The Halloween man : an interview with Justin Beahm

There aren’t many figures in the horror scene that are as multi-talented and fiercely determined as Justin Beahm.  A name synonymous with some of the most exciting horror film announcements over the last several years, Beahm has earned his place as one of the most respected gentlemen in the industry.

Beahm has had his work featured in and on just about every horror outlet known to mankind.  From FANGORIA to FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND, Beahm has plenty of career achievements to chat about.  Perhaps one of his most celebrated projects was taking the reigns of the 2012 theatrical re-release of the classic Halloween and Beahm also played a key role in the remastered re-releases of Sleepaway Camp, Town That Dreaded Sundown and Silent Night, Deadly Night.

Whether it be interviewing the likes of E. Elias Merhige (director; The Shadow of the Vampire, Begotten) for his new podcast, THE JUSTIN BEAHM RADIO HOUR, or working on a film that is a true labor of love for Justin, Mr. Beahm is the type of guy any horror lover could spend a few hours chatting with.

Recently, I had the real pleasure of chatting with Justin and it is an honor to spotlight him here at Mangled Matters.


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Beahm and the ultimate horror rocker, Alice Cooper


MANGLED MATTERS:  What inspired you to first get into the world of horror? 


JUSTIN BEAHM:  When I was a kid, before I had seen a single frame of any horror film, I discovered the Crestwood House monster books that each focused on a classic creature and its various incarnations at different studios, particularly Universal and Hammer.  I wish I could have purchased those when the little local library got rid of them, because I had almost sole borrowship of them over the years from checking them out again and again.  By the time I started to track down the movies on video, I was so well versed in their adventures that they felt like old friends.  They still do.  I have so much love for them all, especially the original Universal cycle.  That is where my interest in horror was born. 


MM:  Of all the horror heroes you’ve met and worked alongside, do you ever get star struck? 


JB:  It has happened only once.  Almost as long as I have been watching movies I have loved Revenge of the Nerds, let me preface with that.  I have parts one and two memorized, which is a feat considering I am basically Dory.  When I was shooting and recording all the supplementary material for the Scream Factory Blu-Ray of Body Bags, I had Robert Carradine come in to record his portion of the commentary with John Carpenter and do an on-camera interview for the documentary.   John and Sandy Carpenter show up and we chat a bit.  John heads out for a smoke.  A few minutes later, the door opens and there is Robert Carradine, extending his hand. 

“Hi Justin.  Thanks for calling me in on this,” he says in his quiet, unmistakable voice.  I was like a deer in headlights.  

“Thank you for coming.  Honored to meet you,” was all I could nervously muster.  Total fanboy moment.  When he and I sat down later that evening to shoot the interview, it was great hearing him talk with such fondness about this nearly forgotten film.  At one point he laughed hard and I was hoping he’d spill over into his signature Lewis Skolnick chortle.  The laugh didn’t happen, but hanging out with him for a night did.  


MM:  Why do you feel that horror, more than any other genre or medium of creativity, resonates so strongly with fans? 


JB:  I think all genres have a strong, dedicated fan base, but I think the connection is rich with horror for several reasons.  First, the fans are as interested in the mechanics behind the making of their favorite films as they are in the final product on-screen.  When we see a great monster or effect, we want to know how it was done, so we head to Fangoria or any of the variety of other sources for the story.  As a result, we become well versed in the people making our favorite films.  Directors and special effects artists become household names and we attach ourselves to them, following their careers and various projects.  

There are well-known directors in most genres, but few have the kind of marriage to their audience as in horror.  In romantic comedy, for example, audiences typically follow actors.  That happens in horror too, but in genre fare audiences are just as likely to follow directors.  That is unique.  

I also think nostalgia plays a big role in someone’s enduring interest.  Most of us are introduced to these movies as kids, where watching is something of a rite of passage.  Certainly a ritual part of sleepovers and weekend hangouts with friends.  There is joy surrounding the discovery of this entertainment, coupled with our earliest forays into independence.  

These films take us places we either don’t want to explore on our own, or that we can’t explore in real life.  We confront things that we’d normally find unsettling or upsetting, and no matter how frightened we are, we know we will survive.  It is fear with an expiration date. That helps us face the most gruesome things, to spend time with them, then walk away from them with a new understanding of the underbelly.  

On the upside, most horror stories are morality plays with an upswing on the end.  Survivor stories where usually ordinary people overcome the impossible, or at least the relentless.  There is value in that kind of reliable optimism.  


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MM:  What makes the genre so special to you, personally? 


JB:  Everything I mentioned in the last answer, plus the incredible community around all of this.  Conventions, podcasts, revival screenings and other events offer the most wonderful fan base in entertainment to come together and celebrate what they love.  There is a common language and everyone’s enthusiasm is off the charts.  It is beautiful.  


