In addition to the usual reviews and comments you would find on a horror movie blog, this is also a document of the wonderfully vast horror movie section of the video store I worked at in my youth.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Festival Of Fear 2013: Reunion(?)

In addition to the Joe Dante appearance, Rue Morgue had also planned a very special reunion.

Unfortunately, it kind of fell apart at the zero hour, as Jeffrey Combs took on a last-minute acting gig, and Charles Band, who was at the show, disappeared mysteriously - actually it's not a mystery, but that's an entirely different story. Regardless, the remaining members of the reunion soldiered on and provided some great anecdotes. I have to say that Barbara Crampton was especially lovely, showing a wonderful affinity for public speaking. Crampton & Bruce Abbott talked to fans at length about Stuart Gordon's classic 1985 film Re-Animator. Here are some highlights.

Crampton on Re-Animator being Gordon's first film;

“This was Stuart Gordon's first movie that he directed, he had been in stage in Chicago for a very long time. He'd always loved H.P. Lovecraft and he was working with Dennis Paoli, his writer, and they formulated this script bringing together some isolated stories about Herbert West. He hired a DP by the name of Mac Ahlberg and they worked really closely together. He was really instrumental in helping Stuart actually know how to frame a shot, where the camera should be and how to orchestrate a scene. We also, because Stuart was a theatre director, had the advantage of rehearsing for about three weeks before we started shooting the movie. That doesn't often happen with an independent film, you just get the script, you read it and sometimes you meet your co-actors the day you show up for your first scene. So, we all met each other at the audition process and then, I happened to have the biggest living room at the time, so we worked out the scenes in my living room. I got to hang out with these guys beforehand, so when we got to the set we were really prepared.”

Abbott on his initial reaction to Re-Animator;

“I didn't like the script when I read it. It was bizarre and I didn't really know if I wanted to do it. It was so out of bounds. I was asking my agent if there was anything else I could audition for. My agent talked me into it. And there was massive competition for the audition, there was like fourty guys that looked just like me. I couldn't get it, I was like 'what do they see in this?' So it was a big surprise for me. But when we saw dailies, there was something undeniably energetic and visceral about it. Stuart's excesses, we used to call him 'more blood Gordon'. I just remember being mesmerized by what I was seeing in dailies. I was always 'God damn, that really works.' It was a shock.”

On working with Jeffrey Combs;

BC: “He really kind of what you might expect, mercurial, really intelligent and a very feeling person. He's somewhat nicely tortured just enough to play some odd characters. He's able to totally put himself into another person where you just don't see Jeff at all.”

BA: “I think that's a beautiful assessment of him. I think the words that come to mind for me are really quick, and physical. Jeff is one of the most physical actors. He did this incredible one man show in Los Angeles called Nevermore that Stuart directed, that God, it was Edgar Allen Poe, and he just killed it. And that's very dry stuff and part of his magic is that he inhabits his body so amazingly through his characters. He's a live wire, man.”

Re-Animator's Bruce Abbott & Barbara Crampton

Moderator Andrea Subissati asked if there was any truth to the rumour that Charles Band out the kibosh on Stuart Gordon's desire to do Dagon following Re-Animator. Here's what Crampton had to say about it;

“I don't think Charles really liked that movie so much, and I know that Stuart was trying to pitch that around to different studios. He also brought it to Disney, and they were like 'fish? Scary? I don't think so.' Originally, he wanted Jeff and I to be the leads in Dagon, but it just took so long that he decided to do From Beyond. Then, by the time it went ahead we were too old to do it, although the guy that is in Dagon they got looks a lot like Jeffrey. Actually, I think those fish, if you've seen Dagon, those fish creatures are really scary. I love that movie, after Re-Animator it's probably my favourite thing that he's done.”

I was glad that Crampton brought up her involvement in the newly released home invasion slasher You're Next;

I was in kind of semi-retirement. I live just outside San Francisco with my family, I have two children. I got a call out of the blue a couple of years ago and was in offered this role as the mom in You’re Next. I thought to myself, well, who wants me to be in a movie? Who remembers me? I asked my agent, who thankfully still hadn’t dropped me in the ten years I wasn’t working, 'do they want to see me? Do they want to audition me?' And he said 'no, they just want you for the movie, they’re big fans of Re-Animator and they want someone older for the mom, who’s also a horror actress. They want you!' I read the script and it was really good. It was really fortunate for me to be asked to do this movie because it just turned out to be an amazing thing.”

Crampton in You're Next.

