Friday, April 30, 2010

Interview: The Makers of 'Blood On The Highway'

The interview train keeps on rolling this week. I posted a trailer and a news update a couple weeks back about a film that I first saw in 2008 at the Dallas AFI Film Festival. My buddy and I (being the horror geeks we are) immediately honed in on the news of it being the only horror film accepted into the festival last year. Combined with the fact that it was filmed in our own backyard, we felt compelled to check out this indie vampire comedy romp. We're glad that we did.

I've said it many times before that, by and large, I am not a huge fan of the vampire sub-genre. I find most films to be uninteresting, except for the mighty few that attempt to do something different. The fact that this film does and pulls it off with sheer comedic genius, well kids, I can only say that if you check out the film, you are guaranteed to have a rollicking good time.

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing both Writer/Director Blair Rowan and Producer/Director Barak Epstein (left and right respectively in the picture above). They talked about the concepts for their film, their feelings for the vampire sub-genre as a whole and about the film's challenges in getting a distribution deal.

Cortez the Killer: Were did the idea for Blood on The Highway come from? Blair, you mentioned that the process started when you were 16. Tell me about what jump started it and inspired you. Barak, as both producer and director, what elements did you add to the mix from Blair’s original screenplay?

Blair Rowan: It’s kind of hard for me to clearly remember why I started writing the screenplay because frankly, I’ve never really been a big fan of vampire movies. One of my closest friends, John Poole, was pretty obsessed with vampires during middle school and high school though, and I know that’s got a lot to do with it because we actually wrote the role of Bone (played by actor Deva George) around his personality (he’s a little more socially adjusted than Bone though). Whatever the hell my reasons were, I wrote about the first quarter of it when I was sixteen, mostly during downtime while working behind the concession stand of the Inwood movie theater. I was really into John Waters at the time and the original concept of the film was a lot more intentionally campy, although the biggest inspiration on it at that time was the Doom Generation (which is still really evident). I’ve always been a comedy nerd and the combination of excessive gore and dirty jokes just really appealed to me.

The dirty jokes really moved to the forefront when Chris Gardner took on the task of co-writing it with me. We picked the script back up when we were 18 and pounded out a complete draft with the intention of shooting it with a group of friends on whatever video camera we could find. In other words, we had no idea how to make a fucking movie.

Barak read over the script during that time period and it somehow stuck out enough in his memory that he asked us if we’d be willing to spit out another draft of it as a possible follow-up to his last movie, Prison-A-Go-Go. That was back in 2003, and Chris and I spent the next six years pounding out a countless number of drafts, each one getting progressively more immature and raunchier than the last. We basically spent ten years trying to one up each other on pussy and dick jokes and that somehow became a movie. Ohhhhh, wasted youth.

Barak Epstein: I don’t think I added anything too specific in the way of story/dialogue, other than to cut things out that were gonna be too expensive. In one early draft of the script there were a lot of things that morphed and flew into the sky and lots of things that exploded. For example, I asked Blair and Chris, instead of them actually having exploding land mines on the ranch, why don’t they just talk about wanting land mines? Then they can have bear traps instead. The great thing about bear traps is that you only need to find one actual bear trap as a prop, all the rest can be sound fx!


CTK: I got a huge kick out of the vampires in the film kind of playing into the hillbilly stereotype of people from the south. But the thing that really tickled my pickle was the idea that they weren’t necessarily just dumb, stupid, hicks, but completely inept vampires that had no idea how to be one (i.e. use their powers). Tell me about the idea for that vampiric quality or lack thereof.

BR: Apart from one or two of the vampires, we actually weren’t even really trying to play up the hillbilly aspect. We just wanted them to be dudes. Just regular dudes. Not so bright, sure, but normal dudes nonetheless. One of the things that’s always bugged the shit out of me about most vampire movies is that no matter who gets bitten, they’re automatically these hyper-sexualized and powerful creatures and they know exactly how to use all of their powers. It takes most of us five to ten years just to figure out everything that goes into being a normal human adult, but all of a sudden these fuckers can fly and shape-shift? That annoys the piss out of me. So Chris and I basically approached our vampires with that attitude. What would happen if this tiny Texas town full of normal, simple people suddenly got turned into mystical monsters over night? They probably wouldn’t be very good at it.

CTK: Tell me about the film as well as your filmmaker influences.

BR: I like Barak’s description of the movie as an 'Action-Comedy-Horror-Extravaganza.' He’s better than I am at hitting all of the selling points in a concise manner. The only thing really missing from his summation there is 'and there’s boobs in it!'

The movie is definitely more of a raunchy comedy than anything else. We’ve hopefully got enough splatter and gore to keep the horror aficionado interested, but we never intended to really make a straight-up horror movie nor did we even try to add any frightening elements. Even the few shock cues that are in the movie are supposed to be jokes. More than anything, we set out to make a loving satire of horror movies, the same way Hot Fuzz is a loving send-up of action flicks or Wet Hot American Summer is of 80’s camp movies. We were really careful not to tread into the route of parody like Scary Movie does, and instead wanted it to be a fully original storyline with original characters, but everything about the plot and the characters is still poking fun at horror movie formulas and archetypes. Nearly every plot contrivance and 'badass' one-liner in the movie is meant to be a throwaway joke, like Bone just can’t say something cool without it falling on deaf ears or someone else saying something to ruin it somehow. One of the most obvious examples of our throwaway approach is the whole setup and payoff of Old Zeke’s character, and even the main monster at the end of the movie. We were just basically making fun of the same things that we’ve seen over and over again in horror movies, and sometimes we were even making fun of our own low-budget limited effects (but don’t get me wrong. Josh Fread and Mike Brower did a kick-ass job with the effects).

