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Exclusive: Dread Central Pays a Visit to Scream Queens 2

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Dread Central Pays a Visit to Scream Queens 2It’s Wednesday, December 2nd (and incidentally this scribe’s birthday), when I arrive to the set of VH1 and Joke Productions’ reality series “Scream Queens 2”. The show is shooting in a foreboding manse made infamous by its use in Rob Zombie’s Halloween (and across the street from the house Wes Craven made iconic in People Under the Stairs) off Western Avenue in Los Angeles, CA.

I’m greeted by co-showrunner Biagio Messina (who with his wife and producing partner, Joke Fincioen, is in the midst of the series’ twenty-four-day shoot). Scheduled to air in eight parts on VH1 next spring/summer and hosted by director Tim (2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams) Sullivan, “Scream Queens 2” will feature ten aspiring actresses vying for a role in Lionsgate’s next entry in the Saw film series, Saw VII 3D. Actress Jaime (My Bloody Valentine 3D) King will appear as a mentor to the hopefuls, with acting coach John Homa putting them through their paces as Sullivan directs them through a series of genre-specific hurdles involving the staples of horror: creatures, blood, stunts, and screams. (Given, though, that this is a reality show, Dread is unfortunately unable to reveal the identity of the actresses involved at this time or any details of the challenges they will face).

The always personable and enthusiastic Sullivan – taking over host duties from last season’s James (Slither) Gunn – is seated in a makeup chair prepping for pre-roll, and given his historic love of horror, he’s unsurprisingly passionate about the project. Producer Biago is happy to have him on-board.

Tim comes from a very low-budget, guerrilla filmmaking mentality and has a very ‘get-it done, no-frills, I will make this movie come hell or high water’ attitude,” says producer Messina, “which I think is really great for our girls, because he’s reminding these ladies that being a scream queen isn’t necessarily glamorous. Especially when you are first starting out, you aren’t doing this because you want to be a celebutante; you are doing this because you want to enter a genre where you can be the best actor you can be, and the fame and the success will come later if you give a great performance. Tim has told them, ‘Ladies, there is no harder acting job on the face of the earth than being a scream queen, so embrace everything single thing you can learn from the horror genre’.

I think one of the reasons we love this show so much,” chimes in Fincioen, whose passion for the project is apparent – there’s no sense on set that the genre is being exploited, “is because a scream queen is really one of the only actresses that is required to play every emotion. Sometimes it’s sexy and innocent – sometimes it’s absolute abject terror or sadness. I think that’s why the horror genre lends itself to a reality show; we do legitimately test these actresses on all of those different emotions because those are all of the things required of a scream queen in the horror genre.

Dread Central Pays a Visit to Scream Queens 2

What level of talent, then, can viewers expect to see in Season 2?

We are really lucky this year because of the success of last year’s show,” Fincioen says of this year’s contestants (last year’s winner, Tanedra Howard, went on to portray ‘Simone’ in Saw VI, and is returning the reprise her role in part seven). “The girls are much more ambitious, and we are giving them more complicated scenes in terms of blocking and hitting their marks, and we are throwing everything at them. They are really stepping up. We are looking for the best actors – not the prettiest movie stars – so they have to be willing to do the work and get in there and get it done.

As for creating environments that will allow the show’s actresses to immerse themselves, the producers have brought on reality show production designer Kenny Davis, who’s put to good use the production’s access to Lionsgate Films’ set décor .

We have some fun stuff in the house (where the girls are sequestered as well), but for the screen tests we’ve really tried to make it bigger and better than last year,” says Fincioen. “We are testing the girls on pretty much everything: every emotion, every look, kind of costume, and makeup, and things they have to deal with, from creepy-crawler co-stars to nasty conditions to campier characters – that’s the thing about the horror genre, it allows for such a wide spectrum (of challenges) from straightforward torture porn to what Tim calls ‘schlock and roll’ so it gives us a lot to play with.

The producers’ focus remains here on the actresses’ performances as well, in that the ‘reality’ aspect of the show has been structured to be as organic as possible.

The drama can be anything from a girl missing her family to a girl failing miserably at a screen-test she thought she was doing fantastic at to a girl who’s trying to psyche another thing out, because that’s her game plan,” conveys Messina. “These aren’t things that we’re guiding them in though. We are just letting the cameras roll, but are absolutely making sure that when a great story happens we are covering it, and that is 100% our mantra when we aren’t shooting the screen-tests. We’re shooting it (the reality aspect) more vérité.

Dread Central Pays a Visit to Scream Queens 2
l to r: Biagio Messina, Tim Sullivan, Joke Fincioen

There will be drama though.

