‘Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor’ Review: Zombie’s still got it

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While it may be completely fair to question if Rob Zombie has overstayed his welcome in the horror film spotlight, his chops in the music industry are as strong as ever.

The latest from Mr. Zombie, a colorful album both on it’s cover and within it’s twelve tracks, is Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor and it was well worth the thirteen bucks I dropped on it.

This album brings the goods from start to finish.  The lyrics are always as much fun in a Zombie song as the jam itself, and this collection is no exception (“A jack boot monkey with a lightning rod”, “The walla are melting in my head”).  Guitarist John Five is as fresh and violent as ever with his shredding, while Bob “Lady Fingers” Marlette adds a nostalgic ’70s rock feel to the album compliments of his keyboard work that lends a little Blue Oyster Cult/Deep Purple soul to his featured tracks.

Zombie’s group kicks ass through a cover of Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re An American Band”, while “Dead City Radio And The New Gods Of Supertown” and “Lucifer Rising” should instantly join the ranks of RZ elite jams.

Rob Zombie may not be the master of horror cinema, but there isn’t much room for argument when it comes to his place atop the hardcore rock scene.  If a debate does exist, Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor confirms the man’s still got it.

 

Tracks You Need: “Dead City Radio And The New Gods Of Supertown”, “Revelation Revolution”, “We’re An American Band”, “Lucifer Rising”

 

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Posted in music review, Rob Zombie, Uncategorized, Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Tom Sullivan: From the Book of the Dead to Cthulhu and beyond!

Tom Sullivan- the master of low budget effects.
Tom Sullivan- the master of low budget effects.

Whenever I reminisce on my childhood torments, one particular movie scene always slithers its way to the forefront of my mind.  Regan’s spinning head ruined my psyche, Freddy’s accordion arms kept me from taking out the garbage at night for months, but all it took was a strategically placed writing utensil to not only make me squirm but also help mold me into the horror fanatic I am today.

 

THE EVIL DEAD, arguably the most influential low budget horror film of all time, hasn’t flown under the radar since it finally found theatrical release three years after being made in the sticks of Tennessee.  A cult classic that has generated millions of fans, tattoos and merchandise, not to mention two kick ass sequels and one hell of a remake, there is one aspect of the film that still remains relatively quiet.  While everyone can point to one of the many shocking moments of the film as a crowning achievement in horror, the man behind the visual terror manages to lay low.  Tom Sullivan never set out to be one of the world’s most awesome special effects maestro in the horror business.  But he sure did a great job of doing it anyways.Recently, I had the Oh-my-God-I-get-to-interview-a-horror-idol-of-mine opportunity to chat with Mr. Sullivan and the following is our conversation.  From deadites to Cthulhu to Bigfoot, Tom Sullivan dishes on all corners of his incredible career.

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MANGLED MATTERS:  As a true icon of practical effects, and with THE EVIL DEAD being about as independent as an independent film can be, what are some indie films you’ve seen in recent years that have impressed you with their effects work?

TOM SULLIVAN:   Well, these days digital is in everything. But I liked JOHN DIES AT THE END a lot.  Imaginitive and inventive. 


MM:  Why do you feel Hollywood has steered away from practical effects and gone so hard into CGI? Is it simply laziness and a lack of creativity?

TS:  From the reaction I get from fans, they are 100%  for practical and not fans of CGI at all.  I’m not hard on CGI at all.  Like any other effects tool, when the artists have the time, talent and money to do it correctly I feel CGI works brilliantly.  Whereas Ray Harryhausen could usually do the effects for his films alone over a year and nowadays it takes a couple of armies of CGI artists from all over the World taking a year to accomplish the same thing, I don’t find that very lazy.  On the one hand, the seperate digital elements allow for more creative decisions, something artists love.

MM:  While shooting THE EVIL DEAD, did you have any idea that it would be the cult classic it has become?  Everyone mentions how Sam’s enthusiasm for the project really kept everyone positive and believing in this film.  What does it mean to you personally when most people point out the special effects of the first film as a major reason why it is a classic?

TS:  We had no idea it would even be released.   I recall a conversation in the kitchen of the home we lived in during the Tennessee shoot where we decided if our film showed in a Drive In in Texas for one weekend, we’d be on the board and could say we made a movie.  The plan was to get to make a second film.  So it worked out.

MM:  What was the most challenging scene to create in THE EVIL DEAD for you from a special effects standpoint?

TS:  The stop motion finale I created with Bart Pierce was  trip. A great collaboration and a lot of work.  We were left alone and we did all we could to make an unforgettable ending. The stop motion shots were not only matted with live action shots, we double exposed each frame to lessen the ‘strobbing’ effect stop motion has.

