Category Archives: American Indie

Berenice

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If you’ve been a reader of this site for awhile, then there are at least three things you know about me: 1) I love horror 2) I’m a pretty big and pretty dedicated fan of Jeremiah Kipp’s work and 3) I am a fan of Edgar Allan Poe.  At least, I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned my love of Poe before (my memory is just the worst…). I started reading dear old Poe when I was 8 (not sure why my parents allowed that but hey, it gave me my first foray into horror lit and into the horror genre itself!) and “The Cask of Amontillado” was always my favorite. Something about being walled up for eternity just totally creeped me out (that 8 year old imagination probably came into wicked play there…).  My friend, Jeremiah, has taken one of Poe’s short stories “Berenice” and turned into an deliciously creepy short film. It’s his little piece of the upcoming horror anthology Creepers, debuting on Blu-ray and VOD on October 7.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story, as I was (and thank goodness I didn’t read this one as a child, is all I gotta say), there once was a boy named Edward who had a lovely cousin named Berenice (names updated for our modern audience) who came to live with him and his parents. Edward (Thomas Mendolia) is a bit awkward and obsessive compulsive. He has to turn lamps on a certain number of times and tinkers with small mechanical parts at his desk, alone in his room. Social he is not. Then along comes Berenice (Cheryl Koski) who is everything Edward is not – sociable, graceful, roaming carelessly through life. Except there’s a catch. Isn’t there always? Berenice is ill, dreadfully ill, with a mysterious malaise that we, at best, know causes seizures. And then there’s Edward’s mother (Susan Adriensen), who while being a bit of a stiff actress, manages to be absolutely terrifying. I’ve no idea if she’s in love with her son or just extremely overprotective and overpowering but I would not cross that woman. Edward’s father (Bob Socci) is rather unassuming, although he too comes off as a bit stiff. Edward is eventually told that he must be the one to take care of Berenice as she worsens, which he seems to be fine with as he’s seemingly…charmed by her, shall we say? And from there, I’ll let you either watch the film or go hunt down the story because what happens next is at times gruesome and then creepy.

See what I meant about gruesome? ;)

See what I meant about gruesome? ;)

Is the film good? You betcha. Thomas and Cheryl both embody their characters in such a way that it’s almost painful to watch – which in this particular story is a good thing.  I’m far from being squeamish but there were a couple of scenes here that made me squirm just a bit (although it has been a rather long time since I’ve watched anything other than a tv show binge on Netflix…maybe that’s why…). And the ending? It’s not even the ending actually; it’s just the last final shot that got me. *shudders* Pure cinematic horror goodness right there.

If you love Poe, if you’ve liked my reviews of Jeremiah’s other works, if you just like short horror films done well and if you like horror anthologies (cause I hear the other parts are pretty kickawesome as well!), then check out “Berenice” and Creepers on October 7th!

 

Coming Attractions:: Volumes of Blood

Volumes of Blood

So I got word of this very cool sounding project happening in KY right now and was able to snag one of the main guys (producer, co-writer and co-director), P.j., and convince him to do an interview with me. And by “convince”, I totes mean I tied him up in the basement till he answered my questions.  TOTES. So here it is, all the scoop on the upcoming horror anthology (yay for horror anthologies! I have a soft spot in my heart for them), Volumes of Blood.

ML: Volumes of Blood is an Unscripted Film School (UFS) project. Can you explain what exactly the Unscripted Film School is, what it does and how long it’s been around?

P.j.: The Unscripted Film School program is something I co-created with Jim Blanton at the Daviess County Public Library. It’s an opportunity for interested locals to come participate in a hands on filmmaking session with local and regional talent. They have a chance to see what it takes and the various facets associated with making an indie film from special FX to cinematography to acting and directing. We tried it out on a smaller scale in January 2015 and premiered both short films at the Unscripted 3 film series to a lot of praise. Lucky, the Audience Award winning short, has gone on to get some great reviews and screen across the country in film festivals. Because of its success we decided to ramp up the program and do something wholly different and more expansive.

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ML: This will be the second film for UFS. The first was a short called Lucky by Todd Martin. But this will be the first full length feature (although an anthology)? How is the process different from making a short to making a feature film?

P.j.: With the first film school program, the basic idea was like the 48 Hour Film Fest, only you’re shooting a short in 7.5 hours instead. Lucky gave us a chance to see the true potential of the program and Jim asked me to come up with some ideas on how to really expand the program. Rather than shoot one or two shorts, we’re now shooting 5 over the course of 4 months and instead of it being a competition, 5 different directors are working on what will be become a single project created from 5 different perspectives.

