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AICN HORROR talks with Steven Kostanski, director of the madness and the mayhem that is MANBORG! Plus a review of the film!

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Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Astron-6 burst onto the scene a while back with FATHER’S DAY (reviewed here) an over the top gorefest tasteless as all get-out. Now the forces of Astron-6 have returned with MANBORG, an homage to some of the best lo-fi horror/sci fi/action films of many of our youths. I was able to catch up with director Steven Kostanski about the film…

AMBUSH BUG (BUG): I am here with Steven Kostanski of Astron-6 to talk about his latest and greatest film, MANBORG. You are the director, editor, writer, special effects guy…do you star in the film too?

STEVEN KOSTINSKI (SK): I am in it. I play a bunch of characters, but they’re just actually a bunch of people getting shot.

(Both laugh)

SK: You can’t tell it’s me, but any time anyone gets shot and they’re flying through the air, that’s just me throwing myself onto a mattress in my garage.

BUG: It’s really great to see these films from Astron-6. I think all of them are fantastic. There is a low budget feel to it, but you guys reach for the stars with your films and they just ooze fun. How would you describe your type of films to those who may not be familiar with Astron-6?

SK: Well, I feel like MANBORG is a pretty big mishmash of all the genres. It’s got sci fi and action and has horror elements, but I’d never call it a horror film by any means. It’s a goofy comedy. I grew up with a bunch of crappy b-movies going to my local video store and renting everything I could get my hands on. So I grew up watching a lot of Full Moon Productions and Empire Pictures films. Stuff like that was always very ambitious, but never really had the budget which would always provide for those cheesy elements, but there were also a lot of interesting designs in them too. Cool creatures and good production design.

BUG: Have you done a lot of stop motion or claymation work? I noticed in MANBORG you have this giant robot monster…

SK: That was stop motion. It was a metal armature with model kit pieces glued to it.

BUG: I noticed some stop motion in FATHER’S DAY as well, right?

SK: Yeah, the whole final portion of the film is stop motion. I did the whole hell sequence. When I was a kid, my dad gave me his Super 8 camera and we would do very rudimentary filmmaking with that.

BUG: Would you ever consider putting out any of those old films?

SK: Hah! Well, I actually put one in the special features of the MANBORG DVD. I made them back in 2006. I have earlier films as well, but whether or not they will see the light of day…I’m not sure. They’re pretty dodgy.

BUG: So what’s the history of Astron-6? How did you guys come together?

SK: We are all from Winnipeg or close by there, and we would all submit movies to this indie short horror film festival that happened around Halloween every year. We were all these local filmmakers who would submit their little movies, and there’d be a competition for first, second, and third place. And so we would submit movies, and one year we saw that all of our movies placed in the top three and we decided to team up and combine our talents and start making movies together. So that’s how it started and the following year, for the festival, we entered the competition as Astron-6 because we liked the idea of a VHS-style company making low budget films and distributing our films together.

BUG: MANBORG was received really well at festivals. Are you afraid of becoming so successful that you’re going to lose that indie luster you guys sport so well?

SK: I don’t think so. I know we all just want to get to a point where we can make movies and be able to support ourselves at the same time. Trying to make a living at another job and then putting these films together is time intensive. The goal is to make these films our full time job. I’m sure if someone offered us some huge movie, we wouldn’t turn it down. But at this point, we’re happy at getting a little money from our movies. Half the fun is being able to do things ourselves, so we don’t want to lose any of that.

BUG: The last one, FATHER’S DAY, was sponsored by Troma. This one isn’t, though, correct?

SK: Troma isn’t a part of this one. When we completed this film, we met with the guys from Raven Banner, a Toronto based company, and they decided to represent the film and sell it to distributors. So we have Anchor Bay distributing it and Dark Sky Films taking care of it in the US. So far the release has worked out really well.

BUG: The film seems to be sort of an homage to CYBORG, ROBOCOP, movies like that, right?

