Kool Kat of the Week: Vanessa Ionta Wright Dishes on the Atlanta Debut of Her Film Short, RAINY SEASON, Screening at the Attack of the 50 Foot Film Fest at The Plaza Theatre

Posted on: Jun 21st, 2017 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor

Vanessa Ionta Wright, local filmmaker, co-founder and Director of the Women in Horror Film Festival, and horror aficionado helps dish out a night of terror, alongside fellow Atlanta indie filmmakers, with a screening of her short film, RAINY SEASON (2017), during the first ever Attack of the Fifty Foot Film Fest! Hosted by HORROR HOTEL producer and Kool Kat Debbie Hess, the fest features quality shorts created by local filmmakers (HORROR HOTEL episode “Sleep Tight” by Kool Kat Ricky Hess et al; ATTACK OF THE FACE MELTERS co-directed by Blake K. Swell and Tyler Weddle; and MR. LOCKJAW PREQUEL: EPISODE ONE directed by Byron Erwin)! So if you’re looking for a bloody fangtastic time and want to chat it up with some killer local filmmakers, make your way to The Plaza Theatre on June 27 at 7pm!

Wright, both writer and director of RAINY SEASON received full authorization by the King of Horror himself, Stephen King, to adapt his short story, “Rainy Season,” (first published in the Spring 1989 issue of MIDNIGHT GRAFFITI), into a live-action piece of bloody art, for the sole purpose of screening at film festivals in 2015. By way of King’s Dollar Babies program, Wright invested her blood, sweat and tears along with her WIHFF co-founder and Executive Producer Samantha Kolesnik and they are excited to bring the film to Atlanta’s horror film-loving audience!

ATLRetro caught up with Vanessa to chat about her film, the Attack of the Fifty Foot Film Fest, women in genre filmmaking and her upcoming Women in Horror Film Festival. While you’re takin’ a gander at our little Q&A, why not take a peek at RAINY SEASON’s official 2017 trailer, here.

ATLRetro: Attack of the 50 Foot Film Fest! Sounds exciting and right up ATLRetro’s alley! Can you tell us a little about the event, what inspired it, and how you got involved?

Vanessa Ionta Wright: The organizer of the event, Debbie Hess, wanted to put together a ‘mini’ fest of horror/sci-fi/suspense themed films produced by local Atlanta filmmakers that were either world premiere films or first time in Atlanta proper premieres. She wanted to curate a selection of quality indie films that would showcase and celebrate the talent and production capabilities of Atlanta filmmakers themselves. The world knows Atlanta as a premium destination for studio filmmaking with big budgets but Atlanta also has some excellent and creative filmmakers right here that can deliver the goods on an indie level as well. Collaborating with multiple filmmakers made it feasible to bring these short films to the big screen. The Plaza Theatre seemed the perfect venue with its historic background for such films. She put out a call to submit films for consideration. RAINY SEASON was a good fit.

Care to share a little about the other featured films and their directors?

I haven’t personally met any of them yet, but am very much looking forward to it, as well as seeing their films. Here is all the information I was able to gather with my spy skills: The Hesses (Ricky, Al and Debbie) produce the HORROR HOTEL series filmed in Atlanta. Ricky is the creator and primary director of the series with the first season streaming on Hulu, an anthology feature film of the 2nd season episodes which are available on Amazon Prime and coming soon to DirectTV. Their festival film, “Sleep Tight” is the pilot episode of the 3rd season and promises to creep it up with attack bed bugs! ATTACK OF THE FACE MELTERS, written by Blake K. Swell and co-directed by Tyler Weddle and Swell, features Jack, a lovable comic geek that enjoys his comics more than his girlfriend. Life takes a turn when Jack’s comic book comes to life. And LOCKJAW PREQUEL: Episode One, directed by Byron Conrad Erwin, written by Justin Craig, features a ventriloquist with mundane aspirations of becoming a children’s entertainer who becomes subject to his dummy’s more sinister desire: interrogating and torturing criminals for the mob.

We’re excited to see that your short film RAINY SEASON, adapted from Stephen King’s short story will be screening at the fest. Can you tell us a little about the film and the making of? Any interesting or crazy tales to tell about filming your short?

I feel like the entire experience from beginning to end has been crazy and interesting. I secured the non-exclusive rights back in July 2015 and began work on the script. Once the script was basically locked — I say basically because I was doing rewrites up until a day before shooting — I started putting together a team to get this sucker produced. I

Vanessa Ionta Wright

met Executive Producer Samantha Kolesnik at a film festival in Los Angeles and she was in the process of having her short film THE PRICE OF BONES (2016) produced and wanted to be more involved with production, so I asked if she wanted to jump on board RAINY SEASON.  She went from “Sure, I’ll help out,” to Executive Producer.  This film would not have happened without her. I then reached out to Director of Photography Mark Simon and was honored that he wanted to be a part of this project. Working alongside John Hughes, Mark began his career on some of the most iconic films in history (SIXTEEN CANDLES, THE BREAKFAST CLUB, FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF). We were so lucky to be working with so many talents in this industry.

One of our biggest challenges, being on such a tight and small budget, was the fact that our set had no electricity or running water and we were shooting nights in an isolated location during the hottest days of August.  Thank goodness for generators, port-a-potties and a healthy respect for bats.

And how cool that your adaptation is fully authorized by King. Can you tell us a little about that process and how long it took for you to get King’s blessing?

This wasn’t as daunting as I thought it might be. The process was fairly simple. “Rainy Season” is part of King’s Dollar Babies Program, which allows aspiring filmmakers to secure the non-exclusive rights to his work and adapt it for the screen. I looked at the list of available stories and filled out an application and waited. Two weeks went by and I received an email granting me permission to adapt the story. I signed the contract and mailed my dollar bill to the “Master of Horror.”  The completed film can in no way make a profit or be distributed. It is for festival use only. So many people have asked, “Why on earth would you make a film that can’t be distributed or make any money?” I look at this film as a very expensive resume. I felt like this film could be a great opportunity for everyone involved to take the next step. Plus it doesn’t hurt to have Stephen King’s name on your film.

Behind the scenes – RAINY SEASON

Are there any other horror stories you’d like to adapt to film, those that have yet to hit the big screen?

I am always late to the party when it comes to reading. Generally, I’ll read a book and think, “That would make an awesome film!” and then I look it up and it’s already been done. I also read a lot of older books…I might need some book recommendations on new horror releases.

Can you tell our readers what drew you to filmmaking and which filmmakers would you say inspired you most?

I think I’ve been drawn to filmmaking my entire life, I just didn’t realize that it could be a career. I started writing stories at an early age, and the moment our family got a VHS movie camera I started bringing those stories to life. I have always been inspired by those who can take the seeds of an idea and grow it into a visual medium that can evoke an emotional response, be it laughter, tears or fear. I grew up on television and movies.  So much of it was still new. Premium cable television got popular in the early 1980s and I was front and center. I was always drawn to the scarier programs. I remember sneaking around to watch COMMANDER USA’s GROOVIE MOVIES and films like MY BLOODY VALENTINE , FRIDAY THE 13TH III, AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, CAT PEOPLE and more. I was also an avid watcher of the early TWILIGHT ZONE series and the films of Alfred Hitchcock. I loved suspense more than anything. Gore was fun, but the anticipation of terror got me every time. And the horror of the 1970s and 1980s is so iconic. I watched films by John Carpenter, Wes Craven and Tobe Hooper and thought, “I want to do that!”

As an independent female filmmaker working in the horror genre, what challenges have you personally faced that seem to be a common theme amongst women in the industry?

I don’t know that I have faced any challenges in the industry due to being a woman. I think the challenges I have faced are common to all independent filmmakers regardless of gender. There is an audience for every film and I think as filmmakers we are all trying to find the most effective route to get our films in front of those audiences. Filmmaking is expensive, time consuming and extremely competitive. I think for years this industry has been dominated by men at the top, but we are seeing more and more women in these top creative and executive roles. And I certainly don’t think that I, or any other woman, should be given opportunities simply based on our gender. If I get hired as a director it should be because I am the best director for the job, not because I’m a good female director.

It seems that little by little, women are finally getting the attention they deserve when it comes to film, especially within the horror genre, which brings us to your Women in Horror Film Festival coming up in September. Can you give us a sneak peek into that venture and why you think it’s important that these types of events take place?

