To see my Coverage of 2010’s Texas Frightmare Weekend, click here.
To see my Coverage of 2011’s Texas Frightmare Weekend, click here.
To see my Coverage of 2012’s Texas Frightmare Weekend, click here.
I almost forgot about this one from the Texas Frightmare Weekend. Saturday night of the convention I saw a screening of Spirit Camp and it was, well…. it was pretty forgettable unfortunately. Now ya have to understand that I saw some fantastic films that weekend (especially Blood Night and Sweatshop), and Spirit Camp just couldn’t stand up to the other films screened that weekend. The tone of Spirit Camp was that of a 1980’s slasher pic, but director-writer-editor-producer-cinematographer-actor Kerry Beyer went a little too heavy on the comedy and not nearly enough on the horror/slasher elements.
The plot is about a psycho killer stalking girls at a cheerleader camp. One of the girls, Roxy Vandiver, is a street-smart, white-trash, tough kid who just got out of jail and must attend the cheerleader camp as part of her rehabilitation and parole. And of course the other “popular girls”, led by Rachel (played by the very cute and sexy Julin; who was in a total of three films that were screened that TFW weekend), don’t like the white-trash newcomer and try to make her quit the camp by making her life hell. Yes we’re dealing with a low budget independent film, but as we saw with both Blood Night and Sweatshop, this is no longer an excuse for having poor f/x and a slow pace. The film definitely takes too long getting started and it never really finds its groove. Amy Morris, who plays camp counselor Lindsay, has the funniest lines in the film and delivers them perfectly. Actually the cast as a whole did a good job with the comedy elements of the film, but when it came time to try and deliver on the horror, the film completely falls apart.
Pretty much all the gore is done off screen, which for a hardcore group of movie goers at a horror convention is a huge no-no, and the kills are very standard offering us nothing new. You’ll spot the killer pretty early on and will laugh at the “big reveal.” All the girls are pretty damn cute here and writer-director Kerry Beyer blew a great opportunity to deliver us some titties. Hey, I’m just being honest here!!
The movie as a whole felt rushed and lazy. It didn’t try to offer any kind of new spin on the slasher genre or try and give us some new kills and gore. Director Beyer has a good eye for the genre; he gives us a pretty good final chase and obviously enjoys horror films. Hopefully with his next project he’ll deliver a little more of the horror and downplay the comedy. Not recommended.
Director: Kerry Beyer
Plot: 2 out of 5 stars
Gore: 2 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer from the Texas Frightmare Weekend
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 …
On the last day of the convention (Sunday) Robert Hall stopped by to show his never-seen-before trailer for his new project, Old Scratch and to answer his fans questions. And believe me, his fans had a lot of questions!! Please note; all pictures other than of posters are the ones I took at the festival
Let me first introduce Robert Hall for those of you who don’t know about this prolific man. Robert Hall’s been on the scene since 1993, but he really made his mark with the second movie he directed, Laid to Rest (2009; see my review here). Laid to Rest was a brutal back-to-the-basics slasher flick with some amazing special f/x. Amazing f/x!! But he’s also done the special f/x and been in the make-up department for over 70 films. For shits and giggles let me list a few of them: Wishmaster (1997); Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars (2001); 7 episodes of TV’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer (2001-2003); 62 episodes of TV’s Angel (2001-2004); Frankenfish (2004); Superbad (2007); Pineapple Express (2008); The Burrowers (2008); Quarantine (2008); and The Crazies remake (2010). Pretty impressive resume.
Hall first screened his “hot off the presses” trailer for his upcoming flick, Old Scratch. Well “upcoming” is a bit of wishful thinking. He told us that he actually had to stop shooting Old Scratch because he “ran out of money.” Hall really bared his soul about the state of (trying to) make horror movies in today’s climate and it was pretty depressing. Bottom line is unless you’re doing a remake, the money ain’t there. Pretty depressing. Old Scratch is another kick ass 1980‘s throwback horror flick. As Hall describes it, it’s an “80’s rock and roll horror movie.” In it Hall examines what he calls the “last great American urban legend”: Backward masking on records (the belief when an album is played backwards there are satanic messages in the lyrics). He didn’t have much to tell us about the project (especially since it’s been halted for the meantime) and I unfortunately don’t even have a one-sheet for it!! The only thing I can tell you is that Rob Schneider and Hall regular Kevin Gage (who plays “Snake Man”) star.
