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Exclusive Interview: Leslie Simpson – Star of Dog Soldiers, Straw Man, The Descent and Invasion of the Not Quite Dead

Posted by LiveFor on February 4, 2010

Leslie Simpson has starred in horror modern greats such as Dog Soldiers, The Descent and most recently Doomsday. This year he is set to appear in Andrew Barker’s psychological thriller Straw Man as well as The Indywood Project’s Invasion of the Not Quite Dead. He has been a friend of Live for Films for a while now and LFF’s Rich got a chance to catch up with Leslie and discuss his past projects and what we can expect to see from him this year…

Hey Les, thanks for taking the time to speak to us.

You’re best known for your work in Neil Marshall films, how did you guys meet?

– To get ahead in this industry is often a question of luck (or fate, depending on which side you dress so to speak) and it was definitely the case for me.

I had literally just decided to become an actor after years of doing my thing on the wild side. My first point of call was to join the Actors Centre in Newcastle, where there was a board offering student film work and profit-share theatre.

In among the usual guff one day was a brief for a paid short called Combat. Neil had sent the brief for his short to lots of professional agents in his search for someone to play the lead. For some bizarre reason no-one got back to him, so he decided to post it up at the Actors Centre.

I saw the post, sent him my photo & (laughable) CV, and the next day I got a call to pop over to Carlisle to meet him. We spent the afternoon getting bladdered in a pub and talking films. Now I thought I knew my films, but Krishna’s holy underpants, Neil’s a walking encyclopaedia. Suffice to say we got on great. At the end of the afternoon when Neil got up to leave he turned round and said I’d got the job. He was such a relaxed & easy-going bloke and I was having such a good time that I’d forgotten why I was there. Now you’ve got to love a bloke whose idea of an audition is getting you rat-faced and chewing the fat about your favourite subject. If only all life was like that.

And there’ll no doubt be lots of agents & actors who read the brief when it came into the office who’ll be kicking themselves now. Gerrin there Leslie!!

You play a Crawler in The Descent, what exactly did you have to do?

– I don’t know why but there’s something of the masochist in my personality complex. If something’s not difficult, I’ll find some way to make it difficult on myself. At drama school they used to say that I worked as though I carried six bulls on my back and I think that’s true to some extent. It’s fair to say that playing a crawler was an ideal job for me.

For me, acting is ultimately a case of wiggling your backside when you’re asked and the ability to pull faces convincingly on cue. Playing a crawler on the other hand was a case of not shaking like a dog crapping razor-blades on cue and trying to look menacing while you’re bollock naked and wiggling your shaved backside in the air. Neither was an easy trick to pull off in sub-zero temperatures. Add to that an almost five hour make-up job each morning, three hours de-rigging at the end of each 14 hour shooting day, a cave set that was made out of sandpaper, and the barrel of KY jelly we were smothered in daily that actually insulated us against the heat… and you have my dream job.

The Descent is a modern masterpiece in my opinion, and I’m delighted to have been part of it. I was asked to revive the role in the sequel but decided against it. Not because I wasn’t prepared to go through the process again, but because I didn’t want to travel the world signing autographs at conventions as the crawler from The Descent series. I love being asked for my autograph, sure, but, erm, not that much.

Doomsday didn’t quite get the reception many expected on its release, do you think expectations were abnormally high following The Descent?

– Absolutely.

It was a great shoot, and the mood was as buoyant, relaxed and as good fun as the previous two films.

I think Doomsday highlights an inherent flaw in the film industry. Because the desire to make money far outweighs any creative concern in the studio system now, there is no room for development or nurturing. Doomsday was a massive undertaking in comparison to Neil’s previous films. He had bigger toys to play with and was going for it, putting everything to the test and experimenting with his own possibilities and craft. He was given the paint and brushes and lordy lordy, he threw the paint at the canvass with relish in an effort to entertain and delight. For me, Doomsday is a master craftsman’s learning curve, a technicolor fantasy and a prime slice of wanton imagination. There are hundreds of examples in the history of cinema, but history has been re-written by a small number of near-sighted business men who’re stamping on the shoulders of the greats who built everything, and now they’re systematically destroying the industry that they talk about ‘sustaining’ because they’ve forgotten the basic principles. Never trust someone who keeps telling you they’re honest.

And at the very least, where’s his praise for the actual film-making? No-one can tell me that it’s a badly ‘made’ film whether they love or loathe the story, because it’s just not.

