Monday, March 19, 2007

Quick catch up

A death in the family prevented me from updating this over the past few days - that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. So allow me to quickly say the following:

300... could there be a manlier movie? I asked Amy this midway through watching yesterday. She responded that "any minute now, I'm going to grow testicles!". I replied, "Any minute now, I'm going to grow ovaries!" I liked it. I didn't love it. And having studied Persian culture along with many others over the years, I think I can safely say that I recognized NONE of the costume designs as anything remotely Persian. Or Asian. Or... human. (And is The Island of Dr. Moreau located in the ancient Persian empire? What was with Frankenstein and the other human/animal hybrids throughout the movie?) And why was Xerxes conceived as a villain from Stargate? Anyway... during the middle part of the movie, I found myself mocking the narrator a little: "And Xerxes then sent his Immortals, then other waves of those under the God-King's Rule: the archers, the milk men, the babysitters, those who understood Trigonometry, and a league of men named Dave..."

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Christopher P. Garetano's documentary, Horror Business, as exemplary as it is, should really have been titled Horror Dreamers or something more appropriate as it had so little to do with the "business" of horror filmmaking and everything to do with those whose passion it is to make horror movies. I question a couple of the people he chose to profile, but their dedication to their art cannot be questioned. I recommend to people who can't quite figure out why it is we no-budgeters do what we do. Oh, and some of us are less angry than Ron Atkins. Really.

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Two weeks ago, Amy and I had the pleasure of working with Devi Sniveley of Deviant Pictures (Teenage Bikini Vampire) and Jane Rose (Heading Home) on a predominantly-female-helmed film called I Spit On Eli Roth. It was a labor-intensive two-day shoot at the fantastic "Hundred Acre Manor" in South Park (where I can't wait to shoot again). Expecting a very long two days with little to do, I brought a book. Due to some scheduling snafus on the part of one of the producers, I wound up the movie's director of photography. Quite the surprise, actually.

Ultimately, it's going to be a very fun little movie. Here's a pic:

That's Amy, Jane and Devi starting l-r on the far left.

Lots of blood and anti-social behavior inflicted upon someone who looks an awful lot like Eli Roth. You can allow your imagination to go wild as to why Eli Roth was singled out to be spit-upon. I like to think it was for Hostel, though there are those who would prefer he repent for Cabin Fever. Or his cameo in 2001 Maniacs...

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Amy and I will be speaking at the I-CON 26 SF convention at Stonybrook University on Long Island this coming weekend. One of the panels I'm hosting is "Breaking into publishing for artists", which I know nothing about. I think my whole speech will be "Be a good artist that will give Sirens of Cinema a cover for the same price as a cheeseburger and I'll hire you." Which is exactly happened last year when I met Mike Lilly, Joseph Corsentino, Mike Okamoto and Scott Grimando. I hope to exploit many other talented artists this year.

Oh, and both Abattoir and The Resurrection Game will be screening over the weekend as well. Don't ask me when (and don't ask me why they call Debbie Rochon "The Geilgud of Bad Movies" either. That's just mean.)

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And in case I didn't mention it a hundred times already, Abattoir will be screening at Cinema Wasteland, March 31 at 7:00pm. We're starting to get offers on this one, so we might have a winner on our hands. I know, I've said that too. And I mean it, dammit!

Malena Teves, exactly one-half of the duo that makes up Lorraine 'a Malena, the band that donated the song "Dark Sonnet" to our closing credits, mentions Abattoir HERE on her blog. Thank you, Malena. Everyone should thank her. And go buy a copy of "Mirror Mirror" from which the song was taken.

There should be more soon. Including, hopefully, an official announcement about our next production, some news about an old production, and why I love Terry Gilliam but don't want to be him.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Complications in writing reviews

While working on a new review for Patrick Desmond's The Absence of Light, a project I've had the pleasure viewing multiple incarnations of, I've come to the unshakable conclusion that my days of reviewing indie movies may be numbered. I've professed in the past that I'm done reviewing anything, period, only to allow myself to be sucked back in a few days later. But after ten years in the industry, I just may be too entrenched to churn out an unbiased review.

I had no hand in the production of Absence, though, as I said, I've seen multiple versions as Desmond fine-tuned it over the past two years or so. Since I was first asked to check it out, Patrick and I have become close friends. His lead actor and sound engineer, Rich Conant, has become a good friend as well, and did me the favor of serving as post sound engineer on both Abattoir and the new version of The Resurrection Game (more on that in a minute). Other members of the cast of this film (both the stars and the lesser-knowns) have become acquaintances and con friends (actor Eric Thornsberry has been jokingly referred to as my "Twin" by more than one passerby). Patrick and I continue to discuss the possibilty of our working together on a project in the future.