As far as filmmaker influences go, I don’t think it’s evident in the slightest with this movie, but the Coen Brothers and Terry Gilliam are at the top of my list. The influences that are a little more clearly demonstrated are Sam Raimi and early Peter Jackson, but I actually think the most obvious influence you can see in the movie is Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Horror movies aside, the finished movie feels more like a live-action episode of South Park than anything else I can think of.

BE: Ditto to a lot of this stuff. Some of my hero’s are Sam Arkoff, Roger Corman, Joe Dante, John Landis, Roman Polanski, Woody Allen & David Cronenberg. And to double back on Trey Parker – listening to the drunken audio commentary on Cannibal: The Musical, which was made by those guys while in college on spring break, inspired me to make my first feature Cornman: American Vegetable Hero while I was still in college.


CTK: There is a sort of Darkness: The Vampire Version vibe that runs throughout the film, especially the interactions between the friends and the rock n’ roll feel of it. Have you both seen the film and did you draw any inspiration from it?

BR: This is actually somehow the first time I’ve even heard of the movie (although after a quick internet search, I do clearly remember seeing an ad for it in Fangoria when I was a teenager). I just watched the trailer for it on YouTube and it looks fucking nuts. I’ve gotta hunt it down, just for the gore effects alone.

CTK: You really should. The ending in particular is pretty epic.

BE: Ive never heard of it either! Does that make us posers or the opposite? There was a review written years ago about my movie, Prison-A-Go-Go!, where the reviewer wanted to know why I had stolen so much stuff from Eddie Romero’s The Twilight People, which is a movie I hadn’t seen. I went back and watched it and realized that I did 'borrow' a lot from it somehow. So to answer your question- yes we stole much of Blood on The Highway from Darkness!

CTK: Definitely NOT posers. Your film is totally unique and original.

Please tell me that actor Deva George (who plays Bone in the film) really has that killer Black Flag tattoo on his right arm in real life. I will be forever crushed if he does not.

BR: I CRUSH YOUR LIFE!!! Nope, sorry, dude. All of the tattoos were fake. Deva and I actually spent the entire night before our first day of shooting hunting down a Kinkos that would print out the transparencies he designed. We luckily found one around two in the morning where the employees were lazy enough to not give a shit if we destroyed their machinery printing materials it wasn’t meant to handle.

CTK: Which decade of horror produced better films? The 70’s or 80’s?

BR: Damn, that’s a tough question. The 70’s definitely reshaped the genre into a more relentless and visceral beast by pushing the boundaries to new levels of excess, both in subject matter and gore effects. Whether it was from the horrific imagery from Vietnam being broadcast on the local news or just the freewheeling hippie bullshit permeating the nation, the MPAA actually seemed to pay attention to the culture around them for the first time ever. They finally realized adults were capable of watching movies with severely adult content and in turn gave filmmakers the freedom to pursue new levels of creative and disturbing imagery. So we can thank the era of Free Love for giving us the image of a little girl vomiting on her mother while masturbating with a crucifix.
So, sure, the 70’s produced all of these groundbreaking and iconic horror films like The Exorcist, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween and the Dead series, but it was also a turning point for box office revenue and the studio’s business model. With all of the blockbusters that came out of the 70’s, the studios got even more money hungry than they already were and proceeded to slowly back away from any potentially innovative films in favor of the safe bet. And there you have the 80’s. Sequels, sequels, sequels. And if they weren’t making sequels, they were making half-assed imitations of the already proven and lucrative franchises. They followed the fine print from the evil book, The Reaganomicon, to a tee.

So in terms of which decade contributed more to the genre as we know it today, I’ve gotta say the 70’s. But, despite all of the unoriginal dreck that was being mindlessly pumped out of the studio system, the eighties also managed to give us some of the most original and brilliant horror films ever made, mostly from independent filmmakers, such as Re-Animator and Evil Dead 1 & 2, and even a few that squeaked out of the studios like The Thing and An American Werewolf in London. And I have such boundless love for those movies alone that on a personal level, I’ve gotta choose the 80’s over the 70’s. I’ve got more respect for the 70’s, but that greedy yuppie whore we call the 80’s also had her upsides.

BE: I have to also go with the 80’s for the technical quality of some of the good horror stuff. Near Dark, Street Trash, The Howling, Clive Barker, anything Cronenberg. But the 70’s Drive-in B-movie scene was definitely more fun. Long live the drive-in!


CTK: As mentioned, I first saw your film at the Dallas AFI Film Festival back in 2008 and I have been following the film’s progress via your website for what seems like a long time. Tell me about your challenges in getting this thing into the hands of a distributor and the challenges of being an indie filmmaker altogether.

BR: As far as getting it into the hands of a distributor, that was all Barak. The most difficult part of that for me was just trying to be patient and remaining optimistic about it. It definitely felt like it was never going to happen for a while there, but Barak never gave up and did an amazing job and I couldn’t be happier with the way things worked out.

