Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. This summer I had a chance to catch up with Michael Biehn and his lovely wife and actress Jennifer Blanc at the San Diego Comic Con and talk about their new film THE VICTIM which hits DVD and BluRay this week. At the time, I hadn’t seen the film, but since then, I have been able to check it out, so a review of the film follows this interview. Here’s what Michael and Jen had to say about the film…
AMBUSH BUG: So I’m here at the Hotel Solomar on a beautiful day. I get a little break from the Con and so I just wanted to… I was going to be meeting with you guys on the floor, but now it looks like we can do it here in the luxury of the pool.
MB: It’s a lot more relaxing than the con, eh?
BUG: It is. So tell me a little bit about THE VICTIM to start off. Let’s talk about that.
MICHAEL BIEHN (MB): Okay, THE VICTIM is a… I’ve always described it as a grindhouse movie, because it’s very, very low budget and we shot it in twelve days. We had three weeks of pre-production. During that three weeks I wrote the script. I was kind of inspired because I worked with Robert Rodriguez and Quentin on the GRINDHOUSE film and it is basically about a young girl who’s a stripper, who’s partying with some cops, who’s got a friend and one of them gets in trouble where one of the girls gets hurt and she realizes her friend’s been hurt and runs off and the cops chase her and chase her… It’s out in the wilderness kind of a setting where they take these girls. They are doing coke and partying and like…
JENNIFER BLANC (JB): And shooting guns with cops in the woods…
MB: She shows up to my door for protection and I protect her throughout the rest of the movie and it’s basically I wanted to do an exploitation movie and I didn’t have any money, so I figured she’d get naked for me. (Laughs) I said, “Do you have any friends that would get naked also?” She said, “Well Danielle Harris. I know she will get naked for us.”
JB: So he pimped Danielle out. He pimps me out…
MB: Yeah, so I got the sex in, because I didn’t have money for special effects makeup, I didn’t have money for visual effects. I didn’t have money for crowd scenes of car chases, nothing like that and so I just went with the sex, dirty cops, drugs, a little bit of torture, and enough to do a little bit of action, and I through in a serial killer.
JB: And it still has a gritty feel to it also.
MB: Kind of a seventies feel to it. It’s good. It reminds me of… I grew up in Lincoln, Nebraska and we used to go to the outdoor theaters and they used to do double features and the first feature that my parents came to see would be something with Elizabeth Taylor and in the first feature… and Paul Newman in CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF or something like that, right? That’s what they came to see, but “that starts at eight,” well at six o’clock, before it’s even dark, they would throw on another movie and it would be Vic Morrow and Connie Stephens or something and that’s what this movie is. (Laughs)
BUG: Very cool. Well I know the film has been touring around and it’s just about to be released on DVD, is that correct?
JB: Yeah, well we are premiering at Fantasia Film Festival next week and then the same week that it’s released on DVD it shows up at Fright Fest in the UK. It opens at The Quad in New York City on August 24th and at the New Bev, Quentin Tarantino’s theater in Los Angeles starting September seventh and then it goes to DVD, Blu-Ray, VOD and all of that on September eighteenth in North America and then September twenty-fourth in London.
BUG: Wow, okay. So have you seen it with a crowd?
JB: That’s our favorite way to see it, because the crowd… A crowd of savvy kind of people who are ready to have a good time who are fans of both of our stuff and Danielle’s stuff just are vocal and you can just hear the enjoyment and it’s fun for us.
MB: We’ve seen it with about twenty audiences now, because the problem with a movie like this is getting people to see it and even to get distribution you know is getting people to watch the movie. It’s just harder than you think and so we basically have spent the last year and we were all over Canada and Kansas City, Phoenix… We were in Ireland…
JB: We were at Sigtes with it this last year…
MB: We’ve shown it in Texas about four or five times.
BUG: In Austin?
JB: No, we haven’t shown it in Austin. We showed it at the Alamo Drafthouse, but it was in Houston.
MB: But it almost feels like you’re in Austin, because that’s…
JB: The vibe in there is of course the same.
MB: So no, we never made it to Austin, which is the best city in Texas, but for some reason we never made it there. We saw Robert at SXSW.
JB: And Robert has seen it and Jim Cameron has seen it and he’s just gotten a lot of support from his friends and other filmmakers.
BUG: So is this new for you? Have you directed or written before?
MB: No, I haven’t.
