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Indie Horror Month Exclusive: Michael Ling Discusses Upcoming Short Film Edward Lee’s The Bighead

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Dread Central recently hosted the online premiere of the brand new trailer for writer/director Michael Ling’s upcoming short film Edward Lee’s The Bighead, and with its LA premiere just a few weeks away, we thought now would be a great time to chat with Lee.

Based on Edward Lee’s seminal and wildly controversial 2003 novel Edward Lee’s The Bighead, this harrowing tale is set in the West Virginian backwoods where vicious monsters, both human and supernatural, go on a terrifying rampage in search of a special young woman. Their path of destruction uncovers long held secrets and puts the fate of the entire world in jeopardy.

The short film stars Raquel Cantu as the untamable sexpot Jerrica, Carrie Malabre as the shy Charity, Orson Chaplin as the demented psychopath Tritt “Balls” Connor, and Lance Trezona as Tritt’s dim-witted accomplice Dicky. Award-winning director of photography Fady Hadid shot the film, and Geoff Skinner and Donald Wygal, Jr., produced.

Check out the highlights from our exclusive interview with Ling below!

Dread Central: So talk a bit about what got you into filmmaking and how you started in the industry.

Michael Ling: Well, like most folks my age, I got sucked into movies when my parents took us to see Star Wars. That just blew my mind as I had no idea there were movies like that out there. The next big step was my parents (or rather Santa if you can believe it) giving me The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film when I was around twelve. Now I had a giant book of cool movies to seek out which timed nicely with the video store boom. My friend Dennis and I would watch three or four movies a night, numerous times a week, and the video stores in our small Michigan town knew us by name and could barely keep up with our renting habits.

This lead to the two of us moving to LA for film school, which eventually lead to getting jobs as a PA and then advancing into different jobs on various movies.  In my spare time I always wrote scripts, and with the recent boom of sites like Kickstarter, after wrapping a long gig on John Carter, I decided enough was enough and now was the time to make our own movie.

Dread Central: What was it about Edward Lee’s story that you felt was ripe for a cinematic adaptation?

Michael Ling: The Bighead was the second of my forays into ‘extreme horror’ (Jack Ketchum’s Off Season was the first) and it blew me away with its originality. I didn’t even know you could do that kind of stuff in books. Besides the crazy gore and sex, though, Lee had great characters that made for quite a page-turner.  I thought that level of nutso scenes and likable, well thought-out characters would make for a great movie and a movie that people hadn’t seen before too.

Dread Central: So where did you guys shoot then and how long did production go for?

Michael Ling: We shot a couple days in Agua Dulce for all the exterior scenes. They have an amazing space with everything from a pond to woods to jungle-like settings out there. The bar scene was done at the Hideaway Bar in Sylmar. Both places were very generous to us and worked with our low budget. We shot for four days in total and managed to squeeze everything (big thanks to our co-producer Greg Guzik for keeping us on a tight schedule).

Dread Central: Any surprises along the way?

Michael Ling: I’d say the biggest ‘surprise’ we had was having to change out one of our leading ladies on the fly. We had a slight ‘name’ cast as Jerrica, and the day of the shoot she didn’t show. We later found out she was sick, but for a few hours we were on location with a limited time at the bar and more than a little stressed. Luckily for us Raquel Cantu, our script supervisor, was really an actress just doing this as a favor to a friend. We managed to talk her into taking on the role and she nailed it. It turns out we were much better off with her playing Jerrica and sorry we never cast her in the first place; I will never be able to thank her enough.

Dread Central: I noticed this is a very monster-heavy story- can you talk about the special effects process and what went into the design work? Did Lee’s story inspire all the designs or did you get to give some input as well?

Michael Ling: Our Bighead was brought to life thanks to Mark Villalobos at Monster Effects. We had a start of what he needed to look like based on the book, of course, but that was always a bit vague so we could really let Mark do his thing. I got to visit his studio and go over designs with him, which was amazing as I’ve always loved make up and effects. As a kid that grew up reading Famous Monsters and Fangoria, this was a dream come true.  Mark really kicked ass for us though and made a creature that stands (deformed) head to head – and mutated body – with the best of them.

Dread Central: Tell us more about your cast and what they brought to the table for their respective characters.

Michael Ling: Just like our amazing crew, our cast was outstanding too. I was worried that being a low budget flick meant that we would have to ‘settle’ for whoever auditioned that didn’t suck too badly but that was so not the case. Since we were going to be doing this on the quick, we wanted good actors but also people that we wanted to hang around with that wouldn’t have egos.

