Friday 27 October 2017

Interview with Damien Leone - Director of Terrifier

Ahead of the UK premiere of his latest film TERRIFIER at the Horror Channel Frightfest Halloween event on Sat 23 Oct, director Damien Leone talks about the ’Art’ of extreme clowning, his debt to Tom Savini and a terrifying Halloween experience…

Q: Art The Clown initially appeared in your 2008 short THE 9th CIRCLE, then the 2011 award-winning short TERRIFIER and in your first feature ALL HALLOW’S EVE. What made you decide to give him a fourth outing?

DAMIEN: Up until this point I never felt like I fully showcased Art's potential. I believe between the short films and All Hallows' Eve, there only exists about 20 minutes of Art the Clown screen time. For a character who's done so little, he seems to really resonate with horror fans. After all of the positive feedback, a full length film that focused solely on Art was inevitable.

Q: Art has a very twisted personality – he’s both brutal (his silence adding to his deadliness) and comical but not without some subtle pathos. How difficult was it to strike that balance?

DAMIEN: In all honesty, I never intended to evoke any sort of pathos from his character. I do find that interesting and maybe there is something to that but the brutality and twisted personality was always  intentional from the get-go as was the subtle comedy. Although I'm a huge fan of some horror comedies like Return of The Living Dead or Evil Dead 2, it's not a style I strive for in my own films. I always shoot for a more serious tone but ironically, the comedy in Terrifier was very organic and almost wrote itself. I should be clear and say the intentional comedy in Terrifier only comes from the Art the Clown character himself. He's always had a sick sense of humour from the very beginning but this time I tried to take it a little further whereas after every unspeakable act of violence he commits, he follows it with something comical like a facial expression or a quirky gesture. This does two things, it gives the audience a chance to relieve some tension but it also makes Art more demented when we realize just how much fun he's having at his victim's expense.

Q: You’ve said that you set out to make Art as violent as possible. Why?

DAMIEN. This basically comes from the fact that I'm a special effects artist. I knew the effects would be one of our strong suits going into the film since I can do a lot on a very limited budget. There is so much content out there right now and I believe that if you want to stand out, it doesn't hurt to show things that will really grab the audience's attention and get them talking. It's 2017; there's been thousands of horror movies. I mean how many times can you show a knife cutting through the air followed by a shot of blood hitting the wall? Almost everything has been done to death (pun intended) so I feel I have a duty to the audience to present them with stuff that hasn't quite been seen before or if it has, to do it in a way that feels fresh.

Q: David Howard Thornton is terrific as Art. How did you two meet and bond? And how challenging was it, given Art had previously been played by Mike Giannelli. 

DAMIEN. Finding a new actor to play Art was by far the most crucial and nerve-wracking aspect of this film. Everything people loved about Art was a testament to how Mike Giannelli portrayed him and now I had to start from scratch. Very frightening indeed. But as luck would have it, David came in for an audition one day and my producer and I immediately knew this was our guy. David pantomimed the act of stabbing someone to death and sawing their head off with great exuberance and glee. He's also extremely animated, tall and thin. I always envisioned Art to be of a more slender build and I was excited to see what little quirks and nuances David could bring to the character.  Working with David was a total delight from start to finish. We bonded immediately thanks to the countless hours in the makeup chair. Dave will joke and tell stories as I transform him into Art over the course of approximately three hours.  We had to repeat this process well over 20 times during the shoot.

Q: The film has a very dark 70s/80s tone and the narrative is stripped down to the bone. What influences were at play here?

DAMIEN. The main objective was to keep it as close to the 20 minute short film as possible. The short film was a no holds barred, relentless, 70s-style grind house flick that was made to feel like an intense rollercoaster ride. That's actually how I came up with the title Terrifier. To me "Terrifier" was more a reflection of the film as an experience and didn't necessarily have anything specific to do with the characters or story.  People responded so positively to the short film that I figured the best plan of attack would be to just make an 80 minute version of the 20 minute short. Essentially this would mean taking the best parts of a slasher film and eliminating as much of the filler as possible.

Q: With all the attention given to IT and Pennywise, does this tempt you even further to establish Art as a franchise and make more TERRIFIER films? 

DAMIEN: Absolutely. Although we finally gave Art his own movie, we've only just scratched the surface. Now we have to dig a little deeper into his backstory. He has a ton of potential and I can see needing at least a couple of  films to tell his full story. It's too premature to say but numerous people have said he has the making of a horror icon. If this continues to be the case once Terrifier is released, it would be downright disrespectful to the character and to the fans to not produce more; just as long as we maintain some integrity and never jump the shark.

Q: All your films are set on Halloween night. Are you a fan of Halloween? Do you have a favourite Halloween / clown story?

DAMIEN. I am a huge fan of Halloween but the main reason I set Art the Clown's films on Halloween is so it's acceptable for a man to be walking the streets while dressed as a clown. This at least enables his victims to lower their guard around him when they first cross his path. If it was a hot August night and a mute clown sat across from you in a pizzeria, I think the cops would be called immediately. I do in fact have a personal Halloween story that stands out and I'll try to make it quick. One night a few friends and I were driving home from a Halloween party and we passed a car on the side of the road that was turned completely on its side against the guard rail.  We immediately pulled over and approached the vehicle. Two young women were inside the car. Apparently, the driver was drunk and fell asleep at the wheel. Thankfully, by some miracle, both girls were perfectly fine aside from being dazed and frightened but what makes this story worth telling is seeing my friend who's 6'4 leap on top of the turned over car in full Spider-Man attire and pull the young women to safety. Surreal moment indeed.

Q: Who do you most admire in the horror genre? 

DAMIEN. This is a very difficult question because I can throw around countless names and ramble on and on for hours but I must say I would not be where I am today if it wasn't for the makeup effects maestro Tom Savini. When I was around 6 or 7 years old I stumbled upon a VHS tape called Scream Greats that changed my life. It was a documentary on Savini and it was the first time I saw how monsters were created. This video and also the making of Michael Jackson's Thriller with Rick Baker really left an impression on me. I was fascinated by seeing people transformed into creatures.

For years I would rent these films over and over but when I was around 12 years old, I finally owned a copy of Scream Greats. This time I actually began experimenting. My mother took me to a horror convention where I actually bought my first makeup kit, a 12oz bottle of mint flavoured blood and a real machete (dulled) with a semi-circle cut out of the blade. This is a classic Savini gag that he's used in several movies. It creates the illusion that the machete is actually buried in your flesh when you place it against the skin or on top of your skull.  As soon as I got home, I tried out all of my new goodies on my friends and myself. Savini introduced me to blood tubes, mortician's wax, things that were more accessible to someone starting out. Soon I started filming the effects with a camcorder and eventually I began making my own little short films; which is how I became interested in the grander aspect of filmmaking. But even though as a filmmaker I'm influenced by countless artists from all genres, I really have to thank Savini for being the first person to show me the magic of filmmaking.

Q: Zombies or vampires?

DAMIEN. Very tough question. Zombies frighten me more than vampires. My favourite horror film of all time is Romero's Dawn of the Dead and my dream project is an epic zombie film but The Lost Boys holds such a special place in my heart. I saw it in the theatres when I was literally 3 years old and it had such a profound effect on me. It's one of my absolute favourites till this day and because of it, I love vampires so much. So to answer your question, I can't choose.