More interesting is that Hall didn’t even have enough material shot to make a trailer for Old Scratch. So to complete the trailer for the TFW, he hired a stand-in to play the lead actor (the lead role is being recast and Hall’s trying to attract a bigger name). Pretty crazy. But based on the trailer I don’t think he’ll have trouble attracting a known lead or even some financial backers.
And then the Q & A started and after a few questions I got to ask Hall mine. My question: “I hear that there’s already a new generation design of ChromeSkull [the slasher from Laid to Rest] made. Is this a project that’s on your radar? Are you involved?” His initial response was “wow, I didn’t think anyone knew about that.” And then he proceeded to tell us that not only is Laid to Rest 2 written and ready to go into pre-production, but a PART 3 is also already written. That is sweet fucking news. One is going to be a sequel and one a prequel, Nick Principe is attached to be ChromeSkull again, and part 2 will be shot by the end of the year!! You heard it here first on http://anythinghorror.com: There’s gonna be 2 Laid to Rest sequels and the the first will be shot by the end of the year.
Hall also gave us a lot of stories about his early career and some insight into a few of his non-horror projects (he loved working on Superbad and Pineapple Express and would love to direct a comedy one day). We also learned that he directed one shot on The Crazies remake (the scene towards the end where Tim Olyphant is underneath the truck in the oil-changing bunker). It was an uncredited gig but it was him. Someone else asked Hall what makes him decide between shooting on film verses digital. His response was pretty straight forward; budget constraints. He says that Laid to Rest would’ve never been made if it was shot on film. He took all the money from what it would have cost to get the film processed and “put that money up on the screen.” Interesting stuff. He also tells us how he taught himself to edit film while working for Roger Corman who “wouldn’t pay to get a real editor.” And about his first industry job: “I was working de-boning chickens when I read that a horror movie was going to be filmed in Alabama [his home state]. I jumped in my car and drove out there and begged to be apart of the project.” He was hired and worked on it in another uncredited role.
So what’s next for Robert Hall? Besides finding the financing to finish Old Scratch and plans to shoot Laid to Rest 2 before the end of the year, he’ll keep plugging away as the special f/x guy on a few projects (“it pays the bills”), the most notable being Quarantine 2, the US remake of [rec]2. He tells us there’s plans of shooting Quarantine 2 but doesn’t know if he’s gonna get it because “the project is gonna move fast.” And he also plans on continuing his web series Fear Clinic, which can be found on http://www.fearnet.com (look under the “shows” category).
Robert Hall proved to be a really nice and well-spoken guy who has a passion for making horror movies. Make sure you support Hall; he’s part of a dying breed. His panel discussion was a great way to end the Texas Frightmare Weekend!!
I got back to Austin around 8:30pm on Sunday night. It was hard leaving the 2010 Texas Frightmare Weekend. A great time was had by everyone; both the people attending and the celebrity attendees. I can say with 100% accuracy that the group of celebrities that where there (some new school and a lot of old school) were some of the nicest people (note I didn’t say “celebrities”) I’ve met. From iconic directors like John Carpenter and George Romero to new directors like Robert Hall, Frank Sabatella, and Stacy Davidson, all the celebrities were just as excited to meet their fans as their fans were to meet them.
I got to Dallas on Thursday night to attend the screening of Romero’s Survival of the Dead and the North American premier of 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams (see my review of Survival and Maniacs). Both movies were far from perfect but just seeing them in a theater packed with true, hardcore horror and gore fans was such a rush compared to the usual theaters I go to full of obnoxious and pretentious 20-something’s who over analyze everything and who wouldn’t know a great horror flick if it slit their throats and fucked their larynx!!! Practically the entire cast and crew of 2001 Maniacs was present not just for the pre-screening, but they all stuck around and did another after-show panel. Some of those in attendance for Maniacs included director Tim Sullivan, Christa Campbell, musician turned actor Kevin “Ogre” Ogilvie (from the industrial band Skinny Puppy), Ryan Fleming, and the real star, the stuffed sheep Jezebel (there was a total of about 10 from the movie present). It was a huge blast and they were even filming audience reactions a la Paranormal Activity for a promo reel. I wish I could see all my horror movies in this kind of environment!!
