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Sunday, 10 August 2014

Werewolf Rising DVD release & Interview with actor, Bill Oberst Jr.

This week I had three surprises. The first of which concerned the woman I am married to. My wife, it's safe to say, doesn't share my love of horror. In truth, she puts up with my obsession with science fiction with silent mocking though she does actually like the fantasy stuff. However, she doesn't at all like what she refers to as "That sick and twisted nasty stuff that I like to watch" - which sounds a lot creepier and suspicious than I meant it to be when I wrote that....honest. 

As a consequence, she rarely watches any of the material that I'm sent to review, because if there's one thing that she dislikes more than horror, it's low-budget independent horror.
However, she does have a soft spot for Werewolves, well, she likes the soft-core porn fest that is True Blood, so that almost counts I suppose. Actually, if truth be told, I kind of like True Blood too, well I like the actress that plays Tara May.....but you knew I was shallow didn't you?

So when the preview disc from Image Entertainment UK came through my letterbox the other day I was my usual excited self to receive a brand new movie and so proceeded to read through its accompanying blurb. To be honest, I'm not sure why but I wasn't expecting a lot from this particular film - maybe I wasn't in the mood for Werewolves. I also wasn't expecting my wife to suggest, after also reading the films blurb, that she watch it with me. After all she said, Werewolves are cool......really? I did try to warn her that this was one of those Indie films she dislikes so much, but she said that for some reason she had a good feeling about this one. I wasn't convinced, but who am I to argue with her? I've learnt that it's best not to.

So we sat down together a few nights ago to watch a low-budget Independent horror film for the first time ever together. That was the first surprise this week. The second surprise is that we both liked it. For you see, contrary to one or two reviews that you may have seen (one of which who shall remain nameless, spectacularly misses the point of the plot), Werewolf Rising is very much better than I thought it was going to be, in fact I enjoyed it immensely.  I will be honest in saying that its not perfect, there is one significant negative (and it is something of a biggie, I'm afraid) which I'll come onto later. However for the most part, it is a hugely enjoyable film.

But first a brief synopsis.......

Melissa Carnell as Emma....Nicely acted, oh & she's lovely.
"Deep in the sinister woods lives an unimaginable terror, that wreaks death and destruction when the moon is full. 
 
When Emma returns to her childhood home deep in the Arkansas mountains, she’s in need of rest and relaxation, but her problems have only just begun. What she finds is slaughter, fear and the foul pestilence that comes with a full moon.

A bloodthirsty werewolf is tearing through the township, ripping and ravaging all who cross its path; revealing a menacing underworld that few knew existed. Suddenly Emma finds herself plunged into a fight for her life and more – a fight to the finish for her soul."

One factor that sets Werewolf Rising apart is the generally good level of acting throughout, fans of Bill Oberst Jr. in particular will not disappointed as one of the acting stalwarts of contemporary indie horror puts in another deliciously intense and creepy performance of the kind he's well known for. In this movie he's a real nasty piece of work all right and the movie's tour de force.
Bill Oberst Jr sends the cast into raptures with his 
famous Frog impression..

Two of his pivotal scenes 'book-end' the movie, his first takes place during opening couple of scenes on a cold and foreboding country road, for which the camerawork and and lighting is excellent. Oberst from the outset sets a nicely chilling tone for the Werewolf proceedings to come. His final scene, which I won't go into for spoiler reasons, provides a wonderful end to the film and if you wish to scroll down this article he mentions in his interview with me the extremely challenging nature to making that sequence.

The rest of the cast members too are generally good, especially Melissa Carnell as Emma, the revering alcoholic who is haunted by chilling dreams of her youth and Matt Copko as town bad-boy Johnny Lee. Two faces for the future methinks.

The two violent and very satisfyingly deranged scenes book-end a very nicely paced film in which we are treated to the chance to actually get to know a little about the characters, rather than a slap dash dive into the horror abyss. This approach is fast becoming something of a trademark of the film company involved, where previous offerings from Image UK/ Ruthless Pictures (and also a previous blog entry on here) such The Invoking, have also displayed a more measured and patient pace to the plot's proceedingsI'm frankly at a loss to explain one 'review' that suggested fast-forwarding through sections of the film would be advisable to get to the action bits - blimey, talk about well and truly missing the point. Some of us actually like character development, matey and thankfully director BC Furtney seems to agree.

