A War Criminal’s Evil Influence. “Apt Pupil” review!


Next time you suspect your neighbor is a wanted criminal, they just might very well be as in the case of Todd Bowden, an excelling high student who discovers a WWII Nazi war criminal has been secretly living in his quaint hometown. Through his own investigation of photograph comparisons and retrieval of finger prints, Bowden confronts the old man, Kurt Dussander, about his notorious past. Living under a pseudonym and wanted by the Israeli government, Dussander attempts to dismiss the boy’s claims until his bluff to call the police is called, resulting in Bowden’s curiosity to become a blackmail gambit that puts Dussander under the student’s quizzical thumb. In return for not informing the authorities, Bowden requires Dussuander to reveal his story, the story of his stint at the extermination camps without sparing any details no matter how gruesome. Bowden even goes as far as purchasing a replica SS officer uniform that he forcibly commands Dussander to put on and march. Through his reminiscing of the past, an evil reawakens in Dussander and their banal friendship of psychological warfare goes into the dangerous trenches of survival and eradication that spreads like a cancer inside and outside their private lives.

Before the monumental eruption of continuous claims of sexual misconduct by various accusers, Bryan Singer furnished significant prominence as a director and overall filmmaker before he inadvertently kick started a very long, very successful, and very lucrative series of superhero films and their related and unrelated sequels and spinoffs, starting with Marvel’s “X-Men” in 2000…19 years ago, Holy sh*t! Well, in 1998, coming off his success of “The Usual Suspects” with fellow accused celebrity and now blacklisted actor Kevin Spacey and currently untarnished Irish actor Gabriel Byrne, Singer and Phoenix Pictures presented and released the suspense-thriller, “Apt Pupil,” a Bad Hat Harry production. Inspired by the Stephen King novella, “Apt Pupil” is the polarizing observation of two evil souls where one might be significantly eclipsing the other. Brandon Boyced (2005’s “Venom”) drafted a script based of King’s novella that was comprised of a different, and less pessimistic, ending to the novella while still uncompromising King’s baseline evil theme.

High school students, especially males, often have an aggressive temperament. Whether it’s sports, girls, or just trying to fit in, guys almost always take their tunneled focus to the extreme. For Todd Bowden, a brilliant young student, a fascination with the grim extermination of Jewish people and the Nazi culture tickled his fancy. Brad Renfro, only 14-years-old at the time of filming, stars as Bowden and really digs into the character’s adolescent psyche of relentless obsession, having his character converging all power from a big time war criminal and, even more simplistically, an older adult male, to himself, but when things go sour and Bowden starts to lose grip of his pawn, panic sets in and Kurt Dussander’s wicked and warped mind structures a counterattack that seemingly befriends the boy, but really demonizes Bowden’s already appalling obsession. Sir Ian McKellen, in a performance of pure brilliance, masterfully crafts a representative of evil in Kurt Dussander. The scene with McKellen stepping into a SS officer uniform and then marching with prerogative purpose that’s topped with a Nazi salute is perhaps one of the best chilling and unsettling performances of our lifetime. The dynamic in the scene between Renfro and McKellen, carefully shot and executed in direction by Singer, respects the bleak humanity enthralled by Stephen’s King body of literary work. There are some other amazing performances here by the supporting cast including David Schwimmer (“Friends”), Bruce Davison (“Willard”), Ann Dowd (“Hereditary”), Joshua Jackson (“Urban Legend”), Elias Koteas (“The Prophecy”), James Karen (“The Return of the Living Dead”) and Heather McComb (“Stay Tuned”).

