Sunday 27 October 2013


Directed by K. King, Starring: Danny Trejo, Martin Copping, Clare Niederpruem, Horror USA, 2013, 88mins, cert 18

Whilst Danny Trejo tears up the screen in Robert Rodriguez’s MACHETE KILLS, this low-budget CGI zombie fest slinks ashamedly straight-to-DVD/Blu-ray in its shadow. And whilst it’s understandable that Danny’s name and image is writ large across the cover art, I feel compelled to warn all who enter here that Mr Trejo’s screen time is considerably less than you’d be led to expect.
Set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, a mysterious street drug called ‘Natas’ (yep, spell it backwards in a Johnny ‘Alucard’ stlyee kiddies) has turned the population into purple-blooded zombies. The film opens with three ‘Natas’ users crashed out in a dilapidated sitting room whilst on the TV two newsreaders outline the devastating effects of ‘Natas’. As the female newsreader reads the teleprompter her male co-presenter turns sideways and hurls a hose-like amount of vomit before we’re told one of the side-effects of ‘Natas’ is vomiting (and the manufacturer label on the TV is: ‘Zombisha’ – these are the jokes folks!).

One year later and the world has gone to pot, or rather ‘Natas’, as MAD-MAX-wannabe ‘Hunter’ (Martin Copping – now there’s a CARRY ON surname if ever I saw one) drives through the wasteland wasting ‘eaters’ and constantly splattering purple CGI blood onto the camera in the process. He comes upon a small merry band of survivors led by Danny Trejo’s zombie-slaughtering priest ‘Father Jesús’ (subtlety thy name is not K. King – who co-wrote this with Kurt Knight, presumably because they shared the same initials). No sooner has ‘Hunter’ regained consciousness from a car crash than pole-dancer ‘Fast Lane Debbie’ (pneumatic blonde Jade Regier) is offering him a free horizontal dance; much to the disgust and disappointment of good-girl virgin ‘Alison’ (Clare Niederpruem) whose singled ‘Hunter’ out as the ‘one’.
Our group of survivors (who also include two Hicksville chaps and a veteran ex-pilot) have a plan to escape by plane to an offshore island to start again. There’s just one problem, they have to cross through the town of Dahmer (wink, wink) which, as it turns out, boasts a chainsaw wielding laughing zombie named ‘Funny Man’. And then there’s some kind of hybrid ‘House of the Dead’ monsters to contend with.

I’m sure none of this nonsense is meant to be taken remotely seriously (at least I hope not) but it really isn’t that funny either. The zombie make-up is uninspiring and the purple CGI gore laughable. The performances are exactly what you’d expect from a script which contains such ‘gems’ as; “He was like a damned Ninja Turtle” and my personal favourite: “I’ve heard stories – you wouldn’t want to hear them - but I’ve heard stories” (a perceptive observation as it turns out).
I’m all for undemanding low-budget gore-fests, but come on guys – if you’re going to include scenes with genre film posters on the wall couldn’t you have come up with something better than OSOMBIE and ORCS? 

** (out of 5*)

Paul Worts

This review was originally published on the FrightFest website.

Tuesday 22 October 2013

SHE - A SHORT FILM - An interview with Chelsey Burdon and Mark Vessey

One minute these two were watching CURSE OF CHUCKY at FrightFest, the next they’re embarking on making a short film with the star: Fiona Dourif! In the middle of their Kickstarter campaign to raise the funds (a modest £3.5k) to make SHE: A SHORT FILM, I caught up with both Chelsey Burdon and Mark Vessey who kindly found the time to submit to my interrogations. Here then, in a She said, He Said about SHE (get it?) format are their separate responses. So, without further ado, here’s your respective ‘starter for 10’...

What previous filmmaking experience have you both had?

Chelsey: I started working on films about 4 years ago. I've been first assistant director, production manager and production assistant on all kinds of projects; features, shorts, music videos. Luckily for me they were almost all horror.  I'd actually focused my degree on stage directing and for a long time was more interested in becoming a theatre director, but as I was offered more and more film roles I guess I got the bug and film has always been a great passion of mine. My first bit of film directing came with my entry to the Shortcuts to Hell competition earlier this year, I was lucky enough to have my entry selected for the anthology which is available on iTunes. 

