His father, the late Douglas Hickox, was a director himself, the man behind Zulu Dawn and the Vincent Price classic Theatre of Blood. His mother Anne V. Coates meanwhile is the veteran Academy Award-winning editor of Lawrence of Arabia. Young Tony it would seem was destined for the movie biz. “Yeah, I don’t think I really had a choice,” he says. “My dad always said that if he was a butcher, I’d be cutting meat. Which is true because both of my parents worked all the time, so every holiday I had from school I’d be on a film set. Which helps a lot, you know? I mean, it doesn’t help you to make good movies ‘cos you either can or you can’t, but it certainly gave me the experience so that I wasn’t scared when I went to make Waxwork. Even though I hadn’t done anything before, I had the confidence and I’m sure that was a running help in it.”.

fe2A gleeful terror-comedy, Waxwork was part Hammer tribute, part eighties schlocker; an instant cult favourite that, for the next five years anyway, allowed the director to carve out his own unique niche as a key purveyor of lively B horror hokum. It’s a genuinely impressive run, from the excellent blood suckin’ and gunslingin’ Sundown: The Vampire in Retreat (1990); to his trio of ace sequels Waxwork II: Lost in Time (1992), Hellraiser III: Hell On Earth (1992) and Warlock: The Armageddon (1993); all the way right through to the mighty Full Eclipse: Hickox’s pièce de résistance.

“I loved doing Full Eclipse,” Hickox says. “It was a really fun experience, and we had a budget and we could actually do some stuff. It turned into chaos by the end because we went way over budget and schedule. We had all the HBO execs sitting on the set the last day and we had like six pages to shoot, and they were just like “Well we don’t care! We’re going to shut you down in two hours!”.

“There’s a new police force on the streets,” screams Full Eclipse’s tagline, “And they only come out at night!”. Decorated LAPD detective Max Dire [Mario Van Peebles] is burning out. His marriage is crumbling and now, thanks to the bizarre fallout of a nightclub shoot out, his partner Jim Sheldon [Anthony John Denison] has committed suicide. Soon, Max finds himself at the attentions of the mysterious and charismatic Adam Garou [Bruce Payne]; a high ranking police officer who shares Max’s increasing distaste for the scumbag criminals they have to contend with. Inviting Max to a special meeting with four other select officers [Patsy Kensit, Jason Beghe, John Verea and Paula Marshall], Max quickly becomes embroiled in Garou’s group The Pack: an elite squad of vicious vigilantes turbo powered by Garou’s werewolf serum. The only problem is, The Pack – and Garou in particular- are getting increasingly out of control…

Cops, vigilantes and mother-effin’ werewolves. Could it get any cooler? It’s hard to believe that a film with such a fruity premise was actually made for television; TV movies – back then at least – were hardly known for being so wild and wacky right? “Yeah, a big wild TV movie!” Hickox chuckles. “HBO wanted… I’ve forgotten who it was over there but he was a really nice guy, and they wanted to try and – well, they just liked the script – but they kind of wanted to do that Friday night action movie thing that they began after that. It ended up really successful for them too; like it ran for five years. I just liked the idea though. I love action movies and I love werewolves so it was just perfect!”

fe3Hickox’s attraction to the Michael Reaves and Richard Christian Matheson-penned screenplay – originally titled The Pack – was obvious in hindsight. Dissecting his body of work Full Eclipse is ram-packed with everything totally Hickoxian, from the adrenaline pumping set pieces to the bending, merging and subversion of multiple genre’s and conventions. More so, Full Eclipse continues to expand on Waxwork II and Warlock: The Armageddon’s core idea of regular characters transforming into superhero-like beings. Even beyond his horror work it’s a recurring Hickox motif. “That’s interesting,” the director says, “I’ve never thought about it like that. My favourite movie of all time though is North by Northwest where, you know, Cary Grant has to become, well, turn from a normal guy and become that kind of superhero. Obviously not in the mystical way, but he is put in these situations that he has to figure out and he has to become the guy that those pursuing him think he is. I guess it’s that I’m tapping into.”

