In 2008 there was Thankskilling, a no budget slasher parody made for just thirty five hundred bucks ($3500!) that starred Turkie, a demonic turkey back from the dead who hunts down and kills a bunch of teenagers on, you guessed it, Thanksgiving. Dumb, cheap, played for laughs but genuinely funny while obviously showing a true love for the genre which it mocked, Thankskilling’s cult status enabled the team behind it to raise an amazing one hundred and twelve grand plus change ($112,000!) via kickstarter to bring us Thankskilling 3 – a movie so insane I had to watch it three times before I could even attempt to review it! (and sober up – the drinking game attached to it will kick your arse)
Deeply depressed, Ian B. Folivor (Adrian DiGiovanni) hasn’t left his cluttered, filthy apartment in over a year. When his sole companion (a vintage TV set he’s christened “Kent”) dies suddenly, Ian decides to end it all by gassing himself with cleaning chemicals. After he falls from his sink trying to cover up the ventilation in his bathroom, Ian is woken by the avuncular Mold (voiced by Jeffrey Combs) who offers him the chance to turn his life around, so long as he does exactly as he’s told. But is it really wise to trust something that grew from the grime in the corner of your bathroom? The Mold may be happy to protect Ian from demonic plasma TV salesmen and his brutish landlord “Box the Ox” (Pete Giovagnoli), but his methods are extreme to the point of murderous. Moreover, once Kent develops his own voice (he speaks in snippets of recycled TV shows) it becomes clear that Ian is caught up in a conflict beyond his understanding, and it’s no simple battle between good and evil.
Nathan Robbins (Adam Dillon) finds himself at a police station with no recollection of the events that led him there. A quiet, agoraphobic young man who never leaves his apartment, Nathan must piece together what happened through an interview with Detective Miller (Nicholas Vince), knowing that whatever it was, it ended in blood and violence.
Venturing into your local DVD shop is often a mission that results in frustration and wasted time. More often than not I leave either empty-handed or with a film I’ve seen before. I don’t want to risk two hours of my time that results in a film not worthy of any consideration. Such was NOT the case with The Seasoning House. I took a rare punt on an unknown entity and was rewarded in spades with a film that had me glued to my seat and, at times, shocked to my core. It’s not an easy view, and nor SHOULD it be, especially given the subject matter but if you give your time, you will be rewarded. Director Paul Hyett has crafted a wonderfully tense and terrifically acted thriller that all readers of Love & Pop should check out immediately.
Crimson Celluloid: Whist not technically a “horror” film The Seasoning House was one of the most intense films I’ve seen for a long time, bringing back memories of seeing Last House on the Left and Texas Chainsaw Massacre for the first time. Was it always your intent to make it an intense and uncomfortable film to sit-through?
Paul Hyett: Oh yes, I always wanted it to be a harrowing experience, I love how Chainsaw Massacre had this feeling of oppression and uncomfortableness right from the beginning, just the environment made your skin crawl, and I wanted that straight from the start, and like TCM, not to let up, that the main character Angel could never feel safe, nor could the audience, just keeping that palpable tension going all the way through and to make sequences (rape and violence), to be what they are, messy, brutal, nasty acts of violence, no glamorous Hollywood style fights, just messy and horrifically raw.
Crimson Celluloid: Even though it’s a film, and I know the dynamics of that, were you concerned about putting such a young actress as Rosie Day through the emotional and physical wringer?
Paul Hyett: I spoke to all the young girls in the film and especially Rosie, emotionally it’s a subject matter that all the girls wanted to tackle, as its something that girls their age would be going through, and tragically because they live in another country. But also I was very open with the fact that this wasn’t going to be a cheap exploitative splatter movie with no nudity (which I’ll answer properly in your later question) , so they all felt comfortable. I think the crew found it harder to watch, the actresses in the film wanted to do justice to the real victims and portray and somehow try to imagine the horrors of what those girls go through. Rosie was the youngest and I was worried about her being so young, but firstly physically, she is hard as nails, she was being thrown into mirrors, falling off walls, climbing with harnesses, being thrown into maggot infested mud pits, being slapped (by accident within a stunt scene), just everyday was something gruelling for her, but she was amazing, never once complained, just got on with it, ignored the bruises and came with a smile everyday. Emotionally, it was harder, as she had to put herself in the world of a real mute, witness her friend being raped and murdered, understanding what its like to witness and experience those horrors, for any good actress that can take herself to such an emotional place its an emotional journey, let alone one as young as Rosie, but she did, and thankfully came out the other end not at all traumatised. As a side note when we first gave her the part she hadn’t seen any horror movies, so I gave her Marytrs, Inside, Frontiers to watch over the Christmas period before shooting, maybe not the best horrors to start someone off with, in retrospect maybe I should build up to those, but Rosie is a tough girl, she had to be with the role she was about to take on.
