Chad Ferrin Talks The Deep Ones’ Lovecraftian Horror

Back in January, we broke the news that cult writer/director Chad Ferrin (Someone’s Knocking at the Door, Easter Bunny! Kill! Kill!) was producing an original horror flick inspired by the work of H.P. Lovecraft.

Three months later, the film has wrapped and post-production is underway on what can only be described as a very sticky, very bizarre and oft-amusing throwback genre entry that combines the Cthulhu mythos with what you might call that Chad Ferrin feeling.

In the wake of the flick’s gory execution I spoke to the veteran indie filmmaker about how the picture came together and what audiences can expect from the mind behind John and Wilma Hopper (Someone’s Knocking) and the murderous mole people of Parasites.

Bob Freville: The Deep Ones is very different from anything else you’ve made. What was the genesis of this project?

Chad Ferrin: Star/producer, Gina La Piana offered her beach house as a location, and said we should shoot some kind of airbnb horror film there. The moment she said Airbnb, my mind clicked and the script was done in two weeks. It fell into place faster than anything, from script to production that I had done before. Perhaps it was writing for specific actors, seaside locations, divine intervention or Lovecraft guiding my hand…whichever, it was a perfect formula.

Were you reading a particular Lovecraft work when you alighted on the idea?

Shadow over Innsmouth, Dagon and The Call of Cthulhu inspired me the most. And I must say, it’s truly a dream come true to make a Lovecraftian film.

How did the project come together and what did that look like from inception to pre-production to wrapping on the beach?

It all started with Robert Miano introducing me to Gina for another project and when that didn’t work out, this one fatefully slithered up. Once we had her and the locations, Robert found the first batch of investors Michael Schefano and Richard Pate, followed by Gerry Karr and Jerry Irons. Then producers Zebadiah DeVane and Jeff Olan came in with the rest of the budget. Gina recommended Johann Urb and Jackie Debatin who were FANTASTIC in the roles of Petri and Deb. We had Zeb’s excellent catering, perfect weather, I only almost died twice(fell asleep at wheel)…it was really a blessed production.

How much planning went into the creature FX? I imagine you had a hand in sketching out the design of the mythical beast.

Jim and I went back and fourth on few concepts for Dagon that fit within our budget. Elements of C.H.U.D. were the icing on the creature cake. Then Jim and his crew had a couple months prep and they really out did themselves.

How was this experience different from that of your previous films? What were some of benefits to this shoot and, by contrast, the struggles you came up against?

It was the smoothest from start to finish and by far the most rewarding for me artistically. In large part due to a really top notch cast and crew that gravitated to the material. The set had a family vibe that helped keep everyone in high spirits and the beautiful locations didn’t hurt.

I understand that Robert Miano co-produced this one with you. How did that come about and can you talk a bit about your collaborative process with someone like Rob?

We collaborate on everything from script to screen. I first worked with Robert’s wife Silvia Spross on Someone’s Knocking at the Door, and she introduced me to Robert. The three of us had an amazing collaboration on Parasites, and then continued with Robert Rhine on Exorcism at 60,000 Feet and now The Deep Ones.

Did you have any specific influences in mind when you were prepping The Deep Ones? I know we touched on some aesthetic similarities to Brian Yuzna’s Society and Peter Jackson’s Braindead when we were talking about a particular sequence from the script, but were there

other influences that you were consciously or, subconsciously drawing upon?

Yes, Society and Braindead, as well as Kubrick’s The Shining, Horror Express, Rosemary’s Baby, Halloween III, Dark Shadows, Possession, Humanoids from the Deep, Salem’s Lot and Prince of Darkness.

The Deep Ones has reunited you with some people that you have worked with frequently in the past. I believe this was your third time working with Robert, but you’ve also got Timothy Muskatell on board for the first time since…Someone’s Knocking? You’ve always had a bit of a repertory company of actors going. Do you have a dream team of sorts that you’d like to work with in the future?

