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Mark Steensland Talks The Weeping Woman and Tengu



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Filmmaker Mark Steensland has been in our newsfeed quite a bit recently. Between the world premiere of his short film The Weeping Woman this weekend at Motor City Nightmares and the news that he had just acquired the rights to the novel Tengu, we thought it was time to talk to the man himself and find out more about his projects.

Dread Central: This spring has been shaping up to be huge for you, first the world premiere of your new short film, The Weeping Woman, and now the announcement that your Chang Shao Trading Co. recently acquired the rights to the novel Tengu. You have to be riding pretty high, right?

Mark SteenslandMark Steensland: Yes. It’s all good. We have a lot of irons in the fire right now, but that’s a requirement these days because the wheels in the film business tend to turn slowly.

DC: You are having your world premiere for The Weeping Woman this weekend at Motor City Nightmares in Detroit, do you have anything special planned for the screening? Any Q&A, etc.?

MS: We do. We have a couple of posters that have been signed by Stephen Geoffreys, and we plan to give those away. We also have buttons with the tagline that we’re going to give away, and I’m planning to give a few lucky audience members copies of Fabio Frizzi’s soundtrack from the iTunes store. I’m not sure what else we will have time for.

DC: You cast Stephen Geoffreys as your lead in The Weeping Woman; how was it working with Evil Ed?

MS: Steve is a great actor, and I knew he would be perfect for this role. I have to admit that I was nervous. We were going to have a very limited amount of time with him — only two days total — made even shorter by the fact that we had so little daylight because we were shooting in the middle of winter. I had met him at the Eerie Horror Festival in 2010, and I had a good impression that was only confirmed during the shoot. He really was a trooper to work in those conditions for that amount of time. We’re hoping to work together on something else in the future.

DC: Be honest. Did you ever say, “Oh, you’re so cool, Brewster!” to him?

MS: (laughs) No.

DC: You also cast Melissa Bostaph (a DC alum) as the titular Weeping Woman in her first role; how did she do?

MS: She was great, given all the pressure. And I think she really enjoyed the work. I understand she’s been cast in a couple of other things already so maybe this will be the start of something new for her.

DC: I have to ask: Fabio Frizzi, the man behind some of Lucio Fulci’s most memorable tunes — you got him on a genre project, his first in 20 years. How did that come about?

MS: I’m a huge Frizzi fan. I have to say it’s Fabio’s music that, for me, anyway, makes the Fulci movies what they are, especially City of the Living Dead and The Beyond I worked with Patrick Savage and Holeg Spies on my last three movies. They’ve since gone on to score films such as The Human Centipede so things are really breaking out for them, which is great. But there was some concern about getting our schedules to mesh. And then it just kind of hit me one day. I was listening to some of Fabio’s music and thought he would be perfect to score this movie. So I wrote to him and told him a little bit about the project. He read the script and he watched my other short films and he really liked everything so he agreed.

DC: What do you think about the final product (score)?

MS: Honestly, I can’t imagine anything better than what he did. The first time I heard his main theme, I totally flipped out. In my mind this score is right in there with the other two scores I mentioned. His music is so identifiable, and yet he managed to do something totally new without making it sound like an imitation of his other work. It’s fantastic. And it’s on iTunes for only 99 cents!

DC: How has The Weeping Woman been received by those that have seen it? How has the reaction been versus your previous projects?

MS: I have discovered that I am a more divisive filmmaker than I think I am. It just seems that some viewers get things out of my movies that I didn’t intend or see until afterwards. On The Ugly File, for instance, I heard that many people were really offended because it had to do with deformed children. Frankly, I was shocked. This wasn’t a reaction I expected — especially from a horror audience — but there it was. A lot of people were very uncomfortable with Sucker, but I think that was mostly because they were thinking about where the movie could go rather than where it actually goes. And as much as people seem to like Peekers, there are some haters out there. But that’s just the price of doing business. So with this one it’s been split. Some people really like it, and some people don’t like it as much as my other films. For me, personally, I have to say that I am very satisfied with this one. Working with Stephen and having Fabio’s music and the winter backdrop — I love it.

DC: Tengu. You just picked up the rights; what do you have in mind for this one?

