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Saturday, 29 March 2014

Interview with producer/director & writer, John Portanova

It was a genuine pleasure to receive the amount of positive feedback about last week's blog article for the May DVD release of the rather excellent The Invoking. The fact that the positive vibes weren't just from those involved in the project, but others who had both enjoyed the article and been inspired to possibly go out and buy it when it's released.

John Portanova standing in the 'stalkers' section
 -  nope nothing to infer from that......
If that wasn't enough, just a couple of days later I was more than a little pleased to be contacted by writer/producer/director and member of a mysteriously named group known as The October People, John Portanova.

If truth be told I was pleased on two counts. Firstly, it gave me the chance to pass onto my reader just part of the process behind the production of an indie horror movie. Secondly, it was the opportunity for me to gain answers to a few important burning questions that I had, such as; Was the rather excellent The Invoking really made on a shoestring budget? Just how annoyingly talented is Mr Portanova and his team? And are The October People really some shady group whose true intention to suck out the brains from our still breathing bodies?

As you'll see below, John is a rather deft and excellent interviewee with a good line in intelligence, humour and detailed oration, besides, anybody who uses the word 'cryptozoology' in an interview is fine by me. Not only that, but it seems that he has the need also to get the odd rant off his chest - nothing wrong with that. So I hope that he doesn't mind the odd minor amendment that I've made to his responses to my once again legendary, almost interrogatory in nature, interview questions by my altering his American English spelling (i.e incorrect) to UK English (i.e correct).

Q) Let's start with me asking you just who and what are The October people?

"The October People is a production company started by myself, Jeremy Berg, and Matt Medisch. It is based in Seattle and San Diego and specialises in producing independent films with a strong focus on character. Our first film was The Invoking, which Jeremy directed and co-wrote, I co-wrote and produced, and Matt produced and helped come up with the original story for. On future projects we will have similar positions some of the time, but other times we will switch things up and I could be directing, for example. We want to tell quality, character-driven stories through the prism of our favourite genres.

Q) The Invoking seems a little old-fashioned in terms of character development (and I mean that as a compliment) Was this an intentional approach from the start?

"It was. We are all lifelong horror fans and of course a big part of that is loving the gore effects and monsters. But when you see as many horror films as we have, you start to see those same things over and over. We knew we didn't want our first film to be another micro-budget zombie or slasher movie, so we decided to tell a story that was more about the characters and that took a more psychological approach. But even our upcoming projects, which do focus on different sub-genres of horror including monsters, will still be very much built off of a solid character foundation. Instead of just giving the audience cookie-cutter types that they've seen over and over again, we want to make sure there is interesting drama going on so that they are invested  in the story even before a monster comes rampaging across the screen."

Q) The film looks amazing - where is the location and how did you find it?

"Thanks. We shot the film in Red Bluff, CA. It was actually the home where our producer Matt grew up. Coming into The Invoking, we had a handful of short films and no money. We knew we wanted to make a feature and so we decided to do something in the vein of El Mariachi or the original Paranormal Activity, where the directors used what they had access to (locations and props) and wrote the film around those things to keep the budget low. So we wrote the script based off of this property we had the full run of. If something wasn't there and available to us at the location, we didn't write about it."

Q) Did The invoking only cost $11000 and one week to make? If so, just how was that managed ?

"Yes. The budget for the film was $11,000 and principal photography happened in Red Bluff over the course of one week. Like I was mentioning earlier, the script was written with this budget and shoot schedule in mind. We only had so much money we could charge onto credit cards and so much time we could take over the location. So keeping to this schedule was easy in one sense because we were staying at our location and everything was shot within walking distance from the house. But, on the other hand, it was hard because we had so many shots to get. Some days we did up to 40 set ups and had a maximum of 3 takes for each shot. Having an awesome crew and a great cast of actors really helped us stay on schedule and get good stuff during the few takes we had."

Q) What productions are next in the pipeline?

"We are actually getting ready to shoot the next October People horror feature next week. It's an alien abduction horror tale entitled The Device. Once again it'll be directed by Jeremy Berg from a script the two of us wrote and Matt Medisch will be producing. It'll be another very low budget picture, but this time we will be shooting all around Washington State with an awesome cast and crew made up of local talent including a nice mix of old friends and new collaborators. The film centres on a fractured family coming together after the loss of a loved one and then spirals into a story of alien terror. We're all big fans of alien abduction mythology and films in the sub genre such as Fire in the Sky, so we're excited to film our version of an alien abduction story. The plan is for the film to be out before the end of the year on home video after playing at a couple of film festivals.

Two months after we wrap The Device, we are going to be moving onto Valley of the Sasquatch. This film is based on a script I wrote many years ago and will be my directorial debut. Jeremy will be the cinematographer (a job he has performed on all of our films) and Matt will be producing. I grew up loving Bigfoot as much as alien abduction mythology (I was a big Unsolved Mysteries fan) and so I want this to be a film that treats the creature seriously. It's not a slasher movie where Jason is replaced by a Bigfoot. The story treats them like wild animals and gives a reason for why they have begun to amass a body count. I think cryptozoology fans as well as horror fans will dig it. It takes a serious look at a monster that has been on film a lot, but not always in the best stories. We will be shooting on our biggest budget yet (although still conservative even by indie film standards) and with some awesome actors that fans of the genre will recognise. The plan is for the film to be completed by the end of the year and then go into a film festival run.

