The time has come to deliver one last Inspired Scare here at Slasher Studios. While we are thrilled Halloween is finally upon us, it is a bit sad thinking that this will be the final Inspiring Scares installment we feature on this site. On this very special Halloween, we are featuring horror director Nathan Waters and the great holiday slasher of all time.
“There was a moment in my childhood when I realized the power of scaring people. That moment occurred as I sat on the living room couch of my quiet small-town home and stared unblinkingly at the screen as I soaked up John Carpenter’s seminal slasher opus, “Halloween”.
I remember being absolutely terrified by every aspect of the film. The score, with its brilliantly simple nuances, still haunts and resonates with me to this day. The framing made the inherent safety of the apple pie, picket-fence every-town by the name of Haddonfield seem terrifying and isolated. The sound design combined the safety of the small town with the otherworldly nature of the Shape (who can forget the sound of Michael breathing underneath that mask?!).
The image of the Shape, with his dark overalls and white, blank mask was as influential to my impressionable seven-year-old brain as anything I would see in horror cinema in the years to come. That mask can reflect the individual fears of anyone who looks into it. It is the sheer simplicity of all of these qualities that made that film so damn scary. and what makes Michael (at least in the original film) such an icon in the genre. No other masked killer can claim responsibility for kickstarting an entire new sub-genre which all strived to re-capture lightning in a bottle, with varying degrees of success.
As a filmmaker, I always come back to my first real cinematic love. This little Movie-That-Could inspired me in a way that seeing a Michelangelo painting would inspire a would-be painter. Carpenter’s handle of the cinematic craft set the bar for me as an artist and student, and even though I love his other films, this one will always hold a special place in my heart, because it hit hard, it hit first, and it hit home. No longer can I go walking alone at night without the fear that someone may be following me. I can’t carve a Jack-o-Lantern without thinking of little Tommy and Lindsay darkly fantasizing about the mischief of the “Bogeyman”.
And I will never forget the moment I saw John Carpenter’s name above the title during the opening credits, and I realized the power a director can have over an audience. And I will never forget how seeing this inspired me to want do the same thing in my own horror films.
Hide your knives, lock your doors, and keep your panties on, because this year, the Shape may stalk into your neighborhood, and who knows…maybe he will visit your house on his yearly round of Trick-or-Treat…”
It is getting close to Halloween my horror friends and we have just two Inspired Scares left to share with you and they are both centered around one of the greatest, if not THE greatest, slasher film of all time: John Carpenter’s Halloween. Actor and Composer Lito Velasco shares his experience with the seminal classic and why it has made him the horror lover he is today.
“A gunshot shatters the stillness of the night, followed by brief silence. Five more shots erupt before all is quiet again. The hero exchanges words with the victim and we are safe: evil has been defeated.
Or has it? The ground that the vile shape fell onto is bare. It…HE has escaped again.
No one is safe.
We’re reminded of his powerful presence and insensate evil by the sound of his ragged, robotic breathing. We’re shown locations where his evil manifested: the living room, the stairwell, and the home where it all began. HIS home. Cut to black.
No one is safe.
I inhale sharply as my bulging eyes struggle to adjust to the newly darkened room. I hear my sister and babysitter, Desi breathing shallowly beside me. I FEEL their fear: as icily palpable as my own. None of us dare move or speak.
Desi’s warm hand finds my clammy forearm. “It’s only a movie,” she offers reassuringly. I repeat those words in my head, trying to convince myself with the mantra. We’re safe, right?
Before the end credits roll, the screen cuts to a commercial for the new release, Halloween II. More of the night HE came home. I stop breathing as I realize: the bogeyman lives. HE is lurking, watching, and waiting. HE cannot be stopped.
And no one is safe.
I look to the living room window, peer outside the half-closed blinds, see darkness enveloping the suburban neighborhood that closely resembles the one I’ve just witnessed being stalked by evil.
I am not safe. He knows where I live. And one day…HE will come for me too.
To this day, I don’t know if my parents know the story: being allowed to watch the NBC premiere despite my VERY young age, the film somehow blurring my already vaguely understood and perceived line between fiction and reality (in my defense, I was a very young child at the time), and as a result…me only sleeping two hours that night due to The Shape’s mask haunting my dreams. And I never told them about how those nightmares continued for years.
