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Dread Central Presents Indie Filmmakers to Watch: Chris Power and Nathan Hynes Talk Long Pigs

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For Canadian filmmakers Nathan Hynes and Chris Power, the journey to make their full-length feature debut, Long Pigs, was anything but typical.

I had moved from Newfoundland to Toronto after I finished school,” explained Hynes. “I worked in a restaurant, and the hostess told me that she was talking to this film guy that had come into the restaurant. So I got all excited because I thought I was going to meet some big-time movie guy. I so badly wanted to get into the industry but had no idea how to get my foot in the door. So when I walked over to this big shot filmmaker, it turned out to be Chris, who was just another guy like me starting off in the industry. We hit it off immediately, though, and started working together right after that,” Hynes added.

Power and Hynes came up with the idea for their film, Long Pigs, by mixing their own insecurities as brand new filmmakers and a story that Hynes heard about a local killer. The title of Long Pigs comes from the culinary term that is used in reference to eating a human corpse.

Dread Central Presents Indie Filmmakers to Watch: Chris Power and Nathan Hynes Talk Long Pigs

Hynes said, “I had heard this story of a guy from a small town near me who was a cannibal that murdered a bunch of people. The murders were almost satanic in nature, and there were some pretty gruesome stories. Then there was a story about the guy and what he’s been doing in jail since he was convicted.

So for Long Pigs, we took this idea of two bumbling filmmakers, much like Chris and I felt like we were at that time, trying to make a documentary about a real-life cannibalistic murderer in the midst of his killing spree. We thought putting that twist on the story was much more interesting than the usual idea of meeting this guy some ten years later after the madness,” Hynes added.

Bumbling filmmakers and a maniac are only part of the equation that makes up Long Pigs. The film is also centered around the discovery of lost documentary footage of a cannibalistic serial killer who may have been more than the filmmakers bargained for as the killer’s lifestyle becomes too much for the pair to handle.

While Hynes and Power honed the script in 2003, the pair credited their lead actor Anthony Alviano as the inspiration behind their killer, who is also named Anthony in the film.

We pretty much wrote Long Pigs for Anthony so we knew he was going to be a fantastic killer from the start,” explained Power. “For the rest of our cast we spent three to four months in a casting basement seeing all the local non-union actors in the area.”

Dread Central Presents Indie Filmmakers to Watch: Chris Power and Nathan Hynes Talk Long Pigs

We were also really lucky to get such a great and supportive cast who were always willing to come back for reshoots and to help out the production overall. Our philosophy was to just let our cast be creative. Almost all the stuff we ended up using in the final cut was their improv work so that philosophy paid off,” Power added.

However, not everything came as easily as casting did for Long Pigs. Both Hynes and Power spoke about the difficulties new directors face when getting an independent project financially secured.

As soon as we were finished with the script for Long Pigs, we knew we had something great,” explained Hynes. “We started working on securing the quarter million budget we imagined for the project. But we soon found out that once you get to a certain budget level, filmmaking becomes an entirely different process.

In the end we ended up with a lower budget than we would have thought we could make Long Pigs with, but that didn’t change our approach at all. It just meant we had to be extra frugal and watch our money very closely. But it all paid off. As a fan, I think the movie really delivers,” Power added.

Part of the reason the production value of Long Pigs looks far superior to the actual budget of the project was due to the work of Chris Bridges, special makeup effects artist whose credits include the Dawn of the Dead remake, Saw III, and 300.

Dread Central Presents Indie Filmmakers to Watch: Chris Power and Nathan Hynes Talk Long Pigs

Power said, “We owe so much of what makes Long Pigs so great to the work of Chris Bridges. The stuff he did looked like something you’d see in a movie with a 20 million dollar budget. He’s such an amazing guy. We were very lucky to have him on the film.

Once the money was in place to start production on Long Pigs, both Hynes and Powers invested some of that budget to getting what they needed to just get started as filmmakers since this was their first official adventure in the world of feature filmmaking.

