Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Why ZOMBIES & SHARKS? Well, those are the two things that I’ve had the most nightmares about. It’s the reason I rarely swim in the ocean. It’s the reason I have an escape plan from my apartment just in case of a zombie apocalypse. Now if you’ve ever had those fears or fears like them, inspired mainly by nights upon nights of watching films of the frightening kind, this is the place for you. Look for AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS every Friday for the foreseeable future, horror hounds, where we’ll be covering horror in all forms; retro, indie, mainstream, old and new.
So hey! What a week! In order to catch up with taking off last week, AICN HORROR will have two…count ‘em two columns this week. So if you’re not digging the indie horror in this column, fear not, for we have another one coming up on our regular day this Friday!
This week we have a handful of independent horror films worthy of your attention. I prefer horror of the indie variety myself because they are usually the most frightening, the most creative, and the most ballsy. In this column, there’s surely at least one film that should pique the interest in even the most die hard mainstream horror fan, and if you turn up your nose at these films because they don’t star WB actors or tout offensively massive budgets, then I’m not sure you can rightfully call yourself a horror fan.
But before we get to the indie treats, here’s a few horror related items you might find interesting.
Lyzard reviewed IDES OF BLOOD #4 (Romans vs Vampires!) here!
Prof. Challenger interviewed Peter Straub & Michael Easton, writers of the beautifully horrific THE GREEN WOMAN here!
Lyzard reviewed NANCY IN HELL #4 here!
Be sure to check out these horror comics reviews from AICN COMICS!
(Click title to go directly to the feature)
LONG PIGS (2007) Interview/Review
DEAR MR. GACY (2010)
MY BLOODY WEDDING (2010)
IF A TREE FALLS (2010)
PORN STAR ZOMBIES (2010)
And finally…Zombie Girl – GO ZOMBIE!
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): Right off the bat, I want to congratulate you on a superb film. LONG PIGS was one of the coolest horror films I've seen in a while. So where did the idea behind LONG PIGS come from?
CHRIS POWER (CP): First off, many sincere thanks for taking an interest in out little flick. I’ve been a daily reader of AICN for many years and this is definitely a dream come true! The idea for LONG PIGS stretches back to the early 90’s when Nathan and I were looking for a “real-life horror story” on which to base a script. Long story short - we eventually made contact with a charismatic and manipulative murderer in prison – decided to make a documentary, and then proceeded to make every possible journalistic mistake in the book. That and the fact that there was no real budget meant we could only afford to shoot something high concept/low budget. The result of all that was LONG PIGS I guess.BUG: Anthony, how did you come to star in this film? Your performance is so authentic; both charismatic and creepy all at once.
CP: I’ve known Anthony since high school. Actually, he was in the first 16mm film I ever put through a Bolex.
ANTHONY ALVIANO (AA): By coincidence years later at a friend’s wedding I ran into Chris again who told me about some short film they were making, and it was an open bar wedding so I said “yes”.
CP: At the time we were looking for a “real star” for our $100,000 calling card short film, but I mentioned to Nathan how great it was working with Anthony all those years ago. Of course all our “stars” fell through so we did a test with Anthony that blew us away. Eventually the $100,000 short turned into LONG PIGS which we wrote for him.
AA: When the idea changed and the guys told me about this “horror movie” idea, I never really thought twice about it and just said “sure”. I knew the guys well enough and really it sounded like a lot of fun – I wasn’t thinking much beyond that.BUG: One of the things that stands out in LONG PIGS is how real all of the performances seem. It honestly feels like a documentary--not only Anthony, but the rest of the cast too. How were you able to pull such authentic performances from the actors? Was the film heavily scripted or were actors allowed to ad lib?
CP: Thanks for pointing that out - our actors really knocked it out of the park and I love to see them get their due props! The real secret seems to be taking the time in casting to find the right person for the role, and we spent many months seeing everyone and anyone who was willing to audition and work for nothing. There was a shooting script but it reads very differently from the finished flick. On set, we not only encouraged but expected improvisation – which resulted in many of the best moments or “lines” in the movie. They made us look good.