Crimson Celluloid: Was there a rehearsal period? How did you prepare her for her role in the film?
Paul Hyett: Rosie and I talked endlessly about the part, emotionally where Angel would be and the very long journey, from the beginning as a care free Balkan girl, through to the kidnapping, the emotional move into a numbed shell of a captive living in a place that the only way to survive is by shutting off your feelings, your empathy, trying to numb yourself to the horrors around you, and then the re-emergence of her feelings when she meets her friend Vanya, and then the feeling of her fight back, which is a cathartic out pouring of everything she had been through all exploding in one go, then the switch to pure survival. Rehearsal wise, I’m not a fan of rehearsing, I prefer to speak endlessly about the character, do read throughs (to work out dialogue) and then on set, in this dark dingy environment, block out the scene and go with what the actors were feeling with their emotions, in the heat of the moment, I prefer this technique then rehearsing days or weeks before, I felt we got a more realistic performance and feel to the scene.
Crimson Celluloid: I was surprised that given the subject-matter there was no nudity (Female nudity. Male nudity doesn’t count!) in the film. Without getting all Freudian was this a deliberate decision..to not exploit characters that are already being exploited?
Paul Hyett: Yes, I so wanted this not to be a cheap boobs out exploitative horror movie. I felt it would have cheapened it. But most of all I didn’t want it to be titillating, I wanted the rape scenes to be what defines rape, that it is an act of brutal violence and nothing more then that. What those girls go through all over the world’s conflict zones and civil wars is unspeakably tragic, and I (and the girls) were always very mindful of that, not to cheapen what these girls go through. And we had a great response from so many critics and reviewers that we handled in that delicate way. However you can’t please anyone and I read reviews that dismissed the film as exploitative which always annoyed me as we had tried not to be that, but I think some just feel you can’t mix an exciting harrowing horror thriller with real horrific events that are happening to real people, that we should have made a film that explores that world without the thriller aspect, but it wasn’t what we wanted to do, we always wanted to make a nail biting thriller set in the real world of sex trafficking but in a non exploitative way, and personally I think we succeeded.
Crimson Celluloid: What parts of the filmmaking process do you enjoy the most/least?
Paul Hyett: I love the preparation period and working out all the logistics of how its going to look, really getting the narrative structure in my head, developing characters with cast and then physical shooting of it, and bringing it to life on the set and seeing it come together, the actors bonding and developing their characters further, seeing the crew proud of their work and the vision of the film starting to emerge as we go through the weeks of shooting. The least part is waiting for money to come through and getting that green light, it’s always a hard process, but great when it happens.
Crimson Celluloid: The always-effective Sean Pertwee was great in the film. How did he come to be cast? What was he like to work with?
Paul Hyett: I’ve known Sean for years and in my former career as a prosthetics designer, killed him on screen many, many times. As I was writing this I thought he would be great. So I sent him the script and he loved it, he just wanted to make sure it wasn’t going to an exploitive, cheap horror shocker and misogynistic in anyway, and once I had assured him in those areas he was totally on-board. And he was an ABSOLUTE pleasure (as he always is), he brought so much to it, and really got deep under the skin of his character, and who it would be based on, and everyday, he really nailed it, I couldn’t praise him enough. I was really lucky to have a cast that gave 110% and really pushed themselves emotionally and physically to portray their characters.
Crimson Celluloid: For a relatively low-budget film the scenes of bloodshed and gore were remarkably effective, often coming out of the blue and having a real impact. Your background in FX certainly served you well. What kind of reactions have you received from people who have witnessed the carnage?