Q) If there is anything, and I mean anything that you or the rest of the crew want to add/rant about/get off your chest/shout from the rooftops or just plain big yourselves up about - then here's your away!!

"We are very happy with the response the film has got. For a film made for no money in no time, we've gotten many outstanding reviews and won a handful of awards from our film festival run. We even got a distribution deal that put the film out on store shelves and all over the net in a much wider fashion than a film of our size is usually afforded. So we don't have much to complain about. But there are a few misconceptions about the film that people have had since our wide release that I want to clear up. 
Most of the crew of The Invoking

1. We know that the set-up of the film (young people go to a cabin) has been done before. We had a microscopic budget that dictated how many characters and locations we could use. So we went with a classic horror set-up and then moved from there into our brand of psychological horror. 

2. We intended this to be a slow paced, character-driven film. We keep a lot of potential story tangents in the air (Is the house haunted? Will one of the characters snap and turn the film into a slasher? Is everything in the lead character's head?) and slowly reveal the true nature of the plot in order to keep those questions going through the audience's head. If that doesn't sound like your bag (which is fine, different strokes for different folks after all) you might be better off watching something else.

3. We shot the film in January of 2012 under the title Sader Ridge. We had no idea what The Conjuring was at that time as it would not be released for a year and a half. The distributor chose to change the name of the film to The Invoking and designed the key art which sells the movie as a classic ghost story (which it really isn't).

4. The film was shot a year before Texas Chainsaw 3D was released and before we had ever heard of it. The similarity in the plot set-up is a coincidence.

All right, that's all my ranting.
" (laughs).

Q) Finally, Alien or Predator? (This is important!)
"Alien. I think Dan O'Bannon and Ronald Shusett came up with the perfect horror creature with that film. The life cycle is great and keeps the terror constantly evolving. And the fact that the alien has acid for blood was a stroke of genius because the characters had to outsmart it as opposed to outgun it, which is usually the path the ending of a monster movie goes down."

Q) Finally finally, any chance of me getting hold of one of them there The Invoking signed T-Shirts?

"The shirts were made by a great company who I buy most of my wardrobe from called Fast Custom Shirts. You can get one here:

On our Facebook page ( we recently ran a contest giving away a signed DVD & a shirt, but unfortunately the contest is already over. But if you buy the shirt and then find yourself in Seattle I'm sure you could find the cast around town and get it signed.

Thanks for the great questions Stu!"

No worries mate, and thanks for the detailed responses and in getting the answer to the Alien/Predator question correct! :-)

I would sincerely like to thank John for taking the time to put up with my vague and shambolic  attempts at cutting edge questioning, hopefully he and the rest of his team haven't been put off too much in letting me see the fruits of their forthcoming productions. However I cannot guarantee that The October People isn't in fact a covert organisation whose ultimate aim is to suck your brains out, luckily I'm safe as I'm often told that I don't have the brains I was born with.......

Sunday, 23 March 2014

The Invoking - DVD release from Image Entertainment

Release Date: 12 May 2014

Certificate: 15

Special Features:

* Commentary with Writer/Director Jeremy Berg, Producer Matt Medisch and Writer/Producer John Portanova.
* Commentary with Actors Trin Miller, D'Angelo Midili and Andy Morris.
* The Making Of The Invoking Documentary

RRP: £12.99

I suppose that one of the many reasons why I love the horror movie genre so much is in part due to the plethora of tasty little sub genres within it; Slasher, Religious, Vampire/Zombie/Monster, Gore and Supernatural - to name but just a few. Now while I would normally shy away from categorising and labelling everything and anything within an inch of its life, it's safe to say that horror for me is a genre that, whatever mood I may find myself in, has always had something that managed to well and truly hit the horror spot in my soul. 

Each of these sub genres have their rightful place in my (black) heart and each to a certain extent have been known to divide opinion both within and outside the horror community - for instance, I even know someone who doesn't like The Texas Chainsaw massacre......yes Mikhail Mulvihill, I'm talking about you so hang your head in perpetual shame :-).. 

For some reason, the sub genre of the Psychological horror, where the power of suggestion, character building and a gradual acceleration of atmosphere seems to divide said opinion more than most........and for a few months I've been hearing those same whispers and heated disagreements about a certain new addition to the collection, but I'll talk about some of those conflicting views in a little while.

So it was with gleeful chuckle and skip that I received a preview disc sent to me on behalf of Image Entertainment UK by the lovely people at Aim Publicity. Not only was the theme heavily psychological, so I was going to have to think just a little bit(that will be a first, I hear you say), but also it was also another thing very close to this blogger's heart, a low-budget independent production, being shot in just one week for an amazing $11,000 dollars.

The film concerned is called The Invoking and I'm saying to you know, you should see it, you really should. 
But before I get well and truly carried away........... a little on the what the film is actually about.....

As usual, I will endeavour to shy away from an in-depth spoiler strewn review as seems the annoying habit of many a blog reviewer - just why anybody would want to regurgitate a scene by scene account of a movie and thus removing any semblance of mystery for the potential viewer is simply beyond me. As for those who think they are being cleverly cryptic by suggesting that the ending is a sting/twist/surprise/open ended/closed/satisfying/ambiguous or serenaded by harp playing angels, you still are giving it away you plonkers. So for those of you in bloggerland and reviewland who feel the need to divulge every nuance of a plot, stop it, stop it now.

