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Indie Horror Month Exclusive: Erik Gardner Talks Blue Hole and More

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Indie Horror Month Exclusive: Erik Gardner Talks Blue Hole and MoreFor the last interview in our short film series for Indie Horror Month 2013, Dread Central chatted with writer/director Erik Gardner about his latest project Blue Hole, which has found much success on the festival circuit since its premiere at the 2012 Shriekfest Film Festival last October.

Based on a true New Jersey urban legend, Blue Hole follows Michael (Drew Wick) and his intended fiancée Amy (Caitlin Rose Williams) who travel deep within the Pine Barrens of New Jersey to a vacation cabin where he plans to propose to her. Upon arriving they’re attacked by a madman who claims an eerie pond near the cabin called “Blue Hole” can bring back the dead and soon, reality mixes with illusion as the lovers are left to try to figure out if Blue Hole is real or if the madman controlling their fates is truly insane.

Blue Hole also stars Jesse Kristofferson, Aubrey Mozino, Scott Speiser and Jennifer Ruth Jones and was produced by Gardner, Warner Davis, Brian Hillard, Rachel Kooyman, Chris Mills III and Diane Woodhouse. Check out the highlights from our interview with Gardner below!

Indie Horror Month Exclusive: Erik Gardner Talks Blue Hole and More

Dread Central: Start off by introducing yourselves a bit to our readers- how did you get into filmmaking and more specifically, what go you into the horror genre?

Erik Gardner: Well, I’m originally from New Jersey and I moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in making horror movies. Why horror movies? When I was about six years old, my grandmother took me to a double feature — King Kong and William Castle’s Bug which scared the shit out of me. I swear, I had nightmares for months. It was about radioactive cockroaches that would crawl on people’s faces and light them on fire. Probably not something you should take a six-year-old two (laughs)- thanks, Grandma.

And my stepfather was a huge horror buff; when I was in my teens, we’d scour video store shelves for new horror to watch on weekends. He was the kind of guy who would watch a zombie movie, then chase my mother around the house saying, “Braaaiiins!” When he was done, my New Yorker mother would catch her breath and call him a stupid ass.

So I went to film school in Philadelphia; the moment I picked up an old wind-up Bell & Howell camera, it solidified the fact I wanted to be a filmmaker. Actually, I started out wanting to be cinematographer. At the time, Bill Pope was Sam Raimi’s cinematographer and I tracked down Bill through Renaissance Pictures and interview him about the movies he shot with Sam. You know, I wanted to know how they did all those kinetic camera moves. It was awesome.

Once I moved to Los Angeles, I repeatedly sent my resume to Renaissance until I landed a gig on a Sam Raimi television show called American Gothic. The show was created by Shaun Cassidy; the best show I’ve ever worked on. I bounced around on Shaun Cassidy shows at Universal Studios for years and learned a lot about production, development and screenwriting. From there, I moved to MGM and worked there for very long time and while doing this I moonlighted as a horror filmmaker. Then I left MGM for a short time to make a little independent horror movie that Lionsgate distributed called The Mangler Reborn.

Indie Horror Month Exclusive: Erik Gardner Talks Blue Hole and More

Dread Central: Where did the story idea for Blue Hole originate from? I’m very familiar with the Pine Barrens and the Jersey Devil but this seems to be a somewhat different spin on that lore.

Erik Gardner: Most of the horror stories I write start with a true story. I collect stories from newspapers, weird websites, etc. with the hopes that I find stuff that intrigues me. BLUE HOLE was one of those. It caught my eye because, of course, I’m from New Jersey and grew up around those locations. After letting the story gestate in my mind for a while, I came up with a cool spin and wrote the short.

Dread Central: Did you guys go and shoot in the Pine Barrens then?

Erik Gardner: Blue Hole was shot about two and half hours north of Los Angeles in a mountain town called Pine Mountain Club. It’s an amazing community of log cabins nestled within a Pine Forest. It took a while to find a good location, but I think we accomplished it.

