Monday, December 31, 2007

Goodbye 2007!

While there were a few setbacks that came with 2007, it was infinitely better than 2006, and I feel fondness towards this dying year. 2007, for the most part, was good to us, though it kicked the asses of a lot of our friends and family. Because, of course, that's what years do. We've forced our lunar cycle into this arbitrary box of time-telling--our year ends tonight, China's ends later in Febrary, and the Aztecs STILL thumb their noses at us--so the year acts appropriately as it trudges along through the 365. It slaps us with tidings good and bad and never in equal amounts. (Good luck, after all, arrives at the door alone, with a small gift and threadbare clothes; bad luck comes with overfilling sacks and has brought all his drunken relatives.)

What 2007 is leaving me with, however, is a sense of calm and inexplicable optimism towards 2008. I can't explain it--no more than I could explain the optimism I felt at the close 2006 (though perhaps that was more desperation than anything else)--but I have high hopes for 2008. And I wish everyone the very best of all possible fortune for the coming year.

So tonight, let us all eat, drink and be merry (or be Carl, what do I care?). Or rest, or cower or hold your breath until the damned ball drops. In other words: Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Sirens of Cinema and a free gift!

Let's see, I've pimped the new Fangoria appearance and our blatantly-positive Feast of Flesh reviews, what's next?

Oh, yes: Sirens of Cinema 10! With our swanky wrap-around cover by Holly Golightly (School Bites) celebrating 30 years of Star Wars! Also boasting interviews with Angela Bettis (May) and Kristen Kerr (Flight of the Living Dead), Julie and Lizzy Strain (Black Dahlia Movie), Debbie Rochon on The Colour from the Dark - and oodles more! Plus, the word "oodles"!

AND, we have a special treat for new subscribers: for a VERY limited time, if you pick up a subscription to Sirens of Cinema (for a ridiculously low price, click HERE) you'll receive a free DVD copy of The Splatter Movie Companion. This special DVD was created by Amy and I strictly for Sirens readers and boasts footage that cannot be seen anywhere else. (When the official DVD of Splatter Movie is finally released, this Companion featurette will NOT be included - this is the only way you'll get to see some of this footage, which ties directly into the Splatter Movie mythology.) Plus, a sneak-peek at one of the stories from the upcoming Brinke's Tales of Horror created by the late Joe D. Casey.

All this-- all the Leia goodness, the reviews, the articles--come for the nouns, stay for the verbs! Buy the consonants and the vowels come free (including "Y" for a limited time!)

Keep Sirens alive and subscribe. That way, you won't feel all sad and rejected when you go to Barnes and Noble only to discover that the issue is sold out! (And if it isn't sold out, do us a solid, willya, and move it down in front of lesser magazines like People or Time. Corporate bastards...) You'll get a year's worth of cool issues and eye-popping, suitable-for-framing covers (seriously... Joe Jusko? Mike Lilly?? How DO we do it?). And seriously, what else were you planning on doing with your money? Buying food? Didn't you eat yesterday?

So CLICK HERE and get your subscription and your free copy of The Splatter Movie Companion. This is a limited offer so strike while the fire is hot, or whatever that saying is. Or don't come crying to us when all of your friends have theirs and won't let you see them (seriously, guys - don't let them see it! It'll be our secret and we can giggle and text each other behind their backs!).

Only after you receive your subscription will you ever truly be happy...

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Feast of Flesh reviews for fun!

The reviews for A Feast of Flesh are still coming in. The majority of them have been positive, and the negative ones have been truly negative. I've only seen one so far that was just "eh, it's okay". So what we have here, folks, is a "love it or hate it" movie. Which is fine by me.

I thought I'd post links to some of the positive ones, here, just to keep the momentum going. I'd post links to the negative ones, too, but we're contractually not allowed. I don't particularly care - the joke's on the guys who hated it, ya know? They're the ones who requested the screeners and had to sit through it! - and I enjoy a good insult as much as anyone, even if I'm the recipient. But there's this mode of thinking that negative press doesn't help sales. So... okay, I'll remain eyes fixed upon the financial prize and keep the negative reviews sequestered to Google searches.

Anyway, my most recent favorite comes from Tim "Tex Massacre" Anderson over at Bloody Disgusting, who wrote that I come off like a "leprechaun with a Tommy gun".

Another favorite comes from Movies Made Me Do It, who wrote "A Feast of Flesh is a great vampire film, and this is coming from someone who normally skips over any DVD that even references another vampire flick." He seems to like all of our movies, so he holds a special place in my heart.

Speaking of people I love, Doug Waltz gave us a glowing review on Cult Cuts, but the site seems to have vanished. I'll try and get Doug to send me a transcription and post it here, because he always makes Amy and I seem like geniuses. Doug makes us happy.

Another of my favorite people, Michael Den Boer, says that, with AFOF, "Director Mike Watt avoids the sophomore curse" and goes on to say other nice things about the movie over at his wonderful site 10,000 Bullets.

David Carter at Film Fanaddict liked Amy a whole lot: "Amy Lynn Best does a commendable job as the film’s lead and displays a broader range of emotions that one typically sees in a low budget horror film."

Eros-LA gave A Feast of Flesh "Six chainsaws, five vibrators, and a high-five."

Oddly enough, the ones who seemed to enjoy it the most were the kind fellows at Mr. Skin. I don't have an account so I'm not sure how the rest of the review plays out, but it starts off enouraging HERE.

AND... in other news, Fangoria #269 just hit the stands and I finally got to hold a copy in my hands... and I've been leaving the other copies on the shelves open to our page. I'm thrilled beyond words. If you haven't bought your copy yet, you really don't love me, do you?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Horrible Allegation

After battling the cold and spending over three grand on a new furnace, Amy and I received a very disturbing email on Saturday. The message was sent by a former acquaintance who is not a friend of ours any longer (in fact, the email stated "We're not friends and I don't wish to be, however I can't allow this to happen to anyone I know"). The Good Samaritan told us to check out our Feast of Flesh page on the IMDb and told us that we should "do something about it".

I was sitting with my back to the door and a cyber terrorist came up behind me and shot me in the back of the head. Someone had taken it upon themselves to steal the review from—which is a legitimately negative (and scathing) review—and add a single line, hidden several paragraphs down, accusing me of being a "true life" criminal, guilty, it alleges of a particularly heinous crime. It was all of six words, but it was the most damaging accusation I've ever received and it was—I hope it goes without saying—completely untrue.

I've been accused of being a lot of things, many of them justifiable and fairly accurate. I'm belligerent, egotistical, sarcastic, insulting, unnecessarily cruel to family and friends—I'm not proud of (most of) these things. But I can't deny they're true. But I'm not a criminal of any sort and I'm not a danger to anyone. And I didn't appreciate being accused of such. At all.

(This blog is going to be vague for a variety of necessary reasons. For one thing, I don't want to come right out and state the accusation because one of the things we killed ourselves to achieve over the past few days was getting that accusation expunged from the IMDb in the first place. I'd rather not have this allegation anywhere on the web. So let your imagination roam—what could possibly be the one accusation that would send me over the edge? Secondly, I'm not going to name names here, either. The party responsible would like to have the attention, even the negative attention, and I'm not going to give him the satisfaction.)

The post was signed with the title of a movie I recognized. So as to not cause the producers of this film undue harm, I'm going to make up a title, let's say Hellnukkah (don't steal it—that one's ours!). I was familiar with the project and knew a couple of folks involved with the film, including one who I'd never met but had caused a lot of problems for a very good friend of ours. We'll call this problematic person "Asshole 1". Because of recent horror stories about "Asshole 1" and our good friend (we'll call her "Gloria" for no particular reason), I was convinced very quickly that "Asshole 1" was the one who plagiarized the CHUD review and added the Horrible Allegation. I know a little bit about psychology and came to the conclusion that "Asshole 1" did this to a) prove to "Gloria" that she couldn't get away with leaving him and hurt her obliquely; b) attack me for being a friend of "Gloria"'s. The fact that he buried the Horrible Allegation in the body of the review proved that he wasn't very confrontational and the only people who would see it would be people searching for it (like, say, the FBI). Using a previously-published negative review, he was hoping I'd go after the author. Since I was familiar with the review in its original form, and since it didn't originally have the Horrible Allegation, I contacted CHUD and told them about the plagiarism, while, at the same time, sent half a dozen complaints to the IMDb to have them remove the comment.

Now, I actually had no problem with the review being on the page. I don't mind negative reviews at all, even scathing ones. There are a couple of funny lines in the piece, it's well thought-out and he backs up his opinions, rather than just spewing insults. He didn't like the movie; that's his right and it's fine. I just wanted the Horrible Allegation removed.