And yet, as terrified as I was of Michael Myers’ visage and the film, I also became oddly fascinated…obsessed with both.
I taught myself how to play the theme on the piano. On “video rental nights”, I usually picked Halloween. At 10, I bought my first Shape mask, planning to rid my dreams of that blank, pale, emotionless face that plagued my sleep by staring at it as I drifted into slumber.
It worked: gradually the nightmares stopped. And the somehow during those years, the terror turned into love. It strikes me as somewhat bizarre when I see it written so plainly: I’ve embraced the fear that held me captive for so many years. Am I suffering from lifelong Stockholm syndrome? Perhaps. The film set me on my path: my willingness to embrace all things horror, my dream of eliciting scares from viewers with my own projects, my need to hold onto and embrace that fear I felt on that very night. The film has shaped (pun intended) my life in a way I never would have thought possible the first time I viewed the movie.
When asked what my favorite film is, without hesitating, I reply: “John Carpenter’s Halloween”. I’ve purchased various versions of the film in different formats. One of my favorite Halloween costumes is the Shape, and my latest version of his mask occupies a place of honor in our entertainment center. Every night, Michael’s black eyes stare blankly at me, just as they did when I was a child. Only now I respond by smiling broadly instead of shivering.
I apologize for sounding like a narcissist, but I imagine that many people who love Carpenter’s Halloween have come to this adoration in similar fashion. And several reasons for why we love this film are obvious.
It’s terrifying. It scared me like nothing before or since: it actually made me feel unsafe while watching. Undoubtedly my age had something to do with that, but setting and era also had much to do with instilling that fear. The film played upon the fears of suburbanites everywhere at the time. And as Moustapha Akkad said many times, in the era the film was made, everyone knew or had a babysitter. Surely the similarity of my companions and setting to what I saw on-screen was a large reason for the terror I felt.
It’s fun. Yes, it’s a relentlessly frightening film, but it’s not cruel or sadistic. The film sets out to scare you, but I feel like it lets you “enjoy the ride”. Surely my repeated viewings served as evidence that the film worked in this manner. And sharing someone’s first-ever viewing is so much fun: I can see the dread on his or her faces, the terror in their eyes, and I’m able to recapture that feeling again.
It holds up. To this day, I say that despite its minor flaws, it’s one of the greatest pieces of filmmaking I’ve ever seen, even more so when you take into consideration all the limitations on the production. It’s simply a masterpiece of suspense and horror.
Then there are all the reasons why it’s a masterpiece. The music (like the film) grabs you and won’t let go. Donald Pleasence and Jamie Lee Curtis are superb in their roles. As is Nick Castle and his wonderful, creepily graceful movements as The Shape. The mask is a stroke of genius…allowing viewers to project their own fears onto the blank face.
But perhaps the biggest reason I love the film is because of the evil that Carpenter created in the persona of Michael Myers.
Unlike filmmakers who came after him, he understood that the unexpected makes a villain terrifying. To see an innocent child with a seemingly normal life inexplicably turn into the physical embodiment of evil is inherently more terrifying than the countless imitators, sequels, and reboots that followed which featured clichéd back stories and explanations as to their killer’s motivations (ie, a child from a broken home who suffers abuse from family and peers turning into a psychopath). To witness a man who is “normal” in his stature do impossibly powerful things is scarier than watching a behemoth bulldoze his way through a movie.
These things make Carpenter’s Michael Myers completely terrifying. HE is the personification of evil in the most unexpected of forms and is able to do things no one can comprehend. The ultimate evil lives not in the body of a giant, but in that of a “normal” man. Despite his unassuming size, he is a supernatural force of nature: death personified.
And as the finale of the film tells us…HE…it is everywhere. It is in the living room, the stairwell, and the house next door.
The Shape…no…death…is watching and waiting. And no one is safe.
Of course, it’s only a movie, right?
Just in case, I always check the back seat before getting into our car at night. Just in case.”
We are back here at Slasher Studios with another Inspiring Scare from Manny Serrano as he takes an entertaining look at a Grindhouse installment of Inspiring Scares.
