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.
Now that I’m actually sitting down and writing all the various events from 2011’s Texas Frightmare Weekend, I realize just how insanely crazy I was last weekend. The convention’s organizers really packed a lot of events into Saturday (the third day of the event). Two of those people represent the extremes of the business: Roger Corman, a legend in both the horror genre and the film industry in general, and Jason Eisener, who’s just beginning his career and is the writer-director of HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN. We all know Roger Corman: Director of 56 films (mainly genre films) that spans 5 decades, and the producer of (mainly) genre films that spans 70 years … SEVENTY YEARS!! Corman is a friggin’ legend and has recently given us SHARKTOPUS and is finishing the post-production on PIRANHACONDA (expected to be released in 2011).
Roger Corman entered the Q&A session to a standing ovation. There were budding amateur filmmakers and fans alike that were eager to bask in the over 70 years of his experience and wisdom. One of the first questions that came up was indeed SHARKTOPUS. Corman kind of laughs and said even he thought they were “going too far with that one. We were going as far as absurdity goes.” But due to the success of the film Corman now believes they need to go “wilder” in their concepts … hence PIRANHACONDA!!
There were a ton of questions asking Corman about his early career, especially all the Poe films he made. Interestingly enough, the Poe films were Corman’s attempt to “raise the level” of his films. He usually shot his films on a tight, 10-day schedule. But when he made HOUSE OF USHER (1960) he had a three week shooting schedule. “I thought I hit the big time,” Corman says winking to the crowd. Asked if he will ever direct again he gives a weak ‘maybe.’ “Producing is easier. I get to sleep in a little more. Instead of being on the set at 6am I get to roll in around 9am and look over the already tired director’s shoulder asking him ‘Why’d you shoot that?’” And then someone asked Corman the big question: What exactly do you do in you new “producer” gig? Corman laughs as he explains that he works primarily in the pre-production phase of the film writing scripts, doing script re-writes, and scouting out locations. As Corman tells us, “As I always say, once the film starts shooting it’s already half way done.” He also says that he stays away from the set once filming begins because he finds that people always come to him asking him questions that should be pointed at the director. Corman wants the director to be “the guy” the cast and crew go to. He also stays away from the film until after it’s gone through two rounds of editing. He wants the director to do the first two edits and then he’ll come in on the third round. That’s pretty cool in my opinion; he doesn’t wanna overshadow and take anything away from the director.
Then the question I was waiting for was finally asked: “Do you have any advice for young filmmakers looking to break into the business?” He offered some solid advice: Either make your own film with a digital camera or go the more traditional route and go to film school and learn everything you can. If school isn’t an option due to money, then get a job on an indie film project and learn that way. Corman points out that making your own film is so much easier nowadays. You can buy a good digital camera for a modest price and all the latest technology makes editing and putting in some f/x much easier. This is a point Nick Principe (ChromeSkull) also stressed during the LAID TO REST 2 Q&A. Principe said that “most people think ya have to move out to Los Angeles and live on the streets in order to make a film. But nowadays you can make a solid film wherever you live. Just get out there and do it!!” Solid advice Principe and Corman!! On the down side, though, Corman does point out that it might be easier to make an indie film but the marketing and distribution of your film is more difficult. There’s always another side to the coin!!
Unfortunately Roger Corman’s time was greatly restricted and he only had about 30-45mins for the Q&A. But hell, even if he answered questions for three hours that still wouldn’t have been enough time. The man has enough great stories that he could fill five conventions!! But Corman was extremely sincere and looked as though he would’ve answered everyone’s questions if time allowed. His Q&A was a thrill for me; Corman’s a legend and ya just don’t meet someone like him everyday!!
Then later on Saturday there was a Q&A with writer-director JASON EISENER, who made the much-buzzed HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN. Eisener is so opposite from Roger Corman. Eisener grew up in a small Canadian town where he was working in a comic book store when he heard about a trailer contest. That’s right, the origins of HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN came about from a trailer contest that was held when Rodriquez and Tarantino’s GRINDHOUSE came out. Eisener stepped up to the plate and made a faux-trailer about a hobo who has a shotgun and he won. The trailer was such a success that people were demanding to see the full length feature. So Eisener made a treatment of what the feature would be based on the trailer and BAM … HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN was born.
Eisener is a very humble guy who you can tell is just absolutely thrilled to be where he currently is. He told us that he’s a long time genre fan and always gravitated towards the exploitation film. One of his huge influences is Italian maestro Dario Argento, and after we saw a few clips of the film it’s quite obvious that Argento’s color palate definitely influenced the look of HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN.
Eisener then tells us that he got Karim Hussain, an experimental genre Canadian filmmaker, to shoot HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN. This is a pretty big deal. Besides his writing and directing, Hussain is a top-notch cinematographer who really brought a lot of experience and wisdom to the HOBO shoot. Hussain, Eisener tells us, really helped develop a unique feel for the film and brought Eisener’s vision to reality. Eisener also talks about how difficult it was getting this film made in Canada. I, myself, lived in Ottawa, Canada for six years and can attest to the odd environment there. Canadians don’t have a problem with nudity or even occasional bad language, but they are pretty uptight about violence. There’s a show that would come on called BLEU NUIT which was essentially a program showcasing a new softcore porn film every Saturday night. But when it came to violence it felt like Canadians were still living in the Victorian period. Thank god the border guards never check my bags … if they knew the kind of “degenerate” films I was bringing into their country they would’ve lock my ass up!!
But Eisener never backed down to the censors and stayed focused and ended up making the film he wanted. He did say that getting the “flamethrower on a school bus packed with kids” scene OK’d was challenging!! When HOBO premiered at the Sundance Film Festival Eisener said he was pretty stoked over the way it was received. Sundance isn’t known for screening exploitation/genre films, so when some people walked out (after seeing the above-mentioned flamethrower scene) Eisener took it all in stride. But one of the best stories Eisener had was a true story of what happened on the set. There was apparently a blind man who would hang around the set each day. Two weeks before HOBO started shooting this guy had some kind of surgery to restore his vision. So one day Eisener was filming a particularly fun scene where a man gets decapitated and as blood is shooting out of his neck a blond chick starts dancing around in his blood as it rains down. At the particular moment the guy who had the eye surgery was suddenly able to see and the first thing this man saw was a hot blonde dancing around a decapitated man who’s blood is raining down on them all. The man stared wide-eyed and said, “I never knew the color red was so beautiful.” What an awesome story!! And to hell with putting reviewer’s comments on the poster … Eisener needs to put “I never knew the color red was so beautiful” on the poster!!
When asked if we’ll see HOBO 2 Eisener of course said he’s “up for it” and sees the character of the hobo (played by Rutger Hauer) as an old-school Western kind of character. He can see “the hobo” going from town to town cleaning up corrupt cities and taking out the bad guys. That sounds pretty sweet. But he also said he’s currently working on a martial arts film and a movie based on the “Plague Characters” who are in HOBO. He also throws in that there’s going to be a comic book adaptation of HOBO that is almost completed (which is apropos; Eisener used to work in a comic book shop). He also said he can see the world he created in HOBO as the setting for future movies he makes. I immediately thought of Lloyd Kaufman’s Tromaville and apparently that’s a fair comparison. Kaufman’s Troma Films has played a huge influence on him.