MM:  With three months of almost non-stop filming, how did you guys manage to stay sane?!

TS:  I’m not too sure we managed to stay sane.  Fortunately the cast and crew were fun and focused.  Sure, there was the usual griping and stuff but no big egos, psychos or assholes.  And Sam kept the set fun and productive.

MM:  As far as you know, is there any truth to the rumor that there was an actual murder committed at that cabin way back when?

TS:  We murdered that hitchhiker out in the woods.  It saved a lot of time on body parts.  But I don’t know about any murder in the cabin.  According to my attorney.

 

Not much time or money for effects, but a whole lot of terror
Not much time or money for effects, but a whole lot of terror

 

MM:  What are your thoughts on the re-imagining of THE EVIL DEAD that has done incredibly well at the box office?

TS:  It is awesome.  I knew it would hit a couple of nerves.  I had a pleasant chat with Fede Alvarez and he explained his vision and I knew it would work.  I like the film and see it expanding the Evil Dead Universe.  Since horror films rarely make number one at the box office, I’m really impressed.

 

MM:  Speaking of woods, I hear you have quite the Bigfoot story. Care to share?

TS:  Yeah, weird story. I was out in the country north of my hometown of Marshall, Michigan and as I slowed to turn into a friends drive on the left I looked at a tree line at the right and about 80 feet away was a black figure standing behind a group of trees.  It was staring at me between the ‘Y’.  I stopped and stared at it.  It had black hair, a human or primate head and old man, thick gray matted hair on it’s chest. It’s still bugging me I didn’t get out or honk my horn.  I just figured it was a bigfoot and drove down the drive.  I think I was in denial.  It’s kind of weird.  I don’t know what to do with this information.  I reported it to BFRO.

 

MM:  Your Lovecraft-inspired artwork is phenomenal. Have you always been a fan of his work, even before you began drawing it as part of your profession?

TS:  My first experience with Lovecraft was because of the coolest movie never made called The Cry of Cthulhu. It was going to be Lovecraft meets Harryhausen.  Ray wasn’t going to be involved but it would have been an epic live action/stop motion film with lots of practical effects.  Suits and  animatronics would have been used extensively.  I did a bunch of paintings and drawings.  Cary Howe and I also sculpted some maquettes and photographed them.

 

MM:  The Tom Sullivan Movie Memorabilia Exhibit, Gift Shop of the Dead  and Art Print Gallery of the Dead  is something I would love to see in person someday.  Where can fans se this exhibit in the near future?

TS:  I will be at Cinema Wasteland this Oct. and then the Flint Horror Con also in Oct.

Fans can now own prints and replicas of my props from the Evil Dead films.  I was an Illustrator for decades and kept my artwork and now produce my own high quality prints.

We are now producing Book of the Dead replicas.  We are putting customers on a list. The Book covers are made of a silicone material called Dragon Skin.  It has the feel of real flesh and is disgusting to hold.  While it is not the stiff cover of the movie’s version of the Book, it is a worthy prototype that is durable and impressive.  We are only making a handful of the prototype Dragon Skin cover Books.  The pages are printed on archival quality paper with archival quality inks.  They should not fade or yellow for 150 years under sunlight, so you can impress your friends for centuries.  It comes with a stained and varnished box, signed by me.  The book is also signed and numbered by myself and my official Bookbinder of the Dead, Patrick Reese, signs the binding but that is hidden in the spine of the Book.

I also have replicas of the Kandarian Dagger for sale, painted by myself.  The daggers are cast from the original dagger from EVIL DEAD 2 by Master Moldmaker Steve DiRuggiero.  There are also Book of the Dead prints sets of 32 pages, all signed.  A set of 13 Lost Pages from EVIL DEAD 2: DEAD BY DAWN, signed by myself, is also available.

There are also a number of prints available from my website’s Gallery.  They come signed and are printed with archival inks on archival quality papers.  For inquiries and to contact me, simply go to my Contact Page of the site.

 

original artwork by Tom Sullivan

original artwork by Tom Sullivan

MM:  As a horror convention regular, what are a few standout moments of fan interaction over the years?

TS:  The one thing I never expected which has surprised me is when a talented artist or special effects technician comes up and tells me my work inspired them to want to create.

I saw the original KING KONG when I was five years old and that did it for me.  I never expected to pass it forward.  It’s the best compliment I could get.

MM: Your company, Dark Age Productions,  has a fantastic site and offers people a great chance to get their hands on some really awesome work.  What led to this endeavor?

TS:  Thanks.  The webpage is largely the hard work of Kanu Vuong who also runs the Deadites site.  We are planning on getting a catalogue up of my prints and other replicas and goodies.

 

MM:  With ARMY OF DARKNESS 2 reportedly in the works, do you hold out hope for a reunion with the original ED team?

