• “MAD RON’S” FX wizard reminisces

    Originally posted on 2010-09-20 14:58:30 by Nick Masercola

    Even the biggest and busiest in the business have humble beginnings, and few people know that as well as Jordu Schell. Now at the top of the FX world, working on movies like 300, AVATAR, and DAWN OF THE DEAD to name a few, Schell’s first gig was on the genre trailer compilation MAD RON’S PREVUES FROM HELL, first released on VHS in 1987 and finally available now on DVD from Virgil Films.

    One of the first of its kind, MAD RON’S gathered together 47 of the most grisly, outrageous exploitation previews one could hope to see (check out an interview with its creators in Fango #297, now on sale). In between all this celluloid slaughter are linking segments involving a crazed ventriloquist, his evil dummy and dozens of the undead—all of which Schell designed.

    “I got a call from [producer] Jim Murray,” Schell recalls, “and I was really excited to do some zombie stuff, because they’re one of my favorite monster types. I’m a huge fan of ’70s grindhouse cinema, so when I saw the trailers the guys had cut together—before we actually started work on the in-between stuff—I was very excited. I particularly like the trailer for BLOODEATERS, for some reason.”

    But once it came time to actually worry about the “in-between stuff,” the then 19-year-old Schell realized he’d need a little extra help creating the scores of grotesque ghouls required. “I didn’t have an extensive background in makeup as much as creature design,” he says, “so I called in a guy named Jay Kushwara to help. He lived in a neighboring township to Philadelphia, and he helped out with life-casting and designed and sculpted the zombie look for the black actor, and also did the eye-popping effect at the end. As far as designs, I was given total control. It was great!”

    Apparently, he wasn’t just assigned the undead, but the evil dummy Happy as well. “For Happy, I just sculpted a character that I thought was both funny and kind of disgusting at the same time,” Schell recalls. “Nick Pawlow [who plays his ventriloquist] loved it. Everyone was incredibly easy to work with.”

    While this first professional experience was a positive one, it was MAD RON’s release that Schell’s career began to take off. “I had my work seen by Screaming Mad George in LA,” he says. “I sent him pictures of my masks when I was about 20, and he called me, and that’s when things really got going. But I am glad to know that people enjoy PREVUES, and that it has amassed a cult following.”

    Since then, Schell has contributed to numerous features, but one experience stands out as his favorite. “I would have to say that GALAXY QUEST remains the best of the films I’ve worked on,” the artist says. “From the experience to the creative freedom to the final film, it was a great time.” Schell’s long résumé has encompassed both CGI and practical FX—so which does he enjoy doing more? “Well, it’s pretty clear that the best effects today employ a little of both techniques,” he replies. “CGI can do things real-time effects can’t, and there are undeniable qualities in real-time effects that digital just can’t capture—yet. But as the techniques of computer work become refined and more sophisticated, there definitely is a serious threat to real-time effects artists.”

    When it comes to what his personal future holds, however, Schell is keeping his cards close to his chest. “Well, as with so many things I work on, I cannot discuss the intricacies of what I’m up to,” he says. “Suffice to say, I am doing design work on a huge film that I am sure FANGORIA will be covering in the near future!”

    For more on the MAD RON’S PREVUES FROM HELL DVD, go here.

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  • Terror Tidbits (Fango #297) – “THE WALKING DEAD” Are Coming

    Originally posted on 2010-09-19 22:59:07 by Philip Nutman

    British actor Andrew Lincoln is about to get whacked upside the head with a shovel, and three-time Academy Award-nominated writer/director Frank Darabont is smiling.


    Lincoln feigns taking a wicked blow to the noggin and drops out of camera range.

    “Cut!” Darabont shouts. “Let’s do it again.”

    Take two. Lincoln gives more of a neck jerk the second time around, and his director grins at the video monitor. “OK, a third take, then let’s move on.”

    Lincoln, who is likely to be unknown to Fango readers (unless you’re a secret romcom fan and know him from Richard Curtis’ Love Actually), rotates his head, stretches and waits for Darabont’s command. On cue, the actor jerks and drops onto the crash mat beside him. Satisfied, the director of the much-loved The Shawshank Redemption and other acclaimed Stephen King adaptations like THE GREEN MILE and THE MIST marshals the crew of THE WALKING DEAD to set up the next shot, then takes a break to talk to FANGORIA.

    It’s day 10 of a 14-day shoot for this pilot. “Time becomes its own redefined element when you’re filming. What day is this? Monday…boy,” Darabont sighs. “Normally, I’d schedule 16 days to shoot a pilot, but I lopped two days off my own schedule voluntarily to give relief to the other directors.”

