Indie Horror Month Exclusive: Dread Central Talks Room 237 with Director Rodney Ascher and Producer Tim Kirk - Dread Central
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Indie Horror Month Exclusive: Dread Central Talks Room 237 with Director Rodney Ascher and Producer Tim Kirk

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Indie Horror Month Exclusive: Dread Central Talks Room 237 with Director Rodney Ascher and Producer Tim KirkEven though it has been over three decades since Stanley Kubrick released The Shining, that doesn’t mean that the passing of time has slowed down his fans who still dissect and theorize about the film.

A truly avant-garde deconstruction of one of the greatest horror movies of all time, Rodney Ascher’s Room 237 sits down with five Shining scholars who all have wildly different theories involving World War II, Native Americans, genocide, the faked moon landing, and numerology and explores them through interviews, re-enactments and more.

Dread Central recently chatted with Ascher and Room 237 producer Tim Kirk about their own fascination with Kubrick’s iconic adaptation of the Stephen King novel as well as their thoughts on why the film continues to capture our imaginations all this time later. We also spoke to them about their approach to the documentary and much more on The Shining as well.

Check out the highlights of our exclusive interview with Ascher and Kirk below, and look for Room 237 in limited theaters this weekend.

Dread Central: Even though it’s been about 33 years since The Shining was released, it’s still a movie that people love to talk about, which is rare for a horror movie.  Surely a lot of that has to be Kubrick but in your eyes, what do you think it is that people are still looking for in The Shining?

Rodney Ascher: You know, I’m not sure. I know it’s a movie that sent me running from the theater at a very early age so that was the beginning of my own personal fascination with it. But I do think a big part of it is that The Shining represents this intricate puzzle that in some ways represents the greatest filmmaker of all time but it’s missing a few key pieces, thus making it almost impossible to solve it. 

Even at the very simplest level of story, there are huge gaps in what we see and what actually goes on in The Shining; we never even find out what happens to Danny in Room 237- it’s never explained, let alone shown.  Kubrick even went as far as to present us with that mysterious black and white photo at the end of The Shining that was probably meant to answer some of the questions, but it ends up posing even more questions about what’s happening in the film.

So I think people are attracted to watch it and then re-watch it again and again to try to solve those puzzles but end up finding new ones as they continue to dig deeper. Not a lot of movies in the last few decades have been able to do what The Shining did in 1980 so I think that’s a huge reason why the film still continues to be examined by film fans to this very day. Inception is an example of a great modern movie that really makes you dig for those answers but that’s really the only one I can think of.

Dread Central: So what inspired you guys to take this fascination and turn that into a documentary?

Tim Kirk: Well, I was just stumbling through the internet one night doing my usual obsessive thing and looking for anything that happens to say The Shining on it; that’s when I found this compelling essay that Jay Weidner had written about his take on the film. I sent that to Rodney immediately and the very next thing you know, we began looking for more theories on The Shining and just unearthed so many fascinating theories online. We were astonished as to just how many different theories were out there really and many of them incredibly in-depth analyses that were so thoughtful and thorough.

Rodney Ascher: Because both Tim and I often spent time theorizing about The Shining ourselves, we had an idea that people had probably seen all kinds of interesting symbols and number play and word play in The Shining that we never even considered but this was the beginning of a whole new direction for us; we set out to see what else was there and surprisingly enough, most of what we found was very recent which proved that The Shining is just endlessly fascinating filmmaking.

So we set out to do something that wasn’t just a thousand soundbites of people talking about this and that; that approach didn’t interest us. We wanted to really hone in on just a few of the theories and let that theorist take their time in laying the groundwork and then expand on it exclusively. That’s what really interested me as a filmmaker and as a fan of The Shining. 

Tim Kirk: I think there was a probably a point in the research process of Room 237 where we were going to do a more comprehensive approach and try and include almost every theory that is out there, but it became clear early on that it was just insane to even consider doing it that way. We’d have a 20-hour movie on our hands. I still have the original spreadsheet we made that mapped out all the topics and how they overlapped with each other; once that started to get out of hand, I knew we couldn’t do it that way so we just let them talk. 

Dread Central: I thought the visual storytelling devices you used in Room 237 were really interesting and made for a nice companion to the interviews since you decided to not go with the ‘talking heads’ approach here. What was behind your decision to make Room 237 this very atypical documentary then?

Rodney Ascher: This was a style that I started using on a short film that I had done a couple of years earlier which I thought worked in some interesting and unexpected ways.  I really liked how I could play around with it and sometimes use the footage literally or sometimes subjectively where it really opened up the doors to new ideas completely.

I also think stylistically that sometimes when you see the talking head shot it can take you out of the story of the documentary; you get immersed with all these images or montages and then when you cut back to the interviewee, it’s almost like snapping you back into reality. I didn’t want Room 237 to feel like that at all; I just wanted this to stay immersed in that dreamlike world of ideas and pictures and let the movie feel like conversations taking place in outer space and or during wartime or in the middle of a movie theater and not somebody’s office or anything like that.

Because this is a movie more about ideas than individuals, I think there’s something really cool with how we keep things feeling like you’re adrift in this culture of the movies too; that’s a huge reason why we didn’t just use clips from Kubrick’s movie to tell this story; using different clips really allowed us to open up viewers to seeing things from very different perspectives but keeping it fun to watch too.

Dread Central: Yeah, I enjoyed seeing some other fun movies pop up in this too like Demons and An American Werewolf in London– was it tough to get those rights in addition to all the Kubrick films?

Tim Kirk: Demons 2 is in there too! Yeah, getting all the rights took quite awhile but we had a crack clearance team that went through a really long process to get everything nailed down for us there. We decided very early on that we weren’t going to go looking for the cooperation of the Kubrick estate for Room 237 just because it wasn’t necessary to the story we were telling. We had no interest in speaking with anyone who was actually involved in the making of the film because that wasn’t what our story was about. It was exploring what the film became after it was released, not what was happening while they were making it.

Synopsis
After the box office failure of Barry Lyndon, Stanley Kubrick decided to embark on a project that might have more commercial appeal. The Shining, Stephen King’s biggest critical and commercial success yet, seemed like a perfect vehicle. After an arduous production, Kubrick’s film received a wide release in the summer of 1980; the reviews were mixed, but the box office, after a slow start, eventually picked up. End of story? Hardly. In the 30 years since the film’s release, a considerable cult of Shining devotees has emerged, fans who claim to have decoded the film’s secret messages addressing everything from the genocide of Native Americans to a range of government conspiracies. Rodney Ascher’s wry and provocative Room 237 fuses fact and fiction through interviews with cultists and scholars, creating a kaleidoscopic deconstruction of Kubrick’s still controversial classic.

Room 237

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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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Summary

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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