Well when you find talented cast/crew you just want to keep that magic going from film to film. Worked for John Ford, right? I hope to add Gina, Johann, Jackie, Kelli, Nicolas and Jerry to the next one. It’s nice to work with talented people that you have a little history with. I worked James Ojala back in my Troma days. Rae Robison had done costume design on Unspeakable, so it was pretty awesome to reunite 20 years later. Jeff Billings worked on Parasites, really dug the script and went above and beyond. Steve Hitselberger, John Santos, David Defino have been on most of my films since The Ghouls. Richard Band and I had a such a great experience on Exorcism that just had to get him on board.

I have to say that this flick seems pretty epic in scale in terms of the practical creature effects and whatnot. Do you see yourself going in the opposite direction with your next picture? Could we ever see a two-person character study from Chad Ferrin? Maybe a claustrophobic single location thriller?

I have a sort of single location thriller sitting here as well as a few bigger budget things. I’m ready for anything.


What do you think audiences can look forward to experiencing when The Deep Ones is finally unleashed on them?

Wall to wall cosmic creepiness and a score that is phenomenal. A Lovecraftian Rosemary’s Baby that will leave you gasping.

Do you have any acquisition deals in place? Is there a global sales rep attached or anything of that nature?

There’s a lot of interest, but I’m waiting to do a festival run before locking anything.

Can you see yourself expanding on the Cthulhu mythos down the road?

Yes, working on a sort of sequel to The Deep Ones now. Very excited.

Are there any other existing IPs that you would be interested in tackling?

I have a western version of Kihachi Okamot’s The Sword of Doom ready to roll.

Keep your eyes peeled for updates regarding The Deep Ones as they come in…

‘Cynthia’ is a Surprisingly Touching Horror-Comedy

“Cynthia” (2018) DVD Review

by Bob Freville

Those of us who were alive during the latter half of the 20th century can remember a time when babies were the focus of a wave of excellent and, oftentimes, atrocious horror movies. 1974’s It’s Alive!, 1982’s Basket Case and the respective follow-ups to each of those titles introduced us to the perils of postpartum aggression and fetal abomination long before antinatalism penetrated pop culture.

Like Larry Cohen and Frank Henenlotter before them, writer/producer Robert Rhine and co-directors Devon Downs & Kenny Gage mine parenthood and pregnancy for satire. One would think that Cynthia‘s indie budget and the relative inexperience of the above the line creative team would result in a sub-par rip-off of the aforementioned films. Instead, they make it work to their advantage by going their own way.

This is not another tired bad seed movie of the kind that Hollywood keeps churning out. Rather it is a raucous dark comedy with heart that masquerades as an exploitation horror movie. Sure, an ancillary character is disemboweled mid-coitus and yes, a stark naked victim thinks nothing of attempting to escape from her predator with her tits out and her underwear hanging off…in a professional setting.

But Cynthia is much more than some bloody B-movie, it is a well-written and well-acted tragedy of sorts, a picture which spends more time on the human condition than it does on creature effects or bloodshed.

Halloween‘s Scout Taylor-Compton and Masters of Sex’s Kyle Jones are a young couple who have been struggling for some time to get preggers. After repeated fertility treatments fail, they are shocked to find that their very last shot took. They are going to have a baby at long last…but their baby has some odd company in the womb.

Their unborn child’s companion is eager to greet the world and it’ll stop at nothing to be with its new family. What follows is something quite different than what most viewers will be expecting.

The film is at its best when it’s lampooning the idiotic and selfish reasons why certain people want to have children. It also deftly explores the frustratingly clinical approach many couples take in order to bear fruit, so to speak.

The best scenes in Cynthia have little to do with what most die hard horror fans would consider the hallmarks of the genre. Robert Rhine hands in a script brimming with memorable dialogue, brilliant transitions and likable characters…even when they are being absolute shits.

What pic manages to illustrate is just how easily humans can disregard each others’ feelings when it comes to satiating their own desires and needs. Nowhere is this more clear than in the way the filmmakers make us empathize with the flick’s negligent father-to-be.

Earlier I mentioned antinatalism, but it bears mentioning again since Cynthia may be the first of the mutant baby movies to properly elucidate the suffering of the child who didn’t ask to be born. When Taylor-Compton’s Robin goes looking for her missing infant daughter in an air vent and discovers her with the hideously deformed Cynthia, her mutated offspring lets out a guttural whimper that effectively conveys the agony and yearning which are our birthright as humans.