MS: Well, I think it’s ironic that when we optioned the book, the Japanese tsunami and nuclear problems had not yet happened. So I feel like this might be a raw nerve out there because of the novel’s subject matter. On the other hand we’re exploring some ways that we might be able to make it work for us.

DC: Anything to say to fans of the novel?

MS: I’m a writer first and a filmmaker second so I respect the writing. As with every project of mine where we’ve adapted an existing story, we’ve made sure to involve the original author as much as possible. I won’t name names, but my writing partner and I were involved with pitching our take on a book to a major studio, and we came up with something we thought was a good adaptation. We were told that we had “stuck too closely to the source material.” Needless to say, we didn’t get the job. So, as with those other projects, Graham Masterton is totally involved. I think we may have to make some major changes — especially if we set it in the present day — but I don’t want to do anything unless Graham is happy.

DC: Any other projects coming down the pipe that you can talk about now?

MS: Rick Hautala and I have written two drafts of a feature version of Pigeons from Hell. This is my favorite short horror story of all time. It was written by Robert E. Howard, who is better known for Conan. The story has been adapted before — for the Thriller series in the 1960s. And as good as that version was, it really missed the best parts of the story. This was a case where our pitch to the studio was to stick as closely as possible to the source material, and they agreed. So while we did make some changes, they really have more to do with making the story big enough for a feature film.

We also still have the option on James Newman’s book Animosity, which was just published by Necessary Evil Press. It’s a great book and James loves our screenplay. We also have a script called The Special, which Rick and I wrote for Masters of Horror, but we were pitching it for the third season, which didn’t happen. So we re-wrote it as a feature and have a good cast attached so far, including Stephen Geoffreys, Tiffany Shepis and Lynn Lowry. We’re trying to get this financed now so we’ll see. There’s a bunch of other things in various stages of development, and you just never know which one might take off. I’ve been in the business long enough to understand that at least.

Mark Steensland Talks The Weeping Woman and Tengu

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House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn Announced for Arcades



Aside from various ports, the House of the Dead franchise has been dormant since the release of Overkill on the Wii back in 2009, so the news of a brand new entry in the series is a huge deal for us horror gamers. So we couldn’t be happier to learn that Sega have officially announced House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn, which will take the franchise back to its arcade roots. According to Gematsu, the game will be undergoing preliminary location testing at Sega’s Tokyo headquarters from January 19 to 21, before launching in Japanese arcades at a later date.

House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn will be powered by Unreal Engine 4, and will be capable of featuring more onscreen enemies than all previous House of the Dead games. The arcade cabinet will include air cannons, vibrating seat, and motion sensitive lights in an effort to create a full immersive experience, although there are currently no details on the game’s plot.

The House of the Dead franchise remains hugely popular around the world (even Uwe Boll couldn’t destroy its reputation), so it’s probably safe to assume that Scarlet Dawn will probably be making its way to US arcades at some point in the near future, with a console release also looking likely.

You can stay updated with House of the Dead: Scarlett Dawn on its official website, although you might want to learn Japanese first.

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Dread Central UK Enjoys a Box of IT



One of the best things about writing for Dread Central is the cool gifts companies send us in exchange for covering their releases.

With Stephen King’s It now being available on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK, Warner Bros. were kind enough to send me an It-themed gift box absolutely free of charge. I collected this beautiful piece of merchandise from Organic Marketing’s London headquarters, and it is quite possibly my favorite thing in the world. And that’s not an exaggeration.

Inside this beautiful box were four Pennywise-themed cupcakes, a Pennywise Vinyl Pop figure in its original packaging, a laminated flyer, and of course, a copy of the film on Blu-ray. As you can see from the images below, a red balloon, just like the one held by Pennywise in the film, was attached to the box, although I’m sorry to say that it has now been burst (and I’m keeping the remains).

It, which now has the honor of being the highest-grossing R-rated horror film of all time, was directed by Andy Muschietti and stars Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher, Wyatt Oleff, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, and Finn Wolfhard. With the film now being available on home video in the UK, you shouldn’t waste any time ordering your copy, especially since we gave it a perfect score in our review.

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Fearsome Facts

Fearsome Facts – Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)



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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