A small mid-western town has been terrorized by a string of gruesome murders and two local high school girls, Sadie and McKayla, seek to lure the killer out to not stop his onslaught, but to be put under his machete wielding wing. The best friends use their twitter page, @TragedyGirls, to platform their grisly kills as devastating tragedies and to be supportive outreaches in order to be beloved by all and to obtain social media stardom as a facade over being iconically elusive serial killers, but when their plan to capture a mentor fails, a wedge drives between them when Sadie begins to fall for longtime friend, and video editor for their twitter page, Jordan Welch. That’s all the fuel needed to spark McKayla into a deadly paroxysm in order to get her best sociopathic friend back by her side.
“Tragedy Girls” is the uptempo horror-comedy by writer-director Tyler MacIntyre along with fellow co-writer Chris Lee Hill, both whom previously helmed another horror-comedy entitled “Patchwork” in 2015. “Tragedy Girls” aims to put the slasher genre on it’s head by turning what should be two sweet high school girls into the sadistic hunters instead of the usual genre trope of hapless prey and incorporate the dark side of social media, using platforms, such as Twitter, to gain notoriety through exploitation of others’ very lives, but the use of social media doesn’t sticker MacIntyre’s film as tech horror. Instead, typical ditzy-dynamic adolescent drama is integrated into the gory melee Sadie and MacKayla fabricate for fandom. There’s plenty of blood and death to go around through a mix bag of slaughter with some being inspired by other horror films, channelling such classic as “Friday the 13th” and “Carrie.”
“Deadpool’s” Negasonic Teenage Warhead, Brianna Hildebrand, and Alexandra Shipp, who’s also a Marvel superhero in X-Men franchise as Storm in “X-Men: Apocalypse,” star as besties Sadie and MacKayla. Hildebrand and Shipp are doubly frightening as two sociopathic killers and equally as scary as silver screen teenage girls glued to their phones while keeping up with their good fashion sense, but their pixie cut and cheerleader personas are as embellished as their underlining dark craft to make “Tragedy Girls” over-the-top and shocking on a “Save by the Bell” level. Though the two are stone cold, homicidal maniacs, a love interest is added for Sadie. The “The Hunger Games'” Jack Quaid, son of Meg Ryan and Dennis Quaid, fills the shoes of the lovesick Jordan Welch and Quaid does a fine job being the smartest guy in the room, but still being blindly dumb to the situation unfolding around him and Sadie. Surprisingly, a number of various genre vets rear their heads in this film, starting with “The Strain’s” Kevin Durand. The 6’6” tower of pure muscle Durand embodies a Jason Voorhees like villain when masked; unmasked, he’s about as stupid as they come and Durand can do stupid very well. Part of the comedy, of this horror-comedy film, stems from an uncharacteristic role played by Craig Robinson as a very unfit, local firefighter hero, fittingly named Big Al. The “This is the End” and “Ghosted” star bores through his minor role of Big Al with very little dialogue as Robinson is well known for wit, but the comedian has one of the better scenes with a 2-on-1 fight scene with the two demented school girls. The last recognizable face being mentioned flames out as quickly as it’s flamed in from the Sci-Fi genre. Josh Hutcherson, another “The Hunger Games” star, goes James Dean as MacKayla’s emo ex-beau, Toby Mitchell. Hutcherson’s character doesn’t quite fit the “Tragedy Girl” mold that pushes the limits later on in the film and his portrayal of Toby Mitchell is awkwardly misplaced as overzealous and forgettable. Rounding out the remaining cast is Timothy V. Murphy (“The Frankenstein Theory”), Nicky Whelan (“Flight 7500”), Keith Hudson, Savannah Jayde, and Katie Stottlemire.
“Tragedy Girls” will do well as it’s a solid horror-comedy with a la carte gore. None of the characters seize the progression of the trope reversal story and with the exception of Hutcherson’s Toby Mitchell, the actors conform precisely to the animation of their character’s scribed personas. Hildebrand and Shipp are the epitome of that last statement. The pair of actresses have a real life proprietary appearance about them and to crossover those looks and meld them into Sadie and MacKayla will forever establish them as the true tragedy girls. “Tragedy Girls” isn’t just about flip-flopping the genre rear ended up; writers MacIntyre and Hill pen a film that’s also about female empowerment with two strong actresses filling the shoes of two self-sufficient badasses committed to doing what’s conventionally labeled male subversive behavior and accomplishing it on whole other level. Even if on the wrong side of the law, the tragedy girls stick together through the good and the bad to overcome various high school and beyond high school hurdles that attempt to thwart not just their friendship, but their cyberspace popularity.