Jason Eisener spoke with such passion for HOBO that you just couldn’t help get excited about seeing it. Lucky for me that HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN just opened in Austin, TX today (May 6th). Check your local listings as well because it is having a limited theatrical run. But if it’s not coming to your town don’t worry; the DVD is being released on July 5th. [I just saw HOBO last night … see my review here].
Leave it to the coordinators of the Texas Frightmare Weekend to include both Roger Corman and Jason Eisener on the schedule. Both are fascinating people who have very different levels of experience, but who are also both very sincere individuals who were very happy and excited to be at this year’s convention. I can’t wait to see how the Texas Frightmare Weekend is gonna top itself next year … and I know it will.
By now you might be sick of me talking about writer-director Lucky McKee. If you are, tough shit!! I feel like I discovered this huge talent and he’s been right under my nose the entire time. I was lucky enough (seriously, no pun intended) to catch the screening of McKee’s THE WOMAN (see my review here). I think I’ve already raved about that film enough. So imagine how happy I was to learn that on the Saturday of the Texas Frightmare Weekend Lucky McKee was going to be in the press room doing some interviews. Please note that I unfortunately wasn’t lucky enough to be one of the interviewers. All the interviews were set up the week before and I wasn’t aware that McKee was going to be available. So the clips below with McKee’s answers are shot by me, but I was not the one asking the questions. Just wanted to be clear on that.
For those of you that might need a refresher, Lucky McKee came a horror household name in 2002 with his debut feature film, MAY. MAY starred Angela Bettis who would become a staple in McKee’s films. Then in 2006 McKee did one of the better installments for the Showtime MASTER’S OF HORROR series titled SICK GIRL, which starred Angela Bettis. He also then did another feature film in 2006, THE WOODS, starring Bruce Campbell and Patricia Clarkson. I honestly didn’t care for this one and felt it was very slow and didn’t really offer anything new or interesting. Then in 2008 I was really stoked to see Mckee tackle a Jack Ketchum novel. He was slated to direct RED, starring Brian Cox. We all know how dark Ketchum’s novels get even when they don’t seem like they’re going in that direction. But McKee, who was shooting the film for a few weeks, was mysteriously fired from RED and replaced by director Trygve Allister Diesen. To even add to the mystery, Angela Bettis was also in the film and was just as mysteriously fired and replaced by another actress. If I had to guess as to the reason why, I would say that it had something to do with the production having eight producers!! These producers were probably bombarding McKee with “notes” on the filming and he either told them all to go fuck themselves, or he ignored the notes and just went along and made the film he wanted to make. This is one thing I admire about McKee; he has a laser-like focus on every film he makes, and come hell or high water he’s gonna make the film he wants to make. That’s my guess as to what happened!!
Anyway … McKee sat in the press room for quite a while and did three different interviews. I taped all three interviews and then went through and edited them to give us the really interesting answers that expose a little bit about McKee’s style of filmmaking and his approach and philosophy of filmmaking. Enjoy the interview and I’d love to hear what you think about both the interview and Lucky McKee!!
Question 1: Interviewer asks him to discuss why it seems that in most of his films the protagonist is female. Is this something planned or does it just happen through the writing process?
Question 2: McKee is asked if he ever gets frustrated that he’s considered an “indie” director that hasn’t really had a breakout, mainstream hit. He’s asked if he’s happy with his success.
Question 3: McKee’s asked if he ever gets annoyed that his films, especially THE WOMAN, is labeled an “offensive film” while movies like SAW and HOSTEL get huge releases.
Question 4: McKee is known for not being interested in making films that are sequels and for directing films that he wrote. THE WOMAN is both a sequel and he wrote it with someone else (Jack Ketchum). How, he’s asked, did he end up doing a film that’s a sequel and written in conjunction with someone else? Why did he decide to do it? “It seems kind of outta left field”
Question 5: McKee is asked about his motivation for writing the Cleek family the way he did.
Question 6: McKee is asked about the soundtrack on THE WOMAN and how the music is reserved for special parts of the film.
Yeah; Lucky McKee is a pretty damn intelligent man marked by incredible focus and sticking to his guns and making the film he really wants to make. I really admire the fact he won’t compromise, especially in the face of a bunch of asshole producers who generously provide him with “notes” about how to make a “great” film. THE WOMAN is not a film you want to miss people. I’ll keep you all updated on it’s distribution as it becomes available!!
You know that among all the cool Q&A’s, press conferences, and film screenings that one of the most anticipated events I wanted to see during the 2011 Texas Frightmare Weekend was the panel discussion and sneak preview of some clips for Robert Hall’s upcoming CHROMESKULL: LAID TO REST 2. You know how much I loved the first LAID TO REST and credit Robert Hall with single handedly reviving the slasher genre by injecting some new blood (ah-hem) into it. With the character of ChromeSkull, Hall created an instant horror icon that is menacing, brutal, and absolutely fucking frightening (no thanks to actor Nick Principe). But the best part of ChromeSkull? He doesn’t spout out stupid one-liners after each of his kills!! LAID TO REST was a serious slasher film that wasn’t trying to be self-referential or overly clever. It was just a kick ass and very gory slasher flick. The only problem is that Hall did such a good job at the end of the first film “killing off” ChromeSkull that it seems he wrote himself into a corner. But as Hall explained to the crowd during the panel, “What corner? I didn’t do anything that most slasher flicks don’t do [by killing off the killer in one film and bringing him back in another].”
The main cast was in attendance. Let me allow Robert Hall introduce everyone to you himself:
As you might be able to tell from this brief video, the cast was pretty hung over but still had a lot of energy left in them. After the introductions Hall jumped right into opening the floor to questions. We learned some pretty fun facts like the original name of the killer was “Shadow Man” (this is what Hall called him in the script). But Hall hated that name and wanted something a little more ominous for the film. At the time his email address was chromeskull@???.com (he just loved those 2 words together), and then it dawned on him that that is a great name for a killer. He also told the crowd that the film’s gonna be released on DVD on September 20 and will have a small theatrical run in select cities before then (but I already knew this from the Red Carpet :-))
One fan asked him about any future projects he’s working on and the answer drew a huge cheer from the crowd. He’s working on making a feature out of his FEAR CLINIC web series that he does with Robert Englund and Danielle Harris. Check out the trailer below that Hall himself shot:
Hall also told us that the project he’s been playing with for over a year now, OLD SCRATCH, which he premiered the trailer at last years Texas Frightmare Weekend, has been put on the back burner until financing can be secured. I don’t get what the problem is; OLD SCRATCH looks friggin awesome!! Its about the old craze of playing records backwards and hearing satanic messages. Well the impending success of LAID TO REST 2 should help secure the money for that one. Part of the problem, Hall tells us, is that he’s shooting OLD SCRATCH on film and that increases the budget quite significantly. But he’s unwavering on this; OLD SCRATCH needs to be shot on film to achieve the right feel and tone that Hall’s looking for. When someone asks if there will be a LAID TO REST 3 Hall completely threw that one back at us: “That depends on you and how successful you all make LAID TO REST 2.” Nice answer.