Mark: I'm a lot more experienced as a writer than I am anything else. I've been writing for as long as I can remember; reviews, short stories, etc. But it's only been this year that I've started writing scripts. I was talking a lot to two friends - who also serve as my biggest inspirations - and one day I just had a ‘eureka’ moment. In a second I realised this is what I wanted to do, this is my true calling. About a week later I'd more-or-less knocked 20 scripts out, in various stages of completion, and I'm not showing any signs of slowing down. I've had a fair bit of experience in actually making movies too. I've been working, on-and-off, on my first short film ENGLISH MARY 3D since January. We've got some incredible stuff shot already. Some big names are involved too. It's going to blow people away.
You’ve cited some of your joint influences as being Lars Von Trier's ANTICHRIST, Park Chan Wook's LADY VENGEANCE and Paddy Considine's TYRANNOSAUR. I think it’s therefore safe to say SHE won’t be your average run-of-the-mill horror flick...?

Chelsey: Absolutely. We are both huge horror fans but we also appreciate a lot of dark films that perhaps wouldn't fall into those typical genre conventions. SHE is horrifying, but it would be difficult to compare it to a well known 'horror' film that people might be familiar with. We hope that that's a good thing.
Mark: Certainly not. The idea for SHE came about with me falling out of love with horror and wanting to make something that hasn't been done before. As a self-appointed aficionado, I can guarantee that no-one will have seen anything like this.  
What’s the best short film you’ve ever seen?

Chelsey: Very difficult question. There have been so many great ones recently. The first one that comes to mind, primarily because it is so memorable and was so expertly crafted, THE OTHER SIDE by Alex and Oli Santaro. I saw this at Grimmfest last year and was really impressed by it, a prime of example of two first-time directors that really deserve to sink their teeth into a feature. I also love most of the stuff by the Bloody Cuts guys, they're a superb team and I always look forward to seeing what they will do next.

Mark: STEAMBOAT WILLIE. I think you'll be seeing a lot of 20’s era Mickey inspirations in SHE. Seriously though, all my favourite shorts actually are vintage cartoons (STEAMBOAT, THE MAD DOCTOR, GALLOPIN’ GAUCHO, BETTY BOOK M.D. etc.) If I had to pick a bunch of favourites that don't make me appear like a man-child, I'd probably go for VINCENT, THE STRANGE THING ABOUT THE JOHNSONS, BIO-COP, TREEVENGE and ANGST, PISS & DRID.
You’re already over the half-way mark towards achieving your target goal of £3,500 – how are you feeling at this point (nervous by any chance?)

Chelsey: There is this kind of nervous excitement. We were really surprised by how quickly we reached some of the big milestones and by the response that we have had so far to SHE. On the one hand we are really excited to make this and to, hopefully, blow people away with this bold little short. On the other hand, it feels like there is now a lot of pressure to make this something very impressive and I just hope we can live up to that.

Mark: Since this project has taken off, I've been constantly feeling a strong sense of euphoric anxiety. Most of the time I think to myself “This is so surreal. This is REAL, I'm actually living out my aspirations” and then other times I'll just have a massive knot in my stomach and stare at the Kickstarter page. I wouldn't change anything though, I feel incredibly blessed to have an experience like this.
Are you at all concerned that your friendship might be tested when you get on set and begin to co-direct?

Chelsey: Not really. Part of me is looking forward to us having little disagreements because that will encourage us to really analyse and question our individual ideas. Hopefully we will have most of that dealt with before we reach the set though.

Mark: Not at all. Maybe it will, but it's not something that I worry about. Whenever we've disagreed on something during the writing process, it's been very professional and we'll just talk each other through what we're thinking, and discuss it until we've reached a conclusion we're both happy with. I'm not ignorant to the fact that things will be a lot more stressful on set, but I doubt we'll be tearing each other’s throats out. Besides, Chelsey is already accustomed to me making her life hell, so I'm sure she'll be hardened to whatever happens during the shoot.
Mark states on the Kickstarter Q&A video recently uploaded that the idea for SHE came about from him being: “...sick of un-original horror; remakes, sequels and uninspired shit.”Presumably you don’t include CURSE OF CHUCKY (starring Fiona) amongst them...?

