Monday 26 February 2018

Film News (UK): Horror Channel set to terrify with ten premieres in March

Throughout March on Horror Channel, Friday and Saturday nights will fall prey to wicked witches, scheming serial killers and mysterious monsters as the UK’s number one genre channel presents ten prime-time premieres, including the first UK showing of THIRST, Greg Keifer’s blood-sucking alien thriller. There are also network premieres of Michael Winner’s theological horror THE SENTINEL starring Chris Saradon, Ava Gardner and Christopher Walken and the 2016 US remake of THE WICKER MAN, written and directed by Neil LaBute and staring Nicholas Cage.

Other network premieres include the high velocity alien invasion actioner SKYLIINE, Sean S. Cunningham’s underwater monster chiller DEEPSTAR SIX, Geoffrey Wright's controversial teen slasher CHERRY FALLS, starring Brittany Murphy, futuristic survival adventure THE COLONY, with Laurence Fishburne, psychological serial killer twister THE WATCHER, starring James Spader and Keanu Reeves and Tom Elkins’s supernatural terroriser THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT 2: GHOSTS OF GEORGIA.

Full film details in transmission order:

Fri 2 March @ 21:00 – CHERRY FALLS (2000) *Network Premiere

High schoolers in a sleepy small town discover that there’s a serial killer in their midst, The killer seems to be going after virgins, rather than promiscuous types, so they start throwing sex parties to avoid being next. The late Brittany Murphy stars as the virginal daughter of the town sheriff (Michael Biehn), who takes it upon herself to find the killer and uncovers a complex web of lies and secrets.

Sat 3 March @ 22:50 – THE SENTINEL (1977) *Network Premiere

Academy Award winner Christopher Walken gives a notable performance early in his career in this chilling film about an young actress (Cristina Raines) who is terrorised by supernatural forces when she moves into a strange New York brownstone. The all-star cast includes Chris Sarandon, Ava Gardner, Burgess Meredith, Sylvia Miles, and Eli Wallach.

Fri 9 March @ 21:00 – THE COLONY (2013) *Network TV Premiere

Forced underground after the planet is plunged the next ice-age, the inhabitants of Colony 7 struggle to survive below the world’s frozen surface. When they mysteriously lose contact with the only other remaining settlement, Briggs (Laurence Fishburne) decides to lead a dangerous mission into the frozen wasteland, determined to discover their fate. It could be humanity’s last stand.

Sat 10 March @ 21:00 – THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT 2: GHOSTS OF GEORGIA (2013) *Network Premiere

From the producers of “The Haunting In Connecticut” comes the chilling true story of the Wyrick family. Upon moving into their new home, mother and daughter Lisa and Heidi Wyrick begin experiencing disturbing visions. Do the phenomena hint at the onset of a shared family madness, or are they clues to a real-life nightmare that once took place on the property?

Fri 16 March @ 21:00 – THIRST (2015) *UK TV Premiere

Deep in the scorching desert, a group of wayward teens are stationed at a wilderness boot camp. However, after they stumble upon and break a strange and mysterious extra-terrestrial ‘orb’, one by one, they begin to experience terrifying attacks from a ruthless blood

sucking alien. With no chance of rescue, and nowhere to hide, their only chance for survival is to fight for their lives.

Sat 17 March @ 21:00 – THE WATCHER (2000) *Network Premiere

Keanu Reeves stars as a creepy, studious serial killer who torments an emotionally damaged police detective (James Spader) by sending him pictures of his future victims one day before he kills them. The detective must try to identify and locate these women before it is too late. Academy Award-winner Marisa Tomei plays the detective’s psychiatrist who might find herself in harm’s way.

Fri 23 Match @ 21:00 – SEASON OF THE WITCH (2011) *Network Premiere

A heroic crusader (Nicolas Cage) and his close ally (Ron Perlman) return home after decades of fierce fighting to find their world destroyed by the Plague. Believing a witch to be responsible, they are commanded by the church Cardinal (Christopher Lee) to transport the witch to a remote monastery where monks will perform an ancient ritual to rid the land of her curse. But they soon discover the girl’s dark secret and find themselves battling a powerful and destructive force that will determine the fate of the world forever.

Sat 24 March @ 21:00 – THE WICKER MAN (2006) *Network Premiere

When motorcycle cop Edward Malus (Nicolas Cage) receives a letter from a woman (Kate Beahan), begging him to find her missing daughter, he sets off to Summersisle, a remote island off the Washington coast, where he discovers a way of life time has forgotten. Nothing on the mysterious island is what it appears and no one will acknowledge the girl’s disappearance. As Edward steps up his search and clashes with the islanders, he discovers the terrifying truth about their ancient belief system.

Fri 30 March @ 21:00 – SKYLINE (2010) *Network Premiere

The residents of Los Angeles are awakened in the dead of night by an eerie light which  is hypnotically drawing people outside before they suddenly vanish into thin air. As the world unravels, a band of survivors soon discover they must fight against the onslaught of a mysterious alien horde. Who or what are these extra-terrestrials and how long before mankind succumbs to their overwhelming power?

Sat 31 March @ 21:00 – DEEPSTAR SIX (1999) *Network Premiere

The time is the near future. The US Navy has established a secret undersea laboratory base, DeepStar Six, below the ocean's surface. A crew of eleven, led by Dr John Van Gelder {Marius Weyers) is supervising the exploration of undersea colonization but when they open up a huge cavern, located on the ocean floor, the command centre is violently attacked and the crew members make a startling discovery…not all aliens come from space.