    A six-part series for basic cable network AMC, home to the controversial BREAKING BAD and the hit MAD MEN, THE WALKING DEAD is based on the ongoing, New York Times Best Selling comic-book/graphic-novel series by Robert Kirkman (see page 23), published by Image Comics. Darabont is an executive producer and the writer/director of the pilot, which he is shooting in hot, humid Atlanta, Georgia. His partner in zombie armageddon is fellow exec producer Gale Anne Hurd, who has, of course, been delighting genre aficionados since 1984’s THE TERMINATOR, producing ALIENS, THE RELIC and numerous other Fango favorites. They are the dream team for an ambitious, boundary-pushing TV show such as this one. Add special makeup master Greg Nicotero and KNB EFX to the mix, and whichever way you cut the cards, THE WALKING DEAD has “bloody big hit” written all over it (accent on the blood; you’re going to be amazed at the gore on your flatscreen when the series premieres in late October).

    Darabont’s eyes rack focus for a few beats as he surveys how the next setup is progressing. After years of making big features and helming an episode of the adrenalin-fueled cop show THE SHIELD (season six’s “Chasing Ghosts”), he admits he now likes to work fast but very focused, stressing that speed doesn’t mean sacrificing quality.

    For the whole story, pick up FANGORIA #297, on sale this month. Go here for full issue details, and here to subscribe to the magazine!

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  • Terror Tidbits (Fango #297) – “LET ME IN”: The Vampire Transplant

    Originally posted on 2010-09-19 22:47:52 by Chris Alexander

    Ask any serious, sophisticated vampire fan about their favorite contemporary fang film, and more often than not, their title of choice will be 2008’s LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. Tomas Alfredson’s chilling, melancholy and austere Swedish coming-of-age bloodbath is as elegant as it is eerie, and managed to bridge the gap between the art house and the exploitation worlds with copious amounts of both beauty and terror. Critical and festival acclaim came in geysers.

    So when the inevitable American remake was soon announced, it was a given that LET THE RIGHT ONE IN’s devoted cult of admirers threw their hands up in typical fan-fueled disgust. It happens. But in the case of this new version, the talent behind the lens actually cares about the coattails they’re riding upon. The remake (rechristened simply LET ME IN, and opening from Overture Films October 1) is written and directed by CLOVERFIELD helmer Matt Reeves, a film artist who is as concerned with character as he is with carnage. And even more noteworthy, LET ME IN was announced as the first vampire movie from the newly reborn Hammer Films (see sidebar). The pedigree is beyond solid.

    FANGORIA spoke to Reeves about his English-language makeover of a modern classic and found him to be honest, intelligent and deeply, hopelessly in love with his source material. The new film tells the same gentle tale of a preteen boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee from THE ROAD) growing up in a harsh, confusing and frightening world, and how he develops a sweet friendship with an equally removed girl (KICK-ASS’ Chloe Moretz)…a child who also just happens to be an ancient, blood-drinking, murderous ghoul. Reeves’ passion for this project is as infectious as the bite of his diminutive antiheroine, which gives us nothing but hope for the film’s outcome…

    FANGORIA: LET THE RIGHT ONE IN is such a fragile film, and touched a lot of horror fans. When did it first fall on your radar?

    MATT REEVES: It was right after CLOVERFIELD came out and I was talking to Overture about what my next project would be, and they told me they were trying to secure the rights to remake this little Swedish film and that I should have a look at it. They gave me a DVD screener of Let the Right One In, and I was blown away.

    For the whole story, pick up FANGORIA #297, on sale this month. Go here for full issue details, and here to subscribe to the magazine!

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  • Terror Tidbits (Fango #297) – “HATCHET II”: The Blade Master Part One

    Originally posted on 2010-09-19 22:39:09 by Trevor Parker

    It’s late July, and FANGORIA is commiserating with filmmaker Adam Green. He’s in the midst of a struggle to snip his highly anticipated HATCHET II down a few frames in order to earn a more marketable rating. “We’re in the middle [of the MPAA process] right now, and we’ve been trying and trying and trying to get to an R, and we can’t,” Green sighs.

    We’re pleased to report that, several days after our exclusive interview, Green announced that he had indeed triumphed in his MPAA stalemate. He reported that “a major theater chain” had signed on, in an unprecedented, groundbreaking distribution deal, to screen Hatchet II nationwide (brace yourselves) unrated and absolutely uncut. Fango isn’t the least bit surprised at this outcome, because during the course of our chat, it becomes obvious that Green’s awareness of fright fans’ dismay at docile terror-by-focus-group tripe comes from the fact that he has been feeling exactly the same way. No music-video dilettante using our genre as a bus stop on the way to more upscale projects, Green’s horror cred is unquestionable. From the crowd-pleasing mayhem in Hatchet to the subtler chills of the psychodrama Spiral (which he co-directed with writer/star Joel David Moore) to the intense, critically acclaimed Frozen, Green is just the man to put a splatter revival back on big screens come October.

