Exclusive: Marvel for Monsters - Talkin' Horror Shorts and Monsters with Crypt TV Co-Founder Jack Davis! - Dread Central
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Exclusive: Marvel for Monsters – Talkin’ Horror Shorts and Monsters with Crypt TV Co-Founder Jack Davis!

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One of the very best platforms for innovative horror short films out there is Crypt TV. Formed in October of 2014 by director Eli Roth (Cabin Fever, Hostel) and Jack Davis, Crypt TV has grown into one of the major horror powerhouses online.

And this past weekend I was able to sit down and have an in-depth chat with co-founder Jack Davis. We geeked out about monsters, mayhem, and movies (including his favorite horror film, which you can find below) and had a f*cking blast!

Below you can find our entire horror-geek back-and-forth, and if you are an aspiring horror filmmaker or looking to craft more effective fright flicks (short or feature-length), I suggest taking Jack’s words to heart. The man really knows his stuff!

Now let’s get to it…

***

Dread Central: What was the initial idea that sparked Crypt TV?

Jack Davis: The initial idea that sparked Crypt TV was that there was no real original video content for scary on digital. My co-founder’s Eli Roth, director-writer extraordinaire, and we started Crypt TV as a test in October 2014. I had known Eli for about a year and I’d seen how companies like Fullscreen or AwesomenessTV were really doing great with original video on digital, and no one was doing it for scary.

Having grown up in Los Angeles, I knew scary’s always been a huge part of entertainment culture. Like, there has never been a period in our cultural history where scary wasn’t a big category, and the best scary—Freddy Krueger, Frankenstein, Pennywise—is as big and as relevant as anything.

I had been friends with Eli, and I said: “Hey, let’s try and create an original digital video brand around scary.” And we did a contest called Six Second Scare in October 2014. Upload your scariest six-second video to Vine, the winner gets to develop their idea with Eli. That was kind of our test to see if people could actually make scary content for the phone and if people would actually enjoy it. The contest blew up past our wildest imaginations, and Crypt TV was born.

DC: Where does most of your traffic come from?

JD: We get a huge amount of traffic from Facebook. In August, we started posting to YouTube. We had never really posted to YouTube at all, actually, before August, and now we’ve hit 400,000 subscribers. So we’ve seen very fast growth there. I think we’ll be at a million subscribers in April or May of this year.

We’re seeing increased traffic from YouTube, but Facebook is a huge source for us, from our Facebook Crypt TV page to our new Facebook show pages. We did 110,000,000 unique organic views on our Crypt Monsters show page in December on just that page alone.

DC: How has the YouTube horror apocalypse affected that?

JD: We are not relying on just advertising, so the adpocalypse that’s happened, I think YouTube actually, eventually, will favor companies like Crypt because we are brand safe. We make scary, and not everything is brand safe for professional companies… our best sponsors have such high production quality and high-quality content.

But ultimately, while we like ad money when we can get it, we’re really focused on telling great monster stories and building great IPs. So we track that stuff, but it doesn’t really worry us that much.

DC: After the initial idea for Crypt TV, how did it come to be?

JD: So we did that Six Second Scare contest, like I said, in October 2014. Jason Blum, the incredible producer of Purge, Paranormal Activity, Insidious, Get Out; he’s like the man who’s done it all, he saw what we were doing. He agreed to become our initial investor. So his investment hit March 2015, and we launched Crypt TV officially in April 2015.

The next step after Six Second Scare was bringing on Jason Blum as a partner. I mean, talk about how lucky I am to get to start with Eli Roth and Jason Blum, the most incredible partners as well as incredible people.

That was the first big step. And then I would say it took us a little while to find our footing. We got some press here and there, some good traffic here and there, but it was really about a year ago that we settled on this monsters strategy of building great monsters, and the company’s really taken off since then.

DC: How do you go about curating your content?

JD: We are always looking to tell great monster stories. The goal of Crypt is to be the Marvel of monsters. Marvel used the comic book because that was the way young people enjoyed content back then, and we’re using Facebook and YouTube because that’s where young audiences are now. And for only a few thousand dollars, you can reach millions of people if you’re effective on social media platforms, which we are.