Gunpowder & Sky proudly distributes “Tragedy Girls,” a film by fresh faced production companies like Its The Comeback Kid and New Artist Pictures, onto VOD now and DVD home video February 6th. Since provided with an streaming link for review, a well-rounded critique on the DVD’s technical specs, picture quality, audio tracks, and bonus features will unfortunately not be commented on, but the very film itself should entice the most casual horror film goer who usually doesn’t stray off the mainstream path. With familiar faces and plenty of bloodshed, “Tragedy Girls” holds water against competitors in a flooded genre. Don’t forget to follow them, #tragedy_girls or @tragedygirls, or else you’ll be next tragedy exhibited in their wall feed!
I would like to start off with the readers receiving some slight background on you. Can you provide us with a short bio about where you’re from, where you’re at now, and what prominently influenced you into the person you are today?
I was born and raised in the Central Valley of California, in a mid-sized City named Visalia. It’s grown into a city without any real film culture or following so I try to stay away as much as possible. I spend my days going back and forth between Los Angeles and Visalia due to my kids.
I came from a really rough childhood. As a kid, I was taken by my stepdad to see “The Accused” in the theater and being around six or seven, watching a film focusing on the gang rape of a woman really affected me. It scared me and made me uncomfortable for both Jodie Foster’s character and myself. That night, when we got home, my stepdad molested me, something that lasted for a good while. It turned a wild and outgoing kid into a scared little boy who was afraid of everything and everyone. He was a real piece of shit and an alcoholic, so my mom would give me enough money to go to the nearby theater to stay there all day watching movies. It was pre-Columbine obviously, so they didn’t give a shit about carding people. I saw “Child’s Play“, the latest “Friday the 13th” and the latest “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and in those films, I found solace in how the survivors would go through hell and come out ahead. It made me feel safe and horror became the love of my life because of it. Seriously though, I love the horror genre as much as my kids. Because I was a horror (and just films in general) fanatic, I would write stories and sequels to films as a kid and I became enthralled with Stephen King and Clive Barker at an EARLY age. I was sent to the principal’s office for bringing and distributing a backpack of Stephen King novels to the kids because one girl’s mom had an issue with “The Tommyknockers.” So I read and wrote and always wanted to be a writer and a filmmaker.
How did you begin your journalistic career toward some of today’s top horror news outlets, such as Fangoria, Shock Till You Drop and being editor-in-chief at Icons of Fright?
I owe my whole career in horror journalism/film critique to Rob Galluzzo (Co-Founder of Icons of Fright and Senior Editor at Blumhouse.com). I had read Icons of Fright for years (it was started in 2004) and kind of became acquaintances with him online via Facebook and at the time he was working at Amoeba in LA, so I would talk to him when I was there for something and he was always so friendly and kind. He’s seriously one of the most giving individuals I know. Well one day, a few friends went to LA and I was stuck in Visalia doing something and it frustrating me that I wasn’t doing anything with my love for writing. I messaged Rob and asked him for advice on starting your own site. He said he would give me advice, or if I wanted to, I could just start writing for Icons of Fright. I was blown away. Here there was a site that I read for years, and now I was getting to write for them. As time went on, I was pretty crazy about being on top of Icons and Rob took a job at FEARnet (RIP), so he asked me to be the Editor in Chief and steer the ship, so to speak, and I did that for five years. It was because of Rob that I began my writing career and it was because of him that I was vouched to Rebekah McKendry (Then at Fangoria, now Editor in Chief of Blumhouse.com) at Fangoria to start writing for them as well and when it was because of Rebekah, that I vouched to Chris Alexander, who not only was running Fangoria at the time but started Delirium Magazine and in time, moved over to Shock Till You Drop. When Rebekah and Rob went to Blumhouse.com, they were nice enough to allow me to write for Blumhouse. So my career has been full of wonderful people. Those said individuals, as well as genre professionals, like Heather Buckley and Ken Hanley, have all been wonderful to me. As far as Icons of Fright, the site is kind of in sleep mode. I was offered the position of Senior West Coast Correspondent for Fangoria and we’re all so very busy with our other professional writing gigs, that it felt like a disservice to pay little attention to it and post stuff here and there, so we kind of just put it in sleep mode for the time being to focus on other things.
According to your IMDB.com page, you’re a self-proclaimed workaholic. Can you describe how you manage your time between contributing, being editor-in-chief, and producing films while juggling, if any, a personal life?
It’s quite difficult to be honest. I’m a divorced father of three (two of my kids live with me), I write for three sites and two magazines and I’m a filmmaker as well. I have three film projects in the works, all with my wonderful collaborators over at Sickening Pictures in Cleveland and one with Turnstyle films helping out. As with any film journalist, we’re sent quite a few films to review, we got press junkets and premieres, conduct interviews, etc. It’s fucking insane, but I love it…and a plus side, my kids love the genre, so they’re always watching the more friendly horror films with me.
