Mattie Do’s second film, Dearest Sister, is a huge leap forward from her first, Chanthaly, in terms of production and storytelling. Having practically invented the genre scene in Laos, Do’s latest shows that she is really starting to come into her own as filmmaker in her own right. The Australian premiere of Dearest Sister down at Monster Fest is one of many stops along the festival circuit worldwide allowing for more fans to get introduced to Do’s story and her work.
Following a young, poverty-stricken girl named Nok (Phommapunya) from her desperate village to the lavishness of the Laos capital of Vientiane, the vast expanse between the haves and have-nots is already on display from the opening moments. Plucked out of obscurity in order to care for her wealthy cousin, Ana, who is inexplicably going blind, Nok immediately gets a taste and a longing for the finer things in life. Once she learns that Ana has gained a power to commune with the dead, Nok uses that power to her advantage, which eventually leads to her own downfall.
Inspired by a strange Lao belief that spirits bring lottery numbers to the living, the dead that appear for Ana whisper three number sets that Nok uses only to hide the money from everyone else. A lot of Lao families have a penchant for bringing in relatives from the countryside to help in the city. That fact, along with the belief of spirits helping to generate wealth, helps to highlight two cultural elements that make up a great foundation for drama late in the film as both women begin to clash with each other.
Dearest Sister is never preachy, but social class constructs do play a role, causing characters to do things they would never consider if there wasn’t such a stigma attached to poverty. The motive for Nok to do what she does is never questioned, and her character remains the protagonist long after she begins her deception.
As the connection between the living grows more desperate, the dead become even more pronounced, depicted in graphic detail with protruding tendons and bones revealing clues as to how they’ve died. There are plenty of warning signs given to both female leads, but sadly for them, not enough of them are taken seriously before the last and, ultimately, most memorable shot of the film.
For those of you who love the adrenaline rush and excitement that comes with being scared, continue reading. This is the last warning for everyone else who doesn’t want to lose sleep tonight…
This big world of ours is full of spooky and creepy places just waiting to frighten their next visitor. Here is a list of the three scariest places on earth for those brave souls among us.
1. Isla de las Muñecas
Known as the Island of Dolls, this unique place is located just south of Mexico City. The eerie, swamp-like environment on the island is spooky enough by itself. With the addition of hundreds of dolls hanging on the island’s trees, Isla de las Muñecas is easily considered one of the scariest places in the world.
The local legend suggests that Don Julian Santana Barrera, the island’s caretaker, once witnessed the drowning of a little girl near his home. A few days later, he saw a doll floating by in the water. Presuming it was the doll of the child, Barrera hung it up on a tree out of respect for the tragic death. Locals say he became possessed by the spirit of the child and began hanging up hundreds of dolls around the island. Barrera later drowned in the same location he had seen the child drown some years prior.
2. Chernobyl, Ukraine
In 1986, the Chernobyl disaster caused a whole city in Ukraine to be abandoned within days. A rushed test conducted at a nuclear power plant resulted in a major explosion, spewing dangerous amounts of radiation into the air. Thirty-one people were killed directly by the incident with thousands of others indirectly affected by the radiation poisoning.
Pripyat, the closest city to the disaster, was completely abandoned because of the harmful radiation and remains empty today, serving as an eerie reminder of the event that took place. It seems almost as if time stands still in this spooky city. Those brave enough to visit can enjoy an eerie silence and the unnerving realization that the city was abandoned in a matter of hours.
3. Catacombs of Paris
Nestled below the streets of Paris is the largest gravesite in the world. With over six million skeletal remains, the Catacombs are a real-life horror movie. What was once simply a depository of bones from the deceased was reorganized to be a mausoleum.
Upon entering the Catacombs, visitors descend down a narrow, stone stairway into complete darkness. There is complete silence except for an underground spring. As the Catacombs continue on, piles and stacks of skulls and other bone pieces can be seen scattered throughout. What makes the Catacombs even more creepy is the seemingly endless network of tunnels and side-passages. It is quite easy to get lost amongst the dead in the Catacombs.
The genre options may be a bit limited this time of year, but VOD kings like Netflix and Amazon will be sneaking a few homeruns into the mix, and you can bet strong but much younger outlets like Shudder and TubiTV aren’t going to be left out in the cold. What’s Hulu got lined up for the immediate future? These are topics we want tackled, so let’s get into it!