Thursday 22 February 2018

Competition: Win 8 'Left Films' horror releases.

We currently have a Twitter only competition running. Click HERE to check it out.
I've also embedded the tweet below.

Interview with Paul Hyett - Director of HOWL

On the eve of Horror Channel’s UK TV premiere of HOWL, director Paul Hyett talks about taking werewolves seriously and what the future holds.

Horror Channel will be broadcasting the UK TV premiere of HOWL. Are you a fan of the channel?

I’m so thrilled that Horror Channel are showing HOWL. I’m a big fan of the channel, and avidly watch it, some fantastic gems are shown. They’re a great supporter of horror and you can tell it’s a channel made for horror fans by horror fans.

The film is based on an event that happened in co-writer Mark Huckerby's life. Can you explain?

Yes, Mark was on a late night train, full of the usual stereotypes,. It was hellish, noisy, smelly, a pure journey from hell. And then the train stopped, no reason, no explanation. Everyone was just sat there, in the dark, in the countryside. And then Mark thought, what else could go wrong, ‘ping’ an idea was born. What if, on top of everything else, imagine if werewolves attacked. A fitting end to an awful journey.

Jon (GRABBERS) Wright was the original director. Did you worry about taking over someone else's project?

Yes, I was originally due to do the werewolf effects with Jon directing and that’s where I first met Ed King and Martin Gentles, the producers of HOWL. Jon left the project at exactly the same time Ed and Martin watched my first film THE SEASONING HOUSE at its premiere at FrightFest and they thought I would be a good fit for HOWL, so they got me in for a chat and offered me the film.

What changes did you make when you came on board?

First, I changed the creature straight away, Jon wanted more rat-like feral skinny creatures, I’d always wanted to do big, muscly, massive, fuck-ugly werewolves. Second, I wanted to strip out the comedy and ground it more in reality. Originally it was more of a comedy horror, lots of comedy gags and I wanted to take it away from that. I still wanted to have a dark humour to the film, but comedy horrors are hard to get right and I felt to make it a bit more serious was the right way to go.

Why did you decide to strip out all the supernatural elements usually associated to werewolf creature features? The transformations here are more to do with a sickness, a virus.

We kind of felt we wanted to give it its own mythology, which came with wanting it to be a more serious, more contemporary werewolf movie, that it was virus in the blood rather than changes with the moon, silver bullets etc. I was worried that having those mythologies with such a contemporary cast and setting may not work as well. So that was the thinking.

As you said, you pulled back on the humour. Was this because you felt the concept was inherently amusing anyway? What is your take on comedy horrors in general?

I kind of feel with comedy horrors, it’s the hardest sub type of horror to do. AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, got it perfect, the balances in dark humour and terrifying scenes, kills, transformations, everything was spot on and one of my favourite horrors of all time. But since then, so many people have attempted to get that same balance and failed. So with HOWL we felt, take the comedic elements right back and just try to do our own take, and not go down the comedy horror route and concentrate on it being a grounded contemporary werewolf movie.

Was it important someone with a strong prosthetics effects background, like yourself (well known for THE DESCENT, THE WOMAN IN BLACK etc), directed HOWL?

It was a bonus for Ed and Martin to have a director that understood prosthetics, creature suits, animatronics, when to use puppets etc. Also, I’ve worked closely with VFX in the past so I understood the restrictions and challenges in working with part practical werewolves with CGI faces and working in a full green screen environment. Most of HOWL was shot in a green screen studio (apart from the end), we had something like 350 VFX shots, and when you’re shooting a film like this, it’s quite important to understand how prosthetics and VFX work within a green screen environment and making sure you have all the elements and plates you need.

How did you convince Ed Speelers to star?

Ed liked the script and we met and discussed in detail. It was important to him that the film wasn’t a hokey B movie, cheesy werewolves and girls screaming not wearing much etc. He liked that the film was grounded more in reality, his character a broken down normal bloke, his ambition lost, not knowing where he is in life, and suddenly he’s thrown into this situation. It’s a real ordinary man in an extraordinary situation tale and that appealed to Ed.

The highly talented Rosie Day is in every single one of your movies so far, including the forthcoming HERETIKS, Can we expect to see her in future films? And has HERETIKS now completed post-production?

Rosie and I love collaborating on films and we hang out and are great friends. And she’s so versatile as an actress. I’ve been able to use her on all my movies, including PERIPHERAL, my newest film. She’s going all the way to the top, soon I’ll not be able to afford her! HERETIKS is in its last part of post-production and we’re deep in the VFX, Sound and Music, but we’re not far off.

Finally, what projects are you currently working on?

I’m full on in post on both HERETIKS and PERIPHERAL. Both films are heavy in VFX, especially PERIPHERAL, which is set in the dark world of technology. Also I’m developing a few new horrors. Hopefully, we’ll be announcing the next one soon!

Howl is broadcast on Sat 24 Feb, 10.55pm, Horror Channel.

Tuesday 20 February 2018

Interview with Xavier Gens - Director of Cold Skin

Ahead of the UK premiere of COLD SKIN at Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow 2018, director Xavier Gens reflects on the film’s emotional journey to screen, bachelor parties and what scares him the most…

Q: You were a fan of the book by Albert Sánchez Piñol and wanted to make it after FRONTIERE(S). What took so long?

It took so long because we had to find the right combination between budget and the story we wanted to tell. If you adapt a film from a book and you are respectful of the original story you have to find how to make it perfect. And reading the first chapter of Cold Skin I was thinking “how can I do that with the budget of an indie film?”