Chelsey: Haha, Mark will be the first to admit that he can be a horror snob when it comes to a lot of modern films. Me, much less so. We both enjoyed CURSE OF CHUCKY for what it is, a fresh, well written addition to an established franchise that brought some credibility back to a horror icon. Don Mancini did a great job with CURSE, the cinematography and pacing far surpassing any of the previous entries. For me, I think it comes down to the fact that the films I would like to make and the films I enjoy watching can be quite different. There are many sequels, and, dare I say it, even remakes, that I really like. My main gripe is with the 'popcorn horror' market, the endless franchises and soul-less money grabbing horrors that give the genre a bad name. It's rare that a film that appeals to the masses and becomes a box office success is also adored by true, passionate horror fans- though there are exceptions to every rule.

Mark: Horror is on its death bed, both mainstream and the underground, IMO, but obviously there are exceptions. MANIAC was a very interesting take on the original, and I was pleasantly surprised by how good CURSE was. But for every MANIAC, we have three THE THING's (prequel, obviously) and PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2’s. It's very sad state of affairs, especially when horror was my one true love growing up. Still, at least now when people say “If you can do better, make your own film!” I can say I did.   
Clearly getting Fiona Dourif onboard has been a major coup – but isn’t the entire budget really just going to be spent on flying her over to the UK first-class and putting her up in a posh hotel?

Chelsey: Not at all, in fact our biggest expenses will be within the camera department. We will be shooting on two cameras with lots of top-of-the range lighting and grip equipment that will really feed into the visual style of the film that we have very high aspirations for.
Mark: Not all of it. Obviously a fair amount will be spent so she's well taken care of and has an enjoyable experience. We don't want her going away thinking “That was so unprofessional.” Everything penny will be put towards making this as professional a production as possible.

And then we mustn’t forget ‘He’ played by Phillip James – I say mustn’t forget, but with all the attention naturally focusing on Fiona Dourif isn’t there a danger he might be completely overshadowed?
Chelsey: That's a valid point. The script was always designed to be a vehicle for a great female lead but having said that, the role of HE is also very demanding. Both of our actors are going to be put through the ringer and we hope that this will be a great opportunity to highlight the acting talent of Phillip rather than have him overshadowed by Fiona. We knew we needed an actor who had a strong enough screen presence to work alongside Fiona and we are confident that we have found that with Phillip.

Mark: Perhaps initially, before the film is released. I don't think “smaller” actors are ignorant to the fact that people are going to watch a movie because of a bigger name. However, we're both confident that when people see our short they'll be going away talking about Phillip just as much as Fiona. He's a great talent, and we're lucky to have found him.
Technically-wise, you’ve also acquired the impressive talents of David Meadows (Director of Photography on HUMAN CENTEPEDE 2 AND 3) and Paul While (special effects make-up & prosthetics artist (SFX) Graphic Delusions). Presumably this gives you the scope to ‘push the envelope’ in terms of the visual elements of the story?

Chelsey: Absolutely, the visual elements were so important to both of us that we knew we wouldn't want to make SHE unless we could get a truly impressive team on board. David Meadows was pretty much our first choice for cinematography from the start, regardless of your thoughts on the film, he showcased a great artistic flair in HC2 and is a highly sought after d.o.p that has lots of great ideas for SHE. We are really looking forward to working with him. Paul wowed us with some pictures of 'similar' prosthetic work he had done before, we weren't even sure if it was possible to shoot one of our effects sequences, but with him on board I'm pretty confident that it’s going to look amazing!

Mark: Very much so. The tone and impact of SHE very much relies on what they bring to it. We can't give too much away, we're keeping everything very much on lockdown, but the visual style and prosthetics are just as important as our actors
All too often in low-budget filmmaking the sound design and execution lets down a project, I’m hoping you’ve got this element covered...?

Chelsey: Yes, we have an excellent and experienced Sound Recordist on board, who will also be taking part with the post production sound mixing. I agree, that all too often sound is overlooked in this kind of project; the importance of it can be underestimated. Sound design will play a huge part in creating the right mood for SHE and we have lots of ideas and concepts we want to put into practice.

Mark: Like I said before, we have every aspect of production and post-production covered and are making every effort to assure SHE looks and sounds as professional as possible. We don't people to watch it and know that it's our second projects. We want to look back and consider it a milestone in both our careers.
Well I wish you both the very best of luck with the Kickstarter campaign and I look forward to watching the (undoubtedly award-winning) SHE in the near future.

Interviewed by Paul Worts

Saturday 19 October 2013


Directed by Jason Trost, Starring: James Remar, Jason Trost, Lucas Till, Sophie Merkley, Lee Valmassy. Science-fiction, USA, 2011, 78mins, cert 15.