Orson Chaplin really nails the twisted psychopath, Balls, and I think people will be talking about him after they see the movie (and probably be scared to talk to him as well).  Casting Charity was tricky as we wanted someone that could pull off the shy and mousy bits of the character but not get lost on screen; Carrie Malabre was perfect for that and we were lucky to get her.

I’ve already mentioned how great Raquel was in bringing Jerrica to life, but really everyone just brought their ‘A’ game to set as we didn’t have time to do numerous takes on every scene. 

Dread Central: I noticed this is something that you’re also hoping to adapt into a feature; was it hard determining what aspects of the story to show for the short and which ones you’d have to keep for the feature?

Michael Ling: Producer Geoff Skinner has been working with me for a few years in trying to shop this around Hollywood and helped me choose the best bits for the short.  I would have LOVED to have Jesus (via Tom’s visions) in there and cannot wait to cast him for the feature version.

It was tricky trying to introduce all the key characters and still tell a fairly brief stand-alone story, that’s for sure. I liken this to a TV pilot where it can stand by itself as a short film but there is also a hint of much bigger story that we could tell.  Hopefully people are going to want to see more of what is happening in Luntville with all these great characters.

So first and foremost we are actively seeking funding to get the feature made. We have the script and a budget ready; now we just need the money.  There has been some interest from financial backers already, which is very encouraging. I hope once people see the short they will be impressed with the quality and enticed by the earning potential to give us a shot with a low budget; of course, if someone wants to fork over Avatar-type cash for us, we would be okay with that too (laughs).

So for the immediate future, I am just focusing on The Bighead and getting the feature version prepped (and made). Down the road I have a couple of other scripts we have been shopping around, and Large Melon is eager to adapt a few more of Edward Lee’s books too.

Edward Lee’s The Bighead will premiere in Los Angeles on Saturday, March 30, 2013, at 7:00 PM at the Acme Theater in Hollywood (135 N. La Brea Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90036). Check out the trailer below, and keep your eyes peeled on the short film’s Facebook page for news on upcoming screenings and more!

Indie Horror Month Exclusive: Michael Ling Discusses Upcoming Short Film Edward Lee's The Bighead and More

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Jason Lives Director Pitched Follow-Up: Jason Vs Cheech and Chong

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One of my favorite entries in the Friday the 13th series is director ‘s Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. The mixture of old-school gothic horror and comedy is always a welcome treat around these parts.

But why wasn’t McLoughlin asked to write and direct the follow-up?

Actually, it turns out he was asked to follow up Jason Lives, McLoughlin recently told Mick Garris on the Post Mortem podcast.

But his pitch – Jason vs Cheech and Chong – didn’t go over so well…

“[Frank Mancuso Jr.] wanted me to do another film after we did Jason,” McLoughlin says. “And I said, ‘What are you thinking? I don’t know what it could be now.’ And he said, ‘Well, what do you think about Freddy (Krueger) and Jason?’ And I go, ‘But Freddy’s at New Line and the guys at Paramount have [Jason].’ And it’s like, ‘Well, we’re going to try and see if we can work something out.’ So, I started thinking about that, going, It doesn’t make sense. I mean he lives in one realm and — you know, I take this stuff very seriously, what realm a monster’s supposed to stay in. And he came back, he goes, ‘Eh, forget it, it’s not going to work anyway.’ And I said, ‘You know what? You guys own Cheech and Chong. What if we do Cheech and Chong-meets-Jason? They’re like camp counselors or something. It’s like, ‘Hey, man, I saw Jason out there.’ ‘No, man, that’s a myth.’ But he said, ‘You know what? No.’”

Too bad. While I don’t know how well a Cheech and Chong/Friday the 13th flick would go, with McLoughlin at the helm, the film would have at least been funny as hell.

Plus we already got these two knuckleheads in Part III.

Are you upset we never got Tom McLoughlin’s Jason vs Cheech and Chong? Make sure to let us know in the comments below or on social media!

You can buy Friday the 13th: Part VI – Jason Lives on Blu-ray HERE.

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Blade Runner 2049’s Lackluster Box-Office Still a Mystery to Director Denis Villeneuve

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This past summer we were hit by director Denis Villeneuve’s stunning sequel to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. While a hit with the critics and the audience that saw it, the film didn’t pull in quite the money the studio hoped for. Especially considering its budget.

With a budget of $150 million Blade Runner 2049 only managed to gather $89 million at the domestic box-office and $163 million worldwide.

Why didn’t the film make more cash? Well, director Denis Villeneuve has a few theories that he recently shared with Cinema Blend.

“I’m still digesting it,” he told the site. “I think because maybe people were not familiar enough with the universe. And the fact that the movie’s long [2 hours, 44 minutes run time]. I don’t know. It’s still a mystery to me. I make movies — I don’t sell them.”

