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Screenwriter Dale Zawada Looks to Parlay Rom-Com Success into a Horror Career

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Screenwriter Dale Zawada Looks to Parlay Rom-Com Success into a Horror CareerDale Zawada is a screenwriter and stand-up comic from Chicago. His first film was an award-winning romantic-comedy entitled Worth the Weight. Why do we care, you ask? Because Dale wants his next project to be horrific. Come meet Dale.

Zawada has proven he’s got the talent to write a killer script. Worth the Weight won several awards on the festival circuit. And he’s a self-described horror fanatic. These are the people we need working in the genre, folks, talented and motivated with a true love of horror.

Zawada talked to Dread Central recently about his desire to make the jump into the dark genre. “I’ve always been a horror guy,” Zawada said. “When I sold Worth the Weight I was actually trying to pitch a horror-comedy script of mine at the time called The Adoption. That story is about a celebrity couple who gets up there in age and starts to lose their fame a bit, so they do what most celebrity couples do in that situation…they adopt a child from a foreign land. This particular couple adopts a nine-year old boy from Cambodia who is just the cutest kid in the world. He’s also a cold-blooded killing machine.”

The director Zawada was pitching the project to, Ryan Sage, liked the concept for The Adoption, but it seemed too expensive and time consuming. He chose the comedy film Zawada had instead. Too bad, sounds like an interesting concept. Hollywood celebs importing brutal third world killers into their homes.

However, Zawada has plenty more where that came from. “I’ve been trying to get a horror script produced ever since,” Zawada said. “Right now I’m pushing Dark Vigilance. It’s a unique take on the “teens in the woods” slasher sub-genre. I want to write another award-winning film and I want it to be in the horror genre. That would mean a lot.”

Of course the “teens in the woods” slasher sub-genre has been done quite frequently and thoroughly. But Zawada feels he has a fresh concept for the familiar tale. “Dark Vigilance picks up where Cabin in the Woods left off in regards to turning horror stereotypes on their heads,” Zawada said. “The group of teens in this story are very real. They have a lot going on and are relatable whereas the majority of slashers give a teen one characteristic and call it a day. The stoner, the whore, the jock, etc. Dark Vigilance has these characters, too, of course, but there’s much more to a person than if he smokes pot or plays football. I felt it was important to get people to have feelings one way or the other about these characters.”

Zawada continued, “There’s also a lot of mystery and intrigue around the slasher of the script: The Rockdale Ripper. He’s a serial killer who did a lot of damage to this small community 10 years ago but was shot down. Now 10 years later, the killings start again and there’s a “whodunit” angle about if it’s the same person, is it a ghost, is it a copycat, etc. I can’t tell you which one it is though. Also, another aspect that’s pretty unique that I think horror fans might like is that in Dark Vigilance, the Rockdale Ripper is caught mid-movie by our scrappy group of teens. They catch him and his life is in their hands. I’ve always fantasized about what I would do if we could catch Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers. That sequence in the story is intense and a fun twist I think horror fans would enjoy.”

Since Zawada has had success in the comedy field, one has to wonder how much of that he brings to his horror scripts. “There are some humorous moments for sure but this movie is my love letter to slasher movies so I didn’t want to make it too goofy,” Zawada said. “Horror-comedies are very popular but they’re also extremely hard to pull off, which is why a lot of them seem sub-par. Tucker and Dale vs. Evil nailed it. That’s the only movie the last 10 years I think really delivered. Most of the time the movies seem to have too much horror in the comedy or too many laughs in a horror movie. Finding the balance for writing a horror-comedy is extremely difficult. The Adoption takes a good swing at it but Dark Vigilance is pure slasher.”

Zawada’s discussed the people in horror he considers his main influences. And it’s an impressive list. “Joe Dante was a big influence,” Zawada said. “He’s one of the masters of horror-comedies which you can see in Gremlins and The ‘Burbs. He’s one of those guys that gets you to care about the characters. They aren’t cardboard cutouts. There’s a reason you remember the name Billy Peltzer. Another one of my favorite horror guys is Lloyd Kaufman and Troma in general. I grew up on that stuff and I like to watch Lloyd’s movies and just sit back and realize Here’s a guy who said ‘to hell with the problems of filmmaking and people telling us no’ and got it done. It’s very inspiring to me. Also, there’s a lot of boobs in those movies.

As for his future plans, Zawada is currently trying to get the Dark Vigilance script noticed and hopes his previous success will help. “I’m trying to get Dark Vigilance into the hands of talented and passionate directors and producers. The problem is a lot of the guys I admire and think could make this movie write their own stuff, guys like Trent Haaga and James Gunn, tend to write their own stuff. But I know there are some directors and producers out there looking for the next big slasher script and I think I might have it. I don’t have an agent or manager. I thought I’d get one when I sold a movie but that didn’t happen. I thought I’d get one when that movie won awards. That didn’t happen either, but that’s okay. I’m all about thinking outside the box. I know that it would make a great story if a filmmaker reading this Dread Central article went on to produce Dark Vigilance. And with the passion and loyalty within the horror filmmaking community, I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened.”

For more on Dale Zawada, check out dalezawada.com, like Dale Zawada on Facebook and follow Dale Zawada on Twitter (@DaleZawada).

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American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review

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Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo

Directed by Colin Bemis


Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.

The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.

As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!

Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.

Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.

In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.

On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.

In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.

Until then, check out the film’s trailer HERE, and follow the movie on Facebook.

  • Strawberry Flavored Plastic
3.5

Summary

Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.

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Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)

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We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.

In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.

Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!

If you like what you hear, please consider joining our Patreon subscribers. For less than the cost of a beer, you get bonus content, exclusive merchandise, special giveaways, and you get to help us continue doing what we love.

The Who Goes There Podcast is available to subscribe to on iTunes right here. Not an iTunes user? You can listen on our Dread Central page. Can’t get enough? We also do that social media shit. You’ll find us on FacebookTwitterInstagramTwitch, and YouTube.

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Must-See: Michael Myers Versus Jason Voorhees Fan Short Film

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The short film titled Michael Myers Versus Jason Voorhees made its much-anticipated debut on YouTube channel CallMeJeff86 on January 15th, 2018.

The film is a passion project that pits two horror movie icons against each other; it’s Michael Myers from Halloween against Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th in a bloody fight to the finish.

What are you waiting for? Give the 3-part short a watch below, and then let us know what you think!

Michael Myers Versus Jason Voorhees is written and directed by Mason C. McDonald and stars Jeff Payne as Michael Myers, Dustin Miller as Jason Voorhees, and John Alton as the Vengeful Father.

Don’t forget to follow the film on Instagram and Twitter!

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