Kool Kat of the Week: Film is NOT Dead! Ben Ruder of Enjoy the Film, Dishes out a Series of Retro Creature Features this Halloween Season, with “Monsters in Black and White”

Posted on: Oct 21st, 2014 By:

BRuder - archive - Resized
Enjoy the Film presents Monsters in Black and White; Cinevision Screening Room (visit the event page for address and directions); All tickets $10 (Atlanta Film Festival members save 20%).

THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951); Dir. Robert Wise; Starring Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal and Hugh Marlowe; Thursday, Oct 23 @ 7:30 p.m.; Tickets here; Trailer here.

DRACULA (1931); Dir. TodBrowning; Starring Bela Lugosi, HelenChandler and David Manners; Thursday, Oct 30 @ 7:30 p.m.; Tickets here; Trailer here.

CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON (in 3-D) (1954); Dir. JackArnold; Starring Richard Carlson, Julie Adams and Richard Denning; Saturday, Nov 1 @ 7:30 p.m.; Tickets here; Trailer here.

by Aleck Bennett,
Contributing Writer

Halloween has once again swept in, carrying along with it a nostalgia that evokes childhood memories of ghost stories, trick-or-treating, dressing like monsters or simply watching them on the screen. It’s the perfect time for projectionist extraordinaire Ben Ruder to team up with the Cinevision Screening Room to bring us Monsters in Black and White: a series of films celebrating not only the monsters of old, but the formats that brought them to us. THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL and DRACULA will be presented in gorgeous 35mm, and CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON will screen in a restored Dolby Digital 3-D projection. All three will, of course, unspool on the screen in glorious black and white! the-day-the-earth-stood-still-1951-everettEach screening will be introduced by a very special guest (check the Enjoy the Film website for up-to-date listings), but the night before Halloween will see Kool Kat Shane Morton, also known as, Ghost Host with the Most—Professor Morté of the Silver Scream Spookshow—materialize with a bevy of bloodsuckers to deliver Bela Lugosi in DRACULA!

Ben Ruder has been a constant fixture of Atlanta film screenings for close to a decade now. A former projectionist and manager at the Plaza Theatre, he now runs free 35mm screenings for Emory University’s Cinematheque (which sources its pristine prints from the UCLA Film & Television Archive) and hosts special film events at the Cinevision Screening Room through RuderMedia and Enjoy the Film. I recently asked him about this month’s film series, the importance of presentation, and the futures of both film and digital as media.

ATLRetro:Celebrating the 35mm format is certainly bucking the trend in Atlanta, with so many venues converting to digital projection. But at the same time, it’s a huge topic of conversation in the nationwide film community, especially this month with Quentin Tarantino‘s recent takeover of management of the draculaNew Beverly Cinema in Los Angeles. What fuels your passion for the format, and your efforts to keep it alive?

Ben Ruder: I really enjoyed showing movies and running theaters in the mid ‘90s in St. Louis. When I returned to the world of movies in the mid-2000s, running film and then managing the Plaza Theatre for Jonny & Gayle Rej, the bug really stuck and I have been involved in it ever since. Both analog and digital formats have their place and it’s really the quality of the product and presentation that’s important. The film prints that were exhibited should still be seen if they can be done well, but for many reasons they no longer exist or the quality is bad. New prints happen on occasion, but are very expensive and rarely see much of a run. Movies can be accessed in countless forms these days, but they are really intended to be seen on a large screen with an audience.

On a related note, what are your thoughts on the push for digital archiving? There are currently a lot of back-and-forth talks between Kodak, Fujifilm and the major studios about keeping archival film in use, with the studios pushing for digital.

It’s extremely complicated, of course, and it comes down to business decisions as funds are limited. The US has produced so much great film art and puts so little behind the preservation of it in comparison to countries like France, Germany, Norway just to name a few. Here, a lot of the work is up to private organizations and institutes such as the UCLA Film & creature_from_the_black_lagoon_xlgTelevision Archive.

What went into choosing which films you were going to showcase at these screenings? Were they personal choices, or technical ones?

