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Exclusive: The Chiodo Brothers Talk Killer Klowns, Movie Making, and More!

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Exclusive: The Chiodo Brothers Talk Killer Klowns, Movie Making, and More!While attending the Bizarre AC II in Atlantic City, we had a chance to chat three-on-one with Killer Klowns from Outer Space creators, the Chiodo Brothers, and the subjects ranged from their most famous film to contemporary genre cinema and lots more.

Settle in because the three of them, Stephen, Edward and Charlie, covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time. They have thick Bronx accents and talk very fast with great excitement and enthusiasm but without the hand gesticulation you would expect from a bunch of New Yorkers. Or perhaps the space in the booth was too tight to really see that kind of display in action.

Each brother built upon the other’s remarks, fast from topic to topic. Stephen added pointed conversation when necessary, but he, much like me, sat back while Edward and Charlie took center stage. Along with Killer Clowns from Outer Space of course, they also touched on the traps directors fall into when trying to capture FX on-screen and the Brothers’ other monster friends, the Crites (aka Critters).

It all started with monsters and the “Million Dollar Movie” on New York’s WOR-TV Channel 9, said Stephen. “King Kong, Godzilla, IT! The Terror From Beyond Space, and The Thing, and we were bitten by the monster bug.” So much so, Edward said, he thought what he was seeing was true to life. “We lived by the elevated train tracks and when I saw King Kong busting our trains in our neighborhood, I thought it was absolutely real. Then we asked our parents to take us to the Empire State Building, so we could see the crack he made in the cement when he hit the ground.

This monster kid obsession lead the Brothers to start making mini-monster movies with their Super 8. Charlie told us, “We would buy little rubber characters and little rubber stretchy worms and bats, string ‘em with fishing line, and actually rehearse monster films with miniatures of the Empire State Building and Statue of Liberty…

Stephen then added, “Yeah, we would take our toys and start play-acting it and start moving them around, our action figures and dinosaurs and soldiers, and that playing eventually became stop-motion animation. When we got the camera, we shot frame by frame, y’know, manipulating those figures

With no mentors or books to look at, the Brothers progressed on their own short The Beast From The Egg. Stephen relayed, “We just practiced on our own, we made our own little movies in our basement.” Then Charlie recalled they did have a kind of mentor in “Famous Monsters of Filmland” magazine. “They used to have their amateur film competitions, and we used to look at the photographs of that and be inspired, because you’d have the young filmmakers describing their techniques, of photographing things in forced perspective, and we copied them and started making our animated films in forced perspective, of having people small in the background, and our monsters large in the foreground.” Stephen added, “It’s funny, you talked about little rubber things we made when we were kids. We just moved from when we were little kids making little rubber things to where we’re adults. We’re STILL making little rubber things!

But how did the infamous Killer Klowns from Outer Space come along? Charlie stated, “We were lucky. We did get our first feature film. We did a lot of shorts, we did a lot of small things. We did a demo for the Chiodo Brothers reel that was the segue to get us into filmmaking. That led to an [ABC-TV] After-School Special… we came up an idea for Killer Klowns From Outer Space, and we pitched it to one company, TransWorld Entertainment, through a friend of ours, and it was really kind of magical, just being at the right place at the right time with the right project. And they bought it, right out of the gate. One pitch, one meeting, and they said, ‘Let’s do this!’’”

And they were up for the challenge; after 4 years in Hollywood, the Brothers had the budget they wanted to make their very first creature feature. But making films is always a “collaborative dance,” Charlie told us. Edward added, “The reality is, we had a pretty decent budget for a late-‘80s genre movie: It was like 1.8 million dollars. But the mechanics of making a motion picture ate up most of that budget. The unique part, the genre part, what we brought to the table, was the least-budgeted amount of that movie.” But, the Brothers were able to call in favors, Edward continued. “The fact that we had been working as effects artists, we had built up quite a lot of goodwill in our industry, so we called in every favor from every company: Mark Sullivan for matte paintings. Fantasy II for visual effects. Joe Viscoso for pyrotechnics. It was goodwill that made that movie happen on, from an effects point of view, a very low-budget movie.”