'Nothing wrong with this house, nope, no sir."
Anyhoo, I once more digress. In a nutshell, the plot is as follows....

"Raised by foster parents, Sam claims to remember nothing of her childhood...but it remembers her. When she discovers she has inherited a property, she invites three friends to join her on a trip that will change their lives forever.

A young reclusive caretaker (played by the truly excellent D’Angelo Midili), a childhood friend of Sam's is there to greet them, but something else is waiting for her in the house, something dark and deadly. The ghosts of a past she has long forgotten are coming back to haunt her with a pounding, slashing, raging terror."

If you want just a taste of that taster then the trailer for the film can be found RIGHTY HERE MATEY

Originally titled Sader Ridge (taken from the name of the location in the movie), The Invoking has already gained a number of film awards including Best Actor, Best Cinematography, and Best Music Score at the 2013 Dark Carnival Film Festival. The film was named the best horror film of 2013 by The website also named D'Angelo Midili as the best actor of 2013 for his portrayal of the caretaker, Eric. If that wasn't enough, it also won the Audience Award at the  Seattle True Independent Film Festival last year.

That awkward moment when you run out of milk.....
Now, so far so good? Well yes......and no. Yes, because of the aforementioned critical accolades, but also no, because from what I've seen so far there are some who have rather misread and misjudged this movie on two major counts. Firstly, for some people it seems that this is a plot theme that is all too familiar, namely a group of young college kids taken out of their city comfort zones and who find themselves locating to an isolated, countryside setting only to find out that the locals may not be quite what they seem. And yes, when one first watches The Invoking, I too felt more than a twinge of deja vu at the very beginning as I waited for the family of slashers or Blair Witches to jump out faster than Bruce Campbell himself could hope to cope with. However, I soon realised my mistake, because the filmmakers have added a clever and subtle subtext to plot that many people clearly have missed - but more of that shortly. Instead I've noticed a few somewhat lazy comparisons to other movies.

In fact if I see another comment (and there have been one or two) that it has any sort of resemblance or connection to The Conjuring I may well pick up the nearest chainsaw myself. You see, this superficial assumption would be a mistake, because underneath this veneer of cliched familiarity, there is far more intelligence and textured character building on show here than you could shake at Hitchcock thriller at. If there is any resemblance at all between this and any other production I would wager that it is due far more to the films distributors than to the filmmakers themselves.
The annual Sader Ridge staring contest is in full swing....
This then leads on to what seems to be the second misjudgement that in my opinion, some who have viewed the movie seem to be making, namely the films pacing. Yes, the pace of the film may not quite be at the 'lets slash em up before the words character and development can even be muttered', but this doesn't mean that it is tedious or boring. On the contrary, we are given time to listen in and experience the relationships of the characters as grow (and in some cases, deteriorate) with the story. We may not necessarily like all the characters, but we certainly get to know them and empathise with them when events reach their inevitable climax.

I really don't want to sound like an elitist horror snob - I love mindless onscreen violence as much as the next person.......but just because we are asked to think and consider the actions and behaviours on screen doesn't mean that the tension and chills are any less than a good old gore-fest. There is room for both you know.

But the inverted snobbery from some who regard the slow build up as an exercise in tedium have made a misjudgement of the film of major proportions. Yes the build up may be slow, but as a result of the time spent on developing certain characters, by the time events start to become violent when we the audience have become so emotionally invested the eventual impact is tenfold. For example, we even genuinely sympathise with one particular individual who has to commit the ultimate act of violence. This person clearly wrestles with the act but commits to it without hesitation once the decision is made. It looks at face value like a casual act of violence, but that would be a mistake to assume so - it is a scene of beautifully subtle acting and results in genuine horror.

Hey, I can see my house from here!
In addition we have the rather clever and distinctive subplot that underpins the the whole of the story. For the writer/director (have I told you that I don't like annoyingly talented people?) Jeremy Berg has developed a story of psychological repression and combined it with a distinct supernatural tone - to great effect. The film's pacing helps us to witness Sam slowly coming to the realisation that her lack of childhood memories may possibly be the result of her internal unconscious conflicts as she 'witnesses' the various elements of her personality and memory manifest themselves in her friends. To the films credit,  we the audience have to decide whether it is the house, the land or something/someone else who is invoking the internal conflicts of her unconscious. Is it really happening at all? Clever, very clever.

I mentioned earlier that I understand that the film was filmed within the space of just one week for a measly 11,000 dollars. If that is true (and I have absolutely no reason to doubt otherwise) then that fact is simply incredible.It seems that the annoyingly talented Berg has created a movie that looks as if more, far more money, was spent on it than that. Because at times it looks truly beautiful. It helps that the location is genuinely stunning on occasion, but it still has to be well lit, photographed, filmed and edited to be effective - and the makers of The Invoking do just that in a way that belies the actual amount it cost to produce.  It looks and sounds wonderful.

I can't lie and say that this is a flawless piece of Psychological horror, because it's not, the acting from some of the cast is less than effective. 

On the one hand  the two main players, Miller and Midili are excellent and more than hold the film together, with D'Angelo Midili's performance in particular being something of a revelation and definitely on the 'destined for grand things' list. 
The excellent D'Angelo Midili.
His role as the mysterious caretaker could easily have been 'hammed up' to levels of cliche and caricature, however a performance of measured understatement is instead on show. The problem is that the quality of acting from the rest of the cast at best doesn't quite measure up to the two leads, at  its worst at times it is downright poor. Far be it from me to single out one particular performance as being bad, but one of the actors obvious attempt at being wacky and quirky is simply too over the top and and at times completely distracted my attention from whichever scene they're in. 