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ML: The screenplay for Volumes of Blood is written by yourself, Todd Martin and Nathan Thomas Milliner. How did the idea come about? Was it something you purposely set out to do or was it a lucky accident?

P.j.: I knew I wanted there to be 5 short films. I already had been sitting on some ideas so I wrote the first three scripts, but I knew that I didn’t want to be the only writer for the anthology. I love to collaborate. Todd is a great writer and I contacted him to see if he wanted to come back for another stint with the Unscripted Film School 2. He accepted and the only stipulation I gave him was that one of the two stories he wrote had to be titled “Encyclopedia Satanica” because it’s such a badass title. I didn’t have a story, just a name. Todd got back to me with a couple scripts and I really dug what he wrote. Nathan has been a friend of mine for a while now and I asked him to come onto the project as a director. He chose “Encyclopedia” as his script and then did a pass on it. He added in a lot of cool literary elements and things that took the overall story to another level. Because of that he earned a writers credit as well.

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ML: The logline reads “Five tales of dread interwoven when a sociology student gathers several of his friends at the local library to help him create a new urban legend with deadly consequences”, which honestly intrigues me because it reminds me of: 1) the movie Urban Legend; 2) the amazing episode of Buffy -“Conversations with Dead People” and 3) the V/H/S films oh, and 4) one of my all-time favorites Trick’r’Treat. Was Volumes of Blood inspired by any of these (probably not the Buffy episode, eh)? And if not what WAS the inspiration?

P.j.: It’s been pretty incredible the various different films that have come to light since I started this. I’m huge on writing homages to other films because for one I’m a big old school horror fan, and two I think that writing nuances into your stories are these great little moments for fans to grasp hold of a long the ride. I’ve wanted to do an anthology for a few years now and it just seemed like the right time. There are several inspirations and nods in Volumes of Blood that range from Friday the 13th and Insidious to more forgotten horror fare like After Midnight and He Knows You’re Alone. I’ve always been a fan of October and Halloween so several stories revolve around that time of year so I guess you can say that Trick ‘R Treat had some influence as well.

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ML: Can you tell us what will be involved with these five tales? For example, will one be a ghost story and another full of zombies? Or is this a less supernatural film?

P.j.: I don’t want to give too much away but being a child of 80’s horror I can tell you that the film runs the horror sub-genre gamut. There will be ghosts, monsters, masked killers and possessed books so there’s a little something for every horror fan out there.

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ML: Who is starring in your film? Have you hired only locals or did you expand your search?

P.j.: I expanded my search, but did cast a lot of actors that I had worked with before like Todd Reynolds (Hallows Eve: Slaughter on Second Street) and Louisa Torres (Lucky). This go around I reached out to several actors I’ve either wanted to work with for a while or worked with on others projects like Jason Crowe (The Hospital), Roni Jonah (The Zombie Movie), Jim O’Rear (The Hospital), Kevin Roach (Three Tears on Bloodstained Flesh), Kristine Farley (Bloody Hooker Bang Bang) and a whole slew of others. I’m really excited about the cast.

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ML: Tell us a bit about the filming process. You’re filming one Saturday a month till it’s finished, correct? Has that streamlined the filming process? Do you think it would have been easier to shoot it over 5 consecutive days? Why draw it out?

P.j.: Because of the way the film school program is structured we need to have time between each film to give the community a chance to sign up to participate on each film. We’re allowing ten each, fifty in all once the project has completed shooting in November. This has streamlined things because it allows us a chance to regroup before the shoots since everyone is working with a different director each time and experiencing a completely different vision from the last. Plus, everyone on board this project is volunteering their time and it just makes sense to shoot it this way to make sure everyone is available to do their job. I myself had a full time job and a family so shooting 5 consecutive days is just not in the cards for me and I wouldn’t expect it to be for anyone else. Drawing out the process also gives me a chance to sit down and start editing the shorts to try and have one finished before the next begins. That way when the final night of production comes the movie will be nearly completed.

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ML: When will Volumes of Blood be released and where will people be able to view and purchase it?

P.j.: I’m huge into gimmicks so the film will have an Owensboro, Kentucky premiere on Friday, March 13, 2015 at the Owensboro Convention Center. It will be hosted by 97X and The Boiler Room, who will also host an exclusive after party. The event itself will be a charity event where all proceeds will be donated to New Beginnings Sexual Assault Services. After that it’ll hopefully be coming to a film festival near you and the DVD release will be before December of next year.