There see, I can get serious too if I want to. Don’t cross me, right? (walks away muttering)

copyright Neal Morgan

You work with a lot of the same actors on your projects, Craig Conway for example, are all you guys good friends?

– I don’t see them enough to be honest, and it’s even harder now for various reasons. We all get on great and share the same work ethic – then we get roundly drunk and have a laugh when we’re done. There aren’t any egos in the group.

But the ensemble method was Neil’s original vision. He told me on that first day that he wanted to build an ensemble that he could trust and would know what he was after without asking; following the example of one of his heroes, John Ford.

You don’t appear to be in Neil’s next film Centurion, is there a reason for that?

– None of the ensemble are involved in Centurion. There’s no contract signed in blood to say that he has to work with us on every film. Beyond that there’s nothing specific to report. I wish Centurion the very best of luck.

I never knew you were in Hammer Horror Films, Beyond the Rave. How was it working on that?

– Oh yeah, I’m a dark horse me. Hammer an’ that. It was great. I played the vampire Belial, a right little toe-rag who was part of a double act with Jake Maskell (best known for playing Danny in Eastenders).

It was extremely successful when it appeared as an online web-series, but it’s due out on DVD pretty soon as a single film cut.

I think my abiding memory of the shoot was the night I was harnessed and suspended upside down from a tree. The idea was to drop from the tree, bite the neck of a passing victim and haul him back up. We did the stunt over and over, but because of technical difficulties we couldn’t nail it and I was up there for much longer than anticipated. Eventually all the blood in my body ended up in my head and I fainted. On the last take they dropped me down as per the action – but because I was unconscious I smashed the poor bloke playing the victim full in the face with the top of my floppy head. No doubt my head’ll have been about a pound heavier than usual, what with being engorged with blood an’ all.

That said, I was back for the next scene harnessed up and jumping over a car. I’ll never learn. Don’t know what happened to the other bloke though. Nose job on Hammer no doubt.

As it happens there’ll be 2 films on the DVD. Beyond the Rave and an easter egg short called the Curse of Countess Nymphenstein starring the fantastic Emily Booth and yours truly. It’s a comical take on the 70s Hammer films. I play a horny blacksmith who enters the lair of the countess. Trying to nail the Russ Meyer style of rubbish acting was great fun. Okay, okay, I was lying, I didn’t really need to research how to be rubbish.

Are you ever worried about being typecast since you predominantly feature in horror films?

– I appreciate being asked to do anything at all. Flippin’ heck, I’ll do owt. An actor acts. When I was a kid I had a very strong feeling that I’d be a horror actor at one stage in my career; not from any particular desire to be a ‘horror’ actor – although I’ve always been a big fan of the genre. I’m just grateful that as an adult I get paid to play dressy ups. Beats doing it in front of the mirror in private anyday. Apart from that, if I look back through the roles I’ve played on stage and on screen there’s very little to tie them together, character-wise. The very few people that do employ me have the confidence that I’ll give anything my best shot. I’m used to being ignored because I’m simply not a self-promoter, so anything’s a bonus.

You’ve also done a number of non horror shorts, what attracts you to a particular project?

– I treat shorts like a kick about in the park*. It’s like a training session for me. I get to learn new tricks like bouncing the ball off either shoulder or honing my overhead kick; it’s basically a chance to play and experiment with ideas. In that environment you often get to work with new film-makers. You can get stung by shorts, sure, because most shorts are done as favours, but the bad apples don’t tend to survive very long despite apparent progress in the short term, so I don’t normally kick up a fuss. In the words of William Burroughs, “I take the long view of things”.

copyright Neal Morgan

We haven’t heard much about Straw Man for a while, Phil spoke to (director) Andrew Barker a while back and the trailer looked intriguing, what’s happing with that?

– Now here’s a prime example of something that comes out of left-field when you’re open to offers and willing to accept scripts from strangers. I can tell you categorically that Straw Man is a corker. It’s brave, poetic, layered and very strange. It will certainly split audiences because it’s so un-british and indefinable. It’s been a labour of love for Andy Barker and Adam Krajczynski and post-production has been fraught with difficulties.

The time that it’s taken to complete is down to the fact that it’s digital. Anyone who tells you that the digital revolution will make life easier has never tried using one of those self-serve doowackies at Safeway. They call for security every time you breath near the scales. Now multiply those problems by a gazillion and you come close to trying to put a digital film together. The last cut I saw was magnificent, and I know that Andy and Adam are very close to being happy with what they’ve got. Once it’s done, I’m sure everyone will get a chance to see what they’ve come up with.