Werewolf Rising looks and sounds great. The excellently eerie and atmospheric Carpenter-esque soundtrack by Trevin Pinto is nicely off-set by the solid direction of Furtney, as well as the camerawork & cinematography (Ernesto Galan) throughout with both the blood and guts sections and the sprawling landscapes all looking excellent. I'm not sure exactly what part of the the States it was shot in, but it certainly has a distinct resemblance to areas where The Invoking was filmed, though I may be wrong about that - I often am.

Perhaps the major weakness of this film, and the factor that I'm sure many viewers and critics alike will focus on, is the Werewolf. On occasion it simply isn't convincing enough. There are moments when we get a furtive glimpse of it when it is lurking behind the bushes and tree's and the lighting and cinematography makes those brief glimpses pretty effective. The head shots too of the creature look convincing and skilled which at these points make an effective monster. However, it is when we see the Werewolf in full body action, well to be polite, it lacks any convincing quality at all. I appreciate that budgetary constraints would have meant that huge amounts couldn't be spent on the effects or costume, and I certainly don't want to belittle the talents of the efforts of the designers involved because it obvious that a huge amount of time and effort has gone into the making of the creature's get-up. However, I can't help feeling that it would have been far better to have avoided any full on views of the creature and simply left most of it's appearance to the viewers imagination. It's the one factor that stops this film from being regarded as very good, father than simply, good.

That being said, This is a movie that surprised me in it's pacing, atmosphere and overall level of acting quality enough to make me want to watch it twice. So enjoy it for what is is, and don't get too high and mighty about the Werewolf effects. If that wasn't enough, my wife enjoyed the film too.


Oh and by the way - this is one of the films that you simply MUST watch through to the end of the credits.

Werewolf Rising, comes to DVD from Image Entertainment UK on 22 September 2014.

The Facebook page for Image Entertainment UK can be located HERE

Werewolf Rising can also be found on that Twitter thing at https://twitter.com/werewolf_rises




Interview with Bill Oberst Jr.

Through a series of events during the undertaking of this review, I managed to snare one of the Main actors in Werewolf Rising on Twitter. As Bill's was the standout performance in the film I was about to go into what I like to call 'Stuey pestering mode' which essentially entails me making an absolute pest of myself until the poor victim relents and falls weeping into a heap while accepting my begging for an interview or the like. As it turns out, Bill is an absolute gentleman and the epitome of niceness as he generously agreed straight away to do an interview thingy - This was the third surprise of the week. 

Firstly, a little bit about the man, who in  2012, a British fan poll for the site Erebus Horror named Oberst "The King Of Indie Horror."

Bill Oberst Jr. 
Bill is arguably most well known for a Daytime Emmy Award-winning performance in Take This Lollipop and a ratings-winning role on CBS-TV's Criminal Minds.

The Season 9 episode of the CBS-TV series Criminal Minds, "Blood Relations," in which Oberst guest starred with Adrienne Barbeau and Tobin Bell, was the evening's most-watched program on television on its April 2, 2014 premiere. Oberst played a deformed serial killer (whom series fans dubbed The Killer Woodsman) in one of the series most outright "creepy" episodes.

He is perhaps most widely-known internationally as the face of director Jason Zada's Take This Lollipop, awarded a 2012 Daytime Emmy Award by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in the category of "New Approaches-Daytime Entertainment." Oberst has been seen by well over 100 million viewers worldwide in the role of a predatory online stalker in the interactive application for Facebook users.

His individual awards include a 2013 Best Actor Award at Pollygrind Film Festival in Las Vegas, a 2012 Best Actor Award at Shockfest Film Festival in Hollywood, a 2012 Golden Cobb Award for Best Rising B-Movie Actor, a 2012 Baddest Villain Award at ZedFest Film Festival in Los Angeles and the 2013 Monstey Award for Great Historical Monster Moments.

His shared awards include a 2013 International Critics Award at the Deauville Film Festival, a 2013 Audience Award at Phoenix Film Festival, a 2013 Audience Award at New Orleans Film Festival, a 2013 Copper Wing Award at Phoenix Film Festival, a 2013 Best Feature Award at Unreal Film Festival....believe me, the list gies on.

