Sunday, November 18, 2018

Episode 09 - Return To Blood Lake - An Interview with Actress Andrea Adams DeLesDernier


An Interview with

Production Assistant

BLOOD LAKE Coming Soon to VHS and DVD from:

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Interview The Paranormal Director Todd Norris

VHS Cover
Interview With The Paranormal Director Todd Norris
By Tony Masiello

How did the film come about?
I wrote the script to “The Paranormal” in 1993, before the “X-Files” premiered and way before zombies returned to pop culture. At the time I wrote it, I was in love with Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead” and also John Carpenter’s movies. Also, two of my favorite films were “Poltergeist” and “Aliens”. In a way, “The Paranormal” is an attempt to fuse all the things I liked about those films into one movie. I made the movie take place at a haunted movie theater because I knew I could get access to the Englewood Theater, since I worked at another theater owned by the same people.

What was the budget?
The budget was about $2,000. Not including the cost of the camera.

What was the movie shot with?
It was shot on a Canon A-1, which was a Hi-8 digital camera.

Where was it shot? Any info on the theater?
The main location was the Englewood Theater in Kansas City, which is also where Englewood Entertainment was based. I worked at its sister theater, The Fine Arts as assistant manager. The Fine Arts was also a video store and, in fact, it had the best selection of old and obscure movies in town. I ran the video store and was also a projectionist, sold tickets and popcorn.

The Englewood was an old movie palace on the other side of town that the owners restored and re-opened as a revival house. It was a great location. But actually, The Fine Arts auditorium doubles as the Englewood auditorium for a lot of the close-ups, which I shot later.

The Englewood Theater

What were some of the challenges of making the movie?
Money. Or lack thereof. And my lack of experience shooting something feature length meant that I ran out of money before I was even half done filming. All the actors were very good and very motivated to succeed. Because of this, two out of the three actors left Kansas City to advance their careers before I could finish filming. I couldn’t blame them, as I had no money to entice them to stay and finish my movie. My own inexperience had lengthened the shooting schedule beyond what they’d originally committed to.

 Because I knew they were leaving, I did a massive rewrite of the second half of the movie, which is why my character ends up going alone through the movie screen and into the zombie movie. It was originally written that I go in with Lynne. So I came up with the idea of wearing a headset, so that my character could talk to the other characters without having to be in the same location. I begged the actors to shoot one more weekend before they left town, and I filmed all their “headset” dialog for the second half of the movie in a day.

Then I spent another two years, off and on, filming on the weekends when I could get a crew together. It took a year or so to edit. I started shooting in 1994 and I premiered it in 1998!

Another challenge in making the movie was that my apartment got burgled at one point and my camera was stolen, along with a few of the master tapes that were in the camera bag. Luckily, I had just backed up those tapes to S-VHS a few days before that. So a significant amount of the movie is edited from the second generation backups. I still get anxiety just thinking about that.

Can you tell us about any of the cast and crew?
I held auditions in the lobby of the Englewood and I still am very proud of the casting choices I made.

Audrey Crabtree (Lynne), Lisa Winegar (Cass) and Gina Tarantino (Johnny) are all very talented actors and went on to do bigger and better things after “The Paranormal”. I’m still in touch with them via social media.

Kurt Branstetter, my director of photography, moved to Chicago and has made a living shooting commercials and other cool projects.

Jeffrey Sisson, who did the makeup FX and also played the zombie who bites the guy’s foot, has directed horror films of his own. He currently is in a death metal band called Troglodyte and directs death metal music videos, among other creative projects. We always used to quote lines from “Dawn of the Dead” and “The Fog” and crack each other up. We still do whenever we see each other.

Todd in The Paranormal

Was it difficult acting and directing at the same time?
Yes! I wasn’t originally supposed to act in the film. Here’s what happened: I originally cast David Snell to play Kyle. David Snell later became known for playing Detective Ronnie Gardocki on the TV show  “The Shield”.

David had a lot of good ideas about his character. In fact, all the actors had lots of great ideas. These ideas motivated me to make one more pass on the script, which delayed the start date by a few weeks.

Unfortunately, David was committed to doing a play and my delay caused a schedule conflict. If I waited for him to be done with the play, all my locations and preproduction would fall apart and I would have to start from scratch. So I made the hard choice to play the lead part myself. In hindsight, this was probably a good thing because there’s no way I could have completed the film otherwise. After the other actors had left town and there was no money, I could still finish the film because I was the lead, and I didn’t have to pay myself!

