Aug

posted by Doktor | August 14, 2012 | Interviews

I don’t know how I missed the 1992 film There’s Nothing Out There. It’s a film right up my alley: a horror/comedy that deconstructs the genre (check out the review) in an astute way. So, it’s not surprising that when I did finally see it I had not heard of Rolfe Kanefsky, the writer/director. Like many independent/low-budget filmmakers, Kanefsky’s career has spanned decades. Yet, for all the time he’s been making films, he has done so in relative obscurity. This is tragic because his films are entertaining, and quite often very clever.

Many of the filmmakers I admire most, Kanefsky among them, trudge on against the current, against harsh criticism, and often against an apathetic public. I felt it necessary to track him down and talk with him. Here’s what he had to say:

Doktor: After reading all the interviews on your site (to avoid asking you the same tired questions) I’d like to start off asking you for an update on your films? What is available for rent/purchase? What’s still in the works, looking for a distributor?

Rolfe Kanefsky: Well, most of my flicks (as I’ve always called them) have been released. Actually more have come out overseas then in America where a few have fallen through the cracks. There’s Nothing Out There is currently being handled by Troma Entertainment worldwide.  All the “sexy comedies” that I’ve done for Alain Siritzky, he handles himself internationally. Some of those have been released on DVD in the U.S. Through Roger Corman’s company until he got out of the distribution game. He then gave all rights back to Siritzky. Some have shown on HBO/Cinemax. That’s where the current series, Emmanuelle Through Time is now playing. The Hazing was released by MTI Home Video in the U.S. They have also released stateside my Pretty Cool movies and 1 in the Gun. Warner Brothers Home Video released Jacqueline Hyde. York Entertainment produced and barely released Corpses. Nightmare Man came out through Lions Gate as part of After Dark’s 2007 8 Films To Die For series. Currently, a small company called Lighthouse Productions is trying to make some foreign sales after Mark Lester’s American World Pictures kind of dropped the ball. My personal favorite film, Tomorrow By Midnight remains undistributed in the U.S. but has come out under such titles as After Midnight and Midnight 5 overseas in different territories. Some of my films are available on Netflix and for purchase on Amazon.com. My crazy musical Emmanuelle in Wonderland will probably never be released. It is owned by Alain Siritzky as is Tomorrow By Midnight. These are the two that are pretty impossible to find.

Doktor: What was it like working with Troma, first as a P.A. and then later when they were your distributor? Have you gone back to them with any of your other movies?

Rolfe Kanefsky: Troma was a great learning experience. Growing up in New York, they were really the only company to learn the ropes. The West Coast had Roger Corman and Charlie Band’s Full Moon. But on the east coast, young aspiring filmmakers could work for free for Troma. I was 18 working for Troma over the summer before I started college. Troma is best to work for when you’re young, have lots of energy, and when you can afford to work for free to learn the magic of the movies. Now, Troma films are a very specific kind of “magic”. Not the kind that you find in most Hollywood films. I worked on Troma’s War for about a month and a half. Before Troma I had already worked on a bunch of independent features like Posed for Murder, Rich Boys, and Laser Man. I started doing P.A. work on these low-budget features when I was sixteen. It was great training for I was also making my own feature at the time called Strength in Numbers in high school with friends. So, between my P.A. work stints and directing my own flick, it was a great training ground to become a filmmaker.

Going back to Troma, Lloyd Kaufman was always very nice. He’s great with names and he’s fun to be around. Troma’s War was the biggest budget film they had ever done. It was loaded with stunts. We shot in a National Guard park and it was grueling work that got harder when half the crew was fired or quit. We were doing multiple jobs. It was hard work. I eventually stopped because I was about to start college and didn’t want to go to school sick. A few years later when I directed by first professional flick, There’s Nothing Out There, Troma really wanted to distribute it. But at that time, everyone assumed anything released by Troma was produced by Troma and Lloyd would get all the credit. I wanted to make sure people knew Nothing was a Rolfe Kanefsky Flick so we declined. Of course, Troma also paid, or rather, never paid, so money-wise it was a bad idea to go with Troma. But for Nothing’s 20 Anniversary, Troma seemed like a good fit. They still wanted the film and let me release a really cool 2 disc DVD so I’m happy it’s out again. Although, money-wise nothing has changed. We still haven’t seen any but at least it’s out there again.

