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Gutierrez, Sebastian (Rise: Blood Hunter)

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Sebastian Gutierrez interview (click to see it bigger!With as little melodrama as I can manage, let me make this short introduction … When we first heard about Rise: Blood Hunter there were key elements we instantly took note of. This was to be a vampire tale that focused more on a murder/revenge angle, boasting a cast impressive enough to pull it off, and do I have to mention, one you normally wouldn’t see in a horror film.

As the news trickled in like Chinese water torture (no pun on Lucy Liu intended), it became clear that the movie company was a little reluctant to stand on the tallest mountain and wave a flag for their new project. When something substantial finally surfaced it came in the form of a seriously steamy leaked scene of Lucy Liu and Carla Gugino, covered in blood, rolling around in bed together. It doesn’t get any hotter than that!

Now Rise: Blood Hunter was set to hit the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City (see coverage here) and a red carpet event was listed in the programming. Unfortunately as the date approached, the carpet walk was cancelled, even though we were told key celebs and the film’s director were in town. Odd? Nevertheless, audience reaction to the premiere was very favorable.

Around the same time, poster art for Rise was revealed, depicting giant bat creatures with glowing red eyes (which never once appear in the movie) and a very Underworld-y looking image of Lucy Liu’s face staring sternly at you, as if challenging you to come see her naked. Weird. Now, Dread Central gets the chance to sit with the film’s director, Sebastian Gutierrez to get some insight into this film and answer some of the burning questions … like what studio in their right mind would cut a love scene between Lucy Liu and Carla Gugino??!!


Nomad: Are you into horror movies personally? Give us a bunch of your favorite titles.

Sebastian Gutierrez: Absolutely. The Shining, The Innocents, early Polanski. I’m particularly fond of Cronenberg’s take on the “horror of the body” and how the monster isn’t outside but inside us. That concept is really intriguing and disturbing. It’s the push-pull of repulsion and craving that I find so cinematic, and this point of view informed both She Creature (a Creature Feature I did for HBO) and Rise.

N: Rise has a more realistic bent on vampires, reminding me of the David Bowie classic The Hunger. Tell us a little about your take on the traditional bloodsucker.

SG: The Hunger and Near dark were reference points. My thinking was, I love vampire tales, but as soon as the fangs and garlic come out and people start flying, it becomes really campy for me. I’m no longer scared. I wanted to portray the vampires as a cult we know very little about. A cult of serial killers. They hunt, they fuck, they kill. Nothing you can say will sway them. They have no empathy for you. It’s not personal. I thought the idea that you could beg for your life and someone, in the most detached manner, will nonchalantly tell you you’re gonna die is very scary.

Rise: Blood Hunter interview (click to see it bigger!There were a lot of traps to avoid: the Anne Rice-isms, the comic booky Underworld stuff (not that you’d know that from the, ahem, “similar” poster artwork, but I digress).

N: You know, we recently gave out the movie poster at Monster-Mania 8 and I noticed giant bat creatures hanging at the bottom. I have to say straight out to the readers, this movie has ZERO giant bat creatures. While, no doubt, people who go see Hostel Part II are not going to leave saying “fuck…I didn’t see meat anywhere in this film. JIP!” (referencing the now infamous “meat poster), putting monsters on a poster that have nothing to do with a film is an odd egg. Any thoughts on this marketing decision?

SG: The giant bat creatures are a mystery to me. Then again, so is the “Blood Hunter” of the title. I was certainly never consulted on either decision. Marketing departments often try and turn things into the closest cliche in their arsenal. In this case, replacing Kate Beckinsale’s face with Lucy’s and hanging vampire bats for werewolves somehow seemed like a sound idea to them. Never mind that Rise was meant as the polar opposite to Underworld and Blade.

To think how cool the poster could’ve been, with Lucy in the morgue, for example. Naked and with no reflection in the mirror. Or hanging upside down in the meat locker; an image not dissimilar to the one heavily publicized in the Hostel Part II campaign. It’s creepy and effective. And plays a big part in our movie.

N: How involved were you in casting this film? I thought the actors worked very well with each other in ways you wouldn’t expect.

SG: 100% involved. Lucy understood the material immediately. Knew that this was a hard-boiled noir with vampires in place of gangsters. She is extremely good at the tough guy dialogue, one of the best. So is Carla, thanks to her Elmore Leonard/Karen Sisco training. Sometimes that kind of stylized dialogue can come off very precious in the wrong hands and both of them were dead on.

