Archive for November, 2011

Dardano Sacchetti Tribute!!!

Posted in Uncategorized on November 7, 2011 by Brain Hammer

This special edition of BRAIN HAMMER’S PICKS FROM THE CRYPT is a tribute to the legendary Italian screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti. Hardcore fans of Italian horror flicks should immediately recognize his familiar name from the credits of such clas-sicks as “The Cat O’ Nine Tails, “Twitch Of The “Death Nerve,” “Shock,” “Zombi II,” “The Beyond,” and “The House By The Cemetery.” Dardano is also an uncredited co-creator of “Amityville II: the Possession,” which is one of the rare horror sequels that is far superior to the film that proceeds it!

In honor of his many years of hard work, his incredible contributions to the realms of horror and fantasy, and as a tribute to the man and his legions of fans, I present my reviews of three of my all time favorite horror films that were written by Dardano Sacchetti.

LET THE BLOODSHED BEGIN!!!

 

CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE (1980)

Vietnam vet Norman Hopper (John Saxon!) returns home from the war scarred both physically and mentally. He tries in vain to settle back into domestic bliss with his wife in their Atlanta home but is tormented by recurring nightmares where he relives the gruesome bloodshed and flesh eating he witnessed in the jungles of ‘nam. He’s also infected with a violent infectious strain of cannibalism (!) thanks to a starving P.O.W. that took a bite out of his arm. Much to his horror and his wife’s disgust he slowly develops a taste for blood, and the tender thigh meat of the flirtatious teenage girl who lives next door.

Things take a turn for the worse after Hopper’s old combat buddy Charlie Bukowski (played by the legendary Giovanni Lombardo Radice) is released from the nut house also nurturing a taste for human flesh. Charlie takes a bite out of a half naked girl inside a grind house theater and winds up on the run from the cops and an idiot gang of bikers attempting to be vigilantes. He holes up inside a large indoor flea market and blows away quite a few cops and bikers as they try to bring him to justice. Norman shows up and convinces the cops to let him go inside to talk to Charlie. Norman regains Charlie’s trust by reminding him that the best way to deal with a can of tear gas is to piss on it, “Just piss on it.”

Norman and Charlie are then both brought back to the local mental institution, where yet another deranged vet – and coincidentally enough the same guy who bit Norman in Vietnam – Tom, is also being treated. The trio of cannibals becomes a quartet when a nurse is also infected with the cannibalism virus. The four lunatics (made up with the exact same race and gender as the four leads in George A. Romero’s “Dawn Of The Dead”) fight their way out the hospital, and then waste a few street punks who get in their way before heading into the Atlanta sewers for a gut-wrenching final showdown with the police.

Antonio Margheriti directed this infamous shocker, and the very prolific Dardano Sacchetti wrote the screenplay. This is a unique “cannibal” flick, as it features cannibalism as a virus that can be spread from person to person. The deranged flesh hunters are somewhat similar to the infected killers in Romero’s “The Crazies” and David Cronenberg’s “Rabid.” They crave flesh and blood and will stop at nothing to get what they want. The violence here is really quite exceptional, with lots of brutal fight scenes, splashy gun battles, and gory flesh ripping. The opening sequence features an especially disgusting moment where the starved P.O.W.’s chomp into the freshly barbecued flesh of a young Vietnamese girl. The highlight of the film has to be the spectacular demise of Giovanni Lombardo Radice, who has a giant see-through hole blown in his abdomen! There’s also a delightful “shock” ending that ends the film on a great note.

Apparently actor John Saxon considers this flick to be a personal low point of his life and career, and in the “Cannibal Apocalypse Redux” documentary admits he that even contemplated suicide at one point after realizing he had appeared in such a vile picture. If that’s true, imagine how John must have felt a few years later when he was starring in crap flicks like “Hands Of Steel” and “Welcome To Spring Break.” This flick features more characterization and emotional depth than the standard cannibal efforts, and is well acted and very nicely shot. It’s also “nasty” enough to have been banned in the UK back in the day, and was heavily edited in the States when released under the name “Invasion Of The Flesh Hunters.” Like any action/horror/exploitation flick, this has to be seen UNCUT to be fully appreciated.