Samantha Kolesnik and I are very excited to be bringing this event to the Atlanta area. As genre filmmakers, we have noticed an unbalanced representation of women at horror film festivals and at the box office. We decided to create a platform to showcase female genre filmmakers and screenwriters. Not to create a women only event, but to promote those women who are currently creating films and screenplays and to get them noticed in an otherwise saturated market. We are striving for more equality in the industry, a balanced representation of talented filmmakers and writers. We are very excited to be welcoming some very special guests to the event that many horror fans will recognize: Heather Langenkamp, Amanda Wyss, Jen and Sylvia Soska, Horror Producer Marianne Maddalena, Lynn Lowry, Horror authors Mylo Carbia and Meg Hafdahl and famed zombie from AMC’s THE WALKING DEAD, Sonya Thompson.  These trailblazing women have been hugely supportive of what Samantha and I have created and we’re thrilled to be working alongside them. The festival will be accepting submissions through July 15, 2017, and the fest will take place September 21-24, 2017, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel & Conference Center in Peachtree City, just down the street from Pinewood Atlanta Studios and Raleigh Studios, home of THE WALKING DEAD.  Your readers can go here for more information.

Who are your favorite women horror directors and why?

Some of my favorites would be Kathryn Bigelow (NEAR DARK), Jennifer Kent (THE BABADOOK), Mary Lambert (PET SEMATARY), Mary Harron (AMERICAN PSYCHO). I am quickly becoming a fan of some amazing up and coming indie directors like Heidi Hartwig (WONDER VALLEY), Justine Raczkiewicz (WASTE) and Audrey Cummings (BERKSHIRE COUNTY). Why I like these particular directors? They know how to tell great stories. They are able to scare and disturb audiences while also creating thought provoking subject matter. I like them because they make great films. It’s why I like any director. I know I’m leaving people off of my list. I could create a spreadsheet of my favorite horror films and directors and you could offer a centerfold-type fold out for your readers. -Ha!-

Can you give us five things you’re into at the moment that we should be watching right now— past or present, well-known or obscure?

I love lists! I’m limited to only 5?! WATCHING: THE KEEPERS (Netflix Docuseries); MAKING A MURDERER (Netflix Docuseries); submissions for WIHFF – even though Sam and I are not judging the work, we are watching and enjoying all of the films, so that has been taking up a lot of my screen time; and some of my all time favorite films and TV shows in no particular order: RUSHMORE (Anderson), RAISING ARIZONA (Cohen Bros), HALLOWEEN (Carpenter), PSYCHO (Hitchcock), PULP FICTION (Tarantino), GOODFELLAS (Scorsese), A BRONX TALE (DeNiro), BACK TO THE FUTURE (Zemeckis), SLING BLADE (Thorton), ROCKY (Stallone), DIE HARD (McTierman), ALIEN (Scott). Series that I love and have loved:  THE WALKING DEAD, HEROES, BREAKING BAD, FRIDAY THE 13th the Series, AMAZING STORIES, STRANGER THINGS, GREATEST AMERICAN HERO, V, THE TWILIGHT ZONE, DARK SHADOWS, etc. There are so many more that I will remember after this is printed!

Any advice for women filmmakers out there trying to get their foot in the door?

This advice is for all filmmakers. Get out there and make your films. Find good talented people to work and collaborate with and get your film made.  There are so many resources for funding now. Get your hands on a good script or write one yourself and do it. There is no career in film without the film. And surround yourself with good, creative, talented people. You never know who you might meet, so network like crazy. Go to film festivals, get involved with the local indie film scene, and offer to help out on set even if you don’t get paid. Favors get repaid, so support each other, and treat your cast/crew with respect and kindness.

Getting back to what brought us here, Attack of the 50 Foot Film Fest! Anything exciting planned for fest-goers? Can we expect this to be an annual event, something we all can look forward to in years to come?

I’m not sure if this will become an annual event, but I do hope so! I love that Debbie Hess is giving an opportunity to local filmmakers to screen their films. This is about sharing our work. It’s not a competition and we are all there to cheer each other on and give audiences a chance to see some films they might not otherwise have the opportunity to see. And the Plaza is just a super cool venue, so much history there! Friends, fans and moviegoers will have the chance to meet the filmmakers and even the cast of some of these films, which is pretty exciting in my book.
And last but not least, what’s next for Vanessa Ionta Wright? Any other films in the works we should know about?

Right now I am enjoying the RAINY SEASON ride. It’s currently hitting festivals and I want to enjoy the success of the film before I jump into the next one. And WIHFF is keeping me pretty busy as it’s the first year! My plan is hopefully direct a feature in the next year or two so Samantha Kolesnik and I have been making a plan to make that happen. We are actually currently working on a screenplay together, which I am very excited about. I will be at the Attack of the 50ft Film Fest so please be sure to stop by and say hi, I love meeting people!

All photos courtesy of Vanessa Ionta Wright and used with permission.

 

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The Horror! The Horror! Our Top Reasons to Spook on Down to the 3rd Annual MONSTERAMA CONVENTION

Posted on: Oct 3rd, 2016 By:

by Melanie Crew10.7
Managing Editor

What are you doing this weekend? We’re monster mashing it up with a helluva killer Kool Kat extravaganza and more at the 3rd Annual MONSTERAMA CONVENTION, creeping and crawling into town this weekend, Oct. 7-9 at the Atlanta Marriott Perimeter Center!

1) THE GOLDEN BRUNCH OF MONSTERAMA! Have an intimate and devilishly delicious brunch with Monsterama special guest and Hammer, Bond, Harryhausen film star Caroline Munro Friday from 10am – 1pm!

2) CTHULUAU! Cthula on down (If you dare!) to the hotel pool on Friday night at 7pm and get lei’d up with mermaids, music and dancing, oh my! Hosted by Mike Gordon and Peter Cutter creators of TIKI ZOMBIE!

3) SILVER SCREAM SPOOK SHOW! Kool Kat Shane Morton, a.k.a. ghost host with the most, Professor Morte and the Silver Scream Spook Show featuring the Go-Go Ghouls and Monsterama guest, Caroline Munro, a.k.a. “Stella Star” will get intergalactic with a live show followed by a screening of Luigi Cozzi’s STARCRASH (1978) on Saturday beginning at 4pm!

14433161_1191990034190405_7596388003487999022_n4) FANGTASTIC FILM!  It’s monster movie madness with screenings of horrorific classics including Mario Bava’s CALTIKI, THE IMMORTAL MONSTER (1959); William Witney’s THE CRIMSON GHOST (1946); E. Elias Merhige’s SHADOW OF THE VAMPIRE (2000); F. W. Murnau’s NOSFERATU (1922) featuring a life soundtrack performed by Valentine Wolfe; Roger Vadim’s BARBARELLA (1968); Robert RodriguezFROM DUSK TILL DAWN (1996), an adults-only screening of Denis Sanders’  INVASION OF THE BEE GIRLS (1973) and so much more! Antonio Margheriti’s CASTLE OF BLOOD (1964) in 16mm and so much more slaying cinema!

5) SPOOKTACULAR GUESTS! Catch some killer guests including James Marshall (TWIN PEAKS – see our Kool Kat feature coming soon!); Zach Galligan (GREMLINS; WAXWORK); Caroline Munro (AT THE NosferatuEARTH’S CORE; STARCRASH); Suzanna Leigh (LUST FOR A VAMPIRE); Trina Parks (DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER; THE BLUES BROTHERS); Kool Kat and monster artist extraordinaire Mark Maddox; horror novelist and filmmaker John Farris (THE FURY); horror history expert and documentarian, Kool Kat Daniel Griffith of Ballyhoo Motion Pictures; Kool Kat Shane Morton, ghost host with the most, a.k.a. Professor Morte; glamour ghoul Kool Kat Madeline Brumby and so much more!

6) TWISTED TELEVISION!  Get terrified T.V.-style  throughout the weekend and catch screenings of Gene Roddenberry’s made-for-TV movie, SPECTRE (1977); THE OUTER LIMITS – “The Sixth Finger”; STAR TREK – “The Man Trap” and “Cat’s Paw”; MAN FROM ATLANTIS – “Crystal Water” and “Sudden Death”; THE WILD, WILD WEST – “The Night of the Iron Fist”; made for TV movie, THE QUESTOR TAPES (1974); and you won’t want to miss a super rare Kolchak Double Feature (THE NIGHT STALKER/THE NIGHT STRANGLER) in 16mm and so much more!

10.8Monsterama7) MONSTER MAKEOVERS!  Get gore-gous with monster make-up galore as part of this year’s Makers Track! SFX man Kyle Yaklin, Kool Kat Shane Morton and Chris Brown share the secrets of the monster trade with their “Raising Cthulhu” event, where they’ll build a Lovecraftian Creature costume and promise a true teaching moment when they pass on their knowledge of the Necronomicon and how to summon the Old Ones! Get spooktacular with a “Gore Gore Girls – Special Effects for Kids” event featuring mom/daughter duo, filmmaker Dayna Nofke (Tiltawhirl Pictures) and ultra spooky Vivi Vivian! And don’t forget to stick around for a creeping cornucopia of frightful faces and monster masks!