The budget for Long Pigs included buying an editing suite, buying the camera, paying the actors, and we relied on guerrilla-style filmmaking for the rest,” explained Hynes. “We were lucky that all of our locations were free, and we didn’t need any real permits either. We edited as we shot so we could easily do the reshoots that we needed to make the movie work. It was definitely a learning process from beginning to end.

Power said, “You always have to make sure you’re properly organized no matter the size of the production. We shot 80 percent of Long Pigs’ big stuff in December, 2003; however, since we did the editing as we shot, we realized once we finished with the first cut that we had a movie without a satisfying ending. So we decided to make the radio host more of a character, made other changes, and did a bunch of reshoots over the next few years to make Long Pigs just right.

One of the luxuries both Power and Hynes enjoyed during this seven-year-long process that most other independent filmmakers generally don’t is having very accommodating and encouraging investors.

We were fortunate because our investors just wanted whatever was best for the project,” explained Power. “They’ve never pressured us along the way and have been incredibly patient. We never thought in 2003 that it would take this long for us to get Long Pigs into theaters so we were lucky they stuck along for the entire ride.

Dread Central Presents Indie Filmmakers to Watch: Chris Power and Nathan Hynes Talk Long Pigs

Hynes said, “I truly believe being independent and having less money involved with the production meant less pressure and so much more freedom. I think Long Pigs and both of us benefited from staying independent. Would we have liked more money? Sure. But I don’t know that we could have made a better movie if we had more money.

Power summed up the entire Long Pigs journey by saying, “Making Long Pigs wasn’t a perfect process. There were nights where I wondered how we screwed everything up so badly, but now it feels great to finally be getting some positive attention and getting the movie out there. It feels like maybe we did something right.

Attention indeed. Long Pigs has been garnering a lot of buzz as it has been making its way through the festival circuit. The film enjoyed its US premiere in Milwaukee on April 22nd, played during Detroit’s Motor City Nightmares on April 23rd, and is slated to play during the opening night of Texas Frightmare Weekend on April 28th.

According to Hynes fans can also expect to see Long Pigs enjoy its DVD debut on June 8th, and the flick will also be available to US audiences via VOD and PPV starting sometime in May or June.

We’ve had some mixed reactions from those who have seen Long Pigs so far. Some people really love it, and some people really hate it. We don’t mind the audiences being so decisive either. Now that Long Pigs is starting to gain momentum on the festival circuit, it’s pretty cool to hear some of the buzz on both sides,” Hynes said.

Now that their debut film is finally reaching genre fans, I asked both Hynes and Power to talk about what’s in their filmmaking futures.

Power said, “We are working on some writing projects, but we are just keeping focused on the push for Long Pigs right now. That’s the main focus for us both.

For our next projects we will most likely direct separately, but we’ll always be around to support each other no matter what we’re working on,” Hynes added.

With Long Pigs being such an involved process for the up-and-coming writer/directors, I asked the pair to share with Dread Central some of what they learned along the way.

Hynes said, “The biggest thing I learned is that you are who you treat yourself as. If you present yourself with confidence, people will jump at the opportunity to work with you. They’ll only believe in you if you believe in what you’re doing.

What I learned from making Long Pigs is that if you don’t have money, you better have the time to do it right. Besides, we’ll never have this kind of freedom again to really take our time with a film so we should enjoy it and get the job done right. The result is a pretty cool horror film I think,” Power added.

For more visit the official Long Pigs website here.

Dread Central Presents Indie Filmmakers to Watch: Chris Power and Nathan Hynes Talk Long Pigs

Heather Wixson

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Hell Night Blu-ray Review – Mischief & Mayhem At Mongoloid Manor

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Starring Linda Blair, Peter Barton, Suki Goodwin, Vincent Van Patten

Directed by Tom DeSimone

Distributed by Scream Factory


1981. Prime time for the slasher film, when studios were more than content to pump out one after another since production cost was often so low. The downside, though, was that many wound up being formulaic and, eventually, forgotten. Time has allowed the cream to rise to the top of that crop and while Hell Night (1981) isn’t among the best it does stand out due to some novel choices made by director Tom DeSimone and executive producer Chuck Russell, the man responsible for some of the most consistently entertaining horror films of the ‘80s. A dilapidated mansion, oozing with gothic atmosphere, stands in place of a college campus or generic forest setting. Characters are dressed in formal costume; a stark departure from typical ‘80s teen garb. The film is half haunted house, half crazed killer and there is a not-entirely-unexpected-but-definitely-welcome twist at the end providing a solid jolt to a beleaguered climax. Fans are rightly excited to see Hell Night makes its debut in HD, though the final product is still compromised despite Scream Factory’s best efforts.

