Well folks, we made it through the crazy year that was 2020. Everything is different, but thankfully we still had movies to give us a few distractions and some much-needed laughs at time. But even that was different, we spent less time in a dark theater with a crowd of folks, replacing that experience with our TVs and sound systems at home with numerous streaming services to offer up movies to entertain us. I think I usually average around 70 new movies a year, but sadly this year it was only 42, and that includes even older movies I saw for the first time. And the back catalog of stuff on the various streaming services, I missed out on a bunch of movies too.
And as you can see from the title, we are doing things a little different as well. I had my list down to 11 movies and even after about a week of trying to narrow it down, I couldn’t, so you are getting 10 (+1) this year.
Climate of the Hunter is a new twist on the vampire subgenre of horror. Combining arthouse flair, ‘70s vampire mythos, dark humor, and psychological family drama, it was one of my favorites of the year. The film stars Ginger Gilmartin and Mary Buss as sisters Alma and Elizabeth, who begin to compete for the affections of Wesley (Ben Hall), a man from their past who returns to the secluded wooded community they live in.
The film received a limited theatrical run in December and will be available for streaming on January 12, 2021. Director and co-writer Mickey Reece has made over 25 films in the last decade and I got a chance to speak with him about his unique new film and his style of filmmaking.
With 2021 finally dawned upon us, it brings a new beginning to what was for sure one of the most tumultuous years in anyone’s recent memory in the year 2020, with a plethora of events that occurred (and many still recurring) that need no repeating. We all know of what went down and what’s going on, things which have spilled over and are still extreme challenges in this new year. In short, 2020 was a year most of, if not all, of us would soon rather forget.
However, what shouldn’t be forgotten are the names of the many luminaries in entertainment that we lost last year, also a stunning amount of creatives and well-knowns of seemingly every type and stripe. While in a lot of ways an “in memoriam” list seems rather arbitrary and irrelevant considering the hundreds of thousands of lives lost in the United States alone last year during the pandemic and of people who became global martyrs by way of insurrectional behaviors by authoritative figures all across America, a list like this becomes in a way necessary, as it’s important to give the proper respect and final send off to some of the individuals who touched our lives in so many ways, especially during last year, when all forms of entertainment became not only entrenched in its typical “escapism,” but also became a healing balm in a sense, something that helped people push through during the darkest times of necessary state and governmental-enforced bondage on us all. And it is for that reason, that we present some of our heroes, guiding lights, inspirations, and illuminations who left us in 2020.
James Duval has had a long career in film, featuring in blockbusters like Independence Day and starring in major cult classics like Donnie Darko. The multi-talented actor, who is also a trained musician and yoga instructor, has a resume of well over a hundred credits on IMDb including many films in production right now. On December 1st, his latest film Beast Mode arrives on DVD and Digital. The film is a completely bonkers horror comedy which sees Duval star in dual roles: as the uber obnoxious Hollywood bad boy Huckle Saxton AND as Mike, a Huckle doppelganger. The film features a who’s who of big name talent including C. Thomas Howell, Leslie Easterbrook, Ray Wise, and James Hong. I got a chance to speak to Duval about the film, his career, and time during COVID.
This holiday season is different from all others. Thanks to COVID, we won’t be having large family get togethers, and more and more people will be alone, forced to entertain themselves. The best possible gifts to kill time are movies. You can turn off the lights, pop some microwave popcorn, and curl up on the couch, safe inside from the raging global pandemic. While 2020 has been a raging sh*t show for most of us, plenty of spectacular movies were released in spectacular Blu-Ray and 4K special editions or box sets. Here are a few suggestions for the movie lover in your family or friend circle.
Check out the 2020 Holiday Geek Gift Guide: Blu-ray & DVD Edition.
Marcel Walz is a German-born, LA-living, horror director who embraces the slatterific past of the genre. In recent years he paid tribute to the Godfather of Gore by remaking Herschell Gordon Lewis’ Blood Feast (2016), and has been able to work with genre icons Felissa Rose, Caroline Williams, and Robert Rusler. You can see Williams back in Walz’s new stylish slasher/romance Blind, available now on VOD. Blind was directed by Walz, written by Joel Knetter, and stars Sarah French as Faye Dayne, a successful actress forced into retirement due to a botched eye surgery which left her visually impaired. If having to deal with the loss of her career and new life with a disability, Faye also must deal with Pretty Boy, a masked psycho killer with a penchant for polls, eye torture, and Christmas lighting. I got a chance to speak with Marcel Walz on a break from shooting his latest project to discuss the film and his career.