I’ve talked to Troma about my Emmanuelle in Wonderland movie but the business is so bad right now that they admit it would be a loss to release it. Like most distribution companies, they are pleading poor but if these companies were as poor as they say they are, they would no longer be in business. So, just the fact that the doors are still open means they are not being completely honest with their filmmakers.

Doktor: Speaking of Troma, is it blacklisted (as Lloyd likes to decry)? To me Troma is the first rung on the creative ladder, a necessary first step for outsider filmmakers. Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Kevin Costner, Billy Bob Thornton, and James Gunn come to mind. Though Troma is not in a glamorous or enviable position, they are still valuable and therefore worthy of respect. Or, am I completely mistaken?

Rolfe Kanefsky: Troma has helped start some careers although not nearly in the way that Roger Corman did back in the day. Also, the big difference is that Troma didn’t hire any of those people mentioned. They distributed films that those people were involved in. That’s a big difference. Trey Parker and Matt Stone were already doing their South Park thing independently when Troma released “Cannibal…The Musical!”. Eli Roth did start at Troma but not as a filmmaker. He worked for the company but made his first film, “Cabin Fever” on his own. Most of Troma’s films have been made by Lloyd Kaufman. Whereas, Roger Corman was only a producer for his company, Lloyd is more of a filmmaker and doesn’t tend to give much to aspiring filmmakers. James Gunn did start his writing career at Troma but again, it wasn’t until he moved to Hollywood that he started his directing career. But, I do think Troma is a good learning ground for beginning filmmakers. You will learn what you should and shouldn’t do on a movie and that is very valuable.

Doktor: One thing really struck a chord with me from your interviews, that of your academic career, particularly being a “genre” filmmaker in an “experimental arts” atmosphere. I had a very similar experience in college (mine in creative writing classes) where a teacher’s only comment on my piece was, “Class, where would you put this in your portfolio for grad school?” This has caused me to question the efficacy of teaching creative arts. Do you believe that the creative aspects of filmmaking can be taught? Or are young filmmakers who go through filmmaking schools taught assembly-line fashion cranking out the “McFilmmaker™”?

Rolfe Kanefsky: Anything that opens your mind to the possibilities of writing and directing is a good thing. I watch a lot of movies to study them. I’ve read a lot of scripts to learn format and pacing. Good scripts and bad scripts are very helpful so you can see what works and what doesn’t. In college, I fought with a lot of my teachers in the film and writing courses because they wanted everyone to just experiment. It was almost anti-Hollywood. As I’ve said, they love Hitchcock but hate horror films. So, I always found that a bit of a conflict. That’s why it was interesting working on real independent films during the summers because I’d get a completely different opinion on my work. They liked my short films whereas my teachers didn’t really care for them because they were “too commercial”. Actually, when I took Robert McKee’s scriptwriting workshop, I found that very helpful but at the same time a little too cookie-cutter. He claimed that it takes at least a year to write a good screenplay. For some yes but for others no. If Breakfast Club and Taxi Driver could be written in a week, I don’t agree that every script takes a year. There are too many exceptions and everyone has different methods that work. So, one should be open-minded as a writer/director. It’s when school classes close your mind because of self-preferences that it can be damaging. Everyone needs to find their own voice. You begin by copying what you like but eventually grow to discover your own style. School and classes can sometimes help but I feel, you’ll always learn more by doing. You have to make films. That’s, by far, the best training ground there is.

Doktor: What are you currently writing? Directing? Producing?

Unfortunately, I’m in a lull at the moment and looking for work. That said, I recently had a script I wrote optioned to a company called Victory Angel Films. It’s a road thriller entitled Road to Ruin. I also just extended the option on my horror script Scream Park with Sobini Films. I wrote a new spec currently titled 1 Bad House and have a television series that I’m trying to pitch entitled Whispering Falls. I also have a huge backlog of screenplays that I’d love to sell/make someday. It’s always about finding the funding. The thing I’m most excited about is a project in England that I’m attached to direct. It could be a wonderful film and something very different for me. Too early to really talk about and the money is not in place yet so I can’t really go into it except that it’s based on a true story and deals with Hollywood in the early 1930’s.

