An Interview with Wil Magness… Creator of the post-apocalyptic indie film, The Manual.

The Manual – a film by Wil Magness

 

I was recently contacted by filmmaker Wil Magness, asking me to check out his post-apocalyptic film project, The Manual.  After watching it (and getting a pretty bad case of “leaky eyes” more than once), I just had to talk to him about it.  Here is that conversation…

 


 

Wil, thanks for taking the time and talking to me today.  Let me start off by asking, who are you? Where do you come from? What was life like as a child? Have you always been a fan of science/postapocalyptic fiction?

My parents were paranoid about the public school system so I was home-schooled. We moved every three to four years as my dad got different jobs so I didn’t grow up with any long-term friends and spent most of my childhood doing things that didn’t require a lot of people, so reading books, playing video games, watching movies. My mother had us focus on art as much as possible I think because she loves it herself. So school ended up being a lot of painting, drawing or playing music.

I credit my dad for planting the seeds of sci-fi. Mondays were “Star Trek” night at the Magness household and he was always ready to see the next Star Wars. Though I think my interest in sci-fi surpassed his early on.

 

The+Manual+69.01_05_22_13.Still025

The Machine reads from The Manual

 

Very interesting!  How long have you been telling stories?  Is film the only medium with which you’ve done so?

Does staging fight scenes with ninja turtles count? That would be the earliest I think. I remember focusing a lot on painting and getting bored with it so I shifted to writing, then getting bored with that and playing music, then back to painting, etc. I think I love film so much because all varieties of artistic expression go into it. Writing and directing a project lets you wade into so many different realms of craft and I’ve been lucky to work with so many talented people. I’ve fallen in love with the aspect of world-building and creating intricate backstories and working with actors to get the right performances for the story. It’s something I’d never considered as a viewer but it makes a huge difference.

 

18119594_1875615539324980_7185407398705678032_n

 

What sparked your decision to create The Manual?  What are you hoping to bring to fans of the genre and does The Manual give something to everyone?

Since it isn’t out yet, we probably need to explain what it’s all about. The Manual is the story of the last human on Earth. His parents die when he’s very young and he spends his childhood being raised by the family robot. The robot has a handheld device called The Manual that contains the sacred text of a composite religion combining a lot of religions we have in our world today, with a new spiritual twist in that robots also have souls and will join humans in the afterlife.

I think one of the greatest opportunities in science fiction is the ability to place a character in a world that purposefully emphasizes and punctuates an aspect of the human condition. In modern society, people struggle with loneliness and isolation while being surrounded by devices ironically meant as means of connection.  We took these feelings to a literal place by making our character the only person left on Earth struggling to connect with his origins through a machine.

In this environment, The Manual explores the transition that many of us make from a worldview shaped by parents and religion to a worldview of our own construction, based on personal experience. This perspective shift in my own life involved an existential struggle that completely changed me and it felt important enough and relate-able enough to translate it into my favorite genre.

In The Manual there isn’t a lot of the classic post apocalyptic tropes like zombies or human vs. human survival. I think we’ve made something refreshing that the genre hasn’t seen before.

 

The+Manual+69.01_07_34_12.Still023

 

Indeed, it really is a new and refreshing take on the apocalypse.  How long have you been working on The Manual?  What has the process been like?

I’ve been working on it for three to four years now, I think. It started as an animated project and evolved along the way. It’s been really fun for me because this is what I love to do, and from the beginning I’d wanted to build a world from scratch. My wife, Sara Magness, has been my film-making partner for a long time. We sort of took a hiatus to get our professional careers off the ground and start a family, so it was really good to get back to our roots with this film.

 

The+Manual+Teaser+Color+01+(0-00-39-09)

 

An animated film?  I’m always amazed at how projects evolve over the course of their creation. What is the one thing you remember from making the film? Anything you’d rather forget?

The first thing that pops into my head is on our second day of shooting. Our plan had been to shoot all of our indoor stuff on day one, then outdoor stuff on day two and it rained all day long. It was cold and it was just pouring rain. We were shooting in an area where we’d dug out two huge holes and it was so muddy and wet that you’d lose your boot if you stepped in the wrong spot.

I was working with J.J. on probably the most difficult scene of the film, where he really had to go to a dark place and I think we were on the fifth take. He took his sweater off and wrung maybe a gallon of water out of it and he was shivering. I looked around at the whole setup and I was just struck by the dedication and passion of all of these filmmakers that surrounded me. I felt like we were really making something amazing.

 

18119184_1875615369324997_3370894734261410104_n

JJ Johnston as “James”

 

I can tell you that as a viewer, the pain and sorrow of those scenes were palpable.  I completely lost my cool more than once.  JJ really was amazing!  What plans do you have for The Manual?  Will you be entering it into any festivals?  When do you plan on releasing the film to a general audience?

We had our U.S. premiere at the Rome International Film Festival in Georgia. I wasn’t able to attend, but people have contacted me that saw it and they say it was well received! We’ve also been nominated for nine awards at the Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival and I will be able to attend that because my parents live around there so it’s an excuse to visit with them. We have just started the festival game so we have a large amount that we are waiting to hear back on.

After festivals we are planning on releasing it online for a dollar or something. It’s half an hour long, so I kind of want a commitment from viewers to just relax and watch it for the full half hour. I think with a dollar on the line I can get that commitment!

24129528_1966180340268499_6130583194984920873_n

Nominated for nine awards at the Tampa Bay Underground Film Festival.

 

If you could give one piece of advice to independent filmmakers, what would it be?

What everyone says is “make movies”, which is good advice. I’ll get more specific and say that if you are just starting out, do not spend a lot of money on your movies because most likely they will be bad. Write a ton of scripts, shoot them on your phone and get all of your bad movies out of you for cheap. When you have a script that you think is going to be fucking amazing, give it to your harshest critics and have them pick it apart. Please do not rush your script, take your time and make it perfect. It’s a real shame to spend a ton of time and money on a script that isn’t worth it.

23844786_1966498880236645_6472941654486700573_n

Wil Magness directs The Machine (Lauren Emery)


 

Wil, that is some great, straightforward advice!  I want to thank you for taking the time to talk to me about your film.  I very much look forward to seeing its release and I’m excited to see something different in the post-apocalypse genre.

Where can folks go to stay up-to-date on The Manual’s progress?

We’ve got a website (http://themanualfilm.com), a Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/themanualfilm), Instagram (https://www.instagram.com/themanualfilm) and Twitter (https://twitter.com/themanualfilm).

Advertisements

An Interview with Nathan Riddle, Director of Acid Reign and Enter the Fringe…

15578869_1823809164551988_1391709336357690474_n

I recently had a chance to sit down and talk with Nathan Riddle, director of the Acid Reign Series and the short film, Enter the Fringe.  For those not familiar with these film projects, sit tight… it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

Just about three years ago, I stumbled upon an indiefilm project called Acid Reign.  I followed them on twitter and was anxious to see where it was going.  Shortly after, they seemed to go radio silent.  I thought “Damn… another cool postapoc project that won’t happen.”

Flash forward about a year and here it comes… like a thirsty V8 screaming across the wasteland.  There was a short film produced, Enter the Fringe, and it looked like this project was back up and running.

After seeing the trailer and short film, I just had to scavenge Nathan’s brain and get the wordstuff on this.  What follows is that conversation…

 


 

Acid Reign Series – Enter the Fringe

17799184_1881210072145230_5916653890433801473_n

 

Nathan, it’s a pleasure to talk to you today.  Please, tell us a bit about yourself. Who are you? Where do you come from?

My name is Nathan Riddle. I’m the director and co-creator of Acid Reign. I grew up in the small western town of Kanab Utah, which was once known as Little Hollywood, because during the golden age of cinema, many of the classic western films and TV series were shot there. So growing up with the stories from all the locals who had worked as crew or extras really inspired me and put me on the course I’m on today. In addition to film making, I also work as the lead animator for a video game company in Salt Lake City, UT, making the popular kids game, Animal Jam: Play Wild. And I’m an accomplished Actor on both stage and screen.

Nathan Riddle directing.

 

Film maker, animator, actor… dang, that’s amazing!  So tell me, what is Acid Reign?  What’s the story behind it? Tell us about the genesis of the project.