But who were these masters that were brought in to help with Killer Klowns? Charlie laid it down. “Fantasy II won the Academy Award for the effects on Terminator 2. They worked with Jim Cameron. Joe Viscoso was the pyrotechnic guy on the first Star Wars movie, and Team America (ed: which the Brothers also did the puppetry on). Mark Sullivan’s an award-winning matte painter, worked at ILM. What we did is, our friends and co-workers were geniuses in the effects field and have proven themselves.” And now the big reveal. “[All our special effects friends are] waiting for us to do Killer Clowns 2. The only people that aren’t letting us do it is the studio —MGM and Sony— to have the rights to Killer Klowns 2.

Killer Klowns from Outer Space 2? But that’s what the world needs. Why can’t we get these Klowns off the ground? Charlie replied, “Because studios are being run by businessmen. There’s absolutely no aesthetic vision in the industry any longer. They’re just looking at the bottom line, looking at numbers. They’re greenlighting films based on some kind of formula they created based on box office — domestic and international.”

The Chiodo Brothers

And because films today rely so heavily on overseas sales, Killers Klowns has one problem—Stephen continued, “Back in 1987, international wasn’t important. The U.S. was 60–80 percent of the marketplace, so overseas didn’t matter… So now when you bring that to a distributor today, and they see “Overseas: ZERO”… well, there’s no track-record…” The studios also want stars and bankability. Charlie said if it’s not a well-known universal brand, or doesn’t have a billion dollar track record, the studios won’t take risks.

There is always the DYI route. And they have some ideas, Charlie told us, “We’ve got a project called Channel 8 from Outer Space, about a pirate TV station out somewhere in the universe, and they steal signals from all these other alien civilizations from around the galaxy, and they kind of mash it up for their own unique form of entertainment. It’s also a web series that we hope to get some crowdfunding for to start producing a Chiodo Brothers brand of sci-fi comedy again.” Charlie then defined their brand for us, “A character edge we always give to all of our creations. No matter how hideous it is, it’s always got some kind of a personality to it, that makes it kind of lovable and scary at the same time.

As a combined creative team Charlie noted, “I do the art direction and 2D design and the conceptual stuff. Stephen’s a sculptor and director, and Edward’s the production coordinator and the electronic guy, involved in the editing and post-production, the digital stuff. So we all participate with our individual pieces, and we all overlap. In terms of the creative, we’re basically on the same page…

Then there was Critters talk. Charlie relayed, “The same audience that loves the Killer Klowns loves the stuff that we did in Critters, and it’s perfect for a reboot.” For a bit of a genre history lesson, Charlie mentioned it was Kevin Yagher (Child’s Play) that recommended the Brothers for the job and that it was just loads of fun to make. “They were great because they’re just hand-puppets… And that enabled us to really make them come to life in a variety of situations. The Critter balls were a blast! All the technology we tried to throw into the Critter balls to make them move—At the end of the day they were just bowling balls! We just kind of rolled them around.

Critters

It had been discussed, even by likes of Rick Baker, that EFX is not always shot as best as it could be. Directors often struggle with making time and accommodations necessary when working with practical monsters. Charlie had some tips, “It’s important for the director to have…some familiarity with special effects; lets him to block it out in a more reasonable fashion so it can be produced. You have a lot of guys who have a vision of what they want and it’s kind of contrary to how the effects are being manipulated, and it just causes a lot of schedule problems and cost overruns.”

