Hellbent on being the first to discover something big between 1000-feet, talented marine biologist and ecologist, Olive Crown, constructs a convincing case in a video hiring application to test a deep sea diving suit invented by Dr. Fletcher, but a harrowing encounter with monstrous creature at 2500 feet nearly claims Olive’s life. Blamed for a botch dive and unable to remember the incident, Olive has been fired from her dream position, but when she double checks the dive suit for evidence of what might have happened, she discovers an alien substance, an egg-like object, attached to the outer layer and smuggles it home. The egg hatches to birth a blood thirsty, Cthulhu being that has marked Olive as in a symbiotic relationship as protector and mother. Olive senses everything the creature does, even it’s hunger, and caves in to her discovery’s need to feed with those who antagonize Olive and her creature baby, but at an alarming rate, the life form grows into a mammoth creature and Olive might be losing the perspective of who is really in control.
“The Creature Below” puts a spin on a popularly wild H.P. Lovecraft tale and adds a notch into the belt of the Cthulhu mythos. From director Stewart Sparke in his first feature film comes one woman’s tragically macabre endowment that runs amok through the uninteresting confines of her own life and obliterate it from within. Co-written by Paul Butler, the British Cthulhu feature, “The Creature Below,” melds together a very grand unearthly story into the restrictive walls of an unwanted love triangle Olive’s involved in while dipping toes into also being a pre-Romero zombie film with the automata slave. Though very modest in story and budget, “The Creature Below” is an itsy-bitsy speck in a bigger mythological genre and that’s usually the case for indie Cthulhu flicks, as they should be, because giving a little mystery to Lovecraft’s myth tends to build worlds later, sparks the imagination aflame, and leaves a lasting impression long after the movie is over.
Anna Dawson stars as Olive Crown, creature’s foster parent, and Dawson’s first impression of Olive emits a fierce, go-getter ecologist, looking to make a name for herself in the deep dive exploration field. That egotistical drive tapers off a bit once she’s canned for botched dive, delivering a more humble and reserved Olive Crown, but Dawson puts on the sunken-eyed, icy-cold skin that’s clammy and deadlike in order to fulfill the infant Cthulhu’s bidding. Daniel Thrace embraces the lovably sweet boyfriend, Matthew, whose sensible, charming, and overall nice guy. The pair are complete oil and water, a welcoming dynamic, when Olive’s rationality goes off track. Olive and Matthew are really the only two developed characters as, disappointingly, three considerable major characters don’t build too much of a reputation to warrant their value, especially with Olive’s sister, Ellie, played by Michaela Longden. There’s something more between Ellie and Matthew that doesn’t quite hit the nail on the head and there’s also more to her staying with her sister, Olive, that the audience is not aware of and the scenes where Olive comments on her sister’s freeloading just loses all it’s credibility. The other two actors, roles awarded to Johnny Vivash and Zacharee Lee, are more involved in Olive’s deep sea dive and bring more of a well rounded antagonistic or betrayal personality to the table.
Sparke doesn’t linger too long on the creature, shielding it mostly behind a plastic tarp with a nude façade and that’s, perhaps, more in line with the micro budget constraints. In any case, Sparke focuses the story around Olive’s paranoia and obsession with the creature and with her boyfriend and the bitterness between him and her Sister, Ellie, seemingly toward Olive. Dave Walter has composed from start to finish a low and slow synth soundtrack, that’s familiar to a slowly anticipating heartbeat, and really heightens Olive’s spiraling paranoia similar to that of Ennio Morricone’s work on John Carpenter’s 1982 remake entitled “The Thing” where the eerily sounds of a personified isolation breaches every corner of your body, mind, and the dark room you’re in and all you can hear is that thump…thump…thump in a chest vibrating synchronicity of tones. While the soundtrack is riveting throughout, the story becomes a bit sluggish around the midsection in the sense that space and time don’t exists and Olive’s encounters with Dr. Fletcher, Dara, and various others, are halted to develop any kind of affluence amongst each other or with the audience. Even the ending, which I do adore on a certain level, bares the mark of being incomplete and devoid of substantiating that monolithic ending. There is some post-view satisfaction with the blend of practical and computer generated special effects and as I reflect on the film as a whole, to display a species from birth to adulthood, Sparke and his special effects team had amazing results that are fanned out well enough to leave a lasting impression of the unearthed creature’s visceral and intelligible girth.
