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An Interview with Elias, Director of Gut

by Mike Haberfelner

January 2013

Films directed by Elias on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie Gut - in a few words, what is it about?


It's about the destructive power of desire and need, and the allure of the taboo and morally questionable. It's also about growing apart from your friends and reconciling where you've come from and where you're headed.


Gut's basic plot of the former best friends who have grown apart - is this (at least in part) based on personal experience, and who do you actually identify with more, the bored family man or the geek refusing to fully grow up?


Yes, it comes from personal experiences, I think many people have been down similar roads with friendship. Currently, I probably identify more with the family man, but both characters borrow a lot from my life at various points. The "geek" is definitely based more on a younger more naive version of myself.


The snuff aspects of Gut - what was your inspiration for them, and did you do any actual research on the subject?


No research, no. I owe some inspiration to Argento. He has a way of making death look surprising beautiful, especially in a film like Suspiria, and it was very important that those scenes have an underlying allure and sexiness to them otherwise I think it would be too much of a leap that they would effect Tom the way they do. Dan's reactions are often less extreme to the material, though, because I don't think he even perceives the acts as real initially.


Other sources of inspiration when writing Gut?


I wanted to write a film that could be produced on an ultra low budget if we weren't able to find outside funding so that played a part in coming up with a story that was both simple and minimalist. That would still work well and be effective without a big budget. Much of the film is really a reflection of my own personal fears conflicts and with family and friends over the years and finding that I was never easily satisfied with anything. Little bit of glass half empty syndrome.


How would you describe your directorial approach to your subject at hand?


Mise-en-scène is what they called it in school. Movement within the scene. Just find expressive, but minimalist static angles for the camera and let the characters fill the screen. It's a quiet, brooding type of film. There's something always lurking beneath the surface when we locked down the camera it puts a great deal of focus not only on what's in the frame and what isn't. I think we thought this would fit perfectly with the tone of the script and conveniently with the low budget as well.

As far as working with the actors went, I mostly tried to be their friend and interfere as little as possible. If necessary I would try to embody some of what I wanted in the scene in the tone of my voice when I described things to them. If they need to go over a cliff emotionally or sit even harder perhaps, sit on their emotion and compress it, sometimes you have to find creative ways to illustrate this. I compared the situations in the film to real life examples at time as well, trying to help put them in the situation as much as possible. Above all, I think you have to have a real rapport with actors, there's a lot of trust being exchanged there and they can't ever feel micro-managed or it'll stifle creativity. It's a delicate balance, but one I really enjoy especially.


Since I happen to know quite a few of my readers are gorehounds - you just have to talk about your gore effects for a bit?


To be fair to your readers I should mention that the gore effects actually only make up a very small part of the movie. A lot of time and effort was put into creating them and I'm very proud of how well they turned out. The end results were a meld of practical and prosthetic makeup effects combined with some really innovative additions and manipulation in post using Flame.


What can you tell us about the key cast, how did you get them, and what made them perfect for their roles?


Jason Vail, Sarah Schoofs

We had an open casting call, narrowed it down and then tried different parings to find the best chemistry. Jason has a stoic quality that I think really works for Tom, and he can do a lot with very little, which was something the role really called for, a very contained and internalized performance. 

Nicholas had a goofy, boy-like quality that really made him a good fit for for Dan who's admittedly somewhat stuck in his teens/early twenties. He has this way of immersing himself in the part, which was really something to see. He was always in character well before we started rolling. 

Sarah, who played Tom's wife Lily just had a great innocent sweetness about her that really worked for the part, but at the same time, when she needed to go dark places it was like flicking a switch she was just on. I think we really lucked out.


Would you like to talk about the actual shoot and the on-set atmosphere for a bit?


Nicholas Wilder

Sure. We lucked out here again as well. Our whole team was very tight and, though some of us knew each other, most of us were working together for the first time. Everyone was very supportive and really seemed excited about the what we were trying to do. When we'd check the dailies there was usually a small crowd hovering over the monitor to check out the day's work. We had a great AD, Sharifa Williams, who really helped us avoid the typical 14-17 hour days a lot of low-budget films fall into and I think that helped keep people happy as well. Actors and crew really got along beautifully, and you feel the excitement in the room when a scene went especially well. There were tough days as well like you'd expect, but it really felt like we all part of one big family with the same goal. We joked with each other, supported one another and worked our collective asses off to make the film. I couldn't be more happy about how that all went. I even cooked for everyone a number of times and it went over pretty well I think.


What can you tell us about audience and critical reception of your movie so far?


It's been pretty great so far. Lot of good reviews and very positive responses to the film from folks I've talked to on Facebook. Sure we've had our share of negative reviews, but overall I'd say the reactions have definitely been pretty great with the majority being pretty damned positive. We actually made it on four best of 2012 lists recently, which was nice.


Let's go back to the beginnings of your career: What got you into making movies in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?


