Saturday, January 2, 2016

The Green Inferno (2013) - Blu-ray Review - Universal Pictures

Welcome to the jungle where you won't find any fun or games.

Released by: Universal Pictures
Release Date: January 5, 2016
Production Year: 2013
Region Code: A 
Running Time: 1:40:54
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Video: 1080p (2.40:1 Aspect Ratio)
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

THE FILM - [ 3 / 5 ]:

New York college student Justine (Lorenza Izzo) meets student activist Alejandro (Ariel Levy) when he goes on a hunger strike on behalf of underpaid janitors. Smitten, she agrees to help Alejandro undertake his next project: rescuing an Amazon village from destruction by a greedy multinational corporation. But Justine soon comes to regret her decision when their plane crashes in the Peruvian jungle and the students realize they are not alone. No good deed goes unpunished as the well-meaning students are captured by the cannibalistic tribe they came to save.

The first feature film directed by Roth since Hostel: Part II, The Green Inferno stars Lorenza Izzo (Aftershock, "Hemlock Grove"), Ariel Levy (The Stranger, Best Worst Friends), Aaron Burns (The Stranger, Best Worst Friends) and Kirby Bliss Blanton(Project X, Candy From Strangers). The screenplay is by Eli Roth and Guillermo Amoedo (Knock Knock, Aftershock).

Director Eli Roth gives the cannibal subgenre a spin with "The Green Inferno." If you are familiar with Ruggero Deodatao's 1980 film "Cannibal Holocaust," the title will probably sound familiar. While "Cannibal Holocaust" has a more organically raw feel and look to it, "The Green Inferno" feels more brutal in its violence and gore. The film is a bit of a cautionary tale in that sometimes even though you are trying to do something good and help people, they may not be the ones that end up needing the help. We often hear stories in the news of good samaritans who had something bad happen to them or even lost their lives trying to help someone they thought was in need. 

I thought that most of the main cast in the film did a very good job in their roles. Throughout the film there were a number of times the characters needed to exhibit fear and terror and I feel they did great in that regard. Trying to mentally put yourself in their shoes in certain scenes really makes me wonder what you would do if you were in that situation. Well, we could easily say, I would never get myself in to that type of situation to begin with, but accidents happen and there are unfortunately, other unpleasant pitfalls in life that can be beyond our control. 

The film itself looks beautiful, even perhaps when it should not. The filmmakers could have easily gone the "found footage" route and subjected us to shaky-cam syndrome, depriving us of the terrific gore-fueled scenes that appear during the film. Thankfully we are given a front row look at them in all of their disgustingly fun glory. 
Sky Ferreira and Lorenza Izzo in The Green Inferno
 AUDIO - [ 4.5 / 5 ]:

"The Green Inferno" Blu-ray provides an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which sounds great from start to finish. The sound levels of the Blu-ray were consistent and the dialogue, score and often grisly sound effects had a nice balance. From the squishy sounds of eye gouging to the voices of the natives, the audio sounded great. English SDH, French and Spanish subtitles are also included. 
Daryl Sabara in The Green Inferno
VIDEO - [ 4.5 / 5 ]:

"The Green Inferno" explodes on to Blu-ray thanks to Universal Pictures. The film is presented in 1080p with a 2.40:1 Aspect Ratio. "The Green Inferno" looks brilliant. Whether it is the college backdrop or the jungle itself, the film looks extremely lifelike as though you could walk right in to the picture. The jungle looks absolutely amazing with its lush foliage and deep green colors befitting the title of the film. Color is represented quite well and look deep and rich. The film has a fairly sharp appearance and shines in many of the close up shots of the cast or surroundings. Black levels looked nice and skin tones were excellent with the contrast between our college students and natives looking wonderful. I did not notice any real issues with the video portion of the Blu-ray. Viewers should be quite pleased with how well the film appears.
The Green Inferno still


Audio Commentary with Co-Writer/Director/Producer Eli Roth, Producer Nicolas Lopez and Stars Lorenza Izzo, Aaron Burns, Kirby Bliss Blanton and Daryl Sabara - This was a great commentary. First off, yes there is some patting on the back among the participants and some may find fault with that but I don't see anything wrong with it. I found this to be fascinating to listen to as it was chock full of information regarding the cast, many of whom Eli Roth has worked with before, the crew and the production of the film. You will learn some interesting tidbits from behind the scenes. This commentary does sort of make up for not having a 'making of' documentary since that sort of information is provided. If you like the film or if commentary tracks are your thing, give this one a listen.

Photo Gallery - Well over 100 pictures from the film including some behind the scenes photos.
Lorenza Izzo in The Green Inferno

"The Green Inferno" feels like a film out of place since nobody really makes this type of cannibal film anymore. It looks terrific and sounds great as well thanks to the Blu-ray from Universal Pictures. While light on extras it does feature a great commentary track with a number of participants. This release also includes a Digital HD copy of the film in addition to the Blu-ray.

