Haint Misbehavin’ 2014: ATLRetro Reviews Atlanta’s Top Halloween Attractions

Posted on: Oct 23rd, 2014 By:


By Anya Martin, Editor/Publisheraza Melanie Crew, Managing Editor
Rachel Stark, Guest Reviewer

The horror! The horror! Thanks to some dedicated monster-lovers, Atlanta has become the year-round capital city of Scary. This October our local terrifying talent again has outdone themselves in creepy creativity. Here are our reviews of our top three picks for Atlanta’s hottest haunted attractions. One general tip for all: wear comfortable closed toe shoes and clothes that you don’t mind getting moist. The monsters may tell you they are spurting you with blood or other bodily fluids, but it’s just water. Well, we think it is.

LABOR OF LOVE: ATLANTA ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE (through Oct. 31. Rock n Roll Monster Bash party onsite on Nov. 1)

Anya: When most folks, even in the horror biz, think of haunts, they peg them as attractions you walk or ride through with scares that jump out at you. Forget all that passive voyeurism with ATLANTA ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE (AZA), which this year is consolidated into one mega- attraction and the zombie shoot. It’s also the last year for AZA since the building is being sold so you better get out there or regret missing it forever. Since its founding five years ago, this bizarre brainchild of Shane Morton, aka Professor Morte of the The Silver Scream Spookshow, and Johnny Rej, former owner of the Plaza Theatre, distinguished itself as a fully immersive experience where visitors literally become part of a realistic plot line of a zombie incursion. Some may consider it off the beaten track just south of I-285 at the Moreland Avenue exit, but the abandoned aura of this industrial area only adds to the apocalyptic feel, and there’s no discounting that having the full run of Safety Wolf, a derelict motel/truck stop turned paintball course, opens up a toxic host of possibilities. This year the setting is a FEMA camp where the infected from a variety of diseases are being contained. The zombie shoot also is much more that shooters standing and aim at zombie targets. Moved to the woods, survivors are fitted with a safety helmet and weapon just like they would in a real zombie apocalypse. In sum, it’s more than a haunt, it’s a labor of love not just by Shane Morton and the creative crew and embodies the heart and soul of what makes Atlanta’s monster movie community truly unique and –hell, we’ll dare to say it– the best in the nation.

aza2Melanie: The undead have definitely risen at Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse this year! Prepare for the run of your lives in and out of abandoned buildings, down darkened, rotting body-filled halls, as the grizzly undead have a hankerin’ for your flesh! AZA is a no-holds-barred zombie infestation, guided by rogue, armed civilians and crazed doctors!  Put on your running shoes, because this attraction isn’t for the faint of heart or the delicate ‘n’ dainty. To survive this grotesque, flesh-crazed and brain eating disaster, you must think fast, you must prepare for the worst and you must not be afraid! From one AZA virgin to another, a trip to this terrifying, extremely immersive attraction of suspense is a monstrous MUST!

chambersUNDERGROUND ABYSS: CHAMBER OF HORRORS (through Nov. 1)

Anya: As I said last year, Chambers of Horror, Atlanta’s adults-only haunt behind The Masquerade, has come a long way from a torture porn extravaganza to a creepy crawl through a septic, gritty underworld. This year’s storyline involves super soldiers being developed out of the same technology as Dr. Splatter’s lurid experiments. It’s a must-see, as long as you have a stomach for  extreme violence and the phantasmagorically pornographic. Let’s be clear–you won’t be seeing parasexual activity, but nakedness and deformed organs are in view. The journey begins in an elevator that shakes and shudders to evoke a realistic ride down five stories into the depths that once were TortureCo and are now a US military facility.  Once below, again what makes Chambers stand out is its atmosphere and acting. You really feel like you are deep underground, passing through cave-like passages with disturbing dioramas, from a monstrous birthing to the swampy lair of a certain Louisiana reptile. Sure, there were some jumpy scares and victims predictably cried out mournfully for help, but the torturers threaten and tantalize visitors with a promise of pain, both excruciating but yet beautiful.

Rachel: I want to get scared, I want to feel immersed! From the introductory video, Chambers of Horrors immediately set the tone for going being different.  Different it was. I’m immediately get dropped into an immersive and well-thought out story. This year, military testing! At once one hears that all kind of horrors can be imagined. They do not spare you!  So you better start running along the dark twists and turns. Whether it is ex-test subjects or the military, they will be on your heals or in your face! Never once does the story wane. Visuals, acting and frights that are spot on, oh my! If you like your horror dark with an edge than this is the place for you.

netherworldGOTHICALLY GORGEOUS: NETHERWORLD (through Nov. 2)

Anya: Consistently ranked as the nation’s best Halloween attraction,Netherworld is also completely homegrown rather than corporately conceived. Founders Billy Messina and Ben Armstrong and a dedicated team of designers, painters, sculptors and other artists deserve ever kudo imaginable for crafting a Gothic wonderland in a Norcross commercial space. Every year it gets bigger and more creative and under this year’s theme of SEASON OF THE WITCH is no exception. I don’t scare easily, so I just walked slowly in awe of the bizarre beauty from graveyards of gargoyles to mirrored mazes, decadent dioramas inhabited by witches and other classic monsters to sinister steampunk laboratories, weird werewolf lairs to abysses inhabited by gigantic swamp creatures and  Lovecraftian elder Gods. NETHERWORLD also always features a second haunt, SPLICED that is more slasher/contemporary horror in its bent–read toxic waste and chainsaws.

MelanieThis year’s Netherworld delivers two horrifying haunts. The first and largest, SEASON OF THE WITCH is a fangtastic, gory and grotesque experience, reeking of death, monstrous creatures and deep, cavernous creeping creatures! As someone who doesn’t scare easily, this attraction not only did a great job in the startle and scream department, but also planted a small seed of fear, my heart racing even when I realized I did actually make it out alive. What an experience! Netherworld’s scenery reeks of voodoo and eerie old-time witchcraft, gorgeously displayed. The atmosphere pulls you in with its historical feel of evil, the horrifying and an intense, deep-rooted fear of the ancient and unknown! Their second attraction, SPLICED is a modern haunt, with mad scientists, ghastly creatures and gore for all of you lovers of torture and the weird! Netherworld is definitely a must this Halloween season!

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Shop Around: Creature Feature: You Don’t Have to Ask Your Momma How to Make a Monster When Kyle Yaklin Is Around

Posted on: Oct 19th, 2014 By:

mask1Monster masks were truly an art in the golden age of Universal horror before CGI. That creepy craft has been resurrected by some astounding Atlanta area artists including Shane Morton and Marietta-based SFX Make-Up Artist Kyle Yaklin. Kyle really turned heads with not only his Creature From The Black Lagoon masks but also entire suits at Monsterama and Dragoncon this year, even taking the Creature for a swim. And he crafts custom masks and suits for sale at remarkably reasonable prices.

Find Kyle’s Creature creations and other artwork at the acclaimed seasonal experiential attraction Atlanta Zombie ApocalypseJust in time for Halloween, ATLRetro hunted him down to find out more about what drew him to Creature-craft, see if he’d share a few of his scary secrets and get the scoop on what’s happening this year at AZA. Read our ATLRetro review of AZA and Atlanta’s other top haunts here.

ATLRetro: When did you first see THE CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON and why did the creature appeal to you?

Kyle Yaklin: Well, I first saw it when I was around three years old! My grandmother got me a copy of the VHS, and I was just fascinated with it! The suit in particular was just amazing to me, it didn’t look like the rest of the B-movie monsters from the time. It looked intelligent, frightening and most importantly like something that could actually exist. I think that’s what made the creature so popular.

How did you get into mask-making, how old were you and what was your first mask?

I was a freshman in college when I made my first mask, and of course, the first thing I sculpted was the Creature! It took me around three months to sculpt inbetween classes, and the result was fairly good for a first attempt! 

creaturesonlyYou use the original mold from the Creature, don’t you? How did you get a hold of that?

Actually no, I do have castings from the original molds from the first two films, but I sculpted every bit of my suit by hand, including the mask. Last May I decided to go back and re-sculpt the Creature mask that I had made three years earlier. I used my casting of the original land head as reference when I sculpted the new version so that I could get my sculpt as close to the original as possible!

And you’ve made entire suits and even swam in them. Can you tell us a bit about that?

I have recently completed the entire Creature suit! And again, the origins of the project go back to my freshman year when I sculpted my first Creature mask. The main goal of that mask was to eventually make a whole suit, so I did a ton of research on how the original suit was created, and planned out how my suit was going to be made. At the time though I realized I neither had the time, money or skill to achieve something I’d be happy with. After I sculpted my second version I was much happier with the results, so I started sculpting out the rest of the suit in small sections just like the original was done. It spread the project out over time and made it seem not so daunting of a project. After six months of working on the various pieces I had finally completed everything! Now I just needed to glue all the pieces down to a skin suit and paint it! 

headlesssuitHere’s the first fully finished suit hanging in my shop which you can see was a huge mess at the time..

fullsuitHere’s the suit at its premier at Dragoncon!

suitsubmergedAnd here are a few photos from the Marriott swimming pool!Taking the suit swimming was just amazing, I got to live out one of my childhood dreams that day and I can’t wait to take it swimming again! I’m hoping to be able to make the trip down to Wakula Springs in Florida where the original film was shot, and get some photos and videos swimming in the actual Black Lagoon! The suit is actually more comfortable in the water than it is on land, and the hands and feet really do work as flippers so the original design really was a very functional suit.

swimsuit1

What’s the most challenging aspect to crafting a mask? 

The most challenging part of making the masks are, of course, sculpting it and making a mold, but after that is taken care of, I guess the most challenging part would be slushing the latex around an 80-pound ultracal mold. 

And the most fun part?

The most fun part is always painting the masks, I use a combination of airbrushing, painting with an actual brush and applying washes. And each mask is personally painted by me, so each one is a little different and one of a kind!

headWhat other masks and other work are you making now?

I do make a variety of other masks including zombie masks, a Karloff Frankenstein monster, my own version of the shock monster, Jason Voorhees, and more! 

I understand you’ll be down at the Atlanta Zombie Apocalpyse. What are you doing at AZA?

I’ve been working at the Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse for three years now as one of the main makeup FX artists and actually got the job based on my first creature mask!

We’ve heard AZA is even more rockin’ and scary than ever. Without giving away any big spoilers, what are a few of your favorite things about this year’s experience?

This year is the final year for the Zombie Apocalypse, but were definitely going out with a bang! This year’s story is one of the best yet, and it’s the longest show ever! In past years we’ve split it into two separate shows, but this year it’s one massive zombie experience!

masksHow can folks reach you if they want to purchase a mask?

If you’d like to get in touch with me my email is supergzilla@gmail.com, or you can send me a message on my Facebook page Kyle Yaklin FX! You can also see tons of progress photos of the creature suit and updates on new projects at my Facebook page as well. Thank you all for your time!

 

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The Horror! The Horror! Our Top 10 Retro Reasons to Go to DAYS OF THE DEAD 2014

Posted on: Feb 6th, 2014 By:

What are we doing this weekend?! We’re heading down to the third annual Days of the Dead at Sheraton Hotel Atlanta, Friday-Sunday Feb. 7-9.

1) THE THING REUNION! Given that John Carpenter‘s THE THING (1982) is one of those rare remakes that surpasses the original, we can’t think of anything more fun than meeting a bunch of the guys who signed on for Antarctic duty and ended up monster-meal. Keith David, Richard Masur, Joel Polis, Peter Maloney, Thomas Waites all together on one stage at 1 p.m. on Saturday and signing all weekend.

