Having worked in all areas of filmmaking—from acting to production design on up— Tammi Sutton’s been called the busiest woman in B horror. Now, she’s further making a name for herself as a writer and director with well received festival film, ISLE OF DOGS. FANGORIA spoke with Sutton to see what advice this renowned female horror filmmaker could give to hopefuls everywhere.Read more »
Fearful Features,Movies/TV,News Fangoria Staff
Fearful Features,Movies/TV,News Samuel Zimmerman
Fully believing much of the Academy Awards serves as a posturing, self-congratulatory experience—as well as a ridiculous one, as this enlightening interview with an anonymous voter serves to highlight the fickle, ridiculous justifications for his choices—I also believe, and understand, there is an overt difference between a true snub and what I’d just really like to be awarded. This year, far under the categories most spend their time debating is a truly disappointing case of hard, marvelous work being overlooked.Read more »
Fearful Features,Movies/TV,News Abbie Bernstein
Actor Robert Knepper has a long résumé; though he may be best-remembered from TV’s PRISON BREAK, he has also done solid work in horror, science fiction and fantasy. However, Knepper has never had a gig like the new series CULT before. Then again, few if any other actors have, either.
Fearful Features,Movies/TV,News,Savini and Me Michael Aloisi
For a long time, there have been rumors floating around that Tom Savini is an a**hole. When I was first in talks with Tom to do a book, I’d mention that more than a few times I had heard fans say things like, “I heard he is a jerk,” or “I was told he is an a**hole.” “I don’t want to meet him, he’s a d*ck.” The funny thing is, pretty much all the people who said such things had never met him. It was all what they “heard” from other fans or read on boards. The rumor was rampant. I hadn’t talked to him much at this point, but from all of our communication, he seemed completely nice and civil. Then again, I was “working” with him; maybe he was just being nice? If I was a fan approaching him, would things be different?Read more »
Fearful Features,Movies/TV,News Fangoria Staff
by: Kier-La Janisse on: 2013-02-16 08:03:35
In conjunction with FEARnet’s “Complete EXORCIST Marathon” this Sunday,
we had a brief chat with the iconic Linda Blair about her legacy from THE EXORCIST and
This Sunday February 17th, FEARnet celebrates 40 years of THE EXORCIST with an all-day “Complete EXORCIST Marathon” starting at 2pm ET, from William Friedkin’s Oscar-winning film (which also garnered its young star an Oscar nomination) straight through to Renny Harlin’s 2004 EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING, at the same time honouring Linda Blair’s colorful acting career and her humanitarian efforts through the Linda Blair World Heart Foundation.
But while her head-spinning breakout film remains her most revered role, it’s not just THE EXORCIST that has made Linda Blair an icon. We watched her grow up onscreen, and for those of us who grew up with her, she proved a remarkably powerful role model. Her heartbreaking turn in Donald Wrye’s 1974 TV movie BORN INNOCENT offered up one of the first realistic glimpses behind the walls of a youth detention centre (a role that was pivotal in determining the course of my own life as a 15 year-old in juvie) and subsequent roles as a troubled teen (SARA T. PORTRIT OF A TEENAGE ALCOHOLIC, EXORCIST II – where she spends much of the film literally wobbling over precipices) reflected the real-life chaos of a young girl dogged by the pressures of early fame. But as she got tougher, so did the roles: she led a brigade of prison maidens in a fight against institutional injustice in Paul Nicholas’ CHAINED HEAT, taught us about the pleasures of revenge through the candy-colored camp of Danny Steinmann’s SAVAGE STREETS, and even followed that up with a methodological play-by-play in the instructional film HOW TO GET REVENGE – a wink to the glut of 1980s self-improvement videos. She’s had songs written about her by the likes of Redd Kross (“Linda Blair” from the album named after her film BORN INNOCENT) and Alice Donut (“Green Pea Soup”), and remains one of the most beloved genre actresses of all time.
In conjunction with FEARnet’s EXORCIST MARATHON (full schedule below), we had a brief chat with Blair about her legacy from THE EXORCIST and beyond.
FANGORIA: In THE EXORCIST you have a lot of cultural anxieties literally written on your body. Did you find that your character as a vessel for demonic activity made you by extension subject to disturbing projections by those who saw the film? I understand that viewers upset by the film’s religious hypotheses saw you as somehow personally responsible.