For a more detailed biography of Bill's career, visit his IMDB page at         http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2454994/



So here is the interview with the marvellous individual that Is Bill Oberst Jr.


Q) Many thanks, Bill for taking the time out to answer a few of my questions. For those misguided souls who may not be familiar with you, can you tell us a little about your background prior to your acting career?

A) Stuart, before I prattle on, I must thank you for your blog and for supporting "independent-minded" film. I quite enjoyed your interview with Adrienne Barbeau http://stuart66.blogspot.com/2013/04/an-interview-with-and-appreciation-of.html 
I had the pleasure of working with her on an episode of CBS-TV's CRIMINAL MINDS this year and in-between torturing her with barbed wire, I peppered her with my fanboy questions. She was so gracious. I caught that same spirit reading your chat with her.

As for me, I am your typical childhood-geek turned adult-actor. The bio on my IMDb page http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2454994/ boils it down pretty well: I am fascinated by angels and I play devils. 


Er, Bill - you have something on your chin...no, to the left a bit
Q) I seem to recollect reading somewhere that one of your biggest influences for becoming an actor was Lon Chaney's 1925 performance of The Phantom of The Opera.  It was indeed genius & is in my top 10 movies of all time (his is the profile pic for this blog's FB page). Why did it resonate with you?

 A) I am looking at Lon Chaney right now, Stuart; I have that famous picture of him in a soaking wet costume after filming the drowning scene of PHANTOM on my desk. It inspires me. Chaney was a tough old bastard who'd done a hundred films before he hit it big. He gave a ride to a poor hitch-hiking day player named Boris Karloff at Universal. Chaney told him, "The secret is to be unique - do something in pictures that no one else can or will do." 

While I enjoy and study all of Lon Chaney's work, his Erik in PHANTOM OF THE OPERA touches my soul and excites my spirit. I feel Erik's rage at being born a freak; I perversely (and cathartically) delight in his mocking words to Christine "Feast your eyes! Glut your soul on my accursed ugliness!" I was a boy of 13 when I first saw that unmasking scene on a 16mm projector at Halloween in a local Mason's hall. My heart stopped. I read some years later that seeing this cinematic moment in 1925 made Ray Bradbury know that he wanted to spend his life writing fantastic fiction. Chaney haunts me. Oh how I would love to play him one day.


Q) I interviewed Jasper Cole a little while ago, who like you has a distinguished resume in horror films and I asked him why horror still seems to get a bum deal when it comes to critical respect. He was at a loss to explain why, even though financially they are arguably the most successful genre. Why do you think this is so?

A) Karloff said that the genre should more properly have been labelled "terror;" since the word "horror" refers to a repulsion, while "terror" is akin to fear. Lately I see the term "thriller" being used more by younger directors whose films may include horrific elements but who don't want to have the "horror" label. 

Horror is about one thing and one thing only: death; our inevitable, impending, death in the body. Our bodies die and they rot. That's a messy, hard and very fearful truth. Like erotica, horror deals with base fears and longings. These films make money, but they get no respect because everything in our society denies the truth that horror films slam into your face: death is coming and you can't stop it. Ain't no pocket in a shroud. So horror is treated as entertainment's dirty little whore - trotted out to turn a trick and make a buck and then told it should be ashamed of itself. That's the truth.


Q) My least favourite horror genre is found footage & favourite tend to be more psychological (The original Wicker Man is my all time favourite). Tell me about what floats your particular horror boat. 

A) We are birds of a feather in this respect. I hate found footage with a passion. I am bored by slashers. But give me a film that delves into the darkness of the mind, with some supernatural element thrown in for good measure, and I am in horror heaven. As a fan I want to be surprised, I want to be terrified and I want to think. I wish it were easier as an actor to find the magic bullet projects that do all of those things.


Getting ready to kick some Zombie ass - It's good to be President.

Q) A few of the movies you've been in, such as Abraham Lincoln vs Zombies, have been pretty bad. Your performance though in it has been generally regarded by all as excellent. How difficult is it to be focused, dedicated etc if you know a script of film just sucks chunks?

A) The only part of a movie that I have any control over is my performance. Whatever I do will be around forever. So I had damn well better focus on doing my job to the best of my ability and keep my nose out of other people's part of the work. I love what I do and I try to do it so that if I were the one watching it , I'd be entertained. The rest of it is out of my hands, thankfully so, since I'm a control freak by nature. Letting go of what I cannot control is healthy. 