Getting our notes for Netflix out of the way we’ve got to put highlight on efforts like the re-remake of House of Wax, which isn’t amazing, but does entertain, and the controversial Hannibal, which both arrive on December 1st. The Good Neighbor goes live a few days later on December 5th, and Netflix’s own, Spectral arrives on December 9th. Look out for I Am Not a Serial Killer on December 13th, and finally, prepare to settle down on a high note as December nears an end when the very compelling series adaptation of Guillermo del Toro’s “Trollhunters” hits Netflix on December 23rd.
Looking at Amazon Prime’s new additions, we’re eyeing a very limited surge of genre fare, but a few solid pieces, like David Rühm’s well-received Therapy for a Vampire and the trippy psychological terror flick, 6 Souls are jumping in the mix.
Hulu is making a valid attempt to please viewers, bringing Black Water, Devil’s Rejects, Escape From L.A., Don’t Answer the Phone, House of 1000 Corpses, Rosemary’s Baby, Shivers, The Silence of the Lambs, Vampires Kiss and The Hearse to the table, and that’s an admittedly awesome lineup, and those are only the films being added on the 1st of the month. At the Devil’s Door and The Bay will also be available come the 16th and 17th, respectively.
There’s also some content on Hulu that’s going to leave binge watchers particularly stoked. The first eight films from the Friday the 13th franchise are available to check out. Can’t lose there.
Here’s where things begin to get really interesting.
Shudder isn’t going to let December pass without making a damn impressive attempt at giving fans the very best selection of VOD flicks this month.
Michael Powell’s intense and uber-creepy (but often overlooked) flick, Peeping Tom is now available, as is Jimmy Sangster’s The Horror of Frankenstein, J.T. Petty’s western horror, The Burrowers, Darren Lynn Bousman’s Repo! the Genetic Opera, Lucky McKee’s May, and Xavier Gens’ Frontier(s). And those are just a select few highlights of the films added on the first.
Come December 7th we’ll see Rob Zombie’s 31 make an exclusive arrival on Shudder. December 15th will see more awesome material made available, as Shudder’s grabbed Shrew’s Nest exclusively, and will make way for Bob Clark’s amazing seasonal piece, Black Christmas and David Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers.
The month will end on a high note for Shudder, as Cronenberg’s Rabid lands on December 22nd, and Larry Cohen’s God Told Me To will follow on December 28th.
And finally, we’ll take a peek at a few of the shining pieces being added to free outlet, TubiTV.
Cube has been added this month, as has Cujo, Philip Kaufman’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Ju-On: The Grudge 2, the first four Paranormal Activity films, The Terminator and Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D.
Of the last few years, this is arguably the strongest lineup of horror films hitting fan-favorite VOD outlets in December.
During the New York Comic Con this past fall, some footage was screened from War for the Planet of the Apes, but since then things have been pretty quiet… well, that changes right now as we have a few photos and a brand spanking new trailer and poster for the film to share!
Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Sara Canning, Judy Greer, Chad Rook, Karin Konoval, Terry Notary, Amiah Miller, Aleks Paunovic, and Gabriel Chavarria star alongside Andy Serkis, who returns as Caesar.
Matt Reeves, who directed 2014’s Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, is helming from a script by Mark Bomback and Reeves. Peter Chernin, Dylan Clark, Rick Jaffa, and Amanda Silver are producing the film.
War for the Planet of the Apes will be released on July 14, 2017.
Synopsis: In War for the Planet of the Apes, the third chapter of the critically acclaimed blockbuster franchise, Caesar and his apes are forced into a deadly conflict with an army of humans led by a ruthless Colonel. After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind.
As the journey finally brings them face to face, Caesar and the Colonel are pitted against each other in an epic battle that will determine the fate of both their species and the future of the planet.
It’s fair to say the response to Ryan Reynolds’ belated Deadpool movie took everyone by surprise. Sure, it had been touted for years and the smart marketing campaign certainly helped, but who could have predicted an R-rated movie featuring a relatively obscure Marvel character would become the biggest X-Men movie to date? Probably no one.
If there’s one message to take away from the new art book Deadpool: Drawing the Merc with a Mouth: Three Decades of Amazing Marvel Comics Art, it would be to not underestimate his appeal. Deadpool has come a long way from his humble origins in The New Mutants, where he was just a quirky guest villain with a cool outfit. The Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza-created character quickly become a hit with readers, leading to more guest appearances and eventually his own solo titles.