Hall also talked a lot about the f/x in films. Hall owns and operates ALMOST HUMAN, INC., a special f/x house based in Los Angeles. He’s done the f/x for a ton of films and TV shows including ANGEL, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, the remake of THE CRAZIES, and QUARANTINE. He was asked the typical question most people ask special f/x artists: Do you prefer practical or digital f/x in films? To the crowd’s surprise he said he loves both:
“People think I only used practical f/x in LAID TO REST, but the fact is I shot all the practical f/x in such a way so they could be digitally enhanced without being obvious.”
Hall thinks it’s silly for fans to hate digital f/x because when they’re used properly they supplement the practical f/x and bring a whole new dimension of believability to the effect. Think about it; is there one instance in LAID TO REST where you were sitting there thinking to yourself, “Aahhh, there’s a digital effect.” No. He blends to two styles together to give a frightening sense of realism to his f/x. After this discussion Hall proudly looks to the crowd and says, “But I am thrilled to tell you all that CHROMESKULL was shot in 2D,” to which the crowd erupted in applause. Again, Hall isn’t against filming in 3D per se, he’s just not a fan of a film being shot and then the producers come along and turn the film into 3D in post-production.
And what about those creative kill scenes? How, someone asked him, does he come up with such great “kills.” Hall answers that it takes him a really long time to think up good death scenes. He takes his time because, as he says,
“I hate lazy and shitty looking death scenes … I hate when someone picks up a broom handle, swings it at another character and decapitates them. Have you ever decapitated someone? [crowd bursts into laughter] There’s a lot of bone, muscle and gristle in the neck.” [To this Nick Principe looks at Hall and asks, “Did you just say ‘gristle’?”]
What an awesome answer!! But more interesting is that when Hall is thinking of a death scene it’s not just the actual death he’s thinking about. He’s thinking about where the death is going to occur and what else might be around in the scene that could play into and interact with the death. He gives the example from the first LAID TO REST where a knife was plunged through the cheeks of one characters, twisted upwards, and then cut off the characters face. If you watch that scene closely you’ll see that the car window and hood play important roles in that death. Pretty intelligent approach to f/x if ya ask me!! Hall also noted that the old f/x of Tom Savini influenced him, but when he watches them now they feel a bit dated.
And of course a few questions from the crowd asked him if ChromeSkull could beat various other screen killers in a fight. Hall took these in stride, obviously having been asked these kinds of questions a hundred times before. There were two here that are worth noting: “Would would win; ChromeSkull or Victor Crowley [from the HATCHET films].” Without hesitating Hall replies,
“Hhmmm, ChromeSkull or a retarded hillbilly living in the woods wearing a foam-latex body suit … ”
It seems there might be some (hopefully friendly) competition between Hall and HATCHET creator Adam Green. It doesn’t sound like Hall much cares for the HATCHET films. I think there’s room for both. Both films did a tremendous job revitalizing the slasher genre, but in different ways. Green’s HATCHET films aimed at recapturing the slasher feel of the 1980’s. Green basically wanted to make a 1980’s slasher film in the 2000’s. Hall, on the other hand, wanted to update the traditional slasher film to incorporate all the modern technology and show how that technology can desensitize and almost dehumanize modern man. I’m a huge fan of both franchises and think there’s more than enough room for both kick ass franchises!!
The other great question came from a friend of mine I met while standing in line to meet Clive Barker. Ryan asked, no doubt because Brian Austin Green is the star of LAID TO REST 2, “Who would win … ChromeSkull or the cast of BEVERLEY HILLS 90125.” The crowd of course exploded into laughter and Green, being the good sport, immediately responded, “The cast of 90125 of course … I’ve seen Shannen Doherty’s ‘wrap sheet.’” Nice answer!!
We then saw a few clips from the upcoming CHROMESKULL: LAID TO REST 2. We got to see the entire opening, which begins seconds after the first film ends, and we got to see the new red-band trailer, a scene inside the “death cage,” and even one of the kill scenes. The crowd was S T O K E D!! Like with all the guests at the 2011 Texas Frightmare Weekend, the cast of CHROMESKULL: LAID TO REST 2 proved to be a great group of people who were genuinely excited to be involved in the convention and really excited to be showing clips from their new film. I must also point out that Robert Hall was giving away full-sized movie posters of LAID TO REST 2, which he was signing, for free. Nice!! And let me tell you, to all you doubters out there, that Hall isn’t ignoring how fucked up ChromeSkull was at the end of the previous film. He addresses this head on and comes out looking like a champ. There also seems to be some kind of “conspiracy” angle going on here too. Green’s character seems to be the head of some kind of organization that has been tracking down ChromeSkull and for some reason wants him alive. We didn’t get much insight into the actual plot, but from what I saw over the weekend it looks pretty bad ass!!
I just hope their “limited theatrical run” includes Austin, TX!! I’ll keep on this one for sure.
On Saturday, Day Three, before I had my photo op with Clive Barker, the Tall Man himself Angus Scrimm held a Q & A session in the main rooom. I got there early in order to get a front row seat, and I’m glad I did. The room was packed with hundreds of people. Horror fans know that Scrimm doesn’t do a lot of horror conventions. Let’s face it, Scrimm is no spring chicken (he’s gonna be 85 this August), and these conventions are taxing. Scrimm also had a table on the convention floor where he signed autographs and took pictures with his fans. He’s a trooper; he sat there for 5-6 hours each day and met all his fans. (Don Coscarelli was also in attendance and I got both of them to sign my PHANTASM 2 DVD). Scrimm may be 84 years old, but his mind is as sharp as the silver balls he used to throw around at people’s heads!! The man remembers obscure dates and people’s names from decades ago and related a ton of really funny and interesting stories. For example, did you know Scrimm (who’s real name is Lawrence Rory Guy) used to write liner notes on music albums? He wrote the liner notes for the Beatles and in 1974 won a Grammy Award for the liner notes he wrote on the album “Korngold: The Classic Erich Wolfgang Korngold.” Impressive.
When asked if he had any formal acting training Scrimm surprised us all with an emphatic “yes”. We weren’t surprised because he had training, we were surprised with whom he trained with. In his teens he studied drama at USC under William C. DeMille (the older brother of Cecil B. DeMille). He tells us the story that William was for a while the toast of Hollywood and was married to Anna Angela George, daughter of the famous economist Henry George. They were married for almost 30 years, and then in 1929 he dumped Anna and married writer Clara Beranger. Well this was such a scandal that Hollywood shunned him and essentially black-listed and ran him outta town. That’s when he took a teaching job at USC in the drama department. Scrimm accents the story by pointing out that by Hollywood standards that wouldn’t even rate on the “scandal meter by today’s standards!!”
Scrimm was full of great stories and when asked if he’s ever done Shakespeare he told us no but that if we wanted, he would give us a few of Shakespeare’s famous soliloquies. The audience erupted into applause and we settled in to hear Scrimm do Shakespeare (sorry for some of the shaky camera work but I was laughing and clapping as well!!):
What a classic moment!! Then the standard questions are asked: Will there ever be a PHANTASM 5; what’s the next film you’re gonna be in; which is your favorite PHANTASM film; etc … As to a future PHANTASM 5 film he doesn’t have any information and refers us to Don Coscarelli. Would he do another PHANTASM film? He would consider it, but he also points out that the role of the Tall Man is demanding and “I’m no spring chicken.” His next film is in an uncredited cameo in Coscarelli’s new one JOHN DIES AT THE END (which is in post-production and will be out in early 2012). And as far as his favorite PHANTASM film, he responded, “Whichever one I’ve seen most recently.” Scrimm doesn’t have anything bad to say about anyone or any film he’s ever been in (although he does say he regrets the wig he wore in SUBSPECIES). Scrimm is a gentleman’s gentleman and is always eager and willing to meet and talk to all his fans. He loves hearing stories about how he scared the shit out people when they were younger … yours truly being one of them!!