How did Acid Reign begin? Several years ago, I had a desire to make a quick turn around film, so I looked to see what resources I had available to me. Another film making friend of mine had an old mustang he was restoring that he said I could use and I started thinking about what I could do and of course Mad Max came to mind. At this time there hadn’t been a Mad Max film for a while, and the new one hadn’t been announced yet. So I started brainstorming ideas that were very Mad Max-like and came up with some initial concepts that I was really liking.

Then they announced the new Mad Max, Fury Road… I about fell out of my chair. The whole look and feel of that film was what I was imagining for Acid Reign. I felt the wind leave my wings. So I took a look at my story and changed some of the world elements from being such a direct mirror of Mad Max to a more hybrid concept that incorporated a lot more sci-fi/cyberpunk elements, but still kept the overall feel of the Wasteland that had initially captured my imagination.

Once I had that film outlined I reached out to my good friend and screen writer, Ben Wray, to see if he would be interested in helping me with the screenplay. Again, expecting to do a low-budget, stand-alone film. He was completely on board and we started fleshing things out.  It wasn’t long as we were world building and making sure the story was interesting, that we realized the story was one that was too big to tell in one film, so it soon became three features, and then with more story to tell we chose to make it into a series where we could really dig our teeth into this interesting world we were creating.

17861900_1879950452271192_783528189411337147_n

 

I understand that you’ve released a short film that takes place in the world of Acid Reign, titled Enter the Fringe. Tell us about that.

The Fringe! Beyond the city of Nucrea is a holocaustic, irradiated wasteland where nothing can survive. But along the edge, between the life of the city and the death out beyond, is the Fringe. A place where men are sent in exile or escape seeking refuge from an oppressive regime. But in either case, they don’t last long as the radiation eats at their minds, turning them into feral creatures, running and hunting in packs.

In Early October, the head of the Red Giant Film Festival invited me to participate in his 10 minute film making competition. At first I wasn’t interested until he said I should do something from Acid Reign. Then I’m like “YES”! This is exactly the kick in the pants and hard deadline I need to get something produced that actually moves the series forward.

The short film script was a compilation of a couple scenes that Ben and I had developed for the series but in the end had cut for various story reasons. So the script came together very quickly. We reached out to cast and crew and put a team together that we were confident could pull of what years of testing had taught us.

We only had 10 days to make the film, and all of our cast and crew had limited availability. The stars aligned and everyone’s schedule opened up just in time for the first day of the competition. In fact, D.L. Walker who play’s Gus was nearly written out because of a scheduling conflict which miraculously changed only day’s before shooting, which allowed him to come on set for the one day we had planned for production. We were so lucky. I can’t imagine that this film would have been so successful with the loss of D.L, or any of our cast or crew for that matter. We filmed all the scenes in one day. Then over the next 9 days, I edited in the evenings, created all the VFX and worked with our composer, Cody Crabb on music to finish the film. All the while getting feedback from Ben and the rest of the team.

We submitted with time to spare, but then I immediately went to work on the film prepping it to show to a world wide audience. The version we submitted didn’t have any of the color correction done and the editing was a little sloppy. So I polished that up, and worked with my composer again to take another pass at music and sound effects that were missing. And now I’m excited to release to the world, the finished version we have today.

This short film, Enter the Fringe, is both literal and metaphoric. A man who is being experimented on is trying to escape to the Fringe. Ripp, Lilly and Gus, enter the fringe as paid bounty hunters to bring him back. And we finally entered the fringe in order to give Acid Reign the Series some momentum.

23172900_1975753636024206_2420023224924727236_n

Gus, Lilly, and Ripp. Click above to watch the trailer.

 

I saw that it recently won some awards… tell me about that.

I can’t tell you how nerve racking it is to sit in a dark room surrounded by an audience made up mostly of your peers, who can be the most critical of your work, and watch your film premiered for the first time. Then only to watch all the competitor’s films, and wonder how your film is being received and hoping you did enough to stand out. Well stand out we did and with the exception of only three categories (which mostly didn’t relate to us anyway) we walked away with nominations in all categories. “Holy Crap” is what our composer said! It was truly an honor. But winning would have to wait another week until the award ceremony.

Having been nominated more than any of the other films gave me some early confidence, but at the award ceremony I began remembering the other films we were up against. I said to Ben and the others, that I had a feeling that all these nominations would be like a hand full of sand, that just slips through our fingers.

Right out of the gate we won Best Makeup and Wardrobe. This was important to me because my daughter, Mikaylee, not only played Lilly in the film, but is also the head of our make up FX and did a lot to help with wardrobe. So as a Dad, I was super proud of that.

Mikaylee Riddle as “Lilly”.

But then the losses started rolling in. An under dog film I hadn’t even thought was competition started to get the early awards. A few other films picked up an award here and there. And I just sat there. Happy for the others, but nervous. Just watching the sand slip from my fingers. Then it happened and things started turning around. Best Cinematography? Enter the Fringe! Yes! Finally. Then, bam, bam, bam; Best Director, Best Film and the honored Audience Choice Award.

It was a relief and an honor to have won these particular awards. But for me this wasn’t just a film festival win. It was validation.

For the previous years of development we’d been producing a series of short test films. None of which were turning out very well. They were teaching us a lot about how we wanted to shoot and what style we wanted to used to tell our story. But for all our fans who were excited about the project, we really didn’t have much to show for ourselves. And I really couldn’t bear to show something that wasn’t at least good content. The property and our viewers deserved more than that.

But now I feel confident moving forward. We have a film; a story and characters that people want to watch and that looks great. And we are now award winning film makers with an award winning property.

 

Have you been involved in other projects?

As an actor, I’ve had varying roles in lots of other short films, theatrical stage productions and television shows. I’ve produced (directed, shot and edited… etc) several ultra low budget documentaries. And I have an off-road adventure show called KrawlZone that has taken me across the U.S. filming extreme off-road and rock sports events.

I’ve also directed, animated and edited short animated stories for Animal Jam and a hand full of commercial projects. But Acid Reign is by far the largest and most robust project I’ve been a part of and best of all, I get to do it all, from prop and set building, to wardrobe and lighting, to editing and VFX.

I must admit though, building the mustang has probably been my favorite task. I find the balance between working with my hands and working digitally on the computer is really nice. Too much of either gives my A.D.D. a stroke.

maxresdefault

Nathan Riddle is Mr. KrawlZone.

 

The car…. You’ve gotta tell me about that car!

I call her Azrael. The angle of Death. We wanted her to be a character in her own right. And Unique. I was creating what could potentially become the next famous movie car. To join the ranks of the General Lee, Kit, the Delorean, Elanor and of course the Mad Max Interceptor. So my goal was to create something truly iconic. I think I’m close, but There are still a few things I’d like to finish if budget allows.

A 1966 Mustang coupe, Azrael was rescued from a junk yard when I realized that all the modifications I’d want to do to my buddies car was out of the question. She really is a rust bucket though. Otherwise I’d have felt too bad about just not restoring the old thing.

Her name is Azrael.

Luckily the body work it needed really worked in our favor of making a Dystopian Hot Rod. The car came complete and with a little tuning and cleaning, she fired right up. I knew it couldn’t be a road and track car to drive in the Fringe. It needed tires that made it feel capable of going off-road. To my surprise, I discovered that 14′ tires off of a UTV/Razor fit the wheels perfectly. That gave the traction the Fringe would require. I scavenged about to find elements to make it look armored, yet remain somewhat sleek, which will be in contrast to the other vehicles we’ll be introducing in the series.

The Armor is made from compressed masonite, I cut out the wood for the side and back windows to look like armored plating. With some creative painting It looks like rusted steel. I’m a bit scared that it won’t last long, and in the future I’d like to replace this with something more durable long term.

Having really no budget I was trying to modify the hood to look mean, but I couldn’t find anything that would work. Then I was visiting a friend who builds off-road buggies, and he had this old hood from a newer mustang, just sitting in the corner. We’ll after a little negotiating, I brought the hood home. It took some serious trimming, but I got it to kinda fit the original hood. I did a little fiberglass work to finish the seams. After adding a few rivets and some paint and I was happy with how iconic it turned out.