I was sinking deeper and deeper into a rage, however, and wanted to enact vengeance on Asshole 1. Violent vengeance. But I couldn't prove, yet, that Asshole 1 was indeed the author of the post. The breadcrumbs were leading to him though. Particularly signing the post with the "Hellnukkah" screen name. I attributed that mis-step to ego. Like the Zodiac Killer taunting the police and the newspapers.

When you work in any community or industry for a long enough period of time, you make enemies. Not as many as you do friends, provided you're not a complete wretch of a human being. So we have them. I have more than Amy does because, frankly… well, see above. I can be a bit of a bastard. I have people who dislike me in the publishing industry, people who dislike me because of reviews I'd written or general dealings I'd had in the past. Or they don't like me because their friends don't like me or… pick a reason. But the most "dangerous one", the ones who have been the most outspoken of my enemies, make up a very small group.

We went through the short list of people who would be most likely to pull something like this and came up with… bagel. None of the current persona-non-gratas of the Happy Cloud Clan would stoop that low. Not all of my enemies are classy, but the bulk of them would prefer to vilify me and vindicate themselves at the same time. The majority would be more apt to post "This is what he did and this is how it affected me!" And very few of them—again, as near to zero as I can calculate—would ever be this oblique. They'd want me to know what they said about me and how they felt. Because the fact of the matter is, most of my enemies used to be my friends. We're no longer friends because of a disagreement or falling out and there are more hurt feelings than there are thoughts of vengeance or ruining my life. And the same goes for how I feel about them. There are rifts that can't be mended. I'll draw your attention to the person who alerted us to this situation in the first place, the Good Samaritan. We're not friends any more and there's very little chance we ever will be. I can't think of anyone who hates me more than he does.

But even he had my back when it came to something like this.

Amy took the reins from there. She called Pop Cinema to see if anything could be done on their end. Paige Davis logged on and found a name associated with the account. A guy named Steve. A guy we know named Steve. A guy we know named Steve who lives in Pittsburgh and has been to our shows, we've been to dinner with him, we've worked with friends of his and, indeed, are friends with his friends. So my theory—my assurance—that it was "Asshole 1" went completely down the drain. And so did my rage.

Depression quickly replaced my fury. Instead of having an enemy out to destroy my life, I was now faced with the prospect of having a jokester plaguing me. The Horrible Allegation was, suddenly, a very unfunny joke at my expense. We called friends of Steve and told them that he should contact us immediately, or I was going to have his ass thrown in jail.

Again, the Horrible Allegation, particularly in this political climate, is something that could have gotten me arrested "for my own good and the good of the community" pending an investigation. Which, possibly, could mean my being thrown into general population of any number of judicial facilities until such a time as an investigation could be set underway. In which case, my good friends would be called upon to 25th Hour my ass so I didn't wind up a subplot on the OZ reunion movie.

I was expecting Steve to email us or call us with denials, and he did. And in my paranoid state, I was ready to judge any denial as a lie or a CYA, but then, midway through the email, he dropped a name that I recognized. We'll call this person "Asshole 3" because he's just not cool enough to be the next asshole on the list. Actually, I think we'll bump him down to "Asshole 11" because that's what kind of nobody he is.

"Asshole 11" is one of those people who wants attention and wants to be noticed by people he admires. But he fixates on these people early and comes out on the offensive even before he introduces himself. It's an insecurity, a social dysfunction. He wants so much to be the badass in the room, the guy who knows everything and knows how to do it better than everyone else and wants everyone to look up to him for his badassedness. The problem is, he's not much of a badass and is more of a jerk than anything else. After a very annoying first encounter with him—through the internet, never in person—I started to ignore him. There was no sense in responding to him because I'd always be met with more abuse, more insults. He didn't weigh very heavily on my thoughts as I find flame wars to be very boring, so I stopped giving in. And, after a while, I stopped hearing from him. Everyone has one of these dipshits in their lives. They don't go by their real names on the web, you only have a vague idea of who they are, and you suffer them until they find someone else to annoy.

Message boards are filled with these people.

Apparently, Steve ran afoul of "Asshole 11" on a couple of boards and the guy started using Steve's name to flame other people. For fun. To discredit any opinion Steve would have. To make trouble, etc. Because of one particular board they both frequented, one from which "Asshole 11" was banned, I found the connection between him, Steve and the Hellnukkah people. "Asshole 11" had no idea that we had any connection with "Asshole 1"; the Hellnukkah thing was just to make them look even worse. As it turns out, he'd been using Hellnukkah in addition to Steve's name to flame other people. The Hellnukkah people even posted that on their official site—that the flames were not coming from them.

The vengeance returned, but not in the religious sense. I was suddenly very tired. I called a lawyer friend of mine and asked about my options. Most people recommended that I nail the motherfucker to the legal wall. My lawyer friend replied that there isn't a lot to be gained from it, that I'd spend more on legal fees than I'd get from suing him. Libel isn't a crime in PA, it's a civil matter, and the statutes might be different in the state that "Asshole 11" calls home. My lawyer friend asked me, point blank, "What do you want to get from all of this? Revenge, or the Horrible Allegation removed?" If it's the latter, then taking "Asshole 11" to court would just shine the light back on the Horrible Allegation, and then it would never go away. The Horrible Allegation and my name would be forever linked. And that's what would ruin my life. My own actions.

At this point, holes in the ground were starting to look really comfortable. As enraged as Amy was herself, however, she helped me try and get through all of this.

I don't insult easily. I'm not quick to get offended. But this Horrible Allegation fucking hurt. And when "Asshole 11" was revealed, I wondered what the hell I'd ever done to him to deserve it. The answer was: I'd ignored him. You don't ignore a psychopath—have horror movies taught me nothing?

But here I was again, with the only course of action available to me: ignoring it.

At this point, other people started coming to my aid. JimmyO, my parents, Pop Cinema, multiple other friends and family—thank you to everyone who helped out and sent in emails and phone calls of support! Seriously, thank you one and all!—all contacted the IMDb to report the libelous Horrible Allegation. Other people too including, again, someone who does not consider me a friend any longer, someone with whom I'd had a horrible falling out where terrible things were said on both sides. They went to the IMDb and demanded that the Horrible Allegation be removed because it was Just Not True. My enemies, people I'd hurt or had hurt me, had my back.

By Six O'Clock yesterday evening, the IMDb gave in to the countless complaints and took down the entire post. The plagiarized review was gone, the Horrible Allegation was gone, even my former colleague went back and deleted the Horrible Allegation from her quoted demand so that it could be expunged from all records. The Hellnukkah account had been deleted, along with any connection to Steve—whether by the IMDb or by "Asshole 11", I have no idea.

The only thing not gone at this point is the depression and the rage. I don't know how to box shadows. There's nothing saying that "Asshole 11" won't resurface again. Or that Assholes 12 through Infinity won't come with him or follow his lead. The Internet is an endless root knot of computers and there are Assholes all over the world, hiding behind their screen names and Second Life identities. They delight in being the bullies in the digital world because they're powerless in their analog life. There is truly nothing that can be done. I have to remain diligent, alert, and rely on my friends to keep me safe. And marvel that the people I deemed against me really aren't.

There are a lot of Assholes out there. But I have to remember what I learned through all of this: that there are a lot of Really Good People, too. Even if we don't like each other.

And to all a good night.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Freezing cold and good FANGO news

Our furnace gave out over the weekend, just in time for PA's first cold snap. We're currently bundled up inside the house surrounded by space heaters (thanks to my co-worker, Jessica, for donating her office one for our current cause). No idea how much a replacement will cost or, really, how the fuck we'll pay for it, but, what the hell, right? That's what makes life fun! Anyway, one bit of news before my nethers snap off: pick up a copy of Fangoria 269 in stores now.

Why? Happy Cloud Pictures is featured in the "Notes from the Underground" section. Mr. Gingold and Mr. Timpone invited me to chronicle our ten years a few months back and now here it is in all its glory (with photos by Mike Haushalter, Carolyn Oliver, Bill Homan and Jeff Lewis). Sneak preview of the cover HERE, with a lovely caption summing up the article about midway down the page. The article covers not only our recently-released-through-Bloody-Earth DVD A Feast of Flesh, but talks about our beginnings with the rarely-seen The Resurrection Game and our upcoming Splatter Movie: The Director's Cut. It's like a history lesson and a scoop all at the same time!

I have to confess that this is an abject honor for us. I know it's fashionable among the indie elite to kick Fangoria, but I've been a reader of the mag since I was a little kid—like so many others among us. My dreams have always been to both write for the publication and have one of my movies featured within. With this issue, both dreams have come true and I couldn't be happier!

