Crash Reports: TEARS IN THE DUST

10703673_295113554026592_6635914104162593911_nWhen is a horror film not a horror? When it’s based in reality and exploits genuine fears. Sure, Tears in the Dust is loaded with independent British horror actors, such as Dean Sills, Steve Pollard, and William Marshall, but in the perpetual decline of the western world, its story rings true.

Tears in the Dust stars Dean Sills as Trevor Wallis, a man who loses his job, home, wife – everything. Now, as low as he go, how can he soldier on when he has no money, prospects, or perceived value?

Imagine if you were Trevor Wallis. For me, losing it all is one of the most frightening things I can think of happening to me. At one point in my life, I was so financially destitute, I thought I’d have to live out of my truck. With little money for food, I ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches three times a day, and I lived in a boarding house for men that was creepier than the set of Psycho. I can honestly say I would have enjoyed living with Norman’s dead mother than the guys who survived at this place. Even so, that was short-lived, and I crawled back home to sleep on my parent’s couch till I got my life back together. But we all know many people have it worse, far worse. As for Sills’ character, he may have clothes on his back, but the mental torment and the fear that accompanies it may be insurmountable.

Written and directed by Steve Call, whose previous feature, the comedy, A Total Thug Up, steve Callwill soon be available on DVD. Marshall appeared in 2014’s Legacy of Thorn, and both Sills and Pollard worked together in this year’s Blaze of Glory and The Eschatrilogy: Book of the Dead. For Tears in the Dust, cameras will soon roll in Yorkshire, England where the rest of the cast, including Terry Dalloway, Kuljit Singh, Wayne Phill, and Dawn Hills, will bring Call’s dramatic feature to light.

Granted, we don’t know where Wallis is headed, but we can only hope it’s up. To follow Tears in the Dust, check out these links:




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(Photos via Steve Call Productions.)

Crash Discussions: Hodgepodge of Horror, Episode V

The Last KnockWe bring you a slew of mini-reviews and trivia about TUSK, I SAW THE DEVIL, MURDER PARTY, ASYLUM BLACKOUT, FATHER’S DAY, and many more horrors. Billy and Jonny will not only tell what horror movies to avoid, but you’ll discover that they actually agree on a few titles! Now that’s spooky.

Not enough for ya? Check us out (and leave a review!) over at iTunes.

Crash Discussions: The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears

The Last KnockA steel cage death match for the senses, Billy and Jonny fight over the merits of this latest arthouse horror THE STRANGE COLOR OF YOUR BODY’S TEARS from filmmakers Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani. If you’ve seen their ABC’S OF DEATH short “O is for Orgasm”, or their feature AMER, you’ll enjoy the discussion of these Belgian artists and their penchant for Giallo, as well as Art Nouveau and the Baroque.

Want more Billy and Jonny? Check us out over at iTunes.

Crash Discussions: Bad to the Best of 2014’s Horror Cinema

The Last KnockWe take a look at 2014’s horror offerings, from WRONG TURN 6: LAST RESORT and SEE NO EVIL 2, to THE BABADOOK, CRAWL OR DIE, and LIFE AFTER BETH. Don’t miss the countdown, the rundown, and the sparring – as well as the worst Horatio Sanz impersonation of all time.

Want more episodes? Easy access over at iTunes.

Crash Reports: The Babadook

BabadookIf you live under a rock and haven’t heard, THE BABADOOK (Australia, 2014) is supposed to be the greatest horror in the past ten years. Even THE EXORCIST’s William Friedkin said it’s “the most frightening movie I’ve ever seen.” Coming from the director of what many consider to be the scariest movie of all time, that’s saying something. Still, I was skeptical; though my intrigue was peaked just enough to order first time feature director Jennifer Kent’s film.


If you didn’t know, a successful crowdfunding campaign earned Kent a little over $34,000, which apparently went to the art department. Beforehand, the Australian acted in several projects, and directed two shorts and a television episode. I have not seen her previous work, but after watching THE BABADOOK, I know there are many features in her future.