“When I was eight years old, Monkey Shines came out in theaters. My parents worked a lot, and neither of them cared for horror movies. My uncle though, he loved horror. He’s the one who got me started on all of this stuff, more or less shaping my path in life. While most kids were out playing, I was home watching Creepshow and Halloween 3 (among many others) on laserdisc (no young ones, not DVD, LA-SER-DISC). So, he took me to see Monkey Shines and afterwards we would sneak into Bambi, so I could tell my mother all about how funny I thought Thumper was, even though I honestly couldn’t care less. Years later, my grandmother took me to see Freddy’s Dead in 3D. Two important moments in my life, sneaking into Bambi after watching a film about a killer monkey, and sitting next to my grandmother with 3D glasses on, watching Mr. Krueger rip some people asunder.
Rob Zombie tells the story of a time when he was young, he was listening to the Daydream Believer record, when he looks out the window of his house, and sees a man in a wife-beater and boxer shorts running around the street. The man had been stabbed by his wife, and the knife was still sticking out of his stomach. Like a scene in a David Lynch film, the true definition of surrealism hit him like a ton of bricks, as did my experiences. The very same way this surprise screening of Hills Have Eyes 2 may have affected a few of those children.
As it may not be right to subject children to such films against their will, we all had those movies we watched when we were young that our parents didn’t want us to see. First time I had ever seen nudity in a movie was the bathtub scene in The Shining, which my father ran from the kitchen during, in order to grab the remote and quickly fast-forward. You can bet when he wasn’t home, that tape went right back in and was fast-forwarded to that scene.
Innocence is generally lost at some point early on in life, for some much sooner than others. It is not replaced with a corrupted mind though, it is replaced by a curious one. The virginity of your mind has been taken, and you are now aware that there is more out there than your Thundercats and Voltrons.
Curiosity now peaks, rearing its ugly head, and you seek more of it. As frightening as it may be, you still pull one finger away from your eye as Leatherface pounded his hammer into Kirks’ head. It is quite possible that one day, one of those children could grow up to be the next Dario Argento or Clive Barker. He or she may look back on that day and think “that was the day I woke up.”
Now, I’m not a film student, nor do I ever plan to be, but films are something I have chosen to revolve my life around. As of lately, the regular releasing of one bad horror film after another, I must say has discouraged me.
So, after just getting out of the theater having seen Grindhouse, I feel a sense of relief. No, it is not a true-to-guts horror film, but it had damn near everything that it needed to wake you up. I heard a story today of a man who went to an earlier showing and ended up leaving halfway through the film, vomiting in the theater hallway. He was in his mid-to-late 40’s, and said the film was “just too much” for him. God damn did that make me laugh. Not laugh because he got sick, but simply because it was able to affect him in such a way. That’s real film making.
In the 70’s you had what were called “grindhouse” theaters, because they would “grind” out a regular slew of movies, almost non-stop from early morning to late-late-late night. Generally they were cheap and piss-poor films, little to no plot, and most of them centered around excessive violence, nudity, sex, and just about anything offensive and outright vile (we praise you, John Waters!)
As a result of the PC boom in the 80’s to early 90’s, those theaters have become virtually non-existent. The Fair Theater in Elmhurst, Queens being the very last actual grindhouse theater in NYC (thanks a lot, Rudy), and it has been relegated to showing one feature on its main screen, relying on the business from its peep-show-style porn booths. As for the schlocky films, they were all deemed offensive and slapped with the dreaded NC-17 label, which most distributors won’t even touch. They’ve been forced to sell themselves at $4 each in the bargain bins, glorify the “unrated!” version, and hope Walmart agrees to sell it.
The best horror films have always been the independently produced ones and, in the long run, tend to be the most profitable and most memorable. The discouraging part is not that there are bad films being released, but the fact that the big film companies haven’t been able to grasp this concept. They just continue to find the straight-outta-film-school director, who has no real experience or knowledge of what it takes to make an actual film. Let alone the passion that will sit him or her in front of a television screen for 3 days straight, researching the genre of film they are about to be a part of.
Americans tend to pay for the most intellectually devoid film of the moment (for the love of god, The Pacifier!?) and turn it into box office gold. But then, 3 or 4 years down the line, the movie is forgotten. Who really cares about Titanic anymore? The highest grossing film of all time, and it’s a joke; a punchline between couples. Meanwhile, there are still people today who reminisce about seeing Zombie at their drive-in. How many people have ever even HEARD of Zombie?
