You are currently busy with post-production of your new film Ratline.
In a few phrases, what's the movie about?
The movie is about a man driven to re-open a
supernatural floodgate first explored by the Nazi Paranormal Division
during the Second World War. The
man goes by the name Frank Logan, and due to recent discoveries, he
realizes that he may only have a brief period of time to accomplish his
What were your
main inspirations for Ratline?
this movie, I just wanted to do something very strange that would give a
fresh twist to the genre.
of understand going into Savage Harvest that you're going to see an Evil
Dead style gory b-movie. Going
into Scrapbook, you know you're going to see a brutal rape-revenge film.
Going into Deadwood Park, you understand you're sitting down to
watch something in the style of classic 1960's and '70's horror.
But for Ratline, I wanted the first-time viewer to be completely
off-balance, not knowing what to expect and not knowing how Ratline
influenced by history. I love
writing fiction backed by historical fact.
So I did a lot of research on Nazi Germany and especially Heinrich
Himmler while writing Ratline. There
is a lot of violence, and a lot of horrifying, bizarre shit in that pocket
of history, and certainly that influenced Ratline.
But I wanted to tap into that without turning Ratline
over-the-top exploitation movie, like say Ilsa:
She-Wolf of the SS.
I love those old exploitation movies, but I didn't want Ratline
be like one.
In terms of story texture and characters, the two movies that influenced
my development of Ratline
the most were Blade Runner and The
How explicit in
terms of violene will the film be?
is very violent, and it was important on
this project to see as much blood on screen as possible.
I am not the kind of director who thinks all movies should be ultra
gory. I think the level of
violence and gore should be dictated by the story, as well as the tone the
director is trying to achieve. For Ratline, the story, and the atmosphere I was trying to generate, dictated
we make things as violent and bloody as possible.
A few words about
your principal cast: There's top-billed Emily Haack, who's something of a
regular in your films ...
was a major reason why Scrapbook was such a success for us. Em played one of the leads in that movie.
She's a very gifted actor.
For Ratline, she put a tremendous amount of thought into her character and
figured the character out on a hundred different levels.
That brought great believability to the crazy things that go on in
Em is the best of both worlds - she takes direction very well, so our
collaboration not only makes the movie better, it makes our time together
on set very enjoyable. But Em
also has strong opinions about her character, and if I ask her to do
something that she thinks isn't right for her character, she'll talk to me
about it, which again, just makes the movie better.
Jason Christ with Amy Rose
... then there's Jason Christ,
with whom you've also worked quite frequently in the past and who co-wrote Ratline
over a decade ago, Jason played a supporting role for me in Ice from
the Sun (the first project we worked on together).
In the years that followed, Jason and I have worked together on a
variety of projects, in a variety of ways.
recently started writing together. We
wrote a feature script called Seizure (which may or may not ever be
produced) and we wrote Ratline
Jason wasn't too hip to helping me with Ratline
at first - he
didn't want to be part of a Nazi exploitation movie, like Ilsa:
She-Wolf of the SS or
something. I convinced him that Nazisploitation wasn't what I was going
for with Ratline, and then he was on board.
Jason can do a bit of everything (writing, producing, editing, directing)
his focus seems to be on acting. It
is odd to think about, having worked with Jason for so many years, that
he's never really played a lead in a movie I directed.
Well, I cast him as a lead in Ratline, and he delivered a powerful
performance. If the indie
film world wasn't aware of Jason as an actor before Ratline, they'll
definitely be aware of him after.
I should also point out that Jason is among the most supportive and
generous people who work with me. His
dedication to Wicked Pixel Cinema is amazing, and his friendship to me is
easily one of the things in my life I value most.
As far as I know, Sarah Swofford is a newcomer to
your films ...
never worked with Sarah before Ratline.
I met her at the Full Moon Horror Convention And Film Fest in
Little Rock, Arkansas. Deadwood Park was screening there and Sarah and I were both featured guests at the
convention. I could tell
right away that I should keep an eye on her as a potential future
collaborator. After the convention, I rented Sugar Creek, in which she
plays a supporting role, and I discovered that Sarah is an excellent actress
in addition to being a cool person.
months later, Sarah and I were both featured guests at the Texas
Frightmare Weekend horror convention and I took that opportunity to hang
out with her some more. She
continued to impress me.
