Interview with Charlie Steeds, writer and director of Death Ranch
By James Whittington, Saturday 10th October 2020

Horror movies and controversy always go hand in hand but when they tackle serious issues by using extreme violence to hammer home a point they can be very worthy. Death Ranch from Charlie Steeds is having its world premiere at Grimmfest so we chatted to him about this very strong movie.

HC: What inspired you to write Death Ranch?

CS: I'd always wanted to try making a movie with a 70s Grindhouse/Exploitation style and was watching old Grindhouse trailers for inspiration. I came across the movie Brotherhood of Death, where black characters fight back against the KKK for some of the film (the tagline is 'Watch these brothers stick it to the Klan!') and that concept seemed outrageous and brilliant to me. Like a lot of Exploitation, that movie doesn't fully deliver on its poster, so I took that concept and set out to develop my own movie that would deliver on the promise of seeing the KKK taken down by heroic black characters. It felt like something I wanted to see, as a movie fan, that's why I made it.

HC: Are you a fan of Grindhouse cinema?

CS: Absolutely, I'm a fan of certain Blaxploitation movies, Coffy and Foxy Brown, those type of movies are still as entertaining as they ever were, quite politically incorrect at times but the films don't care. Jack Hill is a director who's work and style I really love, such wild B-movie material but more genuinely entertaining than most of what comes out of Hollywood these days. I'm a big Italian Western fan too, I think you can see that influence (along with the blaxploitation influences) very clearly in Death Ranch. I'm a huge Quentin Tarantino fan, I grew up on Kill Bill, and his whole style is influenced by a lot of these Grindhouse movies. I remember being incredibly hyped for the Tarantino/Rodriguez Grindhouse double bill as a teenager, and that opened up this whole new world of exploitation cinema to me.

HC: Its very different to your other movies, was this a deliberate attempt to push your creativity?

CS: With each movie, I purposely try something new, a completely different sub-genre or style (with the exception of Cannibal Farm and The Barge People, those being two similar backwoods slashers). This was my first time shooting in America, that definitely gave the film a different feel. It's also perhaps less horror-focused than my other films, but equally gory. The theme of racism is so powerful, that gave a certain weight to the drama of this particular script, we're dealing with very real issues. But at the end of the day, I treat all my films as fun B-Movie entertainment, that's most important, and the positive anti-racist message that comes along the way is a part of that entertainment here.

HC: Was it hard to find the right actors for the roles?

CS: The casting was very easy. It had to be done over the internet, I was in London watching self-tapes from actors in the USA. There were a lot of great applicants but the cast I picked really stood out to me. Not only were their performances wonderful, but they had a real passion and understanding for this plot outline. Once we were all together in Tennessee, shooting, that passion remained incredibly strong, these actors seriously got behind this project, took my script and made it their own.

HC: The film contains some very controversial language, what did the actors feel about saying such provocative words?

CS: We had a lot of fun and laughter on set, everyone got on incredibly well, so by the time actors were having to perform lines of very racist dialogue, everyone was comfortable, relaxed and on the same page. It's make believe, so nobody had a need to be uncomfortable in the moment, and we all understood the anti-racist message of the film very clearly. When you're making a film about the KKK in 70s southern America you can't really avoid including some racist language. It's there to make us hate the racist characters, and fully enjoy our hero's revenge, ultimately.

HC: The score is fantastic, will it get a release?

CS: This is the 5th feature film soundtrack collaboration between me and Sam Benjafield, and as always he did a stunning job. We'll find some way to get the music out there! Many influences have gone into the score, lots of Ennio Morricone (both his Western music and Gialli music) who's long been my favourite composer, but you'll also hear the influence from films like The Devil's Rejects, Planet Terror and Pumpkinhead.

HC: Will you be nervous when Death Ranch has its world premiere at Grimmfest?

CS: Death Ranch is particularly special to me, its my own original idea, and it was made entirely independently (no sales/distribution people to answer to) which makes the project stand out to me. I hope people enjoy it, of course, but if they don't then that's just something that comes with the territory of filmmaking, you can't please everyone. You finish a movie and you just let it go, move onto the next (I have shot, edited and released 2 more films since I shot Death Ranch) so I can't be nervous. However, I'm very eager to see the response to this particular film, good or bad.

HC: As a director, how do you feel after the recent news that some cinemas are reducing days open and some closing altogether?