Michael Chiklis is just an all around cool guy and was interested in playing a really damaged character – much more damaged that Vic Mackey on “The Shield”. This guy is more like George C. Scott in Hardcore. He’s lost the one thing he cares about and will not give up until he finds out what happened. In that sense, both his character and Lucy’s are extremely messed up. One doesn’t care if he dies, the other one is already dead.

N: It’s clear the tone and look of Rise were intertwined with the story, taking you from anonymous basements and city streets, up to remote hideouts and Gothic mansions. Seems like the message was everything can look very normal on the surface but within, you find a darkness you may not have expected. Am I completely off base?

SG: You’re right again. The movie is set in LA, but I wanted to steer clear from high-tech, glossy surfaces, clubs, leggy models; all that stuff. I wanted to use a lot of downtown, desolate LA that felt almost like a dilapidated version of 50’s Cuba.

Rise: Blood Hunter interview (click to see it bigger!Again, in conversations with cinematographer John Toll, we decided NOT to follow the Ridley Scott template of metallic blues and silver that these stories seem to gravitate toward and use lots of sensual greens and reds. Keep it based in reality at all times without being dull.

N: Your movie does not shy away from the red stuff. How important was the amount of bloodshed and unflinching gore in one particular scene to the film? (Note to readers: This scene was SICK for a mainstream movie! Just imagine if they’d actually showed you Hannibal Lecter peeling off the guard’s face in Silence of the Lambs. Nuff’ said.)

SG: The finished product probably has a little more blood than I wanted. It was tricky finding a balance because from the get-go I said the one shot I DIDN’T want was the typical “biting-of-the-neck” shot. In its place we came up with the moment you’re referring to, which, without giving anything away, I thought would be a very effective way of illustrating the unwilling vampire’s plight. If you HAD to feed on blood how would you do it? And what would that feel/look like? It’s a total junkie metaphor, sure, and audiences have been responding beautifully to that moment. The camera just doesn’t look away and Lucy is really, really good because she’s so revolted but HAS to go through with it.

N: So would you say you are pleased with the way this plays out, with more blood on the screen, or were you going for less is more? Ultimately, were you going for a darker movie with a creepier feel and less obvious bloodshed?

SG: The script and original cut of Rise are definitely much moodier and the events less spelled out. More “Disturbing thriller with horror elements” than “Horror” movie. It’s not in chronological order and the feel is much dreamier. A vampire take on Point Blank was always a starting point. For the uninitiated, John Boorman’s Point Blank has Lee Marvin waking up in Alcatraz, left for dead. He goes after the guys that did this, one by one, simply trying to get paid his share of the loot. He ends up killing everyone. But because it’s a perfectly 60’s movie, there’s ambiguity as to whether he’s actually doing this or it’s all a dying man’s dream. And that gives the movie an extra kick that really resonates.

Once the decision was made to restructure Rise in a more or less chronological fashion, certain gaps had to be filled. And that translated into some more gore than was previously there. I feel this distracts a bit from the really effective stuff (from both a gory and character standpoint), like the aforementioned scene in the homeless shelter.

N: Speaking of changes to the finished product, available (if you were looking) on several sites across the Internet was a fairly graphic scene shared between Lucy and Carla where they seem to REALLY like each other. Were you involved in clipping this scene from the final cut? Any reasoning?

Rise: Blood Hunter interview (click to see it bigger!SG: Hmm. Let’s see, how to put this diplomatically? No, the decision was not mine to cut this from the movie. It’s hard to talk about this stuff without giving plot points away, but the scene you’re referring to was one of the centerpieces of the story. Sex and murder are the vampires’ way of life. It’s their essence in a nutshell, and that scene illustrated that. It managed to be really disturbing AND a turn-on at the same time. The people that saw it felt really weird about it, because here you have Sadie (Lucy’s character) being put through this terrible ordeal and then it mutated into this sexual, animalistic thing with Eve (Carla’s character), who’s both a villain and also, in a way, Sadie’s savior. She’s the one that brings Sadie back to life. All of this is now merely implied in the theatrical version. But it was much stranger (in a good way) than that. Think of Eve as a very, very R-rated Catwoman.

The reasoning remains alien to me. The greatest explanation that I heard was that “teenage boys don’t like lesbian scenes” and at that point I knew I was coming from a completely different place. But I certainly don’t want to misrepresent the scene. It wasn’t sleazy. And it wasn’t like crazy graphic or anything, but you did have the two characters naked in bed, covered in blood, in a key moment where Lucy’s character, who SHOULD by all means be dead by now, open her eyes after being fed on, and Carla’s character realizes there’s SOMETHING about this girl that wants to stay here. She interprets this as meaning Lucy is meant to become one of them. And so she begins to turn her.