I guess for the most part, things have always been this way. Hollywood cranks out crap, and the independents are left to be creative and respond to it with better films with substance. As upsetting as it may be that I’ll probably never see a special re-release theater run of Ms. 45 or Tesis in the theaters, it’s probably better that way. Some soccer mom would probably rally to have them shut down anyway, making the films totally impossible to find. As we all know, once the suburban moms with nothing better to do with their lives hate something, then it will probably never see the light of day again. In the process, completely destroying the chance that their child may find it some day in a video store and, god forbid, actually enjoy it.”
Today at Slasher Studios, we are finishing off our week of Inspired Scares by taking a look at filmmaker Kerry Beyer, the director of the awesomely 80’s style slasher Spirit Camp, Deep Terror, Code of Evil. He is also acting in the upcoming horror flick Jacob with Michael Biehn. Here he shares with us his terrifying tale of Inspiring Scares.
What movies scared the shit out of you as a child? Lots of films come to mind, but for me, it was Alien. I’ll never forget begging my mom to take me to see it as a child. “Now you know, this isn’t going to be like Star Wars,” she said. I don’t think either of us knew what we were getting into… it was the only time I’ve ever had to leave the theater…
As I think about it now, I can only imagine what was going through my mom’s mind during the “chest-burster” scene. But that wasn’t the scene that freaked me out… I was hanging tough until the point where Ash (Ian Holmes) got his head knocked off. At that point, I had to leave.
All of that milky looking goop, spewing out of the gaping hole where Ash’s head should be, really made me queasy. At that age, it was very unsettling.
As we made our way across the parking lot to the car, I had time to regroup and I begged my mom to take me back into the theater. I must have threatened a temper tantrum, or at least made a very persuasive argument, because for whatever reason, she acquiesced and we were shortly back in the theater.
I think about the power of the filmmaker in that moment… telling a story so compelling that an audience member would endure severe discomfort in exchange for the pleasure of a well crafted and satisfying narrative.
Alien is the embodiment of the “final girl” story structure that is seen in so many horror films, from modern gore-fests to 80’s slashers. “Ripley” is definitely the spiritual mother, so to speak, of the character “Nikki” in my first film Spirit Camp. At the core, they are both stories about female empowerment – a young woman overcomes her weaknesses, finds her strengths, and vanquishes an insurmountable villain.
The beauty of film, perhaps more than any other medium, is the ability to engage audiences on such a visceral level, manipulating emotions from joy to anger, terror to delight… hopefully, leaving audiences better for having taken the journey – even if that means terrorizing the living shit out of them in the process. It is that allure that has compelled me to become a storyteller.
We are back with my partner in crime here at Slasher Studios, Steve Goltz, discussing his ultimate Inspired Scare. The director of Teddy, Blood Brothers, and Popularity Killer learns it is not only safe in the woods…but it often makes a great horror movie.
Friday The 13th may not have been the first horror film that I ever saw, but it sure did make the biggest impact on myself. This 1980 slasher classic was directed by Sean S. Cunningham and began one of the most influential and loved horror franchises of all time. Growing up, I had seen countless movies and had a passion film since I can remember. But, the night I watched Friday The 13th, everything changed. I was instantly hooked. The story, the setting, the characters and of course the score, pulled me right in. Where had this classic been all my life?
The story is simple and to the point. We have a group of camp counselors that are being preyed on by an unknown killer. The simplicity is what I adore about it. Far too many times, filmmakers try to cram unneeded stories, characters and twists and turns into a film. There way of being unique and creative can sometimes come across as pretentious. But, Cunningham was able to deliver an easy to follow story that was fun to watch and more importantly, fun to rewatch! Personally, this is my go to movie to watch at anytime during the year and of course on any and every Friday that is lucky enough to be the 13th of the month.
The woodsy camp setting is my all-time favorite movie setting. Whether its Friday The 13th, The Burning, Cabin Fever, Teddy (shameless plug) or any of the other great films set out in the wilderness, the outdoor surroundings always add a nice little touch. I think for many people, being out in a forest can be scary thing. Add in a night scene and a character in the woods all alone, and the primal fear of the unknown starts to come out in the minds of the movie goers. Plus, the addition of some amazing landscape shots with beautiful and natural scenery can help add some production value to a low budget film that would otherwise be shot in a apartment with bare walls and not much set design.