LINDA BLAIR: I think the best way to say it is that I was a working child actress, acting in commercials and modelling and I was approaching maybe 12 years old and I wanted to follow my dream, which was to become a veterinarian. So I was going to quit the so-called “acting” when the novel The Exorcist, which William Peter Blatty wrote, broke all records and upseated the world in such a way, like “What do you mean demonic possession? What do you mean the Catholic Church has kept this under a blanket, and in a closet?” And he knew what he was doing, he was uprooting some information that people were not talking about. I was not raised Catholic, Kier-La, I was raised protestant, so we didn’t talk about any of these things. We were raised to be good to others, give your time in your community, and treat others as you wish to be treated – that’s how I was raised. So when we started THE EXORCIST, we didn’t even talk about it. They were probably so happy that I wasn’t Catholic and didn’t ask all these questions! So it was strictly a character that was created through special effects, through makeup, through the structure of the screenplay, and the lighting, cinematography and of course all the acting with such amazing actors, Max von Sydow, Ellen Burstyn, Jason Miller. But there were people when the film came out that, you know, they’re emotionally delicate anyway, and they may have got into a lot of the press and therefore had a hard time distinguishing between what was true, what was sensation, what was the PR machine. But it’s a theological thriller, it’s meant to make you think, and it’s meant to take you on a journey, but as far as anything else, those thoughts might be better addressed by a psychiatrist.
FANG: Then when EXORCIST II came out, it was not as well received as the original but there is a lot of interesting stuff going on in that film – all the different schools of thought – Christianity, African mysticism, ESP studies, neurology, psychology – that coalesce and work together to address Regan’s issues. Not to mention the great art direction and score. What are your own thoughts on EXORCIST II in retrospect?
BLAIR: Well when Warner Brothers wanted to make a part two, they certainly had approached us on several occasions, and we said, no, no, no, no. But one day they said, please will you just read the script? So we did. And it was brilliant. It just isn’t the script they shot. So John Boorman came in off an Academy Award win with DELIVERANCE, and Louise Fletcher for CUCKOO’S NEST, obviously the late, great Richard Burton, who – for me, it was like, you know I grew up on BECKET and ANNE OF THE THOUSAND DAYS, which was one of my favorite films as a child, CLEOPATRA…Anyway, we all joined forces for the film, but we had no creative control. And it changed several times, so the first screenplay that we all approved became unrecognizable. There are many who think that the film is still extraordinary in a different way, and the audience has the right to take from any film what they do and don’t like, and make their own [minds up]. These are all theological thrillers meant to make you think about good and evil, and religion, as you said, you have the neurological and the African religions, you have all these different factors, and I think that’s what Boorman was trying to go for. And it got a bit too… maybe a few too many ingredients. But a lot of people really like it.
FANG: I just think it’s interesting that it’s like the fact that people were upset by the use of Catholicism in THE EXORCIST is almost addressed by EXORCIST II. In that it’s not targeting one religion but diversifies its stance…
BLAIR: Absolutely, and Bill Blatty, who studied to be a Jesuit priest, felt he wanted to tell this story but he also wanted to make one of the scariest films of all time, because his agents told him that he couldn’t write it. And he was like, “oh, I’ll show you.” So he had a mission, and it just happened that his mission really overrode anything anybody could ever have thought to conceive. And you know, it was his destiny to write this film, and to have people still talking about it years later. Again, I was not raised Catholic so I don’t have all the veils and trappings of guilt. Guilt should come from whether you are conducting yourself in the best possible way in society. You know, did I give a hundred percent in that job and what I’m doing, or am I just relying on others to try to pay the bills and do things and be lazy? You should have guilt from that, not from…they just try, in my opinion, to keep people within the church and to not go outside to find their spiritual awakening.
FANG: Well I was raised Catholic, and even though I’m not Catholic now, the guilt is ingrained.
BLAIR: I know it is. I do. I know it is. Anything that happened to us as a child – that’s why when you start to look at child psychology and how people act out as adults, it’s all from your childhood.
FANG: Speaking of which, right after EXORCIST you did BORN INNOCENT, which is one of my favourite films of all time…
BLAIR: Actually I’ll step in, I actually did AIRPORT ‘75 before that. And thank you for that – BORN INNOCENT was an equally difficult job, and more from an actor’s point of view, I had to really find myself in television, there was no such thing as TV movies, it was one of the first of its kind, and it was a challenge. The screenplay was amazing and the project certainly caused a lot of disturbance in America [ed note: a controversial shower-rape scene was trimmed from all prints after the initial broadcast fueled complaints], and it’s one years later that I am so proud of, because it really helped change a lot of lives.
FANG: With both THE EXORCIST and BORN INNOCENT, they both have these very troubling, grueling scenes involving sexual violence. What kind of preparation did you get for these scenes, at that age, psychologically?
BLAIR: Well in THE EXORCIST, nothing. It was all just all just mechanics, so we never, ever discussed it. It wasn’t until many years later that I personally was like, “Oh my god!” No, no, no, I had no idea. And Friedkin will tell you a different story, of course, and I always say “Now, Billy, I was 13 years old, let’s go back 40-some years, kids don’t know that stuff.” He smiles and says, “Oh, but it’s more entertaining my way.” What-ever. And with BORN INNOCENT, that was just plain really hard to do. It was hard. Didn’t like that. But, you know, I hoped it would make a difference, and it did. It really drove people to change their course in life.