Four members of a now-defunct superhero team awake to find they’ve been kidnapped by their arch-nemesis Rickshaw and dumped in an unknown town. All have injection scars on their wrists and all but one of them, Charge (Jason Trost), have been stripped of their powers. Rickshaw precedes with his dastardly plan to force the now less-than-fantastic- four into playing deadly games with the stakes being the lives of the town’s inhabitants: and ultimately each other’s...
Never judge a book by its cover; or in this case by its Blu-ray/DVD and poster art. Despite clear evidence to the contrary, there are absolutely no helicopters and no skyscrapers in this film. Hardly surprising, given that the (micro) budget granted to writer, director, co-producer, star and editor Jason Trost was a mere $20,000. This was conditionally offered to Trost on the basis that he would have to write a script – go into pre-production – and finish shooting all within 2 months. The actual shoot itself consisted of 15 days (in the middle of summer with the shortest nights) giving him only 9-10 hours a day.
And the end result? A rather nifty and down-right crafty low-budget gem which is far more enjoyable (given its limited resources) than it has any right to be.

Trost’s screenplay is a paragon of necessity. How do you make a superhero film with no money for elaborate CG effects sequences? Simple: strip them of their powers from page one. It’s a ridiculous conceit and inevitably risks alienating your target audience and incurring the wrath of paying punters.
Pulling the foursome’s strings, ringmaster Rickshaw (James Remar, DEXTER, THE WARRIORS) broadcasts his instructions via portable TV’s strategically placed across town. Tapping into the local CTV network he sits back and gloats as the group are forced into seemingly unwinnable scenarios with the town’s ‘innocents’ strapped to incendiary devices rigged to blow at the touch of Rickshaw’s remote. Tensions and old resentments soon rise to the surface as Cutthroat (Lucas Till), Shadow (Sophie Merkley) and The Wall (Lee Valmassy) find themselves impotent to defeat their enemy and increasingly reliant on Charge (Trost) – who appears to have retained his strength.  

James Remar’s turn as the ‘Jigsaw’-like Rickshaw is infused with gleeful relish as he finally gets to turn the tables on his adversaries. There’s a memorable cameo from Sean Whalen (THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS, HATCHET III) as a flame-throwing cannibal Uncle Sam and Nick Principe (CHROMESKULL 1&2) gets to flex his muscles as henchman Sledgesaw in a charmingly ludicrous confrontation on a domestic trampoline.
Jason Trost (HATCHET III, THE FP) acquits himself well delivering his square-jawed dialogue. His comrades do the best they can with underwritten characterisations – although it’s a stretch to imagine them as superheroes when we’re only given a brief monochrome flashback evidencing Shadow’s gift to work with. The script does slyly introduce the heroes’ powers and their origins through almost throwaway dialogue. (Trost is not a big fan of superhero origin movies it seems.)

Our band of avengers troop from one location to the next with a distinct lack of urgency given the stakes they’re playing for, but the pulsing electronic soundtrack by George Holdcroft combined with Amanda Treyz’s ‘scope cinematography panning across deserted night-time streets conjures up an early Carpenter-like vibe.
Of course, necessity is the mother of invention and when the budget won’t stretch to explosions and their potentially gruesome aftermath we get shaky-blurred-cam as a substitute. The camera is less shaky however when it comes to the brief but effective small-scale gore on screen.

So where does that leave us. Well, if you’re looking for a film that’s the complete antithesis of Hollywood’s current obsession with mega-budget superhero flicks then ALL SUPERHEROES MUST DIE definitely ticks the box. You have to view it within the context of its budget and production limitations, but for all its obvious flaws it cuts its cloth accordingly - and any superhero film that relies on a microwave oven’s timer for its climatic countdown gets a thumbs up from me.

**** (out of 5)

Paul Worts

Wednesday 16 October 2013


Directed by Markus Imhoof, Narrated by John Hurt. Documentary, 2012, Released on DVD and Blu-ray on 21st October 2013 by Eureka!

