Thursday, 26 August 2010

Demons 1, 2 & 3!

Arrow Video are proud to announce that in 2010 they will bring to DVD all-new transfers of the classic Dario Argento produced and Lamberto Bava directed horror classic - Demons and Demons 2. Included within each DVD package will be all-new extra features specially shot for the releases plus a two-part comic book sequel - Demons 3!


“Live and direct, straight from HELL!”

Lamberto Bava and Dario Argento bring you THE Gonzo Horror movie of the 1980s with Demons, a frenzied slice of gore heavy shock cinema that gives up on logic and instead assaults the screen with a riot of X-Rated violence, face chewing Zombies and pounding Heavy Metal.

In a mysterious cinema, an audience are watching a brutal horror flick when the horror rips out of the screen, unleashing a swarm of slathering Demons who are intent on spreading their evil plague across the globe.

Time to tool up and take no prisoners... The Demons are coming!


   - Four artwork panel option reversible sleeve with original poster and video artwork housed in a
     slipcase with additional fifth artwork panel with all-new Jeff Zornow artwork recreated in foil
     overlayed on matt black.
   - Double-sided fold-out poster
   - Collector’s Booklet featuring brand new writing on Demons by Calum Wadell
   - All new exclusive collector’s comic


   - The audio recollections of Director Lamberto Bava, Special Make-Up Creations Artist Sergio
     Stivaletti and Journalist Loris Curci
   - Interview with producer Dario Argento
   - Interview with composer Claudio Simonetti
   - Longtime Argento collaborator Luigi Cozzi on the history of Italian horror


DEMONS 3: Not The Ogre. Not The Church. Not even Black Demons! For the first time ever, Arrow Video present an original sequel to the cult classics. It is the 16th Century, the time of the plague in Southern France. Amid the carnage, a new evil is starting to take form and only one man can see it. That man is Nostradamus, but are his horrid visions of the future signs of what will come to pass? Can he stop the Demons from entering into our world? An all-new epic tale of demonic dismemberment brought to you from the writing team of Stefan Hutchinson and Barry Keating, with artwork by Jeff Zornow and Marcus Smith!

Front cover artwork for the Demons 3 comic along with details and artwork of the Demons 2 DVD will follow soon. Demons DVD and Demons 2 DVD will be released in 2010 - release dates to follow.

For breaking news and Demons-developments the official site is:

Saturday, 21 August 2010


Thanatomorphose: (French noun, feminine) "Visible signs of an organism’s decomposition caused by death."

A recent article in Gorezone Magazine alerted me to a darkly intriguing new film about to enter pre-production: French-Canadian filmmaker Éric Falardeau’s independently produced dark tale of sex and gore, Thanatomorphose.

Thanatomorphose, as explained above, is a French word meaning ‘the visible signs of a organism’s decomposition caused by death.’ This positively Cronenbergian sounding film follows the tragic and rather moist tale of the young and beautiful Laura, who wakes up one day and finds her flesh rotting, in a strange and claustrophobic tale of sexuality, horror and body fluids…

Falardeau was inspired by a famous quote from film director Jean Cocteau: “You've never seen death? Look in the mirror every day and you will see it like bees working in a glass hive.” Apparently, the film’s emphasis is not on the why, but the how: how will Laura react to what is happening to her? Falardeau has said that the film investigates the notion of ‘the body as an object, a commodity - how we treat our body and disconnect ourselves from it in the process.’

Last year a promo-teaser was shot to promote the idea and help Falardeau find investors. It has already been shown in various festivals around the world and is amassing a quiet buzz online. The film has the potential to be a real throwback to classic Cronenberg, with a dash of Polanski’s Repulsion thrown in for good measure and marks Falardeau as a fresh, fiercely original new name on the horror scene. One to keep an eye out for, I’d say. The idea of someone having to come to terms with the premature decomposition of their own body, as they are essentially trapped within it, is the stuff of nightmares…

Keep up to date with Éric Falardeau and the progress of Thanatomorphose on Twitter and Facebook...