“The script though didn’t actually have that much action originally,” he continues. “It was more just like the cop side: cops who become werewolves, kind of Judge Dredd, like the law and the executioner. I just added those two huge action scenes at the beginning. I love to blend genres; it’s fun as a director to try and blend. I kind of did with Waxwork, which was really kind of a time travel comedy as well as a horror movie. And with Sundown, I kinda love that, ‘cos I wanted to make a cowboy movie but no one was really making cowboy movies, and that original script came and I kind of rewrote it to become much more cowboy. The six shooters, the holsters… I did a TV pilot that never went too called Martian Law and that was cowboys on Mars. David Carradine was the bad guy and I literally… I mean, I did a full on western on Mars. The whole deal!”.

Never one to shy away from doffing his cap to his myriad of influences, Hickox stages Full Eclipse’s scenes of gun toting rough and tumble with real Hong Kong action-like flair. It’s a bold choice; a bold choice that makes Full Eclipse – along with his 1996 psycho drama Invasion of Privacy – one of Hickox’s most visually arresting movies. With his already keen eye for a ten-awesome shot, that’s really bloody saying something. “Yeah, I’d been watching all the John Woo – this was before everyone else started doing it – and I’d been watching all these crazy Hong Kong action movies, and I was like, “well this would be a great thing” about all the slow motion and all the double gun stuff. Of course, its been done to death since then but at the time no one had really done it, especially on American television. Now I’d always loved Sundown and the way I’d shot it really wide – like, there’s hardly any close ups in it – but I thought if I was going to be doing a TV movie, I’ve got to come close. I’ve got to get really close to try and make it stand out on a television screen. Tony Scott and the kind of movies he shot, those were a big influence too; where you just put it [the camera] on a 1000mm long lens and you kind of dig in and try find the moment. Most of those sets were three wall sets so the camera would be literally, you know, across the stage from the actors. It’s really interesting, but it helps kind of give it that really slick look, especially when you put a lot of smoke in there. I thought Sandi did a great job.”

fe4“She’s a tough girl and she has a real opinion,” Hickox says when I ask him to elaborate on his working relationship with Sandi Sissel, Full Eclipse’s BAFTA and Satellite Award nominated Director of Photography. “And I have got to say I got along really well with her, but she was very difficult to producers and stuff. She wouldn’t let them fuck with her, you know.”. As awful as it sounds, maybe it’s because she plies her trade in such a male-dominated area, I offer. “Maybe. There is hardly any female DP’s though. It’s really weird,” muses Hickox. “But, yeah, she was great. I loved her. I tried to get her on a couple more movies but she was busy, and I still want to work with her again at some point. She captured the look I wanted perfectly.”

Hickox is full of praise for the rest of his behind the scenes crew too. “All the costumes, you know; we had Tarantino’s costume designer [Jacqueline Aronson]. Everything was designed: all the suits, all the colours. There were very few accidents on Full Eclipse. We had a really good editor on it too, Peter – argh, what’s his name? I never know how to pronounce it! [Peter Amundson] But yeah, a big action editor. He’s still working on all the action movies. We had a really good team. It was just one of those things where everybody – the production designer, everybody- we all got along and we all had the same vision. HBO too; they didn’t hold me back at all. They just totally left me alone – well, until the last week where we went over and stuff! But creatively I had no, no nothing. They just said go for it which is why I think HBO right now has such quality. They pick directors they want to work with and they let them go and do what they want to do. They famously don’t try and control the film in any way: they hire you and leave you alone to do the movie. And that’s what good producers do.”

It’s hard not to smile hearing Hickox say that, what with his own experiences with meddlesome producers: first on 1997’s comic strip-based fantasy Prince Valiant (Hickox thought he was making The Princess Bride whilst the German producers wanted Braveheart), and then on 2000’s Jill Rips; an underrated serial killer thriller. “Oh my God, yeah,” he laughs. “Well, the problem with Jill Rips was it was originally meant to be Tom Berenger and we got… Dolph Lundgren. And, well, you know what? I should have probably just left the movie at that point but I can’t do that. Dolph’s a nice guy – we’d just worked together on Storm Catcher (1999) – but he was just wrong for the part, and the friend of mine who financed it was like “Just make it, Dolph’ll be great” and so we did the best we could. I actually love the way that looks too, by the way. I love the kinkiness and I love the fact I tried to make it look like a seventies porn movie, the whole thing. I wanted it to have that feel.”