FANG: This is kind of a long-winded question, but your early career trajectory is really interesting in terms of its transformative qualities – from THE EXORCIST to SAVAGE STREETS, the roles you chose are almost like a character arc in itself. Taken cumulatively, they reflected the transformation of a woman from a victim of violence – and even sexual violence in THE EXORCIST and BORN INNOCENT, through traumatic dissociation in SARA T., PORTRAIT OF A TEENAGE ALCOHOLIC, and then you have readjustment and repression in EXORCIST II, becoming an aware Final Girl in HELL NIGHT and then emerging as an avenger and a protector of women in SAVAGE STREETS…
BLAIR: Wow! I never saw it like that. Truly I can tell you it was the state of what was being written and the projects that were [coming to me]. There wasn’t a lot for young people, so I was presented with groundbreaking material that had never been done. And they probably would not have even allowed it five years prior. And then as women became victors – because one must remember, up until the 50s, 60s, 70s, women were oppressed – so with these roles, they were trying to follow suit from some of the big films with Stallone and all of them, and we were making it a female heroine. And you know, it was just terribly fun to play. And then we went back with REPOSSESSED with Leslie Nielsen so people could remember that we are entertainers, and chill out. Because sometimes people get so heavy into things.
And there’s wonderful films of all genres and it’s also a matter of if you’re in the right place at the right time. Right now as you know, my foundation and charity all stems from my childhood of wanting to save animals and be a veterinarian. So the Linda Blair World Heart Foundation is founded out of my feelings that we are not getting enough done in our communities to stop the shelters from having to euthanize, from people losing their homes and their pets. I feel that by putting my voice, my money, my charity, and giving people guidance as to how they can make a difference, to rescue, adopt, to foster, to volunteer, to keep our food banks plenished so that they don’t have to give up their animal because they don’t have anything to eat, you know? All the info is at the website www.lindablairworldheart.org – and through Linda Blair World Foundation on Facebook.
FANG: Okay I have one last question – I wondered if you could tell me the story behind the instructional video HOW TO GET REVENGE!
BLAIR: Oh yeah, that was a friend of mine, Bob Logan. And it’s all stupid humor that came out of LAUGH-IN and that whole era of vaudevillian-type comics, and it’s really pretty silly.
FANG: It’s a crazy piece of cultural ephemera.
BLAIR: It’s a bunch of stupidity is what it is.
“The Complete Exorcist” Marathon starts Sunday on FEARnet at 2 p.m. ET. FEARnet will air a special introduction made exclusively for the marathon by Friedkin, and fans can interact through a poll on their site to vote for their favorite prequel to the film: “Exorcist: The Beginning” or “Dominion: Prequel to the Exorcist.” The channel will also air an exclusive interview with “Exorcist: The Beginning” director Renny Harlin. The full lineup in ET time zone:
• “THE EXORCIST” – 2 p.m.
• “EXORCIST II: THE HERETIC” – 4:30 p.m.
• “EXORCIST III” – 7 p.m.
• ‘DOMINION: PREQUEL TO THE EXORCIST’ (Network Premiere) – 9:30 p.m.
• ‘EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING’ (Network Premiere) – midnight
FEARnet is also organizing a Twitter sweepstakes in conjunction with the EXORCIST Marathon – for rules and information on prizing, visit fearnet.com/ExorcistSweepsRules.
—————-Read more »
Fearful Features,Movies/TV,News Dave Pace
by: Dave Pace on: 2013-02-15 20:34:47
FATHER’S DAY was a breakout indie hit ofRead more »
2012 and finally put the Winnipeg filmmaking collective Astron-6 on the map
after a long time in the trenches of YouTube shorts and experiments in self-released
DVDs. A gruesome grindhouse chronicle of a maniac cannibal rapist who only
targets fathers, and the ragtag bunch on a mission to end his grim legacy, the
film manages to not just entertain but also drive a message about the politics
of the rape-revenge genre.
Fearful Features,Movies/TV,News Fangoria Staff
by: Samuel Zimmerman on: 2013-02-15 15:50:16
What effect does every nasty thing you post, paste, type, share or even think online actually have? The mass of negative energy that surrounds daily life on the internet can be overwhelming and without a clear portrait of consequence, director Michael Gallagher thinks kids today aren’t learning a damn thing. SMILEY (available now on DVD and digital download), using the tried and true slasher for an era steeped in tech, imagines a new kind of urban legend, one which summons the eponymous murderer to do your impulsive bidding. Fango spoke with Gallagher about underslashing, oversharing and what exactly is wrong here.
FANGORIA: Why make a slasher? Having gone ahead and tried to
craft a contemporary one, rooted in tech, do you find the genre still relevant?