Some of the more interesting questions included someone producing a Tall Man action figure and asking Scrimm how it felt to indeed have an action figure. He said it’s a great honor, especially since it looks more like his favorite actor John Carradine!! Perhaps the funniest question was why in Australia the title “PHANTASM” was changed to “NEVER DEAD.” Well it seems that the year before PHANTASM was made, there was a very popular film made in Australia titled “Phantasm” … and it was a porn flick!! And then Scrimm gives us a show-stopper; perhaps the best moment of the entire 2011 Texas Frightmare Weekend!! When talking about the 2004 film THE OFF SEASON he starred in, someone brought up that he didn’t recognize the song Scrimm sings in that film. Scrimm tells us that there wasn’t enough money in the budget to “buy” a popular country-Western song so he sat down and in a few minutes wrote “Prairie Dog.” He then asks us if we wanna hear it. The crowd explodes and then settles in. Here’s the magical moment:
These are the moments that make a convention!! If I would’ve missed this classic moment I would’ve never forgiven myself.
Finally someone in the crowd asks him whether he likes working in film or theater better. He tells us that he’s enjoyed the few times he’s done theater but that he really “loves film for the sense of immortality” it has. He feels, god willing, that at least some of his films will be popular for the ages and immortalize him long after he’s gone. Well I don’t think Scrimm has anything to worry about. The PHANTASM films alone have already cemented Angus Scrimm forever in the Minds of horror fans everywhere.
Scrimm, once again, proves that horror actors and directors are the nicest celebrities around. When I met Scrimm at his table I sat down to get my picture taken with him and I related my story to him about the first time my brother and I watched PHANTASM. The result: Scrimm scared the shit out of us!! He laughed and said “I get that a lot.” Then I just sat there for about 5 minutes and made some small talk with Scrimm. I’m certainly glad he attended this year’s Texas Frightmare Weekend!!
Here’s that Angus Scrimm action figure that he thinks looks like John Carradine:
On Friday and Saturday, Days Two & Three of the 2011 Texas Frightmare Weekend, I was covering so much and running around so hard that i didn’t know whether I was coming or going. You might recall that on Day Two I covered the Red Carpet Event, press conferences, and meeting with some fellow horror website owners. But that’s also the day I met Clive Barker. That’s right; for a few hours on Friday I put away my press badge and became a fan. I stood in line for almost 3 hours to meet the man who Stephen King dubbed “he future of horror.” What’s so cool is that while standing in line I started chatting with other people standing in line and we all talked about our favorite Barker movies and books and talked about why Barker means so much to each of us. It was a great “bonding of fans” moment. When I finally met Barker I was blown away just being in his presence. Ever since I read his BOOKS OF BLOOD back in the early-mid 1980’s I was hooked. Even at that young age I knew I was reading something special; that I was reading a man who was gonna change the face of horror forever … and he did. Clive Barker redefined the way we all look at the horror genre; horror could be erotic and beautiful and more visceral, gory, and disturbing than anyone thought. Sure present day authors and filmmakers may have gone beyond what Barker was doing back in the early-80’s, but it was Barker who showed us it was possible.
I put in a request through the press coordinator to interview Barker but I was told he recently had throat surgery and wouldn’t be doing any interviews. I was disappointed but just glad he was still appearing at this year’s convention. When I finally got in front of him I was just blown away. Clive Barker is horror royalty. The worlds he’s created and horrors he’s put on screen will outlast us all. I brought with me my First Edition hardback copy of IMAJICA and my poster of HELLRAISER that I bought back in the late 1980’s (besides Barker, I also had Doug Bradley and Ashley Laurence sign that poster). When Barker saw my copy of IMAJICA his eyes lit up. I told him that IMAJICA isn’t just my favorite book that he wrote, but it’s my favorite novel of all time. I continued with how it’s the perfect balance of fantasy, horror, eroticism, and magic and I just couldn’t imagine how taxing on him it must have been to write. I could’ve been imagining this, but I think Barker blushed a little before telling me that IMAJICA was also his favorite novel. It took him 14 months of writing 12-14 hours a day, seven days a week to complete it. Wow; I suck … it takes me that long to write a 600 word short story LOL!! (not really; but you get the point).
Then Clive Barker asked me if I have a favorite passage from the book. I told him I just love it when Gentle and the other characters travel through the Dominions until they finally meet god, Hepaxamendios. Barker then starts explaining to me the breakdown of the name “Hapexamendios”: “amen” and “dios”, he says with a smile, are “pretty self-explanatory.” But “hapex,” he explains “means an event that only happens once.” If you’ve read IMAJICA this makes a lot of sense, especially in regards to the great Reconciliation. Let me tell you that I was in heaven!! Here I am standing in a hotel conference room with literally hundreds of people standing behind me waiting to see and meet Clive Barker and he’s sitting in front of me talking about my favorite novel of all time!! I was having a friggin’ conversation with Clive Freakin’ Barker!! I was giddy and felt like I was experiencing my first crush, my first kiss, and the first time I had sex all rolled into one big experience!! Think about it: Here’s a man who just recently had throat surgery and couldn’t even hold his head all the way up. He committed to the convention and went way above and beyond. He took the time to meet with every one of his fans, shake everyone’s hand at least twice, and even took the time to talk to all his fans, even at the risk of great discomfort. Plus after he took a short 15min break, Barker’s publicist made the following announcement: “Clive just told me that he’s not leaving tonight until everyone standing in line gets an autograph.” I was in the front of the line, but holy shit … there were literally hundreds and hundreds of people standing in line. It never ceases to amaze me that horror actors, filmmakers, and authors consistently always go out of their way to meet and talk to all their fans. I’ve never felt rushed with any horror celeb I’ve ever met.
I then signed up to get my picture taken with Barker by a professional photographer. I couldn’t resist. Now remember, I met Barker (when he signed my book and poster) on Friday night and the photo op was at 3pm on Saturday. The line went fast and Barker was sitting on a stool and everyone took a turn standing next to him getting a fantastic picture. When it was my turn I walked up to him and I saw his eyes open with recognition. He then said to me, “Are you enjoying that signed 1st Edition of IMAJICA,” and then he winked. I shook his hand again and babbled out some kind of geeky, “I’m so thrilled to meet you again” crap. I was completely amazed that after seeing literally hundreds and hundreds of fans on Friday he remembered signing my copy of IMAJICA and talking about Hapexamendios.
Clive Barker is a 100% class act and someone who deserves his success. He also struck me as having a tragic side: The person in front of me, Ryan, asked Barker what his greatest challenge is when writing. Without hesitating he responded, “Getting out of bed each morning knowing that I have a 12-14 hour day of writing in front of me.” Some people laughed at this answer but I found it very telling. A lot of people think being a professional writer is an easy life; ya write a few hours a day and BAM, you’re a millionaire. Barker’s eyes tell a different story. At that point I just wanted to give him a big hug and thank him for the sacrifices he’s made to create his art and share it with all of us.