You’re in every scene of Straw Man, how did you find that? Did you go method?

– I don’t do drugs.

Oh, right, sorry, I misread. No, no, I didn’t. As far as I’m concerned the method is just another set of techniques and I’m not a technical actor. I prefer to use a more intuitive approach; like Jimi Hendrix, only not as good. I even take my instrument to the loo with me like he did and play with it all the time.

I don’t really like to talk openly about the process I adopt on a particular project because that manipulates the audience perception of what you’re doing. Rather than simply watch and absorb the character as a complete being, the audience will be saying to themselves, ‘do you know what he went through to get into that role?’ And that’s like saying the brush strokes on a painting are more important than the experience of looking at the whole thing.
It’s a matter of opinion at the end of the day. But yeah, good idea Rich, if people don’t like the character in Straw Man, then all I have to do is tell them what I put myself through so they’ll change their minds and think I’m great. Hurray!!

Is being in front of the camera your dream or do you fancy moving in to writing or perhaps directing at some stage in the future?

– Funny you should say that. I’ve been practising my writing and directing skills for years now in community theatre, working specifically with non-actors to see if I can find ways to draw decent performances out of them. See above for the point *kicking a ball about in the park. I’m also co-director of an professional theatre company. When I shift gears from non-actors to professional actors I suddenly find that I can communicate my ideas with infinite ease. As for writing, a similar process has been taking place, and I’m currently half way through an idea that I finally think I might be able to make work on a feature scale. It’s simply a case of transferring the skills of one medium to another and getting the right crew around me. Oddly, I’m also meeting interesting people on a daily basis who might have the means to help me to play around with some ideas without much interference. It’s early days and nothing may happen, but that was a long way of saying, yes, I think I would.

Do you plan to work with Andrew again on a future project?

– I’d work with Andrew again in a Teesside minute. These are hard times to try to break in, but he’s got it all. He’s patient, listens to everyone, has energy & ideas to burn, is confident and in control on set, commands respect from his team without imposing it, and is generally a great bloke to be around. The shoot was flippin’ hard work, but boy was it worth it.

He stinks though. There’s always a downside, eh?

So you are currently working on Invasion of the Not Quite Dead, I remember you saying the script was fantastic, what can you tell us about it?

– Jeebus, this has got to be the longest interview I’ve ever done. I’m expecting someone to come through the door any minute with a red book and an irish accent and go, “Leslie Simpson, This is your Loife”.
Invasion is a little gem. It reminds me of those ’50s sci-fi horrors like “I Married a Monster from Outer Space” or “The Blob”, but with zombies. Er, I think they’re zombies, hard to tell really. It has a lovely cheesy quality to it that’s very endearing and familiar. But it’s also contemporary insofar as it’s very brutal in parts, but satirical and funny in others. There are nods to classics of the zombie genre to keep fans happy and alert. It still needs work, as all scripts do, but it’s definitely a contender.

Did (director) Anthony Lane’s passion to get the film made play a big part in you signing up?

– You have to take your hat off to Ant. It’s hard going for most of us, but it takes a will of tungsten and the endurance of a Japanese game-show contestant to do what he’s doing. I’m sure most people thought he’d have given up by now, but I saw something in his eyes that told me he means business, and he’s starting to win many other people round. And I’m certain that the admiration will soon translate into people offering him the money he needs. After all this business is about the entrepreneurial spirit and he’s got it in spades, and money people will not want to be left behind. Let’s face it, who now hasn’t heard of Antony Lane? He’s honest and innocent and so far he’s been true to his word on everything.

But no, it was the first draft of the script that got me interested. It was flawed but it had more than enough. I’ve been involved for quite some time now and he knows he has my complete backing. I’ve seen he script change over time and he’s sculpting what could potentially be a cult classic.

I watched the teaser promo last week, it looks cool, how did the shoot go?

– Yeah, it was a laugh. He’d never worked with film stock before so he was taking a risk trying to shoot in one day. I pointed my concerns out to him that we’d be against the clock so he was in bits with nerves beforehand. Yoinks! But he’s nothing if not ambitious, and he surrounded himself with people who’d been there before. An hour or so to settle in and he was off and running with no problems at all.

A few ‘names’ have been attached to star in the project, is there anyone you are particularly looking forward to working with?

I’ll work with anyone. I’m not fazed, intimidated or excited by the prospect of working opposite a single ‘name’ or ‘star’ on the planet. I like human beings whatever they do, or whoever they are. They’re fascinating creatures those humans. It’s part of my mission to be interested in them while I’m here.

