Friday, April 29, 2011

RATSCLUSIVE! Pray For Dawn, new Aussie vampire movie about to start shooting! My interview with the writer and director

Howdy horrorphiles! Ratatouille here again, this time with a super exciting report! As many of you who have read my blog before know, I live in Australia, and more recently I have moved out into the country. I love this country, and I love its films, but there has been a massive gap in Australian horror for some time - Aussie Vampire films! Before I asked to do this interview, I was trying to think of a definitive Australian Vampire movie, and came up with only a very low budget cult film called Bloodlust made in 1992. NOT GOOD ENOUGH!

Well, the good news is a lot of people agree with me, also a lot of people agree that with the current "supernatural romance" trend, too many lame Vampire franchises are being created. The answer is NOT to stop making films about bloodsucking undead, that won't stop the swag of swill that continues to pump out of the open sewer feeding the tweenage watered down horror market. The solution lies in simply making some good ones. Let The Right One In is the perfect example, and even the title is completely accurate. We need to let the right films into our lives; by supporting and promoting the people making them, not just watching the films, or worse, supporting and promoting Hollywood studios that clearly need neither from us.

Australia, our time has come. Well, it's on its way. I'm excited to announce that Darklight Studios, previously infamous for making great metal music videos and all kinds of other great film work, are about to start shooting on a Vampire film that will not only be definitively Aussie, it's going to be scary, dark, ass-kicking and awesome. How do I know this? Read on as I chat with writer Stephen Batchelor and director Dan Jensen, about their film Pray For Dawn, which is about to start shooting! First, have a look at some images, namely the film poster and some teaser character posters! First, I want you ALL to click through to the Pray For Dawn facebook fan page and like it, nay love it.

Rat: Gday Stephen and Dan, welcome to A Safer Injection. First of all I'd like to say fangs so much for giving me this opportunity to take a bite of your time, I know in Stephen's words you're getting to the "pointy end" of the production now...

SB: Any time Ratman, as the production gears up I'm finding there is never a dull moment lately.

DJ: I'd respond but I'm still reeling from those puns...

Rat: So before I ask you about Pray For Dawn, let's quickly talk vampire films in general. Two-pronged question (I'll stop these puns, I promise) - what is your earliest memory of a vampire film, and what's the one vampire film you love the most? For me it was seeing the wonderful Robert Quarry as "Count Yorga" on one of my late night TV sneak sessions as a kid, and my all time fave is Romero's Martin.

SB: God I had forgotten about the Count Yorga films. My very first experience with vampire films came from the combined genius of Stephen King and Tobe Hooper. The images Salem's Lot burned into my brain as a child caused MANY sleepless nights. As for my all time fave? It's a really tough call, The Lost Boys is so much fun, I love the animal nature of the vampires in 30 Days of Night, Let the Right One In is almost perfect.... do I have to pick just one?

DJ: Growing up I watched a lot of horror films. I had the cool type of parents who let you do that. Honestly, I couldn't say what the first one was. Might have been Salem's Lot as well. Could have been the 1931 Dracula or any of the number of Hammer productions. As for a favourite, and I know this is a slap in the face of vampire purists, but I've gotta go with From Dusk Till Dawn. The first collaboration of 2 of my most favourite filmmakers and a damn entertaining flick. Rodriguez is my favourite director so I'm a little biased towards that one.

Rat: I have to say that I'm really pumped about the movie from all I've seen and heard, for a few reasons, patriotism for one! Also the fact that a uniquely Aussie vampire film is almost a non-entity, it's been almost 20 years since the low-budget classic Bloodlust was made, a "definitive" list I found online included Barry McKenzie Holds His Own (stone the crows!) and COUNTED Hollywood productions Queen Of The Damned and Daybreakers that simply shot here in its tiny list (ugh). What does Brisbane's Darklight studios have in store for a nation in anticipation?

SB: It's a film that's proudly Australian. It returns vampires to the side of the fence they should be on, the side that scares the shit out of you. I've tried to give the film the scope of a Hollywood production, but still retain the character of an Australian film.

DJ: Exactly. I'm sick to death of Australian films depicting our country as a barren wasteland and always wanted to do Australian Hollywood movies. When Stephen came to me with the script I knew we shared that vision. I'm also obsessed with Asian horror movies and will be bringing a heavy influence to Pray For Dawn in the style of the movie. So it'll be kind of like this Australian-Hollywood-Asian amalgamation. And I think that could be a first!