Hats off to Image Entertainment for releasing a beautiful, digitally remastered dvd of CANNIBAL APOCALYPSE that is 100% uncut. It also includes several “sewer dwelling special features” including the aforementioned “Cannibal Apocalypse Redux” documentary, “Apocalypse In The Streets” – a video tour of the filming locations, trailers, still galleries, and more. It’s exactly the type of special edition dvd that a superior genre flick like this deserves.

 

CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD (1980)

A gifted psychic named Mary Woodhouse (Catriona MacColl) dies from sheer fright during a séance after receiving a morbid vision of a priest named Father Thomas hanging himself in the cemetery of a cursed town called Dunwhich. Dunwhich is built upon “the ruins of the original Salem” which also hide one of the seven gates of Hell. As foretold in the book of Enoch, the suicidal preacher hanging himself causes the unfaithful servant to go straight to Hell and for the next three days the moon will turn red and the cities’ dead will walk the earth. Horrendous, awful things begin happening in Dunwhich that will shatter your imagination.

For starters, Mary isn’t really dead and was buried alive. Luckily for Mary, the pathologist played by none other than Lucio Fulci himself didn’t bother giving her an autopsy! Mary is saved from an agonizing death inside her partially buried coffin after a hard boiled reporter named Peter Bell (Christopher George – RIP) slowly realizes that Mary is screaming at the top of her lungs inside the casket and does the only logical thing – he grabs a fucking pick axe and slams it right into the part of the coffin where Mary’s face would be! After saving Mary’s life Peter hesitatingly agrees to join her on the quest to find the mysterious town of Dunwhich. According to the prophecies of Enoch, if the portals of Hell aren’t closed by All Saints Day no dead body will ever be able to rest in peace again and the dead will rise up all over the earth and take over the world. Peter and Mary have to destroy Father Thomas’ body to close the gates of hell and save humanity.

Meanwhile, the horror in Dunwhich reaches a fevered pitch as the dead priest wanders the town looking for victims. Staring into the eyes of the evil priest is enough to cause one unfortunate girl (Daniela Dora) to cry tears of blood and then puke up her internal organs, much to shock and disgust of her soon to be brain dead boyfriend (future director Michelle Soavi!). The plague of the dead also manifests itself in the form of sudden earthquakes that cause massive property damage to the local watering hole, angry cat scratching that rips the flesh of a neurotic woman named Sandra (Janet Agren) with incest issues, and undead grandmothers that chomp off a mortician’s fingers.

The town’s madness begins to infect its dimwitted citizens as well. A jealous father takes out his rage and confusion on the town pervert – Bob (Giovanni Lombardo Radice!) and puts a power drill through his brain. Once Peter and Mary finally make their way to the cursed city they are welcomed by maggots that fall like rain. Peter and Mary brush off the maggots and then team up with Sandra and her shrink Gerry (Carlo De Mejo) before heading into the decrepit catacombs underneath the priest’s grave site for a fiery final showdown with the possessed priest.

This is my favorite Lucio Fulci film, and one of my all time favorite films too. I’ve been a big fan since witnessing the film’s ability to shock and horrify firsthand. I was introduced to this one via a 1990 rental of the Paragon “Gates Of Hell” vhs that caused several of my friends (and their little sisters) to leave the room disgusted. Since then, I’ve watched this one more times than I can count. I think “City Of The Living Dead” is a perfect film, and Fulci’s true masterpiece. This is also my favorite of the many genius works that Lucio Fulci and writer Dardano Sacchetti worked on together. A lot of people prefer “The Beyond,” but I think “City Of The Living Dead” has a much more blasphemous and hallucinogenic vibe. It’s also a considerably more stylish film than “The Beyond” and possesses a truly morbid atmosphere that few other horror flicks can come close to matching.

The late great Christopher George turns in another one of his trademark winning performances. Chris was on a fucking tear in the early 80′s, appearing in one classic genre flick after another before his untimely death in 1983. He also starred in the classic 1980 vigilante flick “The Exterminator” and the following year appeared in both “Enter The Ninja” and “Graduation Day.” Who knows how many more amazing films Christopher would have starred in if only given the chance? The mind boggles. It’s great that Christopher and Lucio were able to work together, even if they didn’t get along and Christopher supposedly filled Fulci’s pipe full of maggots!

