Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Test

Guys, Women & Horror: How to Find the Right Chick For You

First of all, let me admit: when it comes to finding a girlfriend, I am not an expert.  Before I met Jace, I was on a long dry spell -- literally years in the desert.  So, keeping that in mind, as well as the fact that this blog is written entirely from a guy's point of view, let me continue.  (I'm sure Jace will write her own blog to rebuke what I'm about to say.)

Growing up, I didn't know too many chicks that were into horror, blood, guts, movies by David Cronenberg, George Romero, etc.  I distinctly remember one time after hanging a poster of a mangled, burned-up Jason Voorhees on my wall, a friend of mine came over and said this would send the wrong message to girls -- and they would probably run screaming from my apartment (if I ever got them there.)  I took this bit of advice perhaps a bit too seriously, failing to realize that any girl that was so turned off by a poster on my wall that she wouldn't want to have anything to do with me was not the girl for me.  

So as I grew older, I decided that if any girl was going to tolerate me for any length of time, they would at the very least have to tolerate my aesthetics.  I devised a plan.  On me and Jace's first date, I showed her a scene from "Legend of the Demon Womb" -- the one with the Nazi rape machine.  Maybe it was because Jace really liked me, maybe it was because it was a cartoon, but she didn't run screaming from my apartment.  And now, 14 years later, we are still together and actually finally getting married.  

Since then I have refined the test.  My advice is, if you like a girl and you think she likes you, show her a double feature of "Cannibal Holocaust" and "Irreversible."  If she's still sitting next to you when the credits roll at the end/beginning of "Irreversible," you can rest assured that she is the chick for you.

I know some of you are going to feel this is too harsh an initiation -- and it is.  Maybe you think you should start her on something softer like "Rosemary's Baby" or even "Dead Alive."  But no -- with that approach, it could take years to build up your potential mate's tolerance.  I say unload both barrels: give her the darkest shit possible.  You'll figure out pretty quick if she's the one.

P.S.  Following this advice probably only has a 25% chance of getting you arrested -- but trust me, it's the way to go.

Blood, guts & pussy,

Adam G

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Me and Horror, Part One

When did I start liking horror?  That's a hard question to answer.  My guess is I was probably about 4 years old and living in Tallahassee, Florida when I (or my parents, I don't remember) turned on the TV and there was this guy in a shiny silver suit battling a fierce-looking lumpy reptilian creature.  It was about the coolest thing I'd ever seen.  The show was "Ultra-Man," and I fell in love with it immediately.  

Now, I never much liked the silver suit dude -- but those creatures he fought, woo boy!  Boy, I always hoped he'd get his chrome-plated ass handed to him by those cool monsters.  He never did.  It's still a fact I regret to this very day.

Well, anyway -- Ultra Man led to Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, Gamra, Gidra and the Smog Monster.  I could not get enough of those Japanese men in suit movies.  And as a kid, I loved the way they kept upping the ante on these movies.  DESTROY ALL MONSTERS was like the ultimate multiple orgasm.  From then on, I'd watch anything with a monster in it.  My choices were limited to what played on TV, but fortunately once my family moved to Ithaca, New York we started to get Channel 11 WPIX -- and they showed a lot of cool 50s monster movies.  I loved REPTILICUS (having seen it recently, I really don't know why.)  But my favorites were THE DEADLY MANTIS and TARANTULA.

A few years later, I discovered the magazine "Famous Monsters of Filmland."  I thought it was so cool, but didn't particularly like the jokey captions underneath the photos.  (I took my monsters seriously.)  Needless to say, my parents didn't much like my taste.  See, I come from a fairly academic family -- my dad's an astronomer/astrophysicist, and my mom's a shrink.  And I'm sure it was my mom who seemed to think that my love of ugly creatures had something to do with my self-image and self-worth.  Aw, fuck that.  I love my mom, but my inner reasons for liking these kinds of things have always been mysterious to me -- and I prefer not to analyze.  Some people like pretty things and cute and fluffy bunny rabbits, but I liked lizards, snakes and monsters -- and I never really thought twice about it.

So I kept watching these movies, kept finding new favorites, and found some that were too damn scary for me to cope with.  HORROR EXPRESS traumatized me -- I had bad dreams about blood and fluids running out of eyeballs for years.  I probably haven't seen that movie since I was ten or eleven, but at that point it was the most horrifying, scary and traumatizing movie I'd ever watched.  