If genre fans need added incentive to see Cynthia they can count on the always game Bill motherfuckin’ Moseley (Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2, House of 1,000 Corpses) for a bizarre cross-dressing cameo and Moseley’s Devil’s Rejects co-star Sid Haig as a sleazy cop to rival most of the grotty punks he played in the Seventies.

Check this picture out today if you like genre films that have more on their mind than gore and one-dimensional throwaway victims. If I was prone to giving things a rating, this one would easily earn four bloody diapers.

You can watch Cynthia now on DVD and Prime Streaming.

Exclusive: Lance Henriksen Tears Up The Sky in “Exorcism at 60,000 Feet” [Review & First Look Trailer]

by Bob Freville

Genre fans are going to lose their shit when they get an eyeful of Exorcism at 60,000 Feet. A balls out tribute to horror’s golden age from the boys and girls at Girls and Corpses, Exorcism at 60,000 Feet is everything you would expect from the title and so much more.

Director Chad Ferrin (Someone’s Knocking at the Door, Easter Bunny Kill! Kill!!) has rounded up all the best and bloodiest talents from the genre, unleashing them on a plane for what promises to be this year’s most garish, gory and unforgettable splatterpiece.

Only Ferrin could give us an aesthetic worthy of William Friedkin while acknowledging the playful silliness of the Robert Rhine and Daniel Benton script. Each sequence is imbued with knowing camp and plenty of sight gags.

Those with a special nostalgia for the rotten and strange will relish the presence of Kevin J. O’Connor (Lord of Illusions, Deep Rising, The Mummy), however ephemeral, but serious nostalgia nuts will cream their Puppetmasturbating asses almost at once with the oh-so-familiar orchestral score by none other than Richard Band.

Indeed, there is something so Eighties about Exorcism at 60,000 Feet, but not in the mass marketed way that Stranger Things or even the It reboot is considered reminiscent of the Eighties. More interestingly, it is the film’s subtle spirit of the Eighties, something that recalls cult classics like Elvira: Mistress of the Dark, Combat Shock and even Night of the Demons.

From the exorcist’s struggles to hoist a dead body into the back of a hearse to the nonchalant way that the plane’s pilot (Lance Henriksen) and co-pilot (O’Connor) share some harsh hooch, everything about this screams the Age of Excess, a time when things could be dark and fucked up without fear of earning a detention demerit for its wickedness.

It’s a common cliche to write that a location in a movie is a character in and of itself, but I’d be lying if I didn’t note how the deliberately seedy airplane interior lends a distinct je ne sais quoi to the proceedings. Viet Kong Airways is one airline I would love to get lost on.

In terms of stars there really is no equal to Bill Moseley who gives his most indelible performance since The Devil’s Rejects or, at least, Texas Chainsaw Massacre Part 2. With that said, the show really belongs to Bai Ling (The Crow, Crank 2: High Voltage) who keeps us pissing our pants with laughter until the final scuzzy frame.

This is one of those movies where you can’t help but fall in love with each and every character, regardless of how offensive or obnoxious they are. And it is to the filmmaker’s credit that he has managed to turn this love of the annoying and ugly into a career-long endearment.

Frankly, I can’t think of a single Chad Ferrin title that didn’t feature at least two hideous ghouls as major players and the more hideous these so-called humans are, the more we cheer.

This delightful subversion of the traditional filmic formula reaches its apex in Exorcism at 60,000 Feet, a celebration of trash and travel hell…or heaven, depending upon your particular(ly) warped perspective.

It’s rare that you come across a horror-comedy that honors the legends of comedy as much as it does the masters of the macabre. ‘Exorcism’ is one of those flicks, a movie that owes as much to High Anxiety-era Mel Brooks as it does to Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone.

One of the lamest offenses perpetrated by many B movies is their unwillingness to acknowledge what they are. Consequently, viewers get stuck with a crappy film starring second-rate actors trying their damnednest to turn laughable material into something genuinely dramatic.

Exorcism at 60,000 Feet flips the script, giving us a glorified hornet’s nest of seasoned performers doing their absolute best to convey the sheer absurdity of the source material and relishing in the unbridled madness of the same.