So, first we wrote the script, which took over two years, and then we started looking at the best locations. We have been everywhere…Canada, Iceland, Ireland… Each time studying where the technician can be from, how to build the light house, how to create everything related to the story we need to tell. Then you have to find the right actors… I was lucky to find David Oakes and Ray Stevenson as they both are incredible human beings who totally got the film I wanted to do. And then I encountered Aura Garrido in Madrid who was so clever on her approach to  Aneris. But to reunite all the elements to do the film I wanted to make took the time. It’s been an amazing Journey.

Q: How different is the book from the film?

The film retains the philosophy behind the book and my approach after talking with Albert Sanchez Pinol was to understand what pushed him to write this story. He is an anthropologist with a scientist’s mind, so it was interesting to understand from where the inspiration was coming.  I wanted to catch the spirit of that. He decided to create his own theory of evolution and give an original take about the myth of the mermaid. I wanted to be so close to the book on his philosophical approach and on his realism as I could.

The book is more violent and sexually brutal with the character of ‘Aneris’ but the film is more poetic. The character of ‘Friend’ is an intellectual. So I wanted the film from Friend’s point of view and keep his romantic feeling.

Q: You built the lighthouse on the Canary Islands. Was finding the right desolate location difficult?

Yes, it was really difficult to find the right place to build the lighthouse. We visited so many places, then we arrived in Lanzarote and the location was fantastic. The volcanic rock, everything, was like I imagined it. Then we took a small road in Tinajo on the Atlantic side of Lanzarote. The location was so dramatic and creatively perfect but it was almost impossible to bring a crew there. So we decided to keep it and build the base camp and a road to access this place near the national park of Timonfaya at the bottom of a volcano. If you like hiking it’s the best place to go!

Q: Amazing that with COLD SKIN and THE SHAPE OF WATER we currently have two films about amphibious creatures encompassing both horror and romantic elements?

Yes, I’m happy for Guillermo Del Toro that The Shape of Water is getting this worldwide recognition. It will help fantasy and horror movies to exist. I believe the audience need to dream and I think of the experience like an explorer of alternate realities. My hope is that with movies like The Shape of Water and Cold Skin, we propose a different kind of cinema.

Q: Why were actors David Oakes and Ray Stevenson perfect for their parts?

David Oakes is really the most incredible and cool human being I have ever met. He is very creative, he draws, is passionate about poetry and 19th century authors like John Keats. And working on the film I wanted to keep that literal approach, express the feeling you can have when you read a book. And David is really from another time, he captured that elegance I needed for the character and this deep, natural kindness. You can feel a real sensitivity in him and it’s why he was so perfect as Friend.

For Ray I wanted someone with a strong charisma, strong voice, a force of nature. And Ray is like that. He is Titus Pullo!  He’s able to perform in a very physical and violent way and then, in an instant, turn into the most vulnerable character. For Gruner the most challenging aspect was to be unpredictable. Gruner is a broken man who hides who he really is behind a shell of violence. And Ray has got this incredible talent to go into these emotional places. I’m so glad both actors accepted to work with me and accompanied me is this adventure. I feel blessed.

Q: The role of Aneris is crucial; why did you pick actress Aura Garrido and how did her look evolve?

First, we worked on the creature design. Then I saw Aura on a film and I was so fascinated by her eyes. She is so magnetic. And I wanted Aneris to be magnetic, as graceful as Aura is. When we met she told me how she liked body expression and she wanted to explore and give life to Aneris without any words. So she trained for two months before the film – learning how to move, how to express her emotions with her body…She also went on a strict diet as her character is almost naked all the way through the film. We need to believe she is amphibian, swimming hours every day. She was incredible. She worked so hard to give life to Aneris, you can’t imagine how difficult it was. I’m eternally thankful for what she did.

Q: You’ve said the visual inspiration is from the German painter Caspar David Friedrich, can you explain more?

I love Friedrich’s painting of a man looking at the ocean. For me this painting contains everything I wanted to express in Cold Skin. I don’t know how to explain… it’s more a feeling and when I’m looking at this painting I feel emotions I wanted to give to the audience in the film. There is a feeling of loneliness and isolation that is very personal for me and that’s what I tried to communicate in the film.

Q: How much of the movie is CGI as opposed to physical effects?

There is more than a thousand shots with visuals effects in the film. Felix Berges, David Ramos and Laura Petter from the company El Ranchito did them. I can’t tell you the amount of hours of work there is behind this film. I think in almost every shot of the film there is something we changed or created.

Q: What was the worst aspect of filming? The weather?

The weather was amazing. We really enjoyed being in Lanzarote and the atmosphere on set was really great. I think Cold Skin was the most agreeable shooting experience I’ve ever had. It was hard for the actors but we had such an amazing location to shoot. Every morning you arrive near the ocean to make a film, with the sound of waves crashing on volcanic black rocks. It’s just perfect.

Q: Many audiences knowing your French Extreme reputation will be surprised by the elegance and eloquence of COLD SKIN. Was that the shock to the system you wanted? 

There is no calculation. I just wanted to tell the story I loved while reading the book and share those emotions with the audience. There are violent beats in the film but it’s not a film about violence. Frontier(s) and The Divide are movies talking about violence but Cold Skin is talking about humanity, isolation and a main character who wants to escape from violence.

Q: What scares you the most?