Another stroke of luck was the under bumper. My little brother had just upgraded to off-road steel bumpers on his Toyota Tacoma. After standing there staring blankly a light bulb went off. I scavenged the parts he took of of his truck and went to work. I cut up the old Tacoma Bumper cover to create the current under bumper on the mustang. The side steps on the car are also from his Tacoma.

Then it was down the details. The chains, the straps, the spoiler. Those were just things I either had laying about or found at the local thrift store.

Though there is still a lot to be done I’m happy with how the ol’ car looks and how it’s turning out. And it seems others are too. I get a lot of complement every time we post images on our social media pages.

 

What does the future hold for Acid Reign?  I noticed that it’s the Acid Reign Series… will there be more films?

Acid Reign was originally conceived as a stand alone film, but as the story developed, it out grew being just a film or a trilogy for that matter. To truly engage with this story and world we were creating, it really needs to be done episodically. So yes, it is now Acid Reign the Series. We have the first season written with eight episodes that will range from 25 to 45 minutes. We have three additional seasons outlined (we know where we’re going), but the season finally for season one is still written as the original stand alone film.

We haven’t yet decided whether to break it up into two to three more episodes, or push it hard and release the finally as a feature film and celebrate with a theatrical debut. That will depend on budget and what our fans help us decide. 

 

Gotta admit, Gus is my favorite… what was it like working with D. L. Walker and Dave Bresnahan?

Both D.L. and Dave were wonderful to work with. Both are extremely talented actors and bring so much to Acid Reign that really doesn’t exist without them.
I had a good idea about what kind of character I wanted Gus to be while we were writing. As we held auditions early on, D.L.Walker’s resume and reel came in. He had a link to a comedic barbecue commercial he worked on where he was on hands and knees like a dog, licking up some spilled BBQ sauce. It sounds silly, but his characterization sold me. In such a desolate world like that of Acid Reign, we need a level of lightheartedness mixed with the solemnity of their situation, to give the show balance, and I knew D.L. could handle it. He has exceeded my expectations. And he’s really fun on set as well.

D.L. Walker as “Gus” and Jared Morgan as “Ripp”.

Dave Bresnahan was another actor that had originally auditioned for another character. He didn’t fit that role, but we liked what he was bringing so well, that we wrote in a bit part for him. That bit part has expanded to be a substantial part of the show and plot. Dave has also been a huge help on and off set. When not in front of the camera, he took on BTS photography, and has been helping with our marketing, write press-releases and distributing them nationally. He’s a really great guy.

Both have also been great supporters of the project from the beginning and are really fun to work with. We’ve been at it for a while now and have had a couple of false starts, and they have supported us and stuck with us all the way. Which say’s a lot about them. In fact our cast and crew all fit that mold. Salt of the Earth, wonderful, passionate and talented individuals that have come together to support us and help us bring this story to life.

Dave Bresnahan as “Nun”.

 

You may not be aware, but I’ve been following this project since very early on.  Can you tell me about the time when you went radio silent?  What happened in 2016?

I do remember you being one of our early followers. Our radio silence was a result of creating a world that was ever expanding and soon became more than we could chew. Also, it took longer to get the car, wardrobe, props and sets together than we had initially anticipated.
As I mentioned earlier, our early attempts at filming didn’t turn out so well either. That was disheartening. Those failures, along with the daunting task of finding the funds to produce such a big project almost put the project on a shelf. What had started to be a quick turn around project had become a beast.

We are still not out of the woods in that regard. We are still actively seeking investors to help us fully realize the potential of Acid Reign. But that said. We have some contingency plans to produce the series one way or another.  We are in the process of getting our Patreon set up and we will be launching a crowd funding campaign soon. But don’t have exact dates yet.

 

Is there anything else you‘d like folks to know?  Where can they find you and more information about your film?

Thank you for wanting to know more about Acid Reign and for asking me to share all of this with you. We have a new website in development that should be on-line soon at http://www.AcidReignFilms.com.  Enter the Fringe will be available there as well as on Amazon.
You’ll also be able to enjoy the books. The first book which covers the first three episodes, is currently going through a final edit and should be available relatively soon.

We are excited about this project and look forward to sharing it with everyone that not only likes the dystopian/post apocalyptic genre’, but those that love a good story! Because this is a great story, and we think it will surprise everyone to find out where it takes you.

Ben Wray, D.L. Walker, Mikaylee Riddle, Jared Morgan, and Nathan Riddle.

 

Books?  Did you say BOOKS?!?!  That’s fantastic news!!!  Alright Nathan, I want to thank you for talking with me today and I look forward to watching the film(s) and reading the books.


You can find Acid Reign on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.  As soon as their website is up and running, I will update this post.  Stat tuned to Amazon for the short film, Enter the Fringe.

Attack of the Killer B’s… catching up with the creator, 25 years later.

In a previous blog post, I spoke of a public access television show I used to watch called Attack of the Killer B’s.

Back in 1992, my Friday night ritual was to run to the gas station just off base and grab a pint of Ben & Jerry’s New York Super Fudge Chunk and a can of Cheezums.  I’d then get back just in time to settle in and watch the most glorious Public Access Television show ever created… Attack of the Killer B’s.  It was like some kind of mad experiment resulting from a twisted tryst between Elvira, Svenghouli, and a voyeuristic MST3K poking its head in and seeing just what the hell was going on.

I ended up with about 8 VHS tapes filled with static’y episodes (all I had was rabbit ears and tin foil!), but I’d watch those tapes over and over again for the next decade.

Dr. Reek Amortis and Skelvis, circa 1992.

Let’s flash forward 25 years… a friend and fellow classic sci-fi/horror fan, @CultCredentials , sent me a message that he may have well found the man himself… Dr. Reek Amortis, Bryan Sisson.  I immediately got in contact with Mr. Sisson and lo-and-behold, Mr. Credentials was right.  I now know how Chewbacca felt.  Thanks Mr. Credentials for your black belt Google-Fu.  I am forever in your debt!  If you are a fan of cult and horror media, please check out his blog full of reviews of movies, TV, comics, and books.  You can also find him on Twitter at @CultCredentials.
So now… two and half decades later, I am finally able to bring you the man himself… the Mad Scientist of the Macabre, the Hero of Horror, the Champion of Camp!  Let’s give it up for DR. REEK AMORTIS!!!!

… er, BRYAN SISSON!!!!

Bryan Sisson, aka Dr. Reek Amortis, and Skelvis. Circa 2017.


First off, I want to thank you for taking the time to talk to me, Bryan.  It’s been 25 years since I watched your television show on Pueblo Public Access.  Could you tell me a bit about your passion for classic horror and why it appeals to you so much?

I have had a deep and consistent horror/sci-fi obsession for as long as I can remember. I have tried to figure out exactly when and why this happened… I think I liked the thrill of “safely” being scared; the excitement of being scared yet knowing that everything was going to be OK… the monsters will not win and goodness will triumph.

When I was growing up I would scour the TV guide looking for every horror, science fiction, and fantasy movie and marking it so I could try to watch it.  If you missed a movie then you never knew if you would ever see it again! The Classic horror movies were from a time where kids could watch and not be bombarded with realistic ultra-violence or nudity like most of the modern era relies on. There was a good scare, creative monsters, and they usually had the morale of good win out, which was comforting. Today’s movies are much more mean-spirited and rely on the one-upping of gore and cruelty. Not really what kids should watch.

One of my favorite memories was sitting with my mom on the couch watching Invisible Invaders during a huge thunder storm! I was watching torrents of water flow down the street with lightning flashing, all while the invisible dead tried to break into the underground laboratory!!! Exhilarating!!!!

 

Wow, very interesting!  I really appreciate how you feel about the effects of today’s horror on children.  I see that you’ve met some very well-known and amazing folks that have worked in the Horror genre. Care to let us know who they were? What was it like meeting them?

My brief venture into film making, while leaving me “underemployed”, did give me some experiences I will never forget! I and the director of our first feature film, “Curse of the Blue Lights”, were out in California trying to find a distributor for our completed film. We sent promotional materials out to every studio and distributor, big and small. We had meetings with 20th Century Fox and Universal even!

They would all eventually say “too bad, you didn’t have a big name talent involved that could sell it”.  Truth is it was way too small for them and frankly not good enough!! Thank god for the then huge VHS direct to video market as we would eventually get worldwide distribution with Media Home Entertainment.