And that’s when storyboards come in handy. To know what you are building, how much of it, and ultimately what “it” is going to do—to save time and mitigate risk on set when time is literally money. Charlie mentioned, “Storyboarding in an effects movie is very important to get everybody on-board. Like I said, it takes three or four people to bring a character to life. It’s just too intimidating for some directors.” Charlie, who directed Killer Klowns, told us working with puppets adds another layer of difficulty. “A lot of directors don’t understand that, they’re working with puppets, that the guy underneath the table is your actor… They say, “Okay, I want him to do this—!” Well, how do you want it? Do you want him to move fast? Do you want him to move slow? We had a guy in a suit who came out like the Kool-Aid Kid in the Critters movie, he just blasted through the door and went, ‘Hey hey hey! Hey! OH YEEEEAHHH!’ And we said, ‘You didn’t tell him how to, you didn’t tell him how to walk!’ The thing is, they’re unfamiliar with special effects, so these directors don’t direct the special effects performers…We spent a lot of time [as special effects artists]…making these things really sing, really be great, and then the performance—you get one take out of it, and the director says, ‘Okay, we got it.’ You say, ‘No no no no, we can do a lot more! And we don’t think you got it!’ ‘No no, I got it, believe me!’ And—They really don’t. They haven’t really pushed the performance like they might when they’re with live action.

The Brothers also embrace computer-enhanced VFX, and Charlie felt it could have helped with both Killer Klowns and Critters. “The digital, what it does, is it enhances the practical. What we had to do, by hiding people underneath, and by sticking, drilling holes in the walls so the puppeteer could get limited movement from underneath. Now we can have rods against green, we can rod-manipulate the thing, give more life and realistic movement to the puppets quicker, and then digitally remove the puppeteers. So we can get the best of both worlds now.

Now that storyboarding has gone the way of pre-visualizations (pre-viz), which are done by CGI artists, the Brothers feel it starts to add to the “first person shooter” video game quality of genre films today. Charlie had a great time watching Pacific Rim, only to ask his son what did he just watched. The images, specifically the monsters, had little screen time to really become affective due to the rapid cutting pace. Charlie stated, “Nowadays it’s a roller coaster ride. If I wanted a roller-coaster ride, I’d go to an amusement park. I go to the movies to see a story.”

To keep up with these changing times, the special effect artist needs know their audience, and there are some out here blending practical and VFX perfectly—Edward continued, “A director like Jon Favreau embraces both. Zathura is a perfect blend of practical effects and digital effects. He was able to get guys in costumes that use human legs but then he put green-screen suits on the top of them that hung out of the costumes. Then he would erase them digitally. Then he would supplement them with fully CG characters.

When it comes to studio versus a film that is independently funded, it might make sense to stay away from the studios if a director wants authorship. Charlie stated, “I know Tim Burton said he likes his smaller pictures, like Ed Wood, because when he did Planet of the Apes and larger pictures, there were too many hands in there telling him, ‘You have to do this, you have to do that.’ You have the toy company: ‘You have to do this.’ You have the studio execs saying it, and the test screenings, and stuff like that, and you’re going, ‘You know what? I’ll never get to see my vision if I’m asking everyone else what I should do.’ I think what happens with larger budget pictures is that the director becomes a traffic cop, he just organizes the shoot. Then, when he’s finished shooting, they let him have his cut, they kick him off the film, and they do what they want with it, so it’s really a corporate filmmaking process.

In the end, nothing is going to stop the Chiodos Brothers. Charlie said “We will be able to solicit the funds that we need to do our films our way. We’ve always made films, since we were little kids, and we want to continue doing that. That’s all it’s about: character and story. We’re gonna do that until someone tries to kill us.” Oh, and always films with monsters Edward chimed in. And much like John Ford directing with an oxygen mask on… ” That’s the thing about it though; if, as filmmakers, we’re ninety years old, somebody gives us a chance to make a movie, we’re gonna do it!

Killer Klowns from Outer Space

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Friday the 13th: The Game Welcomes Back Shelly Finkelstein This Monday!

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Earlier this past year, all of us Friday the 13th Part 3 fans we delighted when “Friday the 13th: The Game” added in Fox (Gloria Charles) as a playable character.

And now we have the announcement that another beloved character from Friday the 13th Part 3 will be joining the game this December.

Yes, Shelly Finkelstein (Larry Zerner) will be coming back to Camp Crystal Lake!

The Shelly playable character will be available for free with the latest patch. The new update will be coming for PS4 and Steam on Monday, Dec. 18th. The Xbox One patch to follow shortly.

