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Guest Blog: Spencer Parsons on Saturday Morning Mystery; Exclusive New Stills!

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Guest Blog: Spencer Parsons on Saturday Morning Mystery; Exclusive New Stills!Along with some exclusive and really bloody new stills, we have a special guest blog on tap for you guys from director Spencer Parsons about his new film, Saturday Morning Mystery; old cartoons; and much, much more! Dig it!


Truth be known, I’m more of a Buford Files guy than a Scooby-Doo guy, probably because that one ripped off Smokey and the Bandit, and every episode took place in a swamp, with way more opportunity for moss monsters. But man alive, ‘70s TV barfed up a ton of these Scooby wanna bes about ghost-chasers-with-dogs. And all of them got repeated endlessly through the ‘80s in syndication, even the ones that didn’t last a whole season. Shows like Clue Club, Butch Cassidy and Goober and the Ghost Chasers, plus less dog-centric mystery team cartoons like Fangface, Speed Buggy, or The New Shmoo. There were more, and I could go on, because I watched them all.

But we all must put away childish things, right? So when Jason Wehling (producer/co-writer) and Jonny Mars (producer/”Floyd”) first pitched me the idea of a horror comedy about a team of van-driving ghost chasers and their dog, I thought it was a terrible idea. Of course at that point in the evening, I hadn’t had nearly enough to drink.

Saturday Morning Mystery
“Paul Gordon: The Buford Files’ Deputy Goofer McGee never looked like this. (Paul Gordon, photo credit Spencer Parsons).”

I told them I wanted more horror, less comedy. I told them I didn’t want to do a parody of a Saturday morning cartoon. I wanted to do The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). Repeatedly. But at some point they reminded me that Texas Chainsaw was about five kids in a van who investigate a spooky plot of problem real estate, and by then I seriously had my beer goggles on, so this made a lot of sense. A few drinks later, a shooting schedule of ten days sounded like an exciting challenge, and “life imitates Hannah Barbera” struck me as a deeply philosophical theme. The realization of what it would mean to start shooting in only three weeks came with the hangover, and by then it was too late. We were in it, and the rest of production would have to be our walk of shame.

The reason it came together that quickly was so we could grab the opportunity to shoot in our “haunted mansion” during its brief window of availability. Executive producer Clark Lyda had just bought the mansion, and he and his partner, producer Jesse Lyda, thought it would be a good place to shoot a horror movie in its state of disrepair. Location came first, so what we had was a real, old-fashioned Roger Corman situation, like when he pulled together The Little Shop of Horrors (1960) in just a few days to take advantage of leftover sets before they were torn down. For us, renovation on the house would begin in 5 weeks, so we would have to be finished with principle shooting by then.

But none of us even knew about any scripts that took place in creepy, old mansions just lying around ready to shoot. Of course the old saw is “write what you know,” but with only 3 weeks to write for a team of middle-class, American white boys, “what you know” distills pretty simply to “thousands of hours of cable TV.”

Saturday Morning Mystery
“Josephine and Ashley in the elevator: Will these meddling kids (Ashley Spillers and Josephine Decker) make it out alive? (photo credit Jason Wehling)”

So we’d mash up all the crazy, disreputable stuff we used to stay up all night watching on cable—flicks by New World, Full Moon, and Empire Pictures, half-remembered music videos mixed up with our first glimpses of Dario Argento movies, plus a healthy dose of Skinemax action in the immortal style of Zalman King. We’d strive to push violence and gore and trippy-ness and sex and nudity to the fever dream limits we always wanted but could rarely find in a single movie or music vide or even cartoon. As for plot, we thought it would be funny and actually a little scary to ask what would happen to a team of meddling kids who’d seen Scooby and Goober and Buford and the rest not merely as kids’ TV shows, but as a viable business model. What if they had the skills to debunk fake hauntings and monsters, but none of what it would take to survive the real thing? And actually, this was something we could sympathize with pretty deeply, given our own ill-advised, childhood-fantasy-based careers in independent filmmaking.

