Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Bryan Enk: A Mangled Matters Interview.

It takes a very dedicated and creative mind to make films for a living. It takes an even more unique individual to conduct business on a bi-costal arrangement. Some may say crazy, but here at Mangled Matters, we don’t name call. And we salute those who go above and beyond to achieve their filmmaking dreams!

For that, I salute Bryan Enk. 

A veteran of the Brooklyn theatre scene, Enk has credits as a director (7), producer (7), writer (5), editor (1) and cinematographer (1) under his belt.

His success on stage has been well documented. Having been the artistic director for the now-defunct Third Lows Productions (founded in 1992 as an independent film and theatre company, the company closed in 2009), Enk is no stranger to tackling major projects and multi-tasking. He co-created a 12-part supernatural theatrical serial called ‘Penny Dreadful’ and also created ‘The Sinister Six’, an annual horror anthology film series that consists of six short films by six different directors. The fourth and final installment just recently screened to solid reviews. Enk is also the curator of this project.

His latest project, the fantastic ‘The Big Bad’, immediately became one of my favorite independent horror films of all time. If you haven’t checked out my review as part of my Women In Horror Month celebration, please give it a read at 

Why did I include the review in my WiHM blog? Because Bryan teamed up with the insanely talented Jessi Gotta to bring the film to life. Gotta wrote, produced and starred in the werewolf tale, while Enk directed and produced.

This is where the bi-costal relationship props comes into play. You see, Jessi lives on the East Coast while Mr. Enk resides on left coast. Is that stopping the tandem from working on more projects? Hell no! Lucky for us indie horror fans… 
Without further ado, I present to you the chat I was fortunate enough to have with Bryan Enk recently.

1.     When did you realize you wanted to be a director?

RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK came out in the summer of 1981 and my mom took me to see it. I was seven at the time and I think I was the only kid on the block who didn’t want to be Indiana Jones — I wanted to make the movie. The film that inspired me to actually start making movies, BRAM STOKER’S DRACULA, came out in November 1992 — I’m not sure what it was about that film that finally got me to pick up a camera, but I’ve been at it ever since.

2. Growing up, were you a really creative, outgoing kid?

Oh yeah. In 1981 I also wrote a STAR WARS play called THE ADVENTURES OF LUKE SKYWALKER that was cast with friends and family; we performed it for all of our relatives in my parents’ basement. I wrote, directed and acted in a bunch of plays in grade school and did a bunch of musicals in high school; that transitioned into actual filmmaking in college. The inspiration mostly came from the movies themselves — again, it was more of a fascination with how the films were made and how the stories were told than wanting to be “in” them.

3. Have you always been a big horror fan?

My dad is a big sci-fi and horror fan, so it’s probably all his fault. My first horror movie experience was also a landmark event from ’81 — I watched ALIEN with my uncle (on Beta!), mostly from behind the couch in pure terror. That’s still my all-time favorite horror movie. Halloween also remains my all-time favorite holiday; I went to Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios out here in L.A. this past year, which made for one of the best Halloweens ever.

4. You created The Sinister Six- a pretty cool project. Can you tell us about that?

THE SINISTER SIX was inspired by MASTERS OF HORROR, the Showtime series that came out in 2005 and ran for two seasons. I loved that they got a bunch of renowned genre directors like John Carpenter, Dario Argento and Takashi Miike to do these little one-hour horror movies. It inspired me to get some of my friends and colleagues together with each of us making a 10-minute short — we then packaged them all together as THE SINISTER SIX and screened them over Halloween weekend in New York. The first installment screened in 2006; that was followed by SON OF SINISTER SIX in 2007, BRIDE OF SINISTER SIX (featuring six women directors) in 2008 and SINISTER SIX MUST BE DESTROYED in 2009. Many of the directors each year came from theatre and had never made a movie before; it ended up being the perfect opportunity for them to give it a shot.
Ultimately, it came from a desire for creative collaboration and community, which is my favorite aspect of doing film and theatre — meeting so many different kinds of artists and conjuring a project that brings us all together, especially if it allows for the participants to try something they’ve never done before.