The Invoking hasn't completely reinvented the wheel or transformed the genre, I doubt that was ever the intention of Jeremy Berg and his crew. However, what he and the rest of his team have created is a wonderfully subtle, intelligent, beautiful and at times chilling tale that may indeed seem familiar at first glance. It is though, far more than that and it works wonderfully well. It's not just a good film, it is simply excellent.

The Invoking is due for its UK release on DVD on 12th May 2014.

Image Entertainment is a relatively new label from RLJ Entertainment which was launched here in the UK in January 2014, as the UK arm of the thriving Image Entertainment US label, with an exciting new range of sci-fi action, thriller and horror genre films selected from the US schedule.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Buried secrets - a short story by Gary Cecil

It is just a short blog entry this week (whoever cheered there at the back, you're for it!), which in truth is rather apt, because it concerns a short story which was sent to me from author a little while ago for my considered opinion. Now, I've made it no secret in my past musings and scribblings here regarding my lack of enjoyment for the short story format, so I'm not going to recycle all that again. You may ask then 'why bother to spend time reviewing a format that you don't enjoy?' I would reply to that person that's a relevant and valid point - well I would if this was an actual conversation and not in fact a made up one.....

The fact is that the author, Gary Cecil asked me so nicely to read his short story Buried Secrets that I could hardly refuse. There is also a rumour that I also agreed to do it was because the story was only approximately 2800 words (no, I haven't counted them) and therefore meant;
a) It wouldn't take me too long to read.
And b) wouldn't take me too long to write a review.
These are both scurrilous rumours that I wouldn't bother to fight probably because they have more than a semblance of truth in them. I am lazy, that's a fact.

So being the consummate professional I am, I endeavoured to read Gary's story and do you know what? I rather bloody well enjoyed it.

So, just what is this short, short story about? Well if you're sat comfortably, I'll give you a wee glimpse of the books introduction......

"Max and his wife, Megan, just moved into their new home: a charming Victorian that did not come with the typical Victorian price tag. Sure, it needed some paint thrown on here and there, but soon--with a baby on the way--it would be the perfect home for their family.

Things quickly begin to change, though. They hear strange noises at night, and even feel things crawling in their sheets. But that's not the worst of it. There's a foul smell in the air sometimes and something even fouler in the basement.

Something—or someone—smells and licks and lingers in the walls and down in the basement. When the power goes out, Max goes down there to find the breaker, and what he finds, is something much worse. Can the young couple survive this horrible fate? Or... are some secrets just too-damned-evil to be kept buried alive?"

So essentially, there were now two things that by rights should have negatively affected my enjoyment of the story beyond all reasonable hope of a decent review. Firstly, its length and secondly, the main characters and plot premise within it - namely number 7 in the all time list of horror movie cliche's, namely, the young couple (mother expecting) who's move into what they think is their dream home soon thereafter becomes the house from hell. Yes, the particular theme has appeared once or twice down the years.

And yet, and yet. I still liked the story. It is obvious that Cecil has been influenced, either consciously or unconsciously, by a certain Mr S King in terms of some of the phrasing and structuring of his writing. I don't mean that as a criticism at all, after all, if one is going to have inspirations, then one may as well choose the very best. Please don't misunderstand me, I'm not saying he's copied or plagiarised King, in terms of story or plot. Indeed, nor am I likening his writing talent to anywhere near the stratospheric level of King's. The statement is simply meant as a compliment.

As you would imagine, at just 2800 words there is little chance for much detailed characterisation of the couple, or indeed for a slow measured build up of layered plot and atmosphere. However, the finale is still incredibly affective in its chill factor as it sneaks up on you suddenly to hit you in the gut with a surprising intensity that has been perfectly hidden thus far, despite the story's length.

Reading Buried Secrets only slightly leaves one feeling just a little unfulfilled. At times the dialogue between Max and Megan is a little jarring and stilted, but not overly enough to detract from the reading enjoyment. In addition I couldn't help thinking that the story would have been far better used as part of a wider narrative - perhaps as a some flashback to previous owners of the house perhaps? It could be my in-built lack of enthusiasm for the short story format that led to this lack of fulfilment, but I don't think so.

This is a more than reasonable start to a writing career and there is certainly more than enough in Buried Secrets that suggests Gary Cecil has something of a future as a horror novelist. 

So who is this Gary Cecil chap? 

Well according to his bio, Gary writes short stories. mostly in the horror genre--with the support of his loving girlfriend, Sarah, and dog, Millie. Now as yet I'm not quite sure just how his dog helps in his writing but I'll damn well sure find out because that sounds like a bit of a canine gold mine to me.

He is currently in the revision process of his first novel, and is also hard at work on his second. As soon as I can get some word from Gary regarding a synopsis or two then I'll pass the details on.

Again, according to his bio, Gary has worked as a 911 Operator, and has held other various jobs. His greatest memory taking 911 calls was when a man on a back-country road, at one in the morning, called 911 and said, "The baby came out." It was a heart-wrenching experience, which ended in a man becoming a father, and Gary becoming a seasoned 911 Operator.