8) DEADLY DEALERS! Horror cons are the perfect place to stock up on both classic horror memorabilia, cult

Professor Morte

Professor Morte

classics on DVD and creepy clothing, costumes and accessories. Vendors this year include Creature connoisseur and effects artist, Kyle Yaklin (See our Shop Around feature on Kyle here), Cult TV Man, Eraserhead Press and all the toys, collectibles and monstrous goodies you can get your ghoulish little hands on!

9) MONSTER PROM! Hey all you boils and ghouls, get frightfully funky at this year’s Monster Prom, Saturday at 9pm! Dust off the old rat-infested tux, clear out the cobwebs, shine up your shoes and get ready to do the Monster Mash, and maybe even Time-Warp into the wee hours of the morning, hosted by Professor Morte!

Monsterama main con hours are Fri. Oct. 7 from 4 to 12 a.m.; Sat. Oct. 8 from 9 a.m. to 12 a.m.; and Sun. Oct. 9 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more info, visit www.monsteramacon.com.

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RETRO REVIEW: DEMON Clings to the Screen, and Then to Your Soul

Posted on: Sep 15th, 2016 By:

Demon_poster_finalDEMON (2015); Dir. Marcin Wrona: Starring Itay Tiran, Agnieszka Zulewska, Andrzej Grabowski; Opens Friday, September 16 at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema; Trailer here.

By Brooke Sonenreich
Contributing Writer

Before arriving to Landmark Midtown Art Cinema, Marcin Wrona’s DEMON had its Atlanta premiere at the Atlanta Jewish Film Festival. Intrigued by Jewish mysticism, body horror and my own Polish-Jewish roots, I went into this movie with a fresh curiosity. DEMON is set in contemporary Poland, but within a small village that is still recuperating from Nazi occupation. Before attending to the characters, Wrona posits the spectator in the abandoned parts of this Polish town. Before any indication of a character being possessed, Wrona privies us to the haunting of the location with opening images of rundown, abandoned ghettos.

DEMON is a dybbuk story, and the most complex and intriguing one I have ever followed. In Jewish mysticism, if a Jewish body has not been properly buried it remains in purgatory. However, the soul can latch onto a living soul in order to carry out its business. Quite literally, the word dybbuk means to cling.

For Piotr (Israeli Jewish actor Itay Tiran) the dybbuk attaches to his soul the night before he marries Zaneta, a Polish woman whose family is still a group of strangers to Piotr. As the possession takes over his ability to speak and his overall motor skills, questions about the village and its Jewish past bubble to the surface. However, the cling of the dybbuk only strengthens and the dybbuk’s Jewishness begins seeping out of Piotr through shared memories, language, and voice.

(Left to Right) - Itay Tiran, Agnieszka Zulewska, and Cezary Kosinski in DEMON. Used with permission.

(Left to Right) – Itay Tiran, Agnieszka Zulewska, and Cezary Kosinski in DEMON. Used with permission.

My first viewing of DEMON was followed by the realization that it would be in a cycle of festivals before being distributed for at least another year. But I left the theater feeling haunted myself and made it to the other screenings in hopes of retaining as much of this film as possible before it was passed to the next festival. The film’s arrival at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema should not go unnoticed. It is a film that resonates months after the first viewing and, much like how the dybbuk’s hold on the spirit only strengthens, DEMON has the ability to cling to its beholder.

On the day of the film’s screening in Poland, Wrona committed suicide, and even if the film is watched in a loop, there is an unanswerable question that continues to arise: Is Piotr the only haunted subject of DEMON?

Brooke Sonenreich is a film instructor and theorist. She likes sitting in a dark room with a bunch of strangers and staring at a bright wall for an extended period of time, and she has somehow made that into a job.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Space Is the Place: Balogun Ojetade’s Journey from Sword and Soul to Co-Founding The State of Black Science Fiction Convention Which Lands in Atlanta This Weekend

Posted on: Jun 7th, 2016 By:

Official Logo 1The Mothership lands in Atlanta this weekend. No, it’s not a Funkadelic concert, but the first annual State of Black Science Fiction Convention (SOSBFC) at the Southwest Arts Center Saturday June 11 and Sunday June 12. For all the talk about accepting the diversity of the alien, science fiction’s early history is peopled by white super-men protagonists, and some today seem to want to keep it that way if recent controversies in fandom  are any indication. But black writers, artists and filmmakers have been emerging to create some of the most dynamic and innovative speculative fiction today, pushing boundaries and re-imaging earth’s future and space as diverse, complex, uncomfortable, beautiful and inspiring.

SOSBFC aims to bring together the most comprehensive celebration of black creators of science fiction, fantasy, horror and comics to date. Just a glance at the programming schedule is sure to cause sensory overload with the mix of panels, speakers, workshops, presentations and kids’ activities to nurture the next generation of creators and fans–something most cons neglect. There’s also a dealers room and art show, cosplay is encouraged, and there’s even going to be onsite food that’s more than pizza or burgers, we hear – something most cons neglect! Whether you’re into Afrofuturism, steamfunk, cyberfunk, dieselfunk, sword and soul, rococoa, Afrikan martial arts, or just what the find out what the funk is happening, SOSBFC is the place.

Needless to say, our choice of Kool Kat this week was easy. ATLRetro caught up with Atlanta-based writer Balogun Ojetade, co-founder with writer/editor/publisher Milton Davis, to find out more about how Atlanta’s newest spec-lit convention got launched, what’s planned and what’s next.

OctaviaEButler_KindredATLRetro: To many, Samuel R. Delany and Octavia E. Butler lit the fuse on an African-American SF perspective, yet W.E.B. DuBois published an SF story back in 1908. Which SF/spec-lit authors were early favorites/inspirations for you?

Balogun Ojetade: My early inspirations were Charles R. Saunders, the Father of Sword and Soul and creator of the Imaro series of novels and the brilliant master storyteller and poet, Henry Dumas, whose short stories “Fon,” “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” and “Ark of Bones” were the greatest influences on my horror and fantasy writing style as a young man.

Atlanta’s been characterized as a center for Afrofuturism. Can you talk a little about the local community of black writers and publishers? Do you feel like you were part of a movement?

Atlanta is where the now worldwide State of Black Science Fiction author, publisher, artist, filmmaker, game designer and cosplayers collective was founded. As one of the founders of this collective and one of its most active members, I am certainly part of a movement, which is still very much alive. I am also one of the people who founded the Steamfunk Movement, along with author and publisher Milton Davis, who also resides in Atlanta.

Official Flyer 4What’s the specific origin story of SOBSFC?

The origin of the State of Black Science Fiction Convention, or SOBSF Con, began about four years ago. In the State of Black Science Fiction Facebook Group we had a lively discussion about the need for a convention that would not only showcase comic books by creators of African descent, but would also showcase novels, films, artwork, fashion design, cosplay, African martial arts and much more. We wanted to give con goers a full and enriching experience.

It was originally decided that each region would host a convention – one would be in Atlanta, one in the DC / Maryland / Baltimore area, one in New York City, one in Chicago and so on – on the same days and times. We would call this mega event Diaspora Con. Well, certain things happened that let Milton Davis and I know that Diaspora Con was not to be, so we scrapped the idea, but the desire to give the world a convention that showcased black speculative works continued to burn.

In early 2015, Milton and I decided we would host a con that would draw fans and creators of black speculative fiction, film, fashion and fabrication from around the country. We agreed on the name State of Black Science Fiction Convention and then started making plans. By mid-2015, we made our plans public and received positive feedback from hundreds of people who said they would attend such a con in Atlanta and here we are.

imaro_cush_nightshadeDo you think SOBSFC and a greater push for diversity in SF publishing is especially needed right now in light of the Sad and Rabid Puppies Hugo Awards controversy and Internet outrage about a black lead in the recent Star Wars movie?

These controversies and the outrage is nothing new. You have always had and will always have ignorant and fearful people in all walks of life. The science fiction and fantasy community is not exempt from this. There has always been a need for a SOBSF Con and for a constant push for diversity in SFF publishing. The more we push, the more people know we are here. The more people know we are here, the more that know there are alternatives to the racist, sexist rubbish they have had to endure for so long.

SOBSFC is billed as the “most comprehensive presentation of black speculative fiction ever.” There’s a lot going on for just $25 for both days (a bargain compared to DragonCon, most cons).  I know this is a hard question but what 3-5 pieces of programming should con attendees be sure not to miss and why?  

Yes, it is a hard question because the programming is so Blacktastic, but I will share a few that I know people will absolutely be blown away by.

  1. The YOU are the Hero Cosplay Contest: Imagine hordes of black cosplayers of all ages and body types presenting mainstream, independent AND original characters from film, comic books, anime, manga, or of their own design. TOO cool!
  2. The Future is Stupid Art Show: Dozens of Afrofuturistic pieces of artwork by Atlanta’s favorite artists will be found all over the exterior and interior of the convention facility.
  3. The Big, Beautiful, Black Roundtable: At this “Town Meeting” we will present, discuss, listen to and put into effect strategies and collaborations to take black speculative fiction/film/fashion/fabrication to the next level!
  4. The Charles R. Saunders Tribute: We will share stories about how this great man has influenced our writing, his history and great contribution to the advancement of speculative fiction and we will read excerpts from his works, all before presenting Charles with a much deserved award.

