Kool Kat of the Week: Under Heidi S. Howard’s Helm, Seven Stages Throws a CD Release Party for DRACULA, THE ROCK OPERA

Posted on: Feb 13th, 2014 By:

Dracula and his wives in DRACULA THE ROCK OPERA at 7 Stages; L-R: Jessika Cutts, Rob Thompson, Naomi Lavender, Madeline Brumby.

Forget a red heart-shaped box this Valentine’s weekend, and go straight for the heart, the bloody heart. The CD of DRACULA: THE ROCK OPERA is finally out (watch for our Retro Review soon), and 7 Stages is throwing live concert to celebrate its release with three shows, February 14 and 15. [Ed. note: 8 p.m. on Fri and Sat. The Thurs. Feb. 13 show was canceled due to weather, and a new show has been added at 10:30 pm Sat]

It’s been a year and a half since the curtain last went down on DRACULA. As ATLRetro said in our Review, “DRACULA THE ROCK OPERA melds JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR with Grand Guignol in a production that not only rocks hard and delivers a horrific, non-twinkly Nosferatu, but also is surprisingly true to Bram Stoker‘s original novel.” That review marks the only time a full cast and crew have earned Kool Kats of the Week, and we added that the production not only broke the bounds of community theater expectations but blew them out of the water. We felt like we were “discovering HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY ITCH off-Broadway in 1998 or THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW in a tiny upstairs theater in London in 1973.” We wish everyone who missed it could see the full production, but hopefully the music being available on CD will help convince skeptics that something this crazy original can happen outside the Big Apple. All the main creators/cast members of the Little Five Points Rock Star Orchestra will be back, including Rob Thompson, the mad mastermind behind the sinister shebang; Naomi Lavender (Muleskinner MacQueen Trio), Mina with a voice to make Kate Bush blush; Rick Atkinson, America’s hardest rocking Renfield; and more.

Since then, Heidi Howard has assumed the helm as creative director of Seven Stages. She’s a mighty Kool Kat for taking on one of Atlanta’s most innovative and daring theater companies, following in the footsteps of founders Del Hamilton and Faye Allen, who both are local legends here. Here’s what she has to say about the concert and CD, as well as what’s next for DRACULA and 7 Stages!

Heidi S. Howard. Photo courtesy of 7 Stages.

It’s been a year and a half since the curtain dropped on the last performance of DRACULA: THE ROCK OPERA. While the vision started with Rob Thompson, it was also an amazing collaborative effort with Del directing and many of the musical cast contributing to the composition. Can you talk about that aspect of the production and how it relates to the music we’ll be hearing this weekend?

I remember sitting in the basement over four years ago, listening to the first notes composed and encouraging Rob to propose the production to Del. I have often called theatre a collaborative sport; we have to work together in order to make great things. Over the years, the relationship with 7 Stages artists and Little Five Points Orchestra has grown to something really impressive. This process specifically was created to encourage everyone’s ideas to be heard and to merge the music and theatre styles. By including Shane [Morton]’s knowledge of Dracula and encouraging the composer’s possibility of the music style, we were really able to expand the overall sound of the story.  There is such a diverse style of surprising music from true rock in “The Castle” and “Dracula’s Opus,” to jam in “Van Helsing’s Teachings,” even to rockabilly sounds in “Lucy’s Proposals,” that make it accessible to many.

We have chosen to highlight the different styles and favorites in this concert while still saving some of the best to be heard on the CD. Even today I am inspired by hearing everyone’s ideas and implementing the best of them, as well as the group’s way of working through a decision together.  The Drac Pack is a very intense gathering of strong-minded rockers and artists, each with passionate dedication to what we have created together.  7 Stages has the unique environment of engaging the individual and really supporting who we have in the space.  We are a people’s place and make opportunity for those that are here and willing to collaborate and become better. This process is a testament to engaging and supporting those who are present.

While it’s not the complete production, will characters be in costume and what else is the company doing to recreate the horrific ambiance?

We are sticking to a concert presentation style, keeping the production elements as simple as possible while still creating an intimate environment.  While really celebrating the music and engaging the community, we are keeping the work present in the minds and bodies of our audiences. We are creating a lobby installation of the costumes and some of the scenic elements used in the production. Instead of using the video projections there will be images, many from Stungun Photography, who captured beautiful moments of the production. We did not want to create the expectation of a full production and staging elements, because the goal is to celebrate the music itself. Also, it is important to note that not all of the performers were available for this gig, and so Rob and others cover some of the vocal roles.