MICHAEL GALLAGHER: I would go so far
as to say the slashing elements in SMILEY are of the “diet” variety. There’s some
real intense slashers that can be made. This was from the concept of
doing something of the internet age, kind of a cautionary tale about sharing
online and what kind of business they’re getting connected with on stream and
chat sites and all that. So, it was something we wanted to use the slasher
framework for and really discuss the implications of that and some of the theories
that go along with internet culture. As far as the slasher genre goes, I think
it’s the idea of someone who’s pissed, who wants to have vengeance, revenge, or
just wants to have fun, and is going around picking people out by hand. I
think, personally, it’s much scarier than the idea that there’s ghosts in the
house. That’s sort of a trend right now, either someone’s possessed or there’s
a ghost in the house. I’d like to see more of a man with a vendetta.
FANG: Everyone can a be bit cynical about the way technology
infects our lives, but when did you feel so impacted as to make a film out of
GALLAGHER: I think, in my own life, for a long time I was
really opposed to getting a smart phone. I eventually caved and got one and
just the way I became attached to it made me really uncomfortable. And the way
I see people engage with their technology makes me very uncomfortable. A lot of
the youth, or teens, they just overshare. We’re going to have politicians in
the future, and we’re going to be able
to look at their search history and see
what they’ve been up to. I don’t know if we’ll be able to elect anyone
[laughs], because I feel like we’ve all wanted to see either “2 Girls 1 Cup” or
some horrible effed up thing that’s out there. We’ve all been curious. This is
putting it in a genre setting and saying what if you did that and could
actually summon someone to murder. What would that be like? Personally, I feel
like it’s more of a problem with the generation that’s grown up strictly with
the internet and doesn’t understand the consequences of that. So, this film is
really for them. It’s a cautionary tale to them, because most people who lived
in the pre-internet , pre-streaming video era, they don’t take it as seriously
as these kids. They understand the consequences more than the children do.
FANG: What’s interesting about SMILEY is that in a lot of
slashers, the typical grating characters are jocks, but SMILEY is rooted in a
new age where people who would be
perceived as nerds—coding, hacking, staying online—they’re the ones that are
GALLAGHER: I’m always surprised when people who are tech
savvy in a movie are sort of awkward or shy. Sure, there’s that, but everyone I
know who really knows their shit with technology is much more like the Jimmy
Fallon character from SNL. Most people I know who know the internet have a
pretty good sense of humor, and they don’t really have time for people who don’t
understand it. THE SOCIAL NETWORK was one of the first times I’ve really seen a
great character in Mark Zuckerberg. It was someone who knew his shit and didn’t
have any patience for people who didn’t understand. In this movie, it was the idea
of having characters that knew their shit and are using that power to maybe
kind of fuck with someone who’s not up to speed.
FANG: Your killer, Smiley, essentially has an emoticon
carved into his face. What’s the line between that being effective and
GALLAGHER: I have made a horror movie where the bad guy has
an emoticon on his face. I think that’s a slight accomplishment in itself
[laughs]. I think audience will interpret or take away different things. I
think the older audience, I think the people who are much more ingrained in the
genre will maybe not see SMILEY in the same way that a fourteen or fifteen
year-old that’s grown up on the internet and nothing else. I made this film for
the teen audience, for people who watch the stuff I make online. Having them at
screenings, and seeing them react to it—they really respond to it in a much
different way than grown-ups respond to the film. It’s one of those things
where you talk about so many things that are inside baseball on the internet
and referencing so many different things, the movie’s really for that audience.
The people that don’t like it, they’re usually a little older and they’ve seen
everything you can see in the genre. This is sort of, I would say, this is
really for the people who getting interested in horror.
FANG: Are you seeing the film reach that audience? It’s
interesting seeing an indie, or limited release film or something like
DETENTION that’s geared, or will speak to a certain age set. Are they finding
it on VOD?
GALLAGHER: I think that’s what we’ll start seeing more of.
We have these great channels and portals to get content out now directly to
audiences at home. On SMILEY, we were fortunate enough to have a theatrical
release and to come out and have people from all over to be able to see it. Now
that the film is coming out on DVD and on iTunes, the real audience it’s
intended for can see it. I think we were able to, on a microbudget, do the most
that we could. It’s hard to get a movie out without a huge budget, but we’ve
been extremely fortunate to have a huge response on our trailer and being able
to talk about the film in so many outlets. I feel like, for the most part, our
audience has been able to see it or is now able to see it. The response I’ve
been getting is incredible. It’s just one of the challenges of the time and the
changing landscape of distribution.
FANG: How nihilistic are you yourself about of all this
versus the film?