As with most independent filmmakers, the biggest challenge that we really faced was simply getting the funding together to shoot the damn thing. There were many teasing moments over the years between when Barak asked us to pick the script back up and when we finally went into production, quite a few close calls from potential investors who would then lose interest for whatever reason. There was one guy in particular who was pretty much set to fund nearly the entire movie, but he was convinced that it wasn’t marketable enough and basically wanted us to cut all of the vampire’s jokes and make them scary instead. He just didn’t get the joke of the entire movie and pretty much wanted us to turn it into what it’s poking fun at and thank Christ we didn’t, because without the humor, it would just feel like one of those awful made for Syfy horror movies. And Barak is really the one to thank for making that decision. He already owned all the rights to the script and that was before he asked me to come on board as co-director, so he could have just gone ahead and chopped out the comedy and gone with this guy, but he was ballsy enough to make the potentially less profitable decision and retain the comedy. Y’know, it’s always wise to hear out any potential investor’s suggested revisions for your movie and to consider the possibilities, but in the long run, you’ve just gotta go with your gut. Don’t make the compromise if it’s going to sacrifice the story you know that it’s supposed to be. Especially since once they put their money in, it’s their movie, and you’re obligated to go with whatever changes they want. We were lucky enough to have an executive producer, Robert Bell, who believed in the script and was willing to go with whatever call that Barak and Chris and I thought was best for the movie.

BE: We’ve actually had a US distributor for about a year now, which was about a year after we started our festival run. (we screened at about 20 fests) Our original deal, with Lightning Entertainment, was a VOD deal for TV with a 12-18 month 'hold' on DVD. The movie premiered on cable TV via VOD last September and had a pretty healthy run through December. There are still some lingering VOD runs in the works, but the DVD stars aligned at the right time to get the DVD release that weve got (June 29th via E1 Entertainment). Blood on The Highway is also available right now in Germany, (where its known as Legion der Vampire), and soon will be available in France.


CTK: True or False. The vampire sub-genre of horror happens to be one of the most boring and uninteresting. –Refraining from using a terrible pun

BR: True. As I already mentioned, I can’t stand most vampire movies or TV shows. They’re just not my thing. I know that a lot of people have a lot of love for the standard vampire mythos and I don’t want to take a dump on anyone’s parade, so I’ll refrain from going into detail why I don’t really care for them. The handful of vampire storylines that I’ve really enjoyed were the few that broke away from the obvious clichés to do their own thing like From Dusk Till Dawn, Near Dark, Let the Right One In, or even the Buffy TV show (and I’m not just saying that because Nicholas Brendon is in our movie, honestly).
I will say this, though. If you’re a devout fan of brooding, goth/Eurotrash, erotic vampire storylines, Blood on The Highway is probably not the movie for you.

BE: Im gonna say false for some of the same reasons Blair said true. If you look at From Dusk Till Dawn, Near Dark, Let the Right One In, Buffy, Fright Night, Romero’s Martin, Ferrara’s The Addiction, Fessenden’s Habit any many others you’ll see a wide range of different kinds of good vampire films. They exist and continue to get made, you sometimes just have to a dig a bit deeper to find them.


CTK: Good points Barack. I loved Fessenden's Habit. So weird yet original. But by and large, I still think the sub-genre sucks. There I said it.

Who came up with those awesomely offensive one liners? It took awhile for me to register the autistic/NAMBLA comment (see here for more info).

BR: As I said earlier, Chris and I spent way too much of our time coming up with those. Our writing process was basically just trying to make each other laugh or cringe. I have no idea who was responsible for whatever individual line, but I will say that if it’s particularly offensive, then it was most likely Chris’ brain baby. There’s hardly any adlibbing in the movie itself, but a fair chunk of Roy’s dialog, particularly in the pool scene with Sam and the hallway scene with Carrie, was Chris spitting out whatever vile things he could think of on-set.

CTK: Absolutely brilliant and among some of my favorite one liners in all of moviedom. No joke.

Any upcoming projects that we should be on the lookout for?

BR: I don’t have anything as immediately available as Barak and Clay Liford (our Cinematographer) do with their movie Earthling, which is currently screening at festivals, but Chris and I have a few projects in the works. We’re currently putting the finishing touches on a short film that Chris wrote and I directed entitled Narcissism & Me and we’re hoping to play some festivals with it in the next year. Apart from that, we’ve been laboring over a new feature screenplay called The Bad, which is a straight comedy without the horror elements about the world’s most oblivious band. It’s kind of a road trip movie with this band taking an epically disastrous mini-tour across the state of Texas, playing some of the most demeaning and terrifying small town 'venues' you can imagine. And if you enjoyed the song Who’s Gonna Kill (All These Fuckin’ Vampires) from Blood on The Highway, then you’ll likely get a kick out of the music in store for this one. Hopefully it won’t take us another ten years just to complete the fucking screenplay. Other than that, Chris and I have also been trying to get back to our sketch comedy roots and be a little more prolific with video sketch output. We’re hoping to have a website set up sometime in the next few months, most likely under the name of Cold Heartless Corporate Productions, so keep an eye out for that if you’re looking to quell your hunger for more raunchy and blood soaked humor and only have a few minutes to do it.

BE: Check out Earthling on the festival circuit! We’ve got London Sci-Fi, Maryland and Santa Cruz coming up with a few more we’ll be able to announce soon. Check out http://www.everythingcomesfromthewater.com/ and facebook.com/earthlingmovie. And while youre poking people on FB, link us up at facebook.com/bloodonthehighway. Also, if you like Blood On The Highway it will really help us out if you write about it and rate it on Amazon and IMDB, and blogs like Planet of Terror! Tell your friends!

CTK: Most righteous dudes, thank you for your time. Best of luck to you in the future.