The actors and the characters they played were another great part of the film. The young actors playing the campers were very believable in their roles and we even get the young Kevin Bacon featured in the film as Jack. Adrienne King is our final girl and may be the nicest person in the entire world. So, if you have a chance to meet her, please do not hesitate. Steve Christy is the man in charge of re-opening Camp Crystal Lake and has a mustache that goes perfect with his cut-off jean shorts. Crazy Ralph was a great character with a needed role as the one to warn the campers of the upcoming danger. And my favorite character in the film and one of my top characters of all time is, drum role please…Sandy! Sandy was the waitress in the diner scene and only has a few lines and is only on screen for just a short time, but her presence within the movie made a impact on myself that not many characters have matched. It’s weird, but I’m sure we all have that one odd character that we just love to death. Her glasses, her hair, her voice: gold, gold, gold.
The score found within Friday The 13th is such an amazing piece of art, that this may have single handedly been the reason of the incredible success of the film. Harry Manfredini, the man behind the music, managed to create a single track that is recognizable all over the world. Just a note or two in and you already have Friday The 13th playing in your head. It has such a great hook and there are many very interesting attributes within, that this would be a first selection to anyone’s horror music hall or fame.
This little film was the perfect storm story, setting, characters and score. When these main aspects of a film are working together, there is not much that can go wrong. I always have a great time with Friday The 13th and I owe much to the film. So, I must say, thank you Mr. Cunningham.
I’ve been waiting the better part of a month to write this entry for Inspiring Scares but here it is. My love for Wes Craven’s New Nightmare is revealed in all its gushing glory. If you want to check out any of the work I have done check out the tabs at the top of the page for Teddy, Popularity Killer, or Blood Brothers or my two features: Don’t Go to the Reunion & Dismembering Christmas.
I will never forget the first time I watched Wes Craven’s New Nightmare. I begged my parents to take me to the theater to see it but that, sadly, was a no-go. It wasn’t playing within an hour of where I lived and by the time my local theater received it, it was in and out in a week. The reviews I read (at the age of ten, I was a subscriber to Entertainment Weekly…whether that is awesome or sad can be left up to your own judgment) were very mixed. The critics that loved it (The New York Times, Roger Ebert, USA Today) hailed the film’s praises but the critics that hated it (Entertainment Weekly being one of them) called the film a pretentious mess. I had no idea what to expect going in but I know for certain I didn’t expect it to be the one movie that would change my life for the better part of two decades.
Wes Craven’s New Nightmare tells the story of what happens when the evil that is created in any work of art (in this case, the Elm Street films) is released into mass media. It is the first mainstream horror movie to truly ask the question as to what effect the art being made has on the audience that views it. It is a powerful question and it has been the surface of debate ever since the medium of film was created. What New Nightmare does so spectacularly is it takes it to the next “meta” level of having the actors and filmmakers of the original Nightmare in on the phenomenon. What should come across as convoluted is strangely thought provoking.
But..let us start back at the beginning. Wes Craven’s New Nightmare begins with a scene that is a direct homage to the original Nightmare on Elm Street with “Freddy” working on building a new glove. Little do we know that this is just a tease as we are actually watching the behind-the-scenes work on a brand new Nightmare film complete with Wes Craven and the very beautiful Heather Langenkamp. An effect goes wrong, the Freddy glove comes to life, and two special effects guys are brutally murdered. The film takes another turn by revealing this to be only a dream of Langenkamp, a foreboding warning of what is yet to come. We meet Heather in her everyday life. She appears to be happily married to a special effects guy named Chase, and has a young boy named Dylan. But her life is about to change as a series of harassing phone calls threaten her sanity. When her husband dies in a car accident and her son starts exhibiting some “Freddy like” behavior, her world is turned upside down and she is forced to confront the question of whether or not Freddy has entered into her “real life.” The only way to stop this “new Freddy” is to appear in another Elm Street film effectively putting the Genie (Freddy) back in the bottle (The film series).
To me, New Nightmare is that rare horror film in which everything works. The performances are pitch perfect, lead by a tour-de-force performance by the amazing Langenkamp (she has never been better than she is here). The script is full of twists and turns and the movie is quite possibly the best looking of the entire series. What starts out as a maze of mirrors becomes something much more than your typical nightmare. As I said before, the film brilliantly examines the role film plays on those who watch it. Something that Wes Craven’s Scream would play out to great effect two years later and something that I myself toyed with in writing Popularity Killer. I really can’t say enough about this film and homages to the original are expertly placed. I think about this film on a nearly daily basis and I hope one day to create a work on art that has the same merits of this film. It really is something special.