THE BABADOOK stars Essie Davis (Amelia) as a struggling single mother with a rambunctious and creepy son, played by Noah Wiseman (Samuel). Davis is absolutely phenomenal, whether she’s sheepish, scared, or on the psycho-mom warpath. Wiseman is equally fantastic as he goes from a socially inept persona to a kid on a mission. In fact, regardless of the role, every actor delivered. It’s clear they all had the required skills, but Kent definitely got them to bring their collective best to every take.


To close out the trinity, cinematographer Radek Ladczuk brings a remarkable balance of light and dark, along with some interesting camera angles, to create a foreboding atmosphere that never wanes. Thanks to this big three of directing, acting, and photography, each scene is loaded with top-flight layers to keep us focused on the screen, and ready to march forward with each character and whatever situation awaits them.


Most of the action takes place in Amelia’s home as she and her son face the uncanny in the guise of Babadook. Sure, the name sounds silly, but it’s an anagram for “a bad book”, and Babadook does not play. The most interesting element of the narrative is how the whacked out child and semi-stable mom change mental roles as the film progresses. Mom may not be able to handle the uncanny, but Samuel steps up as if he’s waited his whole young life to prove himself – and this is his coming of age moment.


As we all know, movies work or don’t work depending upon what we bring to the film. Sure, many scoff or outright dismiss THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY for several reasons, but both movies worked for me (especially PA) because they both played on my childhood fears and nightmares. THE BABADOOK may work on those who have young children. When they fear for Samuel, they actually fear what might happen to their child. And as parents, they probably fear holding onto themselves in the face of “the other”, much as Amelia does. If so, one can understand all the over-hype and five star ratings. Yes, I felt a couple of little jolts, but nothing substantial, and I never really feared for the characters or my own sanity. After all, at this level, what would really happen to a child in a major independent film?


Although I have a couple of questions regarding the end of the tale, and although fear didn’t sweep me away, the overall execution is enough to warrant 3.5 if not 4 stars. I lean towards the latter because of Kent, Davis, Wiseman, Ladczuk, and even Jed Kurzel’s music, which tied in seamlessly with the story. Overall, THE BABADOOK is a great dramatic horror, but nothing to keep you awake at night.

4 out of 5 stars

(Photo from IGN.)


Crash Discussions: Interview with Horror Author Steve Kozeniewski

The Last KnockBilly Crash sits down with the prolific horror, and Bronze Star recipient Steve Kozeniewski to talk about his latest works, including “Braineater Jones”, “The Ghoul Archipelago: A Post Apocalyptic Thriller, and even “Billy and the Cloneasaurus!” We also learn of his horror writing work for charity, and much more!

Want more? Check us out on iTunes.

Become Your Dream

IMG_0161My beautiful, intelligent, and talented wife, Ally Bishop, bought this photograph for me after her annual Christmas trip to New York City. When she gave it to me, she cried. She knew that I had one hell of a creatively busy 2014 with far too many demanding projects: two short films (TIGERS IN THE SOUP and CASE #5930), a presentation on horror for the MAPACA Fall Conference, a couple of short stories and screenplays, a weekly podcast, blogposts, and much more, among teaching fulltime at Kutztown University. But the biggest project of all was my novel, “Bloodletting.” It wasn’t so much that I’d worked on my hard-boiled crime thriller for a couple of years to make it as perfect as possible, or that the idea had been stuck in my head since my early twenties. But I’d finally achieved that dream I had at age sixteen to publish a novel.

When she originally handed me the photo, I imagined myself in my own Chuck Ts looking down at the sidewalk, seeing the words, and conjuring a wry smile in triumph. However, I was never really a fan of dreams. After all, dreams are just that: something in the psyche to keep us alive and hopeful, though the probability of them coming to fruition is slim to none. For instance, I dreamed of walking with dinosaurs once, and unless they’re part of an advanced alien species ready to visit Earth, that dream probably won’t come true. Instead, I set goals for myself: something viable and tangible I could achieve.