Fulci’s favorite leading lady, Catriona MacColl (“The Beyond,” “House By The Cemetery”) and his favorite female victim – Daniela Dora (“The New York Ripper,” “House By The Cemetery”) both star here and both contribute greatly to the film’s success. Catriona does a remarkable job in the role of Mary. Her scene inside the coffin when she wakes up buried alive is fantastic. Daniela steals the entire movie and instantly ensured a place in the annals of horror history for participating in what has to be one of the most insanely sickening death scenes ever captured on film. Daniela proved her “guts” by having the nerve to swallow actual sheep entrails and regurgitate them on camera at Fulci’s command! This is only one of the memorable moments of “City Of The Living Dead,” but the iconic image of Daniela crying tears of blood and then slowly puking up her innards is what immediately comes to a horror fan’s mind when you hear the title.

The living dead mostly take a back seat to the buckets of blood and maggots, but there should be more than enough gut barfing and brain ripping to keep gorehounds happy. The splatter effects from Gino De Rossi (“Zombi II,” “Cannibal Ferox”) are about as top notch as they come. But for some random and completely hysterical reason, whenever the frequently repeated closeup shot of the brain ripping is shown the hand doing the ripping clearly belongs to a black man with hairy knuckles! This makes the climax to the aforementioned gut barfing scene unintentionally hilarious as clearly it’s not Daniela’s hand ripping out Michelle Soavi’s brain. The zombies we do get to see look fantastic, as they were created by the legendary Rosario Prestopino (“Zombi II,” “Burial Ground)”. “City Of The Living Dead” is a film with GUTS, and a lot of them.

CITY OF THE LIVING DEAD should be considered mandatory viewing for all horror fans. Sharp eyed Italian horror buffs will get a kick out of seeing so many familiar faces. (Watch out for Perry Pirkanen of “Cannibal Ferox/Holocaust” legend in a small yet pivotal role as a perverted gravedigger!) I really can’t say enough good things about this one. “City Of The Living Dead” is a horror clas-sick. Anchor Bay and Blue Underground have both released “City Of The Living Dead” on dvd. The dvd features the theatrical trailer and radio spots. BUY IT!!!

 

THE NEW YORK RIPPER (1982)

The female residents of New York City are being sliced and diced by a rampaging maniac. The press dubs the killer “The New York Ripper” – and he wields the blade with precision, quickly carving his way through the big apple. A hard boiled, whore banging police detective teams up with a closet fag psychoanalyst to hunt for the sadistic slut snuffer with the wacky voice of a duck. Things get personal when the deviant duck slices up the nipples and eyeballs of “Kitty,” who just happens to be the detective’s favorite prostitute! QUACK! QUACK! QUACK!

“The New York Ripper” is one of my favorite Lucio Fulci films. It plays out like an ultra sleazy combination of an Italian giallo and an American slasher flick, and reeks of cheesy 70′s police drama. Thanks to the typically atrocious dubbing the characters all sport thick and terrible “Noo Yoik” accents. My favorite character is the tough talking coroner, who delivers the immortal line – “He used a blade. Stuck it up her joytrail, and slit her wide open. He could have done a better job if he had more time. But overall it was good, efficient butchery.” The music throughout also is appropriately funky/sleazy sounding. Clearly not for everyone, but jaded horror fans looking for an unrelentingly grim and sadistic slasher are likely not to be disappointed.

This is quite possibly legendary director Lucio Fulci’s most bloodthirsty effort, which is really saying something. The abundant gore on display here is fantastic. No discreet cutting away from the action. Nothing left to the viewer’s imagination. Fulci delivers the real thing as always. The multiple razor blade slashings are gory as hell. The most disgusting scene has to be the extended razor blade torture that the killer inflicts upon actress Daniela Dora (who had already puked her guts up in Fulci’s clas-sick “City Of The Living Dead”). The best part of that sequence is when the killer slowly drags the razor across her eye. The eyeball even rolls back into her head as it’s being cut, which adds a particularly unnerving and realistic feeling to the scene.

