Friday, September 26, 2008

Beyond Reality, Beyond Comprehension, Beyond Imagining...

After posting my car boot haul of horror VHS tapes the other day, I found out that Final Girl had also recently been on an 80s retro tape tip. There must be something in the air. (In fact, Chris Cooke was talking the other day about doing a really lo-fi film festival where you only screen from original 80s VHS tapes. Instead of a cinema, there'd be a big room with loads of sofas and a fridge full of beer, and the tapes would all be on a shelf like in a video shop. He'd call it 'Tapestock.')

Anyway, in further honour of the great cultural artifact of our time that is the Eighties Big Box Horror VHS Video, I present the worst cover in my small collection, bought at a charity shop in Sherwood last year. I give you Beyond Evil!
Now, as with many of my purchases, I've never got round to watching 'Beyond Evil'. which is apparently a wannabe giallo thriller with atrocious effects and John Saxon, but nevertheless I find the cover oddly spellbinding. In the annals of bad cover art, I think this holds a special place, being probably the least scary demon I've ever seen. I mean, look at him - piggy nose, tiny fangs in his tiny mouth, above which sits either a John Waters 'tache or, I dunno, a gaping hole? Then there are those things on his cheeks - what are they? Blue walnuts? Squirrel brains? Topping it off you've got sad eyes, pathetic ten-to-two horns and what looks like a child's pitchfork poking out of his disco collar. It's so far Beyond Evil that it's gone round the other side and is Entering Stupid. One of the reasons I haven't watched the film yet is that I couldn't bear to see the film and find out (as is highly likely) that nothing resembling this demon actually appears. Although I guess I would at least get a explanation behind the cheeks...

Christmas with the parents

With my head down all this week writing and working on finalising the programme for Mayhem, I forgot to even mention that 'Mum & Dad' has now got a release date - Revolver (our distributor) going for a simultaneous theatrical/pay-per-view/rental DVD/retail DVD release on Boxing Day, December 26th. Apparently, this will be the first time that a film has been released with this strategy, so we'll see what happens...

Monday, September 22, 2008

Nightmare Weekend...

This Sunday, anticipating the imminent vanishing of the sun for the rest of the year, we packed up a load of random crap from our house and headed out to Bottesford car boot (just off the A52) for the first time in ages. We were selling a pile of books, boxes of comics, some children's toys (when we could prise them out of my daughter's hands) and various oddments like a compact lightbox in a briefcase (which attracted a lot of attention, and which we could have sold easily, as long as we'd have priced it at a pound (in fact, you could pretty much have sold anything at a pound, it was the default 'make me an offer' offer, regardless of the price you put on anything)). We did okay - about £70 - but we maybe need to hone our selling a bit more. My one inspired moment of Budget Apprentice-style salesmanship was to take the book on Hitler which was at the back of one of the boxes and put it face up at the front. I bet Jeanie that we would sell it within five minutes. Before I even finished the sentence, we heard a bloke go 'Oh, Hitler, he's my hero!'. The enthusiastic purchaser was about 30, shaved head, big fella, with tattoos all over his arms, and, worringly, over half his face in a kind of Maori/Orc mix. He was with his mum. While she paid Jeanie for some of her lovely fairy cakes, he enthused about how Adolf had the right kind of ideas and how things would have been much better if he'd won the war. His mum just shook her head, wearily, and tutted under her breath, like he was a four-year-old wiping bogies on her coat. (This isn't to say that the people of Bottesford are Nazis, by the way, just that anything Hitler-related seems to sell at car boots wherever you are. It's one of the eternally bouyant markets - Hitlerania...). The book was just a plain biography, bought when I was studying German, but selling it made me remember that it's actually the third book about Hitler I've owned - the other two were 1) a luridly packaged NEL paperback called 'The Insane World of Adolf Hitler" (not related to this bloke) and 2) The Greatest Pulp Novel I've Ever Read: I used to have this book, years ago, bought because I thought the cover was funny. I read it immediately - probably at about the speed it took to write it, because it was just about the most insanely plotted thing I've ever read. From what I can recall, the story concerns a spy (lets call him James) who is sent undercover to a German castle, because the British government have heard that the castle's owner, a beautiful blonde Countess, is part of a neo-Nazi cell. James infiltrates the castle, meets up with the gorgeous blond Countess and then, as spies in luridly packaged pulp novels do, starts having sex with her. It's during the sex that James starts to realise that there's something a bit odd about the Countess, especially as she starts to lose control of herself - it's almost as if her voice, her whole manner changes. Finally, at the point of orgasm, with the Countess frothing madly and Seig Heiling on top of him, James realises the awful truth - the Countess may have the body of a beautiful blonde Aryan aristocrat - but she has the brain of Adolf Hitler!