Hmm, that's nothing mate. A student of mine once went into labour at college during (no, not because of) one of my lectures..... Now THAT'S pressure. Once again, the rumours that I tried to finish my lecture before the baby's head breached are simply scurrilous......

Gary Cecil can be contacted by numerous online methods;

The Amazon links to his books can be found at;

His blog can be found RIGHT HERE

Gary's Facebook page is JUST A CLICK AWAY HERE

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Patrick McPheron's Kickstarter campaign: Invasion! A Scifi photo series that will melt your brain!

People often ask me here at the Fifth Dimension: A sci-fi, fantasy and horror blog, which of the three genres it deals with are my personal favourite - actually, no-one has ever asked me that, but for the sake of leading into this article, let's just for a laugh say that they have. My answer would be that if.........if, I was held at gunpoint and forced to cough up a reply then it would probably be science fiction. A close call certainly, but sci-fi by a nose. However, if I was to be asked for a particular favourite area within the genre well that would be a far more easier decision to make, it wouldn't be even up for debate. Nope, Nada, Nyet, Nein, no sir. 

For those of you who might suggest Star Wars or a certain new Generations universe where no man has gone trekking before, they wouldn't be at the top of my personal science fiction list. I appreciate that this may come a rather upsetting and alienating (see what I did there?) to the fanatics of the Star Wars brigade who, let's face it, can be a tad vociferous and unyielding to those who don't quite share their level of, how can I put it? -  Psychotic obsession, I think might be a reasonable place for a start. Now don't get me wrong, I love Vader, Solo et al. I just don't want spend my life debating with some other guy the sociopathic tendencies of Boba Fett or the various debates about what your choice of colour lightsabre says about you (mines blue, by the way)....... And god help anyone who may inadvertently post a blog entry to one of their Facebook group pages that isn't explicitly related to the bloody force. 
One of the first loves of my life.

Hm mm, sorry about that, I well and truly digressed there for a moment........ And probably insulted a few pseudo Jedi knights in the process.

No, when it comes to Sci-fi, particularly movies and television, then it's the 1950's, 1960's and early 1970's that generally tend to hit this bloggers sweet spot. The day the Earth stood still, When Worlds collide, Quatermass, The forbidden Planet, The Twilight Zone & yes, the original Star Trek series are my particular Sci-fi desert island selections of choice. They were my first loves, along with Asimov, Phillip K. Dick and Arthur C. Clarke - and they'll be my last. 

I've been very lucky to have had a fair number of requests from some good people out there in Internetland to help promote their particular ventures. Believe me, I don't just help publicise any old piece of tosh for my blog, I always have to have at least something from their work that appeals to me. After all, it's my blog so why should I waste my precious time in putting articles together on things that don't interest me in the slightest.

However, occasionally, just occasionally a request that not only spikes my interest, it sets up a veritable cacophony of whoops and alarms of excitement.
Looking smooth, mate

So when I received a message from Los Angeles based artist and photographer, Patrick McPheron, it seemed that something of a kindred spirit had sent me some details of his kickstarter campaign. Why a kindred spirit? I hear you ask. Well read on and find out. 

Patrick’s work has been seen in art shows hosted by various groups and galleries, including World of Wonder Gallery, Cactus Gallery, Bagavagabonds, Spiva Gallery, Heart On, and Magic Garage. His work has appeared in magazines such as ELLE, Sessions & Experience. Recently, his photo “home” was chosen as a finalist for Canon’s “Project Imaginat10n.”

He is currently running a kickstarter project for a photo series called 'Invasion', which Patrick describes as "a vintage photo series inspired by the campy sci-fi shows of the 60's and 70s. It's a little "Twilight Zone" mixed with a little "Star Trek" topped with a little influence from the horror genre." This retro sci-fi photo project, which will eventually result in a book and full scale gallery show in Los Angeles, caught my eye straight away, and for obvious reasons.

I want this and I want this NOW!
It seems that for most of the time Patrick seems to spend most of his existence in some sort of retrofuture universe made up of intriguing architecture, beautiful humans, and exquisite aliens - and quite frankly that sounds like a rather bloody fine place to hang out to me! 

For the previous 3 years he has been spending a huge amount of time ( and no little money) on creating a highly thematic photo series, the aforementioned "Invasion," and he's within sight at long last of the finishing line. The wealth of material he has created so far has been funded with his own resources.  For example as part of the incentives for people to help his campaign, he created a truly stunning lobby card/movie poster (see above) which features the lovely, comedian, performer, and musician - in fact all  around talented lady, Deven Green as "The Queen." Unfortunately there is no movie to accompany this poster - but looking at it, there bloody well should be! I just love it. 

Er, Patrick, I would sincerely love a copy of this lobby card/movie poster - hint hint :-)

Stunning, just stunning.
There are about 10 photos needed to complete the Invasion series - and Patrick wants these final few shots to be well and truly off the scale - and this is where he needs our help.

His Kickstarter campaign has just a few days to go to reach his monetary target that will ensure that he will utilise high quality vintage costumes, props, masks, vintage cars, wigs, makeup, locations, extra lights and fans, makeup artists, models and also help with the cost associated with the gallery show!