 Official Flyer 3Can you talk a little about the writer guests and how they reflect the variety and scope of black spec-lit today?

We have some great guests at SOBSF Con and the authors represent the entire spectrum of speculative fiction. Here are a few:

  1. Valjeanne Jeffers: Writes horror, Steamfunk and Sword and Soul.
  2. Zig Zag Claybourne: Writes action and adventure, Rococoa and Cyberfunk.
  3. Derrick Ferguson: New pulp icon. Creator of black pulp heroes Dillon and Fortune McCall.
  4. Cerece Rennie Murphy: Writes urban fantasy for adult, young adult and middle grade readers.
  5. Brandon Massey: Master of horror and suspense.
  6. Hannibal Tabu: Comic book writer and critic.

We also have authors of Cyberfunk, Dieselfunk, Dark Universe (Space Opera) Afrofuturistic fusions of hip-hop, jazz, blues, time travel, magic realism and urban fantasy and much more. Black speculative fiction is very broad and very deep. Con-goers are in for a powerful experience.

This is a really exciting time for black filmmakers in SF and horror. Can you talk a little about that and how that will be reflected in SOBSFC’s programming?

As a lifelong fan and creator of science fiction and fantasy with strong horror elements and straight up horror, too, I am very excited. The digital age has allowed filmmakers who would have otherwise been unable to tell their stories – stories in which the Black character doesn’t die within the first 10 minutes or die sacrificing himself or herself so the white hero can live on to save the day – to now tell stories in which Black people are the heroes, sheroes and even mastermind villains.

Saturday 20th June 2009. Old Devils Peak Quarry, Table Mountain National Park (TMNP), Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa. STILLS FROM WANURI KAHIU'S FILM 'PUMZI'! A 20 min Sci-Fi film about futuristic Africa, 35 years after World War III, ‘The Water War’!   A series of stills photographs taken during the production of Wanuri Kahiu's short film, 'Pumzi'. Wanuri Kahiu, an award winning Kenyan Filmmaker, wrote and directed the film that was filmed entirely on location in the Western Cape, South Africa. These stills specifically were taken on various locations in Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa during June 2009. The film is a futuristic work based on a devastated world without water and other precious commodities. The film, set in the Kenyan countryside, questions the price of fresh water, fresh air, fresh food and other commodities and revolves mainly around its central character, 'Asha'. The film also focuses on how to harvest moisture, energy and food in all their varied forms in order to supply the human food chain that depends on these life precious things for their ultimate survival. In the film Asha is a curator at a virtual natural history museum in the Maitu Community located in the Eastern African territory. Outside of the community, all nature is extinct. When she receives a box in the mail containing soil, she decides to plant a seed in it. The seed starts to germinate instantly. Despite repeated instructions from her superior to throw out the soil sample, she appeals to the Council to grant her an exit visa to leave the community and plant the seed. Her visa is denied and she is evacuated from the Museum. Asha decides to break out of the inside community to plant the seed in the ‘dead’ outside. She battles with her own fear and apprehension of the dead and derelict outside world to save the growing plant. Essentially Asha embarks on a personal quest that becomes her journey of self discovery and spiritual awakening that causes h

Many great independent films and web series have been developed, screened and gained massive followings and Hollywood has been paying attention, so now you have the Black Panther stealing the show in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR and even getting his own movie. You have Idris Elba playing Roland in the film adaptation of Stephen King’s THE DARK TOWER and Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, Will Smith and Viola Davis starring in SUICIDE SQUAD as Killer Croc, Deadshot and Amanda Waller, respectively.

And television is even more progressive, giving starring roles to black people in several Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror-themed series and having very diverse casts on these shows.

But again, this all began with black indie filmmakers. To reflect this, SOBSF Con is featuring our Black Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Film Festival, which showcases short and feature films by independent creators. Many of the films creators will also be on hand to share their creative process and answer questions from the audience. Just a few of the films screening at the film festival are: PUMZI (award-winning science fiction short from Africa),  DAYBLACK (horror), BLACK PANTHER: STORMS OF CARNAGE Parts 1 & 2 (superhero / fantasy), REIGN OF DEATH (dieselfunk), DANGER WORD (horror; written and produced by master horror author Tananarive Due and science fiction icon Steven Barnes), RITE OF PASSAGE: INITIATION (steamfunk), and a special screening of the science fiction film RETURNED.

13335708_10204767521866576_1909339829978449592_nWhat about comics at SOBSFC? 

You cannot have a science fiction and fantasy convention without comic books! While comic books are not the focus at SOBSF Con – our focus is on all aspects of black speculative creation – most of the creators and fans at SOBSF Con were heavily influenced and inspired to “do” Science Fiction and Fantasy from our love of comic books, manga, animation and anime. Thus, there will be comic book vendors at SOBSF Con and some giants in the industry are distinguished guests, including Dawud Anyabwile, the co-creator and artist of the iconic blockbuster comic book series BROTHERMAN; Marvel Comics artist Afua Richardson, best known for her work in the award-winning and politically potent Image / Top Cow miniseries GENIUS; Tony Cade, comic book publisher and owner of comic book company, Terminus Media; and TUSKEGEE HEIRS creators Marcus Williams and Greg Burnham, just to name a few. The creators and publishers will share their knowledge and experience with con-goers on the Create Your Own Comic Book and Black Craft and Consciousness in Comic Books panels.

Atlanta is known for its cosplay community. Are you encouraging costuming and will there be activities for cosplayers?

We highly encourage cosplay and invite all the cosplayers in Atlanta to come out and join us! We are very excited about our YOU are the Hero Cosplay Contest I mentioned above, and we also have the Cosplay in Non-Canon Bodies panel, facilitated by popular cosplayers, TaLynn Kel, who will be joined by popular cosplayers, JaBarr Lasley and Dru Phillips.

Balogun Ojetade.

Balogun Ojetade.

What else would you like people to know about SOBSFC?

While SOBSF Con offers all the great things you expect from a great fan convention – awesome panels, cosplayers, genre films, a dealers’ room with all kinds of cool stuff for sale – we also have offerings you probably have never seen at any con before, such as Tiny Yogis, a yoga class for children; 5P1N0K10 (SPINOKIO), an Afrofuturistic, hip-hop puppet show by a master puppeteer named Jeghetto; Traditional Arms, Armor and Martial Arts of Afrika; Afrikan Martial Arts for Youth Workshop; traditional African artifacts and soaps, oils and fabrics sold in the dealers’ room; your questions answered through traditional Afrikan casting of lots by the Amazing Identical Ojetade Twins (one is a 13-year-old boy; the other a 6-year-old girl); gourmet pot pies; and, most importantly, a place where you can be yourself without judgment, without rude comments, but with love and appreciation. This is a fun event for the entire family you do NOT want to miss!

Beneath the Shining Jewel CoverFinally, would you like to take a moment to talk about your own writing? What’s your latest work and what are you up to next? Feel free to add where we can find you at SOBSFC!

I am always happy to talk about my writing. For those who don’t know me, I write fiction, nonfiction and screenplays. I also direct films and choreograph stunts and fights for films. As a fiction writer, I am most known for my Steamfunk novels, MOSES: THE CHRONICLES OF HARRIET TUBMAN and THE CHRONICLES OF HARRIET TUBMAN: FREEDONIA; my Sword and Soul novel, ONCE UPON A TIME IN AFRICA; and for the STEAMFUNK anthology, which I co-edited with author Milton Davis. However, my novels cover the spectrum of black speculative fiction: Dieselfunk, Rococoa, Afrofuturism; urban fantasy; action-adventure and horror.

My latest work is BENEATH THE SHINING JEWEL, a horror novel set in Ki Khanga, a Sword and Soul world created by Milton Davis and me for our upcoming tabletop role-playing game, KI KHANGA. I am finishing up a Dark Universe (space opera) novel and have a horror short film I wrote slated to begin production in the fall. Finally, in August, comic book artist Chris Miller (Chris Crazyhouse) and I begin work on a graphic novel that is going to blow away fans of manga, comic books and black speculative fiction!

Thanks, so much, for this opportunity and I look forward to seeing everyone at the State of Black Science Fiction Convention June 11 and 12!

SOBSFCON FultonCty

 

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ATLFF Review: SIREN Gets Weird and Makes It Work

Posted on: Apr 15th, 2016 By:

SirenSIREN (2016); Dir. Gregg Bishop; Starring Hannah Fierman, Chase Williamson; Justin Welborn; IMDB link here.