But the Saturday morning cartoon template also helped with characters. To bring off all the scares and violence, we needed to concentrate on story structure and set pieces, while characterization could be made up on the fly. So the actors had these cartoon archetypes to lean on and riff off of, because dialogue and behavior you can improvise…axe murders not so much.

And what kind of axe murders do you shoot in ten days on a cash budget of less than $20,000? (No, there’s not a zero missing.) All those “wasted” hours of cable viewing and VHS rewinding and freeze-framing were about to pay off in another way, because while there are plenty of terrible effects in the cheapo horror films of yore, anyone who has spent enough time watching knows there are some great ones, too. And any serious fan knows a thing or two about how they were done. The great masters like Tom Savini and Rick Baker and Dick Smith always used stage magic tricks that have been around since before cinema, while leaning on remarkably simple photographic and editing tricks to do the rest.

Luckily for us, Meredith Johns and her team at Hawgfly Productions are masters, and brought not only their mad practical effects skills from films like Teeth (2007) and Grindhouse (2007), but they also brought guts. Specifically, guts left over from Machete (2010). So I was able to insist on realizing my childhood dream of cutting one of our characters in half.

Saturday Morning Mystery
“Josephine Decker (in half): Josephine Decker and leftover intestines from Machete getting ready for their closeup in Saturday Morning Mystery (photo credit Spencer Parsons)”

This was actually how it worked with our whole crew. Because the shoot itself was so short, we were able to martial great talent in every department. All joking and boasting aside, on this kind of tight schedule, we were actually able to pull together a seasoned, albeit adventurous, crew to invest their labor for a piece of the movie rather than payment upfront. Sort of a communist enterprise with the potential of a modest capitalist payoff. And it was basically my job to be a worthy (and speedy) director of what everyone else was bringing to it.

So we shot it in a whirlwind of doing everything they tell you not to do. Night shoots. Children and dogs. And it all worked pretty well, except the flashlights and lanterns we were lighting most of the movie with kept breaking and draining batteries and eating up precious time. Free advice: don’t use flashlights for key or fill or anything if you can avoid it (but if you can’t they look pretty great).

In the end, we all emerged from Clark and Jesse’s mansion into the sunrise sleep deprived, a little psychotic and covered in stage blood. There was a Buddhist private school next door, with elementary-aged kids arriving as we passed around wrap beers and even the non-smokers lit up what felt and tasted like post-coital cigarettes. I’m sure we must have looked like the Manson Family returning to Spahn Ranch from a night of Helter Skelter, but we were completely oblivious. So while I regaled a couple of disbelieving actors with f-bomb-littered plot synopses from Hanna Barbera’s Scooby Doo ripoff-cum-Jaws (1975) cash-in, Jabberjaw, one of the schoolteachers from next door approached and joined our conversation. She smiled and confirmed that yes, Jabberjaw was a real show with a wisecracking, rock-n-roll drumming Great White that she remembered fondly, but requested for the sake of the arriving children that we please stop smoking.


The film is directed by Spencer Parsons and written by Jory Balsimo, Aaron Leggett, and Jason Wehling. You can find it on VOD beginning July 17th and in theatres on August 9, 2013.

Josephine Decker, Paul Gordon, Jonny Mars, Ashley Spillers, and Adam Tate star.

Synopsis:
Four professional ghost hunters, who travel in a vintage van accompanied by their canine companion (sound familiar?), get far more than they bargained for when they investigate an abandoned schoolhouse with a mysterious past.

Saturday Morning Mystery

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Lionsgate Actively Developing The Blair Witch Project TV Series

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Recently it was announced via Deadline that Lionsgate is gathering together digital content for their new brand Studio L.

In today’s fast-changing media landscape, Lionsgate is committed to creating and distributing various types of content for next-generation audiences with some of the most exciting creative voices and innovative partners in our industry,” said Studio L Executive Vice President Seth Laderman.

He continues: “The projects announced today signal our commitment to finding stand-out material, incubating new talent, and delivering authentic storytelling. We will also continue to cultivate and foster fresh opportunities with existing Lionsgate properties, all built around Studio L’s low-risk, high-reward distribution model.