2) DAMIEN ECHOLS. We have followed the case of the West Memphis Three since 1993, and couldn’t be more happy that he is finally free. He talks about “Life After Death” Row Saturday at 7 p.m.

3) RUNAWAYS. We’re not sure how two of rock’s most badass babes ended up on the horror con circuit, but we’re not complaining about any chance to meet Lita Ford and Cherie Currie. Also rocking the roster are crazy ’80s metal man Dee Snider and Skinny Puppy’s Twiggy Ramirez.

4) SID HAIG AND BILL MOSELEY.  Sid Haig, one of those rare B-movie icons and character actors whose career spans the decades from Jack Hill’s blaxploitation films of the 1970s to the chaotic, creepy Captain Spaulding. Quite frankly you and Bill Moseley scared the sh-t out of us in THE DEVIL’s REJECTS and since we’re not easily scared, for that we salute you both!

5) BUTCH PATRICK, MEG FOSTER, CHRIS SARANDON, AND THE CRYPTKEEPER JOHN KASSIRThe guest list just seems to go on and on with Retro-horror goodness including the original Eddie Wolfgang Munster, one of Hollywood’s most eye-catching actresses and the star of another John Carpenter classic THEY LIVE (1988), the hot neighborly vampire from the original FRIGHT NIGHT (1985), and the man whose voice creeped us out so many times hosting TV’s TALES FROM THE CRYPT.

6) THE HISTORY OF THE SPOOK SHOW! Atlanta’s own Professor Morte leads the SILVER SCREAM SPOOK SHOW in a history lesson of this macabre art form which we are certain will both amaze and entertain. We may even learn something, too!

Professor Morte (Shane Morton). Photo courtesy of Shane Morton.

7) MARK MADDOX. If you’re a classic horror or sci-fi fan, you’ve undoubtedly encountered the work of this Rondo Hatton and Pulp Factory Award-winning artist on the covers of countless publications from Little Shoppe of Horrors to the 50th anniversary issue of DOCTOR WHO Magazine. His appearance is sponsored by Monsterama, Atlanta’s newest horror con which debuts August 1-3, 2014.

8) SPOOKTACULAR SHOPPING  Horror cons are the perfect place to stock up on both macabre movie memorabilia, cult classics on DVD and creepy clothing, costumes and accessories.

9) MACABRE MAKE-UP, CREEPY COSTUMES AND PHANTAMAGORIC PARTIES!! Check the schedule for make-up demonstrations, VIP parties, costume contest Saturday night at 11 pm followed by the Monster Ball. On Friday night, learn SFX make-up from the masters in the Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse Presents Putrid Prosthetics, hear the funny side of wrestler-actor Roddy Piper, followed by a midnight Murder Ball hosted by Atlanta’s own most extreme Halloween attraction Chambers of Horror.

10) FRIGHTENING FILMS! The JABB 48-hour film festival featuring new indie horror, such as THE MORNINGSIDE MONSTER by ATLRetro Kool Kats Jayson Palmer and Chris Ethridge, as well as crazy has-to-be-seen-tobe-believed cult classic NEON MANIACS (1986).

Days of the Dead main con hours are Fri. Feb. 7 from 5 to 11 p.m.; Sat. Feb. 8 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sun. Feb. 9 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with parties going late into the night on Friday and Saturday. For more info, visit http://www.daysofthedead.net/atlanta/.

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Kool Kats of the Week: Joy Kills to the MCW! Having Their Cake and Eating It, Too, While Moshing!

Posted on: Dec 12th, 2013 By:

This weekend, unwrap a Monstrosity Championship Wrestling (MCW) double header at Club Famousstarting with a Silent Night, Deadly Night Friday the 13th Holiday Horror Show Dec. 13 at 9 p.m., followed by a special all-ages Holiday Matinee  on Dec. 14 starting at 2 p.m. We’ve heard rumors of a seasonal showdown between Santa and Krampus, as well as those rowdy redneck Wolfmen taking on the trio of Dragula, Natureboy Paul Lee and the “Leatherback of Notre Dame” End Zone in a two-out-of-three-falls match and ” The Lethal Dose ” Stryknyn defending the MCW Championship against The Dark Mon! Not to mention raffle prizes from the likes of Diamond*Star*HaloAtlanta Zombie ApocalypseChocolate F/X and more!

Providing the music between the mayhem is the The Joy Kills! We caught up with frontman Eric Haugh and guitarist Mike Westberg recently to find out more about what the fearsome four have planned for Friday night, as well as a sneak peek at their new EP, due out in February from  Blood Drunk Records. [FYI Spooky Partridge play the Saturday show; if you missed it, you can catch up with our Kool Kat interview with Atlanta’s rockin’est mom Katy Graves here.]

ATLRetro: What’s the secret origin story of the Joy Kills and how did you get your name?

Eric: If I told you, then you’ll be carrying a life-threatening secret you must guard from the likes of the FBI, the CIA and PETA.

Michael: Which is to say we met on OKCupid. The date didn’t work out, but we decided for form a band anyways.

Eric: The Joy Kills came out of our drummer’s mouth by mistake. It’s the best mistake he ever made. He’s to blame for such irony. After much amusement with the name I finally realized that the Joy DOES Kill. It kills us all. The Joy Kills mean life, and how brief and fun and scary it can be for everyone. The Joy will kill you too.

The Joy Kills in a urinal. Photo courtesy of The Joy Kills and used with permission.

We’ve heard the Joy Kills called  “garage-punk,” but that you also have a heavy blues edge and are influenced by Black Sabbath. In a few words, how would you describe your music to the uninitiated?

Eric: Music for the dining banquet of a mental health institution, in Hell! For tonight, you’ll be entertained by a lovely three-piece with an escapee from the institute leading them in the charge.

Michael: You’re so glib… I like to say we’re all over the place with our influences and can’t make up our mind.  I think one thing we can agree on, though, is we like to be in that little spot between punk and rock. That way we can have our cake and eat it too, while moshing.

What are three acts and/or bands which influenced you and why?

Eric: Iggy and The Stooges, Jay Reatard and Butthole Surfers have all equally scarred me with wild, intense sounds that attacked my pleasure senses of my brain in a way that seems inappropriate for the some viewers. All of them were known for being kick-ass live shows to see back in the day that was both revolutionary as well as fleeting.  All of them are now defunct. Something about the brief and candid explosiveness of their time(s) really inspires me to do more with music than just explode. So I hope to stick around.

Michael: Iggy and The Stooges still play!  Although their original guitarist, Ron Asheton, died not too long ago.

The Joy Kills Capturing Her First Prize in Charm City. Photo courtesy of The Joy Kills and used with permission.

You recently did a holiday song. Why you did you go for such a scary aspect of the holidays as “Black Friday”?

Michael: Because the holidays are scary! It’s such a petulant time; family you don’t really like, and an obligation to buy crap for other people who are just going to be disappointed you didn’t get them something better.  I remember one Christmas I got a STAR WARS action figure from a distant relative, but it was some crappy “B” character from the Mos Eisley’s cantina scene.  I will not see this relative again until their funeral, when I shall place the unopened figurine in their casket.

Eric: It’s really funny. All the songs on that compilation appear to carry the same tune of very jaded view of the December holiday. We didn’t realize this until AFTER the release on Blood Drunk Records. We must all hate the holidays! MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Short answer: Our singer Eric was born three days before Christmas Day. Since that day it he’s been competing with Jesus ever since to offer YOU low prices.

Why play a wrestling show?

Both: Why not? It’s America!

Which MCW wrestlers are you rooting for this Friday and why?

Eric: All of them. I will make them fight for my affection.

Michael: Eric is an only child, see?  We’re only here on this Earth for his amusement.

The Joy Kills' Eric flying! Photo courtesy of The Joy Kills and used with permission.

Do you have any special plans for this Friday’s gig?

Eric: Possible costume requirements: mask, silly string and a chainsaw… you do the math…

Michael: Is that why you asked to borrow my chainsaw and my plague doctor’s mask?

Can you tell us anything about your second CD? It’s coming out in February, right?

Michael: It’s a secret! The kill collar around my throat will activate if it senses me even muttering anything about the new rec…

Eric: But we can tell you it will be a four-track EP available only on vinyl and digital release. Keep an eye out with us and BloodDrunkRecords.com.  Oh, and if you want a taste, we had a prerelease of one of the songs, “Betsy,” on our Blood Drunk Compilation.  Which I highly recommend everyone go and get now! [Listen to 01 Betsy!]

Michael: I’d like to reiterate that as well!  It’s worthwhile to support your local music scene, and not just your friend’s band. There’s a lot out here in ATL and beyond, and a lot of these bands bust ass to make music for people to enjoy.  I suggest going to random shows and trying new things.

Eric: We always try to keep things interesting, not just in our live show, but with little videos and quirky updates.  Get people wanting to be fans, and keep the fans engaged is the name of the game!

For more on the Joy Kills:

Preview teaser for Friday the 13th Holiday Horror Show

Interview with Wrestling with Pop Culture’s Jonathan Williams

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Haint Misbehavin’: ATLRetro Reviews Atlanta’s Top Halloween Attractions

Posted on: Oct 25th, 2013 By:

The horror! The horror! Thanks to some dedicated monster-lovers, Atlanta has become the year-round capital city of Scary. This October, though, our local terrifying talent has outdone themselves in creepy creativity. Here are our reviews of five of the city’s hottest haunted attractions. One general tip for all: wear comfortable closed toe shoes and clothes that you don’t mind getting moist. Don’t worry. The monsters may tell you they are spurting you with blood or other bodily fluids, but it’s just water. Well, we think it is.

ATLRETRO’S HAINT OF THE SEASON: CHAMBER OF HORRORS

Chambers of Horror, Atlanta’s adults-only haunt behind The Masquerade, has come a long way baby from a torture porn extravaganza to a creepy crawl through a septic, gritty underworld. So we’re not only calling it this year’s most improved attraction but also a must-see, as long as you have a stomach for  extreme violence and the phantasmagorically pornographic. Let’s be clear–you won’t be seeing parasexual activity, but nakedness and deformed organs are in view.

This year’s concept has the old Torture Co. burned to the ground, but some of its denizens have survived in caverns below, continuing their brutal pursuits. The journey begins in an elevator that shakes and shudders just enough to evoke a realistic ride down five stories with a most unwelcome host.  Once below, what makes this year’s Chambers stand out is its atmosphere and acting. You really feel like you are deep below, passing through cave-like passages between disturbing dioramas, such as a monstrous birthing, which look believably real rather than staged. Sure, there were some jumpy scares and victims predictably cried out mournfully for help, but it was their torturers beckoning with a longing evocative of Clive Barker’s Cenobites, who truly tantalizing us with a promise of pain, both excruciating but yet beautiful. Open through Nov. 2.

LABOR OF LOVE: ATLANTA ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE 

When most folks, even in the horror biz, think of haunts, they peg them as places you walk or ride through with scares that jump out at you. Forget all that passive voyeurism with ATLANTA ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE (AZA), which this year again boasts two attractions and a zombie shoot. Since its founding four years ago, this bizarre brainchild of Shane Morton, aka Professor Morte of the The Silver Scream Spookshow, and Johnny Rej, former owner of the Plaza Theatre, distinguished itself as a fully immersive experience where visitors literally become part of a realistic plot line of a zombie incursion. Some may consider it off the beaten track just south of I-285 at the Moreland Avenue exit, but the abandoned aura of this industrial area only adds to the apocalyptic feel, and there’s no discounting that having the full run of Safety Wolf, a derelict motel/truck stop turned paintball course, opens up a toxic host of possibilities.