What about in future projects, who would you like to work with?

– Howard Hawks, definitely. What? He’s what? When for heaven’s sake? But that’s just terrible. You mean… ? Okay, what about Sturges? Well, either really I’m not fussed. Whaaaaaat?? No!! Why didn’t anyone tell me? What’s going on??

I dunno, anyone really. It would be easier to say whose work I try to avoid, but that would only be an opinion and I’m a changeable chap.

Invasion is part of a planned trilogy, right? Any hints if you will make all three?

-That’ll be a… probably not. Not saying whether the character dies or not, but neither Ant nor myself are working on the assumption that I’ll be doing any more after the first instalment. But never say never.

We shall wrap up with our customary Live for Films quick fire questions.

What is your favourite horror film?

– Gah!! I’m not programmed to see films as a competition, and I adore horror… so this is under duress right? But, erm, okay, just for the effect on me at the time and the influence on my acting approach, I’ll say…. Angel Heart.

What film(s) are you looking forward to this year?

– Centurion for starters. It’ll be great to see Mr. Marshall back in cinemas this April. Iron Man 2 is a must see, as is The WolfMan ‘cos I like werewolf flicks. The Expendables is going to be a laugh at the very least, and Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim Vs The World completes my hell or high water list.

What advice would you give any potential victim in a horror film?

– Insist on a cash payment in advance.

If you were to be killed by a movie monster what would it be?

– Lassie.

And what would be your final words?

– Oh, please, don’t get me started…

Cheers, Les.

Look out for Straw Man and The Invasion of the Not Quite Dead later this year. You can also follow Leslie on Twitter @lesliesimpson

Check out the previous Live for Films interviews.

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The Caller – Short film by Andrew Barker

Posted by LiveFor on December 20, 2009

Andrew Barker is the guy behind the forthcoming indie post apocalyptic film, Straw Man, starring Leslie Simpson.

Here is an early short he made back in 2002 starring Marcus Green.

Check out my interview with Andy and the review he did of Blood Feast.

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Live for Films – 2009 A Year in Film

Posted by LiveFor on December 16, 2009

What a year it has been for film.

Neill Blomkamp and Duncan Jones had great debuts with District 9 and Moon. Sam Rockwell acted his socks off in the latter. There was animated loveliness with Up, Ponyo, Fantastic Mr Fox and Coraline, but ugliness with Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Planet 51 and Monsters vs Aliens.

J J Abrams beamed new life into the excellent Star Trek.

There was old school horror in the shape of Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell and brilliant horror comedy in the wonderful Zombieland (it had the best cameo of the year). Dario Argento’s Giallo wasn’t sure if it was a horror or a comedy.

Comic book movies didn’t quite so well this year. X-Men Origins: Wolverine and Zack Snyder’s Watchmen – I enjoyed them both though despite their flaws.

War movies hit the big time again. Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker gave us an intense take on the war in Iraq and Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds changed history for the better. That’s a bingo!

There were toy and book adaption disappointments in the shape of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra and Twilight: New Moon raked in the cash despite not being very good. Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones had mixed reviews.

Joaquin Phoenix lost the plot or is playing the long con when he quit acting to become a rap star and James Franco started an artistic endeavour by appearing on General Hospital.

Both Dragonball Evolution and Streetfighter adaptions had poor finishing moves at the box office. Terminator Salvation brought us our first proper glimpse at Sam Worthington, but left many cold and Ben Foster chased through the darkness in Pandorum. The Stath did it again in Crank: High Voltage and blaxsploitation returned with Black Dynamite fighting The Man.

The Perfect Getaway had a few twists and turns from the norm and The Cove opened my eyes to the slaughter of dolphins.

Chaos reigned in Lars Von Triers’ Antichrist. Bruce Willis went plastic in Surrogates. Gerard Butler was a Gamer and a Law Abiding Citizen. George Clooney was Up in the Air after The Men Who Stare At Goats. The Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man and Colin Firth as A Single Man confused a few while Carey Mulligan had An Education that many adored, but left me disappointed. Johnny Depp and Christian Bale were Public Enemies and Viggo Mortenson began a long walk down The Road. Audrey Tautou showed us Coco avant Chanel.

Spike Jonze sailed to Where the Wild Things Are, Richard Kelly opened The Box and The Hangover gave a headache to no-one. Clint Eastwood made Invictus. Jeff Bridges had a Crazy Heart while Terry Gilliam and Heath Ledger took us to The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Nicolas Cage began a slow climb to redemption with the aid of his lucky crack pipe in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince brought us ever closer to the end.