BUG: So what was that like for you to do this for the first time? You’ve worked with some of the biggest directors out there.
MB: It was kind of controlled chaos, because a guy like Jim Cameron… I had twelve days, when Jim’s got like twelve weeks you know?
JB: Twelve months…
MB: Yeah, like AVATAR… AVATAR is probably a four or five year thing. But you know, when you’re doing something in twelve days… We were doing forty setups a day. We had one camera and we were doing like forty or forty-five setups a day and so it was just kind of, for me anyway, it was like madness getting everything done and it’s not really the way to make a movie at all. You really should have it all planned out and everything.
JB: I agree, but there was an element of excitement and fun to it and the kind of movie it is kind of fits the way we made it if you think about it.
MB: And I was… I’m a little bit of a… I’ve worked with directors that other people have described as being tough, like Billy Friedkin, Jim Cameron, Michael Bay, you know and I was like a combination of all three of them on their worst day every day on my movie, but I’m happy to say that nobody quit and nobody got fired. I think when you see the making of, because we have a making of video…
JB: It will be on the Blu-Ray and DVD. There will be special features that are like really cool. I made it, so I’m biased, but I think it’s cool.
MB: I think everybody other than me was having a lot of fun making it, you know?
BUG: So what type of director is he?
JB: He’s a fucking lunatic dude. He’s a crazy person, but I wouldn’t trust anybody as much.
MB: I wouldn’t have been crazy if I had had a proper preproduction period. When we had out preproduction there was no script, so I mean usually that’s a good thing to have when you’re in preproduction, some scripts so you can go to each location and decide what you’re going to need for each shot and how many actors and so forth. I was writing it in my head and at night, so I was still writing it when we started shooting the movie and so we started with a love scene between… That was the very first thing that we shot, a love scene between Jen and I and by the end of that afternoon…
JB: I mean he just went full frontal like just in front of the camera, not realizing the camera was right there and his niece was in the makeup department and she was standing by the monitor and flew back about thirty feet never to return to the monitor again.
MB: She mentions it like my niece… My niece was on the show. Her mother was on the show.
JB: My mother, my stepdad… His brother… People from THE DIVIDE came form Canada and worked on the show.
MB: When you see the credits, you will see that people have like three credits. Instead of doing one thing, they did like three things.
BUG: Do they show up multiple times in the credits?
JB: No, they have the three credits under their picture and them talking, but one thing about Michael is he knows what he wants and he will not settle for anything less than what he exactly wants, so what’s on that screen is exactly what he wants.
MB: That’s true. If it’s what everybody else wants…
JB: Everybody else has had their opinions. Even Jim Cameron has been like “this, that…” and he’s been like “No, I’m going to do what I want,” but you know. Jim wants him to do a sequel.
MB: Yeah, and of course it has to do with a strong women and you know…
JB: I was like “Oh, can we do that?” He’s like “No.” I’m like “Darn it!”
BUG: So now that you’ve got the bug, the directing-writing bug, is there going to be more coming from you?
MB: You know, here’s the deal. Jennifer and I have started a production company called Blanc/Beihn Productions and she really is the one that really does… She really is like ninety percent of it. I’m just like the guy that kind of helps get a little bit of money and so we’ve already made a second film.
JB: He didn’t write it or direct it.
MB: Right, but I’m in it. See when I made this movie I thought I was going to make a movie and I was going to do it in twelve days, I was going to shoot it, and if it was good I was going to go out to small studios and say “Look, I made this movie for twelve days with this amount of money, can you give me some more money so I can make a real movie?” What we have kind of realized that the model of anything that is like kind of like going smaller. If you can get quality and it can be smaller and less money, then there’s a chance of actually making money, you know?
BUG: What’s the next one?
BUG: What’s TREACHERY going to be about?
JB: Well TREACHERY is… Travis Romero who produced THE VICTIM with us wrote it and directed it. It’s his first time directing and he’s someone we work with and he’s a dear friend and it was an opportunity for him and we trust him implicitly, so that’s why Michael is in it.
MB: He’s a writer. I met him on a television series I was doing called HAWAII which was an NBC series. We did about ten episodes before…
JB: He created WHITE COLLAR too.
MB: He created WHITE COLLAR and he’s just been a good friend. We’ve written a script together that we are… That’s a bigger movie though.