Almost exactly one year after meeting Sarah for the first time in Little
Rock, she was on set for Ratline, cast in a leading role.
She proceeded to impress everyone on the cast and crew.
Her level of dedication to the project was incredible, despite the
uncomfortable (freezing cold) conditions of the shoot and the long hours
she was working. Though she
is a much younger actress, her professionalism and her command of her
character were on par with veterans Emily Haack and Jason Christ.
Sarah did a wonderful job on Ratline and I look forward to working
with her again on future projects.
Alex Del Monacco
And then there's of course model Alex Del
I were both featured guests at a horror convention in Louisville, Kentucky
called The Fright Night Film Festival And Horror Convention in 2007.
My producer, Jeremy Wallace, ended up talking a lot with Alex
and her team. He found out
that Alex has built a huge fan base by working tirelessly as a model.
She's appeared in various pin-up calendars and several Playboy
videos, and she's been a featured guest at tons of comic book, science
fiction, pin-up, glamour, and fetish conventions.
Jeremy told me that she's been trying to break into the indie
horror arena, but the scripts she's been offered have been disappointing.
Her hope was to break from her pin-up / Playboy image and branch
out by playing against expectations.
As Alex was an incredibly green actress, casting her was a big risk, but
her enthusiasm was attractive, and it was actually fun writing a part for
someone who was trying to bust out of their typecasting.
Alex is used to glamour and maximum sexiness on her photo or video
shoots. But her first shots
on the Ratline shoot required her to go hysterical, having just witnessed
a bloody triple murder. A
fun, drastic change of pace for Alex Del Monacco!
Anyone else in the cast you'd like to
very lucky in casting Ratline, as all the smaller parts were played by
excellent actors as well. DJ
Vivona played leading parts in Ice from the Sun and China White Serpentine. He left the
acting game for a while, but now he's thinking about getting back into it.
He agreed to play a supporting role in Ratline, and he did an
excellent job. I've known DJ
since the late 80's. It is
always a blast to be working on a new and exciting project, but have old
friends along for the ride.
R. Engel played a memorable part in Deadwood Park for me, as Frank, the
drive-in theater owner. He
kindly agreed to come back and play a part in Ratline.
Just like on the last movie, Joe was fun to work with and his
performance was outstanding.
One of the most interesting casting choices on Ratline
Pemberton, who plays a supporting role.
Mandy is a very successful alternative model who models under the
name "Apnea". She
was one of the most popular Suicide Girls back in the hey-day of that
website. She's been
photographed by the top photographers in the field and she's graced the
pages of over 70 magazines, appearing on the cover of many.
She greatly broadened her fan base by appearing on Playboy.com, and
then she broadened it further when she was featured in a program called E-rotic on Playboy TV. Amanda
"Apnea" Pemberton was named Top Alternative Model Of The Year by
Gothic Beauty Magazine and her most recent accomplishment is appearing in
the pages of (and on the cover of) a new book called Bizarre Girls, published by England's popular
The film's website/mySpace/whatever else?
about Ratline usually show up at
You can also keep tabs on us via our MySpace pages:
Pixel Cinema: www.myspace.com/wickedpixel
are the MySpace pages for some of our wonderful actors:
"Apnea" Pemberton: http://www.myspace.com/apneatic
Also, check out my weekly celebrity blog at FEARnet.com.
It's called Surviving Cinema: Confessions Of A Working
Director and it gives you a more intimate and honest look at making
a living as an independent filmmaker.
and where will the film be released?
My aim is to have a first cut of
Ratline done by
the end of this year. There
are no distribution plans in place yet.
I'm guessing Ratline will have an early or mid-2010 release.
Leaving the present
behind for a while and moving on to the past: What got you into filmmaking
in the first place?
just always loved movies and I realized at a very early age that I had an
interest in making them. I
took possession of the family 8mm film camera when I was 12 or 13 and I've
been on that path ever since.
school, I made lots of shorts, shot on VHS.
Then, my senior year of high school, I made a 90 minute feature
called The Scare Game. Two
years later, I made my only college student film, The Fine Art.
two terrible student movies were intended as educational exercises.
I figured no one would ever see them.