ML: You funded this project via Kickstarter. Was that your first experience with crowd sourcing? Would you recommend it for up and coming directors? What advice would you give them on how to go about using this resource?

P.j.: This was the first time I ever truly begged for money, yes. Outside from family that is. Crowd funding is a weird and stressful thing. If it all works out in the end then the journey was well worth all the sweat and tears, but I can’t imagine spending sixty days struggling to reach our goal and not walking away with something because it wasn’t fulfilled. I mean potato salad got funded for like eighty gazillion dollars and we made our budget because of the support of nearly a hundred individuals and the skin of our teeth no less. It was an amazing feeling when we reached the goal and ultimately the project was 107% funded. I would recommend giving it a try, but prepare to work really hard to get what you want and don’t be afraid to get annoying.

ML: What’s next for UFS and Verite? :)

P.j.: Right now we’re reviewing submissions for Unscripted 4 that will start in January 2015 and go every Saturday until the last weekend in February. As far as Verite Cinema is concerned, I honestly can’t see anything beyond Volumes of Blood right now… except Volumes of Blood 2 of course.

A huge thanks to P.j. for sitting down to do this interview (as if he really had a choice, hehe. No, but seriously. I am sorry about the basement thing). If you want to become a fan of Volumes of Blood, like me, give ‘em a “like” over on Facebook or follow them on Twitter for all the latest news!

Lone

Lone

Lone is singer Chelsea Wolfe’s first film, one that combines her music and the artistic expression of filmmaking to create a visually wild ride. Directed by Mark Pellington and based around Wolfe’s album “Pain is Beauty”, the film is a series of vignettes and images interlocked with five songs from the aforementioned album. The combination creates a dreamlike landscape littered with beauty and horror.

Chelsea Wolfe

Chelsea Wolfe

I won’t lie – I was wary at first as the viewer is essentially watching an hour long music video and I wasn’t entirely sure that was going to work. But unlike standard music videos, this one manages to tell a story without telling a story, leaving the interpretation entirely up to you. While it may not work for some, it worked for me. And what a story it is – encompassing love, beauty, pain, horror, death, life, destruction, nature and everything in between. A story created with viscerally stunning images that vary from filling one with longing to filling one with uneasiness and a story that includes a plethora of people. A particular repeating image that stuck out to me was people wearing animal masks – I feel like I’ve seen this a lot lately, mostly in the horror genre. I’m not sure if this was their way of introducing horror into the framework of the story here or not but it was really the only imagery that felt to me to be a bit of an overused trope.

Is anyone else seeing this animal mask thing used everywhere too??

Is anyone else seeing this animal mask thing used everywhere too??

Wolfe herself has a haunting voice and her songs are raw, only serving to amp up the imagery that we’re seeing. While the songs are the focus, there is a bit of dialogue, mostly repeated phrases such as “I’m not afraid to remember.” and “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” I’m not sure which five songs from the album were used, as I’m not familiar with Wolfe or her work outside of this film, but she’s definitely garnered a new fan by using this medium.

Just one of the visceral images used in this film.

Just one of the visceral images used in this film.

Pellington’s direction is, at times, brilliant. Besides all the emotions and elements he combines, he also combines his original imagery with what appears to be old home movies and stock footage of natural disasters. The overall affect is a film that will stick with you long after you’ve finished watching.

A Mind Beside Itself

Some of you are familiar with P.j. Starks, some of you are not.  But either way, he’s a pretty cool guy who does a lot of fairly cool stuff when it comes to movies.  And he just released one of his films online, finally, for the entire world to see.  I haven’t had a chance to watch this one yet but hope to soon.  It’s only 19 minutes or so, so head on over and check it out!

 

Episode 50

Episode 50

Hmmm…what to say about Episode 50?  Fair to middling, I guess best sums it up.  There’s nothing new here, nothing shocking but as far as acting and story goes, this is a quick, easy pill to swallow.

We start out rather cutely with a TV crew of paranormal investigators investigating a couple’s house.  My favorite part here is, when hunting around for the ghost, the husband is carrying a hammer (as if that’s going to do any good) and then accidentally beams his wife in the head.  The next shot is her with a bandage and black eye.  I know, I know, I shouldn’t laugh just the way they do it was hysterical (I’m also a little lacking in sleep though…).

Sorry, honey.

Sorry, honey.

