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EXCL: Filmmakers and Stars Talk Bitch Slap!

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With IM Global/Bombshell Pictures’ gleefully titillating feature Bitch Slap bowing today in limited theatrical release and via Video on Demand, this scribe sat down recently with the makers and stars of the film to discuss their ‘guns, boobs, and brawls’ opus and was thrilled to do so.

Why? In this writer’s estimation, Bitch Slap has set the bar in that sub-genre of film and now holds the heavyweight belt as the ‘Quintessential Guy Flick.’ This is fortuitous, not only for audiences with high expectations (the flick’s trailer and teaser art have been burning up the Internet for months) but also for the filmmakers, whose goal was to create ‘The Best Bitch Fight in Film History.

Bitch Slap, which stars newcomer Julia Voth, Erin (“Nip/Tuck”) Cummings, America (Friday the 13th remake) Olivo, Ron (Children of the Corn III) Melendez, Kevin (“Hercules”) Sorbo, and Zoe (Death Proof) Bell (in a brief cameo, although her skill as the film’s fight choreographer is clearly on display), is described as follows: ‘A post-modern, thinking man’s throwback to the B-movie exploitation films of the 1950’s-70’s as well as a loving, sly parody of the same. Inspired by the likes of Dragstrip Girl; Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!; Kung Fu Nun; and the pantheon of Blaxploitation films, Bitch Slap mixes girls, guns, outrageous action, and jaw-dropping visuals with a message… don’t be naughty!

Bitch Slap Brings on the Boobs and Blood!

An ambitious project to be sure, particularly for a low-budgeted indie, but one which writer/producer/director Rick Jacobsen and co-scribe and producing partner Eric Gruendemann approached with sincere enthusiasm, although according to them there was initial trepidation as to whether or not they’d be successful in finding three femme fatales willing and able to go to the lengths their tawdry, tongue-in-cheek script required.

The lead roles were obviously the most pivotal, although we didn’t have any ideas (as to the casting),” said Gruendemann, whose previous genre experience includes serving as co-executive producer and managing director of Pacific Renaissance Films, the company he founded with partners Sam (Evil Dead) Raimi and Rob Tapert. “A lot of people said early on, ‘How are you going to find hot women who can give these long soliloquies and do the action and who are willing to do what’s written in the script and will do it on a budget? You are asking the impossible.’

Reflecting on the casting of the film’s triumvirate of Voth (as the down-and-out stripper ‘Trixie’), Cummings (as corporate powerbroker ‘Hell’), and Olivo (who here portrays the drug-running killer ‘Camaro’), Gruendemann says, “We recognize that we got very lucky, but also when we were writing, we had faith that we would find them, and we are incredibly thrilled with who we got.

Jacobsen, who began his directorial career at the age of 23 by helming Roger Corman’s martial arts flick Full Contact, and whose television credits include “Xena: Warrior Princess” and “Cleopatra 2525”, concurs.

Bitch Slap Brings on the Boobs and Blood!

It was definitely lightning in a bottle,” says the filmmaker of their luck in casting Bitch Slap. “We needed beautiful women who could go there and embrace the fact that we were doing an exploitation film and not shy away from (directions such as) ‘Unzip that top a little bit more,’ or ‘Bend over a little bit further,’ (even though) it was all kind of done with just a wink and a smile in knowing that we were embracing what (Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! director) Russ Meyer and those guys had done before – yet kinda trying to put a cool modern spin on it.

It was a huge task,” Jacobsen continues, “yet, the planets somehow aligned for us to the freakish point that when we were developing it, I said to Eric, ‘Our Trixie is a girl who has just come into town, is undiscovered and incredibly talented, but is hungry and willing to do it’; and that is exactly what we got with Julia Voth. She was in town for eight months, and this was her third audition.

This is my first film and acting job ever, and it’s been amazing,” chimes in Canadian-born Voth, whose previous work in L.A. included print jobs as a model for Guess? and who is clearly enjoying the reunion with her Bitch Slap co-stars the junket’s providing, given their banter. “I think this film for all three of us has opened doors that weren’t there before, especially for me.

