Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Of Bachelors and Bachelorettes and the parties they attend

Earlier this year, my good friend and colleague, Mike Haushalter, asked me to be his best man for his wedding. I accepted, of course, but with the stipulation that I not plan the bachelor party. Being married myself, and wanting to remain so, I didn't want to have to arrange for strippers or car pools to nudie bars. Mike assured me that there would be others to take care of this.

This past Friday, our house became the central location for the party, after being notified by the 'others' that funds were too low for strippers and bars were just generally depressing, particularly when the groom is not a heavy drinker. So in lieu of debauchery, we opted for barbecue, bad movies and firearms. Living as far out as we do, we often shoot on our land without fear of police or injuring neighbors. And since hunting season is coming up, the sound of gunfire wouldn't be unusual anyway.

I arrived home after work around 3:00 pm and started to clean the magnificent hovel into inhabitability. Mike and his friend John arrived a little after four and we hiked into the back 20 acres to start setting up targets. I am in possession of an enormous woodpile, so there was lots of lumber to shoot at.

I went back into the house to get a little table to serve as a gun stand when I see Mike and Johnny tearing towards me like their asses were on fire. They were slapping at their heads and flailing their arms. "Bees!" Johnny said as he zipped past me. "Fuck!" and "Motherfuckers!" was all he said beyond that for the next few minutes.

Setting up the targets, pounding stakes into the ground, etc., had disturbed an underground hive. The bees were shooting out of this massive hole beside our burning pit—a black cloud of angry, swarming insects. It resembled something Biblical. Then the swarm formed an arrow, cartoon style, and took off after us.

Both John and Mike were stung multiple times and John got it the worst. He was also worried because he'd been flailing in the front with a gun strapped to his hip. He feared that one of our neighbors driving by would call the cops. I reminded him that I'd only seen a cop on our mountain once, turning around in our driveway because he'd missed a turn.

The swarm vanished fairly quickly. I trekked up with a can of bug spray to see if anything could be done. The hive was too large and while the anger had vanished, the bees were still pretty active, zipping in and out of the hole. So I simply gathered up the lumber and moved it all a few yards to the right. Mike and John were amazed I was never stung once, but, then again, I wasn't doing anything to piss the bees off.

Safely removed from the plague, we set up our targets again and spread out the arsenal. We had hand guns, revolvers, shot guns, semi-auto rifles and plenty of ammo. Jeff Waltrowski arrived a few minutes after the Great Bee Assault to join us. And lemme tell you, folks—it's my opinion that anyone who is for gun restrictions has never fired a gun before. They're awesome! It'd been almost a year since I fired a gun of any sort (not since the Day of the Deer Execution, anyway) and I thought sure my skills would have rusted to nothing, but it turns out I'm a pretty good shot with a rifle and target pistol. The sad fact remains that, with my Baretta, I'd stand a better chance at hitting an assailant by throwing the gun than by firing, but I did better than I'd anticipated. We blew the old school human paper target to bits, disintegrated a Styrofoam wig head and shot the hell out of a little die-cast tank, not to mention an entire box of clay pigeons. And we did it all with dignity, manliness and proper diction and grooming. The Great Nerd Bachelor Party had begun.

Amy arrived home from work and tried to sneak in with "I'm not here! I'm not crashing!" but John convinced her to come out and shoot his new semi-auto. He came back in a little while later saying, "Mike, never piss off your wife! She's a really good shot." I already knew this, but I appreciate any fair warning these days.

Amy then made us brownies, went back out in search of orange juice (something I'd neglected for our alcohol arsenal), while Mike fired the grill and cooked us all some awesome angus burgers. We imbibed, forgot to toast him entirely, and put on Death Trance, and incoherent action film from the guys who made Versus. An hour in, I was feeling pretty good and impaired, no longer even caring that I couldn't figure out what the hell was going on with the movie. Then Mike said that there was someone banging on my door.

There was. A woman had a Durango blocking our driveway. It had a flat tire and she was completely lost. Wearing a denim mini-skirt and a tube top, this woman was in her late 40s and looked a little like the prostitute from My Name is Earl. I came back in and asked if anyone wanted to help me change a hooker's tire.

Mike was convinced I'd hired her as the stripper and, to be honest, that did seem like a logical explanation but, again, see above. I wasn't handling the "adult entertainment". Nope, she was just a woman with a flat tire. A woman with an enormous car, a broken jack and a spare that was frozen to her chassis due to lack of maintenance. It took all four of us, plus Amy, plus a series of tools, WD-40, two jacks, a few boards, a can of fix-a-flat and an air compressor, and 94 minutes to get this stupid broad back on her way. "This stuff happens to me all the time," she lamented. "I have the worst luck."