He’s bounced around a lot since then, and his popularity only seems to grow. Deadpool: Drawing the Merc with a Mouth by Matthew K. Manning recount the character’s 25-year history, illustrated with a vast array of cover artwork and interviews with the writers and artists who shaped him. For Deadpool fans, this will obviously be catnip since there’s no stone left unturned. The book also welcomes total newcomers, since it takes the reader step by step through all of his insane adventures.
While the book does a thorough job recounting this history, it has to be noted there’s not much flair to the writing. Given the nature of the character, you might expect the author to try something creative with the presentation like breaking the fourth wall or have Deadpool himself comment on the quality of the book. Nope, instead you get a detailed – if somewhat dry – recounting of his various storylines.
The interviews are the real meat here, with Nicieza, Mark Waid and many others providing insight into their creative process. Surprisingly, Liefeld himself is mostly absent, which leaves a noticeable gap in this history lesson. One thing that really shines through in the interviews is how much fun Deadpool is to write for, since his genre-bending nature means writers can sculpt a wacky comedy, a tragedy or outright horror tale with him. The sheer variety of storylines he’s been part of is testament to that, even if his wackiness can be grating at times.
The presentation of the artwork is also impressive, with some gorgeous reproductions of Deadpool’s finest – and even his not so finest – covers. From his many duels with Wolverine or Cable to parodies of Alien or Mad Max, the book contains just about everything. Oddly, there are no work-in-progress sketches or abandoned cover ideas, so if you’re a hardcore fan, you’ve probably seen this art before. Fans of the movie should also look elsewhere since the book focuses almost exclusively on the comics.
Deadpool: Drawing the Merc with a Mouth isn’t the most in-depth exploration of the character, and if you don’t like him, this won’t change your mind, but for fans it collects some great interviews and eye-popping artwork. Newcomers will get a valuable illustrated rundown of his past too.
The late Wes Craven’s legacy will go down in horror history as one of the most illustrious and diverse cinematic catalogues of all time, helming beloved films such as The Last House On The Left, The Hills Have Eyes, and the Scream franchise. For many horror critics and fans, however, Craven’s magnum opus is A Nightmare On Elm Street.
Often described as one of the most cerebral and original horror films ever made, Craven’s film spawned several sequels, many of which have been derided in comparison to the original. However, the first sequel, Freddy’s Revenge, is undoubtedly the most infamous, often touted as the “gayest horror film of all time.” The film has polarized critics and fans for years, but has retained an important place within LGBT+ culture over the last few decades. I recently caught up with Mark Patton, star of Freddy’s Revenge, to discuss his life and career, as well as his upcoming documentary Scream, Queen! My Nightmare On Elm Street, which explores the film’s problematic production and also its place within popular culture more generally.
Dread Central: How did you first get into acting?
Mark Patton: Well, when I was very young I was a singer. I was offered a recording contract when I was 15, but by dad wouldn’t let me do it. So, when it was time for me to leave home I hadn’t decided whether to go to New York, Los Angeles, or Nashville. My theatre teacher in high school, she gave me this magazine about New York and told me that I should go there. She could’ve gotten fired because it was more of a gay magazine, a nightlife magazine. It showed me things that I didn’t know existed. I flew to New York when I was 17 and had $137 and a one-way ticket. I just had to make it. That was it. I didn’t know any of the ‘rules’ of what show business was. I just learned as I went along. I very quickly signed with an agency and did a lot of commercials to stabilize myself financially.
I started going to acting classes and began auditioning more and more and eventually got my big role Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean, which was then adapted into a film in which I reprised my role. The film was directed by Robert Altman and starred Sandy Dennis, Karen Black, Cher, and Kathy Bates. I was then cast in a test movie directed by François Truffaut about Little Nemo where I played the prince. Sadly, Truffaut died in the middle of the production and it was never finished. I then done a lot of small films in New York and that’s how I learned how to be an actor. These days, I’m getting a lot of jobs out of the alt gay film scene in New York, but I’m not sure if I want to be an actor again. I do know that I want to be able to communicate with people, whatever medium I can use to do so. I also have a career as a painter, which is the art form which I feel most comfortable with.
DC: In 1985 you landed the part of Jesse Walsh in the A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, touted as the “gayest slasher film of all time.” Could you talk us through that process?