What possessed you to pursue your own production company, Dexahlia Productions, in 2010, creating your own pieces of filmic art?
I started Dexahlia back in 2010 and began to make short films here and there, but in all honesty, none of them were that spectacular at all. I just made them with friends and such. The closest to being “happy” with one was one called “Damnation Woods,” which was a relationship drama that had a handful of scenes I REALLY liked in between my incompetence at the time haha. I put a lot of that on hold in favor of my writing career for some time, but after meeting Zach and BJ, decided to just do both.
Can you delve into the personal inspiration behind your current short “Love is Dead” and what compelled you make a film about the circumstance?
Yikes. The inspiration behind the film came from my own life and my former marriage. It was something that began as a really wonderful joining of similar spirits, but somewhere along the way, things got DARK. All on my side of things. I began to drink a LOT and had other issues I won’t list and it made me into somebody who was never physically abusive but angry a lot and I took that anger, which in all honesty was anger that came from hating myself at the time, and directed it at her. Things got crazy and she tried to take her own life and it really woke me up and made me realize that I had pushed somebody I cared about to the absolute brink. I felt disgusted with myself and HATED myself for a long time, something that eventually made things bad. We divorced but remained best friends (we’re still very close) and I wanted to kind of tell the story of that, in a somewhat fictional way. Also, as I’ve said a lot over the years in many conversations with people: John Carpenter is my God, but I also worship John Cassavetes. His films were always so raw and unhinged as if you felt like something was going to blow up at any time. Cassavetes was a major influence in “LOVE IS DEAD.”
How did you approach the creation of “Love is Dead” with the association of BJ Colangelo and Zach Schildwachte’s Sickening Pictures?
There were a few false starts with the film. I did a crowdfunded campaign on Kickstarter and got 95% to the goal but was just short of making it so we got nothing. We went to another crowdfunding venue and ended up getting, I think, 1/4 of the original budget, so I was pretty bummed. BJ has been a really wonderful friend of mine for years now and Zach and I became friends because of their personal relationship, so their professional relationship came into play as well eventually. Zach and I had written a feature script together (which we’re still going to make) and were trying to pitch that around LA for a while. When “LOVE IS DEAD’s” campaign ended, Zach and BJ offered to come aboard and FORCE me to make the film. They flew into LA and we made the film. They were and are two of the most talented people I know and I owe them so much. I love those crazy motherfuckers. Ps- BJ Colangelo is one of the best film journalists around as well.
How did Joanna Angel, Aaron Thompson, and Ruben Pla come to star in this short?
I was familiar with Aaron from his work in the Adult Film Business and, also, I saw him play bass once when he was in the band Fenix TX. He really fit the exterior of what was in my head and I just had a great feeling about the guy so I reached out to him. He read the script and signed on, saying he’d drink a bunch of Jack Daniels and listen to Nick Cave until shooting to get into character hahaha. Ruben did the film almost as a favor to me. He’s been such a huge supporter of my writing and I’ve known him through the horror community. He directed an EXCELLENT short film called “HEAD” (look it up, it’s awesome!) with Matt Mercer and I loved the hell out of that and just loved Ruben’s work in everything he’s been in. The guy can play anything. His work in “24” was great. I remember watching “INSIDIOUS” in the theater and thinking to myself “that guy has a presence to him.” So when it came time to cast the role of Michael, the psychiatrist, I asked Ruben if he’d be down and he had the shooting date open and came and did such a great job and was so very professional. I love that guy. Love him. Originally, we had a different actress cast as Mara and throughout the crowdfunding campaign and right up until three days before shooting, she was attached. There was something of a misunderstanding (nothing bad or drama-related, she’s absolutely great) and so we had to postpone shooting and literally at the same time, I got a text from BJ and an email from Aaron saying we should cast Joanna. Truth be told, I didn’t think Joanna would ever do it, so I had never even thought of asking her. When they mentioned it, I sent her the script, she signed on and we were good to go.
Being an actual couple off the camera, was there some coaching to get Angel and Thompson in the right mindset before the pouring of assorted emotions into the shower scene? Or how did Angel and Thompson prepare for their characters Mara and Peter?
I was worried that they would be able to go to those dark and sad places being that they were (and are) a real life couple. So I was nervous right up until the first take of the shower scene. It took literally ONE take for that nervousness to go away because, holy shit, were they both amazing. It broke all of our hearts to watch them act, they were so passionate and just genuine in their performances. I talked to them here and there mostly about altering the dialogue to what would feel more natural to them, but aside from that, they were all set to get dark right from the beginning. I’m still shocked by how great Joanna, Aaron and Ruben were. I watch the short and it makes me sad, in a good way. They did their job, they destroy the viewer.