On Friday the convention was set to begin at 6pm but I got to the Sheraton Grand Hotel a little before 10am. I wanted to get my pre-ordered tickets in hand and roam around and grab lunch in the hotel. A buddy of mine told me that the celebrities attending always stay in the hotel where the convention is held so I was hoping to run into 1 or 2 of them. Luck was definitely on my side because when I finally got to the window to pick up my tickets (there was already a 30min wait) my simple “weekend pass” that I purchased online got bumped up to the “V.I.P Weekend Pass” at no additional charge to me. This allowed me to get John Carpenter’s autograph for free (he was charging $35 each) and I could cut to the front the line for every celebrity. For example, by the time I got to the Romero line the wait was about 2 hours to see him. I showed the volunteer my VIP pass, moved to the front of the line, and saw him in 20 minutes!! Sure people were pissed but with privilege comes reward J!! The VIP pass also allowed me to get into the convention each day an hour earlier. So on Friday it opened at 6pm but I got in at 5pm with other VIP holders. No lines for anything.
What I find so amazing is that these horror icons sit at their tables, signing their names, shaking hands, and taking pics with their fans for HOURS at a time. I mean seriously; could you see James Cameron, Brad Pitt, or Jennifer Aniston doing that? No fucking way. Of course they all charge for their signatures (the majority charged $20); their time is worth something!! But they don’t charge for pictures with them and they don’t just rush their fans through the line. I met and got signatures and pics with Kane Hodder, George Romero, Derek Mears, Doug Bradley, and John Carpenter. I wanted to get so many more but my modest budget didn’t allow for it. Every single one of them took the time to ask me my name, shake my hand like a long lost friend, and shoot the shit with me for a minute of two. Awesome shit people!! Derek Mears was one of the first people I met and since it was only around 5:15pm there weren’t a lot of people there yet. I got to talk to him for about 10 minutes. He’s a super nice guy and self proclaimed “super horror geek.” He was even tempted to give me some info on his upcoming Predators movie but said “[director] Rodriquez would have my balls if I said anything.” He’s a really down to earth guy who loves being a creature actor.
Kane Hodder is another who was so cool and “everyday guy”-ish. He wears gloves on his hands because of several burns he’s gotten throughout his career and is more than happy to pose for a pic with you. But be warned, if you ask him to strangle you in the pic he’s really gonna do it!! No joke. A few years ago he got into a little trouble because the guy he was “strangling’ passed out. I had him sign my Hatchet DVD, and when he stood for a picture he looked at me and said, “Why is everyone so fucking tall here?” I just looked at him and said, “You’re in Texas baby!!” He just laughed and threw me a fake punch.
Doug Bradley was the most surprising to meet in person. He is so gentlemanly in his appearance and demeanor that it was almost hard to picture him as the demon Pinhead who enjoys torturing souls!! He was nice as could be and had an awesome t-shirt on his table that read, “Say ‘No’ to the Hellraiser Remake. It’s a waste of good celluloid.” I guess that sums up his views on the potential remake!! After we got our pic together and he was sitting down, he said to me “See you in Hell Scott” and gave me a little wink. I was in heaven, er; I mean Hell!!!
Last but not least: George Romero and John Carpenter. I’ll be honest that I was extremely nervous meeting these two. I was afraid I’d lose all speech abilities and miss my opportunity to tell them how influential they’ve been in my life. But seeing each sitting behind their respective tables really put everything in perspective: They are everyday guys who are passionate about filmmaking and horror movies and who have forever changed the face of modern horror. They know this but they never let it go to their heads. Romero shook my hand firmly and before signing my DVD of Day of the Dead took the time to look me square in the eye and ask me my name and how I was doing that night. We talked for about 2-3mins and I told him how influential Dawn of the Dead was on me when I was younger. To that he asked, “My Dawn or the other guy’s?” My eyes got wide and he started laughing. It was awesome!!!