AA: I remember when they gave me the script and the guys said they’d be “disappointed if much of it made it into the movie”. We used the script almost as an outline in every scene. We knew what we wanted to accomplish but sometimes not exactly how we were going to get there.BUG: I also mention in my review that story-wise, while able to stand on its own as an original film, LONG PIGS is very similar to MAN BITES DOG (where a French serial killer invites a film crew to follow him around on his killing spree). Did you take that film as inspiration for LONG PIGS?
CP: MAN BITES DOG is an amazing film – and we’re just honored to see LONG PIGS being talked about in the same breath, but they are different films.BUG: What other films influenced LONG PIGS?
CP: I would say that HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER, and the incredible documentaries of Nick Broomfield (BIGGIE AND TUPAC, KURT AND COURTNEY) and Joe Berlinger & Bruce Sinofsky (PARADISE LOST, BROTHER’S KEEPER) had an huge impression on us and the style of the movie.BUG: For you, what is the difference of shooting a documentary or a mockumentary compared to a feature film?
CP: Freedom! As a storyboard artist I came from the school of Stanley Kubrick, worshiping highly stylized and sometimes complicated setups – and then as an editor I would immediately throw out any shots with technical camera flaws, and proceed to assemble from there. The problem with that kind of filmmaking on a low budget is the performances aren’t the first priority, and we learned the hard way if you don’t have good performances a film can never really be great no matter how “pretty” it looks on screen. In the mocumentary format we knew there’d never need to be that conflict of interest between a great acting moment and a bad focus pull – which is one of the main reasons we went with the moc/doc format…that and money, of course. Let’s face it, you can shoot a documentary pretty much on your own, but a real narrative studio movie usually can’t be accomplished without an experienced crew and all the various departments coordinated and on their game.
AA: As an actor when you’re shooting a “real” feature there’s lots of crew around. For the most part you don’t know who they are or what their job is… Sometimes there’s a bit of a wall between the crew and the actors, and you can even feel “in their way” sometimes, but on a moc/doc the focus is all on the performance – because really that’s all there is. On LONG PIGS half the time there really was no “crew” – no traditional setups with long breaks in between. It helped keep everything flowing and felt natural.BUG: I try not to read too much about a film before I watch it. To be honest, up until the first kill, I seriously thought I might be watching an actual documentary. Then I was like, “OK so this isn’t really a documentary.” And then I had doubts again and was like, “Man, are these guys nuts enough to send me an actual snuff film?” Have you run into any problems with folks who think all of this was real?
AA: Part of the appeal of the movie for me was to try and get that reaction – so thanks!
CP: Surprisingly, there were some internet questions about LONG PIGS being real, but no “problems” as of yet (knock on wood). If the authorities ever had any real questions I could just march them up the street to our SFX Master: Chris Bridges (how’s that for a segue?)BUG: The dismembering scenes were so lifelike. How did you achieve such authentic looking special effects?
CHRIS BRIDGES – SFX (CB): Y'know, it's funny, we get asked that all the time. We really make things to spec and try to put the effort into what is going to be featured and then pull back in other places - all depending on time and money. For the effects for LONG PIGS, initially we were approached to fix someone else's work, and Chris and Nathan had some money to do that. However, the body was really unfixable and I decided that they really needed something new. I think the reason the bodies worked as well as they did was because the guys knew how it was going to be shot, in terms of lighting and distance, that, and we used every trick in the book, every shortcut, the most inexpensive materials to make the bodies. The most important detail was that we started with a proper cast of the actor(s). I knew if we had a good cast we could get what we needed. The rest was smoke and mirrors, but mostly smoke!
CP: Getting the effects right was a freakin’ nightmare! The first guy we went with ended up spending $4000 only to deliver a “body” that looked more like a baked ham. After that fiasco we contacted a prominent female SFX supervisor in Toronto who asked for the script and agreed to a meeting. We showed up early for the meeting in the middle of the afternoon to find their SFX shop completely closed – nobody home - no answer from any phone number. We only found out by chance many months later that the owner of the shop had read the script for LONG PIGS and deemed it “so horrible it should never be produced”. Finally we found Chris Bridges! (Cue angelic chorus) Not only is this the most talented man we’ve ever met in the industry but also he’s also the nicest! Chris totally delivered – we were paying out of pocket at that point and just begged him to help us. We could speak forever about this genius who literally saved our film.BUG: What kind of research goes into making a film like LONG PIGS?