The Final

Dir. Joey Stewart

Tired of being the victims of a routine of endless bullying by the high school jocks and their socially superior girlfriends, a group of awkward students decide to turn the tables and plot to avenge the years of humiliation to which they’ve been subjected. Driven by their deadly vendetta and suicidal tendencies, they gather their tormentors in an isolated barn, under the guise of a highly exclusive party, and begin a long night of retribution that is certain to leave several of the guests if not dead, then at least scarred for life, both emotionally and physically…

The Final, the debut feature from director Joey Stewart, is at times an uneven and ambiguously centred film that can’t quite decide if it’s a righteous-revenge fantasy or the latest ‘torture-porn’ flick. Since the Columbine massacre shed light on the dark trend of high school massacres, several films such as Elephant, Zero Day and The Class have attempted to tackle the subject with varying degrees of success. The Final is the latest to broach this volatile subject, and it attempts to set itself apart from its peers by filtering its already grim subject matter through a cruelly sadistic ‘torture-porn’ aesthetic. Tension is built gradually as we catch glimpses and are privy to snippets of secretive conversations between the outcasts involving their plans to take revenge. However, once the bullies are all gathered together in the same location and are at the mercy of their tormented captors, director Stewart doesn’t really seem to know how to proceed.

For a flick that sells itself on its promise of graphic, intense and extreme imagery, it doesn’t really show us very much. What it does attempt though is the engagement in various debates on issues such as morality, retribution, loyalty and suffering. Discussions about the Han Dynasty and the nature of vigilante revenge and cruelty bulk up the discussions of an otherwise Breakfast Club-like group of stock types. Stewart attempts a little light-hearted, though pointed social commentary through the group’s revelation that horror movies formed the basis of their research and inspiration - the disguises they don are all references to various horror films.

At times The Final straddles some quite dark, though admittedly still very two dimensional stuff. The bullied characters all come from socially deprived, broken homes. They wallow in their misery within the confines of their slight, dark bedrooms, philosophising various concepts and the value of their own existence. While none of the characters are particularly likeable, they are at least realistic in that they all exhibit unsavoury and all-too-human traits such as selfishness, cowardice, weakness, uncertainty and ambivalence. The film packs its greatest punches when the torment of the bullied teens is played out in the harsh light of the school corridors. Anyone who was bullied in school might find themselves wincing or squirming during a number of these encounters – mainly because of how the all-too-relatable frustrated helplessness of the victims is so effectively handled. Their fear and anger bubbles to the surface, but they just can’t find the strength to fight back and stand up for themselves. Their lack of self-worth is palpable.

The action at times feels as static as the bound and gagged bullies. Having said that, The Final does ratchet up the tension in a number of scenes, and offers genre fans a few nasty references to Audition and Deliverance. Interestingly, or outrageously, depending on your schtick, parallels between high-school bully antics and terrorism are drawn. This group of teens view themselves as avenging angels of destruction, willing to sacrifice themselves for a greater good. The conviction with which they have approached their revenge is chilling in the minutiae of its execution. The old ‘who are the real monsters?!’ debate is rolled out and tossed around for a bit, while the notion of ‘Frankenstein Syndrome’ is given an interesting slant: the captured bullies are tormented by ‘monsters’ they essentially had a hand in creating. A Nam vet is also thrown into the mix with uneven results, as he offs the very generation he ‘fought to save.’

The Final is a striking looking film boasting moody cinematography and beautiful art direction, which should prove a memorable shock-fest for the more intellectually minded gore-hound; though it never quite manages to exhibit the power it so often hints it possesses, despite its devastatingly bleak ending.

The Final (cert. 18) is released by Chelsea Films and will be available to buy on DVD from 23rd August 2010.