An Orphan scared us, In the Loop made us laugh at the political shenanigans, Paranormal Activity scared us, (500) Days of Summer and Adventureland made us happy in a sad way, World’s Greatest Dad reminded us how good Robin Williams could be while Old Dogs reminded us how bad Robin Williams could be. sin Nombre and Thirst were two of the many excellent foreign language films released and Jim Jarmusch showed us The Limits of Control.

Behind all of these other films has been the rumbling spectre of James Cameron’s Avatar. All year it has been waiting and watching and only now are we about to see whether it was all worth it (current reviews seem to say this is a great big hell yes!)

So many films watched but so many more missed. The way it has always been and always will.

That does mean that there are still many wonderful moments to be watched or to take us by surprise when we turn the channel late one night and an unexpected film has just begun – often films you would never normally watch but you end up thoroughly enjoying….and I don’t mean a bit of blue for the Dads!

I suppose that is one of the great things about movies. You will never be able to watch them all and you wouldn’t want to. We don’t all watch the same ones yet that means we all have fresh takes on each others favourite films. They can bring us together or lead to intense arguments. Did Han did shoot first?

Most of all, for the 90 minutes or more they are on, a movie takes us away to another place. Not always a nice place, but it is a break from the real world no matter what. Bad, good or wonderful they are all groovy and bring us all together.

As for me I have had some wonderful moments related to film – I got to speak to Marion Cotillard, Johnny Depp, Duncan Jones and David Sullivan. The site moved over to WordPress and has been going from strength to strength since then – thanks to everyone for taking the time to stop by and have a look.

The Live for Films Movie Club began and is still going to help share cool movies you may have missed (thanks to those on the Forum for sorting all that out).

Live for Films researcher and reporter Pamela Fruendt went along to Tim Burton’s art exhibition at New Yorks Museum of Modern Art. Many people contributed reviews for favourite horror films during Halloween including author Michael Marshall Smith (he reviewed Halloween) and director Andrew Barker (he reviewed Blood Feast).

My Wife enjoyed getting parcels full of DVDs and Posters addressed to Live for Films and I just had a ball doing what I do and have been constantly surprised that so many people seem to dig what I dig, you dig?

For what it is worth my top 10 films of 2009 in no particular order and considering the fact I have yet to see such films as Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Up, The Road and many more are:

  • Moon
  • Zombieland
  • Star Trek
  • Watchmen
  • District 9
  • The Cove
  • Coraline
  • Drag Me to Hell
  • Public Enemies
  • Inglourious Basterds

What have been your highs and lows in films for 2009? What great films have I forgotten and what should I have watched? What films do you wish you have not watched and what film did you see many time? What surprised you? What made you laugh, cry or hurl?

Now we have 2010 to look forward to. Apparantly, according to Dave Bowman, it will be full of stars.

Posted in Action, Animated, Biopic, Comedy, Documentary, Fantasy, Horror, Kids, news, Review, Sci-Fi, Short Film, Thriller, War, Western | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Blood Feast, 1963 – Movie Review by Andrew Barker – 31 Days of Horror

Posted by LiveFor on October 9, 2009

blood feastI asked Andrew Barker, director of Straw Man (check out my interview with him), if he fancied doing a review for the 31 Days of Horror. He said yes and sent this fantastic review.

Send me your horror film reviews.

Director: Herschell Gordon Lewis
Starring: William Kerwin, Mal Arnold, Connie Mason, Lyn Bolton, Astrid Olson

Picture this; it’s 1963, you’re at a Drive-in somewhere out in the mid-west. Overhead, the stars glimmer like a scattering of diamonds in the dirt. A Chuck Berry number is playing somewhere across the sea of cars. Kennedy is still in office (just), Vietnam is, for many, just the name of a far off country, and Dylan and The Beatles are yet to change everything. In the movies, Rock Hudson and Doris Day are endlessly chasing one another round in the search of the perfect Hollywood romance, and Charlton Heston is still playing that all-American messiah. But that was just in the theaters, in the flea pits and drive-in’s it was a different story entirely. There you would find juvenile delinquents, 50ft women, teenage werewolves, flying saucers and, most dangerous of all, Rock n’ Roll!

But still, even if that was your bag, nothing could have prepared you for what was to become known as the world’s first splatter movie; Herschell Gordon Lewis’ monumental Blood Feast. The flick’s introduction to the world came by way of a trailer, in which Feast player William Kerwin announced to the audience:

You are about to witness some scenes from the next attraction to play this theatre. This picture, truly one of the most unusual ever filmed, contains scenes which, under no circumstances should be viewed by anyone with a heart condition or anyone who is easily upset. We urgently recommend that if you are such a person, or parent of a young or impressionable child now in attendance, that you leave the theatre for the next 90 seconds.