Rat and Josie: nb vb nnnnn That's not a question, just Josie the black cat with no tail who is desperate for my lap and has literally walked across the path of this interview. Maybe she wants a beer? Nice bottle, Victoria Bitter, now now now now now! Surely this is s sign of good luck for a horror film. Have you had any really good or bad fortune come your way leading up to the shoot? Pray tell.

SB: I'll tell you a funny story. A few months back I sent out a revision of the script to all the key crew members, about a week later I got an email from 80's scream queen legend Brinke Stevens. She loved the script and thought the dialogue was fantastic but wanted me to remind her what part we had discussed for her. The problem was, I had sent her the script by mistake, I had contact with her last year and had her email address in my contact list, and in my hurry to send out the new script revision I sent her a copy. We explained what happened and decided this was a lucky accident. That's about all I say say at the moment, ha!

DJ: Aside from that, there has been nothing but one lucky moment after another so far! I'm still waiting for something bad to happen. We've been blessed with the most amazing good fortune and it makes me believe that this movie is meant to be put out there. This is my feature directorial debut and if every movie for the rest of my days is this easy then I won't have any complaints!

Rat: The artwork by Richard Disley is absolutely stunning (I'm afraid of Stitch already), and gives us all an idea about how strong these characters are looking - Stephen, how long have you developed this idea for, and Dan, are you confident you can get your cast to really own the roles?

SB: Richard is a true talent and an absolute workhorse, I love his work, I'm glad you do too. As for the script, I wrote the original draft about eight years ago, and then it sat in a drawer for about six. I had the idea that maybe Facebook would be a good way to get word of it out to the public. And about ten drafts later, here we are.

DJ: As for the cast, I believe that rehearsal is key. I've seen what happens when actors aren't prepared and aside from not getting the desired result on screen it just takes too much time, and I like to work FAST. I'm planning on taking the cast through a lot of rehearsals prior to shooting so when it comes time to roll camera we can all breeze through the takes with total confidence. (And give Josie a pat for me.)

Rat: Seeing what equipment you have to work with for shooting tells me this will be super slick (the Crank 2-inspired RC chassis mount sounds radcore!) - as far as SFX go, without bleeding too much out of you (there I go again), can we expect a mix of traditional and digital shazammery stunning our senses, are you leaning one way more strongly? Talk to me.

SB: I can only write so much, Dan gets the incredibly tough job of turning what I've written into something watchable, so I think this is a Dan question...... Dan?

DJ: The previous draft had the producer and I sweating as there was to be a ton of visual effects, and VFX costs money. Not only do I work fast but I work cheap. It's a myth that you need a lot of money on screen to make a good movie, and there are always things you can do creatively to compensate for lack of money. I think we'll only use digital effects when it's necessary. I love practical effects and believe you can always tell the difference. I've long been a fan of people like the KNB effects group and what they can achieve - there's a true art to their craft. We've got a lot of talented people raising their hands to be involved with Pray For Dawn, and I'd hate to let that talent go to waste!

Rat: Last but not least, will there be any scenes with multiple extras, and if so, more specifically, is there a chance you could use one more very piercing (and pierced) face in a crowd scene? *Ratman points directly at himself with no subtlety whatsoever*

SB: Dude, if you want to pop over over when we start shooting you're more than welcome to do an on set report, I'm sure Dan might be able to slot you into the background somewhere, ha!

DJ: And bring Josie, too!

Once again I really thank you guys for letting me cover this scoop, and as you head into the nitty gritty of this wonderful dream, all my best thoughts and prayers to Bela Lugosi are with you. Screw "break a leg", bite a neck, guys.

Remember to like the facebook page, they just had liker number 666! 

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Popcorn! And there goes a weasel.

Howdy horrorphiles! Rattus Von Ratt here again, this time with a piece I felt was necessary to write for a few different reasons. Promotion, emotion, and demotion for starters. Promotion of a wonderful project that needs a bit of funding, emotion at the recent personal attack on one of my best buddies, and demotion of a jag-off hack from his place on the bottom rung of nowhere to somewhere subterranean. 

Confus? Good. Let's do this thing in that order. Serious stuff first. What can I say about Kristy Jett? There is so much I can rant and harp on about; she is such an amazing, talented, beautiful and important member of the horror writing community, it almost makes me dizzy to try and think about everything she has done in a collective sense. There's SO much there! Kristy Jett may be best known to you horrorgeeks as a principal, and featured, and guest writer on over 50 websites, one of the the geniuses behind the iconic Bloodsprayer site and podcasts, stalwart in the promotion of Hannah Neurotica's Women In Horror Recognition Month, and tireless in her recognition and exposure of new horror writers, both male and female, anywhere in the world. 