What we love about this year’s AZA’s three attractions is that they steer away from George Romero, WALKING DEAD and other military-industrial plague zombie stories. That doesn’t mean there aren’t military types running around with paintball automatic weaponry, but rather that the cumulative effect is a love affair with some classic horror tropes in creative ways which frankly we’ve never seen at other haunts, which appeal to the Retro as well as the contemporary horror fan, and which will delight everyone who is tired of zombies, too. We don’t want to reveal any spoilers, so all we’ll say about the first main new attraction is that it is quintessentially Shane and will especially delight old school Spookshow fans. This is a good point to note that AZA’s staff includes many Spookshow members and attendees, and that passion permeates every aspect of this team effort of true old-school monster movie fans. The second experience incorporates the woods behind the motel again and returns to the same Lovecraftian territory with the dead raised by Cthulhu-worshipping cultists as last year, but expect different guides, twists and a much stronger climax. Even the zombie shoot rises to another level this year. Shooters don’t stand and aim at zombie targets, but rather get to run from room  to room with a safety helmet and weapon just like they would in a real zombie apocalypse.

In sum, ATLRetro couldn’t have had more fun. It’s not a haunt or even just an immersive theater experience, it’s a labor of love not just by Shane Morton but also embodying the heart and soul of what makes Atlanta’s monster movie community truly unique and –hell, we’ll dare to say it– the best in the nation. Open through Nov. 2.

MOST GOTHICALLY GORGEOUS: NETHERWORLD

Consistently ranked as the nation’s best Halloween attraction, Netherworld is also completely homegrown rather than corporately conceived. Founders Billy Messina and Ben Armstrong and a dedicated team of designers, painters, sculptors and other artists deserve ever kudo imaginable for crafting a Gothic wonderland in a Norcross commercial space. Every year it gets bigger and better, yes, making us invoke Clive Barker again–a literal manifestation of Midian, where the Monsters live in his novella CABAL and the movie version NIGHTBREED (1990).

The ATLRetro team doesn’t scare easily, so we just walked slowly in awe of the bizarre beauty from graveyards of gargoyles to mirrored mazes, decadent dioramas inhabited by vampires and other classic monsters to sinister steampunk laboratories, weird werewolf lairs to abysses inhabited gigantic Lovecraftian elder Gods. NETHERWORLD also always features a second haunt that is usually more slasher/contemporary horror in its bent–read toxic waste and chainsaws. This year’s BOGEYMAN was particularly fun, our favorite part being the bouncy dancing killer clowns. Yeah, you read that right. We usually are totally freaked out by clowns, and these clowns were mighty creepy. Or maybe we just enjoyed scaring them by hopping along. Open through Nov. 3.

BEST BATTLE OF THE BEASTS: MONSTROSITY CHAMPIONSHIP WRESTLING AT SIX FLAGS FRIGHT FEST 

Every October Six Flags Over Georgia is overrun by ghastly ghouls, terrifying monsters and psychotic mad scientists, but their 2013 Fright Fest has grown hellishly bigger than ever. They’ve upped the ante with 11 haunted attractions and four live shows, but for us the real Retro treat was Monstrosity Championship Wrestling (MCW), which has taken over the Axis Arena in Gotham City for four afternoon shows at 2, 3, 4 and a big Battle Royale featuring all the big bad beasts at 5 p.m.

Yup, we mean the same MCW that was cooked up by our BFF blog Wrestling with Pop Culture (check out our Kool Kat interview with blogger Jonathan Williams here) and “Atlanta’s Renaissance man of horror” Shane Morton (check out his Kool Kat interview here). Yup, Shane has been doubling up on October weekends with MCW during the day as The Silver Scream Spookshow’s “ghost host with the most” Professor Morte and then heading to supervise his other baby Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse (AZA) at night. With the assistance of the horrifically humorous Ringmaster, Morte crowns the bloody victors in matches made in hell as MCW’s deadly contenders duke it out in fearsome full-throttle matches. On a recent Sunday, we saw such creepy contenders collide as MCW faves Dragula, the Alabama Wolfman, Pandora, Bad Santa and more! When they’re not bringing their pro-league fight club for monsters to Six Flags, they can be seen battling it out on their home turf, Club Famous every first Friday of the month. Weekends through Oct. 27.

ATLANTA’S NEWEST HAUNT: CONTAINMENT

The newest haunt on the Atlanta scene is Containment, located underneath Atlantic Station. As described on Containment’s website, “An assortment of demonic artifacts collected by the mysterious Frightmares, Inc., was to be safely transported by train through Atlanta as part of a convoy of secured cargo containers.  ut a mysterious chain of events changed everything. The train derailed, causing the containers to crash onto the Atlantic Station property, followed by a series of unexplained incidents, disturbing behavior and mysterious disappearances.”

Visitors pass through 19 cargo containers featuring bizarre medical equipment, creepy dolls, apocalyptic motorcycle riders, redneck cannibals, even a Victorian greenhouse. Other than the occasional character jumping out of the shadows at you, there aren’t too many big scares, but there are quite a lot of interesting ‘artifacts’ to look at in the 25,000 square feet, quarter-mile long haunt. Containment is open through November 3rd.

Thanks to Melanie Crew and Rebecca Perry for their assistance with Six Flags Fright Fest/MCW and Containment.

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Kool Kats of the Week: DILBERT Does Demonic: Raising Corporate Hell with the Pretty Faces of Shane Morton and Chris Brown

Posted on: May 22nd, 2013 By:

Chris Brown and Shane Morton at The Lab. Photo courtesy of Adult Swim.

When Shane Morton, aka Atlanta’s Renaissance man of horror, and Chris Brown, mad mastermind of Macabre Puppets and the bloody musical SCARLET’S WEB (Dad’s Garage), first got involved with Adult Swim‘s  YOUR PRETTY FACE IS GOING TO HELL, they immediately realized this grotesque and groovy gig was their dream, or should we say nightmare, job. The initial assignment was special effects makeup, but the show didn’t have an art director yet. It’s a story Shane has already told colorfully in several articles, but he asked them for a couple of days to film a make-up test to prove the pair could transform humans into demons in 45 minutes, then he got to work on sketches and models. Being old-school Ray Harryhausen fans, Shane and Chris wanted to do as much as possible with miniatures, but budgets and technological advances dictated a balance between digital effects for lava flows and heads spinning like Linda Blair and the old ways for blood spurts and HR Geiger-esque urinals. Still, the pair didn’t have to do much to convince everyone to let them take over much of what perhaps a little ironically is called the “practical” effects for the series.

“Maybe we were thinking too much about that,” Shane says, speaking about his passion for traditional effects from the monster FX Lab he’s built south of the city at the Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse. The undead Halloween attraction is one of many horror events he has nurtured locally and is a big force behind the transformation of Atlanta into Halloween-town, USA. “We did sculpt and cast all the horns themselves,” he continues. “We didn’t want to be just painting people red and sticking horns on them, and we didn’t want anything store-bought.”

Ever since the Middle Ages, comedies about deals with the Devil have proven a surefire hit. Think about such Retro cult classic movies as BEDAZZLED (The 1967 version, of course, starring Peter Cook and Dudley Moore) and POOR DEVIL (TV, 1971), starring Sammy Davis Jr.  and Christopher Lee). YOUR PRETTY FACE IS GOING TO HELL mixes in-your-face crassness and generous gore with office comedy, reimagining Hades as a contemporary cubicle-ridden setting. Demon Gary (played by Henry Zebrowski) is dedicated but far too much of a screw-up to earn a promotion. Yet it’s hard not to empathize with the well-meaning “associate” because we all like to complain about our bosses, but his, well, has to be worst because it’s Satan. The original live-action series is created and directed by Dave Willis (AQUA TEEN HUNGER FORCE, SQUIDBILLIES) and Casper Kelly (SQUIDBILLIES, HARVEY BIRDMAN: ATTORNEY AT LAW; STROKER & HOOP). The final installment of the six-episode run airs this Thursday May 23, 2013, at midnight.

Henry Zebrowski stars as Gary the demon in YOUR PRETTY FACE IS GOING TO HELL. Photo courtesy of Adult Swim.

At the Silver Scream Spookshow, Shane’s homage to Retro spook shows of old, he regularly performs magic tricks as Horror Host with the Most Professor Morte. Whether transforming humans into monsters with make-up, conjuring up crazy sets or engineering a splattery gross-out nosebleed, Shane views his effects work equally as magic. A consummate showman, he “performs” for the crew and ultimately the TV audience. “When there is special effects stuff going on, everybody wants to be around to watch it,” Shane says. “You’re getting to see the trick in the magic trick. You’re getting to peek behind the curtain.”

Part of the magic on YOUR PRETTY FACE was having to be prepared for the unexpected every day on the set. The script served only as a loose guide because a great deal of improvisation happened, too, Shane says. With that in mind, he kept a “library of prosthetics” on set. At the AZA Lab prior to shooting, he crafted multiple “wounds and hanging eyeballs and sets of teeth, because you never know what these people are going to ask for.”

Shane and Chris started each day by getting the cast into make-up. As simple as it may seem to paint someone red and stick on horns, Shane notes that because the body is organic–yeah, people sweat and rub against things–there’s a nonstop need for  reapplication. “We were constantly touching up their noses, painting in their ears, touching their beards up, molesting them all day long,” Shane says. “You have to get intimate.”

That process became trickier when on location, such as for the third episode, Take Life By the Horns,” in which Gary found himself fallen into a ravine. That shoot involved dodging poison ivy and copperhead snakes and having to rappel camera equipment down the side of a mountain, Chris recalls.

After make-up, the pair would launch into preparing the special effects and any additional props needed for the day. Sometimes that could be blood or pus or a potion of extreme projectile vomit, also needed for the ravine shoot. “We had a limited amount of time, so I literally used a sump pump, like you use to bail water out of your basement,” Chris says. “I put together a big plunger and a giant syringe, and then opened the nozzle to spew out a rainbow collection, which included stew, cream of mushroom soup, I made some gelatin and crunched up into chunks. The smell quickly turned rancid so it even smelled like vomit.” In addition, Gary broke his leg from the fall down the cliff, and Chris had to create nauseating pus to spew from the wound. Yes, it did involve black blood, red blood and tapioca pudding!

Satan (Matt Servitto) gets a touch-up from Shane Morton. Photo courtesy of Adult Swim.

Shane and Chris are used to working wonders on a tight budget and schedule whether it’s for local theater or DEAR GOD! NO!, an over-the-top neo-exploitation movie involving bikers, Bigfoot and a Nazi mad scientist which scored awards at grindhouse festivals across the nation. While the budget was not huge for YOUR PRETTY FACE, it was much larger than the typical indie which allowed such treats as Chris was crafting Satan’s legs out of actual yak fur rather than a used gorilla suit. “The original talk was that Satan would be fat, over-the-hill, and extra lecherous like the demon in LEGEND (1985) as if time has caught up with him,” Shane says. “We were really gung ho for that, but we loved the look he ended up with.”

