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  • “THE WOMAN IN BLACK” claims two more

    Originally posted on 2010-09-08 14:44:19 by Samuel Zimmerman

    THE WOMAN IN BLACK (coming from the new incarnation of Hammer Films) has added two more actors to its cast, Ciaran Hinds and Janet McTeer. Hit the jump for more details on the roles!

    WOMAN follows a lawyer named Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) who moves into a small British town to put a recently deceased client’s papers in order. Working alone in the client’s remote mansion, he discovers dark secrets, including the titular spirit who is haunting the village. EDEN LAKE’s James Watkins will direct from a script by KICK-ASS’ Jane Goldman, based on the novel by Susan Hill.

    Deadline London is reporting that “Hinds will play the local landowner who counsels Daniel Radcliffe as he investigates this Victorian mystery,” while “McTeer will play Hinds’ on-screen wife, Mrs Daily.”

    Hinds was most recently seen in the supernatural Irish tale, THE ECLIPSE (check out our feature on that film and video interviews with the actor) and will turn up alongside Radcliffe in the upcoming final HARRY POTTER films.

    For more on THE WOMAN IN BLACK, head here to see what Radcliffe recently had to say about the movie. 

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  • “R.I.P.D.” getting ready for screen action

    Originally posted on 2010-09-08 14:27:47 by

    The Dark Horse-published, Peter Lenkov-scripted comic R.I.P.D. (Rest in Peace Department), which follows the exploits of cops of the dead, has been in development at Universal for a little while now, but the project is getting closer to fruition with the signing of a director.

    Variety reports that Robert Schwentke (pictured), the German filmmaker whose credits include the serial-killer flick TATTOO, the Jodie Foster thriller FLIGHTPLAN and this October’s actioner RED, will helm the R.I.P.D. movie from a script by CLASH OF THE TITANS’ Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi. Ryan Reynolds signed on this past April to star as Nick Cruz, a recently deceased cop who exchanges 100 years of service to the R.I.P.D. for the chance to avenge his own murder; his older partner has yet to be cast. Dark Horse’s founder/president Mike Richardson and Lawrence Gordon will produce with Original Film’s Neal Moritz.

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  • RIP “BEETLEJUICE” actor Glenn Shadix

    Originally posted on 2010-09-07 21:42:30 by

    Character actor Glenn Shadix, who will forever be remembered as Otho in Tim Burton’s BEETLEJUICE, has died at his home in Birmingham, AL. He was 58.

    Al.com quotes Shadix’s sister Susan Gagne as saying, “He was having mobility problems, and he was in a wheelchair. It looks like he fell and hit his head in the kitchen, and that’s the cause of death.” The actor only had a couple of small roles on his résumé when Burton cast him in 1988’s BEETLEJUICE as Otho, the pretentious interior decorator who’s curious to a fault about the ghosts residing in his clients’ home. He later acted for Burton in PLANET OF THE APES and voiced the mayor in the animated THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. Shadix’s other credits include Michael Lehmann’s HEATHERS and MEET THE APPLEGATES, Mick Garris and Stephen King’s SLEEPWALKERS, Jeff Burton’s indie chiller ACTS OF DEATH, TV’s CARNIVÀLE and numerous animated series. He retired from acting four years ago and relocated to Birmingham, near where he was born, to be close to his family.

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  • 99 cent Whores!

    Originally posted on 2010-09-07 20:40:29 by Allan Dart

    That’s the price you’ll have to pay on iTunes to listen to The Cheetah Whores’ SHARKTOPUS theme song.

    The Syfy movie premieres Saturday, September 25 at 9 p.m. and stars THE DARK KNIGHT’s Eric Roberts as a research scientist who, along with his daughter (Sara Malakul Lane), develops a secret military weapon: a hybrid shark/octopus that can be controlled by electrical implants. But, of course, the monstrosity escapes and goes on a killing rampage at some Mexican resort beaches. As for The Cheetah Whores, the band was handpicked by SHARKTOPUS director Declan O’Brien (WRONG TURN 3) to write and sing the pop theme song, which is now available at the iTunes website.

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  • “DEAD RISING 2: CASE ZERO” (Video Game Review)

    Originally posted on 2010-09-07 19:08:52 by Doug Norris

    Way back in 2006 at the dawn of the Xbox 360 era, Capcom ushered in the runaway smash hit DEAD RISING. Seeming passable at first glance, with the cover suggesting a potential DAWN OF THE DEAD ripoff, the game became a surprise success.

