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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Days and Nights of the Dead: Zombies Walk and Stage an Apocalypse This Halloween Season in Atlanta

Posted on: Oct 8th, 2012 By:

Don't mess with Eddie Ray and these tough, battle-scarred babes of the Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse.

The rest of the nation thinks Atlanta is the zombie capital of America because THE WALKING DEAD is filmed here. But the undead walked here long before Hollywood arrived and the best local zombie activities are completely conceived by homegrown brains.

First off, mark your calendar and break out your creepiest make-up for not one, but two Zombie Walks. Organized by Luke Godfrey, one of the sick brains behind Splatter Cinema, Zombie Walk Atlanta 2012 is this Sunday Oct. 14. This seventh annual event is the city’s largest and starts at Wonderroot at 3 p.m., but show up much earlier if you need help with your make-up. After you’ve walked with the dead, head over to Luke’s other bloody creation, Chambers of Horrors. For more about Luke and the city’s most extreme adults-only horror attraction, read last year’s ATLRetro interview with Luke here.

The dead don’t just have their day inside the Perimeter. The 2012 Marietta Zombie Walk  is Saturday October 27 from 5 to 7 p.m. during the Carnival of Doom festival. Register and buy a T-shirt here.

Finally, every night is The Night of the Living Dead at the Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse, now in its own third season and expanded to include two different walking attractions, Curse of the Undead and ZWar and a zombie shoot at Safety Wolf, the paintball combat complex off Moreland Avenue, just south of I-285 (open Thurs.-Sun. nights throughout October and on Oct. 31). Set in and around a two-story abandoned motel, this more-than-100,000-square-foot attraction was nightmared up by the maniacal minds of local horror Renaissance man/make-up artist Shane Morton (Silver Scream SpookshowGargantua, Dear God! No!, Dracula The Rock Opera, etc.) and Jonny Rej (Plaza Theatre). Much more than your traditional walk-through haunt with jump-out monsters, AZA delivers a total immersion “experience,” in which attendees interact along the way with a variety of colorful characters living and undead. It’s sometimes hard to know who to trust but if someone says “run,” let’s just say you can be sure zombies are around, and if you don’t, you may get bitten and infected yourself or worse – eaten for your brains!

In “Curse of the Undead,” the origins of the zombie apocalypse are cultists reanimating the dead with arcane incantations. If you’re an EVIL DEAD fan, this one’s for you which makes the most of the addition of four acres of woods and even includes a zombie-killing hero named Bruce! My group was fortunate to have the protection of a police officer, played by talented local blogger filmmaker Eddie Ray (SATANIC PANIC: BAND OUT OF HELL) who did a great job of making us aware of a certain missing person problem and even imbued a little Southern-fried humor. FYI, we also encountered a few other familiar faces from the Silver Scream Spookshow and the Atlanta music scene.

Classic horror fans also will enjoy nods to Lovecraft (apropos since The Necronomicon raises THE EVIL DEAD) and the whole subgenre of B-movies featuring robed Satanists from THE DEVIL RIDES OUT (1968) to RACE WITH THE DEVIL (1975). Wear comfortable shoes (open-toes are no-nos) and watch where you step in the woods to not trip on tree roots. The journey is well worth a travel, but after all the build-up, my group’s one disappointment was that we expected one more final big scare that we didn’t get. AZA is constantly evolving and tends to improve with every week, so perhaps that may change.

“ZWar” picks up where the last two AZAs left off with the sinister Center for Disease Development (CDD), now developing a high-tech mega-weaponized zombie. Last year introduced an ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK-like scenario with a seedy encampment of humans as potentially dangerous as the undead. ZWar begins outside in the back parking lot with a similar brutal gang of people who use zombies for sport and a redneck overlord demanding our group steal drugs from the CDD for them. Once indoors, zombies menace, a brawny commando protects us with a machine gun and there’s the prerequisite mad scientist, but things really heat up when the scientist’s nervous victim takes the lead to find a way out. Without giving away any spoilers, the actor in that role did a fantastic job of upping the tension (does he really know where the exit is?). Will you make it out without encountering the CDD’s Necro-Tech warriors? Let’s just say, there’s no climax disappointment here.