Movie critics! Ahahaha. No, I’m kidding. What scares me the most is current politics. We have such a social crisis in the world and particularly in Europe right now. It’s urgent to find solutions. And I’m scared and angry that we are not able to solve the problem. We are in 2018 and we should be able to stop human conflicts by talking rather than killing…

Q: Finally, what’s next?

I just wrapped a French movie called Budapest, which will be released in France this summer and stars Manu Payet, Jonathan Cohen and Mister Poulpe. It’s a comedy about two friends who decide to create a company to organise bachelor parties in Budapest where everything you want to do is possible…

COLD SKIN is showing at the Glasgow Film Theatre on Fri 2 March, 8.45pm, as part of Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow 2018. Xavier Gens will be attending, alongside lead actor David Oakes.

COLD SKIN will be available on DVD and Digital HD from April 23rd, courtesy of Signature Entertainment. 

Monday 19 February 2018

Competition: Win Jigsaw on Blu-ray

To celebrate the release of Jigsaw on Digital Download 19th February and DVD, Blu-ray, 4k, Steelbook & Box-set 26th February, we have a great competition for you and a copy to give away.

One of the highest grossing horror franchises of all time is back, taking Jigsaw’s signature brand of twisted scenarios to the next level. After a series of murders bearing all the markings of the Jigsaw killer, law enforcement find themselves chasing the ghost of a man dead for over a decade and embroiled in a new game that’s only just begun.

Is John Kramer back from the dead to remind the world to be grateful for the gift of life? Or is this a trap set by a killer with designs of their own? Modernised for new fans, Jigsaw is also highly satisfying for fans of the series.

Directed by Michael Spierig & Peter Spierig (Predestination) Jigsaw stars Matt Passmore (The Glades), Tobin Bell (Saw), Callum Keith Rennie (Memento) and Laura Vandervoort (Supergirl).

Click here to buy from Amazon (Opens in a new window)

For your chance to win just answer the question below.


Lionsgate UK presents Jigsaw on Digital Download 19th February and DVD, Blu-ray, 4k, Steelbook & Box-set 26th February

Terms and conditions
1. Closing date 05-03-18
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.

Thursday 15 February 2018

Interview with Issa Lopez - Director of Tigers are not Afraid

Ahead of the UK premiere of TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID at Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow 2018, director Issa Lopez tells us about her journey from Mexico’s SESAME STREET to creating an internationally admired feature film and why the horror genre has always been her passion.

Q: Could you tell us about your career background leading up to TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID.

My first paid job in the business was writing and directing segments for the Mexican Sesame Street. Eventually I moved on to write soap-operas, or Telenovelas, as they are known in Mexico. Terrible job, but quite the school for writers. It took me around five years to find my way into movies: writing romantic comedies. It took a while to convince producers I could direct myself, and that I didn’t want to direct the rom-coms I was known for, but very caustic comedies. I directed two of these. I know, nothing of this seems to lead to Tigers, but actually, it did: genre has always been my passion, and so many years, pages, scenes without it pushed me into going full-fantasy, full-grit with Tigers.

Q: TIGERS is very different to your previous works, what were your inspirations for the film?

So many of them… it’s a very weird, very honest blend of passions. From ‘Goonies’ and ‘Stand by Me’ to ‘Los Olvidados’, by Buñuel, and of course Del Toro’s two Spanish movies.

Q: The performances in the film are simply sensational, especially Paola Lara as Estrella. How was the casting process and how did you find working with the young actors?

We saw six hundred children to find these five. It was exhausting, exhilarating and heart-breaking, all at the same time. It is tough to say no to kids, and it was so much fun to watch them improvise… for the final round, we enlisted the help of acting-guru Fátima Toledo, the Brazilian genius behind the performances in ‘City of God’. Fátima and I went together through the final twenty to pick the five. We agreed on most of it, disagreed on some, and ended up very happy with our choices. I love them all, and it was a joy to spend with them the prep and the shooting.

Q: The film has a beautiful look and feel to it, was that difficult to achieve and how did you set about it?

Thanks! For every project, even while writing, I start to create endless boards of visual references that were the spine for the look and universe you saw on the screen: this kind of ghost city retaken by children and wilderness. To recreate it, I enlisted the help of two amazing artists: Juan JosĂ© Saravia, my DP, who immediately understood what I wanted. Together we came up with this feeling of a sixth kid in the gang: us. The camera, hiding, running, playing with Shine’s banda. And then, of course, there’s Ana Solares, whose Production design not only captured what I wanted, but actually brought into the mix elements as central to the story as the graffiti. I ended up writing it into the script.

Q: What personal experiences did you draw on to make the film?

I lost my mother when I was eight. Of course, the circumstances where, thankfully, very far from the brutality of what happens to my characters, and to so many children in Mexico -and the world. But still, this sense of coming home from school one day and never seeing your mother again, never having a chance to say goodbye, never seeing a body, a casket…gives you a feeling of a ghost following you around, waiting for you to look at it, and acknowledge death. Hence Tigers.

Q: How have audiences reacted to the film both at home and internationally? You must be delighted that Stephen King via Twitter gave it such a glowing appraisal…to quote him: “This is one terrific film, both tough and touching. Two minutes in I was under its spell."

It’s been absolutely incredible! I LOVE sitting down in theatres, around the world, and experiencing the emotional impact the movie has through such different cultures, and how the differences melt when the story and the characters unfold. People cry. A lot. And it is such a moving, incredible feeling, to know that what we started off trying, actually happened. Is it terrible to say it feels good to make people cry?

