Wednesday 23 May 2018

Film news (UK): Horror Channel to celebrate the films of John Carpenter

From horrific hauntings and supernatural sorcery to alien invasions and blood-sucking battles, Saturday nights on Horror Channel at 9pm in June will be devoted to John Carpenter, one of the true Masters of Horror.

The celebratory season is highlighted by the network premieres of Carpenter’s classic car-rage chiller CHRISTINE, with the superb Harry Dean Stanton, and JOHN CARPENTER’S VAMPIRES, a horror Western starring James Woods, as a vengeful, stake-wielding bloodsucker hunter. It also includes iconic favourite THE FOG, the high-kicking fantasy thriller BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA and his timely sci-fi political thriller THEY LIVE.

Full film details of season in transmission order:

Sat 2 June @ 21:00 – THE FOG (1980)

A Northern California fishing town, built 100 years ago over an old leper colony, is the target for revenge by a killer fog containing zombie-like ghosts seeking revenge for their deaths. John Carpenter’s first horror thriller following Halloween, starring Jamie Lee Curtis, Janet Leigh and the great man himself.

Sat 9 June @ 21:00 – CHRISTINE (1983) *Network Premiere

High school geek Arnie Cunningham falls in love with "Christine", a bright red 1958 Plymouth Fury which has seen much better days. Setting himself the task of restoring the car to its original condition, Arnie has become consumed with passion for the sleek, rounded, chrome-laden car. His friends are horrified but it’s too late - anyone seeking to come between them becomes the victim of Christine's horrifying wrath.

Sat 16 June @ 21:00 – BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (2007)

Hard-boiled truck driver Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) gets caught in a bizarre conflict in San Francisco's Chinatown when an ancient Chinese prince and Chinatown crime lord kidnaps a beautiful green-eyed woman Miao Yin (Suzee Pai). Miao is the fiancée of Jack's best friend and Jack must help rescue the girl before the evil Lo Pan uses her to break the ancient curse that keeps him a fleshless and immortal spirit.

Sat 23 June @ 21:00 – THEY LIVE (2001)

John Carpenter wrote and directed this science fiction thriller about a group of aliens who try to take over the world by disguising themselves as Young Republicans. Wrestler Roddy Piper stars as John Nada, a drifter who makes his way into an immense encampment for the homeless. There he stumbles upon a conspiracy concerning aliens who have hypnotised the populace through subliminal messages transmitted through the media…

Sat 30 June @ 21:00 – JOHN CARPENTER’S VAMPIRES (1998) *Network Premiere

James Woods is Jack Crow, leader of a team of vampire hunters hired by the Vatican. After wiping out a vampire nest in rural New Mexico, "Team Crow" is savagely ambushed by the unholy Valek (Thomas Ian Griffith), a vicious 600-year-old vampire. Valek is nearing the end of a long search for the elusive Berziers Cross, the ritual implement that can give him and all vampires omnipotent power to walk in the daylight. Crow pursues Valek through the high deserts, culminating in a fateful and final confrontation.

There are five other prime-time network premieres this month, headed by Timo Vuorensola’s barnstorming surreal sci-fier IRON SKY (Fri 8 June, 9pm) and James Wan’s supernatural stunner INSIDIOUS (Fri 15 June, 9pm), the first in the popular franchise. Plus, there’s killer crocs aplenty in LAKE PLACID 3 (Fri I June, 9pm), Emily Blunt fighting off a horde of menacing apparitions in WIND CHILL (Fri 22 June, 9pm) and THIR13TEEN GHOSTS (Fri 29 June, 9pm), the ultimate house of horror.


Tuesday 22 May 2018

Interview with Christopher A. Micklos and Jay Sapiro

How does one sell their film to a big-time distributor? Christopher A. Micklos and Jay Sapiro, directors of The Nursery, let us in on some of the moves we’ll find in their playbook.

How would you describe the film? What was your pitch to, say, Uncork’d Entertainment?

SAPIRO:  As far as the style goes, we wanted The Nursery to look, sound, and feel like an old‐school, circa 1980 horror classic—the babysitter in peril!—while reflecting and leveraging the technological and cultural realities of 2017. More directly, this is, more or less, how we typically describe the film: When college freshman Ranae agrees to babysit for a family with a tragic past, her run-of-the-mill Saturday night quickly turns into a confrontation with unspeakable horror. Stalked by a sinister presence and haunted by ghosts from her own past, Ranae and her friends must confront an angry, evil spirit determined to hunt them down one-by-one on a deliberate march toward its ultimate prey in The Nursery.