Q: Finally, what’s next?

DAMIEN: There are a few awesome projects that I'd love to tackle but I think it would be foolish to sleep on the inevitable Terrifier sequel. Clowns are so hot right now because of IT and more and more people are starting to dig Art the Clown on a daily basis so I think we should strike while the iron's hot before the killer clown sub-genre goes into hibernation for another 20 years.

TERRIFIER receives its UK premiere at Horror Channel FrightFest Halloween 2017 on Saturday 28 Oct, Empire Haymarket, 11.00pm.

Tuesday 24 October 2017

Interview with Mathieu Turi - Director of Hostile

Ahead of the UK premiere of his debut feature HOSTILE at the Horror Channel Frightfest Halloween event, director Mathieu Turi shares his admiration for Tarantino, describes the challenges of filming in three continents and reveals his ‘magic hour’.

Q: You were born in Cannes so you grew up with film all around? When did you know for sure you wanted to direct?

I think it's always been there. As a child, I used to steal my dad's VHS camera to make mini-movies. They were basically all about my Jurassic Park toys eating my dog or invading the garden. Later, I did more elaborate short films with friends, instead of studying. Then, I remember watching BRAVEHEART and the making of the movie. For the first time, I knew that directing was something I wanted to do for a living.

 Q: You have been second unit director and assistant director on numerous major blockbusters – SHERLOCK HOLMES 2, INGLORIOUS BASTARDS, G.I. JOE – what was the movie or director you feel you learnt most from?

Tarantino, with no hesitation. ‘INGLORIOUS BASTARDS was one of my first jobs in the movie business, and I was assistant of the assistant of the assistant. But when you work on the set of someone you admire, It's very special. I learnt that you have to love what you do, and as a director, you have to stay focused on the actors and the scene. Nothing else matters. Working for Quentin Tarantino was my best set experience as an A.D.

Q: What inspired the HOSTILE script?

A lot of stuff. HOSTILE is a kind of mix between my two shorts (SONS OF CHAOS and BROKEN). The first is a post-apocalyptic, very low-budget movie, and the second is a romance in an elevator. And If you talk about exterior inspirations, I would say the main one is I AM LEGEND, the Richard Matheson book. It's my favourite book ever, a masterpiece. I read it twice a year, and it's never the same feeling. Also, I'm a huge fan of the video game THE LAST OF US. It has everything : a perfect story, focused on characters but in an original post-apocalyptic context, with never seen creatures, and the end is magic. I’s love to see a movie adaptation of it, but It would be tricky.

Q: HOSTILE was executive produced by Xavier Gens and stars Brittany Ashworth from his new movie THE CRUCIFIXION. Can you talk about his influences and that of recent extreme French genre titles?

Xavier is a good friend of mine, and also my mentor since the beginning. He's the one who presented me to FullTime Films producers (Thomas Lubeau, Eric Gendarme and Olivier Chateau) as they were looking for projects. We all met at the Cannes film fest in 2015, and two years later, here we are! He also helped us to find Brittany Ashworth, as he had worked with her on THE CRUCIFIXION. HOSTILE is not influenced by any of them, but I'm very happy that all those movies got made. You know, in France, It's not easy to do that kind of extreme genre movie.

Q: HOSTILE builds to a wonderful emotional epiphany. Was the story all about leading to that rare moment in zombie movies?

It's the first scene that came to my mind before writing the script, and without spoiling it, it was also the best moment on set. It was just magical - the natural light at that exact time (D.O.P's calls it the "magic hour").The team was speechless, and in my mind, I knew It worked. Often, as a director, you have to wait to be in the editing room to be hundred percent sure a scene works, but for that one, I knew on set.

 Q: None of this would work unless you cared about the characters, especially Juliette. Did her back-story change through successive drafts of the screenplay?

Not complete scenes, but dialogue and actions changed a lot. I'm a very collaborative director with my actors, and I want them to dig into the characters, try stuff, fail sometimes, but always try to go further. And they did, every time.
Juliette's backstory has been completed by Brittany. I gave her some intentions, but asked her to find a personal story, why she came to New-York and what happened in the first years of her post-apocalyptic life. We talked a lot about it, very detailed stuff that only her and I know. Actually, we could easily do a prequel about it!

Q: We love Grégory Fitoussi in the UK because of the French law and order drama SPIRAL. Was that a reason for casting him as Jack?

I really wanted someone with a true charisma. Grégory is one of those guys. He could just walk in the room and you feel it. It's a very rare power. And also, we worked a lot together on the character, to keep his French touch intact, but not fall in the cliché. Jack needed to be very confident, strong and mysterious. He's the entire reason for the flash-backs, so we had to keep in mind that Juliette felt secure with him, and that's what she doesn't have any more in the present.

Q: And we also love Javier Botet who seems to be in so many movies at the moment. What did he add to his Living Dead role that no one else could have?

Two things: the first is obvious, and that's why he's in all those movies. (REC, MAMA, ALIEN:COVENANT, IT). He has an incredible body, and he uses it like magic. When you see him working, it’s just insane. The movements he performs, the way his thin body moves. He's a piece of art. The second thing: he's a very good actor, and that's vital for that kind of role. You can't imagine how hard it is to express yourself under the makeup. And Javier does it perfectly.

Q: Your feature debut; what was the biggest learning curve you hadn’t expected?

That you have to sleep an entire month to get back on your feet! More seriously, I would say It was very hard to go from one team to another, as our shoot was only 24 days, in three different continents. So we had the New-York Unit, the Morocco Unit and the Paris Unit, with different crews, productions offices, preps, etc... But on the other hand it has been an incredible adventure, and I had the chance to work with all those amazing people.

 Q: Will you always stay in horror or is it a stepping stone to other genres? Can you tell us what you’re working on at the moment?

HOSTILE is kind of a two genre movie, I just love to cross lines. But I love horror, sci-fi, thrillers... And I'm working on a very crazy project right now. It should be official soon, but I just can say that it's a sci-fi-fi/horror movie with a unique concept. We are in the casting phase right now, with the same producers at FullTime Films, and we will shoot it next spring. I can't wait to talk about it, and I hope we will see each other again at FrightFest next year to show it!

HOSTILE receives its UK premiere at Horror Channel FrightFest Halloween 2017 on Saturday 28 Oct, Empire Haymarket, 12.05pm.

Sunday 22 October 2017

Competition: Win Eat Locals Merchandise and DVDs

Eat Locals is out on DVD & Blu-ray October 30th and to celebrate we have a great competition for you and some great merchandise to give away including a DVD of the film.

In a quiet country farmhouse, Britain's vampires gather. They come together once every 50 years to discuss territories, disputes, threats and food stocks, and the approval of new members. On this night, a new face will be meeting them for the first time, and – if the vote is unanimous – could be the latest member to join their fanged ranks.

This new face, however – local lad Sebastian Crockett – merely thinks he's on a promise with sexy cougar Vanessa.

Unluckily for all, Sebastian's not the only guest who'll be dropping in tonight. A detachment of Special Forces vampire killers led by Colonel Bingham has tracked the coven to this remote location, although they've bitten off far more than they can chew: they expected one vampire, not an entire coven.
With barely a handful of men ill-equipped to take down such a bloodthirsty clan, Bingham must keep the vampires pinned down while the fractious coven must put their own differences aside if they're to escape before dawn.