It’s Hell Night, every fraternity brother’s favorite evening; when new recruits are tormented in hazing rituals from, well, Hell. Peter (Kevin Brophy), president of the vaunted Alpha Sigma Rho house, comes up with the brilliant idea to have four pledges – Marti (Linda Blair), Jeff (Peter Barton), Denise (Suki Goodwin), and Seth (Vincent Van Patten) – spend the night in a decaying mansion. But this isn’t just any old house, as Peter regales a rapt audience – this is where former owner Raymond Garth killed his wife and three malformed children before hanging himself, sparing only the life of his son, Andrew, who was rumored to reside within the place after the murders. The pledges enter Garth Manor and quickly pair off, with Marti and Jeff getting intellectual while Denise and Seth take a more physical path.

A few hours pass and Peter returns with some of his bros, planning to initiate a few good scare pranks they set up earlier that week. The chuckles don’t last long, though, because Jeff and Seth quickly find the shoddy wiring and poorly placed speakers rigged upstairs. What they don’t know is that there is an actual killer on the loose, and he just decapitated one of the girls. Leaving the labyrinthine home proves difficult, with Marti & Jeff getting lost within the catacombs beneath the estate, evading their mongoloid menace however possible. Seth, meanwhile, has to scale a massive spiked fence if they hope to get any help way out here. Wait, didn’t Peter mention something about Andrew having a sibling?

The production team on this picture was a beast, and I’m convinced that’s the chief reason why it came out any good at all; specifically, the involvement of Chuck Russell and Irwin Yablans. I give a bit less credit to director Tom DeSimone, who up to that point (and after it) filled his filmography with lots and lots of gay porn; storyline and direction are usually secondary in that market. Hell, they even had Frank Darabont running around set as a P.A. which is just a cool fact because nobody listens to P.A.s on a film set. Music is just as important, too, and composer Dan Wyman is a synth master who worked with John Carpenter on his early films. His score here is reminiscent of those lo-fi masterpieces.

Solid atmosphere and rounded characters make all the difference. Instead of a roster of stereotypical sophomoric faces the bulk of the film focuses on four individuals with personality and a bit of depth. Blair makes a good turn as the bookish good girl type, while Barton is a charming match for her mentally, showing interest in more than just a drunken hookup. Denise and Seth are both superficial, and their interactions inject the most humor into the film. Denise continually calling Seth “Wes” is one example. A good horror film gets the audience invested in who lives and dies, and while I won’t go so far as to say these are exemplary characters the script does make them three-dimensional and not so paper thin.

The 1.85:1 1080p image is sourced from a 4K restoration of an archival 35mm print with standard definition inserts. This is a step up from Anchor Bay’s old DVD but not by leaps and bounds. Colors attain greater saturation and definition is tightened but the picture looks awfully soft too often and the jump between HD and SD footage is plain as day. The print displays vertical scratches and white flecks. Black levels are decent but there is clear room for improvement across the board. To their credit this is the best image Scream Factory was able to produce but fans should temper expectations going in because this is not a pristine picture by any means.

There is nothing wrong to be found with the English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono track, which does a fine job of carrying the dialogue alongside Dan Wyman’s sinister synth soundtrack. Direction is limited and the presentation is routine, but no problems were detected and the track capably supports the feature. Subtitles are available in English.

Here is where Scream Factory does their best to make up for the shortcomings of the a/v presentation: a ton of extra features.

An audio commentary track features actress Linda Blair, director Tom DeSimone, and producers Irwin Yablans & Bruce Cohn Curtis.

“Linda Blair: The Beauty of Horror” – This is a recent discussion with the actress, who covers her run in the genre in addition to diving deep into this film’s difficult production.