fe5“But yeah, when everybody is kind of working towards – and doing – the same movie, usually something good will come out of it. Not always, but usually. As long as the creative team are all one vision, and the actors have to understand it too. We had a little problem with Patsy Kensit. She wasn’t quite used to shooting how we were.”. So was Kensit difficult to work with? Hickox pauses for a moment, chewing over a careful and diplomatic response. “Not so much difficult as… She came from a different place. We were all mucking in and it became a bit of a boy’s club. We were all like “Let’s just shoot, shoot, shoot” – I love to shoot and I hate just sitting around – and all the other actors understood that, but Patsy she was just like “Oh no, no; I’ve got my make up and my trailer” and we were all “No! Get her out, get her on set. We’re shooting!”. She didn’t know what was going on.”

Interestingly, round about the time she started appearing in Emmerdale eight or nine years ago, Kensit stated in a Sunday paper supplement that Full Eclipse was the most miserable shooting experience of her career. “Yeah, she actually mentioned it in her book as well!” Hickox cackles. “Somebody, a friend, said “Oh, you’ve just been insulted in Patsy’s book”.” Who hasn’t, I fire back. “Exactly! But, yeah, she was actually a friend before which is a bit weird, but she just couldn’t… She just didn’t understand the pace we were doing. And we were working long hours; sometimes like fourteen, fifteen hour days. We had five weeks which, you know, for a TV movie is a good amount of time, but we were packing a lot in and to light – to make it look like how it did – takes time. The lighting was just so important.”.

So what of the other members of the Full Eclipse cast? How were they to work with? “Van Peebles was fantastic. He’d directed before too which was great, and which was probably another thing with Patsy because he totally understood what I was doing, how I was doing it and… And I think she felt a bit left out. And, you know, he would encourage me to go even further all the time. I’d just saw that cowboy movie he’d made, Posse [which he also directed], and I thought he’d be great and I sent him the script and he said “I love it”. It’s funny because the part was never written for a black guy and, even when I sent it to Mario, it was written for a white guy. He said Full Eclipse was the first script he’d ever got that didn’t outright say “a black guy” in it.”

And Paula Marshall? “Oh, I love Paula. She’s great. She’s another one: she comes onto the shoot and she’s just fun to work with,” he says. Having starred in both Hellraiser III and Warlock: The Armageddon, it’s safe to say that she was once one of your stock players, yes? “It’s like, well, why not? Why not work with people who are good and that you know? It makes it so much easier every time you work them, so I’d work with the same people all the time if I could. I think it’s very important. Like when I work with Gerry Lively [Director of Photography and frequent Hickox collaborator], we don’t need to talk half the time because we just know what we’re doing together.”

fe6What about Bruce Payne then, I ask. Best remembered as the lip-smackingly wicked villain in the Wesley Snipes actioner Passenger 57, the English thespian is well known for his somewhat prickly on-set presence. He did, after all, give director Christophe Gans a bit of a hard time on the Lovecraft-inspired portmanteau Necronomicon. “Yeah, Payne… The name is quite appropriate!” Hickox chuckles. “But that’s what he does to get what he does, if you know what I mean. I’ve found with actors now that some are them are just like that: they don’t have to be fun as long as they’re good. And he was very professional. So, you know, he’d always be on time, he’d always do what he was told, he gave the performance… He doesn’t have to be a happy or joyous person on the set; that’s not what they were paying him for. I think he did a great job.”. And indeed he did. He’s completely electric actually, unleashing a turn of magnetic and seductive evil. Just look at the scene in which Payne’s Garou asserts his status as Top Dog over Kensit’s Casey Spencer: it’s quite possibly the highlight of the movie. On a cute interconnected side note, Payne would later assume the Julian Sands role in 1999’s Warlock III: The End of Innocence.