As the Q&A was wrapping up, someone asked Abbott about Bride of Re-Animator, and Crampton why she wasn't in it;

BC: “When they asked me to be in it, it was Brian Yuzna who was taking over for Stuart and doing his own movie, and they said you're only going to have a teeny part in it and then you won't exist anymore. So, at the time, I think my agent said 'just don't do it.' So that was really the only reason, it just wasn't enough for me to do.”

BA: “She was afraid of the six hours of make-up (laughs). My God that woman (Kathleen Kinmont) spent many hours in the morning and so many hours at night getting that stuff off. She was an animal that woman. But, you know it was the gothic sort of homage to Frankenstein and with the Herbert West preoccupation with hearts, it seemed like a logical fit. I never really thought about it because Jeff was doing it, and he was just so much fun to work with. It was a great opportunity to revisit this thing. I had no idea how that would turn out either, but I was like 'well, you struck gold once...' I don't think it was quite as effective as the first one was, but we gave it a good shot.”

The day before, I had also seen Crampton and Ken Foree talk about their experiences working on Gordon's follow-up to Re-Animator, From Beyond. Here's some bits from that.

Crampton on the shoot's locale;

We shot From Beyond in Italy and what an experience that was. It was the first time I was ever in Europe. After we did Re-Animator, which we made for a million dollars, it did so well that we had five million dollars, thirty years ago, to make From Beyond. That was a lot of money, you know? So, we had a long shooting schedule. These days you're lucky if you have three weeks for an independent movie, we had almost two months. And we were living at the Parioli House, and it was awesome.”

Crampton on From Beyond's signature slime;

Does anyone wanna know what the From Beyond slime was actually made of? I don't even know if they still use it, but it was something called methylcellulose, which is the thickener in McDonald's milkshakes. And I had it all over my body and it was really cold in the studio we were shooting in. It was the old Dino De Laurentis studios and Dino had gone bankrupt and couldn't pay a lot of his bills, so some collectors had come and taken the heating elements out of the building. So, we shot I think it was March and April, and it was chilly in Rome at that time. They brought in some heaters, but they were really loud, so we could only use them when we weren't shooting. So, we were always cold and I had to be in that leather skimpy thing, and every time the Beyond came to be, they put this methylcellulose all over us. One day I just had it one day and I said 'it's freezing in here, you need to heat that stuff up.' I remember Stuart getting really mad at me, but we'd done a movie before at this point, so I said, 'yeah, I want it heated up, I can't act, I'm fucking freezing.' So he did.”

On the effects;

Those (the floating creatures) were all CGI, those little fish things swimming around, we had to react to that, as there was nothing there. But definitely they were heavy on special effects in From Beyond. I think that was the era of that. And a lot of those guys went on to do a lot of great things. Mark Shostrom and John Buechler, you know, we had like three or four separate special effects teams.”

From Beyond's Ken Foree & Barbara Crampton

Moderator Andrea Subissati asked Ken Foree what it was like to die in a movie after kicking so much ass in Dawn of the Dead;

Well, here’s a story just to show you how interesting me dying in films would become. I did Texas Chainsaw Massacre III and I had the fight with R.A. Mihailoff in the pool of water where he puts the chainsaw through my head. Ok, so that was the end of me. We wrapped and a few months later they screened it for audiences, and they called me and said they had to reshoot. I said, ‘Reshoot what?’. They told me that I was going to be in some scenes at the end because the audience didn’t like that I died. So, I came back and reshot it with a scar on my head. Moving forward a bit, I worked with Rob Zombie on Devil’s Rejects. When I read the script I told Rob ‘hey, there’s a problem here, the audience doesn’t like it when I die, so we can’t have me die in the film’ Rob said ‘No, Ken, you’re gonna die.’ So I said, ‘No, you don’t quite understand, people don’t like to see me die.’ This went on for a month, where I’d call him and he’d just hang up on me. So, first day on the set. What scene do we shoot? My death scene!”

Crampton on her wardrobe” in From Beyond;

Stuart actually went shopping with me for that leather outfit, because they'd bought a few things and I'd tried them on, and he didn't like anything, so we spent a long day laughing and carrying on, with me trying on all this bondage stuff and saying 'whaddaya think, boss, how's this?' He still said 'no, it's not good enough', so we had something made for me. And you know, a lot of these movies that Ken & I have both been in, sometimes when they come out, people like them, but they don't become the cult classics that they are today. So, maybe five or eight years after the movie I had a yard sale, and I sold that bondage outfit at the yard sale for probably like ten bucks. I look back now and wonder how much I could've gotten for that on Ebay.”

So, despite the reunion being a little short in bodies, it didn't make it any less enjoyable. I can see a revisit to those old Gordon-Lovecraftian tales in my near future. Thanks for reading everyone!

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