And boy, he wasn’t kidding! Nothing so shocking, primal and downright nasty had ever been seen before. Nowadays, we are somewhat numb to violence in the movies, but back in 1963 this film must have been like an atomic bomb being dropped on cinema.

Produced by legendary exploitation filmmaker David F. Friedman and directed and photographed by H.G Lewis, Blood Feast was made on the kind of budget that Michael Bay would sink on one frame. It starred Mal Arnold as psychopathic caterer Faud Ramses and Playboy Playmate Connie Mason, and was shot in a mere five days in and around Miami Beach.

It tells the story of our boy Ramses, who wants nothing more than to worship his Egyptian Goddess, Ishtar (actually a Babylonian Deity, but lets not worry too much about that hey) and resurrect her by way of an ancient and sacrificial feast. For the feast to work properly, and for these trailblazing filmmakers to drip the screen in glorious, unshakable requisite gore, Ramses needs fresh young body parts, mainly taken from nubile young women. Of course.

He takes a brain from one; the legs from another, and in the films most infamous sequence, the tongue clean from the mouth of a pretty young blonde (Astrid Olson). Using a lamb’s tongue and strawberry jam for imitation blood, HGL created one of the most visceral and memorable death scenes ever committed to celluloid. Once you’ve seen that girl’s fleshy, flapping, and unnervingly long appendage yanked from her mouth, you don’t easily forget it. In that moment HGL single-handedly created a whole new genre, and laid the foundations down for what was to become known as the slasher film. Faud Ramses can clearly be seen as a forerunner to Freddy Krueger and Michael Myers, and other characters of that ilk.

Herschell Gordon Lewis blew open the doors for filmmakers like George A. Romero, Wes Craven and ultimately, Quentin Tarantino. His other films, The Gruesome Twosome, the excellent Two Thousand Maniacs, The Wizard of Gore and his final film before semi-retirement from movies, 1972’s The Gore Gore Girls, pushed horror films into new and uncharted territory. But it is Blood Feast that overshadows his other work, simply because it was the first of its kind. Regardless of the flicks lack of production values and ropey ‘acting’ style, its sheer power can still not be diminished.

HGL returned to directing in 2002 with the much belated sequel Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat, leaving a 30 year hiatus that makes Terrance Malick look like a workaholic; but that was played more for laughs, than shocks.

Blood Feast remains a milestone in horror, a seminal piece of work which pretty much set the tone and formula for the modern slasher film. After all, they do call Herschell Gordon Lewis, the Godfather of Gore!

Previous 31 Days of Horror reviews: Paranormal Activity, Braindead, Halloween, Friday the 13th Part 2, Martin, Fright Night, Zombieland

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Despair – New poster for a seriously twisted love story

Posted by LiveFor on July 26, 2009

Andrew Barker, director of Straw Man (check out my interview with him), just got in touch to let me know about the poster for the new film he is working on, Despair.

It stars David Hess (Last House on the Left) as Lou, an American living in England who has a chance encounter with Meredith, a young girl travelling across Europe. She finds herself in a small English village, tired, weary and far from home. Meredith enters a local pub and finds herself talking to a fellow American – Lou, a seemingly ordinary man. But Lou isn’t all he seems to be; a darkly sinister mind lurks beneath this mundane appearance. Meredith is about walk into his trap.

More on the film here and let me know what you think about the poster.


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Despair – News on a twisted love story starring David Hess

Posted by LiveFor on May 5, 2009

Psychomania Films are proud to announce their first feature production: Despair – a seriously twisted love story exploring the dark and unnerving relationship between a kidnapper and his captive.

Written by David Flint (author of Ten Years of Terror: British Films of the 1970s, Zombie Holocaust) and Andrew Barker (director of Straw Man – check out my interview with him) and to be directed by David Flint, Despair will star film legend David Hess (Last House on the Left, Hitch-Hike).

The film will be shot late in the summer of 2009 in the City of Nottingham, UK. The location will utilize the ancient labyrinthine caves beneath the city’s bustling streets.

Hess will play Lou, an American living in England who has a chance encounter with Meredith, a young girl travelling across Europe. She finds herself in a small English village, tired, weary and far from home. Meredith enters a local pub and finds herself talking to a fellow American – Lou, a seemingly ordinary man. But Lou isn’t all he seems to be; a darkly sinister mind lurks beneath this mundane appearance. Meredith is about walk into his trap.