The next turning point came when one day in 1979 I went to Mayer's Smoke Shop (our local magazine store) to get the new issue of "Famous Monsters."  I bent down on my hands and knees (they always put these on the lower shelves) and started searching, when -- holy shit!  I found a new magazine.  One that would alter my life completely.  It was "Fangoria" Issue Number One, and I'd found my people.  I knew then that I wanted to direct horror films someday.  I devoured every issue of Fango -- I distinctly remember reading the same article with John Landis in it about AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON ten times before I got bored of it.  

Hold on, I'm getting a little ahead of myself.  It was Fangoria that got me to go see FRIDAY THE 13th when it came out in theaters.  For all my love of giant monsters and everything else, I'd never really seen one of these movies in a theater -- and let's just say I wasn't emotionally prepared.  When the kid leaped out of the water and grabbed the chick in the canoe, I was so startled it felt like I had died.  (My dad didn't really like this either -- the movie was rated R and, being a good father, he was my guardian that night.)  I shook for three days.

In 7th grade my friend Jonathan and I made our own horror movie.  We called it THE LAWN CHAIR MASSACRE.  We shot it on Super 8 (of course) and it consisted of us crudely trying to emulate those Tom Savini blood tube gags on Jonathan's sister's friends.  We never developed the film.  My next magnum opus was an 8th grade school project.  I conned my teachers into letting me "write" (ie, made up as I went along) and direct an originally titled slasher film, FRENZY.  I did this completely unaware of the '72 Hitchcock film.  Ah, youth.  I even did a cool stop motion title sequence using chalk, a blackboard and some red food coloring.  (That film somehow never got developed, either.)  I think I passed the project on enthusiasm alone.  If either Jonathan Kramnick or Matt (I think that was his name) have these films, please let me know.

Soon, names like "Romero," "Carpenter," "Hooper," and "Cronenberg" were as familiar to me as the names of my friends and family.  As a matter of fact, these directors whom I had never met or corresponded with felt like family.  And in a lot of ways (while it's much more complicated now), they still do.

After I graduated from high school, I went to Bennington College, where I entered my arty stage.  I started listening to a lot of Dead Kennedys, Minor Threat, and The Misfits and reading William Burroughs, Hunter S. Thompson, Jim Carroll and Hubert Selby, Jr.  I still saw all of the horror movies I could and majored in drama, still hoping to direct them someday -- but I have to admit that at this time I was more interested in taking drugs, listening to punk rock and trying to get laid.  This would all change when I moved to Los Angeles...TO BE CONTINUED

Blood, guts & pussy,
Adam G

Friday, May 15, 2009

Intestinal Fortitude

It feels like I've been using this blog to shout out my opinions on the entertainment industry with an emphasis on what I know: horror.  My past blogs have been about explaining the inner workings of our business to the fans.  In the future, I definitely want to write more about my specific opinions and thoughts on my favorite horror films and maybe some of the techniques that we use to try to scare people.  But I feel I need to write now about toughness.

This business is hard.  Being a filmmaker who makes their living doing their craft is a real bitch sometimes.  It's emotionally draining, mentally exhausting, and physically -- well, to tell you the truth, you don't have to move around that much, unless your idea of exercise is driving from the Valley to Burbank or Culver City.

I moved to Los Angeles in 1991 to pursue acting -- at least that's what I said I was going to do.  Directing was my real goal, but I had no idea how to get into that part of the business, so I thought "Acting!  I don't need to know how to type.  I was a theater major in college -- how hard could it be?"  The answer was REALLY FUCKING HARD.  I took acting classes.  Got headshots taken.  Did plenty of showcases (where actors supposedly perform in front of "industry professionals," but in truth the place is filled with our friends and other people we've corralled into coming.)  

Five years later, I got an acting agent.  A year after that, my first role (in a horror movie called "Asylum" starring Robert Patrick and Malcolm McDowell -- I don't even think it's out on DVD  Yup, that's me on the poster there).  A year later, I got another part: a couple of lines on "America's Most Wanted."  Thank God by this point in time I had met Jace -- and in 1997, we started our first script.

Two years later, we got a writing agent.  A year after that, our first writing job: we had a week to rewrite the script to "Crocodile," which was directed by Tobe Hooper.  And the rest is, shall we say, least on imdb.