OVERALL RATING: [ 3.5 / 5 ]


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Interview with Filmmaker, Matthew Reel of Master Reel Productions

Matthew Reel is composer and filmmaker whose shorts and feature-length movies are a blend of art and horror with a strong social commentary. While well-educated with a degree in film and broadcast, he holds a disdain for film school theory and rhetoric, siding with originality and even obscurity for his unique portrayal of politics and values. Reel’s films have gained a cult following in Portugal, and have been featured worldwide.

Body Count Rising: Tell us about your cinematic influences or origins.

Matthew Reel: Growing up, movies and TV saturated every waking minute of spare time I had. I remember practically every movie, show and commercial I’ve seen when I was little. I used to be obsessed with “Jaws” and it almost inspired me to be a marine biologist until the moment I witnessed a whale autopsy on a beach as a kid and nearly threw up. But fact is, when I was young we didn’t have a VCR. I would get out my little red cassette recorder and record the audio from the TV. The night “Jaws” played on HBO, I recorded the whole thing and practically listened to it every night.

Around the same time, I was enamored with the movie posters and trailers that would eventually stick in my head for the years to come. 1982 was a good year. I made crayon drawings of movie posters I saw like “Dragonslayer” and “Tron.” I even made a crayon depiction of the HBO logo they did with the miniature houses and the theme song you can hum to this day. A few years later we got a VCR. The first two movies we rented were “Jaws 3” and “Clan of the Cave Bear” giving me my first childhood crush, Darryl Hannah. Every time we’d go to the video store, I became obsessed with video covers. I loved the horror section because of those great big-boxes with lots of blood and memorable taglines.

I began to pick apart movies and T.V. shows. My mother used to watch “Days of Our Lives.” I remember the lighting, the acting and specifically the reactions seemed so unnatural compared to most other things on TV. I remember it being a huge puzzle for me. It wasn’t until I was eight that I realized everything was done on a soundstage. These things would always be going on in my head. By the age of nine I was being prepped to be an opera singer, and the training continued for the next nine years, but my interest would always go back to movies. By then I had discovered specific styles from certain directors, and my favorite was John Carpenter. I loved any movie with blood in it. I was also amused by quirky local commercials and television programs.

By the time I was in high school, I ended up absorbing the University library movie catalog and by the age of 16 I knew I wanted to be a film director after seeing the films of Kenneth Anger. Films that influenced me were “Naked Lunch”, “A Clockwork Orange” and “Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer.” I just wanted to make movies, simple as that. My biggest rush came from silent movies and experimental  / avant-garde films. I loved how things were shot, even if I didn’t understand that much at the time. And despite the complexity, I resolved I was going to make a movie.

Body Count Rising: Please elaborate on your film making style.

Matthew Reel: Back in 1999 with no formal training or any idea how to go from point A to point B, I decided I was going to experiment on my own. My first film, “Oubliette” was the result of that. I decided to go forward with a silent movie, full of grandiose ideas and plans. For example, the main protagonist was to be placed on the screen directionally on either the left side or right side depending on which side of his personality was dominant at that time. From there, I discovered the more complex rules of editing and with my later films developed into probably a better editor than photographer or even director.

Basically the end result was that my characters tend to not say very much unless it’s important. I tend to direct keeping in mind which shots will follow or what footage I would use to maintain the mood, rather than any real emotion. So the photography / video is a single shot springboard to how the next shot should be and how it will be edited in. I use obscure angles, unusual lighting, and juxtaposition to pull a certain emotion from the viewer. That became all important, and it’s been working for me as a language since. Mood is all important in my work and I will add in any unrelated or absurd image to maintain that mood, even if plot and plausibility have to go out the window.

Body Count Rising: What are your fears with regard to making movies?

Matthew Reel: Health and money. I’ve dealt with health problems most of my life, so I guess one fear has been if I could physically keep up. The other is money; you need it to make a movie, even a small one. The important thing is that the job gets done.

Body Count Rising: How do you see yourself in the role of a director?

Matthew Reel: As a director you have to realize that not only are you playing boss, you’re also playing daddy and shrink, not to mention friend and advocate and, at times, enemy. If the people you work with don’t trust you, the movie’s done. I’ve made a few mistakes in that regard in the past through a certain breakdown or two, and you learn from that. You need to realize you will be wearing multiple hats every day, sometimes even the dunce-cap. Realize you’re human too. As the director you’re going to have to play tyrant now and again, but remember that the vision is in your head and you need to communicate it as clearly as possible.

Body Count Rising: Should the final product match your initial vision?

Matthew Reel: Absolutely not. A screenplay is not something that is set in stone. There’s nothing more annoying than going into a movie theater and having to read without needing subtitles. This is typical all across the board. Usually if I hate a film, it’s because it is flowing word for word from the script instead of utilizing the elements of it that work and throwing away the rest. Just as a fan of movie watching, I’ve learned that any idea or story, no matter how stupid or idiotic it may be, can work if you learn what to keep from the script and what can go in the trash. Rarely do my films hold up word for word from my scripts. I go in understanding that ideas will change as filming progresses. And sometimes, especially for a project that takes a long time to finish, you may realize that you are not the same person you were when you wrote the screenplay in the first place. Don’t get married to your script. The script doesn’t make the movie. You create your own universe following your own rules, make what’s important work.