The Haunting of Marsten Manor

Dir. Dave Sapp

Jill, a young woman angry about being blind and struggling with her faith, unexpectedly inherits an old mansion from her estranged aunt. When she arrives at the house, she experiences a number of unnerving events and begins "seeing things". She soon discovers a secret tragedy about her past and her aunt that will force her to face her greatest fears, changing her forever…

The Haunting of Marsten Manor is a quiet melodrama that could have benefited from an injection of suspense. A mild spook-fest, it is perfect afternoon viewing for fans of gentle TV mystery dramas such as Murder, She Wrote – it certainly exhibits the look and feel of a TV movie. Beginning as many haunted house movies begin, a perky young thing (Brianne Davis) and her (would-be) sweetheart (Ken Luckey) learn that she’s been left an old dark house in the will of a dead relative she was vaguely aware of but never actually met. The fact that this perky young thing is blind adds an interesting element to the mix, evoking memories of Wait Until Dark and The Spiral Staircase, in which similarly visually impaired lovelies were imperilled. Because of her only recent blindness, Jill has become bitter and began to question her faith in God. Also as a result, her other senses have become heightened, conveniently enabling her to pick up on the weird aura of the house when she, her (would-be) beau Rob and their spunky pal Erika (Christine Woods) go to stay at the house.

Marsten Manor unfolds much like a low budget soap-opera, as various sub-plots featuring issues of unrequited love, unresolved relationships and trust issues ensure the ‘haunting’ is relegated to the background for much of the running time. Unfortunately, we never really get a sense of the house itself. Most great haunted house movies feature habitations that are characters in their right (The Overlook Hotel, 108 Ocean Avenue and Hill House, for example). Obviously budget constraints prevent us from seeing too much of this house (a collection of rooms and various exterior shots).

Marsten Manor is more character driven than most recent low budget horror fare; indeed, as mentioned, the ‘horror’ aspect of the tale feels rather forced, tacked on even, at least to begin with. Writers Dave and Julie Sapp are more concerned with exploring Jill’s crisis of faith, attempts to accept her blindness and her various trust issues with her friends, as they attempt to prevent her from becoming the bitter, twisted mess she seems destined to become. The trust issues are lathered up well when Erika begins to suspect sweet natured Rob of foul play; his behaviour, and the way he is filmed at times indicates that he knows something the other’s don’t. The spunky young cast display vibrant chemistry and equip themselves adequately.

The discovery of an old diary and various hidden doors and rooms within the house sheds more dark light on the situation. The ghostly events are revealed to have their roots in the Civil War and a tragic encounter between Jill’s aunt and a soldier she fell for – cue flashbacks and a small, but pivotal role courtesy of C. Thomas Howell – results in a dip into an unexpected pool of pathos.

Perhaps too quiet and gentle for some, this should go down well with admirers of spooky mysteries, a la Jessica Fletcher.

Starring Christine Woods (Flashforward) and Thomas C. Howell (The Hitcher, Red Dawn), The Haunting of Marston Manor was released on DVD (£12.99) by MVM Entertainment on 2nd August 2010.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

'It's Coming For Me Through The Trees': The Influence of Horror on the Work of Kate Bush

There are few other creative figures of a more distinct, visionary and idiosyncratic nature to have emerged from the music industry in the twentieth century, than that of Kate Bush. Not only is she an artist who has accomplished the rare feat of combining musical innovation with commercial success, but she is one who also managed to do so on her own terms, whilst maintaining complete creative control of her work. Bush, in the words of one critic, ‘got all the madwomen down from the attic and into the charts.’ The singer is heavily inspired by the world of art, philosophy, literature and indeed cinema, drawing upon an almost encyclopaedic array of influences. When one takes a closer look at her work, it becomes apparent that Bush is something of a horror aficionado, drawing on a number of sources to lend her compositions rich, blood-dark depth.

Out on the wiley, windy moors.
‘Wuthering Heights’ was a Gothic novel by Emily Brontë in which the conventions of the Gothic novel were reflexively explored and deconstructed as much as they were lovingly utilised. The Gothic genre of literature combines elements of horror and romance, and had a tremendous influence over early horror cinema. Bush revealed that while she had never read the novel in its entirety prior to writing her song Wuthering Heights, one of her biggest hits, she had been influenced by a film adaptation. The song is really about the events occurring towards the end of the story where Catherine has already died and is coming back as a spirit across the moors to be with Heathcliff. Bush is thought to have been touched by Catherine’s longing to never be alone, and her overwhelming desire to be with Heathcliff – even from beyond the grave.