BR: Thanks so much again for interviewing us!

For more information regarding Blood on The Highway, check out the film's website: http://www.bloodonthehighway.com/

To pre-order the film via Amazon.com, clicky here. And it will also be available via NetFlix on June 29th.

Cortez the Killer

HorrorBlips: vote it up!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

A New Nightmare Realization

While watching the original (it feels weird saying that) A Nightmare on Elm Street tonight for the bajillionth time, I took notice to something which had never occurred to me before.

Character actress Lin Shaye plays the school teacher towards the beginning of the film:


And she's also notoriously known for this scene in Kingpin:


That is all.

Cortez the Killer

HorrorBlips: vote it up!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Fear No Evil (1981)


Fear 0/5
Gore 1/5
Entertainment 5/5
Creepiness 2/5

This movie is just plain bizarre. It contains some of the most conceptually 'What the fuck?' constructed elements that have ever graced film. Let's see:

- A completely homo erotic incarnation of Satan
- A hurling and subsequent death by dodgeball
- A profusely bleeding baby of which, there are no apparent side effects
- The most random and nonsensical suicide. Ever.
- Atari 2600 special effects with an epically incredible Jesus crucifixion and final standoff w/ our dark lord
- Zombies rising to assist the dark one in his hostile takeover of the town and with the defense of an old castle

Our film starts off with a padre smiting a person inhabited by the being who's from a little south of heaven. He's tried and committed to prison for the murder of the man despite his warnings that another will come to earth and take his place.

Flash forward a few years and we see a family at church getting their new ankle biter baptized. The yougin' gets the hippy hippy shakes and starts spewing blood everywhere before the head dousing is completed. The family doesn't think much of it. Years pass and the relationship between husband and wife start to deteriorate. It becomes apparent that their now grown up leader of the damned has a strong hold and influence over them.



The loner and outcast of the school, teenage Lucifer grows tired of being slighted and not taken seriously. In a series of bizarre events, he first makes good on the advances of his main antagonist, a guy that looks like Johnny Ramone (AKA Tony) and blares oi oi oi punk music during breaks from class. After gym class, the boys are in the locker room and showering. Johnny takes to teasing emo sweater wearing, young and sensitive Satan and pretends that he wants to kiss him while in the shower. Well you better make good on that pretend business. Because this Satan loves a good make out session with a dude for NO APPARENT REASON. His head doesn't explode. He doesn't get possessed by a demon. He just awkwardly makes out with him while their dinguses flop about in the shower and the other boys look on.


The next day, he takes out his rage on the gym coach who punishes him for being late by making him do push-ups. In a fit of Hulk rage, he unleashes his fury on the coach, getting him to rifle a dodge ball at one of the kids, knocking him into the bleachers and killing him instantly.






So what's there left to do in order to gain attention when making out with guys in the shower and killing people with a recess toy doesn't gain you proper notice? You stage a war against the townsfolk as they participate in the annual passion of the Christo reenactment and REALLY execute Jesus. From the ruins of an old castle which his old predecessor inhabited, he begins his assault by summoning a massive horde of zombies:


He causes a frenzy with the reenactment, making it more life-like than ever before:


Tony and his girlfriend show up to the castle to help out two archangels that have been hot on his trail. By this time, the side effects of Satan's makeout session become abundantly clear:


After a brief struggle and a kiss goodbye, he says 'Fuck you' to teeny McSatan and he stabs himself to death. Presumably, because he can't come to terms with the fact that he's now a woman. Or gay.






The two archangels arrive on the scene summon the power of Greyskull using an ancient staff that was used to kill the previous incarnation (who's sexual proclivities still remain in questions) and save the day:


This is one of the most bizarre and oddly entertaining horror movies I've ever seen. I'm with Emily over at The Deadly Doll's House of Horror Nonsense. You HAVE to see this movie for its qualities of sheer ridiculousness and nonsensicalness (yes, that is a word).

Cortez the Killer

* * * *

And here's my take from a couple of years ago (really, this blog has been active for a while now - kinda weird)



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Monday, April 26, 2010

Friday, April 23, 2010

Interview: Elisabeth Fies, Writer/Director 'The Commune'


As you may recall from a few weeks back, we posted a review for the cultish terror known as The Commune. The film is remarkable in creating both tension and a startling atmosphere as our unsuspecting teenage female protagonist not only comes of age while amongst a group of unorthodox people, but also as she meets a terrible fate at the hands of her crazed father and his clan of anything goes followers.

Its a film that's unnerving in both the conceptual aspect of the pseudo religious cult as well as the otherworldly father who completely oversteps and eventually, destroys the familial bond which is oftentimes so strong between a father and daughter. The film works on so many levels and I likened it in some regards to both The Wicker Man and Rosemary's Baby. But that's not to say that filmmaker Elisabeth Fies' picture isn't original or unique, it truly is. To invoke the spirit of both of those films while having your own exceptional tale to tell is definitely a fine accomplishment.

I recently had the privilege of interviewing Elisabeth. Here is what she had to say about her idea for the film, its themes, as well as her disdain for the current run of unoriginality in the filmmaking world as well as the crippling effects of internet piracy on the indie filmmaker.

Cortez the Killer: You had mentioned to me that you lived in Northern California for awhile and you got the idea for the film based on the culture you experienced there. Tell me a little bit more about it and how it served as the basis for your film.