A secret ingredient underneath Satan’s furry legs was spandex tights, that could easily be changed out if Matt Servitto, the actor who plays Satan, felt sweaty. A lycra lining gave four-way stretch which, as Shane notes, even allowed Matt to do David Lee Roth kicks in a photo shoot. As for costume maintenance, well, “it was like combing out a big dog,” Chris says.

Perhaps Shane’s favorite set pieces are the aforementioned H.R. Geiger-esque urinals, the bowls of which needed to accommodate the heads of demons who displeased Satan. Yeah, he pees on them, including sometimes poor hapless Gary. Originally they were supposed to be clean, standard urinals, but then Shane had the crazy idea to make them scary: “Everything in hell is monsters, so let’s make the urinals monsters, too!”

Shane Morton at work on Claude (Craig Rowin), Gary's over-dedicated intern in YOUR PRETTY FACE IS GOING TO HELL. Photo courtesy of Adult Swim.

Shane went home and crafted a miniature model, brought it in, and got the greenlight to create a urinal that looks like an extra-large facehugger. He toyed with various color ideas but finally decided that the bathrooms otherwise would be spotless in Hell.

The demonic duo were impressed that the show really did follow through with Satan actually peeing on the demons’ heads. Of course, even with a program that prides itself on shock value, some things inevitably didn’t make the final cut. For example, Satan won’t poop on Gary’s face, even though the scene was filmed. “It will end up on DVD maybe,” Shane says hopefully. “Somebody getting pooped on or an arm hacked off is a good day at work! It keeps the energy up.”

Satan’s office is packed with props created by Shane and Chris, though it is not perhaps quite the devilish “greatest hits” collection that they originally envisioned. Instead of the trophies and plaques that have become de rigeur in executive offices, Shane wanted to include on the shelf Eve’s apple, Christ’s crown of thorns and Hitler’s head in a jar. And clearance couldn’t be gotten for Wall of Shame photos of Satan flashing a big grin with dubious celebrities such as David Hasselhoff and the Octomom. Still, those who look carefully will see many subtle Shane and Chris touches such as faces of tortured souls on the steel balls that click back and forth on the Devil’s desk. “Everything is pumped up a little bit because after all we are in hell,” Shane says. “Even the elevator switch looks like something scary.”

In other words, Shane and Chris had one of a helluva good time. At an apartment location, some little old ladies told the crew “they were going to pray for us because we were doing the devil’s work,” Shane says. “We joked every day and maybe it did get a bit old but ‘it’s really hell getting all this done today!’”

Shane holds up his own head, a prop he crafted for DEAR GOD! NO! Photo courtesy of Adult Swim.

As the season draws to a close, the pair are now just waiting to hear the final ratings and whether the show gets greenlit for a second season. If yes, they’re hoping for a bigger budget and the chance to play around more with more practical special effects over CGI–“to raise the bar,” as Chris says. “If we end up getting multiple seasons, it’s only going to get more extreme,” he adds. And maybe there’ll even be a cameo for that giant spider with the humungous nut-sack hanging on his back that turned out to be expensive to cast.

In the meantime, Chris will be working on the script for a $3-4 million movie version of SCARLET’S WEB. And Shane recently wrapped the indie feature, TALES FROM MORNINGVIEW CEMETERY. In it, he appears as Professior Morte, fulfilling the Cryptkeeper role, introducing the segments and holding the show together. He’s also involved in preproduction with director Jimmy Bickert for FRANKENSTEIN CREATED BIKERS, the much-anticipated sequel to DEAR GOD! NO! It will be filmed in 35mm widescreen hopefully by the end of 2013, he revealed, and include a lot more special effects and monsters. Look for Shane, or rather his Professor Morte alter-ego, at the 11th Annual Rock n Roll Monster Bash at the Starlight Six Drive-In on Sunday June 2. The movies this year are THE DEVIL’S RAIN (1975) and EVIL DEAD 2 (1987), not to mention six bands, scary shopping and Monstrosity Championship Wrestling! [ED. Note: Watch for Retro Reviews of both movies next week]

Editor’s Note: Shane and Chris are just a few of the talented local folk streaming by in the end credits of YOUR PRETTY FACE. More ATLRetro friends include producer Linda Burns (V/H/S, THE SIGNAL), set decorator/property master Laurie Garner, who’s played bass in so many Atlanta bands (She-Monster and Vietnam to name a few), and the indomitable Eddie Ray (SATANIC PANIC BAND OUT OF HELL and a previous Kool Kat to boot!).

ALSO: Learn some of the make-up secrets Shane Morton used in YOUR PRETTY FACE IS GOING TO HELL at his Monster Make-up Class on Sunday May 26 in his Lab at AZA. For more details, visit the Facebook Event Page here.

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Kool Kat of the Week: The Beating Heart of Art: Garrett DeHart and His Poe-Inspired Short Film IF I AM YOUR MIRROR

Posted on: Feb 22nd, 2013 By:

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

Atlanta native filmmaker and photographer Garrett DeHart is the mastermind behind one of the most inventive short films ATLRetro has seen in recent years: IF I AM YOUR MIRROR. An adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, “The Tell-Tale Heart,” the film takes Poe’s lean exercise in mounting paranoia and expands it into a fractured document of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the years following the Civil War. Beyond the narrative twists taken with Poe’s themes, the film dramatically stylizes the world its characters inhabit – presenting it as a living Victorian-era oil painting imbued with the blood, spit, dirt and murk both of the time and of its main character’s mind. The portrayal of that lead character by the late actor Larry Holden in one of his last roles, is a triumph: in turns fierce and fragile, proud and pitiable. Currently available for viewing online, this immersive 18-minute epic is well worth your time.

In honor of this horrific accomplishment, ATLRetro goes Really Retro with this week’s Kool Kat.  We spoke with Mr. DeHart about his experiences making the film, the techniques behind creating the images, his influences, his local ties and much more.

ATLRetro: IF I AM YOUR MIRROR has a remarkable visual style, resembling an oil painting come to life. Were there any particular artists that inspired the look of your film? Filmmaking-wise, who influenced you on this particular project?

Garrett DeHart: I’ve always loved Poe, and  I had been playing around with a process to make live action film look like an animated oil painting. I thought the color and composition of Romantic painting, the predominant painting style of Poe’s time, was very well-equipped to tell a story inspired by Poe’s voice. I added a bit more dirt, grim and blood, and I think, with that, it’s a style that lends itself well to my voice as well. I did research on Romantic painting as a whole, but was really drawn to the paintings of Eugène Delacroix, J. M. W. Turner and Thomas Wilmer Dewing.

As far as filmmakers, the process was, of course, inspired by Richard Linklater‘s WAKING LIFE.  I loved what he did, turning live action into animation, to create a world of dreams, and really loved the look of his Rotoshop films. But I really wanted something that had a bit more texture and grim to it, and also wanted something that I could do myself.  After I saw WAKING LIFE, I started working on the process and used it in my film THE PROBLEM WITH HAPPINESS (2004) a 70-minute film that was projected on three discrete screens and had an accompanying seven-piece live band playing the score. We had 300 people at Eyedrum for the premiere and then later played The Earl before the band broke up. It was a sci-fi film in which the protagonist’s world slowly turns into a moving oil painting. I was never really happy with the effect that I was able to produce for that film and so I kept playing around with the process. The narrative was inspired by the films of Terrence Malick and Lars von Trier.

Could you describe how you came to create MIRROR’s striking look? How long did it take to bring such a heavily-stylized project to fruition?

The actors were shot on green screen at a small studio at Georgia State University. Aside from a few chairs, luggage and miscellaneous props, everything else was added in post. I developed a process through Photoshop to stylize the actors’ frames and ran each frame of each element in a scene through Photoshop to add the effect. Many of the shots have multiple layers on each actor, and the layers were then rotoscoped in to create lighting effects, shadows and a greater depth of field with the paint effects. The backgrounds were developed from stills, paintings and created graphics. Those backgrounds were then layered and animated in After Effects. Some of the shots have hundreds of layers in them. The final shot of the film took over 30 hours to render. I pushed the capabilities of After Effects in working in a 2D for 3D world. I did all of the post for the film on my MacBook Pro. The computer was running full speed around the clock for over two years. I’m typing this now on the same machine. The whole process took a bit over two years.

You also directed DOGME #55: A PICNIC AND A STROLL. You’re obviously not frightened by taking on a wide variety of styles, as MIRROR is about as far away from the Dogme 95 philosophy as possible! Which turns out to be more difficult (or, alternately, more fulfilling) for you as a filmmaker: following the self-imposed restrictions of the Dogme 95 movement, or the technical demands of an effects-heavy film like MIRROR?

I was really inspired by the Dogme 95 manifesto. I really like the idea of using real people, instead of actors, when possible, and breaking down the spectacle of lighting and score, and using a handheld, cinéma vérité camera style to get to some truth. I think my tendency would be to lean more towards a Dogme esthetic, at least in the way in which I direct actors. Now that I think about it, It might be compelling to try and develop one of Poe’s stories as a Dogme style film.  But I don’t think even Von Trier or Vinterberg ever made a truly pure Dogme 95 film, and while I think there are some very important ideas in the Dogme 95 movement, I’m really most inspired by very stylized expression in films. I also love the graphics and effects and the spectacle of fantasy and horror films.

I did MIRROR for my graduate thesis and I really wanted to experiment with this effect that I had developed. They have a great studio at DAEL (Digital Arts Entertainment Laboratory), and I wanted to utilize the GSU facilities while I had the chance to access all of their equipment for free. We shot almost everything in the DAEL blue-screen studio at GSU and got to utilize all of the studio equipment.

I’m not sure which style is harder as a means of telling a story well. I know which takes longer.

How did you come to work with the late Larry Holden, and how was your experience working with him on MIRROR?

I met Larry on the set of another film a few years prior to my film. My friend had written him a letter, told him he was trying to make his first feature and asked if he’d be willing to be in the film. Larry drove across the country for that film, so when it came time to make my film, I thought he would be perfect for the role [and] I wrote him and asked if he would star in the film.

Larry was an amazing cast member to have on set. The experience and vitality he brought to the set really energized everyone working on the project. For most of us on set he was the biggest name we had worked with, but he was incredibly humble and was really dedicated to working with and teaching everyone on set. He had been in Christopher Nolan’s films and a lot of TV, but he was making his own films whenever he could, and when he had time he would travel across the country, for little more than expenses, to help and teach those who were trying to learn the craft. He stayed with some friends of mine up the street from my house during the shoot.

He was not only incredibly influential to all of the crew that he worked with for less than a week, but many folks in the neighborhood became very close with him in that time as well. My neighbors traveled across the country to go to his funeral. I was not able to make the trip at that time. It’s an incredible loss. He was an amazing artist and an amazing person, and we all feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to spend some time with him.

Poe’s stories are known for how streamlined they are, which makes adapting them almost impossible without necessarily expanding on the source material, or deviating from it in some way. MIRROR provides a particularly novel take on Poe’s “The Tell-Tale Heart.” How did you decide on your approach to the source material?

Initially I had planned to shoot a straight version of “The Tell-Tale Heart” told through the lens of Romantic painting, with voiceover. I had all the pre-production done and was ready to shoot and make that film. As I got Larry Holden interested in and then brought him onto the project, he convinced me that “The Tell-Tale Heart” films had been done enough and that it might be more interesting to take Poe’s story and its themes and let those inspire a new story. After some research, I realized that while a modern “Tell-Tale” done well could be really compelling, he was right and that I needed to develop something new: something that would express my voice. So I dug in, and with the help of a couple of friends, developed a script that I thought respected Poe’s legacy but might expand on who his characters were and the world they may have inhabited.

