On the verge of unleashing their new indie film Mortal Remains on the world, Christian Stavrakis and Mark Ricche, the men behind the Cryptic Pictures production company, sat down with Dread Central to talk about their flick and reveal a new trailer.
Co-written, co-directed and co-produced by Stavrakis and Ricche, Mortal Remains is having a sneak preview at Horror Realm in Pittsburgh, PA, on Saturday, March 16th, with the creators in attendance for a Q&A.
Check out our chat with the men and the film’s newest trailer below, and for more visit the official Cryptic Pictures website, “like” Mortal Remains on Facebook and follow Cryptic Pictures on Twitter (@CrypticPictures).
We spoke with Stavrakis and Ricche about their partnership, Mortal Remains and Cryptic Pictures. “Chris and I have been in the film business for quite some time,” Ricche said. “I run two other production companies, and I also teach film. I was also once a screenwriter by trade with one competitive award under my belt. Chris, on the other hand, has worked on numerous studio productions over the years and also has a background as a film historian, screenwriter and makeup effects specialist. So although our company is rather young, the body of work behind it has enabled us to settle into to this new business venture with relative ease. Chris and I met in high school when we were very green, budding filmmakers. It is that love of film that has held a bond between us for some 25 years now.”
“I like to think of us as Lucas and Coppola,” Stavrakis said. “He’s the frugal, analytical half of our symbiotic brain, and I’m the creative lunatic. If I say, ‘I need 25 people in monkey suits tomorrow!’ he’ll come back with, ‘Okay, I can get you three suits, but go ahead and find a dozen people and we’ll make it work.’ In the final cut you’ll never notice that there are three monkey suits in the foreground and nine people in brown pajamas running around behind them. And it does work. I don’t know how, but we work.”
Ricche and Stavrakis dished the info on Mortal Remains. “Mortal Remains is what I like to call a ‘shockumentary’,” Ricche said, with Stavrakis adding, “I prefer ‘docuthriller.” Ricche continued, “I don’t suspect that many of your readers will have ever heard the name ‘Karl Atticus’ before. He was a young horror filmmaker from the late 60s, early 70s, who died under mysterious circumstances and whose body of work remains elusive or has otherwise been lost. Those fans who do know about him consider his film Mortal Remains to be sort of the holy grail of horror films.”
Stavrakis added, “Ever hear of the urban legend about the film that was ‘screened only once and drove its audience mad?’ Well this, perhaps, is where it all began. Over the years there have been books and films based on the idea but nothing that pinpoints Atticus as being the origin story from which this has all evolved. So little reference material exists that his story is considered apocryphal now.” Ricche added, “In fact, there are those within the industry who attribute Atticus with being the godfather of the slasher film movement. He was putting out some of the most distasteful and graphic films the public had ever seen, and this was long before folks were throwing up in the aisles at viewings of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre or running to go to confession after seeing The Exorcist. He was clearly instrumental in the genre; yet, most filmgoers don’t even know he existed.”
Stavrakis explains Atticus’ tie-in with their movie. “Our film ventures the question, ‘Why has this man’s story been lost’? We kept digging deeper and deeper until we uncovered the real bones of this story. We were shocked at some of what we found.”
The filmmakers explained how they became aware of the whole Atticus affair. “Our introduction to Atticus came out of an interview with film director Eduardo Sanchez (The Blair Witch Project, Exists),” Ricche said. “We were working on a BWP 10th anniversary DVD retrospective when the topic came up. After we wrapped the shoot, we found ourselves talking with Ed more about Karl Atticus than about The Blair Witch Project. From that point on, we just had to know more about this guy and why we had never heard his name mentioned before.” Stavrakis added, “And the more we learned, the more compelling the story became. He seemed to be much more than just an amateur filmmaker. He had very strange sub-plots of his life unfolding just before he passed away. In fact, he was about to be formally arraigned when he apparently committed suicide. Shortly thereafter, his life was sort of loosely wrapped up and forgotten about. However, some people didn’t forget. Our film picks up this thread, these loose ends that have been ignored for some 40 years now.”
The story of Mortal Remains also deals much with an author named Vernon Blake, whom Ricche and Stavrakis spoke about. “Like Karl Atticus, Vernon Blake is a very mysterious figure with a shadowy and elusive past,” Stavrakis said. “The few people we contacted who really knew anything about him gave us what they had, which was very vague information. The guy wrote maybe a dozen books and several short stories which were mainly published overseas, typically under pseudonyms. Very graphic stuff, very explicit in terms of detail. It leaves you thinking, ‘Jesus, who was this guy? What inspired him to write stuff like this?’ In the end you just have to chalk it up to a vivid imagination, albeit one that wandered in bizarre directions.” Ricche also noted, “It’s almost as if the two of them (Blake/Atticus) planned it this way. Their art is rare and seemingly inaccessible, unless you literally dig for it. Perhaps that says as much about their art as it does about them. I am not sure either ever wanted to be found. But that is what has makes for an intriguing film, if nothing else.”
Ricche concluded, “Mortal Remains is actually a hybrid docufilm. It is part documentary and part found-footage film. Our primary intention was to expose a generation of horror fans to this little-known, influential figure whose life, works and mysterious death have pretty much been swept under the carpet. But getting anyone to talk about it, other than Ed, was extremely difficult. It took a lot of coaxing. So rather than focus on a bunch of talking heads, the film focuses more on us and the mysterious journey we take as we attempt to uncover the various mysteries surrounding Atticus’ life. The more we uncovered, the more questions seemed to be raised. We kept asking ourselves, ‘Why has no one else ever ventured into learning more about this figure? Is this some sort of cover up?'”
Mortal Remains is a docu-thriller that sets out to unveil the details surrounding the life, career and mysterious death of horror filmmaker Karl Atticus, referred to by some as the godfather of the slasher film movement. The film is comprised of interviews with various horror aficionados, including Eduardo Sanchez (director of The Blair Witch Project), who in a 2008 interview revealed what many have been questioning for over 40 years: that the short-lived career, sudden death and eventual legacy of Karl Atticus have been all but removed from the annals of horror film history. Why?
This film sets out to reveal much about a man who inspired a generation of horror filmmakers but who has yet to receive due credit for his contributions to the genre. Revealing interviews with crew members who worked alongside Atticus detail the mysterious circumstances under which his last film, Mortal Remains, was created; missing cast members, intimations of occult activity and allegations of special effects “too convincing” for their time are only a few of the macabre details revealed in this 90-minute shock-umentary. Was Atticus a genuine auteur who challenged the industry… and was silenced for being ahead of his time? Or were his films simply pretext, elaborate showpieces designed to glorify work of a far more sinister nature?
Filmed on location in Maryland and Pennsylvania, the film hopes to establish and confirm the legacy of a man whose final film (now mysteriously lost to the horror canon) is considered by many to be the holy grail of horror films. Does a print of Atticus’ Mortal Remains still exist? Why were the inconsistencies surrounding his apparent suicide left unanswered by authorities? And why has the life and work of one of the horror genre’s most influential directors been reduced to the status of myth. Perhaps some secrets should stay buried…
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