“My grandfather would probably walk from this property disturbed if he saw the way we keep bees today. He’d think: “My God! You’ve lost your soul...”  ~ John Miller (commercial beekeeper)
Picture if you will, a group of bees methodically and carefully tending to a small structure inside a hive with what appears to be gentle precision. They loom large on the screen and we watch and wonder at their activity. There is no narrative at this point to tell me what they are doing, but I’m mesmerised all the same.  The beautiful music score (Peter Scherer) is soothing and reassuring and I feel like I am privy to some sort of momentous bee event. The result is the birth of a new princess – a future Queen bee - the central focus of a healthy bee colony. Thus we are introduced to Markus Imhoof’s documentary MORE THAN HONEY.
Many reports have filtered through the media over the years with news that the bee population across the world is in serious decline. MORE THAN HONEY is the latest documentary to focus on the question of bees, specifically honeybees and the mystery of their disappearance. What is happening to the world’s primary pollinators? Why are bees leaving hives in their millions never to return – a phenomenon known as ‘colony collapse disorder’- and what is the solution? The questions are posed but Imhoof doesn’t bog you down in the science of why; instead he takes you on a journey to the past, looks at how it compares to the present and calmly allows the viewer to decide for themselves what they think the future will be. You are taken across four continents to explore the issue. A Swiss beekeeper living in an idyllic natural environment gives us a glimpse of the old traditions; an American commercial beekeeper explains his role in the multi-million dollar industry that the bees generate - so keeping the capitalist cogs turning; China, where people are employed to hand pollinate fruit trees in the absence of bees. And finally to Australia, where experiments are being conducted to try and diversify the gene-pool.

Meanwhile, the exquisite cinematography and the beauty of the bees as they go about their industry is truly splendid, a visual tapestry that complements the subject matter and doesn’t detract from the seriousness of the bee’s plight. Imhoof delivers a film of visual poetry that reminds me of films like WINGED MIGRATION and MICROCOSMOS. The score is subtle and complementary and John Hurt’s narration (UK version) overall could almost make you forget that the bees are in trouble at all. It may not be a punchy strike in the gut, but there are times when a little less sensationalism encourages a more thought-provoking viewpoint.
Is there a future for the honeybee? Well, we don’t know. MORE THAN HONEY is informative but does not preach, it is not pretentious and it celebrates the bee in ways that bee keepers have always known and we need to remind ourselves that we owe it to these creatures to pay attention if only for the sake of our environment and the future. This ‘lovely little insect’ is inextricably connected to us and hopefully one day we’ll come to appreciate them as they deserve before it’s too late.

**** (out of 5*)
Isabel Hernandez

Thursday 10 October 2013

SMILEY (2012)

Directed by Michael J Gallagher, Starring: Caitlin Gerard, Roger Bart, Keith David, Horror US, 2012, approx. 91mins, cert 15.

CANDYMAN meets SCREAM in this cyber-urban legend. Updating the call-his-name-five-times-in-a-mirror tale for the YouTube generation, anonymous users on an internet chat room can call up ‘Smiley’ by typing the phrase: “I did it for the lulz” (plural variant of ‘lol’ apparently) 3 times whilst ‘chatting’. Unlike Candyman however, ‘Smiley’ doesn’t appear behind the typing summoner, but rather behind the chatter at the other end of the webcam. Never mind friend ‘deletion’ on Facebook, this is online execution (for real).

When Ashley (Caitlin Gerard) the new girl on campus, attends a house party and views the result of a ‘Smiley’ internet-chat, it sets in motion a chain of events that will challenge her already fragile state of mind and ultimately force her into confronting ‘Smiley’ face to face.
Speaking of Smiley’s face, he’s so-called due to his sewn up eye sockets and mouth resembling a smiley symbol. Unfortunately, I somehow doubt this tale will leave horror fans smiling by the time the credits roll (and the post-credit tag for those who stick with them).

Director Gallagher throws up a whole heap of jump-scares right from the off which soon become tiresome and numbs the effectiveness of later moments. To be fair there is a potentially interesting premise at the heart of the film, and Smiley’s scarred face is nicely designed (albeit in a sub-Cenobite kind of way). Unfortunately he’s rarely glimpsed for long, and his carnage is half-hearted and uninspiring. Roger Bart (so memorable in HOSTEL 2) plays a professor who delivers ominously sounding but largely meaningless pronouncements on the nature of mankind to destroy itself. Keith David (looking ridiculously good for his 57 years) is wasted as a sceptic cop who refutes Ashley’s accounts of net-slaughter. When the true nature of Smiley is revealed (and it’s none too original at that) it doesn’t really add up. Perhaps even the filmmakers share this view as they don’t stick to this explanation and instead offer a lame add-on which opens a door for a sequel which in all honesty I hope is blocked by firewall software. 
** (out of 5*)
Paul Worts