Cummings, who seems the ringleader of the film’s stars, given her sharp wit and alluring laugh (think Tura Satana but a lot cuter… and more approachable), agrees with Voth’s statement.

It’s almost comical how this movie has created a complete 180 in my life and my career,” says the actress, whose substantial resume includes stints on “Cold Case”, “Dante’s Cove”, and “Charmed”. “I had done just about every play, short film, student film, and independent film that I could, and a lot of them never came out and a lot of them I never got paid for, and I thought Bitch Slap was going to be just another independent film that never saw the light of day. That’s kind of what it was for me, and I was just happy I was actually getting a lead role in something that was a feature. But now in the year and a half since I’ve done Bitch Slap, not only has my resume increased three times, but I’ve gotten ten times better representation, I’ve been able to travel around the world, and literally it’s really changed my career and my life, and it’s not even out yet! That’s what is crazy.

Bitch Slap Brings on the Boobs and Blood!

As for whether Cummings, given her previous genre work, was predisposed to old-school exploitation cinema (namely, the films of Russ Meyer, which Bitch Slap wears proudly on its sleeve, or in this case its itty bitty tank top), “I hadn’t really seen any of his films,” says the actress. “I grew up in Pensacola, Texas, where they didn’t even have a Blockbuster, so I had to watch whatever random films were there, so I was watching sort of genre horror films, like Student Bodies.” A long pause. “It’s the best movie ever made.

Again with her wit.

But I don’t really have any shame in saying ‘No, I haven’t seen any of Meyer’s films prior to doing this,’” she conveys. “Our job is not to be familiar with exploitation films as a genre. Our job is to give a truthful performance.

That truthful performance was assisted by the filmmakers’ hiring of stuntwoman and burgeoning actress Zoe Bell, whom they’d previously worked with on the television series “Xena” and horror fans know of from her turn in Quentin Tarantino’s 2007 Grindhouse feature Death Proof as well as her starring role in last year’s web series Angel of Death (she’ll next appear alongside Wesley Snipes in the upcoming flick Game of Death). Whew, that’s a lot of death! Given the content of Bitch Slap, Zoe’s inclusion was an astute call.

Zoe was our first and only choice when it came to choosing a stunt coordinator who could coordinate ‘The Greatest Chick Fight in Cinema History,’” says director Jacobsen. “And she never let us down.

’Wow! No pressure, guys. I’ll see what I can do!’” Bell recalls of responding to Jacobsen’s initial and lofty decree, “but it was really satisfying to me. It’s the first thing of that size that I’ve coordinated, and it was made much easier by the fact that the girls were all so willing. You can’t make a movie like that without everybody being one hundred percent because that’s all you’ve got to work with, and they were really dedicated.

Bitch Slap Brings on the Boobs and Blood!

Given the requirements of Cummings’ ass-kicking role (both she and Olivo throw down like MMA fighters), Bell’s assistance, as well as her own background in Jeet Kune Do and various weaponry (Cummings is trained in guns, knives, long bow, short stick, and hand-to-hand combat, among other things) undoubtedly assisted her in delivering. But what of the scenes which required more of a Sapphic touch? (Audiences can look forward to rather rousing moments between herself and her onscreen cohorts).

One of our camera operators on-set was bisexual,” relates Cummings, “and here’s the thing: We all felt that if you are going to do a fight scene or a love scene or whatever you are going to do, you want to make it something that’s real, and to be quite honest, I want lesbians to watch this movie and go, ‘Yeah, that’s pretty hot. I want to be in the middle of that,’ and I want guys to watch this movie and say, ‘Yeah, that’s pretty hot. I want to be in the middle of that.’ So otherwise, what’s the point? Truth be told, look at Julia and America. It’s not the worst thing in the world to kiss them. I’d rather kiss a pretty girl than an ugly guy any day!

Bitch Slap actress America Olivo is as enthusiastic as Cummings of the film, which has previously screened as part of the Toronto International Film Fest’s Midnight Madness track as well as being an Official Selection at both the Athens and Helsinki International Film Festivals.