For Sebastian, the soldiers and the coven, it may not only be the worst night of their lives. It may be their last.

You can buy this from Amazon UK using the following link that opens in a new window.
Eat Locals [DVD]


Terms and conditions
1. Closing date 06-11-17
2. No alternative prize is available
3. When the competition ends as indicated on this page, any and all entries received after this point will not count and emails blacklisted due to not checking this page first.
4. Winners will be chosen randomly and will be informed via email.

Wednesday 18 October 2017

Interview with Dallas Morgan - Writer/Director of Sightings

Writer-director Dallas Morgan’s unnerving supernatural thriller Sightings premieres on VOD this November.
Dante Basco (Hook, Bad Ass 2 : Bad Asses), Kevin Sizemore (Fear the Walking Dead: Flight 462), and Boo Arnold (Nashville) star in a pulse-pounding cornucopia of Stranger Things, Signs and Jaws, arriving November 7.

When former Sheriff and skeptic of the paranormal, Tom Mayfield (Boo Arnold), encounters three dead bodies on his TX ranch, he must enlist the help of his conspiracy-theorist brother-in-law (Rawn Erickson II), a local surveillance expert (Dante Basco), and a renowned cryptozoologist (Stephanie Drapeau), in order to uncover who or what is behind these mysterious events.

While being pursued by the local detective (Kevin Sizemore) as a lead suspect for these deaths, Tom is forced to reconsider his preconceived ideas of what lies beyond our planet.

Ultimately, he must mend the estranged relationship with his daughter (Tahlia Morgan) and come to grips with the truth of his missing wife (Tiffany Heath), as he discovers the importance of community in survival and the belief in the unseen.

From High Octane Pictures, the studio that brought you Clowntergeist and The Answer, comes another workout for your goosebumps, Sightings out 11/7.

What inspired this rather unique – and very fun - particular story?

I’m a fan of big ideas and other worldly occurrences, so I knew I wanted to make a movie with that in mind. I also knew I had access to a 200-acre ranch outside of Austin TX.  So I was trying to come up with different stories that could be set there. One day, a buddy of mine sent me a news clip of a guy in the back woods of North Carolina claiming to have seen a Bigfoot, and my friend said, “You should make a movie about Bigfoot.” I initially shrugged it off because I felt like Sasquatch had been done before. Then I was driving home one night and had the thought - What if Bigfoot was an alien? I started doing research and discovered this is an actual theory. So then I got excited about the idea. From there it was about crafting characters that could be the central part of the story and figuring out how their relationships could change as a result of these extraordinary events.

Did you sit down and watch similar movies before shooting? If so, which ones?

Absolutely! I even encouraged my crew to watch these movies before production started. I was inspired by the setting and tone of Signs. I looked to Jaws for its creature and adventure elements, as well as its visual work. I also hoped to capture some of the magic and science-fiction style of movies like Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Super 8.

In terms of directing choices, anyone you emulated here?

Yes. Based on the movies I was watching — definitely Steven Spielberg and M. Night Shyamalan. Their movies were even influential during the writing stage.

Do you write with certain actors in mind?

Sometimes I do. Tahlia Morgan, who plays the daughter in the family — Hannah Mayfield — is my wife and she produced the film with me. So from the get go we knew she was going to play this part and I was able to write the role with her in mind. The only other character that I had a particular actor in mind for when writing was the surveillance expert — Akiro Nagi — played by Dante Basco. I’ve been a fan of Dante’s since seeing Hook and have always wanted to work with him. So I was thrilled when he read the script and liked it enough to be a part of the project.

Do you consider the film a success only when it hits a certain monetary figure?

For me there are two aspects to the success of a movie. One is whether or not it works as a complete story and has an emotional impact on the viewer. The only way to know if it has succeeded in this way is when you see it with an audience. Based on the times I’ve gotten to do that, it feels like a success to me. Knowing I was hoping to get a laugh or a scream at certain moments, and then to see that happen is extremely rewarding. Secondly, there is definitely a cost in producing films. So in order to continue making movies, yes we need it to recoup its budget and hopefully a profit on top of that. The thought is — if you succeed in the first way, then word-of-mouth will be good and you have a better chance of succeeding in the second way too.

Has the movie opened doors for you?

The biggest thing this movie has done for me thus far is establish relationships with some amazing actors, hard working crew people, supportive investors, and a great distributor. Which is quite a lot! It has also motivated me to do more movies and to make them even bigger and better each time.

Sightings premieres on VOD this November.


Interview with Marshal Hilton - Star of Bunnyman Vengeance

Actor Marshal Hilton (Beetleborgs Metallix, EP/Executive Protection) talks about his newest film, Bunnyman Vengeance, as well as favorite roles, upcoming roles and why he’s not that big of a horror fan himself.

Having spent so much time in the horror realm in recent years, I imagine you must be a fan?

It’s safe to say that I’ve seen my share of fake blood and body parts  Actually, I am not a Horror Genre fan in the true sense of the word. Getting the shit scared out of myself is not my idea of a good time. I’m a puss like that. I don’t watch them. It’s a completely different beast when you’re working on one. You know the gag so its not all that. And then there is the issue of whether or not as an actor I want to deliver the level of evil required. As I’ve gotten older I’ve developed a sense of conscious I guess. I really try to live in a character when I do the work. The deep dark thoughts and twisted imagination can really grind you down. I feel like I’ve explored as much of that as I want to look at. Some actors are able to separate themselves from the work. To me “Evil” characters require allowing evil thoughts to inhabit your head. Now, there’s a difference between “Suspense” and “Horror”. Depending on the character, I have a difficult time carrying around the level of darkness required in a true blood and guts Horror film. I prefer stories where there is the suspense, the fear of getting hacked, rather than seeing the actual hacking  That imagery haunts my sleep, and I do enjoy my sleep.     

Is there a role folks recognize you for the most?

I varies really. I’m always caught off guard when someone gives you that curious, contemplating look of familiarity, but they’re still not certain?  It’s odd. It’s like watching a hard drive searching for data. Sometimes they get it, and other times they can’t find it.

Then there’s the person who bum-rushes you and says “Dude, Why didn’t you just shoot that f’ing giant evil Bunny?” lol

It’s very unpredictable and always catches me by surprise.

Which of your man roles is your favorite?

I look at every character as a unique autonomous being. Everything I thought about the character and felt about the character has been explored. He then goes to the audience and they get to experience the character and come up with their own ideas about him. At the time of creation he’s absolutely my “favorite”, and then he’s is finished.

I’ll give you the long answer first. “Favorite” implies that when the film is finished, I sit down and watch the work, compare the work to other things I’ve done, and then form an opinion of the work. I just can’t do that. One, I absolutely hate watching myself. It’s horrifying. All I see is an aging face and a big nose, that’s it! Two, the Ego judges and protects the self. I really don’t want to question my creative instincts through an Ego whose job is to protect my fragile sense of self worth. Acting is about stripping away any sense of safety. People want to see pretty and ugly, a visceral real person with all its flaws. If I watch the work I start to self edit my instincts.