What’s your personal favorite song in DRACULA and why?

Oh my goodness, I tried hard to pick one to answer this question, but I just can’t. The music is so rich with diverse styles, and I like many different types of music. “Diary and Mysteries is up there because of the simple beauty of Naomi’s voice and the build of everyone’s layered voice in as the song builds. I love, love, love when there are all of the layers of voices and music changes in many of the Act 2 songs. “Alone in Transylvania” really speaks to everyone’s fear of being lonely, and it always brings chills to my body.  ”Van Helsing’s Teachings” is so much fun, and Jeff nails it every time. I wake up singing “The Chase”…. And the list continues. It is so good, and I get so overwhelmed each night in rehearsals, I am literally sitting in the theatre rocking out, feeling so lucky and thankful.

7 Stages is one of Atlanta’s most acclaimed theater companies for serious plays. Why do something as seemingly pop-culture as DRACULA: THE ROCK OPERA, or is it pop-culture?

Traditionally DRACULA productions have been poppy, and with our production we really focused on sticking to the Bram Stoker’s book and creating music and a production that answered the desire of these artists.  7 Stages has always had a mission on supporting new work and encouraging artists to expand their craft.  For me, I was really interested in the process of merging the music and theatre scene, creating a space to develop high quality storytelling and offering both the musicians and theatre folk the best of both worlds so that we could learn best practices and become better artists overall.  This production is a fusion of pop and rock culture, and while it is a break from the serious heavy topics, we are creating a seriously great rock opera. 

Heidi S. Howard. Photo courtesy of 7 Stages.

There have been many stage and screen adaptations of DRACULA. Why do you think this one worked so well and was so popular with audiences?
We stuck to the book in composing the lyrics, many of them being directly taken from the text. Many other productions stray away from this and tell “popular” vampire stories because of the trend. There are so many Dracula mythos out there, and we really stuck to Stoker’s mythos as opposed to others such as Anne Rice’s, TWILIGHT or other modern pop culture mythos.  We used the wave of what was popular for marketing purposes but wanted to stick to the original tale.  We wanted to celebrate the strength of the musicians and performers with high quality production values.  Also, it was a direct goal of Rob’s to do “something that doesn’t suck!”  There is a Little Five Points Orchestra following, as well as those that support 7 Stages who have really encouraged our relationship to grow over the years of producing the Krampus shows [and] involving the musicians in our production of HAIR a few years ago.  Ultimately, we are answering the demand of our community.  The show is fun, involving, intimate, and so surprising that all want to be involved.

So many of us wish there would be full-out performances of DRACULA again. Any chance of that or of it going on the road to other cities?

We would love to do the full production again, taking everything to the next level, send it on the road, sell it to other producers, etc… it deserves to be out there.  That is a large reason for producing this concert version, in addition to celebrating the CD release.  But, it takes money.  Lots of money so that we can pay the artists for their time and work, as well as pay for all that it takes to make a production including blood, effects, blood, costumes, scenery, blood, video, blood, etc.  We want to keep the music and possibility present in our community and continue to push it out there.  

Heidi S. Howard gets the Shane Morton treatment. Photo courtesy of 7 Stages.

How are you feeling about 7 Stages now that you have a few years under your belt. How are you feeling about taking the plunge? What do you think is the company’s biggest success under your helm? And what is its biggest challenge?

Absolutely fantastic.  I love my staff, the artists, and all of the amazing people that walk into the space.  I stuck around 7 Stages all these years for the people and am always inspired by the involvement of those people. I am having a lot of fun with our Home Brew series.  We have always supported the development of new work, but by formalizing it into a program and inviting audiences into the process, the support and understanding for the process becomes very clear. The Navigator was a great success as we took our work outside of our space, and at the same time we were the first organization to be allowed to perform on MARTA with Mass Transit Muse [full production to premiere in May].   But honestly, we have stayed open; we are extremely focused on becoming financially stable.  This is both a success and an ongoing challenge.

Next up is THE RED BADGE OF COURAGE. That’s a book that many people read in school. Why should they want to see it performed live through the lens of 7 Stages?

7 Stages’ new adaptation of RED BADGE uses puppetry, live actors, projected animation and a dynamic soundscape to create an immersive world of battle. Our version uses contemporary techniques to achieve the intense atmosphere of war and the spinning viewpoint of our naive young soldier. People who have read the book will find new nuance and perspective on it, while those unfamiliar will leave the theater itching to read!

