My plan of attack at the TFW was to hit the convention floor hard on Friday and get all my autographs and pictures with the icons of the industry (see my pics here). I wanted to clear my schedule so on Saturday and Sunday I could be more flexible in going to various panel discussions and screenings. And here’s a round up of those panels (please note that besides the poster of the I Spit on Your Grave remake, all the following are pics I took at the convention):
I Spit on Your Grave Remake Panel:
I was pretty excited about this one. I’m a fan of the original 1978 version (as much as you can “be a fan”) but truthfully it isn’t really that great of a film. There’s a lot of room to improve and update the ’78 version and after the panel discussion I think we may have a winner (original director Meir Zarchi is an executive producer). Besides getting to see the never-before-seen trailer, we were also treated to seeing two scenes from the film. One scene was from the first half where our innocent heroine Jennifer is the victim and the other scene is from the later part of the film where Jennifer turns the tables on her tormentors. The scenes were well shot, well acted and looked very tense.
Present at the panel were director Steven Monroe, actress Sarah Butler (Jennifer), and actors Chad Lindberg, Rodney Eastman, and Daniel Franzese. They gave us many great stories about how difficult the shoot was and how emotionally drained they all were after every day of shooting (they would all just sit in the hot tub at the end of the day chain smoking, drinking, and not talking to each other). I’m also pretty optimistic about the film after hearing what director Monroe had to say. He wasn’t concerned with making a film for a wide distribution; he wanted to push the envelope and make a movie that wasn’t exploitive but realistic. And from the stories he and the cast told I’d say they accomplished that mission!! Monroe also related some stories that were real eye-openers about the realities of being a director. It’s not the vision we all have of the director sitting is his tall chair running the show and putting his vision on film. The reality, as Monroe bluntly puts it, is that the the director has to “fight many fights to get what he wants up on the screen. And he’s fighting a suit sitting in an office who has no idea what the audience really wants.” And the problem is that “suit” is the one cutting the checks. Very eye opening!!
Bad to the Bone: The Christine Reunion
This was a pretty exciting one. Not only was John Carpenter present for the convention, he was also the head of the Christine reunion which also had Keith Gordon, Alexandra Paul, John Stockwell, and William Ostrander present. We got a lot of really funny stories about the shooting of Christine and how no one ever thought it would become an iconic horror film. As Carpenter put it:
“I had just come off of a movie that tanked big … BIG; maybe you heard of it? It’s a little film called The Thing [the audience erupts into crazy-loud applause]. So I figured I didn’t have much bargaining power here and someone approached me with the script for Christine. After I read it I thought to myself, ‘Do I really wanna make a film about a killer car?’”
We learned from the cast how supportive Carpenter was as a director and how he liked the actor’s input, and we get the inside about what a great sense of humor Carpenter has. Here’s the best story we were told. Christine was filmed in some very bad parts of town and the associate producer, Barry Bernardi, was always worried about ne’er-do-wells around the set. So Carpenter had one of the key grips wear a coat with a large clover on it and Carpenter would tell Barry that he was part of the Clover Gang, a really brutal gang in the area. And when Barry wanted security to get rid of the “gang member” John would send one of the 70 year old guys on the set to “kick him off the set.” Funny stuff.
But most interesting was Carpenter’s views on remakes. Someone from the audience asked him, “How do you feel about your films being remade.” His first response was, “It doesn’t bother me as long as I get that check in the mail.” But then he got serious: “Look; they can do whatever they want with my films because those remakes aren’t my films. I already made my film. The second someone else starts making it, it’s no long my film; it’s there’s.” What a great way to look at it!! After the panel, Carpenter then received the Texas Frightmare Weekend Lifetime Achievement Award. Good times.
The Short Films of Rodrigo Gudiño (Founder of Rue Morgue Magazine):
Rodrigo showed us three of his short films (collected in 2009‘s Curious Stories, Crooked Symbols). All three stories were compelling and well done. The first, The Eyes of Edward James, is the story of a man going through a hypnosis session with a doctor to try and decode a recurring dream that’s haunting him. The ending has a nice little twist that totally works. The second short, The Demonology of Desire is a twisted little tale of a sociopathic 13-14 year old girl and how she passive-aggressively torments her best friend and a boy that has a crush on her. Great performances by the young cast and just wait until you see what’s in the cage!! The last short, The Facts in the Case of Mr. Hollow, is the most experimental of the three and in some ways is also the most effective. Trying to describe it is futile but just “pay attention to the picture.”
After he screened his three shorts he then talked a little about his upcoming feature Cuts Throat Nine, a Western-ish violent yarn.
Texas Frightmakers Show N’ Tell:
The last panel I attended on Sunday was comprised of a group of Texas independent horror filmmakers and actors. We got to see the trailers for about eight upcoming indie films all made in Texas by Texas talent; and you all know how much I love indie horror films. We saw the trailer for Possum Walk (written and directed by Jeremy Sumrall, who played The Beast in the Texas indie horror film Sweatshop, which was screened on Friday night); The Judge, a supernatural-horror-action flick that is the first part of a trilogy; Boggy Creek, a violent Bigfoot story written and directed by Brian Jaynes (for more info, check out the website http://boggycreekthemovie.com/); Nonexistent, written & directed by Robert Luke; Dead of Knight, the tale of a medieval Knight killing in modern times (directed by Joe Grisaffi); Kodie, the story of a killer teddy bear (directed by Abel Berry); Zombiefied, a slasher-zombie epic (written-directed by Todd Jason Cook); and perhaps the most impressive was My Sucky Teen Romance by 17 year old Emily Hagins. That’s not a typo. Ms. Hagins is 17 years old and this will be her third feature film. I’m sorry but that’s friggin’ awesome!! I’m definitely keeping my eye on all these projects and especially on the career of Emily Hagins.
We also got the scoop on the Don’t Look in the Basement remake, being directed by Josh Vargas (who is the son of S.F. Brownrigg who directed the original). There’s some impressive actors attached to the project: Judith O’Dea and Bill Hinzman (who haven’t worked together since 1968’s Night of the Living Dead), Kelli Maroney (Chopping Mall, Night of the Comet), Tim Sullivan (director of 2001 Maniacs: Field of Dreams), and Texas indie horror staple Parrish Randall. We didn’t get to see a trailer because as Vargas tells us, “I couldn’t get my shit together to put something together,” but at the least it sounds like it could be a fun project.
What’s more impressive is that the credits for all these flicks (and pretty much any other Texas indie horror film) has practically the same cast and crew in each film. The Texas indie horror scene is a thriving, passionate, and creative scene full of energy, blood and guts, and originality. There’s a lot of what I call “inbreeding” going on: All the filmmakers help each other out and there’s no back-stabbing or one-up-man-ship going on. Could you BE any more anti-Hollywood?? Get out there and support the Texas indie horror scene. I’ll keep you updated as I hear more about release dates and distribution for all these and other films.
So that’s pretty much it for my time at the Texas Frightmare Weekend. It was a hugely productive weekend for me in that I got to meet my “horror heros” and I learned a lot of info about filmmaking and the world of horror in general. Let me know what you think about my convention weekend. Ask me anything I may have forgotten to cover!! But most of all …