Body Count Rising: What words of wisdom would you give an aspiring horror movie director?”

Matthew Reel: Well, I wouldn’t want to pigeonhole any filmmaker simply as a horror director. But I actually have taught a couple classes of children about some of the fundamentals of film making. While I certainly wouldn’t consider myself a role model, I do have some advice for any fledgling filmmaker. Read up on basics of editing, staging and lighting. Learn writing, planning and editing with continuity. And then break the rules whenever you get the chance. Remember, direct for yourself. Don’t throw in jokes or references unless it amuses you. If you want to disturb, make sure the content disturbs you first. If you’re at the helm, take it in the direction you want it to go. Shoot everything and practice, practice, practice!

Learn more about Matthew Reel on IMDb or contact him via Facebook.
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Friday, January 1, 2016

The Visit (2015) - Blu-ray Review - Universal Pictures

What's Wrong With Grandma and Grandpa?

The Visit Blu-ray cover

Released by: Universal Pictures
Release Date: January 5, 2016
Production Year: 2015
Region Code: A 
Running Time: 1:34:01
Audio: English DTS-HD MA 5.1 / Spanish DTS-HD MA 5.1 / French DTS-HD MA 5.1
Video: 1080p (1.85:1 Aspect Ratio)
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French

THE FILM - [ 3.5 / 5 ]:

"The Visit" was written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan (The Sixth Sense). The film stars Olivia DeJonge (The Sisterhood of Night) as Becca and Ed Oxenbould (Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day) as Tyler, two kids who visit their grandparents for the first time at their secluded Pennsylvania farm. At the start of the film we learn that their mother, played by Kathryn Hahn (We're the Millers), left home amid an unpleasant situation and has not spoken to her parents since. Recently they contacted her and long story short, the kids wanted to go visit them with the dual purpose of getting to know their grandparents as well as giving their mother time alone with her new boyfriend as they go on a vacation. 

The trip begins innocent enough with the typical pleasantries and thoughts of homemade food by grandma. I mean, who doesn't love that, right? But, it doesn't take long for grandma and grandpa to start exhibiting... odd behavior. As one might expect, things escalate as the children become more uneasy about their visit with their increasing strange grandparents. I won't spoil details of the film so you will have to watch it for yourself and find out what is going on.

I thought the actors in the film did a very good job in their roles. Olivia DeJonge was great as Becca and I imagine we will see much more of her in the coming years. Ed Oxenbould was very good as the annoying little brother. Whether it was intentional or not I don't know but I would guess that it was. Deanna Dunagan and Peter McRobbie as Nana and Pop Pop also gave fine performances and the film could have easily been hindered by poor acting but thankfully the film sports a cast that helped carry the film along with ease. Kathryn Hahn does a nice job but she has a rather small, supporting role in the film.

For a film that resembles a "found footage" style of shooting, "The Visit" doesn't have that shaky cam look that makes some of those types of films unwatchable. The camera does move around of course since the majority of the time one of the characters is carrying or holding it but you can probably get a good idea of what to expect from the trailer. I found the film to be enjoyable and an improvement on the last few films by M. Night Shyamalan. I hope this is the start of an upswing on his career. 

Peter McRobbie and Olivia DeJonge in The Visit

AUDIO - [ 4 / 5 ]:

"The Visit" comes with several audio choices such as English, Spanish and French DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 tracks as well as a DVS (Descriptive Video Service) options. English SDH, Spanish and French subtitles are included as well. I thought the audio sounded very good overall. Dialogue was clear and crisp for the most part. The audio was well balanced throughout and the volume levels were stable. I did not encounter any problems such as hissing or dropouts. 

Deanna Dunagan and Olivia DeJonge in The Visit

VIDEO - [ 4 / 5 ]:

"The Visit" arrives on Blu-ray thanks to Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. The film is presented in 1080p with a 1.85:1 Aspect Ratio. The video quality was quite good and many will be relieved to find that it does not look like most "found footage" style films with subpar picture quality. Colors look beautiful and are very bold. The Blu-ray surprised me with the amount of fine detail in some of the close up shots, from the visible fibers on clothing to hair and facial features, the film looks downright amazing at times. There are times that I thought the film looked slightly soft but that could very well be a result of how the film was shot. I think viewers should be very pleased with how the film looks in general. Black levels seemed fine but were not particularly strong and I think the picture suffered most in the darker scenes where some of the detail seems to give way to a softer image and perhaps some black crush. Skin tones looked very natural and spot on. 