Well, during this month-long trip to Hollywood, we were able to go into Amblin Studios after following up on an invitation from Steven Spielberg’s personal assistant!  Amblin is buried deep in the Universal studios lot.  After going through the second set of security gates, we pull up in the Amblin lot right in front of the building.  Mark Marshall, who was Spielberg’s assistant, is standing outside to meet us when the two kids, Short Round and Chunk from the Goonies, come running up to greet Mark as they also just arrived on a visit. It was a very surreal experience indeed!

We got to tour the entire Amblin studio, including a meeting room with TV’s that would rise out of the tables and saw the theater he had set up to watch any format of film possible.  As we walked down a hallway in the Mexican style compound, we passed an indoor paseo area where only 10 feet from us a photographer was taking pictures of Spielberg for a magazine. While we did not meet him, he did turn and smile at us as we passed!  Again exhilarating!

On this same trip I called up “Uncle” Forry Ackerman, whose name and number were listed in the phone book.  I was bummed out that I only got the voice mail as he was off at a convention. Two days later, my phone rings and I can’t believe it but on the other end is Forry inviting me to the Ackermansion that weekend! We pull up and I can see the submarine from Atlantis the Lost Continent just sitting in his backyard! He gave us a wonderful tour of his house when Ron Borst (huge movie poster collector and expert) stopped by, so they invited us to eat lunch at Forry’s favorite place, Sizzler!  Well, I was in heaven as any horror fan can understand.  I treasure my pictures with him in front of Maria the Metropolis robot.

I have since become an avid convention attendee and have had the pleasure to meet and talk to many of my heroes like Barbara Steele, Stuart Gordon, Clive Barker, Bert Gordon, Lamberto Bava, Ruggero Deodato, Dick Smith, Rick Baker, and many others.  I really like getting original posters signed by the cast and crew!  One of which is a Godzilla Vs The Thing one-sheet signed by Godzilla actor Haruo Nakajima!

 

You got to meet Forry and see Short Round, Chunk, and Spielberg?!  That must’ve been a Holy Grail moment!  I’d really like to know about the genesis of Attack of the Killer B’s (AotKB’s).  What was your motivation to create it and was it difficult to get on television?  What was it like to film an episode?  I’ve got an ongoing wager with myself that your name was Dr. Reek A. Mortis, and not Dr. Reek Amortis.  Who wins?  Who ends up being the one who was wrong for two and a half decades?

After trying my hand at film making and finding myself rather unemployed, I went back to the University in Pueblo to get an engineering degree.  I got a work study job at the University’s PBS station editing commercials and TV spots.  One day I was talking to the station manager, Greg Sinn, and found out he was a monster kid too!  He even still had some of the Famous Monsters paperback books from when he was a kid.  I asked him if he ever thought about using the station equipment to make a low budget movie.  That must have gotten his mind going because a month later he called me into his office and said he would be able to get a package of old B horror/sci-fi movies and asked if I was interested in coming up with an idea for a horror host to introduce them. That was all I needed to hear!  I immediately told him that I would and that I wanted to bring a friend of mine, Sonny Theis, in so we could incorporate silly songs into the sketches.

The University had a fairly large TV studio where they would film fund raising events and some student game shows. They had professional grade cameras, editing equipment, and could do large scale green screen effects shots.  I was a kid in a video candy store! This was very small scale… like really small scale… no one was paid and no money was spent.  I had to come up with everything that would be on camera.  The first thing I did was build a small dungeon-like set complete with a small window that we could look out of or just have fog roll in from.

I spent a few days carving,  gluing, and painting styrofoam to give the look.  Next, I had to think of a way I would start each movie, so I built a large switch that I could pull down.  Now Sonny was up for being my side kick and was for doing the music with me, but he was not really one to act very silly, so I knew we would be a little straight man/funny man, Abbott and Costello like.

I was working in the pharmacy at a local hospital so I had access to medical gowns and stuff of that nature so the good doctor was born!  And you lose and win… the name was Dr. Reek Amortis but I have to say I really like the Reek A. Mortis also!

Every Thursday night I would go over to Sonny’s house where he had every instrument and recording device you could imagine. He would start laying down drums, then bass, then keyboard and build a song.  He went over and over it, adding all the instruments to the music I was writing down, the lyrics that would go with the movie.  By the time he was done with the music, the lyrics would be complete and we would then sing and record the song.  Great songs such as Attack of the Giant Leeches, Teenage Caveman, and Atom Age Vampire were born.

I would then have to rummage around my house and find props and go down to Betty’s Costumes for any costumes we would need for the skits.  I would also have to write down a rough script that we would do the very next day!  So right after school every Friday, Sonny and I and whoever else we could coax into helping, would go into the study and in one take we would play the prerecorded music and lip sync to the song.

I still find it odd how hard it was to get people to be involved in something that was so much fun. I always knew I had my family that would come through in a pinch and I was always in a pinch. My son Zachary would play young Dr. Reek and my mom would play one of the Sisters of the Immaculate Constipation.  My girlfriend at the time would play a number of characters, including a cave woman and a car crash victim in one of my favorites… Atom Age Vampire.

We did this every day for a year for a total of 23 episodes (I think).

 

So, I’m a loser and a winner… I’ll take it!  You worked with two other main cast members (well, one alive and one not-so-alive), Sonny and Skelvis.  Can you tell me about working with Sonny?  How did you two meet?  He was a seriously cool cat… did he ever take off his sunglasses?  I remember that you and Sonny would perform a song based on the movie that was to be shown.  It was amazing just how good those songs were!  What was the process involved in that?  Was Skelvis as difficult off-screen as he was on?

Sonny Theis and I met at a number of parties where he would play amazing lead guitar while we all drank massive quantities of beer.  Oh the 70’s!  Sonny was/is an amazing musician and I had played rhythm guitar with him a few times in a band.  Sonny was also attending the University at the time and he was equally anxious to try out this unusual adventure.  Sonny was a cool cat and now that you mention it I don’t think I have ever seen him with his sun glasses off… hmmm.  Did you ever see Not of This Earth??

Being a dungeon setting I thought about what I could do to spice the set up a bit. The music and horror made me think it would be cool to have a dead Elvis as a smartass side kick hanging on the wall to give the good doctor grief.  I had a number of zombie bodies lying around in my basement from the Curse of the Blue Lights film, so I picked one out and made him up as Elvis.  I incorporated a glove in the back of his mouth so it could be manipulated from a hole in the wall.  I tried to find someone that would be committed to doing the voice of Skelvis and someone else to stand on a ladder behind the wall to manipulate the arms, but more often than not we were ready to film with no one to help. This is why in many of the episodes you see Skelvis with his mouth taped shut “so he couldn’t taunt us”

Skelvis is living the life, or is it death, down in my basement and pondering a comeback tour.  I just don’t think he has the guts to actually pull it off though…

 

So you’re saying that Sonny might have egg-white eyes… interesting!  And Skelvis doesn’t have the guts… wait… I see what you did there!   Are you a musician in “real life” and do you still perform?  Any chance on there being an AotKB’s album one day?

I am a middle-of-the-road, wanna-be rock-star musician.  I currently play in a 3 piece band called Playing With Fire.  Interestingly, we all got together when we played in a band with Sonny.  Geniuses’ get tired with things and so Sonny bowed out and we continued on our own.  Sonny and I had often discussed if we should try to do a return of Dr. Reek, but honestly I think it was lightning in a bottle… the time was just right and we were up to the challenge.   

 

Well, I ain’t gonna lie… I’m just gonna pretend that one day there’ll be a reunion and I’ll be ready with the New York Super Fudge Chunk and a can of Pringles.  How many episodes did AotKB’s have?  How long did you plan on running the show?

We really had no idea how it would go over with people and didn’t have much in the way of feedback if people were even watching…. We ended up filming for one year (basically one show for each movie in the Attack of the Killer B’s package he purchased).  They had the right to show it for 2 years, so the second year was re-runs.

 

The first (few? I can’t recall how many) episodes were in black and white.  At some point they became color.  Why did you decide to change it to a color program?  Did that create any headaches?