As aforementioned, “Apt Pupil” has an evil duality narrative that contain descriptive horrors of the past, paints the means of callous obsession, and symbiotic necrosis of any good left in Todd Bowden or Kurt Dussander when together, but on the surface level, Kurt Dussander’s murderous duty to the cultural cleanse severely overshadows Bowden’s seemingly curious obsession, his blackmail of a notorious war criminal, his deception amongst those close to him, and, the inevitable, stony perception to murder. More than likely innocence could be blamed for the fact that Bowden is a child and Dussander’s a man living the last moments of his life, but Bowden becomes the catalyst for Dussander, reigniting the evil thoughts and actions of SS officer’s former life. Dussander attempts many degenerate actions from his past and never successfully succeeds in completing them whereas Todd ultimately finishes it either for Dussander, willing or not, or for his own self-preservation. By the end of “Apt Pupil,” the question you might ask yourself is how do you feel about either character? Despite the scale of their evils, which character ultimately, in the scope of Singer’s film from beginning to end, is the true representation of evil? To me, the finale feels like Dussander inadvertently passes the torch to Bowden and with his obsessive nature toward Nazism and extermination, the boy will grow up to continue being that representative of evil?

Umbrella Entertainment presents Bryan Singer’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novella, “Apt Pupil” onto Blu-ray home video. The region B, full HD, 1080p Blu-ray is presented in anamorphic widescreen, 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and the quality is crisp excellence with a sharp hi-def scan of textures and the details in Mckellen’s facial curvatures that just open up to expose the wily diabolical smirk from the vet actor. Coloring and skin tones are okay despite the release being slightly yellowish and inkier in comparison to other releases. The English 2.0 DTS-HD Master Audio does the job and is balanced all around with dialogue clear and present and the John Ottoman (“X-Men” franchise) is menacing without being overwhelming, but the ambience’s depth and range are stiffened from a lack of surround sound that could have been achieved with this release. The special effects are slim with a behind-the-scenes featurette that’s more surface level depth with cast brief cast and crew interviews and also includes theatrical trailer and TV spots. Viewers too caught up in the superhero hype might not recognize that Bryan Singer helmed “Apt Pupil” or might not even care in lieu of sexual accusations, but hardcore Stephen King fans and horror aficionados can certainly appreciate a blanket thriller with haunting performances that will be remembered more than the marring scandal behind-the-camera.

Might be a REGION 2 release, but still available on AMAZON.COM here in the states! Click the cover above to purchase 🙂

Small Town Evil Under a Full Moon! “Silver Bullet” review!


A small town is under sieged by a callous killer, ripping victims to bloody pieces and shreds without an ounce of mercy. As the town goes into a lockdown curfew, a paraplegic young boy named Marty decides to enact his own version of rebellious fun with a stroll in his gas-engine powered wheelchair for some nighttime fireworks, despite a killer on the loose and lurking in the moonlight. Marty’s fun turns into a terrifying nightmare when the killer stalks the boy and when Marty comes face to face with the killer and lives to tell the tale, he discovers that the town maniac is no ordinary deranged person but, in fact, a nasty, snarling werewolf whose also living in plain sight amongst them in the small town community. The only two to believe Marty’s harrowing tale is his older sister, Jane, and his drunk Uncle Red, whose still on the fence about Marty’s werewolf encounter. When the moon is high and full, the three devise a plan to lure out the monster to definitively put it down with a single shot from their one and only silver bullet.

A true piece of Americana horror, “Silver Bullet” remains a staple werewolf flick for those who grew up watching genre films in the 1980s. Daniel Attias, his first and only ever feature film, had embraced a larger-than-life monster movie from a script written by the legendary macabre novelist Stephen King, based off his novella “Cycle of the Werewolf.” Attias and King were practically novices when in regards to directing and screenplays; yet, “Silver Bullet” offers much in the way of comedy, drama, and the frightening scares with a practical effects wolf and snippets of gruesome, violent death at the hands of the beast. “Silver Bullet” goes beyond just being a thrilling story of good versus evil by also blurring the lines of the conventional establishment that spark up the old idiom, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and dives into a satirical outlook of certain religious faiths and their viewpoints.