Peter McRobbie in The Visit


Alternate Ending (2:25) 

Deleted Scenes (8:34) - 10 scenes in all with a "Play All" option. I really didn't think any of them added anything necessary to the film, so they're right where they belong. They are a nice addition though because people often want to see what was cut from a film.

The Making of "The Visit (9:56) - A candid interview with M. Night Shyamalan and a behind the scenes look at the film. Excerpts of some of the cast auditions are included as well. 

Becca's Photos (1:13)

Deanna Dunagan in The Visit


An enthralling, suspenseful film that looks and sounds good on the Blu-ray and DVD and Digital HD Combo Pack. If you are a fan of M. Night Shyamalan's early work or obviously all of his work, give this one a chance. I thought it was his best film in years and am hoping it is the start of a trend in his career. 

OVERALL RATING: [ 3.5 / 5 ]


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Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Enter to Win a Copy of 'The Green Inferno' on Blu-ray from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment - Available on Digital HD December 22nd 2015 & Blu-ray and DVD January 5th, 2016

The generous people at Universal Pictures Home Entertainment are also giving the chance for one lucky person to win a Blu-ray copy of "The Green Inferno" - available on Digital HD December 22nd 2015 & Blu-ray and DVD on January 5th, 2016. 

To enter for a chance to win, all you need to do is send an e-mail to with "The Green Inferno" as the subject and include your full name and shipping/mailing address. 

Please note that this contest is open to U.S. residents only and your information will not be used for any purpose other than shipping you the prize if you are the winner. 

This contest will be remain open until ***CONTEST CLOSED***

Good Luck!

Check out our review of the Blu-ray.



The Green Inferno Blu-ray cover


An international goodwill mission goes terrifyingly wrong in The Green Inferno, the highly anticipated return to classic cult horror from iconic director Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, Hostel 1 & 2 ), available on Digital HD December 22, 2015 and Blu-ray and DVD as well as On Demand on January 5, 2016, from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. The Green Inferno is a gruesomely spectacular journey into the heart of darkness that will have audiences on the edge of their seats.

New York college student Justine (Lorenza Izzo) meets student activist Alejandro (Ariel Levy) when he goes on a hunger strike on behalf of underpaid janitors. Smitten, she agrees to help Alejandro undertake his next project: rescuing an Amazon village from destruction by a greedy multinational corporation. But Justine soon comes to regret her decision when their plane crashes in the Peruvian jungle and the students realize they are not alone. No good deed goes unpunished as the well-meaning students are captured by the cannibalistic tribe they came to save.

The first feature film directed by Roth since Hostel: Part II, The Green Inferno stars Lorenza Izzo(Aftershock, “Hemlock Grove”), Ariel Levy (The Stranger, Best Worst Friends), Aaron Burns (The Stranger, Best Worst Friends) and Kirby Bliss Blanton (Project X, Candy From Strangers). The screenplay is by Eli Roth and Guillermo Amoedo (Knock Knock, Aftershock).

Blu-ray and DVD Special Features:
  • Audio Commentary by Co-Writer/Director/Producer Eli Roth, Producer Nicolas Lopez, and stars Lorenza Izzo, Aaron Burns, Kirby Bliss Blanton, and Daryl Sabara
  • Photo Gallery


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Enter to Win a Copy of 'The Visit' on Blu-ray from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment - Available on Digital HD December 15th 2015 & Blu-ray and DVD January 5th, 2016

The fine folks at Universal Pictures Home Entertainment are generously giving the chance for one lucky person to win a Blu-ray copy of "The Visit" - available on Digital HD December 15th 2015 & Blu-ray and DVD on January 5th, 2016. 

To enter for a chance to win, all you need to do is send an e-mail to with "The Visit" as the subject and include your full name and shipping/mailing address. 

Please note that this contest is open to U.S. residents only and your information will not be used for any purpose other than shipping you the prize if you are the winner. 

This contest will be remain open until ***CONTEST CLOSED***

Good Luck!

You can also read our review of the Blu-ray.



The Visit Blu-ray cover


A family visit takes a terrifying turn when two siblings learn who Grandma and Grandpa really are in The Visit, a found documentary-style suspense thriller coming to Digital HD on December 15, 2015, and Blu-ray and DVD as well as On Demand on January 5, 2016 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. The first collaboration from Academy Award®-nominated writer-director M. Night Shyamalan and Academy Award-nominated producer Jason Blum, The Visit Blu-ray and DVD are packed with spine-tingling exclusive bonus features including deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes featurette, and a suspenseful alternate ending.

When Becca and Tyler are sent to their grandparents’ secluded Pennsylvania farmhouse for a weeklong stay, they quickly discover something is not right with the elderly couple. Faced with strange rules and increasingly frightening behavior, the children soon realize it will take all their wits to make it home alive. Critics rave that the latest heart-pounding thriller from the director of The Sixth Sense and Signsand the producer of Paranormal Activity and The Purge is a “deliciously creepy triumph” (Scott Mendelson,

Kathryn Hahn (“Transparent,” "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"), Ed Oxenbould ("Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day," "Paper Planes"), Olivia DeJonge (“Hiding,” "The Sisterhood of Night"), Peter McRobbie ("Lincoln," "Spider-Man 2") and Deanna Dunagan ("Have a Little Faith," "Running Scared") star in a dementedly frightening thriller that Shawn Edwards of Fox-TV praises as “Creepy and suspenseful!”