Breaking Glass Pictures with Dark Rift Films in association with High Octane Pictures release “The Creature Below” onto DVD. The 16:9 widescreen presentation of this sci-fi horror thriller explores a sleek and clean, with a hint of being just a little hazy, picture that puts forth the appropriate dark grey and blue tone for an underwater or above water creature feature. The English Dolby 5.1 sound’s slightly muffled, but solid. Special features include a behind-the-scenes, deleted scenes, “Rats” a short film, and a Frightfest Q&A. Stewart Sparke’s “The Creature Below” is not perfect and does have appalling, laughable moments, but underneath the surface is a UK film that’s budget-busting bold and aims to be a goliath in an indie market.
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.
Daryll, a New York City night shift janitor and decorated Vietnam war veteran, becomes obsessed with beautiful female reporter and wealthy socialite Tony Sokolow. When Daryll claims to be a key witness to a murder of one his business building’s high profile tenants, a once in a lifetime opportunity opens up to meet Tony when she’s assigned to cover the murder and as Daryll pours his heart out to the reporter, he’s also torn by his claim that could place his war buddy friend Aldo, a hapless former employee of the recently deceased and the prime suspect in the murder investigation, in jeopardy even more. Is Aldo the killer or is the mystery much deeper, tied to a world unforeseen by Daryll whose working in the depths of the building’s janitorial confines?
Hot off from her success from Ridley Scott’s “Alien,” Sigourney Weaver goes from sci horror-thriller to mystery-thriller and alongside her is up and coming co-star William Hurt in Peter Yates’ 1981 mystery drama “Eyewitness.” The film sparks a string of obsession suspense features that would span a decade and firmly place the genre into a popular notoriety among audiences who couldn’t get enough of the peeping tom debauchery. A hefty roster of talented actors also co-star, some on the verge of stardom to the likes of Hurt and Weaver, including Christopher Plummer (“The Sound of Music”) in the prime of his career, the crazy eyes of James Woods (John Carpenter’s “Vampires”), an un-grayed Morgan Freeman (“Se7en”), Kenneth McMillan (“Dune”), “Mission: Impossible” television series’ Steven Hill, and Pamela Reed (“Kindergarten Cop”).
Performances all around are phenomenal as every actor and actress cultivates their character’s purpose in the story and you can surely experience the humble beginnings to some of the biggest A-list celebrities of today; however, Hurt’s performance was one of the only concerning factors. Hurt’s portraying a modest, perhaps slightly traumatized, Vietnam veteran with an afar obsession toward an attractive public figure and his presentation was overly awkward and certainly creepy too the point where I even felt embarrassed and uncomfortable. What made the situation more bizarre was the verbal and facial exchanges between Hurt and Weaver’s characters. Tony didn’t quite seem affected by the oozing creepiness this supposedly good man seeps from every pore of his skin and she, in fact, embraces his forward, if not crossing the line, affections that would certainly warrant a restraining order in today’s society. Maybe social interactions vary from generations and decades, but this type of relationship building dialogue and scenes didn’t produce the appropriate type of chemistry between Weaver and Hurt reducing the strength of their bond.
The Steve Tesich script strummed the strings reminiscent to my viewing experience of George A. Romero’s “Land of the Dead.” Yes, you read that correct – “Land of the Dead” – and what does this zombie horror film have in common with “Eyewitness?” Well, in the 2005 film about the continuous decline of humanity in a zombie apocalyptic world, Romero had written a social commentary about the separating of social classes where, even in a dying world, the rich stayed safe in their loft, sustaining an obsolete lifestyle, and the poor suffer below their feet living in the present, but in the end, anyone and everyone is fair game for being unprincipled and for the undead. Tesich’s script does the same without being lavishly upfront and without the hordes flesh eating zombies. Beneath the obvious murder mystery lies the merger of the classes as Dyrall and Tony eventually fall for each other, but their friends and family on either side condemn the relationship, making the statement numerous times that a janitor absolute can not fall for someone as wealthy as Tony. James Woods’ Aldo becomes just another example out of many where a court-martialed and discharged Marine with erratic behavior and struggling with living a middle class life becomes suspect number one in a murder case, but with a victim whose profession was international trading, the pockets might be a bit deeper and with a laundry list of ill-will individuals.
Signal One Entertainment releases “Eyewitness” in the UK for the first time on Hi-Def region B Blu-ray anywhere with a 1080p presentation in a widescreen 1.85:1 format. The video quality is far superior than, of course, it’s DVD revival with the restoration of much of the natural color tones without a hint of compression artefacts or obvious image or edging enhancements from the 35mm stock footage. The English LPCM audio 2.0 track is fair, full-bodied, and well balanced with really no issues, especially not with composer Stanley Silverman’s lively score. Signal One Entertainment certainly knows how to treat a classic film providing a slew of extra features including an audio commentary with director Peter Yates and film historian Marcus Hearn from 2005, an audio only conversation with the director along with film critic Derek Malcolm and another conversation with another film critic Quentin Faulk on a separate extra feature. Composer Stanley Silverman discusses his approach to scoring “Eyewitness” and there’s also an alternative VHS presentation of the film under one of the original titles “The Janitor.” Original trailers and TV spots round out this robust bonus feature cache. “Eyewitness” on Blu-ray is a must own with a clean and refreshing version of a this classic whodunit thriller from Signal One Entertainment!