But then I was offered a distribution deal for both of these
movies, and the next thing I know, they're released on home video all
around the world.
While these two student films were never gonna land me a three picture
deal at Paramount, it was this first home video distribution contract that
pushed me over that line. Suddenly,
making movies was no longer my hobby.
It was my career.
What can you tell us about your debut feature, which I believe was Savage Harvest from 1994?
Savage Harvest was my first professional movie, in that it had a
distribution deal in place before we even started shooting.
The project came with the usual indie film problems; specifically,
the movie was being financed by outside entities, and that financing fell
through right before shooting began.
I had a day job in addition to my filmmaking in those
days, working for a production company in St. Louis, so I had steady
income from that, plus a bit saved up.
I decided to finance Savage Harvest myself instead of delay
production or abandon the project completely.
worked out fine. I don't
remember it being much of a hardship, paying for the production myself (it
was pretty cheap) and I owned the copyright on the finished movie.
After the first two distribution terms were up for Savage Harvest,
it was released through Image Entertainment, one of the biggest DVD
distributors in North America. We
still make money from the Image release of Savage Harvest to this day.
Creatively, the movie is not exactly the highlight of my resume.
I was 21 years old when I made it, and I was much more passionate
horror fan-boy than experienced filmmaker with a firm grasp of the craft.
For years I hated Savage Harvest.
But 7 or 8 years after its first release, I realized that it had a
substantial fan base who loved it for what it was: a gory, visually
frenetic, fun b-movie.
Harvest got a sequel in 2006, Savage Harvest 2: October Blood,
directed by Jason Christ. How big was your involvement in this film?
I acted in the movie for Jason.
I had script approval. I
provided whatever support I could to Jason as he worked his ass off to make the
movie he wanted to make. It was a
very unique experience, seeing a story I wrote being expanded by another writer
into a whole new chapter.
your film Ice from the Sun from 1999, you were one of the first
independent filmmakers to get a DVD-release. A few words about that and
the movie as such?
Yes, Ice from the Sun was one of the very first indie films to see DVD release, and
it was the very first movie shot on Super 8 film to be released on DVD.
done a ton of research about this emerging DVD technology, and I was sure
it was a release format I needed to embrace fast.
Unfortunately, the people who were hired to author that DVD were
not as educated as I was, and their incompetence slowed the whole process
down and created a lot of extra work for me.
The situation was quite infuriating.
Ice from the Sun was a unique movie for me. I had just done Savage Harvest and I was interested in
finding my own voice as a filmmaker (instead of just mimicking my film
director heroes). Ice from the Sun took a
long time to make - four years. So
it is the dominating project of my 20's. Ice from the Sun represents a
coming of age period in my life.
My youth and lack of experience show up as flaws in that film, but
it was good for me to do it. It
not only helped me find traction in my creative pursuits as a filmmaker,
it also really put me on the map because the movie got a lot
of attention for being very unique and fucked up.
A few words about the Severed Head
Network anthology movies?
Short films are a way to refine your skills and
explore new ways of working, without the burden and responsibility of a feature
weighing down on you. But shorts
are also a distraction - when what you probably should be doing is advancing
your career by making another feature! We
had made some short films between Savage Harvest and Scrapbook.
We decided to put them together and supplement them with some shorts made
by filmmakers outside of the Wicked Pixel Cinema organization.
That's how The Severed Head Network came together.
What can you tell us about
started as a concept in Tommy Biondo's brain.
He played Leonard in Scrapbook, and was also that
movie's production designer.
first day of shooting, it was obvious how intense Scrapbook was going to
be. We shot the first rape
scene on the first day and it was very hard to watch.
I looked at cast and crew and explained that, if we stay on the
path we're on, Scrapbook is likely to be seen by about 10 people and then
simply vanish. I asked if
everyone wanted to continue and they all said yes.
I was very wrong about how many people would see Scrapbook!
It is probably my most seen and best reviewed movie. Ice from the Sun
may have put me on the map, but Scrapbook has
given me the most positive attention as a filmmaker.
Could you talk for a bit about I
Spit on your Corpse, I Piss on your Grave (2001)?
movie was made during a period in which I put Wicked Pixel Cinema, my own
production company, on hold for a while.