Not only all of this, she's the customer care manager of Benjamin Scrivens' amazing T-shirt company Fright-Rags, which is actually the only place I get horror shirts from! Kristy is the reason A Safer Injection exists, as she gave me my start when I returned to the scene by securing me writing gigs at no less than 3 separate websites/magazines, 2 of which I turned down to follow my own little dream, which seems to be growing more every day. My friendships and work with Jen and Sylvia Soska, Hannah Neurotica, and a swag of other awesome writers and film makers all began with a t-shirt order and friendly string of emails with Kristy. I LOVE YOU JETT! 

Kristy's current personal project, her "white whale", is to secure independent production and distribution of one of her favourite (and mine!) 80's classics, Popcorn! The plan is to get the sorely missing release out there, along with a documentary about the film, and lots of awesomesauce extras we just wouldn't find on the average release! 

Like many other fans of horror, even folks who don't particularly like Popcorn all agree this is a worthy crusade, and the support for her project had thus far been really positive. Kristy decided to use Kickstarter, an online fund-raising hub to try and take care of the high dollar factor needed to really nail this project and convert it from a dream to something tangible we can all put in our collections, a victory requiring an amount of $16,000 - considering the sheer amount of horror geeks in the community, this should be do-able! And to me, kickstarter seemed an appropriate platform to spearhead this incentive. There are amazing things on offer to all of those who donate, even a donation of ONE DOLLAR gets you a personal thank you in the credits of the documentary! Let alone the swag of other goodies available from the $50 tier all the way up!

Here's a link to the project!

The emotion and demotion part really isn't worth going into much. A douche launched a hackneyed personal trolling attack on Kristy today. She was so upset by this dipshit, she was even considering scrapping the project altogether! A better way to spend some time would be to DONATE EVEN A DOLLAR, and have a look at the great art from top illustrators Christpher Ott, Steve Jencks and Jeff Zornow, even get them signed by ORIGINAL CAST MEMBERS FOR HIGHER DONATIONS! COOOOOOOL!!!!!!!!

The main thing I need to say about him is this: NOBODY FUCKS WITH KRISTY JETT AND GETS AWAY WITH IT! This dickshaft attacked her weight, gender, integrity as a writer, and her entire Popcorn project as "money for plane trips and conventions and herself", among other things. He TRIED to insult me about being from Australia, called me a "faggot" and tried on a whole bunch of other shit. Anyway, he can go die now.




Till next time


Friday, April 15, 2011

Beat My Shorts! My Interview with Drew Daywalt

H.....H.......Hang on, let me just get my head together..... Howdy Horrorphiles! Rattus Von Ratt here again, this time to bring you something very special, the first official interview on A Safer Injection - and I could not be happier with how this has happened, and with whom.

If you say you are a horror buff and do not know the name Drew Daywalt, you need to hop on youtube right now and search the following titles: Camera Obscura, Mockingbird, Cursed, Creep, Bedfellows, Conviction, The Tale Of Haunted Mike, Stark Raving Mad. Actually, even if you know them, go on and watch them again. I'll wait. *tickticktick*

Now that you're back, (with new trousers I see! you should have worn brown ones, sometimes these things repeat on you), you'll have seen that Drew Daywalt can do in less than 5 minutes what most modern writers and directors of horror cannot achieve given an entire feature length, a massive budget and endless shoot time. Give us a genuine scare, send the willies and the creeps straight to the top of our spines to have a hootenanny with the heebie-jeebies, and restore our faith in the genre, and indeed ourselves, for those who might have thought they were well and truly jaded before watching these mini-masterpieces. 

If you think about big-budget action comedies, Drew's name pops up more often than a malfunctioning mole in a carnival game. He has worked on many big Hollywood productions, but following the Hollywood writers' strike in recent years, decided to move into horror. With shorts. On the Internet. For free. I liken this to Ronald McDonald hanging up his clown suit to sell organic corn by the roadside with a cheery smile! 

After reading a certain piece of news and the below interview he did today with Drew Grant, I was very pleased to get a facebook note from Drew in response to a discussion about him as a film maker.

You know what they say, if you don't ask, you don't get! I asked Drew for a bit of his time, and he was very kind to agree to this interview. Read on, and get excited, for the new force to be reckoned with is here to prove a point: that horror is not dead. In fact it's undead!

Rat: Firstly, I'd just like to say thanks very much for finding me on facebook and agreeing to this little interview!

Drew: Of course! I really liked your blog on madcap comedies - and when I watched your link of Jonathan Winters tearing up that gas station in it's a Mad Mad Mad Mad Mad World (were there enough "Mad's" in that? I'm not sure) - but anyway when I saw it, it brought me to tears of laughter just like the first time I saw it. After seeing that, I knew we were on the same wave length.