Mr. King and Mr. Del Toro’s reaction… how to describe the feeling of your personal heroes saying you did well? I still can’t believe it, honestly.

Q: Are you looking forward to the screening at FrightFest Glasgow?

I’m dying to see how it plays in Scotland! Are you kidding me?

Q: What is the state of play with the film industry in Mexico currently, are they generally supportive of genre projects?

Nope. Mexican audiences, for the last five years have been demanding and consuming comedy, when it comes to local production. Not surprising, considering the violence we are submerged in right now. So, even though we Mexicans absolutely love genre… we import it. Absurd, right? I hope that changes soon.

Q: What films this year have caught your eye?

Oh, so many! What a year! Especially for genre. It’s almost pointless to say what a movie ‘The Shape of Water’ is. What maturity, heart, originality it has, and how pertinent to the moment we are all going through. But then there’s ‘A Ghost Story’, that made me cry so much, ‘Thelma’, ‘It Comes at Night’, and ‘Blade Runner 2049’, of course, doomed to become a cult classic, like the original… and soon a couple of gems doing the Fest Circuit are going to be available to all, like ‘Lowlife’ and ‘The Endless’.

Q: What is next for you?  Will you stay within or perhaps return to the genre at some point?

I’m going to FrightFest, then fly back home to premiere a comedy. After Tigers I so needed a good laugh, and I had it. It’s called ‘Todo Mal’ and it is also a bit of a genre-bender, but quite a different beast. Next? All genre. I’m playing around with two projects I’m quite in love with. More soon on those…

TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID is showing at the Glasgow Film Theatre on Sat 3 March, 9.05pm, as part of Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow 2018. Issa Lopez will be attending.

Monday 12 February 2018

Interview with Adam Marcus - Director of Secret Santa

Ahead of the UK premiere of SECRET SANTA at Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow 2018, director Adam Marcus tells us about his obsession with Christmas Eve, being inspired by Orson Wells and why family is the real ‘monster’.

Q: Over the past few years we’ve seen a lot more seasonal based shockers than ever before. Why is the Christmas Holiday period so ripe for horror?

I’m not sure.  Maybe, because it’s the “Happiest Time of the Year”, it’s ripe for the picking when it comes to our genre’s ironic sense of humour.  I think there is a cynicism that’s kind of permeating everything.  Nothing is as it seems.  No one can be trusted.  So, perhaps these films are playing into people’s cynical fear, and that’s the cause for the trend.  If you can’t trust your government, or your neighbours who might vote for that government, why trust the “Happy” Holidays?

Q: You take a typical fraught family get-together and take it to limit. Was that the basic idea, the beginning of the project?

I can tell you that I’ve been obsessed with Christmas my whole life.  Truly.  My parents were married on Christmas Eve and always had a big holiday party every year to celebrate.  The feeling and look of Christmas is so romantic.  But as I got older and my parents divorced, Christmas Eve had a stranger feel to it.  It was still beautiful but it almost became a way of my parents celebrating their divorce.  And that juxtaposition fascinated me.  People all seem really happy and kind but just under the surface they’re hoping the other one chokes on the Christmas Turkey.  That’s why Secret Santa isn’t about a Killer Santa or a Krampus or an evil Snowman come to life.  It’s about the real monster, Family.

Q: You wrote the script with your wife Debra Sullivan. Can you give an insight to how that relationship worked?

Debra and I have written over fifty scripts together, all the while maintaining a very happy marriage.  If you want to keep that happy marriage, you have to find ways to compromise while still challenging each other to do better every day.  It’s a bit of a high wire act but we make it work.  And with each script it changes.  Some I’ll take the lead, others she will.  I will say that on Santa, Deb let me do a lot of the heavy lifting because she knew this one lived inside my head.  We wrote the script in twenty days.  That’s from first day of concept to finished draft.  We’re fast but we’re rarely that fast.  It poured out of me and Deb let that happen.  She was busy re-writing and generating notes to challenge my logic and character relationships.   The give and take was amazing. That’s why it went so fast.  And it had to.  We had picked a shoot date that was only two months from the first week of writing so we had no choice.

Q: Everyone in the movie is so horrible, you can’t wait to see them die, was that the idea?

It sure was!  I wanted the audience to love it when these people got their comeuppance. And the funny thing is that the initial conversations about that came from Orson Welles’ masterpiece “The Magnificent Ambersons”.  And I’m not being some pretentious film-school jackhole right now. That film is one of the most influential on my filmmaking.  My first Cinematographer, Bill Dill, showed it to me when we were prepping “Jason Goes to Hell”.  I even used it in “Jason”.  The eye-light that Welles used, we used it to indicate when someone was possessed by Jason.  That eye-light would go out.  So now, many years later, I used “Ambersons” again in that idea of comeuppance.  That the whole story of “Ambersons” is waiting for this one spoiled, arrogant, bastard to get his comeuppance.  You wait the whole movie to see it happen.   My feeling was, I want to do that with an entire cast.  Now, there is one person in the film who is truly an innocent and you should be heart broken when that person dies but the rest of them, it should feel like, YAHOO!!!

Q: Comedy horror is a very difficult balancing act. Give us your basic rules for such an endeavour to be successful?

First, you have to respect the audience.  That’s never gonna work if you’re constantly winking at them or making fun of the genre.  Comedy has to come from playing it straight.  An audience wants complete characters, honestly portrayed.   Then you let those character foibles lead the way.  You can call attention to the tropes of the genre just don’t make fun of it.  An audience isn’t going to laugh if you’re calling them stupid for loving the kind of film you’re making.

