Saturday, February 27, 2016

Sheba, Baby (1975) - Blu-ray Review - Arrow Video

Arrow Video Brings Another Pam Grier Blaxploitation Film to High Definition

Sheba, Baby Blu-ray cover

Released by: Arrow Video
Release Date: February 8, 2016 (UK) / February 9, 2016 (US)
Production Year: 1975
Region Code: ALL
Running Time: 1:29:41
Audio: English LPCM Mono
Video: 1080p (1.85:1 Aspect Ratio)
Subtitles: English SDH
 Sheba, Baby Pam Grier

THE FILM - [ 2.5 / 5 ]:


Fresh off her career defining roles for Jack Hill in "Coffy" and "Foxy Brown," Pam Grier returned to pure Blaxploitation (after turns in Blaxploitation-horror and action), in cult filmmaker William Girdler’s (The Manitou, Abby) "Sheba, Baby."

Pam Grier plays Sheba Shayne, a private eye based in Chicago who is called to her hometown to stop the local mob boss (played by “that bad D’Urville Martin”, "Black Caesar," "Dolemite") from moving in on her father’s loan business. Aided by her father’s partner, Brick Williams (Austin Stoker, "Assault on Precinct 13," "Battle for the Planet of the Apes"), Sheba finds out that the violent thugs aren’t going go away with a fight. Car bombs, gun fights and boat chases ensue whilst armed with her curves, street smarts and a .44, Sheba is in for a bloodbath!

Pam Grier would appear in three Blaxploitation classics in 1975 (the others were "Bucktown" and "Friday Foster"), where she was at the top of her game and genre, with the Los Angeles Times calling her “cool, tough and glamorous – a female fantasy Wonder Woman”, further cementing her status as the first female action star.

I found "Sheba, Baby" to be lacking in excitement. I had never gotten around to watching the film before and I expected a badass character in a badass film. While Sheba was a tough woman and wasn't afraid to get her hands dirty and mix it up with anyone that got in her way, she could have been so much more. Well, being a PG Rated film certainly did not help in any way. Yes the film still contains a reasonable level of violence but you can almost sense a bolder film wanting to break free of its rating constraints and blow you away. 

The film includes a number of moments where I wondered, am I supposed to be laughing right now because some characters came off as comedic or even buffoon-like in their performance. The whole scene at the car wash and leading up to it features one such character. I would imagine he was supposed to come off that way and there were some others but that one stood out the most to me. 

It was nice seeing Austin Stoker in a supporting role and I thought he did a really fine job as Brick. Pam Grier did a nice job as well as the title character. It just would have been nice to see her be able to let loose some more vigilante justice on the bad guys. Plus of course she looked beautiful as always. 

Sheba, Baby Pam Grier

AUDIO - [ 4 / 5 ]:

This Blu-ray includes an English LPCM Mono audio track. English SDH Subtitles are also included. I found the audio to sound great. From the terrific score to an assortment of gun shots and of course the dialogue, it all sounded lively and of high quality. The audio had a good balance throughout and sound levels seemed to be fairly consistent. I did not encounter any problems with the audio on this release.

Sheba, Baby Pam Grier

VIDEO - [ 3.5 / 5 ]:

"Sheba, Baby" has come to Blu-ray thanks to Arrow Video and is available in the U.S. thanks to distributor MVD Entertainment Group. The film is presented in 1080p with a 1.85 Aspect Ratio. The video looks good with strong colors which look nice with the variety of outfits Sheba wears throughout the film. As is often the case with older films, "Sheba, Baby" looks better in brighter scenes than those that are darker, with an uptick in detail and overall picture quality. Grain is a bit heavy at times but never to the point of becoming distracting to me although others may disagree since it is sometimes very noticeable. While the picture quality may not have that "wow factor" and could have benefited from a new master, most should be pleased with how well the film looks. Black levels are adequate but could be better. On the plus side the film is not hampered with damage in the way of white specks, spots or scratches and I did not notice any digital compression problems. 

Sheba, Baby Pam Grier

SPECIAL FEATURES - [ 3.5 / 5 ]:

Audio Commentary with producer-screenwriter David Sheldon, moderated by critic Nathaniel Thompson - A very technical commentary with Nathaniel Thompson keeping the conversation going with good questions when things get a little quiet. David Sheldon discusses several other films he worked on in his career like "Abby" and "Grizzly." He also speaks highly of Pam Grier, noting how pleasant she was to work with and her excellent work ethic. American International Pictures or AIP is also talked about during the commentary. A number of other cast and crew members are also discussed to varying degrees. If you like commentaries and/or are a fan of the film, I recommend listening to this and actually the second commentary track as well as I really enjoyed both of them. 

Audio Commentary with Patty Breen - Miss Breen operates the website so if you would like more information on the man who directed this film, please take a look at her website. This was a great commentary! Besides learning a lot about the film and its production, Patty Breen points out numerous things on the screen from notable connections to other films to mistakes that occur throughout the movie. Sometimes there are commentary tracks where you can just sort of let it play while you do other things. This is not one of them. You want to be watching the film as scene specific information is talked about. 

Sheldon, Baby (15:16) - In this video interview, shot exclusively for Arrow Video, producer and screenwriter David Sheldon discusses "Sheba, Baby" and his working relationship with director William Girdler. Mr. Sheldon also speaks about some other projects such as "Devil Times Five" and "Grizzly."

Pam Grier: The AIP Years (11:54) - Film historian Chris Poggiali discusses Pam Grier's wonder years with a focus on her work for AIP. This featurette was filmed for Arrow Video in October 2015. Apparently Pam Grier started off at AIP as a switchboard operator before being noticed by Roger Corman and his brother Gene. Mr. Poggiali talks about a number of her films such as "Cleopatra Jones," "Coffy," and "Friday Foster."

Trailer (1:54)

Gallery - Still gallery of promotional images.

Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Sean Phillips

Booklet featuring brand new writing on the film by Patty Breen, webmaster of, illustrated with archive stills and posters

 Sheba, Baby Pam Grier


This Blu-ray & DVD Combo Pack from Arrow Video features superior audio and video and includes several extras with two great commentary tracks among them. Pam Grier fans will no doubt want to add this to their collection. 

OVERALL RATING - [ 3.5 / 5 ]:

Sheba, Baby Pam Grier and Austin Stoker

Sheba, Baby

Sheba, Baby Pam Grier

Sheba, Baby Pam Grier

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Thursday, February 25, 2016

'Raising Cain' coming to Blu-ray from Scream Factory, plus updates on 'SSSSSSS' and 'Village of the Damned'

Scream Factory to add "Raising Cain"to its list of Blu-ray releases. Also updates on "SSSSSSS" and "Village of the Damned." 

Raising Cain Blu-ray cover

Scream Factory announced today their plans to bring "Raising Cain" to Blu-ray in June. Here's what they had to say:

We're thrilled to announce that Brian DePalma's underrated thriller RAISING CAIN (starring the ever so talented John Lithgow) will be getting the "Collector's Edition" Blu-ray treatment! Street date is June 28th.

Extras will be announced sometime in Late April. The newly-designed front-facing artwork you see here is final (not pictured is the reverse wrap image which will showcase the original theatrical poster art.)