Any interesting moments from the making of the movie you could share with us?
In 1997, I had a rough assembly of the film completed. It was still missing a few scenes that had yet to be shot. I showed this rough cut to writer/filmmaker Mitch Brian, who is one of the creators of Batman: The Animated Series. He pulled no punches and critiqued many things that weren’t working in the movie. My ego was wounded, but I soon realized all his criticism was spot-on. There was a flashback subplot that wasn’t working. It was just wrong for the movie and it confused the audience. I cut it all out and filmed a new opening scene (where the guy’s car breaks down in front of the movie theater). That scene replaces about 20 minutes of a bad subplot. The good news was that dropping this subplot meant that I no longer had scenes to film. I was finished filming! After four years I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, and the movie came together very quickly after that. To this day, Mitch and I still make movies together. I became the editor/cinematographer on many of his projects.

For a zombie movie there is very little gore was this an intentional decision?
Yes, this was intentional for two reasons. One is budget. As the money ran out, I didn’t have the money to pay anyone to create a lot of makeup FX and blood gags.

The second reason is that I’m not a big fan of gore for gore’s sake. Only in movies like “Evil Dead 2” or “Dead Alive” am I a fan of over the top gore because it’s somewhat comical. Even in Romero’s “Dawn of the Dead” or “Day of the Dead”, I’m a bigger fan of the story, characters and filmmaking than I am of the gore. Which, by the way Tom Savini is still the master of zombie gore. I’m proud to say that I got to meet both Tom Savini and George Romero at a film festival, when they presented me with an award for a short horror film I made in 2006.

Zombie Blood Bath VHS

How did you secure the stock footage from Zombie Bloodbath for inclusion in the film?
Todd Sheets, who directed “Zombie Bloodbath”, was a Kansas City filmmaker, just like I was. Since we both had the same first name, and we both made horror movies, people sometimes got us confused. I did some lighting for a weekend on his “Bloodthirsty Cannibal Demons”. We stayed in touch after that. When I needed mass zombie footage for my film-within-a-film, I asked if I could use scenes from “Zombie Bloodbath”. He agreed. At the time, most of his films were distributed by Englewood Entertainment.

What was it like working with Englewood Entertainment? Any information you can share with us about them?
They were essentially my bosses at the Fine Arts Theater, where I worked during the 90’s. I premiered “The Paranormal” at the Fine Arts, which is a memorable night in my life. They saw the film and liked it and offered to distribute it on VHS. Those were the days!

What were your thoughts on the finished film when it was completed vs your thoughts on it today?
At the time I was just relieved to get it done. It felt like a long chapter in my life had finally closed. It was bittersweet at the time because four years of my life went into making a film that ultimately very few people ever saw. And it made no money.

But that film was essentially my film school. I made just about every mistake a filmmaker can make. And that’s good! Because making mistakes forces you to learn and get better. What I learned making “The Paranormal” was invaluable. For aspiring filmmakers out there, here’s one big lesson I learned. The first five minutes of your movie MUST tell the audience what kind of movie they are about to see. You have to illustrate what genre and what tone the movie will have. If you don’t do this, EVEN if the rest of the movie is great, the audience will struggle because the movie isn’t matching what you told them it was going to be. Beginnings are crucial. Get them right.

Today, I cringe at a lot of “The Paranormal”. All I see are the mistakes. And I actually haven’t watched it all the way through in years. But there are still a few moments I’m proud of, and it exudes a youthful enthusiasm that I need to recapture. You can tell there’s a sheer joy of moviemaking in “The Paranormal”.

Any chance we could see a re-release?
Unfortunately, the master tape is not in good shape. The VHS copies out there in the world look better than the master in many ways. I digitized it to a hard drive, and did my best to color correct and restore it, but it’s not in great shape. Maybe one of these days I’ll re-release it.

What are you up to these days?
I still shoot short films and music videos. I teach film and video and work at a small video production company. I often work as a cinematographer for other directors. I was the director of photography of the 2008 film “Bonnie & Clyde vs. Dracula”, which is a fun genre film.

I don’t make horror films much anymore, but I did make a horror short in 2013 called “Nighty Night”.

And recently, I directed a Giallo-inspired music video for the band Other Americans.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Review - Blood Red Planet 2000 by Tony Masiello

Blood Red Planet (2000)
Review By Tony Masiello

A strange planetoid has entered the galaxy and starts orbiting Mars. This causes the weather patterns to go crazy resulting in catastrophic carnage around the globe, as well as a loss of contact with the lunar base on the Moon.

A spaceship, Omega 1, is sent to investigate and figure out what the hell is going on. When they arrive on the lunar base they discover that everyone is dead and decide to blow it up in the hopes of containing whatever it was that caused the lunar massacre.

They then set off for the mysterious planetoid only to be besieged by alien UFOs which quickly blow up the ship (and causes the Captains head to explode).