    Regardless of escort missions with uncooperative AI and clunky aiming controls, players clamored to wreak havoc throughout the shopping-mall playground of blood-spattered destruction, leaving trails of zombie corpses and fallen psychopaths behind as they turned anything and everything the mall offered into a weapon. Gamers took to DEAD RISING so much that its gritty, self-serving, pug-faced protagonist Frank West even became a sort of cult hero, garnering homage from the fellow zombie-smasher LEFT 4 DEAD series and appearing as a playable character in the fighting game TATSUNOKO VS CAPCOM.

    Flash forward to 2010, and DEAD RISING 2 has become one of the medium’s most highly anticipated sequels. Leaked trailers began appearing on YouTube as early as 2008, with footage of undead hordes lumbering across casino floors in droves several times larger than in the previous installment. Early news of “combining weapons” had fans champing at the bit to get their hands bloody again. E3 and San Diego Comic-Con gave fans even more news, screens and video of the upcoming zombie splatterfest. And on August 31, Capcom released DEAD RISING 2: CASE ZERO, an Xbox 360 exclusive prequel to the new game.

    CASE ZERO introduces us to Chuck Greene, the protagonist fighting his way through a zombie-infested outbreak area in the dusty setting of Nevada. We join Chuck and his daughter Katey as they pull their bloodstained pickup into the small and eerily quiet town of Still Creek. Distracted by news reports of a military quarantine, Chuck and Katey lose their wheels to a thieving-happy survivor, and are left in your hands to find a way out. Did we mention that Katey has been infected and needs regular doses of the rare and expensive suppression drug Zombrex to quell her eventual zombification?

    DEAD RISING 2’s promised updated features are very much evident in CASE ZERO. First and probably most important is the ability to combine weapons. Any item appearing in the game with a “wrench” icon can be combined with another selected item to form a superweapon of destruction—with the aid of Chuck’s infinite supply of duct tape, the sound of which will become music to players’ ears. Right out of the gate, Chuck takes a baseball bat and a box of nails and crafts a spiked bat that would make Mick Foley giddy with excitement. In the first installment, players could implant showerheads into zombie skulls, resulting in some of the more gruesome outcomes. In CASE ZERO, Chuck combines a bucket with power drills to create the worst possible choice of hat for any out-on-the-town ghoul. Propane tanks and nails? Pitchforks and shotguns? Car batteries and yard tools? Smashy smashy!

    Updates to the game play itself include improved physics and greatly improved aiming controls. The AI doesn’t drag you down nearly as much during the escort missons and can actually prove helpful, not only when wielding weapons but also while blazing a path through the quickest way to a directional point. The graphics are a lot sharper, which means that the blood stands out better: Fountains of gore gush from zombies upon attack, and the more carnage Chuck creates, the more crimson he makes the scene. His weapons become heavily bloodstained with use, as do the surrounding landscapes and Chuck’s choice of attire. Luckily, there’s plenty of wardrobe (men’s, women’s and children’s) for Chuck to don so he can always stay fresh and clean.

    Unlike normal demos that just give you a slice of the larger whole, CASE ZERO provides a full playable level that will be unavailable in DEAD RISING 2. What’s more, your achievements, points, level-ups and unlockables will all carry over to the actual game, so anyone downloading CASE ZERO will receive more rewards upon the sequel’s release. CASE ZERO does seem a tad short, in that it’s insanely difficult to complete all tasks within the tiny 12-hour window; but, as with its predecessor, players can simply ignore any task at hand and spend those hours slicing, dicing, smashing, exploding and shredding every once-taxpaying zombie victim trudging around the dusty streets of Still Creek. At only 400 points ($5), anyone looking to get a taste of the sequel prior to release or just have their first experience with the DEAD RISING franchise should consider this a steal. Besides, who doesn’t want to duct-tape chainsaws to the ends of a boat oar and paddle through a sea of undead?

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  • “CURVED SPACE: THE ADVENTURES OF STELLA STARR” (Book Review)

    Originally posted on 2010-09-07 19:06:18 by Chris Alexander

    There’s little point in reiterating the massive impact STAR WARS had on pop culture post-1977—but rest assured, it changed everything. And on a very minor level, it kicked open the floodgates for everyone and their brothers to spit out low-budget space operas of every persuasion. Among these lower-rent clones was the Roger Corman-distributed Italian knockoff STARCRASH, a weird, impoverished but very cool bit of camp that had the cult cast of the decade: former child preacher Marjoe Gortner, future KNIGHT RIDER David Hasselhoff, MANIAC-to-be Joe Spinell and a very tasty Caroline Munro (pictured) as laser-gun-wielding galactic goddess and space smuggler Stella Star.