TS:  Wouldn’t that be fun.  It is sounding like a huge film.  If called, I will serve.

MM:  You’ve said you’ve been typecast as an FX guy, which is inconvenient since you never truly pursued the craft after THE EVIL DEAD and THE FLY 2.  What film projects are you currently working on?

TS:  My gung ho filmmaker friend, Ryan Meade, is putting the finishing touches on INVALUABLE, his documentary about my career and art and along the way, some of the unsung heroes of the Evil Dead films.

I’ve been writing scripts and developing several for a first, low budget, indie film.  I need to make a movie.

MM:  Any last words?

TS:  Never.

I would like to sincerely thank Tom for all of his time and insight with this interview.  It was truly an honor and definitely a chat I will not soon forget.  Keep an eye open for news and updates on Tom’s work and where he’ll be heading to next over on his site!

 

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Posted in horror, special effects, THE EVIL DEAD, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Vampires Don’t Sparkle!: An Interview With Michael West

Michael West is able to say what most of us can only dream for- he does what he loves for a living.  In case this is your first time visiting this blog, that can mean only one thing- he gets paid to scare the living crap out of people.

Mr. West is an author, and a damn good one, of a handful of books and numerous short stories and articles.  Most recently, Michael has taken up the task of ensuring the good name of vampires stays that way with his latest anthology, Vampires Don’t Sparkle!.  If it’s blood and terror that you are looking for in your children of the night, then this is the book for you.  West doesn’t hold back in his own tales and early reviews on this anthology promise that none of the other authors do, either.  I eagerly await my copy!

Amidst all of the literary carnage and living the humble life in the Midwest, Michael was gracious enough to take a few minutes to chat with Mangled Matters.

Beware the woods… they’ll get you….

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MANGLED MATTERS:  Growing up, what did you watch or read to feed your horror fascination?

MICHAEL WEST:  I’ve loved Horror as long as I can remember. I used to trick babysitters into letting me stay up late to watch Night Gallery episodes and Hammer films. I’d collect toys based on the classic Universal monsters. In the eighties, when a new Horror film opened, I was always first in line. I read everything Clive Barker put out. I’ve always loved the writings of Richard Matheson, Ray Bradbury, and Rod Serling. Now, I get inspiration from contemporary authors such as Brian Keene, J.F. Gonzales, and Tim Lebbon, but Gary A. Braunbeck is one of the authors I admire most. He brings this emotional reality to his fiction that is simply amazing. His work elevates the entire genre, and I was so thrilled that he was able to write the introduction to my short story collection, Skull Full of Kisses, so honored and humbled by what he had to say.

MM:  Per your Facebook page, your children are convinced there are spirits inhabiting the woods near your home. Have you had any experiences with this phenomena?

MW:  I went on several ghost investigations, doing research for my novel Cinema of Shadows, and I did have an experience or two. I was in what they called “the demon closet” in the old Woodcarvers building in Converse, Indiana, and witnessed a hanging light moving like a pendulum when there was no breeze or any reason for it to be moving. I asked questions, and received spikes on an EMF meter in reply. I also spent the night there and woke up to hear people arguing in the hallway outside my room, but there was nobody there. Very creepy place! I never felt alone there. It always felt as if I were being watched.

MM:  Judging by the title of your most recent anthology, I’m sensing you need to tell us how you really feel about the Twilight film series. How did Vampires Don’t Sparkle! come about? Can you share some insight on the stories in the collection?

MW:  I actually tried reading the books, but I just had too many problems with them. I like my female characters to be strong, intelligent, independent women, and Belle was this mousey, insecure thing so desperate for a boyfriend that she attempted suicide multiple times, just so her boyfriend would come back to save her! Add to that the fact that sparkling vampires is just a stupid idea, and yeah, you could say I don’t have much love for the series. I knew there were better vampire stories out there, and I knew who I wanted to tell them. Add to that the fact that proceeds would be donated to cancer research, and this was a project I had to be involved in.

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MM:  As president of Indiana Horror Writers, what does a typical meeting consist of?

MW:  We talk about the industry as a whole, our various projects, and we try to get involved as much as possible in our local schools and community to help foster a love of reading and speculative fiction in particular. We appear at various book stores and conventions in the area to promote our works and, again, raise awareness that there is a lot of great talent in the state of Indiana.

MM:  If you had to pick one short story of yours to represent your career up to this point, which one gets the honor and why?

MW:  Oh my…Well, my short story “Goodnight” was named Best Horror Short Story of 2005 by the P&E Readers Poll, and it does touch a lot of my themes of love and loss, but my personal favorite has to be my ode to Asian Horror, “Jiki.” I just love that story. I’m a huge fan of Takashi Miike, and I wrote the story as a tribute to him. Funny thing is, when it was published, it was in an issue of City Slab Magazine that featured an interview with Miike on his life and work. I was truly honored.