And, of course, this isn't the first time this has happened. Nor will it be the last. JimmyO Burril and family have become close friends of ours since he first sent me Chainsaw Sally to review. He and Sally star April appear in Abattoir and we've stayed at their house on a couple of occassions.

The entire Project: Valkyrie crew have become members of the Happy Cloud family and we, in turn, have become members of the Hero Headquarters family. We've taken part in Piranha Pictures' Fifth City (and Eric Thornett also appears in Abattoir).

There's talk of our joining in on an upcoming Low Budget Pictures project. We'll likely work with Henrique Couto on an upcoming Freak Production. We have hopes of joining forces with the Wicked Pixel team as well. It's just what happens when you travel the con circuit and like and respect each others' work.

So as our circle of friends widens, the number of people I am not associated with in some small way grows smaller and smaller. Even when I do write reviews for movies I haven't been associated with, I still get dinged by fanboys on message boards - "Of course, this movie gets it's good reviews and quotes from friends", etc. To make matters worse, I don't generally write reviews for movies I don't like, so I'm constantly accused of associate nepotism. It's an ongoing headache. So this current review of The Absence of Light might be one of the last ones I do. I say this now, of course, knowing full well I'll get suckered again in the future. But my intentions, right now, are pure.

With all this in mind, I was also going to review Skin Crawl, which is coming out on DVD at the end of the month through POP Cinema, but I will probably have to pass these duties off as well. Skin Crawl is the feature debut of Justin Wingenfeld, who is quite possibly my oldest friend in the industry. We met when I was a freshman in college and we've shot movies together, performed on stage together, hung out, got drunk, watched endless amounts of movies together. I was at his wedding, but I have yet to meet his brand new baby daughter (which is what comes from living in different states). I also put him in touch with the folks who run Pop Cinema, way back when, back in my Cinefantastique/Femme Fatales days. So my excitement over Skin Crawl's pending release has as much to do with fraternal feelings of affection and love as it does the fact that it's really an amazing, intelligent, disturbing and multi-layered horror movie.

To make things worse for my ethics, Skin Crawl also stars one of my other very best friends, Debbie Rochon, in one of her very best performances. And she has to eat bugs, so how's that for devotion to craft? And I have a vast number of friends within Pop Cinema as well - folks I've known for more than a decade. When you consider that I also wrote the questions for the interview portion of the DVD extras, there goes any hope of being unbiased.

So, I'll console myself by saying that everyone reading this should make it a point to rent or buy Skin Crawl when it's released on March 27 (the same day that the new Fangoria Magazine hits the stands, containing an article on Debbie in which she talks about Skin Crawl - how's that for circular publicity?). There are two articles on this film in Sirens of Cinema #7, due out next week - one by Debbie, the other on co-star Julian Wells - so I at least feel like I've done something to get the word out.

What makes all of this - all the above and even things I haven't mentioned - so amusing is every now and then I'll run across someone on the web who just hates me. Doesn't want anything to do with me. Will go out of their way to avoid me at shows, events, etc. And will say, publically on message boards or whatever, that they not only want nothing to do with me, but won't have anything to do with anything/anyone I'm involved with.

And like I mentioned above, this is a very small community. The number of folks working in the business that I don't know or at least know of is a very small number indeed.

So good luck avoiding me, friends. I'm just one of those guys...

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I mentioned a new version of The Resurrection Game... for reasons I can't yet talk about (though I'm positively dying to), we are in the process of retooling and repolishing this movie for what will be - and this, I swear by the paint-flaking dinosaur outside the Art Institute of Pittsburgh on the Boulevard of the Allies! - the last time. For this final version, I am foleying new sound effects, having the sound tracks remastered and - very exciting - have commissioned a brand new score by none-other than Scooter McCrae. While much of Paul McCollough's original score will remain, Scooter has taken it upon himself to create several new tracks to reinforce the noir tone of the film - saxophones, bass cellos, all the stuff Bernard Hermann was made of.

With all of this will come two new audio commentaries, possibly a new documentary to commemorate the movie's 10 year anniversary, and new motion menus will accompany the new DVD (these hosted by non-other than the one and only Necro-Phil).

I'll be announcing the where's and why's of this new DVD very soon. As soon as I can, anyway.