If only inner warmth could translate to outer warmth…

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Attack of the atheists!

"Why don't we trust readers? Why don't we trust filmgoers? Oh, it causes me to shake my head with sorrow that such nitwits could be loose in the world." – Philip Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials trilogy.
So the Catholic League is at it again. They’re calling for a sight-unseen boycott of The Golden Compass, which opens this weekend, but not because they object to the movie itself.
Some history: The Golden Compass, which is the U.S. title of a book called Northern Lights, the first in a trilogy uniformly called His Dark Materials, but also referred to by the author as “The Golden Compasses”, referring to the drawing devices and not the mis-identified navigational object used on the cover. Got all that? Granted, The Golden Compass is a better title than either Northern Lights or His Dark Materials (taken from a line in Milton’s Paradise Lost), but it’s actually inaccurate. But never let a little thing like accuracy halt the wheels of capitalism.
Now then, the trilogy, a fantasy about another fantastical world, has as one of its themes the idea that organized religion can easily go astray when the higher-ups get drunk on their own power and that the religion’s followers should question the decisions of its leaders. Pullman, who is himself, if not a full-blown atheist, then a pretty strident agnostic, who doesn’t seem to trust organized religion in any form. Nevertheless, this is a theme in the book and actually isn’t what the book is about. The villains are a religious splinter group called, at least in the film, “The Magisterium”.
Further: the movie has toned down this theme. “The Magisterium” on film, headed by Nicole Kidman’s character, are some sort of ruling evil political party out to destroy a little blonde girl and her friends. The decision to tone down the anti-religious aspects of the books was made very, very early on in the development process because it was believed that it might hurt the film’s chances with an American audience. This decision, made with the agreement of the author keep in mind, was then attacked by some of the book’s more rabid fans, multiple anti-censorship groups and the British-based National Secular Societyof which Pullman is an honorary associate. Okay, so they jettison the “Church can be bad for you” aspects of the book in order to get the “money is good for us” side of things locked in. I can understand this and even applaud the bold-faced admittance: “We’re going to tone down things that might piss some people off to make sure they come and bring their kids.” And, finally, since this was an undercurrent, a theme, and not what the book is actually about, I don’t see much problem with it. Everyone gets annoyed by something. Trying to please everyone is impossible because, let’s face it, everyone is an asshole in his or her own way. And it’s their right to be so as human beings.
(Keep in mind, I’m getting a lot of these facts from the ever-reliable Wikipedia, so my details might not be to the letter here, but I’m at work and that’s all I have access to at the moment. I don’t think I’m too off-base here, though.)
To recap: the book says people should question The Church—be it Roman Catholic, Church of England, Scientology, etc.. But since Roman Catholics believe themselves to be the center of the universe, they’ve already decided to that it’s a personal attack on them. Fine. Just remember that self-crucifixion is impossible because you can never get that last nail in. Fortunately, there are plenty of other irascible Catholics with hammers and nails at the ready to help you out.
To recap further: the movie has downplayed this aspect. They want your money. They don’t care if you like to give it to the Church or any church, just give some to the producers too.
To recap even further: people are already pissed off that this stuff is gone or watered down or “censored” or whatever. So the people on Pullman’s side are mad at him.
And now the Catholic League, and its head, William A. Donohue (good to his mother, likes cheese and lapdances but feels guilty about both), have called for a boycott of the film of The Golden Compass (misnamed and direct-marketed but looking slick and fancy) because…
Truly, this is my favorite part.
Honest. I love this. Fucking love this.
… because (wait for it)—even though the movie has jettisoned any “the Church is bad” (true or implied or other) themes and has placed the accent on Daniel Craig’s glare and the killer polar bears in their gladiator gear—even though none of that anti-religion stuff is there, we must boycott the movie because:
Ahem: “[T]he film will still encourage children to read the series, which League president William A. Donohue claims ‘denigrates Christianity’ and promotes ‘atheism for kids’.” Read the Wikipedia Article here.
Don’t go see the movie because your kids might want to read the books. And we all know books are harmful. They contain ideas. Beside that, they promote papercuts and eyestrain.
GOD FORBID (pun intended) that your kids might actually want to think for themselves! How would we sell them X-Boxes if they thought for themselves? Quick—offer free iPhones to anyone who doesn’t go to see the movie citing religious reasons (rather than, say, having anything better to do). Let’s not even ask the question about a faith so fragile, a religion so precariously-balanced, that a single movie or book can bring the entire thing crashing down!
Now what is genuinely entertaining me about all of this is: I had no desire to see The Golden Compass until I read about all the malarkey. I had no desire to read the books. I had no interest in CGI polar bears or non-CGI Daniel Craigs. But now damned if it isn’t at the top of my list of Things To Do.
And it ain’t just me, sportsfans. The internet is all abuzz and agog about The Golden Compass because of the “controversy”. So much so I’m actually wondering if the producers didn’t hire the Catholic League to start squawking just to get the extra publicity. Boycotts make ordinary things taboo. And people love taboo! They love to be outraged! Pious celibates will sit through burlesque shows for hours just to be offended! There are people out there who sit in front of their television sets and count the profanities all in the name of warning others! (“Censors are people who know more than they think you should.”—Ambrose Bierce)
So instead of hurting advanced word for The Golden Compass, the Catholic League has more or less ensured its success. And kids across the world will be reading the books looking for their substitute Harry Potter fix (also the subject of occasional controversy because it encourages kids to… I don’t know, study witchcraft or fight trolls or something).
Because there is one truth that I have learned. It goes for humans, yes, but Americans in particular: Americans love to be told what to think; they hate to be told what to do. Boycotts always cause these two clauses to slam into each other. And the choice of the majority is, generally, to rebel against the latter. I.e.: ‘We were told that this is evil! We hate it! We must go because they told us not to!’ God, I love boycotts! (If only someone would boycott my personal success, instead of instilling the indifference that is currently felt towards it.)
Who said that “Any man on his own is a rational individual, but upon joining a group he becomes a blockhead.” I think it was Mark Twain. Or, possibly, that Leviticus guy.
So who’s with me for The Golden Compass this week? We can tailgate. You bring the beer. The studio can bring the polar bears and the jailbait heroines. The Catholics can bring their outrage. I’ll bring the hibachi and the flammable Bibles.
* * *
Apropos of nothing, I was just reorganizing my Netflix list for the zillionth time. I have over 340 movies in queue right now, with a good mix of good, bad, classic and bound-to-be-terrible. Suddenly one of the sites recommendations popped up. It wasn’t something I was interested in (the 2nd season of Charles in Charge? That’s for me why?) to I clicked “Not Interested”. A second window popped up with “Why the hell not? You’re being choosy now??”
… I made that last part up.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Jeff's Birthday and the Technicolor Yawn

Over the weekend, I had another opportunity to face my mortality.

The week previous saw several very pleasant Thanksgiving meals with my family and Amy’s and an unpaid day off from work where I was able to clean out my email and start work on the special Splatter Movie DVD teaser for Sirens of Cinema subscribers. Also worked on proofing some of the pages for the new issue due out in December. All in all, a good day.

Saturday we attempted to help Amy’s sister Liz move into their new place but situations prevented that—nothing on our end, oddly, but everyone else’s, including the woman who was moving out of the new place. But the climax of the day was the surprise party for your friend and mine, Jeff Waltrowski. This party, a landmark celebration to mark Jeff’s 30th year on Earth, has been in preparation for almost two months, thanks to his girlfriend, Brittney, and Amy and Tara assisting. In a whirlwind of stress and Machiavellian co-ordination, the plan was to tell Jeff that we were meeting for dinner at a bar in Oakland, while, in reality, maneuvering him to pick Brittney up at her house in Mt. Lebanon, where all of his friends would be crouching in the dark, waiting to yell surprise and, hopefully, induce in Jeff a comedy-rich heart attack.

My job, which was thrust upon me by circumstance, was derailing any other plans Jeff may have made for Saturday, mostly involving preparations for his upcoming movie, Conscience. An elaborate green-screen SF extravaganza, Jeff had planned, for Saturday, a test shoot with his partner Steve Tolin (Strange Girls), his DP Jeff Garton, and their lead actor, Jason McCune. I spent a couple of days convincing him to move the shoot either earlier in the day or making sure he’d cut it early enough in the day to keep the schedule on board. Then he decided it might be better to move the shoot to the following day. So I spent the next couple of days convincing him that he was going to be far too hung over to shoot anything, for we would be doing shots well into the wee hours of the morning. That much, of course, I had planned to bring to fruition.