What makes “Silver Bullet” as one of the most recognizable and rememberable films, regardless of some microscopic sloppy screenwriting and first time directing woes, is the cast. Before his life altering motorcycle accident, Gary Busey (“Predator 2”) as Uncle Red brings flesh and bone, and booze, to akin King’s Uncle Al character from the novella. Busey fabricates a wonderful, heartwarming performance dynamic with Marty, whose played by the late Corey Haim (“Lost Boys”). Haim is fresh to the scene with his chubby cheeks and doughy soft eyes that would eventually make him a heartthrob idol later into his career and at the young age of thirteen, Haim’s paraplegic performance is respectable and empowering. Uncle Red and Marty are pitted against a sleeper antagonist in Revered Lester Lowe, a role who I could see no one else being in aside from Everett McGill (“People Under the Stairs”). McGill has a face for television, or the big screen in this case, as his chiseled, dark features make him a formidable foe that’s hidden behind a clerical collar. Longtime television and TV movie star Megan Follows plays big sister Jane whom factors in as Marty’s only ally despite their dysfunctional relationship which Follows portrays well with verbal jabs of adolescent wickedness toward her disabled little brother. Rounding out the cast is Terry O’Quinn (“The Stepfather”), Bill Smitrovich (“Manhunter”), and “Reservior Dogs” Lawrence Tierney.

Television cooking show host, Giada De Laurentiis’ grandfather, Dino De Laurentiis, produced the film who was no stranger to the horror genre, such as “Orca” and “Amityville II,” nor to films adapted from Stephen King’s work like the “Dead Zone.” Under Luarentiis’ wing, “Silver Bullet” delivered brutal, traumatizing werewolf kills spun from the werewolf suit creating hands of another Italian, Carlo Rambaldi (“The Hand That Feeds the Dead”), and together, the two Italian filmmakers, along with an apt cast and crew, saw their installment flourish amongst an overcrowded werewolf subgenre in the early 1980’s with competition from films such as John Landis’ “An American Werewolf in London,” “The Howling,” and, yes, even “Teen Wolf.” “Silver Bullet” didn’t just arrive on the scene without some challenges to the storyline. For instance, a killing spree has already established with more than five townsfolk dead and a strict curefew has been set in place, but Marty, ignoring his Uncle Red’s solicited advice about staying near the house to set off fireworks, sneaks out in the middle of the night to shoot off fireworks away from the house. Marty’s fairly bright through the entire story and a nice kid, but the initial encounter between him and the werewolf is by far one of the most unintelligent and dim-witted action any character to make in the history of horror films. What makes the scenario even worse is that Marty is handicapped.

Umbrella Entertainment presents Daniel Attias’ “Silver Bullet” on region B Blu-ray home video in a widescreen 2.35.1 aspect ratio. Image quality of the full high-definition 1080p picture has an agreeable color palette, sharpness, and pinpoint details that especially come to light during the memorable church of wolves scene. A very few scenes have transfer instability where, in a blink of an eye, a revert to a faded frame comes into the fold. The English 2.0 DTE-HD master audio poises and harmonizes the elements and the dialogue into a vat of consistency that isn’t flawed by track damage. Jay Chattaway rallying, chilling score is a candor testament to the quality of the soundtrack that follows suit right behind the beyond par quality of the dialogue and ambient levels. Special features include audio commentary with director Daniel Attias, interviews with special effects artists Michael McCracken, Jr (“Deep Blue Sea”) & Matthew Mingle (“A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors”), an interview with actor Everett McGill, an Umbrella exclusive interview with producer Martha De Laurentii’s remembering “Silver Bullet,” isolated score selections and audio interviews with composer James Chattaway, theatrical trailer, TV Spots, radio spot, and still gallery. A complete and definitive set from Umbrella Entertainment! “Silver Bullet” is a howling success story of classic American horror that has timeless practical effects, a riveting narrative, and cast enriched characters that invest into the lycanthropy film paralleling David versus Goliath.

Two Lovers Become Entangled in Evil’s Child Abduction Web! “Hollow Creek” review!