“The New York Ripper” is also one of Fulci’s most controversial films. It is frequently accused of being misogynistic and overly brutal toward women. “The New York Ripper” is unquestionably an extremely violent and unpleasant film. The over the top carnage is almost nonstop, and the motivations and emotions of the mad killer, which were the creation of writer Dardano Sacchetti are equally as perverse and disturbing. There’s also an abundance of SLEAZE on display – with plenty of Times Square sex shows (including a HOT performance from Zora Kerova of “Cannibal Ferox” infamy!), gay porno mags, and a cuckold husband who gets off listening to tape recordings of his wife having sex with other men. Not to mention the infamous “toe rape” scene, which is another incredibly nasty and unusual highlight.

Bill Lustig’s Blue Underground recently released a fantastic special edition dvd of THE NEW YORK RIPPER that was remastered in blood-soaked high-definition from its original camera negative, and presented completely uncut and uncensored. The bonus features exclusive to this new special edition release include “I’m an Actress! – Interview with Zora Kerova” and “NYC Locations: Then & Now.”  Yet another top notch release from Blue Underground, and yet another flick that no respectable horror collection should be missing!

 

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

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Hallucinating Evil!!!

Posted in Uncategorized on November 4, 2011 by Brain Hammer

This edition of BRAIN HAMMER’S PICKS FROM THE CRYPT features a terrible trio of incredibly bizarre 70′s horror flicks that are often overlooked by horror fans. These fucked up flicks are so overlooked in fact that I’ve actually encountered more than a few people who had already had them in their collection and didn’t even know it! All three of these semi-obscure horror gems are widely available on dvd, either by themselves or included in reasonably priced collectors sets. It’s time to give these clas-sick flicks the attention they deserve.

 

LET THE BLOODSHED BEGIN!!!

 

MESSIAH OF EVIL (1973)

This one starts with a sweaty confused looking man apparently running for his life. He ducks behind a wall and rests by a fountain while attempting to catch his breath. Then a friendly looking girl in a tacky dress appears from out of nowhere to comfort him, before slitting his throat with a razor blade. Welcome to the wild world of MESSIAH OF EVIL! You will never be the same. The haunting theme song “Hold On To Love” that accompanies the opening credits slowly begins lulling the viewer into submission. Then we are treated to an extended out of focus shot of a deranged woman babbling inside a large insane asylum hallway. The mad woman thoughtfully warns the viewers that “They’re coming here. They’re waiting at the edge of the city. They’re peering around buildings at night, and they’re waiting. They’re waiting for you! And they’ll take you one by one and no one will hear you scream. No one will hear you SCREAM!!!”

We are then introduced to a pretty young woman named Arletty (Marianna Hill of “The Baby” and “High Plains Drifter” legend) who goes looking for her missing father and stumbles across an undead cult of rat munching murderous maniac albinos that are wiping out a small town on the California coastline while awaiting the upcoming return of their messiah. As Arletty searches the town for her father she befriends a swinger named Thom (Michael Greer) and his two sexy female traveling companions – Laura (Anitra “Invasion Of The Bee Girls” Ford) & Toni (the aptly named Joy Bang!). Thom is bored and disillusioned and has more than a little money to burn. He particularly enjoys paying the town drunk Charlie (the eternally drunken and shiftless Elisha Cook Jr. of “Salem’s Lot” infamy!) to ramble on about the nights when “blood covered the moon.” Charlie tells Arletty that her father is dead, but assures her that he will be back to see her soon, and whatever she does – she must not bury him!

Arletty is horrified by the words of the booze addled derelict, but decides to resume the search for her father. It doesn’t take long before the town’s madness begins to infect her mind, pollute her body, and threaten her life and the lives of Thom, Laura, and Toni. The zombified townsfolk attack and devour Laura in a deserted supermarket, and Toni gets dispatched while watching a Sammi Davis Jr western in a grindhouse theater. Then Arletty begins puking up lizards and bugs just as her dead daddy finally shows up to reveal the incredible history of the messiah of evil! Massive amounts of blue paint, fire, and decomposition are unleashed until finally Arletty and Thom wind up in the Pacific ocean desperately attempting to swim for their lives.