JB: So this is about a group of people that get stuck in a house, friends and family for a weekend wedding and all of these secrets and kind of horrible truths get unveiled during that weekend.
BUG: Is that a drama or a horror movie?
JB: It’s a drama. It’s not a horror movie, however the way it’s taking a turn in editing right now, there’s a tiny little bit of genre turn happening, which I’ll talk to you about… Just FYI, Blanc/Beihn Productions does have a couple other things in the works. There are treatments and we are working with writers and stuff, but we do have set for next year we are working with Xavier Gens… We are partnering with him on a movie called THE FARM and then we are going to do two others to follow that, one called UP AND DOWN and one called THE PREDICATOR.
BUG: I actually just talked with him about THE DIVIDE a little while ago.
JB: Oh, you did?
BUG: Yeah, when that came out.
JB: Isn’t he lovely?
BUG: Yeah, he’s a great guy and I love THE DIVIDE by the way. I think it’s a fantastic movie and I loved your performance in it.
MB: Thank you.
BUG: What was that like being on the set for that film?
MB: It was fantastic actually. I mean THE DIVIDE was a chance for actors to really take control of their characters and really take control and kind of do whatever they wanted with the character. Basically I came up with the… We had a writer on the set… What was his name? The writer?
JB: Aaron Sheen who has ERRORS OF THE HUMAN BODY coming to Fantasia.
MB: So Aaron was on set for all of the actors if they wanted help rewriting and changing so on and so forth, but if you did some improvisation and Xavier liked it, he put it in the movie. So characters had a tendency to change from their original and my character was the antagonist and stayed the antagonist all the way through and I came up with all of that nine eleven stuff. All of that nine eleven stuff I kind of came up with to get the audience some idea of what he went through. If you play a bad guy it’s okay if they don’t like you, but it’s good if they can understand why you are so angry and so on and so forth, but this one changed so dramatically that by the end of the movie he was almost sympathetic and I felt that everybody else in the movie lost their humanity and this guy kind of found his humanity a little bit, so that was really exciting.
JB: Also the way Xavier works… A perfect example is I was up visiting Michael and one of the things that gave him he humanity was that little bit that they did with me as his wife in the dream sequence. It just started, because he saw our relationship and was like “Do you mind if we integrate this?”
BUG: Yeah, they said you shot it in sequence right? From start to finish?
JB: Yeah, so it was easy. They had already started using pictures of us and then he was like “Can we do this?” So he’s just a very amazing director.
MB: The thing I like about this kind of situation is that like when I made THE VICTIM, I said to the people that put up the money “It’s such a small amount of money that if somebody else was making decisions about content and about the script and about casting, I could look like a real idiot, because this was small time filmmaking, you know?” Not that I haven’t looked like an idiot on film before, but I try not to. I try to stay away from it, you know? So basically I said “This is just such a small amount of money I’ll do this, but I have to have all the creative control and I have to have all of the production control and I have to decide who we are going to sell it to and when we sell it.” And they agreed.
JB: That was his choice, first choice.
MB: So now I’m in this Steven Spielberg-like contract, like Spielberg’s contract or Jim Cameron’s contract in the mini-class. But it’s fun to be in that place, you know where you’re developing something and this was developed from basically Jennifer and Travis coming up with an idea over the telephone and they were talking one day and they came up with an idea and they just…
JB: And I’m sure like we’re going on now and if we are continuing too much, tell us, but the poster came about… It’s basically like this dad who basically ripped these people’s lives up from roots.
MB: Basically I’m fucking my son’s girlfriend.
BUG: Okay, that would do it.
JB: Fun, fun, fun.
BUG: Just a brief mention, I told you that I just reviewed JACOB and how did you become involved in that film?
JB: Actually through the persistence of the filmmaker, Larry Wade Carrell actually contacted me on Facebook trying to get a hold of us and honestly it was through persistence and his love and passion for the people that were working on the project that basically wooed Michael to help him as a filmmaker, and myself.
MB: Basically Jennifer takes all of these calls and I get them like… a lot of them. A lot of people that want me to come in and work a day for a certain amount of money, put my name on the poster, and I don’t want to do that anymore. I tell her “No, just no.” So I told her… I didn’t even talk to Larry for…
JB: He kept coming back. He was like the cat that came back.
MB: I kept saying “No.”
JB: Every couple of days I would be like “That guy called again.”
MB: I’d say, “Tell him to fuck off. I don’t want to do the fucking movie.”