I was a producer for hire, working for production companies in New
York, the UK, and in France. It
was for French producers, working in partnership with executive producer
Ron Bonk in New York, that I made I
Spit on your Corpse, I Piss on your Grave.
I was asked to make a 70's style exploitation picture in the vibe
of - you guessed it - I
Spit on your Grave.
the French producers started pushing us to make the movie nastier and
nastier. I am a fan of
exploitation movies, especially many of Joe D'Amato's films [Joe
D'Amato bio - click here], so instead of
getting upset by the French producers' demands, I embraced what they were
going for and launched my own D'Amato-style sleaze extravaganza.
decided to go for the throat and make I
Spit on your Corpse, I Piss on your Grave the most in-your-face exploitation film I could make.
Not only did I think this would be a blast, it was a very healthy
way for me to vent a lot of anger that had built up in me at that time.
The indie filmmaking game can be extremely cruel, especially if it
is your job and not just your hobby.
A lot of business associates (all of them were outside of my own
team) had stabbed me in the back and greatly impacted my income in the
couple of years leading up to Spit. Instead of hunting people down and stabbing them in the
throat, or slipping into a bottle of booze, I made I
Spit on your Corpse, I Piss on your Grave. It
was wonderful therapy!
all of the cast and crew were enthusiastic about making such a vile movie
too. It is odd to say it, but
we had a blast making Spit.
movie was produced under poor circumstances, though, and that impacted the
quality of the final product. We
had almost no money to make the thing.
We had to shoot it in eight days, and I only had Emily Haack - the
leading actress in the movie - for three of those eight days!
my post-production time was incredibly short.
For a while, I was editing in 20 hour shifts, trying to meet the
deadline. In the end, these
things impacted the movie considerably.
I was eager to please my new bosses, so I let it go down this way.
But today, a bit older and wiser, I would not make the movie under
those circumstances. I'd ask
for more time or simply not make the movie.
want to check this movie out, look for the Official Director's
re-release version is extended, better edited, and has better music
because Ron Bonk let me go back into post-production on Spit and fix a lot of the movie while he was planning this DVD
re-release. It ain't like
it's an Oscar-worthy movie now, but it's a huge improvement over the
initial, shorter, sloppier release.
To date, I
Spit on your Corpse, I Piss on your Grave, is the worst
reviewed - and most profitable - movie of my career. Quite an experience.
about China White Serpentine (2003)?
China White Serpentine
was another movie I made working for outside producers,
while my own production company Wicked Pixel Cinema took a nap. Again, I was working with executive producer Ron Bonk in New
York and, if memory serves, producers in the UK, and some of the same
people in France who produced Spit.
China White Serpentine
was produced in my older and wiser wake of I
Spit on your Corpse, I Piss on your Grave. I
demanded more time and I worked very hard to make China White Serpentine
better movie for these outside producers who still seemed impressed by me
and eager to work with me.
time, my schedule was insane. After
the horrors of dealing with the idiots who authored the first Ice from
the Sun DVD, I started my own DVD authoring company called Thrill Ride
which I co-owned with Lisa Harness, who had been instrumental in
coordinating Scrapbook's post-production.
years, Thrill Ride Media was the top DVD authoring company in America for
independent films. Plus,
Thrill Ride Media was handling all the post-production and DVD authoring
for all these side projects I was producing for Ron Bonk.
The same year China White Serpentine
was shot, I was also a
producer on four additional independent features.
Looking back, I have no idea how I carried on that schedule - for
more than three years - without putting myself in the grave.
very attached to China White Serpentine, partly because I loved the story,
and partly because I wanted to prove I could do better than I
Spit on your Corpse, I Piss on your Grave. Robin
Garrels came to my rescue. She
had a lot of live theatre writing and directing experience, and a bit of
experience in the indie film trenches, all of which I was impressed by. Robin co-directed
China White Serpentine
with me, which was a perfect
situation. I still got to do
what I wanted to do as a director of that movie, and Robin's involvement
minimized the pressure on me. Plus,
she brought a lot to the movie artistically, making it a much greater
creative achievement than if I had tried to do it alone.
