Emily Eden Films & LAHorror.com Present: “The Chronicles of Ruth”

Horror lovers!  I couldn’t be more excited to announce that LAHorror.com is teaming up with Emily Eden Films & visionary Writer/Director Brialynn Massie to Co-Produce / Co-Star in an amazing new Web Series called “The Chronicles of Ruth” (#TCOR)!  This is a project that I’m extremely excited about, and if you’re into HORROR, POSSESSION, HELLFIRE & more, then you should be pretty damn excited too!

“How do you save someone from Hell when you can’t even save yourself?”

#TCOR follows “Ruth,” a young teen who struggles with depression, leading her astray into hell, and her journey to escape this darkness to warn her family of the impending apocalypse.  It’s one of the most ORIGINAL and EPIC horror scripts I have read in quite some time, Bria Lynn Massie has really created a really special story and assembled a cast that is incredibly talented and diverse, including Chris Kato, Jocelyn Watts, Bobbie Lee, Chris Pardal, and Daniele De Leggia, to name just a few.  We need your help getting #TCOR produced!

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This is a story that’s extremely accessible to horror fans of all types.  What initially attracted me to this project was not only the scope and depth of the characters, but the real nasty horror elements that prevail throughout.  Whenever I read a horror script, there’s nothing that I love more than the moments that can make even me cringe, and #TCOR is full of them!  This is a seriously ambitious project but I have no doubt that with this cast & creative team the product will be incredible!  Here’s a small glimpse into the madness that we’re going to create…

There are a lot of fundraising campaigns out there, and this is one that you should strongly consider backing.  We’re a young, hungry and enthusiastic team set out to create an epic horror drama, filled with SCARES and CARNAGE, but also filled with inspiration and heart.  We are offering some awesome perks for backers and we’re planning several charitable events to help pay it forward (we’ll keep you posted on the details and how you can help as well)!  We cannot do it without you.

Please, help us make “The Chronicles of Ruth” a reality by donating, sharing our campaign or simply “liking” #TCOR on Facebook and following #TCOR on Twitter!  This is a project you’ll definitely want to keep up with, so keep checking back for more info!  Thanks for the support, Horror Lovers!

LAHorror.com Review: “Starry Eyes”

Amaray Wrap.EPSThere’s a neat magic trick that “Starry Eyes” pulls off.  In telling the story of an unknown actress going to great lengths for the lead role in a horror film, it allows a relatively unknown actress to deliver an amazing performance in a horror film.

That it’s able to pull this off without becoming self-referential and overly “meta” is a testament to the directing team of Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer.  They build a seedy, claustrophobic world that allows Alex Essoe to deliver an incredibly focused and committed performance.

Essoe plays Sarah Walker, an aspiring actress who works at Big Tater’s: a Hooter’s-esque restaurant run by Pat Healy, and surrounds herself with hipster frenemies while hustling auditions.  She’s obsessed with becoming a star.  Not just any kind of star, either.  She idolizes old Hollywood leading ladies.  Her timid demeanor masks some serious psychological issues: when she’s upset, she goes into fugue states and pulls her hair out in clumps.

starry-eyes-sxsw-laurel-official-1Her big break seems within reach when she lands an audition for Astraeus Pictures (also the real-life title of the film’s production company), which is depicted as the decaying remnant of an old Hollywood studio.  The audition does not go well, and she has an episode in the studio’s bathroom.  The Casting Director sees this and is intrigued.  She arranges another audition, where Sarah has one of her fits in front of the camera.

The rest of the film is the study of how far Walker is willing to go to achieve success with Astraeus.  Her ambition is the driving force behind the story and pushes her into a Faustian bargain with the Producer of Astraeus.

What’s fantastic is that the film works completely as metaphor for the process and business of acting while still telling a fantastic story.  It references great old Hollywood studio pictures such as “All About Eve” and “Sunset Boulevard” without quoting from them.  We’re never told exactly who or what the forces behind Astraeus are.  We simply see the wonderfully creepy and not quite human performances of Maria Olsen as the Casting Director and Louis Dezseran as the Producer

When Sarah makes her deal with Astraeus, the movie takes a swing into full blown body horror.  There’s some great disgusting makeup and gore in the second half of the movie.  The climax of the film is delightfully ambiguous, leaving you to decide if Sarah’s sacrifices and choices were worth it in the end.