Paul Hyett: People do freak out at the effects, but I really didn’t want much gore in this, like I said earlier it was more about the oppressive feeling to this world, the overall tone of dread, there’s actually very little blood and gore in the film, but when we had it, I wanted it to be as nasty, brutal and shockingly real as it could be. And yes, my background really helped, but also the VFX guys (Filmgate in Sweden) done an amazing job with enhancing the prosthetic gore, its very hard digitally to create blood realistically, but they did a wonderful job, people have come out shocked and shaking and some had to leave the cinema because it was too much for them, which meant I did my job properly. I even had people say it was the goriest film they’ve ever seen, and considering how little gore there is, meant that little amount of gore had such an effect on them, because they were so invested in the film.
Crimson Celluloid: Where did the title come from?
Paul Hyett: It’s a true life term, when the writers and I were trying to think of a title for the film based in a Seasoning House, it kind of was starting us in the face. We suddenly looked at each other and said ‘ Let’s just call it The Seasoning House!’. For anyone reading this that is not familiar with the title, it is a term for these places that young (kidnapped and trafficked) girls are taken to be sexualised and prepared for forced sex slavery and prostitution.
Crimson Celluloid: Were there any particular challenges that you faced whilst making the film?
Paul Hyett: Not really, I’m so used to film sets, nothing was a surprise, I mean we were a very low budget film, trying to be very ambitious, so the lack of money was always there, but somehow my producer Michael Riley always made sure I had everything I needed, I had a brilliant cast and crew, so I didn’t feel particularly challenging, I suppose shooting a film with so many stunts, fights, emotionally challenging scenes, complex VFX / prosthetic elements, etc in a 4 and a half week shoot was most challenging.
Crimson Celluloid: What did you learn from making The Seasoning House that you’ll take forward with you to your next project?
Paul Hyett: Just to be as prepared as you can be, storyboards, script notes, shot lists, and to have in your mind what could come up and have to deal with. And to cast well, good cast are worth their weight in gold. As are a good crew..
Crimson Celluloid: Was it just me or was the ending of the film open to interpretation as to whether Angel had finally escaped hell or not?
Paul Hyett: Yeah, I like ambiguous endings, maybe the old Doc saved her, maybe he didn’t, who knows, I like the audience to make up their own mind..
Crimson Celluloid: You seem to have a roster of films coming up this year. What’s next for you?
Paul Hyett: Well I’ve just finished my next movie, a werewolf film called Howl, its about a bunch of late night commuters on the last train out, and after an incident, they find themselves trapped on the train, stranded in the middle of nowhere, and then creatures attack. We’re just in post production now. It’s a very VFX heavy movie, and its coming along together well. Can’t wait to show it to you guys..
Crimson Celluloid: Thanks very much for an amazing film experience, and I can’t wait to see what you come up with next. Any final words for our readers?
Paul Hyett: Thank you soo much, I just want to say thank you to everyone who watched the film and shared and recommended it, for such a small little indie film, we have had such an amazing response, and especially the horror community really took it under their wing and really pushed it out there by great word of mouth and I’m very much unendingly appreciative of that.
Ecstasty, raves, Britpop…it’s Britain in the 90s and Simon Rumley’s Strong Language tries to encapsulate the zeitgeist of these times which came to be known as the “Cool Britannia” era. From Damien Hirst to Oasis, the characters in Strong Language discuss the trivialities’ of their lives in these times with the story being told through a collection of interviews. As the film goes on their disjointed narratives start to come together and the horrific story of the main narrator appears, delivering the final, ugly plot twist.
A mysterious homeless man learns that a convicted double-murderer is being released from prison. Wordlessly, but with determination, he begins a plot to assassinate the murderer. Little does he know that his decision will start a chain of vengeance that will spiral rapidly out of his control.
Deep in rural America, a backwoods community have their own way of doing things. Arranged marriage is the tip of the iceberg. In return for apparently supernatural healing, the people perform ritual human sacrifice to The Pit, a muddy hole in the depths of the forest. The method for selection is based on potter Dawai, who periodically slips into a trance during which he creates a jug emblazoned with the face of the person to be sacrificed.