Patrick is naturally reticent about divulging too much about what he has planned for the final images. However he has said the they will include for example; 

• Gorgeous women frozen in time as they are enveloped by mysterious lights from above

• A stylish mad scientist and his older female assistant overlooking a wicked creation in his laboratory

• A diner where the patrons have all been poisoned by a green ooze

Patrick's ultimate aim is, once the shoot (that's technical speak for photographers, you know) is complete he will be publishing a book of the photos, offering prints for sale, and having a full scale gallery show in Los Angeles, CA.  It's tentatively slated for summer 2014, and you're all invited! woo-hoo!!!! The only downside to that offer is that seeing as I currently reside in the beautiful North East of Scotland, I might not be able to make it to the gallery show. So if anyone of you do get there then I want full description and stories - plus the odd signed memento too :-). 

Like the nice guy he obviously is, Patrick has gone on record on his Kickstarter page as promising that our help won't go unnoticed as he's devised some rather excellent  incentives. A high quality book of the entire series, magnets, prints of all shapes and sizes, 1-on-1 photo shop time and more! All incentives include free shipping within the US. If you don't believe me then I suggest that you pop over to his Kickstarter page BY CLICKING RIGHT HERE and Check out the pictures below and detailed descriptions of the offers available.
The Lovely Deven Green again - 
and not a bad photo either...

It really is a beautiful and emotive collection of images that perfectly encapsulate the feelings and atmosphere of classic science fiction and horror. 

This is no false claim - I for one will be genuinely taking ownership of a book of the entire series as soon as it is completed.

So what more is there to say? Except for me to leave you with the words of Patrick McPherson himself....."Support the arts and get rad Scifi stuff. Invasion truly is a Scifi photo series that will melt your brain! 
What more could you ask for!?"

Patrick has one more week for the campaign and about $3,000 to make up! It's hefty sum to raise but I think we can do it! 

Full details of Patrick's Kickstarter campaign can be found BY CLICKING RIGHT HERE!!

Patrick's photography Facebook page can also be found AT THIS LINK HERE

Further information can also be found in his Press Release at:

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Two Independent horror features . Sacrament - The Film (2014) & The Lashman (2014)

During the course of last week I had an interesting 'discussion' with someone online (clean out your mind, it wasn't one of those types of online conversation) about a previous blog post of mine which was publicising an independent horror film production. I won't name the film concerned, that would be unfair to those involved with it, besides which, it really isn't important to name names. No, the 'conversation' that I had with the fool of an individual was in response to his comment about the type of film it is and the type of people that were involved in its making.

Excellent slashing technique....
Now I'm all for freedom of opinion and the like, however what really riled me wasn't the fact that he didn't like the subject matter of the movie. It was more the frankly obnoxious and ill-informed opinion he had of the whole slasher genre and it's film-makers. I'm paraphrasing here to protect the terminally stupid, but in essence his comments were something along the line of " not another stupid slasher movie made by talentless filmmakers lacking in creativity or originality" and " I will be avoiding the film at all costs"....... way to go with the open minded approach then matey.

I found his attitude rather annoying - to say the least. I may myself not be the greatest fan of the slasher movie, but opinions that completely dismiss and ridicule out of hand the work and commitment (not to say their own money) that independent horror filmmakers are prepared to go through frankly make me want to go all Friday the 13th on those suckers. We have enough dismissive ill-informed nonsense to put up with from people outside the horror genre without having to listen to brain-dead morons who would gladly dismiss the years of hard work, money and sheer blood (literally ) and guts needed to make a feature length movie. 

So I was pleased that by pure coincidence that the day after informing the individual that he was a moronic elitist idiot I was contacted by not just one, but two indie film directors who were asking for a little bit of publicity for their respective productions. Both contacts sent me a brief synopsis of their movies, but I wanted a little more. Essentially I wanted to shed a bit more light than usual on just how much thought and work goes into your typical horror slasher type production.

So I decided for once to do something almost resembling a proper interview type thing and so proceeded to ask a series of my now legendary probing and cunning questions to the men behind the movies. So read on for a brief overview of the soon to be released films and a more detailed interview type thing that accompanies them. Hopefully both interviewees won't mind the occasional amendments that I had to make as some of their responses where the spelling etc was from the American form (in other words, incorrect) to the UK versions of the words (in other words, correct).

Sacrament - The Film (2014)

So first of all, the film itself.....

"Leaving the city behind for a weekend of booze, bud and bonding at the coast, seven friends find themselves stranded en route to South Padre Island when a big storm interferes with their plans. The town of Middle Spring is more than happy to welcome them with open arms, however; located in the rhinestone buckle of the Bible Belt, Middle Spring is smack-dab in the middle of a big barbecue and tent revival and there's always room at their table for a few more warm bodies.

Unfortunately, no one in Middle Spring is exactly who they seem to be. This town takes the Bible quite literally, and the friends have to stick together as time begins to run out and they realize that what's on the menu may be closer to home than they suspected."

Sacrament stars Troy Ford, Avery Pfeiffer, Brittany Badali, Cassandra Hierholzer, Wesley Kimenyi, Amanda Rebholz, Henry Pao, Marilyn Burns, Ed Guinn, Richard Houghton, Joshua Cole Simmons. It was written by Shawn Ewert, along with Donna White, Amanda Rebholz, Josh Riggs. The screenplay is by Shawn Ewert and it's produced by Donna White and Amanda Rebholz.

Interview with Director, writer, screen player, and all round annoyingly multi-talented Shawn Ewert. 