  • Alternate Ending
  • Deleted Scenes
  • The Making of The Visit
  • Becca’s Photos


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Judas Ghost (2013) - Film Review - Uncork'd Entertainment

One room. Four Paranormal investigators. One not so amused ethereal being. What could possibly go wrong? Well, allow director Simon Pearce to show you....

Judas Ghost cover

Director: Simon Pearce.

Cast: Martin Delaney, Lucy Cudden, Simon Merrellis, Alexander Perkins.

Jerry (Delaney), Anna (Cudden), Mark (Merrellis and Ian (Perkins) are a team of paranormal investigators who do a lot of their work in front of a camera, think Derek Acorah and Yvette Fielding in Most Haunted, only more believable. The team are sent to a village hall where recent unexplained activity has been witnessed. Whilst here they are also due to film a training video for the next generation of investigators.

All is going smoothly and there is little to worry about. Jerry is strutting his cock-sure way around the room doing his bits to camera, Anna is using her psychic abilities to test the area for phenomena and Ian is using his geeky tech skills to test the area for anomalies. Mark broods at various points around the room. However when they begin to realise they cannot explain what is happening, peculiar things start happening. Peculiar even for the experienced investigators.

Judas Ghost is at its core an indie paranormal film. But all praise to Pearce, he hasn't opted to for the overused found footage option that has saturated the market since The Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity. Pearce has cleverly reduced the location and outlandish plot points to focus on the narrative and the effects. This has paid off in terms of effects, as they are impressive for a film with a restricted budget. The plot, however, could do with a little more development. Whilst it is by no means poor, there are certain aspects that could have been developed further to help audiences invest and follow what is happening and the motivations behind it.

For example, we never really learn what is behind Mark's brooding. We learn about a troubled history but only in glimpses. If this was explored further it may provide more gravitas to the overall character and the plot itself. It would also have helped if the beast that torments the team was explained further or given more of a purpose for being there. This was given in the film to a certain extent, but more may have been beneficial in terms of rounding out the narrative journey.

The characters are relatively well developed in terms of their interactions. they appear to make a good team and although the character of Mark would benefit from further exploration of back story, the other characters are all individual enough to serve their purpose. They each bring to the team their own skill set and they mesh well together. There is a hint of a lust or romance between Jerry and Anna that is never explored fully which is refreshing, an over riding love story has the potential to cheapen a pure paranormal thriller. Delaney's confident, cocky Jerry is believable as a front-of-the-camera team leader. Whist writer Simon R. Green has filled the story with paranormal language he has also provided quips and comedy moments, especially for Jerry, that help an audience to bond with his character.

Judas Ghost is an interesting film, and whilst it may not break new ground or push any boundaries it does entertain. Considering its indie budget and limited setting it offers an intriguing plot, although this could have been developed further in certain areas. The actors are solid with Delaney's Jerry offering the most developed character. Enjoyable, if you consider its limitations.

Rating: 2.5/5


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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Interview with Filmmaker, Conor Sweeney of Astron-6

Actor, director and writer, Conor Sweeney, is twenty percent of the eighties-throwback powerhouse filmmaking team, Astron-6. His mad scientist-style, brilliant co-creators are Matthew Kennedy, Adam Brooks, Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski. Like some sort of movie-making Transformer each is integral to the whole, and the end product is a beautiful conglomerate of comedic horror art.
Body Count Rising: Were you mentored as a young director? Please feel free to elaborate if so. 

Conor Sweeney: I wasn't really, no. We've gotten some great advice over the years from the head of the University of Winnipeg film department: John Kozak, and guys like Guy Maddin and John Paizs, but we basically have had to make our own way from the beginning. Once Astron-6 started working together as a group, I feel we started to teach each other how to be better filmmakers, as we all seem to excel in one area where maybe the others do not.

Body Count Rising: What was the most valuable piece of information or advice that another director or industry person has given you?

Conor Sweeney: John Kozak told us to never spend a bunch of our own money on a movie, because we'll sink into a mire of inescapable debt and never make it back out. In hindsight, we should have listened to him. 

Body Count Rising: Have you modeled your directing style after, or was your directing influenced by someone who inspires you?