And let’s be honest, comedy is so much like horror, in that you set up an expectation and then you turn that expectation on it’s ear.  A scare and a laugh come from the same place. Look at our genre’s classics, “Rosemary’s Baby”, Ruth Gordon is freaking hilarious in that film.  The constant jabs at New York life.  I grew up in that city and Polanski nailed it.  “The Exorcist”, which wins most people’s top prize for horror, was written by the guy who wrote “A Shot in the Dark”, the first Pink Panther movie for goodness sake.  There is so much comedy in ‘The Exorcist”.  “The Shining”, “The Thing”…  Without the light of comedy, the darkness of horror just becomes mud.  Hitchcock was a hilarious sadist.  He made you laugh then scared the crap out of you.  That takes real skill.

Q: It’s great the way you make the gore a part of the joke, that way nothing the audience sees is considered too violent and always generates a fun vibe? 

Thank you. We’ve had the coolest thing happen with ‘Secret Santa’ in that the number of people who tell me how they “hate horror movies” or “they’re just not into horror, it gives them nightmares”.  Then I tell them, “trust me, you’ll dig this movie”.  I can’t tell you how many people have told me they love the movie because it was “really funny, so I didn’t mind the horror stuff”.  That’s the trick.  No one hates horror.  They hate the constant JUMP SCARES or the sense that what’s the point, we’re all just meat in the end, kind of storytelling.  Look, I love some movies like that.  Don’t get me started on ‘Inside’ or ‘Frontiers’ but most audiences will join in for our genre if you ease them in.

Q: Skeleton Crew Productions is your new company geared around the old Roger Corman model, creativity trumping budget. What do you hope to achieve in the long run?

A whole lot!  Look, a few years ago, I looked around and asked, “Where did all the Roger Corman’s go?  Why the hell have all the indy Gods forsaken us”?  I mean, I know that the new norm is cast a mega-star and go to festivals with a movie that cost millions of dollars and they call that an indy.  But that’s not indy?!  Indy used to mean, we have no money and can only get someone who starred in films a decade ago but we made a story that is unafraid to kick you in the nuts and laugh while doing it.  Indy was supposed to be about making something so audacious that there was no way that a studio would make it. When Carpenter made “Halloween” or “Assault on Precinct 13” he wasn’t thinking about how do I squeeze a dozen sequels and remakes out of these puppies.  He was telling stories that excited him.  We look back on those films now and think, “Well, those weren’t that radical”.  But they were for their time.  As was “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and “Night of the Living Dead” and “Evil Dead”. 

Skeleton Crew came about a few years ago when Debra and I teamed up with our absolutely brilliant producing partner, Bryan Sexton.  We felt as though movies seemed to be bloated and sluggish.  And with the rise of television and a million ways to binge, we wanted to create entertainment that was in many ways unsafe but still well-made.

I’ve been teaching screen acting, writing and direction for over two decades in LA, and I’ve got over 60 acting students that I work with every week.  They’re some of the best actors in Los Angeles. They’re unbelievably talented. A lot of them you would know the minute you saw their faces. But they’re people who do a lot of guest spots on television, or do small parts in movies. They don’t get to break into those huge roles that their talent is deserving of.  So one of the things that we do, is when we bring a director into the micro budget side of Skeleton Crew, we say, “you’ve got 65 actors at your disposal. Take a look, this is the troupe.”  This company is about giving people their shot at what they really want to do.

Q: Some very familiar faces in the exceptional cast and it looks like they were all having fun. Were they?

Well, as I said before, we have a cast that comes from careers that are stocked with film and television roles.  But there are a couple of exceptions.  Even though they are both part of the Skeleton Crew troupe, Michael Rady has been a top of show lead for shows like ‘Unreal’ and ‘Melrose Place’, and Drew Lynch is a world renowned stand up comedian who captured the hearts of America with his Golden Buzzer Performance on Season 10 of ‘America’s Got Talent’. My wife Debra, gives a performance that is among the best pieces of character work I’ve ever seen.  But my whole cast give remarkable performances in this film. 

The amazing thing about the cast experience on Secret Santa is that we only had 12 days to shoot the entire film.  And as we drove up the mountain to Big Bear, where we were shooting, there was a blizzard that heaped a record-breaking snowfall on our cast and crew.  We ended up being snowbound for most of the shoot!  We all lived and shot together in three neighbouring houses that sit at the frozen edge of Big Bear Lake.  It forced us to live and work as a family.  So when it came time to portray one on screen the task was much easier.  It was the single best experience of my career and I think for the rest of the team it was, if not the best, the most unique film shoot of theirs.

My favourite story from the set was on day six, we had just finished shooting a twelve hour day and the sun was just coming up.  Everyone was heading off to bed and Bob Kurtzman stopped me on the way to my bedroom, “Hey, Adam”.  “Yeah, Bob”.  He looked at me with serious eyes and said, “I just wanted to say thank you”.  I said, “Dude, I should be thanking you”.  He replied, “Naw, man.  I mean, thank you for asking me to do this.  It’s the best experience I’ve had in like, ten years.  It’s making me remember what real filmmaking is”.  Then Bob hugged me.  Even telling the story it’s getting me to punk up.  This genius maddog, one of my closest friends for the last twenty-five years, was thanking me for the experience.  These are the moments you live for.  This is why filmmaking can be the best thing you can do with your life.