We really didn’t know what we wanted it to look like at first. We went with black and white since the movies were black and white.  Then we got a knob that I could use to change us to color.  Eventually we just liked the color better and stayed with that.  I also want to mention our cameraman, Ron Weekes.  Ron was a full time employee at the station and really added a lot to the look of the show.  I wanted the cameras locked down on dollies because they had all this cool equipment and I thought that would be better, but Ron chose to grab the camera and move about free style. This really added a lot to the look of the show and really added to its zaniness!

 

I remember that camera work!  Y’all were decades ahead of today’s “queasy cam” stuff!

Any chance that there is some archival footage of the show?  I’ve got two healthy children… they may be small, but they’re strong!  I could maybe trade one for a DVD box set?  Both for the BluRay?

Sadly, I only had some crappy VHS copies but all of the surviving songs are out on YouTube. I had the full broadcasts transferred to DVD, but they’re really bad copies… Arrghh!!!

I did experiments with children on TV.  I could get away with it because it was “educational”, now they frown on it.

 

I totally understand… I probably would’ve chickened out on the the deal and offered up my autographed copy of Damnation Alley in lieu of my kinder anyway…

You wrote a movie, “Curse of the Blue Lights”.  Would you mind talking about that?  Any other horror projects in the works?  Any plans on an AotKB’s revival someday?

Curse of the Blue Lights was another adventure where we were too stupid to know we shouldn’t be doing this.  This was pre-Dr. Reek.  I  dropped out of the University to help a guy raise money to make a low budget mystery/horror movie.  In the meantime we ended up making a documentary on Zebulon Pike called Zebulon Pike and the Blue Mountain.  Pretty cool little film narrated by Burgess Meredith!

We did not raise the $1 million we needed, but we did raise about $175,000.  Instead of giving up, I convinced them that we should make a low budget horror movie with lots of makeup effects.  I had been doing a lot of foam latex monster make up and knew I could pull enough off enough to have good effects. Very long story short, we made the movie and got it distributed worldwide!  We made the money back, but it was too slow for investors to reinvest in something more.  Hollywood low-balled us and really didn’t give a $h!t if we made another movie or not.  I worked on a few more locally produced films like ROBO C.H.I.C. (Assistant Director) and Elves where I got to work with up-and-coming effects guru, Vincent Guastini.

I am always conspiring something … right now I’m spending time with my band.  There is nothing better that playing on stage and everything just blends.

 

Holy crap, I had no idea you had been involved in so many projects!  Did you ever think that a fan of your public access show would contact you 25 years later?  Is this kind of a cool thing or does is make you freak out just a little bit?

That someone remembers our work from so far back is one of the most awesome and humbling things that has happened.  When we made these, we really never knew if anyone watched, let alone liked what we did.  We did what we did because we had to have a creative outlet.  I was going to school for engineering and then going to the set to be a horror host… How cool was that!?  

I wish I had taken the time to document what we did, but we were so wrapped up in trying to pull off something funny for nothing that we just didn’t even think about preservation.  I had someone from Blood Central just contact me about Curse of the Blue Lights, so it is strange that I would also be asked about Killer B’s in the same month.

Things I did 25–30 years ago and people remember them fondly… It makes me very proud and should be a lesson for anyone that you should go for the impossible… you want to make a movie?  You want to be a horror host?  You want to be a rock star?  What the hell are you waiting for?!

I am so happy you enjoyed our show and took the time to seek out Dr. Reek!

I can dig it.  One last question… You’re in a desert, walking along in the sand when all of a sudden you look down and see a tortoise. It’s crawling toward you… You reach down and flip the tortoise over on its back. The tortoise lies on its back, its belly baking in the hot sun, beating its legs trying to turn itself over. But it can’t. Not without your help. But you’re not helping. Why is that?

Because I know this tortoise… he has stalked me since childhood. The first time I remember seeing him I was in my crib, unable to utter anything intelligible, I lay in a filthy diaper.  While just outside of my peripheral vision sat the tortoise smirking, planting frightening tortoise visions in my weak mind.  I still remember his taunts as I stood in front of my first grade class unable to solve the equation the instructor had written on the board… and all the while the tortoise, probing, planting false variables and erroneous theorems.  And good god… how can I ever forget our wedding night… my beloved lying disheveled in our bridal bed, the foul stench of tortoise rising from her ivory skin.

I feel him even now in my mind… I feel the shell growing on my back… I lay down next to …it.

My legs flounder in the air as the desert sun bakes down upon my naked flesh…


And there you have it my friends, quite possibly the coolest interview I will have ever done.  This really was a trip down memory lane.  I feel like I want to relate to how Bryan felt when he met Forry.  This really was an exciting experience for me.  I swear I can smell the Cheezums and taste the ice cream.  A megaton of thanks to Mr. Sisson for allowing me to pick his brain (with anesthetic of course) and discover the magic behind Attack of the Killer B’s!

Slipstream… it doesn’t suck nearly as much as you might think.

cinematic catharsis presents... (3)

First off, I want to thank Barry P. of Cinematic Catharsis for asking me to join the Nature’s Fury Blogathon!  The subject matter this go ’round is Nature vs. Mankind.  In the words of Barry P., “…this is a blogathon about our eternal struggle with flora, fauna, and the elements.

I decided to go with a film that has a bit of a fan following… 1989’s Slipstream.

Maybe not a “cult classic”, (you know what, screw it… it IS a cult classic!) but there are those of us who actually really dig it.  It pits man against good old planet Earth and let me tell you… she is PISSED!!!


Oh, and hey… I’ve never participated in something like this before, so be gentle with me… it’s my first time. 😉

Alright then, let’s get to the movie!


From the depths of the Earth.

To the edge of existence.

The hunt is on…

 

v50TCgmKpxzJudSNTjO0kesKEiF

By the end of the century, man’s destruction of the Earth’s environment turned the forces of nature upon him.  There are many stories about the converging earthquakes that split continents apart – mixing civilizations together… about the floods that buried the cities and the emergence of a river of wind called the Slipstream that washed the planet clean.  Those stories all happened years ago, but this story is about a fugitive, traveling the Slipstream, who needed a friend.


vlcsnap-2016-05-22-13h03m27s595

 First off, Slipstream was blasted by critics and generally despised upon its release.

 Why do I tell you that from the get-go? Because for me it was one of those movies that, after you watch it, you say to yourself – “Why did everyone hate this thing so much?”

To which I reply… “I dunno… it’s really kind of awesome.”


Slipstream is a post-apocalypse movie, or perhaps more specifically, a post-cataclysm movie.  Sometime in the future (we’re not told when), the Earth decides to rebel against mankind’s abuse and issues forth great calamities… earthquakes, floods, etc.

These events became known as The Convergence.  The Earth cracked and continents shifted.  Mountains rose and fell, oceans drained and flooded areas that had never seen water.  Cities were buried.   Our way of life was forever altered.

vlcsnap-2016-05-21-10h05m23s727vlcsnap-2016-05-21-10h07m08s551

 

 

 

 

Life goes on and people once again established communities.  People found residence within cave-ridden canyon walls.   They now shared their new home with others who were at one time thousands of miles away.

vlcsnap-2016-05-14-10h12m24s134

 

The only real mode of transportation anymore is flight.  A massive river of air, aptly named the Slipstream, circles the globe and is used by folks to get from point A to point B.  You can often see scratch-built airplanes and hot air balloons overhead.


 

vlcsnap-2016-05-14-09h47m01s783   vlcsnap-2016-05-10-17h21m17s876

Our story begins with a law enforcement officer (or what passes for one in this primitive landscape), Will Tasker (Mark Hamill) and his partner Belitski (Kitty Aldridge), hunting down an escaped murder, Byron (Bob Peck).  He is quickly captured and taken to a nearby settlement where we are introduced to Matt (Bill Paxton), a free-spirited bounty hunter.  Matt sees an opportunity to make some quick cash and makes off with Byron to claim the bounty as his own.  Tasker and Belitski soon give chase and the adventures ensue.  The group ends up battling the elements at every turn, getting caught… escaping… running into a religious cult that worships the wind as though it is some kind of God… and finding a sanctuary of lost art and knowledge.