Alex Essoe is the movie’s greatest special effect.  This movie is a showcase for her performance, as she’s in nearly every frame of the film.  She delivers a performance that is honestly one of the best I’ve seen this year.  Her scenes with Pat Healy are just spectacular: heartfelt and completely real.  I haven’t seen a woman disappear into a role this completely in a horror film since Tristan Risk’s Beatress in “American Mary.”

starry-eyes-art-print-final“Starry Eyes” isn’t just a great horror movie; it’s a great Los Angeles movie.  It uses a number of great locations around the city, and depicts the squalor and trashiness of modern Hollywood, contrasting the glamour and perfection of the movie version of Hollywood.  The lush cinematography by Adam Bricker excels in showing a beautiful environment and then zeroing in on the chaos and decay that lurk at the edges.  This is Hollywood by way of Lovecraft and Ligotti.

Finally, the score is perfect.  It’s by Jonathan Snipes, who also scored “The Shining documentary “Room 237.”  It’s due to be released in February when the movie hits DVD and Blu-Ray.

Starry Eyes is currently available on VOD from iTunes and Amazon Instant Video.  I was lucky enough to see it in its only Los Angeles screening at Cinefamily.  If you’re in the mood for a horror movie in the vein of “Rosemary’s Baby” or “Possession,” you’ll really enjoy this movie.  There’s so much creativity in every frame of this film.  Seek this one out wherever you can find it.

To learn more about “Starry Eyes,” visit the film’s official website, Facebook and Twitter.  This review was written by LAHorror.com contributor Paul Stephen Edwards.  

H E R E T I C: A One of a Kind Live Horror Experience

HereticHaunted houses have become a lucrative field.  According to the Haunted House Association, haunted attractions pull in over a billion dollars annually in the United States.  Most of these are family attractions such as corn mazes and hay rides that may have a few actors or props to provide a few jump-scares for you.  These are decidedly PG-rated affairs and generally fall more toward the “creepy and spooky” level rather than anything genuinely scary.

Of course, there are the large scale theme park attractions such as “Knott’s Scary Farm” and “Universal Halloween Horror Nights” that provide professional level makeup and effects.  There is a higher gore factor and more implied violence.  These are the PG-13 style attractions.

And then there are the “extreme” haunts.  In attractions such as “Blackout” and “Alone,” you go through alone and must sign a waiver.  Full contact is allowed and you are placed in extreme situations involving sexual situations and psychological stress.  You are provided a safe word to cease the interactions.  Definitely hard R ratings here, possibly drifting toward the NC-17 if we continue our MPAA analogy.

H E R E T I C would be the ratings equivalent of a 70s style X.  The MPAA would quite simply refuse to give it a rating and would possibly contact the state and local authorities to round up the responsible parties.  Part performance art, part horror film, it is not meant to be scary.  It is meant to be fucking terrifying.

And it’s free.  But there’s a catch: you have to be invited.

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Chances are, if you’re on the invite list, you’ve already encountered the creative mastermind behind H E R E T I C: Adrian Marcato.  Marcato is a makeup and effects artist for movies such as “Dead Sea” and “House of Manson.”  And for the last year, he has been causing people to scream out designated safe words under the banner of H E R E T I C.

I first encountered Marcato at “ScareLA” where he was running a five minute demo version of       H E R E T I C.  I stepped behind a curtain into pitch black and was immediately accosted by a demonic figure.  I didn’t even notice the blood on my clothes until an hour later.  It was truly bizarre and terrifying, even in the middle of a crowd of people.  Marcato promised that this was just a taste of the full event.

The following is an e-mail interview with Marcato conducted just after the conclusion of the latest H E R E T I C event: P A R A T O X I C.

Paul Stephen Edwards: Let’s start with your background in practical FX & makeup.  What’s your origin story?

Adrian Marcato: I have been in FX for five years now. I actually started taking screenwriting classes and moved into shooting my short films. The first one I wrote, shot, directed and did the FX for by just learning on the spot. The name of the film was “Her Dead Flesh,” [and] it was about a girl that on the way home was raped and killed by a creature (it’s revealed later a vampire). She comes back to life murdering and drinking blood. That was my first FX job turning my classmate (now wife) into a rotted vampire that masturbates with bloody severed limbs. I did FX for friends and eventually landed my first horror film “Hatchet 3” as an intern.