In the meantime, drop me a line and try to wheedle more out of me. It'll be fun.

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Abattoir, incidentally, will be screening at Cinema Wasteland on March 31 at 7:00. This is very cool news for us. Our brand new baby playing at our all-time favorite show. Don't miss it!

Friday, March 02, 2007

Cock waffles

Well, the weather didn't get its way: we not only made it to Chicago for Fangoria Weekend of Horrors, we made it back as well. Yes, the planes were delayed coming and going, but at least we didn't take Jet Blue and wind up as hostages...
Anyway - as with last year, the Chicago Fango was a big success for us. We got to hang with some very good friends, folks we don't see too often like Tim Buchholz (exec producer of Abattoir), Scott Licina (from Fangoria Comics) and the whole Wicked Pixel crew - particularly Eric Stanze, Jeremy Wallace, Emily Haack who have been fans-via-email for years. I also got the chance to hang with some of the Precinct 13 gang - Robert Kurtzman, Al Tuskes and John Bisson - and got to see the trailer for The Rage, which was very exciting. It was cool to see shots that I got to watch being filmed when I visited the set last fall. (Not to mention it being a rather odd experience. I don't do that many "big" set visits.)
Plus, we got the chance to spend some quality time with Monique DuPree and Saint. We discussed the possibilty of doing a project together - something with a lot of "cool" potential, incidentally.

The nice thing about this show, though, is people tend to come up to us with more regularity - folks we don't necessarily know - and tell us how much they respect our work, our philosophies, etc. Amy had a number of women tell her how much her portrayals of strong women mean to them, how much they admire her views on women in the industry. A number of people - a few who I wasn't aware even knew who I was - came up to tell me that I'm the "best fucking writer around". And they weren't even trying to sell me anything! A couple of folks asked our advice on producing, screenwriting. I worked hard to sound like I knew what I was talking about.

Financially, we left with less stuff than we brought - always a good sign. Abattoir sold well, as did The Spicy Sisters Slumber Party, which usually sells the slowest. (Despite the whole Dinner for Five in Lingerie aspect, it's still a documentary and, therefore, a hard-sell at conventions. So the renewed interest in it was refreshing.)

But, perhaps best of all, Scarecrow, we got to hang with Sofiya and her friend, Rian, who we'd met at that very convention last year, leading to our working with her on Abattoir and Blood Bath. They generously allowed us to stay at their apartment in Chicago, thus saving us a bundle on hotel rooms, but also shuttled us around. Sofiya's friend Alex DelMonaco, and her husband, Tristan, were also staying with them. We'd never met Alex before and she turned out to be a lot of fun. Tristan and Rian ended up cooking for us - steaks, fettucini - and since I'm not much of a cook and they had a two-person kitchen, I opted to hang back and just be one of the girls. I hung with Amy, Alex and Sofiya. We talked about boys and did each others' hair. I discovered that I'm an Autumn. Good times.

We discovered, too, that adding the word "waffle" to profanity will enhance only masculine insults - "Cock waffle", "Dick Waffle" - with the exception of "Dousche Waffle", which seems to work just as well (good thing, too, as that's the exact word I stole from Christopher Moore's A Dirty Job). "Cunt Waffle" doesn't work. "Waffle" softens the impact of former. "Cock waffle" indicates a particularly heinous individual, while "dousche waffle" seems to imply a higher degree of loser than simply saying "dousche" or "dousche bag".

Honestly, we spent a great deal of time figuring all of this out. So you wouldn't have to.

You're welcome.

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The other big news: I've been cast as "Buddy" in Professor Jack and the Electric Club, Jeff Waltrowski's follow-up to Project: Valkyrie. PJ&EC is a genuine tribute to '40s serials and is being done in black 'n white and will actually be serialized on the internet - the first time, at least to my knowledge, that a real serial will be offered in the new frontier that is this nifty internet thing. Now we have to convince Jeff to include a cartoon and a newsreel after each segment.

The first episode is called "Message from Beyond the Moon". Professor Jack, Buddy and Penny journey to find a the crew of a previous moon mission. We encounter Moon Men and The Queen of the Moon (played by Amy!). We're shooting the whole thing in front of a green screen, with the backgrounds and sets added in later by the lovely and talented Jacob Ross.

Here's what I look like in the film:

A little bit Ronald Coleman, a little bit Clark Gable. A little bit Snoopy.

You can check out more about this terribly cool project at

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Big news about Abattoir and The Resurrection Game, coming soon!