But publishing a novel had always been a dream of mine in lieu of a goal. It was something I wanted to do because I loved to write and hoped to entertain others with my stories. But becoming a “wordsmith” took time. I listened to my teachers from kindergarten to graduate school. I read works on craft, joined writing groups, took part in workshops, and submitted stories for publication – usually to have them rejected. However, I improved my skills and moved forward, and ultimately listened to my editor, the great Gerald Baude, to bring “Bloodletting” to life in grand fashion. Yet, I once read about an author who won and award, and when she asked if there was anyone she wanted to thank, she yelled, “Me!” in all her narcissistic and narrow-minded fashion. Yes, she went on to explain how the book was her idea and how she put the work in, and blah, blah, blah.

Sure, that author’s correct. When a writer creates, we only have our minds to fall back on, and we must produce the work ourselves. But if it isn’t for those who support us, professional or otherwise, from the authors who came before us or the books on craft that guided us, we most likely wouldn’t get that far. As a young man watching the Indianapolis 500 on television, I remember hearing a winning driver talk like a king: “we” did this, and “we” accomplished that. Sure, he drove the car, but without sponsors, he wouldn’t have a ride – and if it weren’t for his pit crew, hell, the car wouldn’t move at all. Maybe this is why I take the time to read the acknowledgements section to every book I read.

“Bloodletting” came about because of all the experts I consulted about police procedure and morgues, to reservoir water and private investigations. My one colleague at Kutztown said I did more research for my novel than she had for her dissertation. I doubt that – but I did take my novel just as seriously as any research project.

It may be a long time since I was sixteen, but “Bloodletting” has finally allowed me to deliver on that dream I had as a sixteen year old – to make it a goal and make it real. The book is out thanks to Booktrope, who even created their new “Edge” imprint to accommodate the content, and people can buy it at Amazon and Barnes & Noble as an ebook or paperback, if they wish.

I’m not sure what 2015 will bring for me, but I know other creative filmmakers and authors who have dreams and goals they want to achieve – and who have supported me in my Crash Palace venture, as well as my THE LAST KNOCK horror podcast. So here’s to some of the people you need to watch for in the coming year, because their support has been amazing, and they will all do great things:

Ally Bishop will have two, if not three, erotic novels on the way, starting with “Inside the Lines” from Barkless Dog Press. (Twitter: @upgradestory –

Jonny Numb will co-host THE LAST KNOCK and write movie reviews, but a few of his short stories are on the way. (Twitter: @JonnyNumb –

Emilie Flory searches for a distributor and a producer to bring her enticing horror film TRAUMA DOLLS to life. (Twitter: @EmilieFlory –

David Paul Baker will unleash his long awaited crime series “Crime Lord” to the world. (Twitter: @davidpbaker –

Oklahoma Ward and Nikki Alonso are working on the sequel to their successful horror/sci-fi film CRAWL OR DIE. (Twitter: @OklahomaWard @nicolemalonso –

Latashia Figueroa’s penning a new novel to complement her “This Way Darkness” collection of three short horrors. (Twitter: @LatashFigueroa –

SG Lee’s “Journal of the Undead: Littleville Uprising” will lead to more horror novels and stories with great cliffhangers. (Twitter: sg_lee_horror –

Owen McCuen will easily secure more acting and voiceover work due to his tremendous talent. (Twitter: @OwenMcCuenQuest –

Time to Back Out Productions, who made LIKE THERE’S NO TOMORROW and the feature DESOLATION, will work on their new film LOOK. (Twitter @TTBOProductions –

Fay Simon’s novels, “Shadow Bender” and “Behind the Mirror”, are on their way to becoming screenplays. (Twitter: @theladyphantom –

Bleeding Critic’s intimate stories will continue to terrify and disturb. (Twitter: @BleedingFilms –

Ron Shaw’s “The Ron Shaw Show” will entertain listeners as his novels will delight readers. (Twitter: @RonGizmo –

