Tujunga Horror Story: The Beginning

You gotta love sunny California, am I right? It’s beautiful, warm and the neighbors are so welcoming…that is, unless you’re in Armand Petri’s “Tujunga Horror Story,” a three part horror story that allows us to see the peaceful town of Tujunga in a much more sinister light…

While only part one of this story has been released, it certainly sets up an interesting and eerie scenario that most definitely peeked my curiosity. The film follows Ashley (Andrea Garces) and Patrick Brooks (Matthew Thomas Brown), a young couple who has moved into an old home in the city of Tujunga, however it certainly seems that everything is not what it seems. There is a sense of shadiness with the supporting cast around Ashley and Patrick that is somewhat reminiscent of a story like “Rosemary’s Baby.” Not only that, but a foreboding warning and mysterious ghost certainly amps up the intensity.  And while this introduction into the story certainly raises more questions than answers, it lays down a solid foundation for what looks to be a very promising horror story.

But the story isn’t everything because this project certainly appears to have some ambitious goals set for itself.  Director Armand Petri goes balls out for his vision for “Tujunga Horror Story,” and while the sample size is small, it reeks of serious potential. Some awesome aerial shots of the city of Tujunga set the tone for this project, accompanied by a haunting and totally horrifying original score by Dara Taylor.   Throw in some sexy and talented actors and you’ve got all the pieces for a terrific horror story. But don’t take my word for it, watch the first installment now!

The remaining two parts will be released over the summer as a means to gather support for a feature length film version of the project, so keep your eyes peeled as this is only the beginning…

To learn more about “Tujunga Horror Story,” be sure to “like” them on Facebook. You can also follow Director Armand Petri on twitter. Armand Petri is currently raising funds for a new short film to raise awareness for HIV & AIDS; to learn more visit their indie gogo!

LA Horror Presents: James Cullen Bressack

If you’re a lover of indie horror, then you should already know the name of our next featured horror artist.  His films have a knack for shocking audiences, turning stomachs and transforming the people and places that should always feel safe into your worst nightmares.  Director / writer / producer James Cullen Bressack is leading a new wave of brutality in indie horror that is rarely matched.  If you haven’t seen his work, then what the hell are you reading this for – go get one of his movies, goddamn it!

Bressack broke into the scene with “My Pure Joy,” a nasty little flick that he directed at the tender age of 18 years old, and his films have only gotten more intense and grisly.  In 2013, Bressack had a breakout year with three feature length horror films, including “Hate Crime,” which details the tragic events of a really twisted home invasion, “To Jennifer,” a super dark horror comedy with a shocking climax and “13/13/13,” an ultra gory interpretation of a modern apocalypse.  And while each one of his films has an engaging story and nasty murders, the thing that really stands out with Bressack’s work is the passion for the genre that oozes off the screen…which can be seen by the quality of his films all around.

The actors in his films buy into this passion, as there is never a poor performance in a genre that is often hard to do right.  The cinematography is always intense, be it shot on a traditional camera or even an iPhone (i.e. “To Jennifer”),  and to be a set decorator or make-up artist in a Bressack film would be a designer’s horror dream, as this is someone who not only understands what works in this genre, but someone who takes those concepts and amps them up 100%.  If you’re a fan of the extreme, brutal and super freaky horror, then you can’t do wrong with any Bressack film.

eyeballBressack’s next film, “Pernicious” is already creating a lot of buzz and seemingly for good reason. The spirit of a murdered child is unleashed with one thing on her mind: revenge.  And if the publicity stills from the movie are any indication (see right), this movie will be no joke. I’m in.

We had a chance to catch up with Bressack to talk about his films, horror in general and what has influenced this madman!  Check out our interview…enjoy horror lovers!

LAHorror:  What is your earliest “horror” memory?  In real life or in art?  Where did it all begin?

James Cullen Bressack:  It was for sure obsessing over the VHS cover art for “Hellraiser” that really helped my love for horror.  Pinhead looked so fuckin’ cool.  I would look at that cover every day and draw pictures of it at the age of four.  That and watching the TV show “Are You Afraid of the Dark.”

LAHorror:  What really scares you?

JCB:  Midgets… Little people… Political correctness.

LAHorror:  The trio of horror that you were behind in 2013 (“Hate Crime,” “To Jennifer” & “13/13/13″) all had excellent acting, Jody Barton in particular.  As a director, how do you engage with your actors to get these intense and memorable performances?

JCB:  I love working with Jody.  I am a strong believer that film is a collaborative medium.  It is a living breathing thing.  When working with actors on their character, it’s not just about my ideas, but theirs as well.  I like to ground things in reality.