MP: Well I had originally screen tested to play Glen in the first Nightmare film, and it was between Johnny Depp and I. Wes Craven’s daughter chose Johnny. When the sequel came around I was the last person they saw. I read for the part of Jesse and 2 days later we were in production. Wes wasn’t behind the project at all. He only came in at the end as a consultant and he was insistent that there needed to be a Final Girl and not a Final Boy. In the end of Freddy’s Revenge, Lisa was supposed to die and I was left alone. And Wes said, ‘Oh no, you can’t kill the girl’. I wrote a little book called Jesse’s Lost Journals, and in that book Lisa dies in that way and I pick up the story from there. The first half of the book is true to the movie but the second half goes into a new world. I have the second part coming out which is called Jesse’s Revenge – it’s a lot of fun. He gets to have sex; he finally loses his virginity! He moves to New York and becomes an artist like I did, so it’s semi-autobiographical.
Mark Patton and Robert England as Jesse Walsh and Freddy Krueger, respectively.
DC: What can you tell us about your documentary, Scream Queen! My Nightmare On Elm Street, due to be released next year?
MP: You can see parts of it right now on ScreamQueenDocumentary.com and on Facebook. It’s a very serious documentary. Although I loved Never Sleep Again and I Am Nancy for what they are, it’s not the same kind of film. It’s more about 1985 than it is about anything else, and the confrontations are very strong. I always thought that the real villain in my story was David Chaskin, the writer. He insisted for so many years that he hadn’t written it as a gay film, but I knew that he had because we had mutual friends. He would always blame it on me, he’d say “Well I didn’t write it that way, but Mark was just so gay that he made the whole movie gay”. That’ what the movie is about. We have all the writers, directors, and actors in the room at the same time, so if people start lying, there was always someone there to call them out. At times, it was like a street fight, but it’s great and it’s funny.
I thought it would take 1 year and $100,000 and it’s taken 3 and a half years and $250,000. And I think, especially in terms of the time we’re living in now, it’s very relevant. I travel on the horror convention circuit, and I try to speak to young gay people and explain to them many of the civil rights that they own and how they were paid for by somebody else – they didn’t come for free. I speak to them about HIV and homophobia, real homophobia. When I moved to New York, it was illegal to stand at a bar and face out into the crowd because you could be arrested for solicitation. I want them to know that, a generation ago, they were criminals. They were being put in prison or institutionalized, not getting married. Not to scare them, but to let them know that somebody paid for their seat. Somebody stood on a picket line and took a brick to the head for them. I think that’s my mission. The movie is being released at a perfect time, when you think about it.
DC: If you could be part of another horror franchise, which one would you choose and why?
MP: I’d choose another one of Wes’ projects, the Scream series. It’s so much fun and it’s different. I love ‘80s horror, but Scream had so much wit. I love the fact that Drew Barrymore said, ‘I want to be in this but I need to be the first blonde to die’. It truly shocked people. I also like Scream Queens on FOX, it’s a lot of fun. But if I could be in anything horror related I would choose American Horror Story. I know a couple of people on the show very well and they surprise me constantly with what they do. I know Ryan Murphy’s a big fan of the Nightmare series. He put Heather Langenkamp, Nancy from the original Nightmare film, in a few episodes. I was at San Diego Comic-Con recently and Ryan’s assistant spoke to me about actually doing something… so we’ll see what happens.
DC: What would you say would be your greatest achievement?
MP: I’m very proud of the work I do for the Trevor Project and for the Body Politic, which is the largest AIDS organization in the world. When I announced my HIV-positive status, I was shocked at the response. Everybody wants to fundraise for HIV but nobody wants to talk about it or disclose their status. But I think my best moment is still to come. I think we’ve made a very important film in Scream, Queen and I think it’ll be received in many ways from the horror community – it’s going to be 50/50. I’ll probably be on the road for about a year, and it’s nice because it came from my own imagination. When I was traveling and I would be discussing the story of Freddy’s Revenge, I finally realized just how ridiculous the whole thing was. I wanted to save Jesse because I kind of love him and I love the movie. I know it’s not Shakespeare, but I feel like it was very unfair how it was treated.
Since I’ve started going on the convention circuit, the needle has shifted from me getting hate mail to me getting fan mail, and lots of it. I wanted to put a face on homosexuality in horror. I meet people all the time who say, ‘I don’t know anybody gay’, or ‘I don’t know anybody HIV positive’, so I set up a situation within the convention where they could have those experiences. It’s been very liberating and very healing for me. I don’t think I realized until about a year into the filming of the documentary just how angry I was and how long I’d carried that anger around for. It was as if I’d been robbed of my destiny. I took the narrative of my own life back and that’s what I’m doing now.