Conor Sweeney: We have very, very loose set. We see our movies as comedies, and we are huge comedy nerds above all else. We let actors improvise, feed them lines from off set, surprise them with lines and fill the background with funny visual gags. David Wain works that way, so does Woody Allen. Maybe I was subconsciously inspired by these directors. If a great joke that I love isn't working, I won't stop until it feels right, and often it's not something you can reword and solve. Comedy is a mercurial thing, a line can be delivered an infinite number of ways, and ten of those are hilarious. To answer your question, we didn't model our directing style, but we've modeled aesthetic style, tone and content from some of our favorite guys. “Divorced Dad: Home Improvements” is very much David Lynch in the world of cable access television. “The Editor” is the Zucker brothers meet Fulci.
Body Count Rising: What is some advice you would give a new director just starting out?

Conor Sweeney: You're in a brand new, difficult, but also exciting industry that was very different when I began, even though it was only ten years ago. I would say make a movie for as little as possible, but make it good and unique most importantly. Don't just make another slasher or ghost movie unless you can do something that totally adds something new to the mix. Distribute it on your own via iTunes or Vimeo. If your movie was cheap enough to make, and your product is good, then you'll probably be able to make a profit on your movie. Make your next movie on a bit of a bigger budget, pay people, and get a known actor (very important). A famous or semi-famous actor will get you funding and maybe Netflix will buy it for a nice fee. Go through the same process; release it on your own if Netflix isn't interested. Use Indiegogo and social media to gain awareness. Keep working your way up.

Playing big festivals is key. This is easier said than done, but you really need to go this route. If you don't get in, your movie is probably not very good, or just not ready. You get the skills to make a festival-worthy movie by just making movie after movie after movie, and trying to make each movie better than the last. Be hard on yourself. The good news is that if you play the big festivals, usually all the other festivals will want you. Make this a goal. Plus you'll meet other filmmakers, producers, etc. in a way you never would have been able to before.
Body Count Rising: Would you be opposed to mentoring a budding new director?

Conor Sweeney: I would do it happily, but we're still so small time that I’m not sure I could do much for him or her. I love the idea of doing it once we're making some money for ourselves and have gotten a bit bigger.

Body Count Rising: Tell me about your biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome while directing. How did you work through this obstacle to achieve your goals? 

Conor Sweeney: It’s all obstacles, so it’s hard to just pick one. Car chase stunts were hard, fire stunts were hard, difficult actors was hard. The biggest obstacle is never having enough money to make the large in-scope movies we create.
Body Count Rising: What aspect of directing do you need to take extra time and care with?

Conor Sweeney: I'm not a great cinematographer, so I need to be careful with that. Adam is a painter, so I leave the composition up to him most of the time. Except on the upcoming “Divorced Dad: Home Improvements” which I am very specific about in every capacity. 

Note: “Divorced Dad: Home Improvements” is playing at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas in September, 2016.

Body Count Rising: Have you ever started with a certain vision, and then found it just wouldn’t be possible? How did you modify and correct to make the scene a success? 

Conor Sweeney: I honestly don't know if this has ever happened. I think we fight hard for what we want and steal locations that we want even if it isn't entirely legal. We're pretty smart to write stuff that we know we can shoot. And with our budget we've been able to shoot some crazy stuff, especially with “The Editor.”
Body Count Rising: You seem to be exceptional with time management, which I’m sure is of the essence when staying within a budget. Does working within a team become a benefit to that extent?

Conor Sweeney: We're actually not that efficient with time. It's more a strong drive to get the project finished, so we're willing to shoot 20 hour days. 26 hours is our longest shoot day. Our determination and single-mindedness evens out our seemingly never ending shooting schedules.  

Body Count Rising: In regard to many of your films, you have remarked about limited budget, or how you ran out of money…

Conor Sweeney: In The Editor we hired a crew we shouldn't have trusted, rented out a large film studio, and hired people that were supposed to look after our expenses and didn't. We ended up blowing through basically 100% of the budget on the first week, and still had a year of shooting left ahead of us. We fired the entire crew, started an Indiegogo campaign to make back some of the money, which bought us a used Red One, and finished the movie ourselves with the same barebones, five-to-eight person crew we used on "Father's Day."
Body Count Rising: Would you prefer a micro budget with complete autonomy, or to direct a big budget film with limited control of the scope and vision?

Conor Sweeney: I'd prefer a moderate budget with complete autonomy, but I would be thrilled to hand over some of my control to be able to make a commercial movie. I don't think this brings you down artistically at all, there is some great commercial stuff out there, and I need to feed myself.

Body Count Rising: Say you had some wealthy benefactor who what a huge fan of your films. You would be given complete control and an astronomical budget and unlimited resources. What is your dream film that you would love to direct?

Conor Sweeney: Absolute above all else dream job is to direct a “Star Wars” movie. Aside from that I have a ton of pet projects that I'm pretty hot on, right now. I've been trying to work out a treatment for a coming of age movie, and it'd require a pretty sizeable budget for the music and kids. That's my second dream project, after “Star Wars.”
Body Count Rising: I’ve heard you do your own stunts. What about your own effects? Is there anything on the set that you absolutely won’t do? 