You put ten girls together in a house, stuff is going to happen,” says Fincioen, “and their emotions are right on the surface. We don’t have to manufacture drama. The pressure and the intensity of the competition, and the bubble we have created – they have no contact with the outside world, just each other and the competition – heightens everything for them.

Fincioen points out though that on the flip side, the opportunities inherent are without equal. “These girls literally get to go to acting summer camp,” says the producer. “They don’t have to worry about bills, or laundry, or what’s for dinner, and all of those things that cloud our days. They are able to come here and focus on their craft 100% – something they are passionate about and feel that they cannot live without. This experience isn’t something someone can buy, no matter how rich you are.

Dread will be bringing you further exclusives from the set so stick around, and you can follow Sullivan, Biagio and Joke (@timsullivan22 and @jokeandbiagio, respectively) on Twitter. They are planning on tweeting during the airing of the show with “behind-the-scenes” goodies.

Sean Decker

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Fearsome Facts – Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)

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Sir Christopher Lee returned to portray the charismatic count of Transylvania in Hammer’s Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966) for the first time since taking on the iconic role in 1958’s Horror of Dracula – an eight year absence. 

And while Lee endured a love/hate relationship playing the Carpathian Count over the years, the actor reluctantly tackled the role a total of 10 times for the Silver Screen. Three of those performances came outside of the purview of Hammer Horror, but this list is dedicated to the first Hammer Dracula sequel to feature the return of Christopher Lee in the lead role.

Now, here are 5 Things You May Not Know About Dracula: Prince of Darkness.

5. Dracula: Speechless

Dialogue never played a crucial part in Christopher Lee’s portrayals as Count Dracula, but this film is the epitome of that contentious notion. Lee doesn’t utter a single word during Dracula: Prince of Darkness’ 90 minutes of run time. In interviews over the years, Lee said that he was so unhappy with his lines that he protested and refused to say them during the filming process. “Because I had read the script and refused to say any of the lines,” Lee said in an interview at the University College of Dublin.

However, screenwriter Jimmy Sangster insisted that the original script was written without any dialogue for Dracula. There was even a theory that circulated for a time which postulated that Hammer could not afford Lee’s growing salary, so the studio decided to limit the Count’s screen time. Did this lead to the demise of Dracula’s dialogue? Regardless of whom you want to believe, Dracula is the strong, silent type in Prince of Darkness. 

4. Double Duty for Drac

Hammer Film Productions doubled down, so to speak, on the production and post-production aspects of Dracula: Prince of Darkness. First, the studio filmed the vampire flick back-to-back with another project titled Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966). In doing so, Hammer used many of the same sets, actors – including Francis Matthews and Suzan Farmer – and crew members to shoot both motion pictures.

Second, Dracula: Prince of Darkness was featured in a double billing alongside the film The Plague of the Zombies (1966) when it screened in London. Insert cheesy cliche: “Double your pleasure, double your fun with Doublemint Gum.” 

3. Stunt Double Nearly Drowned

Dracula: Prince of Darkness introduced a new weakness in the wicked baddie, but it nearly cost a stuntman his life. During the film, it was revealed that running water could destroy Dracula. Wait, what? Apparently, leaving the faucets on at night not only prevents frozen pipes, but blood-sucking vampires, too.

All kidding aside, it was during the climactic battle scene in which Christopher Lee’s stunt double almost succumb to the icy waters on set. Stuntman Eddie Powell stepped in as the Count during that pivotal moment, as Dracula slipped into the watery grave, but Powell was trapped under the water himself and almost died.

2. Lee Loathed What Hammer Did to Stoker’s Character

Christopher Lee’s return to Hammer’s Dracula franchise was a stroke of genius on the part of producers, but Lee was more than a little reticent when it came to initially voicing his dislike for playing the iconic role. As mentioned above, a lot of speculation swirled around the lack of dialogue given to Lee in the Prince of Darkness script. And if you don’t count the opening flashback sequence, which revisits the ending of Horror of Dracula (1958), Count Dracula doesn’t appear on screen until the 45-minute mark of the film.

Dracula’s lack of character, and presence, began to affect Lee particularly when it came to signing on to play the character in the three films following Prince of Darkness. Indeed, the lack of meaningful character development led to Lee initially turning down Dracula Has Risen From the Grave (1968), Taste the Blood of Dracula (1970) and Scars of Dracula (1970). Lee said in countless interviews that he never got to play the real version of Count Dracula created by Bram Stoker, at least via Hammer Studios. This was a true disappointment to the late actor.