Garrett DeHart on set of IF I AM YOUR MIRROR.

I had the blueprint of all that pre-production I had done for the Tell-Tale script, but I was convinced we were making something new now—something certainly more challenging for me. So it wasn’t really a difficult process in deciding what to add or subtract. Poe’s story works really well in its minimalism and focus. He excludes all details that don’t lend directly to the development of the protagonist’s obsession and insanity. I was working on a new project; a film inspired by Poe. I think that “inspired by” gave me the freedom to expand on Poe’s ideas and imagine circumstances that may have brought his characters to the situations they experience in his story, and in that imagining I was creating my own story, a story that explored some slightly different, maybe more contemporary themes.

My first edit of the film we shot was almost 50 minutes. It was really more about pacing than it was about cutting scenes. But many of those quick shots, that last only a few frames, were 5, 10 or even 30 seconds long in the first cut. I was really working from the inspiration of Malick and Von Trier in the pre-production process. I imagined the film as a very slow, melodic PTSD nightmare. But as I worked with the film more and more, I found something of a thriller in it, and it seemed a bit pretentious to let the scenes linger like they were. I loved the 30-second wide, static shot of the train driving across the horizon, or 30 seconds of his wife walking through a burning wheat field, or a 5-minute flashback of the Civil War, but as I lived with the film day and night for two years, I realized this was a short, not a feature. I felt the audience might find it a bit tiring, and I wasn’t sure the long shots and extra scenes were really helping to propel the narrative. I’m happy with the decisions I made in cutting the film down.

Being an Atlanta-centric website, I’m required by city ordinance to ask: what local talent should we be keeping our eyes peeled for in the film? Any notable locals toiling behind the scenes that we should be aware of?

We had an amazing turn-out for crew from GSU grad students and for extras from all over the Atlanta area.

Shane Morton (aka Professor Morte of the Silver Scream Spookshow) was incredibly helpful on set. He did a lot of makeup work on the actors in production to help the paint effect along when we got to post.  He’s always working on cool projects. He did some effects and stars in the TALES FROM MORNINGVIEW CEMETERY horror anthology. He’s always planning and working on Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse, and they are in development on FRANKENSTEIN CREATED BIKERS (The sequel to DEAR GOD NO!).

If you’ve seen any Atlanta independent film you probably know Barefoot Bill (aka Bill Pacer), the Old Man/Evil Eye. Bill is always auditioning in Atlanta when he is not working on his one-man Ben Franklin show. He”ll be doing the Ben Franklin show at AnachroCon this weekend and March 2 at Duluth Historical Museum.

Mari Elle, the wife in the film, is now in LA but comes back to Atlanta to audition for films. She’s in town this week auditioning so catch her while you can. She is fantastic.

Steven Swigart and Chris Escobar were a huge help during production as the anchors of the production team. Chris is now the director of the Atlanta Film Festival and recently made a documentary short, shot partially in Colombia, about the ripple effects of family choices. Steven is making mini-documentaries for a university.

Jeff Ballentine, who let us borrow his large Civil War re-enactor wardrobe, is working on post for his own Civil War film.

What led to your decision to release the film online, rather than pursue the typical festival route? What has the reaction been thus far?

There’s a misconception, I think, that filmmakers are giving their work away for free when they put it online. The truth is that most filmmakers don’t make any money from their films; in fact, most spend hundred or thousands of dollars just trying to get the film seen in festivals. I made IF I AM YOUR MIRROR as my graduate school thesis project, so I wasn’t expecting to make money on the film. I wanted to create a film that exemplified my capabilities at the time, and I feel this film does that. MIRROR, at 18 minutes, is long for a short film and does not easily fit into an established genre. Therefore, it would be difficult to place it in festivals.

The festival circuit, while important, seems to me, just another way to suck money out of the truly indie filmmaking market. At $20 to $50 per entry, it’s just so much time and money that could be spent on the next project. And while seeing a film on the big screen is, of course, a far better experience (I screened my film at the Plaza Theatre and the trailer at the High Museum as part of WonderRoots Best of Generally Local, Mostly Independent Film Series), reaching an audience is really the most important thing, and the potential audience on the web is immense. Tapping that audience is, of course, the key, and that has been somewhat difficult, but I’m doing everything I can to self-promote the film through online media like ATLRetro. The critical response has been great and the film has gotten a lot of attention but, sadly, that has not really translated into as many viewers as I had hoped.

If you like the film, please support independent cinema, and pass it along to your friends and social networks.

This past October, I saw the 7 Stages production of DRACULA: THE ROCK OPERA, and when I saw your film later at the Plaza, there were a few effects shots in the video projection that looked familiar—primarily some shots of the train and the train station itself. Given the overlap in talent between these projects, I have to ask: were these your handiwork?

Yes. Rob Thompson was in MIRROR and asked, when they started to develop DRACULA, if they could use some of the footage for the backgrounds of the rock opera. I adjusted a few of the shots and gave them longer takes, and I’m very happy that MIRROR helped to fill in some of the space of the Dracula rock opera.  We’ve talked about the possibility of doing a music video/short with one of the songs on the soundtrack that will be released this month, but we haven’t had the time to work it out yet.

Are there any future projects on the horizon we should be looking out for?

I’m hoping that getting IF I AM YOUR MIRROR out into the world will facilitate connections with other writers and filmmakers and lead to new projects in the near future.  I’m in development on a Steampunk character study, short film with a style inspired by Wong Kar-wai and Gaspar Noé, that I hope, when complete, I can crowd-source into a TV series or web series. I’m looking for some writers to help in the expansion of that project. Again, if you like the film, please support independent cinema, and pass it along to your friends and social networks.

You can like IF I AM YOUR MIRROR on Facebook and check out the webpage; www.ifiamyourmirror.com.

Aleck Bennett is a writer, blogger, pug warden, pop culture enthusiast, raconteur and bon vivant from the greater Atlanta area. Visit his blog at doctorsardonicus.wordpress.com

All artwork is courtesy of Garrett DeHart.

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Retro Review: WHITE ZOMBIE Walks Again in the World Premiere of an All-New Restoration at Atlanta’s Historic Plaza Theatre!

Posted on: Jan 16th, 2013 By:

WHITE ZOMBIE (1932); Dir. Victor Halperin; Starring Bela Lugosi, Madge Bellamy, John Harron and Robert Frazer; World premiere Friday, Jan. 18 @ 8:00 p.m. hosted by Prof. Morte (scary details at end of story), and Jan. 25-31; Plaza Theatre; Trailer here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

Long before George A. Romero’s NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD forever redefined “zombie” in the public mind as “undead, flesh-eating ghoul,” the Halperin Brothers first brought the Haitian legend of the zombie to the screen with 1932’s WHITE ZOMBIE.

The movie finds young couple Madeline Short (Madge Bellamy) and Neil Parker (John Harron) reuniting in Haiti to be wed at the plantation of their friend Charles Beaumont (Robert Frazer). Beaumont’s secret love for Madeline drives him to visit local voodoo master Murder Legendre (Bela Lugosi) in order to enlist his help in winning Madeline’s hand. Legendre provides Beaumont with a potion that will transform her into a zombie, robbed of her will and love for Parker. He complies with Legendre’s instructions, but soon finds that the villainous voodoo master has plans of his own for the young beauty.

In 1932, America was in the midst of a newfound fascination with voodoo due to New Orleans’ emergence as a tourist destination. Interest was further fueled by authors such as William Buehler Seabrook. Seabrook was a well-traveled journalist, explorer, occultist and Georgia resident who had gained renown by documenting occult practices across the globe, including some of the only objective contemporaneous reporting on Aleister Crowley. Seabrook’s interest in the occult led him to spend considerable time in Haiti researching voodoo and the Culte des Morts. This adventure resulted in his 1929 book THE MAGIC ISLAND, which introduced the concept of the “zombie” to American audiences.

Producer Edward Halperin and his brother, director Victor Halperin (along with screenwriter Garnett Weston) capitalized on the nation’s interest in voodoo by borrowing liberally from both Seabrook’s work and Kenneth Webb’s 1932 Broadway play, ZOMBIE, and crafted an atmospheric masterpiece. The Halperins enlisted Bela Lugosi, fresh off his success in Universal’s 1931 smash DRACULA. It’s unclear as to Lugosi’s reasons for choosing to immediately follow a major studio hit with a micro-budgeted independent film, but he may have seen it as a way to stretch his creative muscles in a low-risk venture. Although he was paid little for his role (reports vary from $500 to $5000), his co-star Clarence Muse reported that Lugosi rewrote portions of the script, restaged some of the scenes and even directed portions of the film. His personal investment in the end results may be why Lugosi considered WHITE ZOMBIE a favorites among his own movies.

It could also be because it’s just a damned fine film.

The film deftly balances the legendary with the actual. While Legendre’s zombies are the reanimated corpses of Haitian lore (their look provided by Universal’s maestro of makeup, Jack Pierce), the film also depicts his use of a poison that emulates death and results in the victim’s deathlike trance and subsequent subservience to a bokor or sorcerer. Though this method had long been suspected, a pharmacological explanation for the zombie phenomenon wouldn’t be confirmed until ethnobiologist Wade Davis’ explorations into Haiti in the 1980s.

Beyond the film’s knowing mixture of fact and fiction, it benefits from the collaboration of Victor Halperin, cinematographer Arthur Martinelli and music superviser Abe Meyer. Together, they take what may have read on the page as stagebound and stodgy and create a dreamlike vision that mirrors Carl Dreyer’s VAMPYR (also 1932), echoes elements of contemporaneous Universal horrors and anticipates Val Lewton’s exercises in atmosphere and sound design. Constantly inventive staging and camera work—taking place on sets borrowed from DRACULA, FRANKENSTEIN and THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME—operate in sync with native drumming, chants, ambient noise, eerie rearrangements of classical works and original music by Xavier Cugat to deliver a palpable sense of creeping death under the oppressive hand of Murder Legendre.

And in the role of Legendre, Lugosi becomes the embodiment of evil itself. No other role—not even Dracula—fully utilizes his mesmeric power and hypnotic presence. From the opening scene, when his eyes are superimposed on the landscape of Haiti, his presence is felt in every frame of film; this is the power of his performance as Murder Legendre. The Halperins attempted to recapture the magic of this film with a sequel, REVOLT OF THE ZOMBIES, but made the mistake of attempting to replace Bela with Dean Jagger. It’s no small wonder that the subsequent film failed.

For years, WHITE ZOMBIE only circulated on washed-out transfers of faded 16mm prints, mastered for public domain VHS and TV broadcast. In 1999, two rare 35mm prints were used to create the restored version released on DVD by the Roan Group. However, those prints were hardly in pristine condition, displaying evident damage and dropped frames.

Left to right: Bela Lugosi as voodoo master Legendre, a mesmerized Madge Bellamy and a concerned John Harron in WHITE ZOMBIE (1932).

