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…

What a Bunch of Assholes: The Scatalogical Satire of Peter Vack

(Breaking Glass Pictures)

dir. Peter Vack

“I’m not fucking a fucking sober bitch pussy, and I’m not having sex like a..no…nobody else would have sex with me because how are they gonna do it? This day and age, all y—, the only way you fuck is if you go for a drink with someone.”

This is how Peter Vack’s 2017 indie addiction comedy Assholes opens, and it’s exactly the kind of irresponsible but fundamentally true diatribe that has become a red diamond in American cinema of late. The films of the 2000s are increasingly homogenized with even the so-called independent films bearing little resemblance to those made in the Seventies, Eighties or even Nineties.

With the exception of Harmony Korine’s tonal prose-poem The Beach Bum, I can think of few, if any, examples of recent movies that allowed their characters to be human, warts and all. Even long-form narratives aren’t permitted to be this honest or ugly. My mind immediately goes to the Hulu series Difficult People which focused on a duo of hopelessly despicable protagonists.

It’s worth mentioning that said show was canceled after its second season. So much for the artistic freedom of streaming services. I’ve gotta wonder if the Billy Eichner series was given the ax, at least in part, because of its equal opportunity insults. Indeed, nothing seemed to be off-limits in Difficult People, whether it was jokes about 9/11 being an inside job, the proliferation of pop-up restaurants or the obnoxious and out-of-control hipsterdom of 21st Century Manhattan (see: John Mulaney as Old Timey Cecil whose breakout line is, “My family invented the jelly bean. Fuck you!”).

Difficult People would have been a fitting and admittedly more mature title for Peter Vack’s directorial debut. In another universe I could even see the two being paired up for a retrospective. But not in 2020, not even if you’re Todd Solondz or John Waters. The former is relegated to the back pages of Amazon while the latter has to write books in lieu of directing motion pictures.

All “get off my lawn” nostalgic yearning aside, I’ve gotta commend Vack for the bold choices that he makes from frame one. A lot of ink has been spilled about Assholes being a “gross-out” movie, but it’s not the crassness of the dialogue or the hideous sight gags that are really so jarring. Instead it’s Vack’s keen attention to detail that other millennial filmmakers would be unlikely to think of.

In the very first sequence of the flick, as Adah Shapiro, pic’s girl in begrudging recovery, complains about how much she hates sober people we are treated to subtitles that cannot be removed by remote. These subtitles aren’t in another language other than our own. In fact, they are all too familiar to some of us.

“When I was not a sober person and I looked at ber people, I wod be like, whoa, like, you are li, lame. Like, I never gonna be like you. And now that I have crossed over to the sober fe, I stil feel that way, I do! I just still feel that way, and I, I jt, you know, nothing’s changed, and just, and it makes me feel incredibly lonely. Like, incredibly alone in this world because now I forced to hang out with people who I relateero…”

This is just a taste of Adah’s lament and the accompanying subtitles read like nothing so much as a regrettable text message that you send to a former lover at four in the morning before crashing on a park bench and waking up in your own urine.

It is this sense of authenticity that gives Assholes its real power. And it is this power that makes this more than what can fairly be referred to as a “gross-out comedy.” For every feculent fluid that’s highlighted on-screen there are a handful of exchanges that underscore the seriousness of the subject matter.

This acute authenticity extends far beyond the frankness of Adah’s sexual frustration to the way in which she projects her sickness onto her brother, something that virtually every addict has been guilty of at some point in their downward spiral.

I feel like I need to point out that Adah is played by Vack’s real life sister and that Adam Shapiro, her on-screen brother, is played by Vack himself. The actor-director’s birth name was Peter S. Brown. He and his sister’s parents are Ron and Jane Brown, a screenwriter and producer, respectively.

If one were to venture a guess as to the origins of Assholes‘ plot they would probably assume that it’s a work of autobiography. Fortunately for Vack and his sibling, this was never the case. The pair were raised on the Upper West Side by an entrepreneurial father and a mother who earned a living as a psychoanalyst.

While Vack has copped to the fact that they drew upon “past animosities” toward each other, this was not the crux of his idea for the story. In fact, the characters were originally written as ex-lovers and Vack only decided to alter the script after his sister performed the part of the ex-gf during a table read.

People can talk all they want about how “disgusting” this film is, but I dare anyone to name another recent American film that has so lovingly paid homage to the composition of International arthouse pictures. From the off-kilter framing and overbearing lighting to the stilted dialogue and random outbursts, there is little here that could be compared to the likes of the Farrelly Brothers or a Judd Apatow flick.

Maybe Peter Vack isn’t the real asshole, maybe it’s people like me who get off on seeing something that so brazenly thumbs its nose at narrative convention and domestic cinematic structure. I suspect this was at least a consideration of Vack’s if not his full intent.

