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Love Me or Die


Today’s post features another horror story, this time written by my friend Cesar Cruz.  You may remember him as the director of Dark Passages or from the interview I did with him not so long ago.    Cesar’s branching out and has started a new blog called Into the Abyss, which will feature horror related stories and art.  I know some of you guys also are horror writers (or just appreciate a good horror story) and Cesar asked if I’d take a look at this one and give it a review so here goes….

There’s horror in the form of serial killers and ghosts and then there’s horror of a realer variety. “Love Me or Die” is a brutal look at the horror of domestic violence.  The story opens with Nicholas waking up strapped to a chair in a strange room with an even stranger woman, who is both beautiful and deadly.  Nicholas quickly realizes he’s trapped and then we head back in time to a few hours earlier….Nicholas it seems isn’t so friendly with his wife.  In fact, he’s a downright bastard.  When she arrives home from work that day, things quickly escalate until we’re back in the room with Nicholas strapped to the chair and from there…well..let’s just say things get a little messy.

I’m not going to put any spoilers here because I really do think it’s an excellent story that you should all read (HERE BTW).  I will say this though – the story is brutal so if you’re sensitive to real-life brutality, avoid it.  If you’ve ever been a victim of domestic violence, you may want to avoid it also and I’ll use this as an example:

“Cold rain poured down on Lauren Sanders as she stood outside the door to her small, suburban home. The rain soaked her black business clothes and plastered her dirty blond hair to her face. She stood, quietly, in the rain for 15 minutes before getting the courage to enter. This was becoming a nightly ritual for her. She never knew what waited on the other side of that door. Isn’t the home supposed to be a place of comfort and love? At least that’s what Lauren once believed.”  ~I remember all too well this feeling when I lived with someone who was abusive.  I dreaded coming home, I worked late to put off the inevitable. This really struck close to home for me and it was upsetting.  But I also feel it’s a story that portrays domestic violence realistically (I got sick to my stomach in a few places because it reminded me too much of The Devil, as he’s called) and I think that’s a good thing.  Everybody knows domestic violence isn’t pretty but I think sometimes people don’t realize just how bad it can actually be or how many forms it comes in.  And I think this story does that a justice.  Plus the end is pretty wicked cool and leaves the reader to form their own opinion of what exactly is going on, which I love.

So yeah, if you like horror stories check it out. 🙂

*And if you or someone you know is being abused, please, please, please say something, step forward.  It DOES get better, no matter how much you think it can’t.*

An Interview with Cesar Cruz

You might remember (or not, lol) that I did a review for a little indie local film called Dark Passages back in August.  Well, I was also lucky enough to score an interview with creator Cesar Cruz about the film and his entertainment company.  From what I’ve seen, Mr. Cruz is hella talented so check out what he has to say below! (And more Antfarm Dickhole will be coming your way soon…yay? ;))


1.  At the Dark Passages premiere, I noticed that it was also your production company’s 14 th
anniversary. You look pretty young – when did you start making movies?

I came up with the idea of Outworld Entertainment when I was 13 years old. It wasn’t until
1998, when I was in college, that Outworld Entertainment became a reality. I registered the
name and created our first website using a basic, free, program called Cool Page. My first
film was a feature length horror/thriller called Darkness which I put together using a lot of
friends and classmates from college. Back then, desktop editing systems and programs were
just starting to get going and there was no HD format! So we did everything with bare basic
equipment, a Hi-8 camera at the time, and a copy of the latest Premiere. All our masters
went onto VHS since DVD burners really weren’t around and those that were, were extremely
expensive. With Dark Passages we shot full HD on SD cards and edited the entire film on a Mac
book Pro. A long way from our “Darkness” days!

2. You wrote and directed Dark Passages, do you write all of your films or do you take on projects
from other writers?

Most of the films I have worked on I wrote and directed myself. I really enjoy the story telling
process and I have always been influenced by James Cameron. Who writes and directs all of
his movies. I feel that the person, who created it and wrote it, has the best and clearest view
of what the film is going to be. With that said, I have directed a few short films written by
other writers. I like to push myself and get a taste of different things. I directed AFTER THE
FALL, REDIMERE and WINDOW, who all had different writers for each film. All three were great
experiences! I try to respect the writer’s original work while inserting my own style and vision.
It’s a unique process and I am glad I was able to experience it.

3. Tell us about The Frappinos, your feature length comedy. What’s the story and how did it come

THE FRAPPINOS is a remake of a remake! It started off as THE FRAPPACHINOS and was my
immediate follow up to DARKNESS. I had this crazy idea of having a NJ mob family fight off
zombies! We were fresh off of filming DARKNESS, so we still didn’t have any idea about what we
were actually doing. There were casting problems, quality issues and continuity was destroyed
since it was shot over a year long span. Despite its problems, THE FRAPPACHINOS was a great
experience. It led me to create a lot of the foundation of what we were going to do and become
as an independent film company. A few years later I re-did THE FRAPPACHINOS and changed
the name to the FRAPPINOS. I got rid of the zombies and put in some ridiculous monster/fantasy
element to it. The characters became a big hit with viewers so I knew I had something special.
When DARK PASSAGES got put on hold for funding reasons, I decided to go back and remake
the film, again! This time I got rid of all the supernatural elements and just focused on making
an adult comedy that was heavily influenced by FAMILY GUY and THE SIMPSONS. I was trying to
make a ridiculous, outlandish and vulgar comedy. In many ways it worked! We won an award
with a budget of $500! It was always conceived to be a trilogy or a web series.