CP: You really wanna know…BUG: Yes, please!
AA: Chris gave me a giant black binder full of terrible facts about cannibals and serial killers, I read what was in there and kind of let it sit without basing the character on anyone in particular.
CP: It’s amazing what you can find over the internet – and a bit scary. I’m soooo red flagged.BUG: I have to ask, since it was a question that came up in the film; if cannibalism were legal, would you give it a try?
AA: Yeah if it was accepted by society then I’d do it – ‘cause I’m a sheep.
CP: Good question, I suppose if I’d been raised to think it was normal… Are you asking us over for dinner?BUG: Changing the subject quickly! Now that the film has been out a few years, what's it like looking back on your experience making it?
AA: (Laughs) A lot of people helped out on the movie, but there was a very small core of people that really made this movie. It’s been a rollercoaster ride, but it’s pretty encouraging to think a bunch of nobodies can actually make a movie that people are seeing – and being written about on Ain’t It Cool!
CP: It’s surreal really. A year ago this film was basically sitting on my shelf with little hope of ever being seen. I mean, we started shooting in 2003 and we just got our DVD release in June 2010 - just in time for the collapse of the DVD market! In short, the experience making and distributing LONG PIGS has been longer and more painful than most prison terms… but rewarding all the same. I think everyone should try and make a movie.BUG: What kind of creepy fan mail have you received after releasing LONG PIGS?
CP: Alex (of Jordan Entertainment) has a great story from Fan Expo:
ALEX JORDAN: Throughout the process of promoting LONG PIGS I was always amazed at the knowledge certain people had about the term and practices of real life cannibals. At Fan Expo in Toronto, one of our female staff was watching the booth when a very creepy dude with a large compartmentalized briefcase bought a copy and informed her how he once dated a cannibal who worked at the morgue and casually described how they’d cooked a human head and served it on a bed of rice! He thought it tasted more like chicken. In New York at Comic Con I bumped into more very knowledgeable and practicing cannibals, well at least people who claimed they had tried it or had "friends" that did. Very weird.
AA: I’m still waiting for creepy fan mail! Where are all you crazy bitches?!BUG: So what's next for you?
CP: That’s it, I retire! No wait – I have a new baby to feed!
I think like most filmmakers we have a pile of ideas and a number of scripts. There’s a good chance we might be seeing LONG PIGS 2 with a major star - more details to follow soon…
AA: I have a cameo in a cool little movie called HEADCASE coming soon. Cannibal scripts are scarce…BUG: Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me. Congratulations again on an excellent film.
AA: Hey, thank you sir!
CP: And thanks to your readers! We’re always happy to chat and answer questions from fans on the various social networks so feel free to look us up anytime. BUG: Will do. And here’s my review for LONG PIGS!
Check out LONG PIGS official site here for more. And if you’d like to buy it, you can do that here.
LONG PIGS (2007)Directed & Written by Chris Power & Nathan Hynes
Starring Anthony Alviano, Paul Fowles, Shane Harbinson, Nathan Hynes, & Roger King
Retro-Reviewed by Ambush Bug
The mockumentary may be considered the sister or at least first cousin of the found footage craze, but I still love this type of film. Though films like PARANORMAL ACTIVITY and CLOVERFIELD get all of the headlines, I prefer films like THE LAST EXORCISM, INCIDENT AT LOCH NESS, THE LAST BROADCAST, and BEHIND THE MASK, where the fictional filmmakers attempt to film a documentary until the horror in front of the camera becomes too powerful to contain within the constraints of the director. In these types of films, the film crew usually stars as characters in the movie. Though some may lump the mockumentary in with POV or found footage films, the fact that there is a multi-layered reality being dealt with always intrigued me. The main problem with these types of films is that sooner or later, the mockumentary crosses over from documentary to movie where the illusion that what we are seeing is real is shattered with either bad performances, bad effects, or hokey storytelling which usually attempts to tie the entire story up into a little digestible, entertaining nugget. One of the films that embraces the horror mockumentary subgenre is MAN BITES DOG, a film I will probably cover in a future column, about a French serial killer who brings a camera crew with him on his killing sprees. What makes the film successful is that MAN BITES DOG never falls off course or shatters the myth that it is a documentary. It felt so real that, at the time of its release, MAN BITES DOG caused a lot of controversy with folks thinking it may actually be a snuff film. A modern cousin to that excellent piece of cinema is LONG PIGS.