GALLAGHER: I thinkRead more »
the film is very nihilistic; almost too nihilistic in a couple of cuts that we
did. So, I don’t know if that just comes from my own taste, or what. I just
think that people, we’re in a weird time where you have something like
Anonymous where they go out and they do things for, more or less, social
justice or things that they see are not done properly in the world. They’re
going to go and take that power away from those that have it and show that the
people can do something and they can do it online. They can hack and create
their own outcome. There are other people that do things that aren’t for the
greater good, that are doing things that if most people heard stories of what a
group of kids online are doing, it would shock them. There’s also things that
they post and do, that are just like, “why?” The only reason is, is that it’s
for fun. I think that trend is growing and the idea that we’re all kind of
interconnected, we’re so desensitized by horrible images and oversharing and
access to content we’ve never seen before. I think the kids are almost like
blank slates that to feel something, they have to fuck with people. That’s
something I wanted to explore in the film. To me, that’s scarier than any
creature coming at you, or any paranormal concept; the idea that humans really
just want to watch everyone die for fun, that’s horrifying to me.
Fearful Features,Movies/TV,News Michael Gingold
With the second movie centered on VHS headed for theaters, a challenger has emerged in the form of HI-8, an omnibus fright flick with a number of shot-on-video veterans involved. Read on for their exclusive words.Read more »
Fearful Features,Movies/TV,News Michael Gingold
With a title like that, you know you’re in for a bit of no-holds-barred horror, and we’ve got the goods on a creepy short that’s headed for the South by Southwest Film Festival, with a couple of exclusive stills and an eye-popping behind-the-scenes shot.Read more »
Fearful Features,Movies/TV,News Fangoria Staff
by: Chris Haberman on: 2013-02-14 15:36:16
Standing among long-forgotten brick kilns once used to
actually bake bricks in rural God’s country, on a cold, damp, schizophrenically
overcast and sunny day, is probably the best way to see the vision walking
confidently toward me. It doesn’t seem at first like Christina Lindberg, or her
character Candy in Todd Fischer’s new film CRY FOR REVENGE. It is Frigga,
a.k.a. Madeleine, the young woman we once ached for and so desperately wanted
to rescue…at least during the majority of 1972’s THEY CALL HER ONE EYE.
From this distance, I can’t see the details of her face—no
laugh lines, or any indication that this grindhouse icon has aged 40 years
since THEY CALL HER ONE EYE (a.k.a. THRILLER: A CRUEL PICTURE). The trenchcoat,
the bell-bottoms, the shotgun and the swagger are all there, which would be
enough to send the mildest of cult film fans reeling. But it’s the eyepatch
that breaks me out in goosebumps. Speaking of which, what led writer/director
Fischer to direct such a scene?
“I was going through a divorce at the time, and a revenge
movie seemed like a good idea,” Fischer explains. “Instead of sitting around
depressed over the lengthy divorce process, I sunk myself into drive-in cinema
and grindhouse movies, and found the inspiration to write [CRY FOR REVENGE]. I
wanted to not just make a revenge movie, but a Christina Lindberg revenge
movie. I ended up finding a young actress who looks incredibly like young Christina,
and we were in business.”
That “young Christina” lookalike in CRY FOR REVENGE is
Stefanie Vuleta, who plays a younger version of Candy. Though he doesn’t reveal
the plot details of just how Candy comes to be as vicious as she eventually is,
Fischer is happy to discuss what it’s been like working with the legendary
Lindberg. “Well, my favorite story is when she accepted the part,” he says.
“There were two roles offered to her; one was a character who trains Candy to
become the vigilante. I thought that was a fitting ‘passing of the torch’ for
her. The other part was basically an older version of Candy. When she accepted
the latter role, it took several minutes for it to sink in that it meant she
would return to the eyepatch one more time.
“On set, she’s been more critical of herself than I am of
her,” he continues. “She is a perfectionist. I had to keep reminding her that
we were making a grindhouse [movie]; we didn’t have to be perfect. One thing
that most people will never know because of the content of her old movies is
that she is actually an incredible actress. I was literally floored by the
emotional intensity she can bring.”
details are coming soon here and in FANGORIA magazine about CRY—which features
a fight, as seen below, between Candy and over 30 luchadors (!)—and
Lindberg’s return to acting. Stay tuned! You can check out photographer Laura
Skinner’s website here.
Read more »
Fearful Features,Movies/TV,News Fangoria Staff
by: Vivienne Vaughn on: 2013-02-13 23:42:52
Horror film enthusiast and indie filmmaker Lindsay Denniberg
kicked off her feature career with the surreal, dreamlike VIDEO DIARY OF A LOST
GIRL (see our review).
The film centers on Louise (Priscilla McEver), a succubus named after the
eponymous silver screen legend Louise Brooks, and details the hardships that
come with being a descendant of the demonic Lilith herself. Fango chatted with
Denniberg about what occurred behind-the-scenes of the film to create the
on-screen visual madness.
