Exclusive Interview: Filmmaker Jesse Thomas Cook Talks Monster Brawl, Ejecta and More - Dread Central
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Exclusive Interview: Filmmaker Jesse Thomas Cook Talks Monster Brawl, Ejecta and More

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In Jesse Thomas Cook’s Monster Brawl, we see the Canadian filmmaker blend both his love for the horror genre and classic ‘80s professional wrestling in the flick that features eight classic movie monsters fighting in the ultimate death match set in a haunted graveyard.

The independent horror/comedy/wrestling hybrid stars Dave Foley, Art Hingle and Lance Henriksen as the narrator as well as a handful of professional wrestlers including Kevin Nash, “The Mouth of the South” Jimmy Hart and Robert Maillet.

Monster Brawl hit DVD and Blu-ray shelves everywhere this week, and in honor of the flick’s recent release courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment, Dread Central recently had the opportunity to chat with Cook about his ambitious project as well as whether or not fans can expect to see Monster Brawl 2 in the future- or perhaps even a bigger budget remake of the flick, which could very well be in the works soon.

Check out the highlights of our exclusive interview with Cook below, and make sure to check out Monster Brawl now that it is available everywhere!

Dread Central: I’d love to start off by hearing more about how Monster Brawl came about and more on your approach to creating this world where you blend together both horror and wrestling- two of my own personal faves.

Jesse Thomas Cook: Mine too; I knew that both professional wrestling and horror movies- especially the classic movie monsters- have huge followings so that was a huge draw for me. But I guess this all really starts off with us wanting to create a production company that would produce 10 films in our home town of Collingwood up here in Canada. We wanted to start off with a flagship film that would be our calling card and would get us noticed, and I figured that something that blended horror and wrestling would definitely appeal to a lot of people out there.

So we began throwing around ideas to do a comedy/horror movie, and that’s when I started thinking of all the different kinds of monsters that everyone loves and how much fun it would be to see them take on each other, kind of similar to Freddy vs. Jason but with an actual wrestling setting. Doing it in an isolated pay-per-view style event helped with the fact that one, we couldn’t afford a bunch of extras and two, you wouldn’t want a bunch of monsters on the loose anyway- so the graveyard idea really worked for us.

Dread Central: Considering that you guys made this independently and had to come up with a handful of monsters, did it ever strike you while putting this together just how ambitious a movie concept like this really is? Did you guys have to make any concessions because of the budget?

Jesse Thomas Cook: Oh yeah, it was definitely ambitious from the start just because we were creating something that we didn’t think had ever been done before, but then as we started putting all the pieces in place for production, I think we all then realized just how ambitious all of this would end up being for the budget. We only had 20 days to shoot everything, and our schedule included 20 different locations and working with 40 actors, too, so it was definitely a monumental challenge to say the very least.

And yeah, we did have to make some concessions. There was always talk of having a sasquatch and yeti tag team, but those are both expensive creatures so they had to come out. We also had an idea of a group of zombies versus a group of trolls, but that would have been really expensive so it never really worked out. Maybe for the next one (laughs).

Dread Central: Well let’s talk about the creatures and how you went about the design of them for the film. Who did you work with for all the effects?

Jesse Thomas Cook: We worked with a special effects team in Canada called The Brothers Gore. When I approached them with this concept and my budget, they were kind of shocked I think because of what we were trying to accomplish, but they somehow made it all work. They had to get really creative with the monster makeup because every single day they had a different monster to make up, which isn’t something they were used to. Usually each make-up works for a few days, but we didn’t have that kind of luxury with our time. But they really did a fantastic job, and I couldn’t be happier.

Coming up with the designs, or our original spin on certain monsters, was something I worked on with a friend named Jason Brown. We approached it by trying to appease the classic monster fans out there but giving fans a few new monster hybrids to root for, too, so that’s why there are some female monsters or a monster like Swamp Gut who is a hybrid of all the swamp creatures we’ve met throughout the years and comes off like a monster version of King Kong Bundy or Yokozuna. The monsters had to work within the classic wrestling gimmicks, too, and I think we pulled it off.

