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Cowan, Gabriel (Growth)

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We’ve seen a few different musicians take their turn as directors in the horror genre including Rob Zombie and Dee Snider. Well, it’s time to make room for a relative newcomer to our beloved genre – Gabriel Cowan. Cowan, who enjoyed a successful career as a musician, is now making his mark in the industry with his recently released body horror flick, Growth.

In its third week of release, Growth is ranked #2 on the iTunes horror genre chart amidst solid films like The Crazies, Daybreakers and Let the Right One In.

Even though Cowan touts himself an indie kind of guy, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t enjoyed a slew of success in the entertainment industry before becoming a filmmaker. In high school his band Comfort Station was featured on MTV as one of Los Angeles’ fastest up-and-coming bands, and at the age of 18 Cowan was hired for his first professional recording session with legendary musician Robbie Robertson for the Barry Levinson film Jimmy Hollywood.

Cowan went on to acquire a recording contract with Geffen Records, and after making a name for himself under the Geffen banner, he formed Ear Two Thousand with friends Sam Music and actor David Arquette. In 2000 Cowan received the first of two platinum records for songs he wrote and recorded for the Scream 2 and Scream 3 soundtracks.

In 2004 Cowan pursued his passion for filmmaking by earning a Masters Degree in Film Directing at CalArts, and in his first two years he wrote and directed over 20 short films. He also co-directed and co-wrote a feature film with partner John Suits entitled Breathing Room, which was eventually picked up for US distribution by Anchor Bay Entertainment in 2008.

A few months after graduating film school, Cowan wrote and directed Growth, a sci-fi thriller that examines the ways in which power, physical/mental/financial, can seduce and change people. It was released earlier this month through Lionsgate.

In honor of the recent release of Growth, as well as Cowan’s brand new venture into producing feature films for first-time filmmakers, Dread Central caught up with the writer/director to talk to him about his experiences working on the indie level as well as this new direction in his career.

Indie Filmmakers to Watch: Gabriel Cowan Talks Growth

Cowan discussed his career change that came about six years ago. “After I did the touring musician thing, I realized I needed to make a career for myself so I started doing music for commercials. But the more I did that work, the more I just felt stuck, and I can remember I reached my breaking point while working on the music for a shoe company commercial. That’s when I decided to get my masters degree in filmmaking.”

Even though it was mostly a shoe commercial that was a catalyst for the new direction in Cowan’s life, inspiration to make the change also came from watching his bandmate Arquette make his films and from a conversation with Julie Corman, who encouraged Cowan to explore his voice in the horror genre.

David does a lot of indie films, and I had always found it fascinating to see how it all comes together while watching him work on set,” explained Cowan. “When I made the decision to become a director, I reached out to Julie Corman for advice, and she told me I should follow my gut and make a horror film.

Just because Cowan is only beginning to make a name for himself in the horror genre, it doesn’t mean he’s a newbie in the world of the dark and the fantastic. Horror has been a huge part of Cowan’s life since he first laid eyes on a certain notorious resident of Springwood.

The director said, “When I was 10 years old, I became obsessed with A Nightmare on Elm Street, which then led to me asking my mom for a Fangoria subscription because I just couldn’t get enough of horror. I was also a huge fan of the 80s television series ‘V’, and I would write letters to NBC begging to be able to visit the set; that’s how much horror was a part of my childhood.

The biggest appeal of the horror genre to me is hooking the audience, and I love exploring deeper subtext within a horror story. Most of my first films weren’t even horror, but it didn’t feel like a weird transition into horror since I’ve loved the genre for so long. The stories that speak to me are the ones that hit you in the gut and manage to still make you think,” added Cowan.

Growth‘s story originates in 1989, when a breakthrough in advanced parasitic research on Kuttyhunk Island gives scientists a jump in human evolution, endowing subjects with heightened physical and mental strength. But true to horror movie standards, the experiment goes horribly wrong and produces a lethal parasite that mysteriously kills off three quarters of the island’s population with the survivors fleeing for their lives.

The film then picks up some twenty years later when Jamie Akerman (Mircea Monroe), who lost her mother in the outbreak, returns with her boyfriend (Brian Krause), and together they uncover the key to Jamie’s disturbing past and the horrifying secrets long suppressed by the town’s leader, Larkin (Richard Riehle). They discover a new strain of parasite has emerged, and it’s up to Jamie to put an end to it all. Many fans would be surprised to find out where Cowan got the inspiration for his story.