FANGORIA: How was the experience of shooting your first
LINDSAY DENNIBERG: It was probably the most fun I’ve ever
had. Exhausting and overwhelming, but also the greatest opportunity to be
creative with friends; a lot of fun, but also totally scary. I’ve done so many
shorts with people I love, but working on something this big over such a long
period of time is a very different experience. You get closer with the people
you work with but it also tests your relationships. Luckily, we all survived
and had fun, watched a lot of horror movies and ate a lot of hummus. At the
best moments it was like one really long, weird, creatively satisfying
sleepover, or summer camp.
Sometimes it’s hard to keep the big picture in mind, you’re
putting a lot of little pieces together (like Frankenstein’s monster), and with
this project, there were so many layers, formats, materials, tenses – it wasn’t
easy. I think we just kept fun, honesty, spontaneity and a real love for what
we were working on in mind. The film holds together because we kept those ideas
in mind more than anything. Also, working on something so fragmented, in a
formal sense, makes it a little easier; you have more liberties when it comes
to variation from scene to scene. But ideals seemed to help unify it all with a
healthy dose of and goofing off and nudity.
FANG: How did you conceive the idea for VIDEO DIARY?
DENNIBERG: The film is very autobiographical. Granted, my
vagina unfortunately doesn’t suck the souls out of rapists or ooze bloody TV
static by the gallon every month, but the whole “I love you, but I’m afraid to
touch you” theme is definitely all me. I’ve always had a bunch of intimacy and
body issues, so I’ve learned to deal with that crap over the years by creating
personal films about body horror (David Cronenberg is more of a self-help guru
than a filmmaker for me). I originally got the idea of a girl needing to have
sex to live when I was a lonely, horny teenager, watching EDWARD SCISSORHANDS
over and over alone in my dark room (while eating a lot of pizza and Doritos).
EDWARD SCISSORHANDS has always been my favorite film and the one that inspired
me to become a filmmaker in the first place. Because of that, I promised myself
I would someday make a film as personal for me as that film was for Tim
Later on, I learned about Lilith (the Mother of all demons)
and started daydreaming about my own mythology that I could create as an origin
tale for this “girl” who needed sex to live. This girl was always me, and my
obsession for Louise Brooks in G.W. Pabst’s DIARY OF A LOST GIRL naturally drove
home the need to name my main character after her. This idea was many years in
the making, so as I grew up and changed, so did Louise’s story. I always knew I
wanted sex and death to be two sides of the same coin for Louise, as they are
really the only two subjects I am interested in. All the characters in the film
are based off of real people (or an amalgamation of many) in my life. If I were
an immortal succubus who worked at a video store, I would be Louise.
FANG: Can you talk about your writing process for the
DENNIBERG: I first started writing the screenplay in my
undergrad feature writing class at UCF, taught by Barry Sandler (who wrote Ken
Russell’s CRIMES OF PASSION). I wasn’t expecting it to go in the direction of a
comedy, but when it was read out loud, the corny dialog that naturally comes
out of me just guided it from there. I remember very clearly the first time I
talked about the idea to my good friend Chris Shields on our porch when we were
roommates in Florida. Chris has been my main collaborator for years and I
wouldn’t be the filmmaker I am today without him. He understood the story on a
level like no one else, and contributed things to this film that are too
numerous to even list. We would talk about the screenplay a lot, but eventually
it was put on the backburner when I moved to New York to intern at Troma (where
I was later hired as Lloyd Kaufman’s assistant).
The next year I got into grad school at the School of the
Art Institute of Chicago, and decided on the plane ride there that I would make
VIDEO DIARY for my thesis film. So as soon as I landed I called Chris and we
just picked up where we left off. We collaborated by phone and Skype for the
next year, both saturating our minds with ‘80s horror movies to get in the
right mood. Chris and I are both pathetically terrible romantics, and horror
and bad romance is what really draws us together. We love horror romantic
comedies in a deep way, but we’re also experimenters and fans of the
avant-garde. I decided to combine the two because that’s usually how I operate
as an artist: Collaging and mashing together all the things I love into one pot
and not holding anything back.
So as I wrote, Chris would read and tell me his thoughts,
and things would just evolve from there. He was great at helping me reign it
all in, because I usually have way too many ideas at once and he would keep me
focused. There’s so much of us both in the script: Our taste, our humor, our
friendship, our love of monster romance, and I think that is what makes it
unique. For those who know Chris, it is obvious that Charlie (Louise’s
love interest) is based off him, so of course it made the most sense to have
him play Charlie (I mean, who wouldn’t want to put the dark love child of Adam
Sandler and Lloyd Dobler in a movie?). So much of it was also written in the
middle of the night with him on the phone as he worked at Dunkin Donuts. It’s a
very haunted script.
FANG: What was the production of your film like? Do any
moments particularly stand out as being memorable?
DENNIBERG: The intro with Lilith and Adam was shot months
before everything else, and it kind of set the aesthetic for the rest of film.