But Hammer guilt Lee into taking on the role over and over again, because the studio claimed to have already sold the aforementioned films to the United States with Lee’s name attached to the projects. Hammer informed Lee that if he didn’t return the company would have to lay off many of their workers. The tactic worked, since Lee was friends with many of the Dracula crew members. Fortunately for fans, Lee kept coming back for blood.

1. Faux Pas

Outside of the character of Dracula only appearing on screen for the last half of the movie, Dracula: Prince of Darkness had even more pressing issues that unfortunately survived all the way to the final cut of the film. One of the most appalling of these occurrences happens during the picture’s climatic confrontation. Watch the skies above Dracula and you will see the trail of a jet-engine plane staining the sky.

Another faux pas occurs in this same sequence when Dracula succumbs to the icy waters. Watch closely as the camera’s long shot clearly reveals the pivots holding the ice up underneath Chris Lee. Finally, watch the dead girl who is being carried during the opening funeral sequence. She is clearly breathing and quite heavily at that.

***

Which Dracula: Prince of Darkness moments did you find the most interesting? Were there any obscure facts you would have enjoyed seeing make our list? Sound off on social media!

 

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Desolation Review – The Joy of Being Rescued and All the Surprises That Come With It

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Starring Raymond J. Barry, Brock Kelly, Dominik Garcia-Lorido

Directed by David Moscow


It’s those random, once-in-a-lifetime encounters that only a select few get the chance to experience: when we as regular participants in this wonderful thing known as The Rat Race, stumble across a soul that we’ve only witnessed on the big screen. I’m talking about a celebrity encounter, and while some of the masses will chalk the experience up as nothing more than a passing moment, others hold it to a much larger interior scale…then you REALLY get to know the person, and that’s when things get interesting.

Director David Moscow’s thriller, Desolation follows shy hotel employee Katie (Lorido) and her “fortuitous” brush with Hollywood pretty-boy Jay (Kelly) during one of his stops – the two hit it off, and together they begin a sort of whirlwind-romance that takes her away from her job and drops her in the heart of Los Angeles at the apartment building he resides in. You can clearly see that she has been a woman who’s suffered some emotional trauma in her past, and this golden boy just happens to gallop in on his steed and sweep her off of her feet, essentially rescuing her from a life of mundane activity. She gets the full-blown treatment: a revamped wardrobe, plenty of lovin’, and generally the life she’s wanted for some time.

Things return to a bit of normalcy when Jay has to return to work, leaving Katie to spread out at his place, but something clearly isn’t kosher with this joint. With its odd inhabitants (a very creepy priest played by Raymond J. Barry), even more bizarre occurrences, and when one scared young woman cannot even rely on the protection from the local police, it all adds up to a series of red flags that would have even the strongest of psyches crying for their mothers. What Moscow does with this movie is give it just enough swerves so that it keeps your skull churning, but doesn’t overdo its potential to conclusively surprise you, and that’s what makes the film an entertaining watch.

While Lorido more than holds her ground with her portrayal of a woman who has been hurt in the past, and is attempting to place her faith in a new relationship, it’s Barry that comes out on top here. His performance as Father Bill is the kind of stuff that wouldn’t exactly chill you to the bone, but he’s definitely not a man of the cloth that you’d want to be stuck behind closed doors with – generally unsettling. As I mentioned earlier, the plot twists are well-placed, and keep things fresh just when you think you’ve got your junior private investigator badge all shined up. Desolation is well-worth a look, and really has kicked off 2018 in a promising fashion – let’s see what the other 11 months will feed us beasts.

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Got your eye on that shining movie star or starlet? Better make sure it’s what you really want in life – you know what they say about curiosity.

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Carnivore: Werewolf of London Howls on VOD

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Joining the ranks of The Curse of the Werewolf, An American Werewolf in London, The Company of Wolves, and Dog Soldiers, Carnivore: Werewolf of London is the latest in a long series of fantastic British werewolf movies. Directed by Knights of the Damned’s Simon Wells, the film focuses on a couple trying to save their relationship by taking a vacation in a remote cottage, but rekindling their old flame soon proves to be the least of their worries as they learn that something with lots of fur and lots of teeth is waiting for them in the surrounding woods.

Carnivore: Werewolf of London stars Ben Loyd-Holmes, Atlanta Johnson, Gregory Cox, Molly Ruskin, and Ethan Ruskin, and is available to purchase now on Google Play, Amazon Video, iTunes, and Vudu, although it doesn’t appear to have received a physical release as of yet.

More information about Carnivore: Werewolf of London is available on the film’s official Facebook account, along with a ton of production photos.

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