Irregardless of how problematic Kensit and Payne may have been, their behaviour was surely a cakewalk compared to the hell martial arts bloater Steven Seagal inflicted upon Hickox whilst making the 2005 dud Submerged. “Well, the script for Submerged was brilliant, I have to say,” he sighs. “It started life as a full on horror and sci-fi. I just thought wouldn’t it be great if you were stuck at the bottom of the ocean with fucking aliens on your submarine! So that was the original idea, and we story boarded it and we designed the creatures; like these little, mini kind of crab insects that could go down the drains of the submarine so you’d never know when they were coming. It was really interesting. And then Seagal came on board.”. So that’s how it turned into just another one of his garbled, straight-to-DVD action flicks? “Yeah. I met him at his house – which is when I should have realised it was all going to go wrong – but he was like “I love the script blah blah blah” and then I get a phone call like three weeks before we started shooting. We’d planned everything and he was like “I don’t think this movie should be on a submarine”. Erm, but it’s called Submerged and it is on a submarine! And then he was like “But I want a big opera scene,” – I mean, this is literally how it happened – “I want an opera scene!” But, you’re on a submarine! “Yeah, well I’ve decided I don’t like aliens and I don’t like monsters. I don’t want to be in a monster movie”. And basically that’s why it ended up like it did. We had no clue what we were doing: no script, and the whole mind control thing in the final film was made up the last week before shooting! It was really insane. At that point, again I should have quit, but I needed the cash.”

Though not entirely worthless, with Hickox’s visual verve and commitment to rapid fire incident as strong as ever, Submerged is perhaps the most frivolous of his films. It is though an almost near typical example of Hickox’s post Full Eclipse career, even if it’s not best representative of it on the whole. “Yeah, I sort of went off on a tangent that I’m now trying to get back from,” he explains. “I started getting… Well, you’ve got to pay the rent and I started getting these offers for like these ten million dollar action and thriller movies, like Blast (2004) and Submerged.” Full Eclipse then fits nicely between these two distinct phases, thanks to its potent mash up of good ol’ fashioned hare ’em-scare ’em horror and tough action. The more adventurous of you horror nuts would do well to give a bunch of these later Hickox flicks a look, the Armand Assante-starring caper Federal Protection (2002); the noir tinged erotic thriller Payback (1995), and Invasion of Privacy especially so.

fe9Even though Hickox moved away from horror it’s still easy to see just how much the genre courses through him, something the denouement of Invasion of Privacy can attest to. “Yeah, I kinda let myself go into my slasher head at the end,” he says. “I shot it a bit too slasher like when the rest of the film was… I was trying to do Polanski. I shot it all on 35mm, kinda doing Rosemary’s Baby. If you look at the sets, none of the sets have ceilings, which if you look at Rosemary’s Baby, you never see a ceiling. I was really doing my homage to Polanski with that style and the kind of weird relationships that he loves to explore. I think I went a bit too nineties slasher with the lightning and the rain at the end though. I mean, I love that, but did it need that in that particular movie? Should I have been a little more toned down, you know? I just love horror though; I don’t necessarily love all the new stuff, but I am a huge horror fan, like from the moment I could speak. I was always sneaking downstairs to watch Hammer movies late at night. And that’s why my Dad made Theatre of Blood; that’s the story. I was like, “You have to do a horror movie!””.

“Invasion of Privacy has got my favourite musical theme of all my movies though. It was an Angelo Badalamenti theme, who did all the David Lynch movies, and I just called him up and was like “I love your work, and I can’t afford you, but could you just do me a theme” and he said OK. So he did. He didn’t write the whole movie but he did me the theme.” What about the music to Full Eclipse, I ask. Gary Chang’s score is beautifully simple and slick. “Yeah, he did a great score. I don’t know what he’s up to now, but he’d just done – I think he’d done some big action movie just before that [ironically, it could either be the Berenger-starring Sniper or the Seagal hit Under Siege…]. I work with Guy Farley a lot [Last Run (2000), Submerged]; I like classical, you know. I like all the Bond themes and I’m a huge John Barry fan, but I really like what Gary did; that electronic kind of beat. He’s a really nice guy too.”.