I have people reach out to me all the time saying, ‘This movie changed my life’, and ‘I pretended that you were my boyfriend’, and ‘There’s someone who would love me back’. They saw themselves on screen. That’s so important. Another thing I’ve loved about my career is when I was living on a dirt road in Mexico, they eventually found me and Tommy Houston said to me, ‘Do you realize that people call you the Greta Garbo of horror?” and I said no… but I liked the way that sounded. And then he asked me if I wanted to go on tour. And now they call me the Joan Crawford of horror, because I’m so good to my fans.
We’ve all felt feeling of rage and sorrow when our favorite show gets cancelled prematurely, but the new radio show “The Dead TV Podcast”, which examines cancelled shows in the horror industry, should help to ease the pain.
From the Press Release: The Dead TV Podcast, (listen here), a podcast dedicated to all the cancelled shows in the horror industry, announces that it has been listed in iTunes for listeners nationwide. The Dead TV Podcast is hosted by Dr. Chris, the radio personality behind ‘Radio of Horror’, a near decade-long running horror genre live radio show, and Mistress Zeneca, a self-proclaimed ‘Ambassador of Love’ and Creator of geeky-kinky-fetish events in the Philadelphia area.
The Dead TV Podcast aims to give some love to those horror TV shows that had their time in the moonlight and now have retreated to the forgotten crypts of pop-culture. Dr. Chris and Mistress Zeneca resurrects series after series to give their listeners some background on the production of the show, the biographies of the actors, and how the show’s mythology fits into the larger field of the horror genre. Podcast host Dr. Chris remarks, “A lot of podcasts review currently running shows. That’s good, but that’s not us. We’re interested in the shows that we loved in our youth or sparked our interest as adults, but were cancelled for one reason or another. If it’s dead, it’s fair game.”
Dr. Chris and Mistress Zeneca will first review ‘Kindred: The Embraced’, a short-lived 8-episode vampire drama from 1996. Immediately following, they will review the more recently cancelled ‘Constantine’, an occult themed comic book based series with 13-episodes from 2015. Also look for The Dead TV Podcast to review shows such as ‘Tales from the Crypt’, ‘Friday the 13th the TV Series’, ‘Tales from the Dark Side’, and more.
Podcast co-host Mistress Zeneca states, “Being horror fans ourselves, we consider this podcast to be a community effort. So, we encourage fellow fans to contact us and suggest series that they would enjoy hearing more about. Also, we will occasionally dig up guests for the podcast that worked on the series that we’re reviewing. Dr. Chris and I are hoping to bring additional color and life to these dead series. After all, horror is all about death and resurrection – so why not?”
About ‘The Dead TV Podcast’ Podcast Based dually in Worcester, MA and Philadelphia, PA, The Dead TV Podcast serves listeners interested in horror television series that are no longer on the air. Hosted by Dr. Chris and Mistress Zeneca. The Dead TV Podcast is released every two weeks and is available for subscription on Apple iTunes.
Sequels are a tricky thing. On one hand they’ll always have the strength of their predecessor to help push them forward in the public eye, but on the other hand they’ll always be compared to those same films, which more often than not are superior efforts. It’s hard to impress, especially when franchises take to life on particularly high notes. But despite the challenges of the familiar sequel, some really do rise to meet fan expectations. What follows here is a look at 10 of the greatest – old and new (yep, you’re in for a surprise or so) alike – sequels the horror genre has ever produced.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
From gore to punchlines, A Nightmare on Elm Street has rarely been stronger than it was in 1987. Wes Craven’s original trumps Chuck Russell’s third installment, and Craven’s own meta-movie, Wes Craven’s New Nightmare is certainly one of the best of the franchise, but this gory little beast is without a doubt one of the three greatest series installment that still holds up remarkably well today.
Evil Dead 2 Evil Dead 2 can easily be viewed as Evil Dead, but funnier. The follow up features some outrageous moments that remain high points for the franchise as a whole, and the flick produced more than a single iconic image we now associate with horror as a whole. Bruce Campbell comes into his own and begins the impressive process of refining the role of Ashley Williams, and it makes for must-see material. The beauty here is that when watched alone, in the middle of the night in a dark house, Evil Dead 2 is still every bit as creepy as it is hilarious.