MICKLOS: As Jay said, we have always thought of and described The Nursery as a cinematic throwback to the dark, stripped-down horror films of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s that we grew up on, while channeling some of the concepts and thematic innovations of the subsequent decades. From low budget classics like John Carpenter’s Halloween and Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm to modern indie gems like House of the Devil, the films that have inspired me, personally, the most prioritize suspense over gore, maintain a consistent but escalating sense of desperation and dread, and situate a supernatural narrative in a very real, very recognizable suburban environment. That said, if I recall, our official pitch to Uncork’d was something more like: please, please, please, please distribute our movie!

Is it fair to say that it’s not the traditional, flashy teen horror flick?

SAPIRO: That's absolutely correct. While we drew inspiration from some of the best classic horror pictures, we definitely added character depth and a few spins where you wouldn't expect it. That said, the film doesn't try to be something it's not. We didn't try to be too clever or overreach relative to the story or the promise of the genre. If you like fun, classic horror films that have great jump scares and unexpected plot twists, then I think you'll enjoy The Nursery.

MICKLOS: If it’s not traditional, it’s mainly because of the throwback nature of the film and because the aesthetics that inspired us are necessarily those that are considered so run-of-the-mill today. That said, we certainly are aiming for a younger audience in their teens and twenties, which is a pretty fertile audience for a film like this and one that has been essential to support the horror genre over the years! I think, though, that what sets us apart a bit from the standard low-budget, indie horror fare aimed at this audience is a few things. One, we aren’t exploitive at all in our approach to the material or the cast. There is some blood, yes, but we didn’t set out to make a gore fest…and while our cast is primarily female, we didn’t find any excuse possible to get them out of their shirts and bras. So that’s different, right there. Second, we didn’t want The Nursery to be winking at the audience or to constantly be wanting to show the audience how smart we were or how much we think we’re better than the genre, which is a trap that I think a lot of horror movies fall into these days. I love horror. I don’t need to be better than the horror genre! As far as I’m concerned, there isn’t anything that IS better than the horror genre. So our movie is very straight-forward. We respect the genre, we respect the audience, and we simply set out to make a fun, engaging horror film that we thought we would enjoy ourselves!

Are either of you parents? Is that what motivated this narrative?

MICKLOS: All of us, actually, are parents: Jay and I, and then our third partner, Glenn Chung, who was instrumental to The Nursery every step of the way. Of the three of us, I’m the newest father: my little girl was about two years old when we started the movie, whereas Jay’s and Glenn’s kids are much older. So, I’d say that while my experiences having a baby at home certainly inspired some of the creative ideas and images that ended up in the film, the story really originated from the idea that we wanted to make that old school, 1980-ish feeling horror movie…and some of the most effective movies of that era were the babysitter-in-peril movies, as I mentioned earlier. So, that was probably the bigger influence on the direction of the narrative than any personal experiences I or any of us had as parents. We started with the babysitter-in-peril thing, and we also knew that we wanted to weave in technology as much as we could. So, when you watch the movie, you have all of the action and activity with devices—phones, iPads, computers, etc.—throughout the film. And then we hammered out the story!

SAPIRO: I think that all of us being parents definitely helped us as we developed the concept, but that wasn't really our starting point.  Glenn, Chris and I have been talking about making a feature length film for years. We had a couple of starts on other movies, but nothing really materialized.  So, at one point a couple of years ago, we simply agreed that it was time to make it happen. For my part, I would sit at my place and think about what we could produce on a micro-budget that would have the same impact as a feature film with deeper pockets. I have large windows where I live, so I’d grab an erasable marker and just write idea after idea all over my windows. I’d then take those ideas to Glenn and Chris. We’d kick my concepts around along with all the ones that they brought to the table. In that crazy collaborative process, the idea for The Nursery was born.

How easy is it to co-direct a movie? C’mon, be honest!

SAPIRO: For us, it was second nature.  Anyone who knows us will tell you that Chris and I share a brain. We think alike, work extremely well together, and balance each other out when it comes to this type of work. So directing together was really an easy and obvious choice.

MICKLOS: Yeah, I hate to be boring, but it really wasn’t that hard. And, in fact, in our case it made for a better movie. Jay and I have been working together for twenty years, and we were close friends even before that. So, ninety-nine times out of a hundred, we both know exactly what the other one is thinking, we can anticipate how the other one is going to respond to an issue that comes up or a challenge that we’d have to face, and we can communicate about as well as any two people you could ever name. So, in many ways, co-directing was a natural fit for the two of us. That said, there are certainly times when you don’t see a scene the same way, when you have a different idea of how a shot sequence should play out, and so on and so forth. So, when that happened, if we had time, we’d shoot it both ways and then revisit it in post-production, where we pretty much always agreed on which approach ultimately worked best. Or we’d simply, walk over into a corner or another room and talk through our differing ideas…and then come back talk to the cast and crew with one voice.