MM:  You’re stranded in a haunted house for the night. What one horror movie and one horror novel are you bringing with you?

MW:  POLTERGEIST and THE SHINING.

MM:  If you could sit down and chat with three literary icons, alive or dead, who makes the guest list and why?

MW:  Stephen King and Clive Barker, because I grew up with their work and they are the whole reason I became a writer. I did get the chance to chat with Clive at a convention a few years ago, and it was such a thrill! The third would be HP Lovecraft. His mythos has been a HUGE influence on my work, and while I don’t like his style of writing as much as some of the other early masters like Poe, it would be amazing to pick his brain for a bit.

MM:  As a horror convention regular, can you share a few memorable moments from over the years?

MW:  Wow, so many moments…the conversation with Clive Barker would have to be near the top of the list. I’ve also enjoyed meeting George Romero, John Carpenter, the casts of some of my favorite films like FRIGHT NIGHT and RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, and probably best of all, I got to spend the weekend in and around the mall where they filmed the original DAWN OF THE DEAD. For a Horror fan, that’s like taking a trip to Mecca.

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MM:  Care to play a few rounds of “One Word Answers”?
Poe or Lovecraft?  MW:  Lovecraft
King or Barker?  MW:  King
Freddy or Jason?  MW:  Freddy
Horror Remakes?  MW:  Depends

MM:  Feel free to share all the awesome news of any upcoming projects you are working on!

MW:  Right now, I am working on the next book in my Legacy of the Gods series, Hades’ Disciples, which should be out this fall. I also have a short story, “The Grove,” which will appear in issue #13 of Shroud Magazine. And I’m working on another short story, “Inner Goddess,” for the upcoming Book of the Dead anthology. Faithful readers can always keep up with the latest news on me and my projects via my Facebook page, Twitter feed, or by checking into my website.

As always, I want to thank Michael for his time and sincerely encourage all of you to check out the links provided in this interview to learn more about Michael and his work!

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Posted in book, horror authors, independent horror, Indiana Horror Writers Association, interview, Michael West | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

EVIL DEAD star Lou Taylor Pucci: A Mangled Matters Exclusive Interview

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The first thing I noticed when I first got in touch with Lou Taylor Pucci for this interview was just how personable and outgoing he is.  In this day and age, social media can be an artist’s (and a blogger’s) best friend, but rarely does said artist have the time to read over each and every one of the messages, comments and requests they are sent on a daily basis.

I sent Lou a message a few weeks back just to congratulate him on the success of EVIL DEAD’s SXSW premiere and to thank him for doing, what I had read all along, a great job in this re-imagining of arguably one of the greatest horror flicks of all time.  In an era where remakes are churned out on a monthly basis and more often than not are utter failures, it was refreshing to finally hear of one that had- gasp!- lived up to expectations. Pucci plays a big part in EVIL DEAD’s splatter fest and he deserved the kudos. 

Much to my utter surprise, a day later, I received a message back from Lou with a suggestion to get in touch with his publicist in hopes of setting up an interview.  Needless to say, I was flabbergasted.  Absolutely dumbfounded.  Following a few texts back and forth with his publicist and a brief schedule flip flop, I had the chance to speak with Lou this past Friday morning.  With sweaty palms and a rolling stomach, I made the call.  What I was hoping would be a ten-question chat turned into an hour-plus long conversation with one of the most passsionate, hard-working and outgoing people I’ve ever had the pleasure of discussing film with.  Having seen EVIL DEAD at the 10pm premiere the night before, with Lou still on the East coast enjoying a once in a lifetime premiere opportunity, we discussed EVIL DEAD, his love for horror and sci-fi and a film of his he is equally proud of, THE STORY OF LUKE, that coincidentally was released on the same day as EVIL DEAD but couldn’t be any more different.

MANGLED MATTERS:  First of all, I would just like to thank you and Craig Bankey (Pucci’s publicist) so much for this opportunity. This really means the world to me.

LOU TAYLOR PUCCI:  Oh man, it’s my pleasure. Thanks for getting a hold of him and I’m glad we were able to get this thing set up.