Bush’s second album Lionheart, closes with a return to similar Gothic notions – a dark and dramatic number entitled Hammer Horror. Inspired, not only by the sensuous chills elicited by Hammer Horror movies, Bush had also been heavily influenced by the film, The Man of A Thousand Faces, in which James Cagney plays Lon Chaney playing the Hunchback of Notre Dame. This song tells the tale of an actor who is thrust into the lead role of The Hunchback of Notre Dame and ends up being haunted by a jealous Lon Chaney.

The artwork of Bush’s third album, Never For Ever, featured her dressed as a bat, mirroring the haunting appearance of Mephisto in FW Murnau’s expressionistic adaptation of the Goethe play, Faust. This image was also used on the cover of her single Breathing – a song about the fears of an unborn baby. The cover of the album features Bush with a plethora of grotesque creatures emerging out from underneath her billowing dress, hinting at all manner of fairytale-inspired nightmares. The title of this album hints at the transient nature of life and the inevitability of death – we are ‘never, for ever.’

Never For Ever contained several songs, the inspiration of which, were lifted wholesale from several ‘horror’ titles. The Wedding List, a twisted revenge narrative was inspired by Frances Truffaut’s The Bride Wore Black in which five men make a young bride a widow on her wedding day. She goes on to extract her revenge, methodically killing the five men one by one. Mario Bava much?

Second is The Infant Kiss, inspired by Jack Clayton’s chilling and unsettlingly suggestive 1961 film, The Innocents (itself an adaptation of Henry James’ ‘The Turn of the Screw’). Bush’s song unfolds as the story of a governess who is frightened by the passionate feelings she has for her young male charge, who is actually revealed to be possessed by the spirit of a grown man – with whom the governess has fallen in love.

With her fourth, self produced album the dense The Dreaming, Bush conjured a truly experimental work that stunned critics and fans alike into silence. Heavily inspired by old crime movies, the life and times of illusionist Houdini and the plight of the Aborigines, Bush once again also drew on sources of horror for inspiration. The closing track Get Out Of This House was inspired by Stephen King’s chilling novel ‘The Shining.’ In this track, Bush utilises the image of the house with its labyrinthine corridors as a metaphor for her psyche. Erotic insinuations also contain hefty horror undertones, exemplified in lines such as ‘no stranger’s feet will enter me/I wash the panes/I clean the stains.’ We of course assume that as it was inspired by ‘The Shining’, the stains she refers to are blood…

Jacques Tourneur’s moody horror film Night of the Demon, and to a lesser extent Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps, would form the basis of the eponymous track from Bush’s fifth album (and this writer’s favourite), Hounds of Love. Opening with a line of dialogue from Tourneur’s film, Hounds of Love unfurls as a testament to the stifling, all-consuming nature of love. No ordinary love though – this is Kate Bush after all – anthropomorphised love, appearing as a pack of hounds chasing down and ripping to shreds those who experience it – much like the titular demon from the film Bush was inspired by.

Hounds of Love is a concept album of two halves – the first weaves itself around different ideas of ‘love’, ranging from the aforementioned anthropomorphised love, to the fierce maternal love of a woman attempting to protect her murderous son (Mother Stands for Comfort). The second half – entitled The Ninth Wave – is a seven-song suite that forms a complete work: the narrative of a young woman lost at sea in the night, waiting to drown in the dark (Open Water, anyone?). As she fights to stay alive, the songs reveal her thoughts, fears and dreams.

The penultimate song on Hounds of Love, Hello Earth contains a traditional Georgian choral piece entitled Tsintskaro that swerves delicately between unattainable majesty, deep mourning and intimate contemplation and is overwhelmingly moving. Bush initially heard this piece of music in Werner Herzog’s atmospheric Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht – a film positively saturated in morose dread and exhibiting a stifling preoccupation with decay and death. A scene in the film, depicting Lucy wandering trancelike through a town square as the population, who have accepted their fate (death by plague) and decide to live their lives in stilted and debauched celebration before they die, is accompanied by this solemn, almost theistical music.