In the end, I was very proud of China White Serpentine, but it only saw
successful release in Europe. In
the States, the distribution machine stumbled a bit and the movie was
barely released at all. Twice, China White Serpentine
has been released on DVD, and both times problems on the
distribution end kept China White Serpentine
from gaining any traction in the
marketplace or with the fans. It
got pretty good reviews, but beyond the film critics, hardly anybody saw
A few words
about Deadwood Park (2007)?
working as a producer for Ron Bonk for three or four backbreaking (but
profitable) years, I decided to change gears again and dust off my own
production company Wicked Pixel Cinema.
Thrill Ride Media was now failing financially, so I dissolved that
company and returned my focus to being a filmmaker.
first movie of this re-launch was Deadwood Park, a creepy,
atmospheric horror movie in the style of 60's and 70's horror films. It was a very long shoot and the whole project, from
pre-production through post-production was three and a half years.
I loved the movie we were making, and I enjoyed the process of
making it very much. Upon
release, it got great reviews. More
importantly, it gave me more credibility as a viable filmmaker.
Before Deadwood Park, a lot of industry people considered me no
more than a micro-budget exploitation filmmaker (thanks to movies like
Scrapbook) or someone who made weirdo experimental art films (thanks to
Ice from the Sun). Name actors - and investors looking to sink big bucks into a
movie - did not have me on their radar.
After Deadwood Park, that started to change. Before the funding dropped out, my follow-up to Deadwood Park
was going to be Seizure. Adrienne
King (star of Friday the 13th), Zelda Rubinstein (of the
Poltergeist-films), Jim VanBebber (of Deadbeat at Dawn and
The Manson Family), and
horror icon - and Golden Globe winner - John Saxon (of A
Nightmare on Elm Street) all signed on to be in Seizure after seeing Deadwood Park.
Any other films you
have directed I have forgotten to mention?
I think you've hit all the features.
On The Severed Head Network DVD, there is a surreal short film that
I directed called Faith In Nothing and an abstract micro-short
(60 seconds long) called Cent that turned out pretty cool.
is done, do you have any future projects down the line?
are plenty of options as to what might follow Ratline, but nothing is set
in stone. Some new interest
in Seizure has come to the surface, but I don't know if anything will come
of it. We started shooting a
project called Flesh for the Devil right after Deadwood Park was done, but
Flesh for the Devil was shelved for a variety of reasons, primarily
financial - but it may come off the shelf and be completed after Ratline,
if the circumstances are right. Also,
I have a zombie movie - with a very unique spin - developing in my brain
at this time. And I wrote a big post-apocalyptic horror movie called Butcher's
Moon that I would love to see enter production.
Mostly, we are interested in gaining new partners on the financing and
distribution ends of things. If
that happens, I'd be eager to see what projects they'd like me to direct.
have also produced numerous films, three of which I'd like you to talk
about just because I love their titles: Bizarre Lust of a Sexual
Deviant (2001), Inbred Redneck Alien Abduction (2004) and Satan's
Cannibal Holocaust (2007).
produced all these movies during that time period that I was working for
Ron Bonk. His production and
distribution company was called Sub Rosa Studios and he partnered with me
to create the Sub Rosa Extreme-line, which includes the movies you
mention, plus I
Spit on your Corpse, I Piss on your Grave and China White Serpentine, and many more - all of them gems, I
assure you! It was this
business arrangement with Ron that gave me the workload that nearly killed
me between 2001 and 2004.
Bizarre Lust of a Sexual
Deviant, a standard exploitation schlocky b-movie,
launched the Sub Rosa Extreme line. It
was the first title out of the gate, it had a very rocky production, and
it primarily survives today because the actors' performances are way
better than they need to be for this kind of movie - most notably, Jason
Christ plays the lead and he does an outstanding job.
Inbred Redneck Alien Abduction
is a goofy science fiction b-movie comedy.
Hillbilly humor and anal probe jokes galore.
It was written and directed by Patrick Voss and it is actually a
very funny, entertaining movie, if you are into that sort of flick.
I'd say this is one of the better titles to emerge from Sub Rosa
Extreme. It is hard for me to
look back on most of these movies, however, with any level of fondness,
just because they represent such a stressful time in my life.
I was done launching new Sub Rosa Extreme feature productions, but a few
projects were still in the works and in need of completion.