Few microbudget genre movies spend this film’s time on character development and the effort pays off. The jokes and jabs are that much nastier once we’ve been properly introduced to the victims of their folly.

This is a flick for those who were weaned on a diet consisting of equal parts The Monster Squad and Vice Squad, a gnarly romp that recalls the best of those late twentieth century direct-to-video titles without feeling like anything other than one man’s singular vision of amusing insanity.

In keeping with The Motorist’s spoiler policy, I won’t give up the ghost when it comes to Exorcism‘s funniest and most memorable line (Hint: It takes place in the bathroom), but suffice it to say that this one is a feast for both the eyes and the ears.

As with most low-budget genre fare, particularly sub-genre flicks, ‘Exorcism’ has its moments where the jokes (and special effects) fall flat, but this only serves to make the overall picture that much more charming. Think of the first time you saw an early John Waters movie or a 90s direct-to-video National Lampoon entry and you’ve got the general idea.

Unrelenting, irrational, irreverent and impossible to not enjoy on some primal level as people dealing with the ludicrousness of the modern age, ‘Exorcism’ is for anyone who’s jaded by their own social media presence (what one character ends up doing in her time of peril is what so many of us would do nowadays). It’s also for anyone who is just curious to see what might happen if you put a bunch of contemporary nincompoops on the same aircraft with absolute evil.

Prepare to enjoy a very different kind of Purge, one that’s green and nauseating but never dull. Not even for a second.

Peep the film’s trailer here and keep your eyes peeled for festival and release dates as they come in…

Like the lunacy right here.

The Best Black Comedies You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of

By Bob Freville

When some of us hear the word “dark,” it conjures up things like the Dark Tower movie, based on Stephen King’s iconic book series, or Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight, but others among us immediately picture something completely different.

Dark comedy movies haven’t always been popular, but they’ve always been distinct from your run-of-the-mill Hollywood comedy. Where so-called comedy classics typically rely on fart jokes and gay panic humor, black comedies depend on something more nuanced.

Operating in much the same way as a horror movie does, the black comedy plays on our fears, prejudices and inadequacies to craft something that is both irreverent and arresting. Many of these films are light years ahead of their time.

For every Fargo that ends up being immediately embraced by pop culture, there are a dozen flicks like Rubin & Ed or The Cable Guy that slowly find their fanbase over a period of decades.

Here are a few of the very best black comedies around, all of which I challenge you to quote off the top of your dome.

Neighbors (1981, Avilsen)

No, I’m not talking about that appropriately sophomoric frat comedy with Seth Rogen and Zac Efron, nor am I talking about its egregious sequel that served as little more than an excuse for Hollywood to once again sexualize child star Chloe Grace-Moretz.

No, we’re talkin’ John G. Avildsen’s manic, macabre adaptation of the equally weird Thomas Berger novel. This demented tale about a sexless suburban businessman (John Belushi in an uncharacteristically subdued performance) who lives on a deserted cul-de-sac beside a dangerous electrical tower explores upward-mobile ennui like few others.

Neighbors concerns what happens when the life of a bored middle-aged couple is disturbed by the arrival of a strange, swinging twosome (Dan Aykroyd and Cathy Moriarty) with a penchant for lies, manipulation, loud music and shotguns.

The role of Vic is easily Aykroyd’s greatest role to date with his oddly disquieting contact lenses, gold tooth, cheap bottle blond dye job and towering presence. The movie is made that much stranger by Bill Conti’s anachronistic theremin score that seems pulled from an old Ed Wood alien movie.

Straight to Hell (1987, Cox)

Alex Cox had already proven himself a pioneer with the punk rock pastiche Repo Man when he and Clash frontman Joe Strummer decided to make a sort of pseudo-concert movie together. This psychedelic spaghetti western isn’t exactly Quadraphoenia or Tommy: The Who, but it’s certainly a roundup of the most interesting acts in punk rock from the time.

The rag tag cast of rugged characters includes Cox regular Dick Rude as well as the members of The Pogues and a pre-nose job Courtney Love. The plot is half-baked at best (a group of inept bank robbers tear up a desert town full of derelicts when they’re not swilling coffee or slicking their hair back with gasoline), but the real treat is the manic passion of its eclectic cast.