Early pre-order now directly from us @ and receive a free 18" x 24" poster of the new art (while supplies last) plus early shipping!

SSSSSSS Blu-ray cover

Here's the update on "SSSSSSS" from Scream Factory:

Check out the final lisssst of extras we have planned for our upcoming Blu-ray release of this 70s cult classic!
  • NEW! My Reptilian Past – an interview with actor Dirk Benedict 
  • NEW! The Herpetologist’s Daughter – an interview with Heather Menzies-Urich 
  • Photo Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • Radio Spots

Official street date is 4/26 but if you pre-order from us directly at you'll get it shipped two weeks early! 

Village of the Damned Blu-ray cover

And finally, here is the update from Scream Factory for "Village of the Damned."

The final list of extras we have planned for our upcoming "Collector's Edition" Blu-ray Release:

  • NEW! It Takes A Village: The Making of Village of the Damned featuring interviews with director John Carpenter, producer Sandy King, actors Michael Pare, Peter Jason, Karen Kahn, Meredith Salenger, Thomas Dekker, Cody Dorkin, Lindsey Haun, Danielle Wiener-Keaton and make-up effects artist Greg Nicotero 
  • NEW! HORROR’S HALLOWED GROUNDS - revisiting the locations of the film with host Sean Clark 
  • NEW! The Go To Guy: Actor Peter Jason on John Carpenter
  • Vintage interviews featuring John Carpenter, Christopher Reeve, Kirstie Alley, Linda Kozlowski, Mark Hamill and Wolf Rilla (director of the original VILLAGE OF THE DAMNED)
  • Vintage Behind-the-scenes footage 
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • Behind-the-Scenes Still Gallery

Also included on the reverse wrap is the original theatrical poster key art. Official street date is 4/12/16 but if you pre-order from us now @ you'll receive it two weeks plus get a free poster of the Nathan Thomas Milliner artwork (while supplies last)!

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Drafthouse Films Bringing 'Dangerous Men' to Blu-ray & DVD via MVD Entertainment Group April 5, 2016

Cult masterpiece from outsider filmmaker John S. Rad
hits home video for the first time with deluxe treatment


Dangerous Men Blu-ray DVD cover

Drafthouse Films, the curatorial force behind exceptional repertory releases such as the ninja-blasting synthrock monolith Miami Connection, the psychedelic sci-fi brain-melter The Visitor, and the most dangerous movie ever made, Roar, have announced the their latest cult sensation, Dangerous Men arriving on Blu-ray/DVD for the first time ever this April 5th via MVD Entertainment Group.

The fanatical brainchild of Iranian polymath John S. Rad, Dangerous Men is a passion project that remained in obsessive production for nearly two decades before finally debuting in Californian theaters in 2005. An unflappably prodigious creative force, Rad handled much of the technical duties of the film, appearing multiple times in the film's credits as the director, writer, location scout, producer, executive producer, and more.

Despite initially languishing at the box office during its limited theatrical release, and never finding a likeminded audience before Rad's untimely death in 2007, Dangerous Men developed a devoted following before vanishing as mysteriously as it appeared. Working with the late artist's family, the Drafthouse Films team worked tirelessly alongside the American Genre Film Institute to locate and restore the original film. Dangerous Men was re-released back into theaters in October 2015, garnering enthusiastically baffled acclaim from critics including Rolling Stone, who called it "incomprehensibly riveting", Cut Print Film labels as "Flabbergasting...a gonzo work of art" and The Village Voice, who found the film "astonishing...a truly outsider movie made my a lone auteur."

The Blu-ray/DVD release features hours of extra content, including a feature-length commentary from authors Zack Carlson and Bryan Connelly, an original short documentary about the film's original 2005 theatrical release, a video interview with cinematographer Peter Palian, and the only appearance of John S. Rad on television as well as an unexpunged print interview!

After Mina witnesses her fiancé's brutal murder by beach thugs, she sets out on a venomous spree to eradicate all human trash from Los Angeles. Armed with a knife, a gun, and an undying rage, she murders her way through the masculine half of the city's populace. A renegade cop is hot on her heels, a trail that also leads him to the subhuman criminal overlord known as Black Pepper. It's a pulse-pounding, heart-stopping, brain-devouring onslaught of '80s thunder, '90s lightning, and pure filmmaking daredevilry from another time and/or dimension. Blades flash, blood flows, bullets fly and synthesizers blare as the morgue overflows with the corpses of Dangerous Men.


  • 16-page booklet featuring only documented full-length interview with John S. Rad
  • Audio commentary featuring Destroy All Movies authors Zack Carlson and Bryan Connelly
  • That's So John Rad - An original documentary about the film and its original 2005 theatrical release
  • Rare footage of John S. Rad appearing on local access television
  • Interview with director of photography Peter Palian
  • Original theatrical trailer
  • Trailers


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Sexsquatch Returns to Face Teen Ape in the Sequel to the Big Foot Cult Hit

“Sexsquatch”, the most popular of all the Chris Seaver flicks SRS has produced over the years, is back… and this time he faces a new nemesis in “Sexsquatch vs. Teen Ape”. The sequel, which won’t hit national DVD and VOD until late this year, will be offered up with the original “Sexsquatch: The Legend of Blood Stool Creek” in a limited edition Blu-ray and VHS release. The two movies are being presented under one title… “Sexsquatch: Return to Blood Stool Lake”.

Sexsquatch cover

“Sexsquatch: The Legend of Blood Stool Creek” – Teen Joey Jeremiah has the highest of high ambitions. He wants to be the president of ALL of show business someday. But the thing is, Joey has spent so much time focusing on scripts and dreams of Hollywood that, gasp, he has completely neglected ever getting laid! So his friends, as any great group of friends would do of course, have gathered for a party weekend at scenic Blood Stool Creek to throw joey a “get laid” party. Teens… woods… beer… sex… what could possibly go wrong? Well surprise, surprise, a storm is brewing around the beach house. The scenic wooded area that plays host to their good times also houses a sinister beast. He’s blood thirsty, intelligent, eloquent, covered in hair, and HORNY as hell. No, we aren’t talking about Ron Jeremy here folks… We’re talking about STINK FIST, the SEXSQUATCH! One by one, the gang falls victim to the Sexsquatch’s particular brand of beastly bestiality. Will they figure out how to protect their butt holes from the onslaught and kill the beast before it’s too late?! Spoiler alert… No. The legend, it’s true… Big Feet… Big Pe… SHUT YOUR MOUTH… What? Just talking about SEXSQUATCH: THE LEGEND OF BLOOD STOOL CREEK!

“Sexsquatch 2: Sexsquatch vs. Teen Ape” – Years have passed since the sexual onslaught of “Stinkfist, The Sexsquatch”, a horned up Big Foot like beast who killed and violated the nubile teens at Blood Stool Creek. But you can’t keep an interstellar sexual species like the Sexquatch down for long! Another of the species, FIST STINK, has landed on Earth to unleash his own special brand of “love” on the population. But Fist Stink has learned of another sexual dynamo who is horning in on the his Casanova-like business – “Teen Ape”, known around the universe as “the one true lover and leaver of woman”, is cutting into his game. When Teen Ape and his friends get together to throw an ultimate “sex” party, Fist Stink crashes the good times, challenging Teen Ape to a contest to see who is the most powerful sexual devastator of them all. It’s TEEN APE VS SEXSQUATCH in the ultimate battle of the sex-crazed monsters. Grab your umbrellas ladies because things are about to get MOIST!