“Hell Nights with Tom DeSimone” – Shot on location at the Garth Manor (actually Kimberly Crest Estate in Redlands, CA), DeSimone reflects back on shooting the film there over 35 years ago.

“Peter Barton: Facing Fear” – The actor offers up expected discussion, covering his career in horror and navigating the Hollywood scene.

“Producing Hell with Bruce Cohn Curtis” – This covers more of the behind-the-scenes work that went into making the movie.

“Writing Hell” – Screenwriter Randy Feldman offers up some insight into his process for creating the story and writing the script.

“Vincent Van Patten & Suki Goodwin in Conversation” – The two actors, who have not seen each other in quite some time, sit down together for a back-and-forth discussion.

“Kevin Brophy & Jenny Neumann in Conversation” – This is another chat conducted the same way as Van Patten & Goodwin.

“Gothic Design in Hell Night” – Art director Steven Legler talks about his process for turning Garth Manor into how it is seen on film; evoking the right chilling atmosphere.

“Anatomy of the Death Scenes” – Pam Peitzman, make-up artist, and John Eggett, special effects, scrutinize each of the film’s kill scenes and discuss what went into achieving them.

“On Location at Kimberly Crest” – DeSimone guides viewers on a tour of the “Garth Manor” as it can be seen today.

A theatrical trailer, two TV spots, a radio spot, and a photo gallery are the remaining features.

Special Features:

  • NEW 4K Scan of the film taken from the best surviving archival print
  • NEW interviews with actors Linda Blair, Peter Barton, Vincent Van Patten, Suki Goodwin, Kevin Brophy and Jenny Neumann
  • Audio Commentary with Linda Blair, Tom DeSimone, Irwin Yablans and Bruce Cohn Curtis
  • Original Theatrical Trailer & TV spots
  • Blu-ray Disc Exclusives:
    • NEW interview with Director Tom DeSimone
    • NEW interview with Producer Bruce Cohn Curtis
    • NEW interview with Writer Randolph Feldman
    • NEW – Anatomy of the Death Scenes with Tom DeSimone, Randolph Feldman, Make-up artist Pam Peitzman, Art Director Steven G. Legler and Special Effects artist John Eggett
    • NEW – On Location at the Kimberly Crest House with Tom DeSimone
    • NEW – Gothic Design in Hell Night with Steven G. Legler
    • Original Radio spot
    • Photo Gallery featuring rare, never-before-seen stills
  • Hell Night
  • Special Features
4.0

Summary

“Hell Night” overcomes being lumped in with standard slasher fare thanks to dripping atmosphere, unique production design, and characters that elicit some empathy. The a/v presentation leaves much to be desired but a plethora of bonus features softens that blow.

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Video: The Shape of Water Q&A with Guillermo del Toro and Doug Jones at Hollywood’s Egyptian Theatre

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This past weekend at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood, CA betwixt a double screening of The Shape of Water and the classic The Creature from the Black Lagoon, the former’s director Guillermo del Toro (and star Doug Jones) sat down to discuss the latter’s influence on the film, Gill-man sex, “one sock movies,” his career in the genre, and more with moderator Jonah Ray, and we were there to film a portion of it.

Our sincere thanks to American Cinematheque general manager Dennis Bartok for extending the invitation.

For more Cinematheque screenings, visit the official website here.

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The Open House Review – Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here

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Starring Dylan Minnette, Piercey Dalton, Patricia Bethune, Sharif Atkins

Written by Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote

Directed by Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote


Mere weeks, even days, after effusively beating Netflix’s original horror content drum (The Babysitter, Before I Wake, Creep 2), I’m here to confirm that The Open House is emptier than an vacant bomb shelter. Cold, unappealing and thoughtlessly plotted to the point where “generic” would have been an improvement. From the moment we’re welcomed into Matt Angel and Suzanne Coote’s scripted imprisonment, it’s nothing but loose floorboards and busted plumbing. The home invasion genre has rarely been navigated with such little attention to detail, asking for our suspension of coherent storytelling early, often, and without earning the right to be deemed mindless genre fun. Not even Ty Pennington could save this extreme renovation disaster.