Conor Sweeney: I've never done any effects. I'm sure there's a stunt where I'd eventually draw the line, but we've never gotten to the point yet where we've said “no” to something. I look back and wish that we'd done more dangerous stuff. I'm always unimpressed and wishing we could revisit and put ourselves in more danger.

Body Count Rising: You have mentioned that you often find talent through social media. Has this ever backfired for you?

Conor Sweeney: Never backfired. We haven't really done that since “Father's Day” though. Since then we've done our hiring through the usual means (agents, managers), and reusing our actor friends.

Keep up with Conor’s projects on IMDb and Astron-6 on the official Astron-6 website
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Monday, December 28, 2015

Interview with Filmmaker, Richard Anasky

Rarely will you encounter an artist who is extraordinarily open and completely original. Richard Anasky is a producer, writer and director seemingly teleported from the 70’s, and he personifies independent film. With psychedelic colors, quirky humor, subliminal messages, and hippy soundtracks with overtones of doom, Anasky’s work is unmistakable. 

Body Count Rising: What inspired you to begin making movies? 

Richard Anasky: I guess it basically came down to an unrelenting desire to walk among the figments of my own imagination. I was fascinated with the idea of seeing the dream-like worlds and the characters who inhabited those worlds manifesting before my eyes… seeing those characters I created coming to life and being taken to new levels through the actors unique interpretations. The allure was just too much to resist. It was, and still is, all about the thrill of creation and the love of the art. Beyond that, I’d really just conjured up a very idealistic vision of what making movies would be like, mainly based on reading so much about the making of “Night of the Living Dead.”

Body Count Rising: How did you become involved in photography and video, and how do you define your directing style?

Richard Anasky: The actual catalyst for my getting involved in video came via an issue of ‘Film Threat Video Guide’ back in 1995, that featured an insane, gory cover story and interview with director, Leif Jonker. This magazine and Leif’s interview detailing the making of his film “Darkness” introduced me to the micro-budget do-it-yourself level of independent filmmaking. All of a sudden, making a film wasn’t like some far-out unreachable dream. There were people from all over that were out there following their dreams and visions and making their movies through sheer determination. Man that was my AHA moment; my sign. I wanted in and from that moment on, every step I took was directed towards satisfying that need to make movies of my own.

That heartfelt desire/intention would soon lead to an amazing assortment of meaningful coincidences presenting themselves. I was led to the right books, the right people, the right places and the right things. Everything needed to assist in paving my way just began to magically appear, and making a movie titled “I Am Vengeance” ultimately became my next logical step. I was also helped massively by indie filmmakers and mentors such as Tim Ritter, director of “Killing Spree” and Ronnie Sortor, director of “Ravage.” Each was a wealth of helpful information and they really took the time to help me get started. I also should mention a wonderful actress by the name of Tina Krause, who I approached when I was starting out. She already had a successful career in place, yet she still joined on with me. I was so impressed with the manner in which she presented herself. She was dedicated from the start and she set a standard in what I now look for in actors in general. 

As for defining my own directing style, well I’m a laid back, friendly and down-to-earth person and that’s how I direct. No drama, no pretension, no freak-outs or yelling. I like to keep things light and friendly, free-and-easy and fun. As for the visual style and all that jazz, at this time, it’s still all shoot and run, baby. No budget/from the heart, guerrilla movie making. My main sources of movie-related influence comes from psychedelic films like “The Trip”, “Pick-Up”, “Angel Angel Down We Go” and “Alice in Acidland“, 1960′s roughies such as “She Came on the Bus“, “Mondo Keyhole” and just about any Mike Findlay film, classroom scare flicks of the 50′s through the 70′s with “Narcotics Pit of Despair” being my absolute favorite and the whole vibe/style of Russ Meyer incredible legacy of films.  

As for photography, Ralph Waldo Emerson sums up my feelings about it best in his quote, “Pictures must not be too picturesque.” Photography is just something I love to experiment with whenever the opportunity presents itself. Just give me my old 35 mm camera and I’m good to go. I love to go with a natural style reminiscent of the style of photography you’d see back in 60′s and 70′s and I love to focus on faces. I’m definitely not a fan of digital photography as it feels to me (just my opinion, no disrespect meant to those who dig it) like a soulless, disposable imitation of the real thing. I love to capture the truth of a person on film, to find the right moment and capture that certain sparkle in the eyes that reveals the true story. For fun, I also love to shoot the type of scenarios you’d find on the covers of those old detective magazines and men’s adventure magazines from the 1950′s through the 1970′s. 

Body Count Rising: What strategies do you use to overcome film making struggles? 

Richard Anasky: I try to overcome fears or struggles by doing my best to shift my attention towards things that inspire me as opposed to dwelling on things that could distract me or affect my motivation. I prefer to keep a sunny disposition. Wanton pleasure seeking is so much more thrilling then wasting precious moments provoking emotions that drag you down. 

Body Count Rising: Any missed opportunities that you regret? 