When headstrong teenager Ada (Lauren Ashley Carter) finds the latest jug face while still in the furnace, she is shocked to find it bears her own face. Rather than submit to death, she decides instead to hide the jug, an action that will have dire consequences for the community.
Jug Face began life as a screenplay by short film director Chad Crawford Kinkle, which went on to win the script section of the Slamdance Film Festival. On the strength of that, he approached the production team from The Woman, knowing they were conmfortable with more “out there” indie horror ideas. As well as getting a production deal, Kinkle further pushed his luck by showing them his short film, Organ Grinder and on the strength of that, got the directing gig to boot.
Kinkle’s inexperience certainly does not show in Jug Face. He gets top drawer performances across the board from his cast. Carter, as the lead, effectively carries the film with her wide-eyed pixie look that lends her vulnerability, but her performance makes Ada’s inner strength convincing. Alongside her is her fellow The Woman alum, Sean Bridgers as the simple Dawai, an innocent victim role that is virtually unrecognisable against his turn as the morally-twisted domineering patriarch of The Woman.
The core cast is rounded out by genre vet Larry Fessenden as Ada’s duty-bound father and, in a terrific turn, Sean Young as Ada’s mother. Young nearly steals the film with a fiery part that could have easily been a cardboard villain, but instead comes across as a broken woman with genuinely good intentions. It is one of the greatest turns in Young’s career, so many years after headlining major films like Blade Runner and No Way Out back in the 80s.
The result of so many strong performances is a convincing (albeit very small) group of people divorced from the mainstream, living in caravans and shacks. Even when they have an excursion into town where they sell their moonshine, the modern stores and streets somehow feel a million miles away. As Ada finds her rebellion leads to the denizen of The Pit taking matters into its own hands, she decides to go on the run. But the outside world is frightening and strange.
Jug Face is a horror film, but it works best as a ensemble character study. The plot plays out in predictable fashion as The Pit keeps taking victims as it demands the correct sacrifice. It felt like the story needed another dimension, another twist, to elevate it beyond a fairly rote progression.
Despite this, it is a very strong indie movie. It has an unusual feel about it, and the richly drawn characters and environment are compelling. It is disturbing in a more subtle way, with an undercurrent of organised religion or any system of control and what it actually means for humanity. Not that it is all suggestion – plenty of the red stuff flows and some pretty gory remains pop up frequently.
Unique, deft and intelligent, Jug Face is a cut above most indie horror offerings and is a quality piece of work across the board. It punches way above its budget and is definitely worth a watch for any horror fan.
The “making of” is a solid 30 minute piece focussing primarily on the likeable Kinkle as he explains the real-life inspiration for the script and then on into production. Larry Fessenden, all wild hair and enthusiasm, is a huge presence as well, managing to be both charismatic and humble.
The mini-doco packs a lot in, from the digging of the pit through to monster design and finally to the triumphant premiere at Slamdance, a year after Kinkle had won the script competition there.
The other key extra is the Organ Grinder short. It is not a very strong piece of body horror and feels surprisingly amateurish against the assured nature of Jug Face. It is a great inclusion to see Kinkle’s roots and an important element in the movie finding its way to production.
DIRECTOR(S): Chad Crawford Kinkle | COUNTRY: USA | YEAR 2013 | DISTRIBUTOR(S): Modern Distributors/MVD | RUNNING TIME: 81 minutes | ASPECT RATIO: 1.33:1 | REGION: All / NTSC | DISCS: 1
A long term labour of love this Aussie independent horror film first saw the light in 2001 as a short film before Simpson expanded the storyline and started filming the long version in 2003. It took until 2006 to complete it with a volunteer crew, a cast of unknowns and more balls than Wendy O Williams.