The title LONG PIGS refers to cannibal slang for the human body. It is a mockumentary where a cannibal is followed by a film crew through his day to day routines. Actor Anthony Alviano plays Anthony, a charismatic guy who seems to be pretty decent. He’s funny. Not shy in front of the camera. Holds a job as a valet. It just so happens that Anthony is also a cannibal. Alviano’s performance in this film is the glue that holds the whole thing together. Alviano is so natural, so convincing, that at times, I thought this was actually a documentary I was watching. Alviano is a fantastic actor, tossing out nuances with a natural flair that would have half of Hollywood in the greenest shades of envy. There’s a scene where Anthony is dealing with some guilt after seeing the father of one of his victims. He tries to be jovial and strong, but you can tell despite his conviction that cannibalism is a perfectly decent thing, he is being torn up on the inside. No matter what he was doing, when Alviano is on the screen, it felt real and horrifying. You actually sort of like the guy, despite the fact that he cooks up humans and eats them. Other actors come and go in this film, most are pretty good too, but none of them seem like actors. The makers of this film should be congratulated on their choice of actors for LONG PIGS for their authenticity in front of the camera.
Though there are a lot of similarities between MAN BITES DOG and LONG PIGS, I wouldn’t call this a film a blatant rip-off. Though premise wise they are very much alike, LONG PIGS consists of enough scenes brimming with creativity, especially the time-elapsed scenes of Anthony in his basement dismembering a corpse, to stand on its own. Anthony is proud of his work and eager to share the secrets of the trade with this film crew. The movie plays almost like an instructional for any folks out there thinking of becoming cannibals themselves. Both the authenticity of the performances and the conviction of this film to sustain the illusion of the documentary from start to finish make LONG PIGS a thoroughly bone chilling experience. LONG PIGS will make you squirm both because of the graphic depictions of mutilation and cannibalism and because of how real even the most banal scenes of Anthony’s everyday life feel. Director/writers Chris Power & Nathan Hynes have made a fantastic film, one that will eat at you long after the credits roll.
DEAR MR. GACY (2010)In stores today!
Directed by Svetozar Ristovski
Written by Kellie Madison & Clark Peterson
Starring William Forsythe, Jesse Moss, & Jeffrey Kottler
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Creepy, creepy, creepy. That’s what DEAR MR. GACY is. With deft performances by the two main actors, this is a film that is above the usual serial killer docu-films out there today. There have been quite a few films dedicated to the telling of the backstories of some of the 20th Century’s most notorious serial killers; there was even one called GACY starring Francis from PEE-WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE which I haven’t seen yet and a “found footage” film called 8213: GACY HOUSE out soon as well which I have yet to see. But instead of trying to retell the life story of John Wayne Gacy, DEAR MR. GACY focuses on a small portion of the notorious clown faced killer’s life. In whittling the story down to these dramatic days, director Svetozar Ristovski and writers Kellie Madison & Clark Peterson have made this a more compelling study of a very sick man.
The story is structured somewhat reminiscent of SILENCE OF THE LAMBS or the recent CAPOTE with the maniac behind bars interacting with a naïve inquisitor from beyond the walls of prison. Here, an ambitious college student Jason Moss (played by Jesse Moss) wants to get an exclusive interview with death row inmate John Wayne Gacy (played superbly by William Forsythe). But in order to get into Gacy’s circle of trust, Jason is going to have to go to dark recesses of his mind he never thought he had. As the relationship between Moss and Gacy deepens, DEAR MR. GACY gets darker and darker. This is a sophisticated film, one that doesn’t go for easy scares, but rather sets out with a slow tension that builds and multiplies in intensity right up until the final scenes.