    In fact, it’s the scantily clad Munro as Starr that has kept the picture, directed by CONTAMINATION’s Luigi Cozzi, a permanent fanboy favorite—and writer Richard Dean (who previously edited the PHANTASM anthology FURTHER EXCURSIONS INTO OBLIVION) just happens to be one of those admirers. His new book CURVED SPACE: THE ADVENTURES OF STELLA STARR (from Dark League Press) is a collection of short stories that serve as both fan-fiction mash letters and nifty companions to STARCRASH, taking us on the speculative further adventures of Starr as she romps across the galaxy, both shaking and kicking ass.

    Other authors like Glen Alan Hamilton (“Flesh and Fake Parts”), Thomas Berdinski (the awesome Starr-vs.-zombies tale “You Can’t Keep a Good Robot Down”) and Robin Grenville-Evans (“The Arena of Revenge”) all take their turns spinning fun, zippy little yarns about their favorite femme fatale, but ultimately this tome is Dean’s beast from pillar to post. In his warm prologue, Dean details his first teenage brush with STARCRASH and its lasting effect on his life, and the essay is nothing less than passionate. He even managed to corral both Cozzi and Munro to contribute their own words to get the party started and make the joyously unofficial tales somewhat authorized.

    And while the book’s small-press status means that editorial errors abound, they really only add to the loose, rock ’n’ roll ‘zine feel that suffuses the entire book. STARCRASH (which makes its long-awaited DVD/Blu-ray debut next Tuesday, September 14 from Shout! Factory) was a charming thing made up of spare parts and love, and so is CURVED SPACE. To inquire about obtaining a copy, e-mail darkleaguepress@gmail.com, and hit up the book’s Facebook page for more info.

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  • WildClaw Theatre looking for horror radio play scripts!

    Originally posted on 2010-09-07 18:15:09 by Samuel Zimmerman

    Chicago’s WildClaw Theatre Company has put out a call for scripts for their third annual DEATHSCRIBE Radio Horror Play Festival. Hit the jump for details and info on how to get involved!

    The good folks at WildClaw sent along this message for all you creatively inclined Fango fans out there:

    “Are you a horror fan? Got a creepy idea for a story? Well, listen to this:

    WildClaw Theatre, Chicago’s only year-round horror theatre company, is now accepting radio scripts for its 3rd Annual DEATHSCRIBE Radio Horror Play Festival. Deadline for submissions is October 15, 2010.

    What freaks you out? Bugs? Ghosts? Serial killers? The past? The future? Death itself? How about life itself? WildClaw wants to hear it…and then we want to share it with the world.

    We are looking for 10-minute scripts from horror fans the world-over that are genuinely scary, imaginative, chilling, intelligent, suspenseful, horrific, or downright grotesque. No restrictions as to content or tone, but keep in mind that WildClaw is a Horror Theatre. We take our horror seriously, and so should you.

    Shape your fear into a 10-minute radio play and send it to WildClaw at deathscribe2010@gmail.com. If it freaks us out as well, you’ll see (and hear) it performed live at this year’s DEATHSCRIBE showcase event, a one-night-only extravaganza of live performances of original short radio plays, written by horror enthusiasts from around the globe! With live musical accompaniment, live foley artists, special guest directors, Chicago’s finest actors, and a celebrity panel to judge the best of the fest! (Audio clips from previous DEATHSCRIBE festivals are available on iTunes or right here.)

    So, if you have a dandy little campfire tale to share—and you know you do—visit WildClaw Theatre for submission rules and regulations. Likewise, if you know someone who should be tossing his or her bloody hat in the ring, please forward this info along. Submission deadline is October 15, 2010 at midnight, so everyone get scribbling!”

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  • Fango Flashback: “THE CREEPS”

    Originally posted on 2010-09-07 14:19:20 by Allan Dart

    HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN? HOUSE OF DRACULA? MAD MONSTER PARTY? THE MONSTER SQAUD? Yeah, there are a number of monster mash-up movies out there to choose from. But what other horror picture features Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Wolf Man and The Mummy…in miniature form? “Undersized. Undead. And angry.” That’s the tagline for THE CREEPS, Full Moon’s direct-to-video 1997 release that brought together four of horror’s most famous monsters, albeit in scaled-down sizes. The once-colossal Frankenstein’s Monster reborn as a three-foot fiend? Hey, it’s the jumbo shrimp of horror cinema! But what else would you expect from Full Moon and the Band family…