Lou takes Meredith captive, descending them both into a spiralling nightmare of their own making.

Flint says, “Despair is a challenging, brutal project. It takes a very real horror – as many cases across the world unfortunately show – and delivers several new twists to the tale.”

He continues, “Having David on board is great. As anyone who has seen his incendiary performances in Last House on the Left, Hitch-Hike and House on the Edge of the Park can attest, he brings a multi-layered intensity and sense of humanity to his characters, and I think the character of Lou will allow him to further explore the dark psyche that he has been perfecting for over thirty years.”

What makes Despair different: The production crew will comprise of Director of Photography/Editor Adam Krajczynski (Straw Man), Special Make-up Designer Hannah Eccleston (Apocalypto, Clash of the Titans) and the production team of co-writer Andrew Barker, Matthew Waldram and Kate Horlor (Mutant Chronicles, Straw Man).
David Flint says, “I’m very excited about Despair – with the presence of David Hess and the backing of an excellent production team I feel confident that we will be able to produce a film that transcends genre and leave audiences both exhilarated and emotionally drained, while at the same time giving them something to think about.”

Despair will mark the first feature production for Psychomania Films; a new independent production company based in the UK, specialising in low budget, cutting edge horror, exploitation and underground film productions.

Founded by both David Flint and Andrew Barker, the company already has several films in development. Barker says, “Despair is a bold, uncompromising horror film that will grab you by the collars and will not let go until it has shaken you out of your skin. The scripts we now have in various stages of development all share the same goal; to provoke, unnerve and terrify.”

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Exclusive Interview: Andrew Barker – Director of Straw Man

Posted by LiveFor on April 17, 2009

Andrew Barker is the director and co-writer, with Garry Charles of the end of the World film, Straw Man. It stars Leslie Simpson (Dog Soldiers, The Descent), Axelle Carolyn and Daniel Tee.
Andrew was kind enough to agree to a Live for Films interview. He also passed me the exclusive photo of Leslie Simpson in the classroom above which was awfully nice of him. Make sure you check out the trailer.

Without further ado here is the interview along with some behind the scenes photos (it does look cold).
First things first, tell us a little about Straw Man?

Straw Man tells the story of a lone man cast adrift in an empty, decaying world. To try and retain a grip on his splintering sanity, he creates a world of his own making; an almost mundane existence of rules and routine. He stitches a village full of straw people, and goes about his day to day business, recreating a life from a world long gone. But this pantomime soon starts to disintegrate as his fractured mind begins to bleed out into his world. It’s really the story of a man’s life on trial.

What was the most difficult thing about making it?

Well I won’t deny it wasn’t a tough shoot. We were working at break neck speed in some of the harshest whether conditions England had seen for nearly 20 years. The location was an abandoned RAF Base and although it was absolutely perfect for our film, the practicalities of shooting there were tricky to say the least. There was no electricity, no running water, no heating, nothing… it was like the end of the world out there. And add to that severe snowstorms and a shooting schedule that left no room for error, and you’ve pretty much got the Straw Man shoot.

What I did have though is a wonderful, wonderful crew. My Assistant Director Tiernan Hanby really kept us motoring along, and me and my DOP Adam Krajczynski have a short hand that enabled us to shoot at lightning speed. Amazingly, we even managed to stay ahead of schedule, to point where we even shot some extra scenes which we came up with on set. It was tough, but it was a great shoot.
What is your favourite end of the World type film?

Probably Mad Max 2, I was a child of the early 80s video boom. We used to have this guy come round to our house when I was a kid; he had a suitcase full of pirate video tapes. The Mad Max movies were some of the first films my Dad ‘acquired’ and I just watched them endlessly, the first two anyway. I re-watched Mad Max 2 again recently, and it still holds up. Great movie.

How did you get into the film business?

As this is my first film, and we’re still deep in post-production, I can’t really claim to be in the film business yet. But this project came about because making movies is all I’ve ever wanted to do with my life. I found the RAF Base about a year before the seeds of the story came to me. I knew it would make an amazing setting for a film, but then went off and wrote a couple of big budget scripts with my regular writing partner Matthew Waldram. We went to Cannes, trucked them around, got some interest and got into a cycle of rewrites for some of these companies. But I just wanted to make something myself, so I sat down one day and started to write this strange Robinson Crusoe-type tale of a man losing his mind at the end of the world, basing it entirely around the RAF Base I knew of.