In recent years, Los Angeles-based Holland Releasing had heard that a previously unknown complete 35mm print was rumored to be in the possession of an aged film collector. Thomas W. Holland (a previous resident of Roswell and Marietta) spoke about the efforts to track down this elusive print and its owner. “I heard a rumor about an old fellow who claimed to have a superb, original 35mm print and that began a worldwide search to find this aging, eccentric film lover and convince him to let us acquire the film for a full restoration.  People think I’m joking when I say I had to go through a friend of a friend of a friend to contact this man.” When the print was found, Holland was stunned at its overall condition. “It must have been removed from theatrical service early on, or been set aside as a special studio print.” The Holland Releasing group then set about restoring the film.

AlgoSoft-Tech USA, based in Bishop, Georgia, was hired to return WHITE ZOMBIE’s image quality to its original standards. AlgoSoft’s president, Dr. Inna Kozlov, a famed mathematician in her native Russia, took on the project with great excitement. “We arranged to have the vintage 35mm print scanned, frame-by-frame, at a very high resolution so as not to lose any information.” From that point, Dr. Koslov and her technology developer, Dr. Alexander Petukhov wrote customized software to correct any imperfections in each frame. “Our goal was to return the film’s visuals to how they looked in 1932, the way a vintage carbon arc light source would have glistened through a silver nitrate print of the era.”

Another Atlanta firm, Crawford Media Services, was chosen to do the final re-assembly of the motion picture which included intensely detailed color-correction. “Being a black-and-white film, WHITE ZOMBIE required far more expertise and patience than a typical color feature to get the light levels correct,” says producer Holland. “This film is a gothic masterpiece, and we wanted it to look exactly the way it did when audiences first saw it.”

Once the Georgia image work was completed, the master was sent to Chace Audio by Deluxe in Burbank, California. Using a variety of sources, Chace remastered the film’s faded audio tracks to restore the sound to match the quality of the restored image. “Early sound films had a tremendous amount of inherent hiss, clicks and pops,” Holland says, “but Chace was able to give us a new audio track that greatly reduced this. We weren’t looking to make a hi-fi version of the WHITE ZOMBIE track, just a cleaner, clearer representation of how the movie originally sounded in theaters of the ’30s.”

Of course, any restoration invites an amount of controversy, and WHITE ZOMBIE is no exception to this rule. The Holland restoration, which has been licensed for use on an upcoming DVD and Blu-Ray release by Kino/Fox Lorber, is already attracting its share of debate from advance reviews. (The release offers two viewing options for comparison: the Holland restoration and a “raw” transfer of the print used prior to AlgoSoft’s restorative work.) However, without actually being able to see an arc light-projected silver nitrate print of WHITE ZOMBIE, it’s impossible to say that the Holland restoration is an inaccurate representation of how the film looked in 1932.

What is most exciting, though, is the chance to see WHITE ZOMBIE on the big screen once again as the restoration makes its world premiere at the Plaza Theatre. The Plaza is making this night a grand event. Hosted by Professor Morte of the Silver Scream Spookshow (aka Shane Morton) and Blake Myers (Atlanta effects artist, filmmaker, Buried Alive Film Festival programmer and ATLRetro Kool Kat, whose credits include THE WALKING DEAD and V/H/S), the film will be preceded by the vintage Betty Boop cartoon “Is My Palm Read?” and followed by the 1932 short subject “An Intimate Interview with Bela Lugosi.” Following the filmed entertainment, the team behind WHITE ZOMBIE’s restoration will take part in a question-and-answer session. And attendees will have a chance to win a lifetime all-inclusive ticket to the Plaza, original Plaza seats and T-shirts and monster masks from event sponsor Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse.

Following its premiere on January 18, the film will be showing at the Plaza for a full week, running from January 25-31, and will be shown on a one-time-only basis in theaters across the Unites States and Canada. But you can be there first and see WHITE ZOMBIE brought back to life at its world premiere in Atlanta.

Aleck Bennett is a writer, blogger, pug warden, pop culture enthusiast, raconteur and bon vivant from the greater Atlanta area. Visit his blog at doctorsardonicus.wordpress.com

Category: Retro Review | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Kool Kat of the Week: Destroy All Wrestlers: The Epic Adventures of Johnny Danger, Rising Star of Platinum and Monstrosity Championship Wrestling

Posted on: Jan 3rd, 2013 By:

Steve Johnson, aka Johnny Danger of the PCW.

Presented by the unholy alliance of WrestlingwithPopCulture.com and the Silver Scream Spookshow, Monstrosity Championship Wrestling (MCW) takes over the Asylum East Atlanta on Friday Jan. 4 at 9 p.m. featuring such scary stars as Dragula, Papa Marko, Cru Jones and Stryknyn, as well as live music by Bigfoot. Then on Saturday Jan, 5 at 6 p.m., the entire slate of Platinum Championship Wrestling (PCW) fighters will spar for the Platinum Royal, while Shane Marx battles Supernatural, the Undead Luchador for their league title in their new HQ at 2001 Main Street in Porterdale, GA. PCW now has bouts on every first and third Saturday of the month there.

Everyone has a dream, but Steve Johnson, aka Johnny Danger, has scored the rare opportunity to live it, combining his twin passions for classic monsters and wrestling. In just a little over a year, Johnny has gone from a horror movie-loving geek and Silver Scream Spookshow/Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse performer with a special love for Godzilla to a regular with both Platinum Championship Wrestling and Monstrosity Championship Wrestling. Back in November, we caught up with regular MCW/PCW announcer and fellow monster fan Chuck Porterfield, but since both leagues have major bouts this weekend, we thought it would be the perfect time to revisit the growing world of Atlanta wrestling and get to know another of its most colorful characters as Kool Kat of the Week.

ATLRetro: You’re relatively new to wrestling. When/why did you decide to throw yourself into the ring?

Johnny Danger: It was something I always wanted to do ever since I was a kid, which I’ll talk more about later. I made the mistake of pretty much “phoning it in” during my high school years, getting pretty lackluster grades. I paid no attention to career counseling, had no hopes of going to college. I only wanted one thing in life. – the answer was always the same: “I’m gonna be a wrestler.” Well, when I graduated high school at 6’0 and 155 pounds, it was pretty obvious that my genetics did not agree with my plans, so, I put my dream aside and went to work.

Fast forward to 2011, and I’m planning to marry the woman I’d been with for the better part of the past 10 years. The traditional “bachelor party” held no appeal to me; women had been teasing me and taking my money ever since high school, so I’m not a fan of strip clubs! So I got the crazy idea to get trained to wrestle and have ONE professional match as my “last hurrah” before I settled down and became a responsible married man. Over a year later, I’m still knockin’ heads in the ring and loving it, baby!

Professor Morte officiates at the wedding of Johnny and Divine Danger, with bride and groom in wardrobe inspired by Mothra and wrestling superstar Randy Savage respectively.

I reached out to my various friends and contacts in the local entertainment industry, I think it was actually Sadie Hawkins, a burlesque performer [in Blast-Off Burlesque], who mentioned the name Stephen Platinum, the owner of a wrestling promotion in Georgia called Platinum Championship Wrestling. At the time, Steve was running shows every week at the Academy Theater in Avondale Estates. We contacted him, and he invited me out to see a show and to speak with him after the card. I was impressed by the wide range of talent and characters that wrestled that night, and even more so by Platinum himself; he was not at all the shady, bitter type you hear about running wrestling shows. He was into what I was trying to do and agreed to train me. When my plans changed from “wrestling one show with my friends” to “becoming a full-time wrestler,” he agreed to take a chance on an out of shape, out-of-practice nearly 30-year-old nobody, and try to make him into a star.

As for getting accepted, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. From the first time I hit that ring in my first training class with Steve, I knew I was in for the fight of my LIFE. Just from a couple hours, my first class, I couldn’t walk normally for two weeks. I started at over 220 pounds, fat and slow. I couldn’t get through a single class without running to the restroom to vomit. I’d just roll to the floor and lay there, embarrassed, unable to finish a drill. Little by little, though, things started to click, and I got just a little bit better. Steve started to see improvement in my wrestling abilities, but I think what really impressed him was my talking ability. You have a lot of people in wrestling who are great, natural athletes, amazingly put together, but they can’t connect with the crowd emotionally; they can’t captivate them on the microphone. I’m not the most physically impressive guy, but I can grab ahold of you and make you believe.

As for being accepted in the ring with the other wrestlers, I had to prove myself, something I’m still doing. I changed my entire life for this. I’m in the gym most of the week, and the evenings I’m not there, I’m at PCW’s new home base in Porterdale, working in the ring with WCW veteran Fred Avery, who’s battled everybody in this industry from Sting to Cactus Jack to the British Bulldog. I’ve changed my diet, I’m down to about 170 pounds today. It’s all about holding up your end in the ring and proving you can go, to the fans and to the other wrestlers. To show that I have respect for the business, and for the people who got me into it – Mr. Platinum, the other wrestlers and the fans – I’m just always trying to get better.

Why Johnny Danger?

Why not? It’s a name I used for myself when I wrestled with my friends in high school and when I created myself in various wrestling video games. At his heart, Johnny Danger is a kid with a dream. He wants to be a superstar, a rock star, [and] more than that, a superhero. He wants to beat up the bad guy, get the girl, and fly off into the sunset, only to do it all again next week. I thrive on danger, the challenge that forces me onward. I can literally say Danger is my last name! That’s evident every time I step into the ring. I gained a reputation as a guy who’d charge into battle no matter the odds. There were literally nights I would fight three other guys, all of ’em bigger than me, all of ’em hating me, at the same time. And, as you’d expect, I got pretty beat up. But I never made it easy for ’em. Being the embodiment of danger means never backing down, using your entire body as a living weapon. I may destroy myself in the process, but if I have anything to say about it I’m taking you with me!!

Costumes can be a big part of wrestling. Can you talk a little bit about your look.

Sure. When I first started, I had a pair of shiny vinyl pants made, black with blue flames – which is kind of my signature look, inspired by Godzilla‘s blue atomic breath ray – with Godzilla’s face on one leg and “DANGER” down the other. I’d pair that with a T-shirt representing my various interests, everything from the Silver Scream Spookshow to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles accompanied me into battle. It was a cool, grungy look fit for a brawler, but I didn’t quite look like a pro wrestler.

Well, the pants got pretty beat up during my wars, and as I started shedding the pounds I decided to drop the T-shirt to become quicker and harder to hang on to in the ring. I went to fellow wrestler Rick Michaels, who’s made gear for several huge names in the game; he actually once worked with the WWE making ring attire for their top stars. I pretty much just told him: “Make me something that’s black, with blue flames and kinda looks like an Elvis jumpsuit,” and he came up with my current look. I think he knocked it out of the park. I’ve got a lot of positive feedback on it, and I love it. I’ve also been wearing facepaint recently to show solidarity with my current biggest ally, the pound-for-pound Toughest Woman in Wrestling, Pandora, who always wears the war paint into battle herself. But perhaps what I’m most known for is my signature long black hair. It can be a liability in the ring, but Johnny Danger can’t rock out with a buzzcut, ya know?!

OK, there’s a lot of showmanship, but it’s got to hurt, right? Have you had any major injuries and do you ever question your sanity for getting into this crazy sport?

Constantly. Like I said before, the training process alone was a nightmare. My elbows and knees are constantly skinned up, lumpy and bruised from the rigors of the ring. My back, which was bad to begin with, hurts constantly. As I approach my one-year anniversary as an active competitor, my list of injuries reads something like this: bruised/cracked ribs; various cuts, scrapes and bruises; broken fingers; broken nose (twice); bruised throat; jaw knocked out of place; a concussion; and worst of all, in a battle royal on September 29 at our big show Sacred Ground Chapter III, I was thrown clear out of the ring to the floor – and keep in mind we don’t use mats at ringside, so I splattered on the damn floor – breaking a finger on impact and far worse, wrecked my back. It gave me two bulging discs and caused leakage of spinal fluid; the injury put me out of action for over two months.