Why do you think Blade Runner 2049 didn’t pull in more cash at the domestic box-office? Let us know in the comments below!

Blade Runner 2049 is directed by Denis Villeneuve from a script by Hampton Fancher (who wrote the original) and Michael Green. The script is based off a story by Hampton Fancher, which is in turn based on the original film’s source material “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” by Phillip K. Dick.

The film stars Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas, Dave Bautista, Jared Leto, Robin Wright, Mackenzie Davis, Edward James Olmos, David Dastmalchian, Lennie James, Barkhad Abdi, Sylvia Hoeks, Hiam Abbass, Carla Juri, David Benson, Ellie Wright, and Kingston Taylor.

Synopsis:

Thirty years after the events of the first film, a new blade runner, LAPD Officer K (Ryan Gosling), unearths a long-buried secret that has the potential to plunge what’s left of society into chaos. K’s discovery leads him on a quest to find Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), a former LAPD blade runner who has been missing for 30 years.

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12 Spooky Video Game Farms To Celebrate Your Thanksgiving

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Happy pre-Christmas, everybody! It’s once again that magical time of the year, where all the department stores get out their light up Santas and tinsel to celebrate the birth of capitalism. The Spooky Month is gone, all praise be to the glorious Coca-Cola Company. Oh, and there’s also something about turkeys and stuffing your face with enough pie to temporarily shut down your brain’s ability to recognize your in-laws as the enemy.

Now if you’re like me and your family is an impossible five whole hours away from you, you might be spending Thanksgiving alone. No shame in that, just a single adult man alone in his room on a day meant for loved ones. But that doesn’t mean that we very-much-not-lonely-and-totally-content-with-our-life-choices individuals can’t have some fun! So this year, I’ll be celebrating Thanksgiving by remembering the American heartland that made this all possible. The noble farmer, tilling the soil from dusk till dawn until automation made his job mostly just pushing buttons. So join me if you will, with my list of 12 Spooky Video Game Farms to Celebrate Your Thanksgiving!

12) All is Dust

O HAI!

All is Dust is pretty much the reason that this is a list of “Spooky Video Game Farms,” and not “Top Spooky Video Game Farms.” This is a game that I once used to kick off a series of negative reviews I called “Bottom of the Bargain Bin,” you can go ahead and read my rambling review if you are so inclined. For the rest of you, I’ll recap by saying that All is Dust is bad. None of that wishy-washy some redeeming nuggets that you can see through the rest of the turd. It’s just plain bad. But what it does have going for it is that, A) it is 100% free, B) it 100% takes place on a farm, and C) it’s so bad that it sticks in my brain as being entertaining. Play if you’re very bored or truly deranged.

11) Farm for your Life

Although not really living up to the “Spooky” part of the “Spooky Video Game Farms” list, I’d be remiss to leave it out. Taking place after the zombie apocalypse, you must do your best to raise livestock and run your restaurant by day, and defend it from waves of zombies by night. It’s part tower defence, part Harvest Moon, part Cooking Mama, part Diner Dash, and part Minecraft. For only $10, it’s definitely worth checking out just for the unique premise and adorable zombies.

10) Monster Rancher

Whereas Pokémon was about a small child going forth into nature to enslave its creatures and force them to fight in the ultimate bloodsport, Monster Rancher was about setting up the ideal monster sex palace. Okay, you still make them fight. This is a monster raising (or, if you will, monster ranching) simulator after all, it would be pretty bleak of the ultimate goal was to just chop them up and sell off the best bits. It never did as well as Pokémon, but I always found something charming about Monster Rancher’s take on raising your monsters. Rather than just fighting to get bigger and stronger, you could raise their individual stats by making them do chores like tidying up or running laps. I got much more of a sense of attachment to my individual monsters when I felt like I was their dad, making them mow the lawn for their own good. Then, later as their pimp, I forced them to mate and produce supermonsters.

9) Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddler’s Green

Somewhere out there some, search optimization program must be whirring its little algorithms in confusion as this is the first time anyone has mentioned Land of the Dead: Road to Fiddler’s Green in a decade. A tie-in to the equally unloved Land of the Dead, it actually serves as a direct prequel. You play as Jack, a farmer who on the night of the zombie outbreak finds his farm besieged by… well you know the drill. Road to Fiddler’s Green gets bonus points for not only partially taking place on a farm, but for starring an authentic American heartland stereotype farmer. Now let me be clear, this game is pretty bad. But it’s even more so that endearingly simple kind of bad, where the zombies are so easily avoided it’s like the scene from Dawn of the Dead where the bikers are basically just having an orgy around them. I have no idea where you’d get your hands on it, but give it a play if you want some good ol’ fashioned bad game.