These films were chosen because of the Halloween season, of course, but also because they have all screened in that room before and we know how amazing they look and sound. The presentations will be in a room designed for technical performance, and unfortunately mass audiences don’t get the showmanship or quality that they deserve in many venues. I want to show how much the presentation factors in to seeing a movie. The multiplexes are no longer filled with scratched & dirty film prints, but still can suffer from dim bulbs and misaligned 3-D equipment. The Dolby Digital 3D that will be shown is not seen in very many venues, but will really show off how well 3D can look when done right.

What do you think the future holds for film in the motion picture world? Do you see a developing backlash against digital or will film be largely relegated to repertory screenings and the like? Or do we face a future where digital becomes the accepted new format?

Digital is the accepted new format. I wouldn’t want to see a new action blockbuster on film that was shot and processed with digital in mind. Special films like the upcoming INTERSTELLAR 35mm & 70mm shows may lead the way for unique events. We just need to make sure that passionate and educated staff are taking care of the presentations and equipment.

Are there any other screenings or projects in the works for RuderMedia and Enjoy the Film? Any future stuff we oughta know about?BRuder - emory-205

I am working with the team at Cinevision on a four-feature series for January and we are seeking out groups that want to see all kind of genres on the big screen. Whether it’s horror, foreign, film noir, action or just titles that don’t get an Atlanta date. We want to show people movies in the best possible way and make each show special. During the winter months, I’ll be focusing efforts on producing a documentary series about the passionate exhibitors & preservationists that I love talking to and heading to Germany to interview some film veterans there. I can also be seen this fall up in the booth projecting 35mm at the free Emory University screenings.

So there you have it. Come out to the Cinevision Screening Room to catch three retro creature features the way they should be seen: on the screen, with an audience and with experts handling the projection for the best possible viewing experience. For a film geek like me, it’s a means of presentation that has yet to be bettered.

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 photos courtesy of Ben Ruder and used with permission.

 

 

 

 

 

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

Posted on: Oct 19th, 2014 By:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

fullsuitHere’s the suit at its premier at Dragoncon!

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

swimsuit1

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

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

And the most fun part?

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

headWhat other masks and other work are you making now?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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One of Us! One of Us!: Monsterama Celebrates the Monster Kid Aug 1-3 in Atlanta!

Posted on: Jul 31st, 2014 By:

By Andrew Kemp
Contributing Writer

For some poor souls, the term “monster kid” means nothing more than a particularly destructive toddler, or one of those teens raising hell on daytime talk show stages.

For the enlightened, however, there’s Monsterama.

Monster kids of all ages will soon descend onto Monsterama, a new horror and fantasy convention launching this weekend under the care of some of Atlanta’s most stalwart champions of the horrific and the macabre. And although the city may at times seem infested with horror-themed gatherings, Monsterama is aiming to capture more than just a piece of the action. “Though there were conventions that had horror-related programming, there wasn’t a show here that fully embraced the ‘monster kid’ aesthetic,” says Monsterama co-founder Anthony Taylor. Shane Morton, another key voice behind the convention and alter-ego of con guest Professor Morte, agrees. “Having attended the greatest cons ever conceived—Forry’s [Fantastic Monster] Cons of the mid-90s—I find it hard to be impressed by any recent horror, sci-fi, or fantasy shows. We have tried very hard to capture the feel of those shows, albeit on a smaller scale, and to provide a family friendly alternative to the current debauched cons.”

“Forry,” for the uninitiated, is Forrest J. Ackerman, the late founder of the seminal monster movie magazine Famous Monsters of Filmland. Ackerman’s impact on American horror and science-fiction fandom is surprisingly easy to quantify—it wouldn’t be out of line to say he’s the father of it all. Ackerman and his partner James Warren created Famous Monsters in 1958 in response to a glut of horror movies beaming into American living rooms. Because horror and sci-fi films were considered disposable and unimportant in the shadow of studio prestige pictures, these old programmers were cheap to acquire and broadcast for television stations, exposing them an entire generation of new fans. Through the magazine, conventions and other outreach, Ackerman helped these kids find one another in the days before chat rooms and sub-reddits, when the world was truly a lonely place for a kid who knew more about rubber suits than car engines or home economics.

But what really made Ackerman’s brand of horror fandom so special was his unabashed, undiminishing love of the genre and all of its tropes. No matter how many monsters wreaked havoc on the screen, Ackerman and his monster kids never lost their “gee-whiz” enthusiasm, which in turn bred more enthusiasm. It’s this atmosphere in particular that Taylor and Morton hope to recreate.