“Sexsquatch 1 & 2: Return to Blood Stool Lake” pre-sales went LIVE Sunday night 2/21/16. The Blu-ray is limited to 100 copies and the advance VHS editions to just 25. The sequel won’t get an official release until Fall of this year, so this is your best chance to grab it for a long time. Be there early and lock your copies down, will ship approx 3-4 weeks after pre-sales begin.

For more info or links to the BLU-RAY and VHS copies, swing by

Sexsquatch still photo

Sexsquatch 2 cast photo

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Arrow Video is Releasing the Limited Edition, Mack Daddy of Books for Cult Movie Lovers with 'Cult Cinema: An Arrow Video Companion' on March 29th

Cult Cinema: An Arrow Video Companion 
Limited Edition Hardback Book
246 pages - Dimension: 22 x 2.8 x 28 cm 

Available on March 29th via MVD Entertainment Group

Cult Cinema An Arrow Video Companion book

I doubt we need to tell you how awesome this book sounds, but read on and take a look at a couple of sample pictures below to further whet your appetite.

Arrow Video is one of the foremost distributors of cult cinema on DVD and Blu-ray. From the classic to the obscure, the Arrow Video collection encompasses all styles and genres: horror films and Westerns, science fiction and sex comedies, yakuza epics and neo-noirs, the subversive, the transgressive and the unclassifiable. This hardback volume brings together 25 of the world's leading genre experts and critics to guide you through the multi-faceted beast that is cult cinema.

Exploring the stars, the filmmakers and the trends, Cult Cinema: An Arrow Video Companion approaches its subject from five angles. Each section is devoted to a different facet of cult filmmaking - the opening chapter features seven essays devoted to key cult movies, and is followed by those on directors, actors, genres (and sub-genres), and finally distribution, which examines how different methods of seeing a film, from travelling shows to DVDs, has allowed cult films and their audiences to flourish.

The aim is not to provide a definitive guide to cult cinema but rather, as the subtitle proclaims, a companion. Cult movies means many things to many people - Ben Wheatley's introduction touches on the manner in which he discovered the underbelly of cinema, but it won't be shared by everyone, of course - and everyone will have their own favorites.

Consider this book as a look at cult cinema through the lens of Arrow Video, a pretty broad view: Tinto Brass, Joe Dante, science fiction, super 8, Suzuki Seijun, Boris Karloff, Battle Royale, horror all-nighters, video nasties and much more besides. Something familiar, something fresh, something that might just introduce you to a whole new world of filmmaking and its enthusiastic fandom.

Complete list or writers: Robin Bougie, Michael Brooke, Paul Corupe, David Del Valle, David Flint, Cullen Gallagher, Kevin Gilvear, Joel Harley, David Hayles, Pasquale Iannone, Alan Jones, Tim Lucas, Michael Mackenzie, Maitland McDonagh, Tom Mes, John Kenneth Muir, Kim Newman, James Oliver, Vic Pratt, Jasper Sharp, Kenneth J. Souza, Mike Sutton, Stephen Thrower, Caelum Vatnsdal, and Douglas Weir.

Introduction by filmmaker Ben Wheatley (Kill List, High Rise, Free Fire)

Cover Illustration by Graham Humphreys

Edited by Anthony Nield

Cult Cinema An Arrow Video Companion book

Cult Cinema An Arrow Video Companion book


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Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Interview with Filmmaker, James Bickert of Big World Pictures

Years ago I met a real live Hell’s Angel during Myrtle Beach bike week. My eyes grew wide as I called him a nomad, asking of his adventures. He looked at me and said frankly, “Lady, I own a business. These bikes ain’t cheap.” The open road demystified in one simple sentence. I’d like to think that somewhere out there the outlaws still exist, gulping brews and roaming free, answering to no one and living to ride… kind of like The Impalers. And their founder, James Bickert, rules that cinematic highway with a mighty fine camera and a whole bunch of guns, babes… and beer.

Kurt Cobain once said he hadn’t heard real punk before, so he created what he thought punk should be. James Bickert knows his horror and exploitation better than some people know their mommas. He created his own brand of drive-in bikersploitation and the look, feel and tone are unmistakable. Climb on. It’s going to be a helluva ride!

Body Count Rising: “Dear God No!” was shot on 16mm and “Frankenstein Created Bikers” was shot on 35mm. Does that mean we can expect your next film to be shot on film (as opposed to digital) as well, even if it may not be 35mm?

James Bickert: I favor film aesthetically over shooting digital which requires a colorist or crash course in the latest post-production software. You can’t rule anything out though. It’s just a matter of what makes sense in order to tell the story within the constraints of the budget. 35mm was very difficult for mobility and a constant struggle to keep enough stock on hand for the shoot day to day. The trade-off was all the gifted industry professionals that volunteered their free time to come be a part of the 35mm film experience, again and lend a hand to the camera, lighting and grip departments. We would have seasoned cinematographers stop by and help load mags or bring film stock they had saved from a shoot – it was magical.

Film brings a different sense of comradery that I haven’t experienced with digital. I believe it’s born from a closer connection with the past and the craft; just a more organic and hand-made quality. Damn, I really miss the properties of the Fuji film stock. That was some beautiful stuff with rich blacks and heavy color saturation - especially when you got down to the lower ASA stocks. I’m not complaining about shooting with Kodak Vision 3 and the enormous color range, just miss the Fuji option. I love it on set when a magazine starts squeaking and the assistant camera person bangs on it with their fist, the room gets quiet and then everyone shrugs their shoulders as the Arri motor quietly purrs. You don’t punch a RED camera. (laughs).

Body Count Rising: I’ll take Arri over RED any day. Will you finish out your trilogy with the much anticipated prequel, or will your next project be a departure from the Impalers?

James Bickert: With “Frankenstein Created Bikers”, their story is resolved. I wouldn’t mind revisiting the prequel in the form of a graphic novel or musical recording. I’m not ruling out using individual characters from “Frankenstein Created Bikers” in different films but no more Impaler biker epics, maybe a short one day.

Body Count Rising: Whoa, a musical recording would be trippy for sure. What can you tell us about the much-discussed prequel; was it already written?

James Bickert: It’s a pretty good draft. Maybe I’ll revisit it one day and incorporate it into a different story. It’s more akin to the original biker cycle of the 1960s and would still make for a great film within the confines of that genre or might even play well as a 1970s hicksploitation film with some re-writes.

Body Count Rising: I was fortunate to purchase “Dear God No!” on VHS after Pollygrind in Las Vegas. The drive-in aesthetic to your film style certainly lends itself to this throwback format. Are you a proponent of the VHS movement or are you a VHS tape collector?