4. Which film that you’ve done is your favorite and why?

DARK PASSAGES is definitely my favorite. I love dark stories and fantasy. I really felt in my zone
when writing, filming and editing DARK PASSAGES. It had all the elements of a story that I love
and had the elements of movie making that I always wanted to do. Unfortunately, the economy
hurt us with funding so we only got to make a fraction of the script I wrote. But, I am extremely
happy with what we filmed and the extremely positive reaction that the film is getting is
awesome! I also got to work with one of my favorite bands, Leaether Strip. It was the first time
working with music composer, especially a world renowned musical artist. Claus Larson is just
amazing! He is full of talent and he really submerged himself into the world of DARK PASSAGES.
He only had the script to go off to create the character that is the music. I knew his work on this
film was something that would be just amazing. It is also really cool to have my film have its
own internationally released soundtrack!

5. What’s in the future for Outworld Entertainment? What upcoming films do you have? Where
do you see yourself in 5 years? What’s your goal as a filmmaker?

The last film I did was a short film called WINDOW. We are working on getting into festivals for
that film, as well as festivals for DARK PASSAGES. I also want to try and get DARK PASSAGES
into the feature that it was intended to be. Other than that, I have no plans on filming anything
new. I have a ton of ideas but funding is such an issue. I also have a project called TRILUNE
coming out. I have been working with 2 long time Outworld Entertainment contributors for a
few months on it. I am looking forward to it being released in October. TRILUNE is a place where
I can let me imagination run free without any budget constraints! It’s dark, brutal and beautiful!
That’s all I can say at this time.

6. Any advice for newbie directors and filmmakers?

COLLABORATION!!!! It is the key to filmmaking! Everyone involved is as equally important as the
director and star of the film. If you are a filmmaker you need to be willing to listen to everyone
involved, you have to trust them and you have to have your ego thrown to the curb. Respect
everyone that is involved! That includes everyone’s private time and schedule. Schedule your
auditions, meetings, rehearsals, and filming dates in advance. Give your cast and crew the
courtesy to work out their schedule and time to prepare for the project. I can’t tell you how
often I see actors getting a call the day before to shoot a scene. We are talking about actors who
have day jobs that all of a sudden have to stress about taking off or finding a replacement, on
top of figuring out how and when they are getting to the shooting location. In the end, you end
up with a cast or crew member who is never 100% prepared to do the job you need them to do.
I have never screamed or yelled during any of my productions. I have fired people, thought! My
basis for firing has always been a lack of focus, reliability and commitment to the project. Either
everyone gives a 100% and is on the same page or there is going to be a problem. So as soon as
I see something that isn’t working, I am going to fix it. There is so much I can say that I learned
from my 14 years in the business but I am not going to bore your readers!

Dark Passages

This past weekend I had the opportunity to check out some local cinema, in the form of Cesar Cruz’s Dark Passages.  Local talent always gets me excited because I used to work a bit in film and it’s always exciting when something you’ve poured everything into finally gets a premiere and recognition.  There was also the added bonus of it premiering at the Darress Theatre, where my play will be opening next month (ergo, my new home away from home!).

I arrived a little bit early amidst a throng of people (several of who were clearly involved and running around getting things in order).  I bought a soda and settled in to wait for the show to begin.  Pre-show involved “The Twilight Zone” (I believe) on mute with some really great music playing.

This totally worked at setting up the vibe.

Now the man behind the magic, Cesar Cruz, is someone I’m not familiar with but it seems he now works at my old company, which is how I found out about this showing.  He has a production company called Outworld Entertainment and it seemed that not only was this a premiere but their 14th anniversary so CONGRATS!

The showing opened up with a few general comments and jokes from the MC then it was onto the films.  While Dark Passages is my main concentration here I do want to mention Window, the first short that was shown.  Window opens with  a radio announcement about biochemical warfare and from there the action starts.  It’s not a lot of action because the entire movie is set in an apartment but it works.  A man with a weird finger tic starts roaming around this apartment.  Who is he?  Why is he there?  He’s clearly looking for something but at the same time something or someone seems to be looking for him.  Window was vaguely Hitchcockian, with a tense atmosphere and an ending that left me wondering who was a victim of the biochemical warfare and if the whole thing was merely fantasy.  A nice short, perhaps a bit too long.

Next was a music video but I’ll skip over that to the main event:  Dark Passages.

Dark Passages opens fast and furious in the center of the action.  We’ve all seen (and discussed here in the past) those people in a locked room scenarios.  This takes from that and expands to a group of people lost in the woods.  They’re not lost together however.  We open with heavy conflict in a guy and girl who obviously have a past but haven’t been together in quite a while.  They respectively wake up, look around and start to fight about where they are and who’s fault it is.  Various other characters start to enter the scene – a screaming, crying woman…a tough as nails, takes no attitude lady…and a guy who looks oddly like Jensen Ackles.  Seriously, like dead-on ringer.  Insert this guy:

Prey for an end…

And things get really serious, really quick.  While at times the story gets a bit convoluted (I was a little confused at times because the film jumps back and forth through the use of flashbacks and other locations), overall the concept was great and I’d love to see a longer version as I left with questions.  The cinematography and makeup were aces and the acting was mostly good (although there was one guy who just did not seem to care that he was about to brutally die.  Not even an, “Oh no!”).  My favorites by far were the no-nonsense lady and the guy from the beginning that woke up with his ex-girlfriend.  Those two actors were fabulous and their character arcs seemed better plotted than some of the others.  Here’s the opening scene (note this is a color test so the final version was a bit different):

Overall, an enjoyable time and I can definitely see a future for this filmmaker.  I’ll be interviewing Cesar in the near future so be sure to check back for that!