Tickets to the Atlanta Zombie Apocalypse are $20 for each attraction, $30 for both ZWar and Curse, $30 for the zombie shoot or $55 for everything! Located just south of I-285, off Moreland Road; directions here.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Va-Va-Voom for Vinyl! Amber Lu Plans a PinUp Pageant to Help Save Criminal Records

Posted on: Nov 1st, 2011 By:
By Shellie Schmals
Contributing Blogger
During World War II and the 1940s, a PinUp was more than a picture on the wall. She was a glamour girl captured in an intimate moment. A cheeky expression of surprise reminding our soldiers there was something worth fighting for back home. As war waged on, countless women graced the bunkers in battle – ­Betty Grable, Veronica Lake, Lauren Becall and Ingrid Bergman, to name a few. We see the image of the PinUp Girl every day in popular culture, from burlesque stars like Dita Von Teese to pop tart Katy Perry on tour as a Teenage Dream.

Today, we are also fighting a war of our own ­ the recession. The current unemployment rate in Georgia is 10.3%, which is higher than the national rate of 9.1%. Everyday the reality of foreclosure hits with homeowners displaced and businesses closing.  When Criminal Records announced plans to shut their doors, the outcry from fans could be heard from all over Atlanta. Since September, The King of Pops, Variety Playhouse, WonderRoot and Pamela Caltabiano have coordinated projects to SAVE CRIMINAL RECORDS ATLANTA.

The list of advocates continues, as Amber Lu, a PinUp model and longtime friend of Criminal Records, becomes the producer of the Criminal Cuties PinUp Pageant on Saturday November 5 at 7:30 p.m. (doors at 6 p.m.). As a benefit for Criminal Records, Amber Lu’s own war on the recession touches on several retro loves we share with her – PinUps and the neighborhood music and comics store – so we had to make her Kool Kat of the Week.

Amber Lu channels her inner Julie Newmar. Hair and make-up by Cherry Dame. Photo credit: Robin Cook.

ATLRETRO: Why a benefit for Criminal Records?

Amber Lu: When I found out Criminal Records was on the brink of closing its doors, I decided I wanted to throw a benefit of some sort to help them stay open.  I have a lot of close friends that work at Criminal, and it has become a home away from home for me. I am a PinUp model myself, so I thought it’d be fun to integrate the idea of Classic PinUps with what is becoming the retro aspect of the modern record store.  Plus, a pinup pageant is a great way to draw people in to the store for the rest of the fundraising events going on that night, i.e., our silent auction, bake sale, photobooth and DJ!!

What qualities are you looking for in Miss Criminal Records 2011?

A real PinUp should have the qualities I like to refer to as “The 3 P’s of PinUp”:

1) Personality! – She should be fun! Playful! Open to talking to people!
2) Presentation! – She should look the part with her hair, makeup, costuming, etc! We are calling for a little ‘twist’ in the costuming dept here for Criminal, being that it’s a comic book and record store, contestants are encouraged to dress as their favorite comic/ sci-fi characters or [in a] music-inspired costume!
3) Poise! – How they carry themselves and relate to others! This, by far, is the most important quality a PinUp should have!! Call me old fashioned, but a PinUp is a lady, and should act like one. The beauty of PinUp for me personally, is the fact that a girl can be cute and sexy and provocative at the same time… But she’s still a Lady! Less is more ’cause it’s all about the tease……

Amber Lu Amazes as Mary Jane, Spider-Man's girlfriend. Hair and make-up by Cherry Dane. Photo credit: Grant Beecher.

These qualities, along with a love for music and everything awesome, are what will help Miss Criminal Records 2011 earn her crown!!

What fabulous prizes will Miss Criminal Records 2011 and Runner Ups win?
PinUp Photographer Grant Beecherand stylist Cherry Dame are providing a free photoshoot for the winner of the pageant! Mother Pucker Lemonade will shoot the winner for a possible ad for their Vodka Lemonade. Lovely Beauty Shop  is providing gift certificates to their website for the winner and two runners up. Artist Scott Blair is providing a FREE personalized sketch for the 2nd Runner Up.

How is Criminal Records an asset to the Little Five Points community?

Criminal Records is the reason I venture into Little Five Points most days… There is ALWAYS something going on there! Bands playing live in-store shows to promote their records… vegan bake sales… Record Store DayFree Comic Book Day… book signings… Asshole Santa every Christmas?! Too many good things to count! I’ll never forget the day I [first] walked up to Criminal Records, when they were in their old location, and I saw the Indigo Girls playing on the curb there! Where else could you see that?!  I was new to Atlanta at the time, and had no idea that shows like that were a regular occurrence at Criminal. I also had the opportunity to meet Michael Cera and, my personal favorite, Jason Schwartzman, due to the fan-girl antics of the amazing Lillian Hughes, who set up a Fan Meet-n-Greet for the movie: SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD! Criminal is always on the look out for fun exciting events for comic book and music fans alike. It is a very neighborhood-oriented store and focuses on supporting local artists,  as well as the communities’ well being. Only a few small reasons we need to preserve indie record stores, [and] Criminal Records in particular!!