Full interview below:
Geeks of Doom: I saw Blind a few days ago and man, this was a beautiful film. That may seem like a strange thing to say about a slasher movie, but there are some gorgeous shots and you used lighting so well. I went through a big giallo phase last year and this felt like a modern day giallo. Can you discuss some of your inspirations for the film?
Marcel Walz: Thank you very much. That was actually one of our goals. It’s not really a straight horror movie, it’s more of a horror/drama and with all the colors and styles we have in there, it is very giallo. That was definitely a goal from the beginning.
Geeks of Doom: In terms of giallo, do you have a specific filmmaker you look to, whether it is Argento, Bava, Fulci, etc.?
Marcel Walz: Not really; I am a huge fan of Fulci and Argento. Zombi is one of my favorite old Italian horror films. I am a huge fan because of the European touch the films have in them and it’s something we tried to do as well with Blind.
Geeks of Doom: You mentioned European influence, you are originally from Germany?
Marcel Walz: Yes, born in Germany. I moved to the U.S. three years ago and Blind was my first movie here. It’s very special to me and to the whole cast and crew as well. It was a very tense shoot with a lot of emotions.
Geeks of Doom: I love foreign horror, and European horror is fantastic. Can you speak to some of the differences you see between European and American horror?
Marcel Walz: Oh Jesus that answer is huge. As a filmmaker it’s hard to make a horror film in Germany because the big companies and the producers don’t believe too much in horror enough to give you a good budget. It’s super hard in Germany. We have a huge fanbase for horror, but it’s not a mainstream audience. There’s such a huge audience, but they don’t understand that. In the U.S. the market is huge and even the lowest budget movies get more of a budget than they would in Germany. That’s why I like it here in the U.S. It is easier for me to find a horror groove in the U.S. than in Germany.
Geeks of Doom: I tend to notice European horror films are more graphic and get away with a lot more. Do you think that’s the case?
Marcel Walz: We have ratings in Germany too. It’s weird because we’re fine with nudity in Europe, but with gore those scenes get cut drastically. A good example is Blood Feast. No problem with the nudity, that was fine. But when it came to the gore scenes, we lost about 6 or 7 minutes of the ending. They hate that part.
Geeks of Doom: I want to talk to you about Blind. I really enjoyed the film. You said the cast and crew put a lot into this movie. I LOVED the opening credits being in braille. This film was very respectful to people with disabilities whether it be the visually impaired or deaf mutes. Was that a goal while making it?
Marcel Walz: Yeah from the beginning we started talking about how we have to treat those people with respect. I have a lot of people in my family with disabilities, so we wanted to show the audience what life was like for them. We wanted to show Faye’s daily life and what she’s going through. Sarah, Caroline (Williams), spent two days with a Blind man, who’s actually in the film in the Blind group. It was important to us to not portray them stupidly. We wanted to do it right, to give those people a platform.
Geeks of Doom: You can tell, it was very well done. You mentioned Caroline Williams. Between Blind, Blood Feast, and Rootwood you have worked with some impressive horror icons. Caroline Williams goes back to Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986), Felissa Rose (Sleepaway Camp) was in Rootwood (2018), Robert Russler (ANOES 2) in Blood Feast. What’s it like working with these genre icons?
Marcel Walz: Here’s the thing, I grew up with all those movies, Sleepaway Camp, ANOES 2, Texas Chainsaw 2, I love them. The kid in me was really excited, but then you have to be professional and say “hello.” It’s really hard, but I don’t want to geek out or anything you know. Sometimes you have those moments when you realize “that’s Robert Russler eating people in your movie” and that’s great. It was super fun shooting with Felissa, she is such a great person and I love to work with her. She was great in Rootwood and the movie we finished two days ago, Robert Russler is in as well and he is such a professional person. It so great to look at the monitor and see him creating that character that Joel Knetter wrote and bringing him to life, it’s just so amazing.
Geeks of Doom: It’s obvious you have a great rapport with these actors because they keep coming back to work with you.
Marcel Walz: It’s a big honor for me.