N: We’ve been told Rise will only be opening in Seattle, Minneapolis, and Phoenix … not touching either coast, with no commercials or advertisement anywhere I can see (by the time you read this, the movie will have already been released). Why the half hearted release for a movie I honestly thought was damn good fun?

SG: It’s all part of a new experimental strategy to target only the most “vampire-friendly” cities out there. Minnesota in particular is apparently filled with bloodsuckers. Or so I hear. In their extensive research, the studio decided not many people actually go to the movies in LA or New York. They figure if somehow the movie is a huge word-of-mouth cult hit, they will open it wider. And think of all the money they’ll save in prints and advertising!

N: WOW. Fantastic. Now with writing credits for Gothika and Snakes on a Plane under your belt, you could say you are no stranger to big budget horror films. What do you think about the direction Hollywood is taking right now, acknowledging horror as big business while still insisting films be fairly bloodless and without any real scares?

SG: I think the answer is embedded in your question. It’s no mystery that horror is relatively inexpensive to make and huge on DVD after a successful theatrical run. There seem to be to distinct schools at the moment: a) the slick bloodless trying-for-pg13-to-duplicate-The Ring’s- success movies (i.e. Gothika) and the b) Balls-out torture gross out movie (i.e. Saw, Hostel, etc.).

Rise: Blood Hunter interview (click to see it bigger!Snakes on A Plane I’ll leave out of this because it’s a different beast altogether — a straight up B-picture that juggles humor and scares without veering into camp. Not easy to do, given the premise. But again, the audience didn’t quite catch on because what the Internet buzz/joke campaign made it out to be WASN’T really what the movie was.

You’re also at the mercy of the marketing department. And some of these leave a lot to be desired. The Descent is an excellent movie but the studio just couldn’t sell it. Hell, look at Warner Bros not being able to sell LA Confidential and that was the best studio movie of that year (!)

I think for horror to really work, the audience has to feel unsafe in the hands of the director. The “anything-goes’ mentality, as set forth by Hitchcock (in Psycho), Argento, Jodorowsky, Bava and Carpenter, etc., etc. NEEDS to be continually refreshed. Otherwise we’re stuck with formula, whether it’s J-Horror remakes or endless sequels of torture stuff. Horror is the most manipulative of all genres. Its ONLY purpose is to scare the audience. As a result, it behaves as the most complacent of genres in the hands of the studios, because they can make money making films that are, and I quote,: “fairly bloodless and without any real scares”.

Ultimately, it’s up to the audience to be a little more discerning and demand they’re not treated as idiots and have everything dumbed-down for them. Horror can be smart and playful; sexual, too. Sexual repression is one of the great elements of horror, but you hardly ever see it in modern American movies.

In any case, some of the best horror movies being made aren’t even classified as horror: Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind is a terrific psychedelic horror movie (NOT a romantic comedy). The amazing Apocalypto probably has more edge of your seat tension and scares in it than most horror movies out there. But for the ultimate horror for a filmmaker there is Lost In La Mancha, about the un-making of Terry Gilliam’s Don Quixote. Man, much as I try and laugh, it just ends shivers down my spine. Spooky stuff!


Thanks to Sebastian for taking the time to chat with us about his his film. If you’re in one of the selected states Rise: Blood Hunter, get out there and support it! Be sure to check out the trailer for Rise: Blood Hunter, which Dread Central world premiered, and stay tuned for news on when you’ll actually be able to see this fucking movie!

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DVD and Blu-ray Releases: January 16, 2018

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Welcome back, friends.  One would imagine that a release list containing only five entries wouldn’t contain any discrepancies, right? Nope. The Amicus Collection may have come out on December 5th, but it popped up again this week, so if you missed it then, go get yours now.

The big hit of this week, and of 2017, Happy Death Day gets it release this week on both Blu-ray and DVD.  This was a great movie and recently surpassed $100 million dollars worldwide. I highly recommend it.

Up next is The Snowman.  You can check out the Dread Central review of this winter time serial killer thriller here.

If you’re feeling more of a science fiction kind of vibe, check out Beyond Skyline.  Basically there’s a little something for everyone this week.  What are you going to watch?