“I’ve been a monster fan all my life, and I knew Atlanta was full of folks like me,” writes Taylor. “I’d see them at Silver Scream Spook Show screenings, DragonCon and other events.” Monsterama aims to capture that audience by filling the con with irresistible programming for the monster-initiated. The guest list is populated with names from all eras of horror cinema, including Veronica Carlson of Hammer Films fame; Larry Blamire, creator of the contemporary throwback cult favorite THE LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA, and author and public speaker Victoria Price, daughter of Hollywood icon Vincent Price. On the literature side, writers like Brian Keene (THE RISING), James R. Tuck (DEACON CHALK) and comics author Dan Jolley (FIRESTORM) will shed some light on the author’s process. Rounding out the guest list are filmmakers like this week’s Kool Kat Daniel Griffith (LET THERE BE LIGHT), Atlanta voice talent C. Martin Croker (Adult Swim), artist Mark Maddox and professional ghost hunter Scott Tepperman. Check out the full guest list here.

[Full disclosure: ATL Retro editor Anya Martin is also a writer guest and may be found on a number of spooky panels throughout the con.]

For classic movie buffs, the events are possibly even more compelling. The convention boasts a selection of horror films screening in—oh, happy day!—16mm, which is where you’ll be likely to find this author if you need him at any point during the weekend. Other events include author Gordon Shriver performing his one-man show as Boris Karloff, local comedy troupe Cineprov riffing on the cult oddity EQUINOX, and the glorious return of the Silver Scream Spook Show as Professor Morte and his crew introduce the cowboys vs. dinosaurs classic, THE VALLEY OF GWANGI. And that’s in addition to a museum of “rare monster and kaiju artifacts,” filmmaking panels, and photo ops. The full schedule of panels and events can be yours by clicking here.

Monsterama hasn’t forgotten that “gee-whiz” spirit that lies at the heart of every monster kid. Even Taylor himself can’t help but name some genre cornerstones when describing the show. “I hope that everyone who grew up loving KING KONG, GODZILLA, FRANKENSTEIN or the CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON will come out and have a grand time celebrating with us,” says Taylor. Morton chooses to invoke another iconic figure. “I can guarantee that you will feel the ghost of Uncle Forry hovering over our haunted hotel this weekend! Don’t miss this show, it’s gonna be legendary!!!”

Monsterama begins on August 1 at 4:00 at the Holiday Inn Perimeter. Three day badges are $55. Single day badges for Friday or Sunday are $25, and Saturday single-day badges are $30. CHILDREN 12 AND UNDER ARE FREE.

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

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Kool Kat of the Week: Daniel Griffith, Local Filmmaker and Purveyor of All Things Cinematic and Obscure, Ballyhoos it up at Monsterama 2014

Posted on: Jul 30th, 2014 By:

by Melanie Crew
Managing Editor/Contributing Writer

Daniel Griffith, local award-winning filmmaker and founder of Ballyhoo Motion Pictures, will be joining a sinister line-up of horrorific guests at the inaugural Monsterama Convention, founded by our classic monster-lovin’ fiend, friend and ATLRetro contributing writer, AnthonyTaylor, which will be creeping into the Holiday Inn Perimeter in Dunwoody this weekend, August 1-3! So, prepare for a ghastly weekend of ghoulish proportions!  Griffith will be joined by a guest list filled to the bloodcurdling brim with chillers like Victoria Price, daughter of Vincent; Hammer scream queen Veronica Carlson, director Jeff Burr, filmmaker Larry Blamire (LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA), Bram Stoker Award-winning writer Brian Keene, ATLRetro’s very own “Chiller-ess in Charge”, Anya Martin, Kool Kat Shane Morton, a.k.a. Professor Morte [see ATLRetro’s Kool Kat feature on Shane here], Kool Kat Madeline Brumby [see ATLRetro’s Kool Kat feature on Madeline, here] and so many more!  So, haunt on down to Monsterama this weekend and get your bones a’rattlin and your classic monster fix!