Dylan Minnette plays Logan Wallace, a track star and student who must find closure after watching his father fall victim to a fatal car accident. It is his mother Naomi’s (Piercey Dalton) idea to spend a little time away from their suburban home – escape those painful memories – so they retreat to her sister’s luxurious mountain getaway. The catch? It’s in the process of being sold and open houses are on the regular, so Naomi and Logan must vacate their temporary premises on certain days. It’s after one of these very showings that Logan begins to notice slight changes around the house, and he fears that an unwanted visitor may be in their midst. Guess what? He’s right.

To understand how little The Open House cares about conscious blueprinting, just read the poster’s tagline. “You can’t lock out what’s already inside” – right, but you could have prevented them from coming in, or checked the house to make sure they weren’t squatting, or explored numerous other possibilities to avoid this scenario. The mansion’s realtor allows prospective buyers to come and go but it’s not her job to make sure no one’s hiding in the basement? Naomi can’t even keep track of the *single* visitor she lets look around the house? It’s infuriating to see so many people neglect safety out of forced coincidence because the script couldn’t rationalize the killer’s entry any other way – a confounding strike one.

This is also a film that admits no reasoning for why its own murderer has targeted the Wallaces, or why he stokes a violent fetish when it comes to open houses. We never actually see his face, just his imposing handyman-looking attire, nor do we savor any kind of tangible backstory (his family died during their own open house and he suffered a psychotic breakdown – just give me *something*). His undefined form never demands curiosity like John Carpenter’s “The Shape” once did, because scripting is nothing more than bullet notes for basic horror movie necessities. Here he is, your bad guy – too bad he’s introduced without fear, handled without originality and unable to characterize beyond torturous kidnapper dotted lines. He’s just, you know, a guy who sneaks into open houses and kills – COMPLETE WITH A FINAL PAN-IN ON AN OPEN HOUSE SIGN WHEN HE MOVES TO HIS NEXT TARGET [eye roll into infinity].

Every scene in The Open House feels like an afterthought. “Ah, we need a way to build tension – how about a senile local woman who lives down the street and wanders aimlessly into frame?” Overplayed and in no way suitable to most her inclusions, but sure. “Oh, and we need inner conflict – what about if the breaker-iner steals Logan’s phone and frames him for later acts?” I mean, didn’t Logan canonically lose his phone even before Naomi’s mid-shower water heater issues – but sure, instant fake tension. “How are people going to believe the killer is always around and never blows his cover – think they’ll just buy it?” No, we don’t. Worse off, his cat-and-mouse game is dully repetitive until a finale that skyrockets intensity with jarring tonal imbalance. This closing, dreadful end without any sort of redemptive quality. More abusive than it is fulfilling.

If there’s anything positive worth conveying, it’s that Minnette does a fine job shuffling around as a character with severe sight impairment. The killer makes a point to remove his contacts as a final “FUCK YOU,” just to toy around a bit more, and Minnette frantically slips or stumbles with nothing more than foggy vision. Otherwise, dialogue finds itself ripped form a billion other straight-to-TV Logo dramas about broken families, no moment ever utilizing horror past a few shadowy forms standing in doorways after oblivious characters turn away. You can’t just take an overused subgenre and sleepwalk through homogenized beats…case and god-forsaken point.

Even as a streamable Netflix watch, The Open House is irredeemable beyond fault. The walls are caving in on this dilapidated excuse for home invasion horror, benefiting not from the star power of a temperamental Dylan Minnette. I have seen most involved players here in far better projects (Minnette’s stock has rightfully been skyrocketing, Matt Angel in The Funhouse Massacre, etc), but this is bargain bin theatrics without a fully formed idea. A nameless villain, doomed nice guy (Sharif Atkins), woefully unaware plot advancement – all the worst cliches found in one rage-quit worthy effort. Anyone who makes it through deserves an award…or a dunce cap.

  • The Open House
1.0

Summary

Unless you’re irrationally afraid of cold showers, The Open House fails to deliver on a premise that can be summed up by no more than two lines of text.

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