Some say that vinyl and even CDs are considered Retro now. How are they still relevant  in a world of MP3s and digital downloads?

Vinyl has made a huge comeback in the past few years. Many people prefer its sound to the digitally remastered CDs out there. In fact, most bands nowadays put their music out on vinyl before they’d think about putting a CD out to sell. It is sad to me that CDs have somehow become a thing of the past – “retro” if you will; iTunes obviously changed the music industry immensely, and in my opinion, for the worse. Although I do enjoy being able to have my music available on my phone and at the touch of a button, I can’t help but be sad for newer generations of music fans who may never experience the excitement of going to a record store, discovering a new band, taking their CD home, enjoying reading through the album cover, and appreciating the artwork while they experience the music out loud!

Thank goodness for the Vinyl Revival, but if we don’t do something to protect indie record stores like Criminal Records and Wax n Facts, even vinyl enthusiasts will have nowhere to go.

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Tis The Season to Be Spooky: A Torturous Journey into the Chambers of Horror, Atlanta’s Most Extreme Halloween Attraction with Mad Mastermind Luke Godfrey

Posted on: Oct 21st, 2011 By:

Atlanta’s only Halloween haunted attraction inside the Perimeter, Gorehound Productions‘ Chambers of Horror doesn’t settle for the usual scares. Definitely not for everyone, the adults-only haunt behind The Masquerade, open every night in October and the first weekend of November, aims to be the most extreme in ultra-violence, depravity and gore, and from our recent visit, we can testify they succeed and then some.

Grab a drink at the Splatter Bar, then head down the hill to see a short news clip by intrepid Atlanta reporter Monica Coffin, which reveals that a black van bearing the logo of Chambers of Horror has been spotted near the mysterious disappearances of several locals. All of which is meant to wander if you’ll be taking a one-way journey through the meat-locker-metal doors of Torture Co. And beyond, indeed, the emphasis is on realism of the sickest kind, nothing supernatural but torture of all kinds—fire, assorted blades, chainsaw, firearms and even a gynecological scene so sensationalistic that it makes Cronenberg’s DEAD RINGERS seem like a Disney movie. Inside it’s more vignettes of increasingly shocking and gory body mutilation than monsters jumping out of dark corners. The acting is unnervingly good from torturers to victims, but it’s no fun to reveal too much. Much of it draws from contemporary splatter—though that has its roots in the limits pushed by Fulci, Argento and Clive Barker. A nod to the dungeons of Hammer and AIP’s Poe pictures, though, can be found in the Torture Museum, exhibiting Medieval gadgetry that Vincent Price’s WITCHFINDER GENERAL might have employed with gruesome glee in a dank dungeon. And then there’s a certain minister of mayhem, but hush, we can’t tell you any more except everything is meant to make more than uncomfortable and maybe, like a certain movie also playing this week, scream DEAR GOD NO!

ATLRetro managed to chain up Luke Godfrey, one of the mad masterminds behind Chambers, to get a sneak peek inside. And while we had him talking, we got him to confess a little about some of his other creepy contributions to Atlanta’s thriving horror scene as one of the co-creators of the Zombie Walk Atlanta (Sun. Oct. 16); Splatter Cinema, which won the Creative Loafing readers’ award for Best Film Series again this year, and is presenting a Halloween bonus screening this month of Lucio Fulci’s 1979 cult classic ZOMBIE (Fri. Oct. 21) at the Plaza Theatre; and the Buried Alive Film Fest, which rises again at the Plaza, Nov. 10-12.

Photo Credit: Thomas Kerns.

ATLRetro: How and when did Chambers of Horror get started?

Luke: In 2009 After doing horror events like Zombie Walk, Atlanta Horrorfest, Splatter Cinema, and an adults-only haunted house in the basement of the Graveyard Tavern called Crypt of Terror, I received a phone call from a good friend, Rene Arriagada, a local artist and event producer, asking me if I would like to start up a haunted house with him. I brought in my partner in Gorehound Productions, Ian O’Brien, and we began the creation of the sickest thing this city has ever seen.

What separates Chambers from Atlanta’s other haunts? 