I think you have to treat every opportunity like it’s your favorite. Otherwise, that means you’re giving one project more energy and time than the previous job, or the next job. And you just can’t do that because for all you know, every opportunity you get could be your last job ever. “Favorite” implies that I lied some more than others. These days I prefer to measure favorite against personal growth. Did I learn something new as a craftsman? Did I learn new something about myself? Did I really challenge myself? Was I able to help those who hired me to tell their story in an interesting way? Did I help my fellow cast members and the crew to do their best work? Did a gain the respect and support of my colleagues? The relationships you forge in this business can carry you when things seem bleak. The less I worry about “me”, or a “Big Break” or my “favorite” the more I am able to remain cantered and focused on the work. It should always come back to “The Work”.

Here’s the short answer. At this moment Sheriff Clint Baxter is my absolute favorite.

But this guy will be my upcoming favorite early next year because he’s going to out there for the world to see in early 2018.

The film is titled “Primal Rage “Primal Rage” (formerly “Primal Rage, the Legend of Oh-Mah”) that we shot in the forests of Northern California and Oregon. It’s directed and created by Practical FX Master Patrick Magee. Patrick is a genre veteran that has worked in the trenches of independent film for many years. As a collaborator, he get’s it. He was a gracious and caring host. The cast and crew was a terrific bunch of team players. We hiked and ran around out in the forest for several weeks. It was one of the more enjoyable shoots I’ve been on in many years. Although I generally do not watch my work in public, I did watch a private screening of the film. It’s done really well. It’s most definitely a Theater experience film. Stunning forest visuals, action, suspense and a thundering sound track. It’s an intense experience. The best description I can give you is, think Arnold’s “Predator”, in the deep forest, with angry fur and carnage. I’m confident in saying that the legend of Bigfoot will never again be seen in the same light. It’s going to have Theatrical Release in early 2018. There’s a teaser trailer for the film on YouTube.

You can follow me, or the film, on social media to stay tuned as to the exact dates.

Could you relate to Clint in the Bunnyman films?

Well, Baxter didn’t like Idiots. Sheriff Baxter was a suspicious fellow and wasn’t an overly happy, outgoing soul. He didn’t take to fools kindly. I believe that we insufferably share these characteristics 

Anything you found difficult to film in the latest flick?

The stunt we shot for one of Baxter’s scenes was a bit dicey. Without giving up too much, whenever you deal with the hood of a moving truck on an old dusty road, and a psycho dude in a giant blood covered bunny suit, all bets are off the table.

Tell us about Carl Lindbergh. Collaborative?

Carl is a creative freak. And I say that in the most loving and respectful way. His imagination is a scary and very odd place. The stuff that runs amuck in his head is frightening. Its funny, but most of the guys that I’ve met that delve into the dark depravity of genre films have been some of the most unassuming and quiet people you’ll ever meet. Don’t get me wrong, Carl is strong willed and has a definitive opinion on things, but you’d never suspect that while shaking his hand a seeing his smile, that deep within lays an unfiltered distorted imagination.

I have another Script that he wrote called “Blood Angel”, about a time traveling Nazi named “Icarus” that has landed back on earth in search of his genetic offspring, as he attempts to recreate his bloody version of the 3rd Reich. I’m attached to the film playing an older, skeptical, grizzled Detective that’s trying to figure out how to protected the young girl at the heart of the story. It’s a crazy psychological time travel dream-like story in its Steam Punk Industrial vision. It’s so gnarly and poetic in its spirit. It’s very unique and I can’t wait to get working on it. 

How does working for TV differ from film?

In my opinion it’s the speed of production and the shortness of scenes in the story telling process. Traditionally, Episodic TV is about telling a very short narrative in a series of small moments. Every character in an Episodic Series has two arches: a Series Arch, and then an Episode Arch. The creative process is really tight, there’s not a lot of time to wander through storylines.

Cable Episodic has changed the story telling landscape quite a bit over the last few years. The types of stories can be harder, darker and more explicit. They feel like they are more of a long form story arch, where character development is of more importance than a quickly buttoned up episode filled with commercial advertising. I’m a big fan of what AMC has been producing over the last few years. They get it.

Film is what I call a Long Form One Off. To me it’s still the most freely creative medium. It’s continuous with no commercials. You’re kept for the ride uninterrupted. It’s also the place where artists can challenge conservative corporate convention. Filmmakers are able to tackle stories and do battle with the studios on battlefields that they are unwilling, and unprepared, to do battle; stories driven by corporate advertising decisions and shareholders, verses stories driven by a passionate artistic voice. It’s the never-ending battle between economics and art.

In my opinion, I think that is why you’re seeing better quality Television these days. Much of work that paid well in Feature Films in years past has disappeared for all but a very small group. Digital Distribution completely changed the traditional model. There is a lot of high visibility, established “A List” actors now moving over to television because that is where the money has landed. But I think what happened is that many of them forced the Writers and Producers of television content to up their game. The film actors were used to working on characters and stories that were deeper in their character and story development. I think that they and their Reps demanded a higher quality of writing and story development.

The quality of shows now running throughout Cable, Streaming and VOD platforms has gotten really good. Cable and its creative independent nature offered Writers and Actors the latitude to explore more complex stories without the glaring hand of corporate conservative censorship. We now have the availability to create content for a niche and don’t have to worry about the whole. If you can capture a niche that is passionate and has viewing numbers, you can create what they want at slightly lower budgets, and that in turn requires fewer advertiser commitments needed to support the production. It always comes town to money. If the advertisers like your numbers and demographics they will buy enough for you to keep the show running. 

Having done so much horror, do you see yourself having a panel or a booth at Comic Con, or one of these large conventions, one day?

Perhaps one day, but its not high on my list at the moment. I’m not real comfortable in mob crowds. I’ve been to Comic Con in San Diego several times, and Stan Lees’ Comickaze in LA a couple of times in support of films. It’s just too loud and packed with humanity for my liking.

I’ve been doing the Powermorphicon Convention in Pasadena since its inception. It’s a gathering of all the shows that were on the Fox Kids Network: ( Power Rangers, Beetleborgs, VR Troopers ect. ) I was one of the Series Regular Co-Stars on Beetleborgs Metallix back in 1997-98’. The Convention has been getting bigger and bigger every year. I think they had over 30,000 people at the last one. I actually look forward to the event. They give me a booth and its actually fun to meet and greet the fans of the shows from back then.

One of the issues I have with the convention racket is charging fans money for swag. It doesn’t feel right to me. It just feels like we are pushing the exploitation down to the consumer, the fans that make the shows successful. We get paid to do the show because they pay a service provider so they can watch the show. I know they are “fans”, and that we mean something to them in their lives, it’s a wonderful feeling to know that they are passionate with their support. I get it. But I feel like they’ve already paid us. Some of these folks save money for an entire year to give it to us in trade for a piece of swag. It makes feel guilty, like I’m being opportunistic. Whenever I have charged for swag that cost me more than lets say an 8 x 10 photo, I always donate the proceeds to charity. I usually just sign a photo for no charge and just give it to them. You should see their smile. They’re like “No Way?” That’s the smile that makes it all worth it. They never forget that you gave it to them. I think that’s the difference between Brand Building, and Brand Buying, one creates fans, and one exploits fans. Fans are the engines that keep everything running. They are the audience that the marketers are willing to pay advertising fees to reach with their products. Those fees keep the shows on the air. I just don’t feel like baingin on them for $30 for a signature. That’s my take it.