5. What has been your most proud accomplishment as a director thus far?

For film, I would have to say THE BIG BAD, because it’s a miracle that movie actually exists. I met someone at a party recently who said that making a movie, at least on an independent level, is impossible — it’s truly impossible in a literal sense, and yet it happens. Independent films are inherently contradictions and anomalies. That’s kind of what making THE BIG BAD felt like. Sure, when I watch it, I see some mistakes that I wish I could fix and there are a few scenes I would definitely approach differently now. But I also marvel at its existence — it was a huge and incredibly difficult undertaking, and we finished it, which makes me very proud. It turned out to be pretty good, too! I genuinely enjoy THE BIG BAD — I’m actually a big fan of the film, and I can’t say that about everything I’ve made over the years.

6. ‘The Big Bad’ was downright awesome. Having been self-financed by Jessi and yourself, what were some of the biggest obstacles with this project?
Thank you! How we were going to handle the forest scenes was one of the biggest challenges — it just wasn’t financially practical to bring in a generator and a bunch of mega-lights to shoot such elaborate and extended scenes in an actual forest, not to mention the fact that we of course had no control over the weather. So we ended up building a forest set in one of the big exhibition rooms at the Greenpoint Gallery in Brooklyn, which allowed us much more control of the environment and lighting. Luckily, all of our forest scenes take place at night, so it was really more about the basic shapes of trees and branches rather than the intricate details — backlight everything and turn on the smoke machine and you’ve got yourself a forest that’s something of an homage to the one in the original WOLF MAN with Lon Chaney, Jr. It ended up being an appropriate aesthetic choice as well as a financial one.

Enk & Gotta- a powerhouse tandem


7. As a director, what makes for a great horror film in your eyes?

If a horror film is actually scary, that to me is the greatest accomplishment. It’s also the most difficult to achieve. There’s also something to be said about films that can actually be, for lack of a better term, “horrific” — films that can actually create a sense of terror, whether they’re considered “horror” movies or not. Ji-woon Kim’s I SAW THE DEVIL, Takashi Miike’s AUDITION and David Fincher’s ZODIAC come to mind as good examples of that.

8. If you were to host a horror movie marathon, what films make the cut and why?

Definitely ALIEN — working stiffs stuck on a spaceship with a monster, it’s a great example of ordinary people in an extraordinary situation. Probably David Cronenberg’s THE FLY for its purity of vision, intimacy and operatic (and completely unapologetic) sense of romance/tragedy. John Carpenter’s THE THING for its almost unbearable tension — and because, to quote a friend, “You can’t go wrong with JC.” Murnau’s NOSFERATU for its unsettling imagery and ominous atmosphere, it’s really timeless. I might even throw in PARANORMAL ACTIVITY because it’s astonishing what they pulled off for five bucks.

9. You’ve already begun work on a second film with Jessi Gotta. You’ve said it’s going to be even more ambitious and even bigger. How has this project come together thus far?

It’s a science fiction film that’s going to require very elaborate sets and even more complicated makeup and FX. We’re not sure if that’s going to be our next feature, but it’s the one that’s gone through the most development so far, at least in terms of fleshing out the script. It’s also going to be VERY expensive, which in and of itself might be reason to shelf it for now and wait until we have more resources. We’ll see.
Right now we’re co-producing a horror short called ANNIVERSARY DINNER that Jessi co-wrote and is directing herself. She’s got a great production crew she’s working with in New York — I’m excited to see it all come together.

10. Are there any taboos or subjects you refuse to touch as a director?

Anyone who’s ever worked with me would probably give a quick, flat-out “No” to this question, so I’ll just follow suit. ;)   Actually, that might’ve been true back in college, but now I think I’m more of a stickler for class and good taste, even with the most subversive material. I’m all for going to extremes, but there has to be a reason for it, and it has to be done in such a way that it’s not exploitation for its own sake. Let’s just say I’m not as amused by the severed head oral sex scene in RE-ANIMATOR as I once was? I’m not offended by it, but I don’t think it’s as “cool” (or whatever) as I did, say, twenty years ago. I might be mellowing with age.