    FANGORIA: Can we expect the same balance of comedy and horror in Hatchet II as we saw in the original, or were you tempted to go a little darker with this one?

    ADAM GREEN: It’s funny—until I see it with an audience, I don’t really know for sure. I’d say it’s more serious. It’s darker, but it’s still HATCHET. There are funny characters and jokes, but like with the first one, as over-the-top and fun as the violence is, there’s nothing funny about Victor Crowley. We did create some amusing people to go through the movie with. One of the hardest things to do with a slasher movie is make the characters likable, because everybody knows they’re there to die. The easiest way to endear the characters to the audience is to have them make the audience laugh.

    Tony Todd is essentially the whole movie this time; his part is huge. I believe it’s the best and most layered character he’s ever played. I mean, different voices, different personalities…he’s a shyster of sorts, so you don’t know exactly what he’s up to until it’s over. He is phenomenal to watch. Every time we’ve screened the movie, people just can’t get over him. I know people love Tony Todd for being Candyman, and as iconic and amazing as that role is, he really shows his entire range in HATCHET II.

    FANG: Fans will be happy to see him get a little more to work with this time.

    GREEN: What’s fun about the sequel is that it was all planned when we made the first Hatchet. Normally, that’s not the case with slasher sequels. Usually, if the first one does well, they struggle to figure out a way to bring the villain back. Hatchet II is totally the next part of the story. It even starts on the last shot the other one ended on—which is why that movie ended the way it did. That was a big gamble, because Hatchet was a small independent movie and we had no idea what was going to happen with it, or if we were even going to get to make a sequel. When it was important to me that Tony Todd play that role in the original, the producers were like, “Why does it have to be a guy as big as Tony Todd? He’s just answering a door,” and I had to keep telling them, “Don’t worry, he’s pivotal to the whole thing, you’ll see.” Thankfully, it all worked out and we got to do it.

    For the whole story, pick up FANGORIA #297, on sale this month. Go here for full issue details, and here to subscribe to the magazine!

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  • Terror Tidbits (Fango #297)- “SAW 3D”: The Reluctant Trapper

    Originally posted on 2010-09-19 22:30:00 by Chris Alexander

    There is a point in every successful film franchise when the core fan base starts curling its lip a bit. For the immensely lucrative series of Saw shockers, that dip went down last year with the release of director (and former series editor) Kevin Greutert’s sixth installment. While all the previous entries owned their opening weekends’ box-office charts in their Halloween seasonal premieres, SAW VI slunk to second banana against the punishing viral-marketed power of the low-budget vérité shocker PARANORMAL ACTIVITY. And that’s a damn shame, because SAW VI was without a doubt the best entry since the first and—even removed from the confines of the series—played as a first-rate, exceedingly well- directed and dazzlingly violent thriller.

    +But Lionsgate and the Twisted Pictures people weren’t pleased at being financially snubbed in what they had long claimed as their season to shine. And when it was subsequently announced that Greutert had been signed to direct PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2—then scheduled to challenge the seventh Saw on October 22—the producers took offense and exercised their contractual ability to bring the director back into their fold—partially against his will—to helm the already-in-preproduction SAW 3D, replacing returning SAW V director David Hackl.

    It was all a very tangled web indeed, and Greutert—who had to quickly leave his LA home to fly back to Toronto—wasn’t shy about publicly sharing his upset at the maneuver on his blog and in the press. But now, with the impending release of the latest in the ever-evolving horror/ morality tale/torture saga upon us, the director is much calmer about the results. Continuing the exploits of the disciples of long-dead, self-aggrandizing serial killer Jigsaw (Tobin Bell, see page 52) and his wicked, body-wrecking clockwork traps, SAW 3D (now opening Oct. 29) looks to be the apex of everything that came before it. And in three dimensions, what fright fan in his or her right mind could resist?

    In fact, when he sits down with Fango to discuss his lean, mean, dimensional shocker, Greutert is, dare we say, rather excited about the picture…

    FANGORIA: How are you feeling now? Are you more at ease with the situation?

    KEVIN GREUTERT: This has been a hard year, for sure. Probably the hardest since puberty, and my spirit has been kicked around quite a bit. But when it came to making this film, at the end of the day, I didn’t want to let the fans down, and I wanted them to feel good about the picture I had the responsibility of making. And I have to say, I’ve test-screened the film to some of my more objective friends, and it’s really, really good. But yeah, it was scary making a movie while being sabotaged by prep time and other factors.