One such project was in development in 2005 and it slowly worked
its way through production and post-production, to be released in 2007 as
the final Sub Rosa Extreme movie. This
was Satan's Cannibal Holocaust, a ridiculous but very entertaining movie
about a cannibal cult infesting subterranean catacombs and emerging at
night to abduct homeless people and eat them.
The director of Satan's Cannibal Holocaust is Jim Wayer, who is today my
right hand man in Wicked Pixel Cinema's day-to-day operations [Jim
Wayer interview - click here].
Any other films you've
produced you'd like to talk about?
I was the executive producer on
Five, a feature
which is now entering post-production.
The movie stars Jim VanBebber, Amanda "Apnea" Pemberton,
and five-year-old Evie Dodson. Five is set in the early 90's and it is about family and work-related dramas
unfolding in a typical blue-collar household in a Midwest factory town -
all seen through the eyes of a five year old girl.
The movie is directed by Jessie Seitz.
Jessie was the production designer and co-story-writer on Deadwood Park, and she is a producer on
A few words about your
production company, Wicked Pixel Cinema?
founded Wicked Pixel Cinema in 1995, after finishing Savage Harvest.The first Wicked Pixel Cinema movie was
Ice from the Sun.
I want Wicked Pixel Cinema to continue re-inventing itself as the years
go on. I don't want Wicked
Pixel Cinema to fall into a rut. We
make a very different kind of movie each time a project gets the green
light. This keeps things
exciting for me and my team, and hopefully, this is exciting for our fans. I like the idea of people wondering what the hell Wicked
Pixel Cinema is gonna surprise them with next.
as director as well as producer, as writer as well as actor. Which part
of filmmaking do you like best?
I love all the aspects of making movies, but
directing is my top passion.
Some filmmakers who have
George Romero, Francis Coppola, Stanley Kubrick,
Mario Bava [Mario Bava bio -
click here], Terrence Malick, William Friedkin, and David Cronenberg.
Your favourite movies?
Romero's original Dead-trilogy,
Apocalypse Now, Paths of Glory, 2001, The Shining,
Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line, The
Exorcist, The French Connection, Videodrome, Don't
Look In the Basement, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Blade Runner,
Pi, The Prowler,
Two-Lane Blacktop, The Changeling with George C. Scott, and the
Band of Brothers miniseries.
of course, some films you really deplored?
to avoid Hollywood bloated-budget crap, and I tend to cut some slack for
low-budget indie films for obvious reasons.
So, I don't see many movies that infuriate me.
When I do see a really bad movie, it is sometimes because someone
told me how terrible it is - and I then see it out of morbid curiosity
(for example, Uwe Boll movies). When
the reviews are really, really terrible (for example, the recent Day of
the Dead-remake, or Creepshow 3) I don't waste my time or money at all.
honest - I'm not a big fan of what's been hot in genre films
of recent years. I can't get
into Eli Roth movies, for example. Also,
I saw Hatchet because of the glowing critical praise
Anchor Bay purchased
for the film, but the movie did not live up to the hype for me.
However, I hesitate to say I deplore these movies.
the time, when I don't like a movie, I don't crucify it.
I just assume that the director was throwin' something out that I
didn't care to catch. Just
because it wasn't my cup o' tea doesn't mean the director failed.
On the other hand, there have been a few stinkers over the years that
made me very angry that I'd spent my hard-earned cash to see them.
Gus Van Sant's Even Cowgirls Get the Blues was probably the first
film I saw in the theater that was so stupid I complained about it for
months. I paid to see Brian
De Palma's The Black Dahlia in the theater and I was irate at how bad it
was. Rob Zombie followed up
his excellent Devil's Rejects film with the terrible Halloween-remake.
Romero's most recent zombie flick, Diary
of the Dead, was pretty
awful, I'm sorry to say. And
a decade ago, I got scammed into seeing The Mummy starring Brendan Fraser
and I have been pissed off about it ever since.
you are dying to mention and I've just forgotten to ask?
I'm a featured guest at the Texas Frightmare Weekend horror
convention in Dallas, TX, May 1st through the 3rd 2009.
You can go to texasfrightmareweekend.com
for info and tickets.
It is a great convention - one of the best we've been to.
Pick up some tickets and stop by the Wicked Pixel Cinema table to
And thanks for doing this interview, Mike. It has been a pleasure!
for the interview!