Fortunately Hounds of Love ends on a positive note as the narrator is rescued from the water at dawn.
This wouldn’t be the last time Bush dallied in the dark realms of horror though. The title track of her 1994 album The Red Shoes boasts the twisted Hans Christian Anderson based concept of a girl who puts on a pair of enchanted/cursed ballet slippers and is unable to stop dancing as a punishment for being vain. This tale also inspired the Michael Powell/Emeric Pressburger film The Red Shoes and the 2005 Korean horror film, also called The Red Shoes. Anderson’s unsettling tale featured a desperate girl cursed to continue dancing, even after she was dead. In an attempt to be free, she chops her own feet off – only for them to continue dancing before her. By the end of the tale when the girl finds redemption, her heart becomes so filled with joy that it bursts, killing her instantly. Miranda Richardson appears in the accompanying video – directed by Bush – as a Mephistophelian dancer who grants the singer’s wish to be able to dance, with a high price; her soul…

Friday, 13 August 2010

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Don't Bury Me - I'm Not Dead! Images of Premature Burial in Horror

After being victimised by not one, but two other bloggers (thanks Chuck Norris Ate My Baby and Fascination With Fear!), I’ve been coerced into continuing on with the recent ‘meme’ pandemic, in which bloggers are urged to come up with a series of screen grabs, all focusing on a specific theme. So, after MUCH procrastination I decided on the theme of premature burial in horror movies. Natch.

The fear of being buried alive is an ancient, primal one. Man’s preoccupation with this, most ghastly of fates, can be traced back throughout the ages in literature, art, film and of course, documented historical fact - perhaps the reason why this fear is still so rife and so universal – because it is rooted in truth. Of course, this darkest of fates has been represented in cinema too, particularly in the dark visions of horror cinema…

The subject is of particular interest to me (not just because I’m a morbid puppy with a severe melancholic disposition) but because of my (albeit tenuous) connection to one such case in my home town, Lurgan, Co Armagh. My mother and her sisters grew up in the local graveyard house – my grandfather was the caretaker (perhaps the source of my obsession with horror?). He, and indeed many adults in town, regaled tales of a local ‘bogey-woman’ by the name of Margorie McCall - whose body was buried in the very cemetery where my mother grew up (Shankill) – to keep naughty children in check. McCall was a resident of the town in the mid 18th century and her grave was no ordinary one – to this day it still bears the inscription

Lived Once, Buried Twice.’
Her story is still a popular one amongst townsfolk today - many times I myself have stood at her graveside and pondered, weak and weary, her tale (told you I was morbid). After a little research it became obvious to me that tales such as McCall’s were rife throughout Europe. Therefore it is impossible to say with any authority that this tale is true – however her gravestone is still there in Shankill graveyard today, and still bears the inscription. I for one would like to believe it is true. If only because it had a (sort of) happy ending…

Anyway. On with the meme…

Some images depicting premature burials in cinema…

Kill Bill Vol.2 - 2004
Misfits - 2010
Premature Burial - 1962

Vampyr - 1932
Superman - 1978
The Serpent and The Rainbow - 1988
Spoorloos - 1988
Bedlam - 1946
The forthcoming Buried

City of the Living Dead - 1980

Pleasant nightmares...

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Interview with 2001 Maniacs director Tim Sullivan

Roll up! Roll up! Come, gasp as pretty girls are hung, drawn and bloodily quartered. Be shocked and astounded as frat boys are anally impaled! Be downright aghast at shocking acts of cannibalism, murder and mayhem! Ladies and gentlemens, welcome to the red, wet, wild and oh so politically incorrect world of Tim Sullivan; honorary splat-pack member and director of 2001 Maniacs (the remake of Herschell Gordon Lewis’s drive-in splatter classic, Two Thousand Maniacs!), Driftwood and 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams. Which has just been unleashed on DVD.

Sullivan began his career working on movies such as Coming to America, Cocktail and The Godfather Part III as a production assistant. As well as being the producer of titles such as Hood of Horror and the writer of the likes of Return of the Aliens: The Deadly Spawn, Sullivan has also worked in front of the camera too, starring in low budget thriller If Looks Could Kill, as well as sporting cameo roles in his own directorial efforts. The filmmaker can soon be seen playing a serial-slaying transvestite nun in the forthcoming Bloody Bloody Bible Camp.

