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Exclusive: Derek Lee and Clif Prowse Talk Afflicted and More

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Exclusive: Derek Lee and Clif Prowse Talk Afflicted and MoreAfter winning Best Picture in the Horror Features category at this year’s Fantastic Fest and screening at the Film Society of Lincoln Center during the Scary Movies 7 series, Derek Lee and Clif Prowse are experiencing great success with their kinetic first feature Afflicted.

Centered on two friends who embark on a trip around the world, video logs turn into a documentary when Derek begins to transform into something not entirely human after being bitten by a kinky French girl. Both playing themselves to add realism, Clif and Derek film each other in order to have evidence of the horrific evolution that Derek is experiencing. Both Derek and Clif sat down with Dread Central in New York City to talk about Afflicted (review) and why something like it has never really been seen before in the world of horror.

DC: Are you both getting tired of the movie being referred to as found footage? It’s not really, but is the association with that subgenre something that’s helping you? Fans either love them or hate them, usually.

DL: We don’t mind it because it’s a shorthand for people to understand the style in which the movie was shot. You’re right; it isn’t really found footage. We wanted to make sure this film, storywise, was put together. The fact that it’s edited is actually a story point and it’s edited by the characters for a very specific reason. By taking that documentary, found footage style and then using it to depict – let’s call it ‘the creature’ for our purposes right now that’s used in this movie – in a realistic way, which is actually quite different than the way you usually see that creature which is normally in a super-cinematic style. We thought that was going to be really exciting. If you actually shot this movie as a conventional movie, I don’t think it’s nearly as effective as it is as a documentary.

CP: The only time that I get a little miffed about people calling us found footage is when people dismiss the film out-of-hand because they think it’s found footage. I feel like that’s just too judgmental too quickly.

DC: Is the mythology you’ve started with Afflicted something you’d like to expand on in another film?

DL: The things that we draw upon are very traditional ideas and then we took a spin on it that felt a little bit more modern; a little bit more realistic and biological. When we’re talking about the creature involved, it’s a very sexy, sensually oriented thing and we wanted to move it away from that and tell it in the context of a buddy movie. In terms of the supernatural elements, there are definitely things we’d like to explore but, having said that, we’re not chomping at the bit to do a sequel just yet!

CP: One of the fun parts about placing it in the documentary style was that we could take the pieces of the mythology that we liked. If this happened in reality, what would it look like? We could take something like the need to feed on blood and then take out the stuff like reflections in mirrors and crosses.

DC: For the record, Derek, I think you were very sexy at least up until the vomiting scene.

DL: Thank you very much.

DC: Can you talk about the design process around the body camera rig? You were really able to shoot dynamic action set pieces without “shaky cam”.

DL: Full credit goes to a guy named Sean Arden who designed our chest rig, our “strap-on”. It was based on a traditional older-style stunt harness and then he bolted on a plastic chest plate that would then hook on to the camera. It was really a conceit that we wanted so that our filmmakers could keep on filming even when things go crazy and the action would demand you put down the camera. It allowed us the excuse to keep filming during the action. It’s a bit of a tongue-in-cheek thing so you get to see what happens next.

CP: In terms of the design, one of the coolest things was that it was like being Bruce Wayne because we’d come in with these sketches and [Sean Arden] would come in and re-design it, so you definitely felt like Bruce Wayne at that point.

DC: The sequences in the film are really thrilling at times. How long did those scenes take to shoot? Were there a lot of multiple takes and technical problems?

DL: Actually, that’s a really good question. You know the scene at the end?

DC: Yes.

DL: It was really ambitious given how little resources and time and toys we had to play with but, amazingly, in spite of it basically needing to be a four-minute, feels-like-one-shot scene, we were delighted when it just kind of came together. Getting all the wipes, working with the special effects team, it actually all worked out really, really well. Where it got really complicated was when you’re trying to get an emotional honesty out of your actors when they’re both directors and both holding the camera. That can really throw you off as a director, but getting the action beats was just a ton of fun.

CBS Films will release Afflicted sometime during the new year, most likely.

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Dread Central UK Enjoys a Box of IT

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One of the best things about writing for Dread Central is the cool gifts companies send us in exchange for covering their releases.

With Stephen King’s It now being available on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK, Warner Bros. were kind enough to send me an It-themed gift box absolutely free of charge. I collected this beautiful piece of merchandise from Organic Marketing’s London headquarters, and it is quite possibly my favorite thing in the world. And that’s not an exaggeration.

Inside this beautiful box were four Pennywise-themed cupcakes, a Pennywise Vinyl Pop figure in its original packaging, a laminated flyer, and of course, a copy of the film on Blu-ray. As you can see from the images below, a red balloon, just like the one held by Pennywise in the film, was attached to the box, although I’m sorry to say that it has now been burst (and I’m keeping the remains).

It, which now has the honor of being the highest-grossing R-rated horror film of all time, was directed by Andy Muschietti and stars Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher, Wyatt Oleff, Jeremy Ray Taylor, Sophia Lillis, and Finn Wolfhard. With the film now being available on home video in the UK, you shouldn’t waste any time ordering your copy, especially since we gave it a perfect score in our review.

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Fearsome Facts

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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Reviews

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.

  • Film
3.0

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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