Meanwhile, during all of this, Amy, Brittney and Tara concentrated on contacting all of Jeff’s friends and getting them directions to Brittney’s house. Some of these guests including out-of-town folks, including his longtime friend, Carly, who lived in Florida and was proving to be increasingly difficult to get ahold of. Jeff, for his part, was making things even more difficult by inviting these same friends to the Oakland bar—including people he just ran into on the street. At this point, I became convinced that Jeff knew what was happening and was just trying to make life miserable for the girls.

Amy and I got over to Brittney’s about 6:00 – Jeff was due over at 7:00. Tara, Dave (who did the make-up and photography for the Feast of Flesh cover, respectively) and artist Jacob Ross were already there, putting up the decorations for the party. A running gag amongst the Hero Headquarters/Happy Cloud clan is that Jeff attempts to win every argument by saying “Oh yeah? I have more Picards than you!” referring to his vast Star Trek action figure collection. It’s as good an argument-ender as any, really. Following this Jeff-logic, Tara printed up 30 images of Patrick Stewart with numerous Jean-Luc Picard paraphrases to commemorate this memorial event. I suggested everyone has to salute one of the posters and do a shot with Patrick Stewart. When everyone whole-heartedly agreed with this suggestion, I believe I was being humored.

The night progressed dangerously. I mixed myself a rum and coke, determined to take things slowly. Tara mixed duplicate drinks for Amy and Brittney, not taking into account that everyone has my tolerance for RUM! and coke. Rather than let the drinks go to waste, I took them.

Fifteen minutes later, they were ingested because, quite frankly, I’m an idiot.

And I didn’t get any smarter as the night progressed.

At any rate, we were all aware that anything could have gone wrong during the last few months. That no one had come right up to Jeff and said “What time is your surprise party?” was, in point of fact, a miracle. We had all the cars hidden in the dead end street around the corner, the house was dark, we were ready for the GOH’s arrival. As the rum began to hit me, hard, I made the suggestion that as soon as Jeff got there, we hurried him into the darkness, told him to be quiet and made him wait with us, crouching in the dark, for another half hour, just to see what he’d do.

It was a neck-and-neck race, as he was pulling into the driveway just as Ron and Stacy (also A Feast of Flesh) were finding a place to park. Jeff beat them to the door and didn’t see them. Brittney let him in, turned on the lights—we shouted “Surprise!”

And Jeff just gave us a look like, “Well, why wouldn’t you all be here?”

So, thus, the anti-climax had arrived right with him. I knew he’d been suspicious, but I didn’t think he’d figured it out. I’d underestimated Jeff again. (Just as we had when he was studying long division in high school.)

More guests began to trickle in as the evening wore on. Stacy walked in with the announcement, “See? I came to your party!”—referring to Jeff’s blowing her off for her Halloween party the month before (the lame excuse about “check points” between her house and his, when really, all he wanted to do was stay home and do other things… like Brittney). Aaron and Nikki showed a little later, and then his lead actor, Jason McCune, showed about 9:00. By this time, my head was swimming, even though I’d stopped drinking and was limiting myself to straight coke. Except that suddenly, there was a “Chow Yun-Fat” in my hand. A “Chow Yun-Fat” is the name he gave the Tequila and Ginger-Ale concoction Chow drinks in Hard Boiled. If you like Tequila, it’s a great drink. If you don’t, it tastes exactly the way it sounds. We were all doing them to toast Jeff.

I will refer you to my earlier blog where I explain why I don’t mix when I drink. If I stick with rum, I’m the happiest guy on Earth and even if I overshoot my Irish Buzz, I can usually get back to that point with some patience and revelry. Introducing other drinks into my system, particularly vodka, makes me depressed. Introducing beer or hops-based drinks after rum makes me very tired and head-achy. I had no experience with Tequila on top of rum, so it wasn’t until I had downed the horrible thing that I realized that this was the equivalent of Red Kryptonite. What the hell would it do?

Oddly enough, all it did was make me drunker. And I was aware of this, so I returned to water and coke and worked to stave off getting sick. And a few minutes later, I had forgotten that not getting sick was the ultimate goal. In fact, things started to get completely hazy. In fact, I’d magically forgotten why the hell I was even there! Apparently, as things were pieced together for me the next day, I’d had several in-depth conversations with multiple members of the party. The topics: “Is Ron gay and it’s okay if he is”, “Why Painmaker, our next project, will be the pinnacle of human-based art”, “Why Brittney should not be allowed to wear that many colors in one shirt at the same time”, “Why Tara should be placed in an empty room devoid of breakables”, and, of course, “Why Jeff is the luckiest guy on the planet with so many people who love him and why I am a piece of shit in comparison”.

None of these conversations, however, live in my memory.

However, by my count, I had only three rum-and-cokes and one “Chow Yun-Fat”. I was aware I’d bypassed the Irish Buzz and was officially hammered. So, of course, reasoning was not something I was capable of.

Tara, however, gave me one more piece of vital information the next day, as I attempted to do everyday things like walk and speak and function like a carbon-based life form.

Apparently, another round was mixed for people. What I was given was not a rum and coke. I won’t mention names at this point, but I know who mixed this, and when. Why is another matter. It was, in point of fact—and I actually do have a dim recollection of this now—a mixture of rum, coke, Tequilla, peppermint Schnapps, vodka and—the motherfucker—maple syrup.

Why the person did this is a mystery. In his defense, “Let’s fuck with the drunkest guy in the room” is a royally fun game, and I enjoy a good gag even when I’m the butt of it. Apparently, again, Tara tried to stop him from doing this, but it was too late. I had downed it in a single swallow and…

That’s all I remember. Around 4am I found myself out at our car, dressed more or less in pajamas—no coat, but shoes, at least—getting our home pillows out of the trunk and finding my way, successfully, back to Brittney’s guest room. Which, at that point, I swear I’d never laid eyes on before. I was, however, still very drunk. So I downed another full glass of water and figured I’d be run down, but no worse for wear in the morning.

And I wasn’t. Until I sat up. The wave of sickness that washed over me announced that I did, indeed, have alcohol poisoning. Hangover cures like grease and sugar would likely take care of it for the most part, but I was in for a terrible day.

At this point, I didn’t remember the McCune concoction. I remember him handing me something towards the end of the night, with a supercilious grin on his face, but I didn’t remember the aftermath. This wasn’t a black out; images were coming back, but not conversations. I could see myself talking to people, but not what I was saying. So a day of making apology phone calls was obviously on the itinerary.

Leaving Brittney’s was a challenge. I felt slightly better in the cold air but every step was an effort. There’s an awesome greasy spoon in Bloomfield, so we headed there for breakfast. I was sick immediately upon exiting the car, then again in the rest room of the restaurant. Which left me embarrassed but, at least, hungry enough to eat.

Twenty minutes into our hour-long trek home, the sickness hit me like a hammer. We were driving with the windows open so that I could cool off my face and stave off being ill.

It didn’t work.

Remember the “Mr. Creosote” sketch in Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life?

It was a lot like that.

The last time I’d ever thrown up in a moving car, I was six years old. Sun poisoning from an ill-fated trip to Lake Erie.

I’ve experienced ptomaine poisoning, bad reactions to medication, multiple bouts of stomach flu and Montezuma’s Revenge, not to mention acute alcohol poisoning in my earlier, stupider days. But I’d always managed to get the car door open in time. This bout came without warning. And we were still half an hour away from home without a gas station or rest stop along the way.

Uncomfortable, sick and humiliated, I spent the next hour helping Amy clean up the passenger side of the car. And, of course, I’d left the keys in the ignition all night, so we woke up to a dead battery this morning.

I’d called Tara in the morning to yell at her, but it was more good natured than angry. Really, it was no one’s fault but my own. Until she told me about the Mystery Concoction.

Again, “Fuck with the Drunk Guy” is a fun game. I’ve played it. I’ve been the object of it. But usually, the other parties were drunk too. I doubt harm was meant by it and there’s no way he could have known about my Red Kryptonite drinking condition.

I love partying with my friends. I like the safe, affectionate atmosphere. I enjoy getting together and drink and watch bad movies. And while I really, really enjoy getting drunk with my best friends, I’m also not a complete idiot. I don’t intentionally drink to the point where I’m falling down. And since October’s Wasteland, I intentionally avoid mixing my alcohol. Had I been conscious of what was in that glass, I never would have thrown it back. I don’t have anything to prove and don’t give a shit about that “ah you coward, drink that!” mentality. I don’t embarrass easily. And I’m not a fifteen-year-old-kid experimenting with alcohol consumption.

As sick as I was yesterday, unable to do anything more than lie on the couch and lick my proverbial wounds, I was more angry than anything else. Angry at myself, primarily, for being stupid enough to drink a foreign substance handed to me by a guy I didn’t know. Again.