Every horror celeb I met at both the 2010 and 2011 Texas Frightmare Weekends have been class acts and great individuals. They’ve all gone outta their way to show their fans how much they appreciate them. But meeting Clive Barker will always stand out as a life-defining moment for me. That might sound overly dramatic but I truly mean it. Barker forever changed the face of horror and re-defined it not just for a new decade (the 1990’s) but for a new millennia. Sure he’s found a great level of success with his art, but looking into his eyes tells a different story; one of a man who has also made a lot of sacrifice to share his art with the world. Barker is a true Horror Renaissance man and I for one am grateful and feel like a better person for having had met him … even if it was only for a very short time. Clive Barker makes this world a more interesting and magical place.
In its time, this, his house had been a place of great souls and great ambition, where all commonplace debate had been banned. If you wanted to talk politics or tittle-tattle you went to the coffee house; if you wanted commerce, to the Exchange. Here only miracles. Here, only the rising of spirit. And yes, love if it was pertinent (which it was so often); and sometimes bloodletting. But never the prosaic, never the trivial. Here the man who brought the strangest tale was the most welcome. Here every excess was celebrated if it brought visions, and every vision analyzed for the hints it held to the nature of the Everlasting.
— Clive Barker; IMAJICA
I’ll never forget my brief encounter with Horror Royalty and I’ll always be indebted to the Texas Frightmare Weekend for making this meeting possible!!
I’m glad I waited to write this review. When I first saw THE WOMAN, written by Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee and directed by Lucky McKee, I must admit I wasn’t too excited by it. Not at all. I thought that overall it was too slow and plodding to hold anyone’s interest. I saw THE WOMAN on the first night of the 2011 Texas Frightmare Weekend, and as a result I was too busy over the next few days to sit down and write the review. So here it is, a full four days since I first saw it. Over the last few days I’ve found myself thinking about THE WOMAN a lot, and I’m not thinking about how slow it was. I’m thinking about how fucked up of a movie it is. “Fucked up” in the good way; the way that crawls under your skin and burrows and festers. I admit it people; my first thoughts about this film were wrong. THE WOMAN is a solid film made by a true artist who understands what it takes to disturb his viewers.
THE WOMAN is a sequel to 2009’s OFFSPRING (which is based on the Ketchum novel). But these two films are very loosely related, the only common element is the role of “The Woman” (Pollyanna McIntosh) recurring from the first film. But whereas OFFSPRING is a total mess of a film, with uneven performances, silly dialogue, and ridiculous plot holes, THE WOMAN is just about as serious and intense a horror film you’ll find. The film begins with us meeting the Cleek family. There’s the mom Belle (Angela Bettis), the father Chris (Sean Bridgers), teen daughter Peggy (Lauren Ashley Carter), young daughter Darlin’ (Shyla Molhusen, who was discovered by McKee at 2010’s Texas Frightmare Weekend), and teen son Brian (Zach Rand). We meet the Cleeks at a neighborhood Bbq and immediately feel something is wrong with this family, even though we can’t put our finger on exactly what it is.
One day Chris is out hunting (they live in a very remote area, having no nearby neighbors) and comes across “the Woman” bathing herself in a creek. It’s obvious that “the Woman” is a feral being who’s been living off the land all her life. There’s nothing attractive or erotic about her. But Chris sees in her something that he wants so he captures her and chains her up in the storm cellar. His plan? He’s going to “civilize” her, and he’s going to do so by getting the entire family involved. Yup; Chris is a total sociopath driven by power and expanding his power. He has already attained all the power there’s to be had from his family, and now he’s looking to expand beyond his household.
How does Chris plan on civilizing her? I know what you’re thinking, and the answer is “nope” … this is not just another entry in the torture-porn sub-genre. This is a characterization of a sociopathic individual and how he’s successfully beaten down those around him (both physically and mentally) in order to attain the power he craves. But there’s so much more going on here too. His views on women in general, including his own daughters and wife, are that women are stupid and base creatures incapable of intelligent thought and not worthy of having any kind of individuality. And even more horrifying is that his young teen son Brian thinks the same way.
This is a creepy fucking movie people, and Lucky McKee (who I’ve had a love-hate relationship with for a while now) really proves himself a master at crafting a balls-to-the-wall, slow burn horror film. The material here is chilling because it’s real; it happens every day in the real world. There’s no limits to Chris’ depravity towards women in general and to his daughters and wife specifically. I don’t wanna give away too much of what’s going on here, but you’ll definitely wanna take a shower, a long very hot shower, after it’s over.
The performances by the entire cast are top-notch. McIntosh, who reprises her role of the cannibal woman, does a great job conveying a range of emotions through only body language and grunts. She has perhaps the most demanding role in the entire film being that she’s tied up most of the time. The son Brian (Zach Rand) also does a chilling, too-effective job as a young boy blossoming into a woman-hating sociopath (just like dear old daddy is). But the best performance comes from Sean Bridgers (the father). His role of Chris is one of the most chilling and disturbing performances I’ve ever seen in a horror film. Period. He’s not over the top with his eyes rolling around in his head as he screams his lines and tortures people. Chris is the most dangerous kind of character: He’s unassuming and charming and could be your doctor, the person standing next to you in line at the supermarket, or even your next door neighbor who you invite over for coffee every few days. Bridgers does an amazing job and you won’t soon forget about the character of Chris Cleek.
There’s also an anti-patriarchal streak throughout this film. Sure at the end of the day Chris hates women and thinks they’re inferior to men in just about every way. This is obvious. But I also got a very strong feminist message here; mainly in the character of “the Woman”. “The Woman” stands for everything that is natural and primal in women (albeit to the extreme). “The Woman” can’t be shackled by man, and even if she does find herself in either mental or physical shackles she never looses who or what she truly is … a Woman. In direct contrast to “the Woman” is Bettis’ character of Belle. She allowed herself be chained up a long time ago by a man and as a result she lost herself and her meaning and her “womanhood.” It takes a strong woman like “the Woman” to reacquaint Belle to her feminine side … and the consequences are catastrophic. The entire film and all it’s characters build up to a climax that you have to see to believe. It’s violent, gory, and extremely disturbing. This film is gonna stay with you for a while. (I must also point out that McKee explores, to an extent, the nature of violence. Which is more violent; a creature in their natural state or civilization? In this case clearly civilization is the more barbaric of the two.)
The most striking element in the film, besides the performances, is the soundtrack. The majority of the film has absolutely no incidental music. Hell, you could hear a pin drop in the theater at most parts. But every so often during really key scenes we get a blaring soundtrack in which the music is in direct contrast to the scene unfolding on the screen. You’ll immediately think of the rape scene from A CLOCKWORK ORANGE.