We start by creating monster shorts or series. And then the great thing is when we have a relationship with the audience, and we get the level of traffic we do, we know right away whether or not something’s working. So we will create series or test shorts, and then when our fans respond to something like they did with some of our shows, “Sunny Family Cult” or “The Look-See” or “Giggles the Clown”, then we just grow it and make more of it.

And we’ve monetized from doing shows with partners like Verizon, go90, or doing live events, like “Giggles the Clown” was the opening weekend attraction at Knott’s Scary Farm. We’ve done merchandise. We do advertising for film studios. So we’ve done it all, but it all starts with growing the monsters that we see our fans organically respond to.

DC: Marvel for Monsters. Love it.

JD: Oh, thank you. Well, I appreciate that. We see the similarities because Marvel was started on comic books, but would you say that comic books are the core of their business today? Probably not. But the truth is great characters live forever.

I mean you’re, I’m sure, a huge scary horror fan yourself, and Freddy Krueger’s an amazing story, and it’s a powerful story; and a story that powerful, it doesn’t matter what the medium is. Things change, but the best characters live forever. So just like how Marvel’s characters live forever, we want our characters to live forever.

DC: What do you look for in horror shorts? Character, Scares, Story?

JD: I think you need all of it. We obviously care if it’s got that powerful visual because we’re trying to build IPs. We do have relationships with IP merchandise and we have relationships like live events. And if you’re looking at scary, the iconic Freddy Krueger, that visual does matter, but nothing matters without the story.

You can only scare people if you bring them in if you make them care. And yes, Freddy Krueger is a great visual. But it’s also Wes Craven, a genius filmmaker: this guy was meta before meta existed, and the idea of someone haunting you in your dreams, and the backstory of the child molester and the fire. It’s scary, it brings you in.

But that visual matters to us only so much. Yes, we have great traffic online, but nothing happens without great directors. Nothing happens without great stories. Nothing happens without people wanting to explore the mythology of the monsters we create.

I kind of like to think of it as an ecosystem. Nothing functions without each other. And without our great filmmakers and our great content team, nothing else matters.

DC: What makes the most effective horror shorts?

JD: You need to excite people in the beginning, middle, and end, and tell a three-act structure and really tell a story, no matter the timeline. Movies and TV are so incredible and have obviously dominated our entertainment culture, but I don’t always think you need 90 minutes to tell a great story or 60 minutes.

We’re telling great stories in six minutes sometimes, but that’s the key. You can still tell a great story. Just because the duration is less than a typical movie, don’t think you can’t tell a great story and don’t think you can’t be passionate about the storytelling.

You have to be passionate about the storytelling. I think that’s key. That’s why we like working with filmmakers who are excited about digital. They don’t see digital as something smaller than movies or TV. They just see digital as a different format and they embrace bringing storytelling to that format.

And then also, I think, we’ve learned from our data that you have to tease a monster at the beginning, and then you’ve gotta hook that viewer. And you kind of have the monster consistently leave during your three acts. So you’ve got three acts over six minutes, but you can’t save the monster for the end.

You’re really competing for attention more than anything online. You’re competing for a viewer’s interest. So I think you can pique in the beginning by teasing the monster, and then tell a great story that keeps the hook, and then end with the monster.

DC: That’s very interesting because the rule of thumb throughout horror history was to hold the monster off. Keep it in the shadows and then bring it in the end. And so you’re finding that you can tell these compelling stories by putting the monster out there from frame one?

JD: That’s exactly what we’re seeing, but I still think we can’t lose the point you’re touching on. You have to also kind of tease it because if you show too much, you’re gonna ruin the story in the first ten seconds.

It’s like we have to do the balancing act. We have to do that careful dance of showing enough of the monster in the beginning, teasing it up in the beginning that makes you wanna watch it all the way through, but not showing so much that it becomes, “Oh, I’ve already seen one of these. I can click out of here.” 

So yeah, traditionally you don’t need to show the monster until the end, or you might not want to. We have to keep that ethos of storytelling of not telling too much, but still showing something in that first bit to get the viewer hooked.

DC: What elements do you find hurt horror shorts?