I’m not “swearing off alcohol”. And I can’t very well swear off stupidity. I am, however, pledging allegiance to moderation because I refuse to ever feel that way again through my own idiocy. This isn’t one of those “I will never do that again” empty and hollow morning-after pledges. This is one of those “You will not do that to yourself again” situations. And while it’s real tempting to blame the unknown integer in the party equation, I didn’t have to knock that last drink back. I’m going to work pretty fucking hard to make sure that I never allow myself to get that bad ever again.

(… But the baseball game went well.)

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Writer's Strike

This was going to be a very different blog entry, but I really wanted to weigh in on what's going on in Hollywoodland right now.

Last week, I was browsing a message board for indie filmmakers and came across a rallying cry that all indie screenwriters should take advantage of the WGA strike and start sending in our scripts to the studios, now that the "window has been opened by the striking writers". I found this rallying cry shouted by other indies on several other boards, including a couple of forums here on Myspace.

That this sort of opportunism exists on this level didn't surprise me, nor did the level of idiocy of this cry. First, and more obvious, the studios aren't looking for new scripts from non-Union writers. They don't care about writers because the non-writers think that it's easy. That writers are "schmucks with Underwoods", according to Jack Warner, from days gone by. Second, and less obvious, what would happen if one of us indies DID hit the lottery and get a script accepted for TV or film? If it didn't immediately go into turnaround the minute the strike ended, what would the outcome be for the writer? In order to continue to write in Hollywood, a writer, upon selling two scripts, is REQUIRED to join the Writer's Guild of America. Therefore, this scab who jumped the picket line for his own gain, now has to rely on the very people he screwed over by selling his non-Union script. Way to win friends in a friendless land, eh?

But third, and most aggrivating, it's opportunism at its absolute worst. We're all hungry writers. We're all reaching for that brass ring. But the very people who are on strike are Just Like Us. Their own brass rings are continuously wrenched from their grasp.

"But it's all about money!"

"But big screenwriters already make tons of money!"

"I just wanna write!"

The first two outcries are dead wrong and exactly what the Producers and Suits want you to believe.

The third: what the fuck is stopping you? It's a global world, writer, everyone with an internet connection considers himself a writer, when, in reality, the majority of these screed-scribblers IS a "schmuck with an Underwood", or, really, a laptop. You want to write? Learn how, write well, don't stop and keep submitting.

But if you really want to know what this strike is all about, why there won't be new shows after December and why the Studios are convinced that the schmucks with Underwoods won't be missed because reality TV is so popular: READ THIS. Do it now. It's worth the read. Don't whine that it's wrong. You have the fucking time. Ignore YouTube for a few seconds, ignore adding new friends, and READ THIS.

It's only a little about money. Mostly, it's about who did what? Who created those shows and movies? Was it the studio, or was it a schmuck with a laptop who had the idea in the first place.

And if you're a writer, one of those indies who was ready to storm the gates when the guards were screaming for their rights, figure out how this strike affects you, and what will happen to you if your gamble pays off and now you're stuck with the new buddies who were fighting for what you just "won". And what will happen to you now if they lose.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Return to Rocky Horror

The Fangoria Radio stint was fun. Too short, though. I had at least an hour of brilliance I could have expounded. Debbie and Mike Gingold must have plugged everything we were ever involved in and I had a nice moment with Dee Snider when we realized we both hate Kubrick’s version of The Shining. Since I’ve actually gotten death threats (true!) over my opinion of this “classic”, I felt moderately vindicated.

Saturday, on a whim, we went to see Rocky Horror, playing up at the Oaks Theater. This would be our first RHPS screening in at least three years—if you count an aborted attempt to check it out with Ryli Morgan and Mark Baranowski at a showing in North Carolina. As most people know, Amy and I met at Rocky Horror—a frightening fifteen years ago. I started going on a strict weekly basis when I was still in high school, way back in 1990, when it was shown at the Hollywood Theater in Dormont, just outside of Pittsburgh. By ’91, I had joined the cast—then known as “The Unnamable Dread”, under the direction of Terry Thome—and began playing primary roles by the end of that year. Including the immortal Frank N. Further.

By 1992, my friends Justin Wingenfeld and Bill Hahner had joined the cast, and we brought aboard the rest of the members who would eventually take over the troupe and rename it “The Junior Chamber of Commerce Players” (most casts name themselves after a line in the movie—which isn’t hard when you’ve memorized the entire movie, movements included, as well as the full script of ever-evolving audience call-backs). Also like most casts, the J.C.C.P. was comprised of a bunch of very frustrated creative types who were desperate to avoid having any real semblance of a life. We were mostly social misfits who were drawn to the misfitery of the movie and the family atmosphere of the regulars. At RHPS, everyone is welcome, gay, straight, bi, undisclosed or undecided. It’s all-inclusive. At least for a while, before the cliques inevitably form.

We were also under the delusion that we were stars somehow, and that the audience was there to see us. This delusion is perfectly understandable, by the way. We worked hard, we were creative, we utilized off-the-wall costumes that deviated from—but still fit in oddly enough—the strict RHPS guidelines set forth by the movie. We had Muppets—particularly a Muppet that Bill Hahner built of Charles Gray’s Criminologist Narrator character, dubbed “Chuckie” that actually went on to international fame thanks to Sal Piro’s Creatures of the Night book series. We used bizarre props. We dressed one of our Rockys in a Chewbacca costume and Riff shaved him with a giant razor halfway through. We used a mannequin as Janet for one catastrophic show. And with all of this, we were playing to roughly the first three rows.

es, we’d get recognized on the street and people applauded wildly when we took our bows, which all led to our delusions of grandeur. Because, and this was proven a number of times, that the audience would show whether we performed—mimicking the movie—or not. And gradually, as we got older and more involved with our education and our oncoming “real life”, we started to realize that we were outgrowing what was really a safety net. We got to perform every week, so we were still actors, right? And would make props, so we were still effects artists and designers. And organizing who played what each week, that was producing. And we’d film the performances, so we were still photographers and filmmakers! And every week, we’d post fliers all over town so that people would come to the show, and make money for the theater owners, and then we’d stay to help clean up and since they were letting us in for free to do all of this work, it was only fair, right?

Amy was a regular, starting on a big Halloween show, where we sold out the theater. She sat in the front row with her friends and started coming on a regular basis after that. We became friends and got together at my 21st birthday party, where I was introduced to medicinal marijuana. Two weeks before, at another party, she’d made me my first drink and, thereby, corrupted me forever. By the end of our first year together, the Hollywood had closed, Rocky moved across town to a theater that was ill-equipped for our blocking and despised the late night clean up. The crowds didn’t follow us. By this time, there was so much in-fighting among the cast that we’d basically given up altogether. I’d already been performing on and off for over five years so I was happy to get the hell away from it.

The friends I made during that time are still, for the most part, some of the closest friends I’ve ever made and people with whom I will continue to work as long as they’ll work with me. There are some folks I met there, of course, who I hope I’ll never see again, but they’re by far in the minority.

But since the late ‘90s, we really haven’t been back. Rocky Horror was not part of our lives, aside from listening to the sound track on long trips. I still remember most of the call-backs and almost all of the dialogue/lyrics word-for-word, making me wonder what all of that replaced in my brain that I actually needed.

Every now and then I’d hear that a theater was playing RHPS and we’d toy with the idea of going, but nothing ever solidified. Then we met Jordan Palez, who did some P.A. work for us on Splatter Movie. He’s involved with the latest incarnation of the Junior Chamber of Commerce Players. Our friends Tara and Dave were planning on going to the next RHPS showing, so we figured, what the hell. We’d make a fun, nostalgia-filled night out of it.

So this past Saturday night, Amy and I found ourselves standing in line to see Rocky Horror. I remembered the last time I’d stood in line to see the movie: seventeen years ago. I felt very old. So much older than most of the kids in line around us.

The new J.C.C.P. cast members bounced around us, asking if there were virgins among our crowd. Tara was wearing a Columbia costume and we were talking about our JCCP days when they popped up. Then Jordan came by screaming that we were virgins, and I realized that when I was part of the show, he was most likely in grade school, if not kindergarten. My mood was not improving.

Fortunately, the tickets were cheap and there was a kick-ass bar called Steve’s Inn right across the street. Several cheap-as-hell drinks later, my mood was back up. There was two of everything, but at least I wasn’t annoyed.

We ran into an old regular, Ed, and his new girlfriend. And I saw other old regulars in the crowd as we searched the crowded theater for seats. It was very surreal. I was drifting down the aisle like the signature shot in a Spike Lee film.