11. Any last words?

Thanks for the interview! And to any readers who are thinking of embarking on their first film project — do it. Find a way to make it happen. Make your limitations work for you instead of against you. Learn from it and from the people who work on it with you. Just don’t wake up one day and you’re suddenly 90 and thinking, “I should’ve made that movie way back when.”

After chatting with Bryan, he immediately became a fella I consider a role model and someone any filmmaker can model their formula for success after. I sincerely thank Bryan for his time and enthusiasm. I absolutely cannot wait for more projects to come!!

In the meantime, check out the official website to THE BIG BAD!

'STITCHES': an update on my latest horror short!

About a week ago, I sent out a request to any and all friends who might be willing to help me out. I needed a backyard for a few scenes for one of my films. It would be a small cast and crew, so whoever was nice enough to let us squat on their property for a few hours wouldn’t have a whole horde of unfamiliar faces around their home, and I promised we’d clean up any and all messes we made.

One of my best friends, Lauren Jarecki, came to my rescue when she enthusiastically replied to my status update with “use our yard!! We even have a bomb shelter!!!”
Now, Lauren’s known me for about 11 years now, so she knew just how to reel me in. She had me at ‘bomb shelter’.
The next few days were a blizzard of brainstorms and excitement- I put the film project I was currently working on on simmer (I don’t put things on the back burner, I just turn down the heat sometimes) and started pounding out a script to utilize the glorious piece of scenery we as indie filmmakers don’t happen to stumble upon every day.
Thus, ‘Stitches’ was born.
As a huge fan of the old school horror flicks, with a really tender spot for the Vincent Price films, the gritty look of Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the Troma classics, I began formulating my plot.
The idea came together rather quickly and easily- mix in one part real-life horror, throw in some nods to a few classic tales and voila- I was already foaming at the mouth, and it was only Tuesday!
Next- casting. I’ve been blessed to have a bunch of friends who are the most gung-ho, supportive and fun-loving peeps a fella could ever ask for. I consider myself a social jitterbug of sorts- I feel like I can get along with anybody and everybody, however, my circle of true best friends is a close-knit group that I am deathly loyal to and don’t plan on letting anyone slip away anytime soon. So, it was easy to put together the small list of people I wanted for this project. 

Finally- the effects. From the beginning, I wanted to make sure this stayed true to exactly what it is- a short horror film that doesn’t even register as a “low budget” project (I spent more at McDonald’s after the shoot for my camera guy than I did on the effects*). This doesn’t mean the film’s production value was taken lightly- it means I know what I had in my hands here- an HD camcorder, a handful of great friends, some fake blood, and a fun story. Thus, ‘Stitches’ was born.
*the effects that are used- blood, mostly- was easy enough to create and considering I’m known as the horror guy at work, it should come as no surprise that I had all the material and supplies I needed for this shoot already lying around my apartment. 

As always, I sincerely appreciate each and every one of your support! You will never know exactly how much your kind words, encouragement and help means to me. All I can do to pay you back for your generosity is make sure I make the most fun, craziest horror shorts I can imagine.
So, for your reading pleasure, feel free to take a moment or two to read the synopsis of my latest horror short, ‘Stitches’.

A county coroner is under investigation for missing and vandalized corpses under his watch. As tension builds throughout the community, the accused man goes into hiding in his home.
With the hammer of justice just about ready to fall, two amateur horror enthusiasts who run a blog and see this as a big ticket for their blog, contact the man and ask for an interview. To their surprise, the fellow agrees.
Once the two guys arrive at the house, they quickly realize the truth is far more terrifying than the rumors.

It’s gonna be a cheap, fun, kinda gross out horror short and I absolutely cannot wait to show you all!

- Justin Hamelin

Saturday, February 4, 2012

WiHM update!!!

Hello hello!
I hope all of you will go check out my Women In Horror Month interview project! The third interview of the month was JUST posted!!!
I created a blog specifically for the event, but will also be keeping Mangled Matters up and current with all things horror!!!