8) Dead Secret

Dead Secret

This monkey could not possibly get any eviler.

This is the part where if this were a “Top” list, it would begin in earnest. Like a Jigsaw victim tasked with beating Five Nights at Freddy’s, this is a game that surprised me. I’m not really keen on the whole fixed point VR thing, as it tends to only lend itself to jump scares, but Dead Secret won me over with some thrilling chases and overall creepy atmosphere. The bizarre plot contains oni-masked demon spirit guides, magic slugs, dream machines, and the phases of the moon. It’s definitely something worth checking out, and is available on all major VR headsets. Even without one, I found the game enjoyable.

7) Minecraft

Hisssssssss…..

First of all, if you don’t find Minecraft scary, fuck you. You’ve obviously never played it. I do not care how blocky the graphics or adorable the sheep are. You try to listening to the zombies moaning softly in the distance as you huddle in your makeshift hovel and pray the night to be over. How about you place the last block on your new swimming pool, only to hear the telltale hiss of a creeper just behind you. Then you can come back and tell me that Minecraft isn’t horror. And don’t tell me it’s not a farm, either. All you do in Minecraft IS farm. It’s a game about building things to eventually grow more things so you no longer have to go out of your way to collect things. That is the literal transition from hunter/gatherer to farming.

6) Slender: The Arrival

Now that it’s been 4 years since its official release and the hype/controversy has died down, I’m free to say nice things about Slender: The Arrival without sounding like a pandering YouTube twat. In retrospect, the part of Slender that I really didn’t like (other than the community) was the first randomly generated section. The whole 11 or so interchangeable environments with 8 pages scattered between them just felt unnatural, a cheap way to lengthen gameplay at the cost of a cohesive world. However, I found the game to be pretty good when it got to the more linear scripted areas. One such level was titled “Homestead,” and takes place on a spooky farm complete with grain silo and quaint little hilltop church. It’s a pretty solid little piece of horror, and definitely worth watching someone overreact to on YouTube.

5) Resident Evil 4

Resident Evil 4

The game very quickly demands that you stop sucking.

Resident Evil 4 is not a game wanting for memorable locations. It’s got a spooky castle, a spooky military base, a spooky mine, a spooky… ancient ruins? I mean hell, this is a game with an underground lava fortress and a minecart ride! That being said, I don’t know a single person who doesn’t immediately associate Resident Evil 4 with the first pitched siege battle in the farming village. Many of the game’s most memorable moments come from these first few chapters in the decaying rural town, including the enduring introduction of Mr. Chainsaw-McSackface. That alone deserves a spot on this list.

4) Dying Light: The Following

When I gave Dying Light: The Following a five-star tongue bath awhile back, much of that was due to my own personal disappointment with DLC releases. You really have to give props to a DLC pack that is at the same time affordable, lengthy, and adds something genuinely new to the title. For The Following’s case, that came in the form of lengthy rural sections you had to get across in your sick customizable buggy. It was unique compared to the previously cramped and vertical spaces of the main campaign, adding even more freedom to a game about freerunning.

3) The Walking Dead

To be clear, I’m talking about this farm

Back in the day, Telltale Games was that cute little indie company putting out new Sam and Max games and the CSI tie-ins. That all changed in 2012 when The Walking Dead put them on the map. Before then, no one expected that a game you could play on your iPhone would make you cry. Of all the heartbreaking and shocking moments, perhaps the most is the dinner at the St. Johns’ farm. Clementine will remember that…and so will I.

2) Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard

Welcome to the family.

The last two additions on this list basically write themselves. I’m choosing to give Resident Evil 7: Biohazard the second slot because it’s just way less recognizable as once having been a plantation. As someone who doesn’t find country bumpkins scary, the crazed hillbilly trope of films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre or House of 1000 Corpses never really got to me. The Baker family? These people scare me.

1) Outlast 2

Outlast 2

Of course the top spot on this list goes to Outlast 2. If you Google “horror games on farms,” it’s the first result. And there’s good reason for that. Outlast 2 takes everything unsettling about rural Americana and cranks it up to 11. You’ve got slaughterhouses filled with people, rotting cattle, a syphilitic cult leader, pits filled with dead babies… the list goes on and on. It’s genuinely terrifying. I’m not even someone who likes the weaponless approach to horror, but with Outlast 2 it’s as much about the setting as it is the jump scares. Definitely check it out.

Well, there you have it horror fans. A nice sampling of 12 Spooky Video Game Farms to Celebrate Your Thanksgiving. I tried to include a little bit of everything for everyone here, but let me know if I missed your favorite heartland horror! Happy pre-Christmas to all, and to all a good… fright?

…I’ll see myself out.

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