Below you can watch the announcement trailer which was posted on Twitter earlier tonight.

After giving it a watch make sure to let us know how excited you are to see Shelly (aka the man who gave Jason his mask) back in action below!

Shelly Finkelstein hits Friday the 13th: The Game for PS4 and Steam on Monday, Dec. 18th.

Welcome Back Shelly!

The man responsible for 'handing' Jason his mask, Shelly Finkelstein will be coming back to Camp Crystal Lake to troll his fellow counselors…that is until Jason shows up! Get Shelly for free with the latest patch!The latest update will be coming for PS4 and Steam on Monday, Dec. 18th with the Xbox One patch to follow shortly!

Posted by Friday the 13th: The Game on Friday, December 15, 2017

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Graham Humphreys Reveals His Poster For An American Werewolf In London

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Graham Humphreys continues to cement his position as one of the top horror artists in the business with his stunning new poster for An American Werewolf in London. This piece was created as a private commission, and fans of John Landis’ 1981 classic are going to love it. You can view the final design of this incredible poster below.

Final design with text.

Graham also provided us with a detailed statement about the creation of the piece, along with a bunch of screen grabs taken throughout the process. If you scroll down to the bottom of the page, you can see how the final image looks before the text was added. In case you missed it earlier, you can also check out our extended interview with Graham here.

Exclusive Statement from Graham Humphreys
As a commercial artist and illustrator, there is only limited scope to make a job entirely your own – so with each project you are answering a brief in order to fulfill the needs of a client. Of course, the client may choose to give you free reign, though this is with the understanding that you are acknowledging their needs and thus expected to work within certain unspoken parameters. Mostly, these confines are defined by how a product is to be sold, licensing instructions and an understanding a market. With this in mind, the client is paying and thus nominally always right… though it would be unprofessional not to make them aware that other options might work better for them!

Without these commercial constraints, a private commission can remove the barriers because no market is to be met and there is only the artist and the private client to answer to. Creating a poster for a familiar and heavily licensed title is an entirely different prospect if it is not going to be generating money in the public domain and is thus essentially ‘fan art’. Unlike say, a T-shirt company ripping off someone elses art and charging money for the printed image, or perhaps a poster reproduced without permission by either the license owner or artist, then sold for profit.

Here, Dread Central have asked me to talk through one such commission, ‘An American Werewolf in London’, painted as a private commission for an individual that wishes to own a unique image that they themselves have made happen. NB: All likenesses and specific imagery (including the title and names etc) are subject to license and copyright and not for any use other than as examples of a work in progress (and of course, all rights are reserved!). Just need to make sure that it absolutely clear!

The client had commissioned two previous posters from me (as well as numerous poster designs from fellow artists), so a basic understanding of expectations had already been established.

My work begins by watching the film from beginning to end – to re-establish my own connection to the film (if one already exists). I saw ‘An American Werewolf in London’ (in London!) on it’s first run and the proximity to many of the locations (Tottenham Court Road tube station, Piccadilly Circus, being the obvious ones) made it instantly impressionable for me. Existing posters, in particular the official theatrical versions and various home-entertainment sleeves, focused on a limited image pool. My job was to find new ways of representing the film, free of the past baggage, but also to listen to my clients requirements.

Looking for a fresh perspective means avoiding the familiar stills that have defined the past marketing, this is achieved by making screen grabs from the DVD or blu-ray. As with most commercial jobs, I generally make a selection of about 40 images, then review these reducing the number to about 15 that have the best narrative potential, including a good visual range of actor expressions and reactions. My client required the Werewolf, London references, the moors, David and Jack, a full moon and the ‘Slaughtered Lamb’ pub sign… then whatever else I chose to include.

On the basis of the selected screen grabs, I make necessary light and contrast adjustments in photoshop, make them greyscale (removing the distraction of colour) and print them out at a size I can easily trace in pencil onto paper. All the pencil sketches are then scanned into photoshop, so that I can rearrange, resize and move around in order to determine the best layout, one which tells a story and has a visual impact. (I find it’s better to present sketched layouts rather than a photocomp’s, partly because the photographic material is usually of varying quality, but also because a pencil rough is more fluid and does not dictate the final impression).