Part of my inspiration behind Growth comes from what happened during the 2008 election,” explained Cowan. “You see politicians saying whatever it takes to get elected, and almost the very next day you see these same people completely flip-flopping on a lot of what they stood for just so they would be elected. So I wanted to explore the idea of how much people would be willing to sacrifice in order to get what they want from life and the dark places it can take you.

In the film you meet Justin, who’s very meek and sickly but has always had a desire to be strong. He discovers there’s a parasite that he can infect himself with that will eat away the bad parts of his DNA to make him everything he always wanted to be. But when you take those kinds of risks, you end up going to very dark places, much like Justin did,” Cowan added.

Part of the challenge to independent filmmaking is the ability to adapt to circumstances you have no control over that could very well determine whether or not you get to make your movie. Cowan learned that first-hand when he had to scrap the notion of using practical effects for his creature when a snafu prevented the special effects company from completing their work on the project.

Cowan said, “We had a lot of challenges with production, including the need to pretty much make the creature completely computer-generated, which is something that hit us out of the blue. We had to scramble to get 180 VFX shots done in three months. We ended up using Thinkwell Architecture Firm for the VFX work, which sounds a bit unusual, but they hit a lull with the recession, and since they already had the technology to do the work, we hired them for Growth.

Indie Filmmakers to Watch: Gabriel Cowan Talks Growth

Another adaptation Cowan had to do to his filmmaking approach involved a scene in the movie that required filming in Korea. Due to budgetary restraints, it was impossible for Cowan to be overseas filming, which made the director think outside of the box on how to get the shot he needed without breaking the bank.

For one of the sequences in Korea, I ended up directing the entire scene through Google Video from my office in LA,” Cowan explained. “It’s amazing what you can do with technology these days. What could have been an insanely expensive sequence ended up costing us $2,300 in the end, and I love that I could do something that most people would have thought was impossible just a few years ago.

Something else that makes Cowan stand out in terms of indie filmmakers is his generosity and commitment to his entire team. “Everyone that works on our films is part of our profit-sharing. Every person takes some kind of an ownership stake in the projects they are part of. That’s the incredible thing about independent filmmaking.”

That giving spirit Cowan has on his own features is also part of a new venture he’s embarking on alongside producing partner Suits. The duo are investing in the future of the horror genre, one feature film at a time.

Cowan said, “John and I are now producing for first-time filmmakers on projects that are under the 300k budget level. We’ve got two first-time feature filmmakers that are currently in production on their own films, and from there John and I are hoping to generate about four movies a year. Both of my parents are philanthropists, and we have been fortunate to make our movies on our own terms so we wanted to give back to the independent film community.”

The producer went on to discuss the first two projects which started production last week.

The first film is called Shadow Man, which explores the concept of creating a machine that takes you back into your own memories to experience life-changing trauma so that you can deal with it and move forward,” explained Cowan. “However, in the film, the Justice Department finds out about the process and wants to use it on criminals to determine their guilt in the crimes they’re accused of. During the first trial run of the machine, they end up getting one of their own trapped in a criminal’s mind, and it’s up to him to find his way out of the disturbed mind of a criminal.

Static is a little trickier to explain without giving away the biggest twist to the story, but what I can say is that it’s a very unique take on home invasion. You’ll be shocked at how good it is,” Cowan teased.

Special thanks to Gabriel Cowan for taking time to speak with Dread Central!

Heather Wixson

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Horror Movies to Be Thankful for on Thanksgiving

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After you’ve gorged on your Thanksgiving feast and the L-tryptophan is kicking in, you’re probably thinking about parking your carcass on the couch and watching movie after movie. But not just any movie – this is a holiday, so naturally you want to celebrate on-topic and gobble some gore.

We’ve got you covered with this curated list of choices from a 25-item menu of Native American-themed thrillers and chillers.

Death Curse of Tartu (1966)

A group of students on an archaeology assignment in the Everglades decide to throw a dance party one night. The spot they choose happens to be the burial site of an ancient Seminole shaman named Tartu. He returns from the dead to take his revenge on those who desecrated his grave site.


Stanley (1972)

A Seminole Vietnam vet (Chris Robinson) goes on the warpath when a leather goods merchant (Alex Rocco) tries to grab his pet snake Stanley to turn him into a belt. A William Grefe cult classic!


Hex (1973)

Set on the Nebraska prairie in the immediate aftermath of World War I, the story follows the spiritual clash between the daughters of a recently deceased shaman and a gang of ex-aviators. Christina Raines, Scott Glenn and Keith Carradine star in this largely unknown, bizarre body-count thriller.