By Andrew Kemp
Contributing Writer

I’ll admit that SIREN didn’t encourage my expectations. Screening at the end of a long week of films, SIREN felt like a pitch from a carnival barker: “Did you like V/H/S (2012), that found-footage horror anthology? No, not really? Well, what about “Amateur Night,” arguably its most popular segment? You know, the one where some bros pick up a strange young woman for hotel porn, but get a rampaging monster ripping through their innards instead? Yeah? All right, well SIREN takes that premise but expands the world. This thing’s got a menagerie of fantasy monsters, a supernatural brothel, a southern-fried monster wrangler, and a fresh batch of victims with a fresh batch of innards. Step right up!”

Taking the original’s simple karmic reversal set-up and turning it into a NIGHTBREED-esque freakshow does not feel like a great idea. “Amateur Night” director David Bruckner had been swapped out for Gregg Bishop from the weaker V/H/S VIRAL (2014), and seeing the logo of Chiller—the notoriously cheap horror network—had me sinking into my chair and settling in for a long night. But, little by little, SIREN won me over, and horror junkies who discover the film are going to find an unexpectedly inspired bit of monster mayhem.

V/H/S Amateur Night.

V/H/S Amateur Night.

The script swaps out the assholes from the original segment for a (slightly) more sympathetic bunch. Jonah (Chase Williamson) is about to get married, and his standard issue buddies—the Asshole Brother, the Saintly Best Friend, and the Funny Guy—drive him out into the swamps for a bachelor party because, of course, that’s where the wildest stuff happens. The gang gets conned into visiting a wild house run by Nyx (Justin Welborn), who tracks and traps critters from legend, including a lady that munches on memories and a naked nymph (Hannah Fierman, reprising her role from the original) he keeps locked up in the back. In “Amateur Night,” the nature of this particular creature was unclear, but in this film she’s officially a siren, complete with a singing voice that lures men to their deaths, and which drives Jonah to do something incredibly stupid (he even says out loud, “I’m about to do something incredibly stupid,” so we know). He releases her from her prison, and the carnage begins.

The rest of the plot revolves around the bachelor party attempting to escape from the beast while Nyx and his posse try to reclaim their “property”. It should be noted that Nyx is one flamboyant sunofagun. Welborn realizes what kind of movie he’s making, chewing enough scenery to fill all the spittoons in his character’s brothel. Somehow it works, especially paired with the nearly mute, doe-eyed performance of Fierman who vacillates between innocence and savagery and back again without warning, raging all over the screen like an unchecked id.

But what I found myself enjoying the most is Bishop’s eagerness to make SIREN more than a boilerplate midnight monster movie, looking for ways to elevate the action in clever ways. When the guys take shrooms, for example, his depiction of the trip they’re on is surprisingly realistic and gives the brothel the funky intro it deserves. A later action sequence benefits from focusing on Jonah—hiding and ears plugged to avoid hearing the creature’s song—so that we only see bodies flying around the edges of the screen, and we only hear the muffled thuds of gunshots and the murky pitch of screams.

SIREN isn’t a new classic, and in many ways it feels like a step backwards from the original short film, abandoning most of the elements that made “Amateur Night” work. But by sticking with Fierman and spinning a wacky backwoods mythology around her beastie, the film manages to stand on its own, and Bishop’s clever staging wrings a lot of extra mileage from what could have been boring, standard horror set pieces. In that respect, I guess the carnival barker got it right. SIREN is a freak show, but sometimes it’s a whole lot of fun to see weirdness for weirdness’s sake.

Andrew Kemp is a screenwriter and game designer who started talking about movies in 1984 and got stuck that way. He can be seen around town wherever there are movies, cheap beer and little else.

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KOOL KAT OF THE WEEK: Tromaville in L5P: Nick Arapoglou Radiates as the First Superhero from New Jersey in Horizon Theatre’s THE TOXIC AVENGER

Posted on: Feb 17th, 2016 By:
Kool Kat of the Week Nick Arapaglou as Toxie in Horizon Theatre's production of THE TOXIC AVENGER. Photo credit: Greg Mooney.

Kool Kat of the Week Nick Arapaglou as Toxie in Horizon Theatre’s production of THE TOXIC AVENGER. Photo credit: Greg Mooney.

By Geoff Slade
Contributing Writer

Horizon Theatre’s production of THE TOXIC AVENGER (Wed-Sun., through March 13) is a musical comedy based on the cult 1984 Troma film.  If that means anything at all to you, it is likely the best news you’ve heard all day. The plot will be familiar to fans, and I don’t want to spoil anything for the rest of you. All you need to know about the show itself, depending on how seriously you want to take it, is to expect social commentary on pollution, corrupt politicians and a deft satire of the superhero genre. And a seven-foot tall mutant with superhuman strength and a heart of gold. The original stage production opened in New Jersey in 2008, followed by a successful Off-Broadway run in 2009.

Local actor Nick Arapoglou plays the lead. Nick, originally from Huntington, NY, went to high school in Atlanta and moved back here after college. He has been acting professionally for about a decade, notably as Princeton (for which he learned puppetry!) in all three local productions (at three different venues) of AVENUE Q, and he won 2011’s Suzi Bass Award for Lead Actor in a Musical. Other roles during the past few years include Asher Lev in MY NAME IS ASHER LEV (Theatrical Outfit), Romeo in ROMEO AND JULIET (Shakespeare Tavern) and Bobby Strong in URINETOWN (Fabrefaction Theatre). “Of course, I also enjoyed THE GIFTS OF THE MAGI at Theatrical Outfit, because my wife played opposite me in that show for three years straight!” Nick said.

In addition to a diverse stage career, the actor has done lots of on-camera work . Look for him later this year in the films TABLE 19 (with Anna Kendrick, Lisa Kudrow and Craig Robinson), THE ACCOUNTANT (Ben Affleck, Anna Kendrick), THE BOSS (Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Bell), and CONFIRMATION (Kerry Washington).

Needless to say, those are some fantastic credits, but yeah, we admit we made Nick Kool Kat of the Week now because we think he’s in the role of a lifetime. And we’re absolutely troma-tized that he took time from his trashy schedule to talk Toxie with ATLRetro.

Photo credit: Greg Mooney.

Not funny! Photo credit: Greg Mooney.

First of all, what’s it like to portray a pop culture icon? (and make no mistake…)

Ha! I think when you are playing a role where there are those kinds of expectations, you have to make sure there are moments when you give a tip of the hat to the fans. We certainly have those moments placed within the show. But putting on a big green suit and kicking ass with a mop is about as awesome as you think it is!

Were you a fan of the films?

I’m going to be honest—I still haven’t seen them. I know that might make some people gasp! But there’s a reason why I didn’t once I accepted the role. There are very few new shows and musicals that hit the stage in Atlanta. They’ve usually been done in New York first. So it’s always important to me to try to bring my own take on the role and do a recycled impression of an impression of someone else’s take. That’s a huge trap in musicals especially. People listen to the CD so much and that colors their performance. So, the point is, I didn’t want to see the film and then have my performance be shaped by someone else’s. I did watch the trailer though and laughed hysterically—so you can bet once we close this thing that’s the first thing in my queue.

Had you seen or were you aware of any of the previous productions before this one came along?

Yes, we were aware especially of the award-winning Off-Broadway performance in NYC. I listened to the score a few times to get a sense of the music, but then stopped before it got in my head too much!

How did you end up cast in the lead?

Well, this is the same creative team that was behind AVENUE Q. Our excellent director Heidi McKerley (who won the Suzi Award for Best Director for AVE Q) and I have now done 11 or 12 productions together. She was one of the first people to cast me years ago and we have developed quite the resume of kickass musicals at this point. Also the music director Renee Clark (Suzi Award for Best Music Direction for AVE Q) and I have also worked together for years and years. She is an unbelievable talent, and every show she works on is better because of her presence. So I’m sure the working relationships I have with both those two fierce ladies led to their trust in casting me as the lead in this show.

dont-drop-him_24148250873_o

Don’t drop him! Photo credit: Greg Mooney.

You’re two weeks into a scheduled six-week run. How have audiences responded so far? Gotten any feedback from Troma fans yet?

I know I’m supposed to say this, but audiences love the show. No matter if the theater is sold out completely or we have maybe a smaller crowd on a Wednesday, they jump to their feet by the end of the show. I mean jump to their feet. It’s happened every night. We are really proud of what we are doing. The cast is a firestorm of musical theatre rock talent. Don’t believe me? Come watch, you’ll see!

We have definitely gotten some Troma fan feedback. It’s been awesome. They are always satisfied and super happy to take pictures at the end of the night with Big Green Freak.

How would you describe the show to (warn?) fans of musical theater that don’t recognize the title?

Nothing to warn about really. Because it’s a musical, obviously the gore factor has to be toned way down for audiences. But that doesn’t take away from the story and the fun at all, believe me. I think this show is rated PG-13, but a hilarious PG-13. It’s a train. It’s campy, and ridiculous, and hilarious. Everyone leaves smiling. If you don’t leave that way, you were trying not to like it, and in that case, I feel bad for you.

toxie-comes-alive_24148251913_o

Toxie comes alive! Photo credit: Greg Mooney.