Yes, Evil Nazi Scientists managed to save Hitler's brain, transport it out of the Berlin bunker, keep it alive for years, and then implant it into a curvaceous blonde countess. Obviously at this point in the novel, a few questions come up about what exactly Countess Adolf thinks she's doing...but these are quickly wiped away as the book becomes even more crazed and ridiculous. After discovering the Nazi's plan, James is knocked out and captured. When he comes to, he discovers that the Evil Nazi Scientists have been working on him too - they have removed the top of his head and started experimenting on his brain! Apparently though, they got called away mid-Evil to do some other fucked-up thing (sewing batwings to monkeys or something, probably), so poor James is left there, brain open to the world. How does he escape this predicament? Well, being very, very careful not to spill any precious brain fluid, he reaches over to pick up the top of his head from the plate next to him, and very, very carefully, sews it back on. Yeah, that's right. Take that Rambo, you lightweight. With his headcap stitched on like a pissed dad sewing on a scout badge, James heads off to confront the Nazis...

But how does it end, you ask? How do you surpass this madness? Well, I never found out. You see, in an unexpected development that I'm still not sure wasn't some kind of hideously elaborate practical joke, the last thirty pages of the book were misprinted. Instead of the conclusion of 'Death of the Fuhrer', it was a Mills and Boon romance about a doctor called Clive and a nurse called Jenny and their tepid light petting. If you can imagine how pissed off I was, it's probably nothing compared to the poor soul who was reading Barbara Cartland's 'The Heart Surgeon' and found the climax involved a lot more Nazis, spies and brain-stitching then he or she bargained for.

Anyway, back at the car boot, and despite the fact that we were trying to get rid of stuff, I ended up buying a carrier bag of stuff, much to Jeanie's disgust. The mitigating factors were 1) I only paid 44p for the whole lot - 4 books and 4 VHS tapes and 2) Bottesford is one of the homes of great 80s big box horror VHS films. (And home-made porn.)

So, for 10p each I got: I've never actually owned this, so it was a good one to get.I'm a sucker for anything with a drawn cover. Even when it looks like it's drawn by an 8 year old.Ditto with this one, although I've no idea what's supposed to be going one here - a bloke growing out of another bloke's head holds the body of a masked third bloke like a knife? The back cover promises "Fetishism, Machismo, Misogyny are but some of the ingredients of this suspense riddled horror thriller." Ah, the 80s, when misogyny was a selling point. And films could be riddled with suspense. Like woodworm. And finally: This film has a series of the worst reviews I've ever seen (although it was played though till the end, so someone must have made it through), but the premise, set out on the back cover, sounds intriguingly nuts - " Nightmare Weekend is the story of a desperate, evil woman who manipulates a computer with the ability to warp people's minds, by shooting a tiny silver ball through space which then implants itself in the head of its unsuspecting victimes transforming them into crazed mutantoids". A posting on the film's IMDB page purports to tell the real story of the film's production, so I'll leave the last word to them:

"From An On-Line Producer and Gas Station Attendant, 6 October 2004
Author: beilttog ( from New York, New York

I was the on-line producer of "Nightmare Weekend" and was responsible for casting it. I have to agree that "Nightmare Weekend" may be the worst movie made of all time. The very fact that it has been considered for this category should speak volumes. However, while there is truth that this film was made for a direct-to-video release as was popular in the 80s, the film started with good intentions and a decent script. The problems arose when the co-executive producers, (all from France and England) who were supposed to put up their 50% of the $750,000 budget decided that in lieu of $, they would provide a script (horrible - written in French), a director (whose only credits I was told were porno pix out of Thailand, a film crew (again, all from France) and some equipment. We never got our money's worth. When we (I represented the American contingent) looked at the script, I hired a new writer (American) to re-write the entire thing. However, when we finally arrived on location in Ocala, Florida to begin shooting, the French writer had once-again re-written the entire film on instructions from the co-executive producer, an Indian chap named Bachoo Senn from India/London. It was a joke but once on location, there was little we could do.