Shawn (centre) showing the rest of
the crew who the boss is.
(Me) So for those who may not know much about you, tell us a little about yourself.

(Shawn) Born and raised in North Texas, I started writing short stories at a tender age. Following a deep love of film of every kind, I was encouraged by friends and professors to pursue my love of writing. Growing up during the heyday of the slasher film in the 80′s, I immediately developed an affinity for horror films that borders on obsession. 

(Me) Who are your horror influences?

(Shawn) My biggest influence has to be Clive Barker. He is an amazing artist who works in multiple media. I try to push myself to at least attempt to work in any creative opportunity I am able. Beyond Clive - John Carpenter, George Romero, John Waters and Sam Raimi are a few that come to mind. 

(Me) The production seems to have a few more complex themes than your normal run of the mill horror, so tell everybody about the plot of Sacrament the film.

(Shawn) Sacrament starts out with a familiar premise of a group of kids going off on holiday. 

There is some family tension for one of the leads, and the plan is to just get away and have a good time. The group lands themselves in a town where the populace takes 'the body and the blood' very literally. They have to do their best to get out of town before ending up on the chopping block as the town reveals itself to be run by religious cannibals. 

(Me) I understand that you've recently had to deal with some controversy about another film using the same name as yours?

(Shawn) I don't know that I would call it 'controversy' exactly. We have been working on getting this film made since 2011, and have been operating under the name 'Sacrament' for the majority of that time. Unfortunately, sometime during our production, a film called 'The Sacrament' was announced by a much more well-known director and producer. We decided it wasn't right for us to have to change our name after operating under it for so long. The other film is actually scheduled for release the day before our film has its world premiere. It is what it is. Either way, we are probably going to have to change our name once we get to a point of talking distribution. It's just unfortunate since the title works out so perfectly for our film. 

(Me) So what are the plans for the movie in terms of publicity and release?

(Shawn) Our world premiere will be June 7th in Dallas, Texas at the historical Texas Theatre. After the premiere, we will begin our film festival submissions, and begin talking to distributors in the US and abroad. We plan on travelling to as many of the festival screenings as possible to get a real impression of what people think of the film. It will be a first for many of us to head across the pond to the UK and Europe, so we are pretty excited.

Many thanks to Shawn for spending the time in coping with my incisive and thought provoking questions.

The FACEBOOK page for the movie can be found RIGHT HERE!!

The Lashman (2014)

Once again, a very brief account the film itself.....

" Lashman is a tale of terror. When five friends set out for a weekend excursion, they soon realize their campfire tales have turned into their worst nightmares. The Lashman marks the feature length film debut of Cameron McCasland who wrote, produced, and directed the movie. McCasland honed his film making skills in television directing music videos as well as the award winning made for TV movie, The Dreadful Hallowgreen Special, and Go Green With Dr. Gangrene series of short films." 

The Lashman stars Stacey Dixon, Shawn C. Phillips, David Vaughn, Jeremy Jones, Kaylee Williams, Tim Emery, Lee Vervoort, David Chattham, Terry Gragg, Todd Bush, Alea Jordan, Joe Downing and Larry Underwood. The movie was shot on location in western Kentucky.

The trailer for the movie can be seen right HERE BABY!

Before I show the transcript of the interview I would simply like to say that if Kaylee Williams or Stacey Dixon would like to send me a Facebook friend request I wouldn't mind one little bit........

Interview with writer, producer, director and another annoyingly multi-talented individual, Cameron McCasland

(Me) So for those who may not know much about you, tell us a little about yourself.

(Cam) My name is Cameron McCasland, I was born in Texas, but have lived and worked in Nashville,TN since 2001. I am a film director, and a story teller. I am the father of two amazing daughters, who keep me on my toes. If you are into classic horror you might have seen some of work with television horror host Dr. Gangrene. I tend to get noticed for my shiny red beard, and usually wear colourful sneakers.

Cam as a kid, can anybody else see his imaginary friend?.....
(Me) Tell me about some of your horror influences?

(Cam) Where do I start with this one? Early on in life i was into cartoons like Masters Of The Universe, Thundercats, stuff like that. And they all had these great monsters that I was drawn to. I think the Universal monster movies stick out to me as one of the earliest influences. I grew up in a home that was fairly conservative. My parents rarely watched horror films, and it just wasn't something I had a lot of access to at first. We did however watch a lot of classic movies, and my parents were encoring of the arts in general. But one year there was a Universal Monster movie marathon on cable and I spent an entire weekend going through all of those old black & white films. I was mesmerised. The following summer we took a trip to Universal Studios on vacation. We saw the Bates Motel and Psycho house, Jaws jumped out of the water, I was in the Back To The Future show…but the thing that stuck out the most was seeing the Frankenstein Monster. He locked on me, and it made me really happy. I have this great photo of him choking me, and I can still feel the way it felt on my neck. That sold me on horror movies.

Going forward I sampled all the best slashers, and honestly all the worst as well. Carpenters Halloween is still the bench mark for me, and I adore Evil Dead 2, but don't we all at this point? I am really thankful though that I wasn't able to see this stuff too early in life. I think some true classics get glossed over by a lot of film makers and movie fans alike just for being shot in Black & White.

(Me) So, what exactly is the plot of The Lashman?

(Cam) The Lashman is a campfire tale. A group of friends get together for one last hurrah before they have to go their separate ways in life. Little do they know there weekend excursion will turn into a nightmare.