    Let’s be honest. The only reason someone rents a movie like THE CREEPS is because of the gimmick of casting “little people” (I’m going to be P.C. here, as most people of small stature oppose the use of the terms ”dwarf” and “midget”) in iconic horror roles. That being said, one of things to THE CREEPS’ credit is that while the filmmakers do indulge in the “minuscule monster” angle, the movie doesn’t sink to a series of tasteless short jokes or repetitive and sophomoric humorless indignities aimed at the diminutive actors. Trust me, I realize that THE CREEPS doesn’t set the watermark for the advancement of little people in motion pictures, but it’s a far cry from the abominable mini-vampire flick ANKLE BITERS.

    So, how do Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Wolf Man and The Mummy end up in our world as pint-sized terrors?  Well, THE CREEPS doesn’t set the watermark for coherent and logical storytelling, either. Come on, Charles Band directed this film! You know, the guy behind GHOULIES, the PUPPEMASTER films, DOLLMAN, HEAD OF THE FAMILY, BLOOD DOLLS and THE GINGERDEAD MAN. Tiny terrors are this guy’s bread and butter, and you gotta believe that this thought entered Mr. Band’s head: “Hey, what if we brought back Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Wolf Man and The Mummy, but with a twist… They’re little people!” And you gotta believe that when someone asked him why they were little, Mr. Band replied, “I don’t know. We’ll come up with something!”

    An “archetype inducer.” That’s the preposterous solution. What’s an “archetype inducer,” you ask? It’s the invention of the mad (although not supremely bright) scientist Dr. Winston Berber (Bill Moynihan), who has built this machine that uses the original manuscripts for books based on Dracula (Bram Stoker’s story), Frankenstein’s Monster (Mary Shelley’s novel), The Wolf Man (Guy Endore’s WEREWOLF OF PARIS) and The Mummy (I’m guessing Jane C. Loudon’s THE MUMMY, OR A TALE OF THE TWENTY-SECOND CENTURY) along with the sacrifice of a virgin to “transform mythic, cultural and literary archetypes into living entities” that will allow Dr. Berber to have the “powers of darkness” serve his will and help him rule the world! Uh-huh. Like I said, not the most well-thought-out plot device in cinematic history.

    Berber’s plan, however, is derailed when the kidnapped virgin—Anna (Rhonda Griffin), who works in the Rare Books division of a library—isn’t REALLY a virgin—and is rescued by the part-time video store owner/part-time private eye David (Justin Lauer), whom Anna hired to find the original manuscript of Shelley’s FRANKENSTEIN that Berber absconded with. The pair escape with the four manuscripts, and now the shrunken quartet must track them (and Anna) down in order to perform the procedure again and hopefully return them to their full-sized form.

    OK, enough of the plot. THE CREEPS takes a while to get going and only clocks in at 80 minutes (like many Full Moon titles, the running time is padded a bit), and yes, the acting, script and production values leave something to be desired, and yes, the score and the FX are kinda cheesy, and yes, this is another case of an amusing-sounding concept not executed to its full potential, but…I still dig THE CREEPS. It’s not an offensive film, or even a licentious one. Yeah, there’s an unnecessary scene where Anna cuts her foot and takes off her shirt to wrap the wound, but Griffin doesn’t even go topless. The most disturbing (and perversely engaging) scene involves the film’s most disturbing and unnerving character: The Wolf Man. Benicio Del Toro and Taylor Lautner can kiss my tuchus, because I’ve never seen a lycanthrope as bizarrely malefic and frighteningly perverted as this diminutive creature of the night. Part LAND OF THE LOST’s Chaka/part Gary Oldman’s Bat Creature in BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA, this werewolf is a friggin’ unsettling, sneering, seething sight to behold. And in that aforementioned disturbing scene, he and the Monster strip down and fondle Anna’s strapped-down boss. That’s creepy enough—and then the Wolf Man starts drooling…into the camera…several times! Trust me, when you see it, you won’t forget it. 