Wyoming County, an economic crumbling West Virginia area, is the destination for a work and romantic getaway for popular horror novelist Blake Blackman and his book cover illustrating mistress Angie. As Blake continues to struggle with writer’s block on his next book, Angie attempts to relax in a town that’s outside her comfort zone, but immediately diagnosis trouble as she believes she is witnessing a crime in progress and not just any misdemeanor violation, but a child being abducted, a third abduction that has plagued Wyoming County for the last 18 months. Angie follows the kidnapper to an isolated farm house where she’s captured and imprisoned in the basement for five months along with two caged young boys. Blake becomes prime suspect number one in the case, but after five months of no evidence and Blake not vacating Wyoming County as he searches for the woman he loves, the frustrated police department finally open to new leads from Blake’s obsession in locating Angie, even if his theories and circumstantial evidence are churned from out of a supernatural presence that surrounds itself around the malevolently insane child kidnappers.

From this reviewers stand point, the last Burt Reynolds’ film to cross these glossy green eyes was perhaps in the year of 2005 with “Legend of Frosty the Snowman” and, even then, Reynolds’ casting was just voice work. “The Longest Yard,” starring that ridiculing funny guy Adam Sandler, was the last live action film, but the films I recall of the handsome mustache charmer sticking to me like glue and always coming to the forefront of my sometimes fried brain isn’t always “Smokey and the Bandit” or “The Cannonball Run.” No, the films that stay with me are “Cop and a 1/2,” “Boogie Nights,” and “Strip Tease.” A guilty pleasure comedy and two adult comedy-dramas overwhelm the light-hearted and comedy action of the 1980’s favorites and, perhaps, solely becomes I was more conscious of films in the 1990’s. In either case, Reynolds’ in any of the noted films was this charismatic and larger than life figure. That’s not the case in the 2016 thriller “Hollow Creek.” Written and directed by Guisela Moro, with Steve Daronn credited as a writing collaborator, “Hollow Creek,” also known as “Haunting at Hollow Creek,” displays a much more humble Burt Reynolds whose weak physique and agitated temperament more closely resembles his 81-years on this Earth and even though the enduring actor has only about 5 minutes’ worth of screen time as the region’s wealthy owner of coal mines, the fading A-lister shares a headlining credit alongside costars Moro and Daron.

Filmmakers Guisela Moro and Steve Daron also star as the lead characters Angie and Blake Blackman. The two have well enough chemistry to pull off incognito lovers, but regress when unable to feed off each other when they divide for more than most the runtime as they’re pitted against their respective oppositions and fed their individual motivations. For Daron, the Burt Reynolds protégée succumbs to his character’s desperation and eagerness to locate his missing lover, showing an earnest fiery ambition and displaying a softer side whenever Angie is paired with him on screen. For Moro, I wasn’t sold on her performance that shifts into many different gears and taps into a wide range of unwarranted expressions and actions, but Moro’s directing herself and in that mindset, a narrow envision of how your character should react, behave, or carry themselves comes off a bit skewed and that’s more or less what happens in Ben Stiller directed-and-starring movies. If you’ve seen “Zoolander,” you know what I’m talking about. Alyn Darnay and Earleen Carey steal the show right under the noses of Moro and Daron with an unstable older couple trying to recoup thee the loss of their twin boys with the snatching of other people’s children and the pair dive into two very different hostiles with Darnay exposing his character, Leonard Cunnings, as a paranoid and psychopathic hand of the couple while Carey sails a softer, yet still deranged, side with trying to hunt down the perfect children for their unsuitable home.

Guisela Moro’s “Hollow Creek” succumbs to a lack of genre identity. Meaning, the 2016 film wasn’t constructed with one genre in mind, does it want to be a ghost film, an exploitation, and even Blake Blackman goes through his segmented drama of searching for his mistress in Wyoming Counter. There’s even a quotational introduction referring to children being abducted every 40 seconds in the United States. Without an identifier, plot holes rear their ugly little heads. For example, a hazy dynamic between Angie and a ghost of one of the dead kidnapped boys doesn’t seem to add up to the film’s ultimate conclusion when Angie has briefly passes into death and she shepherds the dead boy’s ghost to the great beyond, ending his Earthly torment. The whole scene is out of place and significantly unimportant as the two really never had an interaction with the exception of a pair of extremely brief moments, but in Angie’s moment on the other side, the two are the best of friends. The story was also inarguably one sided with much of Cunnings’ mental stability and criminal escapades of kidnapping three young boys falling shamefully by the waist side.