Chambers is about as sick and twisted as you can get. It’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen—pushing the limits and boundaries to an extent that really sets peoples nerves on edge. We are an adults-only attraction with a full bar and there are many reasons for that. We kicked all the monsters—ghouls, goblins and zombies—out the f—ing door to make room for real horror. It’s like being dropped right in the middle of a SAW or HOSTEL-type movie. All well-trained actors delivering skits that will have you on the floor screaming in fear or crying in laughter. We hold hard to the 18+ policy due to extreme situations, simulated nudity and vulgar language. It’s real. It’s just like what you would expect at an R-rated movie—no censoring here.

Photo Credit: Thomas Kerns.

Definitely more of the SAW/ HOSTEL/ torture porn genre. We want to keep with the times and do something none else is doing. I love the classics and zombies and the such, but there’s a place for that and we are not it. No rednecks in overalls here; we have people in suits and ties cutting titties off.

What’s new and different in this year?

Lots of new actors, some seriously amazing new additions to our cast that really bring our show together, as well as many new rooms and additions. We amped up the gore and skin throughout the entire place. I mention simulated nudity before, yeah…there’s a lot more of it this year.

Without giving too much away, do you have a favorite scene or one that you’d like to especially warn visitors about?

Three words….”I got peed on”

How long did it take to create the sets? Any behind-the-scenes trivia or secrets?

Myself and Rene have been at it since February of this year—building most of the props ourselves and coming up with some ridiculous ideas. Many people ask us “how the hell do you come up with this shit?” Our constant reply is “lots of drunken nights sitting in rooms and spurting off some of the most ridiculous ideas ever.” I really wish someone was around recording some of our impossible and bad ideas.

How many zombies participated in last Sunday’s walk and how did that go?

I would say we probably had around 750 zombies this year. We did over 1000 last year and it was way outta control. I warned everybody that I would punch them in the face if they stepped out of line and its seemed to work. Everybody was really cool and respectful to both Wonderroot where we started and Oakland Cemetery. I was very pleased with the walk this year. It was awesome.

Splatter Cinema is presenting a bonus show this month of Fulci’s ZOMBIE. What do you love about that movie and what else is coming up for Splatter?

Whats not to love. It’s gory as hell. I think my favorite scene is the eyeball splinter scene. I love Fulci’s eye torture gags. They are ridiculous. The one from THE BEYOND always gets me, too, with the spiders,

The Buried Alive Film Festival is also right around the corner. What can you share about this year’s line-up and is there anything Retro or Retro-inspired?

We do have an film called CHILLERAMA that has a bunch of grindhouse/retro shorts from different acclaimed directors. It’s a pretty awesome flick. Definitely the highlight of the fest this year. As CHILLERAMA’s Website states, “In the spirit of classic anthology films like CREEPSHOW and TWILIGHT ZONE: THE MOVIE and containing films that not only celebrate the golden age of drive-in B horror shlock but also span over four decades of cinema, CHILLERAMA offers something for every bad taste. With titles like Wadzilla, I Was a Teenage Werebear, The Diary of Anne Frankenstein and Zom-B-Movie and featuring appearances by Joel David Moore (AVATAR), Lin Shaye (INSIDIOUS), Ray Wise (X-MEN: FIRST CLASS), Kane Hodder (FRIDAY THE 13TH), Eric Roberts (THE DARK KNIGHT) and more cameos than you can count, CHILLERAMA is sure to have you screaming for more. From the depraved minds of Adam Rifkin (DETROIT ROCK CITY), Tim Sullivan (2001 MANIACS), Adam Green (FROZEN), and Joe Lynch (WRONG TURN 2).

Finally gotta ask, you’ve built an entire career/lifestyle around horror. How did you get into horror and what’s the appeal to you?

I was exposed to horror at a pretty early age. NIGHTMARE (ON ELM STREET) and Freddy Krueger were a pretty regular occurrence. My mom is a huge horror fan, too, and was always letting me watch the stuff. Or I would sneak up after hours to catch some cheesy after hours horror flicks. I just love the rush I get from horror films. They don’t scare me anymore, but they still get me pumped when I find a good flick that somehow manages to surprise me with something new.

Chambers of Horror is open seven evenings a week for the entire month of October and the first weekend of November and offers many ticket options from $17 general admission to a limited $45 VIP Pass (which includes getting to skip the line and a free drink) to satisfy even the most discerning torture connoisseur at Ticketmaster.com. No one under 18 admitted.

 

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