"And thanks for spreading it around to us," I thought as my buzz vanished entirely.

John ended up sawing through the cable holding her spare to the underside of her car. It had frayed and was not lowering the way it should. Of course, cutting the cable meant that the tire had only one place to go: straight down onto John's head. The party was a roaring success for him by this point. We all considered just going back into the house, getting the guns, shooting her, hiding the car and having done with it all. (Trust me: we all considered this. We had the firepower after all! Why not make this our own Very Bad Things?) But we were good Samaritans, a fact not lost on this woman. She was highly aware that banging on a door in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night was a really risky move. She was lucky she got the Nerd Bachelor Party and not something much scarier further over the hill. But living that far out on your own without having AAA or knowing anything about your car or even how to change your own tire is just very stupid. Very.

Of course, once we finally got the spare on the car, it too immediately went flat. That's where the compressor and fix-a-flat came in. And the prayer that she'd at least get out of sight before she broke down again.

By the time we finally got rid of her, it was well after 10. John and Amy had to work the next morning; Jeff had an appointment. The party was over. I still don't know how Death Trance ended and we didn't even get to whatever disturbing porn Mike had with him. But, still, all in all, not a bad way to spend an evening.

The next day, the party continued, to an extent. I hooked up with Mike and our friend Matt Gilligan and set out to see Shoot 'em Up, which they'd already seen and loved. Amy and Carolyn, Mike's fiancĂ©e, headed over to the Smiling Moose for the bachelorette party. Post-movie plans involved a journey to a local strip club and I'd already decided to skip that—again: see above. Maybe I'm a failure as a man, but I have very little interest in strip clubs. Maybe it is because I'm married and have seen naked women in the past. Or maybe, as was pointed out by my brother-in-law earlier at my mother's birthday party (oh yeah: busy fucking weekend), I have no desire to throw money at a woman who doesn't give a shit about me. Or maybe I just don't want to spend my evening in a depressing cellar with a bunch of desperate, sleazy men watching women making ends meet with a last-resort career. Whatever. I wasn't going.

Shoot 'em Up was disappointing. I was able to deal with the suspension of disbelief when it came to the physics. The hero hit everything he aimed at and a whole bunch of shit he didn't. The villains all dressed identically and couldn't hit him if their guns were pressed against his chest. Laws of thermodynamics, friction, speed, sound and gravity were routinely broken or utterly disregarded. Also fine. No problems here. Video game logic; I dug it. But the movie routinely cheated it's own rules and premise and treated the audience thusly: "You're obviously very stupid for being here in the first place and we're going to treat you as such". There's a plot hole in the center of the film that's just unforgivable, involving a robot baby. It angered me. And, seriously Hollywood, you can't have a pro-gun movie with an anti-gun message. It doesn't work. It doesn't work as irony and it doesn't work as a message. It's asinine. Especially when the man implementing the anti-gun message actually murders someonewith a gun—at the end of his decree!

Of course, this further perplexed Mike and Matt. "You think about these things too much," one said. "It's just meant to be fun," said one or the other. Which also angered me. That's the reason shit continues to be made. I've had this fight with friends my entire life. Just because a movie is meant to be entertaining that doesn't give it the right to be insulting. Not everyone in the audience is an idiot. And no, I won't stop taking things like this seriously. It takes as much effort to do something right—especially on the script level—as it does to do something badly. I have no tolerance for lazy screenwriting.

After the movie, I had Mike drop me off at the Moose. I like that bar and the owner, so I figured I'd have a drink and go find something to do, not wanting to crash the girls' party. I ended up being invited to join. Amy, Carolyn, some work friends of Carolyn's, and our friend Tara (make-up whiz on Professor Jack and the Electric Club) were boozing it up in the bar's upstairs pool room, which they had virtually to themselves. Amy had bought light-up shotglasses with penises in the bottom. And straws with penises on them. And penis candy necklaces and bracelets. Basically, everything that stood as a symbol to oral sex… a practice most women abandon after the honeymoon. They slapped a pin on me that said "Dated the Groom" and we bitched about work and friends. It was a fun time.

And I was able to hang out and drink without feeling (overly) old, as I have lately. Though we were chased out around 1am by a rowdy group who strolled in already drunk. Actually, the group was okay but they were with a little asshole with a faux-hawk who thought it was hysterical that he could scream at the top of his lungs like Fay Wray. Rather than shove a pool cue down his throat, we opted to just split.