Pleasant viewing, friends.



MOVIES

Beyond Skyline (2017)

Starring:

Frank Grillo, Bojana Novakovic, Iko Uwais, Jonny Weston

Synopsis:

When the population of Los Angeles is vacuumed off the face of the Earth, Detective Mark Corley storms his way onto an alien ship to rescue his estranged son. But after crashing the ship in Southeast Asia, he must forge an alliance with a band of survivors to discover the key to saving his son and taking back the planet once and for all.

BUY IT NOW!


Eye Of The Cat (1969)

Starring:

Michael Sarrazin, Eleanor Parker

Synopsis:

A man and his girlfriend plan to rob the mansion of the man’s eccentric but wealthy aunt. However, the aunt keeps dozens of cats in her home, and the man is deathly afraid of cats.

BUY IT NOW!


Happy Death Day (2017)

Starring:

Jessica Rothe, Israel Broussard, Ruby Modine, Rachel Matthews, Charles Aitken

Synopsis:

Blumhouse (Split, Get Out, The Purge) produces an original and inventive rewinding thriller in Happy Death Day, in which a college student relives the day of her murder with both its unexceptional details and terrifying end until she discovers her killer’s identity. The thrills continue with an Alternate Ending never-before-seen in theaters.

BUY IT NOW!


Snowman, The (2017)

Starring:

Michael Fassbender, Rebecca Ferguson, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Toby Jones, Chloe Sevigny

Synopsis:

From executive producer Martin Scorsese, The Snowman is based on Jo Nesbø’s New York Times bestselling thriller series. When an elite crime squad’s lead detective (Michael Fassbender) investigates the disappearance of a victim on the first snow of winter, he fears an elusive serial killer may be active again. With the help of a brilliant recruit (Rebecca Ferguson), the cop must connect decades-old cold cases to the brutal new one if he hopes to outwit this unthinkable evil before the next snowfall.

BUY IT NOW!



COLLECTIONS

The Amicus Collection

Starring:

Peter Cushing, Britt Ekland, Herbert Lom, Patrick Magee, Stephanie Beacham

Synopsis:

Known as The Studio That Dripped Blood , the British film company Amicus Productions founded by American writer/producers Max J. Rosenberg and Milton Subotsky built a legacy of horror anthologies and twisted thrillers that remains among the very best genre movies of the 70s. In this trio of Amicus classics featuring stars that include Peter Cushing, Herbert Lom, Britt Ekland, Patrick Magee, Stephanie Beacham, Calvin Lockhart, Michael Gambon and Charlotte Rampling you ll discover the studio s legendary portmanteau Asylum, their insane gothic shocker And Now The Screaming Starts, and exclusive to this set the infamous werewolf whodunit The Beast Must Die, as well as a Bonus Disc of Amicus trailers, TV commercials, rare interviews and more all in this 4 disc box set.

BUY IT NOW!

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Pride and Prometheus Fuses the Horror of Mary Shelley with the Romance of Jane Austen

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This year marks the 200th anniversary of the publication of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein so you can expect to see several articles tied in with that momentous occasion over the next several months. Today we have your first word on Pride and Prometheus from John Kessel, which fuses Shelley’s Gothic horror with the Regency romance of Jane Austen in an exciting novel that combines two age-old stories in a fresh and startling way.

Born in Buffalo, New York, Kessel holds a B.A. in Physics and English and a Ph.D. in American Literature. He helped found and served as the first director of the MFA program in creative writing at North Carolina State University, where he has taught since 1982. He is the author of the novels Good News from Outer Space, Corrupting Dr. Nice, and, in collaboration with James Patrick Kelly, Freedom Beach. His short story collections are Meeting in Infinity (a New York Times Notable Book), The Pure Product, and The Baum Plan for Financial Independence. Also with Jim Kelly, he has edited five anthologies of stories re-visioning contemporary short sci-fi, most recently Digital Rapture: The Singularity Anthology.

Pride and Prometheus arrives February 13th from Sega Press. Look for a guest blog from John Kessel in the coming weeks!

Synopsis:
Pride and Prejudice meets Frankenstein as Mary Bennet falls for the enigmatic Victor Frankenstein and befriends his monstrous Creature in this clever fusion of two popular classics.

Threatened with destruction unless he fashions a wife for his Creature, Victor Frankenstein travels to England, where he meets Mary and Kitty Bennet, the remaining unmarried sisters of the Bennet family from Pride and Prejudice. As Mary and Victor become increasingly attracted to each other, the Creature looks on impatiently, waiting for his bride. But where will Victor find a female body from which to create the monster’s mate?