I feel like Joanna Angel would be very enthusiastic about an emotional roller coaster of a story of this magnitude and a bit of a change of pace from her staple work. Was that the case along with the rest of the cast and crew being equally as enthusiastic?
Joanna and Aaron were both stoked to do something different and the crew were professional but giddy as fuck the entire time. I mean c’mon, it’s fucking Joanna Angel. There’s no playing around or lying. She’s a legend in her field and as huge fans of everything Burning Angel does, we all were excited to work with them. The best part for me, aside from the actual filming, was the times in which we would take a lunch break and just talk about stuff. We all are into the same things: bands, movies, etc., so it quickly became a tone of feeling more like you were making a film with friends. It led to us wanting to work with them again, which we are going to do.
Ruben Pla is a trained actor whose had roles in major productions such as “Insidious.” How was the dynamic between Pla and Aaron Thompson whose background is comprised of being a bartender, a musician, a screen printing business owner, and, most recently, a porn star?
They clicked right away. We were with Aaron for hours and hours before Ruben showed up for his scenes, so Aaron had all of his questions about the scene already figured out and such. When Ruben showed up, I had to surprise him with the fact that we had to change the scene from a scene of his character leading a men’s group to a one-on-one psychiatrist angle because of one of the actor’s having a heart attack!! Ruben literally took five minutes to alter his script, and was ready to go. He was dialed in and the two of them really just worked well together. It was great.
Even though “Love is Dead” completely tells Peter and Mara’s story in just over 10 minutes, there seems that there could have been an ample amount of content that might have been left untold. Your previous short “The Heart of Evil Things” also focused on problematic relationships. Could we expect another short, or perhaps a feature, in the future that would be a continuation, or as it’s own entity, that would extend more into the enduring human condition of struggling compatibility?
Yes, most definitely. Because of “LOVE IS DEAD,” I’ve kind of become the guy who casts porn stars in non-porn roles. My next two projects have adult film stars leading the cast and one of them is a continuation of the theme of a dysfunctional relationship. That one is more about accepting somebody for who they are and a look at a relationship within the adult film industry. I’m also working on something completely different and that’s probably what I’m going to be doing next. It’ll flip the southern noir thriller subgenre on its head. It’s kind of my cross between “Blood Simple” and “Bound.”
Aside from deriving from personal experiences, what else drives or influences your creative process?
I’m just obsessed with how people talk and the power of words. That was why I called “LOVE IS DEAD” an emotional horror film. It’s about using words as a weapon and how they could be just as dangerous as knives or guns.
I read your blurb on Icons of Fright that you “adore all things [John] Carpenter,” but absolutely despise the Michael Myers and Laurie Strobe sibling connection in “Halloween 2.” I’m sure fans of “Halloween 2” and of yours could go toe-to-toe in a debate about the Myers’ legacy. Can you elaborate on your disgust with that film and discuss your thoughts on how Myers has progressed, or treated, over the years?
The “HALLOWEEN” franchise is like my baby in a lot of ways. I love it, but sometimes it does things that i don’t approve of or like. It’s like a child. The magic of the first film, which in my opinion is the greatest film EVER made, is the mystery of Michael Myers. He’s a pervert almost, watching the girls, stalking them for no reason other than Laurie dropped the key at the Myers house. It’s terrifying that a stranger would do that, that the person would stalk and kill people with no reason at all. The decision to make Laurie Michael’s sister just takes the mystery out of it and suddenly turns the entire series into that angle. It’s frustrating. That being said, HALLOWEEN 4 is still one of my FAVORITE films of all time, even with it being Michael trying to kill his niece, so I guess I’m a bit of a hypocrite. HALLOWEEN 3 is pure perfection and always has been. I’ve loved it since childhood. HALLOWEEN 5 is 70% terrifying and 30% off the rails crazy and the series never recovered. It just went down and down and down. I mean, in the Producer’s Cut of HALLOWEEN 6, Paul Rudd stops Michael with FUCKING MAGICAL RUNES. I want to start a band called, “Paul Rudd’s Magical Runes,” we’d rock. Luckily, the series is at Blumhouse now and with Jason Blum, Ryan Turek and John Carpenter involved in the development, I’m excited as hell for the next film.
Since you’re a John Carpenter fan, is it say to safe that your top three favorite movies of all time are Carpenter films?
Actually no. “HALLOWEEN” is my favorite film, but the other two go to Wes Craven’s “THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT” and “FRIDAY THE 13TH PT. IV.” Recent films like “BEFORE I DISAPPEAR”, “COMET” and “DARLING” are edging close to the top though.
What’s next on the horizon for Jerry Smith? Are there any future projects on your docket that you can discuss with us at this time? Or is there any projects that you’re not helming that you’re highly anticipating?