Dread Central: As someone who is also a huge fan of ’80s wrestling and grew up watching guys like Kevin Nash and Jimmy Hart, can you talk more about casting them and what they brought to the table on this project. Did you let them go off script at all since they’re both guys who have made a living cutting some great promos?

Jesse Thomas Cook: Jimmy Hart was a blast to work with; not only was he fun to watch on camera, but he was just an all-around great guy. We never asked him to, but between takes and stuff, he’d be running around set helping out by moving things or setting up props which was really cool. He was really a team player. He mostly stuck to the script, but we did do some takes where he just cut his own material and there’s some really funny stuff there. That’s in some of the outtakes.

And I knew from very early on in the process of Monster Brawl that I wanted to have Kevin Nash on this because he’s got such a great presence. We needed someone who could stare down Frankenstein and Nash was the guy.

Dread Central: Well, because of the ending I would suspect you guys may have plans for more Monster Brawl in the future? Is that the plan then because I could see the potential for a bunch more matches with all the monsters you guys couldn’t do this first time around.

Jesse Thomas Cook: Well, it’s sort of interesting; we have developed a story for a sequel and it would be much bigger than the first one, with a bigger budget, too, but there is also talk of a remake right now and we’re exploring that as well. Either way, we have three more projects this year which are our main focus so we’re kind of focusing on them for now. But yes, we’re definitely open to expanding this into a franchise if presented with the right opportunity.

Dread Central: Are you allowed to talk at all about those other three projects yet?

Jesse Thomas Cook: Well, I can talk about the one we just announced that we finished in May called Ejecta. It’s a high concept sci-fi film that was written by Tony Burgess, who did a brilliant job on Pontypool a few years back now. He’s going to be working with us on the others, too, but Ejecta looks pretty cool so far. It’s definitely a lot darker and more ambitious than Monster Brawl, and that’s what we want to keep doing- changing things up so we’re not always making the same movie again and again.

Exclusive Interview: Filmmaker Jesse Thomas Cook Talks Monster Brawl, Ejecta and More

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Children of the Fall Review – This Israeli Slasher Gets Political

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Starring Noa Maiman, Aki Avni, Yafit Shalev, Iftach Ophir, Michael Ironside

Directed by Eitan Gafny

Reviewed out of Utopia 2017


Slashers are a subgenre of horror that are often looked down upon. After all, what can a movie about a killer slaughtering multiple people have to say about, well…anything. Those of us in the community know full well that this is nonsense and that any kind of horror movie can be a jabbing (no pun intended) commentary on society, culture, politics, art, etc… And that’s precisely what Eitan Gafny aims to do with Children of the Fall, one of the few Israeli slashers ever created.

Set on the eve of the Yom Kippur war, the film follows Rachel (Maiman), a young American woman who comes to Israel to join a kibbutz after suffering some serious personal tragedies. Her goal to make aliyah (the return of Jews to Israel) is however hampered by some rather unpleasant encounters with local IDF soldiers and members of the kibbutz. Pushing through, she makes friends with others in the commune and her Zionistic views are only strengthened, although they do not go untested. Once Yom Kippur, one of the holiest holidays in Jewish culture, begins, a killer begins picking off the kibbutz workers one by one in violent and gruesome ways.

Let’s start with what Children of the Fall gets right, okay? As slashers go, it’s actually quite beautiful. There are wonderfully expansive shots that make use of the size and diversity of the kibbutz. The film opens with a beautiful shot of a cow stable, barn, water towers, and miscellaneous outbuildings, all set against a dark and stormy night. The lighting of this scene, and throughout the film, is also very good. I found myself darting my eyes across the screen multiple times throughout the film thinking I’d seen something lurking in the shadows.

The kills, while unoriginal, are very satisfying. Each death is meaty, bloody, and doesn’t feel rushed. In fact, the camera has no problems lingering during each kill, allowing us to appreciate the practical FX and copious amounts of blood used. And if you believe that a slasher needs to have nudity, you won’t be disappointed.

