Mark L. Lester Talks Firestarter, Class of 1984 and Lots More! - Dread Central
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Mark L. Lester Talks Firestarter, Class of 1984 and Lots More!

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Mark L. Lester is a friend to horror and wild cinema in general. Though his name may not be instantly recognizable to some, a quick look at his credentials will rectify that!

He produced and contributed to the script for Tobe Hooper’s wonderfully weird The Funhouse. As a director, his savage and prophetic Class of 1984 still disturbs to this day, for an unnerving amount of reasons. His adaptation of Firestarter captured a freakish tornado of both unintentional and deliberate violence. And the battering ram impact of Commando, his most successful feature, remains respected worldwide.

Recognize him now? And do you want a chance to win an autographed DVD of Class of 1984 or Commando (see details below)?

Mark L. Lester Talks Firestarter, Class of 1984 and Lots More!

Indeed, Firestarter and Commando are lined up for remakin’. Surprise, surprise. While the two 80’s staples are being put back through the machine, Lester is staying busy ushering new films onto screens via his distribution company American World Pictures.

We caught up with Mr. Lester to chat about his past, present and future, which led to some fun trips down memory lane.

On Firestarter:

“Originally John Carpenter was gonna direct that,” Lester reveals. “There was a script that was written, I forget who wrote it. Then the budget was way out of line, like $15 million. And the script had no relationship to the book whatsoever. They didn’t want to shoot it for that amount of money so Dino de Laurentiis came to me and said, ‘I read the book. Can you make a treatment out of this?’ So I brought in Stanley Mann, who I knew, and when we wrote the treatment, we styled [it after] the book exactly scene for scene. We gave it Dino De Laurentiis, and he said, ‘Well this just follows the book exactly…’ Well, yeah, of course! You paid a million dollars for the book, I said, ‘Why aren’t you following the book? That’s why this thing can’t get made yet. We’ll just shoot the book.’ And he says, ‘Okaaaaay…’ So within three weeks the script was written, and we had a green light from Universal to make the film just off the script, which was identical to the book.”

Lester confirms that Firestarter has been his most difficult film to date. “That was all practical [effects]. The fireballs you see … that’s not CGI. Back then, we actually created fireballs that could fly through the air – they were on a wire and could crash into buildings. We had people on fire that were on trampolines that had to flip through the air. It was very dangerous. All the effects were done right on the set – it was a pretty intense thing to do then…” Lester also notes that the film’s epic “farm attack” scene took an entire week to film.

On Class of 1984:

Lester considers his favorite film he’s made to be a tie between 1982’s Class of 1984 and 1985’s Commando. Understandable, as Commando was his most successful feature and Class of 1984 was an original concept of Lester’s, based on visiting his old high school. “[It] had been taken over by a gang,” Lester shares of his return to his alma mater. “When I went to it, it was a peaceful, wonderful place. All of the sudden, it was a dangerous place. I thought, ‘Wow, this would make a really good film.’ I was a big fan of Blackboard Jungle and [John] Ford movies so that kind of inspired me to do a gang-run-amok-in-a-high-school [film].”

Lester acknowledges 84’s unfortunate historical significance. “There were beginnings of different violent incidences in schools so I researched all that. And actually, in the movie, when we have the checking for weapons at the school…that was like ‘Oh my God, that’ll never happen in schools.’ And now its commonplace in various schools.”

After what’s happened in recent years, Lester holds a different opinion of his film. “Now it’s tame – after Columbine, it’s tame. In the beginning of the movie, if you look at it, it opens with a card that says, ‘Last year, there were 280,000 incidents of violence by students against their teachers and classmates in our high schools Unfortunately, this film is partially based on true events.’ So there was a warning at the beginning of the film that was very prophetic because the warning didn’t even comprehend what actually would happen. It’s happened. And it looks pretty tame today because at the end of the movie the gang leader [is only] fighting with a knife … ”

On Commando:

“I met [producer] Joel Silver at a party at the Playboy Mansion; we were standing around in our pajamas. He said, ‘Oh, you gotta direct this picture – we have Schwarzenegger.’ That’s all I needed to hear because he had done Terminator – I thought he was amazing. I immediately signed on. There was a just a rudimentary script, then it was rewritten – and it’s become a classic. I couldn’t imagine at the time how big the movie would be.” As for the remake mentioned above, unfortunately Lester will not be involved. “In May I was flying back on a plane from Europe, and I met the head of Twentieth Century Fox. I’d been trying to get the remake rights for some time. I never thought of a remake – I was thinking of a sequel. I said, ‘I wanna buy the sequel rights – I’ll pay $2 million.’ He said, ‘Oh, why that film?’ I said because there’s websites dedicated to it, there’s a huge fanbase, people know every line in the movie…’ Three days later they announced a remake of the film.”