While I was watching Assholes I was reminded of a quote by Finnish auteur Aki Kaurismäki in which he complained about the state of modern cinema, saying, “In the old days you had one murder and that was enough for a story. Now you have to kill 300,000 people just to get the audience’s attention.”

If any quote explains the necessity of Assholes‘ verbal and visual excesses it’s this jeremiad. In a world that’s become increasingly desensitized to sex and violence on camera, the only logical next step is for a male and female protagonist to suck each others’ assholes and cold sores. Not because it’s particularly beautiful or artistic, simply because there’s nowhere left to go. How else will you get anyone’s attention?

While it can easily be argued that subtlety would be a better and craftier weapon against mainstream cinema’s excesses, it’s impossible not to acknowledge a certain brilliance in Vack’s politically incorrect presentation of drug-induced insanity.

One extended sequence in the first half hour feels so painfully real that it’s difficult to imagine it being filmed without the cast and crew landing in NYC’s infamous Tombs. And that’s before the birth of the shit-smeared demon woman from the mortal asshole.

It’s fitting that Vack and his sister grew up with a mother who specialized in psychoanalysis because the entire film could be read as one protracted 74-minute therapy session. This is not lost on Assholes‘ creator who makes it a point to include an analyst as a central character, one that seems perpetually put upon by his neurotic patients.

That the analyst is himself so desperate for a connection that he considers himself friends with these assholes reinforces the notion that Assholes isn’t merely about assholes and their obsession with assholes but, more importantly, about how we all have our heads wedged firmly up our assholes.

In short, Assholes is a family film that everyone should be able to connect with. One character sums the madness up quite succinctly: “It’s gender blind, it seems to be directed at all of us.” At the end of the day, these assholes are us.—Bob Freville

In A Dark Place – Film Review

by Bob Freville

The following review originally appeared on the now-defunct horror website KillingBoxx in the Fall of 2011. It is shared here in the hopes that a new generation of readers will discover this woefully forgotten DtoDVD gem.

How dare you…You made me feel like I was mad!”

The color yellow is symbolic of many things. To the eternal optimist it signifies bright rays of sunshine and exists as a “warm” color, one that represents the hope of a loved one’s return or the promise of a cheerful occasion. For the Egyptians it is a tone emblematic of mourning. For us horror fans it is, and will always be, related to the gialli (the Horror films of Argento, Bava and Fulci, and, quite literally, the Italian word whose translation means “Yellow”). Yellow is also, most significantly, the color which actors of the Middle Ages wore to connote the Dead.

Yellow is the color of Horror and of the Dead, a color of hazard and Danger. So it is no mere fashion statement for Anna Veigh (Leelee Sobieski) to wear yellow clothes in virtually every scene of Donato Rotunno’s In A Dark Place. Anna’s life is consumed by the dead and, more appropriately, Death.

In A Dark Place is a widely overlooked and sorely underrated 2006 adaptation of Henry James’ classic Turn of the Screw. And aside from earning four cleavers for so exquisitely displaying Ms. Sobieski’s ample bosom (without so much as one arbitrary topless scene), it scores plentiful points for purveying all the goods of a grand Gothic slash bash (a gorgeous alien-like female lead with no small semblance of complexity, a steamy but classy lesbian tryst worthy of a Tinto Brass-David Lynch foursome, two marvelous mammaries that act as scene stealers and hand in some understated acting of their own, a sprawling Victorian manse that straddles Art Nouveau and Contempo Creepy, enough vibrant colors to make Dario A. shoot his W., and so many twists and surprises it should be called a lemon meringue layer cake).

When first we meet Ms. Veigh, whose last name hints of the V-eight, a car known for its internal combustion, she is bent over on a cafeteria floor, picking up broken glass and licking blood from her fingers. The location is the lunch room of what looks to be an elementary school and Ms. Veigh’s curious action, not to mention her Grade A gams, are quickly noticed by a lecherous Principal. The Principal calls her away to his office where he ogles her further and informs of her dismissal.

In this instant, and her subsequent landing back on her feet at a job interview, Anna is wearing pink and she seems to embody the color with her wide smile and beaming eyes, as if she was sugar and spice incarnate. But in no time at all the earth tones are introduced after Anna is hired to be the new nanny for a pair of rich and weird little brats who live in the wealthy Countryside.

The rugrats are boarding school types whose Father is an absentee parent and a very powerful man. The only other adult guardian on the premises is Ms. Grose (Tara Fitzgerald), a British ice queen with an unreadable face and an unpredictable temperament. Ms. Grose doesn’t seem to like Ms. Veigh much, yet she, and the children’s father, are adamant about her staying on to supervise the kids.