You can follow me on my various Social Media platforms to keep tabs on what’s happening in my little piece of the world

Thanks for having me!

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BUNNYMAN VENGEANCE is released on VOD this October via Uncork’d Entertainment

Tuesday 17 October 2017

Interview with Marko Mäkilaakso - Director of "It Came From The Desert"

Ahead of the UK premiere of his latest film IT CAME FROM THE DESERT at the Horror Channel Frightfest Halloween event, director Marko Mäkilaakso shares his admiration for Roger Corman, love of B-Movies, spoofing and overcoming homeland obstacles

IT CAME FROM THE DESERT is inspired by Cinemaware’s cult 1980s video game, which in turn was motivated by the giant creature feature craze infesting 1950s Hollywood. What was the main inspiration for you?

MARKO: There’s so many movies and makers which inspired ICFTD, but the main inspiration was exactly that; creature feature infested 1950s Hollywood films, and the legendary Cinemaware Desert games and creature features and action comedies I grew up with in the 1980s. I love B-movies and mainstream filmmakers who give homages to those in their works, like Joe Dante, John Landis, Tim Burton, Steven Spielberg etc. There’s something so pure and honest about B-movies and even though done with tight budgets you can see and feel that the makers put their hearts and souls into making the movie. That’s really inspiring!

I’ve always loved Cannon Films action movies like American Ninja and Delta Force, and comedies like Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Ed Wood, The Burbs’ as well as creature features like Piranha and Gremlins. 1980’s TV shows like V, Knight Rider, Street Hawk, Amazing Stories and I am sure there’s a little bit something from all of those in my movie.

The modern creature feature craze are the Syfy channel movies. Some of them are fun, but most of them are too lazy and poorly done. I don’t mind low budgets, but when companies just want to cash in without any passion to the project then it’s doomed from the very beginning. Roger Corman did it correctly! He hired passionate filmmakers to give their everything and in the end the movies had something extra, something special. Like the It Came from the Desert game was spoofing those and other 1950s monster movies, my movie is also spoofing the modern creature feature craze of Syfy movies.

It’s smartly scripted, extremely funny, with an OTT deadpan delivery. How did you go about developing and writing the script to achieve that style?

MARKO: Nice to hear, thank you! The tone of the movie was very clear to me from the very beginning. I couldn’t see the movie done in any other way. This was my love letter to movies I grew up with. I wanted to bring back this kind of old school ”Bill & Ted’s excellent adventure” style of characters and the silly and fun moments that brings.

I wrote the first draft which was still much leaner and meaner in scope but had the story, main characters, tone and comedy already set and once Cinemaware gave their blessing to ”adapt” the game we expanded the scope. Talented writer Hank Woon came on board and wrote the next drafts expanding the tale. And then I wrote a few drafts mainly to keep the humor and action the way I imagined it.

Then UK based AMP joined the party to co-produce and co-finance the movie and they suggested that talented filmmaker Trent Haaga polish the script. Trent got the tone right away. He did a wonderful job and made the script even better!

Also one crucial element was the casting. I went thru many, many actors to find the right cast who got the tone and could deliver the humour I was aiming for. The cast was just perfect for their roles and I had the luxury to allow them to improvise while shooting. I think the movie got funnier and funnier while shooting and that’s only because we did the casting right!

The giant ant special effects are terrific. Is it true they are a homage to Ray Harryhausen?

MARKO: Ray Harryhausen was AMAZING! I love his work and there’s definitely some Harryhausen spirit in the ant effects. Production designer / co-ant designer / practical ant effect creator Kari kankaanpää and I are both big fans of Harryhausen’s work, stop motion and miniatures. We even thought about using some miniatures in the movie, but the budget disagreed with that crazy idea. I actually have a movie treatment ready which is homage to Harryhausen and Toho. I even sent it to Julie & Roger Corman. It’s awesome and hope it will get made someday.

It’s been described as a ‘pulp action horror mutant monster movie’. Is that what you set out to make?

MARKO: I set out to make a fun, entertaining, nostalgic, pulpy action-adventure-comedy-creature feature with a touch of horror, so yes.. that sounds about right!

You’re known internationally for your strong visual style. How much does being a successful music video director influence your movie career?

MARKO: I think that has a lot to do with who I am as a director and also how I work. Music videos have been a great learning ground for filmmaking. You need to shoot fast and make cool looking images and tell a story (if the video has any) in a visual way.  So, yes, I owe a lot to that. But of course making a movie is completely its own beast.

You come from Finland. How important a part would you say your native roots play when writing and directing?

MARKO: You know, that’s tricky thing for me. I always felt that I was born in the wrong country because of the kind of movies I wanted to make. I was never taken seriously or supported much by the Finnish film industry, except by the great filmmaker Antti J. Jokinen who gave my start.

People look down on these kind of genre movies and that’s sad I think and that’s why I packed my bags eight years ago and moved away from Finland. Don’t get me wrong, I do love my country, but it also pushed me away. I was the outsider in the industry with weird ideas and thoughts of making action horror movies. I was literally laughed at! So I went elsewhere and made my two first movies with countries and people who did get it. Even now, I am not considered as a ”serious filmmaker” because of the movies I make, but I am happy that Desert is a Finnish co-production.

We also shot one week in Finland which was a wild contrast coming from hot Spain to cold wintery Finland. I give all the respect in the world to Finnish Film Foundation who bravely supported and gave financing to the movie. Trust me; it’s a really brave thing to do in Finland!  So maybe after this movie the Finns we’ll see that’s I am not giving up and I’m still making these genre movies which I LOVE from the bottom of my heart!

Your debut film was the well-received action / horror WAR OF THE DEAD, which you also wrote and co-produced. Have you always been drawn to the horror genre?

MARKO: I love horror! I love action! I love comedy! I love drama! Dammit! I love movies no matter what the genre is! But horror has a special place in my heart. It’s so honest and visual genre. We all have nightmares and fears and it’s very easy to identify with those no matter how fantastical it is. It’s the primal fear in all of us and it is so damn fun to watch knowing that no matter what happens you’ll be safe! Shooting horror is also lots of fun and horror is also a genre where you can mix action and comedy without rules. Just pure damn FUN!

After DEADLY DESCENT, your savage, war-like abominable snowman movie for Syfy and Universal, you turned your hand to a home-grown family comedy film, ELLA AND FRIENDS 2. Why?

MARKO: Well, that’s good question. I have kids, three of them, and they are dying to see movies I’ve directed, but I can’t really show them, so out of the blue I was offered to direct ELLA 2 and I was shocked! Me? A Kid’s movie? Maybe the producer liked my more family friendly music videos and stuff. No matter what this was a wonderful opportunity to make something for my kids and also to direct my first Finnish movie and my first comedy! So I took the job with open arms. My oldest daughter, my dad and my brother are in it and I’m acting in it too!. It’s a real family affair! And I was working with one of my childhood heroes, Pirkka-Pekka Petelius, a comic genius!

You’ve also appeared as an actor in two of your films. Will we see more of you in front of the camera in future?