SK: Those are good examples. The whole thing came about while I was watching the movie ELIMINATORS with Jeremy Gillespie, who is the co-writer and also plays the masked villain in the movie. And as we were watching it, he said “man, we should make a movie called MANBORG”, and that’s where the name came from. I was also inspired by the 80’s TV show CAPTAIN POWER. And also, aside from movies, it’s also influenced by early nineties video games like MORTAL COMBAT and DOOM.

BUG: I see you have a Lu Kang character in the film with Number One. It’s really fun that you’ve dubbed his voice…

SK: No, that was Kyle Herbert, a voice actor for anime films who did voice work for DRAGON BALL Z and I think he did Ryu on WRECK IT RALPH. When the movie was completed, I reached out to him to see if he was interested and we got him for the voice of Number One, which gives it that old kind of kung fu quality to the film.

BUG: This is an effects heavy film. How did you get around that with such a small budget?

SK: Everything is rooted in practical effects. All the backgrounds are images that I build. All the stop motion and prosthetic effects are made by me, and then things are kind of cleaned up in editing with computer effects. All of the hoverboard stuff is me moving a camera through boxes painted black with glow sticks attached to them. I tried to keep the effects as practical as possible because that’s the most interesting to me, as opposed to trying to do CG stuff.

BUG: What do you think about this new trend of horror films in particular not really getting time in theaters, and more and more they become first available to be seen on DVD/BluRay, Video on Demand, or digital download? Aside from big budget films, you’re not going to find something like SPACEHUNTER: ADVENTURES IN THE FORBIDDEN ZONE in theaters these days like we did as kids.

SK: I think there’s definitely an audience for those types of films still like SPACEHUNTER or ARENA or ROBOT JOX. I feel like movies like that are kind of a lost art that I hope comes back. I felt that MOON was actually one of the better sci fi movies I’ve seen in quite a while. Even though it’s a very smart film, it still has a bit of that Corman-esque vibe to it. Not everything has to have a big theatrical release. I think there are so many more options now that that’s not as important anymore.

BUG: I’ve noticed that some of my favorite movies I’ve seen in the last few years were never in theaters.

SK: Yeah, not every movie has it in their budget to have million dollar marketing campaigns. It’s good that there are other markets available now.

BUG: You can just tell by watching your films that you’re having fun and that you guys love to make movies.

SK: You just have to accept that with a movie like MANBORG, it’s not going to play to the average filmgoer very well. But there’s a specific audience that will like it a lot. The best part of it is having fans of the movie contact me and tell me how it brought back memories of the kinds of movies they loved. It’s sparked so many fun discussions about films and the stuff we love like 80’s-90’s sci fi and action movies. Really, that’s the whole point: to kind of nurture the love for these movies.

BUG: So what else have you been working on?

SK: Well, in the past few years, I’ve been working in prosthetic effects, and the release of MANBORG has been pretty time intensive. I shot the mini-trailer of BIO-COP, which plays after the credits of MANBORG. SO I had to shoot and edit that to tack on to the end, because MANBORG is such a short feature I had to add that to the end to make the running time up to 70 minutes.

BUG: Are there any plans on expanding BIO-COP to a feature length film?
SK: I would like to. I definitely have an idea for it, and there seems to be a ton of interest in it. I can’t say anything specifically about it at this time, but I’m definitely interested in it.

BUG: How about a MANBORG II?

SK: You know, if someone wants to donate more than $1000.00 to make it, then I would gladly do it. I do have ideas for it. It is a fun universe, and they are fun characters to play with.

BUG: Well, I loved MANBORG. It was definitely a type of film that feels like it was made for me.

SK: Oh, that’s awesome!

BUG: Best of luck to you, and I hope to see more films from Astron-6 soon.

SK: Thank you very much, it was nice talking to you.

BUG: MANBORG is available this week on DVD and digital download. Below is my review of this awesome film. But first, check out the trailer!

New this week on DVD (Find this film on Netflix here)!