Yes, there is most definitely a story here.  Each character is on a mission…

 

vlcsnap-2016-05-10-18h12m21s101

Matt… the young, headstrong, free-spirited bounty hunter who knows there is more to life than what he’s been dealt, but lacks the maturity to fully realize it.  His is a tale of growth.

 

vlcsnap-2016-05-21-11h37m17s753

Byron… the man who wants nothing more than to dream and find others of his kind.  Although considered a murderer, his is a confusing tale and may well be worth the admission price alone.

 

vlcsnap-2016-05-14-09h47m39s747

Tasker… Living life by the book and bringing justice to the wasteland of the old world.  Almost Max Rockatansky’esque,  he will use any means necessary to capture his prey.  There are no grey areas with him, only black and white.

 

vlcsnap-2016-05-14-09h45m34s781

Belitski… She tags along with Tasker, but things aren’t so cut and dry with her.  Secretly she hopes for something better.  By the end of the film, you find out if she finds it.

 


 

tumblr_ls48i4T5km1qc823io1_500   lisberger06

The film was produced by Gary Kurtz and directed by Steven Lisberger (who also directed TRON).   Kurtz was, at one time, the second half of the George Lucas team… producing both Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back.  Kurtz and Lucas split before Return of the Jedi and Kurtz went on to produce The Dark Crystal.

Hoping that Slipstream would be his “Star Wars”,  for one reason or another the film ultimately failed and ended up bankrupting Kurtz.


Ca2zR9AWIAEsd78

Made in 1989, it wouldn’t be until 1992 that I would finally get to see this.  I went into a Blockbusters (remember those?) and saw it sitting amongst the other “straight to video” SciFi movies.

To be honest, I thought it was just pretty good;  until right about 15 minutes into it.

There was a song – more particularly, This Big Area by Then Jericho.  To understand why it affected me so much, we’d have to got back a couple of years and spend some time in a hot and dry part of the world full of nothing but sand, blood, and fear.

At the time, I was stationed in Germany.  A couple of days before we left for Iraq, I went to the PX and tried to think of any last-minute items I wanted to grab.  On a whim, I found an album by a group I’d never heard of to provide companionship to my Planet P Project, DEVO, and Rocky Horror Show soundtrack.

I took a chance and loved it!  That was one of four albums I took with me to the desert.  When I heard their music in this film,  I became flooded with nostalgia.  To this day, when I hear that music, it takes me right back to 1991.


The acting is damned good – as well it should be, considering the names involved… Mark Hamill, Bill Paxton, Kitty Aldridge, Bob Peck, Robbie Coltrane, Ben Kingsley, and F. Murray Abraham.

I mean, c’mon… look at Hamill for instance… what a badass!  Bob Peck is simply incredible.  Paxton is… well, Paxton, and Coltrane… I bet you’d hardly recognize him.

vlcsnap-2016-05-10-18h13m24s810 vlcsnap-2016-05-10-18h06m04s249 vlcsnap-2016-05-10-18h14m00s848

 

vlcsnap-2016-05-10-17h23m44s173 vlcsnap-2016-05-14-09h44m05s970 vlcsnap-2016-05-21-10h26m18s760


So , maybe you’ve asked yourself at some point “Why should I bother with this thing”… or “I’ve seen it, it sucked… why should I watch it again?”

To which I’d reply, there’s a story here… there’s more than one in fact.  Forget the special effects… each and every character has a story and a damned good one at that.

From a young hothead looking for a quick buck to finance his dream… to a cop who is trying to make the world a better place by following the word rather than the spirit of the law… to an android who wants nothing more than to be with his own kind… to a woman who doesn’t really know what she wants until she see’s it right in front of her…

Yes, there is more to this movie than what meets the eye.  If you’ve never seen it, try it out.  If you’ve already watched it, give it another chance… it might not suck nearly as much as you thought…

vlcsnap-2016-05-21-10h30m38s144


But wait!  There’s more!  As a special added bonus… here is a video of the making of Slipstream.  Enjoy!

 

 

Attack of the Killer B’s…

received_m_mid_1405643162746_c9fc13611a3f810b53_0

Back in 1992-1993, I was stationed at Ft. Carson, CO.  Assigned to a small Cavalry Squadron, attached to the 4th Infantry Division.

While it was normal for us to party on Friday nights only as soldiers can, my Saturday nights were dedicated to sitting in front of my TV with a pint of New York Super Fudge Chunk and a can of Pringles Cheezum’s (the daily running and PT kept the pounds off).

There was a late-night show on PBS that came out of Pueblo… Attack of the Killer B’s.  It was along the lines of Svenghouli, Elvira, etc..  Three guys (well, two guys and a skeleton hanging by manacles on the wall)… Dr. Reek A. Mortis, Sonny, and Skelvis.

They’d offer what you’d expect – campy humor and lots of banter, but the best thing they did was sing a song that was based on the movie.  It was just so damned ridiculous and fun.

Time counts and keeps counting…. as the years passed, I’d often think of that show, but the name escaped me.  I’d try searching the web for anything about this show and could just never find any information.  I had a few VHS tapes full of the shows, but the quality was so bad (due to aluminum-tipped rabbit ears), that they were hardly watchable after a few years.

A couple of days ago, I was talking to a friend of mine, telling him about this silly show I used to watch.  Lo-and-behold, the next morning, he sent me a couple of links to the songs on youtube!  At which point I immediately created a playlist and added them.

I wonder what ever happened to that Mad Doctor, his singing assistant, and that desiccated corpse of a fairly famous rock star?  Maybe someone out there who reads this will let me know.

So, here are just a few of my favorites from these guys.  Grab yourself a pint of ice cream, a can of your favorite Pringles, and have a little ridiculous fun…

 

 

 

 

Humanicide – a French Post-Apocalyptic Short Film…

12049272_435155830013644_3246156155837307431_n

It must be almost a year ago now when I became interested in this project from the French film studio, Algo Studios.  I had followed them on Twitter and their Facebook Page, and although I don’t speak a lick of French, my computer does, so thank God for technology!  Guillaume and I would sometimes have dialogues back and forth and it was rather fun trying to figure out just what each of us were saying to the other (he does speak excellent English as far as I’m concerned).  Did I mention that I completely and utterly failed Spanish in High School?  Did I also mention that I was placed in a turbo-accelerated Russian Linguist course while in the U.S. Army – only to rock out of that sucker in 8 months?  Yeah, my chances of learning French were slim to none. 😉

 


 

Written and Directed by Guillaume Oger, Humanicide reminded me a bit of Falling Skies (without all of the constant yelling and screaming).  The story told the tale of a post-apocalyptic Earth…

40 years after the invasion… the world as we know it is no more.  While Humanicide seems inevitable, some men still try to escape…

11402729_398645706997990_6636055148618269112_n

 


 

There are three main characters… well, I should say three human characters.  The antagonist  is a very cool, very evil looking (almost insect-like), floating alien robot that administers a “sting” to hapless humans.  It seems that there is an antidote of sorts which is able to counteract this “sting”, but it is obviously rare.  Also, the antidote needs to be administered in a timely manner or something (most likely an awful something) happens.

humanicidealien

 

The human characters are Paul (played by Audren Lancien)…

11083646_366302376898990_6913022635936617849_n

 

 

Tripo (played by Florian Gounaud)…

13815_368611603334734_6949781077622255582_n

And a mysterious character I can only guess is called “The Man” (played by Philippe Stepniewski)…

11130107_370802529782308_2719734320501662817_n


 

So today was the big day.  Guillaume contacted me this morning and told me that it would go live at 9:00pm France time.  Did I mention I suck at math as well as figuring out time zones?  Guillaume was kind enough to tell me that it would be 2:00pm here (man, he figured that out much faster than I would have).

So with no further ado… here is the post-apocalyptic short film I’ve been waiting a year for.  I’ve seen a lot of postapoc shorts…. I mean A LOT of them.  This ranks right up there with my favorites and I really hope that it becomes something bigger in the future…

 


 

Oh, and just one more thing.  Not to let things go to my head, but I saw a little something there in the end credits that made me go “Huh?!?!”…  I asked Guillaume what I could possibly have done to get my name in the credits.  He said that I was the first American to ever share and talk about his movie.  I cannot tell you how good it made me feel to see that.   Thanks, Guillaume, you are a seriously cool cat!

humanicidecredits

1982… A boy sleeps outside, waiting to make contact.

