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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Head-Crushing, Nuclear Waste-Guzzling Mutants Unite at the Plaza Theatre for the Troma Film Festival!

Posted on: Jun 26th, 2013 By:

The Plaza Theatre presents the Troma Film Festival; Starts Wednesday, June 26 @ 7 p.m., Thursday, June 27 @ 5 p.m.; Plaza Theatre; Schedule and Event Info here; Tickets $30 for 2-day passes, $12 for single day passes, available at Plaza box office.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

Troma Entertainment. Say what you will about them, they’ve survived nearly 40 years of independence while assaulting the very idea of good taste, and simultaneously bringing the concept of the B-movie into the home video age. And for two inglorious nights, the Plaza Theatre brings Atlanta a look back at the filmic legacy of Troma, the films they’ve produced and the films they’ve distributed with the Troma Film Festival.

Troma started up shop in 1974, the brainchild of extravagant frontman Lloyd Kaufman and the behind-the-scenes, lurking-only-in-shadows figure of Michael Herz. (Seriously, Michael Herz is the Sasquatch of independent cinema: only seen running awkwardly in blurry 8mm film clips shot from a great distance away.) The team not only created and distributed their own sex comedies for the exploitation/grindhouse/drive-in circuit (such as SQUEEZE PLAY!, THE FIRST TURN ON! and WAITRESS!), but also provided assistance to outside productions such as John Avildsen’s 1986 classic ROCKY (which was edited on Troma’s flatbed editing equipment) and Louis Malle’s 1981 feature MY DINNER WITH ANDRE.

But it was in 1984, just after the advent of the home video revolution, that Troma made its first big, bloody splash. THE TOXIC AVENGER started with Lloyd speculating 10 years earlier that a horror film set at a health spa would be interesting. Over the years, the idea mutated like Toxie himself, becoming a self-referential (the film is set in the fictional Tromaville, NJ, which would become a mainstay of Kaufman/Herz-helmed Troma flicks) and hyper-violent superhero spoof. While the film came and went in general release with little notice, its success in midnight screenings led to nation-wide coverage and its successful distribution on VHS through Lightning Video. Significantly, though, because Troma had faced pushback over certain gory scenes in getting the R rating needed to gain widespread theatrical exhibition from the MPAA, they discovered that home video was a surefire way to bypass the ratings board and use that to extend the Troma brand.

Troma followed up on the huge success of THE TOXIC AVENGER with 1986’s similarly mutated CLASS OF NUKE ‘EM HIGH. Co-directed by Kaufman and Richard W. Haines, the film continued on the same parodic path as previous, sending up the sensationalistic “high school gang” film tradition that reached from 1955’s THE BLACKBOARD JUNGLE to ‘82’s CLASS OF 1984, spiking it with the heady taste of radioactive waste. The film was another success for Troma, both theatrically and on home video, and the company began hacking out a place in the home video market that they sought to fill with outside productions.

Much like Kaufman’s role models in American International Pictures and Roger Corman’s New World Pictures, Troma ventured into the world of acquisition, finding independently-produced films from other movie-makers that stylistically fit under the Troma umbrella. They picked up “Tromatic” flicks like the notoriously gore-filled and sadistically sleazy BLOODSUCKING FREAKS, the revenge comedy SURF NAZIS MUST DIE, the Belgian import RABID GRANNIES and the surprisingly good-natured spoof MONSTER IN THE CLOSET. Meanwhile, earlier Troma productions like their sex comedies saw new life in video stores across the country.

Constant advertising and coverage in magazines like FANGORIA helped to ensure that their target audience of horror-and-gore-loving young adults was constantly in the know when a new Troma flick was hitting the shelves. In the mid-80s, if you were a teenager into horror and comedy, it was pretty much a guaranteed thing that you went through a Troma phase. While plenty of people tried to emulate the mixture of gross-out humor and blood-soaked horror that the company reveled in, Troma had established itself as a reliable brand for all your disgusting needs and had that part of the market pretty much sewn up.

If this were something like VH-1’s BEHIND THE MUSIC or an E! TRUE HOLLYWOOD STORY, you’d expect a fall right about now. And hey, look! There’s one right here!

In 1988, Troma undertook their most expensive film to date, TROMA’S WAR. The film was created to send up hyper-patriotic war films of the Reagan era like RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART 2, INVASION U.S.A. and MISSING IN ACTION (and, by extension, the Reagan administration’s attempt to glorify war in general). However, its blatant over-the-top violence and subplot involving terrorists spreading AIDS to the US led the company to run afoul of the MPAA once again. While cuts had been made to previous Troma films, at least their storylines remained comprehensible. After submitting the film twice to the board, nearly 20 minutes were removed in order to receive an R rating, and the film was butchered so heavily that it made even less sense than your typical Troma flick. It flopped in a spectacular fashion, the critical response was abysmal, and the negative press even affected the home video release. The financial loss to the company was nearly fatal.