JD: I would say my recommendation would be to embrace the nature of where people are watching. Don’t make a five-minute short thinking about how people would view a movie or TV show. Embrace that people are watching on maybe their phone, which is where most Crypt viewers watch, or their laptop or their tablet. Think about how you can use your story to cater to that because people are gonna be watching on mobile devices.

How can you mix it up, the story, so that it feels like it belongs on the phone?

Don’t try and make it a five minute TV show, or a five-minute movie, if that makes sense. Make an engaging short. Don’t just think of the audience as passively consuming it. Take into account the fact that they’re watching on their device, and maybe you should even watch your dailies or your final cuts on your phone or computer instead of on a big screen because that’s how your end users are gonna be watching it.

DC: I know it’s an impossible question, but do you have a favorite horror short that you’ve curated for Crypt TV?

JD: It is a tough question, because you can’t ask people to pick between their children, and you can’t ask me to pick between our shorts because I love them all for different reasons. But I will try and answer it because I wanna try and answer all the questions I’m asked. 

I would say I’m personally a big fan of this series we did called “The Look-See”, which we did four episodes of, and we’re actually bringing back for a season two. It’s all about letting go of the past, and I think the monster’s awesome. It’s this great young filmmaker, Landon Stahmer, who’s 26 years old, who directed it.

So I’m very partial to “The Look-See”, but I love all of my monsters. I love “Sunny Family Cult” and “Birch” and “Giggles [the Clown].” I think we’re blessed to have many great monsters. I really couldn’t pick one, but in terms of just trying to answer your question, I will say I really love “The Look-See” and I’m excited about season two.

DC: When can we anticipate “The Look-See” season two?

JD: Hopefully, I would say, in March. Probably in March. We did four episodes that came out in October and November, and they did huge. So I would say you could look for season two of “The Look-See” in late February, early March.

DC: What is in store for the rest of 2018?

JD: 2018 is gonna be the biggest year ever for Crypt. We are doing more and more episodes of our own shows. We make content for the fans. Yesterday, we released episode three of season two of “Sunny Family Cult.” That’s really exciting, and we’re making longer and longer content. I mean, “Sunny Family Cult”, just season two is gonna end up being like 50 minutes of content. And that Facebook show page for just “Sunny Family Cult” alone has over 200,000 followers.

We’re building huge audiences around specific monsters and properties. So I think you’re gonna see a lot more of that in 2018. Us making bigger and bigger episodes of our favorite shows, really engaging the fans. We’re gonna have great partnerships we’re gonna announce. We’ve done stuff in the past with live events and longer form content production and merchandise, and everything you’ve seen us do before, we’re doing ten times bigger and better this year.

But it’s all built around the fact that we want to bring the next generation of monsters to our fans. We make content for the fans. That’s why we’re doing this. That’s why we only grow stuff that’s already worked. So shows that people respond to, like “The Look-See”, like “Sunny Family Cult”, get excited about longer episodes, more episodes, and us bringing these great shows directly to our fans. Season two and probably season three.

DC: Awesome. Now, I always like to end with this question, “What is your favorite scary movie?”

JD: Final Destination 2. And that’s a very specific answer because it’s the first scary movie I remember watching that I actually loved from the jump because I think I saw it when I was 11 or 12 years old. I guess I was old enough to not be too scared and actually enjoy it.

I remember watching Final Destination 2, and I fell in love with the whole Final Destination series, and that would, I say, kick off everything. So Final Destination 2.

It’s like, in Final Destination 1, it was a little more serious in tone, and by Final Destination 2 they kind of realized… They’re like, “Yo, we’re having fun with this.” And then by the end, like The Final Destination and Final Destination 5, it’s kind of straight campy. Which is fine.

I kinda like Final Destination 3 because it was a little bit of a blend of the two of them, the two different tones. But I just love Final Destination 2.

DC: Finally, is there anything else you would like to tell fans of Crypt TV?

JD: I would like to tell them, again, everything we do, we do for you. We’re trying to tell exciting new monster stories, and we want to hear from you, because it’s the fans’ decisions and thoughts and interests that actually drive what we do. We are directly responsive to the fans, and that’s why we’re making this.