Bride of Frankenstein
One of, if not the most influential horror film ever made, Bride of Frankenstein was the first truly brilliant sequel. All the perfect notes that James Whale nailed in the first film are somehow tightened up and improved upon here, and we get what can be argued is horror’s first amazing female antagonist. The flick was an astronomically huge gender barrier breaking production that paved the way for a lot of remarkable women. The story’s complexities defy the title, and Boris Karloff’s control of the monster is unforgettable. The show stealer, however, really hammers home how important the film was, because the flick belongs to Elsa Lanchester, who slays as both the titular character and Mary Shelley, who we see in the introductory moments of the film.
Many will tell you that Aliens is a superior piece to Ridley Scott’s inaugural Alien pic. I would disagree with that, but that’s only a result of my preference for mystery over action. If you’re a big fan of action films, or frenetic genre fare, Aliens probably gets your nod, and there’s nothing to criticize there. James Cameron really does a superb job of remodeling the mood of the franchise while maintaining a degree of faithfulness to the original that isn’t often seen in the genre. His respect for Scott’s film is wonderfully visible, but this is his own monster, and that too is something that cannot be missed.
Dawn of the Dead
A compelling study of consumerism in America, Dawn of the Dead may be George A. Romero’s finest film. It’s certainly in the running with its predecessor, Night of the Living Dead, and the direct follow up to Dawn, Day of the Dead. For my money, Dawn is where it’s at. It’s a polished rendition of Night of the Living Dead with a very different societal statement to make. Is that statement as powerful as the examination of racism, discrimination and oppression? I don’t think so, but the film is so much more polished than Night it’s easy to understand that Romero’s refinement of the metaphor makes for movie perfection. Night of the Living Dead is a more important film, historically speaking, but Dawn of the Dead makes for a more enjoyable viewing experience.
Curse of Chucky
Don’t get all up in arms with this pick, just watch the movie with an open mind. Over the years Don Mancini explored some humorous avenues with Chucky, but it’s always been the darker films in the franchise that worked best for me. Curse of Chucky is extremely dark, and it features an amazing heroine in Nica, who is played – appropriately – by the gorgeous Fiona Dourif, daughter to Brad Dourif, who voices the iconic killer doll. The stars really aligned for Mancini on this project, and Curse of Chucky is one of the greatest surprises to crawl from the realms of macabre cinema in a number of years. You want an amazing, really, really underrated sequel? You want Curse of Chucky.
Hellbound: Hellraiser 2
After Hellbound the Hellraiser franchise jumped the shark. Somewhere along the way things just became about sadistic cenobites and astonishing gore, exclusively, which isn’t what the first two films were about. And, in truth, given the track record of the franchise, it feels like a miracle that Hellbound was as impressive as it is. The Lament Configuration is still treated with the terrifying respect it deserves and the direct ties to the first film make for a damn impressive story. Hellraiser isn’t usurped as the franchise best, but Hellbound makes a very valid attempt at being every bit as great as the first film, no doubt about it.
Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein
Universal released some amazing crossover films in the ’40s and ‘50s, and Bud Abbott and Lou Costello were integral parts of a number of those films. In my opinion, none of the Abbott and Costello pictures fail to entertain, but none rival the brilliance of this particular offering, which features appearances from genre greats Lon Chaney Jr., Bela Lugosi and the criminally underrated, Glenn Strange, who all surface as the monsters that helped define their careers, The Wolfman, Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster, respectively. The mood frequently shifts from intense to light-hearted, and while it seems like that probably shouldn’t work, it does. It works wonderfully, in fact. Chaney slays and brings the bulk of the intensity, while Abbott and Costello give us the great slapstick, over-the-top comedy that they’re still known for today. It’s a brilliant flick that entertains from the first to the last minute.
Final Destination 5
After the first three installments I was entirely convinced we wouldn’t see an impressive Final Destination film beyond the franchise opener. Five features in and Steven Quale delivered the life the series desperately needed. Eric Heisserer writes a very clever story that delivers a jarring twist, the likes of which have been completely absent from every other picture in the Final Destination lineup. I don’t want to spoil the twist for anyone who hasn’t seen it, but I will tell you that it gives a fresh enough angle to the story to force genre followers to acknowledge the still untapped potential of the Final Destination features. A shockingly impressive sequel.