It seemed like forever before the movie started. The cast had to do the virgin roundup, then the “fake-an-orgasm” virgin sacrifice, then a costume contest, then the Tim Curry videos of I Do the Rock and Paradise Garage (which Amy and I tried to drunkenly dance to, but only the cast was dancing and we felt very, very out of place). Then a “bonus” video of Curry singing from The Worst Witch—one of Amy’s favorites, but something I find to be the aural equivalent of a prostate exam. Then the movie… which was, strangely, a digital projection from a DVD.

And suddenly, I’m having a “back in my day” experience. I was astonished that the Oaks hadn’t arranged to get a print of the movie from Fox. The print rental was never that expensive, compared to other movies, but maybe it’s gone up since I left the game. Since they don’t perform every weekend, I understood why the pre-show was so long and elaborate. Our own, even on a weekly basis, seemed interminable as well.

But midway through, I’m the Grinch, feeling affected by the noise, noise, noise, even when I was contributing to it. When I was a hardcore Rocky fan, I got bored immediately after “Sweet Transvestite”, as did the rest of the audience, who usually took the creation scene to go downstairs to smoke (which was another shock—you couldn’t smoke anywhere in the theater, down or up. Not that I smoke, but wading through a thick haze of nicotine exhalation used to be part of the whole experience). So I was bored immediately again, and immediately after, I started to sober up, which is a whole new horrifying experience.

Ed and some of the older audience folks tried to keep the nostalgia going. There were numerous “Mike Watt” callbacks (“What diabolical plan had seized Frank’s crazed imagination?” – “Oral sex with Mike Watt!” “Any sex with Mike Watt!”) courtesy of Ol’ Ed, but I was stuck in Robert Frost territory, constantly reminded that you can’t go home again.

I love the movie. I love the soundtrack. I loved performing it once and still got a kick out of watching these kids experiencing the whole thing while it was still fresh to them. RHPS is that thing that resonates the deepest with the post-high school, mid-college crowd when everything seems fresh and new. Seeing the whole thing with older eyes—yet I was not, by far, the oldest person in the room—I just couldn’t recapture the spirit of the moment. What I did achieve was screaming myself hoarse and sinking deeper into a curmudgeonly fit of “when we did the show…” Glory days.

The cast was great. The show will always be fun. I will always have rice in my pockets. But it’s not my world any more.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Halloween, FEAST reviews and promotion

Happy Halloween to one and all! If you subscribe to the hardline Christian belief that this is the most evil day of the year, I suggest you stay inside. If you’re of a more rational mind, say a follower of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer point of view, then evil takes today off and we’re all safe. Whichever. Halloween is more a day where most of the people I know can go outside and not get stared at for a change. And let’s not forget the diabetic comas we’ll all be in come 9:30 tonight!

I love this time of year, personally. It reminds me of being a kid. I’d sit around with my family, carving pumpkins, telling ghost stories, sliding razor blades into apples… ah, nostalgia.

* * *

Reviews for A Feast of Flesh started rolling in a few weeks ago. I was pretty nervous in the beginning because they were all positive. When you get the positive reviews off the bat, you spend the rest of your time looking for the Big White X where you’re sure to be standing when the piano drops from the sky. It’s just the law of averages. In fact, the first few reviews were positively glowing, so I knew that piano would be tied to a dead mule and two rabbi.

But, to my relief, the bad reviews started showing up last week. They trickled in, rather than coming in a deluge like I was expecting, which was also a relief. And, as expected, they completely contradicted the glowing reviews. The reviewers who liked it loved the “twists” on the vampire mythos (using any symbol of belief to ward off the vampires, rather than just a crucifix) and dug the character development. I got a lot of props for my Irish accent. One reviewer called it the most important independent horror film made in the last twenty years, but I think he was biased because I’m such a cool guy.

The people who didn’t like it hated the “twists” on the vampire mythos and loathed my accent. Where one reviewer said I was understated, another said I was completely over the top and miscast. None of this upsets me in the slightest, though. For one thing, if those who hate it just attack me, that’s perfectly fine. My ego is pretty bullet-proof. I’d get annoyed if they personally attacked the other members of the cast, but no one has done that.

With A Feast of Flesh releasing on DVD on November 6, we’re celebrating and promoting like crazy. Click Here for news about the DVD release parties (Cefalo’s on Nov. 8 and The Smiling Moose on Nov. 9). AND, Amy and I will be on Fangoria Radio this coming Friday, November 2. So if you have Sirius Radio, tune in and call in. We plan to be brilliant.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

A Look Back at October, part 2

Traveling over the last few weeks I’ve discovered a brand new pet peeve. This is something that has always irritated me, but it’s become an obsessive hatred lately: Automatic restrooms. Toilets that flush automatically, sinks that come on if you wave your hands, paper towels that dispense if you wave your hands. No levers, no handles. And, usually, no results. When was it determined that the average restroom visitor doesn’t possess the same co-ordination as a hamster? Hamsters are frequently rewarded with food pellets if they push a lever. Yet we must rely on the toilet noticing that we’ve left before it will flush. And these toilets rarely pay attention. Once upon a time, there was a tiny black button on the wall you could push to remind the toilet of its function. These, too, have disappeared via some restroom evolution. I’m told it’s more sanitary. That visitors rarely flush or wash anyway. That it’s more economical. Whatever. All I know is I go into any public restroom and I’m waving and swaying and doing everything but what I actually came in to do. (And nothing responds, of course, causing my neuroses to make me feel like I don’t have a soul.) Why do I have to succumb to St. Vitus Dance just to get a bathroom to recognize that I’m there?

…Anyway… While Rock ‘n Shock didn’t put us into a new tax bracket, it did provide us with some brand new and valuable contacts. We came back with new assignments, prospective opportunities, and a couple of new friends. So the magic triangle of shows remains:



As long as you get two out of three, it should be considered a good show. The magic would be all three, but that’s only been Wasteland so far this year (although Fango Chicago ran a close second…)

Returning home was spent in recovery. It was a long trip and I start to feel long trips long before we even take them these days. I spent the following few days whipping up a “clean” version of Splatter Movie for our world premiere screening at the Hundred Acres Manor. I wanted to have a cut minus the sex and profanity, in case we got families in attendance. At this point, early in the week, we still weren’t sure if we were going to have an outdoor screening or not, so I wanted to have bases covered. The resulting cut was only ten minutes shorter, including an alternate cut of Debbie’s big scene in the film which has a completely different tag in the full-length feature (but this “clean” cut will be available on the DVD). This “clean” cut also has beeped-out swearing, including one scene between Jeff Waltrowski and Bill Hahner that was largely improv’d on set to lampoon the sailor’s mouths most grips have on set. With all the beeps, the dialogue sounds like we’re signaling ships at sea via morse code.

As it turned out, I needn’t have bothered. Since we couldn’t get any of the papers or radio stations to even mention this screening—despite the fact that the Manor advertises in the majority of these outlets—the bulk of our audience was made up of cast and crew and a few really cool supporters (thanks to Dave, Tara, Brittney, the McCrae family, Adam D., Mario, his mom, dad and grandma, and the gentleman we didn’t know for all the back-up!). We screened the film in the private house on the Manor’s property using our cobbled-together equipment, and it turned out to be a nice set-up, despite some technical difficulties. First we used a disk that had some compression issues. So we popped that and started over. Then the extension cord got kicked out of the wall midway through, so that caused an abrupt intermission. I had, of course, forgotten our grip kit, so no tape was on hand (nor was there an extension cord—I needed to borrow that from the Manor folks). Hey, I can’t remember everything, can I? Ah, shaddap.

And despite the uncompletedness of the film—misplaced music cues and sound effects—it seemed to go over real well with everyone. Especially with Eric Molinaris and his effects crew, who I’d suspected would be the harshest judges. But they were thrilled with the way their work had been cut, so I will deem this movie to be a success, though I have a lot of work ahead of me. Still need to re-record the off-screen interview dialogue (which will be done with a special guest voice), matte a couple of “movie-in-the-movie” scenes, finish the foley, prod Jeff into finishing the music, write up a contract for the “Special End Credits Song Donated by a Really Cool and High Profile Artist”, pop in the finished effects shots provided by Patrick Desmond and con Rich Conant into cleaning up the audio for me (including all the scenes where people are walking on gravel and it sounds like I have the microphone submerged in a bowl of cereal). Oddly enough, that’s not a lot of work, though. Just time-consuming.

(On top of that, I’m still working on finishing the final sound mix for The Resurrection Game with Scooter McCrae’s new score. I really want to finish this one and have it out by the end of the year. Trying to track down and interview as many people as possible for a new documentary as well, which will be a bear to complete as I’ll have to transfer hours of old VHS and VHS-C to digital… sigh.)