On his current projects:

As a devoted producer of such genre flicks as Pterodactyl, Wraiths of Roanoke and Yeti: Curse of the Snow Demon, Lester continues to work in creature features. His recent producer credits include a new Beauty and the Beast, Sinbad and the Minotaur, and Jabberwocky ( “based on the Lewis Carroll poem” ). In the meantime, his American World Pictures will be distributing horror flicks such as Detention (available on DVD April 12th), The Frankenstein Syndrome, and Kill Katie Malone ( “about kids who buy a ghost on the Internet”).

Mark L. Lester Talks Firestarter, Class of 1984 and Lots More!

If that’s not enough to keep him busy, Lester is also taking a seat once again in the director’s chair for the sea monster movie Leviathan. He also recently directed Groupie, an intense-looking film about a cursed band starring Taryn Manning and the great Eric Roberts (available on DVD around March or April). “I’m gonna get back heavy into directing in the next couple years,” Lester confirms. Sounds good to us!

To enter to win a signed DVD, just send an e-mail here with YOUR NAME and FULL MAILING ADDRESS. Good luck, folks! Look for more from Lester soon!

Chris Haberman

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Night of the Living Dead 4K and The Silence of the Lambs Come to the Criterion Collection

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It’s been a long time coming for these two classics, especially Night of the Living Dead after the ridiculously bad transfer put out by Mill Creek Entertainment, whose transfer was supposedly remastered from a new 2K scan. I swear I thought it was some kind of a joke when I first put it on to watch. In any event…

IndieWire is reporting that horror classics Night of the Living Dead and The Silence of the Lambs will be added to the 2018 Criterion Collection, a hallmark label for home video cinephiles.

According to the site, Criterion will release a new 4K digital restoration of The Silence of the Lambs, which has been approved by the movie’s cinematographer Tak Fujimoto. Included on the DVD and Blu-ray sets are 35 minutes of deleted scenes and audio commentary from 1994 featuring the late Jonathan Demme (director), stars Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins, screenwriter Ted Tally, and former FBI agent John Douglas.

Night of the Living Dead will also be released in 4K with never-before-seen 16mm dailies included as a bonus feature(!).

These will be added in February of 2018 so make sure you save up some cash after the holidays!

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DIS Review – Not for the Faint of Heart!

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Starring Bill Oberst, Jr., Lori Jo Hendrix, Peter Gonzales Falcon

Directed by Adrian Corona


I’ve made this claim many a time on this website before, and in the company of film friends as well: Bill Oberst Jr. is one of those actors that can literally be thrust into ANY role, and deliver a performance with so much harnessed electricity that you couldn’t believe that it was possible. I was the lucky recipient chosen to get a look at his latest project, titled DIS, and I think that I can honestly say – this is the stuff that nightmares are constructed of.

Directed by Adrian Corona, this 60-minute dive into the black depths of hell, and in actuality DIS is located between circles # 6 and 9 in Dante’s Divine Comedy, and trust me when I tell you – there’s not a shred of comedic relief in this demented presentation. Oberst Jr plays an ex-soldier named Ariel, and his seemingly harmless jaunt through the woods will become anything but that, and judging from the film’s opening scenes, you are meant to feel as uncomfortable about this watch as any you might have checked out in recent memory.

Perversion is the norm here, and lord help you if you’re caught where you shouldn’t be…my skin’s crawling just thinking about what I saw. Ariel’s travels are basically dialogue-free, but it only adds to the infinite levels of creepiness – you can tell he’s being stalked, and the distance between he and the horrors that await are closing in rather quickly.

Visually by itself, this hour-long chiller can sell tickets without any assistance – hollowed-out buildings and long sweeping shots of a silent forest give the movie that look of complete desolation. Sliced up into three acts, the film wastes no time in setting up the story of a killer needing fresh blood to appease his Mandrake garden – seriously guys, I can’t type as much flashy stuff as there needs to be in order to describe this innately disturbing production.

If you’re one of those types who tends to shy away from the graphic side of things, then I’d HIGHLY advise you to keep your TV tuned to the Hallmark Channel for some holiday entertainment, because this one registers high on the “I can’t believe someone thought of this” meter. So the quick recap is this: Oberst Jr in a standout performance, visual excellence, and an unshakable sense of debasement on a cellular level – keep the kiddies out of the living room with this one. Corona should be lauded (or locked up – just kidding) for his work on this one – HIGHLY recommended, and one that I’ll throw down as a top 5 for me in 2017.

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Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End Review: A Heavy Metal Massacre In Cartoon Form

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Starring Alex House, Bill Turnbull, Maggie Castle, Melanie Leishman, Chris Leavins, Jason Mewes

Directed by Richard Duhaney and Craig David Wallace


“Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil” – Canadian television’s greatest blend of Evil Dead, Superbad and Deathgasm? Yes. That answer is yes. For two face-melting seasons, Todd “protected” Crowley High from episodic villains who were bested by metal riffs, stoner logic and hormonal companionship. Musical interruptions showcased stage theatrics like Sondheim meets pubescent Steel Panther and high school tropes manifested into vile, teen-hungry beasts. It was like a coming-of-age story got stuck between Fangoria pages – all the awkwardness with 100x more guts.