What else is 7 Stages up to that you’re excited about for the rest of this season and into the next?
As mentioned above, our work is not just focused on the serious. We are sticking to our social, political and spiritual mission. It is my goal to expand the knowledge of what we do. We like to have a great time with our work. While it can be serious, it can also offer Atlanta a really good time. Today the work has a lot to do with reflecting and representing our community and expanding it – internationally and locally. I am gearing up to jump into rehearsals again for Mass Transit Muse, which is another process that will merge mediums, and Jed Drummond will be a feature, which is always a plus! It’s a wonderful experience to work with your friends, who happen to be amazing artists. I’m looking forward to sharing their talents, engaging with our community, and creating art that surprises, engages and inspires Atlanta.

Heidi in front of 7 Stages' spider float at the L5P Halloween Parade. Photo courtesy of 7 Stages.

You do a lot of work with youth through Youth Creates, the Playmaking for Girls program, etc. Can you talk a little bit about those pursuits and why you are so passionate about working with young people.

By listening to the youthful mind, I am allowing voices to be heard.  As a young person, I was continually challenged by not being heard or not knowing how to express myself. As Education Director, I was able to create a place for young people to connect their everyday life to creative process.  While working on professional productions at 7 stages, training under the world-renowned directors and artists that we brought in, I was able to structure the education programming around the needs of our ongoing programming. It has been obvious to me that we can answer each others’ needs by answering the desires and needs of our community by offering the community opportunities of professional development, while offering hands-on experience in the professional field of creating art.

Finally, tell us something about you and what drew you to the theater life that we don’t know.
I worked at Disney while I was in college and loved playing Timon, the meerkat from THE LION KING, because I could flirt with the girls and no one would know.

Is there any question did I not ask about 7 Stages, DRACULA or you that I should have, and what is the answer?

7 Stages doors are always open. Come on in, grab a coffee or drink from Java Lords, hang out in the lobby / gallery, check out the library upstairs, create with us, see all of our shows, give us feedback, pop in and say hi to us in the office. As I said, I do this for the people I get to meet and create with each day.  There are always amazing things happening here that will surprise and inspire.

CDs of Dracula the Rock Opera are at Java Lords now and will be available at the show. For advance tickets, visit www.7stages.org.

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

Posted on: Feb 6th, 2014 By:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted on: Dec 12th, 2013 By:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why play a wrestling show?

Both: Why not? It’s America!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For more on the Joy Kills:

Preview teaser for Friday the 13th Holiday Horror Show

Interview with Wrestling with Pop Culture’s Jonathan Williams

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

Posted on: Oct 25th, 2013 By:

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

ATLRETRO’S HAINT OF THE SEASON: CHAMBER OF HORRORS

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

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

LABOR OF LOVE: ATLANTA ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE 

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

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

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

MOST GOTHICALLY GORGEOUS: NETHERWORLD

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

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

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

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

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

ATLANTA’S NEWEST HAUNT: CONTAINMENT

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

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

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

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Kool Kats of the Week: Wrestling with the Rock-Horror Connection with Ryan Howard, Derek Obscura and Jamie Robertson of the Casket Creatures

Posted on: Jul 3rd, 2013 By:

Derek Obscura of the Casket Creatures.

The Fireworks may be over but Monstrosity Championship Wrestling is back at The Famous Pub culminating in a Great American Monster Mash battle royal to determine the number one contender to Phantom’s MCW Championship. The festivities also include a live performance by the Casket Creatures, celebrating the release of their new CD, SEX, BLOOD AND ROCK N ROLL.

Being that there’s a long history of rock songs with horror themes back to Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s “Monster Mash,” ATLRetro couldn’t resist inviting vocalist Ryan Howard and guitarists Derek Obscura and Jamie Robertson of the Gainesville, GA.-based punk/horror band, to be our first triple-threat Kool Kats of the Week.

ATLRetro: What was your entree (musician and song) into horror-themed rock and how old were you?

Ryan: I grew up fascinated by haunted houses, Halloween, horror movies and anything spooky. My dad is a big part of this; he raised me around rock n’ roll and horror movies, and I am a better person because of it. My first experience to the horror genre in music would be my dad listening to Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath around me as a kid.  I guess the rest is horror history!

Jamie: I myself was really into Danzig since I was around 13,  and from Danzig I heard about the Misfits. I think the first Misfits track I heard was “Die Die My Darling,” and since then I have been hooked.