Elisabeth Fies: I grew up near Marin County at the height of the Me Generation's narcissistic exploration of themselves through the cult-like self-help movement and the invention of New Age religions. My entire childhood was steeped in it. Some people view The Commune: A New Cult Classic and think the culture and characters are far-fetched. Not northern Californian viewers. They love it and think it's dead on. These aren't stereotypes. You can't swing a black cat in NorCal without smacking someone like each character.

CTK: I grew up in San Diego so I've never experienced anything quite like that. We had loads of hippie stoners and meth addicts though.

The imagery used throughout and some of the scenes themselves were certainly of a shocking and unnerving nature. But for me, it was the whole concept of the cult being open to people of all beliefs and this idea of a spiritual free-for-all which ultimately creeped me out. Coming from a pretty conservative Catholic upbringing and seeing, overall, how religion can be manipulated and melded for self-serving gain, the concept really struck a nerve with me. I don’t know if this was intentional or not. I guess my question is, was it intentional and was it meant to strike a chord with people who come from some sort of spiritual background?

EF: It was totally intentional to make the theme about the Me Generation's invention of New Age religion. But the movie is absolutely not about any specific group or religion, just about the concept of people who make up their own rules and how dangerous that is in the hands of unbalanced people with questionable boundaries. It's a huge, unnerving fear of mine having met people who fit this description in northern California at the height of the self-help movement in the 80's and 90's. My spiritual background is I was born Jewish, went to Catholic grade school, was Wiccan in high school, and I am now agnostic. But I've studied a ton of religions and participated in the majority of them out of intellectual curiousity. What I find with The Commune is that it's an ink blot test for people. You view it through your spiritual filter, and because it's so confronting and personal, it feels like it's about your belief system. But it isn't.

We've had some interesting Q & A's after screenings with people whose feathers were ruffled, but they quickly realize it's a fictionalized world examining the power structure of new religions and cults, not your religion or cult. I literally drew mythology and symbols from every culture, from ancient Sumeria to Native Americans to the Japanese. The funniest story I have about this aspect is after an early personal screening for an investor, he turned to me during the credits and said 'So what do you have against Buddhists? I'm Buddhist.' I was speechless. I went back through the movie and there is one let me say it again ONE Buddha in the entire movie, and it's there for two seconds. That was the first inkling of what we'd created in this movie, and how it strikes a nerve in audiences.


CTK: Commenters on the blog mentioned the relative lack of films within the religious communal/cultish sub-genre of horror. Why do you think this is and do you think it has anything to do with society’s inclination to stray from anything that could potentially offend the moral majority?

EF: Certainly the studios have steered clear of it recently, but there's no reason why indie filmmakers couldn't be tackling the subject more. But this brings me to a frequent complaint of mine, which is the holocaust of creativity in modern indie films. With the exception of Lars Von Trier, Crispin Glover and The Short Bus guys, people aren't using the digital revolution to express themselves and push artistic boundaries. Instead they're copying Hollywood films and trying to break into an industry that's already died. Maybe it's a good thing there's no money left in filmmaking and we're all splintering off into niche distribution sources. The sooner the Gold Rush myths burst, the sooner the poseurs will go back to buying lottery tickets and leave the creating to people who actually have a thought or emotion to express.

CTK: You are the first filmmaker that I've interviewed that's out and out said this without sugar coating anything. I appreciate your honesty.

Shifting focus, who are your main writing and filmmaking influences?

EF: Twin Peaks is the single biggest influence on me. After it, my two favorites are a tie: Sex, Lies, And Videotape and Terminator 2. Sex was when I realized I could make a movie too, and I could make it very personal and embarrassing and confessional. T2 was when I realized the best way to get a message out into the world was hidden in amazing entertainment value. So my first film The Commune is my SL&V, and my sophomore film Pistoleras is a high-budget spaghetti western actioner T2-style with a message of empowering women to learn self-defense and team with men to defeat the sex slave trade.


CTK: Sounds fun and Charlie's Angels-ish but way more badass.

Multiple mentions have been made about your film bringing to mind The Wicker Man and Rosemary’s Baby. This is a likening which I mentioned myself, with even the ending having that same sort of vibe as Rosemary’s Baby. Did those films influence you and to what extent?

EF: Structurally the most influential sources were The Wicker Man, Chinatown, and the book Mists of Avalon. Then I borrowed film techniques from Don't Look Now and The Howling. I think there were only two moments I took from Rosemary's Baby, and they were both at the end. There were many more nods to Repulsion and The Tenant. For the vibe, Twin Peaks was the largest influence. I had a whole production folder of stills and notes as far as which movies I was riffing on in which scene, and many of them weren't horror. My favorite is from Bergman's Through A Glass Darkly. It's a postural reference to incest. My character is laying on Loki in the same way that Karin lounged on her brother Minus. I don't know. It's tough that we're compared to Rosemary's Baby because it's such a cliche blurb that way too many thrillers and horrors claim or are saddled with, to the point that it's meaningless and embarrassing. It's like all the frat boys in the 90's and aughts calling themselves the next Tarantino. Let's put it this way: our crew t-shirts referenced The Wicker Man: 'I sacrificed on Summerisle and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.' Pretty effing funny, right?

CTK: Indeed. I can see how it could be frustrating when your film is compared to one that has been referenced a lot in comparison with others. But the spirit of it, I felt, was there. And that's a good thing for me personally as I feel that Rosemary's Baby is one of the most atmospherically driven films ever, horror or not. To be honest, I've never seen Repulsion or The Tenant and now I want to seek them out.