Just the projects I spoke of earlier in this interview, the relationship drama and the southern noir thriller. As far as projects I’m NOT helming, there’s a script I co-wrote with Zach Schildwachter that he’s going to direct that I am DYING to see happen. He’s such a talented director and it shows in his films “SCUM” and “GETTING OVER.” It’s another fucking weeeeeeird movie.
In conclusion, is there anything you would like to add or share with your readers, fans, or enemies?
Thank you to everybody who has read anything I’ve written or watched “LOVE IS DEAD.” The reception has been amazing and I couldn’t be happier or more grateful to have so many awesome people tell me it affected them in one way or another. As far as fans or enemies, I doubt I have either. I don’t have any enemies, at least on my part.
Bonus Question: For all those who experienced “Love is Dead,” I’m sure there is a bit of curiosity surrounding one particular scene. Considering two of your three actors, was the shower fellatio scene simulated or did Joanna Angel go full blown Chloë Sevigny on actor/director Vincent Gallo in “The Brown Bunny?”
Funny question that leads to a fun story. When we were filming, Ruben kind of pulled me aside and asked, “So uh, Jerry, I know that Joanna and Aaron are into the Adult Film Industry,…the fellatio scene isn’t going to be real, is it? I personally don’t really want to do porn.” and was so friendly about it but had to ask and I told him the truth, which I’ll tell you now: It’s fake. They’re just great actors and as far as a certain fluid shown in the film…that’s a secret I’ll keep.
I appreciate your time once again, Jerry. We hope to hear more from you and your production company soon in future film endeavors and look forward to reading more of your work as well.
It’s Bloggin’ Evil had the opportunity to force Ben Scrivens away from designing awesome horror-inspired T-shirts and sit down with us for an interview! Scrivens is the founder of Fright-Rags, the leading producer of high-quality, limited-quantity, horror film inspired T-shirts. With original and detailed artwork, Fright-Rags stands out among other online retailers!
Below, Ben describe his new “31” inspired T-shirts of the latest Rob Zombie film and discusses the new enamel pin line of select Friday the 13th victims!
I feel like the Ben Scrivens story has yet to be told to horror fans. How did you develop Fright Rags into being the epitome of horror inspired T-shirts and other memorabilia?
“You could say it started on Halloween night, 1981. I was four years old and ended up watching John Carpenter’s Halloween on TV. I was hooked. From that moment on, I loved horror and wanted to see more. Fast forward to 2003, and I was looking for ways to let off some creative steam. I am a graphic designer by trade, so I started messing around with some ideas in Photoshop. I played with ways to work with images of Michael Myers, Jason, etc., and I thought they would look really cool on shirts. I didn’t have any horror shirts because I didn’t really like anything that was currently available on the market. So I decided to create my own.”
What were the iconic movies or talents that inspired you to turn from a marketing communications manager into the Fright Rags owner?
“The main movie of course was John Carpenter’s Halloween, but also any slasher flick or flicks I grew up watching in the ’80s. As for talents, I would say it helps having a background in design as I was able to create my own designs as well as build my first website. Over the years, I think that has evolved into just the ability and readiness to learn more about business and how to keep it all organized and running smoothly.”
Your October lineup is a great way to start off 2016’s Halloween! Kicking it off with Rob Zombie’s vicious “31,” what made you choose Doom-Head to be the leading face of this movie’s T-shirt brethren?
“Well, it was hard because we had to design the shirts without seeing the film. Rob sent us a ton of images but without really knowing the story, we were grasping a bit. But Doom-Head seemed to be a pretty integral part so once we had some designs to choose from, that seemed a likely choice. And Rob liked it too.”
Rob Zombie receives a lot of love from Fright Rags. Is Zombie a big inspiration, from his music to his films or his life style, for putting his Rockabilly face and his homaging work on front of a majority of your product?
“Yes, I would say he is. Also, he’s one of those guys that, visually, you can do a lot with. He has both his music and his movies to play off of so there just happens to be a lot of fodder for us. Plus, I am a fan of his – both the music and his movies – so it makes it easy.”
The enamel pins are a huge and interesting new product for you and your team and to go in the opposite direction with the select Friday the 13th victims is a bold move. What made you decide to go victim over villain? Also, was it hard to pick only a few select poor souls from the vast for your collection?
“Well, we had been thinking about entering the pin game, but it seems like everyone is doing everything. So as soon as you get an idea, it’s been done already – sometimes twice. I’ve already seen a bunch of Jason pins, but since some of his kills are so iconic, I thought it would be a fun way to put a spin on things. It wasn’t too hard to come up with our choices, but to be sure, they have to be recognizable – otherwise it’s just some random head.”