Shadow of the Hawk (1976)

A Canadian Indian (Jan-Michael Vincent) and a newswoman (Marilyn Hassett) join his grandfather (Chief Dan George) on a tribal walk among evil spirits.


The Manitou (1978)

A psychic (Tony Curtis) recruits a witch doctor (Michael Ansara) to get a 400-year-old Indian medicine man off his girlfriend’s (Susan Strasberg) back…. literally. The demonic Native American spirit is a tumor trying to reincarnate.


Prophecy (1979)

When a dispute occurs between a logging operation and a nearby Native American tribe, Dr. Robert Verne (Robert Foxworth) and his wife, Maggie (Talia Shire), are sent in to mediate. Chief John Hawks (Armand Assante) becomes enraged when Robert captures a bear cub for testing, but he’s not as angry as the mutant grizzly mom! George Clutesi plays an Original Person who believes the monster is the personification of the god Katahdin and is there to protect the land.


Nightwing (1979)

A policeman (Nick Mancuso), his girlfriend (Kathryn Harrold) and a scientist (David Warner) track vampire bats on a Maski tribe reservation. Abner Tasupi (George Clutesi) is the shaman who helps them.


Wolfen (1981)

A New York cop (Albert Finney) investigates a series of brutal deaths that resemble animal attacks. His hunt leads him to Native American high worker Eddie Holt (Edward James Olmos) to see if there’s any connection between the killings and old myths and legends from the area. Finney’s character refers to as “the Crazy Horse of the Seventies… the only one of our local militants left alive who’s not making money off of Levi’s commercials.”


Scalps (1983)

Hapless college science students go on a dig around a sacred burial ground for artifacts. Unfortunately, one of them becomes possessed by the evil spirit of Black Claw… and that means only one thing: Now he must slaughter all of his friends.


Eyes of Fire (1983)

Almost lynched in 1750, a preacher (Dennis Lipscomb) leads his followers (Guy Boyd, Rebecca Stanley) west to a valley whose dirt holds a devil of Indian origin.


Firestarter (1984)

Pyrokinetic protagonist Charlie McGee (Drew Barrymore) is in trouble when an evil Native American named Rainbird (George C. Scott) wants to kill her because he is convinced her death would give him special power to take to the mystical other world of his ancestors.


Poltergeist 2: The Other Side (1986)

The Freeling family have a new house, but their troubles with supernatural forces are not over. Whoops, looks like it’s another haunted Native American resting place!


Creepshow 2 (1987)

In the anthology film’s first vignette, “Old Chief Wood’nhead,” thugs who terrorize small-store grocers played by Dorothy Lamour and George Kennedy are attacked in kind by the general store’s wooden Indian.


Pet Sematary (1989)

After moving to an idyllic home in the countryside, life seems perfect for the Creed family…but not for long. Louis and Rachel Creed and their two young children settle into a house that sits next door to a pet cemetery – built on an ancient Indian burial ground.


Ravenous (1999)

Capt. John Boyd (Guy Pearce) is sent to investigate reports of missing persons at Fort Spencer, a remote Army outpost on the Western frontier. After arriving at his new post, Boyd and his regiment aid a wounded frontiersman, F.W. Colghoun (Robert Carlyle), who recounts a horrifying tale of a wagon train murdered by its supposed guide — a vicious U.S. Army colonel gone rogue… and who’s developed a taste for human flesh.


Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)

In 18th century France, the Chevalier de Fronsac and his Native American friend Mani (Mark Dascosos) of the Micmac tribe are sent by the King to the Gevaudan province to investigate the killings of hundreds by a mysterious beast.


The Wendigo (2001)

Director Larry Fessenden movie uses the Native American Wendigo legend to tell an eerie and hallucinogenic tale about a family trapped in the woods with a dark force.


“Masters of Horror: Deer Woman” (2005)

A burned-out cop believes that a recent string of murders prove that the killer might be a deer-like creature in the form of a beautiful woman (Cinthia Moura) come to life from a local Native American folklore legend.


Skinwalkers (2006)

A 12-year-old boy and his mother become the targets of two warring werewolf packs, each with different intentions and motives. Based on the folk legend from Utah about the spirits of murdered Indians returning to seek revenge upon those who disrespect the land.


The Burrowers (2008)

A search party – played by Clancy Brown, William Mapother and Doug Hutchison – sets out to find and recover a family of settlers that has mysteriously vanished from their home. Expecting the offenders to be a band of fierce natives, the group prepares for a routine battle. But they soon discover that the real enemy stalks them from below.