The idea was to work to my limitations, write nothing into the treatment that I didn’t think would be possible to pull off on a low, low budget. I sent the treatment to a writer friend of mine, Garry Charles, and he just blew me away with his response. He said he and his wife, Paula, would be interested in financing the project. So Garry and I wrote the script in a matter of days, and then we were off, making a movie.

It happened very fast. We wrote the script in the August of 2008, and we were shooting the following January.
Did having such a small cast make the whole film making process easier?

It did in the sense that I had the chance to concentrate on a single character. Plus, I had a great actor to collaborate with. I’m telling you, when people see Leslie Simpson in this film he’s going to blow their heads off. He’s another reason we could shoot so fast because he was just on fire on take one, every time. We even nicked-named him One Take Les. He’s told me since that he’s known for his speed on every film he’s made. If the crew had it tough on this shoot, it was nothing compared to what Leslie went through… but he loves it.

What will you do differently when making your next feature?

Shoot in summer!

If you were going to be killed by any movie villain or monster who or what would it be?

It would have to be the Bride of Frankenstein because, well, as monsters go, she was pretty hot.

If you could pass on one piece of advice to a novice film maker what would it be?

Have ambition bordering on fury.

What book are you currently reading?

I’m dividing my time between The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and Herzog on Herzog; anyone interested in making a film should read that book, Werner Herzog is a true filmmaker.

If money was no object and you could have any actor alive or dead to star in it, what film would you make?

A huge gangster epic about the life of Al Capone starring Humphrey Bogart, Clint Eastwood, an early 1970s Jack Nicholson, Mae West, and Edward G. Robinson as Capone. Is it wrong to want John Candy in it as well? Look, its my fantasy!

What film do you first remember watching?

The first film I actually remember watching, and having an impact on me, was Jaws, which I’ve loved from that day to this. It’s a masterpiece. But my mum has told me that the first film I saw at the cinema was The Jungle Book.

What advice would you give to any potential victim in a horror film?

Don’t think its all over just because it was only the cat that leaped out on you.

What is your favourite piece of science fiction technology in film or TV?

Tricky one. For some reason I’m just thinking of Robots. Can I go for Gort from The Day the Earth Stood Still? The original of course. Although I’m torn, because who doesn’t love Robby the Robot!?

What film are you looking forward to seeing this year?

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, as I think Terry Gilliam is wonderful. Public Enemies, Tree of Life, Cameron’s Avatar, plus I’m interested to see what they do with Terminator: Salvation. I’m also like a giddy kid when it comes to Sly Stallone’s The Expendables, but I guess that won’t be out till next year.

When and where will be able to see Straw Man?

It’s early days, but first off we plan to get it out on the festival circuit and see what kind of reaction it receives.

What are you working on next?

I’ve just co-written a horror film with author David Flint, which he plans to direct. It’s called Despair and is what can only be described as a seriously twisted love story between a kidnapper and his captive. It will be the first film under the banner of Psychomania Films, a production company we are setting up that will specialise in low budget genre films. Plus there is a dark fantasy/western called Ravens Bower which my main writing partner Matthew Waldram and I have scripted, and a supernatural comedy which we are both writing at present which I hope to be the next film I direct.

But of course, I’d sell out immediately if someone was to offer me big money to make Crocodile Dundee 4: Mick Takes On Blackpool.

Andrew thanks very much for your time.

Great interview and great photos. Looks like this will be quite an interesting film to see. Keep checking back as I shall hopefully have an interview with Leslie Simpson soon.

Both Andrew Barker and Leslie Simpson are on Twitter – ADBarker and lesliesimpson

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Straw Man – Trailer for last man on Earth film

Posted by LiveFor on April 3, 2009

Straw Man is the harrowing tale of one man, a lone soul in an empty world. To combat the loneliness of isolation he surrounds himself with people made out of straw, hand-crafted and moulded from faded memories of friends and family. They offer little in the way of company yet they hold insanity at bay. This Lone Man is a contradiction, his rambling thoughts battling against his need for structure and routine. In his quest for normality he spends each day teaching pupils, reading to them from the classics as they stare back at him with blank, featureless faces. But when the line between reality and fantasy is blurred by madness his ordered life is sent into a downward spiral.

Why do the straw people stare at him with blind judgement?
What are the children trying to tell him?
Who is the beautiful woman… …and does she offer salvation?

Starring: Leslie Simpson & Axelle Carolyn. Directed by Andrew Barker
Source: Quiet Earth

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