MM:  You were able to see the movie at the premiere in your hometown last night.  How special was that for you? (the premiere was held at Rave Cinemas Hazlet 12 before a number of Lou’s family and friends)

LTP:  It was awesome.  That was the first theatre I ever went to see a movie in.  It was Tim Burton’s BATMAN.  My dad took me.  I have always been a fan of that dark, sci-fi, horror kind of movie.  I’ve grown into loving them thanks to my dad.  It was the coolest thing to be able to go to my old movie theatre and see it (EVIL DEAD) there.  I introduced the movie, the studio sent over a bunch of t-shirts and posters to give away.  It was just awesome.  Especially to have my grandma there!  She watched the movie! (laughs)

MM:  I saw the movie last night and absolutely loved it.  I thought it was just fantastic.  Obviously, we won’t give away any spoilers, but why do you think this film will succeed at the box office?
(Mangled Matters note: EVIL DEAD took possession of the box office during its first weekend, grossing over $26 million)

LTP:  This movie has all the necessary tools to give you an emotional arc on each one of the characters.  That’s rare in movies these days.  It’s (EVIL DEAD) also a total shock to the system.  I mean, it’s almost a comedy (laughs)- things get so bad, so quickly, it really makes you laugh.  It hits a lot of chords.

Things get really bloody, really quickly, for Eric and his bunk mates

Things get really bloody, really quickly, for Eric and his bunk mates

 MM:  As a huge fan of the original THE EVIL DEAD, how did director Fede Alvarez reel you in to making this film? 

LTP:  One of the biggest parts of why I thought Fede had this movie handled was, when I was brought in to audition, I asked him, “why do you wanna make this movie?”.  I always ask a director that.  He told me the scariest thing he has ever thought of is ‘what if the people you love the most are trying to kill you?’. That’s the scariest thing to think of, really.  I was on board right away.  My audition was terrible.  I thought I did a horrible job!  But then I get a call-back.  The second meeting, Bruce (Campbell) was there.  I had no expectations to get the part.  Bruce was there and all of my attention was just on him, meeting him. (laughs).  I asked Bruce what they wanted to accomplish with this film, was it going to be just some campy flick?  Bruce goes, “People don’t realize that the original THE EVIL DEAD was supposed to be serious.  Due to lack of funds and proper acting, it just became campy.”  I thought it was funny to hear Bruce Campbell admit the acting was lacking in the original!

MM:  What was it like working with Alvarez on his feature-length directorial debut?

LTP:  He wasn’t set in his ways in any which way with the characters.  He did a great job of leaving room for us to create our own stuff.  Sometimes we could take advantage of it and sometimes we couldn’t, but there was always a lot of room for us to have fun.  He kept that passion to make this film- “over the top, but not campy”.  You want to make the audience laugh during a movie like this because it is just so insane.  Make them laugh as we are going insane (laughs).

MM:  What was your first experience seeing the orginial THE EVIL DEAD?

LTP:  I definitely remember watching it at a friend’s house after a party.  Just as dawn was breaking, my friend goes, “Wanna watch Evil Dead?” and I go “What the hell is Evil Dead?”.  It is so demented! (laughs) And we definitely watched it on a VHS tape!

MM:  Bonus points for watching it on VHS!

LTP:  Oh yeah, man, just like records.  Blu-Ray and DVDs are awesome, but there’s just such a different quality and experience with VHS.

 
MM:  How do you approach your career as an actor?  Is there a specific type of film or genre you prefer to work in or are you just ready to meet any challenge?

LTP:  I’ve started to say I really wanna do movies that I’d like to see in a movie theatre.  That’s what I’ve wanted to do in the last while.  This is the first time I’ve gotten to do it.  It’s so cool to be a part of that.  In all I’ve learned as an actor, the most important thing to remember is if you’re not having fun as an actor, the audience can’t have fun watching you.  You have to bring an energy.  It needs to be there.  With EVIL DEAD, people aren’t going to the movies to see a drama, they are going to have fun.  It’s like a roller coaster.  So I made sure to give it my all.

MM:  You have an extensive background in Broadway theatre.  What can you use from your training as a stage actor that translates well to your work on camera?

LTP:  With theatre, you get that really good feeling for story.  Everything is obviously real time, there are no cuts or edits.  It’s all done in chronological order, which usually isn’t the case in movies, which presents a real challenge sometimes.  To do that, you have to do your homework- you have to make sure your mood on camera is the same as it was two weeks ago when you were doing the scene right before this one, you know?  So it’s a challenge. 
From the theatre background, I learned so much, especially once I started working on Shakespeare.  I was fifteen or sixteen, and Shakespeare plays are so much fun.  There is all the depth, storylines and character arcs, just like in film.  It’s just all there.  But film is simply a whole different animal.  It’s all about your voice and body language on stage.  In front of the camera,  you sometimes have to condense everything to just your face or your eyes.  It can be difficult. 
One thing that might not seem all that important but it is, is stretching.  I take that from stage plays big time.  Keeping loose, exercising during filming- it’s important to be able to keep your body comfortable in uncomfortable situations, and there were a lot of those in EVIL DEAD! (laughs)

MM:  This film, (director Fede) Alvarez in particular, really prides itself on being almost completely CGI-free.  Everyone knows corn syrup and red dye trump computer imaging any day.  What was it like working on a film that required so much make-up and effects and all of it being practically done?

