Strange Havens, Vaudeville Clowns, and Carnivorous Cannibals [Giallo Julian’s Indie Spotlight: 06/10/2022]

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Gorehounds, Blood Babes, everything else that goes bump in the night… Welcome back to Giallo Julian’s Indie Spotlight, where we drop a light down into the precarious dark cellar that is the indie-horror scene and shine a light upon its dark corners! Today’s edition is filled with clowns, cannibals, and some killer fitness routines that’s sure to make you bleed a couple of pounds. Let’s get these heads rolling!

SPOTLIGHTS:

1. Clawdette Smm Smm (Clown)

Leading the list, we have a talented practitioner of many daring acts – Clawdette Smm Smm

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Photo by David Vail

When asked what her performances involved, Clawdette answered:

“I tell jokes that only old people seem to get. I am a sideshow clown/performer. I fire eat/breathe, do traditional sideshow acts such as blockhead and… bed of nails. Hula hooping and balloon twisting. I specialize and am mostly known for the ancient art of sword swallowing.”

Those are definitely some peculiar skills to have, especially the dangerous one… old people jokes. Always a risky venture!

Born and raised in the Big Apple (is New York City still called that? Am I saying things only old people will get?), Clawdette always found herself surrounded by numerous types of performance art, drawing a lot of inspiration from what she saw growing up in Gotham. Of course, as is the usual case for artists of the modern age, myself included, motivation hit hardest in front of a TV screen.

“Well, I watched a lotta old television shows as a kid with vaudeville and character clowns and always got a kick out of them. I’ve always seemed to be the funny kid…  People always told me I’d make a good voice actress or comedian.”

The last push she needed to tread the path of the vaudeville clown was personally seeing a show, and feeling the spark of interest roar into a flame:

“I finally saw a sideshow years ago while in Coney Island and at another venue not in New York. And I just thought how cool it would be if I could do that stuff myself. And I was like ‘Well, what’s stopping me?’”

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Photo by buttercuppgh

With that newfound ambition, Clawdette went to Clown College, learning the ways of balloon manipulation, the nuances of different face paints, and the way of the clown codes.

“I figured if I’m already the funny kid, why not wear the grease? From there, I was doing kids’ parties for friends. I am self taught with all my acts, with some touch ups and guidance from veteran sideshow folk. I started off street performing, especially using my neighborhood in Pittsburgh as dress rehearsal and practice, til I finally got noticed by show folk and networking with others in the scene. Now it’s part of my living.”

Clawdette works in The Stolen Stitches Sideshow in Pittsburgh, PA with her two partner clowns (Danger Dave and Charlie Thargic). They’ll be performing out-of-state at an event called The Oddities and Curiosities Expo on July 16 in Detroit, MI and September 17 in Las Vegas, NV. Also, Clawdette will be doing a show on Labor Day Weekend with Coney Island Sideshow. You can keep up-to-date on everything Clawdette does on her Instagram here and Facebook here

Along with living the clown life, Clawdette’s also been raising arachnids, drawing comics, and worshiping the Devil. Maybe she could put in a good word for me, I’ve been trying to sell my soul for years.

2. Clan of the Devil (Graphic Novel)

Up next, we have a graphic novel series from the director of End of the Line (find it, watch it, please), Maurice Devereaux, titled – Clan of the Devil!

Devereaux gives a synopsis of the story:

Scotland. 1617. For a quarter century, the locals believed the roads of Galloway were haunted by something – witches, recap goblins, ghosts, no one knew for certain what was causing the disappearance of hundreds of people. But one infamous day, this mystery would be revealed and a name would become legendary, giving chills to all those who heard it… SAWNEY BEANE! For the first time ever, the epic, decades spanning origin of Sawney Beane and his inbred clan of cave-dwelling cannibals shall be told… Based on true events, and meticulously researched from period records, Clan of the Devil is a dark journey in Scotland’s terrifying past.”

If some of that sounds familiar, it might be because the tale of Sawney Bean served as inspiration for a classic Wes Craven filmDeadly Friend, of course.

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What inspired Devereaux to make a comic based on such grisly events? When asked, he said:

“When I read the original short story (which is only six pages long), the set up of a family of inbred cannibals that killed and ate people for twenty-five years and that it might be based on true events was intriguing on its own. But what really struck me was that the clan was finally captured and all the children were executed. To me, these kids, who had lived their whole lives cut from society, with only the teaching of their parents as to what is right and wrong, would have been innocent. This I found fascinating with so many interesting and ethical implications… this led me to want to tell this story from the point-of-view of one of the clan’s children and have the rest of the world be the monsters.”