Geeks of Doom: I wrote down a few shots from Blind that I loved. The shot of Caroline in the hallway that’s lit by Christmas lights. The killer also is really great, the character of Pretty Boy. His mask is so subtle, it sometimes looks human and that’s very unsettling. Can you talk about your killer?
Marcel Walz: Well, I’m glad you thought that because that was one of our goals. I know he’s the killer and he murders people in the movie and he is the “bad guy,” but in some scenes you feel for him and that’s great because he is still human. The mask was super creepy for me and in some scenes you just see the eyes which are so white and blue. I think that’s why it sometimes looks like a real human face. That was our goal. We got to work with Ken Hall and he built the mask and he also created the Strangers masks. The first idea was the mask without the eyes. I like it, but I told him I thought it would be creepier with the eyes and put in these blue eyes and I was like “yep, that’s it.”
Geeks of Doom: It totally worked and some of the shots were great. Especially given that your protagonist Faye (Sarah French) is blind in the film, he can get so close to her, it’s just really creepy.
I want to talk about a licensing deal you got made for a line of Blind products. Coincidentally I have known the two women you made the deal with for a long time. Ghost Girl Greetings run by Toni Gabriele and Laurie Necco. Can you talk about this deal and what type of merchandise they’ll be making for the film?
Marcel Walz: We got in touch with them through Joel Knetter, our writer who met them at some horror conventions. I saw all the stuff they made, the Halloween III stuff and it looked so great and I loved the paintings and everything. I mean to have Pretty Boy gift wrapping paper, I mean c’mon. They are doing the wrapping paper, stickers, coffee mugs, it’s just perfect. I love the pinks and blues they used, it’s beautiful.
Geeks of Doom: Full disclosure, I am sipping coffee out of my Ghost Girls Greetings Silver Shamrock Halloween III coffee mug right now. They do great work and I’m sure it’ll be a great promotion for the film.
I noticed on your IMDb you’ve been credited as a director, writer, cinematographer, as well as many other jobs on a film set. You’re kind of a Jack of All Trades. What is your favorite part of filmmaking?
Marcel Walz: That’s not an easy question because I love everything on a set. For me aside from directing, I love to do the set decoration. That’s a thing I really love to do. The last movie we shot we got a chance to shoot in a studio here in Burbank, and we created our own sets there, weird basements, we shot the sequel to Blind…
Geeks of Doom: Well, ok, breaking news.
Marcel Walz: Haha, yeah, we shot the sequel and we built this whole basement for Pretty Boy and some rooms for him. The second film is going crazy, because we’re going into full slasher direction. It’s a continuation from the same night like Halloween 1 and 2 so you see what’s happening after that crazy cliffhanger of the first one. So if it’s not directing that is my favorite part, it’s creating sets and costumes and that stuff.
Geeks of Doom: Well, my next question was going to be “What’s next for you?” but you kinda answered that. Obviously there will be a Blind Part 2, which is great because I did like the ending but it is abrupt and a cliffhanger. Anything else in the pipeline?
Marcel Walz: We finished Blind 2 which will be called Pretty Boy, and we have something we are planning to shoot in June or July of 2021. We will see. I shipped everything to Germany to my editor so we’ll see.
Geeks of Doom: And Robert Russler is in Pretty Boy?
Marcel Walz: Yes, Robert Russler is in this and I cannot wait to work with Felissa Rose again as well. We’ll see what happens next year.
Geeks of Doom: I can’t even imagine what it’s like working in the film industry during COVID. It has to be crazy.
Marcel Walz: It was but it was actually a good experience because we treated everyone right and we all got tested. We had individual bags so no one had to touch anything, we handled it very well, everyone was wearing masks on set. It definitely was weird, but we managed it and no one got sick so that’s a win already.
Geeks of Doom: Last thing I wanted to add: We mentioned the genre icons you’ve worked with. There was a deep cut genre star in Blind, the Greasy Strangler himself Michael St. Michaels. I am one of those who saw that and when I saw him I freaking died. Just wanted to say Thank You for that.
Marcel Walz: Haha, yeah not everyone caught that. We went to the theater for the premiere and I guess not too many people saw The Greasy Strangler because there was a laugh, but not a roar we expected. After it was released I got a lot of messages from people who noticed him in there now.
Geeks of Doom: Thank you so much for giving us so much time, best of luck.
Marcel Walz: Thank you for having me.