Our screening at the Manor was followed a few days later by “Amy Lynn Best” day at Scarehouse, run by our good friends Scott and Barb Simmons. Dave Cooper accompanied us to take pictures and Tara Frank provided Amy’s make-up. This was also a fun time, and we actually made more money there than in Boston! Amy was set up right at the head of the line so that people waiting to get into the haunt could look at her pics and DVDs, chat with her, etc. More than a few people got all excited to meet the “Movie Lady”.

I do have to say that Scarehouse is a fantastic haunt. We have a lot of friends acting in this maze of a place and it’s doubly unnerving to have the shadows call out your name as you’re wandering around and already creeped out. My good friends Don Bumgarner and Bill Hahner, both of whom can be seen in Splatter Movie, were chief among the willy-givers (although that does sound dirty, doesn’t it?).

Now, at this point, we hadn’t been home for more than a couple of hours to sleep in over a month. The house is starting to crumble like the ruins of Gormenghast, the dogs don’t recognize us, the cats… well, they’re cats, they don’t care one way or another. The horses are fine—they have 50 acres of grass so they don’t even need us.

It hasn’t been all fun and games, though. Or, really, almost at all. Between the traveling, the working, the movies, the magazine, life keeps banging on our door to remind us that there are other things to attend to.

Our oldest cat, Gypsy, has been having trouble walking and I was convinced we’d have to put him down last week. He got a reprieve from the vet who wanted to run more tests, just to make sure he didn’t actually have anything fatal. Spending the whole day at work waiting to get home and take your cat for a quick euthanasia, then discovering no, not now but maybe later, we’ll see… hell on the nerves.

Add to that stress is my grandmother, who has been having multiple heart attacks at her nursing home in Florida. She’s almost 93, suffers from Alzheimer’s… My mother flew down to be with her, also a nervous wreck.

But does any of that keep us down? Hell no! Because who has the time to be depressed or worried? Not when there are so many exciting and new horrors to surmount on a daily basis!

And more on that later…

Monday, October 29, 2007

A Look Back at October, part 1

Well... October is almost over and the weather is finally starting to figure out that it's Autumn, so the 80 degree temperatures have gone away. Looking back at the past 29 days, I can honestly say that I know where the month went.

I left off at Cinema Wasteland, which was the first weekend of the year. Filled with fun and far too much alcohol, where I learned that my friends Vodka and Rum still do not get along.

The following weekend was spent in the wonderful wilds of Wooster, Massachusettes, at the Rock 'n Shock convention. This was our first show as guests of Camp Motion Pictures/Bloody Earth Films, as we previewed A Feast of Flesh for the first time. We've been hearing about this show for years, primarily from our friend Joe Knetter. And it turned out to be as much fun as he'd promised. The Red Sox landing in the playoffs and the Patriots making a good start out of the gate, however, lowered attendance quite a bit, I'm told. It was a slow show, monetarily-speaking, but the fun flowed like wine. Highlights for us included partying with Dave and Cathy Wilber (aka the "Superfans" from the Unconventional documentary) who are super-cool people. Thanks very much to you both for the hospitality! Another highlight was talking with Angela Bettis and Kevin Ford, who were also super people.

The lowlight for me in particular was a nasty cold I'd picked up the week before that refused to go away. I finally hit the "enough!" point on Saturday and started taking handfuls of whatever was handy - Day-Quil, Sudafed, generic cold medicine - anything that would just make me feel marginally better. The primary result, aside from transforming into a walking Meth lab, was that I tended to travel in a medicinal bubble, not unlike Glinda the Good Witch's preferred mode of transportation, and was on at least a seven second delay all weekend. And if you've ever flown with a congested head, I'm sure I don't have to discuss the misery with you here! But, at least I had Henric Couto, Justin Wingenfeld and Paige Davis, my longtime friends who accompanied my misery.

Miraculously, Amy and I found ourselves with a free day after the show. We weren't due back at the airport until late in the afternoon, so we drove down to Salem, Mass. (hey, we waited an hour for that rental car, we were going to make use of it!) It's not often we actually get to SEE any of the places we visit for shows, so it was cool to walk around and see some of the history of our country. Although I find it odd that Salem became a mecca for Wiccans, due to the people who were hanged there for witchcraft, despite the fact that the actual Wiccan religion was not in practice there at the time of the hysteria. I have to say that it was chilling to step into the main cemetery in the middle of the town and have to cross the thresh hold that was inscribed with the oaths of the condemned and their exclamations of innocense.

We did not, however, get to see any more of Boston than the famous skyline, with which I was familiar as a rabid Boston Legal fan. We are making plans to go again, though, and spend more time in the area. I love to see parts of America that aren't connected to hotel lobbies or airports.

More soon!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Fangoria Loves Us

There's a longer one of these here blogs coming soon. Spent all week whipping up a Splatter Movie cut for "family viewing" tomorrow and the rest of the time was involved with making DVDs to sell and give out. If any of you are in the area tomorrow, Splatter Movie: The Director's Cut will be screening - a world premiere! - at the Hundred Acres Manor in South Park. I'm sure I've mentioned it already. Admission to the screening is free with purchase of a regular pass to the Manor. And all the proceeds go to charity, so what can you lose?

And, in other news:

The "Notes" piece is cool. Very cool. I've waited ten professional years (which is like sixty in everyday years) to get into this magazine. I can't wait for it to come out!

'S'all for now. I'll have a longer blog about our adventures at Rock 'n Shock and our trip to Salem, Mass., with a headcold accompanying.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Memory Skips Away

We did get one piece of good news yesterday, as a matter of fact. A Feast of Flesh is playing Saturday, October 20, at 12:00 noon at the Rhode Island International Film Festival (preceeded by a shrot from Rue Morgue editor Rod Gudino)! This is a fairly big and really cool film festival that I wish with all my heart we could go to. However, Splatter Movie: The Director's Cut will be premiering at the Hundred Acres Manoron the 19th, followed by our wrap party, so there's no way we could fit it in. Still, it's there, it's playing and that's awesome.

* * *

After weeks of wishing that the weather would catch up with the calendar, the temperature finally dropped last night (just as my car's air conditioning gave out, coincidentally). As a result, more comfortable climes ... and a sinus headache that has spread through my entire body. So my winning streak continues. This weekend coming up is Rock 'n Shock weekend in Worchester, MA, just outside of Boston. I've never been to R&S, or Boston for that matter, so I'm really looking forward to it. It may be our last show of the year as well, the way things are looking. A Feast of Flesh will be on sale there too, so if you're in the area... Actually, even if you're not, you should make a special trip and come down. Although, I am a little nervous about the Red Sox game playing at home that weekend. Will that kill traffic or just kill attendence? Any insight there, Boston fans?

This past weekend was the wonderful world of Cinema Wasteland. As usual, a terrific time was had, though the show itself seemed a little "off". Nothing bad--not at all. But some vendors we expected to see, like Stanlee Houston and the Low Budget Pictures crew, were not present and others, like our usual neighbors, Frank and Steve and their classic monster designs, were in a different area altogther. This meant our comfort zone was shifted fairly radically right off the bat. And because the Indians were playing and doing, I'm hearing, well, a lot of the expected "waves" of bodies through the door were spread out more evenly. As a result, there was never that encouraging, though overwhelming, rush of people. Numbers weren't down, I'm told, and we did particularly well. But, just the same, slightly "off".

It was great to see everyone, though. Ken and Pam did their usual stellar job of putting the thing together. Staff Tom, Laura, Henry and Joe (and all the others, but those are the names I remember) did their own stellar job.

Our particular highlights: hanging with Wayne Allen Harold and Toby Radloff--right after Toby's 50th Birthday celebration--along with the guys from Cypography. Meeting, briefly, Tommy and Todd Brunswick from The Skeleton Factory (the former of whom I covered in Sirens of Cinema #8 (on sale now!)-- Thanks, John, for the intro! Giving Tom Sullivan his copy of Splatter Movie, albeit the cut minus most of the music. Meeting Ted V. Mikels (Astro-Zombies, The Corpse Grinders) again and him remembering me from my Femme Fatales days. Seeing Leslie Easterbrook again and cementing something really cool in writing (more to come on that hopefully soon). Dinner with Pam and Jeff from Hell's Orphans. Absinthe with Mike and Carrie of MNEtching. Drinks with Pete, Roland, Ron, Cathy and Joe Knetter...The list actually goes on.