(Originally published on the FrightFest website)

Friday 4 October 2013

An interview with JASON TROST

With his latest film ALL SUPERHEROES MUST DIE finally being released here in the UK on 7th October, I caught up with writer / director / star Jason Trost to get the lowdown on this low-budget gem. (I also just had to ask him about his experience acting in HATCHET III). But before that I asked him to cast his mind back several years to when ALL SUPERHEROES MUST DIE (ASMD) was but a glimmer on the horizon...

Going back to that time, you were offered $20,000 to make the film and given a ridiculously tight timescale in which to get the film made. Did you even think for one second - this is madness, it's impossible?

Yeah of course I did. But just for a second. I didn't have any more time to think about it if this was going to work. I was in a tough spot. I'd just made The FP and another small test movie. It seemed like neither were going to be released and I was desperate. Film financing is really hard to come by so you really can't turn it down when it falls in your lap.

Did you already have the basic elements of the script in mind - or was it literally a case of starting with a blank sheet of paper?

I had an idea for THE RUNNING MAN with superheroes but that was it. The next week was a mad dash to see how to make that work and flesh it out so we could get into pre production.

One of the aspects I really admired about ASMD was the way you 'cut your cloth accordingly' in terms of your budget. Rather than try to pull off impossibly elaborate CG and special effects sequences you 'tailored' the script to your means, i.e. stripping your heroes of their powers right from the beginning. That must've taken some discipline?

Yeah it was definitely a challenge. And that seems to be the thing most people hate about the movie. Which I don't understand. People always complain about wanting something different and then you give that to them and they hate that too. I don't think low budget movies are conceptualized right from the get go a lot. You can have the best camera in the world but if you have a crappy set with a crappy actor it's still going to look like crap. And I always think you should write for what you know you have, not what you hope you'll have. I can't tell you how many low budget movies I've seen fail because they wrote a 5 million dollar script and tried to make it for 20 bucks. Production value doesn't just show up on the day. Know what you're up against. Know what you have and exploit it smartly.

For ASMD you listed as the writer, director, co-producer, star and editor. Obviously this saves you money but doesn't this place an enormous burden on you personally - or do you actually prefer it that way?

It can be a real pain in the ass but in order to make something like this work you need to have everyone be on the same page. And with a movie like this I couldn't afford to hire people who were on the same page. So long story short, I knew I was free. And in the end I did prefer it. It saved time and money. And if anything failed I could blame myself instead of someone else. Which I'd much rather do.

From the credits of ASMD it's clear that the wider 'Trost' family also helped out considerably with the production. Can you describe how that works out?

Well, my sister is a costume designer and my dad is a special effects man. Knowing I could use some of their expertise definitely helped me shape the script and idea because it's something I knew I had. Also it's easier to push family and get favors from them. They'll take a lot more punishment than random people will.

The filming schedule was incredibly quick. Inevitably you must have encountered a number of obstacles along the way, what were the most challenging problems you faced and how did you overcome them - was it just a case of ripping pages from the script?

Ripping pages out of the script is a real bummer. So great moments that would help clear up some confusion were definitely left in the dirt somewhere. But when you have no time you just have to think "what's the least amount we can shoot that will still progress us to the next scene." And that's what we did. We didn't have time to get the costumes or sets finished either so Lucas and I would be sewing and patching up costumes while also painting and building sets on the day. It was intense. I'm glad I was only 23 when it happened. Don't know if I'd have the energy if I was older.

Once the film was locked and loaded and ready to go, did you have doubts about how the film would play?

Yeah. I never thought this movie would see the light of day. They it accidentally did in a big way. Which was great but also frustrating because it was released in a way where it was being compared to movies with a 100 million dollar budget, which really wasn't fair. I remember thinking if people saw it they'd probably think it was neat. I never thought it'd spawn so much hate and make countless "worst movie ever made" lists.

The film premiered at the Toronto After Dark Film Festival in 2011. Can you describe how you felt both before and after the screening?