Just this weekend, I discovered Jesse Mercury on Twitter.  Mr. Mercury is self-described as “a SciFi action hero from 2084, flung out of time with no way to get home. His only hope is to send musical signals into the cosmos in an attempt to attract a higher form of life capable of sending him back to his time.

From what I gather, he is a significantly massive fan of science fiction as well as a songwriter.  Upon going to his website, I was linked to youtube, where he has a number of of songs and videos posted.  There, I found songs that all had a science fiction theme, one of them being “This is Ceti Alpha V!” – a song based on Star Trek The Wrath of Khan.

One of them stood out to me… “A Love Song from ET to Elliot“.  I was 12 years old back in 1982.  The movie, E.T. The Extraterrestrial was a major passion of mine.  I had spent untold nights sleeping outside, under the stars.  Waiting for something to make noise in the shed.  I even went so far as to lay out a trail of Reeses Pieces, hoping that I would meet an alien who had been left behind and needed my help getting home.  An alien who would become my friend.

I have spent this entire weekend listening to this song.  It brings a tear to my eye every time.  It awakens the child in me.  It brings a smile to my face and lets me become that child again, waiting for a stranger from the stars to come down and become my friend…

 

You can find Jesse Mercury on Twitter, Youtube, Facebook, Bandcamp, and Instagram.

Attack on Titan… a guest post from author A.D. Bloom…

Attack on Titan (live-action 2015), Kronos Eating His Children, and what it takes to fight giant monster cannibals.

lt-11

First, the answer is yes. See it. For the record, I’ve only tasted bits of Attack on Titan’s previous incarnations. This is my first real Attack on Titan story and it was great. The detail put into sets and costuming consistently maintained the illusion that the world I saw extended far beyond whatever slice of it we got to actually see. The acting worked for me. The Titans turned out to be pretty satisfying giant monsters and I dug the story.

Right. Now that that part is out of the way, let’s talk about monsters.

kronos eats his kids

Okay, this is Goya’s painting of Saturn (Kronos, a Titan from ancient Greek mythology) eating his son (painted on the walls of Goya’s house with other pics between 1819 and 1823). Why is he eating his son? If I recall, he ate all his kids for fear they’d overpower him at some point. The horror in this painting has been haunting me for a long time. Cannibalism freaks my shit. I DON’T like cannibals. (It’s hard to like people that feed on other people). Make this figure in the painting bigger in relation to its snack, give him the coloring of a corpse and a vacant, eerily amused, and ravenous stare and you’ve got a live-action Titan. And they’re actually pretty terrifying the way they munch down on crunchy, juicy humans. They’ve got a distinctly Japanese flavor that evokes recollection of Japanese ghosts, spirits and cannibal demons depicted in classical Japanese painting and printmaking (also Butoh dance).

attack-on-titan-live-action-trailer-01

But it’s the cannibal part that produces the most horror in my mind.

What gives? They’re not human. How can the Titans be cannibals?

OK. You’re right. Technically, Titans can’t be cannibals because they’re not eating the same species. BUT they look exactly like giant naked humans without nipples or genitals and they bite normal-sized humans in half and eat them. That’s cannibal enough for me, especially considering the context of this story.

attack-on-tian-495x252

Spoiler free context: Walls high enough to keep out giants surround and protect (and imprison) the endangered humans and their town. Outside the walls there are Titans and they will eat you. Inside the humans seem safe, but they’re not.

aot_movie_new1

As far as I’m concerned, Titans are giant people eating other people. (This strikes a nerve with me as an allegory of something we humans do all the darn time in more roundabout ways.) Hold that thought.

So there I am, a third of the way through the movie, reeling from the cannibal horror that began before I thought it would and all I’m thinking is, “Dammit! Someone has to fight the giant cannibal kaiju!”

new-photos-from-the-live-action-attack-on-titan-movie

But the humans seem terrible at it. This movie presents two kinds of humans – the ones that seek safety, and the other kind, the kind that are maybe more like the monsters. These are the ones that fight monsters, of course. And this is my favorite part of the story. You can fight the Titans and win, but only after paying a price. There’s always a price when you become a monster to fight one.

But I bet you knew that. In a way, you already know Attack on Titan. The same story has been retold for thousands of years. There’s a reason for that. It’s an important story. It’s one of our collective myths. This time around, the players are humans dying in a walled world and heroes that fight the terrifying man-eating Titans. Awesome.

A.D. Bloom is the author of the War of Alien Aggression and other books. His characters fight monsters.

Fury Road – Action is Truth…. a guest post from author A.D. Bloom.

 Fury Road – Action is Truth

Fury Road is brilliant and here’s (just one of the reasons) why. The action movies we’re all used to are movies that happen to have action sequences in them. Fury Road is a different creature altogether. In conventional terms, this movie is quite nearly a single, unbroken action sequence. Action is the language used here. Action is the medium. Fury Road is not a movie with action. It’s made of action. Character development is still there. It’s there in spades and it’s expressed through what the characters do.

FURY ROAD

The film stays true to the idea of Action as a medium right through to the prime motive of the film’s most important characters – redemption. Past transgressions or failures can be balanced out by redemptive acts. It’s what you do that defines who you are in Fury Road. Here, action is truth. And action proves to be a powerful and broad-ranged medium in the right hands. The quiet notes don’t get lost. Subtlety is present as is perceptible complexity and nuance.

furiosa-and-mad-max-136006

I quietly exclaimed ‘fuck’ about fifty times watching in utter amazement. I slapped my forehead over and over, astounded at how there wasn’t one lazy shot, not a single moment that wasn’t maximized. The folks that made this movie refused to coast for even a second. Fury Road is an effing good time and a rare formal advance that opens up new territory. See it. Buy it. Love it like the work of art it is.

j37ouedonxk5lzjyl8nfwwjicbq470feo8pud2jjjtd9imgfdzyditizzcoz6vub

A.D. Bloom is the author of the War of Alien Aggression series. Fury Road made his day.

81akI5Ybk7L._UX250_

My Favorite Post-Apocalypse Movies of the 1980’s – Part 1…

And here we go… the 1980’s!  I loved this decade!!!  The Cold War and threat of nuclear annihilation at any moment…  that mushroom cloud looming in the distance, the big balloon going up, survivalists taking up residence in underground shelters… good times!

Some of my absolute favorite flicks come from this time.  You may have noticed by now that just because a movie is a favorite of mine, it doesn’t mean that it is the best.  There are undoubtedly better movies out there, these just happen to be my favorites.

This list will be comprised of two parts.  This post will be comprised of Part 1.  Part 2 will appear at a future date.

As always, click the movie poster to watch either a trailer or scene from the movie.


The Blood of Heroes… “People no longer remembered the Golden Age of the 20th Century.  They didn’t remember the miraculous technology, or the cruel wars that followed.  They didn’t remember when juggers first played The Game or how it came to be played with a dog skull….

Take a band of wastelanders, dress ’em up in all sorts of old tire remnants, leather straps, and other assorted scavenged armor.  Give ’em chains and sticks and throw ’em in a makeshift dirt arena.  Throw a rock at an old trashcan lid and watch ’em beat the hell out of each other while trying to stick a dog skull on a stick.  That, my friends, is what we call Jugging.  In the wasteland of the future, roaming teams of “Juggers” fight in dogtowns for the chance to make it big.  Getting to the championship arenas that are located in underground cities to fight for the bigwigs who live the life.  Hey, it’s got Rutger Hauer and Vincent D’Onofrio, what more could you ask for?  It was filmed in the area of Australia known as Coober Pedy (you might recognize the name, a number of other films were filmed there such as Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome and Pitch Black).

hgkhPnfOhNd72xntazSM0LvnPBi


Cherry 2000…  A dude’s Cherry 2000 love-bot short-circuits from some shenanigans on a wet kitchen floor.  He enlists the aid of a professional tracker to help him get through “Zone 7”, an area of the wasteland that is fabled to house the lost tech of the past – and more Cherry 2000’s (you see, his ‘bot’s memory was saved on disk and he only has to insert it into another “frame”).