LTP:  For me, it has so much to do with the practical effects.  Sitting in a make-up chair for three to eight hours a day, sure I complained quite a bit in the three months that we did it (laughs), but I was just so excited, knowing I appreciated what was happening here.  So many directors and studios don’t want to put money in things they can do easier anymore.  Look at WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, the original, or EDWARD SCISSORHANDS.  It’s the coolest thing to see- everything is so practical.  The chocolate water fountains and the blades, all that stuff was real.  It is so sweet!  Nowadays, it’s all about CGI.  It’s all so fake, like watching a cartoon.  There’s no real feeling or texture to it.  You can tell when it’s fake and then you are kind of taken out of the film a bit.

That is probably the biggest thing that seperates this film from ANY other horrror movie in the last several years.  You can tell when it’s fake.  People are smart- they know what they are looking for and that’s why EVIL DEAD is doing well, I think.  People notice and get it.  They know what is going on here.  Practical effects is a huge part of this whole thing.
It’s really kind of like magic, taking the fantasy of old, nostalgic films and turning them into reality- what if this (the madness in the cabin of the woods during the film) happened today?  Like THE DARK KNIGHT.  It’s a surreal reality.  As if Batman could be running around New York City today.  It’s a cool, real thing.  That’s what the good remakes are doing nowadays- taking the fantastic parts of movie making and grounding them in reality.

Front and center, Lou flanked by castmates Shiloh Fermandez, Elizabeth Blackmore, Jessica Lucas and Jane Levy

Front and center, Lou flanked by castmates Shiloh Fermandez, Elizabeth Blackmore, Jessica Lucas and Jane Levy

MM:  I agree.  EVIL DEAD really does a good job of giving you the heebie jeebies that maybe there really is a cabin out in the woods somewhere like this!

LTP:  Yep, exactly.  This movie does that.  It’s gonna fix some of the plot holes from the original and it’s gonna get so gory, so fast, that you’re gonna wish this doesn’t happen to you and you are never going to wanna go into a cabin in the woods again! (laughs)

MM:  What are your thoughts on remakes or “re-imaginings” in general?

LTP:  As far as remakes go, I’m not a fan of them at all.  If anything, they should only be remaking BAD movies into good ones.  So many movies didn’t turn right, but had good ideas.  If someone took the time to get better actors, a stronger budget or just a better damned director, there are so many ideas out there that are good but were just made poorly!

The only reason I think EVIL DEAD hits the nail on the head is THE EVIL DEAD was not a perfect movie.  It was perfect in how flawed it was.  If they had the money, they would have made a very different film.  This is what they inteneded for, in some ways, in the original.

MM:  You guys filmed for three months, just like the original film.  What was it like to form that family bond with the cast during your time together out in New Zealand?

LTP:  Being one of the oldest in the cast- Shiloh is a few months older- I sort of took the reigns of mediator, just bringing and keeping everyone together.  I had the most film set experience, so I was able to just try and keep things loose.  We were there to have fun and it was important to keep things that way.

What was great was, we had two weeks of rehearsals before filming began and Fede (Alvarez) really did a great job of getting us prepared.  He even brought in a ‘zombie’ teacher- someone to show us how to act and move like a deadite!  It was pretty awesome. 

Then we had three days for Easter vacation, so I started calling around all over New Zealand, to try and rent a house for cheap for a few days.  Everything was booked up, of course (laughs).  I called like twenty different places before finally finding a house.  So I bought a car- in New Zealand! I learned how to drive on the other side of the road and everything! (laughs)- and just took the whole cast on a road trip.  We were staying at Coromandel Beach, out in the middle of nowhere!  It was so cool.  The craziest thing was, we got the house only because a family had a death in the family so they had to leave for a funeral!  It was just like a movie! (laughs).  It fit for us to stay there right before filming EVIL DEAD!  There was drunken debauchery and just a lot of fun right before filming.  We were all kind of freaking out, but it was like, “all right, fuck it- let’s do this!” (laughs)

MM:  What was it like to deal with all of the pressure this remade had sitting on its shoulders for so long before the die hard horror community could finally see it? 

LTP:  I didn’t feel it as much from the fans as I did myself.  I loved this movie as a kid.  I didn’t even want to go to the audition in the first place (laughs).  But once I heard Sam (Raimi) and Bruce (Campbell) were in, I was like “OK, I’ll go.”

Sitting down with a good book is overrated.

Sitting down with a good book is overrated.