Blind is a gorgeously shot horror drama and is available on DVD and to rent or buy on VOD on Amazon Prime, iTunes, Google Play, YouTube, Xbox, Vudu, Fandango Now, Direct TV, Dish Network, Comcast/Xfinity, Spectrum, Cox, Verizon Fios, and through local cable providers via Uncork’d Entertainment. Blood Feast and Rootwood, also by Marcel Walz, are both streaming free on Prime. The officially licensed Blind collection from Ghost Girl Greetings is available here.
1BR Written & Directed by David Marmor
Starring Nicole Brydon Bloom, Taylor Nichols, Giles Matheny, Naomi Grossman, Clayton Hoff, Curtis Webster, Alan Blumenfeld
Runtime: 90 Minutes
Distributor: Dark Sky Films
Release date: April 24, 2020
Streaming on Netflix
Cults are scary. Unlike demons, vampires, monsters, etc., cults are both 100% real and 100% human. In the last few years evidence about the recruiting tactics behind the Church of Scientology and NXIVM have been detailed in docu-series and tell-all books. Los Angeles has its own storied history of cult behavior, most infamously The Manson Family. David Marmor’s new film 1BR captures the unsettling reality of modern cult behavior and gets to the core of things that terrify any and everyone who lives in a big city or an apartment complex. Who are your neighbors really? Who can you truly trust in your building? Who is really watching you from the security cameras? Add in some mesmerizing performances and you are left with one of the most tense psychological horror films of the year.
Directed by Zach Gayne
Written by Precious Chong, Alex Essoe, Zach Gayne
Starring Alex Essoe, Precious Chong, Kris Siddiqi
Studio: Uncork’d Entertainment
Rating: 16+ | Run Time: 1h 16min
Release date: July 7, 2020 (Drive-In/DVD); July 7, 2020 (Digital/On Demand)
From Uncork’d Entertainment and Dark Star Pictures, Homewrecker is a surprising little movie. Imagine Single White Female meets Fatal Attraction by way of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, but done almost as a minimalist stage play. And while the set was a bit conventional, it quickly spirals out of control in the best possible ways. The fact that the two leads co-wrote and co-produced the movie alongside director Zach Gayne shows how intimate this project was.
The Dinner Party DVD | Digital
Directed by Miles Doleac
Written by Miles Doleac & Michael Donovan Horn
Starring Bill Sage, Lindsay Anne Williams, Jeremy London, Mike Mayhall, Alli Hart, Sawandhi Wilson, Ritchie Montgomery
Studio: Uncork’d Entertainment
Not Rated | Run Time: 115 minutes
Release date: June 9, 2020 (Digital/On Demand/DVD)
Plenty of horror movies in recent memory have used the “dinner party” as a plot device to mixed results, and Miles Doleac’s The Dinner Party does bear some resemblance to contemporary horror films like The Invitation and Would You Rather, but that’s only in the set up. After that the film follows with a beautifully shot, super gory, cannibal cult movie with a highly intellectual script, great soundtrack, and slick sense of humor.
Jeff (Mike Mayhall) and his wife Haley (Alli Hart) arrive at a beautiful mansion for the titular event, Jeff hoping to get his latest play produced by their wealthy hosts. Jeff wants things to go perfectly and that means Haley better behave. It’s clear from the onset Jeff is psychologically abusive, and we learn through a series of flashbacks that Haley has a very dark and troublesome past. They are greeted at the door by the obnoxiously playful Sebastian (Sawandhi Wilson) and we soon meet the dinner table of guests including Sadie (Lindsay Anne Williams), Carmine (Bill Sage), who is both a doctor and chef, famous author Agatha (Kamille McGuin), and Vincent (Doleac).
Horror is best when shared with friends and there is no better way to enjoy horror with friends than with The Last Drive-In with Joe Bob Briggs on Shudder. Back in 2018, a supposed one-time-only return for Joe Bob literally crashed the internet. Soon he was back for a few specials, before The Last Drive-In officially returned last year, a Friday night double feature of horror, complete with Joe Bob’s usually insightful and hilarious commentary, special guests, and of course Darcy the Mailgirl. Perhaps there is no better time, since we all quarantined away due to COVID-19, for Joe Bob to return and save us from the monotony of social distancing, remote learning, and zoom meetings. The Last Drive In’s second season begins this Friday night, April 24th on Shudder.