It wasn’t until 1996’s TROMEO AND JULIET that Troma began to establish itself once again. An ambitious attempt to create a comic version of Shakespeare’s play that was both relatively faithful and Tromatic, the film was the first collaboration between Lloyd Kaufman and James Gunn (SLITHER, SUPER and the upcoming GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY) and it was a breath of fresh air after an unsuccessful series of TOXIC AVENGER and NUKE ‘EM HIGH sequels. TROMEO was critically acclaimed and had successful art house engagements in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco, where it played for over a year. Suddenly, with a huge return on a $350,000 investment, Troma was back on the map. While 1999’s TERROR FIRMER and 2000’s CITIZEN TOXIE: THE TOXIC AVENGER IV were comparatively less successful, they did help to keep the brand above water and in the public eye.

And, as is to be expected, Troma managed to turn things around.

Troma’s website had long been a fan destination for original Troma-related content, and they decided to pursue a novel idea: an anthology series called TALES FROM THE CRAPPER entirely presented on their website. They enlisted model/actress/producer India Allen to develop the series with a budget of $250,000. Allen backed out of production halfway through, and later sued Troma for breach of contract, slander, sexual harassment, trade slander and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The resulting footage was nearly unusable, and Troma attempted to salvage the project as a series of two DVD releases. It was a huge blow to what was turning out to be a second coming for the studio.

But then in 2006, Troma returned with POULTRYGEIST: NIGHT OF THE CHICKEN DEAD. A satirical horror movie take on the fast-food industry, the film was plagued with production problems throughout its shooting. Effects didn’t work, money was short, actors weren’t being paid, sets were destroyed prematurely…in short, it was what you’d expect a Troma shoot to be like. Despite all of the troubles, though, it was completed on schedule and was released to Troma’s best notices to date, and finally saw wide release in 2008. Publications ranging from ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY to THE GUARDIAN singled out the film as “an exploitation movie with soul” and “wonderfully bold” (respectively), while NEW YORK magazine and SALON.com chose the movie as a Critic’s Pick.

Feeling gusts from the winds of success at their backs, Troma decided to partner with Canadian filmmaking team Astron-6. Known at the time for their short films disguised as fake trailers for imaginary 1970s and ‘80s movies (including COOL GUYS, LAZER GHOSTS 2: RETURN TO LASER COVE and FIREMAN), Troma released a DVD of their shorts to great acclaim and co-produced the epic FATHER’S DAY with them. A spoof of 1970s rape-revenge flicks (with the genders reversed), supernatural horror and slasher movies, screenings of the film were greeted with wild enthusiasm, and it looked like this was to be a harbinger of another grand new era for Troma Entertainment.

But then, this is Troma we’re talking about. You know what’s about to happen.

A huge rift between Astron-6 and Troma pretty much put a kibosh on there being any more collaboration between the two parties. Astron-6 claimed that Lloyd was selling bootleg DVD-Rs of the film at screenings, which led to early piracy of the film. Troma’s initial poster art removed Astron-6’s logo. Disputes and conflicting claims from both entities over a “making of” documentary (which was critical of Troma) led to it not being included on the DVD release of the film. Troma scrapped the planned Astron-6 commentary track from the release, and included an early cut of the film rather than the finished, final cut.

So that leaves us here, as we stand reflecting on 40 years of Tromatic entertainment. Still with me? Good.

Because Troma is still with us as well. Like cockroaches, they will survive to be the only film studio standing after the nuclear holocaust that will obliterate all other life in the year 2025, the studio run by a coterie of mutants and some guy wearing a Toxie mask carrying around Lloyd’s head in a jar. And probably Michael Herz. No matter who’s come after them for their exercises in poor taste, no matter how shoddy their business practices may or may not be, Troma springs eternal.

May the lord have mercy on us all.

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

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Retro Review: MIAMI CONNECTION: Congratulations, The Plaza Got You Motorcycle Ninjas for Christmas

Posted on: Dec 8th, 2012 By:

MIAMI CONNECTION (1987); Dirs: Y.K. Kim & Woo-sang Park; Starring Y.K. Kim, Vincent Hirsch; Plaza Theatre, HELD OVER for second week through Dec. 13; Trailer here.