Derek: I was a bit of a late bloomer into the world of horror-rock/punk, but better late than never, they say! I was 15 and highly obsessed with the band Slipknot. Then I hear about Joey Jordison having this side band called the Murderdolls. I went out and picked up their debut, and instantly it was like a spark was set off in my brain. I played that CD nonstop for at least two or three weeks. And then from there, I found Wednesday 13’s solo CD [and] came across the Misfits, Blitzkid, etc. And here we are!

Why do you think rock and horror go together so well?

Ryan: Because the horror kids and the rock and roll kids usually are the same! We wear black shirts, listen to evil music and enjoy the darker side of life!

Derek: I think they mesh so well because both are pretty obscure subjects. Well, they CAN be. If you say “I like THE RING and Five Finger Death Punch,” that’s not obscure, that’s just lame! But throughout the years, you know, it wasn’t the “cool” thing to like horror movies, or the “cool” thing to like Rock N’ Roll,” or even wrestling! But the benefits of it are that the people are into it and REALLY dig it and get it, those people are awesome ,and it makes for a great community of like-minded people!

Ryan Howard, vocalist, The Casket Creatures.

The band was originally formed in 2006 as Brain Buffet and then reformed in 2010 as “The Casket Creatures.” When and how did the Casket Creatures get started? And why did you change the name?

Jamie: Myself and Ryan are the only two members from Brain Buffet that are also Casket Creatures. Also we didn’t want to do the exact same style with the Creatures; we wanted to be darker but more upbeat. Also instead of being straight-up punk, we wanted to add elements of other musical styles like rock ‘n’ roll and a metal flare to certain parts. The name change was just something that needed to happen. In June 2010, Ryan and myself started seriously talking about starting a new horror project which we actually got up and running in August 2010. I thought of the name one night watching old school universal horror movies. I threw the name out to the other members. They all dug it and the rest is history.

Ryan: Me and Jamie were in Brain Buffet, but the project was mainly a Halloween kind of band. A lot of cover songs, campy songs about eating brains, etc. After the band kind of dissolved we decided to form a new band that would be all about horror year-round! We wanted to have a different sound, more original songs and a nonstop show schedule. That along with the member change [is why] we decided to go with “The Casket Creatures.”  Ever since we changed the name, we have had way more opportunities, so it’s been really good for us.

Jamie Robertson, guitarist, The Casket Creatures.

Who are some of your influences? In other words, for the uninitiated, are the Casket Creatures more Cramps, more Bauhaus, more Alice, more Misfits or a witches’ brew of them all?

Ryan: We have had people call us rock, metal and punk, but at the end of the day  I think we have a really different sound for this genre. I think you can hear many different influences in each song, but we really work it to create the Casket Creature sound.

Derek: I would say we are a witches’ brew of a bit of everything and even more! All of us bring in a variety of different influences that are all over the place, and I think it shows in our songs.

Jamie: For me, it’s The Misfits, Alice Cooper and Danzig. More recent bands also include Slipkot and Blitzkid.

You’ve opened for such bands as Wednesday 13, Static X and Michale Graves. What’s your favorite gig so far and why?

Derek: Out of the three listed, I would have to say the Static X show for the reason that we have friends in that group as well as Davey Suicide who was on the tour also. S o it was really cool to get to see friends and hang out and them being able to see our band play. We also had some extra props for that show thanks to our pal Sam, so it made it more theatrical.

Ryan: We have had many gigs that could qualify as my favorite. Rock N’ Roll Monster Bash, Six Flags Fright Fest and the L5P Halloween Parade come to mind first for me. But out of those three, I would say Wednesday 13. We played great that night, we had an amazing crowd, and we made some DIEHARD fans that night.

Jamie: Little 5 Points Halloween Parade 2012. The crowd was insane, and we played really well.

Your new album is called SEX, BLOOD AND ROCK N ROLL. What’s it about and where can we get a CD or download a copy?

Ryan: SEX, BLOOD AND ROCK N ROLL is the album I have always wanted to make. It really shows what the band can do, and it really sets the bar high for the next release! Which by the way we are already talking about. The new album can be picked up on CDBABY, ITunes, Spotify and just about anywhere you can download music. I would just buy a copy at the MCW show Friday personally!

Do you have any special plans for Friday night?

Ryan: Just a killer set that showcases a lot of new material that has barely been played out live!  Oh, and [it's] the first show that our CD will be available at!

What else makes Monstrosity Championship Wrestling special, and why should folks come out to the show, whether or not they are wrestling fans?