Started out writing plays and scripts when I was a teenager. I was also doing community theater back then as well. Made the leap into filmmaking as more a means to an ends originally. I wanted to act more and I was already writing so it seemed like a no-brainer to try directing. I made my first short on 8mm video (yes there was 8mm video) when I was 19. Ended up going to college for acting shortly after and then transferred to another 4 year program for filmmaking in 1997 where I actually graduated in 2000.


What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Gut?


A bunch of unproduced screenplays, some shorts, music videos and a feature horror anthology preceded Gut. The Voice Inside was my first short in festivals. I wanted to come up with the most torturous experience I could put a character through on film. Naturally I ended up playing the part myself. It has some pretty memorable moments that include vomiting and some particularly nasty ones that involve a hammer. It was also my college thesis film. It got a good amount of attention and even won some awards. I heard once that Alexandre Aja saw it and had nice things to say. LovecraCked! The Movie was my first involvement in a feature project. I had made a 30 minute mockumentary about H.P. Lovecraft and I decided to invite other filmmakers to contribute shorts that could be cut in between it and create an oddball feature anthology. It was a fun experiment and it got everyone a lot of exposure, while managing somehow to really piss a lot of people off. Never understood that, but it was nice to get some attention with it and it served as a good stepping stone. After that I wanted to shoot a vampire horror-comedy feature I'd written called Dead Sucks, but we didn't have the financing available to do a whole film so I opted to shoot the first few minutes as an introductory short. It went over quite well, but wasn't as successful on the fest circuit as I hoped, probably because it felt like more of a precursor to something else than a complete film. That pretty much brings us to Gut, give or take.


Any future projects you'd like to talk about?


Sure. I co-produced my good friend Rory Abel's first feature Alone, which should be hitting festivals soon. Our Gut leading lady Sarah Schoofs plays a supporting role in it as well and she has some great scenes, which I think genre fans are gonna love. I'm also writing a couple new scripts. One's kind of my take on a ghost story. It comes from a very personal place involving the death of one of my sisters when she was two. The other is a bit of a 180, more of a satire on a pretty popular subgenre of the moment with a very, very dark sense of humor. Like to direct one of those scripts next. Just depends on what gets the most interest when they're finished.


How would you describe yourself as a director?


Probably wouldn't to be honest. Think I'd say I just need to make more films. I'll try, though. It's all about telling a story and giving as much of yourself to that process as I'm able. It's part conviction, part obsession and part catharsis. I think I do it because I feel like I have to express something and this is the most constructive and best way to communicate it.


Filmmakers who inspire you?


Cronenberg, Haneke, Miike, Tsukamoto, Carpenter, Romero, Argento, Bava [Mario Bava bio - click here], Lynch, Kim Ki-Duk, Robert Wise, Joe Dante, John Landis, Peter Jackson, Frank Oz, Sidney Lumet, William Friedkin, Paul Verhoeven... I could go on for a long time.


Your favourite movies?


Dead Alive, The Fly, The Thing, Snake of June, Rabid Dogs, Suspiria, Wild at Heart, Bad Guy, The Haunting, The Howling, American Werewolf in London, Begotten, Dog Day Afternoon, Network, Before The Devil Knows You're Dead, Bug, Robocop, Starship Troopers, Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, What About Bob?, Naked Gun, Bowfinger, Planes, Trains and Automobiles... again I could go on for a while with this one...


... and of course, films you really deplored?


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Can't do it. It's like shitting where you eat, man. There are many I've deplored, like anybody else, even one rather popular horror movie most recently, but it's just not something I'd do for an interview. Hope you can understand.


Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?,, and if you're still looking for more


Anything else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


Not that I can think of. Well, maybe. Our trailer for Gut represents the film pretty well. If you dig it then consider checking out the film. It's streaming On Demand in a lot of places in North America so it should be pretty easy to find. It's not on NetFlix yet or Hulu, but if you think and indie film looks good it's a great thing to support it before it hits subscription based platforms like NetFlix because it gives the filmmakers a much better chance at making back the costs of production and finally seeing a profit. This is all assuming of course that you're interested in watching the film in the first place. If you're not that's totally cool, too. Oh, and if you watch it and want to ask me a question or tell me what you think, feel free to send me an email on Facebook. I'm pretty easy to find.


Thanks for the interview!


My pleasure! Thanks for the opportunity and the great questions!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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and shall not be held responsible for
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Thanks for watching !!!



In times of uncertainty of a possible zombie outbreak, a woman has to decide between two men - only one of them's one of the undead.


There's No Such Thing as Zombies
Luana Ribeira, Rudy Barrow and Rami Hilmi
special appearances by
Debra Lamb and Lynn Lowry


directed by
Eddie Bammeke

written by
Michael Haberfelner

produced by
Michael Haberfelner, Luana Ribeira and Eddie Bammeke


now streaming at


Amazon UK





Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from