Jason Edward Davis will unleash more of his excellent modern impressionist art on the masses. (Twitter: @loveandmonsters –

Promote Horror will promote horror writers and independent filmmakers like no one else. (Twitter: @promotehorror –

SV Bell’s comics, metal art, and BlackFlag TV will rock the world from the printed page to Roku. (Twitter: @svbell –

The Keeper will not only bring us horror stories and screenplays, but introspective pieces as well. (Twitter: @RiversofGrue –

Vic from Vic’s Movie Den will bring us more insightful movie reviews thanks to his writing prowess. (Twitter: @VicsMovieDen –

Dave Koenig’s awesome art and graphics work will continue to attract fans. (Twitter: @AFiendOnFilm –

Carlette Norwood’s podcast “Lette’s Chat” will knock us out as it always does. (Twitter: @LettesChat –

Jill Gibson will continue to write wonderful poems and powerful short stories. (Twitter: @RealJillyG –

Charles Chessler’s photographs will continue to inspire, just like his “Become the Dream” image has done for me. (Twitter: @cchesslerphoto –

And on, and on…

Maybe none of us know what drives us or what the end goal is, but there’s no doubt the passion’s there, and it burns bright.

Publishing a novel had been my life’s goal. Although I have more ideas and more creative projects from screenplays to movies – and even more books – it’s a joy, if not a relief, to know I finally honored that dream.

I hope you honor yours.

Note: Kind souls have requested the link to Bloodletting, which is now available at low prices in paperback or all ebook platforms from Barnes & Noble, and Amazon:

(Photo from Charles Chessler Photography as shot in my homestead.)

Crash Discussions: The Horror of Self-Censorship

The Last KnockIn the wake of Sony’s bungling over CyberVandalism, we look at how their idiotic move may affect independent horror, and what silver lining might be found in the censorship cloud. We also talk about Eli Roth’s THE GREEN INFERNO, and the still absent THE POUGHKEEPSIE TAPES. Want more?

Check us out on iTunes.

Crash Analysis Support Team: The 1990s: Horror’s Lost Decade – Guest Post from Paul J. Williams

JacobsLadderBRtopPart 1: 1990 to 1995

Please allow me to preface this article with a warning and a statement: Beware! Dozens of movies are discussed in this article and spoilers may exist, so please keep that in mind as you read. And I’m not a movie historian or expert; I’m just a cinephile, probably like you, who enjoys horror movies.

I love the 1990s. I turned thirteen in 1990 (please don’t do the math) and feel the person I’ve become today, for better or worse, is because these formative years of my life were lived between 1990 and 2000.

Now that we’re halfway through the 2010s, enough time has passed that I realize the 2000s were an awesome decade for horror movies. The re-haunting of ghost stories, the French and Asian invasion, zombies coming back to life with vigor, the found-footage frenzy, torture-porn, it goes on and on.

We all know now what 1980’s horror was mostly about: the teenage slasher craze, which, much like the hair/glam metal music of the same decade, holds more of a special spot in my heart than my brain. I love it, but then the thought came to me…

What the hell happened in the ‘90s with horror?

I asked my friend, horror expert, and founder of Crash Palace Productions, Bill Prystauk, this question and in short order, he compiled his “best-of” list for ‘90s horror. My suspicions were confirmed: It was overall a lame decade for the genre. And if you do a quick Google search, you’ll discover I’m not the only one who’s pointed this out.

Okay, so why? That should be easy enough to answer!

The World of the 1990s: A Tale of Two Decades

The Early ‘90s: The Worst of Times?

Taking a broad view of the decade shows us it began at the close of the Cold War and ended right before 9/11. Despite a rise (or at least a perception of an increase) in mass shootings and school massacres, culminating in the most infamous at Columbine High School in Colorado in 1999, and intermittent occurrences of attacks from homegrown and foreign terrorists, that, tragically, pale in comparison in today’s world, I think the decade is looked upon as one of relative peace and prosperity.