Derek: Where else can you see someone get beat up by The Invisible Man?! It is a great time all the time. I think it’s just very entertaining, and for people who aren’t into wrestling, they can still enjoy it because it’s just a night of excitement. There is the wrestling, you have live bands playing, they give out prizes, and you never know what’s going to happen!

Jamie: MCW is something that can be appreciated by anyone not just wrestling fans. From music to horror and even comedy, MCW is a full entertainment package.

What’s next for the Casket Creatures?

Jamie: Getting back into the full swing of playing live shows now that the album is out. I would also like to work on an EP or split with the new line-up. There are also some side projects in this band I would like to get out for everyone to hear. Another [thing] I would also like to put out with the Creatures in the future is some kind of concept album.

Ryan: Hopefully more out of state shows! We consider ourselves an Atlanta band at this point because that’s where we feel at home. And honestly Atlanta has the best horror scene around in my opinion, but we have a lot of fans asking us to make it out to them and we hope to soon make that happen!

The Casket Creatures performing at a Nov. 16, 2012 MCW match. Photo Credit: Target Audience Magazine. Photo courtesy of the Casket Creatures.

What do you do when you’re not performing with the Casket Creatures?

Ryan: Work on new material, book shows and work to pay the bills! Pretty much all my free time from working goes into the band! Oh, and beer drinking, lots of that!

 

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

Posted on: May 22nd, 2013 By:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Kool Kat of the Week: A Pop Culture Birthday to Remember: DeWitt Dawson on the Lost Art of Wrestling Management and Crowning the Champ of Monstrosity Championship Wrestling Fri. March 1 at Famous Pub

Posted on: Feb 28th, 2013 By:

Our BFF blog Wrestling with Pop Culture is celebrating its second anniversary with the biggest, baddest Monstrosity Championship Wrestling match yet this Fri. March 1 at 9 p.m. at Famous Pub in Toco Hills. The horror-movie-inspired league is crowning its first champion, Professor Morte and the Silver Scream SpookShow gang will be on hand for scary shenanigans and Metal Gaga will be providing unforgettable entertainment with heavy metal versions of Lady Gaga hits. Oh, and lest we forget, you’ll have another chance to win a Pine Street Market box of meat and other fun prizes in the raffle! All that and more for only $10!

The night’s fearsome and fun festivities include semifinal matches pitting the Phantom against “Bona Fide” Fred Yehi and Papa Marko against “The Undead Luchador” Supernatural! Witness a queer bar brawl where previous Kool Kat Johnny Danger and Dragula take their fight against the intolerant Alabama Wolfman and Kentucky Wolfman all over the bar! Quozzy Quozzbourne promises to bring a St. Patrick’s Day leprechaun to the party, Dark Mon vows to preach his own Easter sermon, and well, they tell us there’s much, much more.

We interviewed Jonathan Williams, the monster-mind behind Wrestling with Pop Culture, last year for WWPC’s first birthday, so this time we asked him who else will be the Koolest Kat in the bar. He suggested DeWitt Dawson, better known within wrestling circles as “Double D,” who will be managing Fred Yehi in the MCW tournament and also manages some of Georgia’s other top wrestling talents from Universal Independent Wrestling in Villa Rica, NWA Atlanta in Locust Grove, etc. After all, as Jonathan notes, “managers are kind of a lost art in wrestling.” So it was a special treat to ask DeWitt not just to go behind the scenes for a preview of this Friday’s action but also about what it takes to be a wrestling manager, what he loves about the sport and how he became a master at his craft.

ATLRetro: What role do you play as a manager?

DeWitt Dawson: Simply put. I am the eyes, the ears and the mouth for my charges. I am the best foot forward outside the ring, so all they have to think about is what goes on inside them ropes and turnbuckles. If they need to be somewhere, Double D gets ‘em there early. If they need to leave somewhere, Double D gets ‘em out before the first blue light hits the scene.

How do you select the men you manage?

I am looking for folks who can benefit from my counsel as much as I can benefit from their talent. Nothing under the sun is free but bad advice, and the ole Alabama Icon don’t give out nothing but golden nuggets of wisdom. So that must be repaid with championships. I am not here to manage folks who might get it, or who can get it done. I only open up my waiting arms to them that need that extra push to not just be good, but to be great.

Who do you manage?

Little darling, my clientele is not hard to validate, but I ain’t going to make it that easy on you. The bricks that are building Double D’s Empire are ever increasing. If you really want to know who I am managing, start taking stock of the titles that sit on the waists of the champions in this state, and I bet you won’t have to look far to see Dewitt Dawson somewhere close by.

What attracted you to professional wrestling?