Are you horror fans ready for a brand new Inspired Scare? This one comes from the co-writer and co-directer of the post apocalyptic thriller DEAD WEIGHT, the one and only John Pata. After countless film festivals, Pata has become a dear friend to us here at Slasher Studios. If you haven’t checked out DEAD WEIGHT, do yourself a favor and buy a copy NOW. It is well worth the $15 and features some of the most beautiful cinematography you’ll see in a horror movie all year. And now a little bit about the madness behind the man who helped create one this year’s finest horror films.
“Jaws. With a single word, moviegoers, young and old, shudder in terror. Well, at least I do. Jaws not only gave me an absurd fear of water (which didn’t truly develop until I was twenty… Yeah, I don’t get it either), but it introduced me to the idea of filmmaking. I was lucky enough to grow up with parents who frequented the worlds of horror, sci-fi, and other types of films younger kids probably don’t get to experience. Can’t say I recall my exact age when I first saw Jaws (six or seven would be my guess), but I was informed about all the production misfortune the crew faced, including how Bruce (the shark) hardly worked during filming. Wait a minute… You mean there’s actually stuff happening behind the camera?!?! For the first time in my life, it occurred to me that there’s so much more to films than what you see on the screen.
A few years later I discovered a TV show called Movie Magic which, well, was all about movie magic. Here you’d get to see how creatures were made, how the animatronics were controlled, how small miniature sets actually are, and so much more. The household I grew up in was a movie household, so we all huddled around around the tube for Movie Magic, and my love for genre filmmaking continued to grow by seeing it created right in front of me.
However, it wasn’t until the ripe age of ten that my love and desire to make films, especially in our beloved genre, became cemented. Going off a recommendation from a video store clerk, my best friend and I returned home with a VHS tape labeled, The Evil Dead. Those next eighty-five minutes became life defining. At that point in life, I was a horror fan, but the horror I knew was the studio horror; the Nightmares, Fridays, Halloweens, etc. The Evil Dead was a kind of horror I was not familiar with. It was raw, dirty, and honest. It was even more ruthless, relentless, and gruesome. It was the best fucking thing I ever saw, and still is to this day. Between the camera work, the horrific turn of events, your friends becoming the evil, how nothing is safe, and it’s powerful grip never lets go once it grabs hold… I lost my mind. Sure, people say that phrase quite often, but I feel confident in saying that’s what happened. I hopped on my bike and flew to an estate my mom was running, and words exploded out of my mouth about a blood-soaked bliss I am positive made absolutely no sense to her. But I tried to explain what I just saw, and instead of trying to reiterate how unbelievably amazing it was, I sped back home to watch it again. From that point on, I wanted to see everything the genre had to offer. I was possessed, and there was no turning back. Obsession is probably the most fitting way to describe the last eighteen years of my life.
The Evil Dead represents everything I love about filmmaking (even if I wasn’t aware of this when I was ten); it wasn’t about money, it wasn’t about fame. It wasn’t about anything more than wanting to create a project out of passion and dedication. It’s true independence in the form of raising the money on your own, heading into the woods with the cast and tiniest crew imaginable, and spending months (which quickly turns into years) grinding away to make something you don’t know if anyone will ever see. It’s the attitude of not caring about anything else than what matters to you. Over the years (and tons and tons of reading later) I realized this, and it’s always been my biggest influence and inspiration, I know it will always be. No remake will ever be able to comparable (sorry, had to get that in there).”
To buy a copy of DEAD WEIGHT or to check out the film at an upcoming horror festival (there are three happening this weekend, hint hint): http://carryingdeadweight.com/
We are back at Slasher Studios with a taste for zombies as we look at horror editor Derrick Carey’s pick for his Inspired Scares installment. Carey is the editor behind such awesome horror documentaries as “Sleepless Nights: Revisiting the Slumber Party Massacres” and “Screaming in High Heels: The Rise & Fall of the Scream Queen Era”, both are which are must sees for fans of 80’s slashers. Are you ready for a zombie party?
“Augusta, WI isn’t particularly the most notable place on the map. Rural farming community, home of a Bush’s Beans plant, the towns pride is the high school football team (the BEAVERS) winning state in the early 90’s. Being someone from an early age that wanted nothing to do with anything listed above, having been born and raised until 11 in the lower suburbs of Chicago, often my time was spent in a world of my own, or actively find ways to escape into someplace else. Movies were that place in many ways.