    THE CREEPS isn’t heavy on the sex, the blood or the violence—especially when compared to the graphic R-rated fare being released nowadays. There aren’t any scares to be had, either—these dudes move slower than the line at the DMV. I mean, Boris Karloff’s Imhotep looks look Usain Bolt when compared to this shambling lot of little monsters. And maybe it’s ’cause the two prior times I’ve seen this film it was while drinking with friends, but watching it sober and by myself, I didn’t really laugh out loud that much. But I’m glad that THE CREEPS isn’t simply (and crassly) a bunch of short stingers and little people jokes. And even though I’ve pointed out several of the film’s faults, I still smiled and enjoyed revisiting these Universal Monsters in miniature form chasing after and terrorizing their victims. What ridiculous yet loveable Z-movie nonsense! THE CREEPS is a gimmick, but like a good William Castle movie, it’s a gimmick that makes you foolishly grin. And that leads me to my final point: 

    THE CREEPS is moderately successful because it plays these mini-monsters straight. They aren’t in on the joke or going for laughs (drooling scene excepted). They simply want to be returned to their full size. Hey, I know this ain’t exactly high drama, but I give a ton of credit to the main “villain”—and the monster with the only speaking role in the film: Dracula, as played by Phil Fondacaro. I’m a big Fondacaro fan, and if you don’t recognize the name, you might recall the face and some of his credits. OK, you might not be able to pick him out of the 500 Ewoks in RETURN OF THE JEDI, but Fondacaro was the sympathetic Malcolm in TROLL, the fierce warrior Vohnkar in WILLOW, Sir Nigel in GHOULIES II, Vincent in BORDELLO OF BLOOD, Roland in the SABRINA TV series and Chihuahua in George A. Romero’s LAND OF THE DEAD. 

    A Full Moon regular, Fondacaro steals the show in THE CREEPS. He plays the bloodsucking legend as a no-nonsense, proud and determined individual, and while he may be small in stature, Fondacaro’s sober performance looms largest among all of the actors. As far as vampires go, Gary Oldman can kiss my… Wait, he’s pretty awesome in BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA. Well, Lance Henriksen can kiss my… Wait, he’s pretty awesome, too, in NEAR DARK. Well, Eddie Murphy in VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN can kiss my tuchus! He can’t hold a candle to Fondacaro—although I wish Fondacaro was given the chance to bite someone’s neck, transform into a bat and act with John Witherspoon. 

    THE CREEPS is a high-concept horror flick: little people as memorable monsters. It’s not hard to see, no pun intended, the movie’s shortcomings. But for what it is, it works. And that miniature Frankenstein’s Monster? I’m still trying to wrap my head around that one…

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  • First looks at Dracula in “RENFIELD THE UNDEAD”

    Originally posted on 2010-09-06 23:35:12 by

    The independent fright feature RENFIELD THE UNDEAD, a new take on the Dracula saga, is racing toward completion. And now some lobby card-style pictures have come through that give us a peek at Drac himself from the movie; see ’em, along with a new poster, after the jump!

    “We are down to the wire; the Whitby cut of the movie is due in England for the Bram Stoker Film Festival in one week,” says writer/producer Phil Nichols, who also created the special makeup with Facades FX and plays the title role (as seen in the first photo below). “The world premiere is scheduled to be the opening Friday-night event of the festival. We’ll be launching the movie’s official website and posting the trailer within the week; here at long last are images of our Count Dracula, portrayed thrillingly by veteran stage actor John W. Stevens.” The last pic demonstrates how the vampire’s image will be translated to comics form for an upcoming graphic novel adaptation, illustrated by Melissa L. Nichols. See our previous report on RENFIELD THE UNDEAD, which was directed by Bob Willems and also stars Paul Damon, Keli Wolfe, Roxy Cook, Tyler Tackett and Julin, here.

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  • “IDES OF BLOOD”: Holy Roman Vampires!

    Originally posted on 2010-09-06 19:56:16 by Jorge Solis

    Out in stores now, the first issue of Wildstorm Comics’ IDES OF BLOOD packs a wallop of political scandals, vampire action and mystery (see review here). The series’ writer Stuart C. Paul spoke with Fango about creating a universe where Julius Caesar and vampires co-exist.

    FANGORIA: What was your inspiration for IDES OF BLOOD? How did the story come about?

    STUART C. PAUL: Basically, it came out of my frustration with the vampire subgenre. I’ve never been a very big fan of those stories. I have nothing against them, but at the time I originally came up with the idea—about five years ago—I had yet to encounter one that blew me away. Not that I wasn’t impressed with things like INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE or ‘SALEM’S LOT, but the mythology in general just left me feeling kind of apathetic. It wasn’t until I saw LET THE RIGHT ONE IN that I was truly swept away by a vampire tale. So, I thought to myself, “What would I have to do to make them interesting to me?”

    For some reason, Julius Caesar popped into my head. It’s one of those things where I really can’t pinpoint any logical reason for it. I generally feel like good ideas tend to come out of nowhere, but on the other hand, you can also get kind of Jungian about it, and say that random ideas aren’t actually random at all. In retrospect, this sort of seemed to be the case, because later, once I started writing, the thematic parallels between the Caesar legend and vampire mythology became more apparent.