Since his directorial debut 2001 Maniacs back in 2005, he’s also directed the dark and gritty juvenile delinquent horror, Driftwood and has just gone into pre-production on his dream project, the sensual vampire horror Brothers of the Blood. I was lucky enough recently to be able to chat to Tim about the release of Field of Screams, the current state of horror and the long lasting appeal of gory ‘splatstick’ movies. Read on, dear reader. And be offended. Be very offended.

What ingredients did Two Thousand Maniacs! possess that made it so ripe for a modern make-over?

It's one of those things where I didn't choose it; it chose me. Chris Kobin literally walked off the street into my production office and said he had the rights to remake the films of Herschell Gordon Lewis. At the time Bob Zemeckis was remaking the films of William Castle. It was kind of in vogue, but those films were being done on a studio level. HG Lewis remakes should not be studio films because in order to be true to the spirit of Herschell - what I call 'splatstick' - there's no way you're going to make these in a studio system. So I said to Chris, "let's be as perverse and subversive as possible, and let's do it independent." And he agreed and next thing you know we became producing partners.

We were going to write it and get Tobe Hooper or someone like that. Finally Chris said to me, "Tim, you should fucking do this, you should direct this." And so it just all fell together. Of all Herschell's movies, I'd always felt Two Thousand Maniacs! had the best story, and I felt setting it in modern times could really spawn some political and social commentary about racism and stereotypes. And the amazing thing was, no sooner did we start writing it than 9/11 happened, and then we had the Bush era and the Obama era, and in the ten years since we first started to remake Maniacs, America itself has become a metaphor for the themes of the film. In the Maniacs movies, you have this little Southern town that is the victim of a terrorist attack, and in their quest for blood vengeance, they become like the very maniacs who attacked them. Basically, as we went along, American politics just sort of gave me more and more fodder to satirize.

How did you go about adapting Lewis’s original film? Are you a fan of his movies?

I think that horror is to film what rock ‘n’ roll is to music: the rebellious bastard offshoot of a genre. When I first saw Herschell’s movies – I was in high school – and they had no grindhouse cinemas in New Jersey, they were in New York, and I used to take the train to New York and tell my mom I was going to see Disney on Ice or something like that, then go to the grindhouses and see the Herschell Gordon Lewis films and the Russ Myers films, and films like Two Thousand Maniacs! just blew my mind. I mean these were not great films, let’s just face it: they’re not really well-made; there are a lot of things to criticise about them. But, they had an attraction.

What was it about the story that made you decide it needed a sequel?

It’s not that it particularly needed one, it’s just that I had a lot of really cool ideas I thought my audience would love to see played out. I also think fans of the original film want to see the “further adventures” of their beloved characters. I’m happy to provide that.

What was the writing process of 2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams, and did the story change much as it moved from page to screen?

In the years that went by between the first and the second, the whole marketplace changed. Just like America itself, there's no longer a middle class in Hollywood. It's either hundred million dollar films or hundred thousand dollar films. When it finally came down to making the movie, we knew that we would not have the financial resources we had initially budgeted.

The original concept for Beverly Hellbillys (as it was originally called) was: the Sheriff ploughs over the 'detour' road, and since the North's not coming to the South, the South has to go to the North. We were going to have the Maniacs land in L.A., hanging out on Rodeo Drive, Melrose Place, Hollywood High and all that fun stuff. But there was just no fiscal way that that was going to happen. Mike Greene, my invaluable producer and partner in crime on this one, helms from Iowa, and told us about this amazing tax break for out of town film production. It seemed like every horror movie was being made in Iowa, from The Crazies to Lucky. So we went there and found this amazing spot of land alongside the Missouri River, and it all sort of came together.

The movie then really rewrote itself based on the resources we had. So now, the storyline became the Maniacs getting in a bus and setting up a travelling road show in the middle of Iowa, and since they can't just come right out with knives and guns and kill people - it goes against honour and tradition, and besides it just isn’t fun - they have to put on a show and seduce their new victims, and sing and dance and do all that kind of stuff. As far as the title… Well, Field of Dreams was made in Iowa, and so Field of Screams became obvious. Ya know, if they kill ya, they will cum…. Ahem.

Why do you think remakes have become so popular recently - particularly remakes of older horror flicks such as this one?