Let’s say we were making a movie and you were the actor and you played the killer in the film.  The important thing is to humanize the character so the audience connects to them and don’t understand why.  That’s why “Psycho” was so brilliant.  We start to feel for Norman.  A killer is a human; they have wants, needs, emotions.  And every action is done for a reason.  We would dissect everything about the character, past what is written on the page and imagine them as a blank canvas.  Then we would both throw our ideas about the character at the canvas and whatever stuck for both of us would paint the picture of who this person is.  Always important to tap into what the character’s thought process is and what their moment before is.  They are so loaded with intent, darkness and meat that they are unbelievably interesting to dig into.  I would have you keep a journal as if you were that person.  And would probably want to spend a week or two before shooting going through the script together over and over again and observing your natural behaviors.

As a director, it’s important to play therapist with the actor as well and have them open up to you about real things from their own life in order to tie them into the actual character.  I would have to develop a mutual trust and understand your triggers…Needless to say I’m obsessive about character work with my actors.  I make them work hard.

LAHorror:  What’s your “dream” project? Any topics that you’d really like to explore?

JCB:  I want to make a movie like “Goodfellas.”  NUFF said.

LAHorror:  How do you approach violence in the writing and production of your films?

JCB:  I have fun with it!  I have a very strong stomach, so I spend time trying to gross myself out.  If I chuckle while doing it, I know the audience will squirm.

LAHorror:  A film like “Hate Crime” has some really strong social messages and also some pretty extreme violence.  Are you ever worried that a film like this could be misinterpreted in a negative way?  In the 21st century, are you someone who believes that life imitates art, or that art imitates life?

JCB:  I don’t control how people interpret things; some people always see things as negatives.  Like “Catcher in the Rye” for instance–in no way should that book have caused what it did.  But that’s just crazy people.  There are some in this world.  They attach crazy to anything.  But life doesn’t imitate art.  If it did then answer this, more comedies come out per year then any other movie and I don’t see people getting any funnier, why is that?

LAHorror:  Tell us something about “Pernicious”!!! What are you most excited for audiences to see??

JCB:  “Pernicious” is going to blow you the fuck away!  I’m not joking here.  It makes all my other films look bad.  Haha.  I guarantee you will have an amazing time with it.  Can’t wait to drop a trailer.

LAHorror:  Lastly, and maybe most importantly, who is going to win the Superbowl next year?

JCB:  My penis?

Check out the LAHorror.com reviews of “To Jennifer” and “Hate Crime.”  Stay up to date with James Cullen Bressack’s new film “Pernicious” on Facebook!  You can also follow Bressack on Twitter.  Be sure to rent or buy a copy of your favorite Bressack film on Amazon!

 

LA Horror Review: “Zombie Prom” – a FREE Horror Musical in Studio City, CA

Prom.  A night of wonder for some, and a night of horror for others!  And if you live in the Los Angeles area, then find a date and relive the memory at “Zombie Prom,” a totally kick ass late night horror musical that’s going on now!  We checked out the show and it’s ridiculous and hysterical.  It’s always great to see good horror theatre.

Zombie Prom Promo

The musical itself is…well, it’s “Zombie Prom.”  You feel me?  It’s upbeat, super energetic and has all of the stuff that makes a campy musical fun.  But director David Ruben doesn’t hold anything back and has created an interactive and ultra intimate theater experience that was an absolute pleasure to be watch.  The cast, lead by two heartthrobs in Reagan Osborne and Alli Miller, show some MAJOR chops with impeccable singing along with some serious choreography.  Each actor is fully committed and super talented – there really are some strong performances all around.  Some special props to actress Kate Bowman for being a ridiculously funny villain throughout.

Now, this is a musical, so expect a ton of singing and dancing and not much gore, but Director David Ruben definitely amps up the campiness with some classic horror influenced staging and direction.  Check out their promo video below to get a feel for the vibe!

We chatted with Director David Ruben to learn a bit more about the show, so check it horror lovers!

LAHorror:  David…”Zombie Prom.”  Where the hell did this come from?

David Ruben:  “Zombie Prom” is a hilarious, late night rock musical that premiered in the 90′s off Broadway with quite the underground following.  It spoofs B horror films, Hammer Films, and sci-fi flicks of the 50s and 60s with musical stylings of the period.   We decided to present the show because it’s just the type of material that develops into a nocturne/cult hit that audiences will eat up.

LAHorror:  What are your favorite zombie-related horror flicks?