The paranormal investigators aren’t your usual type – they’re there to explain away all these occurrences through natural means.  One, mice are setting off the fancy equipment other paranormal investigators sold these people and two, hubby is a slob and has left open not only paint cans downstairs but also things like coolants which are creating fumes throughout the house which in turn makes the couple dizzy, nauseous, etc.  And this is how we see an episode of the paranormal investigators t.v. show.

Next up is some dying guy who owns an abandoned asylum that’s supposed to be one of the most haunted places ever.  He hires our paranormal team to spend the weekend at the asylum because (at least as far as I can tell) if they find something paranormal, then he’ll be a ghost.  If they debunk everything there, then he’s going to spend eternity in Hell.  Um, k…

Unfortunately, our paranormal team has to also work with a Christian paranormal team (which is new to me – I didn’t think the Christian religion was big on the paranormal but maybe that was just my church) who are there to PROVE that the place IS haunted.

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Of course since we’ve got two paranormal teams in an insanely haunted asylum, things go pretty much straight to hell but it’s with very little blood or violence.  There’s no chills or scares here, just your standard “made ya jumps” and ghostly ghastly quick moving women.  And then it gets a little cheesy at the end.

It doesn’t suck but it’s nothing special either – silly fun if you’re in a crowd that scares easily.

Wild Girl Waltz

wild girl waltz

Wild Girl Waltz is a hella fun movie about a day in the life of drugged up babes.  Well, not THAT drugged up as they only have a  pill of something each but ya know still.  Up above you’ll find our gang – Angie, Brian and Tara.  Tara and Brian are dating while Angie and Brian are brother and sister which sets up a really great group dynamic.  And so our story begins with….

Poor Angie walking along the side of the road, only to have a truck drive by with a couple of guys in it who call her a whore and throw a milkshake all over her.  Angie’s having kind of a bad day.  She calls Tara to come pick her up and there is much mocking the entire time but eventually Tara tells Angie she has something that will make everything better.  After getting Angie back home and showered and less of a sticky mess, Tara presents her with two overturned cups and tells her to pick one.  Once Angie does, Tara reveals two pills that someone at work gave her and they each end up taking one even though neither knows what either pill is.  Is this smart?  Not really.  But it makes for an entertaining watch.  Meanwhile Brian, who was out yelling at some guy, comes home to find out he has to babysit two girls – one who appears to be on acid and the other who ends up being on ecstasy.  He’s thrilled beyond belief, y’all.  Thrilled, I say.  ;)

Girls popping pills

Girls popping pills

What follows is simply one of those days where it’s the best day with your friends you ever had.  Admittedly, some of this is funnier if you’ve ever taken drugs or on the flip side had the misfortune of being the sober one babysitting friends, but it’s just their journey to find beer, get pies, play on playgrounds, talk to turtles and watch the color trails.

Thrilled Brian

Thrilled Brian

While the movie starts out a little slow, it quickly picks up pace and the rest of the time goes by smoothly.  There’s some nice exterior shots (although a tad bit too many at the beginning).  The acting is great – it can be hard to act like you’re on drugs and make it convincing without going overboard and both actresses here (Christina Shipp and Samantha Steinmetz) take it just to the limit but never overdo it.  I think my only complaint is that I didn’t really see what Brian yelling at the guy in the woods at the beginning of the film really had to do with anything else.  It seemed a scene just designed to get him out of the house while the girls took the pills but it easily could’ve been left out as it didn’t relate to anything else and was never resolved.

Overall, a fun comedy, one I’d recommend for a Saturday night in.

Bunni

bunni

I have to admit to being a fan of this offering from Red Serial Films and Daniel Benedict.  It’s def got an old school slasher feel to it with just the right amount of cheesy goodness to make it pretty damn fun for the whole family.  Okay, well, not the whole family.  Definitely don’t show this one to the kiddos!

Our story starts with an abused woman fighting with her husband and the whole thing just starts with a BAM! (picture that in comic book style writing, k?).  Then we move on to a bunch of college age kids out at a bar for Halloween – we’ve got Dickface (whom I wanted to punch in the balls), his girlfriend, Sweetie and then Honeybee and her boyfriend, Ninja Turtle.  No, of course those aren’t their real names in the film but we know how I like to name characters and make them my own. ;)

Honeybee and Ninja Turtle are pretty norms and a cute little couple.  Dickface is cheating on his girlfriend and majorly abusive towards her verbally.  Again, did I mention the ball punching I wanted to do?  Anywho, they decide to leave the bar and on the way home stumble across this old boarded up former sex shop so of COURSE they just have to break in and see what it’s all about.  Can’t blame them, I would’ve done the same thing.