MARKO: Ha! Funny thing was that I had a real character in War of the Dead. I played Corporal Peter Jackson and I had few dialogue scenes with Andrew Tiernan who played the lead, but I needed to move along faster with the story and I cut out those scenes. I am still in the movie, but not talking. Maybe better so! Ella 2 was an opportunity to act a small role, so I did it. It was lots of fun! I am also in ICFTD, but briefly in the background. So more acting in the future? Well, maybe more cameos!

Finally, what’s next? Will you stick with action horror?

MARKO: Not sure yet. There’s many projects in development, but let’s see which one gets first financed. There’s definitely more action horror coming!

It Came From the Desert receives its UK premiere at Horror Channel FrightFest Halloween 2017 on Saturday 28 Oct, Empire Haymarket, 4.10pm.

Sunday 15 October 2017

Competition: Win Panic Button on DVD

Chris Crow’s ground-breaking, hard-edged psycho-cyber horror thriller PANIC BUTTON gets a remastered launch on DVD & Download from October 23, 2017 and to celebrate with have 2 copies to give away.

Four young people win a trip of a lifetime to New York, courtesy of their favourite social-networking website – On board the private jet, their mysterious host invites to take part in the in-flight entertainment – a new online gaming experience. But this is no ordinary game. Trapped at 30,000 feet, they are forced to play for their lives and the lives of their loved ones. They are about to learn that putting your life online can have deadly offline consequences and that there no ESC key…

Panic Button, made in 2011, was one of the first British horror films to explore the dark side of social networking and the perils of sharing too much information online. Played out in a claustrophobic, almost real-time situation, the film taps into pertinent social issues that now have a universal significance in the digital age. Themes such as social media crime, identity theft, cyber bullying, voyeurism, peer pressure, child safety and terrorism all come into play, at a time when iPads and smart phone apps were only in there early generations.

Producer John Shackleton reflects:  “iPad’s were not really a thing in 2010 when we were planning Panic Button as the first generation iPad was only released in th US April of that year. We knew we wanted touch screen technology in the jet and so went to great lengths to achieve that despite not having access to that early tech. We wanted our villain to be hiding behind the animated emoji of an Alligator, a subversion of the networking site in the film.  Facial tracking was impossible for us in 2010 so we animated it and comped it together in crude form like he was an early adopter of new technology. Now, with the new iPhone X, anyone can hide behind an animated animal emoji which tracks your facial movements. Scary times indeed!”

You can buy this from HMV UK using the following link that opens in a new window.
Panic Button DVD


Terms and conditions
1. Closing date 30-10-17
2. No alternative prize is available
3. When the competition ends as indicated on this page, any and all entries received after this point will not count and emails blacklisted due to not checking this page first.
4. Winners will be chosen randomly and will be informed via email.

Friday 13 October 2017

Icons of Horror

For the first time since 2006, Friday the thirteenth falls in October. While this news might get paraskevidekatriaphobics (look it up, fact fans) in a spin, the rest of us can use it as an opportunity to get into the Halloween spirit a whole 18 days early. What’s more, with Jigsaw hitting the screens on 26 Oct, we’ll need the extra long spooky season to catch up on the first seven movies in the Saw franchise, as well as some of our other favourite horror classics.

So, grab an extra-large cushion to hide behind, and cosy up with some of the movie world’s most truly terrifying characters…

Jigsaw - Saw
Born from the genius minds of James Wan and Leigh Whannell, Jigsaw (aka John Kramer) is the antagonist of the terrifying Saw franchise. Despite what his name may suggest, Jigsaw prefers manipulative mind games to the puzzle variety; the former civil engineer became a psychotic serial killer after a series of bad luck and a terminal cancer diagnosis left him believing that life must truly be appreciated. Those who take it for granted might end up meeting Billy the Puppet (clue - you won’t want to).

Freddy Krueger - Nightmare on Elm Street
Don’t let that hipster sweater and trilby hat fool you, you’re more likely to run into Freddy Kruger in your worst nightmare than down the local craft beer house. Nightmare on Elm’s antagonist was burnt alive by an angry mob of parents after he escaped jail due to a technicality following a child killing spree. Although his body died, his spirit lives on to torment a group of teenagers by entering their dreams. You may not want to sleep alone after watching this one, so keep loved ones close.

Jason - Friday the 13th
Thanks to his trademark mask, it’s hard to even watch a game of hockey without getting a shiver these days. Jason Voorhees is an absolute killing machine, having knocked off well over one hundred people in the Camp Crystal Lake area, largely to avenge the death of his mother, but also because he’s somewhat insane after living (in some capacity anyway) on his own in a secluded wood for a couple of decades. Be very afraid.

Bathsheba Sherman - The Conjuring
The fact that the plot blurs fiction and real life events makes The Conjuring’s Bathsheba even more terrifying. A relative of Mary Towne Eastey, who was a victim of the 1692 Salem witch trials, Bathsheba sacrificed her week-old child to the devil and committed suicide, though not before cursing all those who take her land in Harrisville, Rhode Island. Enter ‘real life’ paranormal investigators, Ed and Lorraine Warren. You’ll probably strike Bathsheba off your baby name list after this.

Sadako – The Ring
We’ve all felt a bit like The Ring’s Sadako when crawling blearily out of bed on a Monday morning, but hopefully without her psychotic tendencies. It’s the Japanese character’s elusive nature that makes are so scary, so we don’t want to give too much away. But let’s say, powerful psychic abilities play a big part, as does a cursed videotape that claims to kill anyone who watches it after seven days. Thankfully it seems unlikely that you’ll be watching this on VHS.

Michael Myers – Halloween 
Your annoying little brother has nothing on Michael Myers. The main antagonist of the John Carpenter’s franchise was admitted into a psychiatric hospital for the murder of his older sister. After nearly 15 years, he breaks out and relentlessly hunts down the rest of his petrified family. True fact: the mask Michael wears is said to be based on the face of William Shatner's Captain Kirk.

A new puzzle begins…advance tickets are NOW on sale nationwide at participating cinemas, book your tickets here and celebrate Halloween the right way!

Tuesday 10 October 2017

Interview with Can Evrenol - Director of Housewife

Ahead of the UK premiere of his latest film HOUSEWIFE at the Horror Channel Frightfest Halloween event, director Can Evrenol tells us why film is a ‘pervert’s art’, shares his feelings for Fulci and reveals his contribution to Horror Anthology The Field Guide To Evil.

Was it important to make your follow-up film to BASKIN in the English language?
CAN: I wanted to make the film available for a wider audience and to test myself with a different language movie. I thought it was a fun thing to do.

How do you describe HOUSEWIFE? What would be your perfect pitch line?
CAN: Man, I had this crazy fu*ked-up dream last night! Do you want to see it?

Like BASKIN, HOUSEWIFE shares many similar themes of sexuality, family, social claustrophobia and surreal nightmares. Why are these elements so important to you?

CAN: The day I find out why, I would probably quit filmmaking and move onto more tangible things in life.

Elaborate more on why you say HOUSEWIFE is your homage to Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci?
CAN: I am very inspired by Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci films. Fulci is one of the reasons I decided to be a filmmaker. They are more like crazy people painting with their own blood. I love their attention to weird details and emphasis on atmosphere and music, while some others aspects of their filmmaking seems super shallow and cheap. I am not intending my films to be shallow and cheap at any level, but I'm taking huge risks and sometimes when there are flaws, I try to make them in tune with the madness of the movie. 