Griffith, purveyor of all things cinematic and obscure, and no rookie to the B-movie and classic horror genre, has produced and directed over 45 documentaries, with his company, Ballyhoo Motion Pictures, spanning a wide-range of film history, genres and subjects.  His documentary library is far too prolific to list them all, but in a nutshell he has directed and produced: THE BLOODIEST SHOW ON EARTH: MAKING VAMPIRE CIRCUS (2010), THIS ISLAND EARTH: 2 ½ YEARS IN THE MAKING (2013), [both will be screened at Monsterama this weekend], RETURN TO EDEN PRAIRIE: 25 YEARS OF MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATRE 3000 (2013) and THE FLESH AND THE FURY: X-POSING TWINS OF EVIL (2012).  Griffith is currently in production on CELLULOID WIZARDS IN THE VIDEO WASTELAND: THE SAGA OF EMPIRE PICTURES, the official feature-length documentary delving into the rise and fall of Charles Band’s legendary Empire Pictures studio, known for cult films such as RE-ANIMATOR (1985), ZONE TROOPERS (1985) and GHOULIES (1985). His documentaries have gained him not only notoriety in the cult film arena, but also the 2012 Rondo Award for “Best DVD Bonus Feature” for his documentary biopic on Universal B-movie actor, RondoHatton, TRAIL OF THE CREEPER: MAKING THE BRUTE MAN (2011) and the 2013 Forrest J. Ackerman Lifetime Achievement Award.  Griffith is also the official documentarian for the “Mystery Science Theater 3000” DVD releases.

ATLRetro caught up with Daniel Griffith for a quick interview about his devotion to film history, from the greats to the barely-knowns, his desire to set a story to film and his trek into the deep dark cavernous minds of long ago filmmakers, plotting the map of film history.

And while you’re takin’ a gander at our little Q&A with Griffith, take a sneak peek at an excerpt from his documentary, PSYCHO’S SISTER: MAKING THE NAME OF THE GAME IS KILL! (2013), delving into the history of the 1968 drive-in thriller!

ATLRetro: As a documentary filmmaker, you are foremost a film historian and avid preservationist, which is clearly evidenced in the wide variety of documentaries you’ve produced with your company, Ballyhoo Motion Pictures. In the grand scheme of things, why do you feel it is important to not only preserve, but also to share these stories?

Daniel Griffith: The media of the past serves as a type of looking glass or time capsule. It is the definitive visual representation of artistic achievement and human frailty. Therefore, it is important to have a documented record of how those works were created, if only to build awareness and preserve its shelf life. Selfishly, I became a documentary filmmaker to further understand the medium of cinema and television. To me, the film artisans of the past are the direct link to the motion pictures of the future. Studying and understanding their contributions was the BEST film school. But, as I moved from project to project, I began to recognize how many films and television series have drifted into obscurity. I guess I made it my responsibility to tell the story behind those works.

You seem to give a lot of love and respect to the underdogs, to the films and projects of yesteryear that never quite reached the level of success in the industry that the majority set out to achieve. What is it about these films, these filmmakers that magnetize you? That compels you to tell their story?

I never compartmentalize the films I document. To me, the least successful motion picture can have just as much value to an individual as the most revered or noteworthy. It is my duty as a film and television documentarian to change the way we look at the works of the past; to give each production an equal opportunity to share the spotlight. Who knows? A viewer may discover that the best stories of human triumph and creativity come in the cheapest, most misunderstood packages.

You’ve produced many bonus features and documentaries for Shout! Factory, Synapse Films and VCI Entertainment, etc. over the years, which has included a comprehensive peek into your fans’ favorite sci-fi, horror and ‘80s B-movies, westerns and a variety of retro filmmakers and film companies. Can you tell our readers how you became a documentary filmmaker?

It began with a simple challenge; to singlehandedly create a narrative and follow through with its execution. About eight years ago, I was developing one motion picture script after another. Slowly, a case of cabin fever set in. I was restless. I wanted to get out into the field and visualize a story on film. While discouraged, I revisited a wacky holiday episode of MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATRE 3000, entitled “SANTA CLAUS.” During the opening credits, a title card reading “K. Gordon Murray Presents” appeared on the screen. I thought to myself, “Who is this K. Gordon Murray guy, and why did he choose to distribute this surreal, Mexican children’s film?” In that moment, a documentary concept was born, and simultaneously the seed that would eventually become Ballyhoo Motion Pictures.