ALSO- care to check out some bad ass art work the fantastic Kevin Spencer put together for my Women In Horror Month celebration??? Ch-ch-check it out!!

A special thanks to Mr. Spencer, who, as always, supports all of my writing endeavors and offers sugarcoating-free thoughts and advice! Thank you, good sir.

Check out Kevin's FB page!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

'House Call': A Review

Directed by: Erik L. Wilson

As a self-proclaimed sucker of paranormal films, especially ones that evoke the heebie jeebies of 'Poltergeist', it should come as little suprise that I am about to tell you how much I thoroughly enjoyed Erik Wilson's 'House Call'.

As far as short films go, sometimes they feel too rushed. Intro, blood and guts, end.
Just because the running time of a film barely hits the double digit mark, doesn't mean it can't build suspense and terror.
Short horror films in particular are truly a test of one's directorial chops, and let me tell you, Mr. Wilson knocked this one out of the park.

The story is a very cool one- a scandal, ghosts, and a creepy old lady who may or may not have escaped from an asylum. Horror goodies, ahoy!

When a young woman grows tired of her husband's bullying and bossing around, she makes the decision any frustrated wife has pondered now and then- kill him.

Already having a boyfriend on the side, the woman is free to live her life of happiness and cuddles now that Mr. A-hole husband is gone. (I'd have killed him too if he was trash talking me while taking a bath).

A year into her newfound life of bliss, eerie occurences begin. An odd old woman (made quite creepy, thanks to excellent practical effects) begins showing up around the couple's home, chanting and mumbling incoherantly.

All the negative energy of the dastardly crime committed finally reaches a boiling point one night and the couple is left to deal with the consequences.

The tension is built wonderfully- a la the original 'Halloween', we are treated to jaunts down dark hallways, across closed doors and searching for the origin of the creepy sounds around the corner.

The special effects were solid, the camera work is top notch and the acting puts this film in a class of horror shorts elite.

My Grade: 9/10

Saturday, January 21, 2012

An Interview With Director José Pedro Lopes

José Pedro Lopes is a journalist, writer, cartoonist and filmmaker. He's also a John Carpenter fanatic like myself. Double points.

Hailing from Portugal, Mr. Lopes wrote the short film 'A Noiva', a slasher flick, in 2007. The short was shown in over 35 film festivals across the globe and received two awards.

José cut his teeth as a director on 'O Risco', a splatter comedy that hit the film festival circuit in 2011. Critically acclaimed (4 nominations at Killer Film Festival here in the states, 2nd place at the International Cycling Film Festival in Germany), the film was shown at 15 festivals.

His latest short, 'Survivalismo', is downright awesome. Having had the pleasure of viewing and reviewing the film, I can honestly say it is one of my favorite shorts I've ever seen. It's a thinking game a la 'Saw', without all the gore. Psychological terror at it's most basic. At it's best.

With a true passion for the art of filmmaking, José founded his production company, Anexo 82, and is a real up and comer in the indie horror community.

I had the pleasure of chatting with Mr. Lopes recently and was able to pick his brain a bit on a number of subjects.

1. How did you think up the storyline for 'Survivalismo'?

I was attending a European co-production forum in Strasbourg (France) with my producer Ana Almeida. She was there to present her new short film project, so I saw all the presentations and the rehearsals by everyone there.
Inevitably, I started to think of a "pitch" of my own. How could I present a short film that would impress on a stage, speaking. And that's where this cenographic idea of a man stuck in a trap who must talk his way out came. That and the "twist ending" I idea, which I had from the start and help me to create all the story.
The Five Stage of Grief, even though have become a big part of the film, where not in the genesis of 'Survivalismo' - it was a way of creating a more dense, realistic emotional reaction to the situation.
2. Was this your first venture into psychological horror as a director?
I've always made films, ever since I was a teenager, with friends. Even then, I was very much into fantasy, sci-fi and horror.
But only in 2007 was that I started making more professional short films. I wrote and produced Ana Almeida's "A Noiva" which is a european take on the slasher genre - it picks up a lot of its imaginary to the Giallo cinema and mixes it with an asian
Last year I directed two short films that played strongly in the fantasy film circuit. One was 'Survivalismo', the other was 'O Risco' (The Line) - a 2 minute splatter comedy that plays homage to John Carpenter.
I don't see myself as much of a horror filmmaker for neither 'Survivalismo' or 'O Risco' are horror films - they're inside that vague concept of fantastic films, but they're not actually scary. 