Producers credits on his brother James’ Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest (1995) and the Wes Craven-presented Carnival of Souls remake (1998) aside, Hickox wouldn’t make his return to horror proper until 2009’s Knife Edge. Sadly, critical and fan reaction was hardly positive: “Yeah, nobody liked that movie,” he sighs. A mature and measured throwback to old school woman-in-peril mysteries, Knife Edge was a refreshing change of pace for the generally more rambunctious auteur; the polar stylistic opposite of Full Eclipse’s white-knuckle elan. It’s far from perfect, sure, but it ain’t that bad either; certainly nowhere near as duff as its mass drubbing would have you believe. “Yeah, I very purposefully went for a very sixties Hammer look,” explains Hickox. “I think when we were originally going to make Knife Edge it was right at the beginning of that whole ghost-kid thing from Japan, and I think the problem with it was that we were just too late. We should have looked at the script and gone “You know, they’ve done it like a hundred times now and we’ve got to put something new in there”. It was actually not a very nice shoot either: we had another problem with an actress, Natalie Press [the films lead]. She made it very difficult. She’s insane! But then Hugh Bonneville [co-star] was just so great and so nice that he just balanced it out.”

fe7So what’s next for the idiosyncratic helmer? I take it there’s going to be more horror on the horizon, a return to Full Eclipse-style territory perhaps? “Well, I’ve started writing now,” Hickox says, “and I’m starting to become kind of successful on that front so hopefully I’ll be able to turn the career around and get back in directing the stuff that I want to do. I’ve just done a Mugabe script – Rhodesia- that Nick Cassavetes was doing, and then Ino Moxo that Peter Webber has signed on to about the Amazon. They’re kinda serious, big… They’re writing jobs, but hopefully one of them will take off and I can go, “OK, this is a movie I want to make”. It’s like if I can make money writing, so I don’t have to do all that shit, well that’s the way I’ve got to do it. After Submerged I just stepped back from directing for a sec and thought that I was just getting tied up in all this and that and not doing what I want to do. I did try with Knife Edge but… It’s the crazy, camp Dr. Phibes- style that I love. I want to do it kind of my way now.”

“Full Eclipse though,” he reflects, “was just one of those things that was just a really good experience; the kind that just doesn’t happen that often in movie making. You know, they say directing is compromising ‘cos you’ve got a budget, you’ve got a time and stuff. When you’re writing you’ve got all the time you need and anything you want, but when you’re directing, you’re constantly sorting out problems. With some movies, like on Prince Valiant, there’s a problem every day but then some, like Full Eclipse… It was fucking hard work yeah, but it wasn’t a problem. It just kind of worked.”

As our chat winds down – and the horror of just how much TalkTalk are going to sting me for for an hour-long international call becomes apparent – I’ve got just one more question that I need answering. It’s the one that’s been hanging over the both of us like the Sword of Damocles; the elephant in the room as it were. Well, maybe more the wolf over the phone: just why, exactly, does Hickox hate that end werewolf effect so damn much?! “OK, OK!” he laughs. “Well, my favourite werewolf that I’ve done is the Waxwork one. For some reason I just love that one by Bob Keen [Hellraiser, Candyman, Event Horizon]. I love Bob. And I love Tony Gardener [Full Eclipse’s FX man], but the thing with the end werewolf is that it was done very late so we couldn’t really work and refine it. It’s like a first draft of what it was meant to be, and it kind of just always pissed me off that we didn’t get into it earlier.”. I’ve always really liked it, I say. Compared to all the other actually really poor nineties lycans, from the surprisingly cheap-looking Rick Baker work in the horror-lite Jack Nicholson vehicle Wolf; to the tawdry CGI of An American Werewolf in Paris, Full Eclipse’s final beast looks ace. “Yeah, the design – it’s not really the design, it’s the fact it’s so unmovable. It’s kind of like wearing a suit of armour so it… Like the guy inside couldn’t even move the wolf’s hand it was that heavy! I kinda wanted a World War Z version of a werewolf; a fast moving one, that’s why he’s climbing all over the crate at the end. Like, CGI would have been great in those days! Emotionally, yeah it does what you want it to do, but it was all put together in the cutting, and it was tough to cut. It was just a guy in a suit, and that suit was really fucking heavy!”.

_______________________________________________________
A massive, massive thanks to Anthony Hickox.

Find Matty on twitter @mattybudrewicz
For obvious reasons, Matty urges the uninitiated to check out Full Eclipse and everything else with Anthony Hickox’s name stuck to it !!