James Bickert: I like the nostalgia of VHS; the remembrances of visiting those old “mom and pop” stores with all the lurid big box art in the horror section and the surplus of Godfrey Ho Ninja flicks. There was a time when I carried a video card for every video store within a 150 mile radius of Savannah, Georgia. I would take road trips just to track down “Return of the Evil Dead” or “Soul Hustler”. It will forever be a part of me. I liked going into that porn room too! There were a couple of video stores where you put down a $1 deposit to get your own key that would unlock the porn room. I was always on the hunt for any 70s shot on film porn that would freak me out. Something about watching nervous people picking out porn in a back room is fascinating to me. I would go in there and want to talk about the films with people. Like, “Hey have you seen ‘Nightdreams’ or ‘Water Power’? What’s the creepiest one you’ve seen, dude?” Some guilty looking salaryman would be all nervous and whisper under his breath, “Get the fuck away from me headbanger.” (laughs)

Jett Bryant and I worked together in an Adult Video Store back in the early 90s; actually a “Dong and Bong” as he calls it. I could do an entire comedy routine based on porn preferences by race and gender. Man, we saw some weird shit. Oh, VHS collecting. Sadly, I’ve had to give up collecting everything. I still hold on to my collection of exploitation and drive-in, one-sheet theatrical posters but now my pennies go towards anything that can be seen on screen or comes in a keg.

Body Count Rising: I would pay good money to see that comedy routine! What made you decide to put out “Dear God No!” on VHS?

James Bickert: It just lends itself to the medium and adds connotations of a filthy snuff film you can’t achieve with blu-ray. I always thought the VHS format enhanced the viewing experience of “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”. When you watch the DVD and realize how beautifully shot that film was, it loses some of the grime that made it so terrifying. We did limited releases of VHS for each festival we would play. Hand signed with different box art and limited to between 10-20. I like when you can give something that special to genre fans who collect. I made all those VHS tapes myself and as a recovering collector being able to make a connection with someone that has the same interest.

Body Count Rising: Wow! I had no idea you did them all personally. I hold mine near and dear for sure. Speaking of doing something special for us cinephiles, you released the first 10 pages of “Frankenstein Created Bikers” to the public online. This seems unprecedented, but we are grateful! The writing of the scenes was succinct and vividly descript. I understand that just about everything that was shot on “Dear God No!” was used. Was that also the case with “Frankenstein Created Bikers”?

James Bickert: “Dear God No!” was shot at a 1.5 to 1 ratio. We just didn’t have the money for the film so it was all “cut and print”. Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign with contributions from some really patient people and a great Executive Producer named Robyn Gay, I had better resources for “Frankenstein Created Bikers” so we could do enough takes. We actually shot much more than you’ll see in my final cut which runs well almost 2 ½ hours.

Body Count Rising: What is your secret to avoiding errors on set so that scenes do not need to be re-shot?

James Bickert: Pre-planning. There will always be some pick-up you might need due to running out of sunlight, rain or something of that nature. The trick is to keep those to cutaways so you don’t necessarily have to bring back principal actors. I storyboard everything and then deviate from those based on any location logistics that throw a wrench into the situation, which is inevitable. There may be something exceptional in the moment or performance that just captures the idea better that wasn’t available to you when you were in pre-production. On “Frankenstein Created Bikers”, I went off my boards to shoot a sequence that just felt like it would work better with a French New Wave aesthetic. It was so sleazy everyone needed therapy afterwards. (laughs) I have all the technically challenging shots well planned out in advance. Having that blueprint keeps things on track and moving at a fast pace until you run up against special make-up effects which, by their very nature, are time consuming and often require some creative “on the fly” solutions. When it comes to continuity, I let Jett Bryant handle all that. He’s a stickler for detail.

Body Count Rising: Do you allow your actors to deviate for the script or improvise?

James Bickert: Since I’m using film, we rehearse a lot on set prior to rolling. The film is just expensive, you know. If an actor isn’t connecting with the dialogue then I’ll adjust it to help them relax and let the performance become more natural. Most of my dialogue has multiple purposes and the words are chosen to be precise on all tiers. On the surface it’s generally humorous with a layer of innuendo and contains something that adds dimension to that character without having unnecessary exposition within the film. Then there is an element that reflects the underlying theme of the film and how the character fits into the internal conflicts I’m personally exploring as a writer, if that makes any sense. That last layer is what I find the most rewarding element of filmmaking. I sugar coat it with humor so it isn’t blatantly obvious all the time. I did a lot of acid in the 80s so there isn’t much than can be taken literally in my dialogue. Even what might appear as a one-liner probably has deeper meaning.

Body Count Rising: You must have some fun stories…

James Bickert: We had a larger crew this go around, I was so deep in work mode the AD kept me sheltered from all the really wacky hijinks. The one that did crack me up was our actor Jim Stacy was wearing his monster suit and chasing a topless Ellie Church around a lake. We had the camera set-up on the opposite site of the water for a really long shot and when I yelled action this dog came from out of nowhere and started following Jim like he was this giant alpha dog. We managed to capture it all on Super 35mm and it’s quite funny. That dog loved Jim so much he became a constant distraction trying to get into frame and hang out with his giant furry buddy. The mutt had no concerns about the well-being of our screaming lead actress being attacked by this giant head-ripping Sasquatch.

Body Count Rising: That is AWESOME! (laughing) Either you’re not reprising the role of ‘Rusty Stache’ in “Frankenstein Created Bikers”, or it’s just not credited on IMDb right now. Where’s Rusty?

James Bickert: Oh Rusty Stache is in there. Actually, he has the 4th largest amount of dialogue: 92 instances according to Final Draft! I don’t know what the hell I was thinking there. Remembering the words you wrote while trying to act as Producer and Director is a living nightmare. Rob Thompson who plays Spyder is in most of my scenes and he was very patient. Poor bastard. I had cue cards taped up all around the set and I wrote the damn script. When you’re worried about a prop not being right, the amount of time left on the location, an actor who isn’t in make-up, the focal length the DP is using, an airplane is passing over, a PA grabs a hot barn door with a bare hand when they should never touch the lights to begin with and the set is out of coffee, all within 15 minutes it becomes difficult to remember the words you wrote. I can guarantee you’ll never see Rusty Stache in front of a camera, again. (laughs). I heard he moved to Florida to race figure-eight dirt track cars, anyway. I hope he’s drinking a beer.

Body Count Rising: Beer eh? Although you come off as a really laid-back guy you could drink a beer with and just shoot the shit, you are fiercely intelligent with an intimidating knowledge of film as an author, historian, producer and director. Did you go to film school or have formal training, or are you self-taught?

James Bickert: I think you’re confusing me with someone else, except the beer part. (laughs) That’s very kind of you to say. My formal training is in photography and art history but everything else is self-taught through trial and error and a ravenous passion for cinema. I’m just a junkie for genre film, really. It has been that way ever since my mother took me to see a screening of the original “King Kong” when I was around five years old. I just went all in after that religiously reading “Monster Times”, “Famous Monsters”, “Creepy”, “Eerie” and whatever film books I could find at the local library. When I read Amos Vogel’s “Film as a Subversive Art” it was like dropping acid for the first time. That’s when the film hunting became really obsessive. I get on these kicks where I’ll get fascinated by some small sub-genre and have to consume it. There’s an entire Bavarian T&A genre devoted to lederhosen and beer drinking in the Alps? Well I must see them all! Yeah, it’s a sickness and that is a real sub-genre. I’ve seen about 15 of them without the benefit of subtitles. (laughs)

Body Count Rising: I’m thinking Bavarian T&A would lend itself to hours of enjoyment even without the subtitles. (laughing) So, is your persona and ability to put people at ease the key to your success as a director?