Q) Any genuine career regrets?

A) Yes. I've degraded women a little too much, I think. Some of that is inherent in the modern horror genre, of course, but I want to back off on it a little in future. We are all God's children and women are not the enemy of man. They drive us crazy, of course, but we drive them crazy too. I don't think it is entirely healthy to have kids watching films in which "bitch" is the primary method of referring to a female.


Q) And your proudest work?

A) I've made a handful of movies that my mother could watch and enjoy, including two Hallmark Channel movies, the CRIMINAL MINDS guest star role and a docudrama about the American Civil War. I just did a talking dog movie with Dean Cain that will be out this Christmas, and that will fall into this same family-friendly category. I love horror and I love the dark material, but it's also nice to be able to say "Mom, this is OK for you to watch." 


Q) I believe that you're a man of faith. Have you ever had to reconcile that with some of the downright nasty arseholes that you've played or is that a silly question as it's just acting?

A) No it is a good question. I'm a follower of Jesus and I love his parables. They all had an antagonist. You can't tell a good story without an antagonist. Onscreen I am frequently the very representation of what we can be at our worse; with our selfish selves at the centre of the universe instead of a loving God. I take this responsibility seriously. If I am gonna play evil, I'm gonna by-God play evil and not fool around. That's my job.


Just a normal Saturday night in LA
Q) How did your part in Werewolf Rising come about?

A) Jesse Baget, whose Ruthless Pictures Studios produced WEREWOLF RISING, had previously hired me for his BLACKWATER VAMPIRE. On that set, I told him how much I wanted to be in a werewolf movie. 6 months later he called me and said, "I got that werewolf movie you wanted." Luckily the film's director BC Furtney, was willing to indulge me, as well. They are both great guys.


Q) I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed the film & particularly your performance which is deliciously nasty & twisted, Yet you haven't seen it yet. Is this due a dislike of watching yourself or just by chance?

A) No, it is due to the fact that nobody has sent me a copy of it yet! You guys always get the films before we actors do. I'll see it when it comes out. Until then I will have to rely on your opinion, and "nasty and twisted" is pretty much what BC and Jesse were aiming for. Me too! So I'll take that and be grateful for it.


Q) Without giving anything away for those yet to see the film, you've mentioned to me the difficulty in filming the final scene. Tell us about the slime & the frostbite!

A) Without giving anything away, as you so wisely say, I will say temperatures that night were below freezing, which may add a layer of interest for viewers who care about such behind-the-scenes info. We shot quickly to avoid frostbite, and all ended well, but hot water never felt so good. That's the business. It was great fun.


Q) Almost finally - And this is very very important (Jasper Cole got this wrong, but I forgave him): Alien or Predator?

A) Jasper is my buddy (and one heck of an actor, by the way) and I may join him on your List Of Shame for this, but I must say PREDATOR.


Q) And finally finally, the next time you're over in the UK then pop up to Aberdeen - there's a pint of Guinness (or whatever is your poison) with your name on it!

A) Guinness will do just fine, thank ye very much. I will take that as gospel. 


So there you have it - not only is Bill a fine actor and bastion of independent horror, he turns out to be absolutely nothing like many of his characters - 'no shit, Sherlock' I hear you say. He is a professional and rightly proud of his craft. To give you an idea of how much he cares - I hope that he doesn't mind me mentioning the first thing he asked me after I had told him that I had just seen the film. He was genuinely anxious to know how his last scene had come out due to the extreme cold of the night on which it was filmed and hoped that the conditions hadn't detracted from his performance. I suggest that you see the film and you'll see that he has absolutely nothing to worry about.

I have to thank him once again for being so kind, helpful and downright complimentary in my somewhat pitiful attempts to be a proper interviewer.

I also want to make it abundantly clear that the review of the film and my overall opinion of Bill's stellar performance in it was done well before the interview - I may be many things (ask my wife) - but I'm not a sycophantic reviewer. For example, it is quite clear from his catastrophically wrong answer in regard to the Alien/Predator question that he is actually far from perfect  - but what the hell, he's forgiven......though not quite enough to keep him off my list of shame :-)

Thanks Bill. You are a gentleman.


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