THE WOMAN is an extremely well-made horror film that doesn’t go down the typical path. This one will surprise, shock, and disgust you. Lucky McKee proves that him being labeled a “Master of Horror” is well deserved. Yes there are parts here that do drag a bit, but overall you’ll find yourself completely absorbed by the characters and plot wondering where everything is headed, and realizing it’s not heading in a very nice direction. Even the “bad guy” isn’t as easy as pointing at Chris and demonizing him. In some ways Bettis’ Belle and the young son Brian are just as big a monsters as Chris is (the horrors that Belle has turned her eyes away from in the household in a kind of “ignorant bliss” will disgust you). No, people, there’s a lot going on here and McKee proves himself up to the challenge of keeping everything moving along and making the viewer feel more and more uncomfortable up until the explosive ending. I can’t wait for this one to be released on DVD because this is one that definitely needs a few viewings to fully get and catch everything that’s going on. In another week or two there should be an announcement as to it’s distribution; I’m guessing it’ll be released sometime in the Fall with a limited theatrical run prior to that.
I’ve completely changed my mind and opinion about Lucky McKee. This is a serious filmmaker that utilizes many different genres to create a very unique kind of “horror” film that will slap you awake and realize that the bullshit big-budgeted Hollywood releases are doing it all wrong. Once again (as I continuously point out) we need to look more to the indie horror filmmakers … they are the future of the genre. Definitely check this one out!!
Director: Lucky McKee (& co-writer with Jack Ketchum)
Plot: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Gore: 6 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Scott Shoyer
Lots of really fun and crazy things went on during the Day Two of the TEXAS FRIGHTMARE WEEKEND 2011. Now I call this “Day Two” (which was Friday of the convention) but most people consider this to be the first day. But I attended the Thursday night screening of Lucky McKee’s THE WOMAN (review is coming), and that was also an official TFW event. So Friday is Day Two for me!! Earlier on Friday I sat in a few press round tables for some celebrities (Sid Haig was one of them). But the really huge event was the Red Carpet, the official opening of the TFW where all the big celebrities make their entrance into the convention. Earlier last week I confirmed my press pass and was told I was granted a spot on the Red Carpet to interview and photograph the celebrities as they came down the Red Carpet. As you can imagine, I was friggin’ stoked!!
After going through the guest list and making sure I had something intelligent to say to all the various celebrities other than, “Uuhhh; you’re cool;” or “Who are you wearing,” I took my spot on the Red Carpet. I was surrounded by some pretty big time players like Dread Central, Horror News Net, etc … These guys are old hat with interviewing celebrities and every outlet had two people with them: one to conduct the interviews and one to take the pictures and videos. And then there was me; alone to juggle around my voice recorder and camera. I was in this odd state of “panicked bliss”!! I was standing next to a woman (I’m so sorry if you’re reading this, but I totally forgot your name) from a big time Dallas newspaper and she helped calm me down by telling me to talk to the celebrities as if they were long lost friends I hadn’t seen in a while. Well it worked and I ended up talking to a few of the celebrities and getting a ton of pictures!! [PLEASE CLICK ON EACH PICTURE … I POSTED THEM IN THUMBNAIL SIZE TO FIT MORE INTO THIS POSTING].
When the event began the first two celebrities down the Red Carpet were Dieter Laser and Tom Six from THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE fame. Now you all know I wasn’t a huge fan of that film, but Laser and Six were so thrilled to be involved in the TFW 2011 convention that they were practically glowing. Laser, in fact, was decked out in his full Dr. Heiter outfit complete with the stark white lab coat and sunglasses that make him look both crazy and intelligent. They talked to every single person in the press on the Red Carpet and were both extremely nice and really loved the fanfare they were getting. I asked Dieter Laser how it feels to be an “instant horror icon” and he just smiled rather sinister-like at me and responded in a thick German accent, “It’s delicious.” Classic!!
Angus Scrimm was next and as he slowly made his way down the Red Carpet, talking to everyone who wanted a word with him, I had flashbacks of when I was 9-10 years old watching PHANTASM for the first time. When Scrimm’s Tall Man summons that deep, dark “BOOOOYYYYY” I still get goosebumps and shivers up and down my spine!! So when he approached me where I was standing I couldn’t help it. Instead of asking him what his new project(s) is/are, I asked him if he wouldn’t mind giving me a good old fashioned “Boy.” He laughed, looked right at me, and in the time frame of a split second transformed into “The Tall Man”, got that evil scowl on his face, looked right at me, and growled, “BOOOOYYYYY.” I wanted to hug the man!! That kindly, grandfather figure suddenly became the frightening killer and digger-upper of dead bodies that scared the shit out of me as a boy. I was in heaven. And of course because I only have two hands, I didn’t capture that once-in-a-lifetime moment on either video or film!! I’ll have more in-depth coverage of Angus Scrimm in another posting.
Then the gang from CHROMESKULL: LAID TO REST 2 started coming down the Red Carpet. Writer-director Robert Hall and actors Nick Principe, Brian Austin Green, Thomas Dekker, Angelina Armani, and Mimi Michaels were all present. This was the rock-n-roll group of the convention. They were all having a blast and made you remember why it’s so cool to be an actor and filmmaker in the horror genre. I asked Robert Hall when we can expect to see LAID TO REST 2 and with a gleam in his eye he told me it’ll be out on DVD on September 20, 2011 (the day before my birthday!!) and will have a limited theatrical run before it’s DVD release. If there’s ANY cosmic justice in this world, LAID TO REST 2 will run in Austin!!! Come on Alamo Drafthouse, make it happen. I’ll have a lot more on LAID TO REST 2 in a future posting!!
Then Lucky McKee and two of the stars of his latest feature THE WOMAN (Sean Bridgers and Carlee Baker) made their appearance. I already talked about these guys in a previous post (click here), but I’m actually impressed that there’s still director’s out there like Lucky McKee who are true artists and won’t compromise to the big machine when it comes to him making the kind of film he wants. I’ll have a more in-depth interview of Lucky McKee in a post coming soon. Malcolm McDowellwas next as he confidently walked down the Red Carpet, knowing he’s been a horror icon since his role of Alex in 1971’s A CLOCKWORK ORANGE.
Then the crazy director of MUTANT GIRLS SQUAD, Yoshihiro Nishimura, and actress Eihi Shiina(the crazy bitch in AUDITION) strolled by. I asked Nishimura, through a translator, how he enjoys having the reputation of being a wild, “out there” director (he’s directed the films TOKYO GORE POLICE & VAMPIRE GIRL VS. FRANKENSTEIN GIRL), and he simply responded, “Wait until you see MUTANT GIRLS SQUAD and HELLDRIVER!!” Great answer.
Rodrigo Gudino (creator of Rue Morgue Magazine) and Ghoulish Gary Pullin (Rue Morgue Magazine’s art director) were next. Gudino beams like a proud father when asked about Rue Morgue Magazine and is extremely proud of where the genre magazine is today. Gudino then suddenly recognizes me (our hotel rooms were across the hallway from each other). This is something I find incredible every year. You can run into one of the celebs one time at the convention and they’ll remember you if you run into them again. I just really can’t see your typical A-List actor/actress doing the same thing!!
Then we got hit with a trio of some major genre stars: Doug Bradley, Robert Englund, and Cary Elwes. These guys are fantastic and even though Cary Elwes starred in the film that helped define the sub-genre of torture-porn, SAW, most people were asking him questions about his role as Westley in THE PRINCESS BRIDE … and he loved answering questions about that film. Bradley, as always, is a gentleman’s gentleman and is always ready, willing, and eager to answer questions about the upcoming HELLRAISER remake. Apparently the lines of communication are open and Doug Bradley MIGHT REPRISE HIS ROLE AS PINHEAD in the remake!! I’m sure we’ll be getting a lot more info on this in the near future.