James Bickert: With the camera department, I think it’s the vision, organization and a shared passion for the process. With the actors, patience, listening and hopefully they feel that energy of how much I believe in them. Silence is the worst thing you can do to a performer so I try to avoid that even though I’m probably panicking about the next camera set-up because I have 70 shots to get before sundown. It was really inspiring to me on “Frankenstein Created Bikers” witnessing how “giving” actresses Tristan Risk and Ellie Church were with the other actors in their scenes. I took a great deal away from that experience that will help me in the future. I always get a kick out of scenes involving Paul McComiskey, Jett Bryant and Madeline Brumby together so I loaded the script with some good ones. Yeah, a really good cast. Rob Thompson, Jim Sligh, Elizabeth Davidovich and Billy Ratliff are fantastic and I can’t wait for genre audiences to meet Nick Hood, Rodney Leete and the bone chilling Sarah Beth Moseley. So many to mention… Obviously Laurence R. Harvey steals the film, but what did you expect? (laughs)

As far as everyone else on set? Well, I’m trying to figure that out. (laughs). I try to keep the mood light and praise everyone when they’re doing really good work, especially catering when they are on time! Validation is so important and just taking the time to be thoughtful and polite amongst all the chaos that comes with a fast-paced, underfunded production is essential. Sometimes it becomes difficult to address an issue that you may consider minor at the time; not due to indifference, it’s just there are so many big tasks at hand that require your full attention. I’m trying to get better at providing quicker solutions to on-set emotional needs when my brain is in technical mode. I want to put everyone in the best situation to excel at what they do. Filmmaker, Blake Myers is a zen master of optimism. He should teach seminars. A great attitude is contagious and puts the entire set in position to do their best creative work.

Body Count Rising: Was there ever a time when someone underestimated you? If so, how did that go down?!

James Bickert: I’m sure there was but I’ve long forgotten. I have deflated my ego down to the minimum psi required to just keep driving forward. My only motivation is to contribute to the genres that I love and for the people who believed in me enough to work on my productions to feel it was worth the effort; probably the wrong reasons for this business. (laughs) I’m not motivated by a fetish, fame or greed. I’m not that concerned with recognition unless it leads to opportunities to get the ideas out of my head and onto a screen. It’s fine if people underestimate me. I’m harder on myself than any criticism flung my direction. I’m just doing my thing.

Body Count Rising: And you do it well. Speaking of your thing, I don’t see you listed as an editor for “Frankenstein Created Bikers”, but then I don’t see an editor listed at all when I check the film specs online. Will you be editing this film?

James Bickert: Yeah, that would be. I don’t like seeing my name all over the film. It just looks silly. (laughs). I use a lot of creative pseudonyms in the credits. I’m not one for the “James Bickert presents a James Bickert film” shtick. Film is a collaborative art and I like to keep the production credits as such. I’m just the dumbass that’s around from idea to distribution. That ain’t nothing fancy to brag about. I didn’t save a box of kittens from a burning orphanage or anything.

Body Count Rising: Well then, what has been your biggest challenge as a director and how did you overcome this hurdle?

James Bickert: It’s always time, money and the never ending challenge of swimming amongst the shark invested waters of sales agents, producer’s reps, aggregates, lawyers and distributors. That’s an evolving process where you try not to make the same mistake twice. I’ve been pretty outspoken about the thieves in the industry. Most filmmakers keep their mouths shut out of fear, or worse they feel they have an advantage over other filmmakers with their personal knowledge. Fuck that. A crook is a crook. I don’t want to see any artist taken advantage of in this industry regardless of genre.

Body Count Rising: It seems like I hear that story of filmmakers being taken advantage of, and it seems like the stories often go back to the same production company keen on sniffing out yet unrecognized talent. I know other directors appreciate you shining a bright light on the BS. No one deserves to have their dreams and talents just stolen just because they are afraid of some litigious jerks. Any other advice for your fans that would like to get involved in the genre?

James Bickert:
I have fans? That’s just insane! You can always start by finding someone in your region with a short or feature in production, take two weeks off from your regular job and volunteer to be a production assistant. Work your ass off, hustle, keep your ideas to yourself and maintain a positive attitude and you’ll get noticed right away. Each department will want to steal you and that is where you’ll learn the most. Every production I’ve ever been on has had that one person that comes out of nowhere. I met a guy at a horror convention in Ft. Lauderdale named Robert Alvarez, who wanted to PA and he really kept on me about it. I’m glad he did because he was an enormous asset on “Frankenstein Created Bikers”. He made some good connections, moved to Atlanta and now he works in the industry. Hell, he lives right down the street and we have beers together every week and watch Spaghetti Westerns. He’s an awesome friend. If you want to write, produce and direct just buy a tripod and attach your iPhone. Start doing it. Either way you’ll meet some really great people.

Body Count Rising: Great advice! In “Frankenstein Created Bikers” you went hard with the effects, bringing in some pretty respected names. What led to your decision to expand your effects department for this film?

James Bickert: Spectacle. Go big or go home. The end of the Impalers saga needed to be insane so we shot in 10 cities with over 70 actors. There was so much to tell and I really wanted this film to be unlike any before it. We did our own special effects on “Dear God No!” with some disastrous situations narrowly averted so it was a big relief to have certified professionals carrying the proper licenses. We used real class 3 machine guns and one day our actresses fired over 500 rounds on set. With machine guns, that’s a few minutes. It was a really effective team with Cory Poucher, Wes Campbell, Matt Green and their crew. The special make-up effects crew was massive this time too. The biggest I’ve ever had on a production; Shane Morton and his Silver Scream FX crew, Marcus Koch, and Blake Myers, just to name a few. When you murder 64 people on screen, it’s going to take some serious folks.

I’m in post-production sound now working with some really talented people like Richard Davis, who did the amazing score for “Dear God No!”, The Forty Fives who did the original soundtrack for that film and Buddy Hall’s team over at Guillotine Sound who have bailed me out on my last two features. This is a rewarding time for me because I can finally let some people I admire takeover and watch their creativity shape-up my vision. The band Dusty Booze & the Baby Haters recorded a kickass song for the closing credits and brought Jett in to sing some verses with Ellie Church, filmmaker Brian K. Williams and myself screaming some back-up vocals. That was a lot of fun. We’re also using Jett’s band The Scragglers on the soundtrack. I really dig when the lead actor sings songs in a film like Pam Grier doing “Long Time Woman” for “The Big Doll House”. This one is sure to be memorable too.