You can always tweet @CryptTV, Facebook us, Instagram us. You can tweet me personally, @NotJackDavis is my handle. Because we only exist to serve the fans, and we’re only around because of our fans, and we only show up every day to make better content for them. So we want your feedback.

***

Hell yeah!

We really appreciate Cryp tTV co-founder Jack Davis stopping by Dread Central and talkin’ monsters and mayhem with Mike. His insights are invaluable and expect Crypt TV to step up their already killer game big-time in 2018.

You can follow Crypt TV on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. And don’t forget to check out their official YouTube and, of course, CryptTV.com for all things horror.

Thanks for your time, Jack!

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Battle of the Hell Priests: Gary J. Tunnicliffe’s Idea for Hellraiser: Judgment Sequel

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I think it’s safe to say that many of us were pleasantly surprised by director Gary J. Tunnicliffe’s Hellraiser: Judgment. The film was a fun blast of twisted horror, and Tunnicliffe’s performance as The Auditor was a killer addition to the Hellraiser lore.

But has the director thought about a sequel to his film? Not during shooting evidently.

“I had no concept of a sequel, a spinoff, nothing at all,” the director told Screen Rant. “People suggest, ‘Oh, you’re trying to write a sequel for The Auditor and stuff like that.’ It’s like, ‘Are you f***ng kidding?’ I was just trying to swim to the other bank and survive without being eaten by the sharks.”

But now that filming is long over with, Tunnicliffe says he does have some ideas for a sequel.

“I have thought about it afterward, what I think would be great fun,” he says. “Maybe a new Cenobite ruler comes in or takes over, and a new head priest comes in, and it’s not working out and clearly this person, this Cenobite’s not doing a great job. And underhandedly, The Auditor is leaving a trail of breadcrumbs for the guy who is Pinhead to find his way back, and he gets pulled in. And then it’s like, he turns up, and it’s like a showdown between the newly born Pinhead and this guy who’s taken over his mantle… we do a bit of a standoff, and it’s like a battle of the Hell priests.”

Battle of the Hell priests? Pardon the pun, but Hell, yeah! Would you like to see Tunnicliffe’s Hellraiser sequel? Let us know below!

Hellraiser: Judgment stars Damon Carney, Randy Wayne, Alexandra Harris, Jeff Fenter, Helena Grace Donald, Grace Montie, John Gulager, Diane Goldner, Heather Langenkamp, and Paul T. Taylor as Pinhead.

The film is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital.

Special features:

  • Deleted and extended scenes
  • Gag reel

BUY IT HERE!

Synopsis:
The dreaded Pinhead returns in the next terrifying chapter of the classic Hellraiser series. Three detectives trying to stop a diabolical serial killer are sucked into a maze of otherworldly horror, where hellish denizens including the Auditor, the Assessor, and the Jury await to pass judgment.

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Such Sights to Show You – 02/21/18

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What’s in a name? In this latest edition of Such Sights to Show you’re about to find out a great deal, that’s what! Read on for the usual cartoon shenanigans.

Kevin D. Clark is a cartoonist from Scotland who grew up watching classic monster movies, cartoons and wrestling, as well as reading comics. He started drawing at an early age and hasn’t stopped since. His sense of humor is a veritable cornucopia of the wacky and weird inspired by the likes of Monty Python, Mel Brooks, “MST3K,” Rab C. Nesbitt, as well as his older brother.

Kevin was diagnosed with Aspergers and because of that, he tries to push himself to work as hard as possible. Kevin also has a self-published comic book and helps run a film club for autistic people. He has recently earned a degree in cartooning from the London Art College and he’s pretty sure that he could take an octopus in a fight.

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Last Meeple Standing

Machine of Death: The Game of Creative Assassination – Last Meeple Standing Game Overview and Review

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I’m going to kill you. Well, actually, me and few friends are going to snuff you. We are going to use… ummmmm… a bunch of old socks, a bucket of lighter fluid, and a piece of quartz to do it. Believe it. This is all because a machine that took a drop of your blood told you your cause of death would be “Blaze,” whatever that means. As assassins, it is our job to see you shuffle off your mortal coil in that manner (somehow, no matter how vague) using only a random assortment of items to force that death upon you. It’s a dirty job, but someone has to do it. And we LIKE our job. It makes us laugh, you see.