Rat: Haha! One Mad too many, I forgive you. Your attitude toward tackling the horror genre is quite simply inspirational, you've stepped away from working with some of the big boys of the action comedy scene, and delivered the finest horror shorts the Internet has ever seen. How did you feel when the responses first started rolling in, and how does it feel now to be a true pioneer?

Drew: Ya know, at first I didn't even think of it as pioneering. My goal at the beginning was just to direct some short films to prove to horror producers that I had the chops to scare people. And when Bedfellows went viral on me, I realized I'd struck a nerve, maybe filled a gap. My formula was childishly simple in premise - "try to do horror in the same manner as sketch comedy - in short, contained bursts." And instead of one good laugh per skit, it was one good scare. Then I became addicted to making the shorts because I really feel that, artistically I've found my voice. My favorite horror literature is short form - Poe, Lovecraft, Bierce, all those old Creepy and Eerie comics... it was all short form and very effective. People told me I was crazy to try and do short form horror, and THAT'S when I knew I was on to something. 

Rat: As a fellow "worst case scenario" type, I allowed all kinds of things to scare me as a kid. My first experience with a horror film was sneaking out of my room late one night and watching The Blob with Steve McQueen on television. What is your earliest memory of a horror film?

Drew: Oh god... For me it was stumbling into the room when my brothers were watching THE EXORCIST... F*cked me up for life. I had Reagan MacNeil and Captain Howdy nightmares well into my 20's from that. I also remember nearly shitting my pants to the opening credits of Rod Serling's Night Gallery. I remember being frozen with fear on that one. My parents were only one room away, but I couldn't move my legs to get to them. I was transfixed on the horrible faces on the TV screen.

Rat: I can't help but be a bit offended at some people's e-attitude about George Romero directing this project - "He's lost it", "Once great", "I'm excited about Daywalt writing this feature, but Romero?" blah blah fucking blah - have you anything to retort to these negative nay-sayers?

Drew: I think when someone is a master, they're always a master. Every film they do may not be pure 100% amazing, but we're talking about guys who defined and invented new genres of film. Maybe expecting everything that comes from someone to be a masterpiece is too high of an expectation. I mean, how many masterpieces can we, as a culture, expect an artist to create. How many of us would be thrilled to create even one? It's crazy how much pressure we put on our idols, isn't it?

Rat: Though I am not a huge vampire fan, and I AM a massive zombo-phile, Martin is my favourite Romero film because it is pure visionary reinvention of a hackneyed concept, something you share with George one hundred percent. Which of his films would you take with you into your nuclear fallout shelter if you could only choose one (and why)?

Drew: Ha! I'd take Martin and Day of the Dead. Day of the Dead scared the bejeezus out of me as a kid. Saw it at a friend's house, then had to go home after dark through a forest trail - I ran the whole way home through the woods and when I got home I saw I'd gotten a bloody lip from a tree branch smacking me in the face -- and I was so scared that I hadn't noticed it until I was safe at home.

Rat: You have mentioned that horror is suffering from too many remakes and re imaginings. Now you have been handed a remake to pen yourself. I am convinced that really good remakes are as much a part of the solution as bad new trends are part of the problem in horror. Can you give me one sentence on what we may expect from Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things?

Drew: To me, it depends very much on who's directing the remake. For instance, with THE CROW, I'm not very excited, but if you told me Alex Proyas was coming back... then maybe... I think it has a lot to do with the elements. And as far as what to expect? Zombies. A LOT of zombies... 

Rat: Once again, I thank you SO much for your time, I am already on the edge of my seat, as I'm sure many movie-goers will be when this one is in the can. Cheers!

Drew: Thanks for talking to me. I'm grateful that my work is starting to resonate with people, and that there is a hunger for horror as a legitimate art form, as literature... That was always my goal. To tell dramatic (and sometimes comedic) stories, but have all of them be literate, well constructed, and at their heart, truly horrifying.

So there you have it folks, the enigmatic and inspirational Drew Daywalt! 

Till next time


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

It's a Sad Sad Sad Sad World - Why don't we want a good caper?

Howdy film-o-philes! It's the Ratman with you again, and as you can tell by my intro, today's topic strays away from my usual dark and comfy cave of the horror genre, out into the open in search of madcap antics, crazy characters and a really big score. No, I'm not back on the drugs - I speak of the comedy caper film. 