I’m excited to see that TNT’s MonsterVision’s very own Joe Bob Briggs is getting the love he deserves. I feel like the TV personality and lover of schlock has been forgotten by many longtime horror fans and is not recognized by many new fans from a younger generation. Is it your hope to expose Briggs to a whole new group of fans and also rekindle the love from those who once knew him from MonsterVision? Does Briggs know his face is once again in the limelight?
“Joe Bob was definitely a highlight of my weekends as a young adult. To do a shirt of him and MonsterVision has been on our ever-growing list of ideas for years. Then our artist reached out to us last year because he wanted to do one and I thought, yes, let’s do it. So I contacted Joe Bob and he was all for it. From that point, it kind of evolved to us then doing pins of MonsterVision, having him sign posters for us, and also having him come up to our town [Rochester, NY] to host a screening of The Warriors on Saturday, October 1. I certainly hope this brings him back into the limelight a bit more as we have been thrilled to work with him on this project.”
Have Fright Rags been struck hard by the declining economy?
“Luckily, we have not seen a decline in sales due to the economy. We have grown every year we have been in business, and i think that is partly because people want to escape the stress of their life. We provide them with that escape; they buy our shirts because of the memories attached to the images emblazoned on them. Also, even though our shirt cost more than others, they are high-ticket items like other luxury goods that may have seen a setback due to the economy. At $27, it’s still an affordable luxury.”
How much has the company grown over the years?
“More than I could have ever imagined. Every time we hit a new high, I am humbled by how far we’ve come sine it was a one-man operation out of my apartment.”
Are you seeing a major influence in your sales from pop-up competitors that have 24-hour deals like RiptApparel or TeeFury for example? How does Fright Rags differ from numerous T-Shirt sites in the “one-of-a-kind” deal?
“While I don’t think those sites have directly affected us, I have noticed how decent ideas can become oversaturated because of them. For instance, we released a parody shirt called “Incredible Jason” that riffed off the comic book cover of Incredible Hulk #1. We were not the first ones to use that idea, but we were the first (that I know if) to put a horror spin on it. Then I saw one of those tee-a-day sites post 14 different designs based on that theme. None of them were rip offs of ours, but it just killed that idea. It’s too much of a good thing and then any design based on it seems like overkill. In terms of how we differ, well, we aren’t doing shirts for only one day. We do that once per month with our Midnight Madness series, but that is just one of many releases we put out regularly.”
For the young entrepreneur, what kind of advice would you provide in starting your own business and how to sustain profitability?
“The one thing I tell everyone who emails me for advice is to START. Just start. So many people are worried about how they should set up their company, and spend time on little micro things that – while important – prevent them from actually getting out there and selling something. My first site sucked. My first logo sucked. Hell, the name “Fright-Rags” is pretty plain when you think about it! But the only thing that separates me from another person with an idea is that I went out and started something. From that moment, everything has been on the job training. Even though we’ve grown every year, there have been so many times where I wasn’t sure if it was going to work out, and times where we’ve had to pivot and rethink how we do business. Buy you cannot do any of that until you start something.”
Thank you for your time again and is there is anything you would like to add in conclusion?
“Thank you for taking the time to interview me, and thank you to all of the people who support us. We truly could not do what we do without you!”
Stop by Fright-Rags this October for all your horror T-shirt and memorabilia goodies. Lots a good stuff coming from the company this fall!
Four camp counselors prepare a woodsy, dilapidated living quarters a couple of days before their anxious campers arrival. As the preparations seem to be going as scheduled, a sudden violent rage takes over the head counselor with the eyes turning severely bloodshot and a bloody-black ooze seeping from the tightly grit mouth. The isolated camp structure that should bring joy and excitement to young children becomes an unescapable labyrinth for the counselors when the local transient residents fall also to the murderous madness. Trust between the terrorized counselors thins as none of them have an idea how the infection transmits. Without an operational phone or vehicle, the surviving counselors can only count on themselves to flee and fend from a fury seeking to massacre them all.
When first hearing of Alberto Marini’s inaugural co-written and directed film entitled “Summer Camp,” a vivid portrait of radiant sunshine, lake canoes, bow and arrow games, and lots and lots of children campers naturally come to the forefront of mind – basically, “Salute Your Shorts” pops right into the old “cabeza,” even in front of slasher genre fave “Friday the 13th” that culturally Hollywood-ized camp counselors, transforming them into unlimitedly horny teens, subjecting campers into hapless victims, and demonizing campgrounds as death camps. And while “Summer Camp” resonates good times in the season’s solstice heat, Marini’s version of camp weaves a craft basket of intense fear.