Carpenter was the exact same way. His line was about a 5-6 hour wait (but I again jumped to the front with my VIP pass and saw him in 30mins), but he took his time with each one of his fans. There was a couple behind me in line who had an infant in a little one-piece outfit that read, “World’s Youngest John Carpenter Fan”; and even better was that the mother asked Carpenter to SIGN HER BABY!! Yes!!! She wanted her baby’s outfit signed by the master himself.
It was an incredible time all around, and best of all I was really happy with how down-to-earth all the celebrities really were. That was no act on anyone’s part; they were all genuinely cool. From a world filled with asshole “Reality TV ‘star’” and douche bag actors and actresses it’s nice to see the horror celebrities haven’t lost their heads over their success. And I did, by the way, get to meet Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, Lance Henriksen, Robert Hall, and most of the cast from the original Day of the Dead by just walking around and eating in the hotel. I didn’t bother any of them for autographs or pics when they were eating, but they all took the time to shake my hand. Class acts, every one of them!!
Last night (Friday of the convention) was a good night to be both a slasher fan and a gore fan. We first got to screen Blood Night and then after we watched Sweatshop (see my review here). Both films are throwbacks to 1980’s-style slasher flicks and both are indie horror projects. Sweatshop is a really fun gore flick, but overall I think Blood Night is the more mature of the two films. Writer-director Frank Sabatella really took his time crafting a solid film with good characters, a nice pace, and fun gore f/x. Sabatella, actor Bill Moseley (who plays Graveyard Gus), and a few others were present for the screening and from Sabatella we learn he’s spent the last two and a half years of his (mainly sleepless) life making this film. And it shows.
The story is loosely based on a real legend up in Long Island. Here Mary is a young girl (12 years old) who basically fucking loses it after her first period. That night she picks up a hand-held hatchet and butchers her mom and dad. It’s a great gory opening that grabs you and keeps your attention. Mary is thrown into the loony bin and ya can’t help but feel we’re in familiar territory; you know that movie where a young boy kills his parents and goes to the crazy house? What’s that called <evil grin>? We join Mary 11 years later where she is huddled up in her room naked.
A disgusting, fat night orderly goes into her room and rapes her. It’s implied that this has been going on for a while. 9 months later she delivers a still born baby. She can’t take the news of her dead baby and goes even more freakin’ ballistic, slaughtering the majority of the people in the institution, and removing the head of the orderly who was raping her. She confronts the police who gun her down (where we get to see every bullet hit her in close-up detail; a nod to Rob Zombie??) all before the beginning credits. Did I mention that this whole time Mary is naked? I didn’t? Well Mary (Samantha Facchi) is naked the entire time she is on screen the entire movie; it’s awesome. They must have a gym in the institution because she looks hot (but then I always had a “thing” for crazy chicks)!!
Cut to the same town in the present; the townies have dubbed the night Mary was gunned down “Blood Night” and they celebrate by throwing parties, throwing tampons, wearing Mary masks, getting drunk, and of course having sex. Everything you’d expect from a movie paying tribute to the 80’s slasher. We join a bunch of high school kids as they prepare for their party. Right off the bat you’ll appreciate the characters Sabatella writes: These aren’t the standard asshole high school stereo-types you’ve come to expect. The cast of high schoolers are in fact a very likable group of kids; the kind that you could see yourself hanging out with. Sure they’re kind of idiots but they aren’t annoying. They speak “real dialogue” and don’t do overtly stupid things to make their plight worse. In fact they do the opposite. Once the killing starts at the house they’re partying in they … get this … they LEAVE the house!! Wow; what a novel idea!! As well as believable characters there is also really well placed humor here that never takes away from the horror and scares. You can tell Sabatella loves the genre by the way he places the humor. He’s not going for a horror-comedy (thank god) but is using humor in some places to alleviate some of the tension. And it works. In one scene the teens are rummaging through a bunch of old vinyl records and they come across a Tom Jones album. One of the teens just stares at it with an almost terrified look on his face. Apparently he once caught his dad “fucking his mom in the ass” and Tom Jones was playing in the background and it traumatized the guy for life. It’s an extremely funny scene that lightened up the mood before the carnage (re-)starts.