MVDVisual in association with FilmRise distributes the Guisela Moro directed “Hollow Creek” on DVD home video. The widescreen presentation is glorified by the lush West Virginia backdrop with intrinsic details in the greenery and the couples’ cabin, but darker scenes succumb to digital block interference and appears slightly washed over. Skin tones are a nice touch when in natural lens, but the back and forth between natural and a heavy blue filter, especially during scenes at the gas station, become a thorn in the side of continuity. Overall Jon Schellenger’s cinematography conveys a nice concoction of intrinsic beauty and hazy mystery. Audio quality pars well with some range issues that don’t really discourse the project. There are zero bonus features accompanying the disc. “Hollow Creek” flatters the Stephen King story telling imagination and Guisela Moro helms her first feature with rock solid determination with a touch of a cinematic spark that hooks you into the story, yet the unclassifiable stance mislays how the story is to be accepted, spooling an incomplete wash over Moro’s work as a whole. Still, “Hollow Creek” aims high and doesn’t miss and that’s the bottom line.

Own “Hollow Creek” on DVD today at Amazon.com!

Can You Survive Rob Zombie’s Evil Death War? “31” review!

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Traveling across a remote highway, five carnival workers journey to their next small top gig on Halloween day in 1976. Stopped by scarecrow-like figures in the middle of the road, the carnies find themselves led into a hostile trap and are kidnapped, held hostage to be poorly prepped for the dilapidated warehouse “Murderworld.” The violent death labyrinth is set for a hellish game entitled “31”, launched yearly by the sadist Father Death with Sister Serpent and Sister Dragon, that pits the captive against a series of killers, specialized in their own brand of merciless murder. To survive inside “Murderworld,” you have to stay alive for 12 hours in the dark, dank warehouse.
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After a self produced campaign, a hefty amount of soul crushing crowdfunding, and a slew of production and distribution ups and downs, “House of a 1000 Corpses” director and shock rocker Rob Zombie was finally able to release this year his latest horror installment “31” since 2012’s “The Lords of Salem.” Lionsgate acquires the home entertainment rights to deliver “31” with a R-rated version of the Zombie’s claimed return to roots horror. The survival slasher, when compared to the director’s other work, capitalizes as the most seriously disturbed work to date, but the premise is not particularly original. We’ve all seen the placing of disoriented victims in a life or death game scenario before; Schwarzenegger’s “The Running Man,” based off the Stephen King novel, strikes many similarities, closely relating the two films by sheer plot alone. With Zombie’s “31,” the differences stagger between the main characters being simple carnies looking for a place in the world and “Murderworld” not being a total dystopian future of skewed justice. Instead, the shock rocker pens in his own ‘motherfucking’ motivations of satanic rituals to filthy the pot of sadism and mayhem.
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Overall, I thought “31’s” characters were inviting and interesting even if they’re a cookie-cutter roster engineered by the likes of Rob Zombie. The idea is good to have five ordinary folks enduring a 12 hours bout of being hunted by a pint sized nazi enthusiast, a pair of chainsaw wielding hillbilly whack jobs, a tall German in a pink tutu and his Harley Quinn modeled femme fatale, and, then, there’s Doom-Head, portrayed by the impeccable Richard Brake. My first experience with Brake came from another facet of the word ‘doom,’ 2005’s “Doom,” to be exact, the adaptation of the popular id Software survival horror video game, and even then did Brake have the outer shell of a complete sleaze ball, dipped in an indescribable amount of pure malevolence. Rob Zombie is able to tap into Brake’s true potential with Doom-Head, an egocentric nihilist professionally suited for murder while oozing with unapologetic shamelessness. Along with Brake lies co-stars very familiar from prior Zombie films and these individuals are Jeff Daniel Phillips, deeply blue-eyed Meg Foster, and Judy Geeson from “The Lords of Salem,” the legendary Malcolm McDowell and Lew Temple from the “Halloween” remake, and, of course, Sheri Moon Zombie, the dedicated wife who stars in everything the man does from movies to music videos. Rounding out the film has Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs, Kevin Jackson, Jane Carr, Pachno Moler, David Ury, Torsten Voges, and “Pee-wee’s Big Adventure’s” Elizabeth Daily on the docket.