My family lived on a farm 5 miles from town. Down the street from us was a church, and further down the road was a cemetery on the hill. In all the times I passed this cemetery did I ever once think of it as anything more than a bunch of rocks on grass. Sure, I had family members die and such places held symbolic significance, but this particular place really felt like nothing more than another view on the way down the road; a picture, not a place of the dead.
Late one night, all alone, as my family often left my brother and I on the weekends they would travel up north to a cabin they owned, I popped in the original Night of the Living Dead in on VHS.
To those that have never lived in a rural setting, or in a country farm house where your nearest neighbor isn’t within shouting distance, it’s hard to explain the type of isolation you feel at times. When night hits, and it’s overcast, it gets dark….really dark, and vice versa on clear nights when the moon is in full swing. As normal, all the lights were out, and the sound was cranked. I had seen the film a few times at that point, but this time was different. It’s claustrophobia became increasingly real, sending my mind into thoughts of my own environment. The cemetery down the street became eerily similar to the one that Judith O’Dea frantically escapes from Bill Hinzman in the classic first scene of the film. Slowly, as the impending doom of the cast set in, my mind wandered to thinking of locking windows, shutting blinds, and flipping on all the lights. The film really affected me that night. Little did I know, it would live with me well beyond it as well.
After that memorable viewing, I read up on the film feverishly. Found out through documentaries how they made the film and in turn how film was made. I no longer found film to be something that I passively viewed. I found it to be something I actively deconstructed and thought about well beyond it’s superficialities. My obsession became much stronger and I devoured, much I am sure to my family’s chagrin, as many films as I could. From that point, the seeds of filmmaking were born in me.
Little did I know then, I would stumble across yet another George Romero film that would stick with me all the way into my late 20’s when I was pursuing actually trying to make films. Document of the Dead, the behind the scenes documentary on the making of Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, contained a portion of the film that illustrated his particular style of filmmaking through the fact that he edited everything he made. This section showed as an example the opening scene to my favorite Romero film, the hugely underrated Martin. In this section, they showed how meticulous Romero was about the amount of coverage shot and how he took all these shots and made them work within his edit to create the tension filled game of cat and mouse Martin plays with his first victim on the train, and the flashbacks he is haunted by in his head. Up until that point I had never thought of editing. Now as an editor of feature horror films and horror documentaries (Swamphead, Sleepless Nights: Revisiting the Slumber Party Massacres, and Screaming in High Heels: The Rise and Fall of the Scream Queen Era), I firmly look back at this one small section of Document as the spark that began my obsession and love with the editorial process.
There is no doubt, even now when we look at the lackluster films Romero basically has delegated himself into making to sustain life, that George A. Romero turned me into a filmmaker. These two movies alone made me who I am and showed me what I aim to accomplish with my work.”
We are back with a brand new Inspiring Scares here at Slasher Studios. Today we are talking a look at the Inspired Scare of Lori Bowen, an award winning writer-director of six short films and two music videos. Her film STELLA BUIO, starring legendary Scream Queen Linnea Quigley, is currently on the festival circuit. She is currently in development on her first two features. Slasher Studios is proud to present her Inspired Scare, a favorite of the horror genre which inspires the dreams and nightmares of horror filmmakers everywhere….
“When I was a little girl, I used to have pretty bad night terrors. They were so bad that I put myself on a kind of schedule where I would wake myself every so often, every few hours or so, to avoid them. The dreams weren’t caused by horror films. In fact, horror films have created dreams for me, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
In the mid to late 80s, there really weren’t many role models for girls like me. I don’t identify with princesses. They make no sense to me. My favourite films growing up were The Explorers and D.A.R.Y.L. and The NeverEnding Story and The Goonies and The Last Starfighter, Flight of the Navigator, Enemy Mine…but, do you see the problem with those films? None of them have a girl in the lead roles. The girl always needed saving or protecting. So, while I identified with the characters, they weren’t me.
Then, when I was eight, I saw A Nightmare on Elm Street and met Nancy Thompson (played by Heather Langenkamp.) Here was a girl not that much older than me having a hell of a time with her dreams, just like me, and was an ordinary girl, just like me, and while she asked for help, no one could help her. She had to save herself. And she did.