I just watched the film tonight in a meeting with Bryan G. Malone from the The Forty Fives and we were both sober and laughing hysterically through the entire film. It’s so damn weird and absurd like John Waters showing you his favorite “Hustler” cartoons for 2 ½ hours. I love this film and really hope the audience has a great time when we unleash it on the world.

Keep up with James on IMDb, FCB’s production website or follow him on Facebook for the latest and greatest on projects, information, good times and good beer.
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Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Interview with Filmmaker, Marcus Koch of Oddtopsy FX

Dick Smith, Rick Baker, Tom Savini, Jerami Cruise, Stan Winston, Rob Bottin, Vincent Guastini, KNB, and of course, Marcus Koch. I’m sure these names would all make your top ten list of gore effects heros and legends. And if you’re a filmmaker, you would count your lucky stars to collaborate with them, because you’d know you were practically guaranteed the most jaw-dropping, realistic effects possible.

Known for his graphic and disturbing horror films, “Rot”, “Fell” and “100 Tears”, Marcus Koch is pulling up the director’s chair once more with the second film in the brutal “American Guinea Pig” series, “Bloodshock”, which is currently touring the festival circuit and will be distributed late August 2016.

Body Count Rising: In “Attack of the Killer Manatee”, Richard Anasky was an actor and you did special effects. I see you also received special thanks on the film “Franklin: A Symphony of Pain” that Anasky produced and had a role in. How did you get to know this fellow Florida filmmaker?

Marcus Koch: Ritch was working on a movie called “I Am Vengeance” and I was in on the ground floor of that to do some effects after “Killer Manatee”. We got together a couple of times, but that film kind of dissolved or was put on hold. I think he ended up working on “Actress Apocalypse” around that time.

Body Count Rising: Did you all (Richard Anasky, Garo Nigoghossian, Jeremy Westrate, Sean Donohue, Tim Ritter, etc…) collaborate since you lived by each other?

Marcus Koch: There’s a whole group of the filmmakers that work together around there. But yeah, wow, I don’t think I’ve seen Ritch Anasky for almost 15 years now!

Body Count Rising: Anasky was mentored by Tim Ritter. I know you said you watched Tim’s films around the time you were shooting “Rot” and cited him as an influence. Was he a mentor to you as well?

Note: Tim and Marcus also both had segments in the horror anthology “Hi-8”.

Marcus Koch: I grew up watching “Truth or Dare”. And then when I graduated I realized he made other films, and that he was a Florida filmmaker, so I reached out to Tim. That’s also how I first saw Joel Wynkoop acting. I said “Wow, I need to get that guy in my films!” I reached him for the film “Rot” through Tim Ritter. Up until then I was just shooting my own backyard movies. I worked with Joel again when I did effects for “Alien Agenda: Endangered Species” and we’ve worked together since quite a bit. He’s a Tampa staple now, plain and simple. He’s always working. We worked on a film in Iowa together and we had to laugh because we live down the street from each other, but here we were crossing paths in Iowa.

Body Count Rising: You also cite John Waters as an inspiration…

Marcus Koch: Yes! I absolutely love John’s films like “Female Trouble” with his raunchy style and foul-mouthed humor.

Body Count Rising: When I first saw “Rot”, I had already seen Fred Vogel’s “August Underground” series and I thought it really had a similar vibe. I get that same feel when I watch some of Ryan Nicholson’s early stuff. I’m sure you’ve inspired many.

Marcus Koch: I definitely went down that same path that Fred Vogel did, but much earlier with the extreme snuffy stuff. Right after I did “Rot” I did some shorts for a movie called “Snuff Perversions: Bizarre Cases of Death” ("Lunch Meat", "They Said Goodbye", "Thrill Rape Kill") and these sequences were all pretty harsh, and actually the most extreme I had ever done.

I met Ryan Nicholson at a Fangoria convention in Austin. I had heard of a film called “Gutterballs” but didn’t know his work at the time. He said he was a huge fan and gave me a copy of the movie. I went home and watched the film and was surprised to see he thanked me in the credits!

Body Count Rising: Well, you do excellent work, so I can certainly understand why he would. Speaking of “Rot” can you believe it’s been 18 years already?

Marcus Koch: It blows my mind. What was it, ‘97? It was a couple of years before we got distribution.

Body Count Rising: I love that it’s being featured on Exploitation TV. Are there any other places we can find “Rot” streaming or will it be re-distributed soon?

Marcus Koch: It was re-released in 2013 through Cult Movie Mania on VHS, but now they’re talking about doing a Blu-ray with special features. I think for now you can also find “Rot” on Roku’s Bizarre TV.

Body Count Rising: I know you like to shoot on digital. Did you shoot “Rot” on digital?

Marcus Koch: It was originally shot on Hi-8 camcorder. My first movies were all shot on Hi-8.

Body Count Rising: So now the big question: if you put this out on Blu-ray, will there be a “Rot” soundtrack packaged with it? That soundtrack is pretty punk-rock amazing.

Marcus Koch: I thought about it. I don’t know how much I still have on tape. Some of the songs are just in the film with the sound effects in them. That’s something I’ll need to look into further.

Note: The original soundtrack had TSOL’s Code Blue, but it had to be removed for legal reasons. The remaining tracks are all authentic local street-punk garage bands that Marcus recorded on a bunch of cassette tapes. If you hear a song that isn’t punk in the film, then that is Marcus’ friend, Michael Crawford’s work.

Body Count Rising: You’ve worked with some interesting and eccentric directors from Lloyd Kaufman (on “Citizen Toxie: Toxic Avenger 4”) to Herschel Gordon Lewis (on “The Uh-Oh Show”) to James Bickert (on “Frankenstein Created Bikers”). What’s the strangest thing a director has requested from you, or the oddest situation you’ve been in when doing effects?

Marcus Koch: Oh there have definitely been some strange ones. I think the toughest director I ever worked for was Andreas Schnaas, who directed the “Violent Shit” films. He did a film called “Nikos the Impaler” and it was the most grueling learning experience of my life.

Body Count Rising: Was it difficult because Schnaas was a stickler for perfection?

Marcus Koch: Yeah, we had differences on the reality of the blood. He gave me his recipe for blood, but he actually would go to the butcher shop for pig’s blood. And I have a huge phobia of real blood, so the thought of that just gave me the heebie-jeebies, plus I didn’t feel it was sanitary. Prior to that, I had never worked out-of-state before, but the special effects artist who was hired on, Jesus Vega, requested I help him on the project. The producer, Joe Zaso knew my work, and I knew him through Tim Ritter, so I joined in. We had very limited money, two months to work, and we would often get script changes the night before. So we would need to create all new props on the fly into the wee hours of the night, which was a problem for prop casting because the actors had already gone home.

A great thing that came out of this shoot is that I was able to go visit Dick Smith at his house. Jesus was taking the Dick Smith course and it turned out he was only a cab ride away, and so Dick Smith invited us over to his house and to hang out for the afternoon. I asked him for some help on using gelatin and he stopped me. He said “Here’s a pad of paper. You’re going to want to take notes.” He was humble and awesome and I’m so glad I got to meet him. Great guy!