Friday the 13th Part 2
This was a no-brainer, right? Everything about this franchise is essentially a rip-off, but it just might be the finest rip-off the genre has produced. Villains like Jason Voorhees just don’t come around often, so when they do, we pay attention. The cheap charm of the first flick was great, but the game saw a serious new player introduced in the now high profile sequel. Everyone loves Jason Voorhees, and that means Friday the 13th 2 absolutely had to find a home on this list!
Gaming tech is advancing at such a rate that it’s a pretty safe assumption that today’s generation will be oblivious to the real lifeblood behind Jackson Stewart’s directorial debut Beyond the Gates (review). Co-writer Stephen Scarlata’s original pitch was clearly inspired by one of the ’90s guiltiest of pleasures, the VCR game Nightmare, which featured the dodgiest of dialogue and most outlandish of insults yet went on to spawn a whole new wave of new wave board games. And whilst those who shared a nerdy penchant for the game way back when will most likely relate that much more to Stewart’s love letter, those of you with a lack of appreciation for said ’90s fad will be hopping straight onto eBay in search of the long-revered board game as soon as Beyond the Gates’ credits roll.
With the film all set to release this December 9th in select theaters, on VOD, and via digital platforms, we adjusted the tracking and rolled the dice with Barbara Crampton when she paid a visit to this year’s SITGES International Fantastic Film Festival of Catalonia to present the film and also pick up an honorific Time Machine Award….
DC: You’re here in Sitges to collect the Time Machine Award in honor of your life achievements. One thing is to receive an award for one particular role, but this particular award must obviously mean so much more.
BC: It’s just overwhelming. Also, I’m in really good company with the other guests the festival have invited for awards this year. These are some wonderful actors that I have long admired. It just makes me feel that I have made a contribution in a way that makes people feel something. And then genre cinema is really meaningful to me. In my early career, I worked as an actor whenever anybody would ask me: I’ve worked in commercials and movies of the week and genre cinema and soap operas. I’d worked a few times with Stewart Gordon of course, but it was only really more recently – when I came back with You’re Next – that I decided that I really loved genre cinema. It’s full of passion, deep emotions, universal truths and living, dying and loving. It has such depth to it. Because of that, and because I had such a great time filming You’re Next, I realised I wanted to rededicate myself to my career and genre cinema in general.
DC: So what was your outlook on life and your career before the You’re Next opportunity came knocking?
BC: I was being a mom. In my late thirties, I wasn’t getting a lot of roles so I began thinking about not acting anymore and maybe going into a different profession. Then I met my husband and we decided to get married and he got transferred with his job and asked me if I would move from Los Angeles to San Francisco. It was important for his career so I agreed and then we wanted to start family and because of my age we had to start right away. Thankfully, I was able to have children right away – I had two, back to back. And then I just concentrated on being a mom for a number of years and really didn’t think I was going to work in genre cinema any more or even be an actress. I was working as a volunteer at my children’s school, helping with the PTA and things like that. And then I got called out of the blue to act for You’re Next and I was surprised my agent hadn’t lost my number (laughs).
DC: Ultimately who was behind bringing you into the mix for You’re Next and helping resurrecting your career?
BC: That was the writer and producer, Simon Barrett. He had met Stuart Gordon at Fantastic Fest a number of years ago and he said, “We’re doing this movie and we need a genre actress to play the Mom. What’s Barbara Crampton doing?” He said that I’d retired but thank God Simon didn’t take no for an answer and he tried to reach out anyway. Any time somebody asks me, I feel that if he hadn’t asked me to be in that movie and the movie hadn’t done as well as it did, I don’t think I would be sitting here with you now. And it was so inspiring to be on set with all those talented people. It was like magic to me and it reignited my passion. I didn’t know if that film was going to do well or not but I told me agent to call me again and to keep submitting me for things because I wanted to work again. I got a couple of calls but not as much as I did until after the movie came out and did really well. It ended up on everybody’s radar and soon I was on people’s radars and they started saying, “Oh, Barbara Crampton! She’s not dead. We can call her.”
DC: Aside from receiving an award here at Sitges, you’re also here with director Jackson Stewart and actress Brea Grant to present Beyond the Gates.
BC: That’s right. Initially really I had been working on – and I’m still working on – a movie called The Wildness that’s going into production in February. In the middle of that, Jackson – who I had known as he had worked as an intern for Stuart Gordon – saw that I was a producer on The Wildness and called me and asked me to read his movie. Jackson is just such a charming guy. Now that you’ve met him here in Sitges I think you know what I’m talking about. So when you meet him, you feel like he’s your best friend in about five minutes.