“Summer Camp” opens to a newscasters voice over reporting that three American counselors have vanished in the wilderness of Spain and are unlikely to be alive at this point of search. The setup already denotes no resolution to the counselors’ fate who make their on screen appearance in the following scene engaged in a trust game the Italian filmmaker had constructed to appear as every horror trope imaginable – a woman running through the woods with a blindfold and hands tied behind her back, a lurking ruffian peeping the counselors from the dense tree lot, and etc. The possibility of horror themed scenarios trickle at the top of a hill, snowballing until Marini decides to sudden plop down a massive, unbreakable brick wall in front of soccer ball size snowball before reaching critical speed, size, and strength for massive destruction. Marini’s a magician by convincing viewers to believe the trick in one hand, yet subtly revealing the real trick in the other and by doing this, a flare of confusion immerses the counselors and the audience in order to keep them guessing at every step of the way.
Continuing with Marini’s script co-written with Danielle Schleif, a contrived portion of many possible triggers that causes the violent behavior almost as if Marini and Schleif used satire to highlight the absurdity of previous zombie or infected films and their numerous infected origins. “Summer Camp” leads you to believe that one of the following three, or perhaps a combination of all three, possible culprits are responsible for spawning deranged and violent behavior. Characters are purposefully shown to be unprotected to the transmission of external blood or saliva, seen drinking the mysteriously broken and recently fixed well water pipes, and being exposed to an unusual after spring pollen buildup that seems to be everywhere. Which element prompts an outbreak? Or is it all three?
When the characters are aggressively possessed, a crossbreed between an “Evil Dead” Kandarian demon possession and a hybrid-rabies strain infected from “28 Days Later” sum up a “Summer Camp’s” possessed state of being. The actors themselves wholeheartedly accepted the role, doubling and switching themselves between normalcy and lunacy with ease. While the story prides itself on being quick to action and fast paced like Danny Boyle’s 2002 film, the characters’ depth burdens no viewer and their ultimate fate will raise no brows. The bare bones character backgrounds only affix their red shirt destiny; yet, Marini has already doomed his own characters for on script stupidity and whether intentionally or not, written to be cursed never qualifies a character to be a likable hero or heroine. When Will knocks out a possessed Michelle, he quickly unlatches his belt that holds up his pants to tie her legs with it and while that seems like a smart idea in the beginning, Will stills needs a way to keep his pants up from falling to his ankles in order to run through a dark dense forest from the numerous possessed individuals lurking about, screaming their lungs out. Will also attempts to unlace one of his shoes to bound Michelle’s hands. Why?! You’re going to need a tight fitting shoe to run through the forest and…oh forget it.
Diego Boneta portrays the unluckiest of the luckiest counselors. As Will, he’s accused of murder and along with being bitten, battered, incised, and even drilled; yet, he manages to still lead the surviving charge even if the odds are against him. The physicality of the role contrasts with Boneta’s character whose short and has a vision disadvantage, but Boneta underneath the skin of his character sports an athletic build as shown from one gratuitous shirtless scene. The dynamic between Boneta, Jocelin Donahue as Christy, and Maiara Walsh as Michelle couldn’t have been any better with decoding the group’s trust issues even until the very end, especially between the tomboy with a mysterious past Michelle and the prissy and uptight Christy. Dynamics stands out as the bright point of Marini’s skeleton script that doesn’t involve many complexities as it does debunking horror tropes.
The Lionsgate distributed the rated-R DVD release of the Spanish horror film has a 16:9 widescreen presentation with a Spanish and English 5.1 Dolby Digital audio complete with Spanish and English subtitles. With an average film runtime of 84, “Summer Camp” maintains just enough endless terror to suffice an entertaining haphazard horror-comedy and that’s about all the entertainment delivered from a DVD with thin extras including only trailers and a digital ultraviolet. The lightweight nature of this release should definitely not deter a viewership, but rather “Summer Camp” should be embraced as an intense and scary gauntlet of escape and survival. A well-fought first time feature from director Alberto Marini and a good showing of faith for a talented young group of actors seeking to imprint their names into horror.
A deranged serial rapist wearing a hockey mask viciously attacks Linda, a university student who operates a food truck during the day and works on a horse farm in the evening, and forces her to sing Jingle Bells while in the middle of his heinous act. When the police could do nothing about locating and incarcerating her rapist due to lack of evidence, Linda’s urge for revenge boils to an explosively volcanic overflow. She learns that four other young university women have been attacked by the same Jingle Bells rapist and so she devises a plan to form a rape squad to encourage other women to reach out to their squad to stop various types of misogynistic attackers in hopes that one case might lead to their own attacker, but little does the revenge seeking victims know that they’re rapist has formed his own plan: to rape all five at the same time!