MANBORG (2011)

Directed by Steven Kostanski
Written by Jeremy Gillespie, Steven Kostanski
Starring Matthew Kennedy, Adam Brooks, Meredith Sweeney, Conor Sweeney, Ludwig Lee, Jeremy Gillespie, Andrea Karr, Ivan Henwood, William O'Donnell, Kyle Hebert
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug

There seems to be a resurgence of low budget filmmaking out there filled with irreverent humor, over the top gore, and no shits given about who they offend or titillate. Drew Bolduc and his crew brought us THE TAINT (reviewed here) and seem to be firing up another bizarre film with the upcoming SCIENCE TEAM. Dustin Wade Mills is churning out inane horrors like BATH SALT ZOMBIES (reviewed here), ZOMBIE A-HOLE (reviewed here), and NIGHT OF THE TENTACLES (reviewed here) like there’s no tomorrow. And then there are the mad geniuses at Astron-6, who blew our hair back with FATHER’S DAY (reviewed here) and return with MANBORG, a love letter to the cheesy sci fi and action films we all grew up living and loving.

If you’re a fan of AICN, you’ll be a fan of MANBORG. It’s one of those derivative films which is purposefully riffing off of low fi greats such as CYBORG, ROBOT JOX, ROBOCOP, SPACEHUNTER: IN THE FORBIDDEN ZONE, ARENA, and the alien western OBLIVION. Filled with low budget effects, over the top acting, and a story that feels like it was made up of whole script pages of other movies, MANBORG is a B-movie film lover’s wet dream.

The story follows a soldier (Matthew Kennedy) as he fights a military battle against the forces of Count Draculon (played by Adam Brooks) as he tries to take over the earth as the new property of Hell! Though the soldier was incapacitated by the evil lord, his body was recovered and rebuilt by machines to create MANBORG!!! Quickly captured as he is not used to being in his new cyborg body, Manborg finds himself locked up with Number One (a Lu Kang-looking kung fu guy played by Ludwig Lee, but with the badly dubbed voice of voice actor Kyle Herbert), a mega-douche named Justice (think Johnny Cage if he were from the Jersey Shore, played by Connor Sweeney), and his spunky sister Mina (played by Meredith Sweeney). The quartet work together in an arena to entertain the masses of Hell fighting giant robots and armed guards, but eventually revolt against the monsters. The stakes are high and it is guaranteed that not everyone walks away from this one.

What makes MANBORG so effective is the fact that it is so obviously low budget. You can tell the characters being blown away are just the same guy wearing a different hat, Manborg’s costume looks like it was put together with hot glue and spare parts from a few garage sale VCRs, and the stop motion animation is herky-jerky but downright dripping with cool, making me long to blow the dust off of those old Harryhausen films. The filmmakers have seen and absorbed all the same films we have, and it shows in every scene in this film.

Intentionally funny and rich in lo-fi ingenuity and indie gumption, MANBORG is one of those films you can’t help but root for. In a day and age where bloated budget films rarely deliver, it’s refreshing to see a low budget film get so much right in terms of comedy, action, and just plain coolness. If you love watching B-movies, you’ll love MANBORG, the ultimate B-movie! It’s the kind of film that makes you feel good to be a film geek.

Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 12 years & AICN HORROR for 3. He has written comics such as VINCENT PRICE PRESENTS THE TINGLERS & WITCHFINDER GENERAL, THE DEATHSPORT GAMES, & NANNY & HANK (soon to be made into a feature film from Uptown 6 Films). He has co-written FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND’s LUNA: ORDER OF THE WEREWOLF (to be released in 2013 as a 100-pg original graphic novel). Mark wrote the critically acclaimed GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK from Zenescope Entertainment & GRIMM FAIRY TALES #76-81. Look for GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS THE JUNGLE BOOK: LAST OF THE SPECIES available in February-July 2013 and the new UNLEASHED crossover miniseries GRIMM FAIRY TALES PRESENTS WEREWOLVES: THE HUNGER #1-3 available in May-July 2013! Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitter @Mark_L_Miller.

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