I felt great before. There was a lot of excitement. It was like, "wow our little movie is being played at this cool festival in Canada against all these bigger movies." And everyone who ran the festival seemed to really enjoy it. So I expected people to like it. Then after the screening was a very dark time for me. My little movie that I was so proud of, got pounded. Everyone and there brother hated it. Hated me. Hated me for even trying to make something different. I might as well have just made an Adam Sandler movie. I was public enemy #1. It was a weird adjustment period. But finally some people crawled out of the wood work who actually liked it and got what it was, so that felt nice.

The film is clearly a response to the production-line Hollywood superhero films that are being churned out. But which one (past or present) is your favourite?

That's tough. Because no matter how much I love SPIDERMAN 2 and BATMAN BEGINS, I would have to say UNBREAKABLE is my favourite. It's just so subtle and awesome. It beat all the "real world" superhero movies to the punch and it's still better. And in the end of the day it's about what most superhero movies seem not to be about these days, saving people. It's just a guy who wants to save people. Simple, amazing and relate able. 

Your seem to have a 'core' group of actors that you regularly work with. Is that because they work cheaply? (joke).

That's no joke. The answer to that is yes.

How did you get James Remar to join the Trost troupe?

I've been friends with him since I was 10. My parents were in the middle of a divorce and I was living with my dad in England while he was working on Mortal Kombat Annihilation. I was bored on set playing Tetris on my Gameboy. James was also bored and liked Tetris. We bonded over that and 13 years later he was in my movie.

Amongst that group you have the wonderful Sean Whalen whom all horror fans fondly remember as 'Roach' from Wes Craven's THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS. But you've also recently worked with him on HATCHET III.  Was that just a pure coincidence?

Yes and No. We got hired separately but we both know and are friends with the director BJ McDonnell. So it was a great almost coincidence. I love Sean. He's one of my favourite people to work with so it was an awesome surprise.

You meet a suitably gruesome demise at the hand (or rather the hatchet) of Kane Hodder's Victor Crowley in HATCHET III. It must have been quite an experience seeing Kane Hodder loaded down with make-up appliances bearing down on you?

Yeah it was pretty great. I remember we had to do 10 takes of the shot where he comes at me with the hatchet. He's bling in the suit because of all the makeup and I'm wearing an eyepatch backing up in the dirt. Both of us blind guys trying to hit our mark over and over again must have looked pretty funny. Then I realized oh wait, didn't you sign a "Jason" poster on my wall from when I was a kid, awesome!

Having recently interviewed the director (BJ McDonnell) he mentioned that the filming conditions were hardly ideal. Do you have any horror stories about bugs or other unpleasant encounters on the set?

Nothing crazier than what anyone else got. I had three layers of clothing on with bug spray applied and I was still getting bit. But, whatever. The movie looks way cooler than the other ones and I think that's in large part to actually shooting in the swamp.

Is it hard to adjust to working on a big-budget film compared to the micro-budget given to you to make ASMD?

Well, when I work on a big budget film I'll let you know!

If you were offered a huge budget by a major studio would you see it as a gift or a curse?

A curse mostly. Sure it's a gift because I'd make a lot of money. But I'd also be selling my soul. Directors don't actually get to make the movie on big budget films. There's so many politics involved. When you're making a 200 million dollar movie you have to make it for everyone somehow, which just isn't possible. So you have 10-20 guys in suits on set that have never been on a film set in their life but their parents are rich and they just sit there behind the monitor saying things like, "if there's a little more dirt on his chin this would sell better in India". I've heard the horror stories from friends who worked on the first AMAZING SPIDERMAN that though the director was just a PA. Because the producers and visual effects guys were calling all the shots. Last thing I want to do is be responsible for making a shitty movie that I didn't get to call any shots on. If I'm going to make a shitty movie, my hands better be all over it.

You're currently in the process of looking to raise $50,000 (double the budget for ASMD but still an incredibly modest sum) via a crowd funding indiegogo campaign to make A WORLD WITHOUT SUPERHEROES. Is it accurate to describe it as a sequel to ASMD?

Yeah it's definitely a sequel. But it will be a sequel like TERMINATOR 2 where you don't really need to see the first one to understand it or enjoy it. I'm sure if you've seen the first one you'll get some good nods and call backs, but it really isn't necessary. And last thing I want to do with an obscure indie movie is make an equally obscure indie movie sequel with a "2" on it that alienates everyone from watching it.

Jason, I wish you the all the best with ASMD and I look forward to hopefully seeing it's sequel in the very near future.