MM:  In an odd twist of awesomeness, you have another film coming out on the same day as EVIL DEAD.  What can you tell us about THE STORY OF LUKE?

LTP:  Oh, THE STORY OF LUKE is a film that deserves to be seen.  I play Luke, a young man diagnosed with autism.  It’s actually aspergers.  I can’t think of two more different characters than Eric (from EVIL DEAD) and Luke.  This role needed such a specific thing.  I had to speak and look the same each and every day, every scene, every cut.  I had to be a completely different person for an entire movie, where as when I was playing Eric, a lot of his actions were exactly how I would have handled things.  Luke is nothing like me, so it was a really challenging metamorphosis.  It is an incredibly well done movie and the best part about it is that it is a comedy.  So many dramatic films focus on all of the pain and suffering of something like this, but there is never any focus on the absurdity of real life dealing with aspergers.  Things can get awkward in a very comfortable situation and vice versa.  The writing is so well done and Alonso (Mayo- director and writer) did such a great job.  He lived with autistic people for a period of time to understand their story.  It is really a great film.

MM:  How do you reflect on your career up to this point?

LTP:  The only reason I have a job is because of you guys.  You guys go see the movies, you guys want me to keep doing this.  I appreciate and love the people who love horror and sci-fi.  Unlike other actors and actresses on the indie scene, I don’t shy away from this stuff.  I love it.  I grew up loving it.  I am one of you.  I am on your side.  So, thank you. 

I would like to sincerely thank Lou and his publicist, Craig Bankey, for making this interview happen.  It was truly a privilege and I wish nothing but the best for Lou as his career continues to blossom!

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Sink Your Teeth: An Interview With Brian McKinley.

These days, independent writing is where it’s at. After scanning over the book rack at a local retailer lately, I trotted out of the exit doors empty handed and spent my evening reading through a copy of a book I downloaded through my publisher’s Facebook page.

I’m not finished with the book yet, but it didn’t take long for me to be hooked. Vampires, a seedy underworld of corruption and a haunted love. Good God, the author might as well have dedicated the book to me.

The book I am talking about is Ancient Blood, the first in a series by Brian McKinley.

McKinley is one of those good old fashioned, hard working authors who spends his nights writing and his days promoting his writing. I’m under the assumption that he has decided he will simply sleep when he is dead.

Hailing from New Jersey, a true vampire encyclopedia and an up and coming author, Mr. McKinley recently took a few minutes to chat.

Please cover your necks and bust out your stakes and crucifixes. Although, where we’re going, they may not do you much good…

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Mangled Matters: Who or what hooked you on writing as a career?

Brian McKinley: It’s hard to identify any one person or thing. I was one of those kids who wrote stories for my grandparents as soon as I could write words, so I always had a desire to be a storyteller. As a kid, I loved science fiction, so all my early stuff was spaceships and lasers and such. I was also a performer and acted in school plays and community theater growing up, so I always knew I wanted to either be an author or an actor. Around college, I decided that I was a better writer than an actor and that writing was something I didn’t need other people’s help to do, so I started to pursue that and put acting on the back burner. To answer the question, though, reading and watching movies pretty much hooked me on telling stories and wanting to see my characters brought to life for others to enjoy.

MM: Having grown up along the Eastern seaboard, a monster hotbed for the U.S, what are a few of your favorite mythological beasts?

BM: Actually, I love Greek and Roman mythology, which doesn’t have much to do with the East Coast! Gryphons are awesome. My first favorite monster as a kid was Frankenstein’s Monster. I used to watch the old Universal movies on TV every Saturday and I loved him and The Wolf Man. My love for vampires didn’t start until later, during my teens. I don’t buy those stories about the Jersey Devil if that’s what you’re getting at.

MM: Ancient Blood is a sprawling saga that has a great social commentary back track to it. Tell us a little (or a ton!) about this series.

BM: Oh, boy, where to begin? Well, it really was conceived as a saga in the true sense. I originally wrote the story as a screenplay as a challenge because I always criticized so many vampire movies that I would watch. So, I tried to write a vampire movie that I wanted to watch. As a script, the story was a dismal failure! Haha.. It was way too cerebral and wanna-be clever. Even then, however, I had ideas for how the story would play out in sequels and tie-in stories, kind of like what Marvel’s doing now with their universe. But this was back in the late 90s and early 2000s when nobody was doing anything like this except maybe Stephen King with the Dark Tower series. After several other screenplays, an agent suggested that the story would work better as a novel. So, I went back to the basics and tried to figure out how to tell this story in a way that would be accessible. That’s when stumbled onto the idea of using Avery the viewpoint character; he’d been a minor character in the script and had never really fit well, so the idea to focus the entire story on him was kind of a big leap to take. But, as soon as I began, I realized that I was on the right track. Avery was just ordinary enough to be a perfect character for the reader to follow into this complicated and confusing world. By having him tell the story, I was able to inject a lot more humor into the rather grim story and undercut some of the pompous grandiosity of the characters.