And thus ended the pre-wedding festivities. We have the rehearsal dinner this week (which is good because I don't want to make any eating mistakes on the big day) and then the ceremony and reception on Saturday. Not to mention my speech. Considering every other best man's speech I've ever heard deals with how the best man himself is actually more important than the couple, I'm looking forward to it all the more.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Returning from Rotten Jack's

A couple of weeks ago, Amy and I made the trek out to Rotten Jack’s Creep Show in Buffalo, NY. Despite the fact that it took forever for us to get on the road—I worked in the morning, we stopped for food and gas, traffic was ridiculous at lunchtime and wouldn’t let us out of the city, etc.—we arrived safely and wound up having a great time. For a first-time show, it ran exceptionally smoothly and we both feel grateful to Tom for inviting us to participate. Ironically, the woman responsible for turning Tom onto us, Melantha Blackthorne, had to cancel at the last minute due to getting cast in the remake of Death Race 2000 (congrats, M!). We wound up getting to hang out with two of our very good friends, however—April and JimmyO Burril—so the rest was gravy.

A combo horror and rock ‘n roll show, Rotten Jack’s Creep Show was held at a little out of the way place called Club Infinity. Vendors were set up at enormous 8’ tables (we’re all used to the comparatively-cramped 6-footers that are the norm at other shows) that led to and around the stage and pit area where the bands played. Our table was between Jimmy and April and Greg Lambertson, whose new movie, Johnny Gruesome, is getting a considerable amount of attention (and congrats to him as well!). To our left were the awesome Midnight Syndicate folks; to our right, the also awesome Fright Rags (next to filmmakers who just wrapped a cool-looking thing called Banshee). And directly across from us, the show’s primary draw: Steve Gonsalves from Sci-Fi’s Ghost Hunters.

The only guy who ever had a line, Steve seemed friendly and personable. His line consisted primarily of younger kids and older women, for some reason, all of whom were genuinely excited to meet him. Of course, having been in situations like this before, we knew not to get too worked up by the line stretching in front of our table. We got more than a few cursory glances at our merchandise, but few first-time buyers. They were there for Steve and nobody else. In fact, we encountered quite a few poseurs. More than one teenager slathered in fake blood would glance at our Spicy Sisters or Severe Injuries DVDs and immediately proclaim them to be porn. “Actually,” I told one girl, there pimping a local haunted attraction, “Spicy Sisters is a documentary about women in the horror industry.”

“Yeah, sure—the porn industry, probably.”

“You’re right, I was just being silly. Please get the fuck away from my table.”

Hey, I said ‘please’.

Little nimrods like this abounded, but she was the most outspoken. We did manage to turn a few folks into believers and it’s always fun to meet people who have never heard of us, but are interested to find out more. As Amy pointed out to me, after my less-than-pleasant encounter with the little anti-porn girl, most of the kids there were Halloween people, not horror people. They love the holiday, not the genre. They’re the kids who, crowded into theaters every Friday night, are keeping the remake machine running. They don’t know—or really care—about the horror industry. Halloween is awesome, but, dude, it’s only once a year.

A couple of shots of rum later, I was able to digest this truth a little better.

I have to admit, though, that this show made me feel older than ever before. The bands were too loud for me (although the Midnight Syndicate music did make the ever-playing baseball game on the overhead TV seem much more dramatic and scary!), the line for Gonsalves was oppressive and made me feel claustrophobic. And, dammit, the kids were too damned young! Seeing guys like Chris Seaver—who I’ve known for almost a decade—and my old friend Jim Steinhoff—who I’ve known for over a decade—didn’t help either. Happy to see them; dismayed that I’m old enough to know anyone outside immediate family for “decades”.

I made matters worse, later, by partaking in pizza and barbecued wings at 2AM in Jimmy and April’s room later. We ordered just after midnight, but the joint didn’t see fit to deliver when promised. So I’m chowing down and feeling like a Mogwai—I shouldn’t be fed after midnight either. We’re watching the roast of Flavor Flav—all the time I’m trying to figure out “why” (why were we watching this? Why is anyone paying attention to Flavor Flav? Why isn’t this actually funny?). A couple of hours later, I wake up in intestinal distress as my body fights with the sheer quantity of grease and cholesterol as well as the remnants of the alcohol.

And I realize how old I’ve become. I joke with friends all the time: how did we go from being kids to being old without becoming adults along the way? No answer. But just three short years ago, I could have abused my body with that food that late at night and still slept the sleep of those at peace.