The gore, as mentioned above, is very well done and the kills will remind you of some of the classic slashers from the 80’s. Jeremy Selenfriend did some great f/x work here, and there wasn’t a hint of CGI (and if there was any CGI there was very little of it and it was well incorporated so it looked natural). There was one stretch that felt like it ran on too long (you’ll spot it) and could have benefitted from some editing, but overall the movie has a really nice pace. Bill Moseley also lends his acting chops here as Graveyard Gus (an homage to the “Crazy Ralph” character in the first 2 original Friday the 13th’s?). He gives his typical great performance and even … aahhh you’re gonna have to find out for yourself. Besides Moseley we get another Halloween remake alumni; the always cute Danielle Harris (as Alyssa). She has a pivotal role and continues to carve out her niche as a great Scream Queen.
Besides some pacing problems the only other criticism I had with this one was that the “big reveal” came a little bit too soon. Sabatella blew his wad a little early and should have left us dangling longer. But the reveal didn’t hurt the film at all and felt like a genuine 80’s-style twist. Blood Night is definitely Sabatella’s tribute to 1980’s slashers and he succeeds in every respect. He even sets the stage for a sequel, which I for one would love to see. But as he tells us in the Q & A after the screening, Blood Night took up two and a half years of his life and he’s ready (and needs) to “see other girls” now. But he hasn’t completely written off the possibility of a sequel.
Just like with Sweatshop, Blood Night is a solid indie horror film that proves you can make a great movie with a small budget. These two films have raised the bar on indie projects and I for one hope they challenge other talented indie filmmakers to “step up” in their projects. Definitely check this one out.
Director: Frank Sabatella (and writer)
Plot: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Gore: 6.5 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer at the Texas Frightmare Weekend 2010
I saw two great screeners on Friday night at the TFW: SWEATSHOP and BLOOD NIGHT: THE LEGEND OF BLOODY MARY. (See my review of BLOOD HIGHT here). They are both independent films shot a few years ago and are full of naked hot chicks and have excellent gore f/x. I’m hitting indie horror GOLD here at the Texas Frightmare Weekend!!
Let’s jump into SWEATSHOP. SWEATSHOP is a “born and raised” Texas film that is shot in Houston and directed by Stacy Davidson. Davidson and the entire cast and crew were present for the screening last night which made this a whole lotta fun. Davidson told us that this project was originally written as a horror-porno hybrid for Hustler Magazine but after he read the script he thought it was too good for that. So in the re-writes, he tells us, “instead of sex we just put in more gore.” Nice choice!! There was a lot of alcohol flowing last night and everyone was cheering hard during the gore scenes; and rightly so. The f/x, done by Marcus Koch, Kristi Boul, and Mike Oliver, were incredibly juicy and extremely well executed. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start with the plot: A group of 20-somethings break into an abandoned (!!) warehouse in order to throw a rave. These just aren’t a bunch of punk kids though. Our group has done this many times before and you could even call them professionals at it. The “leader” Charlie (Ashley Kay) tries to run the show as a business and has the rest of the group setting up for the rave the minute they get there. But soon our feisty group is getting drunk, getting stoned, generally carrying on, and having sex. The movie essentially follows these kids around watching them having fun and then them getting killed in very grisly ways. VERY grisly ways.
Yes, the set-up is simple but I don’t know if Davidson realizes how many potential problems he avoids with it. It explains why the group is there in the middle of the night; it explains why there’s no police around; there was no need to try and come up with ridiculous reasons why some of the kids had to go off alone (they all had specific jobs to do in setting up for the rave), and it explains why no one else knew they were there (they’re in the warehouse illegally). It may have been unintentional, but like I said, Davidson really avoids a lot of the typical pit falls of the “kids in an abandoned location” movies.
Davidson also takes his time in allowing the audience to really get to know the characters. Although we were all cheering when they got off-ed in the most brutal of ways, we still felt a connection to the characters and were sorry to see them go (kind of). The performances were good across the board. I can’t think of one time when I felt someone in the cast was overacting or pandering to the camera. The characters were also believable so you got pulled into the movie and were able to have a really great time. There were times when I felt the movie started dragging along but as quickly as I felt that way Davidson would grace the screen with a very messy and gory death. Overall I felt the movie could have shaved off about 10 minutes to tighten everything up and help the pace.