The name “Ballyhoo” draws to mind a long list of whimsical, colorful and raucous shenanigans of the circus variety. What’s the story behind the name?

My company name and logo are comprised of several unique personal events. The logo itself dates back to my first exposure to the works of the cinematic showman, William Castle, and his film, HOUSE ON HAUNTEDHILL. The scream that accompanies the logo is the first scream you hear prior to the opening credits of that film. It was the scream that woke me up as a child when the film played on television. Utilizing it in the context is my way of saying to the viewer, “WAKE UP! The show is about to begin and you don’t want to miss it!” And the name Ballyhoo represents two of my passions; the energy found on the midway of any traveling carnival and the promotional tactics used on the motion pictures of the past.

As a guest on several panels at the first ever Monsterama Convention, including a Q&A session with Victoria Price, Vincent Price’s daughter, and a panel discussing documentary filmmaking, what do you hope to pass on to the eager ears of the convention-goers?

Well, for one, this is a great opportunity to learn more about one of the greatest actors of our time. Vincent Price was not only a celebrated actor in film and television, but he was also an accomplished cook, author, painter and art critic. While he is remembered for his chilling performances in the DR. PHIBES films, as well as William Castle’s, THE TINGLER and HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL, there was much more to him than the horror genre that sustained him.

Additionally, two of your documentaries [“The Bloodiest Show on Earth: Making Vampire Circus” (2010) and “This Island Earth: 2-½ Years in the Making” (2013)] will be screened throughout the weekend; two very different documentaries, but both created with the same amount of respect and enthusiasm for the subject matter. Can you tell our readers what your favorite experience was while making each and what you would do different, if you could go back and change anything?

Well, one of the greatest experiences I had working on all the Hammer documentaries, including VAMPIRE CIRCUS, was visiting the renowned Pinewood Studios in England. Filmmaker John Hough, who previously directed Hammer’s TWINS OF EVIL, gave me a private tour of the entire back-lot. This is the studio where most of the James Bond films where shot, the 1978 version of SUPERMAN, the first ALIEN film and Stanley Kubrick’s, FULL METAL JACKET, just to name a few. It was astonishing!

As a filmmaker, you are getting the chance to live out your dream every time you create and release your work into the world, a dream you’ve had since your early childhood. Any advice for the next generation of Kool Kids who long to dive head first into the land of imagination and cinematic storytelling?

Watch as many films as you can! Don’t be afraid to take chances on viewing films that are outside your comfort zone. Just because it’s black and white, or subtitled, doesn’t mean you will not enjoy it. Like an author with a library card, watching films is your first, best education.

Who would you say are the filmmakers that inspired you most?

There are simply too many to count. I continue to be amazed by filmmakers, past and present. I have always admired the way Orson Welles demands more out of everyone, including himself. I deeply admire the poetry found in every frame of a Sergio Leone film. Being a child of the ‘80s, I have always responded to the childlike sentiments found in almost every Spielberg film. On a more obscure note, I find the offerings of director Joseph H. Lewis strangely addictive. This list could go on and on and on…

In such a short amount of time, you’ve got 45-plus credits under your belt, releasing shorts to full-length documentaries, and have gained a following in the MST3K, B-horror and sci-fi circles, with a promise of more to come! Can you give our readers a hint of what’s next for Daniel Griffith and Ballyhoo Motion Pictures?

In a perversion of Al Jolson’s famous line, I’ll have to say, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!” More Mystery Science Theater 3000 productions, for sure. I am currently in post-production on an epic documentary about the history of television’s most iconic series! However, unfortunately, I cannot divulge the title at this time. But, if you find me at Monsterama, I just may be persuaded to tell you.

Can you tell our readers something you’d like folks to know that they don’t know already?

While attending the Monsterama Convention, you’ll have the opportunity to stop by the Ballyhoo Motion Pictures table to view original props from various B-movies of the past, as well as purchase EXCLUSIVE retro movie items!

What question do you wish somebody would ask you and what’s the answer?

From the offices of Warren Beatty: “Will you produce a documentary on the history of Dick Tracy?” The answer is, “I’m on my way!”

 

All photographs are courtesy of Daniel Griffith and used with permission.

 

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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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