By Andrew Kemp
Contributing Writer

The first thing you need to know is that MIAMI CONNECTION takes place not in Miami, but on or around the beaches of landlocked Orlando.

Still listening? Then the other thing to know is that MIAMI CONNECTION is a movie out of time, a gift from the past that you didn’t even know you wanted. Congratulations, The Plaza got you motorcycle ninjas for Christmas, but you have to go this week to pick them up.

The history of MIAMI CONNECTION is so unbelievable that it’s already a movie legend. In 1987, Korean immigrant and self-described “modern philosopher” Y.K. Kim collected a modest budget and a gang of amateur actors and taekwondo students to craft a martial arts epic about a black-belt rock band’s struggle against drug-dealing ninjas, starring Kim, of course, as the improbable college student hero, Mark. After failing to find distribution, the movie disappeared into obscurity, never officially released.

Twenty-five years later, an employee of the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin, Texas, stumbled upon the last remaining film print on an online auction site. The Drafthouse is a kind of national church for movie fans, and they’ve been aggressively searching out and stockpiling 35mm film prints for years, defying the conventional wisdom that film is dead. After negotiating a $50 price for the MIAMI CONNECTION print—sight unseen—the Drafthouse decided to show the film as a random oddity for their midnight crowd. The audience erupted and, somehow, MIAMI CONNECTION became a hit. Now, the Drafthouse has made the movie an official release for their distribution arm, remastering it and shipping it to theaters nationwide. They’ve even mounted a tongue-in-cheek Oscar campaign and produced a new trailer, cut by Jason Eisener, director of CONNECTION’s spiritual soulmate, HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN (2011).

For decades, THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975) was the king of ironic entertainment, beloved for being bad long enough to become an institution, but today’s audiences have been seeking new guilty pleasures. First, we had SHOWGIRLS (1995) and its silly drinking game, and then TROLL 2 (1990) became popular enough to spawn its own documentary. Most recently, crowds pack the Plaza for regular showings of THE ROOM (2003), bringing forks and costumes to make themselves part of the experience.

And now, for these folks, MIAMI CONNECTION feels almost like a culmination. It’s an honest-to-godawful classic, something that’s normally found and championed by the few, now delivered by a major theater entity in a pristine presentation. It’s a movie literally plucked off the scrap heap, polished and mass-produced. Ready-made cult movies tend to flop because audiences are savvy and they know when they’re being pandered to (REPO: THE GENETIC OPERA, anyone?), but the vibe around MIAMI CONNECTION is completely different. This is one group of movie-fanatics speaking to others and saying “you have GOT to see this,” just as they’ve done for years, but never before on this scale.

Part of the film’s charm is that it’s so damn sincere. Y.K. Kim’s college student is just one member of the band Dragon Sound, all of whom are badass taekwondo students/total dorks. For some reason, Dragon Sound’s very existence seems to be standing in the way of a growing drug cartel based out of Miami, but doing business through the band’s club in Orlando. This thin premise kicks off an escalating series of martial arts battles between the band and the cartel’s thugs and, yes, eventually leads to a confrontation with motorcycle-riding, cocaine-dealing ninjas.

In between attacks, the band hangs out at their favorite eateries, spars on campus and fails to score with chicks at the beach. Oh, and one member of the band has about three scenes dealing with the search for his long-lost father, handled entirely via mailbox. Did I mention that the band also writes and performs a song about friendship? That song shares stage time with a ditty about fighting ninjas, which they sing before any member of the band has encountered even a single one.

But no plot synopsis can completely capture MIAMI CONNECTION’s charms. Sure, there are laughs to be found in the schlocky gore effects, bizarre plot twists and bad dialogue (“…because of that stupid cocaine…”), but people don’t go to these movies again and again to simply sit and make fun of them. That’s a mean-spirited reaction, and the crowd with whom I watched MIAMI CONNECTION showered it with love. No, what makes the movie resonate with people is that it’s an endearing reflection of the types of movies it wants to be. When you watch MIAMI CONNECTION, you can recognize the notes the film is trying to play, even if it comes off more than a bit tone deaf. Film is a language, and this is an American urban action movie made by someone who doesn’t quite speak that language, but who was passionate enough to try anyway. This is true, too, of the Italian ambition behind TROLL 2 or, um, wherever the hell Tommy Wiseau came from to produce THE ROOM. If any of these filmmakers had managed to make the movie they attempted, the result would have been a magnitude less interesting. Are these movies bad in the strictest sense? Sure, but they’re also minor miracles. In a sea of low-budget mediocrity, it takes a special spark of passion to fail this spectacularly and entertainingly.