Those of us who are a little bit longer in the tooth will remember growing up and watching comedy films with a real sense of whimsy, adventure and playful conflicts, knowing lots of things will go humorously awry and trying to guess who will come out on top! These films hold on to the Punch and Judy and pantomime tradition of cheering for the good guys, booing the baddies and having lots of fun and laughs along the way. These were films for all ages in the truest sense, the core storyline being enjoyed by young and old alike because of the simple formula they followed, played out by great character actors.

When I think of family films these days, the approach is quite the opposite - animated films are the biggest culprits - some eye candy and severe focus on "merchandising potential" for the children, and sneaky dirty double entendres and in-jokes to stop parents from ripping their own hair out in the cinemas. The common parent's statement of "Oh, you must go see this new family movie, it's great! The kids didn't even get half of the jokes!" - to me indicates the sad state of affairs we are in. 

As a new member of a country family including four children who have never been exposed to the rampant consumerism of modern society; it's plain to me (and these kids) that without the pressure to keep up with believing that they need every battery operated toy and endless useless trading card set and cereal and clothing line and fucking Shrek green coloured douche refill pack ("When your bum's a bit shtonky, don't be a donkey!") - the films themselves are in most cases fairly forgettable fare. 

In contrast, if you were to quiz me on the details of some of the films in the list to follow (I have not seen most of these in YEARS either) - I'm sure that strings of wonderful memories and moments will come flooding joyfully back into my mind. In fact, since sitting down and starting this article, for which I had 5 films in mind, I am now already mentally shaving down a much bigger list. So I am right already!

To me, the term "caper" may be broader than some filmsnob definitions. A good caper to me is a film with a bunch of characters with outrageous personalities and traits competing against or thrown in with each other in a madcap situation, all vying for the same prize or payoff. It encompasses heists, whodunnits, treasure hunts and challenges. Anyway, enough of this fannying about, time's a wasting! Let's embark on my top 5 most memorable capers that brightened my young eyes, had me laughing, cheering and second guessing all the way. If you have kids, or are a big one at heart, give some of these a go. Hopefully the kids have not been so broken by soulless hype machines to not immediately tout them as "boring", and your good selves have not been so saturated with torture porn and puerile teen barf comedies to enjoy a good old fashioned caper! Here they are, in order of which I scribbled them into my idea pad. As is my usual style, I give no massive amount of detail in these lists - I write this as a movie lover, not a film critic!

It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World (1963)

This is the film that inspired so many others ahead of it, but to me stands as the greatest all-star extravaganza comedy of all time. The classic greed caper which sees a phenomenal cast frantically racing for a suitcase full of cash, will always stand up as the perfect working of the caper formula. Here's the infamous gas station scene, many consider the funniest scene in the film, or any film for that matter!

Scavenger Hunt (1979)

I was appalled when I had to find a VHS rip of this film a few years back, not being able to even see a release on DVD anywhere - I don't even want to check, lest that still be the case. A cavalcade of 70's TV stars embark on a caper of a different kind - a classic hunt for unusual objects, but still following the same basic formula of a giant payoff, this time in the form of a last will and testament of an eccentric. Every review I have seen while referencing this film describes it as a "guilty pleasure" or "dated" - I see it as "innocent fun" and "a benchmark of it's period" - amazing cameos abound too! Here's the entire film in parts.

Murder By Death (1976)

I tracked this film down and watched it again recently, the all-time classic whodunnit parody from master playwright Neil Simon is brought to the silver screen with a knockout cast, and more genuine twists and layers than Christopher Nolan could dream of dreaming of dreaming about in some ridiculous imagined world, all in the confines of a manor house on a dark and stormy night. The greatest sleuths are gathered to test their mettle against their elusive and mysterious host, Lionel Twain. If this does not have you guessing again and again in between laugh cramps, I'll gas up the oven for you right now.

Topkapi (1964)

The Great Race (1965)

As a very young child, I was charged up when my dad let us watch The Cannonball Run, the cheesy Burt Reynolds race caper. A couple of years later, on a rainy day containing no video store bribe, we tuned into The Great Race on television. I'll never forget the magic of this experience, each member of the family backing a different character to complete the race first, and literally rolling around on the rug with laughter and excitement. Right from the first frame, a tribute to comedy legends Laurel and Hardy (and the first time I remember seeing a novelty credit sequence in the opening of a film); to the crazy conclusion across the finish line, this is the film that Blake Edwards hit right on target with, creating his own caper formula which he would emulate to perhaps lesser impact in his later films. This still stands as a true rainy day classic, fun and frivolity showcasing classic autos driven by mad motorists. A must. Pie fight anyone?

So there you have it folks, something a little different from me - I hope you had as much fun reading as I did reminiscing, and never forget how these films can lift your spirits and make you smile.

Till next time