Well thanks a lot. This was fun!

ALL SUPERHEROES MUST DIE was released by Monster Pictures in the UK on DVD, Blu-ray &iTunes on 14th October 2013.

Interviewed by Paul Worts

Thursday 3 October 2013


“When the pupil is ready to learn, a teacher will appear.”
(Zen proverb).

This psychological thriller for the art-house crowd film opens with our home-‘invader’ calmly letting himself in with a key and removing his shoes. As he softly climbs the stairs he is accompanied by a hint of ominous music and the increasingly vigorous grunting sounds of fornication coming from the upstairs bedroom. Straight away we are presented with contrasting visual cues. On the one hand we have the tropes of a generic horror film; the prowling steadicam following the intruder up the stairs; the unsuspecting victims making love, oblivious to the impending danger. But on the other hand, this is offset by the fact our intruder has a key; and he removes his shoes before ascending the stairs – neither of which are traits psycho-slashers are known for. Nor is their common weapon of choice a finely crafted rope ball fashioned into an instrument for bludgeoning: and an effective one at that.
Director Ate de Jong’s psychological thriller twists the staple genre conventions as finely as the intricate Japanese inspired bondage knots used to bind our married couple. Having been walloped on the head, Tom (Matt Barber) finds himself bound and gagged in the bathtub. His wife, Alison (Megan Maczko) finds herself strung-up in the kitchen. It’s a striking image – as is the intruder played by Edward Akrout, handsome, cultured, and charming - but at the same time unflinching when employing a pair of pliers to remove a finger (or two).

Over the course of a weekend, our grand-inquisitor / marriage-guidance counsellor from hell will explore and exploit Alison and Tom’s relationship, uncover uncomfortable truths and ultimately act as a catalyst for extreme liberation.  
Edward Akrout plays the tightrope role of the hypnotic seducer / torturer beautifully. In a genre film the character would have been a fixed, deluded domestic bogeyman ala Terry O’Quinn’s ‘Jerry Blake’ in Joseph Ruben’s 1987 thriller THE STEPFATHER.

But the combination of Mark Roger’s clever multi-layered screenplay - coupled with director Ate de Jong’s willingness to let the actors performances breath - gives Akrout the chance to bring a more complex reading to the surface. The dynamic between him and Megan Maczko’s ‘Alison’ reminded me at times of the charming (Big Bad Wolf) huntsman’s seduction of Sarah Patterson’s (Little Red Riding Hood) ‘Rosaleen’ in Neil Jordan’s magical 1984 film THE COMPANY OF WOLVES.
Also benefitting from her director’s open approach, US actress Megan Maczko delivers a stunning performance (not to mention a faultless English accent) as ‘Alison’. In some ways her character arc is related (albeit in a far darker context) with that of Phoebe Cates ‘Elizabeth’ in Ate de Jong’s cult comedy DROP DEAD FRED. Both female protagonists are victims of abuse and trapped in dysfunctional situations. Both undergo a journey of enlightenment; Elizabeth through the guidance of imaginary friend ‘Fred’, and Alison through her persuasive intruder. Maczko brings a gamut of facets to the table from naked vulnerability through to her character’s chrysalis into empowerment.

As husband ‘Tom’, Matt Barber spends a considerable length of the film’s running time bound in the bathtub and assaulted in varying ways - both physical and psychological - by the intruder. However, as with so much about this film, ‘Tom’ is far from just a victim and he too emerges as a catalyst as the film’s powder-keg denouements ignite to create emotional and psychical carnage.
Zoran Veljkovic ‘scope cinematography enriches the intense contained drama, infusing it with arresting images and a varied visual palette. Almost abstract-like close-ups of a dripping tap, and a pivotal wine-drinking scene played out largely in shadow complement and enhance the narrative. The score whispers menace without resorting to bombastic cues, and melodic phrases hint at redemptive possibilities.

DEADLY HONOURS: LOVE.HONOUR.OBEY is the first film produced by Raindance Raw Talent, the film production arm of the Raindance Film Festival. Financed in part via indigo crowd-funding and made for an incredibly modest budget, the film is a testament to the true spirit of independent filmmaking. Everyone involved in the film; from Director Ate de Jong; writer Mark Rogers; the actors; producer Elliot Grove, and all the team involved in its making should feel justifiably proud.
**** (out of 5)

Paul Worts