MM:  You’ve done some amazing work with remastering several iconic titles in the horror catalog.  How does the remastering process go?  Can you fill us in on any upcoming titles you’ll be giving the remaster treatment to? 


JB:  The remastering process involves first tracking down the original elements, which can be a challenge depending on the age and distribution spread of the title.  Sleepaway Camp, for example, was hard for me to find, but I kept going through various storage houses using a variety of versions of the production company name to see what it was being stored under.  Eventually I hit the jackpot and found all the original elements plus all the audio, so we were able to assemble the ultimate version of the film.  Totally uncut and unlike anyone has seen or heard.  From there, it is sent to a lab, which does a meticulous scan of the elements.  Some companies like to employ what is called noise reduction, which eliminates as much of the film grain as possible.  Many companies do not go this route.  I like it, but those who oppose it feel it eliminates the “film look” of the picture.  

As far as upcoming titles, I have stepped away from disc production for now.  I am focusing on writing and a few personal film projects. 


MM:  What can you tell us about Only Dream of Me?  Where are you, production-wise, with that film? 


JB:  Only Dream of Me has weathered some pretty significant storms since it got underway several years ago.  I am in love with the story, but life seems to want it to marinate a bit.  Most recently I revisited the script and made a big change to the ending that I am really happy with.  That energized me and, despite doing so in the midst of a six month down time in the wake of a significant car accident (happened in January), I shifted the project into high gear.  

As I was assembling crew and talking to the monster fx team out in Los Angeles, the ultimate blow came my way.  My good friend Nick Kushner, who was to play the creature, passed away.  No age is “old enough” but Nick was too young, just in his 20s.  The creature suit had been molded off Nick, and the thought of putting that on someone else crushed me.  Still concerns me.  

After extensive consideration and many conversations with people close to me and the production, I decided to continue and move forward, doing so in tribute to Nick.  So we are back on track.  I am heading to L.A. to shoot some footage to build a second fundraising campaign around this fall.  I have the director of photography I was dreaming of on board, the composer partner I have worked with on all my films and projects, and one of the best effects teams on the business delivering the nasty bits.  A solid foundation for what will be a unique, intense film.  I cannot wait to bring it to life.  Thank you for asking.  This film means so much to me.  


MM:  THE JUSTIN BEAHM RADIO HOUR is still very young but off to a fantastic start.  How long did the first episode take you to produce and put out?  


JB:  Thank you!  I have long been discussing doing a show of my own, but I had a lot to learn about editing and the process and equipment involved with recording.  I have enjoyed being on various podcasts over the years, all of which were horror focused.  I wanted to do something a little more wide-ranging, and while horror will be a big focus on mine as well, I want to get out into other sides of entertainment and culture.  

When considering how to kick things off, I knew it had to be someone special with me to set the show into motion, and I called my buddy E. Elias Merhige, director of Shadow of the Vampire and Begotten.  He is such a fascinating person and an incredible creative spirit. He was perfect.  I did a few test recordings with Land of the Creeps host Greg Morgan, practiced editing with our recordings, and got things down to where I was confident in moving forward with things.  

I recorded the conversation with Merhige one night, did my introduction bit two days later, and edited that next day.  Basically it took about three days to put the first one together.  I love the format and am excited for all the guests I already have in queue for this fall.  So fun.  Halloween fans will be very happy. 


MM:  You’re a staple on the horror scene and I’m assuming the movie review options flood in regularly for you.  What recent horror films have really impressed you? 


JB:  When screener copies of films come my way, I usually either return them or get permission and pass them on to another media outlet because I don’t write reviews.  That has never been an interest of mine.  There are much better reviewers out there than I would ever be!  

Neon Demon blew me away.  I went in a blank slate, something I really try to do, and I fell in love with what is one of the most terrifying, beautiful films I have ever taken in.  We went on opening weekend and there were only two other people in the theater with us, so we were lucky to experience it on the big screen.  I wrote a love letter to that film on my website.  

The Shallows was very good.  I am a sucker for shark movies, and after years of watching cheapo stuff on Syfy and Netflix, it was a joy to find sincere love on the big screen for the subgenre.  I place it only behind Jaws 

Outside of those, I have been binging on Game of Thrones, itself horrific in many ways, and enjoying the steady stream of incredible video re-releases of treasures like Carnival of Souls from Criterion, Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood from Arrow, and Jaws 2 and 3 from Universal.  I always have something on.  


MM:  If you could have a round table discussion with three horror icons, past or present, who gets a seat at the table and why?  


JB:  I would love to get Roger Corman, Fred Olen Ray and William Castle together to talk shop.  Three guys who know every side of production and the business.  Prolific and diverse, all of them.  THAT would be a fascinating conversation.  


MM:  Where can fans find your podcast? 


JB:  Justinbeahmradiohour.com and justinbeahm.com. You can also find it on iTunes, Stitcher, YouTube, and everywhere podcasts stream. 


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logo by Beahm and Kevin Spencer

 

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