As one of my favorite obscure horror flicks from the early 70′s, this flick is just brutally bizarre. It’s also one of the most strangely haunting little films I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching. The director Willard Huyck (who would later direct the infamous “Howard The Duck!”) and writer Gloria Katz deserve much credit for creating such a memorable and disturbing horror film. Many of the scenes throughout are genuinely creepy, and there are a number of visually stunning shots. This actually reminds me quite a bit of a Dario Argento flick: great to look at, but it doesn’t make a lot of sense. The narrative is rather jumbled and it will probably take a few viewings to fully grasp and appreciate what is being presented.

Despite the rather gory sounding premise, this film is somewhat restrained in the gore department. This is a rather unusual zombie flick, as there is a distinct lack of graphic gut munching on display. It’s worth mentioning that this flick was also titled “Dead People” and “Revenge Of The Screaming Dead”; both titles would make this appear to be a run of the mill zombie effort. There’s no shortage of bloody violence though, and the film possesses an unpleasant dreamlike atmosphere that will keep you on edge. The death scenes that take place inside a garage, supermarket, and movie theater are all fantastic stuff that make this sometimes confusing film well worth the effort.

MESSIAH OF EVIL can easily be found on dvd, usually for cheap. I recommend shelling out a few extra bucks and seeking out the special edition, 35th anniversary release from Code Red. This version looks and sounds the best, and features goodies like interviews and commentary tracks. Penny pinchers should check out the Diamond Entertainment dvd, which includes “The Devil’s Nightmare” (also a great flick!) as a double feature. You can also find this flick in several of those cheap-o “horror collections.”  There’s no excuse for not owning this clas-sick!

 

THE DEMON (1979)

THE DEMON is a very strange South African (!) slasher flick about a demonic masked killer who sports a glove with tiny knives for finger nails and enjoys slowly asphyxiating his victims with plastic bags. This one starts out with the violent abduction of a young girl. Her distraught parents call in psychic detective Cameron Mitchell to investigate. Cameron hams it up big time, and sweats, slobbers, and stammers his way through a very over the top performance as a psychic sheet sniffer. After checking out the girl’s bedroom (check out the groovy Patrick Duffy & David Soul posters!) he provides the family with child-like drawings of “the demon” and helpfully explains that “he is less than a man and more of a man…much more.”

We then meet our “final girl,” a young nursery school teacher (Jennifer Holmes) named Mary who keeps getting the feeling she’s being followed. Mary shares a house with her disco bunny cousin Jo. Jo is dating a swinger in tight pants by the name of Dean, and the film is ruthlessly padded with scenes of their 70′s styled romance. The demon kills time by waiting outside of “Boobs Disco” and is rewarded with a freshly ejected drunken skank to assault. He chases her down with his deadly glove and has a wild run in with a gaggle of bikers and pimps along the way! Just when you thought things couldn’t get any weirder, a little kid discovers a skeleton with a blonde wig up in a tree, the father of the kidnapped girl tracks down the demon and gets snuffed for his efforts, and Cameron has an explosive final encounter with the missing girl’s mother!

The film then lets you catch your breath and slowly settles into the third act, where the killer finally begins the assault on Mary and her friends. Prank phone calls, a broken key inside a doorknob, and a sudden blackout all lead into a lengthy game of cat & mouse where the demon stalks Mary in the darkness. Hats off to director Percival Ruebens for the infinitely wise decision to keep his leading lady topless for a good five minutes or more during the climax!

This often overlooked old school horror flick is in many ways a “prototype” slasher flick. It features a lot of the classic slasher ingredients that would later be featured in classic 80′s slasher flicks. It borrows heavily from John Carpenter’s “Halloween” and lifts its lethal glove from Mario Bava’s “Blood & Black Lace.” (which also starred Cameron Mitchell) This flick also comes off as terminally confused. “The demon” is never really defined or explained, much like “the shape” in “Halloween.” In some scenes he appears to have super human strength, but by the end of the film the supernatural elements are forgotten. It appears that this one started off as more of a fantasy and was then changed, perhaps in the middle of production, to become more of a clone of Carpenter’s film. It feels like two films being spliced together.