In his book, X Films: True Confessions of a Radical Filmmaker, Cox talks about what a nightmare it was trying to coax a performance out of the very wooden Jim Jarmusch, a noted indie auteur in his own right and an occasional character actor.

Today, Straight to Hell has achieved cult status, but at the time, this shoestring action-comedy slipped through the cracks, no doubt in part because of its bizarre blend of gallows humor and over-the-top ensemble.

How to Get Ahead in Advertising (1989, Robinson)

Before Bizarro became a literary genre, filmmakers like David Cronenberg and Terry Gilliam gave us weird visions unlike anything we’d seen before or have really seen since. One such filmmaker was Bruce Robinson.

The British director is best known for the Gonzo drunks on holiday picture Withnail & I. Weird and wild in its own right, ‘Withnail’ is best remembered for the brilliant and infinitely quotable performance of Richard E. Grant as the titular souse who spouts proclamations like “I feel like a pig shat in my head” and “We want the finest wines known to humanity. And we want them here and we want them now!”

Grant returned to top form for this forgotten gem, a film Robinson fondly or not-so-fondly refers to as “The Boil.” Grant plays Dennis Dimbleby Bagley, a shrewd young marketing exec struggling to hatch an ad slogan for a new pimple cream.

Dennis’s frustration ends up growing into a boil on his neck, a boil which soon transforms into an even more repulsive version of him. To say any more would be to spoil a movie that is every bit as relevant and weird today as it was on the cusp of the Nineties.

Meet the Applegates (1990, Lehmann)

This one is up there with underrated greats like 1985’s Transylvania 6-5000 and 1989’s The ‘Burbs when it comes to twisted black comedies. After he delivered the pitch black anti-rom-com Heathers but before he gave us the armed rock n’ roll wannabes comedy Airheads, Michael Lehmann infested movie theaters with this smart satire about American mores.

Meet the Applegates is the story of Dick, Jane, Sally and Johnny Applegate, a foursome of giant, killer bugs from a South American rainforest who pose as a Leave it to Beaver-style suburban family in order to take down a nuclear power plant.

Of course, things don’t go as planned and blood is spilled as the Applegates eliminate the “homo sapien scum.” A fun and fucked up little romp, Meet the Applegates holds up in 2018 because its subject matter remains a problematic issue in the age of fracking and toxic shock.

Rubin & Ed (1991, Harris)

Some will recognize Crispin Glover’s Rubin from his now-notorious appearance on Letterman, but it was here that audiences (you know who you are) really got to know the guy with the long, bushy hair, ill-fitting bellbottoms and platform boots.

It’s really impossible to describe this zany, unpredictable flick without doing it a disservice. Yes, it’s a satire of self-help gurus, a riff on ancient cultures and a portrait of the awkward bond that develops among men. But it’s also a movie about a cat who can eat a whole watermelon.

Writer-director Trent Harris (Plan 10 from Outer Space) is currently crowdfunding a spiritual sequel to Rubin & Ed called Echo People. To learn more about it, you can click here.

The Dark Backward (1991, Rifkin)

Easily the strangest story about stand-up comedy ever committed to celluloid, The Dark Backward follows the journey of Marty Malt (a career-defying turn by Brat Packer Judd Nelson), the world’s worst stand-up comic. Marty is a garbageman whose only fan is his obnoxious and manipulative co-worker Gus (the late-Bill Paxton at his most unbridled).

Marty and Gus live in a trash-strewn world illuminated in queasy green and brown hues, a world that feels perpetually blighted by grease and decay. When Marty grows a third arm out of his back, Gus tells him he’s a “weirdie,” but he also suggests that this might be the big break they’ve both been dreaming of.

When a sleazy third-rate talent agent named Jackie Chrome (Wayne Newton with a John Waters mustache) learns of this deformity, he decides to leverage it as a gimmick to get Marty and his accordion-playing garbage buddy a gig on a daytime variety show.

This doesn’t begin to cover the highs and lows of grue and grotesquerie on display in Adam Rifkin (Look, Detroit Rock City)’s debut film, but it does scratch the grotty surface. Viewers will be treated to plenty of oddball humor and unforgettable lines like, “Well, pickle my tongue!” They’ll also watch legendary actor James Caan (The Godfather) play the screen’s worst doctor.