PSE: And what led toward the transition to live performance?

AM:  Prior to that, I had worked at “Knotts Scary Farm” as a monster and security. I worked four years on that haunt, learning by watching the production from all sides. In 2011, I started working FX for the “LA Haunted Hayride” and that was great, because I was allowed to be creative with the make-up.

In 2013, I wrote a film called H E R E T I C, shopped it around, and actually took meetings with a few production companies–a few minor and one major. They passed on it, so I decided to just do it myself, and it was during the casting for it I got bored after seeing like 100 people.  So I decided to scare the actors coming in by presenting a disturbing scene they had to act out…it was then I decided to develop It into a haunted house. I tested the material out on myself first which was a really brutal experience.

PSE:  What was brutal about it?

AM:  I wanted to see how real I could make it. I asked three close friends to participate as my monsters. I was tied to a chair in my basement and I could got not get out of my restraints. I then told them to lay five weapons on the ground in front of me: a bat, a knife, a metal pipe, a rope, and gloves.  They were told by me that I had to choose three out of five and it [would] be random. I was very scared when the blindfold went over my eyes. I chose the gloves first by pointing blindly and one of my friends put sheer latex gloves on and for 10 seconds hit me very hard. The knife was picked next … I was slightly cut. Nothing heavy, but the last cut was deep. I called safety and it was over.

Never again.  That was very intense, but it helped me to create a vicious design without going to those extremes.

PSE:  But H E R E T I C is pretty extreme.  I mean, as far as haunts go.  What was the first version like?  How many attended and what was the feedback that you got?

AM:  It was in my house. We gutted it and made it very dark and foggy. We had four rooms, and it started in a very small room that was enclosed with two doors: one into the room and another that lead into the house. You were greeted by a very creepy pale woman that did not talk to you but played a recording. She wanted you to help her find her daughter’s body that was supposedly in the house. She also explained that filthy, sick people were in the house, mentally deranged and mad.  She opened the door. The dim light and fog spilled into the small room. She slowly pushed you in and closed the door saying there is only one way out.

Once in the hallway, you could not see anything. A figure slowly became clear calling you down the hallway toward it. As you got closer, the things inside would pull you into the dark rooms and begin torturing and violently throwing you around in a padded room. Guests were turned upside down and forced to watch disgusting sexual exorcisms performed on violent possessed victims.  The end is secret but we only had seven people go through and each one LOVED IT. One guy said he was so scared he was in bed for three days after leaving.

PSE:  It’s that commitment to supernatural horror that separates H E R E T I C  from other individualized horror experiences such as “Blackout” and “Alone.”  How has the story evolved, and what are the challenges and differences writing a live experience versus a movie screenplay?

AM:  I wanted to treat it like a franchise, so every sequel to H E R E T I C was different, but held some components from the original story. The second one was [about] how the daughter was murdered and how the mother was drugged and used to procure other girls. The third was the secret group that did horrible things in honor of their demigod MASOCH.  H E R E T I C 4 took our guests even further to the process of becoming part of the secret cult, and part five, which was our last show, dealt with disease as worship.  A man from the secret cult is exiled so he starts his own religion based on a disease he creates.

Writing a live experience is just taking out all the cool elements of the story and shaping it into a shorter almost theatrical feel but keeping the viciousness of a horror experience.

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PSE: Speaking of franchises, you’re moving into new territory with Midnight Killer.  What’s the story with that?

AM:  It’s much different than              H E R E T I C and I’m very excited for people to go through it. I took some very cool serial killer movies and a haunt and mixed them together. Guests won’t know what’s coming …it’s as brutal as
H E R E T I C but [there’s] more interaction with my main character. The story revolves around a man named Lucas Merrill: a large presence that takes you on a short ride through hell.

PSE:  So what have you learned about fear from this experiment and where do you hope to take it?

AM:  Fear is something that’s inside everyone. It’s buried for most people.  During my last              H E R E T I C one guy said I tapped into his childhood with one scene and he freaked out …I hope to take people places they’ve never expected.

