Monthly Archives: January 2015

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 Gory 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 Phillips, 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:

 

 

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0bW0NEA_N9k

Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TearsintheDust

Twitter: https://twitter.com/tearsinthedust

IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4144726/?ref_=nm_flmg_dr_1

A TOTAL THUG UP: http://www.wintersfilmgroup.com/a-total-thug-up/

 

(Photos via Steve Call Productions.)

THE LAST KNOCK presents: Hodgepodge of Horror 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 – http://www.upgradeyourstory.com/)

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 – http://numbviews.livejournal.com/)

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

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

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

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

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

Owen McCuen will easily secure more acting and voiceover work due to his tremendous talent. (Twitter: @OwenMcCuenQuest – http://www.owenmccuen.com/)

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 – http://www.ttbop.com/)

Fay Simon’s novels, “Shadow Bender” and “Behind the Mirror”, are on their way to becoming screenplays. (Twitter: @theladyphantom – http://novelsbyfaysimon.homestead.com/Home.html)

Bleeding Critic’s intimate stories will continue to terrify and disturb. (Twitter: @BleedingFilms – https://www.youtube.com/user/bleedingcritic)

Ron Shaw’s “The Ron Shaw Show” will entertain listeners as his novels will delight readers. (Twitter: @RonGizmo – http://artistfirst.com/ronshaw.htm)

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

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

SV Bell’s comics, metal art, and BlackFlag TV will rock the world from the printed page to Roku. (Twitter: @svbell – http://www.blackflag.tv/index.php)

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

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

Dave Koenig’s awesome art and graphics work will continue to attract fans. (Twitter: @AFiendOnFilm – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUxZz6r6H0YpQJAFdDQn1lw?feature=mhee)

Carlette Norwood’s podcast “Lette’s Chat” will knock us out as it always does. (Twitter: @LettesChat – https://www.facebook.com/carlettenchat)

Jill Gibson will continue to write wonderful poems and powerful short stories. (Twitter: @RealJillyG – http://crimsonquintessence.com/)

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

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:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_ss_c_0_8?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=prystauk&sprefix=prystauk%2Caps%2C270

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