Doktor: There are many milestones along the path of our lives. Successful people continue to grow and change with time, as they reach, complete and move beyond goals. At this stage in your life, and career, what do you long to do that you have not yet had the chance to do?

Rolfe Kanefsky: Although I have been fortunate to have made a lot of movies over the past twenty years in this business, I’ve always had to do it with little time and little money. I’ve been complimented for doing a lot with a little but my stuff has always been below the radar in terms of Hollywood. I have almost never been asked to direct a project that someone else has written. I’ve never been on the list of directors or writers that get hired. Almost all of my movies, I created and had to work hard to find the funding. I am pleased with many of my flicks but I know what they are lacking due to time constraints and finances. So, it’s been a frustrating career and I have yet to make that one flick that really gets people/producers attention. I’ve heard that some people think that I am out of the budget range, although that is probably untrue. After Troma released There’s Nothing Out There, they wanted me to make a film for them for a total budget of $10,000 including my salary to write/direct/produce/edit and find the cast/crew and equipment. I have never made a feature film for $10,000 and don’t know how to even do that.

As I’ve said, I have a lot of scripts that I would love to direct someday. On the top of that list is “NEVERMORE” my modern Poe-inspired story, “EXIT” a great Hitchcockian thriller, “MR. HAPPY NEW YEAR” my suburban “After Hours” type comedy, and “HORROR WORLD” my love letter to horror-themed amusement parks. I would also like to make a real musical with a budget. My “WONDERLAND” was a great culty exericise and I know I could do it. Their was an off-Broadway show entitled “WEIRD ROMANCE” that I would love to try to make. Also, I still want to do a great car chase sequence. That’s the one thing I’ve never been able to tackle because of budget reasons. You can’t make a cheap car chase that’s any good. I did a car chase when I was sixteen doing my home movie “STRENGTH IN NUMBERS” but that’s the closest I’ve gotten.

I love most genres so it’s great to dip into different ones. I’d like to do more thrillers. Comedy comes easy for me and horror is always a lot of fun. So, I guess the most challenging for me would be a romantic western. I haven’t written any of those but if someone has a good script, who knows.

Aug

posted by Barry Goodall | August 8, 2012 | 80's b-movies, Horror movies, Podcast, Sci-Fi

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Join the Lost Highway gang (Barry Goodall, Die-Anne Takillya, Doktor, Giallo Goon, and Tiger Sixon) as they discuss the 1982 classic, John Carpenter’s The Thing. Listen with the player below, or use the Download link to save a copy of the MP3 to your computer.

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The Lost Highway Podcast will be available through iTunes soon! (It has been added, we are just waiting for it to be approved)

Jul

posted by The Goon | July 29, 2012 | 80's b-movies, B-movie Reviews, B-movies, Reviews by the Goon

Unhinged

Unhinged is a film I remember seeing various VHS box covers for when I was a child. I would hear tales of its shocking and disturbing story and atmosphere, over the top violence and gore and a twist ending that would leave you scarred. Fast forward to my mid twenties; I’m browsing the horror DVD’s at a local FYE (Don’t ask me why I was there. I guess I felt like being overcharged for something) and I come across Unhinged. At first, I didn’t recognize it, but the box shows a woman’s face, wide eyed and covered in blood. After reading the synopsis on the back I realized this was that notorious Video Nasty I heard so many legends about… but my expectations were about to be crushed.

Have you ever heard a story from a friend that he from his friends and they heard from their friends… and so on? It becomes so exaggerated and diluted that when you finally see it, it was overhyped, underwhelming and you find yourself surprised at how this film, Unhinged, managed to make it on the Video Nasty List. And keep in mind that the DVD is the uncensored version.