MIAMI CONNECTION doesn’t make much sense as a story, but the action is fun and for real, and it’s a blast to watch the random plot threads bang together and make noise. Most of all, it’s a reminder that films inspire and speak to all of us, even those who don’t quite know the words. Come for the irony and the motorcycle-ninjas, but don’t be surprised if you get caught up in the fun of going to the movies.

Andrew Kemp is a screenwriter and game writer who started talking about movies in 1984 and got stuck that way. He writes at www.thehollywoodprojects.com and hosts a bimonthly screening series of classic films at theaters around Atlanta.

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Retro Review: LADY TERMINATOR Will Slay Anyone Who Gets in Her Way Every Last Thursday at Cinefest!

Posted on: Nov 27th, 2012 By:

LADY TERMINATOR (1988); Dir: H. Tjut Djalil (aka Jalil Jackson); Starring: Barbara Anne Constable, Christopher J. Hart and Claudia Angelique Rademaker; Thurs. Nov 29, 9 p.m.; Cinefest Film Theatre; $5 (free for GSU faculty, students and staff with Panther ID); Trailer here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

The last Thursday of every month brings something almost unexplainable to Cinefest Film Theare…something that approaches that fine line between “good” and “bad” and blows it to kingdom come.

Science fiction author Theodore Sturgeon once postulated something that has since become commonly known as “Sturgeon’s Law”: 90 percent of everything is crap. Few take this law to its logical conclusion, though: if 10 percent of everything is great, it stands to reason that 10 percent of the crap left over is really great crap.

Ladies and gentlemen, the 1988 Indonesian epic LADY TERMINATOR is some really great crap.

It’s hard to go wrong with any movie that opens with death by hoo-hah. I mean, that’s just science fact. By presenting you with this event right up front, LADY TERMINATOR is letting you know that anything can—and likely will—happen at any time. Before the opening credits hit, we not only see what happens to those who attempt to bed the woman known as the “South Sea Queen” and not satisfy her, we find out that the one man who does succeed at the task pulls an eel out of the mysterious woman’s…area…and turns said eel into a knife. This angers the temptress, which seems reasonable. She says that she will return in 100 years to seek revenge on his great-granddaughter, and then flees into the oceans’ depths to join with the forces of evil.

Like you do.

Fast forward 100 years, and a feisty young scientist named Tania (key quote: “I’m not a lady, I’m an anthropologist!”) comes to town to research the legend of the South Sea Queen. She takes a boat out to where the Queen’s castle supposedly collapsed into the ocean (it’s nowhere near shore, but why let this story be bound by little things like geography?), dives down to see if she can find the ruins, is magically transported to a bed in the middle of nowhere and tied down by sentient scarves, and the mysterious eel from earlier takes up new residence in a new…area. She emerges from the ocean possessed by the spirit of the South Sea Queen yet acting like Arnold Schwarzenegger in THE TERMINATOR, boinks a few random jerks, and proceeds to get on with the job of seeking vengeance by pursuing that previously mentioned granddaughter (who, naturally, happens to be a pop star).

Barbara Anne Constable is LADY TERMINATOR. Studio Entertainment, 1989.

From that point onward, the film is a non-stop barrage of gunfire, vehicles exploding, sex, blood, nudity, bad pop music, sub-John Carpenter synthesizer score, atrocious dubbing, ridiculous dialogue, popped-collar Polo shirts, inexplicable decision-making, goofy romance, jewelry mix-ups, uncalled-for hotel room eye surgery…and I think that the narrator from the TALES FROM THE DARKSIDE television series shows up. We’re never exactly told why the titular Lady Terminator acts like a cyborg, nor why she can’t be killed, nor why she can shoot laser beams out of her eyes and create electrical energy with her hands. Possession is a mysterious thing. Maybe it’s got something to do with those eels. Maybe they’re electric eels.

It’s hard to give this film any kind of critical analysis or review. It escapes logical exploration. It exists in a place beyond human reasoning. It stubbornly dares you to justify itself. And while it’s true that few movies have so little reason to exist, fewer deliver on the goods the way that LADY TERMINATOR does in its own remarkably wrongheaded way. It manages to effortlessly accomplish what any number of Troma Entertainment productions go out of their way to attempt, and without any of the “hey, we’re trying to make a bad movie here!” winking that you get from Troma’s output. It may not be accomplished on any level, objectively speaking, but it’s never boring in the least. It’s fun. It’s insanely entertaining. And, really, shouldn’t that be the standard by which it’s judged?

LADY TERMINATOR is crap. But it’s really great crap.

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

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