I was quite busy back then and I hadn’t gotten around to reading it but when he finally pinned me down he said, “Look, I’ve gotten most of the money together and we’re going to shoot in about a month and I really want you to work on the movie as a producer.” He had done a few shorts and this was his first feature and he was a young guy so I really wanted to help him. When I finally read the script, I loved it. It’s really his personality: It’s charming; it’s cool; it has some darker elements but told in a fun way. It’s just a charming love letter to ’80s horror with new characters and some updates for a modern audience. And I loved the relationship of the two brothers who are estranged from one another and looking for their dad. Movies to me, and especially genre movies because of all the scares and blood, have to have a foundation and good characters and I felt like this had all that.
So initially I was just going to help him produce it and be a financer and they shot some footage with another gal who was going to play the part that I ultimately play. To no fault of hers, the footage didn’t turn out very well and they had to do some reshoots for it. At that time, the actress was out of town so they asked me to play that part. And when I’d read the script initially I’d wanted to play the part. But, since it didn’t work with her, I stepped in and I was totally happy. I feel for the project that it probably worked out very well anyway because I’m kind of ’80s and this has a throwback ’80s feel so it all worked out.
DC: So you recorded these scenes before the protagonists even started shooting. Chase Williamson, Graham Skipper and Brea Grant told me that to help them you read them a letter before they got to work.
BC: That’s very interesting that they remember that actually. I did write a letter to them and I read it at our cast reading. As an actor I know that you want to feel appreciated and loved and you want to feel like a family. So I wrote them a nice letter just telling them how much I thought of their work and that I already knew they were going to put in a great performance so they don’t need to try any harder on this movie than they do on other movies. I already believed in them and I wanted them to feel like they were embraced and loved because that’s something that I would want to hear. As a physical producer on the movie I just wanted them to know that I was there for them. I guess that helped them but, like you said, they acted to me on a television screen because I film all of my stuff beforehand. I was the one that just shot my stuff and Jackson played their parts and he told me what to say and what the other actors were saying and I had to react to them. But I think it all worked out. We did actually have to go back and do some additional footage with me and also with the other actors because in the film there’s a story happening and then there’s the playing of the game. It was the playing of the game where we had to do a little bit of extra work because, once we’d shot the movie, we realized we needed to make that part a little bit clearer. So we did all get to see one another and we were able to go back and work on it in a deeper way. I think that was helpful because we were then able to work off of one another.
DC: One of your more recent roles is in Joel Novoa’s Day of Reckoning.
BC: I was very excited about that which screens on SyFy whilst I’m here in Sitges. There’s a lot of special effects and VFX in there and we have a lot of creatures so we had to react to things that weren’t there that they put in later. We had to shoot a lot of what they call plates so that they could insert the monsters later.
DC: I’m guessing that, despite the years you’ve been in the business, working with CGI was a newish challenge for you as most of your roles have been in films that mostly involve practical effects.
BC: Yes. Pretty much all my work with effects has been practical. It just meant you had to use your imagination a little bit more. But it’s funny because sometimes even when you’re doing a closeup with somebody on a set, if the actor can’t be there for some reason they’ll put a piece of tape close the the lens and they say, “Look at the tape and those are the eyes of the character you’re talking to.” I’ve had to act to a piece of tape a lot because the actor can’t get close enough or they’re going to be in the way of the focus puller or something so I guess it’s probably not that different. It’s always better to have another person there but I was quite excited to do something that was a lot of VFX so it will be interesting to see how that all plays out because I haven’t seen the film yet.
Apart from that I have a bunch of things happening. I have a role in Death House soon and then I also have another film I did with Brea Grant called Applecart which I’m really excited about. That was produced by Don Coscarelli and directed by Brad Baruh.
Beyond the Gates opens this December 9th in select theaters (see list below), on VOD, and via digital platforms from IFC Midnight. In the meanwhile, roll those dice and enjoy the latest trailer together with a mind-melting retro commercial which finds Crampton resuming her role, this time enticing a new (but very familiar) ill-fated group of players to roll those dice: Alex Essoe (The Neighbor, Starry Eyes), Samantha Robinson (The Love Witch), and Alena von Stroheim (Found Footage 3D).