The story to Unhinged is nothing new, mind you. Three girls on their way to some jazz concert or something (I don’t know. The beginning of the story is smothered in boobs and what they are talking about goes by so fast) and they go off the road and are rescued by a creepy family. Well, they are rescued by the family’s helper, Norman, who looks a lot like Burt Reynolds. Films like ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’, ‘Tourist Trap’ or even ‘Just Before Dawn’ may be racing through your head. Well, that’s because you’ve seen this scenario dozens of times before. It’s nothing original, it’s nothing new. It’s your ‘stranded-in-the-middle-of-nowhere-with-crazies-but-I’m-staying-here-when-I-should-just-leave’ plot. The family consists of Marion, the creepy and odd daughter of Nancy. Nancy doesn’t do much except kinda sit around and chew scenery. She hates men; the film decided they needed to hammer this only important piece of information into your head. So, I’m gonna go ahead and skip several drawn out dinner scenes (clearly trying to emulate some Texas Chainsaw Massacre there) and tell you. Her husband was institutionalized. Yup. See where this is headed?

unhingedWhether it’s the girls or Marion and her mother, they all seem to share bad chemistry. Their dialogue is clunky, seems unrealistic and the actors are seemingly rushing through their lines just to get to the end and pausing so the other may speak. This is bad when you are relying on your audience to attach themselves to your characters. Much like how we felt bad for the girls in ‘The Last House on the Left’. We got to know these girls and they were tortured, but here… you just don’t care. I caught myself thinking about how I should arrange my DVD’s.

They do actually create some tension though. One of the girls is out of commission for quite some time in the film (and you have to wonder why it took the girls till the SECOND DAY to check on their friend) and at night, they hear someone breathing that becomes increasingly louder.  Later, they find it to be some creepy dude and I have to be honest here: I totally forgot what his relation was to the people of the house (ANSWER: His name is Carl and it’s Marion’s brother). And I had to look that up, but that proves my point. You don’t invest yourself in these characters. But yeah, you know how the rest goes; the main girl is chased finds her dead friends and confronts Marion, who actually… in a surprising twist… is a dude!

I’m going to break my mold for a bit. I usually try to talk about the movie in a few paragraphs, trying to spoil as little as possible, but with a movie like Unhinged, there isn’t really much to talk about. As I said, you’ve seen this type of movie before. But, now that I’ve talked about it, I’d like to talk about what it was the movie was trying to accomplish in a period where movies were confusing blood and body counts as scary.

Unhinged The DVD does offer an interview with the director on a local Portland, Oregon (the cast and crew were all natives from there) TV channel that is actually kind of insightful, for as short as it is. Don Gronquist states that he wanted to create a movie that horror movies don’t need a high body count to be scary and that’s what he wanted to do with Unhinged. Make a creepy movie that didn’t focus on blood and bodies for scares. And I have to totally agree. This is the reason I like Unhinged. It made a bold attempt to break away from what was popular and safe to sell tickets and instead really tried to go back to using atmosphere and twists as true horror…which I believe that’s what it should be about. Sure, blood and guts are nice, but they don’t scare you. They disgust you. Horror isn’t blood. Horror is truly being frightened to look over your shoulder or to walk down your hallway in the middle of the night. Unfortunately, the film borrowed elements that were too familiar and didn’t do anything new with them. Sure, the film isn’t frightening, but it can be creepy at moments.

I say watch the film. Sure the acting is hammy at best (Marion being the only well portrayed character), every death scene is someone getting stabbed off screen then getting blood splashed on their face, but it’s entertaining and definitely doesn’t deserve all the negative feedback it gets.

Also, the DVD offers a few bonus features. One is an audio commentary track featuring five “comics” attempting to riff the film, but it ends up being five obnoxious, drunk loudmouths talking over each other. Oh and it’s not funny.

roadside attractions

  • Burt Reynolds Stunt Double
  • Last House on the Left Nod
  • Gender Conusion-A-Tron
  • Peeping Tom-ism
  • Worst Friends Ever
totals

4

blood

BLOOD

Yes there is blood in the film, but you could also say there is silverware.

7

blood

BREASTS

A couple of full frontal shower scenes over important exposition, so pay attention!

9

beast

BEASTS

A mean ol’ Granny, a bearded peeping tom and a gender confused psycho! A family that makes the Bundy’s look civil.

7.0 OVERALL
dripper

Check out the trailer for “Unhinged”

trailers

dripper
Jul

It may surprise many of you to learn that I, Barry Goodall have no cell phone. I kid you not. I own no Apple iphone, no blackberry, no kumquat 2.0, …there’s not one fruit based technology of any sort in this double-wide. In fact, I started writing this review back  in the late spring of 2011 when I stripped fresh bark for parchment from a nearby pine  and sent my review in a whale bone mailing tube on the back of a trained river otter. He delivered it to the city folks upriver who then air shipped it to a cheap outsourced data entry employee in Bangledesh. There my review was translated  to Arabic then to French and back again to english.You may notice some strange typos that could confuse me for this be sure to  humus I surrender this pudding suit?