All the young actors and actresses were having sex with one another (not that we cared). The acting was appalling, although I did take great pride in casting Dale Midkiff and Andrea Thompson, both of whom went on to somewhat successful careers. I gave up my dreams of the film business (having obtained my BA in film from Univ. Miami, Fla.) and now find the entire event amusing. I currently practice law on Wall Street. The only good thing to come out of that film was my daughter (now 19) who was conceived on location. Hope this clears things up for some readers.

By the way, I played the gas station attendant only because they needed someone and I happened to be there! Perhaps I stole the show."

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fantasy Filmfest

I've been in Germany for a few days, as a guest of the Fantasy Filmfest, a great festival which tours round eight German cities across August and September. I was over to present screenings of 'Mum & Dad' in the last two cities on the tour, Munich and Stuttgart. Munich was first up, and after a ridiculously early start in the morning (my flight was from Stanstead at 8am, meaning I had to get up about 5), the first thing I had to do when I got there was to go and do an interview for the French/German TV station ARTE, along with Mark Tonderai, the director of 'Hush', also playing at the festival. The interview was outside one of the cinemas being used for the festival, which was a great little place with a cool courtyard outside and some homemade horror decorations like this: as well as a hanging noose, a plate of eyeballs and something which I saw online the other day, but was here in the flesh, a limited edition Barbie 'The Birds' figure:
The interview was good, but quite long, with the camera op roaming around handheld in between me and the director, getting really close-in (which isn't going to be most attractive shot, given that my face, after early rising and hours of travelling, looked like a handful of teabags hanging off a fence), and the questions focusing on the idea of this 'New Breed' of British horror film-makers - there were six or seven British horror films in the festival, most of them by first-time directors - and whether the perversity that runs through 'Mum & Dad' is 'typically British'.

After the interview we had the screening of the film, with a good sized crowd and a brief Q and A. The audience seemed to like the film ("You have made a very weird film" said one bloke, "Congratulations."), but if there's one thing I've noticed about German audiences as opposed to those in the UK, it's that they are very into precision - one person wanted to know exactly what was in the syringe in the film and how often it had to be administered to be effective. Either he was very detail-oriented or he was planning something very unsavoury...

After the film I went back to the hotel to crash out - feeling a bit like travelling salesman (which I guess I was), before getting up the next day to get the train to Stuttgart.

In Stuttgart I got the chance to see 'Hush' - which was great to see, because we've been trying to get hold of a copy (or even a trailer) for Mayhem for ages. The cinema was, again, a nice-looking place, inside and out:

'Mum & Dad' followed on straight from 'Hush' and we had a really good crowd in for the film. Afterwards, a load of people (around 100) stayed on to ask questions, including a lot that seemed to focus on my personal relationships:
- "Have your parents seen the film?" (No.)
- "Do you have any children and will you let them watch the film?" (Yes I do, and no, not until she's old enough (or tall enough to reach it down from the top shelf)
- "Is your wife supportive of the film?" (Yes.)

Maybe they all imagined that I lived on my own, defacing pictures of happy families or something.

The next day it was back to Munich again (for the flight), which meant another 3 hour trainride of this: and this: and this: before I finally got a few hours off in Munich. Then it was on to the airport, where I spent my last remaining Euros on the most Bavarian meal you can get as a vegetarian: before catching the flight home which I spent reading Thomas Pynchon's 'The Crying of Lot 49', picked for the journey because it's a) light but b) so absurdly layered with meanings and intimations of conspiracy that I knew it would keep me going over the whole weekend (but is, however, a dangerous book to read when you're about to go back to writing because you end up wanting to call all your characters daft things like Oedipa Maas, Randy Driblette or Manny DiPresso) and watching nighttime northern Europe out of the window.

Came home to find that we'd been beaten to the festival's 'Fresh Blood' award by Jean-Claude van Damme. Damn, I knew we should have got Chuck Norris and Cynthia Rothrock for 'Mum & Dad'.