Within twenty pages (of the script), you either get it or you don’t, and I got it,” says Olivo, who’s a classically trained operatic singer and pop/Latin chart topper and who has graced the stages of Radio City Music Hall and Madison Square Garden (among many others), all long before being burned up in a sleeping bag at the hands of Jason Voorhees in last year’s Platinum Dunes’ Friday the 13th redux.

Bitch Slap did all of these fun things that I never thought I’d get the opportunity to do in my acting career as a cross-over artist from being a singer,” says Olivo. “I’d only ever gotten a few Spanish speaking roles or played a girlfriend or a mistress of someone being killed in the first five minutes. So it was fun to not only get to play a lead in something this grand but to do all of the sorts of things that men usually get to do in action films. I mean, the fight scenes and just getting dirty and the green screen work – the whole thing was just fun. This isn’t, though, what I thought I’d been doing with my degree in opera theatre!

As our time runs short (it’s the holiday season and talk turns to everyone’s various travel plans), Cummings offers us this summation: “Bitch Slap is something different than the same bullshit that the Hollywood machine is churning out, and people wanted to be involved in it.”

Bitch Slap opens today for a limited theatrical run in Los Angeles at The Nuart (11272 Santa Monica Boulevard), in New York at The Quad (34 West 13th Street), and in San Francisco at The Lumiere (1572 California Street). Tickets are on sale for all locations through MovieTickets.com and for Los Angeles and San Francisco through LandmarkTheaters.com.

Visit Bitch Slap online at BitchSlapMovie.com.

Sean Decker

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Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls Announced for iOS

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There’s a new Castlevania game coming our way, and whilst you might be a little disappointing that it’s not a fully fledged console release, you’ll be glad to know that it’s not a Pachinko either. It’s actually an iOS game by the name Castlevania: Grimoire of Souls, and it takes the series back to its classic 2D roots.

Dracula, who has been a staple of Castlevania since day one, probably won’t be showing up in Grimoire of Souls, as the game takes place many years after his true and final death. Things aren’t all sunshine and rainbows following the demise of the Lord of Darkness, however, as you’ll have to hunt down a cursed Grimoire with the power to bring Dracula back into the world. Throughout the story mode, you’ll pay as a character named Genya Arikado, a newcomer to the series, as you team up with Lucy, a member of a mysterious research organization, to prevent Dracula’s resurrection.

Grimoire of Souls will also have a co-op mode which can be played by up to four players, in addition to a four-versus-four competitive mode. For these modes, players will be able to choose from a selection of popular Castlevania characters, including Simon Belmont, Maria Renard, Charlotte Aulin, and Dracula’s son, Alucard.

There’s currently no word on when Konami will publish Castlevania: Grimoire of Shadow on the iOS, although you can sign up for the Japanese closed beta right now.

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Warhammer: Vermintide 2 Review – Rat Exterminator Simulator 2018

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Vermintide 2Developed and Published by Fatshark

Available on PC through Steam (Coming to Xbox One and PS4)

Rated M for Mature


On the scale of cathartic guilt-free wanton slaughter, rat-men belong up there with zombies, Nazis, and cops in a Rockstar game. No matter how many limbs fly off, skulls get crushed in, and whispered wishes to see their families one last time before the cold embrace of death whisks them away, you’re pretty much free to do whatever without any of the self-conscious pangs that usually come along with murder. If Warhammer: End Times – Vermintide taught us anything, it’s that this unrestrained dealing of death is made all the more enjoyable when the victims are slightly adorable, in a gross ratty way. Now Warhammer: Vermintide 2 is here to deliver on more of the same, but with Chaos. Nurgle Chaos in fact, who are kind of like zombies and Nazis. So now that the gang’s all here, time to feel good about some ultraviolence.