What do you believe your individual strengths are?

SAPIRO: Well, I can bend a spoon with my mind! Oh, that's not what you meant. Joking aside, I honestly think we're the perfect team. Chris has an amazing ability to take a concept and flesh it out to a fantastic script, I have a knack for producing media, and Glenn is incredible with design and special effects. Some of our strengths do overlap, and we crossover now and then; however; when it comes to filmmaking, we try to focus on what each of us does best.

MICKLOS: That’s a great question…and one that’s hard to answer without sounding like an arrogant ass! So, they only thing that I’ll really say on my own behalf is that, as a lifelong horror fan, I think I bring a lot of knowledge to the table of the genre, its history, its philosophy and psychology…and also audience expectations and so on. And all that plays into the decisions you make at every stage in the process of making a horror film.

Tell us about the production company. Got a lot on your slate? When did you create it?

SAPIRO: Well, we have two. One, Visuality, has been around for more than 20 years. We produce ads and video, place media online and with traditional outlets, create websites, consult, etc. Our other firm, Three Tortured Minds, was formed when we made the leap into the feature film universe. The Nursery is our first film under the Three Tortured Minds banner. We have another movie in the early stages of development, and that one—as well as all of our future film-related projects—will be a Three Tortured Minds endeavour.

MICKLOS: Not much I can add to that! So fade to black…

Monday 21 May 2018

Interview with Steeve Leonard and Caroline Labreche - Directors of Radius

Ahead of Horror Channel’s UK TV premiere screening of RADIUS, directors Steeve Leonard and Caroline Labreche talk last minute casting, corpses and making the FrightFest audience cry…

Horror Channel is broadcasting the UK TV premiere of RADIUS. Are you a fan of the channel?

Steeve: We unfortunately don’t have Horror Channel in Quebec, but from what I’ve seen from you guys, it looks awesome. I would’ve loved growing up with that on my TV!

The film has a highly original premise. Where did the inspiration come from?

Steeve: It was a long process, 4 years I think… At first we wanted to do something like Oldboy, with a man and a woman who realize they share a dark past; that’s where the serial killer aspect came to mind. We didn’t write much based on that alone. Then later, when the radius of death idea came to us, we decided to merge these two ideas and see if we could intertwine them together.

The film carries us into deep emotional waters as well as being a cleverly-spun Sci-fi thriller. What is the underlying message you want people to take from the film?

Caroline: We always wanted people to exit the movie and start asking themselves: “if your memory is erased, are you still guilty for your past crimes, can you be convicted if you truly don’t remember”? And we, as the writers, still don’t have a clear answer for this. Liam’s redemption (or at the very least, his punishment) was always something along the lines of what we have now. Our idea was that upon learning and absorbing the fact that he used to be utter scum, the good half of Liam would turn out to be stronger, and it would make him do the right thing. But again, does he truly deserve to die, now that his good half is aware and repentant? Hmm…discuss!

What were the biggest challenges you faced making the film?

Steeve: As with any film, big or small, the answer is: time and money. I’m sure Ryan Johnson (Star Wars) would say the same thing.

Is it true that the lead actor, Diego Klattenhoff, was only cast four days before shooting started?

Caroline: Yep! So was Charlotte Sullivan (Jane). Sometimes casting just happens that way. Getting the right actors on board is a combination of timing, budget, schedule, personality, marketability, etc… And sometimes getting all of these things to click takes a while. We got our leads late in the process, but we got exactly what we needed: talented actors who took the material and made it their own. We love the work they did.

There’s a funny production story about you trying to make a corpse out of a sack of potatoes. We’d like to know more!

Steeve: There’s a scene in the movie where (SPOILERS Diego has to dump a wrapped up body in a pond, and, we didn’t have the necessary dummy to wrap up. Anyway, the props department had to work fast, so they told us they’d make a dummy out of 50 pound sacks of potatoes. We said okay, and they built the thing — wrapped it up in a tarp and everything, and it looked like a human body. So… on the day, we get Diego on the boat and the crew hands him this wobbly, 200 pound body, and then we get the camera ready — we had a drone above him, too, and we were pretty excited about that.