Devereaux’s interest in the subject matter is as genuine as it comes, having done extensive research to make his comic as authentic as possible.

“I researched the time period and tried to have as much true history as possible, all the while still telling a hopefully compelling story… There has been a lot of debate over the years… of the existence of Sawney Bean and his cannibal clan, but while doing my research, I discovered this legendary story actually has more basis in reality than previously thought and I have found links that tie-in to official government records… to prove it.”

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The series is going to be twelve, that’s right, TWELVE volumes long, each book numbering over a hundred pages each. Currently, the first two books are available to buy right here, with the third book in the process of being colored. The twelfth book is nearly fully inked (about sixty pages left) and should be done by the end of the year.

Devereaux’s also hoping to shoot a documentary, filmed in Scotland and detailing his investigations about Sawney Beane. The idea is to eventually get the series adapted into a “high-quality, dramatic TV series”, which we can help work towards by checking it out!

“That would be the ultimate goal, but even if that does not happen, reading the comic will be the next best thing and hopefully still a thrilling ride for the fans of the macabre and medieval history.”

3. Murdercise (Feature Film)

Wrapping up the list, we have an upcoming film from Paul Ragsdale about the dangers of physical fitness – Murdercise!

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Ragsdale says of the film:

Murdercise is my love letter to fitness VHS tapes, 80s hair metal, 80s Los Angeles nightlife, serial killers, and analog video production. The story is about Phoebe, an obsessed fitness nerd who wishes to be a role model for America, just like her hero, President Ronald Regan. While working a sleazy workout video, Phoebe becomes disgusted by the lack of moral integrity of the rest of her cast mates. Phoebe meets a heavy metal-loving mafia princess, Isabella, who teaches Phoebe the art of murder!”

Ragsdale is no stranger to studio filming, having worked at his local college back in the early 2000s.

“The facility and equipment were leftovers from the early 90s. I would get a creepy vibe being locked in the studio late at night, working on a project for school. I always thought it would be a great location for a horror movie. I met my partner and producer, Angelica De Alba, while she was a student there. Our cinematographer, Dan Zampa, and I both used to work in the studio as lab aides. We plan to go back to the same studio where we all met, to use as a location for the movie!”

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The film is currently in pre-production with several cast members already signed up, including Jordan Phipps (Close Calls), Jessa Flux (Debbie Does Demons), Drew Maverick (Pool Party Massacre), Nina Lanee Kent (Slasherette Party), and Krystal Shay (Streets of Vengeance). Plans are to have the film completed and released by Spring 2023, with a Blu-Ray packed full of special features.

To help support the project, be on the lookout for its Indiegogo, which will start up July 1st. I’ll keep you posted on it!

While you wait, be sure to check Ragsdale’s other films: Streets of Vengeance and Slashorette Party!

Before we get into our usual shoutouts, I’d like to introduce a new section to the Spotlight called Indie Throwback! We focus on a lot on the new horror creations happening out there, so I thought it’d be nice to give some love to past projects that’ve been lurking in the dark.

THROWBACK:

Strangehaven (Comic Book)

We’re cheating a bit with this first Throwback because the series is still ongoing, but I won’t tell if you won’t. With that, let’s take a look at Gary Spencer Millidge’s indie comic series – Strangehaven.

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When asked about the narrative, Millidge replied:

Strangehaven is ostensibly a murder mystery set in a small, isolated village in a corner of an impossibly idealised version of England – think quaint British soap opera but with a touch of Du Maurier, with supernatural elements, tangled human relationships, and some off-beat humor. The main character, Alex Hunter, wakes up in the village after crashing his car… after seeing a vision of a woman dressed in black standing in the road. Through Alex, we meet the residents of Strangehaven, including mysterious secret societies, a man who identifies as an extra-terrestrial, an Amazonian shaman, a missing World War II pilot… then there’s the mystery of the body of a naked girl in a fish tank. Alex finds himself falling for one of the locals which gives him incentive to stay, but could he leave even if he wanted to?”

It’s always the small towns that have the most eccentric characters, right? Also the strangest murders… I blame poor cell service.