Things are looking pretty grim so another spaceship Omega 2 is sent to investigate. Omega 2's crew consists of Captain Sterling played by SOV alum John McBride (Cannibal Campout, Woodchipper Massacre), his right hand man Malco played by the late great John Polonia (R.I.P.), the shifty Doctor Dawson played by Todd Carpenter (Splatter Farm), the drunken misogynist Frankie, the nice girl Becky, and the ship's control system KAL (not HAL).

 It's now up to our team of heroes to discover what's going on (trust me it's confusing) and to stop this alien menace before it's too late.

Blood Red Planet was co-directed by the Polonia Brothers (Mark & John) and their frequent collaborator John McBride. The one thing I've always admired about their work is that they never let small budgets get in the way of making their far-out features. For example, can't afford realistic spacesuit costumes? Just get some goggles, a surgical mask, strap a couple water bottles to your back and wallah instant spacesuit.

If you've never seen any of the Polonia's work before you may think this is done for laughs but the brothers are dead serious. They don't let small budgets get in the way of their vision. They just go for it with the limited resources they have, to varying degrees of success.

As you can imagine with this type of movie (a space opera) there are tons of special effects, some good (for the budget) and some bad. The digital effects are pretty dated at this point but back in 2000 you didn't see many visual effects in these type of movies and I'm sure a lot of hard work went into them. So regardless of how cheap and cheesy they may look today I give the Polonia's credit for being early pioneers in CG compositing.

The spaceship interiors consist of cupcake tins and other household items glued to walls. This could be distracting to some viewers not accustomed to the Polonia's style, but worked fine for me.

The final monster looks cheesy (reminiscent of a 50's sci-fi Corman monster) and it's obviously a small hand puppet, but I think it looks kinda cool. In one of the most memorable scenes in the movie it attacks one of the crew members and starts devouring him but it's obviously just chewing on some sort of doll which is pretty laughable.

The acting for the most part is pretty bad with the exception of John McBride who really tries his best and shows a good range of emotion throughout the movie. He makes for a good lead and is always a welcome addition to any movie he's in. Todd Carpenter is another story though. He is probably the worst actor in the movie and comes off like he's just trying to hard.

Overall I was kinda disappointed with this one but still enjoyed it for what it was. The story is hard to follow at times and even with it's short running time it just seems to go on and on (lots of long walking shots). Obviously though, the Polonia's have a great love for the genre and it shows in the end product.

If your a fan of the Polonia Brothers or enjoy movies "So Bad They're Good" (I really hate that term) then it's worth a watch, otherwise stay clear.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Review - The Paranormal 1998 by Tony Masiello

The Paranormal (1998)
Review By Tony Masiello

Kyle Jennings (Director Todd Norris) is a parapsychologist who has a theory that all paranormal activity radiates an energy signal of 12 and 17. He and his fellow researchers are trying to get a grant to continue their work but are rejected by the mean spirited Doctor Cass Charbonneau (Lisa Winegar), a scientist whose specialty is the study of alternate dimensions.

When a gamma ray and an earthquake (which the local townspeople cannot feel) occur at a movie theater with an energy signal of 12 and 17, Doc Charbonneau enlists Kyle to help her investigate the phenomena. The theater, located in the small town of Englewood also happens to be Kyle's home town and is managed by his ex girlfriend Lynn (Audrey Crabtree), and a street tough projectionist named Johnnie (Gina Tarantino).


While at the theater a mysterious reel of film manifests itself and in one of the best scenes of the movie it attacks the group!?! It then loads itself into the film projector and starts playing a low budget zombie movie entitled "Z Is For Zombie" (which cleverly is an actual trailer on the VHS before the movie begins).

 Soon-after the group discover they are trapped in the theater by an electrical charge emitting from all the exit doors. They also discover that whenever there is a reel change or splice in the film it opens a brief doorway into the movie. Johnnie, who recently made some splices to the film realizes that an upcoming splice happens to occur during a scene where the zombies are walking towards the camera, so if they don't do something soon the zombies will enter the theater and kill them all.

 It is then up to our hero Kyle to enter the film and prevent the hordes of the undead from entering our world.

 The Paranormal is a fun and original SOV from the late 90's released by Englewood Entertainment as #11 of their Modern Horror VHS line (other entries include Todd Sheets Zombie Bloodbath Trilogy which this movie pulls most of its movie within a movie footage from). It is also surprisingly slick looking for an SOV of this period, with great cinematography and lighting and a cast that are believable in their roles.

The only real downside to the movie is it's lack of gore which I am guessing was an intentional decision on the part of Director Todd Norris. They could have easily took some of the nastier bits from the Zombie Bloodbath movies and spliced it in there but didn't. Does the film need it? No, but I can't help but feel that if they would have added some more gore to the film it would be considered an SOV classic today. Don't let that detract you though from checking this cool underrated gem out. With it's fun inventive plot and slick production The Paranormal is a great example of what can be done with a lot of love and a limited budget.