    For the whole story, pick up FANGORIA #297, on sale this month. Go here for full issue details, and here to subscribe to the magazine!

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  • Guillermo del Toro: the tour

    Originally posted on 2010-09-19 21:59:55 by FANGORIA Staff

    In support of this week’s release of Guillermo del Toro and Chuck Hogan’s THE FALL (Book II in the authors’ STRAIN trilogy), the genre master will be taking a national tour (see cities below the jump) over the next three weeks to promote his new literary work. The STRAIN trilogy details the apocalyptic battle between man and vampire—and vampire vs. vampire—as a bloodsucking virus spreads around the globe, decimating humanity and rocking civilization to its core. You can find out more about THE STRAIN here and see a review in FANGORIA #297, now on sale. Watch for an exclusive interview with del Toro on this website soon.

    New York: September 21 at 7 p.m.

    TimesTalks, The Times Center (242 West 41st Street)

    New York Times theater critic Jason Zinoman talks to del Toro about THE FALL and vampires.

    New York: September 22 at 8 p.m.

    Borders (10 Columbus Circle)

    Del Toro and Hogan read from THE FALL.

    Boston: September 23 at 6 p.m.

    Brattle Theater (40 Brattle Street, Cambridge)

    Del Toro and Hogan reading.

    Los Angeles: September 24 at 7 p.m.

    Dark Delicacies (3512 W. Magnolia Boulevard, Burbank)

    Del Toro signing.

    San Francisco: September 28 at 7:30 p.m.

    Kabuki Sundance Theater (1881 Post Street at Fillmore)

    An Evening With Del Toro.

    Portland, OR: September 29 at 7 p.m.

    Bagdad Theater (702 SE Hawthorne Boulevard)

    Powell’s Books Presents: Guillermo del Toro.

    Seattle: September 30 at 7 p.m.

    Experience Music Project/JBL Theater (325 5th Avenue North)

    Del Toro reading at the Seattle Science Fiction Museum.

    Los Angeles: Saturday, October 2 at 7 p.m.

    Barnes & Noble (189 Grove Drive, Suite K30)

    Del Toro reading at The Grove.

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  • “LEGEND: THE ENCHANTED”: Fracturing Fairy Tales

    Originally posted on 2010-09-19 21:52:35 by Chris Alexander

    Niche imprint Radical Comics just keeps pumping out the four-color gold, steadily dropping jaws with titles like HOTWIRE: REQUIEM FOR THE DEAD, the devastating FVZA: FEDERAL VAMPIRE AND ZOMBIE AGENCY and Nick Percival’s arresting dark fantasy LEGENDS: THE ENCHANTED. LEGENDS, both written and illustrated by the talented Percival (pictured), takes place in a dark, richly evocative land of monsters and myth, where creatures of literate fantasy exist as immortal demigods. When Pinocchio—yes, Pinocchio—is found murdered, the narrative morphs from violent fantasy to grim neo-noir.

    The title seems a natural fit to be acquired for the cinema—and earlier this year, that’s exactly what happened when juggernaut filmmaker Ron Howard announced his plans to turn the title into a feature film. In the meantime, the LEGENDS series is available in graphic-novel form for legions of new fans to enjoy. Fango spoke with Percival about his work and the wild world he forged for LEGENDS: THE ENCHANTED.

    FANGORIA: The book is a blast of pure imagination—almost intimidating in its scope. Did it evolve organically? Had you deliberated on the concept long before putting pen to page?

    NICK PERCIVAL: I’ve wanted to mess around in the world of fairy tales for a long time, but give those classic stories a good kick in the balls and shake them up with a dark, dangerous twist. A lot of my old sketchbooks are filled with bizarre takes on these well-known folklore characters, so it was definitely something I was gonna tackle at some point in my career.

    For LEGENDS, I spent quite a few years developing the concept on and off with a ton of character design paintings, environmental stuff, weapon designs, vehicles, etc. I wanted to try and create a “complete” world that felt unique, but also looked like everything in it belonged there. So all the cast, creatures and even the everyday normal folks have a visual consistency that makes sense.

    I was pretty disciplined in the writing stages, and locked down a full script before actually starting on the interior painted pages. It’s always tempting to jump to all the cool stuff you want to paint, but I ended up creating the whole graphic novel in order, which was a first for me.

    FANG: Speaking of pen to page, which came first: the words or the images?

    PERCIVAL: In the early stages, it was both. I would be fooling around with character designs during the day, doing many different versions of the main cast, and then in the evenings, I’d be fleshing out the script, even giving the characters their own minibiographies and lots of background info.