I think you have to consider remakes on a case by case basis. I have absolutely no tolerance for what I call the “sausage factory” remakes - insults like the Elm Street remake. The folks who just churn out remake after remake with no passion or unique voice – it’s just about the financial return. But then you get something really quite good ones like The Crazies. So I can’t say I am against remakes in a broad statement; just remakes that are made only with commerce in mind. Great stories will always be retold in the language of the current generation.

What can this sequel offer audiences other current horror movies cannot – what can audiences expect?

They can expect a real willingness, nay desire, from this film to ravage all pretences of good taste in its quest to entertain and amuse. I don’t care who you are; gay, black, Jewish, whatever… You WILL be offended by something in this film. But it’s okay. I’m allowed to do that because I’m really a gay, black, Jewish man in disguise.

How difficult did you find it balancing the right amount of horror and humour in both films?

The balance is what you make of it. Obviously Maniacs isn’t tonally in line with something like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It’s much lighter than that, more like an issue of EC Comics, where the gore and violence was taken so over the top that it becomes funny.

What do you think of contemporary horror and how do you see your latest film in terms of it?

I like to think Field of Screams stands out from the gamut of horror stuff out there by virtue of its attitude. It’s has a defiant, rock and roll vibe sadly lacking in a lot of this impotent, mass-produced garbage that is foisted upon the public these days. It’s also funny and sexy rather than morbid and sadistic. It’s easy to be off-putting but try being charming sometime; that’s a whole hell of a lot harder to do.

2001 Maniacs and Driftwood have strong ‘queer’ subtexts. What compelled you to include these aspects within the films?

I just got fucking sick of seeing the comic relief gay guy be the first one to die in all those 80s horror movies. It’s a different time now and I’m well aware of who largely comprises my audience. The gay audience is very loyal and will back you to the hilt. Gay people live, love and die like everyone else; they’re human beings who are too often treated as caricatures by the world at large. That conviction informs my films.

Yes, well rounded gay characters whose sexuality is not their defining characteristic are rare in horror. Why do you think this is, and do you feel it is something that filmmakers are beginning to address?

In the old days I think there was a certain reactionary sensibility. I think it was on the basis of believing that a horror film audience would never accept gay characters. The audiences for these types of movies are different now, more diverse than they used to be. Filmmakers are aware of this still largely untapped market and are beginning to jump onboard. I sure as hell am!

How would you describe your own particular brand of horror? What is it about horror that appeals to you as a filmmaker?

My horror sensibilities are drawn largely from the flesh-rotted tableaux of EC Comics, which I was always a fan of. What I call 'splatstick', where murder is the punch-line of a morbid joke. But I also am fond of more subtle types of horror. Horror with heart, such as my film Driftwood, and my upcoming queer-fear passion project, Brothers of the Blood.

What do you think makes an effective horror movie? What scares you?

Besides the Republican party and our current American President’s inability to follow through with that audacious and intoxicating hope for a better world he sold us all on? That’s hard to say because horror is a deeply personal thing. What scares one person will leave another unfazed. What’s a filmmaker to do? Look at the final segment of Trilogy of Terror with Karen Black. It’s about this little shitty African doll that probably cost the effects department all of $5 and it’s more terrifying than anything Hollywood is churning out currently. It’s all in how effective your approach to the material is. And what scares me? The fact that a god-awful travesty like Avatar was catapulted into a multi-billion dollar phenomenon makes me fear for the future of the human race.

Ouch. You mentioned your dream project Brothers of the Blood. What can you tell me about it? Why is it your dream project?

Brothers of the Blood is unlike anything I’ve ever made before. It’s a supernatural romance using the vampire Mythos as a metaphor for the older/younger dynamic of many gay relationships, as well as gay culture’s (and straight culture for that matter), obsession with youth and beauty. It’s my dream project because so many of my own experiences and obsessions coalesce in it. Making this film will be a deeply personal odyssey for me and I can’t wait to get to work on it.

Field of Screams is out now on DVD. Keep up to date with Tim on Facebook.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Seeing Heaven

Dir. Ian Powell

While searching for his twin brother, young escort Paul embarks on a dark and dangerous odyssey through the lurid netherworld of male prostitution and the porn movie industry. All the while he experiences bizarre nightmares and orgasmic visions – shared by his clients when they have sex with him – of a mysterious masked stranger who holds a morbid interest in him… Can Paul find his long lost twin and unlock the riddle of his perplexing visions before it’s too late?