    FANG: Julius Caesar is the subject of many books, the television series ROME and Shakespeare plays. How did you go about creating your own grandiose version of him?

    PAUL: Grandiose is a good description. The Julius Caesar you see in IDES OF BLOOD is not subtle. He is human ambition personified, even hyperbolized. The first thing I did was research; I read a bunch of biographies on Caesar from both modern times and antiquity. I also consumed as many fictional interpretations of the man as I could get my hands on. I wanted to see what had been done before. I feel most modern interpretations really fail to capture the essence of Caesar’s power. ROME is obviously a huge exception. That show is a masterpiece, and while I took a few pointers from it, I also knew I didn’t want to try to tread over the same ground, since they’d done it so well. That freed me to be more, as you said, grandiose, and to treat Caesar with a bit more hyperbole. Since I was writing a comic, it seemed a natural choice anyway.

    In IDES OF BLOOD, he conquers Transylvania and changes the face of Rome by introducing vampires into society, and aside from the supernatural part, that’s exactly what he did. The key was just taking those traits that were already in his character and applying them to the framework provided by the introduction of vampirism. We’re talking about a man who fashioned himself after the god Jupiter. But what if Caesar discovered other gods with more power than those of Rome? How would that change his plans? From a certain point of view, ambition is just an expression of fear of death. If a man like Caesar encountered a race of beings that had conquered death, that would radically shake his perception of his place in the world. Suddenly, the stakes are higher. The historical Caesar could only hope to gain immortality through the legacy of Roman history, but if vampirism existed, establishing an empire suddenly becomes small potatoes. And when he learns about how Dracul, the first vampyre, gave birth to the Dacian people, he sees in him a kindred spirit. So you can see how shades of Bram Stoker and Shakespeare come together to create this new version of Caesar.

    FANG: In a unique twist, the vampires are the slaves in this Roman society. What is about vampire fiction that intrigued you to explore it in a new way?

    PAUL: It’s the scale of vampires that fascinates me more than the tropes of the mythology. The rules as far as silver, sunlight, stakes, fire, decapitation, etc. are always different depending on who is telling the story, so obviously those are not their defining qualities. It’s really the consumption of blood and immortality—although George A. Romero’s MARTIN is one notable exception of the immortality rule that comes to mind.

    Having the chance to explore the concept of immortality as a social phenomenon was definitely one part of the appeal, but really, I’d have to say it was less about exploring themes than it was just having fun by seeing how I could take the conventions of the sword-and-sandal genre and twist them by adding vampires. You get things like Roman crucifixion as a punishment for crime, and suddenly it gets a whole new meaning when you add vampires, because of the whole weakness-against-crosses thing. In fact, in IDES OF BLOOD, vampires aren’t scared of crosses—just being nailed up on them with dawn coming. And obviously, I had to put in a vampire gladiator match, and we have a lot of fun with what that might entail in issue #3. So it was less about me being intrigued by vampires as it was being intrigued by them in a specific context, and seeing how it would work if we simply treated them as another culture trampled under the boot of Rome.

    FANG: In the first issue, the vampire Valens becomes a sort of supernatural detective. He even shakes down snitches at a brothel to find clues. Tell me about your interests in the noir genre and how they influenced building Valens’ character.

    PAUL: I’m a big fan of noir. The City is always a huge character in noir, and ancient Rome lends itself perfectly to the kind of seedy underworld of shadows that we all love to watch. THE FUGITIVE was definitely a formidable influence, and I was on a bit of a Dashiell Hammett kick around the same time I was writing the comic. However, an early draft of the story wasn’t a noir per se. It was way more of a Spartacus tale, even a little bit GANGS OF NEW YORK, but I wasn’t happy with it. There were already some aspects of noir there, but it was too diluted, and most of the story took place in Dacia—the ancient name for Transylvania and Romania—instead of Rome. It was only when I focused in on the noir elements, and kept all the action in the city itself, that I felt like I had found the story I wanted to tell. With all the political and social intrigue going on, it was important to keep Valens’ goal simple, so the innocent man wrongly accused of Caesar’s assassination going on the run to clear his name and expose the true killers seemed the clearest and most dramatic way to do that.

    The tricky part was that we all already know the ending. I needed another mystery to hang the story on, which is where the Pluto’s Kiss Killer came in—a vampire serial killer murdering mortal aristocrats. In order for the story to work, it became essential to use a noir structure to preserve the sense of mystery.