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The problem with the characters are not that their ‘cookie-cutter’ characters, as I aforementioned, but rather their just well, well under written. Developmentally, almost every character becomes wasted space, floating stagnantly across the 103 minute runtime. For the hunters aside from Doom-Head, they’re backgrounds are mysterious which fits the rules of “31.” Doom-Head is a different story because he’s the golden child of “Murderworld,” spoken very highly by Father Murder and graced with so much monologuing that it’s absurdly comical and, unfortunately, predictable. As far as the carnies are concerned, most of the group never blooms into relevancy and I couldn’t help but to root for most of their savage deaths. Sheri Moon Zombie’s Charly character was the slice of life, the slither hope, that showed promise. Yeah, Charly looks and sounds much like Baby Firefly, but Charly is a fantasy heroine with a modest range of emotions and when even faced with defeat, she’s stands strong.
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Though I wanted “31” to exceed all my expectations with the promise of untapped brutality, here we stand with a cut version Rob Zombie’s crowdfunded film. I’m interested in what exactly hit the cutting room floor because, just taking in “31” at first viewing, every single scene could be remedied by reimplementing, if any, omitted scenes. From my understanding, Rob Zombie submitted the survival horror numerous times to the MPAA in order to purposely retrieve a R-Rating and the ending result suggests a heavily cut film: off camera moments of attack, choppy warehouse segments, unintended shortened character developments, etc. Something more must be behind the scenes that holds back a fan well-deserved and fan well-funded unrated version and I’m not totally knocking this rated Lionsgate release, but a perception has been cemented on the fact that fans were promised an unadulterated Rob Zombie spook show and ended up not getting what they paid for ultimately.
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Lionsgate Home Entertainment will be releasing the Saban Films’ “31” on Blu-ray on December 20th in 1080p High Definition with a 16×9 widescreen 2.46:1 presentation and an English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. A DVD version is also available. The presentation is in the detail of the image quality with only some minor dialogue loss, slightly muddled amongst the levels, in the DTS track. Certainly not a disparaging opinion, but once in close quarters, such as the carnies’ van, the ambiance hum of the engine, the tires on the road, and the jingle-jangle of objects in the van drown out parts of dialogue from Meg Froster and Jeff Daniel Phillips. An impressive 2-hour comprehensive documentary on the making of the film entitled “In Hell Everybody Loves Popcorn” and an audio commentary with writer-director Rob Zombie completes the bonus material. “31” feels like a Rob Zombie film; the rocker’s trash talking grit and loads of rockabilly swag leaves his unique brand seared into the horror scene, but Zombie’s “Murderworld” story is a promise-filled return to roots sensation for the director. Honestly, Zombie never strayed from his grungy grindhouse of inhuman torture and death origins, but only for a fleeting moment, and so “31” stays the abrasive, distasteful course that’ll speak, like in cult comprehensible tongues, to only his fan base.

Rob Zombie’s “31” on Blu-ray!

“31” on Motherfuckin’ DVD!

It’s Bloggin’ Evil Interviews “Love is Dead” director Jerry Smith!

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Horror Film Journalist and Filmmaker Jerry Smith

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.

Rob Galluzo

Rob Galluzo

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.

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Joanna Angel and Aaron Thompson

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.”

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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.