    FANG: Eyes. One thing about your realization of characters is their eyes—they pop from the darkness, and when they’re in frame, it’s almost alarming. Can you comment?

    PERCIVAL: I’m a big fan of a high-contrast look and feel—lots of dark, heavy shadows, things fading into black, bold colors and so on. It’s a good way of controlling where the viewer should be focusing their attention and helps give the characters definition where it’s needed. Certainly where the creatures are concerned, I’ve deliberately focused on core areas that I want the reader to look at, and then blended the rest of the images into the darkness surrounding them. It’s good for mood and tone, and to be honest, the world that LEGENDS is set in is a pretty bleak place.

    FANG: Congratulations on the film deal. With so many comic-book properties being adapted for the screen, do you think most writers now create with cinema in mind?

    PERCIVAL: I think it depends on the project, to be honest, but it’s probably not the best way to go if you actually want to create a good comic book. Because my background is in comics [JUDGE DREDD, Marvel, etc.], I wanted to play to all the strengths of comic-book storytelling, and that is still very different from film. I’ve got an unlimited budget when I’m painting, so I can be as extreme as I want, and as the graphic novel stands at the moment, that’s my ultimate version of LEGENDS. Having said that, I also spent many years as a professional CG animation director, so I spent a lot of time with lighting and textures and deliberately wanted to create a “widescreen” epic look for the visuals in the book. But I believe that starting a project purely with the idea that it’s going to be a film is not the way to go, and I think the core fans pick up on all that stuff.

    FANG: Tell me about the movie—how involved will you be?

    PERCIVAL: At the moment, Radical is producing with Ron Howard, Brian Grazer and their Imagine Entertainment, so it’s in the hands of some very accomplished and acclaimed filmmakers, which is great. I’m available for consultations, and obviously intend to be involved as much as need be. Certainly on the visual side, it would be good to be involved, and hopefully we’ll see a cool version of the graphic novel up on the big screen in the not too distant future. But hey, it’s all Hollywood madness, so when it happens, it’ll happen.

    FANG: In any pop-culture business, you can never sleep lest you rust—especially after such a commercial leap. What are you up to now?

    PERCIVAL: I’m finishing off a bunch of things I kind of put on hold as the end deadlines kicked in on LEGENDS, so those are various cover paintings for books and comics, private commissions and so on. I’ve just started work on concept and production paintings for a large movie set in ancient times, and I’m also busy developing my new dark-action graphic-novel project, THE FAMILY, that I’ll be taking out to publishers soon. I’m also tinkering around with ideas for a possible follow-up to LEGENDS as well, so creatively, things seem cool.

    For more on LEGENDS and the world of Nick Percival, visit his official website.

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  • News, first photos, trailer: “ZELLWOOD”

    Originally posted on 2010-09-19 15:48:13 by

    Fango got word of a new Florida-lensed fright feature that’s closing in on completion titled ZELLWOOD, starring 2007 Playboy Playmate of the Year Sara Jean Underwood (pictured left). The producers sent along a few grisly first photos (plus one that’s more pleasant to look at), which you can see below.

    Written and directed by Jason Sutton, the Last Trip LLC/6th Plague Productions/Abyssmal Entertainment production also stars Patricia Rosales, Haley Boyle, Bruster Sampson, Amani Atkinson, Kevin James O’Neill, Chelsea Lee and Julie Anne, with makeup FX by Kurt Combs and Dano Needhammer. The story concerns a pair of young couples who decide to take a last camping vacation together before going their separate ways. The trip soon becomes marred when buried secrets start coming out, and things start getting gory, with a local airboat captain and his two daughters also involved in the carnage. You can see the ZELLWOOD trailer below the pics, and view the movie’s official website here and Facebook page here.


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  • “HARBOR MOON” (Graphic Novel Review)

    Originally posted on 2010-09-19 15:13:08 by Clay McLeod Chapman

    Three guesses what Arcana Studios’ graphic novel HARBOR MOON is about:

    Nope—it’s not night fishing.

    Nope—it’s not waterfront romancing.

    Give you a hint: The next town over is named Vampire Village. Pod People Parish is on the neighboring side.

    We’re in werewolf territory here, people—which isn’t so much a spoiler as it is a tongue-in-cheek wink at the reader. At least, one hopes so. For a colony of lycanthropes attempting to live a peaceful life under mankind’s radar, naming their town after the catalyst for their own kind’s transformation seems a bit, well, on the snout. Castle Rock must have already been taken. Gentle ribbing aside, though, HARBOR MOON (written by Ryan Colucci and Dikran Ornekian) heralds a new crop of indie-comics craftsmen who deserve the plaudits likely heading their way.