The movies feature absurd, disgusting, hilarious violence. Any chance you rip some punk’s arm off onstage?

Some punk’s arm? How about multiple punks’ arms.

The musical was written by New Jersey natives Joe DiPietro and David Bryan. Their last collaboration, MEMPHIS, won the 2010 Tony Award for Best Musical. Bryan wrote the music (and co-wrote the lyrics with DiPietro) during downtime from his day job, keyboardist for another ’80s Jersey juggernaut, Bon Jovi. So is it safe to say the score rocks?

The music is just fun. We have a kicking band. You’ll hear some sick guitar distortion solos and bass, hot keyboard play and insane drum solos.

And this cast can sing. Make no mistake—it rocks.

THE TOXIC AVENGER runs through March 13 at the Horizon Theatre. Showtimes are Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 3pm and 8:30pm, and Sunday at 5pm. Tickets start at $25. www.horizontheatre.com or 404-548-7450 for tickets and info.

The play contains adult language and content, and even though they’d love it, is not recommended for children.

All photos provided by Horizon Theatre and used with permission.

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Nightmare in Downtown Atlanta: Our Top 10 Retro Reasons to Attend Days of the Dead 2016!

Posted on: Feb 3rd, 2016 By:

elviraIt’s crazy how time flies and also totally terrifyingly awesome that the Days of the Dead will be celebrating its fifth frightening year at Sheraton Hotel Atlanta, this Friday-Sunday Feb. 5-7. Our favorite part is that this horror media convention celebrates not just contemporary cinema but retro classics. In other words, there’s plenty to please both the gore-fan and the Famous Monsters Kid. Here are 10 of our top things to do this year.

bdwms1) ELVIRA. Need me say more than that the Mistress of the Dark will be gracing our presence. You can catch the beautiful Cassandra Peterson on all three days but she’ll only be onstage Q&A’g Friday night at 9 p.m. and only in her full dark costumed regalia on Saturday.

2) BILLY DEE WILLIAMS. The original Star Wars trilogy gangster, Lando Calrissian, will be in the house on Saturday (Q&A at noon) and Sunday, as well as Jeremy Bulloch the man behind the mask of Boba Fett, the ultimate bounty hunter.

3) SID HAIG AND BILL MOSELEY. Returning once more are two of the sweetest sinister guys in show businesses. 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!

raimi4) TED RAIMI, i.e. Sam’s zany acting brother, is also on this year’s guest list. Horror fans will always love him for EVIL DEAD II, but his acting resume is long and full of fun including recurring roles on such TV series as SEAQUEST 2032 and playing Joxer on HERCULES and XENA:WARRIOR PRINCESS.

5) HEATHER LANGENKAMP & PJ SOLES. These ladies won horror hearts as two of 70s/80s swellest scream queens for their turns in NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET and HALLOWEEN, but to us, PJ will always be Riff Randell eating pizza with the Ramones and toppling Principal Togar in one of our favorite cult movies ever, Roger Corman‘s unparalleled ROCK N ROLL HIGH SCHOOL.

sidhaig6) KANE HODDER & TONY TODD, the actors behind two of the most iconic 80s monsters, JASON VOORHES and CANDYMAN, will be lurking. Be sure to stop by and blow them kisses, then duck and run!

7) TOO MANY TO NAME THEM ALL! Check the Website for more stars from such horror/splatter classics as POLTERGEIST, I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, CHILD’S PLAY, TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, THE HITCHER and more!

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 and on-site flyers, but highlights include Friday night CELEBRITY SCARYEE-OKEE at 11 p.m. and Saturday FX MAKEUP CHALLENGE (4:30 p.m.), THAT DAMN TATTOO CONTEST (6:30 p.m.) VIP PARTY (8:45 p.m.), costume contest (10 p.m.) and CARNAGE dance party (11 p.m.)

costume10) FRIGHTENING FILMS! The JABB 48-hour film festival featuring new and classic indie horror shorts (both US and international), animation, features and con exclusives. One special treat, or maybe trick, is DEVIL DOGS OF KILO COMPANY, a Marines vs. Nazis thriller performed with toy soldiers and tanks, introduced by voice actors/stars John Dugan (TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE) and Kane Hodder, Sat. at 5 p.m.! And we admit nothing says creepy to us so much as a clown costume contest–catch that right after at 7 p.m. during the pre-release party of CIRCUS OF THE DEAD introduced by DOLL BOY director Billy Pon.

Days of the Dead main con hours are Fri. Feb. 5 from 5 to 11 p.m.; Sat. Feb. 6 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.; and Sun. Feb. 7 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with parties going late into the night on Friday and Saturday. Kids under 10 and military free. For more info, visit http://www.daysofthedead.net/atlanta/.

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Celebrate Madness and a Decade of Dread at Synchronicity Theater With the 10th Annual Buried Alive Film Festival!

Posted on: Nov 12th, 2015 By:

By Aleck Bennett11.14
Contributing Writer

The 10th Annual Buried Alive Film Festival; Saturday, November 14, 12:00 p.m. – 11:50 p.m.; Sunday, November 15, 12:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.; Synchronicity Theater; Tickets $10 per screening block / $50 all access pass; Schedule for each screening block here; Tickets here.

Halloween might have been two weeks ago, but there’s no reason why Atlanta’s horror community shouldn’t claim the entire month between it and Thanksgiving to create a haunting holiday season. That’s why having the always-amazing Buried Alive Film Festival right smack dab in the middle simply makes sense. In its tenth year, the band of morbid mad doctors behind the scenes (including ATLRetro Kool Kat Blake Myers) has assembled a monster of a festival and is bringing it to rampaging life at Synchronicity Theater! Venture in to witness horrors, paranormal and psychological, ranging from the frighteningly funny to the atmospheric and haunting. And, given the people involved, expect buckets of blood served up with every course.

The festival kicks off on Saturday with Shorts Program 1: Tentacles, Slime, and Problems. A series of shorts delivers on the program’s title, with a host of unsavory creatures on display—none so disturbing as our fellow man, however, as depicted in the Southeastern premieres of HEIR and Florian Frerichs’ adaptation curtain_posterof Roald Dahl’s gruesome classic IN THE RUINS. Also be sure to catch the contemporary eldritch horrors of 666 SQUARE FEET, which was picked as an official selection at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival, Cthulhu Con, the New York City Horror Film Festival, NecronomiCon, Filmquest and more.

Follow that up with Feature Program 1: CURTAIN, which is preceded by the short film HAG, featuring THE EXORCIST’s Eileen Dietz and CHILDREN OF THE CORN’s John Franklin in a tale of the downsides of sleep paralysis and somnambulism. CURTAIN is…well…it’s about disappearing shower curtains in an ex-nurse’s tiny New York apartment. But as with many of the other subjects on offer, don’t leap to any conclusions from that short summary. With maniacal energy and flourishes of wacky humor, we’re plunged headlong into an epic story of cults, portals, unlikely friendship and the hazards of showering.

After a quick break to gather your nerves, return at 4 p.m. to leave the live-action world behind with Zerch_PostalAnimation/Puppet Program: Drawn, Quartered, and hands stuck up our butt. We’re treated with a series of surreal short subjects that take us places that flesh and blood cannot alone. This ranges from the Victorian ghost story of THE MILL AT CALDER’S END (featuring the voice talents of Barbara Steele and Jason Flemyng, and performed using bunraku rod puppets) to the stop-motion shorts of local filmmaker Britain Cramer. Also worth checking out is the dramatic shadowplay of MONSTER and the Southeastern debut of the delightfully dreadful BUNNY BIZNESS.

Haven’t had enough? Of course you haven’t. That’s why you’re sticking around for Shorts Program 2: Violent Crimes. Each short deals with the bloody transgression of social codes, whether from the perpetrator’s point of view, or the victim’s. Whether it’s climbing the corporate ladder of organized crime in the hilarious BAD GUY #2 or the horrors awaiting a person on the other end of the scalpel in SURGERY (based on legendary British writer/producer Brian Clemens’ last story idea), you’ll find more than enough gore to satiate your bloodlust.

HEAD (Poster)Ready for more long-form entertainment after all those shorts? Well, sit back and enjoy Feature Program 2: BUNNY THE KILLER THING. The program is introduced by the world premiere of the short film HEAD, in which a grieving widower does anything in his power to keep his wife with him. BUNNY follows, a gruesome exhumation and insanely funny send-up of 1980s horror tropes, from the secluded cabin in the woods, to the sex=death equation, to the man-in-a-monster-suit menace. In this, a horrific half-human/half rabbit monstrosity stalks a group of Finnish and British youth while in pursuit of anything resembling female genitalia.