The thing is, I wasn't trying to reinvent the wheel here. Quiet the opposite really. I wanted to play up some of the tropes of the slasher film, but kind of ground it again. The hey day for these type of movies was in the 1980's. Everything from Friday the 13th, Nightmare On Elm Street, Maniac, The Burning, etc. What followed was a glut of similar films, and everyone wanted to one up the last one with more nudity, more ridiculous kills, and if you were lucky you could get a killer that looked cool or had a gimmick. But at a certain point they really kind of stopped being scary, and no really cared about the characters (the campers) as much as they cared about the guy in the mask. They became chum for the beast. I tried to use that knowledge to my advantage and make something that feels like one of the earlier ones before all the sequels and trips into space made it a parody of themselves.

(Me) Let's say for arguments sake that I'm not the greatest fan of slasher movies. How is The Lashman going to change my mind?

(Cam) I think the characters in the movie will make it scary for you. They have time to breathe, and the audience gets a chance to know them a bit. It's sort of a slow burn to the mayhem, but we deliver on that in a big way I believe. By the end you'll be saying "i don't really dig slasher films, but I love Lashman."
Looks legit........
(Me) I understand that most of the movie was shot around three years ago. Why the delay between filming and post production of the film?

(Cam) Well, I ran into a few personal problems. The first year was anticipated. We shot the principal cast in August of 2010. Shawn C. Phillips came in from Baltimore right before he moved out to San Diego California. Kaylee Williams came to the project last minute and was in from Chicago where she lives. David Vaughn and Jeremy Jones were both living in Nashville when we started the project as was Stacey Dixon. Since then Jeremy has moved down to Louisiana and David is out in Hollywood doing great work. I'm really proud of him.

We actually started on Friday the 13th in August 2010 and I shot the final scene of the movie 11 days later on my Birthday August 24th. I came back and did some re shoots with Todd Bush, Terry Gragg, and Tim Emery a few weeks later. And then the leaves changed. So we started piecing the movie together, but had not shot the opening of the film yet. Alea Jordan and Joe Downing joined the cast and we shot that a year later, and I celebrated a second birthday at Copper Canyon Ranch.

My marriage was in pretty rough shape. And less than two weeks later my children and I moved out and I separated from my now ex-wife. The divorce was a rough one. And I was doing the everyday single parent thing as my children were living with me. I got really sick during all that, and nearly lost my arm to an infection. It was a lot of dark days. The movie got tied up in the legal parts of the divorce, and my head was in a really strange place. The divorce wasn't finalised until August of 2013. All in all it was for the best. I'm much happier now, and my children are well loved. I think both myself and their mother want whats best for them. And I have someone in my life now who loves me, and is supportive. In that regard life is good.

And the wait isn't all bad. During all of that bad news I did find some time to go back and do some pick up shots that we didn't necessarily need, but give the movie a little more oomph. We were able to do some work on the sound which was initially horrid as we had shot during the 7 year cicada cycle in Kentucky.

 Kaylee Williams & Stacey Dixon - honest to god, 
what's not to like?
 I also found Thomas Berdinski, who composed our soundtrack. I had talked to a few composers, and wasn't happy with what I was hearing. Its hard to explain how the best slasher movie soundtracks sound, but even more so how they make you feel as a fan of the movie. Thomas totally got that from the jump. We spoke a little about influences, and the things i liked. I hummed this melody and the guy just went off and made this amazing score out of that. It blew my mind.

(Me) So what are your plans for the movie in terms of publicity and release?

(Cam) Well its funny, because had we released this 3 years ago It would have been simple. Put out a DVD, and hope the video stores pick it up. But now the video stores don't exist anymore, and people don't collect DVDs the way they used to. So we have to be a bit broader.

I had always planned to tour the movie, and still do. The obvious stuff is play at film festivals, and at genre conventions. That's what everyone does. But I'm wanting to take it out on the road and just screen it to whomever will watch. I'm not opposed to playing movie theatres, but the rental cost don't make it really effective sometimes. So I want to do house parties, and bonfires, and play it in bars. That type of thing. Treat it like a punk rock band. Some places you charge admission, while others we may just pass around the hat and hope for the best. In my mind DVD is where movies go to die these days. Once its on DVD people stop talking about it. Its just a thing that happened and it gets filed away on a shelf.

But at some point we will do a DVD. And I'm looking into all kinds of streaming options. I expect it get bootlegged. Not that I want it to, but I know what the times are and I'm not letting it break my heart. I just hope that for the people that do steal it, that you will tell friends about it and toss in a few bucks to me or other indie film makers going forward. Buy a t-shirt or toss a few bucks at a crowd funding campaign. Help us feed out families and support the stuff you like.

And for people who really want to watch slashers in their most classic format, VHS. I think we may have some cool news for them in a few weeks.

(Me) Hey, thanks for the detailed and interesting insight into your world, mate. All the very best with the future with the movie.

(Cam) Thanks!

I'll be checking daily my Facebook friend requests Kaylee or Stacey!

The Lashman is set for a world premiere Saturday April 19th 2014 at the 13th Annual Full Moon Horror Film Festival In Nashville, TN Members of the cast and crew will be on hand for a Q&A following the screening. The Lashman is currently booking dates on the festival circuit, and setting out for a touring roadshow. For more information on the premiere screening please visit

You can find the Lashman on facebook at or on twitter @LashmanFilm