Indie Horror Month 2013 Exclusive: James Feeney Talks Killer Kart and More - Dread Central
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Indie Horror Month 2013 Exclusive: James Feeney Talks Killer Kart and More

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Last October the hilarious horror comedy Killer Kart slayed its competition during LA’s Screamfest, where it won the award for Best Horror Comedy Short, making it a short this writer absolutely wanted to include in the first ever CineMayhem just a few weeks ago.

And despite already finding tons of success on the festival circuit in 2012, Killer Kart isn’t quite done just yet- the short is still making the fest rounds this year with upcoming screenings in Seattle and Houston, and it is also up for a major award during the Palm Beach International Film Festival, which will be presented later this week.

Directed by James Feeney, Killer Kart stars Christine Rodriguez, Ray Bouchard, Elly Shaefer and Britt Michael Gordon. In honor of Indie Horror Month 2013, Dread Central recently chatted with Feeney about the short film, which was also happened to be the up-and-coming filmmaker’s thesis project at Florida State University. Read on for more from Feeney about Killer Kart, and make sure to check back here all week as we celebrate independent horror films for Indie Horror Month.

Indie Horror Month 2013 Exclusive: James Feeney Talks Killer Kart and More

Dread Central: I love that this feels like Maximum Overdrive meets Rubber– what on earth inspired you to make a story about a killer shopping cart in the first place?

James Feeney: I had this idea a long time ago while working at a grocery store- long hours collecting shopping carts in a parking lot and your mind starts to wander. I would see a cart roll clear from one side of the lot to the other just to slam into the side of a parked car and I’d wonder, are they doing this on purpose? What reason do they have to be angry with us? I knew one day that I would have to make that movie and finally got the chance twelve years later.

Dread Central: You balance a lot of comedic elements in this story but there was a nice sense of tension to the story too; was that difficult to balance since if you go too far one way, you become a farce and if you go too far the other way, you run the risk of losing the humor that really sells this idea?

James Feeney: It was certainly something I needed to always be very aware of while writing the script, while shooting and certainly while casting. I initially approached the project wanting it to be dead serious in tone but, at some point I, fortunately, realized that the sight of a shopping cart killing people was going to generate laughs so I finally allowed the script some intentional humor. However, I still tried to avoid humor that was too broad or campy and, despite the comedic additions, I kept some sense of tension by allowing the characters to (for the most part) respond to the shopping cart in semi-realistic ways. What would you do if you saw a shopping cart murder a close friend right in front of you? Well, you’d probably scream hysterically and cry and possess no ability to believe that what you just saw could have actually happened. There’s a lot of that.

Dread Central: Talk about your casting process for Killer Kart and how your actors came on board.

James Feeney: Graduate thesis films made by my school tend to cast lead actors out of town, sometimes in nearby cities like Atlanta or New Orleans but more often in cities like New York or L.A. However, I really wanted Killer Kart to show what the Florida State University is capable of, including on-camera talent, and by writing roles for young people it gave me access to a substantial amount of gifted local actors.

I must have watched 60 pre-recorded auditions for Cass, all from Tallahassee locals, and I called 20 back to re-audition with me. Of those 20, the only one that struck a perfect balance between sweet and tough and who fully seemed to understand the importance of playing the film’s frightening scenes with 100 percent seriousness was Christine Rodriguez. She was a psychology major graduating that semester and how she managed to go that long without a lead role at my film school, I’ll never understand; I think she’s one of Killer Kart’s strongest assets. I cast the character of Ryan, the boyfriend, after I’d cast Christine so I could have them audition together and cast based on chemistry.

Indie Horror Month 2013 Exclusive: James Feeney Talks Killer Kart and More

When I saw Christine and Britt Gordon do the scene for the first time, I believed they were a couple and cast him on the spot. Plus, I’d seen Britt in other work and knew he could handle the more intense stuff. As for Bailey, I’d worked with Elly Schaefer on a thesis she was in the year prior and, after performing in some camera workshops for my film, she got the role because I knew she could handle the emotional extremes required of the part and also due to her exceptional scream.

Ray Bouchard as Hale was recommended to me by classmates based on great work he’d done in some recent supporting roles at FSU. I visited Ray on a classmate’s set, had one long conversation with him about the role, thought he was a great guy and cast him the next day. Christine, Elly and Britt were all FSU students and Ray was from Tampa so, in the end, we were able to keep it an entirely Florida cast.

Dread Central: Where did you shoot Killer Kart? Was it hard nailing down an entire store for the shoot at all?

James Feeney: We shot Killer Kart at New Leaf Market in Tallahassee, FL, which proved both to be the absolute best location in which to tell this story and the only grocery store in three counties to say yes to us. The production was, at times, far from easy, but I’m sure many of the problems we encountered are encountered by most indie short film sets. Time was always the big killer, and despite the best efforts of myself, the DP and Production Designer to plan as thoroughly for our daily responsibilities as possible, we fell behind schedule all six nights and in the last few hours of each shooting day I’d rework or combine scenes to get what we needed to get.

Indie Horror Month 2013 Exclusive: James Feeney Talks Killer Kart and More

As an example, there’s one single shot of Bailey near the end (you’ll know it when you see it) that took four hours to execute, so over one-third of a shooting day. We had budgeted two hours for it, thinking we were being generous. Meanwhile, to get us back on schedule the next night, the entire scene in the cooler was shot in just over two hours. Thankfully, the staff at New Leaf Market was always very excited about the project and gave us all the access we needed, and the structure of the store was so close to what I’d seen in my head while writing the script that blocking out the action proved surprisingly straightforward, which was crucial, as we weren’t able to secure a location until four days before production began.