To learn more about H E R E T I C, be sure to “like” the event on Facebook.  This feature was written by LAHorror.com contributor Paul Stephen Edwards.

LAHorror.com Original: “Knife Party”

Happy Fucking Halloween, Horror Lovers!

I hope you’re having a ghoulish holiday, and to sweeten it up just a bit, we’ve got a treat that will really satisfy your appetite for CARNAGE!  LAHorror.com is stoked to premiere our new short horror film, “Knife Party”!  This little slice of horror is directed by Paul Stephen Edwards and produced by LAHorror.com contributors Mikhail Zakharchuk and Hunter Johnson.  It also features a totally dope soundtrack from TeKNOsuicidE!  So put on your best outfit and come join Alec JamesChrissy Cannone, Cassandra JonesRobert Michael Price and myself to the “Knife Party”! I’ll be sure to bring my sharpest cutlery, too…cheers!

MMM…I’m hungry for seconds…

Love it?  Hate it?  Want to share it?  Let us know!  Drop us a line on Twitter and be sure to “like” LAHorror.com on Facebook!  And if you’ve got a horror website or blog, please share and review our film!  Send us the link and we’ll drop your banner on our Friends of LAHorror.com page!

LAHorror.com Original: “Melody”

And what’s a treat on Halloween without a trick?!

We are extremely excited to share “Melody,” LAHorror.com’s first official short film!  This one is nasty, everybody, and I hope you like them weird!  This slimy little flick stars Beau SmithEmily Dahm, two incredible actors who totally kill it, and was created by LAHorror.com contributors Hunter Johnson & Megan Perrin.  And you’ve got to love the gore created by Ryan Reynolds, am I right??  We hope that this one finds a special spot in your rotten little horror hearts!

Now what the hell are you waiting for?  Tweet us your thoughts on our film, and be sure to “like” LAHorror.com on Facebook!  And remember, share or review our films on your horror site and we’ll put your banner on our “Friends of LAHorror.com” page!  Happy Halloween, Horror Lovers!

LA Horror Review: “Deadly Revisions”

unnamedA horror writer.  A hypnotherapist.  A cabin deep in the woods. These are just several pieces to Gregory Blair’s puzzle in his twisty-turny directorial debut “Deadly Revisions,” a freaky new thriller that will no doubt be a delight to the true horror viewer. This isn’t the type of horror flick that’s going to throw blood at you on every shot or have many gratuitous scenes, but rather a slow burning mind fuck that will get under your skin and no doubt keep you guessing until the very end. As an overall fan of the genre in general, there’s a hell of a lot to appreciate about this flick.  Did I mention that it stars horror super stud Bill Oberst, Jr.?

“Deadly Revisions” was the first featured project on LAHorror.com, and it’s great to see Gregory Blair’s vision come to life. I’m hesitant to call it a psychological thriller, because there are so many great elements from several horror genres that play out throughout the film. The story follows Grafton Torn (Oberst, Jr.), a horror writer struggling with amnesia, and when the memories begin to come back with the help of a beautiful hypnotherapist (Cindy Merrill), the line between horror fiction and reality starts to blur…

Because our protagonist is a horror writer, we get a good mix of all sorts of sinister scenarios in this film, which makes “Deadly Revisions” exciting and kept me on the edge of my seat. Prior to viewing, it was recommended that I watch with the lights off, and I’m so glad that I did, because by the end of this flick things get pretty damn intense.

Bill Oberst, Jr. absolutely crushes it as the disturbed Grafton Torn, with a portrayal of a tortured soul that is both disturbing and utterly heartbreaking. Oberst, Jr. looks so incredibly natural and ever in his element, and he is no doubt the powerful engine driving this film towards its shocking and horrifying climax. “Deadly Revisions” is another excellent example of just how much versatility he brings to the screen, especially in a horror picture.

And while Oberst, Jr. manages to steal the show, a terrific supporting cast and an extremely clever and engaging screenplay no doubt enhances his performance. There were several scenes, in particular, between Oberst, Jr. and actress Lise Hart that sent some serious shivers down my spine.  It’s hard to beat a horror flick with a kick ass story and actors that aren’t afraid to really go for it.