Robert Englund is as crazy as ever!! The man, now in his 60’s, has more energy and enthusiasm than people half his age!! He also might be the easiest person in the world to interview. Just ask Englund one question and he’ll go off for 30 minutes answering your question and giving you a ton of great stories!! Englund is really thrilled to be at this current stage in his life. He says he really enjoys playing the roles of “crazy scientist” and “mad doctor” and wouldn’t have it any other way. He also had a lot of very nice things to say both about Jackie Earle Haley’s portrayal of Freddy Krueger and Haley as an actor in general. Englund is crazy (in the best possible way, of course) and I could listen to his stories forever.
Finally towards the end of the Red Carpet event were actors from the SAW films, including Costas Mandylor and Shawnee Smith (sporting a bizarre hair style) and the cast of THE BOONDOCK SAINTS, Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus, and David Della Rocco. Yeah I know it’s not a horror flick, but Norman Reedus is in THE WALKING DEAD TV series and Sean Patrick Flanery is no stranger to genre films, having starred in SAW 3D and of course MONGOLIAN DEATH WORMS.
The Red Carpet Event was a first for me and I can’t wait to be apart of it next year!! I’ll be better prepared and I’m even thinking of bringing one of my faithful readers along with me and giving them a free press pass so we can both cover the entire convention. Would any of you be interested in that (please note that I would just be covering getting you a press pass: transportation, food, and lodging will be up to you)?
So this wraps up the Opening Red Carpet Event for the 2011 Texas Frightmare Weekend. What do you think? I have a ton more pictures that I’m going to eventually post, but as you can imagine I have a ton of shit to still write about this amazing weekend!! Stay tuned and …
Day 2 (Friday) proved to be a pretty hectic day!! In all there were press conferences with many of the celebrities, it was the first day the convention floor was open, and there were a few screeners going on. But the coolest thing that occurred on Day Two was the Red Carpet Affair where all the celebrities walked down the red carpet and the press, including yours truly, got to take close-up photos and ask them some questions. I’ll be posting all the pics I took and talking about some of the questions and answers with the celebrities in another post coming soon. But earlier on Friday I was told Malcolm McDowell was in the press room answering questions so I rushed over. Somehow there was a miscommunication. No McDowell, but in his place was genre favorite SID HAIG.
You all know who this man is; you’ve seen him in a ton of both genre and non-genre films. Haig’s been in 120 films spanning 6 decades … SIX DECADES!! Recently he’s best known for and most recognized from Rob Zombie’s HOUSE OF A 1,000 CORPSES (2003) and THE DEVIL’S REJECTS (2005) but also had roles in Quentin Tarantino’s 1997 JACKIE BROWN and 2004’s KILL BILL, VOL. 2., and Rob Zombies HALLOWEEN (2007). If you’re not as familiar with Haig’s career and only know him as “Captain Spaulding” from HOUSE OF A 1,000 CORPSES & THE DEVIL’S REJECTS than you may not realize what an intelligent, very well-spoken, and general nice guy he is.
2011’s TEXAS FRIGHTMARE WEEKEND was the first time the organizers set up a press room and Sid Haig was the first press round table I sat in on. In addition to the typical questions he was asked, Haig also went on an over 12 minute long political discussion. Haig has some really intelligent and thought out ideas!! I’m not really going to get into his politics (this is anything HORROR, not “political”), but I will say that like most genre actors, he is much more brilliant than the characters he portrays. In the first clip I have, Haig was asked what he enjoys playing more: “good guy” roles or “bad guy” roles:
Haig then went on to relate a really fun incident that occurred during the filming of HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES. The film was made by Universal studios and after every day of filming the dailies would be sent to the producers and the studio head. Well after the film was completed and they were ready to screen the finished product to Universal’s head honchos, the head of the studio told them she was excited to finally see the completed film. The night of the screening the head of the studio who, keep in mind was supposedly watching the dailies, completely broke down during the screening and was so upset by the content of the film that she had to be driven home. The next day the film was shelved (put on hold, possibly forever). Then when asked later why the film HANNIBAL was given the green light and HOUSE OF 1,000 CORPSES was shelved, the Universal Studio head replied: “Because I know Anthony Hopkins isn’t like that in real life.” And yes; she was referring to Sid Haig!! Ultimately Lion’s Gate picked it up and when it was released it made back it’s budget in 1 day (ONE DAY). Good decision Universal!!
In another really interesting clip, Sid Haig talks about his brush with Quentin Tarantino and the fact that he was up for a major role in PULP FICTION. The original question was, “Has a big director like a Quentin Tarantino ever approached you?” The reply is gonna shock you!!
Finally, in the last clip I taped of Sid Haig at the 2011 TEXAS FRIGHTMARE WEEKEND, he’s asked what are the kinds of films he’d like to be making. But brace yourself people; the answer is gonna shock the shit outta ya!! It seems that good old Captain Spaulding loves … aahhh just watch the clip!!
If ya couldn’t tell by now, Sid Haig is a great interview!! He’s extremely honest (like in telling how he blew the role in PULP FICTION), and he’s a genuinely nice guy. Something you’re gonna read over and over again on my coverage of the 2011 TEXAS FRIGHTMARE WEEKEND is that all the genre celebrities that come out are extremely down to earth, they all love their horror fans, and they go out of their way to make their fans feel special. I woke up early on Saturday morning and went down to the hotel lobby to get some coffee. There I saw Angus Scrimm sitting in the coffee shop. I normally never bother a celebrity when they are eating or relaxing like that, but I just couldn’t resist; I had to go over and tell Scrimm what a huge fan I am and that his Tall Man was the first iconic horror character to truly scare the shit out of me!! Well of course I cleaned up my language (I really need to start doing that more often). I said my thing to Angus Scrimm, and as I turned to walk away he graciously invited me to have a seat and have some coffee with him!! I was blown the f*&k away. This is how genre stars are (I’ll cover Angus Scrimm’s Q & A session in another posting).
But what made everything so great (besides the stars and all) was that everything was so organized!! Remember, this was the first year the TEXAS FRIGHTMARE WEEKEND had a press room, but you’d never know it. The girls running the press room had it running like they’ve been doing this for the last 20 years. Everything was smooth and well planned out.
This is just the tip of the iceberg!! In my upcoming postings I’ll show you my pictures from the Red Carpet, the press conference with Lucky McKee, and various Q & A sessions with Roger Corman, Angus Scrimm, Jason Eisener (director of HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN), and the cast of crew of CHROMESKULL: LAID TO REST 2 (complete with the premier of LAID TO REST 2 clips). Plus my reviews of the premier of McKee’s THE WOMAN and MUTANT GIRL’S SQUAD. Lots to cover so stayed tuned and …
The first day of the TEXAS FRIGHTMARE WEEKEND 2011 is officially over. Other than the fact that driving around this awful city eats my ass I’d say the opening night was a huge hit. It was a double billing of 2009’s OFFSPRING (written by Jack Ketchum) and it’s sequel, 2011’s THE WOMAN (written by Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee). Just like last year’s Frightmare Weekend, the opening night proved once again that these people know how to throw a helluva convention!! It’s organized, well planned out, and everyone involved has their shit together … ask anyone wearing a “staff” tshirt a question and they all know the answer!! I stopped by the hotel first to pre-register and they had everything set up and ready to go. I wish everything in life ran as smoothly as this convention!!