Now Herschel Gordon Lewis had the strangest request. When I first met him for “The Uh-oh Show” I was super excited so I brought him a fake arm that had fingernails and hair in it, and it was super detailed. I was like “YES! The Godfather of Gore!” and he looked at it and shrugged saying “Hmmph… is there a way you can make these look fake?” (laughing) So I’m literally spending thousands of dollars making all of these fake looking body part props, but since it was a comedy he didn’t want overt realism.

Body Count Rising: His blood is always really bright red too. Did you need to change your formula?

Marcus Koch: Yeah, he didn’t like my blood because it was too dark and rich, so I had to brighten it up a lot. That was difficult because I told him it wasn’t going to look real. That’s what he wanted though.

Body Count Rising: Why are you uncredited for the effects on “Citizen Toxie: Toxic Avenger 4”?

Marcus Koch: That’s another funny story. That film came right after “Rot” and was distributed through Troma. Patrick Cassidy, a line producer and writer for the film, reached out to me and said he couldn’t fly me out to the film, but they would send me money if I could give them “charred tards”. So I started working on the “charred tards” referring to the effects you see in the beginning of the film. I got a call a couple weeks later saying “Hey we can’t send money right now, but if you keep your receipts for your materials we’ll reimburse you.” So I was like, “Uh OK…” and I got together a refrigerator-sized box of blackened body parts that were all random and charred and I shipped them off. And I don’t hear anything… and I don’t hear anything… until I was doing effects for “Nikos the Impaler”. Lloyd Kaufman had a part that was filmed inside of a video store, so after we wrapped I went up and started talking to him. That was the first time I was able to see Lloyd as a real person and not just Troma Lloyd. He was so incredibly knowledgeable and loved westerns and just knew everything about film history and I was just like “Holy shit!” So after the great conversation I just kind of brought it up. “So… a long time ago when I was 19 I made some 'charred tards' for the Toxic Avenger 4 movie…” and he was like “Oh yeah! The charred tards!” and I was like “Yeah… I never actually heard back on that…” He said “Oh yeah, Patrick Cassidy stopped working on that film.” I said “OK… but I never actually got paid...” and he didn’t miss a beat. (laughing) He said “Tell you what, here’s a copy of ‘Mother’s Day’.” that he handed me from the set. I’ve worked with Lloyd several times since then and now it’s our running joke.

Body Count Rising: Well does he at least hand you a movie every time you see him?

Marcus Koch: No! I didn’t even get a copy of the film I worked on! (laughing)

Body Count Rising: Awe man! Well, at least you have a good story from it. (laughing) So do these directors influence your directing style, or are you pretty much just completely focused on effects-only while on set?

Marcus Koch: Sometimes you work with directors who really understand how to shoot horror using practical effects. It’s like slight of hand and it really needs to be shot or edited a certain way. At the end of the day, a rubber hand is a rubber hand. At the wrong angle the audience will go “Well, that’s a fake hand.” It is a collaborative effort to assure that suspension of disbelief; to make the audience think that person really did get his hand cut off.

Body Count Rising: So have you done effects on another director’s film that you feel could have been edited a lot better?

Marcus Koch: Well, sometimes there are people who will not hear outside influences and if you try to tell someone how they should shoot and effect, or edit the effect, it’s really crossing the line with them. That’s when one of two things could happen: they can’t figure out how to properly piece it together in editing, so they cut the scene completely, or worse they cut it together the best way they think they can and the effect fails.

Body Count Rising: Either way, that would be pretty awful. Are you generally allotted enough time when setting up effects in general, or do you ever feel in a race with the clock?

Marcus Koch: Sometimes it’s a race. Sometimes there are really big productions and those are always great. Generally I don’t have that luxury and just hit the ground running. It really depends on the film and how much budget they have. Often there are a couple weeks of pre-production for the life casting and molding.

Body Count Rising: You worked with Buddy Giovinazzo on “Ginger”, which was later re-titled “Night of Nightmares” and I know he said he usually has a quick turnaround for his shooting schedules. Did you feel the time constraints on that film?

Marcus Koch: No. That was an awesome set to be on. I had to create an effect where a girl throws up pennies and I had never done anything like that before. I always love the opportunity do new things.

Body Count Rising: You seem to be a SFX MacGyver, coming up with solutions on the spot. When you have obstacles, how do you make it work?

Marcus Koch: Well, you kind of have to. If something just isn’t in the budget you need to think on your toes and use your resources to come up with the best possible substitute. If you can’t do this it will be detrimental to the film.

Body Count Rising: When the film is not your own, is it difficult for you to do effects and just walk away without any control over post-production? Or have any of the directors requested your help in post-production?

Marcus Koch: Not that I ever try to overstep my bounds, but yeah. There have been directors that have asked me to collaborate in post-production. I will even offer to put it together if someone needs help editing a sequence. Often people are really open to the idea because they want it to come off looking the best.

Body Count Rising: Do you prefer to direct because that gives you more control over these aspects of filming and how the final version will look?

Marcus Koch: I’ve really got an eye for how it all will go together. It is important to know how the edit will work before you frame it. I have a really good understanding of that and I do enjoy directing.

Body Count Rising: You did effects for the “Theater Bizarre” anthology. Did you work on a specific segment, the framing or both?

Marcus Koch: Mainly I did David Gregory’s “Sweets” and the effect was a decapitated upside-down hanging body that had sliced Achilles tendons. And that was one of those incredible shoots and although it was a ten-minute short it had a really massive cast and crew. Everything just worked like a well-oiled machine and it was such a great three days. I also did some digital steam work on Tom Savini’s segment.

Body Count Rising: So you do CG too, and not just practical effects?

Marcus Koch: Not very often. I’ve done it mostly with compositing. I’ll film green screen shots of a practical effect and then combine them together by layering digitally. An example was a decapitation I did. We had a real body, a fake body and a head that had a green screen behind it. David Gregory allowed me to shoot that part because I knew how everything needed to go together and then I was able to assemble it all on the computer. It’s just layers of practical stuff just all put together.

Body Count Rising: Wow. That’s really interesting! So have you ever done that layering effect with fire?

Marcus Koch: Fire? No I don’t work with fire or pyrotechnics.

Body Count Rising: I remember seeing a scene in “Die Die Delta Pi” where it appeared like the fire was in front of the item that was supposed to be on fire. I just wondered if that was that layering effect.

Marcus Koch: No. I actually didn’t work on that part of the effects. I was on the road when they shot that footage.

Body Count Rising: That was the only thing that didn’t look terribly authentic, so I’m glad to hear that wasn’t yours. Good to know! What primarily is the secret to the realism behind your effects? I understand you never use the real thing, so you really need to go that extra mile…

Marcus Koch: Lots of internet research. It’s a great place to find really explicit death photos. I’ll look up surgeries and suicides and I’ll study how muscle, bone and viscera really look. I always try to strive for anatomical and I know the limitations of my materials.

Body Count Rising: How much of your work is collaborative?

Marcus Koch: It depends on the budget of the film. I have a group that I’ve been working with for years as Oddtopsy FX: Cat Bernier, Matt Ash and Chris Polidoro. They are my right and left hands. They’re people I know I don’t have to baby sit and they know my expectations.

Body Count Rising: So do you bounce ideas off of each other, or is it more that you’re giving them direction and they take action based on your instruction?