Richard Anasky: As for regrets regarding missed opportunities, if you asked me this in years past, I could’ve gleefully provided enough material to fill a book with things that went “wrong” or didn’t play out in the manner I’d hoped. Now I view regret as a monumental waste of time because what’s done is done and you can’t physically go back and change a thing so best to make use of the lessons learned and move forward. I also don’t believe in missed opportunities anymore as I feel that there’s always a new and better opportunity waiting to present itself. 

Body Count Rising: Give examples of how your leadership has assured the success of your films, and what are some of your leadership strategies when managing others? 

Richard Anasky: Any success I’ve enjoyed is all thanks to the players I’ve surrounded myself with. I’ve been very fortunate in that the majority of actors I’ve collaborated with in the past have been very nice people and they’ve been very open and receptive to what I’ve asked of them. Those sort of people make it all seem easy and truly a pleasure. I only wish there were far more actors coming from such a sincere place. Beyond that, I just do my best to treat people the way I’d want to be treated, as cliché as it may sound. That’s really the best example of true leadership I can come up with. I treat the folks I’m co-creating with as true friends and I enjoy chewing-the-fat with them and getting to know who they are as individuals long before the camera rolls.

I also think it’s good to set a proper example by being upbeat, enthusiastic and passionate about the film because that vibe will spread to your team and create an atmosphere perfectly conducive to creating. Last up, appreciation is everything. It’s important that the people who’ve joined the production know that their efforts and their involvement on the project are sincerely appreciated. Think of how nice it feels to be valued, to be appreciated, to know that your contributions matter. Those are things that everyone craves on some level, so give praise and appreciation and mean it. Spread the credit around and keep everyone involved 100%! Really this is all just common sense stuff. Give and be what it is that you’re looking to receive. It’s SO simple. Empower. 

Body Count Rising: Do you believe the final product fits your initial vision? 

Richard Anasky:
On my film, “Actress Apocalypse”, the final product actually came somewhat close to being what I always intended for it to be. Really the main thing that prevented it from being spot on from the initial vision was that I had outside producers constantly making suggestions that I felt compelled to incorporate. 

I basically view the script as the fuse or the launching pad. Production should be the blast off where the movie takes on a life of its own and leads you to wild and fun new places that you never could’ve conceived of during the writing and pre-production phases. It’s always my hope that the final product will far exceed my limited initial vision and that’s only possible if I’m open to the energy and inspiration available in the moment. To be open to the creative energy of the location, the players, the FX artists, etc… Of course that can only work if everyone’s on the same page.

That said, I do feel that you need to have a script that articulates what you’re looking to say and you certainly should be very aware of what you’re going for and believe 100% in that initial vision. But once you get going, be prepared to get out of your own head, let go of the expectations and go with the flow. The spirit of the movie will take care of the rest. 

Body Count Rising: What advice would you give to an aspiring horror filmmaker? 

Richard Anasky: For starters I guess I’d say to approach it from the right place, meaning write and create the film for yourself and for the love of doing it. Getting wrapped up in thinking about money or fame is a sure recipe for disappointment. I think it’s best to approach any art form from that pure place of just needing to do it. Beyond that, I’d advise them to keep their cast small and to take the time required to find an open-minded and preferably optimistic/upbeat troupe of real actors who possess a true passion and respect for their craft and the indie filmmaking process. Making independent film requires a real team effort, so finding actors who can adopt the team concept and thrive in it are essential even if it requires being patient and delaying the start of a project until the right actors are located. There’s nothing more important than surrounding yourself with a group you can count on, so if they’re finding folks who weren’t keeping up or are tough to get in contact with, then it’s best to cut the ties with them long before the camera rolls. Any sign of unreliability should be seen as a red flag and a universal nudge to find someone better suited to the project. 

Next up I’d encourage them to just make the best movie they can with whatever they currently have access to as it’s WAY too easy to get hung up on what you don’t have in regards to money, the latest technology or whatever else. It’s better to just be satisfied with where you are in the moment and to just toss caution to the wind and GO for it. To be an artist and take creative chances, no matter how outlandish, experiment and not be afraid of making ‘mistakes’ because it’s all part of a learning process. I’d also say to shake off any advice that encourages conformity. Individual self-expression is a beautiful thing and it should be embraced. It’s always better to find your own unique style and to stand out from the crowd. People will either like what you do or they won’t and it does no good to be attached any particular outcomes regarding the film as it’ll take you out of the moment and negatively impact how you go about things. I’d definitely advise the aspiring horror filmmaker to be true to themselves (and their film) and to just let the rest take care of itself.

Last up I guess I’d remind them to keep it all in perspective. I’d tell them not to take it all so seriously. It’s best to just go wild and have fun creating the craziest, most imaginative little horror movie they can conjure up. Making independent horror films can and should be an amazing experience for everyone involved. It should be enjoyed to the fullest! The film will be what the film will be, but the experience of making it should be amazing. 

View Richard Anasky’s current projects on IMDb or you may
 reach him via Facebook.
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