I didn’t know if I’d ever be able to wrestle again. The first month was pure screaming agony. As for my sanity, honestly, I think you have to be a little bit nuts to be in this business. In football, you load up on protective gear and if you don’t want to take the hit, you can take a knee or run out of bounds. Boxers wear gloves. Now, all the respect in the world for those who partake in those forms of competition, but in pro wrestling, you have no choice but to take the hit, to get slammed down on that ring – and for those wondering, a pro wrestling ring is nothing but steel, wood, and just enough padding to keep you from being broken the first time you fall down – and then get up and do it again about 30 more times a night. You tell me what normal person thinks that sounds like a good idea?! Who looks at these guys beating the HELL out of each other and goes “That’s for me”?! But when I’m out there doing what I do, and I hear the people chanting my name or cursing it depending on what the situation is, it’s all worth it. It’s the greatest, most natural “high” in the world, and I don’t feel that pain until hours later when I finally come down.

What’s your most memorable bout so far and why?

I’ve had surprisingly many in my short time in the sport. I’ve battled Supernatural, the Undead Luchador, all over the state. We pretty much beat the crap out of each other till we became friends. We still do it from time to time for old time’s sake. I was part of the first steel cage match in Porterdale, GA, in 30 years. I was in a 12-man Revolutionary War Games match on July 4th that had hundreds of fans in attendance and took two rings and two cages to contain us all. I’ve had wars with my former allies, Marko Polo, Quasi Mandisco and Nina Monet. I was a half second away from winning the EMPIRE Title from Shane Marx in only my FOURTH pro match.

But I’ve got to go with a match I came up with, an I Quit Singapore Cane Match where I took on Dynomite Soul Eric Walker. Just to set the stage, I had been on a seven-month losing streak in PCW. Think about that. Every Friday for seven months, I ended up with my back on the mat, counting the lights. I started to doubt myself, if I should even get into the ring. Then it finally happened. Along with my partner in a team called The Surrealists, De La Vega, we joined up with the Washington Bullets to take on four members of The EMPIRE, the evil group that was attempting to take over PCW – attempting, hell, they DID take over and basically called the shots from November 2011 until they were finally defeated at Sacred Ground Chapter III. During the final moments of that match, Vega and myself hit a double team maneuver on Eric Walker, and I dove on top for the pin. I got that win I’d been chasing since January. Then the following week, Walker challenged me one on one, and I beat him again, all by myself.

Something inside Walker and the EMPIRE snapped. A bunch of EMPIRE members, including their 300+ pound monster bodyguard Antioch, charged the ring and beat the hell out of me for several minutes. Antioch injured my ribs with repeated big splashes. Walker bruised my back with repeated strikes from his singapore cane. They tried to put me out of wrestling, plain and simple. But the one thing Johnny Danger doesn’t do is quit. You may beat me, you may break me, but I will come back, I will get up. I didn’t take kindly to the attempt to put me out of the sport I love. So I came back with my own cane, and I challenged Walker to one last war to settle the score. Both our canes would be legal; hell, EVERYTHING would be legal, and the only way to win the match would be to get your opponent to say two words I’ve never said: “I Quit.” We beat the HELL out of each other that night. I hit that bastard with everything I could get my hands on – the ring bell, a fan’s soda can, a steel chain and, of course, my cane. Walker did the same to me. He assaulted my body. He knew where I was hurt, and he zeroed in like a rabid dog.

But I wouldn’t quit. Walker’s manager, Marty Freeman, produced a pair of handcuffs, and I was handcuffed to the top turnbuckle. Dynomite went NUTS with the singapore cane, he split my forehead wide open. You can see the scars to this day. He plastered me across the back of the head. I had a fist-sized lump at the base of my skull for over a week, but I would not quit. My wife and mother were in attendance for this match, and they couldn’t stand seeing me assaulted any longer. They KNEW I wouldn’t quit. My wife stood up and screamed for Dynomite to stop, and he set his sights on her. My vision was blurred from the head trauma I suffered and the blood in my eyes, but I saw him slide to the floor and grab my wife by the hair. I heard her scream. I grabbed the microphone from the referee, and I finally said the words he couldn’t beat out of me. I quit the match to save the woman I love. Classic, right? I wonder why Clubber Lang didn’t think of that?  Just beat Adrian retarded, maybe then Rocky would’ve quit? Hate to say it, but he outsmarted me. And after I’d received medical attention and calmed down a LONG time later, despite the mutual hate we have for each other, Walker and myself both admitted it was the best match of our respective careers.

Who will you be up against at the PCW match on Jan. 5, and what can you tell us in general about that night?

I’m up against the entire locker room! Seriously! It’s the return of the match that put me out of the sport with a back injury – the Platinum Royal. Every PCW wrestler is invited to participate. It starts out as a normal battle royal where you throw wrestlers to the floor to eliminate them. The last wrestler left standing at the end then faces the wrestler who threw out the most people to determine the ultimate winner, who is then guaranteed a title shot against the current champion, Shane Marx. Now, I won the battle royal portion of this match back on March 30,  2012, but came up short in the final battle. I’m tougher, I’m smarter, and I’m hungrier than ever now. And I’m putting the entire locker room on notice.

Now Pandora’s been watching my back since I came back, and I’m going to watch hers too. In a perfect world, it’ll come down to the two of us, and then one of us WILL get that shot against Shane Marx. But ANYBODY else who crosses my path in that match, friend or foe, I’m not going to risk injury again – and I’m not going to miss out on this championship opportunity – you’re likely to find yourself Danger-kicked out to the floor. This is the time to come out and see a Platinum Championship Wrestling event if you’ve been putting it off. You’ll see every top star in the company in the ring at the same time, except two.

The champion, Shane Marx, is putting his belt on the line against Supernatural. I’ll be very interested in that match as well, because if I win that Platinum Royal, I’ll be the first to challenge whoever the champion is after January 5. Like I mentioned earlier, I’ve got history with both men. Shane Marx is big, strong and possibly the very best wrestler in the locker room. Supernatural is lightning fast and hits harder pound for pound than anyone else I’ve been in the ring with. Either one of them makes a tremendous champion, but I think PCW could use a leader who’s a little more DANGERous, if ya catch my meaning.

Johnny Danger as Santa checks out the glamorous Ghouls of Silver Scream Spookshow to see who's been naughty and nice.

You’re also heavily into monster movies, especially Godzilla and kaiju eiga, and perform in the Silver Scream Spookshow. Thinking back to growing up, what were your first experiences with both, and do you see a connection between your love of monsters and your love of wrestling?

Oh, no doubt. Thanks to television growing up in Atlanta, watching Godzilla movies with Grampa Munster on Super Scary Saturday on TBS, and watching pro wrestling, are two of my earliest, most treasured memories. Ever since I could talk, I’d stand in front of my bathroom mirror, pose, and imitate the interview stylings of Hulk Hogan and Macho Man Randy Savage. I used to push the couches together in the living room, load them up with all my stuffed animals and have battle royals, throwing them out one by one. It always came down to me as Hulk Hogan facing off with an enormous teddy bear stand-in for Andre the Giant. And yeah I always won. Come on, I was Hogan!

There’s definitely a connection. Some of the best Godzilla movies are pro wrestling storylines at heart. Take GHIDOROAH THE THREE-HEADED MONSTER (1964). This new, evil, terribly powerful space monster, Ghidorah, attacks the Earth. In the previous film, MOTHRA VS GODZILLA (1964), another monster, Mothra, is the only thing that could stop Godzilla’s rampage. Godzilla actually kills the adult Mothra only to be driven away by her larval offspring. So when Ghidorah attacks, the people are powerless, and Mothra has to appeal to Godzilla and Rodan to team up with her to save the Earth. Godzilla and Rodan don’t care, humanity has always despised them, so Mothra goes to fight Ghidorah alone. Godzilla and Rodan are impressed by her bravery and run in to save her, turning “good” and driving off the evil space monster. That’s classic pro wrestling! I was a despised villain in Porterdale till I’d seen enough of my former team mates, The Priority Males, assaulting Pandora, and I stormed the ring to save her. Like I mentioned earlier, I had Godzilla’s face on my old wrestling pants, a Godzilla roar plays at the beginning of my entrance music, and I’ve dubbed my finishing move “Godzilla’s Revenge. You mentioned the Spookshow, that’s the perfect environment for me as well! I’ve played everything from giant monsters to Santa Claus in the show, and look forward to working with them again soon once renovations at the Plaza Theatre are complete and Professor Morte rises from his crypt once more!

Why Godzilla and how big a Big G collection do you have? Any tips on Godzilla collecting today?

Why not? What little kid wouldn’t love Godzilla growing up? NOBODY could tell him what to do; he didn’t have a room to clean, he’d wreck Tokyo, beat up another giant monster or two, and leave the poor saps of Japan to clean up the mess! And seeing as how I never stopped being a kid, it’s a love from my childhood I’ll never grow out of. The emotion of the monsters, the heart of the hand-made effects, you don’t get that in movies today. As for my collection, the only one I know that can compete with it is Professor Morte‘s alter-ego Shane Morton. I’ve got hundreds of toys, movie posters dating back to 1965, two Godzilla-related tattoos and plans for many more.

As for today’s collectors, the market is way different than it was in the ’90s when I started my collection. I have toys I paid $200 for that I struggle to sell for $80 today. You’ve got to realize, eBay wasn’t a thing back then. You had to find specialized dealers to get these things from. My only tip is to only pay what you personally feel something is worth. The “value” of these things fluctuates so much; just be smart and patient. There’s a few groups on Facebook devoted to Godzilla collectors, just look around!

Given that, I’m guessing Monstrosity Championship Wrestling represents the best of both worlds to you. Can you talk a little bit about what makes a MCW match different from a traditional one and what’s your favorite experience with MCW so far?

MCW is wild. We’ve got flamboyant vampires and intolerant redneck misanthrope lycanthropes. It lets a lot of us to expose our dark sides. The Zombie King, Papa Marko has managed to temporarily “zombify” PCW stars like the Washington Bullets and Worse Case Scenerio. He’s even allegedly resurrected deceased wrestling stars like members of the Von Erich family! Casey Kincaid, one of the toughest wrestlers in PCW history, lets his well-documented darkness consume him to become The Phantom once more, an alter-ego we thought he put behind him. We thought it was safe; we were wrong. Then you’ve got guys like Supernatural who fit right in with MCW as is! Not only that, word of mouth is spreading, and we’ve got even more of the top stars in Georgia coming out to be a part of the carnage at MCW’s next show on January 4. Me, I’ve actually struggled to find my place in MCW, which is kind of surprising. I spent a brief period of time as a Frankenstein Monster. I think my fondest memory was wrestling in front of a HUGE crowd at this past Rock ‘N Roll MonsterBash at the Starlight Drive-In. It was blazingly hot, as usual, but all the freaks and misfits and punks and everyone else that came out for the movies, music and mayhem surrounded the ring to see me as part of a team known as The Greasy Bastards take on Supernatural and some ridiculous Leprechaun he found lurking in the bowels of the drive-in.