Meanwhile, the awkward Mary hopes that Victor will save her from approaching spinsterhood while wondering what dark secret he is keeping from her.

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Why Brad Anderson’s Session 9 Scared the Hell Out of Me

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“Hello, Gordon.”

Invariably working for sites such as Dread Central I am always asked the question, “What is the scariest movie you have ever seen?” And, well, truth be told movies don’t tend to scare me that often. Sure there are my go-to flicks time and time again, such as The Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity, and Lake Mungo. But sure enough everytime I spout out that list to a fellow horror fan they always follow up with, “Well, what is the scariest movie you’ve ever seen that ISN’T found footage?” Fair enough question.

Now while I’m not going to go into what I consider to be the scariest non-found footage horror movies (we’ll get into all of that at some later date) I do want to point out a movie in particular here today. The way it goes is that when I tell people my list of scariest non-found footage films, they always nod in agreement. Until that is, I get to a film called Session 9. It is at that point that whomever I am talking to cocks their head to the side and says, “I’ve never heard of that one.” Which is a shame and it happens far too often. So today I want to, yet again, give any and everyone who’s willing to listen the recommend.

Let’s begin with a quick rundown of the film. Session 9 was written and directed by Brad Anderson, who is a name you might recognize as the creative force behind such films as The Vanishing on 7th Street, Transsiberian, and the “Christian Bale is as skinny as a skeleton” mindfuck The Machinist.

But as good as those film may (or may not) be, without a doubt Anderson’s masterpiece is Session 9. Written specifically to be filmed inside the Danvers State Mental Hospital, the film stars David Caruso (don’t let that stop you), Peter Mullan, Josh Lucas and a few other gents as a group of asbestos removal guys who are possibly haunted within the walls of the institute while on a job.

If that rundown isn’t the best, here is the film’s official synopsis: “A tale of terror when a group of asbestos removal workers starts work in an abandoned insane asylum. The complex of buildings looms up out of the woods like a dormant beast. Grand, imposing…abandoned, deteriorating. The residents of Danvers, Massachusetts steer well clear of the place. But Danvers State Mental Hospital closed down for 15 years is about to receive five new visitors…”

Brrr… freaky enough, right? Well, trust me, the actual film is leaps and bounds better than even that creeper synopsis lets on. And best of all, with all horror and terror aside, the film is a tight flick about a group of men and how they interact as a team. While that may not sound too appealing, the actors, yes, even David Caruso, make for a lovable group of grumps that I enjoyed spending 90 minutes with.

Let’s talk about the horror for a second. You have to wait until the end, but once it hits (full-force) it is well worth the wait. The first 2/3 of the film are creepy but are mostly about the men and the job. Horror looms in the background at all times, sure, but it isn’t until the final act that the shit really hits the fan. And boy, does it. The final act is as bloody as any slasher you could ever hope for and even features a fun, very cool cameo by Mr. Larry Fessenden himself. But it is the final, give or take, 30 seconds of the film that still haunts me to this day.

You see the film is constantly playing a game of “Is it ghosts? Is it all in your head? Or is there a human element to the horror?” And that game comes to nightmarish reality in the film’s final moments. I specifically remember having fun with the film until its last frames. That was when I needed to turn the lights on. But that still didn’t help. The horror that Session 9 presents in its final moments are horrors where there is nowhere to run, no way to prevent it from finding you in the darkness, and no way to save yourself, or your loved ones, if it finds you.

“I live in the weak and the wounded.”

Being that I am prone to being one of those dudes that let’s shit bottle up inside until I explode (sad but true), this film is fu*king terrifying to me. I get it. I fear it. And I hope you will too. As kids, we need cautionary tales, and let’s not forget that we as adults do too sometimes. Session 9 is a warning for grown-ups. You almost deserve it to yourself and your loved ones to see this film and allow it sink in. Just don’t expect to sleep for a few nights…

In the end, why did Session 9 scare the hell out me so bad? Was it that voice that haunts my dreams to this day, or was it what the voice says? I’m still not sure. But trust me when I say that Brad Anderson’s Session 9 is one of the absolute scariest films I have ever seen. If you haven’t given the film its day in court yet, remedy that ASAP and thank me (or hate me) later.

You can buy Session 9 on Blu-ray HERE. And while you’re at it make sure to check out Villmark Asylum now on VOD.

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