Selected screen grabs.

Selected screen grabs 2.

My first idea involved a portrait of David looking lost and frightened (I felt this was essential to the story), the Werewolf with it’s head bursting through the cinema shutters/signage (the idea of breaking the fourth wall), the decomposing Jack (a perfect metaphor for David’ s own life falling apart), his nightmare of the home invasion (one of the most effective and horrific moments in the film, I felt), plus Brian Glover’s ‘Slaughtered Lamb’ local – a look that defines rednecks and racists the word over when confronted by ‘other’!). I also wanted to add the tube attack victim to open up the carnage. Although Jenny Agutter’s nurse added the romantic dimension for an audience that expects the convention, I wanted to concentrate on David’s story, so chose to only include her face as if she were painted on the shutters, ie. a film poster element.

I was surprised that the client didn’t want the home invasion creatures, nor the reference to the sleazy cinema hordings (which I thought made a good location gag – obviously not!), they also did not want the rotting Jack. It was disappointing to lose these great horror elements, especially as they’d particularly wanted ‘horror’! But a compromise was reached by including the transformation scene at the bottom, and reinstating the moors (which I’d thought unnecessary).

Fortunately, my second sketch was well received and the painting could commence.

On the basis of the selected screen grabs, I make necessary light and contrast adjustments in photoshop, make them greyscale (removing the distraction of colour) and print them out at a size I can easily trace in pencil onto paper. All the pencil sketches are then scanned into photoshop, so that I can rearrange, resize and move around in order to determine the best layout, one which tells a story and has a visual impact. (I find it’s better to present sketched layouts rather than a photocomp’s, partly because the photographic material is usually of varying quality, but also because a pencil rough is more fluid and does not dictate the final impression).

Once I have my sketch approved I reintroduced the photographic source material over the sketched parts, so that my layout remains exactly as approved and so that I’ll have the best possible likenesses to trace onto the watercolour paper.

Early sketched elements.

I usually have a basic idea of what colours I’m going to use. In this instance I knew that I wanted a silvery blue moonlight to bathe the entire image, but also the contrast of the orange glow of artificial lighting, the pub and cinema foyer. I knew the big splash of red in the wolf’s jaw would jump out, becoming the focal point. This painting took about three days to complete, the sketch process (including the grabs) about a day upfront.

Composition design.

The final painting was scanned and all the text added in photoshop.

My client will now make a full size poster print, to be framed, from the file I send him. Next up, ‘The Thing’!

Final painting before text was added.

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Syfy Renews Z Nation for a 5th Season; Season 4 Finale Airs Tonight!

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Syfy’s popular zombie series “Z Nation” just keeps shambling on, and tonight the two-episode Season 4 finale, “Mt. Weather/The Black Rainbow,” airs. If you’re a fan of the show, we have good news for you… it’s not over yet as David Latt of The Asylum has announced on Twitter the pickup of “Z Nation” for a 5th season! So you can expect lots more adventures with the gang in 2018.

Below is the official word from David along with a brief synopsis of what’s ahead tonight in the finale, which kicks off at 9/8c.

Synopsis:
In the mind-bending two-hour Season 4 finale, Warren and the team must stop Zona from launching operation Black Rainbow, which will cleanse the landscape of both zombies and humans. In Part 2 the secret of Warren’s Black Rainbow dream is unlocked when they reach their final destination. The cast includes Kellita Smith as Roberta Warren, Keith Allan as Murphy, Russell Hodgkinson as Doc, Nat Zang as 10K, Gracie Gillam as Sgt. Lilley, DJ Qualls as Citizen Z, Ramona Young as Kaya, Justin Torrence as President Donald Trump, Michael Berryman as The Founder, Micheal Daks as Mr. Sunshine, Anastasia Baranova as Addy, Sydney Viengluang as Sun Mei, Joseph Gatt as The Man, and Natalie Jongjaroenlarp as Red.

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