This being a suspense-chiller, Ms. Veigh soon encounters bizarre behavior from the little tykes, is harassed by fleeting appearances from a threatening phantom and begins to suspect that the previous Nanny’s death was no mere accident. And it doesn’t seem to help matters that Anna brings a shadowy past of her own to the table.

Henry James’ book, on which Rotunno’s film is based, is one of the stalest, blandest and most bombastic ghost yarns ever written. As a student of the Arts I can, of course, see its value as part of History, but that doesn’t negate its chief allure—to provide a read that will put you to sleep or drive you crazy with pretentiously-penned run-on sentences.

This particular film adaptation, on the other hand, is anything but. A stylized, but never showy, shrewdly-paced and dexterously-photographed Expressionist noir-horror, In A Dark Place does what Hitchcock profferred as the chief purpose of a good film–It plays the audience like a piano. Or, rather, a violin, the instrument that figures into the action without much explanation.

In many ways it is a film as much about art as it is an invention of it. Anna implements Art Therapy as a means of feeling out her two young wards while providing them an optional catharsis. The results yield as many questions as they do answers and the once-molested Anna commences suspecting the children of either being sinister themselves or suffering abuse from a sinister figure similar to her own.

Like this year’s above-average human trafficking thriller and fellow adaptation And Soon The Darkness, In A Dark Place makes optimum use of its locations, using a soft lens on snow and quilted beanie to off-set the atmospheric iniquity of a frozen lake and cantankerous dead brush. It is a lens (thanks to D.P. Jean-Francois Hensgens) with a warmth for human texture and a detached fearfulness of interior and exterior space worthy of John Alcott and Roy Walker (The Shining).

And speaking of piano, Adam Pendse (scoring for the first time) gives us such incessant and eclectic sounds that we can’t help but feel like a jittery fly on the wall of this vast home of seclusion.

The snow falls as if in a holding pattern, in shock, as gelid as the lake beyond the woods. And it is as sad and beautiful as Rotunno’s film is as a whole. As alluded to before, ‘Dark Place’ is a picture with all the giallo juice, minus the unnecessary gore, a pic where nudity and sex, although sizzling hot, are handled with class and care, with the sensual being cut short to match the disquiet and fragmentation of the root of Anna Veigh’s experience.

Leelee Sobieski’s performance should go down in the annals of Horror History alongside Joan Crawford in Straight-Jacket, Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, Ellen Burstyn in The Exorcist, Barbara Steele in Castle of Blood and Brigitte Lahaie in La Nuit Des Traquees (or Night of the Hunted). Sadly, I doubt, given pic’s under-the-radar DVD release, that it will qualify to be celebrated alongside even something as modern and memorable as Lauren German’s turn in Hostel: Part II.

Nevertheless Sobieski and Fitzgerald own this ghastly gospel. It is seldom enough for two strong women to share the majority of a film’s running time (without the movie being a rom-com), but it is rarer still for those women to exude multidimensional personas, sentience, strength and resolve, even in scenes of vulnerability.

In A Dark Place is the first directorial endeavor of Mr. Rotunno, whose reputation is as the producer of at least 17 films (including Vinyan director Fabrice Du Welz’s awesome Calvaire: The Ordeal, starring previously-mentioned Brigitte Lahaie). After seeing this flick I will follow this man’s camera into the depths of any sort of cinematic Hell. Alas it is unlikely he will direct again, given that In A Dark Place was helmed in 2005 and distributed in 2006. Here’s hoping that I’m wrong.

Finally it is important to acknowledge the infrequent anomaly that In A Dark Place is—a picture which never falls prey to the trappings of the hackneyed ghost theme, instead opting to unsettle and excite by way of rationing out elaborate exposition, extolling intricate performances and deftly manufacturing uncanny atmosphere by virtue of gorgeous art direction and ace cinematography. As Ms. Grose says to Ms. Veigh midway through, “Don’t go yet.”

Four cleavers for Leelee’s tee-tees, four cleavers for hellish housing, three cleavers for genuine mystery and one cleaver for inspired ambiguity.

In A Dark Place can be streamed on Amazon Prime or stream it for free with ads on Popcornflix or VUDU Free.

3 from Hell – Film Review

by Zakary McGaha

[NOTE: The passing of Sid Haig is quite a loss to the world of horror films. His iconic Captain Spaulding character from the original Firefly movie House of 1000 Corpses…created by Sid just as much as the person who wrote him into existence, Rob Zombie…was an icon. Everyone recognized the face. He was often-times quoted. For the early 2000s, he was basically Freddy Krueger for a short period of time. That being said, this review is not meant to be, in any way, disrespectful to Sid and his beloved character. Rather, it is a review of a film that, as fate would have it, didn’t feature Sid that much, despite the fact that he was originally going to be in it throughout the entire runtime. Health reasons prevented that from happening, and so we got Richard Brake’s new character: Foxy. Although I didn’t like 3 From Hell at all, it was worth it to see Sid in character as the demented, sadistic, business-savvy clown with a country drawl one last time.]

WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ah, Rob Zombie. I have a love-hate relationship with his movies and music. The gist of it is: I think he’s okay, and sometimes pretty awesome…when he doesn’t have his filthy mitts on the Halloween franchise. See, he has his own style; his own flare. He’s a distinctive creator, and his music branches into his movies. It’s all one, cohesive whole. However, if you take said distinctive flare and mix it in a witch’s cauldron with the already-established, and much beloved, Halloween franchise…you get a nasty concoction that shouldn’t be.

Halloween aside, you could call me a Rob Zombie fan. The Devil’s Rejects, in my opinion, is one of the standout horror-films of the 2000s, and it’s probably destined to be remembered as such. In many ways, it was a perfect movie. You had great, interesting, psychopathic characters who were accustomed to having all the power. Various victims never escaped the Firefly family’s brutality. These killers were remorseless, wise-cracking hillbilly-esque folks who were very good at winning. They contrasted usual slasher villains in that they simply didn’t get caught, and when they were confronted by force…such as the police officers in House of 1000 Corpses…they always wound up on top. But The Devil’s Rejects changed that: the whole point of the movie was to see how these characters fared when they were being hunted not just by a crazy, vengeful cop and his deputies, but also by bounty hunters who were just as viscous, if not MORE viscous, than them. The end result was an amazing film that keeps the viewer constantly on the edge of their seat as the plot barrels forward to a super-climactic, ultra-violent, CONCLUSION in the form of a final blaze-of-glory that will forever be known as one of the best endings in horror history…

…At least, that would have been the case had 3 From Hell not come along and completely destroyed everything built in the previous entry.

To call 3 From Hell pointless would be an understatement. It’s a continuation of a story that’s already reached its conclusion and is resting peacefully in the Horror Graveyard. However, Rob Zombie came along, dug up the corpse, and then resurrected it in Frankenstein-like fashion. The end result is a story that’s half-alive, half-dead, with absolutely no sense of direction.

The movie opens in a cool-enough way: news-footage reveals that the Firefly family beat the odds and survived the shootout at the end of Devil’s Rejects, and they’re all ALIVE save for the recently-executed Captain Spaulding.

Also, Otis has escaped prison: while on a chain-gang, his half-brother Foxy…previously unmentioned in the past two films…comes along, shoots up the scene, and frees Otis.

Another familiar face had been on the chain-gang as well: Rondo, played by Danny Trejo. Otis promptly gets revenge and kills the defenseless bounty-hunter…who, strangely, doesn’t even remember who Otis is…before running off into the woods.

This is really where the movie starts going downhill and stops being new. Every plot-point from here on out is ripped from the previous film, down to the minute details.

We get:

  1. A clown, as opposed to the clown-wannabe of DR, unluckily interrupting the Firefly gang as they’re torturing their latest hostages. Like in DR, this clown also gets shot in the head.
  2. As mentioned in the previous entry, hostages…two couples, again…are held in their quarters by the family.
  3. One hostage, as opposed to the two in DR, is sent out to do the Firefly gang’s dirty-work while his loved-ones are held captive.
  4. Every hostage dies. One said hostage’s death even plays homage to both the “run rabbit run” scene from House of 1000 Corpses and the girl with the face-mask from DR who gets hit by the truck.
  5. The Firefly gang is on the lam.
  6. The Firefly gang takes up shelter at a seedy hotel in Mexico, where they party with hookers…which, of course, is a direct rip from DR when they were at Charlie’s bordello.
  7. The Firefly gang gets ambushed by Rondo’s son, who has been looking for them ever since Otis killed his father in the beginning. He is accompanied by his organized-crime outfit, The Black Satans, which run around wearing wrestling masks. Again, this is a direct rip from DR, when Sheriff Wydell, accompanied by his bounty-hunters, ambush the Devils at the bordello.
  8. Instead of killing the Firefly gang, Rondo’s son ties them up and tries to act tough, with heavy talk of justice and family and shit. Again, this is directly ripped from the last part of DR where Sherriff Wydell does the same thing.
  9. The Firefly gang escapes and kills the spurned family-member who’s only trying to avenge his father…which, OF COURSE, is what happened to Sherriff Wydell in DR, although he came closer to killing the Devils. If only he would’ve been privy to Tiny…

Sound familiar? Yeah, I thought so. There are probably some other things I missed. To call this movie a derivative waste of time would be accurate and neither under or overstated. Was it fun? Yeah, but it didn’t have the UMPH of a good story, like in Devil’s Rejects, to accompany it.

1/5 stars. I would’ve given it 2/5 had it not completely tarnished The Devil’s Rejects and negated its importance in the overarching Firefly-family story.