Everything with Priscilla McEver (Louise) and Chris Shields (Charlie) was shot
over the course of a month at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I
flew them in from New York, and then we had maybe a day to rehearse and hang
out, then immediately started shooting. It was a very intense schedule. We all
did so much on the film; it’s kind of a blur. We took the bus everyday to
set, worked all day on the green screen stage, goofed off, and then took the
bus home, hung out and watched some horror movies, then passed out.
After two weeks of shooting the green screen and sound stage
scenes, we filmed the rest at my apartment (where Priscilla and Chris were
staying too). I had a very small and intimate cast and crew of wonderful
friends that graciously worked for free out of the kindness of their hearts. We
were shooting pretty much 24/7 for the whole month of July, so it was hot as
hell and kind of gross with all the blood and FX stuff (very much a summer camp
The most memorable moment of the production would have to be
a prank my producer, AD and green screen cinematographer played on the rest of
us. I would often say jokingly that if anyone was uncomfortable with being
naked in front of the camera that the entire crew would just get naked too. So
when some of us got back from a smoke break, all three of them were naked
pretending to shoot a scene without us! There’s nothing more inspiring then
seeing a naked woman behind the camera or holding a boom. I would say that
moment is a perfect example of the kind of fun attitude we all brought to the
FANG: Can you talk a bit about creating the visuals of VIDEO
DIARY? How much was practical, versus done in post-production?
DENNIBERG: The film is half green screen sets and half
regular world sets. The choice to have a scene in green screen really just came
down to trying to take advantage of the fact that we had no budget. I don’t
believe in having a big budget to make a movie. I think it’s so much more
exhilarating to make something beautiful out of trash then it is to dump a
$1,000.00 on a stupid jib shot that no one cares about (let the record show
that THE PLAYER is excluded from this statement). Sorry for the money
philosophy rant, but I think budget has so much to do with the integrity of how
a film is made these days. Anyway, I created miniatures for any scene that was
green screened, which was usually constructed out of poster board, paint,
trash, broken CDs, Barbie dolls, animal print, glitter, Christmas lights, TVs
and duct tape. The sets were usually built around a TV so that whatever I put
on the screen would show through as the moon in a night backdrop, or window in
an interior. Honestly, the entire film was a big experiment because it was the
first time I ever used green screen. I did all the post-production effects
myself, and would usually spend eight hours a day editing for the next year,
just trying new things out as I went and keeping what worked. The intense color
palette was the Dario Argento and Mario Bava color scheme screaming to get out
of my brain. My cinematographer Casey Puccini (who also plays Michael, Louise’s
manager and best friend) is really great at capturing that kind of light and
mood. We talked a lot about how I wanted it to look like an ‘80s new wave giallo
on VHS. The flashback scenes in the 1920s are shot on VHS, and I wanted to go
for the look of an Elvira set, or PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE. I pretty much felt
like I was in an Ed Wood RPG the entire time.
FANG: What prompted
you to choose to go with the unique aesthetic of the film?
DENNIBERG: I wanted VIDEO DIARY to look like that horror
movie I never found (but knew existed) in the haunted video store that’s been
my life. Since I was a kid I was obsessed with going to the video store just so
I could look at the VHS covers in the horror section. I wasn’t allowed to watch
any of the “scary movies,” so ironically my fantasy of what the horror movie might look like inside the box always ended up being scarier and more surreal then
the movie itself.
The German Expressionist/’80s VHS cover aesthetic just feels
the most welcoming and instinctual to me. I also think certain media I saw as a
kid had a weird imprint on my aesthetic sensibilities, like PEE WEE’S PLAYHOUSE
and the BEETLEJUICE cartoons. My lead actress Priscilla McEver is actually one
of the biggest Pee Wee Herman and Lydia Deetz fans I’ve ever met, so her
playing Louise was just meant to be. She also was a child of late ‘80s
imprinting, and because of that our friendship and collaboration has a very
sci-fi, X FILES twist to it (I know that she knows where the bodies are buried
in the Winona Ryder wasteland of our youth).
When Chris first arrived on one of the sets, he said it felt
like he had just stumbled into my brain. I feel like my set design is my
primary way of directing a film for the actors and crew. I think I’m good at
choosing the right, talented people to interpret my characters, and giving them
a surreal world to exist in. I’m just lucky that these talented people happen
to be my good friends.
FANG: Can you talk a bit about the music in the film?
DENNIBERG: Friends’ bands and some other folks I met through
Danny Gallegos, the first AD and the main punk in the movie. He introduced me
to Bestial Mouths, whose music is all over the film. I saw them play and asked
if I could use their stuff and they said sure. Danny’s band Cemetery contributed
a great song “Stateward,” and all the songs Chris sings are his originals from
his one man punk project, Mr. Transylvania. Other stuff came from people
and bands Chris and I knew from playing music and performing in Florida, like
Outmode, Father Finger, and Counters. The song played in the intro ‘Shadow’s
Connected to the Light’ is actually the only song written specifically for the
movie by my friend Matthew Donovan, who also goes by Teaadora. Teaadora also
plays Adam in the Garden of Eden. The film’s aesthetic and music are very much
one homemade, collage-y, intense, and colorful makeshift.