Honey, you would have a whole heap less work if I told you what didn’t attract me to this business, ’cause I can honestly say that I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t in love with professional wrestling. One of my earliest memories is a young Double D huffin’ and weezin’ trying to catch his breath in the wee morning hours having my first asthma attack. I didn’t know up from down or Hell from Heaven, and the only way my lovin’ mama could get me to calm down was to tell me that she bet all the wrestlers that I loved so much were up getting ready to be on TV that Saturday morning. That settled me right down, and you can bet your last money that I went to the emergency room and got back home in time to see Ko Ko B Ware on the TV that morning.

I guess [as] a youngern,  it was the crazy characters that I loved – the Ultimate Warriors, the Stings and the Blue Blazers of the world. As I got a little older, I was infatuated with the talkers – the American Dreams and Nature Boys. After that it was the showmen - The Heart Break Kids, the RVDs and the Eddie Guerreros. These days, it is the driven ones who ain’t making a penny over the bare-ass minimum, but they still go out there and put on a hell of a show for the people – the Shane Marxes, the Jagged Edges and the Demigods of the world.

From whom do you draw inspiration?

My inspiration comes from the folks I mentioned just now and from the red clay and white fields of the great state of Alabama. Everybody wants to know why I sound the way I do and say things that they ain’t never heard before. Simply put, it is because these roots run right through the cotton fields and contradictions of Alabama the beautiful. I draw as much inspiration from my brother The Pretty Boy, and Donnie Tidwell, and my uncles, and my mama nem as I do Dusty Rhodes and Shawn Michaels.

How is wrestling different now than in your youth?

I know a lot of people will tell you how everything has gone plum to Hell with wrestling over the last few years, and they make some fine points. But when you get right down to it, good wrestling is the same as it ever was. You tell a good story, somebody gets their ass whipped, and you do it all again the next week.

Which crowds are your favorite?

A paying one. What other kind of crowd is there? Hell, I got a closet full of shotguns that ain’t as loaded as that damn question. But if you got balls big enough to ask it, I got balls big enough to answer it. The only thing that a wrestling crowd needs is passion and a little bit of sense. As long as they got their eyes focused on the action and their mouths open and yelling at who they don’t like and cheering who they do like, they will be just fine. They ain’t got to know every damn hold under the sun, and they ain’t got to be able to name all the damn Villanos to have a good time so long as they ain’t dumb enough to try to put their hands on me and they don’t [think] they’re smarter than everybody else there, then I bet they have a good time.

Why aren’t you a nicer man? Have you considered therapy?

I am as gentle as a pussy cat in the right environs. When I settle into here at the ole home place and I pull off my boots, pop the top on a Paul Bryant beer, cut on them ole Drive-by Truckers, I tell you I am as sweet as pumpkin pie. Because of that, I don’t have no reservation about raising pure hell every time I am anywhere near a squared circle, and the only therapy I need is to see my Empire bathed in the gold of champions.

What are your ambitions in wrestling?

My only ambition in wrestling is to give this business half as much as it has given me and to burn a trail in Georgia that makes General Sherman look like a lightning bug in a damn super nova.

What appeals to you personally about Monstrosity Championship Wrestling (MCW)?

On any night at a MCW show, you ain’t got clue 1 as to what in the blue Hell is going to come through that curtain next. It might be one of the best technical wrestlers you ever laid eyes on, or it might be some kind of half-dead zombie-assed sasquatch monster. You might not know whether to clap your hands or clinch pucker your assshole. It is just like ole Double D; you don’t what you are going to get, but you know good and well it is going to be entertaining as all get out.

What are you looking forward to the most about MCW this Friday?

Aw honey, that is simple. We are going to crown our first champion, and that is always a special occasion in any wrestling show’s history. When you look at the folks that are still kicking in this tournament, then you know it is going to be a champion who is plenty worthy.

Why should even someone who is not a big wrestling fan attend?

Well, if you like drinking cold beer, your ort to be there. If you like womerns who ain’t bashful about showing you a little of that thang, you ort to be there. If you like that damn banging and clanging or some kind of heavy metal outfit, you ort to be there. If you like boxes of meat, you ort to be there. And if you would like to hear the golden voice of the best damn commentator that you have ever heard in your long-legged life, you damn well better have you asses front and center.

A special thank you to Kool Kat Chuck Porterfield for his help with this article.

All photos are courtesy of DeWitt Dawson. All rights reserved.