I saw OFFSPRING back in late 2009 (who wouldn’t? It’s a Ketchum novel for Christ’s sake!!) and I must admit that I wasn’t really too crazy about it. The director, Andrew van den Houten (who produced THE WOMAN), was in attendance at the screening. I never reviewed OFFSPRING on anythighorror.com because I saw it before I started my site and I just couldn’t sit through it over again in order to refresh my memory. I’m not a sadist!! But lucky for you at the time I was posting reviews on netflix, so I tracked it down and will post that review below.
Was I looking forward to seeing OFFSPRING for a second time even with a year and a half separating my viewings? No; not really. But just like with last years SURVIVAL OF THE DEAD and 2001 MANIACS: FIELD OF SCREAMS, it’s always waaaaay more fun to see a genre flick with an audience!! Well OFFSPRING is the exception that proves the rule. It’s just not a strong film; full of ridiculous plot holes and too much shaky camera work for my taste. After it’s screening, director Andrew van den Houten came out and talked to the audience. Houten is himself an extremely likable guy with a ton of energy and an obvious love of the genre. He drove to Dallas from Louisiana, hot off the set of filming horror author Brian Keene’s novel GHOUL (there’s an exclusive for ya). He was running a little late because he wanted to be on set for the scene where 2 baby twins were slaughtered in a bathtub (hey; another exclusive!!!).
Houten talked about how after producing the movie version of Ketchum’s novel THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, a very intense and draining film, he was ready to do something a little more “grindhousey” (his word, not mine LOL). That’s why he did OFFSPRING. The problem wasn’t with the direction, but with the story. It felt like a rush job and was pretty lazy. Houten told us Ketchum himself wrote the screen adaptation is about a month, month in a half (check out my short review of OFFSPRING below).
And then we get to the main feature … THE WOMAN. I have mixed feelings about this one. I get the film itself and I get what director and co-writer Lucky McKee (who wrote this with Jack Ketchum) was trying to do. I’m not gonna write my full review for THE WOMAN just yet; I think I need to digest it. On first viewing it I didn’t think I cared for it. But the more I’m thinking about it I think I enjoyed it a lot. I’m not always a fan of Lucky McKee. It hurts me to say that because after meeting him and hearing him speak he is a true artist who has a very specific vision and doesn’t compromise his vision for the almighty dollar. I totally respect that!! We all know McKee came on the scene with 2002’s MAY, and that’s a solid flick. It’s not the masterpiece many reviewers say it is, but it was a really well made and acted film. Then he made an entry for the Master’s of Horror series titled SICK GIRL (2006) which was one of the better films in that rather castrated series. It had a great plot and was again well acted by MAY star and frequent McKee collaborator Angela Bettis. But then he followed that up with another full length feature, THE WOODS (2006) and I really hated it. It was slow and plodding and really had no new ideas in it.
But I will always give a genre director a chance, so I was eager to see premier of THE WOMAN. Again, this isn’t gonna to be a full review of THE WOMAN. This film will definitely find an audience, but I felt I had a difficult time connecting with it. In parts it’s so goddamn S L O W. Pollyanna McIntosh reprises her role of “Woman” from OFFSPRING and does another fantastic job. It’s an extremely demanding role where she has to relay all her emotions acting through her body language and a few assorted grunts and groans. What’s even more challenging is that she’s tied up for most of the film!! McIntosh does a phenomenal job. Chris Cleek (Sean Bridgers) is a sociopathic sadist and family man who lives in the boonies. On a hunting trip he comes across Woman bathing in a brook and captures her. He wants to “help” her become civilized and chains her up in a storm cellar and gets his entire family involved in her “civilization-ization”. Ok; hands down the character of Chris Cleek is one of the best modern day characters I’ve seen in a long time. He’s an absolute monster (an everyday monster) who walks around in the skin of normalcy. Sean Bridgers absolutely steals the movie with his very chilling performance that rivals the best horror performances from any time (I’d put him up against Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter any day!!). It’s a seriously fantastic performance.
Unlike OFFSPRING where the direction was good and the story sucked, here the exact opposite is going on. The story is good … great even. I’m just not always a fan of Lucky McKee’s style. There are just some scenes that are so slow I was checking my watch. I loved the characters and the plot and really loved the subtext that’s going on (there’s a huge feminist subtext going on here). But the pacing was so slow at times that I found myself wishing the film would just end. I love a good “slow burn” film, but THE WOMAN was just plain old slow at times. In another week there will be an announcement as to it’s distribution. I encourage all of you to watch THE WOMAN. I’m really curious what all your takes on it will be.
After the premier screening of THE WOMAN the cast and crew got up on stage and did and great Q & A. James Wallace of gordonandthewhale.com did a great job as emcee of the event and in controlling the questions. In attendance was director Lucky McKee, producer Andrew van den Houten, actor Sean Bridgers, and actresses Carlee Baker and 6 year old Shyla Molhusen (last night was her 6th birthday and the entire audience sang a very enthusiastic rendition of “Happy Birthday”). There was a lot of insight into Lucky McKee as a filmmaker and his vision/view of what horror is. He told the crowd that people often ask him, after seeing one of his films, “Was that really a horror film?” He always answers, “That was my kind of horror film.” Like I said above, McKee has a very personal and unique approach to the genre, and after getting such mainstream garbage like MY SOUL TO TAKE and RED RIDING HOOD, McKee is a very welcome breath of fresh air!! I will support McKee based on his focus, passion, love, and originality for the genre.
We also got to see one of McKee’s short films, BLUE LIKE YOU, a dark-humored short if there ever was one. It stars Angela Bettis and Carlee Baker and was pretty damn funny. You’ll never look at a fork the same way again!!
All in all the opening night of the TEXAS FRIGHTMARE WEEKEND 2011 was a huge hit. It’s not often you get to shake the hand of the lead actor and tell him face-to-face what a terrific job he did!! So check out all the pics I took from the Red Carpet event prior to THE WOMAN screening and stay tuned for more updates.
Blast From The Past: Here’s my very short review of OFFSPRING. I wrote this review on Netflix!! Too funny.
I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t read too many of Jack Ketchum’s novels (I know, I know for shame). But I have seen a few of his screen adaptations (THE GIRL NEXT DOOR had me staring blindly, mouth wide open, after the final frame). I do expect that his books are waaaay better than his movies. With OFFSPRING I can see that there’s a dark, violent movie in there somewhere, but it was ruined by poor execution. I believe this flick was based on the 2nd novel Ketchum wrote about this wandering tribe of cannibals. And guess what; it felt like it. The whole movie feels like you missed something. There’s no character development (the characters all feel like they were developed in a previous movie) and the cannibal tribe just WAS. Director Andrew van den Houten never did anything with the tribe. We get their back story in a quick 5 minute summary from another character and from old newspaper articles that flash onto the screen. The whole effort felt lazy. The gore was pretty decent and the material had the potential for being really dark. So how, please tell me, can something so gory and dark be so BORING??? Do what I should have done in the first place & read the books instead. Skip this one.