Millidge’s inspirations were numerous, ranging from television series from his youth like The Prisoner and The Avengers (not that one), to later shows like Twin Peaks.

“I was looking for a flexible format… that could potentially run indefinitely – a format in which I could tell all kinds of different stories… Twin Peaks was being broadcast in the UK in the early 1990s and I found it a refreshing concept – combining bizarre humor with gripping drama and even horror, in something close to a soap opera format. I was also inspired by Dave McKean’s Cages and Alan Moore and Bill Sienkiewicz’s great unfinished Big Numbers. Around that time, I took a trip to the South West of England and got lost among the country roads and tiny villages there… and that had a huge impact on my thinking, too. So, I ended up blending the elements from all those influences.”

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The most amazing aspect about Millidge’s comic, however, is that unlike many of his contemporaries, he did it all BY HIMSELF. Writing, editing, illustrating, publishing, everything that went into bringing it to life, it was all him. Which is nothing short of fucking rad! Incredibly admirable! The amount of passion and dedication it takes to tackle a project like this on one’s own is immense. When asked if there was any advice he’d give other self-publishing artists, he had this to say:

“Self-publishing is a very different beast to what it was in the mid-1990s, when I first launched Strangehaven. Although my publishing company, Abiogenesis Press, is still active, I haven’t published any new Strangehaven since 2005. So I’m not really in the best position to advise on specifics to someone starting to self publish today. When I started out, there were no crowdfunding platforms, no print-on-demand services, no digital comics platform or even webcomics, and that’s where most self-publishing appears to take place these days. Generally speaking, though, self-publishing requires a great investment of money and effort, so you have to be prepared for that. Unless you can afford to hire colourists, letterers, editors, publicists, business managers and so on, you’ll have to do all that yourself. Some self-publishers revel in this, others really struggle. Creating comics involves combining a number of disciplines in itself, handling everything else as well can be too much for one person. It can also be financially draining unless you’re an immediate runaway success. Of course, you have to balance that with the reward of having complete creative control over your own work, and the fruits of any potential successes (and failures) you may earn.”

If you’d like to check out his series, I’m afraid it’ll be a bit of a wait. He just sold out not too long ago, but you can keep updated for restocks on Millidge’s website here, “infrequent” newsletter here, and social media here

As of the moment, Millidge is focused on finishing the last chapter of Strangehaven. After that, he has a few plans of where to go next:

“Maybe I’d like to collaborate with some creators who I admire, or perhaps another solo project. But probably not anything as ambitious as Strangehaven, though.”

Whatever it may be, I’ll be one of the first in line to check it out, that’s for sure!

If you’re interested in learning more about the series, check out the In Praise of Shadows video about its history below!

Now, you know we can’t bring this to a close without some Shoutouts! Here’s a couple of projects I didn’t have a chance to talk too in-depth about, but still think are worth keeping an eye on!

SHOUTOUTS:

My Special Boy (Fan Film): When it comes to Friday the 13th content, the major studios have been starving us for too long. Luckily, the fans have been picking up their slack and have been giving us some great fan films! James Grims My Special Boy seems to be continuing the trend, giving us a new group of camp counselors just brimming with fresh blood for Jason’s machete to spill. Check out the trailer here and, if you can, support its Indiegogo here!

Oblivisci Mortem (YouTube Channel) If you’re looking for a new gaming channel to follow, give Oblivisci Mortem a watch! Delving primarily into horror games, Oblivisci has played such titles as Corpse Party, Resident Evil 8: Village, and Spooky’s Jump Scare Mansion. Check out his YouTube channel here

Dead Blood: Book One (Book): It’s a tale as old as time – the zombie apocalypse happens and survivors tough through it by scavenging supplies and cracking craniums. However, in Dead Blood: Book One by Jay Bower, our hero (?) makes his way by scavenging blood and biting necks… and cracking craniums. It’s the living dead vs. the undead (there’s a difference, right?) as a lone vampire tries to survive in a zombie world, all the while hunting/being hunted by whatever humans remain. Check out the first book here!

Mothman (Feature Film): Yes, that Mothman! The Indiegogo for the film’s finishing funds just went live, so if you can, help support it right here!

Once again, I’d like to thank all the creators out there that shared their work with me! It won’t be long until I lead y’all back into the indie-horror darkness yet again, I assure you… just hope I remember to bring something better than a lighter.

Until next time…

Ciao, friends!

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