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

Posted on: Feb 22nd, 2013 By:

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Garrett DeHart on set of IF I AM YOUR MIRROR.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All artwork is courtesy of Garrett DeHart.

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Retro Review: Viva Morte! Viva la Plaza! Celebrate the Plaza Theatre as the Silver Scream Spookshow presents ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN!

Posted on: Dec 20th, 2012 By:

Silver Scream Spookshow presents ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN (1948); Dir: Charles Barton; Starring: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney, Jr. and Glenn Strange; Sat. Dec. 22;  kids’ matinee at 1 PM (kids under 12 free & adults $7) and adult show at 10 PM(all tickets $12); Plaza Theatre; Trailer here.

By Aleck Bennett
Contributing Writer

Let me get personal for a minute here.

This month’s Silver Scream Spookshow at the Plaza Theatre is a special one for me. Not just because every Spookshow is its own special thing. And not just because the Plaza is Atlanta’s oldest running independent cinema, which is just incredible in its own right. But because the film being presented—ABBOTT & COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN—is my very first memory. The earliest thing I can recall from childhood is trying to fall asleep while watching Glenn Strange’s monster lurching about a pier in a film on the “late-late show” my mom was watching. It’s stuck with me. That’s why one of my most treasured possessions as a kid was a glow-in-the-dark poster of James Bama’s portrait of Glenn Strange as the Frankenstein monster. (Thanks, Super Sugar Crisps!) That’s why I’ve got Glenn-as-Frankie tattooed on my forearm. In the years since that fateful day, I’ve watched this movie over and over again and I’ve never grown tired of it.

For those not in the know, here’s the lowdown on this flick: Chick (Bud Abbott) and Wilbur (Lou Costello) are bumbling baggage-claim clerks in Florida. Thanks to a late-night delivery of mysterious crates to a wax museum, they unwittingly wind up caught in Dracula’s (Bela Lugosi) evil plot to replace the Frankenstein monster’s brain with a more receptive one: that of the dim-witted Wilbur. Lawrence “Wolf Man” Talbot (Lon Chaney, Jr.) enlists their assistance in stopping Dracula’s fiendish plot, and once the full moon rises, the whole thing turns into a large-scale monster bash along the lines of 1944’s HOUSE OF FRANKENSTEIN or 1945’s HOUSE OF DRACULA. Just a whole lot funnier.

Besides the film’s early imprinting on my developing mind, though, the film is notable for many other reasons. It’s Bela’s second and final feature-length performance as Dracula (he had a cameo as Dracula in 1933’s HOLLYWOOD ON PARADE theatrical short). It’s one of the few horror comedies in which the monsters are not treated as the butts of the film’s jokes; the horror elements are respected and presented practically as seriously as they were in any other Universal film, while the comedy largely rises from Bud and Lou’s interplay and reactions to the horror. (This, however, didn’t stop Boris Karloff from refusing to see the film, believing it to be disrespectful toward the horror genre.) All three of the “monster” actors had played the role of Frankenstein’s monster (with Chaney even briefly playing him during the course of this film when Glenn Strange broke his foot on a falling lighting rig), and both Chaney and Lugosi had played Dracula. Vincent Price even makes a surprise cameo (though don’t keep your eyes peeled for him).

Dracula (Bela Lugosi) hypnotizing Bud AbbotT in ABBOTT AND COSTELLO MEET FRANKENSTEIN. Universal Pictures, 1948.

But beyond even those items of interest, there’s a larger and more personal reason why this Spookshow is a special event this month: it’s the final Silver Scream Spookshow being held at the Plaza under the watchful eye of Jonathan and Gayle Rej, the Plaza’s owners and operators since 2006.

Let me make another personal detour here. The Plaza Theatre is, to me, a sacred space. It’s almost a religious temple, dedicated to conjuring and making manifest the spirit of cinema. And over its history—from movie palace to grindhouse to a showcase for independent film and performing arts—it has presented Atlanta with the full spectrum of the cinematic experience. And more than that, it has become a central, vital spot in my life. When I first moved back to the Atlanta area in 2006 after more than a decade away, I was working from home and initially didn’t get out much. It took me a while to get settled in and motivated to check out what was going on. That was when I saw a flyer for the Silver Scream Spookshow in the window of Junkman’s Daughter. It promised a revival of the classic Spook Show tradition of live stage shows augmenting showings of classic horror flicks—a phenomenon that I was old enough to remember coming to my home town, but young enough to have never personally experienced—presented by Professor Morte, an old-school-styled horror host from the cracked mold of Ghoulardi and Zacherley. So I went. And went. And went again.