The Dead Can’t Dance (2010)

Three Native Americans discover they are immune to a zombie virus in this whacky indie comedy.


Savaged (2013)

After thugs brutalize a deaf-mute woman (Amanda Adrienne), the spirit of an Apache warrior takes over her lifeless body and sets out on a bloodthirsty quest for revenge.


Volcano Zombies (2014)

Danny Trejo as a Native American who warns campers about the legendary and very angry lava-laden “volcano zombies.”


The Darkness (2016)

Peter Taylor (Kevin Bacon), his wife and their two children return to Los Angeles after a fun-filled vacation to the Grand Canyon. Strange events soon start to plague the family, and the Taylors learn that Michael brought back some mysterious rocks that he discovered inside an ancient Native American cave.


Mohawk

Mohawk (2017)

After one of her tribe sets an American soldiers’ camp ablaze, a young female Mohawk finds herself pursued by a ruthless band of renegades bent on revenge. Fleeing deep into the woods, Mohawk youths Oak and Calvin confront the bloodthirsty Colonel Holt and his soldiers. As the Americans seem to close in from all sides, the trio must summon every resource both real and supernatural as the brutal attack escalates. Mohawk is a dark, political drama with horror undertones. “While set 203 years ago, Mohawk is unfortunately a timeless story,” says director Ted Geoghegan. “It’s about marginalized people being decimated simply because they exist and scared white men who fail to realize that their racism and bigotry will place them on the wrong side of history.

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Paul Feig On Why His Ghostbusters Reboot Failed

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It’s pretty obvious at this point that director Paul Feig’s reboot of Ivan Reitman’s classic horror-comedy Ghostbusters wasn’t the success anyone was looking for.

Not fans. Not the studio. And certainly not Feig.

The director of the 2016 Ghostbusters reboot recently spoke with Cinema Blend about the film and made a few comments about why he believes the film wasn’t the smashing success it should have been.

“I think it kind of hampered us a little bit because the movie became so much of a cause,” Feig told the site. “I think for some of our audience, they were like, ‘What the fuck? We don’t wanna go to a cause. We just wanna watch a fuckin’ movie.’ … It was a great regret in my life that the movie didn’t do better, ’cause I really loved it. It’s not a perfect movie. None of my movies are perfect. I liked what we were doing with it. It was only supposed to be there to entertain people.”

Meh. Could be, Feig. That or the film was just not funny or spooky enough to satisfy new or old fans. It was too middle ground and we all know how those kinds of films go over.

That said, I didn’t hate the reboot.

I thought Kristen Wiig and Kate McKinnon were delightful and I’ll take more Slimer however I can get him. But as always, I just wish there had been more of him. Sigh.

What do you make of Feig’s comments on his Ghostbusters film? Do you think it was “the cause” that keep the reboot from being a smash hit? Let us know in the comments below!

You buy the film on Blu-ray HERE and the original classic HERE.

Synopsis:

Following a ghost invasion of Manhattan, paranormal enthusiasts Erin Gilbert and Abby Yates, nuclear engineer Jillian Holtzmann, and subway worker Patty Tolan band together to stop the otherworldly threat.

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First Plot Details on Quentin Tarantino’s Sharon Tate Movie

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When we first heard about the upcoming ninth film by Quentin Tarantino, it came with the rumor that the film would be centered around the recently deceased Charles Manson.

Tarantino then debunked the rumor saying the film was not about Manson but about the year 1969 in general. Whatever that means.

Today we (might) have a better idea of just what he meant by that as a recent article by Vanity Fair may have just revealed the plot of Tarantino’s mysterious film.

The site’s synopsis reads:

Set in Los Angeles in the summer of 1969, Tarantino’s upcoming movie, according to a source who read the script, focuses on a male TV actor who’s had one hit series and his looking for a way to get into the film business. His sidekick—who’s also his stunt double—is looking for the same thing. The horrific murder of Sharon Tate and four of her friends by Charles Manson’s cult of followers serves as a backdrop to the main story.

Stunt double?

And just like that I could give a sh*t about the whole “is it, or isn’t it about Manson?” debate and now all I want to know is “will the film be, or not be about Stuntman Mike and/or his older brother Stuntman Bob?”

Am I joking? Maybe. But this is Tarantino after all. And the man loves building up his own connected universe of films and characters so… you never know…

How excited are you for Tarantino’s new movie? Does this plot sound correct to you? Make sure to hit us up and let us know in the comments below or on social media!

Tarantino’s ninth film is expected to start shooting in LA this June.

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