Despite these flaws this one is certainly worth a look for hardcore fans of obscure 70′s horror. The plot is anything but routine, and is full of wild twists and turns that will keep the viewer entertained. It doesn’t deliver a lot of chills, but it provides more than enough tacky 70′s atmosphere, cheap laughs, and jaw dropping WEIRDNESS to keep me satisfied. Cameron Mitchell steals the whole movie. It’s well worth tracking down a copy just to watch him chew up the scenery. “What we’re dealing with here is an aberration of the species – hallucinating evil!”

 

SILENT NIGHT BLOODY NIGHT (1974)

In an appropriately unusual beginning, this truly bizarre little horror film starts with a young woman named Diane Adams (Mary Woronov of “Rock ‘N’ Roll High School” & “Eating Raoul” legend!) sharing her memories of the notorious Butler mansion, a house of horrors in a small New England town with more than a few dark secrets. The mansion’s reclusive owner, the profoundly disturbed Wilfred Butler briefly returns to the mansion on Christmas Eve 1950 after several years spent living in exile and then promptly dies in a mysterious fire.

The heir to the Butler mansion is Wilfred’s grandson Jeffrey. In December 1971 Jeffrey finally inherits the mansion and immediately decides to sell it. His big city lawyer John Carter arranges a meeting with the local city council and quickly negotiates a cash sale of $50,000. The town mayor, sheriff, switchboard operator, and newspaper publisher (John Carradine) all seem strangely desperate to purchase the Butler mansion, if only to see it burnt to the ground.

As the sale is being finalized a deranged lunatic escapes from a nearby asylum and tears a path to the mansion, hacking apart any man or beast that gets in the way. Carter and his mistress Ingrid are already at the mansion when the killer arrives, and in the film’s most memorable scene the unseen slasher violently hacks them to pieces with a hatchet inside the master bedroom. Once alone within the large dark house, the killer begins making creepy phone calls to the city council members. One by one, the madman lures the townsfolk to their doom inside the mansion. As the body count rises it becomes clear that all of the victims had a past history with their slayer.

In the middle of all this madness Jeffrey (James Patterson) shows up in town and meets Diane. He convinces her to give him a ride to the mansion to get to the bottom of things, and she hesitatingly agrees after her father (the mayor) turns up missing. As the story reaches it’s incredible conclusion the twisted secrets of the Butler family are finally unearthed, much to the viewers shock, horror, and confusion. Graphic tales of incest and murder are revealed via sepia-toned flashbacks that are quite disturbing. The odd, dreamlike quality of the film is further enhanced by the offbeat ending – which finally wraps up this extended flashback within a flashback.

I really enjoy this 1972 effort from the late great writer/director Theodore Gershundy. This murky and morbid film is one of the darkest horror flicks I’ve ever seen, both in terms of image quality and content. The combination of the grainy pitch black photography and the lurid and incredibly complicated plot gives this film an unbeatable dreamlike quality. The sepia-toned flashback scenes are incredible, eye popping stuff and provide the majority of the film’s shocks. Any nagging complaints about the pace of the film or the confusing storyline can usually be ignored after repeat viewings, and trust me – you’ll most likely need a few viewings to sort it all out.

SILENT NIGHT BLOODY NIGHT was filmed in 1972, but didn’t see a release until 1974. Sadly, the film’s star James Patterson passed away shortly after filming wrapped. Bob Clark’s 1974 clas-sick “Black Christmas” is often called the “original” slasher film, but many people have argued (correctly, I’d say) that “Silent Night Bloody Night” proceeded it by a few years, and that it features more than a few elements that would later appear in Clark’s film. The frenzied POV shots of the killer in action, the creepy phone calls, and the fact that the killer is (almost) never seen are all details presented here first. How much influence, if any this film had on “Black Christmas” is debatable, but there should be no debate that SNBN is a very important old school horror film.

There’s no excuse for not checking this one out. It’s public domain, so multiple “budget” dvd companies have already released this. All of the usual suspects, including the fine folks at Diamond Entertainment, Mill Creek, Platinum, and Alpha Video have released this on dvd – either by itself or included in one of those dvd collectors sets. There seems to be some confusion as to which release is truly uncut, but I can assure you all the versions I’ve seen have ran about the same length and they all look like shit. A pristine, digitally remastered dvd print would be much appreciated. This is a true cult clas-sick, much deserving of a larger audience.