The Frankenstein Monster meets Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. Universal Pictures, 1948.

Being a movie fanatic, the Plaza quickly became the center of much of my recreational time because more than simply being a theater, it has spawned a community. Most of the people I know and the friends I have, I have met either directly or indirectly through the Plaza. In fact, I wouldn’t be writing this piece for this fine website if it weren’t for the Plaza. And if it weren’t for the hard work and dedication of Johnny and Gayle Rej in the face of economic struggles that would have beaten down lesser mortals, none of the above would have existed.

As you may or may not know, Johnny and Gayle have sold the Plaza to Michael Furlinger, who recently revived the classic Terrace Theatre in Charleston, SC. I spoke with Shane Morton, the mastermind behind Morte, for his thoughts on the end of the reign of the Rejs and the beginning of a new era for the Plaza.

“I think out of all the phases that the Plaza has gone through, that Johnny and Gayle have really turned it into something much more than just a movie theatre. Something beyond just building the stage and clearing out the space in the back for us to work. It’s like they gave this place a soul. You can feel it when you walk in there. And if I can be selfish, they’ve given me a place to do what I think is the most important work of my life with the Spookshow. We recently did a showing of THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA (1925), and I spent 15 minutes turning a kid into Lon Chaney’s Phantom. All that time, I was talking to the audience, and I felt the passion that one of those true-believer preachers must feel—not one of those charlatans that’s just out for money or to bang chicks or whatever. I got to preach about the magic of the movies. I not only get to be this hero (or anti-hero, if you want); I get to educate kids and give them something that they don’t have enough of right now. Kids’ programming today sucks, and they don’t have the kind of stuff available to them that even you and I had growing up; they don’t see things like the original KING KONG, stuff that filled me with a sense of wonder and amazement at the age of four.”

Shane went on to discuss the creative development that the Plaza has encouraged: “It’s become a hub for a lot of creative people: Splatter Cinema, Blast-Off Burlesque’s Taboo-La-La series and all the great art shows that they’ve hosted at the Plaza. Johnny and Gayle really turned a simple movie theater into almost an art movement. I know that it has literally changed my life. It’s given me the chance to fulfill every dream I ever had growing up. I could get to be Houdini or Alice Cooper or the horror host I had always wanted to see. And no matter what happens in the future, if I wind up making the greatest movie ever made, I don’t need any more than this: I saw a kid dressed as Professor Morte for Halloween. My mother passed away recently, and I’m so glad that she got a chance to see me spread my bat wings and fly with the Spookshow. And I really have Johnny and Gayle to thank for this.”

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

And what of the future? “We’d always hoped that someone with the financial backing could come in and turn the Plaza Theatre around. It seemed like an impossible dream. And then suddenly, it all seemed to fall together at the right time. Johnny and Gayle had just had a baby, and that’s without a doubt their most important job right there! Suddenly, Mike Furlinger came in and was in the position to deliver everything anyone involved with the Plaza could hope for. New digital projectors, new seats, new carpeting…now, I like the old seats and the old carpeting. I like stuff that’s old and weird. But you have to keep moving with the times, and what he’s going to bring to the Plaza is going to help the theater thrive. The future looks really exciting. The Plaza will be able to show first-run films along with the art-house movies they’re known for and keep delivering the funky stuff that all of us bring to the table.”

After the Rejs turn the keys over to Furlinger at the end of this month and renovations begin, it may be a while before we can see Morte’s handiwork on the Plaza stage. So come out and celebrate. Celebrate that the world didn’t end on Friday. Celebrate that the solstice has passed and a new dawn is rising. That Santa’s on his way. That a new year is on the horizon. That one of the best films in the Universal Horror cycle is screening in a lovely digital restoration. That Professor Morte and his merry band of misfits are taking the stage. And celebrate the legacy of the hard work and spirit of Jonathan and Gayle Rej. Raise your tubs of popcorn in salute, boils and ghouls.

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

Posted on: Oct 19th, 2012 By:

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

By Eddie Ray
Contributing Writer

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

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

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

A young Eddie Ray goes gangster.

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

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

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

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

A. Hello, the CDC is here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I. Little 5 Points Halloween Parade.

J. Silver Scream Spookshow

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

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

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

N. Splatter Cinema.

O. The Real Housewives of Atlanta.

P. Corn Mazes.

Eddie Ray as MC Eat Yo Brains Out!

Q. Me, bitch!

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

S. Halloween kids are all ages!

T. We all love Halloween here!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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