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!
The transpacific Vista Pacific Flight 7500 from Los Angeles to Tokyo should have been a long, but relaxing overnight ten hour flight for many of the traveling passengers. After experiencing heart-stopping turbulence, the flight’s most mysterious passenger dies suddenly and violently over the pacific ocean. His death releases a string of strange apparition encounters with rest of the passengers and the crew that literally grapple at their internal fears. As the supernatural force slowly engulfs every inch of the plane, passengers disappear one-by-one and the key to possibly stopping the remorseless evil that has betaken them is to investigate into the unexpected death of the mysterious passenger and into his on-flight baggage.
Ju-on: The Grudge director Takashi Shimizu terrorizes the skies with his trademark macabre of supernatural entities. Shimizu’s “Fightly 7500” mixes Japanese culture with Hollywood cinematic values while also, literally, connecting L.A. with Tokyo with a flight over the pacific. Nothing is scarier than being trapped with no where to run from a menacing force on a pressurized plane that could fail on any given moment. The plane becomes a synonym for death. Shimizu exemplifies the given unforeseen horrors of a plane by adding in the exterior motive of a trembling, and extremely creepy, Shinigami death doll, which allows suddenly dispatched spirits to spook and terrorize. Sinister spirits are unable let go of their robbed mortality. Shimizu couldn’t help but include numerously his trademarks of limbs jutting out suddenly, reaching to grab a surprised victim to face their fate or slowly overcoming an obstacle such as in this film a hand reaching over the edge of a suitcase or springing out of a small airplane trash receptacle.
The cast is made up of relatively recognizable and more modern day horror vets with Amy Smart (“Mirrors”), Scout-Taylor Compton (“Halloween I & II” remakes), “True Blood’s” Ryan Kwanten, Leslie Bibb (The Midnight Meat Train), Rosita Espinosa herself from “The Walking Dead” Christian Serratos, and Jamie Chung (“Sorority Row” remake). Nicky Whelan, Jerry Ferrera, Alex Frost, Rick Kelly, and Johnathon Schaech round out the rest of the cast. The under the radar, non-mainstream cast play their roles respectively and accordingly to the script written by the serial B-horror writer Craig Rosenberg, building up their conflicting outer lives before they’re all crammed into a single jumbo jet liner. However, the instance of too many characters cause each of character’s development to fall flatlined due in part to the measly 80 minute runtime.
Like previous Shimizu ghost features, nothing is what it seems and “Flight 7500” is no exception to that fact, but in trying to build a monumental case to deliver a shock in the finale, various mishaps raise questions that don’t add up the surprising reveal. A couple brain scratching questions rise to the surface, stemming from the following: There were two different midair turbulent events in which both were significant, but the one the film specifies isn’t the one referenced back to the catalyst turn of events in dooming the passengers to a remaining ride of rampaging terror. Also, when the phantasmal mystery becomes resolved and the characters’ realize the understanding behind their strife, the plane’s onboard television transmit a newscast explaining the events that happened to “Flight 7500,” but the divulging is ridiculously forced and a road less traveled trick. The newscast exposition comes as if there isn’t any other means of communicating the characters’ situation, putting in the ground, six-feet under, the mood of the ah-ha moment.
The Lionsgate and CBS Films collaboration presents the 2014 PG-13 feature on DVD in a 16×9 widescreen format with a crisp, LFE heavy English 5.1 Dolby Digital audio. The experienced director of photography David Tattersall uses a vibrant, almost neon-like, dark blue tone that sets appropriately the coldness of thrilling spirits and the lifelessness of mechanical plane setting. The Tyler Bates soundtrack feels as inexpensive as the film’s modest budget which is disappointing from Bates whose had solids scores for Zack Snyder’s epic-extravaganza “300” and superhero-melodrama “Watchmen” while also doing John Carpenter justice in re-imagining the “Halloween” theme. “Flight 7500’s” “The Grudge” like effects stay the plotted course given by this director and embodies the airplane as a haunted house in the sky, soaring through living fog, jutting grey hands, and a presence that can’t be shaken. The overall experience doesn’t have a perfect touchdown landing on the runway, but at least the Takashi Shimizu airplane horror doesn’t crash and burn either, leaving viewers walking away safe and satisfied at their journey’s final destination.