Where did you find lead actress Clémentine Poidatz and actor David Sakurai, who plays the head of the Umbrella of Love and Mind Cult? 
CAN: I met Clementine in Paris, through my French producers Vixens. We clicked right away. I thought she had the right face and state of mind. She read the script and said she loved it. I thought she must either a really good actress or crazy. Turns out she was a bit of both. We were blessed to have her as Holly. She was the angel of our team from day 1! 
David, I met in Fantasticfest, 2015. He was there with Liza The Fox Fairy. You gotta love that dancing grim reaper character! At the time, my reference for Bruce O'Hara was Joel Osteen. But after sharing the same taxi to the airport with David Sakurai, talking about movies and martial arts, he was the face of Bruce O'Hara for me. I really love both Holly and Bruce O'Hara. They are like my friends now, thanks to Clementine and David.

You don’t make your films easy for the audience to either watch or follow, is it important to make them invest more in your quirky ideas?
CAN: It's all about submitting yourself to somebody else's dream. That's why it's the pervert's art. For me, that's the most precious and unique thing about cinema. I also try to lose myself - as coherently as ı can - during the various stages of filmmaking. It's tricky, confusing and soul consuming, and people think you don't know about or care about the narrative, but it's not that. I love it so far.

Talk a little about your relationship with co-writer Cem Ozuduru who you worked with on both films?
CAN: Cem is the reason I launched into Housewife after Baskin. It all started in our post Baskin movie nights. We had an overdose of male synergy in Baskin so this time we were chatting about making a revenge movie of sorts with a female lead. Then we decided to add some alien conspiracy in it. Then we went for English language. Then I think, it was me at some point who pushed it more to the way of dreams and dream logic. I felt that I had to bring it home. But the last 20 minutes were always there form the earliest draft. 
Making a personal film is like searching for your inner child. And in this movie at some point, my inner child and Cem's turned out to be different people. So we had some trouble keeping up the same dream together. And Cem had to leave the project for some days during the shoot and then in the editing too, because he was offered a top notch TV series work as writer and co-director. So ultimately I think Housewife ended up more of a film from my instinct, rather than the collaboration we started with. But still, Cem has been the biggest support for both Baskin and Housewife. Both times he was much more than the co-writer, and storyboard artist.

We constantly share videos about cinematography, crazy movies, music and aliens. We will collaborate again for sure.

What are you hoping audiences will take from the film?
CAN: A little slice of death for their dreams.

What’s next? Will you stay with horror, or do you want to try something totally different? 
CAN: I recently completed a new short film, a segment for the upcoming horror anthology: The Field Guide To Evil, from the producers of ABC's of Death. I tried a different approach this time. Rather than the operatic, stylish and heavy metal tone I usually go for, this time I tried to make it more like an East European festival film, but with a slight dose of nightmares, and a demon of childbirth! The camera language is closer to what I want to aim for in my next projects.
Next, there's a dark fairy tale that we have been cooking for a while with my producer Muge Buyuktalas. I'll try to bend it to my own world as much as I can, but hope to aim it for kids. 

Has the Turkish Film Industry taken note of your international success? Are they now more open to genre production?
CAN: No. I don't think they have. After Stranger Things and It, you know every producer is talking about making a horror movie / series these days, but we hate those kinds of motivations, don't we? They don't lead to sincere work.
Housewife receives its UK premiere at Horror Channel FrightFest Halloween 2017 on Saturday 28 Oct, Empire Haymarket, 6.45pm.

Tuesday 3 October 2017

Interview with Elisa Hansen "The Maven of the Eventide" By David Kempf

Elisa Hansen is a writer, editor, actor, singer, vampire scholar, and media critic. She is co-founder of Chez Apocalypse and hosts the humorously analytical video essay webseries Vampire Reviews in character as the gothic Maven of the Eventide. She has a BA in Theatre Arts from Pace University, and is a member of American Mensa.

When did you first become interested in vampires?

They were always in my childhood consciousness as Awesome Things, perhaps because my mom was a gothic horror fan. But the first that really hooked me was Christopher Pike’s The Last Vampire series when I was in middle school. Reading about this amazing, powerful 6000 year old vampire who looked like a teenage girl with blond hair and green eyes like me made me feel like I could accomplish anything. She was unstoppable and dark, yet vulnerable and lovable, and I wanted to BE her.

What gave you the idea for your characters and getting on YouTube?

Lindsay Ellis helped me develop the concept for my show to be a spinoff of The Nostalgia Chick. I didn’t often appear as myself on her show (usually I played other characters), but I was there a few times as just me, Elisa, so we wanted to keep the continuity between our shows. Maven is supposed to be the same me that was on her show, just indulging in my gothic sensibilities that I normally have too much social anxiety to show in public.

At the time, I was working as sort of a staff writer for Nostalgia Chick and helping Lindsay with ideas and such. But I had a lot of ideas she wasn’t interested in pursuing, and decided to try my hand at pursuing them myself. My original show idea was one where I compared books to their film adaptations. But as I was making a list of all the books/films I wanted to talk about, I realized the bulk of them were vampire stories.
I have an old friend who does a YouTube show where he just reviews versions of Phantom of the Opera (The Phantom Reviewer), and that gave me the idea to do a show where I talk about just vampires. I scoured the internet to make sure no one else was already doing it, and I was in luck!

I liked Lindsay’s idea to do it “in character” as a shtick to add humor and framing to the concept, similar to how Nostalgia Chick was a “character” version of her critical persona. I decided my character would be a lonely, pathetic wanna-be Elvira so I could indulge in my dorkiest side, and I came up with the name Maven of the Eventide as a play on Elvira’s title Mistress of the Dark.

I love the roommate character insisting you pay your share of the rent. What made you decide to mix the real world creeping into your fantasy world you created?

When I started the show, I lived in NYC in close proximity to a lot of my fellow video-makers, and we loved incorporating skits and cutaway gags into our reviews. We had already established our characterized versions of ourselves as zany dysfunctional roommates in Nostalgia Chick. It was Lindsay’s idea to add the part with her in it to the end of my very first video as a way to connect our shows and add a framing context for how I fit into Channel Awesome with the whole Team NChick shared universe we were building at the time that eventually became Chez Apocalypse.

But now that our shows have developed into (even)more analytical video essays, the cutaway storyline bits don’t feel like they fit as well. Also, I’ve sadly moved away from NYC and am no longer near any of the friends who used to appear in my videos. So I’ll have to do with using my toddler for comedic cutaways from now on.

How did you develop an interest in fantasy/horror?

I can recall playing pretend super heroes as a tiny kid with my little brothers, and though they always played the white ninjas, I insisted on being the lord of darkness. I wrapped a heavy dark grey blanket around my shoulders as a cloak. My mother used to read me Edgar Allen Poe as bedtime stories (amid other lighter things, of course). She also had this amazing popup book of classic Victorian horror that I loved to play with. I was big into Nancy Drew at a tender age, and the stories where she went to haunted houses with creepy secret passages were my absolute favorite.