    Timothy Vance has recently returned from a third tour-of-duty tête-à-tête with the Taliban, coming home a war hero after preternaturally rescuing his platoon from a surprise ambush. “I just heard ‘em coming,” he says, which should clue the reader into the possibility that there may be something a wee bit abnormal about Vance’s abilities. Not that he knows it yet. A phone call from a long-forgotten father lures Vance all the way out to Harbor Moon, Maine, a mysterious locale that probably doesn’t pop up on too many tourist pamphlets. The welcoming committee tends not to be so warm with its salutations, receiving Vance with fisticuffs. And claws. Turns out the residents of Harbor Moon have a secret they don’t mind sharing with unwelcome guests once the moon is full.

    Inking with a murkiness reminiscent of Dave McKean’s graphic novel game-changer ARKHAM ASYLUM: A SERIOUS HOUSE ON SERIOUS EARTH, artist Pawel Sambor (with Nikodem Cabala receiving a supporting artist credit) has dragged his panels deep into the shadows, letting the darkness do most of his dirty work. There’s a fun interplay between what’s actually on the page and what the reader’s imagination projects upon them, filling in those unfathomably black panels with rendings of flesh as townsfolk transform into werewolves.

    Not that it works all the time. Particular panels lose their perspective, occasionally stranding the reader’s eye inside those same shadows. In addition, several characters tend to possess the same lantern-jawed features, making it difficult to tell one major player from the next. But when the claws finally come out and the flesh gets shredded, a beacon of bleeding light mercifully pours forth from this book. Colors take on a palpable presence here, and the pages glisten with viscera, pulpy enough to drench every panel. Blood splatters with such vivid intensity, one might feel the impulse to take a tissue and sop up the excess dribble. You’ll need a mop to flip the page.

    Fans of Steve Niles and Ben Templesmith’s 30 DAYS OF NIGHT, take note: HARBOR MOON shares an aesthetic kinship with its comic cousins in Barrow, Alaska. These graphic novels possess such a similar gloom-hued visual sensibility, one can easily imagine a comic-book mashup of the two. That was the fantasy that slipped through this reviewer’s brain while flipping through HARBOR MOON, at least. Reading them back to back makes for a rather satisfying pairing. Think of them together as a TWILIGHT SAGA for gorehounds.

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  • “DRIVER FOR THE DEAD” #1 (Comic Review)

    Originally posted on 2010-09-19 14:56:42 by Michael Koopmans

    If you judge this book by its cover, DRIVER FOR THE DEAD #1, published by Radical Comics, seems like just another surfer on the neverending wave of zombie titles. But those nasty flesh-munchers are just a fraction of the ghouls, ghosts, gremlins, creatures, incantations and crones on display in this balls-to-the-wall action/horror effort.

    The book opens in Louisiana, where we’re introduced to Moses Freeman, a calm and collected elderly gentleman (bearing a suspiciously spot-on resemblance to Morgan Freeman) who we quickly learn is a voodoo priest, about to perform a very complex exorcism on a young boy. Freeman doesn’t survive the ordeal, which provides a segue to the introduction of our hero, Alabaster Graves, a professional hearse driver who specializes in delivering both the dead and the undead to their final resting place via his souped-up hearse, lovingly named “Black Betty.” Graves’ latest job is to deliver Freeman’s corpse to the family crypt; however, the carcass isn’t his only passenger. Chosen for this assignment because numerous creatures of the night are determined to possess the magical remains, Graves must also deal with Freeman’s great-granddaughter, Marissa, who insists on accompanying her relative during his final journey. The most vicious of the monstrosities pursuing his cargo is Fallow, a creature with the ability to absorb another’s supernatural powers.

    This book’s formula is not unlike that of your typical action film: numerous over-the-top, highly energized setpieces with short, plot-progressing dialogue scenes sprinkled throughout. After I did some minor research, I discovered this series’ writer, John Heffernan, was the original writer behind SNAKES ON A PLANE. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that the potential for this comic to become a Hollywood blockbuster script had been in the back of Heffernan’s mind since day one. All the elements are here: the troubled hero, a girl who wants nothing to do with him at first but begins to change her mind as the plot unfolds, a super-bad-ass vehicle and, to top it off, a nice little role for Academy Award winner Freeman! But the breath of fresh air that lifts this one above uninspired mass-market fare is its hardcore horror aspects.