There are a decent amount of movie stars in this one – Melanie Griffith (Edith “E” Johnson), David Andrews (Sam Treadwell), Tim Thomerson (Lester – one of his best parts), Brion James (Stacy – R.I.P.), Laurence “Larry” Fishburne (Glu Glu Lawyer), and Robert Z’Dar as Chet (sadly we lost Robert just this past March, 2015).

The soundtrack was done by Basil Poledouris, but oddly enough Tangerine Dream is featured in the trailer….

aCherry2000_pos1


Cyborg…  First there was the collapse of civilization: anarchy, genocide, starvation. Then when it seemed things couldn’t get any worse, we got the plague. The Living Death, quickly closing its fist over the entire planet. Then we heard the rumors: that the last scientists were working on a cure that would end the plague and restore the world. Restore it? Why? I like the death! I like the misery! I like this world!”

It’s with these opening lines from the main baddie (Fender Tremolo), that we’re introduced to the world of Cyborg and one more opportunity to see Jean-Claude Van Damme do the splits (seriously, that dude’s got the pelvis of a fourteen-year-old Olympic gymnast).

The world’s taken a turn for the worst and a cyborg needs to get from Point A to Point B in order to procure information that can save the world.  She ends up enlisting the aid of a “Slinger” (Van Damme) and the adventure begins.

Little side note…. one of the actors lost his eye during filming when Jean-Claude got a little sloppy with a prop knife.  Apparently he sued Van Damme and received $487,500.00.

cyborg-movie-poster-1989-1020203618


The Day After…  I remember watching this on TV back in 1983 and it scared the hell out of me.  We even had to watch it in school.  This was a time in my life that I was reading nothing but postapoc pulp novels and seeing something that was done in a realistic way was terrifying.  Where were the mutants?  Where were the raiders?  Where was the lone wanderer?  It was just people becoming flash fried and radiation poisoned.  That was the point, though.  To get people to really think about what nuclear war was like and hopefully prepare for what may happen.

It’s a good flick as well as a cautionary tale about just how horrible a nuclear armageddon might be…

the-day-after-movie-poster-1983-1020690765


Le Dernier Combat…  I first came across this while perusing the DVD section of Borders back around 2003.  Seeing that it was done by Luc Besson (a favorite director of mine and it was his first film), along with being postapoc, I threw down the cash before even doing any research as to what it was all about.  It’s filmed in black and white and there are only two words of spoken dialogue through the whole film.  It takes place at some point in the future after some sort of apocalypse (we’re never told what happened) and apparently humankind has been left mute.  “The Man” spends his time scavenging for parts to complete a flying machine and running into “The Brute” (played by Jean Reno).  It’s a fairly simple tale with a nice ending, you should give it a try…

le-dernier-combat-40962


Def-Con 4…  What an absolutely wonderful movie!  A trio of astronauts stationed aboard a military space station, replete with nuclear missiles, witnesses WWIII unfold below them.  The station is hacked into by a group of military school punks and programmed to crash land.  After landing, one of the astronauts shortly meets a grisly end.  The surviving two, Howe (Tim Choate – who also played Zathras of Babylon 5 fame, God rest his soul) and Jordan (Kate Lynch) are left.  Jordan knocked her noggin and is passed out.  Howe leaves the craft in search of help and runs into Vinny (Maury Chaykin – one of my favorite characters in a postapoc movie).  Jordan is taken captive by the military preppies, as well as Howe and Vinny.  Oh, there’s a nuclear bomb that’s still on the ship and set to go off in about 60 hours…

4c00ef2df2a9c2447c757cabea4f61c4

Oh, as an extra bonus, here’s the orginal artwork by Angus McKie (1976) that the movie poster was based on…

tumblr_nec126uwTq1r95576o1_500


Escape From New York…  Not necessarily postapoc, but close to it and certainly 100% baddass.  The year is 1997 and New York has been turned into a maximum security prison.  Air Force One has gone down and the prez needs to get to a peace summit ricky tick.  It’s up to Snake Plissken to get in, get the prez, and get out.  The movie is just full of awesomeness and if you haven’t seen it, under which rock have you been for the past 34 years?

Escape-from-New-York-Variant-Edition-682x1024


Exterminators of the Year 3000…  Just one of many Italian Mad Max ripoffs that became so popular in the 80’s, the movie follows the main character,”Alien”, as he battles a motorcycle gang over the most precious commodity in the wasteland – water…

eoty3000


Hell Comes to Frogtown…  In a radiation-blasted wasteland, Sam Hell (“Rowdy” Roddy Piper) is one of the last fertile males to be found.  He ends up being captured by a group of warrior/nurses and enlisted to help them rescue a group of fertile women who have also been captured – by a mutated band of, well….. frogs….

hell_comes_to_frogtown_poster_01-761x1024


In the Aftermath…  “After the Great War, the earth is reduced to an unyielding wasteland, civilization is history, and clean air is the most precious commodity known to man. One soldier’s dreams become a haunting window to the future and his strange and colorful dreams are transformed into a terrifying reality. Among this horrible desolation, one small girl holds the key to the future… a future that may hold little promise.

I first watched this in 1992 while stationed at Ft. Carson, CO while serving in the U.S. Army.  I lost track of the title and virtually every detail (all I could remember were gas masks and a big egg) until I noticed just recently while researching another movie for this list.  Luckily I also found it on youtube and so I naturally watched it again.  Like some others, I can’t really explain why it’s a favorite of mine – it’s actually sort of hard to watch, but there is just something about it.  From what I understand, it was based somewhat on an anime called Angels Never Sleep.  There is a mixture of both the anime and live-action.  The anime portion is hauntingly beautiful.  It’s a bit of a trip, but you should check it out…

aftermath


The Quiet Earth…  A wonderful “last man on earth” tale coming out of New Zealand.  Zac Hobson (Bruno Lawrence) wakes up at 6:12am to a world in which he is alone.  After a few days, eventually going a little mad, he comes across a woman,  Joanne (Alison Routledge).  Think it’s gonna get all Adam and Eve?  Nope, they end up coming across a fairly stout Maori fella by the name of Api (Pete Smith).  This, of course, results in a typical love triangle, but Zac is a scientist and is concentrating more on just what has happened and why.  Seems he may have had something to do with it.

The ending scene has become fairly famous in the postapoc film genre and really leaves the watcher wanting more.  I’ve always thought it would be great if someone would continue the story in book form…

quiet_earth


Mad Max 2 (The Road Warrior)…  “My life fades. The vision dims. All that remains are memories. I remember a time of chaos, ruined dreams, this wasted land. But most of all, I remember the road warrior, the man we called Max. To understand who he was we have to go back to the other time, when the world was powered by the black fuel and the desert sprouted great cities of pipe and steel — gone now, swept away. For reasons long forgotten two mighty warrior tribes went to war and touched off a blaze which engulfed them all. Without fuel they were nothing. They’d built a house of straw. The thundering machines sputtered and stopped. Their leaders talked and talked and talked, but nothing could stem the avalanche. Their world crumbled. Cities exploded — a whirlwind of looting, a firestorm of fear. Men began to feed on men.

On the roads it was a white-line nightmare. Only those mobile enough to scavenge, brutal enough to pillage would survive. The gangs took over the highways, ready to wage war for a tank of juice, and in this maelstrom of decay ordinary men were battered and smashed — men like Max, the warrior Max. In the roar of an engine, he lost everything and became a shell of a man, a burnt-out desolate man, a man haunted by the demons of his past, a man who wandered out into the wasteland. And it was here, in this blighted place, that he learned to live again.”

Max is back!  Taking place approximately three years after the first film, Max spends his existence roaming the wastes hunting for fuel.  Eventually coming across a refinery in the desert populated by Pappagallo and his clan of white-armored followers, he finds that it is being harassed by Humungus – the Lord of the Wasteland, and his gang of marauders.  The denizens of the refinery have plans to strike out into the wasteland and search for a better place.  Striking a bargain with Pappagallo, Max agrees to find a tanker that will hold all of that “juice” in return for some guzzoline and a 125,000 mile service on his “last of the V-8’s” Interceptor.

Things pretty much go to hell after that.

02ea7902c6c96df1c413f453f0879a0f


And so ends Part 1 of my Fav’s of the 80’s.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do and stay tuned for Part 2 coming in the near future…. if there’s a future left.