In fact, the arrangement of the back dock of New Leaf prompted me to write the ending that was ultimately shot, which I’m grateful for, as I realize now that the original ending would never have been accomplishable in the time we had.

Dread Central: I love the cart POV shots in this- can you discuss how you managed to get those shots and was it as difficult as it seems?

James Feeney: We ordered a shopping cart that we dedicated entirely to camera rigs. The other two purchased carts belonged to design team and were typically dripping with fake blood. On the camera cart, we had a plate welded to the legs just above the rear wheels. When the camera was mounted to that plate, the lens lined up centered between the bottom of the main basket and the top of the bottom tray. Renting a particularly wide lens, a Zeiss 10mm Ultra Prime, proved the final touch that got us the shot.

Honestly, all this was 100 percent the efforts of my Director of Photography, Devin Dailey. I told him what we needed and he made it happen, and it’s a great feeling to be able to put so much trust in a person that I never even thought about it again until the night the rig was needed on set.

Indie Horror Month 2013 Exclusive: James Feeney Talks Killer Kart and More

Dread Central: You’ve enjoyed a lot of success on the festival circuit so far- what’s been the biggest surprise for you so far throughout this whole process?

James Feeney: I would say the biggest surprise for me with Killer Kart has been that the film has proven popular with audiences outside the horror movie scene, which is the only audience I ever thought I was making it for. I love horror movies and this was meant to be my love letter to the horror and action/thrillers I grew up with like Alien/Aliens, Jurassic Park and The Terminator.

However, I suppose because shopping carts are so commonplace and encountered so frequently, the film has proven relevant to just about anyone who’s ever been grocery shopping, and the lessons learned in the movie about shopping carts seem to stick with people the first time they visit a supermarket after seeing the film. I’ve had people approach me and tell me that the film has prompted them to always push their cart to the nearest cart corral after loading their vehicle when they hadn’t before. I hope someone working at a supermarket reads this and appreciates what I’ve done here.

Dread Central: What’s coming up next for you then?

James Feeney: I’ll be moving to Los Angeles in the near future which I’m very excited about. In the meantime, I’m finishing up two short film scripts and developing my first feature. I’m also exploring options to continue the Killer Kart story in other forms of media, such as a graphic novel.

Indie Horror Month 2013 Exclusive: James Feeney Talks Killer Kart and More

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Fearsome Facts – Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)

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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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Desolation Review – The Joy of Being Rescued and All the Surprises That Come With It

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Starring Raymond J. Barry, Brock Kelly, Dominik Garcia-Lorido

Directed by David Moscow


It’s those random, once-in-a-lifetime encounters that only a select few get the chance to experience: when we as regular participants in this wonderful thing known as The Rat Race, stumble across a soul that we’ve only witnessed on the big screen. I’m talking about a celebrity encounter, and while some of the masses will chalk the experience up as nothing more than a passing moment, others hold it to a much larger interior scale…then you REALLY get to know the person, and that’s when things get interesting.

Director David Moscow’s thriller, Desolation follows shy hotel employee Katie (Lorido) and her “fortuitous” brush with Hollywood pretty-boy Jay (Kelly) during one of his stops – the two hit it off, and together they begin a sort of whirlwind-romance that takes her away from her job and drops her in the heart of Los Angeles at the apartment building he resides in. You can clearly see that she has been a woman who’s suffered some emotional trauma in her past, and this golden boy just happens to gallop in on his steed and sweep her off of her feet, essentially rescuing her from a life of mundane activity. She gets the full-blown treatment: a revamped wardrobe, plenty of lovin’, and generally the life she’s wanted for some time.

Things return to a bit of normalcy when Jay has to return to work, leaving Katie to spread out at his place, but something clearly isn’t kosher with this joint. With its odd inhabitants (a very creepy priest played by Raymond J. Barry), even more bizarre occurrences, and when one scared young woman cannot even rely on the protection from the local police, it all adds up to a series of red flags that would have even the strongest of psyches crying for their mothers. What Moscow does with this movie is give it just enough swerves so that it keeps your skull churning, but doesn’t overdo its potential to conclusively surprise you, and that’s what makes the film an entertaining watch.

While Lorido more than holds her ground with her portrayal of a woman who has been hurt in the past, and is attempting to place her faith in a new relationship, it’s Barry that comes out on top here. His performance as Father Bill is the kind of stuff that wouldn’t exactly chill you to the bone, but he’s definitely not a man of the cloth that you’d want to be stuck behind closed doors with – generally unsettling. As I mentioned earlier, the plot twists are well-placed, and keep things fresh just when you think you’ve got your junior private investigator badge all shined up. Desolation is well-worth a look, and really has kicked off 2018 in a promising fashion – let’s see what the other 11 months will feed us beasts.

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Got your eye on that shining movie star or starlet? Better make sure it’s what you really want in life – you know what they say about curiosity.

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Carnivore: Werewolf of London Howls on VOD

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Joining the ranks of The Curse of the Werewolf, An American Werewolf in London, The Company of Wolves, and Dog Soldiers, Carnivore: Werewolf of London is the latest in a long series of fantastic British werewolf movies. Directed by Knights of the Damned’s Simon Wells, the film focuses on a couple trying to save their relationship by taking a vacation in a remote cottage, but rekindling their old flame soon proves to be the least of their worries as they learn that something with lots of fur and lots of teeth is waiting for them in the surrounding woods.

Carnivore: Werewolf of London stars Ben Loyd-Holmes, Atlanta Johnson, Gregory Cox, Molly Ruskin, and Ethan Ruskin, and is available to purchase now on Google Play, Amazon Video, iTunes, and Vudu, although it doesn’t appear to have received a physical release as of yet.

More information about Carnivore: Werewolf of London is available on the film’s official Facebook account, along with a ton of production photos.

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