3. What attracted you to film making?

I began watching films at a very young age for my brother was a film buff. So I was watching horror movies growing up. Early on, I was watching denser, complex films. I always wanted to be a filmmaker but I was never too sure I was able of making a film. That took me actually a long time.
Every time I meet someone knew who loves films and film making (not necessarily the same thing) I feel more inspired and driven to make new films.
4. Admittedly, 'Survivalismo' hasn't fared as well in 'regular' festivals as opposed to film fests dedicated to fantasy or suspense. This surprises me. Why do you think that is?
I'm never too comfortable judging festival selections for I'm a festival programmer too and I'm always conscious that my films are not perfect and are not for all tastes.
I was expecting that 'Survivalismo' would perform better in non-fantasy festivals than it did - but at some point, submitting films becomes expensive and I end up betting on the fantasy festivals. I know them better, and I like the fan-base they bring.
When I look at festivals I can think that if 'Survivalismo' plays on a standard festival, it will reach one or two people who will like it a lot. But if it plays in horror festivals it will reach people like you who are into this kind of films.
But I would like to make a film with a broader appeal. 'Survivalismo' tried not to be a fantasy-oriented film and more a art-driven experimental film. It ended up kind of in between, I guess.

I usually like most films I see and I get very involved while watching them. If something is suspenseful and terrifying, I'll be really hit by it. For this, I dislike unjustified, tasteless violence. I'm more into horror films that don't need violence - and the so-called 'torture porn' genre isn't for my taste at all. 'Saw' is actually a very clever, well written film. But 'Survivalismo' was kind of a art-house, experimental, non-violent approach to the 'torture porn' subject - consciously.


5. This being a 'thinking man's 'Saw' ', where the terror and suspense is all psychological, are you more a fan of in-your-face violence or what's-behind-the-closed-door terror?
6. What are a few of your favorite horror films?
'Halloween' by John Carpenter is my favourite - for all of its suspense. I love 'A Nightmare on Elm Street', 'The Innocents', 'Ringu', ''Audition'... too many films. Recently, I really enjoyed 'Insidious' by James Wan and even more recently I was very surprised with 'The Innkeepers'.
7. Who are some directors you admire?
I'm a die-hard fan of John Carpenter in all of his eras. But I love lots of directors in all genres.  
8. Can you update us on how many film festivals 'Survivalismo' has been in?

It has been in 16 film festivals. It's upcoming screenings with be at Jennifer's Bodies Film Festival (part of the Women in Horror Celebration Month in Scotland), Yubari Fanta International Film Festival (Japan) and Landshut International Short Film Festival (Germany) on the Deadline award competition. I'm planning of distribute it in festival along 2012. 
9. What is the horror film landscape like in Portugal?
Up until 2005, there were very few features and shorts on the horror genre. In recent year, the horror genre woke up - but mostly in short films. One of our main festivals is Motelx: Lisbon's Horror Film Festival and dozen of films are made thinking to its short film competition. I fear, though, that this "boom" can go away as suddenly as it came.
10. What projects are you currently working on?
Since making shorts is not a business, at least not for me (I accept advices on this issue haha) ,sometimes I don't have the time I want to make more films.
I'm producing "Videoclub" by Ana Almeida, the short film that was presented in Strasbourg. It's a drama set in the 90s and its a project that's very dream to me. I'm also producing a mystery short film called 'Auguste' and an horror thriller called 'Pacient EV-136'.
I've some ideas for short films but only after these projects. And I would prefer to do a feature rather than a short - I guess that's the main goal of film making.
I sincerely thank José for all of his time and enthusiasm. I look forward to more great things from Mr. Lopes and Portugal for a very long time!