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]

 

 

 

Meet Me There: The Lex Lybrand Interview by Matty Budrewicz

mmt1Meet Me There:
Director Lex Lybrand Gives the Lowdown On His Compelling New Indie

The internet is a strange and wonderful place. It’s one giant electronic mass of information, opinion and- best of all- nudie ladies. Whilst I tend to have a love/hate relationship with the bloody thing, every once in a while I find myself becoming obsessed by something on the ol’ world wide web. And when I say ‘obsessed’, I mean TOTALLY CONSUMED BY. Case in point? The trailer for Meet Me There, a new independent American horror flick from Austin-based up-n’-coming filmmaker Lex Lybrand.

Beautifully sombre and uniquely uncomfortable, the eerily seductive two minute teaser (check it out at the bottom of this article) immediately piqued my interest when it surfaced online last week. Following a frenzied couple of days endlessly watching and re-watching it, studying and analysing the hypnotic and fragmented images, I decided to go straight to the source of my latest genre kick and get the skinny on this awesome-looking shocker straight from the director himself. Let’s be clear here, people: I’m tipping Meet Me There to be one of the great Stateside indies of the year.

“I appreciate your enthusiasm- it’s great! I hope we don’t let you down!” Lybrand LOL’s after I fire an email over to him. “I’m very happy with what we’ve made. One of the best compliments I’ve received so far is in the way of ‘this is basically an art film set in a horror universe’.”

So what on earth is Meet Me There about? “It’s about a couple, Ada and Calvin, dealing with sexual dysfunction in their long-term relationship,” Lybrand explains. “When Ada has trouble being intimate and physical with Calvin, their therapist suggests that she may be repressing past trauma. When Ada reveals that she has actually blacked out most of her childhood memories, the couple decide to take a road trip to her home town in rural Oklahoma to see if they can get to the root of her issues. And, like any good tale of Backwoods, USA, Meet Me There is filled with odd characters, strange imagery, ominous voices and druids having a ritual sacrifice orgy party in the forest!”

mmt2Understandably, comparisons to Robin Hardy’s seminal classic The Wicker Man have already begun to surface from those lucky enough to have seen the films rough cut. “I’ve never seen it, but its been brought up more than once,” says Lybrand. “That’s good right?”

Interestingly, Lybrand seems to be one of the few American indie auteurs working within the horror genre without an intertextual knowledge of it. “I do enjoy a good horror film but I’m not a connoisseur or anything like that,” he says. “Like, with comics – I love comics but I don’t actively read or collect them so I don’t feel like I’ve really earned the badge of ‘fan’. I have seen all of the mainstream horror staples but as soon as somebody gets obscure with a reference, I’m lost! That said, I’m often pleasantly surprised when a super-horror-fan friend will pop in a VHS of something that I “have to see right now!”. I’m forever thankful to my Aunt Sandy for exposing me to Dr. Giggles and the Leprechaun in a home video double feature. I think she also first exposed me to Mallrats and Clerks so maybe that’s why there’s so much swearing in my horror flick!”

So being a near blank canvas when it comes to terror-film lore, convention and referential arsey-ness must be incredibly freeing for a director looking to make his mark, right? “As far as how that affects me as a filmmaker working in that genre, I think that it was very freeing, yes. I’m the type of person that wants to distance himself as far as possible from similar things to what I’m making at the time. I love baseball movies but when I was making my first feature Summer League, I made a point not to expose myself to that at the time,” Lybrand says. “I think letting my fandom sneak in through my subconscious is a lot better than overtly throwing references at the audience, which is way too common these days. I think, anyway. Likewise, if something is literally not in my subconscious because I’ve never even seen it, it’s really cool when somebody watches a cut of the film and says “wow, this is a lot like ____”. Especially if it’s meant as a compliment!”

Lybrand goes on to explain the genesis of Meet Me There and how he came to be attached to it- through a mutual love of wrestling, no less! “The town of Sheol, Oklahoma- where the film is set- doesn’t exist, but it is based on the real small town that co-writer Destiny Talley grew up in. Destiny has shared her childhood nightmares with her boyfriend, Brandon Stroud, for years and eventually we all just decided that it would- and should- make a really interesting movie. So, with very minimal need for convincing, Brandon transformed a lifetime of stories into a linear screenplay.”

mmt4“I’ve been good friends with Brandon and Destiny since moving to Austin in 2010,” he continues. “Brandon and I are both big fans of the often underrated medium of storytelling known as pro wrestling. I first became aware of him through his WWE review column on Uproxx.com, and soon after that I was producing his podcast, sharing vegan dinners with him and Destiny on double-dates, and now we’re both working for up-and-coming local independent wrestling company, Inspire Pro Wrestling.”