    FANG: The Pluto’s Kiss Killer is such a creative yet strange name for a serial murderer. How did that come about?

    PAUL: Pluto is the name of the Roman god of the underworld—though he is also sometimes referred to as Dis, which doesn’t sound nearly as cool. Since he’s a vampire who kills by the classic bite to the neck, “Pluto’s kiss” seemed an apt way to describe a vampire bite as the method of execution.

    FANG: There are many layers of metaphor between the characters. There is the political side with Julius Caesar and the Senators. Valens, the detective, is searching for the Pluto’s Kiss Killer, which means he’s a vampire hunting down his own kind. Then there’s the master/servant relationship between Caesar and Valens. With so much subtext packed in the first issue alone, was it difficult keeping track of where these characters were heading in the storyline?

    PAUL: Not really where they were heading, so much as how they would get there, or who would discover what, when and how. I knew that the Caesar/Valens relationship, though we don’t get to see a lot of it before the assassination, was going to be key to Valens’ arc throughout the story. Each issue, he gets pulled away from this sort of false identity he has of being a Roman citizen, and back toward his Dacian roots and his true nature. So from a character standpoint, it was pretty easy to keep track of what the different events in the plot would do to push or pull him toward or away from one of those two polarities. But given the various interested parties with their own agendas and secrets, there were a lot of balls in the air, and sometimes, it did get a bit difficult to juggle them all. Fortunately, the structure of comics allows you to somewhat compartmentalize things from issue to issue…but mostly, I just did lots of revisions.

    FANG: Some writers work closely with their artists, while others stand aside, leaving them alone to do their work. How was your relationship with IDES OF BLOOD artist Christian Duce?

    PAUL: We ended up going back and forth more as the series went on, but for the most part, Christian took the scripts and did everything on his own. When the first pages came in, I was floored by how perfectly he understood what I was going for. He really keyed into the world I wanted to create, and brought it to life in a way I couldn’t have hoped for. He is extremely talented, visionary and collaborative. Working with him has been one of the greatest pleasures.

    FANG: There is so much detail on display in the artwork and dialogue. How much research did you and Duce undertake to create this alternate universe, where the Romans have conquered Transylvania and captured the vampire population?

    PAUL: I can’t speak for Christian, but judging from the authenticity on display in his pencils, I’d imagine he did his fair share of homework. I always do a lot of research, because research is story. If you don’t know your world, you can’t write it. Research on Rome was easy to find, but information about Dacia was tougher to track down. In the end, though, there was an older anthropological work by this guy named Parvan that was very helpful, and a whole book about the role of wolves in Dacian religion.

    My favorite book about the Roman world was called HANDBOOK TO LIFE IN ANCIENT ROME by Lesley Adkins and Roy A. Adkins. Every time I had a question, I turned to that book. There are tons of sequences, characters and beats that emerged from the research. I still remember how excited I got when I learned how rich Romans used an underground system of furnace tunnels, called a hypocaust, to heat their homes and baths, because I knew that was going to end up being a setpiece.

    FANG: With the first issue now on stands, what can readers expect in the upcoming issues?

    PAUL: Valens has been warned, and in the next issue [out September 15; cover art pictured right], the Ides of March are coming! In addition to lots of intrigue and action unlike anything you have ever seen, we’re going to see the home of the vampire rebellion; go on a Dacian acid trip; learn about the Dracul’s role in the origin of vampires; find out why Valens is so loyal to Caesar; witness an appearance by Van Helsing; find out what Brutus’ master plan is after Caesar is dead; and discover the true identity of the Pluto’s Kiss Killer. We’ll also get vampire STD’s; vampire gladiator cage matches; more Soothsayer bug-eating goodness; crucified bodies used as weapons; insidious Egyptian necromancy; cruelty against animals; swords inserted into various orifices; and yes…vampire cockfighting.

    FANG: What are you working on now?

    PAUL: Right now I’m doing some work on the film and TV fronts, but what I’m most excited about is my new comic series, BUSHIDO.44. I don’t want to give too much away, but it’s another alternate-history yarn but set in modern times, involving the samurai conquest of America. It’s sort of like X-MEN, THE DIRTY DOZEN, THE GOOD, BAD, AND THE UGLY, KILL BILL, YOJIMBO and MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE all blended together into a bloody bowl of sake-soaked, bullet-flavored udon.