The film hangs on the performances by Moss and Forsythe and both deliver and then some. Forsythe is a great actor, but often doesn’t get roles like this where he can show more than just menace. When we first see Gacy, he’s gentle as a kitten, making small talk with the prison guards and peacefully walking about his cell. One might actually think that he isn’t capable of the atrocious acts he’s accused of. His interaction with Moss is playful at first, but as the film goes on, one can see the charisma Gacy must have had to lure his victims in. But Moss thinks he’s too smart for Gacy (a huge mistake), sending him letters with provocative photos sprayed with cologne to appeal to Gacy on a carnal level. The relationship that develops between the two will make you wince and cringe. The scene where Gacy instructs Moss over the phone how to molest his younger brother effectively is probably one of the most chilling scenes I’ve seen in a while. Actor Jesse Moss’ performance as Jason Moss is the surprise here. Moss is sort of a cross between Ben Foster and a less annoying Shia LeBeouf. He goes toe to toe with Forsythe and the younger, less experienced actor never flinches. This is a brave performance by both actors. In the hands of lesser thespians, the film would be flimsy, but with these two guys in the starring roles, DEAR MR. GACY cuts and stings and leaves a scar.
DEAR MR. GACY was a top notch film that left me unsettled and riveted all at once. It’s a descent into madness tale that has plot points you may have seen before, but the performances make it a lot more than that. Though it is often uncomfortable to watch, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from experiencing this eerie relationship develop between Moss and Gacy. DEAR MR. GACY is being released today on DVD & BluRay. It’s a tension filled tale of a man just as dangerous behind bars as he was when he was free.
MY BLOODY WEDDING (2010)Directed by Morgan D. Mead
Written by Morgan D. Mead & Morgan C. Mead
Starring Morgan C. Mead, Patrick Babbitt, Kyle S. More, & David Fultz
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
For those of you who are interested in a heavy dose of comedy in your horror, you might want to take a look at MY BLOODY WEDDING. More of a splatter comedy than a straight up spoof, MY BLOODY WEDDING is one of those films that chews on your funny bone and most of the time, the comedy works.
Doug is a wholesome kid who is in love with his gal, Callista. Callista wants to seal the deal, but Doug wants to wait until their wedding night. When Callista puts on a glowing necklace left to her by her mother, things start getting not so wholesome. Seems the necklace turns its wearer into a bloodsucker and in this film, there’s plenty of the red stuff to go around.
The most appealing thing about MY BLOODY WEDDING is the overall kookiness of it. For no apparent reason, Doug has a robot sidekick. This is never explained and I love it that it never is. It’s just accepted that wherever Doug is, he’s got a robot sitting beside him. Doug bursts out into a dance number mid-way through the story. Again, for no apparent reason. Callista’s neighbor? He’s a masked wrestler. Explanation? Nope. It’s goofy shit like this that makes every frame of MY BLOODY WEDDING fun.
MY BLOODY WEDDING isn’t really heavy on scares. That’s not the point of this one. This one is played for laughs and I’d say about 75-80% of the time its effective. I’d say the humor is along the same irreverent lines as MTV’s old THE STATE series or an episode of THE WHITEST KIDS YOU KNOW on IFC. If you’ve laughed at those shows, you’re more than likely to be giggling through MY BLOODY WEDDING. The final blood stained melee between the bride, her toothy bridesmaids,and the bloodsucking wedding party is completely over the top. Despite a few riffs that fall flat, MY BLOODY WEDDING is a gory little romp that isn’t held back by a smaller budget.