Now lets get to the man of the hour. The killer here is dubbed “The Beast,” played effectively by Jeremy Sumrall, and though The Beast is the main killer there are also two other “creatures” (for lack of a better description) that help lure victims right into the Beast’s hands. What makes these killers so effective is that we learn NOTHING about them. Nothing. Nada. We never know who they are, where they came from, why they’re killing … nothing. I’m assuming, by the title, that the old warehouse use to be a sweatshop that had horrible working conditions. But that’s a total guess. And the Beast’s weapon of choice? An anvil attached to a long steel pipe. Yes you heard me; an anvil attached to a steel pipe. Just wait until you see how he puts that thing to use. WOW. The gore is both fun and will make you flinch. In one scene he has a girl tied down (with barbed wire) on a make-shift wooden table; the Beast first clips off her fingers one by one with a large bolt cutters and then picks up his anvil weapon and proceeds to crush her from the waist down. Well to be more accurate he separates her upper and lower torso, crushes the table she’s on, and practically goes through the floor. We get a lot of crushed body parts, dismembered limbs, and very juicy gore scenes. You’ll love it.
Overall this is an effective and fun old school slasher flick complete with an old school slasher. You’ll dig the kick ass soundtrack and the original score (by Dwayne Cathey) and incidental music (by Shikhee). Even the soundtrack has an 80’s feel to it. Davidson does a great job with leaving the audience wanting more. I definitely wanna see the Beast revisited and find out SOMETHING about him!! This isn’t just a really good and fun indie horror flick, its a fun flick, period!! Definitely check this one out.
Director: Stacy Davidson (and writer)
Plot: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Gore: 8 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brain
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer at the Texas Frightmare Weekend 2010
Been having a great time everyone!! It’s Saturday morning (9:30am) & I’m already in line to meet John Carpenter. So far I’ve met Kane Hodder, Derek Mears, Sid Haig, Bill Moseley, Doug Bradley, & the man himself George Romero!!!
Every single one of them are genuinely nice people who really appreciate each & every fan they have. In my humble opinion they all deserve their fame & star recognition!! In fact yesterday when I was having lunch I was seated next to Moseley, Ogre, Haig, & director Tim Sullivan having lunch. I didn’t wanna bother them & be “that guy” but I did say hi & they all took a second to say hi back. Like I said, genuinely nice guys!!!
I have photos with most of the celebrities I met but I took them with my digital camera and forgot to bring my friggin’ camera wire to hook up to the computer!!! But no worries. As soon as I get home on Sunday I’ll post all the pics I took here.
Last night (Friday night) I also saw 2 really gory & fun flicks; Blood Night: The Legend of Bloody Mary & Sweatshop. Absolutely fun movies that were both really gory and obviously made by 2 directors who really love the horror genre!! I’m writing the reviews & will get them posted ASAP.
On Thursday night (April 29), after the screening of Romero’s Survival of the Dead, we got to see the North American premier of Tim Sullivan’s 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams (I love the title and its second only to Gingerbread Man 2: The Passion of the Crust). For 2001 Maniacs we were lucky enough to have director Sullivan and the cast in attendance (most notably Bill Moseley). Right from the start Sullivan seemed to be warning us that what we’re about to see was an old-school exploitation film that pays tribute to and is steeped in that tradition. Well he was right. But there was no need to be apologetic; the crowd that assembled to see 2001 Maniacs was VERY into exploitation flicks and was loving it.
Unfortunately this is the kind of movie that is waaaaay more fun seeing it in a packed theater with fans who are there to get fucked up and have fun!! Sullivan even set up a drinking game for the movie: Every time the stuffed sheep Jezebel appears on screen everyone needs to yell out “fuck ya” and then do a shot. And as my hangover can attest, that goddamn sheep was in it A LOT!! Sullivan was also doing some promo filming (a la Paranormal Activity) of audience reactions during the screening. Everyone was whooping and hollering and having a great time. THIS is the way to see an exploitation flick!!