We woke early to grab breakfast and see Jimmy and April before their plane left. My body felt hammered and my right eye was on fire. Oh yay! I’d developed a sty that was changing the upper lid from pink to red and swelling at an alarming rate. By Tuesday, the lid had swollen completely shut—no amount of warm compresses would combat the condition. This seriously crimped my plans to get any work done for the rest of the week—everything I do is visual!

So I can’t eat after midnight. I require at least six hours of sleep or I can’t function for the entirety of the day. An ailment that would have, in the past, cleared up overnight took almost a week to heal. My hair is going Reed Richards at the temples. My metabolism hates me. I wake up with new and exciting and perplexing aches every day. Faboo! I’m falling apart.

Okay, the oncoming discrepancy aside, it was still a really fun time and I’m looking forward to the next Rotten Jack show. And while I’m not so obsessed with all of the above to start searching for the fountain of youth, I wouldn’t mind regaining the ability of having a midnight snack without worrying about agony, obesity or high cholesterol. That’d just be, you know, swell.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Checking in while I'm running out

The new job has me bound to my desk. I rush home and get about two hours of other work in before my tired old body gives out on me. The last few days have been devoted to completing the picture lock on Splatter Movie: The Director's Cut, so I've had time for little else.

Splatter Movie is almost there. Amy and I sat down and hammered out the structure while getting some good input from Jeff (Waltrowski, co-star and director of photography), Rachelle (Williams, co-star and trusted co-conspirator) and Fred (Obermiller, executive producer and trustworthy eyes and ears). Because it's set up as a pseudo-documentary (and not a "mockumentary" as some have called it... I like to think of it as a "splat-umentary"... "shock-umentary"? What's more appropriate?), it doesn't have a definite structure at all. It starts, it ends, then there's all this stuff in the middle. And it didn't fit together the way the script decreed it, surprisingly. But I think we have all the footage beaten into submission, so it's just a matter of chiseling away at it. Hopefully, all goes well, I'll have a working cut by the end of the month. Just in time, too, as we're starting to field a lot of requests for screeners. Despite the constant declarations of death (thanks to the failure of Hostel 2, apparently), the horror industry appears to be alive and only moderately ill.

Still, time continues to be a factor. So I'm only now getting around to letting everyone know that Amy and I will be guests at the Rotten Jack's Creep Show, and you can get the lowdown HERE or HERE. Our good friends JimmyO and April Burril will be there as well, so swing on down if you're in Buffalo.

And then it's the countdown to Cinema Wasteland, which is our big show of the year. If you don't attend Wasteland, truly, your life has no meaning.

We're also gearing up for a big DVD release party for A Feast of Flesh, which is officially released on November 6. There will be news as soon as humanly possible - we have a meeting tonight, as a matter of fact, to set things up. In the meantime, swing by Bloody Earth Films' site and check out the swanky artwork (photo courtesy of David Cooper and jazzed up by the B.E. magicians).

Oh, and Amy, Jeff and I spent a good part of last Saturday working with Eric Molinaris of MFX Studios on his new zombie movie. Check out photos and video HERE. Most of what you see was shot by either Jeff or I. (All the cool stuff is mine.) All the crowd scenes were organized and directed by Amy. Eric directed, conceived, wrote and did the effects and suffered sleep deprivation in the process. Lorena Cintron took care of administration and glamour make-up. A whole bunch of people, including Splatter Movie's Luke, Scott, Brandon, Steve and Jimmy, handled make-up. A whole bunch of people whose names I never learned star as the zombies and soldiers. The Donora Police provided the bridge and blocked off the traffic (until they got bored and wandered away, claiming "traffic accident" right at the end of the shoot - and suddenly we're dealing with old folks driving over the bridge one the way home from church or Bingo or whatever it is grumpy old people do on Saturday afternoons ...)

... Gads, there's so much more, but it's all "in the works". We have two movies planned for the next few months, one we're raising money for, the other I haven't even written yet! And we're hoping to return to shooting Professor Jack and the Electric Club after Christmas, but that may have to wait until Mr. Waltrowski wraps his super-secret feature in April. And despite my frustrations with the print industry, I may even release a book at the end of the year. Consider yourself threatened.

And good lord - I haven't even mentioned the official 10th Anniversary of The Resurrection Game or the commemorative DVD that's in the works! Ten years since we began working on that hateful, spiteful movie. That zombie movie sans zombies! The start of this whole painful, endless trip called "our careers"...

So stay tuned. Eventually I'll get to talk about all that stuff. In the meantime, keep watching the skies!