OK, to remake or not to remake? That is the question.

EF: Not to remake. 'Nuff said.


CTK: I don’t like to over generalize things but this is a movie that works effectively on multiple levels with using a female lead rather than a male. The movie has to hit harder for a female viewer, particularly with the themes of young innocence lost and the breaking of father-daughter bonds. Why is the film ultimately more effective in using a female lead vs. a male?

EF: Because women are more vulnerable as the subjugated sex in our society. It's always more effective in thrillers and horrors to use a female lead because the balance of power is more uneven between her and the antagonist.

How The Commune is different than other horror movies is that my female protagonist is made for a female audience, not objectified for a male audience. The only reason the subject matter hits harder for women is because men in our culture are not trained to see through the eyes of a female protagonist. Only 8% of movies have a female protagonist, and even the majority of those films are made by men for men and aren't a true opportunity to see and experience the world through a woman's eyes. Men always bitch that women are impossible to understand, but then they ghetto-ize the female-centric movies and music that would let them know us. Men need practice at trying on a female heroes' skin instead of objectifying it. Those who are willing to have a whole universe of stories and feelings awaiting them that they could never imagine.

CTK: In your comments before the movie rolled, you lightheartedly acknowledged that someone could be viewing a copy of your movie that they had downloaded from the interwebs. I thought it was an interesting spin in that you didn’t get angry but rather encouraged them to make a donation. What is your overall take on internet piracy and does it help or hurt the indie filmmaker?

EF: There's no 'help' about it. D.A. Sebastian's Hot Rod Girls (check out a recent, interesting post about the filmmaker's experiences here), Jaman Winan's Ink have been crippled by piracy, and received not even a pittance back from the community. You try to work with piraters and find out what they want, you give it to them, and they still won't even pay a dollar. All they really want is to steal. More than any other factor, piraters have single-handedly destroyed indie filmmakers.


CTK: I liked the way this question was posed by our friend Stacie Ponder over at Final Girl so I’m going to ask it of you: What's the one- ONE- horror movie you love so much you want to stick it down your pants?

EF: The Wicker Man. But I'd rather have a fourgy with The Wicker Man, Halloween, and The Shining.

CTK: Fourgy? I'm stealing that one.

Any upcoming projects or fellow indie filmmaker projects that we should be on the lookout for?

EF: Yes, I'm halfway done producing I Hate LA. It's an all female horror anthology riffing on Paris, Je T'Aime. Each filmmaker got a different neighborhood in LA to write and direct a Twilight Zone-esque story about the specific horrible aspects of that burrough. We've had a ton of fun, and the shorts are great. Three have already played individually in festivals and won awards, so you're definitely going to watch it when we tie all the stories together with our female view of Hollywood (check out http://www.ihatelamovie.com/) And I'm raising money to make Pistoleras, which is going to change the world. Check it out and help us at http://www.pistolerasmovie.com/

And of course you can view The Commune: A New Cult Classic at Indieflix streamed for $4.99 or buy the DVD for $9.99 http://www.indieflix.com/film/the-commune-a-new-cult-classic-30584/

You can get the Special Edition DVD with two commentary tracks, extras, and a behind the scenes doc directly from me at http://www.thecommunemovie.com/. I'll even autograph it, send you a personal note, and talk to you about the movie afterwards to get your feedback.

CTK: Greatness! Thanks for sharing. I think that's awesome that you are a filmmaker who genuinely appreciates feedback regarding your work. Well I really appreciate your time and your thoughtful and candid responses. Truly truly best of luck to you in the future.

EF: Thanks so much for all your help, and for providing such great questions! Huge appreciation. Thanks for being a hero!

Ed. note: Recently, Elisabeth was nominated for a Golden Cob Award which recognizes only the best in B-Movies. She was nominated in the Best Emerging Director Category. Show some support and vote for her here: http://www.goldencobawards.com/index.php?sid=47479&lang=en

Thanks again to our friend BJ-C over at Day of The Woman for alerting us to this incredible filmmaker and amazing person.

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Harpoon: Trailer

A high seas slasher involving tourists and whalers? Count me in. As y'all know, I'm a sucker for a good slasher romp. When films like this bring something new conceptually to the table, it leads me to believe that this floundering sub-genre may have another limb to stand on.

Whether or not it brings the goods remains to be seen. But from the looks of the trailer, it does. With maximum harpoon-age.

Harpoon sees a release via DVD on May 10th.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Devil Within (2009)


Fear 2/5
Gore 2/5
Entertainment 5/5
Creepiness 2/5
T&A Factor: 5/5

Well I survived my bachelor party. An all around amazing weekend. I think the highlight was the stripper who almost roundhouse kicked me in the face, then proceeded to stroke her penis fly trap, purred, and said 'MEOW.' I've never laughed so hard while having a lap dance before. In recovery mode yesterday, I popped in this little indie number. Shiver me timbers and hit me with a burger slathered in surprise sauce, this teeny weeny low budget horror film brings the goods!

After a man brutally murders a hooker in a motel room to open our film, we are brought to a high school with your stereotypical horror schlockfest line-up. Jocks, geeks, Mean Girls, yadda yadda, you get the picture. As the kids carry on a regular school day, we come to find out that one of the girls is celebrating her 18th (AKA she's legal) birthday, and that her friends have planned a house party later that evening. She's called in to the principal's office and right away, we identify Mr. McCreepy principal (who's played exceptionally well by Bill Oberst, Jr.) as the guy who waxed the streetwalker at the beginning of our film. He tries to give her a birthday present but she rebuffs his gift and bolts out of the office.