Ian Powell’s atmospheric and provocative gay art-house horror unfolds as an increasingly nightmarish mystery filtered through the candy-coloured lens of Mario Bava. High-brow allusions to the likes of Narcissus and various other helplessly self-destructive figures of mythology pepper the narrative, not only in the arresting images, but in the story itself. Figures such as Dorian Grey, the doppelganger and Jekyll and Hyde are referred to as Powell works through a series of complex personal ideas about identity, beauty, mortality, fate and tragedy.

At the heart of Seeing Heaven pumps an intriguing mystery involving the search for a twin brother through a bizarre dream world that seemingly exists in reflections and can be fleetingly glimpsed in mirrors and puddles by protagonist Paul (Alexander Bracq). It is revealed to him through his dreams and the intense visions he experiences when he orgasms. As an alluring male escort, he tends to orgasm quite a lot! Much in the same way that Cronenberg’s Crash used its sex scenes as the main narrative thrust (sorry), so does Seeing Heaven. With each sexual encounter, Paul learns something else about Saul and catches a longer glance into the bizarre dreamscape his brother seems doomed to dwell in; thus gradually fuelling the mystery before the inevitable peeling away to reveal the truth.Powell takes his time getting to the reveal, opting for a slow-burn trawl through this moody, twilight world.

The often intense sex scenes mesh with the unnerving flashes and visions of a creepy masked figure, which bears an uncanny resemblance to the figure of the killer in Argento’s Four Flies on Grey Velvet. Indeed the stylistic influence of Argento and co’s Italian giallo movies is clearly evident in the mysterious stalker’s fetishistic wardrobe. While the film is elsewhere also visually inspired by the likes of Argento and Bava and the whole giallo tradition, the film itself is not actually a giallo – it isn't even a murder mystery as such - it simply pulls in elements of that sub-genre to offer audiences something genuinely intriguing and striking. The haunting and ethereal score courtesy of Ken Watanabe, coupled with the visually arresting imagery of the dream sequences, combine to invoke a vivid atmosphere right out of the Golden Age of Italian horror, conjuring dark dreams and memories of Bava, Argento and Martino. Visually speaking, Powell seems particularly influenced by the A Drop of Water segment in Bava’s anthology, Black Sabbath. His dazzling filmic canvas pulses and glows with the same eerie beauty and haunting style.

The abundance of mixed-up and confused characters that populate the story - including Baxter (Lee Chapman), a film director desperate to break out of porn; Pan (Anton Z. Risan), a sensitive psychic who feels Paul is not what he seems; and fellow escorts Zhivago, Carlos and Griffin (Denton Lethe, Maximo Salvo and Chris Grezo) - are all on their own quests to find something that is ultimately unattainable. Most characters find themselves inexplicably drawn to Paul – some feeding off his apparent innocence, vampire like – others genuinely falling for him and attempting to help him solve his mystery. The cast provide restrained and measured performances that enhance the dream-like tone. Along the way Powell’s script offers a plethora of ruminations on beauty, aesthetic value, the soul and escapism through art, flesh and sex. Lots of sex. Powell also delves into and explores the murky and very real dangers of working in the escort/porn industry, with the dangers of unsafe sex and the spectre of AIDS ever prevalent. These vulnerable Adonis’s seem to flit about in a shady netherworld, doomed to repeat past tragedies and mistakes over and over again like Sisyphus or Loki.

Powell tantalises us with the mystery, and it soon becomes clear we will have to be patient and allow him to guide us languidly through his narrative and to become immersed in the story in order to get to the bottom of events. At times some of the dialogue becomes a little repetitive and the sheer volume of characters further slows down the action, but its obvious Powell cares deeply about all of them and Seeing Heaven has obviously been a profound labour of love for the filmmaker.

An intriguing blend of Bava-like visuals, provocative concepts and unnerving thrills.

Seeing Heaven will have its European Premiere in Belfast at this year's Yellow Fever Independent Film Festival on 28th August.