Lowlights, unfortunately, started on Saturday when I checked my email and discovered that the last company I did PR for is closing its doors and, suddenly, I'm no longer a working publicist. Shock hit first (it was tempered by good news from Fangoria) then gloom settled over me a few hours later. Gloom turned into extreme frustration when I found myself encountering about a half-dozen "what have you done for me lately" type people--at least four reviewers and a good couple of indie filmmakers who take and take and never--ever--give anything back to me. All of a sudden, I was in a very dark place that refused to lighten no matter how hard I tried. I was feeling pretty good after dinner, with some booze in me, until a couple of guys I barely recognized invited me to do a shot.

Lemme tell you about my good friends Rum and Vodka. They love me but don't like each other. They fight over me. It makes me sad. Sad, coupled with career frustration and delusions that I am entitled to a thank you occassionally from people we've helped out, equals hysterical anger.

I wound up lashing out at a good friend who, I perceived half-correctly but mostly incorrectly, had slighted me earlier that day. Bad, bad scene. Couple this with memory skips. Sunday morning had more than its share of gray gaps between events--doing the shots, suddenly outside with Bryan and Nikki and Tom (formerly of, suddenly at my car searching for... something, suddenly in a "what are you looking at?" loop with a skinheaded guy I didn't know (the loop, in case it isn't self-explanatory, was just me saying "What are you looking at?" in a demanding tone whether he was looking at me or not), then expressing my anger with the aforementioned wronged party, then, miraculously, Amy and I back at the room and in bed while the ceiling drifted in a lazy, counter-clockwise manner. Memory skips are the worst part of drinking. Hangovers I can deal with. You feel crappy and tired but that goes away. The memory skips are little holes filled with "Oh, fuck, what did I do?" I don't drink to the point of memory skipping that often. For precisely that reason.

Sunday, the low-level shittiness was upon me, along with remorse and dread. As usual, we just wanted to pack up the table and hang out. We might as well have. No one came to the table to buy anything on Sunday. Not a soul. Which is nobody's fault, of course. Sundays are always slow. Usually, we make a few extra bucks right before we leave, but not this time around. Which was fine. We'd done our share the two days prior--I'd love to say that we broke the bank with the new Feast of Flesh DVDs, but that just wasn't the case.

I walked around and got a few interviews for the upcoming Resurrection Game DVD -- hitting up Charlie Fleming and Tim Gross (The Bastards of Horror), Michael Felsher (Red Shirt Productions) and Art Ettinger (Ultra Violent). After that, I was ready to split. The trip home felt like forever, but we had dogs and cats and Boston Legal waiting for us, and it was nice to finally be home. And now I have the April Wasteland to look forward to (Dyanne Thorne and Jack Hill!!).

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Weddings, FEAST, Scarehouse and Wasteland

Long week.

It started last week, actually, with the preparations for Mike and Carolyn's wedding - rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, pre-ceremony, ceremony... and then it was over. An eye-blink: some vows (including a sermon that made utterly no sense to me but was delivered in warm and even tones by Carolyn's brother, Lamar), a limo ride, some food, my brilliant toast (the bulk of which was conceived in the rest room just prior to delivery), a few dances then... the night was over. Amy and I took the gifts back to the home of the new Mr. and Mrs. Haushalter and joined them for brunch the next morning. It was nice. Our heads were spinning all day, but nice all the same.

The rest of this week was spent in preparation for Cinema Wasteland this coming weekend. It's no secret that this bi-annual event is my favorite show and I'm proud that we'll be unveiling a new issue of Sirens of Cinema (our Second Anniversary Issue with cover by Joe Jusko!), a work-in-progress cut of Splatter Movie (something we do with all of our movies to keep the buzz going and to get feedback from fans) and the brand new DVD release of A Feast of Flesh. Yeah, we're getting it out there prematurely, but I doubt it'll cause a ripple effect tearing apart the business. It's just a cool thing to have available. The menus are gorgeous, the original cover pic was taken by our good friend Dave Cooper, there's a montage of Mike Haushalter's on-set photos inside, our commentary is witty and urbane and it's getting good reviews so far.

Reviews like this one from Movies Made Me Do It:

There are times when I really get nervous before popping in a movie with the intent of reviewing it, and when it came time to watch A Feast of Flesh (formerly known as Abattoir), I have to admit that I felt that nervousness creeping up on me. Why? Well, mainly because I really enjoy director Mike Watt's work, and although I wouldn't go so far as to call us "friends" as I've never met the guy and I'm pretty sure that he doesn't even remember my name, we have had a couple of conversations in the past and I thought that he came across as a great guy with a genuine love for the business. So, where does the nervousness bit come in? Well, his latest film deals with vampires... need I say more? I truly despise the vast majority of the vampire flicks to come out of the last ten years, especially the ones that are as sex-charged as this one appeared to be based on the promotional materials. However, I popped it in anyway, and I was shocked to find that it wasn't all that bad; nay, scratch that, it was actually pretty damned good.

We begin the film by watching a man beating a woman in a dark alley, but before he can do much damage, a woman appears out of nowhere and literally rips his face off. Terri (Stacey Bartlebaugh-Gmys), the woman who was being beaten, is obviously a little scared at first, but this mysterious stranger makes it clear that she has no desire to harm her; in fact, she'd like to take her to a place where she'll be safe and never have to worry about this sort of thing ever again. The place in question turns out to be a high-class brothel known as the Bathory House which is owned by Elizabet Le Fanau (Amy Lynn Best), and right from the start, observant viewers will notice that this isn't your average whorehouse as all of the women inside are vampires. Talk about going out for a little sucky-sucky action, sheesh.

Meanwhile, on the other side of town, friends John (Steve Foland) and Seth (Aaron Bernard) are kicking back a couple of cold ones in the local tavern when John invites Seth to come along with him and a couple of friends to the aforementioned brothel to forget about his woman troubles for a while. You see, Seth's girlfriend has recently dumped him and ran off to New York, leaving the poor guy heartbroken and constantly drowning his sorrows in liquor. He turns the offer down, but the rest of the gang decides that a little sex-for-cash action is more important than being there for poor Seth. Then, a revelation is made: John notices that one of the ladies working in the whorehouse is actually Seth's former girlfriend, and it doesn't take long for him to find Seth and fill him in on this piece of news.

The two plan to go back to the house and talk to her, but before they can do so, they're interrupted by Tom (Bill Homan), a gangster-looking guy who claims that their lives will be in danger if they pursue that plan. He takes them back to Sheridan (director Mike Watt, sporting a great Irish accent), a man who fills them in on a little information about the situation at hand, and before you know it, it's Sheridan and his boys versus a bunch of vampire vixens with these two guys caught in the middle. There's much more to it, of course, but I feel as though I've revealed enough as is. Also appearing in minor roles are Debbie Rochon and the husband-and-wife team of April Monique Burril and Jimmyo Burril (both of Chainsaw Sally fame).

What sets A Feast of Flesh apart from the thousands of other "hot women who also happen to be vampires" movies floating around out there is the fact that it actually has some steak to go along with its sizzle; I know, putting an actual plot in one of these movies is such a novel concept, right? Apparently, Mr. Watt (who also served as the writer here) thought so as well, and the result was a film that actually had me interested in both the storyline and the characters within. Keep in mind that when I reference the characters, I mean more than "who will pop their top next?", as there are some very well-written characters to be found here and I couldn't have been more shocked or pleased when I realized that.

Even when one leaves the plot out of the equation, there's some really neat ideas wrapped up in the running time for this one. One thing that I particularly liked was the "faith-based" system of vampire weapons; by that, I mean that things like the traditional cross and holy water relies on the weapons' wielder believing in it rather than just assuming that it works. You're a Catholic? Crosses are your best friend. Jewish? I guess you'd want a menorah, but sadly, we never got to find out about that one. Hell, one guy in here believed that money makes the world go 'round, and as a result, he was able to use a dollar bill as an effective weapon. I realize that it sounds silly on paper, but it worked out nicely on the screen and was a very interesting deviation from the usual vampire mythos.

A Feast of Flesh is a great vampire film, and this is coming from someone who normally skips over any DVD that even references another vampire flick. All of the things that one expects from this subgenre - blood, boobs, and beasts - are in ample supply, but those things also come with an inventive and intriguing storyline that will keep viewers hooked until the credits roll. 8/10.

Which I've read about eight times this week to keep my morale up.

So don't call me at home this weekend. Come visit us in Cleveland at Cinema Wasteland.

OH, and one last thing: I know I've been touting the good graces of The Hundred Acres Manor all year, but everyone within shouting distance should also drive down to Scarehouse in Etna. Run by our good friends Scott and Barb Simmons, with mucho make-up provided by Don Bumgarner (F/X wizard on A Feast of Flesh not so coincidentally), it's a hell of a ride and a really damned fun time. And there will be a certain very talented young directrix making a guest appearance on October 21 (check the site's calendar for more info...)