JB: He’s a wonderful guy.
MB: “I don’t care if he’s a wonderful guy, fucking one day? I don’t want to do it!” Finally he sent something that he had shot and he somehow got me on the telephone, which is…
JB: Really hard and I got so abused to get you on the phone.
MB: No… Once I got on the telephone with him there was something about him that he just had so much passion for his movie, good, bad, or indifferent he had so much passion for it and I could hear it in his voice and he just… He loved his movie. He loved his crew. He loved his story that he wanted to tell and he wanted me so badly, because he thought that that would legitimize it and that would help bring people to see his movie and I never in my life met somebody that is as passionate as that guy is and I consider myself passionate. That doesn’t mean you’re necessarily going to make a great movie or not, but it means that you’re passionate and I think that that’s how I ended up in that movie.
JB: Did you like JACOB?
BUG: I did. I liked it a lot. I thought it was a lot of fun and it was unexpected. When I talked with the filmmaker he sent me a screener for it and he said he was a little nervous to send it to me, but I sent him message back that it was a great film and gave it a good review.
MB: And the thing is I kept saying “What are you going to do with me in one day?” That’s like a shot of Michael Beihn, “put me on the cover” and like we’re bullshitting the audience, but he was able to really, in one day… After I was there I was willing to stay another day and just help him out or whatever, but he shot me in one day. All of this worked out extremely well, because while I was there in Texas…
JB: We were in Houston.
MB: I got a call from my cardiologist and my cardiologist has been looking at my heart for about the last five or six years knowing that I had a regurgitating valve, which is the same thing Arnold has had replaced twice not I think. Larry King had it done… Barbara Walters just had it done a while ago and he said to me, they do sonograms and stuff, he goes “You’re going to have to get it replaced, Michael. We are going to have got get it replaced here pretty soon. What’s your schedule like? Maybe we can do it this year.”
JB: We were just like. “We’re going to be in Houston these dates.”
MB: I was in Houston when I first talked to him and I said “I’m in Houston now.” He said, “You’re in Houston?” “Yeah.” “All right, I’ll call you right back.” He’s kind of a cardiologist to the stars… big guy, and so I get a call back and I end up going over to the hospital over there by Baylor and they have this huge medical facility and great heart facility, one of the best heart facilities in the world, and I ended up getting with a guy by the name of Bud Frasier to do this little valve replacement. He’s more used to doing lung and heart transplants on children. I mean he was involved in the very first heart transplant of the guy that lasted for like 13 days, the very first one that they did. So in a way it was kind of…
JB: It was amazing, because we ended up going back to Houston. These people are like family now, Larry Carrell is a dear friend now… Nick Nickerson… there are a few people that we met through them that are producers on TREACHERY, so they’ve really become like family, but it’s interesting how things turn out if you give somebody a chance.
MB: I gave him a chance and I ended up having the best heart surgeon in the world do my valve replacement.
BUG: That’s what I was going to ask. You bring such intensity to all of your performances. Have you had to adjust that, because of the heart problems?
MB: Fuck no.
JB: It brings an intensity to our house, trust me.
MB: The interesting thing about my heart surgery was it was… It was preventative surgery, so I mean I was in a gym working out and I work out hard. I get my heartbeat up to 135 in 30 minutes three or four times a week. I play racquet ball all of the time and I didn’t have any symptoms at all. I mean they had been monitoring it for so long that they would just look at it and go “You might as well… It’s going to have to happen. Find a spot in your schedule that we can get it done.”
JB: It was honestly more scary for me sitting around waiting for him and watching him come out of it, but he came and bounced back.
MB: And by the way, it’s a no brainer. My dad had it done. It’s a no brainier surgery and my kids immediately looked it up on the computer and…
JB: “You’ll be fine, Dad.” There was a ninety-nine point nine percent chance... “We’re not worried, Dad, just go.”
BUG: Well I’m glad you are healthy now. Well just to wrap things up, what do you want to tell all of the people at Ain’t It Cool News about THE VICTIM? Why should they go check it out at festivals and check it out on Blu-Ray and DVD at the end of the summer?
MB: I tell you, basically when I open the movie I basically say “If you don’t like fighting and you don’t like fucking, then you might want to get up and leave right now.”
JB: So if you like fighting and fucking, come see the movie.