Q: Must mention JASON GOES TO HELL: THE FINAL FRIDAY. When you look back on that now what are your feelings?

Wow!  That’s a big question.  I am very grateful that I got to co-author and direct that film.  I know it’s one of the most divisive of the franchise.  And I guess I’m a little bit proud of that fact.  Shoot, it’s been twenty-five years and people are still arguing over it.  That’s a hell of a lot better than being discarded and forgotten.

I was 23 when I made JGTH and I was so cock-sure of myself.  Again, kind of a blessing and a curse.  I just kicked in the door and did it.  I can tell you I am very proud of the acting, the effects and the look of the movie. I could have made another wrestler in a hockey mask movie.  There were six of those movies already so I dared to do something different.  The fans that get it, cool.  The ones who don’t, cool.  Do I wish I could go back and fix the cut of the movie?  You bet!  Do I wish I could go back and make improvements using today’s technology.  Hell, yeah!  Am I proud of the film?  Damn skippy, I am!

Q: What’s the one big Lesson you learned from directing SECRET SANTA?

To make films on my own terms.  It’s the single best experience of my professional life.  And it’s because we wrote our own rules.  We worked with people we love.  We worked with a small team and got it done in record time.  I learned to trust my instincts regarding not only the kind of stories I want to tell but also how to execute that vision.  I learned there are a lot of much easier ways to make money but filmmaking is a passion and if you’re not passionate about what you’re making then go get a different job.  I love what I do, now more than ever.

Q: What scares you the most?

As I said before, I’m from New York, and there is a certain little creature that lives there that I won’t even call by name but they are a type of bug and… AH!  I’m not kidding.  I pride myself on being a bit of a badass but those little fuckers.  If I’m walking down the street and I see one I will cross the street.  Just talking about it is making my skin crawl.  And BTW, true story, when I was a teenager I made my first trip to London with my theatre troupe and one of my buddies played a trick on me and put a rubber one of those fuckers in my bed.  I hung the guy out of a seventh floor window of the Hyde Park Hotel over that one.

Q: Finally, what’s next?

I’m going to be directing a film called ‘Dread’. It’s inspired by movies like ‘The Raid: Redemption’ and is a high power thriller about three women trapped in a hotel run by a human trafficking ring.  I’m also doing ‘The Harvest’, which is another thriller about a young woman trying to go to college only to find her mother, who left her as a child, has stolen her identity and destroyed her chances of a better life.  We are also a producing a film called ‘Fat Camp Massacre’.  It brings me back to my ‘Friday the 13th’ days.  It tackles the issues of body shaming and body dysmorphia.  And then there’s a web-series we’re producing called ‘NerdGirls’ which is about a group of comic book creators who happen to be women.  But they are never taken seriously so decide to take matters into their own hands and create the careers they deserve.

We also have several projects with Drew Lynch from ‘Secret Santa’.  He’s a great comedian but an incredible actor.  We’ve just produced his first comedy special  ‘Drew Lynch: Did I Stutter’, and we have a television show we’re developing with him as well. 

SECRET SANTA is showing at the Glasgow Film Theatre on Sat 3 March, 6.30pm, as part of Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow 2018.  Adam Marcus will be attending.

Wednesday 7 February 2018

Interview with Kelly Green - Director of Attack of the Bat Monsters

Ahead of the official World Premiere of ATTACK OF THE BAT MONSTERS at Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow 2018, nearly two decades after it was shot, writer / director Kelly Greene reflects on the film’s long and winding journey, reveals his Christmas movie plans and his inter-dimensional monster creations bent on re-claiming the Earth…

Q: How did ATTACK OF THE BAT MONSTERS come about?

The idea for ATTACK OF THE BAT MONSTERS was generated from serendipitous research into 1950s sci-fi lore for my Master's thesis on post-war Universal science-fiction films. A.I.P. and Roger Corman really stood out. I was struck by Corman's ruthless efficiency, such as using car headlights when generators failed during night shooting; his conflicts with Paul Blaisdell, Paul Birch and method actors; Susan Cabot almost suffocating during the climax to WASP WOMAN; Corman's symbiotic relationships with Beverly Garland, Jack Nicholson, Chuck Griffith, Francis Ford Coppola, ad infinitum. Most remarkable to me was Corman's repeated M.O. of shooting a second film with leftover sets and actors on contract after wrapping early on BUCKET OF BLOOD, LAST WOMAN ON EARTH, and THE RAVEN, which resulted in, respectively, LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS, CREATURE FROM THE HAUNTED SEA, and THE TERROR.

Q: The film is full of comic evocation of 1950s’ grade-Z grindhouse. Which films particularly inspired you?

For the black-and-white movie being produced in the film. I borrowed generously from ATTACK OF THE CRAB MONSTERS and IT CONQUERED THE WORLD. But there are numerous Easter eggs throughout BAT MONSTERS for history buffs, designed to pay tribute to different aspects of 50s sci-fi. John Carradine's penchant for Shakespeare, wardrobe mishaps on the set of THE ASTOUNDING SHE MONSTER, Lon Chaney Jr.'s drinking woes, Hazel Court's claims of nude scenes shot for European market – many, many others. The dancers' encounter with super adhesive tape was actually a story I stole from a gal that worked at a Texas Renaissance Festival.

Q: When was the film first screened?