That – for worse – was until Todd fell to a premature cancellation after Season 2’s clone-club cliffhanger. Indiegogo became the show’s only way to deliver a feature-length finale, except to reduce costs and ensure completion, the project would have to be in cartoon form. Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End suggests an animated curtain call for this otherwise live-action production, and from a fan’s perspective, familiar maturation follies befall our favorite bloodsoaked friend group. But for new viewers? Start with the far-superior original show – you’ll be lost, underwhelmed and baffled otherwise.

Alex House retains his characterization of Todd Smith (in voice only). At this point, Todd has thwarted the book’s apocalyptic plan, Hannah (Melanie Leishman) has died, longtime crush Jenny (Maggie Castle) isn’t as horny for Todd anymore, and best friend Curtis (Bill Turnbull) has sworn Todd’s name to Hell (since Hannah was his girlfriend). Guidance Counselor Atticus Murphy Jr. (Chris Leavins) is now Janitor Atticus Murphy Jr. because Janitor Jimmy (Jason Mewes) is now Counselor Jimmy, yet Crowley High finds itself plagued by the same satanic uprisings despite these new changes. Why is evil still thriving! How is Hannah back in class! Who is the new “Pure Evil One” now that Todd has denied the book! Welcome to the end, friends – or is it a new beginning?

At just north of 80 minutes, structure runs a bit jagged. We’re used to Todd battling one baddie over a half-hour block – backstory given time to breathe – but in The End Of The End, two mini-boss cretins play second fifth-fiddle to the film’s big-bad monster (well, monsters – but you’ll see). A double-dose of high school killers followed by a larger, more important battle with the gang’s fate hanging in the balance. Not a problem, it’s just that more length is spent singing songs about Todd’s non-functioning schlong and salvaging relationships from the S2 finale. Exposition (what little there is) chews into necessary aggression time – fans left ravenous for more versatile carnage, underwhelmed by the umpteenth cartoon erection gag. Did I mention there’s a lot of boner material, yet?

These two mini “chapters” – “No Vest For The Wicked” (yarn demon)/”Zits Alors” (acid acne) – never come close to rivaling Hannah Williams’ doppelganger bombshell (“Songs About Boners”/”This Is The End Of The End Of the End”). Hannah [X]. Williams waking up in a room full of other Hannahs, emerging from some sleep-pod chamber; Todd’s gang facing off against this new “chosen one” in a way that erases “Sack Boy” and “Pizza Face” from memory. The End Of The End dashes dildoes-swinging into the show’s biggest mystery while dropping call-backs and bodies with equal speed – maybe too hastily for some.

Now, about the whole pivot to animation – a smooth rendering of Crowley High and all its mayhem, but never representative of Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil‘s very Ash Vs. Evil Dead vibe. All the practical death effects (gigantic man-eating cakes, zombie rockstars) are lost to one-dimensional drawings, notable chemistry between cast members replaced by edited recordings lacking signature wits. This isn’t Metalocalypse, where dismemberment and bloodshed are gruesome on levels that outshine even live-action horror flicks. There’s no denying some of the magic is missing without Chris Leavins’ “creepy uncle” overacting (a Will Forte breed) or the book’s living incarnations of evil. Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End plays hooded minion to Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil’s dark ruler – less powerful, a bit duncier, but still part of the coolest cult around. Just try not to think about how much radness is missing inside hand-traced Crowley High?

It’s hard not to strike comparisons between “reality” and ‘toon, because as noted above, live actors are sorely missed in a plethora of situations. Be they musical numbers, heretic slayings, Todd and Curtis’ constant references to wanking, wangs or other pelvic nods (no, for real, like every other sentence) – human reactions no longer temper such aggressive, self-gratifying cocksmanship. It doesn’t help that songs never reach the memorable level of “Horny Like The Devil,” but the likes of House, Leishman, Turnbull and Castle were masters of selling schlock, shock and Satan’s asshole of situations. Instead, lines now land flat like – for example – Leavins’ lessened ability to turn pervy, stalkerish quips into hilarious underage stranger-dangers. Again, it’s not Metalocalypse – and without that kind of designer depth, a wall prevents inter-dimensional immersion into Todd’s extracurricular madness.

If this review sounds over-negative, fret not – it’s merely wishes of what could have been. None of this is to say Todd And The Book Of Pure Evil: The End Of The End should be skipped. When you’re already known for masterstrokes of ballbusting immaturity, metal-horned malevolence and vicious teen-angst creature vanquishing, expectations are going to be sky high. Directors Richard Duhaney and Craig David Wallace successfully service fans with a smile, ensuring that rivers of red scribbled blood spurt from decapitated school children just like we’re used to. It’s just, I mean – ugh, sorry, I just have to say it one more time. BY DIMEBAG’S BEARD, this would have been an epic live-action flick. As is? Still one fine-with-a-capital-F-YEAH return to Crowley High for the faithful who’ve been waiting some 5-or-so years in a Todd-less purgatory.

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