Indeed it was this love for grappling that led Lybrand to casting one of the sports most legendary superstars in a lead role: Dustin Runnels, aka the towering and bizarre bruiser Goldust. “The hardest part about finding an audience for my first film was convincing people that they wanted to see a film full of unknowns. We had some really great break-out performances but without an established name at the top of our cast list, it was a really tough sell for festivals and distributors. So we knew that we wanted to do as much as we could to improve our situation with this film,” the director explains.

“I have always thought that wrestling gets a bad wrap in terms of recognising dramatic storytelling, when it happens. Sure, it’s dumb and goofy but it’s also deep, involving and well-executed. Not always though and not even a majority of the time, but when it works right there’s nothing better. Dustin is just one of those guys that does both sides of the dynamic really well. His Goldust character is a combination of depth and goofiness that really just shouldn’t work- but it does because Dustin’s got tremendous range.” So it must’ve been fascinating seeing how Runnels switches from one type of performance in his wrestling, which is effectively a muscular pantomime, to a more straight ahead dramatic role then? “I don’t necessarily see his role in Meet Me There as switching gears,” Lybrand answers. “I guess I’ve always seen his dramatic chops, even when it’s coming from behind a couple of layers of facepaint.”

The helmer is also full of praise for the rest of his cast, specifically his two leads Lisa Friedrich and Micheal Foulk who play Ada and Calvin, respectively. “Lisa and Micheal have been good friends for at least a few years now. I’m not sure how long they’ve known each other but it’s longer than I’ve known them individually. They’re both stand-up comics that have toured and worked together through some improv/comedy theaters in Texas and New Orleans and I know them through some mutual friends at Austin/NOLA’s The New Movement Theater. Lisa was actually approached by our writer Brandon before I even signed onto the film. She was an easy sell to me and I think people are going to like what she brings to the film- she really shines. Micheal is somebody that I had never seen in a dramatic role but I trusted that his real-life chemistry with Lisa would show through on the screen. Eerily, they look very similar to the real-life couple that inspired them, Destiny and Brandon.”

Whilst a horror film with such a strong sexual bent would usually send many a lesser actor running a mile, Lybrand insists that was not the case with Friedrich and Foulk. “Well, as for the more intimate and challenging themes and scenes in the film, they were very brave. There’s some very real stuff going on in Meet Me There, relationship wise.”

mmt3Satisfied with everything I’d learnt and chomping at the bit now more than ever, I fired Lybrand over one final question: Just when, exactly, will Meet Me There be getting released? And, more importantly, when can us Brits expect to see it? “We should be having our first festival screening sometime in March or April here in the US,” he says. “We spent next to nothing on this thing. The term ‘microbudget’ costs too much for us to even describe how much we spent on it! I’m very happy with what we produced and I think that if we had an extra one hundred thousand dollars the film would easily look and feel the same, but we just don’t have the budget to send it to every festival we’d like to be considered for. So, right now, we’re most interested in fielding invitations to screen. We’ve already booked one early April but I can’t officially announce when or where until we hear back from a couple more key festivals. I think fans of Dustin might be able to figure it out, though!” Lybrand teases.

“Summer League just got picked up by a distributor and, with that being my first, I’m going to use that as my pilot program to see how I like it. Details on that release schedule won’t be available until March but if it’s any indication for what will be on the way for Meet Me There, then it’s safe to say that the film will be very easy to find in the UK. Hopefully later this year. I’ve never been to the UK, sadly- but I’d be more than willing to bring my film along on my first trip over!”

You hear that, Blighty festival bigwigs? Get this guy and Meet Me There booked pronto!
************************

 

[youtube=www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGr4ujtXc_o]
For the latest Meet Me There updates, visit the films official website at www.meetmetheremovie.com
or Greenless Studios at www.greenless.com
Special thanks to Becki and, of course, Lex Lybrand.
For more ramblings, follow Matty Budrewicz on twitter: @mattybudrewicz