As I grew up, I knew that I wanted to work in horror, but even so young, I knew that girls didn’t direct or write or anything like that. That’s crazy talk. So, I decided that I wanted to be an actress. My greatest dream was to work with Heather Langenkamp and be in an Elm Street movie. Even after they killed Nancy (don’t get me started on that…), I wanted to be in the Elm Street movies. The girls fought back and kicked ass!
Eventually, as I got older and opened my eyes, I realized that I’d been fed a bunch of lies and among them was that women DO write and DO direct, even in horror. And while my ideas about heroes and villains have certainly changed over the years, the core of my being, my Nancy-ness, if you will, has remained.
I view horror as a mirror for our society to look into, so we can face the ugly things about us, recognize them, and (hopefully) change for the better. It’s also a way of dealing with our fears and desires in a safe environment without anyone getting hurt. I write horror as a release, to explore and examine things that I’ve felt or thought about, to inspire others and make them think. And hey, maybe some little girl somewhere will see one of my characters and it’ll help her to stand up for herself or to know that she’s not alone. Perhaps someone watching my films or reading my stories will be inspired to tell their own tales.
Very soon after I turned ten, I had my final nightmare. It started out fairly typically, except I was in my old bedroom which was empty. My bedroom door slammed on it’s own and I started screaming as I was being sucked into the ground. I got to about chest depth when my bedroom door opened and Nancy Thompson walked in. It was Nightmare 3 Nancy, by the way, she was wearing the grey outfit that she wore when she met Kirsten for the first time.
She walked over to me and crouched near by and said, “This is your dream. You do what you want to do.” Then she stood up and left.
It was like a lightning bolt, that realization that it was my dream, my LIFE. It’s my choice. So, I repeated what she said to me and the next thing I knew, I was floating out of my floor, the door swung open, and I walked out. I haven’t had a nightmare since, but I’ve had plenty of dreams and more besides, all thanks to A Nightmare on Elm Street.”
To close the weekend, we have a brand new Inspiring Scare for you slasher fans out there. We have discussed Joston “El Rey” Theney’s film AXEMAN AT CUTTER’S CREEK previously here at Slasher Studios and we are proud to bring you Theney’s Inspiring Scare.
At the behest of horror filmmaker and webmaster of SlasherStudios.com, Kevin Sommerfield, I’ve been enlisted, along with some of the greatest up-and-coming filmmakers, to do a brief write up of the horror film that launched my interest in horror filmmaking, or should I say my plunge into depravity, lol. Now, I’ve seen a great many horror flicks in my day – (Cunningham’s) Friday the 13th, (Lynch’s) Prom Night, Happy Birthday to Me, Sleepaway Camp, (Zarchi’s) Day of the Woman “I Spit on Your Grave”, (Romero’s) Dawn of the Dead, Suspiria, (Craven’s) Nightmare on Elm Street, (Carpenter’s) Halloween, etc – but going back as far as I can remember to the first one that left a lasting impact, I would probably have to say it was none other than the 1985 film THE MUTILATOR.
Not widely known as a film that changes lives – or is even really that good, Buddy Cooper’s little gem of a horror film has one incredible, iconic moment. Anyone who has ever seen this film in it’s unrated glory has probably walked away with the same image – a fisherman’s hook, and what it does to an unsuspecting female victim. It was the first time I remember gasping in fear and glee simultaneously. Growing up in the inner city and experiencing life in its rawest form, it made being surprised and/or terrified nearly impossible. And at that point I definitely hadn’t felt a sense of “uh-oh” and “yeah” in a horror film simultaneously. Creatively utilizing the hard shadows of our film’s killer and his victim . . . and his weapon, the filmmaker shows a type of gruesome mutilation that has yet to be replicated, at least as far as I know.
Slashers got off to a great start in the late 70’s, but by the mid-to-late 80’s, they had become formulaic, by-the-numbers and every other popular phrase we have for predictable . . . and this one was no different. Well, a little. Instead of “spring break,” Buddy Cooper gave us . . . wait for it . . . “fall break.” Yeah . . . I know. But at least he gave us the iconic moment that launched my interest in horror filmmaking. Or should I say my plunge into depravity. Thank you Buddy Cooper for THE MUTILATOR! Without it, my upcoming slasher AXEMAN AT CUTTER’S CREEK probably wouldn’t exist.