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  • Bowling for Boobies with Horror Starlets

    Originally posted on 2010-09-06 18:48:32 by

    Bowling for Boobies might sound like the name of a softcore comedy, but it’s actually a charity event organized for a very serious cause: Los Angeles women battling breast cancer. The sixth annual event will be held October 24, and one team will be comprised of a number of actresses from recent horror films.

    The squad, known as The Horror Starlets, consists of Sarah Butler (pictured), soon to be seen in the I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE remake, Tracy Coogan from ZOMBIE HONEYMOON and this fall’s DARK WOODS, THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE’s Ashlynn Yennie, ALBINO FARM’s Bianca Barnett, Brooke Lewis from iMURDERS and SLIME CITY MASSACRE, WICKED LAKE’s Carlee Baker and the winner (to be announced) of the current season of VH1’s SCREAM QUEENS reality show, plus horror journalist Sean Decker, who assembled the team. Bowling for Boobies will take place at Jillian’s Hi-Life at Universal CityWalk in Universal City, CA, with other celebs like the Go-Gos’ Jane Wiedlin and RENO 911’s Thomas Lennon also set to take part. The Starlets are soliciting donations here.

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  • “FEAR OF CLOWNS 2” (Film Review)

    Originally posted on 2010-09-05 17:25:18 by

    Here’s one of those movies that I might give two-and-three-quarter skulls to if the format allowed. But I’m giving FEAR OF CLOWNS 2 (available as a limited DVD and download at Amazon.com, coming to iTunes this fall) the benefit of the doubt upward because writer/director Kevin Kangas’ follow-up to his previous coulrophobia opus represents a step up from its already entertaining predecessor in a couple of significant areas.

    Most notably, there’s more urgency to the story, which picks up a while after Detective Dan Peters (Frank Lama) put away the evil Doug Richardson, a.k.a. Shivers the Clown (Mark Lassise), who was trying to snuff out artist Lynn Blodgett (Jacky Reres). Told he has only a few months to live due to a rare, incurable brain disease, Dan gets further bad news when he learns that Shivers has escaped the mental facility where he’d been imprisoned, along with a couple of equally nasty fellow inmates. Determined to protect Lynn and put Shivers down for good, Dan concocts a plan to lure the psycho into a trap and calls on some heavily armed pals to assist him. But Shivers’ craftiness and a couple of dirty little secrets may trip up Dan’s attempts to protect Lynn’s life—and his own…

    A killer-clown movie is only as good as its killer clowns, and Shivers remains a pretty spooky one. Buff and bare-chested with freaky facepaint, he’s an imposing and threatening presence as played with few, growly-voiced words by Lassise. As for his new sidekicks, the cannibalistic Giggles (Philip Levine) has a typical evil-Ronald-McDonald look and is prone to cackling fits, but the head-chopping Ogre (former WCW wrestler Clarence McNatt) sports a nifty visual conceit. A towering, bald African-American, he has a big white cyclopean eye painted on his forehead that looms eerily out of the darkness before the rest of his features are clearly visible.

    The performances of their targets are steadier this time too, as Lama and Reres have overcome the shakiness that occasionally crept into their turns in the first FEAR OF CLOWNS. Dan’s determination to tie up the loose end in his foreshortened life that Shivers represents plays nicely against Lynn’s dubiousness over his methods (though under the circumstances, it’s hard to believe she has a problem with his desire to end the villain’s life). Johnny Alonso adds some effective nervous edge as Ralph, the asylum orderly who helps Shivers and co. escape and then has to bargain with them for his own life, and Adam Ciesielski gets a few good laughs as “Hot Rod,” the most prominent of the good ol’ boys Dan calls upon for assistance.

    Although, as touched on above, certain of the scenes are a little too drawn-out, Kangas creates moments of creepy imagery (with the help of cinematographer David Mun, especially in the scenes involving Shivers and his cohorts just after their escape) along with well-staged moments of tension and carnage. Decapitations are the order of the day, and the literal head count has been upped significantly from the original FEAR OF CLOWNS; makeup FX creator Doug Ulrich has been given more to do here, and does it better. The writer/director even throws in a fairly well-staged shootout and a bit of gratuitous full-frontal nudity during a sexual encounter that doesn’t end well for the couple in question.

    Kangas doesn’t entirely avoid the pitfalls of the slasher genre (Lynn runs for safety in the wrong direction a couple of times), and FEAR OF CLOWNS 2 comes to a dissatisfyingly inconclusive ending. All in all, though, Kangas has risen to the challenge of improving on his previous feature, and the sequel should have fans of fearsome funnymen painting smiles on their faces.

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