One of the “existing Lionsgate properties” he’s talking about is evidently a TV series based on Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez classic found footage flick The Blair Witch Project. No further details about the series are known at this time but we will make sure to keep you guys up to date as news pours in.

Are you excited about a TV series based on The Blair Witch Project? Let us know below!

Synopsis:

Found video footage tells the tale of three film students (Heather Donahue, Joshua Leonard, Michael C. Williams) who’ve traveled to a small town to collect documentary footage about the Blair Witch, a legendary local murderer. Over the course of several days, the students interview townspeople and gather clues to support the tale’s veracity. But the project takes a frightening turn when the students lose their way in the woods and begin hearing horrific noises.

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Stephen King’s IT Star Jeremy Ray Taylor and More Join Goosebumps 2

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GoosebumpsI was a big fan of the Jack Black Goosebumps movie that came out a few years back. Makes sense. I was a big fan of the R.L. Stine book series as a kid.

It’s with this in mind I’m excited about the upcoming Goosebump 2 and today we have an update on the film via Variety.

Turns out the kid cast of the sequel has been gathered together, and leading the pack will be chubby Ben from Stephen King’s IT aka Jeremy Ray Taylor.

On top of Taylor, the other child in the cast include Madison Iseman (Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle), Ben O’Brien (Manchester by the Sea), and Caleel Harris (“Castle Rock”).

While we don’t know any details regarding the sequel’s plot, Variety suspects it will “focus on iconic characters and storylines featured in the Goosebumps series.”

Ari Sandel is developing the project with Neal H. Moritz and Deborah Forte producing.

We’ll let you know when we hear more. What did you think of the original film and how excited are you for Goosebumps 2? Let us know below!

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Ash vs Evil Dead S3 E1 Review – Ash is Back, Baby!

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Starring Bruce Campbell, Dana DeLorenzo, Ray Santiago, Arielle Carver, Lucy Lawless

Written by Mark Verheiden

Directed by Mark Beesley


In order to appease fans, the third season of “Ash vs Evil Dead” needs to open with a bang and certainly not a whimper. Thankfully, the team behind the series know that and have spared basically no expense and are wasting no time getting right into the story.

We open to a commercial of Ash promoting his new hardware store, a business that not only sells tools and various accessories but also doubles as a sex toy shop. After all, when buying some screws, why not buy a dildo too, right? As Ash is celebrating the Grand Opening, a knock-off of “Antiques Roadshow” plays in the background where we see a young woman bring in the Necronomicon in the hopes of finding that is has worth. A few uttered words later and the blood not only begins flowing, it douses the screen!

Back in Elk Grove, Pablo’s torso fills with strange and foreign letters, a troubling omen of the evil that’s about to descend upon our plucky Ghostbeaters. Also here, we meet Brandy, Ash’s daughter (although she doesn’t know that at first), who, along with her friend Racehl, gets attacked in her high school by Coogie, the school mascot. This leads her to call her mother, Candy Barr, who in turn grabs Ash and reveals that they are married and that Ash’s daughter is in trouble. Essentially one gigantic dump of news, Ash heads to the high school where a blood-soaked battle ensues, one that leaves more than a few corpses.

At the end of the episode, Kelly reunites with Ash and Pablo, Brandy is brought aboard the team, and there’s Dalton, a Knight of Sumeria, who pledges his service to Ash, although I don’t think he knows what he’s getting himself into…

Moving at an almost breakneck speed, the first episode is absolutely packed with blood, gore, violence, and a couple of moments that actually had me laughing so hard that I had to pause the episode. Bruce Campbell still brings his all to the role of Ash and Arielle Carver-O’Neill, I have a feeling, is going to kill it (no pun intended) as his daughter, Sandy…Mandy? Brandy!

Do we get an understanding of what the greater story is going to be this season? Apart from seeing Ruby get her hands on the Necronomicon and do some weird blood ritual with it that impregnates her, not really. Honestly though, that really doesn’t matter. For now, it’s just good to see the old Delta roaring through the streets of Elk Grove once again.

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