When we first scouted the location there was snow. I was very excited. My mind thought- “Great! Blood and snow, that’s a perfect color combination.” But when we returned to shoot, it was 24 degrees out and unfortunately, all the snow had melted. It was a bummer, but you adapt. It’s really what independent filmmaking is all about. Use whatever you have and make it work; in doing so, happy accidents can and usually do happen.

Indie Horror Month Exclusive: Erik Gardner Talks Blue Hole and More

Dread Central: Tell us more about your cast for Blue Hole.

Erik Gardner: You know, I’ve always tried to surround myself with people that I respect and love. You know, use friends and pseudo-family to make movies. And Scott Speiser who’s one of the leads in Blue Hole was my film The Mangler Reborn and we have a great relationship; he’s versatile and I knew I wanted to use him in Blue Hole. At the time, he was performing in Blue Man Group out of New York.

Drew Wicks and I worked together at MGM. He’s an incredibly talented actor who has been in a ton of commercials and television. I wanted somebody with a comedic edge and Drew was the perfect fit. Plus, Scott got to hit them with an axe- I knew I had to see that happen.

I had never met Caitlin Rose Williams or Aubrey Mozino before. After our casting session, I was nervous because I hadn’t landed my leading ladies so, I let a few email video reads and that’s how I landed Caitlin and Aubrey. Aubrey had literally just moved to California from Philadelphia and we were making a movie about the New Jersey Pine Barrens, which is somewhat close to Philly so it was kind of like kismet, right? Aubrey had never been in a horror movie, never experienced makeup prosthetics either but she has now.

And Caitlin’s video audition was awesome. She actually sent her video read in before we even had a casting session. It was obvious she was the perfect blend of attractive and tough which is exactly what the lead character needed to be. But at the end of the day, this cast was the best I have ever worked with.

Dread Central: After seeing the teaser, it’s very evident that atmosphere is everything in Blue Hole; how difficult is it developing that kind of atmosphere in short-form storytelling?

Erik Gardner: I wanted to tell a cohesive story in around 10 minutes and stay true to a mythology and hook but tone and atmosphere is everything to me. I’m not a fan of fast action and cuts in horror movies; I like to build that impending doom and create a sense of dread. As far as scares are concerned, I think of horror as comedy where there’s a set up and payoff; when you mix these elements together with great visual style, and an unnerving score/sound design, and hopefully, you’ve got yourself a creepy film.

Indie Horror Month Exclusive: Erik Gardner Talks Blue Hole and More

Dread Central: You’ve had a lot of success on the festival circuit with Blue Hole– what’s been your favorite memory so far?

Erik Gardner: Strangely enough, I’ve never festival-ed any of my films before this. The festival circuit was a completely new experience for me so it was great meeting many incredibly talented filmmakers.

After having just screened Blue Hole at Shriekfest, an older man behind me starts talking to me about the shorts. He says to me, “Which one was yours?” I answer, and ask if he liked it. He starts going on and on about how cool Blue Hole was and then says bluntly, “It should be a feature.” So, I started writing one and now I’m writing that feature and dream of finding the right financiers to make it. It’s a bit bigger than the short version, but definitely sticks with the mythology and tone.

Dread Central: Are you working on anything else right now then?

Erik Gardner: I’ve written a new web series pilot called I Am an Exorcist; it’s based on another true story about an exorcist who actually killed a young girl and went to prison but of course I’ve taken some artistic liberties. There are some crazy twists and it’s definitely not your typical exorcism story by far. I’m using the same cast/crew. My producing partner Michael Alberts (he edited Blue Hole) and I have a budget in place and we’re shooting in a few months. Baked FX (Game of Thrones) will be doing our VFX and it’ll be my first foray into the VFX world. We’re going to shoot the pilot but also cut a short film version with a closed alt-ending that we can take on the festival circuit.

Indie Horror Month Exclusive: Erik Gardner Talks Blue Hole and More

Indie Horror Month Exclusive: Erik Gardner Talks Blue Hole 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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