Photo Credit: Tiffany Hahn

In the world of Machine of Death: The Game of Creative Assassination (MoD for short), a device has been invented that uses a single drop of your blood it takes when you stick your hand in it to predict, in VERY vague terms, how you are going to die. The catch lies in that vagueness. When the machine spits out the card with your cause of death, it is going to be one or two words that may or may not make any sense to you. For example, the card that pops out of the machine might say “Elephant.” How the hell is an elephant going to kill you if you live in Modesto? Just avoid circuses and trips to Jakarta, right? Wrong. What about that billboard for Elephant brand tires that falls off a four-story building and squishes you into strawberry jam?

MoD puts players in the role of killers whose job it is to make sure the Machine of Death pays off in…well…death. The problem, and the fun, of the challenge is that you HAVE to use a randomly drawn assortment of items to send your victim on to the next life. If MoD didn’t have such a dark theme, I’d call it a party game. Wait…fuck it. It IS a party game. Who am I kidding? It is hysterically funny to try, within a limited amount of time, to bring about the timely end of your target.

COMPONENTS:

Shall I start drooling all over this game right away? Yes! Commence drooling. The hefty, glossy game box comes packed with goodies: a huge pack of Death Cards, the cards that pop out of the MoD; a big box of Black Market Gift Cards, the items used to kill the victims with; a pack of Specialist Cards, bonus cards you can be awarded with to aid in our murderous adventures; a book of Target Intel Sheets, slips where you list various important traits for your victim; a wooden Fate Coin, which is flipped at various points in the game to help with decisions; a Mission booklet; and a nifty, red, custom die with a skull symbol for the “1.” All of this schwag is top-notch, high-quality stuff. The art on the cards is whimsical and very functional. The Death Cards look like those cards that used to pop out of the Fortune-Telling Gypsy booths on the boardwalk when you put a quarter in. The Black Market Gift Cards are designed to look like credit cards on one side with cute iconography identifying the item in question. The Specialist Cards have really fun artwork depicting the helpers you are awarded with if you kill particularly well. Lastly, anyone who frequents this column knows I’m totally nutty for custom dice, and this game scores with theirs. An embossed skull? Yes, please!

SETUP:

Separate out and shuffle the Death, Black Market Gift, and Specialist Card decks, and place each deck nearby face down. Draw one Death Card face down to the table. Count out 20 of the Black Market Gift Cards face down as your “shopping budget” for the game and put the rest away. Create your victim on an Intel slip using the tables in the rule book or select one from the Mission booklet. This will give the players some important and helpful insight into the target, allowing them to manipulate both their tools and the target for the kill. Turn over the Death Card and draw three Black Market Gift Cards face up in a row. Put the sand timer nearby, and you are ready to annihilate the victim.

GAMEPLAY:

It is important to remember that the game is more about fun storytelling than beating the dice. The more the players work together to come up with good stories, the better the gameplay is going to be. If you lose, so what? The game sets up in moments and is ready to go again, with fresh people just lining up to visit with Death.

Each game lasts for four rounds (four assassination targets). Each round you will do the following in order:

  1. Generate a target.
  2. Make an assassination plan.
  3. Attempt the kill.

If you fail at any kill, you lose. Too bad, so sad. If the kill is successful, you stand a chance to earn bonus Specialist Cards before moving on to the next assassination.

To generate a target, you use a series of simple tables and basically answer questions Mad Libs style to come up with Name, two pieces of intel (such as likes, dislikes, fears, beliefs, etc.), and a location for them. This meta-game is sorta fun all by itself. Making up goofy characters to slaughter shortly thereafter is a good time, right?