IF A TREE FALLS (2010)Directed by Phillip Carrer
Written by Ryan Barrett
Starring Breanne TeBoekhorst, Ryan Barrett, Jennifer DeLucia
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
IF A TREE FALLS was the third film to play in last week’s TERROR IN THE AISLES 7 at the Portage Theater in Chicago last Friday. After watching the film, I asked my pal and co-editor of AICN COMICS, Sleazy G what he thought of it. He hated it. I didn’t. He wasn’t a fan of the amateur acting, the weightlessness of plot, and the snails pacing that goes on for basically the middle 45 minutes of the film. I must admit, the film did drag in the middle. It dragged a lot. So much so that I found myself cheering with the rest of the rowdy crowd when the quartet of annoying twenty-somethings start falling. This film’s major flaw is that the cast is either unlikable or undeveloped. And if you spend ¾ of the movie on said cast, there’s a problem.
That said, I do admire IF A TREE FALLS for its grindhouse style. Much like MACHETE and GRINDHOUSE, the film has been aged and scratched to make it feel like an old drive in movie. The camera often times feels like it’s being thrown around (much like the victims) from one killer to the other, not being allowed to focus or read the entire scene, but just snippets of a horrible act. Not showing a clear picture of what’s going on can be annoying to some, but not me. It left me unnerved. I knew horrible things were happening. I just couldn’t make them all out. The extreme close-ups and occasionally shaky and blurry shots made for an uncomfortable and claustrophobic experience—something I go to a horror movie for. For establishing a horrifying mood, IF A TREE FALLS is very successful.
As far as the plot goes, it’s a lot like THE STRANGERS or ILS, where people are targeted by faceless murderers in the middle of nowhere for no apparent reason other than the thrill of it. The violence is harsh and often disturbing. IF A TREE FALLS tries to get philosophical at the end with one of the killers ranting to the audience how the system is inescapable using a wolf rebelling from the hierarchy of the pack only to form a new hierarchy elsewhere as metaphor, but this plays as more of an afterthought or an excuse for the gratuitous violence we just sat through rather than some kind of overarching theme. Though nothing new, IF A TREE FALLS is effective in that it left me unsettled, a feeling I rarely get from mainstream horror. Because of that, I found it worth seeing, even though others I saw it with disagree. For more info on IF TREE FALLS check out their Facebook page.
PORN STAR ZOMBIES (2010)Directed & Written by Keith Emerson
Starring Kevin Cazier, Kira Ratterman, Joshua Cameron, & Alicia Oberle
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Shot on a very low budget, you’ve got to give it to the makers of PORN STAR ZOMBIES for reaching for the stars. The concept of a zombie-like virus transmitted through sexual contact has been used before, most notably in Cronenberg’s early films like SHIVERS and RABID, but writer/director Keith Emerson isn’t going for that type of cerebral horror here. If you’re comparing this film to anything, it’s going to be CLERKS. The overall tone, the use of black and white, the sometimes witty banter, the amateur acting: all of those things were a part of CLERKS’ charm, and for the most part it works here in PORN STAR ZOMBIES too. But as with CLERKS, most of the time the movie sounds like folks reading someone else’s distinct writing style rather than natural conversation. Now, Kevin Smith’s breakout film is a far and above better time in front of the screen, but PORN STAR ZOMBIES isn’t without its own charm.
Like another genre twisting take on porn, ORGAZMO (and ONE EYED MONSTER, for that matter), I found it pretty amusing that with porn in the title, apart from dirty jokes and innuendo, there really isn’t much porn going on here. But I found myself laughing quite a bit at PORN STAR ZOMBIES. A lot of the lines were pretty funny and while the gore looks to be mostly made with chocolate syrup and spare meat, Emerson gets a lot by using very little here.
There will be plenty of folks who won’t find this film entertaining, but I found it to be worth a laugh or three. More comedy than horror, the film mixes sex and death cleverly in some parts of the script. Some of the ladies are easy on the eyes too. So while PORN STAR ZOMBIES won’t be in my top picks for most intelligent film of the year, it does possess a lot of spunk…
OK, wrong word choice.
How about a lot of chutzpah? Yeah that’s better. Chutzpah.
It’s got a lot of spunk too.
And finally, get out your glow sticks and groove the night away with Zombie Girl’s GO ZOMBIE! Enjoy!
See ya, next week, folks!
Find more AICN HORROR including an archive of previous columns on AICN Horror’s Facebook page!