We close out the night with a special feature presented by the inimitable Splatter Cinema crew: a 40th anniversary screening of Dario Argento’s classic giallo, DEEP RED. Be sure to see the accompanying Retro Review of this title (Coming soon!), but rest assured that this is an absolute must-see.

After a night to recover from the horrors of the previous day, we find ourselves back at the crack of noon for Shorts Program 3: A Lighter Shade of Blood Red. As the title suggests, this is a good-humored set of Chompshorts. From the love of a vengeful family pet in LITTLE OLD CAT LADY FROM RANCHO CUCAMONGA to a mother’s love for her undead son in ZOMINIC, from the tasty trap of I AM CANDY (in its Southeastern premiere) to the delicious set design of EAT, to zombie kidnapping in CHOMP, there’s a little something for the twisted side of everybody in this program.

From one extreme to another (in a festival of nothing but the extreme), we come to our next shorts program, Shorts Program 4: Gross People and Their Problems. Again, the program’s title lets you know what you’re in for with this set: the troubles that beset those who don’t quite fit in. There’s the health-crazed satire of RECIPE, the Wes Anderson-ian nightmare comedy of CRUSH, the American premiere of the disturbing family horror FROM THE GUTS, the extremes of VHS horror found in NASTY, and much more. Twisted people, twisted lives, twisted problems and twisted nerves are what you’ll find onscreen.

The next program explores the outer bounds of horror and filmmaking technique, in Shorts Program 5: psychoticExperimental and Music Videos. Split fairly evenly between experimental shorts such as BIRTHDAY’s Satanic ode to silent-era cinema, experimenting with serial killers in PSYCHOTIC! and the symbolic odyssey across the rivers of HADES, there are boundary-pushing music videos from artists such as Vyla Vice’s “Come With Me” and Atlanta’s own Gunpowder Gray and Casket Creatures with “Saints” and “GKMF!” (the latter directed by some guy named Lucas Godfrey (ATLRetro Kool Kat article here), who might just also happen to be the festival’s Event Director).

Then it’s time once again to focus on the long-form with Feature Program 3: THE INTERIOR. We transition into the feature-length section this time with two short subjects. First up is local director Brian Teague’s 1580 AM, which documents the GoPro footage found after four friends disappear in in the woods. It’s followed by THE FISHERMAN, about a Chinese fisherman who ventures out of the harbor and into the pits of horror when he catches something unexpected in the deep. Then our feature THE INTERIOR receives its Southeastern premiere. It’s a tense, atmospheric journey into the isolated woods of British Columbia as we follow a young man who has recently been diagnosed with a grave illness. As he seeks TerryBrendaTeaserPoster2_WEBrefuge and retreat, he finds that something else is in these woods, and it’s pursuing him deeper and deeper into the interior. A building sense of unease and tension, coupled with gorgeous photography and a great central performance makes this one you must check out.

We close out this year’s festival with a palate cleanser in the form of Shorts Program 6: Closing Night Shorts. A little bit of everything for those who have made it through the horrors of the previous two days, you’ve got demented comedy in the form of SISTER HELL and LARRY GONE DEMON, haunting and atmospheric horror in THE POND, mind-melting action in EL GIGANTE and THEY WILL ALL DIE IN SPACE, and the aptly-titled THE END. A fun and frightening serving of sadism: your treat as you prepare to leave this chamber of horrors and venture out into the real world where you can let your guard down and rest easy. Because surely none of the fantastic horrors on display could possibly manifest outside the walls of Synchronicity Theater, could they? Could they?

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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Rockin’ Retro Guide to Dragon Con 2015

Posted on: Sep 3rd, 2015 By:

dragonconBy Claudia Dafrico
Contributing Writer

As the famed pop culture extravaganza that is Dragon Con takes over downtown Atlanta once again this Labor Day weekend, one has to think: where to even begin? In between countless meet and greets, discussion panels, vendors, and amazing cosplays to ogle at, it seems impossible to do everything Dragon Con has to offer in just four days. ATLRetro is here with our top picks to help you get your nerdy Retro fix without short circuiting from overstimulation.

GUESTS

carollspinney_2CAROLL SPINNEY. The legendary muppeteer behind everyone’s favorite SESAME STREET resident, Big Bird, will be speaking at the Imperial Ballroom in the Marriott Marquis Atlanta on Saturday at 2:30 P.M.  This is a must-do for any con-goer, child or adult, that grew up with Big Bird and his neighbors.

PETER MAYHEW. With STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS approaching at near-light speed, the hype for the new film has reached peak levels. Be at the Mariott Imperial Ballroom Sunday at 4:00 P.M. to hear Peter Mayhew, the actor behind beloved Chewbacca, talk about the new installment in the saga and his experience appearing in all three STAR WARS trilogies.

brianBARRY BOSTWICK. If you’re one of many that have spent weekends past midnight with Dr. Frank N Furter and freinds, you’ll definitely want to make your way over to the Hyatt Regency Atlanta on Friday at 1:00 P.M. to catch up with Barry Bostwick, aka Brad Majors, from THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975), and see why he  was compelled to audition for the film. Also catch him at Lips Down on Dixie’s live performance accompanying RHPS at 1:30 A.M. on Sunday in the Hyatt Centennial Ballroom.

TERRY JONES. Terry Gilliam has been a guest at a couple of DragonCons. Now we get the other Monty Python Terry. What’s he best known for? Well, here’s a hint: “Spam! Spam! Spam! Spam! Spam! Spam!” Here him share his Python memories and more on Sunday at 11:30 A.M.. and he presents Terry Jones: A Very Naughty Boy Live!” about the making of LIFE OF BRIAN (1979) on Monday at 10 A.M., both in the Sheraton Atlanta’s Grand Ballroom.

300208_271920342839242_789821841_nCOMIC & POP ARTIST ALLEY

DEREK YANIGERIf the art of perpetual Kool Kat Derek Yaniger looks familiar, it’s probably because you can see it at the top of this article. Derek designed ATLRetro’s fabulous logo. Stop by his booth to get your fix of rockabilly, tiki and more in a sea of fantasy and steampunk.

PANELS

2001THE HISTORY OF PULP FICTION. Science fiction, fantasy, horror, weird fiction, adventure, noir. They all appeared in the pages of pulp magazines so it makes sense that Pulp Fiction has its own panel. Join fellow pulp lovers in a discussion of Pulp’s fascinating past and exciting future. (Sun. 10 AM; Augusta 3, Westin Peachtree Plaza Hotel)

PEE-WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE: WE KNOW YOU ARE. There is perhaps no movie that is quite as quotable as Tim Burton’s classic PEE-WEE’S BIG ADVENTURE (1985) With a reboot rumored to be in the works, be sure to celebrate  the original on its 30th anniversary. Tell ‘em Large Marge sent ya! (Sun 10 PM; M303-M303, Atlanta Marriott Marquis)

2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY REUNION. Since its premiere in 1968, Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi epic has bewitched viewers of all generations. Two of the film’s stars, Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood, reunite to reminisce on the unbelievably unique experience they had performing in this landmark film. (Fri. 1 PM, Sat. 5:30 PM; Grand Ballroom East, Hilton Atlanta)

CHRISTOPHER LEE & LEONARD NIMOY: CLASSIC SCI FI LEGENDS. 2015 saw the loss of two of the most talented actors the Sci-Fi and Horror genres have ever known. Join other fans to celebrate the lives of Leonard Nimoy and Sir Christopher Lee, whose contributions to pop culture will never be forgotten. (Sat. 5:30 PM; M303-M304, Atlanta Mariott Marquis)

hieberCTHULHU: NEW SPINS ON OLD MYTHOS. Everyone’s favorite Elder One has resurged in popularity in the past few years, and it looks like it is here to stay. Stop by to hear the experts explain how and why Cthulhu “works” in today’s world of pop culture, and where he’s headed in the years to come. (Fri. 7 PM; Peachtree 1-2, Westin Peachtree Plaza)

EXPLOITATION! In what might end up being the most entertaining and liveliest panel at Dragon Con, panelists and fans will gather to celebrate exploitation and cult films and all the revelry they bring. A late night panel for a late night crowd. (Fri. 10 PM; Peachtree 1-2, Westin Peachtree Plaza)

HISTORICAL HORROR. ATLRetro’s own Anya Martin will be moderating this panel, which will discuss and analyze the role history plays in horror fiction and how historical settings can bring new life (or death) to a story. Other panelists include Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Leanna Renee Hieber, Kenneth Mark Hoover and L. Andrew Cooper. (Sun. 11:30 AM; Peachtree 1-2, Westin Peachtree Plaza)

PARTIES

9.6(2)PIN UPS BY THE POOL. Who doesn’t love mermaids? Come see Dragon Con’s finest sea sirens compete for the grand prize, and join in on the fun by channeling your inner pin up for some poolside glam. (Fri. 8:30 PM; Sheraton Atlanta)