Next, the players look at the gift cards that have been turned up and try to come up with a way to use them to bring about the demise of the target. Keep in mind that these gifts are not going to be simple, single words, like: chainsaw, acid, or rifle. More than likely, they will be something like “something red.” In this case you could say, for example, it is a pile of bricks, a red dump truck, or a red baseball bat. String together a story of sorts from all of the items you have to form the death plan. If you had the cards music, something red, and batteries, you could come up with: “We’re going to block him into an alley with a red dump truck, confuse him with loud Skinny Puppy music so he doesn’t try to escape, and then pour battery acid on him from above.” All is good and well, but now you have to, as a team, try to assign a difficulty, from 2 (easy) to 6 (hella hard), for each of the three parts. How hard is it to accomplish each part? You might say that backing the truck block the alley is easy, so a 2, but getting enough battery acid together to kill the person might be hard, so maybe a 5.

To attempt the kill, you turn over the sand timer and get started as quickly as possible, because once the timer runs out, it’s game over, man! Starting with the first item in your plan, select a player to roll the die, in an attempt to roll the decided-upon difficulty level or greater. If you succeed, move on to the next item! If you fail, discard that item card, draw another, and revise you plan using the remaining items. The remaining items can operate the same way they did before, or you can create new uses and new difficulty levels for them. Then start over, attempting to succeed with all three items in your plan. If you roll greater than the difficulty level you set for all three items, your assassination is carried off for that victim. If you still have time on the clock, roll the die and consult the Aftermath table, which will let you attempt to flee the scene, establish an alibi, cater the target’s wake (really), etc. by drawing one item card and attempting a plan against that item. Win and you get to roll again, draw again, and try again if there is still time on the timer. For each successful roll, you get to draw a Specialist card and set it aside for the moment. These cards allow you to switch them out for item cards on subsequent assassination attempts, basically giving you more options of a unique and interesting kind (e.g., “water into wine,” “killer solo,” or “flying saucer ride”).

WINNING:

You win by successfully killing all four targets. Good job. You’re a serial killer. You lose if at any time you run out of both Gift Cards and Specialists before all four targets are dead. You also lose if you fail to kill a target before the timer runs out. What? You think you get a lifetime to snuff anyone you want? Guess again, killer!

FINAL THOUGHTS:

By now, my enthusiasm for this game should be self-evident. I fricking LOVE MoD! The components are great, but the gameplay is even better! You’ve got a winner already, but I’ve been holding some info back from you, readers. This game is based on two awesome books of short stories delving into the possibilities of the wicked machine: Machine of Death and This Is How You Die. Both of them are chock full of hysterical…and creepy…stories of the fates of folks who fall victim to the machine. Not only that, but the website dedicated to this game, machineofdeath.net, is packed with bonus goodies for players: an Intel randomizer, timer music albums you can use in place of the sand timer (fun!), more missions, and target Intel blank sheets. Wow! The website also has pins, patches, posters, death certificates, t-shirts, etc. for fans to pick up if they love the game, which I suspect they will. Mind you, I’m not trying to sell you anything here, but WOW! What a bunch of cool-ass stuff! But wait, there’s MORE, and this may be the best part: there is a gigantor expansion for MoD. The Side Effects expansion includes more than 600 additional cards to plan deaths with: Death Cards, a Genre Deck, Intel, and what they call “Web Pals + Chums,” cards designed by famous Web personalities and illustrators (these cards are particularly awesome, according to ME).

There you have it…one of my favorite games in my collection. I’m happy to admit I have pretty much everything available for this game. Yes, I love assassination THAT much! This game is perfect for nights when you need a break from heavier games but are still in the mood for some mayhem and murder. I’ve rarely played MoD in public without some random stranger begging to please sit in on the next game. I strongly urge all of my readers to take the time and effort to find a copy and pick this up as soon as possible…or my friends and I will kill you.

PRODUCT DETAILS:

Designer: David Fooden, David Malki, and Kris Straub
Artists: Kris Straub
Publisher: TopatoCo
Published: 2013
Players/Playtime: 2-4 players/30 min
Suggested Player Age: 15+

RATING:
5/5

Last Meeple Standing is brought to you by Villainous Lair Comics & Games, the ultimate destination for board game fanatics in Southern California. For more information visit the official Villainous Lair Comics & Games website, “Like” the Villainous Lair Facebook page and be sure to follow Villainous Lair on Twitter and Instagram.

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