For those of you unfamiliar with the series, Vermintide tells the story of the heroic Ubersreik Five (…or Four, whatever). An ensemble of fantasy tropes, you’ve got the racist snarky elf, the cheerful and outgoing dwarf, the shrill and sneering Witch Hunter, the maniacal and bloodthirsty Bright Wizard, and Markus Kruber. The team is brought together by plot for the purpose of rat slaying, and together with three of your friends you’ll murder your way to saving the world (but not really, because canonically speaking the whole world is fucked anyways). The series is an FPS in the vein of Left 4 Dead, but with a much heavier focus on melee combat. You’ll also have to unlock new gear like in Call of Duty, but unlike Call of Duty the class you play and loadout you pick actually matters.

Vermintide 2

Mama shoulda taught you not to bring a bow to a Rat Ogre fight.

Once you pick your favorite fantasy trope and prefered loadout, Vermintide 2 drops you into your selected level to complete a series of challenges and hopefully score some fat loot. In terms of simple playability, the maps are all as diverse as they are entertaining. The objectives are varied (sometimes you’ll be hunting for keys, sometimes surviving waves of foes, etc.), but always the same in that particular level. The level design is certainly geared more towards being a “game” than a living breathing world, and that’s fine. Games should be games, and if putting a random fence or broken bridge here or there to direct me towards my objective helps me slaughter rats I’m all for it. The overall effect is that the more you learn the level, the easier time you’ll have overcoming the endless hordes.

Now if this all sounds a lot like Left 4 Dead… well it is very similar. The major difference is the aforementioned focus on melee combat. While Left 4 Dead 2 used melee as an optional replacement for your sidearm, melee is the bread and butter for most characters in Vermintide 2. In service of that, the melee combat system is far more robust. You’ll have to learn to alternate between heavy and light attacks, block, dodge, and even what body parts to hit. On top of that, weapons have certain properties like armor piercing and high stagger. Even more on top of that, certain attacks have different applications of those properties. If you have a halberd, you’ll have to learn the difference between your sweeping attacks and your piercing jab attacks. The elf and Bright Wizard are more ranged focused, but the basic principles of knowing what your attacks do and which moves pierce armor still apply.

Vermintide 2

Oh shiiiiiii-

This is all just the basic overview of what Vermintide 2 is, but that’s basically all you need to know to have a good time. The game gets far more complex, but there’s a very primal satisfaction to be had in chopping your way through hordes of rats. In terms of just jumping in and having fun, the game is incredibly accessible. Anyone can understand the concept of pushing the attack button to remove heads from shoulders. Delving into the game’s complexity beyond that is really up to you.

Vermintide 2

I have come to grasp the fundamentals of the flail/rat face relationship

If you do delve into it, you’ll find a hidden layer of challenge and reward that sets Vermintide 2 far above the competition. First off are the hidden tomes and grimoires. In every level there are three tomes and two grimoires hidden somewhere. These spots can be incredibly difficult to suss out, requiring excessive collectible hunting motivation to find them on your own. This can be a bit of a challenge when there’s an endless horde of rats nipping at your heels. In reality, you’ll probably just Google the locations and memorize them before the start of each map. Just knowing where they are isn’t all there is to it. Some are quite difficult to reach even if you know where they are, hidden behind jumping puzzles that are a bitch and a half. If you do pick them up, they will make your journey even harder. Tomes replace your potion slot—meaning that you cannot take a potion with you, not that you cannot ever heal again—and grimoires reduce your entire team’s max HP by 33% each. Collecting these prizes means more loot, but make sure your team knows their shit before you try one of these difficult challenge runs.

Now this is all stuff that was also in Vermintide. More of the same can be good when it’s well done, and Vermintide 2 is certainly well done. What makes Vermintide 2 a cut above the original is the new leveling system. Each character now levels individually, unlocking new traits and classes. There are 30 levels of traits to unlock, and two extra “careers” for each of the five characters. Each character levels individually, but loot boxes can be carried over between characters to make the grind a little easier. Still, it’s a hell of a lot of grind.