Before we get to our party, a goth girl, who's a target of the meano slutbags of the school, comes home only to take more abuse from her alcoholic tyrant of a father. We are also shown that she is stricken with a case of severe obsessional love with our girl celebrating her official of adult age turning. Stalking her via MyMcFacePage, she professes aloud her love for her while hiding out from the abusive slugs of her father.


Our soon to be debaucherous kids get out of school and as they head home, partake in the birthday requests of their friend and her douchey jock boyfriend. What do they decide to do? Get matching tattoos of course! As they walk down the city streets (stars on the sidewalk, smog, yep it's turdtastic LA), they run into a street preacher who warns of an impending doom for our gaggle of goofy high schoolers.


After the kids get their tattoos and run into our soothsayer once more, they head to their friends house to set up for that night's festivities. In a couple of hours, the party gets into full swing, complete with topless girls in the swimming pool. Let's see: douchey kids, drugs, ta ta's and sex. What horror sub-genre do these fine ingredients belong to? Slasher films? Ding ding ding, what do we have for our winner, Johnny.....

So after our jock bangs his birthday celebratin' girlfriend upstairs, he heads out to the bathroom across the hall and bangs ANOTHER hot girl in the shower while his girlfriend waits in bed. Pimp-A-Licious! As his clueless girlfriend dozes off, she's accosted by our creepy principal. The boyfriend comes back only to find his girl completely covered in blood and strapped to the bed. It's all down hill from here folks and our party goers start getting offed one by one but not by our pedophilic principal. Instead, a hooded assailant who's been stalking the party and becoming increasingly more jealous of the girl and her douchey jock boyfriend makes themselves known.


What I like about this film is the employ of the red herring to such great effect. The completely unsuspecting way that the 'grand reveal' of our killer kind of crept up on me and smacked me over the head was such a great twist. After our grand reveal, a series of shots and flashbacks are shown: our assailant stalking our party goers, starting in on her plot while also taking out the man whom we thought was the killer, all from their vantage point, was both interesting and well executed from a conceptual standpoint. A slasher movie that is original and brings something new to the table conceptually? Yes, it can happen and it just did. My only gripe was the ending which felt a little rushed.

Check this one out through Seminal Films. You'll be glad you did.

Cortez the Killer

HorrorBlips: vote it up!




Friday, April 16, 2010

What Do Tigers Dream Of....?

Some of you may know, some may not, but I'm fixin' to get hitched in May. Well this weekend is the the official send off into servitude and one vagina-ness: AKA my bachelor party.

Here is the composition of this weekend's festivities:

1. 22 guys

2. 1,600 sq. ft. suite

3. Hard Rock Hotel

4. Rehab (if you don't know what that is, The Hard Rock has a man made beach and they have a huge party there on Sundays, apparently celebs abound).

5. 4 of my good guys friends either got married or had their first kid within the last year; this means they are itching to go bonkers.

6. My dad is my best man and there is a high likelihood he will out party all of us; I'm pretty sure he hasn't seen another pair of boobies other than my mom's for over 34 years.

7. One of my best friends opened up a separate savings account that his wife doesn't know about a year ago and started stocking money away.

8. I have 10 drink tickets for the flight out on Southwest, I hate flying so more than likely I'll be shithoused by the time we land.

9. My friends from Cali are coming out. If you know of anyone from or have lived in Cali your whole life, Vegas is like Disneyland for grown-ups; you know all the ins and outs and the landscape like the back of your hand.

10. Did I mention its MY bachelor party???

Needless to say, I will be MIA on this here blog for a little while. But when I come back, lots of exciting news, some really great interviews and a contest for FREE shit! Until then, pray for me....

Cortez the Killer

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sauna (2008)


Fear 3/5
Gore 1/5
Entertainment 5/5
Creepiness 5/5

Its been 3 days since I first saw this movie and I re-watched it last night. So much occurred within its run time that thoughts are still swirling in my head as to what it all means. I will say this, Sauna is a completely engaging film, one that spins a tale of mortal sin and a coming to face with past trangressions.

After war has subsided between Sweden and Russia in the 1500's, two brothers are tasked (along with a small expeditionary group) with drawing up the new borders between the rival countries. Erik is the more intense of the two, wearing the horrors of war, many of which he committed himself, openly on his sleeve. Quick to jump and act on impulse, its survival instincts first, ask questions later. Knut is much more reasonable and level headed, having benefited from being in school while war was being waged. At the onset of their journey, they make a brief stop at the farm of a man and his young daughter. After Erik learns and disapproves of their religious affiliation, things esclatate quickly and we see just how irrational he is. To protect the young girl, Knut locks her in the cellar.


The group heads out the next day and its not long before each member starts seeing things. Ghostly presences and images reflecting in the water but they continue on their way, waving them off as mere figments. They then come upon a sauna but not one that you or I typically think of: wooden enclosure, temperature regulated, etc. This is the 1500's afterall. What you have instead is a massive concrete structure with only one entrance and one exit. It shares a border with a swamp and has a small body of water that surrounds it. As each man stares at it, back at each other, and play an eye game of 'You go', 'No, you go', Erik sees roof tops jutting out from the top of the trees on the other side of the swamp.