For for the movie itself. I really need to separate the actual movie from the experience I had by watching it with a really fun (drunk) group. In and of itself the movie is … well; its just “ok.” It fully embraces its exploitation roots and is completely successful in that regard. But overall the feel of the movie was that of a student film; kinda like a bunch of drunk frat boys got together to make a movie.
The plot will be familiar to anyone who’s seen Herschell Gordon Lewis’ original or Sullivan’s previous 2001 Maniacs outing (2005). A small Southern town was pillaged by a bunch of Northern soldiers during the Civil War. Women were raped and killed, children were brutally killed, and the town was burned to the ground. Now the town is cursed and the spirits of the dead towns people won’t rest until they take their revenge on and rape, kill, and eat 2001 Northerners. I hope you’ve seen the original (made by the “Godfather of Gore” Herschell Gordon Lewis back in 1964) because that is one classic flick. This time around our little Southern town packs up a bus and decides to take to South up to the North. Up in Iowa (??) they run into a group filming a reality show (its a parody of Road Rules and even has Nicole Ritchie and Paris Hilton doubles). This is when the fun starts.
The acting is very over-the-top. At times you know its intentional and other times you can’t help but feel its just the level of the actors in the movie. But what really took away from the experience was the soundtrack. The soundtrack was fucking horrendous and it made the worst sounding dubbed karate flick sound like a THX presentation!! All the dialogue sounded as though the cast were all talking in an amplified echo chamber. I’m really surprised they left the soundtrack the way they did for the North American premier. I’m assuming they are gonna fix it for the DVD release.
The f/x are well done but there wasn’t nearly enough carnage and mayhem for my likes. Sullivan set this up to be an old-school exploitation flick but too much time passes between gore set-pieces to really satisfy. There were times I was wondering when the next gore scene was gonna happen. But when we got it the gore was really bloody and fun!! A girl gets sawed in half the long way with a huge circular saw starting at her vag and ending through her head; a guy gets torn in half so just his exposed spine is “standing”; and we get a few exploding heads. The gore is fun, there just wasn’t enough of it for me. They needed to either add more gore or shorten the overall length of the film so the audience didn’t have to wait so long in between f/x.
The stand out performance was definitely Bill Moseley as Colonel Buckman, the mayor of the town. Moseley’s great in anything he does and this is no exception. We also get lots of nudity and even some girl-on-girl action. Sullivan’s heart was definitely in the right place here; he hits all the essential elements. Gore, hot girls (and they are hot), crazy dialogue that offends everyone, and some lez action. As Sullivan warned us before the screening started, “If you’re easily offended then you’re in the wrong place.”
If you’re looking for a fun, crazy, over-the-top exploitation flick then you’ll definitely enjoy this one. But be warned that the acting is pretty bad and (at least the version I saw) the soundtrack is horrendous. I was luckily enough to see this with a large group of drunk, rowdy, gore-loving people, so if you gather up a lot of friends and watch it like that you’ll love it!! Recommended only for those who love exploitation flicks and the exploitation-completist.
Director: Tim Sullivan
Plot: 2 out of 5 stars
Gore: 6 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer from the Texas Frightmare Weekend
Alright!! My first night at TFW was a fucking blast. We were at the Studio Movie Grill in Lewisville to see Romero’s Survival of the Dead and Tim Sullivan’s North American premier of 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams. The cast, crew, and director were present for 2001 Maniacs, but unfortunately there wasn’t the same fanfare for Survival. Here’s the review for Survival and I’ll hit the 2001 Maniacs a little later.
Let me first start by releasing a huge sigh of relief (I’m wiping the virtual sweat from my brow). Survival is Romero’s best zombie work since 1985’s Day of the Dead. For various reasons I just wasn’t a fan of 2005’s Land of the Dead or 2007’s Diary of the Dead. At all. Although flawed Survival recaptures a little of the good old “Romero Magic” and zombie fun.
Survivalbegins six days after the dead started walking. We join two warring clans on Plum Island, located off the coast of Delaware. The O’Flynn clan, headed by patriarch Patrick (Kenneth Welsh), wants to scour the island by killing both all the zombies and anyone who’s been bitten. The other clan is the Muldoon’s, headed by patriarch Seamus (Richard Fitzpatrick), and he wants to wrangle the dead up and “protect” them. Seamus feels it necessary to keep the clan together, and, as he argues, you never know when a cure will be found. These two clans have been warring for centuries. But Seamus gets the upper hand on Patrick and exiles him from the island. Yes, its the old Hatfields vs. McCoys. I was a little worried about how this would play out in Survival but Romero handled to pretty well overall.