The acting is middle of the road. Maiman is serviceable as Rachel but the real star of the film is Yafit Shalev as “Yaron”. His range of emotion is fantastic, from warm and welcoming to Rachel when she arrives to emoting grief and pain during his Yom Kippur announcement where we learn that he was a child in a concentration camp. The rest of the cast are perfectly acceptable as fodder for the killer.

So where does Children of the Fall stray? Let’s start with the most obvious part: the runtime. Clocking in at nearly two hours, that’s about 30 minutes too much. The film could easily have gone through some hefty editing without affecting the final product. Instead, we have a movie that feels elongated when unnecessary.

Additionally, the societal and political commentary is very in-your-face but the film can’t seem to make up its mind as to what it’s trying to get across. Natalia, a Belarussian kibbutz worker, raises the concept of Israeli racism, misogyny, and xenophobia, her hostility unabashedly pouring out in the midst of IDF soldiers, locals, other kibbutz members, and more. Is there validity to what she’s saying? Undoubtedly. But there is also validity to Rachel’s retorts, which include calling this woman out on her own vitriolic views. This back-and-forth mentality frustratingly prevails throughout the film, as though Gafny was unwilling to just commit.

The dialogue is also quite painful at times, although I attribute this to difficulties with translating from Hebrew to English. Even the best English speakers in Israel don’t get everything perfect and the little quirks here and there, while charming, are quite detracting. Also, why is this movie trying to tell me that Robert Smith of The Cure is a character here? While amusing, it makes absolutely no sense nor does it fit in Smith’s own timeline.

Had this film gone through a couple rounds of editing, I feel like we’d have gotten something really great. Eitan Gafny is definitely someone that we need to be watching very closely.

  • Children of the Fall
2.5

Summary

While Children of the Fall has a lot going for it, it has just as much working against it. Overly long, you’ll get a really great slasher that is bogged down by uneven social and political commentary.

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Netflix to Tell The Frankenstein Chronicles in the States

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There’s still a big part of me that wonders why Universal – or anyone for that matter – has not been able to reboot classics like The Mummy, Dracula, and Frankenstein. Maybe they’re trying too hard? Maybe they keep putting the wrong people at the helm?

Look at del Toro’s The Shape of Water… It’s pretty much a new version of The Creature of the Black Lagoon with a heavier emphasis on the relationship between monster and chosen mate. Even though there are a couple of hokey parts, it really works and is excellent. So maybe we need to look elsewhere throughout the world to meet with success. Case in point: “The Frankenstein Chronicles.”

Variety is reporting that the hit six-episode UK series starring Sean Bean will be coming Stateside and more via the ever-growing streaming service Netflix.

This deal opens the way for Netflix to make further seasons should it resonate with its U.S. and global subscribers.

“The Frankenstein Chronicles” is a re-imagining of Mary Shelley’s classic novel. Set in 1830s London, Bean (“Game of Thrones”) plays John Marlott, a war veteran and river policeman. Season 1 of the serialized show sees him investigating the case of a corpse made up of body parts from different children and finding the matter involves senior establishment figures and demonic forces.

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Guardians of the Galaxy’s James Gunn Returning to the Horror Genre

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Know what’s funny? We horror fans have known how good James Gunn was all along. It just took the rest of the world time to catch up! Now that Gunn has made his big Hollywood bones with his two Guardians of the Galaxy flicks, he’s returning to the genre to produce a new horror flick! Oh, happy day!

Word came across our desks that Gunn has signed on to produce an untitled horror feature with The H Collective. It was written by James’ brother Brian and cousin Mark Gunn. James will produce the project in between writing the highly anticipated feature Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3 and starting production. Gunn’s longtime collaborator David Yarovesky will direct.

The H Collective will fully finance the project and produce alongside Gunn and his shingle, Troll Court Entertainment. Brian and Mark Gunn, Dan Clifton, and The H Collective’s Nic Crawley will executive produce.

The project is expected to go into production in the spring of 2018 and brings Gunn back to his horror roots. The filmmaker, whose credits included mostly fan-favorite horror gems like Slither prior to writing and directing Guardians of the Galaxy, is responsible for turning the Marvel property into one of the most memorable franchises in the Marvel universe.

More as we get it!

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