DR:  I don’t have much of a background watching zombie flicks besides the original “Night of The Living Dead”, but I grew up watching a lot of the Hammer films and some of those old Roger Corman pictures.  Those films had an immense impact on how I approached a lot of the material in the musical.

LAHorror:  How is your cast?  Was your leading man excited to be playing a walking member of the undead?

DR:  The cast is 10 strong — 7 students, 1 zombie, a school principal, and a sleazy tabloid reporter.  All are local talent with immense enthusiasm and pluck.   The show is a whirlwind of theatrical efforts.  Shockingly, the musical is almost 80% sung.   I’ve yet to ask the leading man if he is excited to be a walking member of the undead, but I imagine he is.  He gets to be a zombie.  Who wouldn’t be excited?

LAHorror:  Why should horror fans come and check out your show??

DR:  A) Zombie.  B) Free.  C) Full Bar.  D) It’s awesome.  E) Did I mention zombie, free, and alcohol?

LAHorror:  Anything else you’d like to share about “Zombie Prom”?

DR:  We are doing the show free as a social experiment.  We asked the audiences to come and not pay because it’s a pain to pay for an event if you don’t know if you’ll like it or not.  At the end of the show we will ask our audiences to give us a few bucks if you liked what you say so we can continue to provide free theatre.  It’s our way of not pricing people out of seeing live entertainment.

The show is performing at Upstairs at Vittello’s in Studio City every Friday in March at 11:00 PM.   Tickets can be reserved my e-mailing zombiepromtickets@yahoo.com or by calling Vitello’s at (818) 769-0905.

LA Horror Review: “Missing” – A Short Horror Film by Joey Medina

Missing PosterBlood. Violence. Chopping. Gore.

Gruesome, gruesome gore…

These are just a few of my favorite things, and when I’m watching horror I’ve always got my eyes peeled for the grisly money shot. And when it comes to the good stuff, the really nasty and ultra-violent carnage that we all love and adore, Joey Medina’s short horror film “Missing” does not hold back. In fact, “Missing” didn’t just satisfy my thirst for blood, but pretty much dumped a bucket of it onto my face. It’s a brutal, unflinching horror experience that managed to shock me all the way until the very end. I absolutely loved this film!

“Missing” is the type of film for the most depraved horror lover, and those are usually the ones that hit me just right.  Essentially, we follow a day in the life of a LA’s most twisted serial killer…dig it?

But what “Missing” succeeds in most is not only the carnage, but also a very stylized and unique viewing experience, as Medina takes a popular concept and gives it his own stylized twist. Without going into too much detail, I will say this: Medina made blood the main character, and oh what a role it plays.  There are also some excellent performances by a cast of oddly charming actors who all bring their A-games to a really intense story.

The film is making it’s way into the festival circuit now, so take notice as it should not be missed. There may also be plans in the future for a feature length version down the road. Keep your eyes out for it…

To learn more about Joey Medina, visit his official webpage.  You can also “like” the film on Facebook and follow Medina an twitter.

VHS SPOTLIGHT: “Spookies”

Alex Ray is back with our second VHS Spotlight, shining the light on some VHS only horror movies that need to find their way onto DVD!  If you’ve got a copy of one of these then take good care of it…now let’s all adjust our tracking…

VHS SPOTLIGHT: SPOOKIES

1985 * 85 minutes * Sony * Directed by Eugenie Joseph, Thomas Doran, Brendan Faulkner

spookies_coverFirst, a little business: this is available on DVD in the UK. But I’m not counting that. If it ain’t on good ol’ region one in the US of A, it’s fair game for this column. I shouldn’t have to figure out the pound-to-dollar conversion rate just to get my DVD fix. (Tangent: I was totally willing to do so for the awesome Jake West documentary, “Video Nasties,” which is only available on PAL digital video disc–and so worth it.)

Now, on to our show…

The terms “visually stunning” and “special effects extravaganza” don’t carry much weight anymore, but they both apply to “Spookies.” Kind of like “Return of the Alien’s Deadly Spawn” or “Bad Taste,” it’s got a heaping helping of indie charm, along with FX work that puts the big boys to shame–at least as far as quantity goes. Even if the creatures and gore aren’t always on par with KNB or Savini, this is still one of the most ambitious ’80s horror flicks I’ve seen. It’s got a menagerie of monsters to rival “Cabin in the Woods,” and they don’t just pop up late in the flick–it’s a non-stop barrage of cool critters and creepy setpieces.

