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...)