Event organizer Jonathan Williams, of WrestlingwithPopCulture.com, told me that you’re going to reveal a big surprise at this Friday’s bout. Without giving away any secrets, can you tell us a bit about the overall festivities?

I’ll say this, when I was out injured earlier this year, I had a lot of free time on my hands. I had to find something to get my mind off wrestling. I didn’t know if I could EVER compete again. I thought I’d wasted the last year of my life and permanently crippled myself. I did some research into my family tree of all things. I honestly couldn’t believe what I’d found – didn’t think there was ANY way it could be true. I’ve got extensive knowledge of monster fiction I knew what I’d found, but didn’t think it could be real. But as we all know, truth can be stranger than fiction. It turns out a branch of my family once had a different name than the one we carry today. It also turns out I’m the last one from that family line – a heritage that I will reveal upon MCW’s return on January 4th at the Asylum. A pedigree that spells doom for each and every one of MCW’s nightmarish combatants – a bloodline I cannot deny.

You even got married in the costume of your favorite wrestler and your lovely wife Samantha wore a wicked awesome Mothra wedding gown at the Plaza Theatre. Can you say a few words about it for folks who weren’t there and how you had the dream wedding of all time?

Oh man, it was wild, and I have so many people to thank for being a part of it: Professor Morte for allowing us to be married by a monster; Gayle and Jonny Rej, who allowed us into the Plaza Theatre under their run as owners. If I was going to get married, it was going to have to be an event. I don’t do the whole church thing. I wanted to break tradition and do something memorable. Well, the Plaza has become our church. All the joy in my life over the past five years, the Spookshow, the Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse, even becoming a PCW wrestler, all possible through people I’ve met at the Plaza. I had someone make me a replica of the outfit Randy Savage wore for his pay-per-view wedding to Miss Elizabeth from SummerSlam 1991, and entered to the sounds of “Pomp and Circumstance,” the tune that signaled Macho’s arrival for his matches. My four best men came down the aisle to the entrance theme of The Four Horsemen. We exited the ceremony to AC/DC‘s “Highway to Hell.” Instead of a boring reception with dancing and embarrassing speeches, those who stayed after the ceremonies were treated to a big screen viewing of KING KONG VS GODZILLA (1962). Instead of a fancy catered lunch, we ate the best popcorn in the world from the Plaza’s snack bar.

What’s next for Johnny Danger?

Heh, even I don’t know. I’ve accomplished so much in my first year of wrestling. I’ve fought the best in the locker room. I’ve bled, sweat and cried in that ring. I’ve wrestled in a steel cage in front of 500 people, and I wrestled a match at 1:30 in the morning in front of five or six people. Tag team matches, street fights, battle royals, I’ve done ’em all. Even spent some time behind the announce table doing color commentary during my recovery. The only thing I haven’t done is win championship gold. Anybody who ever gets in the ring, they dream of one day holding a belt [and] I’m no different. 2013 is the year I show I’m for real. Yeah, at heart, I’m still a kid with a dream. But I want to show I have the ability to back up that dream. I’ll never be the toughest, the biggest, the fastest or the strongest.

I’m not the best technical wrestler in the locker room. But I’ve got the biggest heart, I’ve proved that time and time again. There is no better “feel-good story.” If I can win that title to sit atop the mountain, even just for ONE NIGHT, it’s a victory for everyone in the crowd that’s ever believed. There’s nowhere else on the planet where any fan that buys a ticket can be so intimately connected to an experience. And that’s something I’d love to share with all my fans. Wherever I go, PCW will always be my home, where it all started. I love that company and our fans; they are a second family to me. We give you our all, twice a month, the first and third Saturday in Porterdale, Georgia. Please come out and see us!

Note: All photographs are courtesy and copyright of Johnny Danger.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Eddie Ray on the Tricks and Treats of Growing Up a Halloween Kid in ATLRetro, His A-T of Why Atlanta is Horror-Town, USA, and His Top Seven Picks for a Super-Supernatural Time This Year

Posted on: Oct 19th, 2012 By:

No one can exorcise the Afro Demon outta Atlanta's Man of 1000 Halloween Faces Eddie Ray.

By Eddie Ray
Contributing Writer

As I sit here and write this, I am listening to the score to HALLOWEEN III: SEASON OF THE WITCH, editing an “I love Halloween” video for YouTube, working on my Zombie Walk costume, working on my Halloween night costume, and patching up my costume for Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse. So to say I work for Halloween is an understatement. I do love Halloween, but the truth is I believe in Halloween. There is a huge difference. Real Halloween kids start decorating and celebrating Halloween on September 1, and the party lasts until November 1.

I was taught this when I was very young, and I began saying that I love and work for Halloween when I was probably about 6 or 7 years old. I grew up in a Halloween house with ghost stories, horror movies and even a Halloween friend who helped show me that I needed to help keep the season of Halloween exciting and moving forward. It was my duty in some ways. When I was little I was so excited to see the leaves change color and for the month of September to begin so that I could grab all of our Halloween decorations and hang them on doors, in windows and plug up orange lights outside.

Halloween is a magical time – notice I said “is” and not “was” – for me and all the Halloween Kids who love the season as much I do. I grew up on the south side of Atlanta in Suburbia, which meant trick-or-treating was a big deal for all the kids. I even loved that there was a possibility that your candy could be the last shit you ate because it could be poisoned. Will it be a trick or will it be a treat? My family would have big Halloween parties every year, which I eventually took over and began decorating for, DJ-ing for and making my own elaborate costumes for. I even designed haunted houses in the yard to go through, and since I loved horror so much, I began making horror films when I was about 10 years old. I didn’t say that shit was good; I was 10!

A young Eddie Ray goes gangster.

I think a lot of Halloween Kids grew up this way in Atlanta, and I would eventually met some of them in the future. I believe that we were all meant to find each other. I met Luke Godfrey during the filming of a low-budget zombie movie. He had just started the first Zombie Walk in Atlanta (watch a video filmed by Eddie at this year’s walk on Sun. Oct. 14 here), and we became friends right off. He would later open up the haunted attraction Chambers of Horror with Nick Morgan. This was the first haunted attraction/house I ever acted in. I met Jonny Rej (co-owner of The Plaza) and Shane Morton through the Plaza Theatre, and now I help them train actors, direct scenes and act in their haunted attraction, the Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse [If you missed our ATLRetro feature on AZA, click here]. I have always loved haunted houses/attractions growing up and go to all the ones that Georgia has to offer. I met special effects artist Blake Myers through a friend of mine, and we rambled on about John Carpenter for a while and have been friends ever since. Now he is doing effects for horror films like V/H/S, and he helps run the Buried Alive Film Festival (Nov. 9-10, 2012 at the Plaza).

Eddie Ray gives a Red Scare to the GA Capitol during Atlanta Zombie Walk.

These are just a few of the friends that I help with different Halloween events throughout the month of October. The point is we all grew up the same way, and we loved horror and Halloween. Now we keep the Halloween dream alive every year with events, horror attractions, parades and films that are made here. Atlanta really is a horror and Halloween town, because we help make it that way. It’s fun for all ages, races, sexes and sexualities. Halloween is for all who love it. I am proud to live in a Halloween town like Atlanta. Now get out there and support all the Halloween fun Atlanta has to offer you!

Here are some reasons why Atlanta is a horror/Halloween town!

A. Hello, the CDC is here.

B. There is a shitload of foreclosed and abandoned creepy-ass buildings here.

C. A shit-ton of ghost stories from Atlanta’s rocky-ass past. Savannah is always listed as one of the most haunted places in America. I grew up near a DEVIL’S CHURCH ROAD! It was Spooky Dookie!

D. Zombie Walks,  Zombie Prom, WALKING DEAD (TV Show), DANCE OF THE DEAD (Movie), Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN 2 (Movie), DEAR GOD! NO! (Movie) and V/H/S  (Movie)  all happen or were filmed here.

E. All the amazing horror make-up effects people who live here.

F. The Buried Alive Film Festival, at which I was winner of the Audience Choice Award for SATANIC PANIC; BAND OUT OF HELL last year. Yay, me!

G. Ponce Hookers. I was chased by one once.

H. People come down to Atlanta from other cities to celebrate Halloween here.

I. Little 5 Points Halloween Parade.

J. Silver Scream Spookshow

K. All the amazing haunted attractions here [Ed. note: including Netherworld, the Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse, Chambers of Horror, Dark Harvest and more].

L. Honey Boo Boo. I’m kidding, I love her!

M. All the Halloween parties at bars and clubs like Mary’s, The Goat Farm and Sauced.

N. Splatter Cinema.

O. The Real Housewives of Atlanta.

P. Corn Mazes.

Eddie Ray as MC Eat Yo Brains Out!

Q. Me, bitch!

R. Most of my close friends love Halloween and really get into it with me, and we begin planning for Halloween in June. They make me proud with their costumes.

S. Halloween kids are all ages!

T. We all love Halloween here!

Okay here are some things to do this Halloween in Atlanta.

1. Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse: I work in this one now, and I play a cop who helps you fight off zombies in an EVIL DEAD style horror movie, with clues, the occult and pretty ladies!!!! You are literally running for your life, and it’s exciting and scary as hell. Turns out I am really good at this shit. I have done it for two years in a row and this is my third year. Yes, we are the Zombie Capital of the world now. It’s a Zombie Hell in Atlanta, G.A. Baby!

2. Chambers of Horror: This was the first haunted attraction I worked in, and it’s adult-themed, scary, FUCKED UP, and amazing. Check this Rated X haunt out for a good time and maybe a turn on. (Read ATLRetro’s article on last year’s Chambers here)

3. Marys Hallo-Weenie Party – (Friday Oct. 26) For a good time on Halloween, call Mary’s; it’s a cool place to go. They make Halloween a big deal and have the most outlandish costumes at any club or bar I have ever seen. I always take my ass by there in October.

Atlanta's Scariest Halloween Kid Duet: John Wayne Gacy, aka Eddie Ray, takes a mugshot with Professor Morte of the Silver Scream Spookshow, aka Shane Morton.

4. Little 5 Points Halloween Parade – (Sat. Oct. 20, 4 p.m.) – I have been in the Halloween parade for about four years now, and it’s so much fun to dress up and walk down the streets of Little 5 Points in a creepy costume. Not to be missed, and if you can be in it then get in it! Watch here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPnIaOSYERA

5. Halloween Party at The Goat Farm II  (Sat. Oct. 27, 8 p.m.) – It’s back from the dead, and more blood-curdling than ever. Join them for an evening of debauchery, spectacles and spooky surprises at every corner. It’ll be a night that’ll haunt your memories. You’ve been warned. For more info, check out Scout Mob here.

Eddie Ray goes old school as The Green Ghost from SCOOBY DOO.

6. Plaza Theatre/Spookshow: THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925; starring Lon Chaney, Man of 1000 Faces)- Oct. 19, 20, 21; and full stage show by Professor Morte and his ghoulish gang for BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN  (1935; starring Boris Karloff and Elsa Lancaster) – Oct. 27 at 1 p.m. and 10 p.m.

7. Twin Peaks Prom Night (Sun. Oct. 28, 8 p.m. ) – People will be encouraged to come dressed as characters from TWIN PEAKS or other David Lynch movies, as well as prom attire. Come out to enjoy a swanky dinner, snacks and cocktails from the always stellar menu at Sauced, plus DJs will be spinning classic haunting music from the ‘50s & ‘60s to transport you to a different era.

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