But I think it really started with Phantom of the Opera. I can remember a day on the playground when I was 5 years old. Another girl was talking about seeing the Phantom musical, and how scary it was, and I was fascinated. From then on I had this mentality that Phantom was the Epitome of All Things. When I was 11, I finally got a CD of the musical. I liked it all right, but I went and bought the book and after reading it, I was obsessed. Phantom led me to other spooky gothic classics, and it was a rapid spiral from there.

Is this a full time job?

Yes, in a sense that it’s the only thing I do that pays the bills (Thank you Patreon patrons!!!) . But I’m also a novelist. I’m currently shopping a finished novel with agents for publication (yes it has vampires in it). Meanwhile I’m writing a new novel about a YouTuber that I plan to finish by the end of the year, as well as working on the sequel for the novel I’m shopping. I spend about 2 weeks a month working on Vampire Reviews and the rest of the time writing fiction. I also sometimes do work for Lindsay.

Do you have any plans to write vampire fiction yourself?

Though vampires are a part of my novel (and the two other books in that trilogy), I wouldn’t really consider it a “vampire story.” It’s actually a monster mash where I include several different supernatural elements, and vampires are just one of them. I’ve often said that with how over-done vampires are in fiction after all these years, it takes some amazing geniuses to come up with awesome fresh original ways to tell vampire stories. I am not an amazing genius. But I do like to have fun with vampires for whatever that’s worth, so I toss them in when I can and try to do my best by them.

I have another novel outlined I haven’t started on writing yet that is an actual “vampire story” where the vampires are a humanoid species that evolved alongside Homo sapiens. I plan to get working on that book as soon as I finish my current projects as well as (yet) another novel I have outlined that’s more futuristic scifi with monsters, but no vampires.

Why do you think horror and fantasy books remain so popular?

They provide allegories for ourselves in an exciting, fun way. The concept of The Other is something a lot more people can relate to than not. On some level, most people feel like they don’t quite fit in with other people, they have some deep inner self that nobody fully understands. Even the most socially-accepted popular people often have secret insecurities. Some horror and fantasy show these dark forces as being defeated, and that gives people hope that they can conquer their own demons. Other stories show the dark forces as being relatable and sympathetic, and that gives people a connection and understanding they don’t get from other media.

What do you think the difference between American horror and British horror is?

The first thing that comes to mind is the Hammer Dracula films compared to the Universal Studios ones. The original American interpretation of Dracula was sterilized and snooty. It had a nouveau riche pretention to it, tried to be “glamorous,” clean. Whereas the British interpretation was sexier, bloodier, and took more risks. Some might call it “trashy,” and yet the Hammer films still have this much more widespread reputation for being “classy” because of their Britishness. Due to the stereotype that anything British is automatically “sophisticated,” they could get away with digging much deeper into the dark corners of Dracula and still attract acclaim from a widespread international audience.

What are your favorite horror books?

I’m assuming Dracula, Carmilla, Frankenstein, Phantom, Dorian Grey, etc. are too obvious to mention?

Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist
The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
World War Z by Max Brooks
The Shadow Out of Time by H.P. Lovecraft

What are some of your favorite horror movies?

The Phantom of the Opera (1989, starring Robert Englund)—It is not anywhere close to being accurate to Phantom canon, but it is so much fun from a fandom perspective. The Phantom is made into this grotesque superhero badass, but he’s also head over heels in love. So much my aesthetic.

Interview with the Vampire—unlike my mixed opinion on the book, there’s no denying the film is fantastic and an awesomely seminal work in pivoting the modern popular relationship with vampires and everything I personally love about what they can represent.

Crimson Peak—This definitely isn’t Guillermo del Toro’s best film, and I had some big issues with parts of its script, but it is SO BEAUTIFUAL to look at. The most aesthetically pleasing creepy spooky gothic film of the modern era.

Pan’s Labrynth—Now this is de Toro’s best film. The horror elements are a lesser part of it, but when they’re on screen, they’re life-affirming.

Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire is my favorite novel of all time. It sounds like it might be yours as well. Is it?

I think it’s probably the most IMPORTANT novel of all time to me. If it wasn’t for that novel, I absolutely wouldn’t exist as I do, and my show for sure wouldn’t be a thing. I’ve been a Vampire Chronicles fan for decades and it significantly shaped my emotional and personal development. There’s definitely still fanfiction of mine out there on the internet for it. But I’m a Lestat fan, and Interview isn’t good to him. He wasn’t fully developed yet in that novel. It’s probably Anne Rice’s BEST book, but not my favorite. I love The Vampire Lestat more.

But my favorite novel of ALL TIME would have to be Wuthering Heigths, followed very closely by The Phantom of the Opera. I love intricately twisted character dynamics and inevitable tragic inability for resolution, and I’m all about the classic gothic aesthetic of oldy times. Modern novels just don’t reach me as deeply. My favorite characters are Gothic Villains In Love, and those two books are the apex of that.

Do you have any advice for folks who want to create YouTube character?

I don’t think creating a character is necessary. There are tons of successful YouTube personalities who are just Being Themselves. People find them relatable and can connect to their realness.

But if you really do want to create a “character,” look to yourself as well. Take something about yourself that’s sincere and heighten and exaggerate it. You can use hyperbole to make points in whatever your discussing, but if it’s rooted in something personal, then it will be that much more impactful. The best parody comes out of love. You can’t joke about something in a truly enjoyable and engaging way if you don’t have some level of appreciation for it to grant you nuanced understanding of its significance. Hatefulness and cruelty do not make for good characters.

Do you have any advice for new writers?

First of all, finish what you’re writing. If you haven’t finished a Thing yet, sit your butt down and WRITE. Don’t write what you think other people would like. Write what YOU like. The best story you can write is something that no one else has yet, but you wish existed. If you haven’t finished anything yet, stop looking for advice, because it’s distracting you from writing.

But after you’ve written a Thing, get feedback, and LISTEN to that feedback without “explaining” anything. Ask several people you trust, and if more than one person says the same thing, they’re probably right. Listen for repeated criticism, and take lots of notes. Do a word search of your manuscript for “had” and “that” and delete every last one you possibly can. Kill 99.9% of adverbs. Replace dialogue tags with actions and descriptions. And then write more. Writers are people who write. Have you written lately?

What is your opinion of the new self-publishing trend?

I think it’s great. It takes a lot of work, and you have to be comfortable (and savvy) with self-promotion to succeed at it. But it offers opportunities for so many writers to get their work out there that traditional publishing will not support. An agent isn’t going to take a chance on a book if they think they can’t make money off it even if they think the book is amazing. But an author in a niche market can do very well with a book like that if they know how to reach their target audience. If you’re interested in self-publishing, do invest in having your book professionally edited, though. Don’t put it out there until you’ve revised, revised, and revised again. Get professional feedback and follow it. So many people are self-publishing their first drafts, and that’s just self-sabotage.

What are your current projects?

Aside from the novels I’m working on, I’ve got a list of upcoming Vampire Reviews based on my Patreon pledge requests. I’m really enjoying working on a request basis because it presents a challenge to come up with ideas I normally wouldn’t have been inspired to otherwise. Kind of like getting an assignment to write an essay with a deadline. I keep my list private as a perk for my patrons, but I can let you know there are some very popular vampire films on it as well as some totally obscure things.

Thank you for joining us, and anyone interested in finding out more can check out the links below.