However, starting in the 1980s and climaxing in the early 1990s, was an economic recession, which either resulted in or was compounded by, skyrocketing incidents of violence and crime throughout cities of the United States. This was punctuated by the First Gulf War and the fight against our new boogeyman, Sadam Hussein, who needed to replace the old boogeyman, the USSR, which collapsed a year prior. Though the conflict was short-lived, Americans still lost their lives in this new, twentieth-century warfare, which was captured on television for the world to see.

The early 1990s introduced us to two foes: the modern introduction to Islamic fundamentalist-based terrorism, which came in the form of the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and home-grown horror involving that of the far-right (Waco, Unabomber, Ruby Ridge, Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing), and school shootings, the latter which still haunts us today.

So, how were these times reflected in our movies?

Cinema of the Early ‘90s: Post-Mortem

1990’s movies certainly weren’t all fun, feel-good affairs. Quite the opposite. Mature, serious themes were tackled in such films as THE CRYING GAME, PHILADELPHIA, and, most notably, SCHINDLER’S LIST.

More adult-oriented, erotic thrillers and dramas such as BASIC INSTINCT, SHOWGIRLS, and HENRY AND JUNE played in theaters, much more it seems than the young adult flicks we have today. Political and legal-themed movies were popular, many adapted from John Grisham and Tom Clancy novels.

Hyper-violent films from Martin Scorsese and other “mafia”-related movies of the time were huge, and a new guy on-the-scene, Quentin Tarantino, put new twists on the crime drama. This time period also gave rise to a sub-genre of crime dramas, dismissively called, though perhaps unintentionally, “hood films.” Acclaimed examples of these important and expositive, yet depressing and sometimes nihilistic films, are 1991’s BOYZ N THE HOOD (the most recognized of the list, written and directed by John Singleton (who, unfortunately, never came close to capturing this type of magic again), and showed us, despite the safe, friendly movie paychecks Ice Cube (O’Shea Jackson) cashes now, the dude can act; Mario Van Peebles’ NEW JACK CITY (1991), the Hughes Brothers’ MENCACE II SOCIETY (1993), and perhaps the lesser known, but still as powerful, SOUTH CENTRAL (1992), adapted by Stephen Milburn Anderson from a novel by Donald Bakeer.

Perhaps over-shadowing all this was the Disney renaissance. Starting with THE LITTLE MERMAID in 1989, Walt Disney Animations Studio produced some of the most iconic movies of the decade: BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, ALADDIN, THE LION KING, and POCAHONTAS. These family-oriented films became very popular, collectively grossing billions of dollars.

Side note: A five-month-long Writer’s Guild strike in 1988 led to a spec-script boom in the ‘90s. Looking to buy these screenplays were producers seeking to capitalize on the home video rental and sales market, which had proven to be a money tree that began growing in the ‘80s. This leads to one of the biggest paradoxes: If horror films have the tenets we’ve always heard about: built-in audience, particularly the youth demographic, were “cheap” to make, can spawn sequels, and more, why weren’t horror specs, which I’m sure were floating around at the time, getting produced?

Early 90’s Horror: Dead on Arrival

Well, labeling it D.O.A. might be unfair.

So, as all the aforementioned trials and tribulations of the early 1990s would find its way into genres of other movies, this would seem to be the perfect climate for horror movies to emerge, right?

Not quite. Instead, we got inferior and unneeded sequels to once successful horror films from the ‘70s and ‘80s, and were subjected to low-budget, straight-to-video productions, that I suppose have always haunted the genre.

What was horror’s contribution to those gripping urban, crime films? 1991’s THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS and 1995’s VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN (you can thank Wes Craven for both of those winners); TALES FROM THE HOOD (1995; directed by Rusty Cundieff), and finishing out the decade, though a little late, is 2001’s BONES (directed by Ernest Dickerson, starring Snoop Doog)…’Nough said…

Honorable Mentions:

To be fair, the early ‘90s gave us a couple of gems: Barely making it into the decade was 1990’s JACOB’S LADDER (directed by Adrian Lyne from a screenplay by Bruce Joel Rubin), and although the movie’s set in the 1970s, it’s an early look at what we’ve all now become familiar with: soldiers suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and contains an ending later made more famous by M. Night Shamalyan.