Let’s play Horror Mad Libs: some ______ get lost and end up at ______ , where they’re attacked by ______ . In this case, the blanks are filled by random New Yorkers, an old mansion, and a cross between Grandpa Munster and The Tall Man. The setup is pretty standard, but once we get past the pleasantries, things start moving along at a good clip. Our characters are picked off by a wide variety of monstrosities (my favorite of which would definitely be the fart monsters, or, as the box describes them: “lust-crazed muck men”) under the command of Old Man Greasepaint, who needs some souls to bring back his dead wife. Of course, things don’t quite go according to plan.

The narrative might not be the strongest (it’s basically the cinematic equivalent of walking through a funhouse), but it’s still a heckuva ride. That is, if you’re feeling nostalgic for ’80s cheese. This is by no means a forgotten masterpiece–just a fun movie with a lot of heart and a few nods to the horrors that came before (“Evil Dead” being the most obvious). If you’re looking for something that lies somewhere on the spectrum between “The Dead Next Door” and “Waxwork,” it fits the bill.

spookies1An R1 DVD would be nice, especially if the original Richard Corben poster/box art is used. The UK disc kinda makes it look like something more along the lines of “Demons” or “Night of the Demons” or the aforementioned “Evil Dead”–which it is not (it also refers to the cast as “teenagers,” which they are definitely not). “Spookies” is an entirely different beast (several different beasts, actually), and worth a look–whether you wanna shell out a few pounds for a disc from across the pond, or considerably more in US currency for the VHS. Either way, it’ll make you remember why you fell in love with this stuff in the first place.

2 1/2 out of 4 stars

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

Behead-itorial: Slasher Studios “Women in Horror”

Slasher Studios has been honoring “Women in Horror” all month, and I was fortunate enough to be able to contribute to their collection of bad ass horror ladies!  As some of you may know, I’m a die-hard “Sleepaway Camp” fan and when women in horror are the topic it’s impossible not to think of Angela Baker.  Check out my thoughts on brutal female slasher as well as all of the other “Women in Horror” pieces that Slasher Studios has compiled!  Enjoy horror lovers!

LA Horror Review: “The Upper Footage”

Don’t do drugs, people.  Okay, that’s a little harsh, let me rephrase that:  Don’t do drugs unless you’re prepared for the real life horror that can come of it.  And that’s exactly the lesson learned (well, sort of learned) by a group of socialites in Justin Cole’s “The Upper Footage,” a brutally honest and maddening descent into one nightmarish party that went way too far.

You see, according to multiple sources, a video of a girl’s drug overdose and subsequent death leaked online, yet no one has been brought to justice due to the affluent nature of the parties involved.  However, a 90-minute segment of the home video of the incident is now available to watch: “The Upper Footage.”

The film opens with an unbelievably clever and convincing segment introducing this found footage, practically guaranteeing its authenticity.  It hooked me in, that’s for damn sure, and the realism never died throughout the entire movie, which is both the strength and potential flaw in “The Upper Footage.”  I say that because while this may be one of the most believable found footage film I have ever seen, it’s a hard movie to really enjoy simply because it’s so repulsive.  I mean that as a compliment.  And the fact that the “victim” in this film’s face is blurred adds an interesting element as well, not only to the “authenticity” the film tries to create, but also to the unsettling vibe this film emanates as a whole.

Real life horror happens every single day, and unfortunately it’s rarely fair.  “The Upper Footage” merely sheds light on this harsh reality, and as we follow these characters through their night of coked up debauchery, we only learn to hate them more.  This film is successful not only in its ability to shock you with its content, but also fills you with a certain loathing of every character on screen and the situation they create.  The worst part of it is that you probably know people like this, and we all know that it’s possible to get away with murder in America.  It’s a truly convincing film all around that left me feeling incredibly disturbed and uncomfortable.

The highlight of this film is its unbelievable editing and patience.  There is no rush, and nothing is forced–you simply see the events as they happen and not much else.  That being said, to be able to truly appreciate “The Upper Footage,” you must show the same patience in return, as this isn’t a horror film per se, this is just a film where horrible things happen…often in real time.  But sometimes the scariest things don’t have to jump out at you, but simply unfold slowly before your eyes.

This film is probably not for the casual horror viewer, but it definitely satisfied my urge to watch something really, really nasty.  Watch it at your own risk, as “The Upper Footage” is really raw and powerful, but will probably crawl its way under your skin.  In fact, it might just leave you feeling kind of fucked up.

To view “The Upper Footage” and learn more, visit the film’s official website.  You can also follow “The Upper Footage” on twitter and “like” it on Facebook.