    Argentinean illustrator Leonardo Manco is no stranger to the world of fright comics; there are echoes here of his previous work on HELLSTORM, WEREWOLF BY NIGHT and HELLBLAZER (particularly the latter, as the main character reminds a bit too much of John Constantine). However, his creature-and-carnage pencils don’t leave much to be desired for fear fans: Corroded zombies, stylish vampires, a very Lovecraftian snake creature and a biker gang of demons are complemented by decapitations, impalements, plucked-out eyeballs, and one damn impressive melting face. What else could you ask for? I’m not a huge fan of painted comics, which are becoming more and more popular these days, but this one wasn’t as distracting as usual. Kinsun Loh and Jerry Choo’s colors aren’t any better or worse than others’, so it must be the fast-paced action and dripping horrors that render the images easier on the eyes. It would still be interesting, though, to see how this one would have come off if colored in a more traditional manner.

    If you’re looking for a fun ride, look no further. DRIVER FOR THE DEAD #1 literally puts the pedal to the metal, plows through anyone (or anything) in its way and never looks back. It’s nothing you’re going to remember a few years from now, but it sure is entertaining as hell while it lasts. This is the first of three issues, but at 45 pages, it almost feels like you’re getting two, which explains the hefty $4.99 cover price.

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  • “PIG HUNT”: Travis Aaron Wade’s Boar War

    Originally posted on 2010-09-17 21:41:35 by Max Weinstein and Nick Masercola

    To describe the hunt for a vicious 3,000-pound boar as a hallucinatory exploration of man’s primal nature sounds like a bit more than a stretch, if not insanely ambitious. But director Jim Isaac’s PIG HUNT flaunts an array of twists and turns, resulting in a wildly surreal horror/actioner that delivers exactly that.

    To its benefit, PIG HUNT’s subtext isn’t too preachy—there’s just as much sex, drugs and nasty, violent encounters with both people and pig as there are allusions to the post-9/11 Afghanistan/Iraq invasion and, as one character says, “the depravities of war.” PIG HUNT is now available as part of the eight-film FANGORIA FrightFest, joining DARK HOUSE, ROAD KILL, THE HAUNTING, FRAGILE, HUNGER, THE TOMB and GRIMM LOVE and available exclusively through Blockbuster stores and Blockbuster By Mail, as well as digitally via Blockbuster on Demand.

    PIG HUNT’s ex-military hero, John Hickman, is appropriately played in the film by ex-Marine-turned-thespian Travis Aaron Wade. Exploring those horror/real-world reflections, Fango spoke to Wade about this first leading role, enduring the intensive shoot and the film’s rocky distribution path.

    Following a recommendation from friend and PIG HUNT cinematographer Adam Kane (who previously directed him in the short film THE FIX) to FX-artist-turned-filmmaker Isaac (see interview here), Wade accepted the role instantly after another actor bowed out just before lensing. “THE FIX has been the core of my success thus far,” Wade says. “I can only imagine how tough that decision was, the trust that went into believing I could jump in and play PIG HUNT’s very physical leading role with two days of preparation. When I got the call, I was parked underneath a billboard for HEROES, specifically the episode Adam directed. If that’s not a ‘God-wink,’ I’m not sure what is.”

    Wade’s previous acting assignments included a stint in Steven Spielberg’s WAR OF THE WORLDS, an experience he refers to as both “a dream come to life” and the fulfillment of an unexpected full-circle journey that began when his mother, pregnant with Wade, went into labor while watching JAWS in 1975. Isaac’s offer came along not long after Wade lost out on a key role in the war drama JARHEAD. “When PIG HUNT entered my life, it was a difficult time,” Wade reveals. “To have JARHEAD fall through at the last minute was crushing. I was very close to that story. When PIG HUNT arrived, it picked me up and gave me the fire I had lost. And it was Jim Isaac—the man created Gizmo from GREMLINS! I couldn’t wait to see what he had planned for a 3,000-pound boar!”

    The trying challenge of leading his supporting band in pursuit of PIG HUNT’s swinish adversary was one Wade was eager to meet. “I was the lead in what had become a $6-million film,” he notes. “I was well aware of the responsibilities a lead actor carries; I learned that watching Tom Cruise on WAR OF THE WORLDS. Set the tone, keep it positive and professional at all times, keep the drama and BS for your trailer. We became a very close family on location. There’s so much pressure and excitement, it’s like a drug.”

    Wade also gives affectionate props to PIG HUNT’s dynamic, established crew. “We had [costumer] Aggie Rodgers [of EMPIRE STRIKES BACK] and [production designer] Geoffrey Kirkland [from CHILDREN OF MEN], and our 2nd unit team had worked on the BOURNE films. We had three Oscar-winning crewmembers on our little film. Having the wardrobe designer who outfitted Han Solo putting the same clothes on your back? Kinda makes ya feel like a movie star, regardless of the size of the film.”