As a veteran of vanilla WoW, grind isn’t a dirty word to me. What matters is that the grind is leading towards something worth the time and effort. For Vermintide 2, that largely comes in the form of the different careers. More than just a visual change, careers can radically alter how your character plays. I’ve put the most time into Markus “Vanilla Ice Cream on a Waffle Cone” Kruber, as I like melee bruisers and I’ll be damned if I play a dwarf. Upon reaching level 7, I unlocked the Huntsman class and the character switched into a ranged damage role with strong melee backup. Reach level 14, and you’ll become a Man at Arms, an even tankier melee dude with a dash attack. Each career has its own skill tree, and certain weapons that only it can use.

Vermintide 2

So while I won’t see many people grinding all five of the crew to level 30, there is a lot of value to your repeated runs. The permanent progression that the leveling offers is a great way to add reward on top of the gear drops. The downside to this is that it’s far more difficult to hop between classes. While gear was certainly a factor in your success in Vermintide, you could still pretty easily jump into a character you only had a few pieces of gear for and do reasonably well. As your strength is now determined by your level, it’s not so simple in Vermintide 2.

This is a good segway into my biggest overall criticism with the game: playing with random scrubs is unbearable. If I had the choice between sleeping in an Arizona bar dumpster during the summer and trudging through all of the levels with random people, then I’d be using garbage bags as a pillow. Between having to know the locations of the tomes/grimoires and knowing how to actually be good at the game, finding a proficient four man team comprised of random people is like watching the last white rhino get hit by a shooting star. Even in my three man team, we’d quickly write off the fourth random player as more of a liability. The AI is decent enough at shooting stuff, but won’t pick up any of the collectible goodies without some inconsistent trickery. So you can either waste your time in subpar games, or get a solid group without other life commitments. And given the amount of grind that’s in this game, finding that consistently is the four-leaf clover wreath left on the rhino’s grave.

Vermintide 2

Pictured: Most of my teammates, before asking why I didn’t back them up.

It’s a pretty major gripe in terms of my own personal enjoyment, but even in my most frothing moments of scrub-induced rage I couldn’t exactly fault the game for just being what it is. And what it is is excellent. A huge cut above other cooperate shooters, the edition of new chaos units and the leveling system makes Vermintide 2 replace Left 4 Dead as the industry standard. Cleaving hordes of skittering rats has never been so fun, and definitely shouldn’t be missed.

Here is where the review should end, but wait, there’s more! You can’t talk about Vermintide without mentioning the exceptional developer support. The original game was still cranking out patches, updates, and DLC years after its release. With Vermintide 2, Fatshark has already been on top of releasing a slew of balance changes, updates, fixes, and more. It’s only been a month since release (yes I know, this review is late), and they are on their third major quality of life improvement patch. As a game it was already excellent, but that kind of community interaction and developer support truly makes the game exceptional. It’s a game you should definitely buy, and a company you should be happy to support.

  • Game
4.5

Summary

Ridiculously fun combat and near infinite replayability combine to form the perfect rat-smashing package. The best co-op shooter on the market. The only downside is that there isn’t a really good way to play without a solid team. Get your friends together and waste away the weeks.

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Channel 4’s New Series True Horror Opens With A Warning For Nervous Viewers

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If you live in the UK, now has never been a better time to renew your TV license. That’s because Channel 4 are broadcasting a new dramatized documentary series called “True Horror”, which will take you into the heart of four terrifying true horror stories.

In pure Channel 4 style, each episode will open with a disclaimer reading “scenes of paranormal activity may disturb viewers”, before heading straight into a mix of both real life interviews and scripted segments. The first season of “True Horror” will consist of four episodes, with a special called “The Witches’ Prison” also being broadcast on Halloween. Today’s episode will be called “Hellfire Farm”, and will recount the tale of a couple who moved into a supposedly haunted farm in the Welsh countryside. This installment was directed by BAFTA nominee Tom Kingsley, and will be shown at 10pm.

“True Horror” was produced by “The Enfield Haunting’s” Jamie Campbell and Joel Wilson, and stars James Dryden, Charlotte Eaton, Sammy Williams, Katie Jarvis, Adam Leese, Amy Morgan, and James Tarpey. And you really should watch the series, because it needs the ratings. If not, we’re just gonna get more of the soap opera and singing competition garbage that usually dominates British TV.

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