“Deadly Revisions” is definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of the genre or a horror writer yourself, so keep your eyes peeled hard for this one.  The film is currently in the festival circuit where it has already received several awards, and I have a feeling there will be plenty more to come. Check it, horror lovers!

You can learn more about how to see “Deadly Revisions” on the films official website.  Also, be sure to keep up with “Deadly Revisions” on Facebook and follow the film on Twitter!

VHS Spotlight: “Evils of the Night”

Our dear friend and contributor in horror Alex Ray returns, this time with a VHS Spotlight that’s out of this world!  We love to feature flicks that aren’t widely available to the masses on LAHorror.com, so be sure to check out our growing collection of VHS Spotlights on our Behead-itorials page and be sure to drop us a line to let us know which ones you’d like to see!  Enjoy horror lovers!

VHS SPOTLIGHT: EVILS OF THE NIGHT

1984 * 85 minutes * Lightning Video * Directed by Mardi Rustam

evils_01_coverIf you’re trying to find the worst 80s horror VHS box art out there, look no further. The movie itself is a crazy good time—but the box makes it look like Lovers Retreat, the 1989 romantic dramedy starring Bobcat Goldthwait and Daphne Zuniga (this film does not exist). Yes, it tried harder to make me not watch it than The Witching (I defy anyone to rent a horror movie adorned with the bespectacled visage of Orson Welles). Point is: despite a complete lack of salesmanship on the part of Lightning Video—a rare oversight for a company that churned out a zillion lurid covers back in the day—I consider it a high value asset to my VHS collection.

And, okay, yes—there is a DVD. But good luck finding one for less than fifty bucks. It seems the fine folks at Shriek Show woefully underestimated demand and now it’s as tough to find as Shadow: Dead Riot is easy to come by. And that’s just downright shameful. But you know what? We still got some sweet ol’ magnetic tape to fall back on.

This really is a movie that should be seen on VHS anyway. It epitomizes what’s great about cheesy 80s horror—totally un-ironic and self-serious, but comprised of ridiculous and disparate elements. No matter how many times I put this in the VCR (I’m up to three), I feel like I’m missing something (and lemme tell ya: this ain’t exactly Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy when it comes to plot). I think I can summarize it somewhat concisely: beach bums and babes become the target of aliens who need their young people blood to survive. But if you start asking questions—like, any questions—things get complicated.

For instance, how did the mechanics get recruited to kidnap teenagers for the aliens? And why, with their spaceships and laser rings, would the aliens need a couple grumpy old men to do said kidnapping for them? How did the aliens come to inhabit a hospital? What happened to those lady aliens after they made bedroom eyes at each other for thirty seconds? Yeah, Evils offers up quite a few stumpers.

The trick is to not think too hard about it and just go along for the ride (to the hospital with the mechanics who are selling you to the aliens). You do that, and Evils of the Night becomes Goods of the Day. Or Night, still. If you watch it at night. I don’t judge.

evils_02_blackbgMuch as we all love how meta and self-aware everything has become, it’s sometimes nice to go back to a time when movies didn’t seem to know they were bad. Who can say—maybe Mardi Rustam thought he was making the ultimate satire, but he definitely fooled me. The charm of Evils lies in just how blissfully sincere it is about being pretty dumb. By any quantifiable standards it’s a terrible movie, and yet I’ve still watched it three times. So what does that tell you? Yeah, I don’t know either.

Look. It’s silly. It’s fun. Joe Bob would definitely say check it out, if you know what I mean (boobs). With the bland box art, you might just be able to convince a normal person to watch it. Take all that into consideration, and I think you can see the good in Evils of the Night (I do love it when titles lend themselves to this kind of scintillating wordplay).

Postscript: A random Amazon check has revealed that this is going to get a re-release on October 14! Now the masses will have easy access to this cinematic gem. But while the DVD may be of higher quality and have better box art (because it couldn’t possibly be worse), I must say I’ll always be partial to my VHS. However, I’ll concede that it’s worth seeing any way you can. And if you can’t wait that long, well, there’s an ex-rental with your name on it somewhere.

3 out of  4 stars

VHS Spotlight is written by LAHorror.com contributor Alex Ray.