Another urban-based horror that appealed to many was 1992’s CANDYMAN, written and directed by Bernard Rose from Clive Barker’s short story, “The Forbidden”. This would be one of the better “urban legend” themed stories of the decade.

IT and MISERY appeared on the small screen and big screen, respectively. These mostly faithful adaptations of Stephen King novels represent the best of the many, many movies based on the author’s books during this time.

Case Study: SILENCE OF THE LAMBS and SEVEN: Identity Crises

It’s understandable why many horror fans lay claim to these two films. SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991; directed by Jonathan Demme; adapted by screenwriter Ted Tally from the novel by Thomas Harris) was not only nominated, but won Oscars for (get ready for it): Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Actress (Jodie Foster) and Best Actor (Anthony Hopkins) for his iconic twenty-something minute portrayal of Dr. Hannibal Lecter. His performance of the intelligent, articulate, and cold, yet weirdly moral, cannibalistic sociopath, paved the way for many cinematic copycats for years to come.

A movie this critically and financially successful could legitimize the horror genre, something that some, but certainly not all, horror fans want, and solidify the genre as a worthy opponent in cinema.

1995 gave us SEVEN (or SE7EN if you’re hip enough), directed by the wonderful David Fincher from an original screenplay written by Andrew Kevin Walker. Another quintessential mid-90s spec-script story, this perfectly casted and finely acted movie tells the story of a serial killer whose victims have egregiously violated one of the seven deadly sins. This gives us an episodic police procedural filled with unforgettable scenes, smart and brave detectives, a unique killer, and a shocking ending that goes down in movie history.

Though not recognized by the Academy Awards, the film was a hit with critics and audiences, eventually grossing $327+ million worldwide. A (ridiculous) sequel titled EI8HT (swear to God) was in the works as late as 2002, but thankfully, it was eventually dropped.

So, here’s it comes: Are they horrors?

Of course, labeling art can oftentimes be arbitrary, is ultimately pointless, and, frankly, counter-productive, but play along with me, please.

  1. Both films, essentially, play as police procedurals. Not necessarily “who-dun-its” as in each movie the killer’s identity is revealed earlier than most other films of this nature.
  2. The movies’ points-of-view, for the most part, are from that of law enforcement, and not of the victims or killers.
  3. Neither film contains elements of the supernatural.
  4. While each film certainly contains “horrific” scenes, this would open up movies like SALO or SCHINDLER’S LIST as potential horror movies, as these films contain some of the most disturbing, visceral movie scenes to date.

Ultimately, if these movies were released in the 2000s instead of the 1990s, I don’t even think this would be up for debate. They would be categorized as thrillers and crime-dramas.

So, would the latter half of the decade scare the bejesus out of us? Not really, but certainly more than the former half.

To be continued…

Paul J. Williams is an award-winning screenwriter, director, and producer. Also a decorated law enforcement officer of eighteen years, he currently serves as a police officer in Morris County, New Jersey. Paul previously served with the U.S. Department of Justice as a federal officer and the Newark Police Department, where he was awarded the Medal of Honor, the department’s highest award, and responded to Ground Zero in New York City after the 9/11 attacks. CASE #5930, the short film he wrote and produced, will be released in early 2015.

(JACOB’S LADDER photo from Joblo.)

Crash Discussions: Director of the Damned: Takashi Miike

The Last Knock
With our very special guest, David Koenig, we take a look at the career of the prolific and enigmatic director Takashi Miike, from AUDITION and ICHI THE KILLER, to VISITOR Q and the banned “Imprint” episode. But we go deeper into the Miike’s non-horror films, and try to focus on what makes his work distinct, riveting, and apprehensive.

Want more? Go check us out over on iTunes.