My point in all this is that I moved to L.A. in 1991.  It took me almost 10 years to start making a living in this business.  But I can say with a lot of pride (and a little disbelief) that I made it through the hard times and kept trying.  It's not just me, either: almost all of my fellow horror filmmakers have gone through something similar.  They might not have been as dumb as me -- to try to use acting (one of the most difficult jobs there is to make a living at, period!) -- as a bridge to writing and directing, but they've all had their own struggles.  Mike Mendez (THE CONVENT, GRAVEDANCERS) and Dave Parker (THE DEAD HATE THE LIVING, THE HILLS RUN RED) started in lowly positions at Full Moon Entertainment.  It took them a long time to get their break.  Everybody else I know -- from Scott Kosar (TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, THE MACHINIST) and Stephen Susco (THE GRUDGE) to Hans Rodionoff (LOST BOYS 2) and Jeffrey Reddick (FINAL DESTINATION, DAY OF THE DEAD) -- spent years working in odd jobs (production assistant, executive assistant, lifeguard) and writing script after script after script before they got their chance.

And still, every day, it doesn't get any easier.  My life is still filled with many more disappointments than triumphs.  My point here is that it takes a long time and a lot of work to even be marginally successful in this business.  So if you want to be a filmmaker (writer/director/producer), be in it for the long haul -- because it takes a long time.  Overnight success stories are the exception, not the rule -- and most of them, when you look close, aren't that "overnight" at all.  It's not impossible to make a living in this business.  It can be done -- and you can do it.  It just takes a lot of work.

You may have noticed I haven't mentioned anything about "talent."  This is because I believe that we're not born with it -- it's something we also have to work hard to achieve.  And honing our skills is the most important part of the journey.

Adam G

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Straight to DVD

The question that comes up the most, whether on Myspace or Facebook or from the clerk at Blockbuster or from the person dressed in zombie makeup at a Fangoria convention, is "Is it going theatrical?"  I'd like to think that this is an innocent question by people who really like to see movies in theaters, but it always seems to have a loaded connotation.  Things that go direct to DVD are bad, movies that come out in theaters are good.  While there is some truth to this, it is certainly not an absolute -- and these days, it's definitely NOT the way that we all should be thinking.

Let's get one thing straight -- movie theaters are the best places to watch movies.  They have big screens, good sound systems, and, well...they're movie theaters.  It's obviously a lot more immersive an experience -- not to mention the fact that you're in the dark, surrounded by people having a like experience, all hopefully feeding on each other's emotions.  Like I said -- fuck, they're movie theaters...and as filmmakers, that's where we all want our movies to be shown.

Unfortunately, these days most horror movies come out -- without much fanfare -- on DVD.  Once more, this is for primarily economic reasons.  To put a movie in wide release in theaters costs a minimum of $15 million -- usually a lot more.  Most horror movies are made for under $5 million.  It doesn't take an economic genius to figure out that putting a low budget horror movie in wide release in theaters is highly risky.  It's not hard for studios or investors to make their money back if the movie's budget is low and it comes out on DVD.  However, if it takes $15 million to put a $3 million horror film on 2500 screens and the opening weekend makes less than $8 million, voila -- you've got yourself a flop, and a lot of people just lost a lot of money.  Most big theatrical horror movies have budgets between $12 and $30 million -- this equals high production values (known actors, great sets, big special effects), so the only way they CAN make their money back is to put it in wide release.  

It should be noted that there are exceptions to this rule --  SAW, CABIN FEVER, OPEN WATER and the THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT being prime examples.  We all root for this to happen.  But let's face it -- it's rare.  Hundreds of low budget horror movies are released every year -- and maybe -- MAYBE -- one gets a big theatrical release.

So what's all this mean?  Don't expect low budget horror films to come out on 3000 screens.  It just doesn't happen often -- nor should it.  In order for a film to appeal to the masses, it can't be that edgy, risky, sloppy or bloody -- and that's what we all like from a good horror film.  Was MARTYRS at your local multiplex?  What about FRONTIERS?  Or my personal fave, BAD BIOLOGY?  Are any of these films not worth watching because they went straight to DVD?  (Actually, in BAD BIOLOGY's case it hasn't even made it to DVD...and I certainly wouldn't expect it in a multiplex anytime soon.)

In another note of interest, EVIL DEAD, HALLOWEEN, NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and the original DAWN OF THE DEAD were all extremely low budget films.  Most of them would now probably go direct to DVD.  Let's give some of these smaller direct-to-DVD films a chance -- there are hidden gems out there.  I was really impressed recently with SPLINTER.  My buddy Dave Parker's movie THE HILLS RUN RED will be out (on DVD!) in October, I think.  It's bitchin', so check it out.