Avoiding a looksee into the sauna, they make their way across the swamp and into a village. Coming upon a young boy, they instruct him to lead them to the head of the village. They find and speak with the man, telling them of their purpose and he agrees to let the expedition group stay. Erik sees value in the land as its undocumented on the maps and it would make a satisfactory border between the two countries as the swamp serves as a natural barrier.

The boy tends to the needs of our travelers and takes a particular interest in the two brothers. As they ask him and other members of the village about the sauna and why its there, and mums the word, the kid reveals that there is a barn that's locked up which contains some 'papers'. Figuring that it may reveal some history about this mysterious village and the purpose of the sauna, Erik and Knut enter and uncover notes kept by members of a former church on top of some interesting pieces of art depicting a cloaked figure.


After uncovering what had been previously hidden, a dark presence sweeps through, killing the head of the village and making its way through the other inhabitants, including some of our expeditionary crew. Its revealed that the people who had settled there found it completely deserted with only empty robes laid about. As the practice is supposed to go, the sauna is used to wash away sins and the inequities of all who enter. As things unravel further and people continue to disappear one by one, the power of the sauna draws Knut in and he becomes the main vehicle for atonement, making a cold hearted and war ravaged sibling pay for his wrongdoings.

Along with Martyrs, this is one of the most contemplative horror movies I've ever seen. The engrossing nature of the film will weigh on you for a few days (if you've ever thought about life consequences or have any sort of karmic leanings, that is). It's also worth mentioning that the atmosphere and cinematography were both amazing and were effective in creating both a sense of dread and a feeling of absolutely no way out for our onscreen characters.

What did you think of it?

Cortez the Killer

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


Monday, April 12, 2010

Blood On The Highway--Trailer & DVD Release


I caught this film at the Dallas AFI Film Festival way back in '08 and haven't heard much about it since. It's a fun little romp, reminiscent of Evil Dead and Darkness: The Vampire Version (only way better) with loads of gorrific goodness to boot.

A synopsis of the film:

'After a gastrointestinal mishap with their map, three twenty-somethings on a road-trip accidentally wander into Fate, Texas, only to find the town populated by bloodthirsty, dimwitted vampires. A brutal run-in with two carnivorous convenience store clerks leads the three to take refuge with the town’s only surviving humans and prepare for battle with an army of the undead.'

The film also contains some of the most amazingly over the top quotes, designed to be completely offensive (and hilarious). Get a load of these:

Carrie: What the hell is wrong with this town? Those guys were, like, fucking rabid.
Bone: They had fangs. Those other two died pretty quickly when I put a stake through their heart. So, obviously... they're Lutherans.

Bone: Look, we are fucked! We're fucked like an autistic 8 year old at a NAMBLA meeting (if you don't know what NAMBLA is, Google-ize it).

Plus the head vampire killer sports a killer Black Flag tattoo. How fucking cool is that?

I learned today that it's finally getting a proper DVD release on June 29th. Hooray! You can pre-order it here.

Definitely check this one out.

Cortez the Killer

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Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Hagstone Demon (2009)


Fear 2/5
Gore 2/5
Entertainment 5/5
Creepiness 3/5

I heard about this film through my friend, writer/director Gregg Holtgrewe (his film, Dawning, you may have heard about and if you haven't, seriously people get with it and peep here!). Part film noir, part satanic cult madness, The Hagstone Demon is a trippy and rather quirky affair.

Douglas is the super in an old stone apartment building, set to be torn down in a few weeks. The inhabitants are in denial, hoping that the land owner will change their mind. Afterall, they've lived for there many years and it's their home. Douglas has only been there a few weeks but he's already getting acquainted with some if its odd residents: a man who claims to know the entire history of the building and continuously repeats his request to tell Douglas about it; an old woman who happens to read fortunes and portends the return of someone close to Douglas; and a younger woman who's incredibly lonely and who frequently seeks Douglas' company.


After the old woman tells of Douglas' fortune, he becomes haunted by visions of his dead wife who took her life a few years back. In a series of strange and inexplicable flashbacks, we see his wife in a room full of people of varying ages, half-nude, which invokes a sort of quasi-Twin Peaks sense of surrealism. Coupled with creepy looking people hanging out on the sidewalk outside of his apartment, you get the feeling that something otherwordly is after him.


A new resident unexpectedly shows up at manor Hagstone (which by this time has done its own piece in creating a haunting atmosphere a la The Overlook Hotel) and Douglas is informed of a homeless woman who's taken up residence in a vacant room at the end of the hallway on the base floor. Being the mild mannered and low-key guy that he is, Douglas tells the woman that she can stay if she keeps to herself and doesn't bother any of the neighbors. Nevermind the fact that she has a weird, hairless cat in tow and neighbors report that random men have been showing up to her room.

Not long after her arrival, residents of the building start turning up dead. Along with the continual string of men coming in and out of the homeless woman's apartment and his constant visions, Douglas fears that something far more sinister is at work. As the movie progresses, we find out that Douglas isn't as innocent as first believed and its revealed that a certain debt is owed to a cult for which he and his wife were a part of years ago. Along with his lonely neighbor and his minister brother in-law, Douglas confronts the evil that is after him and comes face to face with the Hagstone Demon.

A unique film, The Hagstone Demon is unlike any you've seen before. Quirky, fun, noirish and gothic, it goes beyond what you may typically call or deem horror. It's also beautifully shot, filmed in mainly black in white with only a few scenes in color that highlight some of the flashback sequences.

For more information regarding the film, check out the site: http://www.thehagstonedemon.com/

Cortez the Killer

HorrorBlips: vote it up!