Sure, there’s the looks of shock you get when you say you don’t have a cell phone “But Barry, how do you make phone calls?”  they’d ask. “Well, after we get done making our homemade asprin from  the  gall of a castrated boar and our homegrown opium, we take turns using the family fire pit for smoke signal messages. Would you like a piece of this homemade baklava?”

So thanks, but no thanks to your dark magic or you call it “mobile technology.” I think I’ll be sticking with my laser disc players and Nintendo powerglove for now. Sure I might not be able to Instagram myself  impersonating a duck, but you can never put a price on a well trained river otter.

Speaking of  big long distance bills. Little Joey has been comunicating with his recently deceased father over a toy phone in the Germantic sci-fi “Making Contact.” One of the few movies to feature a giant mutant hamburger and a darth vader cameo all in the same film. Joey doesn’t realize than communicating with his dead dad would unleash the demonic spirit of an evil ventriloquisto doll who wants to make him into toaster strudel. The dummy looks a bit like a young Erich Von Stroheim with all the charm of an old man that just learned they cancelled Matlock. Joey finds the dummy while hunting down his lost robot in a nearby mansion and sticks him in his room to complete his collection of safety recalled toys.

Joey’s mom thinks he’s going crazy but seems less concerned her son can levitate a glass of milk with his mind or that he may have stuck some kitchen knives in the wall in a fit of telekentic rage. Joey also been getting picked on by some school bullies so he’s only about one wedgie short of going Carrie on their behinds.

Joey’s teacher learns of his power when he visits his mom for a “parent teacher conference” and brings in an entire government evac team to seal up the house and study Joey’s brain with wired turkey basters. Meanwhile the bullies make a  plan to kidnap Joey while hanging out at the old Bates home but the evil dummy has trapped them there instead. Joey sneaks out  to help free the kids from the clutches of the devil doll and has turned the house into a maze full of mummies, giant hamburgers, and man eating dinosaurs (or as we call it, Euro-Disney.)  The gang tries to escape but discover the only exit is blocked by the puppet and the ghost of an inept ventriloquist not played by Jeff Dunham. The two must battle with their telekentic powers to see who will triumph and who gets their face melted off first.

Making Contact was obviously influenced by the success of ET and Poltergiest with a bit of Star Wars thrown in. I was hoping for more German nude cannibalism or at least some singing nuns but was sadly disappointed. Barry Goodall says check it out only if you’re looking for a good anesthesia before a major surgery or are in need of an epitac. You can also check out the original German extended cut  in the DVD box set with extra farvergnugen. Just be sure to play it loud and scare your neighbors.

roadside attractions

  • Giant hamburgers
  • Pigtail levitation
  • Krispy Kreme product placement
  • Electro shock garabage cans
  • Melt-o-dummies
  • Fisher price glow phones
  • Runaway Datsuns
totals

0

blood

BLOOD

I think a kid got a noise bleed and scraped his knee. Oh the carnage!

0

blood

BREASTS

Nadda ta-tas, I think this was supposed to be for kids. But it was originally German so you never can be certain.

8

beast

BEASTS

The grumpiest vantrliqust dummy ever, darth vader, giant hamburger, and some goofy looking dionsaurs.

4.0 OVERALL
dripper

Check out this trailer from “Making Contact”

trailers

dripper
Jul

posted by Barry Goodall | July 19, 2012 | Feature


We’d like to welcome our latest member to the adopt a highway program, Trick or Treat Studios. They recently become one of our advertising partners and we gotta say their masks are flippin’ amazing. You gotta see the detail on these works of art. We sat down with the owner, Christopher Zephro and talked about his rubbery obsession.

LH: Tell us a little bit on how you got started in mask making?

Chris: Personally, I couldn’t sculpt a mask if my life depended on it, but I have always been a big mask collector ever since I was a kid, so when I decided to leave Corporate America and start my own company, masks and the Halloween business seemed like the best idea for me given the state of the Halloween Mask industry and a desire to work in an area that was in line with my passion.