 

KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!

Lewis Jackson Interview!!!

Posted in Uncategorized on November 4, 2011 by Brain Hammer

It has been 30 years since Lewis Jackson wrote and directed Christmas Evil, and I was honored to have the chance to briefly chat with him, and ask him about creating a Christmas cult phenomenon.

 

LET THE BLOODSHED BEGIN!!!

Brain Hammer: What was your inspiration for writing and creating Christmas Evil?

Lewis Jackson: It was Christmas Eve 1970 and I smoked a joint. I saw an image of a Santa Claus with a knife in his hands. Ten years later, I figured out how to make the script work.

BH: How did the chance to direct your debut film come about?

LJ: Because I came up with a great idea of how to make a soft-core comedy.

BH: Christmas Evil is widely regarded as one of the very best Christmas themed horror films. Was that your intent when making the film – a pure horror film, or were you going for something more psychological and character driven?

LJ: I was trying to make a black comedy and truthfully, if you are not trying to make the best movie you possibly can make, then you are a hack – which is basically 95% of the people in Hollywood.

BH: Are you a fan of the horror genre? Where do think Christmas Evil belongs in horror history, especially when compared to other X-mas horrors.

LJ: There are no other great horror Xmas movies and I believe I am in a genre with Fritz Lang and Alfred Hitchcock.

BH: The film is also known as You Better Watch Out & Terror In Toyland. Do you have a preferred title?

LJ: I originally called the film You Better Watch Out, some asshole who bootlegged the film changed the title card over and over and over again – and only because I had an original print, did Synapse allow me to use the original title because I had the original print.

BH: It’s impossible for me to imagine anyone other than Brandon Maggart in the lead role of Harry Stadling. Was the part written for him specifically or did you discover him through casting?

LJ: I discovered him thru casting. Originally I cast George Dzundza who played the bartender in Deerslayer. We started working and he said to me that we needed to rewrite the script and I realized he wanted me to write him “Marty.” It was a disaster. Somebody found me a great NY casting director who sent me a whole new group of actors. They all came in, they all did videotape auditions. Brandon’s audition turned out to be Brandon’s performance and that was quite a revelation.

BH: The film has a number of violent scenes. Did you find the filming of the violent sequences to be difficult or more time consuming?

LJ: The answer is both. Filming violence is not pleasant, but it has to be precise.

BH: One of the film’s most outspoken fans is John Waters. He mentioned the film at length in one of his books and even participated in a commentary track for the Synapse dvd release. When did you first become aware that you had such a famous fan? What are your thoughts on John and his love of your film?

LJ: 1983 someone told me that John had written about it in Rolling Stone, but I had never seen the article. After the book came out, someone called me and said “have you seen the book?” I hadn’t. When I did, I was overwhelmed basically because I had been treated like a crazy person for making this movie. I didn’t meet John for 20 more years, but then he started to do art shows and invited me to be a part of the film showings accompanying the art shows. I finally met him at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburg.

BH: When the film was originally released did you receive any sort of criticism or protests from moral crusaders?

LJ: I was treated like a leper and I thought I was making a comedy and only John understood it was a comedy.

BH: Christmas Evil has been released on vhs and dvd several times. I’ve even seen dvds selling for as little as $1. Did the film ever slip into the public domain?

LJ: No, it was stolen and it has taken me 5 years to regain the rights.

BH: In an age when seemingly EVERY horror film ever made gets a remake, it seems like only a matter of time before someone attempts a Christmas Evil remake. Have you been approached about this?

LJ: Yes. Twice, but this one seems to be one that no one wants to touch. It still seems too transgressive. It may be the most impressive thing I have done in my life.

BH: The remake of Bob Clark’s Black Christmas was met with a fair amount of controversy because of the title. Do you think a remake of Christmas Evil would have the same sort of reception?

LJ: Worse.

I’d like to thank Lewis for taking the time to do the interview and big thanks to horror society for hooking it up!

 

HO HO HO KEEP THE BLOOD FLOWING!!!