Marcus Koch: A little bit of both. If we come to a situation we haven’t encountered before and need to come up with a solution, we’ll bounce ideas off of each other to figure the best possible way to achieve our goal. For instance on “Bloodshock”, we had to do a camera angle from inside of a mouth while pulling teeth. I told Cat what I needed and together we figured out how we could make this half-head with a macro lens set right up inside the mouth.

Body Count Rising: What kind of camera are you using? I know you had said that you like to use a handheld digital.

Marcus Koch: Yeah I shot “100 Tears” on film with a great lens, but lately I’ve been using a DSLR camera and the image quality and resolution is just so amazing. We’ll be switching up to a 2K camera for the next film.

Body Count Rising: When you go to that level of resolution, how does that affect what goes into your special effects?

Marcus Koch: Across the board, the higher the resolution, the tougher the job. You can see the seams around prosthetics and you need to take more time with makeup.

Body Count Rising: Since you’re putting out “American Guinea Pig: Bloodshock” on Blu-Ray as a perk to select film supporters, will the fact that the film is in black-and-white be more forgiving for the effects?

Marcus Koch: I shot the film in color and edited in color. It was only turned black-and-white in the final stages. It was more of a visceral choice for the story telling. It just plays out better in black-and-white. And it stays in black-and-white until the end where there is a gradual movement to color.

Body Count Rising: What is your message with that gradual change to color?

Marcus Koch: It’s almost like a heightened reality. Without giving too much of the plot away, it really is a hyper crescendo at that point. There is very little gore until the last 15 minutes. Up until that point there are slow, draining tortures. It’s a very slow, deliberate burn. It’s like a frog in a boiling pot. You’ve been sitting for so long in the warm water, you don’t know that it’s about to get really bad.

Body Count Rising: You’re almost making it sound like a Takashi Miike film!

Marcus Koch: The first film in the series was obviously a snuff film with 70 minutes of two girls just getting cut up. And that was difficult in and of itself in just how it was shot and for the most part was in chronological order. With this one it’s more subtle. You know, like a knee getting hit with a hammer. While it’s hard to watch, it’s not crossing over into that hardcore gore yet. Not until the grand finale.

Body Count Rising: I know you’re not a fan of writing highly specific firm scripts. You allow your actors to improvise to a large extent and trust in their acting abilities. Has this ever gone horribly wrong, besides the multiple fart jokes you mention in the “100 Tears” commentary?

Marcus Koch: Oh man, “100 Tears” had so many fart jokes! That was Joe and Georgia though. That’s just how they talked. Joe wrote the script, and Georgia stuck to what he wrote, but Joe couldn’t follow that script to save his life.

In my film “Fell” it also had gore but wasn’t a splatter fest. It was more reserved and relied on character development. The film was a bit more of a free-form drama. This was a very structured form of improv and it came off very genuine and so positive. It all hinges on having a good story, good characterization and something to say. I think that is where a lot of movies fail with the message and the story.

Body Count Rising: That’s a really good point. How do you actors respond to this freedom?

Marcus Koch: They really embrace it. It’s tailored but it allows them the freedom to do what they want. Now “Bloodshock” doesn’t have much dialog at all. Almost immediately Dan Ellis’ character gets his tongue cut out so he has to do all of his acting through non-verbal cues. He can do just about anything, but he can only use his eyes or his body. He does a really effective job communicating without any lines.

Body Count Rising: You’ve been an actor as well. Were you given the option to improvise in any of the films you acted in?

Marcus Koch: I actually hate being on camera. I’ll do a cameo, but I’m not a good actor, so I’d only want to be in something corny. Like they let me do my own dialogue in “Die Die Delta Pi” I played someone who was in art school and I came up with “Can I Jackson Pollack all over your Georgia O’Keefe?” (laughing)

Body Count Rising: I am amazed that wasn’t in the script. (laughing) There were some fun 80’s throwback lines in that film.

So… back to “American Guinea Pig.” Stephen Biro directed the first American Guinea Pig in a series of eight (“Bouquet of Guts and Gore”) shot on 8 mm in color, and you directed the second (“Bloodshock”) shot on digital primarily in black-and-white. Both are very different and allow you to do unique effects for each. Can we expect that the remaining six in the series will be completely different as well?

Marcus Koch: I don’t believe we’ll revisit the snuff theme. Steve’s writing them all. The intention was to have different directors for each one. We had been talking about the 3rd film being directed by a filmmaker in Chile. Things significantly slowed down so now it looks like Stephen will direct so that we can move forward. I’m going to do the effects and he’s got some crazy shit planned… really bizarre shit that I have no idea how I’m going to do it, but I’m like “Oh I’ll figure something out.” I like it when I get challenged. This one will be an exorcism film.

Body Count Rising: Is there any chance that you may be one of the mystery directors in the upcoming films of the series?

Marcus Koch: Well, we’re talking to a Japanese director about working on one. We’d like to have that being filmed while we’re working on the third film, “American Guinea Pig: The Exorcists.”

Body Count Rising: You have a bunch of projects in pre-production and post-production, but what can you tell us about “Baby Doll: The Afterlife and Misadventures of an Undead Girl in the Mob”?

Marcus Koch: That’s my dream project that I’ve been trying to get going since I shot “Rot”. I’ve gotten close a couple of times. I think it would be a good film. It’s a dead girl that comes back to life, falls in love with the pall bearer and she begins to fall apart. Out spills a bunch of bags of cocaine that the mob had hidden in dead bodies. Meanwhile the mob wants to know where the body is because it’s not like she can get up and just walk away. Chaos ensues. It’s a morbid love story.

Body Count Rising: Can you share any other projects that are in the works or on the horizon?

Marcus Koch: This weekend I’m going to Georgia to work on Ron Bonk’s “House Shark.” I love working on things like this. I’m usually the go-to gore guy or the dick guy.

Body Count Rising: I was aware you were the gore guy. I was not aware you were the dick guy.

Marcus Koch: Oh yeah if people want dicks, they come to me. Anyways, I get to do a monster shark. This will probably look like the cross between a Troma film and a Gwar concert. I also have a cameo in a film this weekend called “Bigfoot Mob Boss” where I play a hooker and I will be in full drag. I have a wig and vinyl skirt. I’ll be doing some effects tomorrow on a film called “Crack Baby Billionaire”.

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

Marcus Koch: If you want to get into the business to produce, direct, be a DP or do special effects, the best way to learn is to be a PA (production assistant). Just observe how everyone does their jobs. If you’re lucky you’ll get on bigger sets. Learn through that. I think going to film school can be an incredible waste of money if you can get hands-on learning. I guess the biggest piece of advice would be not to be a dick on set. Everyone in the film industry is in it for the same thing and we’re in it to work. You never know. Even the craft services guy who’s on set for 12 hours observing. What’s his goal? Will he direct some day? You don’t know if that guy has an uncle who’s about to die and will leave him a bunch of money. You want him to say “I want to work with that person.” Do your job. Do it well. Don’t be a dick. That’s the best advice to keep working.

Keep up with Marcus on IMDb or check out his Facebook.
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