Let's all just come to the realization that small low budget horror films will be viewed mainly on our home theater systems.  This isn't can pause to go to the bathroom, after all.  Get a drink from the fridge.  Or just because a chick has absolutely amazing breasts.  Direct to DVD should not be a stigma.  It just takes a little more work to find, but there's great shit out there.  As horror fans, let's support the genre, and not pick on the little guy.  I like to think of us as a big family.

On a personal note, the last couple of films I've been involved with -- MOTHER OF TEARS and AUTOPSY -- both got very limited theatrical releases, but most people saw them on DVD.  I was grateful to be able to watch them in a theater, but most people didn't get a chance to see them that way.  All of the other films I've been involved with as a writer went straight to DVD.  NIGHT OF THE DEMONS is due for a bigger theatrical release in October -- all I can be is grateful.  Tonight I'm going to watch THE COTTAGE -- it went straight to DVD.

Blood, guts and pussy,

Adam G

Sunday, April 12, 2009

In Praise of Darren Bousman

I don't really know Darren.  I've been in the same room as he has many times, I've watched movies with him, but we've never really spoken with each other.  Funny how these things work.

When I first heard that Darren was making a sci-fi/horror rock opera, I said "What?" and followed that up with a blank stare.  Now, that's not exactly the career move you usually see from a director whose last three films have grossed well, let's just say oodles of money.  Usually at this point in someone's career, they go big studio Hollywood in a big way.  Generally speaking, the money is just too much to resist.  But no -- Darren Bousman decided his next picture would be his passion project, and an ambitious one at that.  

I began to hear news about Repo.  Bill Moseley had been cast.  An actor from Buffy the Vampire Slayer would be playing the lead.  And Paris Hilton would be acting in it along with Ogre from Skinny Puppy.  All of these things struck me as truly eccentric, albeit creative, choices.  And I kept thinking to myself, "Good for Darren -- go for it man, go for it!"  I even heard a rumor that he was even putting in some of his own money to get the project off the ground.  This, my dear blog readers, defines "balls."  

What I heard next was that they were shooting in Canada and that Joe Bishara, my good friend and composer on both Autopsy and Night of the Demons, would be producing the soundtrack.  All very exciting.

Months later, Repo was done.  The trailer hit the net, and everybody seemed primed for a big theatrical release.  However, this was not to be the case.  For reasons unknown to me, the movie would be going direct to DVD.  I'm sure this news broke Darren's heart.  He took about as many chances as a filmmaker can take, and his reward was, well, not what he expected.  

So what did he do?  Crawl into his bedroom and cry?  Talk about how the studio had quote-unquote "fucked" him?  Bemoaned and cursed Hollywood and the motion picture industry in general?  That's probably what I would have done.  

No -- Darren decided to put the movie in theaters himself, and travel around the country on the Repo Road Tour providing the fans (and by this point, there were many of them) with a true chance to see the movie as it was meant to be.  The next thing you know, people were singing along, dressing in costumes, and making each Repo screening an event.

This is punk fucking rock.  He didn't roll over and die -- he did it himself.  Fuck yeah.  Years ago when I sang for a punk band (we didn't get signed to a label), we put the records out ourselves, sold them at shows, gave them away and just generally tried to get them out there the best we could.  This is what Darren did on a much bigger level.  These things generally don't happen in filmmaking.  You do what the studio wants, and you move on to your next job.

Darren Bousman deserves much praise.  The man is stubborn, bullheaded and as I said before, has a huge pair of balls (probably made of titanium).

By the way, what did I think of Repo?  I had mixed feelings.  I loved the idea of it, I thought the cinematography and set design looked great, and it had a nice energy about it.  But I have to admit the story lost me a few times.  I found the mythology to be a bit convoluted and confusing.  (After an organ is repossessed, does it get put into someone else?)  I tend to be more of a straight punk rock/metal guy, so some of the songs weren't to my taste.  

But one man's opinion doesn't matter -- the important thing is, Darren Bousman did the right thing, and it should be a lesson to us all.  Let's not let the powers that be determine our own self-worth -- we can, if we try, get our films out there, whether they're multi-million dollar epics or shot-on-handheld video camera zombedies (comedy/zombie movies).  I think all horror fans and filmmakers should keep this in mind.  If a movie isn't viewed as "commercial," we should all do our best to get it into theaters -- or hell, get friends with big screen TVs to play it, throw parties and support our films and our friends' films.  We horror fans are a community -- please, let's not forget that.