“Act of Vengeance,” also better known by as “Rape Squad,” sleazes the screen as an American rape-revenge exploitation film helmed by “Count Yorga, Vampire” director Robert Kelljchian in 1974. An exploitation film that just doesn’t only exhibit the gratuitous violence and nudity and perversion, but manages to go deeper, analyzing the difficult moments of how women were perceived and treated post rape in a time where laws against rapist and laws to protect the women victims are, at best, intangible. Kelljchian’s assembly line of degradation painfully puts Linda (Jo Ann Harris) through a series of incompetence and chauvinistic values, forcing an awkward and uncomfortable blanket of emotions over, not only Linda, but ourselves. Ross Elliott’s officer portrayal as Sgt. Long was nothing short of frustration for Long and Linda; his questioning was insensitive, yet routine while her vague description of her attacker doesn’t qualify for swift justice. Also, when Linda has her legs up on the gurney brackets, the male doctor goes through a creepy-comforting spiel to try and get Linda to relax before tasking a smear and that has Linda, in a way, relive her trauma and just layers on uneasy tone.
For the first half the film, Kelljchian seamlessly and continuously pushes the male snickering and apathetic obliviousness toward Linda’s, and the groups’, rape. At about or around the time the squad forms and a martial arts expert named Tiny, played by Lada Edmund Jr., starts to karate kick potential abusers’ asses, “Act of Vengeance” drops the dramatics and goes full blown Jackie Brown-revenge, losing some depth to the subject matter and getting back to the route of an exploitation film with bits of intentional comedy tossed in for good measure. “Acts of Vengeance” isn’t vengeful torture porn similar to a preceding film, a little known title you might recall entitled “The Last House on the Left” directed by master of horror Wes Craven, or in later films that have been more popular with audiences over the years; one particular film stands out having a striking familiarity in title and somewhat in story is 2015’s “Bound to Vengeance,” starring “Kindergarten Cop’s” Richard Tyson, where a young girl escapes the confines of a sexual predator, joins forces with a couple of other captive victims, and turns the tables on his perverted, underground organization.
What really makes “Act of Vengeance” also surprisingly good is Peter Brown’s performance as Jack the rapist. The Southern drawl with plain-spoken manner is unlike any other character I’ve ever experienced. When Jack asks of Linda, under his firm grip around her throat, to say, “Say, thank you, Mr. Rapist,” a calculated chill shivers down every inch of the spine. Now being that “Act of Vengeance” was released in 1974, Jack’s assault sporting getup and candid personality might spark a reminiscent flame for horror fans. Jack’s thin stature fits slightly loose in an orange jumpsuit and he covers his face with a white goalie mask that strap wraps around his wavy dark hair. To this reviewer, the jumpsuit resembles a pumpkin-shade version of Michael Myers jumpsuit, while the white goalie mask is without a doubt an inspiration for Friday the 13th Part III and it’s sequels. Jack even stalks the women like the two homicidal big fellas, lurking behind trees and bushes while catching up with ease to his fleeing prey without breaking a jogging sweat. Jack’s personality, that disgustingly witty rapist charm, feels too familiar to yet another staple villain, the boogeyman of children’s’ nightmares, Freddy Krueger. Essentially, Jack could have easily influenced three of the most popular and well known iconic horror villainous characters of all time.
Linda perfectly suits as Jack’s antagonist. The abuser and the abused compliment each other with a their cat-and-mouse game full of deceits and atrocities, but the crowning moment, the scene that defines the fate the characters, crumbles under the pressure of the story’s full embodied substance. Linda and the Rape Squad are baited too easily, walking into a vacant zoo that’s Jack’s trap and the group’s aware of this but still continues forward blindly. Characters ultimately start to unravel when one of the Squad’s women breaks from the pack, on purpose because she’s too frightened, and walks back to the car alone. Certain common sense would suggest to stay with the four other women to avoid being a lone target of your murdering rapist. Jack also becomes easily baited by Linda who mocks his masculinity, drawing him out from his perfectly laid snare and into a one-on-one bout with a baton bearing woman looking for retribution.
Deservingly so, MGM’s and Kelljchian’s “Act of Vengeance” receives a stellar home video release in Australia from EX Films, filled with extras including a 30 minute interview with Jennifer Lee-Pryor (as Nancy in the film), an audio commentary by author Alexandra Heller-Ncholas of “Rape-Revenge: A Case Study” and film critic Zak Hepburn, and theatrical and home video trailers. Pristinely presented in a widescreen 16:9 aspect ratio that’s vividly colorful, nearly blemish free, and with all the bells and whistles of restoration perfection. The Dolby Digital 2.0 mix is clean, clear, and balanced, giving Jack the rapist that much clarity in his threats. EX Films provides solid packaging of a clear case with reversible cover art and a 48-page insert booklet featuring all the press material sent and received about the film – a marvel to read. The Ex Films region 4 release tops and trumps the competition, standing clearly the winner when compared to it’s DVD-R rival from MGM in the U.S. No other film is more violating than this hard to swallow, rape-revenge exploitation gem “Act of Vengeance!”