We shot the film in Super 16MM but we couldn't afford to cut the negative for a film print, so I edited the film on BetaSP which is standard definition video. It premiered in L.A. at the Dances With Films Festival, in the summer of 2000 and won the Grand Jury for Best Feature. Corman's Concorde-New Horizon and Arrow Entertainment both liked the movie and offered finishing funds, 30,000 dollars, to cut the negative for a 35MM and/or a DigiBeta master. Remember that format? I turned them both down, hoping to do a straight sale of the film. Remember, those were the days of million dollar deals for no-name films like CLERKS, THE BROTHERS McMULLEN and EL MARIACHI. I just wanted to make my money back! I also turned down Troma. At the time, I was getting requests for VHS screeners from Miramax, Palm Pictures and several smaller distributors.

Q: Was it not picked up for distribution?

No. By 2001 no more offers were forthcoming, so I revisited Arrow, Corman and Troma, who were now “no longer interested.” Lessons learned: One, despite their claims, distributors take rejection personally. Two, find an experienced sales agent, producer's rep (whatever you want to call him/her), let them negotiate. So I put the project in mothballs. Then, Mark Rance, from Watchmaker Films got in touch in 2009, offered to scan the negative and conform to 2K and distribute on DVD, Blu-ray. We signed the film over, mainly because of Mark's offer to upgrade the film for the new HD world.

Q: FrightFest knows Mark Rance as he brought Tobe Hooper’s Eggshells to the festival in 2010. He has lovingly refurbished your film. How did you two work together?

Like most long-distance relationships, it's been difficult. Mark is in London and I work out of Austin. But Mark has two strengths that have tremendous value. First, he's very astute technically when it comes to film-to-digital transfer. Secondly, he's a true cineaste. His restoration of Eagle Pennell's LAST NIGHT AT THE ALAMO was extraordinary. I think he likes the idea of resurrecting films, kind of a Lazarus complex.

Q: Although the film is a wonderful homage to low budget horror and fantasy films, it’s brilliantly crafted and has a very special humour all of its own. Did you set out to write a comedy?

I set out to tell a story about men and women engaged in a mission, almost like a caper film. From that standpoint, I hope it has universal appeal, regardless of the viewer's esoteric knowledge of film history. The majority of the film's action is meant to be amusing, but there are deliberate scenes designed to be purely dramatic and even to produce pathos. We had no budget for rehearsals, and some of the actors came to set with their performances cranked up and manic, as if they were trying to be funny, and I had to squeeze them down a bit.

Q: The acting is consistently brilliant throughout. Tell us about a little about the casting process.

We didn't have the money for a SAG project. I actually built the film around Michael Dalmon, who played Chuck. I had worked with him on numerous video shorts and knew how talented he was. Many of the actors were poached from a film-acting class of an Austin-based instructor named Marco Perella. Check out Marco's work in BOYHOOD – I thought he stole the movie while he was in it. From that class, Fred Ballard, Ryan Wickerham, and Rob Bassetti all understood the less-is-more approach I was after. Kudos to Mark Spacek, my co-producer, who suggested a ton of great actors that I never met until they got to set, like Doug Taylor, Bill Wise, Robert Graham and Maurice Ripke. Mark did a nice turn as Harry, the make-up artist, as well. Casie Waller came in at the last second as Beverly and showed incredible attention to detail. She studied Beverly Garland's films, designed her own hair, and mastered an utterly perfect scream.

Q: Are you excited about it being presented at FrightFest Glasgow all these years later?

“Terrified” is more accurate. We're being screened alongside smart stylish horror films that clearly had real budgets. However, it's truly an honour and this is a bucket-list kind of thing, to finally see the film projected in its full glory in a theatrical setting. Here's the thing – Tom Hennig shot those scenes in the quarry during winter days in perpetual “golden hour” lighting, on 25 ASA Kodak film, usually at F16 or F22, so we're talking minimal grain and depth of field worthy of Gregg Toland. This is a rare instance when a Super 16MM film should look like gorgeous 35MM. I'm interested in seeing how that stock holds up with the faster film we used indoors.

Q: Are there plans to make another film in a similar style?

I originally envisioned BAT MONSTERS as part of a trilogy. The second film, THE BAT MONSTERS WALK AMONG US, takes place in Mexico in the mid-60s, focusing on the Lucha Libre vs. classic monsters craze there, while the third, BRIDE OF THE BAT MONSTERS, would move to Austin in 1974 to explore the environment that produced TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE.

Q: Finally, if not more ‘Bat Monsters’, what’s next from you?

Horror, science fiction and fantasy are my true cinematic loves. I adore certain aspects of the Lovecraftian horror model and I've designed my own series of inter-dimensional monsters bent on re-claiming the Earth, which I'm referring to as “Disciples of the Cosmic Rift.” I've written the first script, called AMERICAN MONSTERS, and I've outlined the other two.

Conversely, I've also been studying the plots and structure of those Christmas movies that have become part of the American TV landscape after Thanksgiving in the U.S. It's truly the hot new exploitation sub-genre, since we're talking about an annual wide-open market of films driven by inherently low-budget scenarios. My hope is to be the Val Lewton of the holiday season, to lure people in thinking they're seeing a silly Christmas romance, then hopefully give them something a little more substantial. Christmas movies have so much potential in that regard. Also, I'm currently in meetings here in Austin with Tom Hennig and another writer-producer-director, Jeff Stohland, to shoot something that we can turn around and get out into this voracious demand for streaming content.

ATTACK OF THE BAT MONSTERS is showing at the Glasgow Film Theatre on Fri 2 March, 3.50pm as part of Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow 2017. Kelly Greene will be attending.