Kicking off with an opening segue of yabbie races, roadkill, powerlines, dirt tracks and railway lines in washed out black & white with spatterings of colour you straight away get the feeling that this is not your usual horror/splatter fare. The story starts with city slicker Joe Melton (Nathaniel Kiwi) wandering into the local roadhouse in Miranda Falls on Christmas Eve to stock up on cat food where he meets Kylie (Laura Hesse) and they do that flirty ‘new boy in town’ stuff (and I come from the country, Simpson nailed that scene perfectly) before Joe is then accosted by a local who in a tribute to F13’s Crazy Ralph babbles about the signs and the evil before downing a tinnie. Joe then goes home to feed his cats but they don’t come for their tucker before sitting down to start his article on the evils of advertising. Meanwhile Kylie’s workmate Sally Winters (cover girl Hollie Kennedy) can’t get hold of her mum on the phone and is starting to worry about her. Things start to get a bit weird here. Joe wakes up to see something bloody and disturbing, he runs out of the house, the scenes fall apart, the colours wash out, the picture starts to drag and roll and stutter and I’m sitting there thinking, I’ve had this feeling before, what is it? Before I can work it out though, young Joe has stumbled upon the Winters household only to find blood, guts, grue and the entire family massacred in their lounge room. Seems Sally’s brother Jack was killed just a few days before in a car accident and now he’s back looking like a poorly paid extra from a Marilyn Manson video and he’s chowed down on the family and Joe’s moggies! Joe runs into the night only to bump into Sally who has arrived home to find her family dead and the weird city guy covered in their blood. Fast talking ain’t gonna get him out of this situation especially when the local cops find all his dead cats and Sally nailed to a tree. Of course, being possessed by demons, Sally ain’t really dead but her initial discovery by the local coppers, based by the way on the two dingbats from Debbie Does Dallas 2, is a good laugh but a real waste of a good looking sheila. (much the same as Debbie Does Dallas 2) Luckily Joe manages to convince Kylie that things aren’t quite right out there but not before Sally pays them a visit.
It was about now too that it dawned on me – the fucked up flickering vision, the gap toothed fading out, the hazy pictures, the black & white movies, the split screens and blank memories… this is exactly like the end of a three day bourbon bender complete with DT’s, blurry nights, stumbling around on unlit roads in the dead of night, too bright mornings, blood all over yr clothes, monsters lurking, faces fading in and out… this is a horror movie not for the drug fucked but the booze fucked!! And when the local cop Sgt Harding (Peter Roberts) started talking to himself before reaching for a bottle of Jimmy Beam to neck, well then I knew I was on the right track. And though the pacing and style made me occasionally think I was watching an SBS late night short film with the use of colour, the split screens and blurry vision not to mention the hand held claustrophobic camera work I forgave Simpson – its a case of knowing your limitations and using them to your advantage. And when was the last time SBS showed a Demon-Noir flick drenched in bourbon, beer and blood anyway?
And despite the artistic bent when the demons are unleashed it’s a frenzy of blood, guts and grue that’ll have the horror geeks popping their loads in very short time. Throw in Joe in a dress carrying a talking axe (just a touch of Bruce Campbell there) car wrecks, dead bodies, demons on park benches, the copper with a drinking problem, parasitic eels and an advertising guru bastard arsehole (Ed Winters played by Peter Roberts in a dual role though you wouldn’t pick it) and you’ve pretty much got country life in Australia nailed.
Okay maybe not the advertising guru but hell he’s really just the arrogant bastard who always stands at the back yelling out advice at the footy or cricket, who could run the country and still be home in time for tea if only someone would listen to him but is never there to clean up or sell raffle tickets or help out on working bees or remember his wife’s birthday… every little town has a family secret they try to hide away, little monsters and demons they don’t want people to know about, it’s just in this town it turns out to be the bloody devil himself. This is supposed to be a film that is having a dig at advertising and marketing but to me it’s a movie about life in the country. Either way, it doesn’t throttle you with the message, just lays it out there for you to find.
Forget Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman, forget all those high falutin’ arty champagne sippin’ aussie directors – Christ those fuckers wouldn’t know how to have a decent bender anyway… this is the real Australia, this is the real deal. These bastards are gonna turn the industry up on its head, or at least they’re gonna gate crash the party, drink all the piss, crack onto the hostess and not remember a thing in the morning. And as for Stuart Simpson I only have one thing to say – you silly, twisted boy.
- Diary Of A Demon – behind the scenes featurette
- Deleted Scenes
- Photo Gallery
- Sickie – short film