So anyway, we get ready and then we tell him to drop this thing in the water on the count of three, and we were gonna do this thing where, as soon as the body starts to sink, we’d fly the drone upwards really fast, creating this cool dizzying shot. So we countdown: 1…2…3… he dumps it in and… It. Does. Not. Sink.  And then it hits all of us at the same time: oh… yeah… potatoes float. I felt my soul step outside my body and slap me in the back of the head for being such a moron. Anyway, we tried to punch holes in the tarp to make it sink. We tried it again but it never really worked. So we had to move on without that shot. I made it work in the edit, but that cool dizzying shot never got made.

When the film received its European Premiere at FrightFest last year it got a tremendous reception from both critics and the audience. What are your abiding memories of the event?

Steeve: Obviously, the UK showings were a great treat for us. Everybody was nice and very supportive of the film. But I think the two major moments Caro and I will take away are, firstly, the moment we walked into the theatre and saw the Imax-sized screen the film was going to be shown on. At that moment, we felt very small, very undeserving, very nervous. It was like: “oh crap, how will the film look and feel on such a huge screen”? But when it started, it was also very cool, very epic to see. The second moment was at the end of the movie, when Liam pulls the trigger: I turned around and looked at the audience, and I saw a bunch of guys wiping the corners of their eyes. I turned to Caro and said: “I can’t believe it, we made English people cry! This is working!” It was a good feeling!

How did you start your filmmaking career together?

Steeve: Caro and I have been making films ever since we enrolled in film school. We’ve always worked together. Caro has done some side projects without me — she’s actually shooting another movie this fall. One day I fear that she’ll finally realize that I serve no purpose whatsoever in our directing duo, hahaha!

How would you describe the chemistry / working relationship between you?

Steeve: On set, Caro usually deals with the technical side of things, while I go and talk to the actors. Then we meet up and discuss everything, make some adjustments, and that’s about it. We do a take or two, then try some variants that either me or her have in mind.

Caroline: we also like to be extra prepared. We discuss and over-analyse everything in advance, we storyboard as much as possible — we always have a shot list on hand. When we get on set, we usually have an answer for every situation.

Steeve: and we never argue on set. We keep that for home, hahaha!

Finally, what’s next?

Caroline: We’re currently working on another sci-fi thriller, this time with horror undertones.  We can’t say much right now, as we’re getting ready to shop the script all over town.  We also have a robot sci-fi film and a slasher film with a neat twist in the works.

Radius is broadcast on Fri 25 May, 9.00pm, Horror Channel

Thursday 17 May 2018

Interview with Jim Hickcox

Shot in just eleven days, sci-fi horror Soft Matter premieres on VOD 5/22 from Wild Eye Releasing.

Jim Hickcox's feature debut tells of two graffiti artists that break into an abandoned, reportedly haunted research facility in hopes of creating an art installation, but stumble upon a team of demented researchers who are in the process of resurrecting an ancient sea creature - who they now must fight in order to not become their next experiment.

How would you describe the movie, sir?

I'd call it a "party horror" – it's the kind of horror movie that's going to be more fun with a crowd.

Is it fair to say that audiences will be surprised by what's on offer here?

I'm going to answer this with a direct quote from a review of Soft Matter by Bad Movie

Night: "I don't know how you could expect this movie."

Who or what were your influences on the film?

Stuart Gordon, the color pink, slimy trash, a fear of death.

And in terms of your directing choices, any shots inspired by other filmmakers?

A lot of the framing choices were pretty heavily influenced by A Walk to Remember, starring Mandy Moore, but the lensing was more referential to the original Taking of Pelham 123.

How tough a shoot was it?

The day before we started, the city cut all the utilities to the building, which was a huge hurdle, and on day one it started pouring and half the building flooded. We also, because the building was condemned and "haunted", had to deal with mildew, ghosts, and occasionally discovering containers of human waste.

What's one thing you learnt on this movie that you will or won't apply to the next one you do?

We shot this in eleven days with almost no money, so I made a lot of choices very fast. I think that kind of pacing and scale is a thing I'll continue to work with. There's one moment that I wish I had one more shot of coverage of, so that's a lesson for me, and a few things we didn't have time to adequately test out in preproduction, which I'd like to take more time for in the future.

Is there a moment in the film that you're particularly proud of?

The real standout in the film is obviously Mister Sacks, so that's a big joy for me, because I've loved him since the writing phase. I also have a lot of fondness for "Jaws 3".

What's next for you?

I have several plates in the air - I'm starting a small production company ( with a couple of friends, and we're halfway done shooting our second feature, a werewolf movie co-production. We also have scripts written for a few more projects in the $30k-$200k range, and we're hoping to start pulling together resources to start work on one of them soon.