BUG: Sounds like the perfect movie. (Laughs)
MB: It’s fun, okay. I don’t want people to watch it and really take it seriously. It was meant to be fun. At the very beginning of the movie I say, “This is not based on true events.” So it’s like I want people to know that it’s not to be taken that seriously and it is kind of like cotton candy, it’s pulp fiction. It’s cotton candy, you know? You eat it and it’s kind of there and then it’s gone. Like “We just saw it” and forget about it, you know?
JB: But get the DVD so it doesn’t go away and so you can watch it again.
MB: I guess to answer your question, if you like cotton candy then go see THE VICTIM.
BUG: Sounds great. Well thank you so much Jennifer and Michael. Thank you so much for talking with me today, I really appreciate it and best of luck with the film. It sounds fantastic and I can’t wait to see it myself.
JB: I can’t wait for you to see it.
MB: We’ve got a quote already from Ain’t It Cool from Nordling.
JB: We put it on the trailer that’s going to be like the premiere trailer that no one has seen. It’s on our artwork, too.
BUG: Well thanks again. Have a great time tomorrow. It’s great meeting the both of you!
THE VICTIM is available now on DVD and BluRay! After the trailer, check out my review of the film!
THE VICTIM (2012)Directed by Michael Biehn
Written by Michael BiehnStarring Michael Biehn, Jennifer Blanc, Ryan Honey, Denny Kirkwood, Danielle Harris
Find out more about this film here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
With Grindhouse quickly becoming the new found footage trend, it’s good to see actors of decent caliber giving it a shot these days. Usually, folks shoot through an aged filter and call it grindhouse, which…really doesn’t hit the mark. Michael Biehn doesn’t go for all that. Badass that he is, he just tells a grimy and gritty story of sex and violence and sex and violence in THE VICTIM, a new film released on DVD & BluRay this week which Biehn directed, wrote, and starred in.
As a first time director, Biehn shows a lot of promise with a pretty no frills, straight forward style telling a story of Annie (Jennifer Blanc-Biehn) a young stripper who barely escapes her death when a woodland double date with a pair of crooked cops goes wrong, ending in the death of her best friend Mary (played by the ever-nummy Danielle Harris). Annie happens upon a cabin in the woods where a loner named Kyle (Michael Biehn) resides and as she spills into his apartment, she begs for his help. Begrudgingly, he agrees and the rest of the film is a cat and mouser between the Biehns and a pair of crooked cops.
All of the right elements are present here with drugs, sexy time, and torture/murder served up in heaps. References to I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE and other genre greats pop up here and there. Biehn and Blan-Biehn have an all too quick sexual encounter of course, but this, after all, is a grind housey film where the main character is always irresistible to any attractive female who crosses his path.
Biehn does a great job here as a gruff but caring loner. In many ways, and more so than most other actors vying for the title, Biehn feels like the next incarnation of Clint Eastwood here as he growls out his lines through gritted teeth. Even the love words he mutters to Annie are spit through a grimace. I’d love to see Biehn as he grows older do more work like this. The rest of the cast is pretty good too. Blanc plays a good victim and is extremely easy on the eyes, but is also very easy to relate to in the film. Though there definitely needed to be more Danielle Harris in this one for my tastes.
Where this film lacks is in the scripting. Some of the lines lack inspiration and some of the writing seemed to take the easy way out as the ball gets rolling. A tighter second polish on the script would have made this a much better film. That said, with this being a Grindhouse style film, those films weren’t Shakespeare either. I also appreciated a few of the turns and U-turns that happen in the latter half of the film and while I was expecting some kind of twist the way the film was unfolding, the script did take me by surprise a few times.
THE VICTIM is more Grindhouse than most claiming to be in essence. Instead of spending time to set up the scratched film filters and blown out reels, Biehn chose to amp up the sleaze. It works as a down and dirty little schlocker that goes for both broke and lowest common denominator entertainment. A lot of freaky fun movie is going on with THE VICTIM.
See ya Friday with a column of BIG proportions, folks!
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/reviewer/co-editor of AICN Comics for over ten years. He has written comics such as MUSCLES & FIGHTS, MUSCLES & FRIGHTS, VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, WONDERLAND ANNUAL 2010 & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He is also a regular writer for FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND & has co-written their first ever comic book LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in late 2012 as an 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark has just announced his new comic book miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment to be released March-August 2012. Also look for Mark's exciting arc on GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-80 which begins in August 2012.
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