LH: What were some of your favorite b-movies when you were a kid and today?

Chris: Well you have to remember when this movie first came out it was very much a B-Movie if you consider the budget and production value and that would have to be Halloween. I also watched all of the B-Movies like Pieces, Mortuary, Mad Man, Dark Night of the Scarecrow, CHUD, Magic and Piranah.

LH: How has the mask market changed since we were kids in the 80’s.

Chris: It’s changed a lot! Back in the 80’s masks were really high quality. They were made in the USA or Mexico and they had a really nice look and feel to them. The characters were original and the designs were first class. Now, most of my favorite companies are either gone or have moved all of their production to China. The masks are cheap looking, flimsy, the paint is bad and the quality of the latex has so many fillers in to that the mask will rot away in under a year, plus the smell. Also, the designs look horrible and there is no attention to detail. It seems like none of these companies care about anything but the price. It’s sad, but it opened up a huge door for Trick or Treat Studios to come in with top quality mask that had the look and feel of from the Golden Age of mask making. It took quite a while to educate the market, but Retailer are really coming around and are understanding that consumers will pay $10 more for a quality mask.

LH: How did the Halloween II mask deal come about with Universal?

Chris: I was actually approaching Universal Studios about some other masks we were interested in like They Live and the Funhouse and just in a passing comment I said, “is there anyway we could do anything with Halloween II? To my surprise they said yes and the conversation and licensing discussion changed to Halloween II and it stayed there until we had a signed contract in hand. It was a dream come true..

LH: What makes your masks different from the competition?

Chris: The quality, the craftsmanship and the character design of our masks. All of my Artists come from the independent mask making community, they are the best in the world and their names are on the back of every mask that they design. We market our sculptors. Combine that with a President that loves masks and knows a few things about business and you’ve got a good combination. We all love what we do and it shows in our work, I’d never ship a mask that I won’t be proud to have in my personal collection. Also, cost is not the number one thing for us, which is clearly the only thing my competitors focus on, for Trick or Treat Studios, quality and design integrity come first and second with cost being a long third.

LH: Can you talk a bit about your process for making them?

Chris: Ever mask is 100% hand made. It starts with a sculpture done in clay, which is then molded to make tooling masters. Those tooling master are then used to make molds. We can only get 20 masks per mold before a new mold needs to be made. From the molds, we pour our latex castings. Those casting are than trimmed and cut and than they go off to painting and hairing. It is a long process, that is literally is 100% hand made.

LH: Tell us a bit about your mask designers. How did they get on board making masks for Trick or Treat Studios.

Chris:
Again I own Trick or Treat Studios, I’m not a sculptor, but our Art Director, Justin Mabry is the best mask maker in the world. Justin and I were friends for a number of years and when I decided that I wanted to start this company, he was my first chose to partner with for the venture. Justin put together the sculpting team and recruited the best Artist to fit what we wanted to do.

Trick or Treat Studios

LH: What’s on the horizon for Trick or Treat Studios? Any other cool masks you can talk about that are coming out?

Chris:
We got some awesome stuff lined up for 2013 and I can discuss a few projects. We are going to be doing a Werewolf based on Eric Pigors Toxictoons. For Universal Studios we are going to be doing Darkman, They Live and the Funhouse. We are going to be doing Dark Night of the Scarecrow and we also have a handful of really nice original designs. And in 2013 we will be introducing some costumes and props.

LH: I know you frequent a lot of shows. Any conventions that you’ve really enjoyed? Any funny stories that happened at one?

Chris:
The Haunt and Attractions show that TransWorld Exhibits put on is always a lot of fun. And I love doing Monsterpalooza. It’s a great opportunity to interact with the fans. I guess the funniest story is that a fan bought our Ghastly Ghoul mask one year and he liked it so much that the next year he showed up with a tattoo of the mask.

LH: Any strange requests from buyers?

Chris: Nothing to weird, but it’s hard to shock Justin and I.

We’d like to thank Chris for stopping at the Lost Highway drive-in and taking about his amazing masks. Go check them out and stock up early for Halloween or your next stalking. Keep on screamin’

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Lost Highway is your satirical detour down the twisted back roads of b-movies and cult films reviews. learn more >>