HoneyBee and Ninja Turtle

Honeybee and Ninja Turtle

Dickface drags Sweetie off so she can give him a bj while Honeybee and Ninja Turtle explore the rest of the place.  And that is when the slasher fun begins.  I am happy to report that Dickface is the first to die in an EPIC way that includes…well, you just have to see it.   Brilliant, absolutely brilliant.  (Seriously, I hated this character SOOOO much.  I was SOOOO happy when he died first!)

Sweetie, HoneyBee and Dickface

Sweetie, Honeybee and Dickface

Obvis, as it’s a slasher movie, a whole bunch of other people die, so I’m not giving anything away there.  There’s also a twist, I actually didn’t see coming, that had me say ‘Wait, what?????’, so that was fun.  For such a lo-budget film, the special effects and gore are totally top notch.   This is one of the goriest films I’ve watched in awhile (although I haven’t been watching a ton of movies, I know but still).  And it seemed to be all old school effects so major ups for that shiz.

The acting varied.  The majority of people were pretty good but there were definitely a couple of moments where I wondered if this was some of these guys first film.  Nothing so atrocious that it totally took away from the overall effect, just a mild moment here and there where I went, “Huh.”  And if it was their first film, then good for them because they picked an excellent one to be a part of.

So what can I say?  I dug it, cheesy parts, gory parts, even the couple of parts that made me say “Hey, what?” because this right here is what true indie film is all about especially when it comes to horror.  You go Daniel Benedict (writer/director/Dickface) and Red Serial.  You guys are rocking it!

Vampz! Episode 3: All Tied Up

vampz

In Vampz! episode 3, we’ve got our drunk little brother being kidnapped by the coked up vampire hunter, while our heroines (wannabe vampire and actual vampire) must figure out a way to save him.  Also coming into play are some new characters in the form of coked up vampire hunter’s gamer buddy who sits around playing video games against little kids, some random dude who apparently never sees any action and a very blue doctor.  Literally blue, not figuratively.

All of this makes for a highly entertaining episode especially the scenes between drunk little bro and coked up vampire hunter.  Equally fun is the conversation between wannabe vampire and actual vampire about why actual vampire can’t attack gamer buddy like she did coked up vampire hunter.  The vampire has morals, y’all but don’t worry she isn’t all sparkly like Twilight or anything.  ;)  Oh and these characters do have names – I just have more fun describing them this way.

Still highly recommended web series and I’m eagerly awaiting the next episode.  If you STILL somehow haven’t checked this one out, friends, do so!  :)

Simple Mind

SimpleMind

Simple Mind is a simple, short tale of a man who isn’t entirely what he seems.  We follow our main character as he talks with his therapist about his life, his obsession with a woman and how his obsession leads to her murder.  Our guy has quite the anything but mundane lifestyle!  Or does he….?

Timothy J. Cox is PERFECT as the psycho killer here – I don’t think I’ve seen crazy eyes that good since Jonathan Rhys Meyers.  *shivers*  I love everything Cox has down here with his character.  I went from intrigued to repulsed to piteous all in the span of about seven minutes.  And the film, thought it features other characters, is really all about him so kudos for not once letting my attention waver and for keeping me in breathless anticipation of what was going to happen next. 

This is definitely an example of indie filmmaking gone terrifically right and storytelling at its best.  If you’re a fan of the short film genre, like me, you’re going to LOVE this one. 

Vampz! Episode 2

vampz

What do you get when you’ve got a wannabe vampire and an actual vampire living together?  Well, in episode 2 of Vampz! you get a dead, coked up vampire hunter.  Whoopsies!  Not to mention a very drunk little brother who stumbles upon the scene.

I am totes digging on this web series – it’s fun, it’s quirky and it’s got so many things I love (like vampires!).  Plus the special effects are pretty groovy for a (I’m assuming) lo-budget production.  There’s not a ton of special effects, no over the top CGI or anything but the few they use feel very organic and really enhance the plot.  Major kudos for that, guys.

I also really, really love the character of Ashlee (not to mention the actress that plays her).  She’s adorable (like me! ;)).  All the characters are fun but she’s definitely my fave.

I’m not sure how many more episodes are in this season (I know 3 is out and 4 is about to hit the net) but I’m excited and I really hope there’s a second season as well.  Hmmm…I wonder if there will be new characters?  Or bit parts?  Ahem…. ;)

Check out Episode 2 in all it’s glory, y’all and let me know if you’re digging it as much as I am!

 

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