    The animalistic qualities Wade brings to Hickman amidst PIG HUNT’s Nor-Cal bayou locales cut through the film’s gritty, grimy exposition, but this raw physicality didn’t come without being fueled by a few real-life scares. “Many scenes were difficult to shoot, for several reasons,” he says. “The sequences in the big wallow—we filmed there for about a week and it was nothing but mud; technically, it was a nightmare. For me, it was a period where I thought I was going to break down. My fiancée and her best friend were living at our home while I was away, and there was a break-in. I got a phone call from the FBI—yes, the FBI—and the man who had broken in was a known serial killer/rapist.”

    As if that didn’t stand as a horror film on its own, Wade adds, “Our friend had left the bathroom window open while she was taking a shower. The man snuck in the window and assaulted her while she was about to go to sleep. We’re very lucky she was able to defend herself; she kicked him where it counted and knocked the knife out of his hand, and he ran out and escaped. During production, I understood that I couldn’t go back home, but it really messed with my head. I couldn’t focus in those scenes for a few days. I was troubled, to say the least.”

    True frights behind him, Wade fell back on his time spent in the military for support and trudged on, summoning an air of frantic energy he regards as both exhaustive and humbling. “After shooting PIG HUNT, all I can say is there should be a category for ‘Best Actor/Actress in an Action Film,’ ” he says. “I have so much respect for guys like Bruce Willis, Harrison Ford, Sylvester Stallone, to be able to look out of breath but not breathe too heavy, to be terrified but stay cool. There’s no way to teach it.”

    Wade extends this praise to his own PIG HUNT leading lady. “Tina Huang is one hell of an action star,” he says. “She truly impressed me on set with her ability to hang with the boys.” From a tested weapons expert, this comes as high praise.

    Having come through its tough production, PIG HUNT—completed in 2008—hit a wall in its fledgling efforts at distribution. “It was heartbreaking,” Wade says. “We had such a tremendous response from the people who had seen this film. Everywhere we premiered it, from Montreal [at Fantasia] to [the Fango-sponsored LA premiere at] the Egyptian Theater, audiences have been ecstatic. Everyone in this film earned their role and believed in what we were doing. It’s something that should be played out to audiences on the big screen and seen throughout the world. I still believe that 10, 15 years ago, it would have. [When we signed on,] nothing was offered or negotiated because of money or ego. It was beautiful, the making of a film for the true passion of filmmaking.”

    With PIG HUNT currently burning up the DVD rental charts, Wade looks toward endeavors both on and off the screen. Now teaching in Vietnam, the actor is eager to engage in such work, which keeps him grounded in between film projects. “It’s such a blessing being able to break away from Hollywood,” Wade says. “I’m not sure who learns more—they or I.”

    Wade has also begun the final shooting phase of the upcoming WRECKAGE, alongside recent BREAKING BAD Emmy winner Aaron Paul and writer David Frigerio. Add to that his promise of an invention “in the candle world that will reshape the entire industry and save lives,” through his company Sin Cera, plus a T-shirt line for the Arm the Animals organization, and it’s apparent this actor’s versatility allows him to burn his own proverbial candle at both ends. “I play a pig hunter in PIG HUNT, but I haven’t picked up a weapon since ’98, when I got out of the Marines,” he reveals. “I’m a huge animal lover.”

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  • “GOAL OF THE DEAD” and more coming from France

    Originally posted on 2010-09-19 14:36:04 by

    Yep, you read that right: GOAL OF THE DEAD, and yes, it’s a zombie soccer flick. It’s one of a number of French genre films coming our way in the wake of INSIDE, FRONTIER(S), MARTYRS and others.

    Variety reports that GOAL is being developed by the Capture the Flag company, which was also behind the undead actioner LA HORDE (pictured, and now available via video-on-demand from IFC Films). Scripted by Nicolas Peufaillit, it’s set in a small town where a major French soccer team is playing a match when an undead plague starts striking the residents. It’s being played as horror/comedy, natch, and will be a two-part feature with a $4.4-million budget.

    Capture the Flag’s second produced film, Olivier Abbou’s TERRITORIES, is an English-language French-Canadian co-production with a political edge, set in a prison camp in a Paris suburb where the American guards torture the inmates. Roc LaFortune, Sean Devine, Nicole Leroux, Cristina Rosato, Michael Mando, Alex Weiner and THE STEPFATHER’s Stephen Shellen star. The outfit is also gearing up to make THE SNAKE WITH A THOUSAND CUTS, from MALEFIQUE and HYBRID director Eric Valette and based on a novel by rising French author DOA.

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