That said, I have plans for continuing Avery’s story, but I’d also like to open up the world by telling some of the many other stories that are there to explore. Each of the Hegemons has fascinating backgrounds, and I have plans for a set of books that will explore the early history of The Order and show some of its development. I also have werewolves to introduce among others. My idea was that this could be an entire world that I could play in for as long as I wanted. To me, though, this is also our world. I see myself as exploring and explaining these fantastic events that have happened (or almost happened) right under our noses. The Order is a metaphor for everything that’s reactionary, corrupt, and wrong with the world. They’re the ultimate Old Boy Network, which makes them a great metaphor, and yet I feel a responsibility as an author to make them as real as I can. That’s why you can still see glimmers of hope and individuals who aren’t so bad or even idealistic inside of this monolithic organization. It’s similar to the way I look at corporations: there are lots of decent people involved in most corporations, but somehow the institution itself forces them to make inhumane decisions based on profit or efficiency or whatever. The difference between how people behave as individuals versus how they behave in groups fascinates me. I better stop now or I’ll write an entire essay just for that question!

MM: How long did it take you to write the first book in the series?

BM: I think I wrote steadily for about ten to twelve months, while I was at work. I was a third-shift security guard and so I’d usually be able to squeeze in an hour or two a night between my duties. Then sometimes I’d stop at Denny’s for breakfast on the way home and get another hour or two. After that, I spent a couple months editing.

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MM: Do you have a strict daily writing schedule that you follow?

BM: I really should, but I’m too lazy! Haha.. Generally I write whenever I can make myself do it. For some strange reason, I have a really hard time making myself start. It doesn’t make sense to me, because I always feel great after getting some writing done, but I always seem to approach it like a chore.

MM: If you could have dinner with three literary icons to pick their brains for a bit, who would make the guest list and why?

BM: Wow, that’s tough! There are so many good choices for different reasons. I think I’d pick Stephen King, just because his On Writing was so inspirational to me and I’ve enjoyed so many of his books. Joss Whedon, again because he’d be so enjoyable, but because his writing on his shows is so sharp and his ability to make you laugh and then suddenly break your heart is something I want to learn. Probably the third is George R.R. Martin to get some tips on world-building. I considered some of the greats, of course, but from what I’ve read, most of the great authors could be jerks in person, so who wants to put up with that? Besides, I’m a modern author, so it makes sense for me to get advice from modern authors who understand what things are like now.

MM: In 30 years, what would you like your writing legacy to be?

BM: I’d like to be remembered as figure of note in vampire fiction. Ideally, I’d love to create a character or two who become pop cultural icons. It’s probably too late to be a giant among vampire authors, but I’d like to have made a positive contribution that people remember and continue to read.

 (Mangled Matters’ note: In my opinion, it’s never too late to be remembered as a giant and if there is one indie author I have come across who can easily climb the ranks of vampire icon, it’s Mr. McKinley.)

MM: As a vampire aficionado, how do you like your vamps? What should they look like, in your opinion?

BM: I don’t think there’s any one answer to that. To me, the beauty of the vampire is in their diversity. To use my book as an example, I made a point of representing all the classic and modern archetypes somewhere, because I feel that the vampire genre should be inclusive rather than exclusive. I have my preferences, of course, I like vampires that look and act human. I like for them to be characters with dimension rather than flat boogeymen and I really like when their mythology has consistency to it. Don’t make them virus-based and then have them be repelled by crosses, that just doesn’t fit together. I try to be open-minded, though I’m not a fan of sparkly vampires.

MM: What are the three best and the three worst vampire movies in recent history, in your opinion?

BM: My best: Interview with the Vampire, Blade II, The Lost Boys.

         My worst: 30 Days of Night, The Twilight Series, and Queen of the Damned.

MM: What projects are you currently working on?

BM: Well, I’m starting on the sequel to Ancient Blood as a matter of fact! I’m only 11 pages in, though, so it will be a while! I just completed a book called Drawing Dead that I’m very excited about. It takes place in The Order universe, but it’s the story of an Irish gangster in the 1930s who gets brought into The Order in New York and sets his sights on taking over. It’s a very different kind of story from Avery’s, much more action-packed and brutal. I really like the character, though, and think he’s a great anti-hero.

MM: Any last words?

BM: Please buy my book! Support a starving artist!

I sincerely appreciate Brian’s time for this interview and I wish him all the best in the near and distant future!

 

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