The Dark Backward is the darkest of comedies, but it’s also one of the absolute best. Watch it on repeat for all of the Blump’s easter eggs hidden throughout.

The Vagrant (1992, Walas)

Bill Paxton was back for another bugfuck black comedy with this psychological quagmire. The Vagrant follows Graham Krakowski (Paxton), here pronounced “crack house ski,” a young professional who buys a house in an unnamed city and sets about living the high life before a peculiar hobo sets up shop across the street and begins driving Crackhouseski up a fucking wall.

Graham believes that this slobbering, deformed vagrant is not only taunting him but actually breaking into his home. As paranoia mounts and his friends turn their backs on him, Graham becomes obsessed with a mysterious paperback book left for him in his bathroom.

The book may just hold the key to figuring out who the vagrant is and what his intentions for poor Mr. Crackhouseski are. This one is a wild ride with a gloriously batty original score and the kind of inimitable production design pioneered by The Dark Backward before it.

Ed & His Dead Mother (1993, Wacks)

Steve Buscemi is one of the godfathers of the black comedy, having appeared in everything from Barton Fink and Fargo to In the Soup and Living in Oblivion, but this early-Nineties bizarrothon is one of his weirdest.

In the pic, Buscemi plays a sexless mama’s boy who runs the family hardware store and mourns the passing of his beloved matriarch…until John Glover shows up looking like Mephistopheles…if Mephistopheles dressed like Tom Wolfe.

Glover works for the Happy People Corporation, a spurious entity that carries an LLC on its name (of course). Glover says that his company is in the business of making people happy and swears that, for a nominal fee (everything Buscemi’s got), he can bring mama back from the dead, “good as new.”

Mama comes back alright with a taste for cockroaches and a case of blood lust. If that doesn’t sound crackers enough, just you wait. You’ll never think of a John Deere the same again.

Lucky (2004, Cuden)

Nope, this isn’t the introspective 2017 drama starring Harry Dean Stanton, rather it is a microbudget horror fantasy with a decidedly demented sense of humor. Following the floundering life of alcoholic cartoon writer Millard Mudd, Lucky presents what happens when a loser’s claustrophobic world collapses in on itself, giving way to delusion.

In the flick, Millard’s whole world turns around with the arrival of a talking dog whose name is Lucky. Lucky’s presence in Millard’s life leads to Millard meeting the love of his life. But Lucky has a plan for Millard’s future and there is no room in that plan for a love interest.

Lucky’s warped visual and tonal perspective is best represented by the sheer volume of empty beer cans strewn around Millard’s apartment in impressively huge piles. Everything about this film is oversized and outrageous, but this excess is expertly rendered in a measured way.

This one predates the exceptional talking animal Ryan Reynolds comedy The Voices by ten years, but it’s every bit as awesome as its successor.

God Bless America (2011, Goldthwait)

Bobcat Goldthwait is, perhaps, the best and most original independent filmmaker working in America today (check out his genre-bending anthology series Monsters & Misfits on truTV). It is only fitting that he should make a movie with America in the title.

Fed up with his shitty family, his shitty neighbors and the shitty culture that would exploit the oblivious for laughs, Frank Murdoch (played by the woefully unsung Joel Murray) fantasizes about murder until one too many egregious reality TV shows sends him running for the gun closet.

What follows is a misguided murder spree with a damaged teenage girl as the self-appointed Bonnie to his disgruntled and middle aged Clyde. In interviews, Goldthwait has said that he likes to make comedies out of the material that would normally be used for drama which explains this colorful mashup of Badlands, Bonnie & Clyde and Harold & Maude.

If you’ve ever dreamed of mowing down inconsiderate teens who talk during a movie screening or imagined how satisfying it would be to take down a spoiled cunt in a tiara on MTV’s My Super Sweet Sixteen then this is the black comedy for you. Bloody good stuff!

There are many excellent black comedies that didn’t make this list, but it’s not for lack of quality. If you’ve already seen all these incredible titles, consider checking out Steven Soderbergh’s Schizopolis, Derek Jarman’s charmingly wacked Jubilee or Peter Berg’s underrated yet highly influential Very Bad Things.