FANG: You’re obviously a genre fan yourself. Can you name
some of the inspirations for your film?
DENNIBERG: Oh god, here we go: Chris and I are such
video-holics, it’s sick. When we lived together we devoured at least three a
day. Fassbinder and MORGAN STEWART’S COMING HOME, Andrzej Zulawski and Stephen
Sayadian. It was a constant high brow/low brow roller coaster. I think that’s
largely where the film comes from. I’m a huge fan of Albert Pyun, and because
of VIDEO DIARY, I actually have become friends with him since our films showed
at the Pollygrind Film Festival together. He helped get me out to the festival
since I’m still poor as ever, and it really is a dream come true when a
filmmaker you admire actually likes your work! RADIOACTIVE DREAMS is such a big
MY DEMON LOVER and ROCKULA were the biggest influences for
the tone and humor of VIDEO DIARY. My great affection for romantic horror
comedies of the 80s and 90s is their sleazy innocence that just makes me swoon.
Chris Shields is manic for MANNEQUIN and MANNEQUIN 2, so that shines through in
the script as well. People have told me on more than one occasion that VIDEO
DIARY feels like an experimental John Hughes film, and I can’t deny that THE
BREAKFAST CLUB and WEIRD SCIENCE had some kind of wonderful effect on forming
my cinematic identity. To me there is nothing more romantic then making out in
a graveyard, or watching a horror movie while eating pizza, or just plan
‘getting the shit scared out of me’. Now, in one last quick breath: Lloyd
Kaufman, Woody Allen, Catherine Breillat, Tony Oursler, Clive Barker, Frank
Henenlotter, Agnes Varda, Derek Jarmen, Jodorowsky, LIQUID SKY, Argento, Bava,
Maya Deren, John Waters, NADJA, Jean Rollin, Paul Naschy, George Kuchar, George
Romero, Nick Zedd, Jerry Lewis, ROCKY, Buster Keaton, Roger Corman, Hammer
Films, David Lynch, Guy Maddin, HEATHERS, CLUELESS and last but certainly not
least, Tim Burton.
FANG: What project(s) are you working on currently? Do you
foresee doing more horror in the future?
DENNIBERG: Chris and I are working on another feature! It’s
a horror anthology very much in the style of VIDEO DIARY, only this time we
want to push the insanity of the visuals even further. It’s about a haunted
video store in the middle of a graveyard, which sets the stage for five horror
tales, all romanticizing the act of watching a horror film in their own unique
way. I will direct two, Chris will direct two, and the fifth one will be a
collaboration of both of us. The tales of terror will consist of a cyberpunk
Medusa, werewolf women, sex cannibal lovers, a Dr. Frankenstein celebrity video
mortician, and a gender-bending haunted nerd frat house. My main influences for
this one are HOLY MOUNTAIN, BOXER’S OMEN and Ancient Greek mythology, whereas
Chris’s are more in the realm of George Romero, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Stephen
King. There are many different body parts we are using for this next video
creature we that we like to call making a movie.
I’ve also developed a new way of experimenting with
different looks and moods by working with video installation and performance.
Right now I am a part of a noise performance group called Viral Swan with my
friends Caleb Yono and Cassandra Jackson (which I sometimes say feels a lot
like abstract post-apocalyptic LARPing). Many of the psychedelic sequences in
VIDEO DIARY were remnants from previous projects and performances in the same
FANG: Anything else you want to share?
DENNIBERG: I guess I would just like to share the crazy
irony in general I’m feeling right now. FANGORIA has always been one of my
favorite horror magazines since I was a teenager, and the first boy I ever had
a crush on is the one who introduced to me to it. It’s so bizarre for me to
experience the horror and romance involved in just doing this interview in the
first place, it is very surreal for me. My friend Casey yesterday told me that
he remembers me talking about dreaming about getting interviewed by FANGORIA
someday when we were in pre-production for VIDEO DIARY. We laughed thinking it
would be crazy if that ever happened. And yes, this is totally crazy that this
is happening, and it is awesome!
For much more on VIDEO DIARY OF A LOST GIRL, visit the film’s Facebook.Read more »
Fearful Features,Movies/TV,News Olivia Saperstein
It’s an ample year for dread at South by Southwest 2013. New Artists Alliance will be presenting two new genre features at this year’s festival next month: Behold MILO and CHEAP THRILLS, both hinging on a horror motif, yet smothered in humor and a defiant absurdity.Read more »