One problem I did have was that Romero should have made Seamus and Patrick a little more “even.” There was never any doubt that Seamus was being set up as the “bad guy.” And even though Patrick was an old son-of-a-bitch there was no doubt he was the “good guy.” But both Patrick’s and Seamus’ points of view were valid. Besides hoping for a cure, Seamus was trying to find an alternate food source for the zombies (echoes of Day of the Dead??) which really isn’t that bad of an idea. It could have added a lot more tension and conflict for the audience if Romero presented both their points of view as being valid, and letting the story unfold from there. It would have been fun to split the audience down the middle: “I agree with Seamus.” “Are you fucking crazy, Patrick was the right one.” As it is you automatically side with Patrick because Seamus is portrayed as bat-shit crazy.
Our other group, that eventually runs into Patrick and brings him back to the island, is made up of some ex-soldiers who go AWOL and band together. The soldiers run into a 20-something kid (Devon Bostick) who joins them. The kid is wasted in his role: He’s pretty competent with a gun and has a tough-as-nails attitude. I would have liked to have seen more about him. He plays prominently in the first half of the movie then seems to be forgotten in the second half. Maybe he was introduced now and will be featured in a future Romero project? Anyway, the ex-soldiers are Nicotine (Alan Van Sprang), the leader; Tomboy (Athena Karkanis); Francisco (Stefano Di Matteo); and Chuck (Joris Jarsky). They end up taking Patrick back to the island, and as soon as they get there the feud picks up right were it left off.
The plot here is definitely stronger than Land and Diary and it got me more involved than those other two films did. The zombie violence is also better done (Greg Nicotero supervised the f/x) than his last two outings. The majority of the f/x are practical f/x and are great. But for some reason there were a few CGI f/x and they stuck out like sore thumbs. Poor choice in using CGI; the only thing it did was pull me out of the moment. There’s a scene where the ex-soldiers run into some rednecks in the woods. The rednecks cut the heads off of a group of zombies (keeping their brains in tact) and plunk them on stakes. Great idea; we get about a dozen decapitated zombie heads stuck on sticks with their eyes and mouths moving!! The problem; it was done using CGI and what should have been creepy and scary ended up just being funny and ridiculous.
We did get a few new creative kills. One zombie’s head bursts after Francisco shoves the nozzle of a fire extinguisher into its mouth and fills him up (reminds me of the “tire sealant” kill in Laid to Rest). And another has a flare shot into it’s chest which results in the zombie’s head bursting into flames (I didn’t know that could happen!!). Nice, creative kills tainted only by the use of some CGI.
Romero was also playing with the idea here that you don’t need to get bitten by a zombie to turn into one. All you need to do is die. This is an idea that is also used in Kirkman’s The Walking Dead comic. But we never really dive into this point in any detail. And then there’s the treatment of the zombies themselves. We all know since 1985’s Day of the Dead and Romero’s introduction of Bub that Romero has been flirting with the idea of “evolving” the zombie. He tried to examine this in 2005 with the Zombie Big Daddy; the results were disastrous!! I absolutely hated Big Daddy and the entire Land of the Dead project!! And once again we get a few pretty stupid zombie elements. The worst is the “zombie girl on horseback”; don’t ask … trust me its really gay. I like and can appreciate that Romero is trying to focus more on the zombies, but there has to be a better way of doing it than by trying to give them intelligence. I’m just not into that.
Overall Survivor of the Dead is a vast improvement over his last two zombie films. The plot is more interesting and we get good performances by everyone involved (I really like Nicotine’s character and what Sprang did with it). This is far from a perfect movie but is definitely a step in the right direction as far as getting his zombie flicks back on track. I recommend this one for a rental.
Director: George Romero (and writer)
Plot: 3 out of 5 stars
Gore: 6 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 3 out of 5 brains.
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer from the Texas Frightmare Weekend 2010