Adam G

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Remakes, Adaptations and Other Truths of the Modern Horror Movie

"I'm so fuckin' sick of horror remakes."

"NO!  [Insert name of film here] is a classic!  It's never going to be as good as the original!  They shouldn't even try!"

"Why do they keep remaking these fucking things?!"

"Doesn't anybody have any original ideas anymore?"

These are all comments that you hear whenever you visit any of the big horror websites, whether it be ShockTillYouDrop, Bloody-Disgusting, Fangoria or Dread Central.  Some of the comments are very serious, others definitely aren't.  But here's the truth when it comes to remaking classic and not-so-classic horror films: right now, they're just more marketable.  

In the modern film business, name recognition is king.  When people are putting up millions of dollars to make films, they want to limit their risk as much as possible.  The truth is, there are TONS of new and exciting original horror films out there.  People just don't pay attention to them.

How many of you guys were clamoring to see Bad Biology?  (In my opinion, it was one of the very best horror films of last year.)  The answer is, not too many.  But everybody stood in line to get tickets for Friday the 13th and My Bloody Valentine.

I'm obviously very sensitive to this subject right now, because I'm just finishing work on a remake of my own (Night of the Demons.)  And a totally original film of mine, Autopsy, is coming out on DVD March 31st.   Now you can say what you want about the quality of these particular pictures, but the truth is I've gotten infinitely more interest on Demons than I ever had on Autopsy.  Small, independent horror movies come and go, and are barely ever noticed. Even films like Martyrs and The Inside don't generate an eighth of the hoopla of Rob Zombie's Halloween redux.  

As a filmmaker, I have two main goals: the first and most important is to make the best film I possibly can, one that I would want to see.  One that floats my boat, gets me hard, or whatever.  In order for me to take a film, my first criteria is "Can I do a good job at it?"  

My second goal is to be able to support myself monetarily through my art.  I am a terrible salesman, I don't know how to operate a cash register, computers are a foreign device to other words, I lack a lot of skills that would enable me to make a living doing anything other than filmmaking.  This is important.  I pride myself on being a professional.

So here's the situation: I had just finished Autopsy.  I had all the typical feelings: pride coupled with insecurity.  I hoped people would like it and I was still wrapping my head around how I truly felt about my directorial debut.  I wondered if I'd ever work again.  It was at this point that I was approached to direct a remake of Night of the Demons.   

Now, I was a big fan of the original.  It was one of those horror films that when I saw in the mid-80s it gave me that warm, fuzzy, giddy feeling that you get when watching a truly fun monster movie.  Ever since then, it had held a special place in my heart.  So my answer was, "Damn straight I'll do it!"  As long as I would be allowed to put in some of my own twisted ideas and craft a story that allowed me to relive my early punk rock horror fantasies.  I am proud of this, and I am very, very proud of the movie.

Now, there are a lot of purists out there that don't think you should remake ANYTHING, whether it be a Christopher Lee Dracula movie, Zak Snyder's Dawn of the Dead, John Carpenter's The Thing (which, in my opinion, was more faithful to the short story "Who Goes There?" than the original Howard Hawks movie) or even David Cronenberg's The Fly.  (Yes, Virginia, these are all remakes.)  I'm sorry -- these are all great movies, and without them my life wouldn't be as full as it is today.

Remaking a film is really no different than using a novel or a comic book as source material.  They're all just stories to be told on celluloid.  I respect people that don't like this trend (the Horror Drunks, for example), but the fact of the matter is that in today's marketplace, this is what sells.  So if you're gonna complain about remakes, then please do me a favor.  Go out and buy or rent original horror films and write to ShockTillYouDrop, Bloody-Disgusting and Fangoria to cover them.  When they do, for God's sake, read the articles.  Write emails to the studios and tell them you want more original content.  Make up petitions.  I guarantee, I'll be the first one to put my signature on it.

And finally, there is not a horror screenwriter I know that doesn't have at least three completely original horror film scripts saved on their computer right now -- whether it be Stephen Susco (The Grudge), Scott Kosar (the Amityville and Texas Chainsaw Massacre remakes), or Hans Rodionoff (Lost Boys 2).  We all have original scripts.  We just need the studios to make them and the audiences to watch them.  So yes -- all of us remakers have original ideas.

Blood, guts and pussy,

Adam G