SUITS, SINATRA & STAR WARS. In wonderful Dragon Con fashion, two fabulous themes (the STAR WARS saga and the Rat Pack) have been combined to create what promises to be a swingin’ night for all. Dancing with a wookie to a Sinatra song is the best kind of night one can have, after all. (Fri. 10 PM; A601-A602, Marriott Marquis Atlanta)

MONSTER MASH FOR CHARITY. Halloween may be over a month away, but that doesn’t mean you can’t break out your Dracula fangs and Frankenstein bolts early. And the best part of this classic monsters graveyard smash? It’s all for a good cause! (Fri. 10 PM; Regency VI-VII, Hyatt Regency Atlanta)

MECHANICAL MASQUERADE. Go really retro Steampunk style at the Artifice Club‘s annual four-hour bash, orchestrated by Kool Kat Dr. Q and always a Dragon Con highlight. The theme this year is “Dystopia A Dark Future to Remember.” ( Sun. 10 PM;Peachtree Ballroom, Westin Peachtree Plaza)

BURLESQUE

9.5(2)DRAGONCON BURLESQUE: A GLAMOUR GEEK REVENUE-Burlesque is a Dragoncon staple; no Labor Day weekend would be complete without at least one show. Stay up late Saturday night to get a chance to check out Kool Kat Taloolah Love and the rest of the lovely ladies and mayhaps lads, too, of D-Con burlesque; they’re sure to put on a show that brings down the house. (Sun. 12:00 AM; Reg. VI-VII, Hyatt)

To check out the complete Dragon Con schedule, download the Pocket Program and/or app at www.dragoncon.org

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Splatter Cinema Brings Italian Cannibal Mania in the Amazonian Jungle to the Cinevision Screening Room With CANNIBAL FEROX!

Posted on: Jul 17th, 2015 By:

canferoxSplatter Cinema presents CANNIBAL FEROX (1981); Dir. Umberto Lenzi; Starring John Morghen (Giovanni Lombardo Radice), Lorraine De Selle and Robert Kerman; Cinevision Screening Room; Saturday, August 15 @ 8:30 p.m.; IndieGoGo campaign w/ advance ticket sales end July 24; Admission at door is cash only; Trailer here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

Splatter Cinema wants to bring you a rare chance to see Umberto Lenzi’s notorious CANNIBAL FEROX, aka MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY on the big screen at Cinevision in all its 35mm glory. Incredibly they’ve scored a fully restored print from Grindhouse Releasing! But the catch is the rental and shipping is expensive, so they are dependent on an INDIEGOGO campaign with advance ticketing. If it doesn’t make its goal, this screening won’t happen. That would be a real shame because Splatter Cinema has really delved into the fetid jungle of grindhouse treasures to unearth this putrescent piece of gut-munching gore. 

As I’ve mentioned here before, the horror genre is, in the eyes of many, disreputable. It’s not hard to see why—its primary purpose is to elicit something negative: fear. Comedy doesn’t get that reaction, because who doesn’t like to laugh? Action films promise thrills and excitement, which generally equals fun. Drama deals with serious topics and explores a wide range of emotion. But horror films conjure up some of our darkest emotions, and thus fall victim to the stigma of being “bad for you.” And some of horror’s subgenres get criticized more harshly than others. The slasher film, for instance, constantly comes under fire for celebrating slaughter. But no subgenre inspires the kind of wholesale, visceral revulsion than does the Italian cannibal film.

600full-cannibal-ferox-posterThe whole craze started in 1972, when Umberto Lenzi helmed THE MAN FROM DEEP RIVER. Almost a beat-for-beat remake of 1970’s A MAN CALLED HORSE, Lenzi shifted that movie’s setting from the old west to the Thai rainforest and added a fascination with ritualistic acts, cannibalism, violence and animal cruelty (largely inspired by the worldwide success of exploitative pseudo-documentary Mondo movies such as MONDO CANE and AFRICA ADDIO). Its huge success in Italy and on the US grindhouse circuit led to the subgenre remaining successful for nearly two decades.

Generally speaking, the Italian cannibal film follows a particular pattern: it opens in the “civilized” world—typically New York, though this isn’t written in stone—and some incident occurs that pulls our protagonists into the (again, typically) Asian or South American jungle. There, they encounter some previously unknown, long-lost or much feared native tribe; witness or experience graphic violence, torture and/or rape; and then a bunch of people get eaten and the lone survivors return, battered but wiser. This plot plays out in Lenzi’s CANNIBAL FEROX, which ups the ante on all its predecessors by claiming to be the “most violent movie ever made.” It goes to such extremes that Italian exploitation stalwart John Morghen (aka Giovanni Lombardo Radice) expresses regret that he agreed to act in the movie to this day.

CanFer-07Now, there are a wide variety of reasons why CANNIBAL FEROX and its kin are viewed so negatively. To start off with, there’s the insinuation that entering into some foreign jungle will pretty much guarantee that you’ll become the next meal of some “savage tribe.” It might stop short of actual racism (and my use of “might” is mighty shaky), but short isn’t where most people would prefer to stop. Then there’s the issue of sexual violence and rape. Sexual violence in these movies is almost always a threat, whether it’s perpetuated against indigenous women by the outsiders or against female outsiders entering hostile territory. Sympathetic critics have defended both elements on the grounds that many of the Italian cannibal films are explicitly anti-colonialist in tone and critical of Western capitalism. The conquering white heroes invade a remote locale, rape its women and kill its men, and are dealt retribution in kind. It’s not particularly subtle, but then, neither are these films when it comes to anything else. They’re blunt instruments, the argument goes, meant to shock a complacent audience into examining itself and the violence inherent in the system.

And then there’s the actual animal cruelty depicted in these movies. For some reason, this is a longstanding element of the subgenre, and is the main focus of most people’s revulsion. Defenders of the cannibal genre argue that the presence of actual animal cruelty works as a technique because it causes you to question the reality of what you’re witnessing—if that is real, what else is? Others argue that some of the depictions reflect actual practices of the people populating the film, so it’s an introduction of documentary realism into a fictional framework. Still others argue that these elements are present in any number of critically celebrated films—from Coppola’s APOCALYPSE NOW and Cimino’s HEAVEN’S GATE to Tarkovsky’s ANDREI RUBLEV and Godard’s WEEK-END—and that singling out these films amounts to bigotry against the horror genre (“sure, I’ll let Coppola show a water buffalo being slaughtered because that’s art, but all horror is pretty much crap, so this cannibal movie is fair game”). All of which are salient points, to which I’ll add that the raison d’être of horror films—to evoke fear and revulsion—draws more attention to these acts than in other, more mainstream films. There’s no shift in tone to relieve the audience. Not that it makes the viewing any easier.

Cannibal-Ferox_bannerThe genre reached what many consider its apex in 1980-81. Ruggero Deodato’s landmark 1980 film CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST touched on all of these elements and not only set aim at the horrors of colonialism, but turned its sights on the fact that an audience even existed to relish in the horrors he was putting on screen. As with Michael Haneke’s FUNNY GAMES, the viewer is made implicit in the crimes depicted as he or she watches. In making HOLOCAUST, Deodato seemed to be saying, “look upon the disgusting nature of this genre’s demands and know that they exist because you fools pay money to see them!”

Then came 1981’s CANNIBAL FEROX, released in the States as MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY. So uncompromising that its marketing brags about having been banned in 31 countries, the movie sees Lenzi largely eschewing the postmodern moralizing of Deodato (while still picking up on the evils of colonialism and Western capitalism) and going straight for the jugular. It’s brutal, it’s ugly, and it represents one of the twin peaks of Italian cannibal cinema. Lenzi is an accomplished filmmaker and knows precisely how to push buttons and fills his movie with energy to spare. That it’s as well-made as it is only makes the bludgeoning savagery of the film that much more affecting. If it were truly a bad movie, then no amount of outrage would sustain the attention paid to the film over the years. I mean, nobody’s talking about Bruno Mattei’s MONDO CANNIBALE, which sports many of the same superficial elements (heck, it’s basically a remake of CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST) and it’s only 12 years old. No, CANNIBAL FEROX is a quantifiably good movie—well-paced, intelligently structured, and uniformly follows through on its line of reasoning to an inevitably downbeat conclusion (it’s always hard to judge the acting, because most Italian films were shot without sound and dubbed after the fact even in their home countries, but what is here is perfectly acceptable). It just may be completely reprehensible, depending on your point of view. To paraphrase Walter Sobchak in THE BIG LEBOWSKI, say what you want about the merits of CANNIBAL FEROX, Dude, but at least it’s got an ethos.

But at any rate, it’s a film that demands to be seen, experienced and then talked about. See it with your friends and debate the various controversial aspects of the movie afterward. No matter where you stand on the appropriate nature of the vile events that are depicted in the movie and the philosophical reasoning behind how they’re depicted…well…

It’s definitely something to chew on.

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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