CS: The most important thing we can do is support our favourite smaller cinemas that remain open, so long as you're safe, sensible and not at high risk from this virus. I'll be visiting the Prince Charles Cinema in London as frequently as I can, we can't lose unique venues like that. The big chains showing the Hollywood muck will somehow recover, there'll always be a demand for the big screen. DVD/VOD films are now in demand more than ever, so while mainstream movies suffer this slump, maybe some independent filmmakers will use this to their advantage.

HC: So, what are you up to at the moment?

CS: I have a lot in the pipeline and I'm currently writing those projects, which is my favourite part of the whole process. Very soon, I'll be back into production on some really exciting projects.

HC: Charlie Steeds, thank you very much.

Interview with Shayne Ward, star of The Ascent
Posted on Thursday 22nd October 2020

A special ops team on a mission in a war-torn country find themselves trapped on a never-ending staircase that they must climb - or they die! This is the premise for Tom Paton's superb, action-packed horror The Ascent which is having its UK TV premiere at 9pm on October 23rd. Here its star, Shayne Ward tells all about his career to date and how he became involved in this sci-fi shocker.

HC: How much did the X-Factor change your life?

SW: Oh, like anyone can say who has been on it, who has done well on the show, it does change your life because it catapults you into the limelight, into the public eye. One day you are relatively unknown...

Interview with Ryan Kruger, writer and director of Fried Barry
Posted on Sunday 11th October 2020
Fried Barry

Anyone who as been to Grimmfest will know that the team behind the event try their very best to bring to their audience films that challenge and push as many envelopes as possible. Fried Barry from director Ryan Kruger is such a movie. Packed with mind-bending imagery and and emotional punch, this polarizing movie has to be seen just for its creativity and strong storytelling. Here, Ryan chats about this incredible movie.

HC: Where did Fried Barry come from?

RK: Fried Barry was born out of total frustration where I was in my career. I am known in South Africa as a music video director for doing narrative story telling within music vids and sharp visuals. Although I al...

Interview with Deiondre Teagle, star of Death Ranch
Posted on Sunday 11th October 2020
thumbnail_Brandon Blood

Grimmfest 2020 is packed with new talent and one actor that stands out is Deiondre Teagle who styars in Charlie Steeds' grindhouse homage, Death Ranch. Here Deiondre explains his role and what it was like being part of such a bold movie.

HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be an actor?

DT: I've definitely known my whole life I've wanted to be an actor. One of my favourite movies of all time is the original Men In Black. When I was little (about 3 or 4 years old), I would re-watch my VHS copy of that movie over and over and over again. I would re-enact every scene. Since then, my love for acting and film has just grown. I have such a love for the...

Interview with Faith Monique, star of Death Ranch
Posted on Sunday 11th October 2020

Grimmfest 2020 is packed with world premieres and none so bold as Charlie Steed's Death Ranch. We chatted to one of its main stars, Faith Monique about her role in this brutal and brilliant movie.

HC: Was there one person you saw at a young age who inspired you to want to become an actress?

FM: Funny fact, I grew up without a TV! So, at a young age, I never had an actor that inspired me and to this day I still don't. Acting did not become a dream of mine until 2016 and for inspiration, I like to dig deep into my own soul to find truth to bring into each character.

HC: Are you a big fan of horror movies and were you aware of grindhouse and e...

Interview with Nicholas Santos, writer and director of It Cuts Deep
Posted on Saturday 10th October 2020
It Cuts Deep Image 2

At Grimmfest we're used to comedy horror but none as well written as It Cuts Deep from writer/director Nicholas Santos. Here he chats about this true dissection of a romance going terribly wrong.

HC: Have you always been a big horror fan?

NS: I've been a big horror fan since I was a little kid. Some of my favourite childhood memories are seeing Event Horizon with my dad when I was in second grade, being absolutely terrified by Chucky from Child's Play at every waking moment and watching Psycho for the first time on VHS when I was 7 years old.

HC: Where did the idea for It Cuts Deep come from and did it take long to write?

NS: It Cuts Deep is a hor...

Interview with Robert Woods, director of An Ideal Host
Posted on Saturday 10th October 2020
Robert Woods

Ever had the dinner party from Hell with people you don't really relate to and seem alien? Well this is the premise of the the hilarious horror comedy An Ideal Host from director Robert Woods. Here he tells Horror about this cracking movie.

HC: What did you think of the script when you first read it and what made you decide that this would be your first project as a director?

RW: Tyler and I had been writing theatre together for a decade, but movies are our first love and we wanted to give it a crack as well. Tyler came up with the initial idea but we worked on the story together and it evolved a great deal from the initial pitch. As it was my first time directing, I think we were j...

Interview with Chad Ferrin, writer and director of The Deep Ones
Posted on Friday 9th October 2020
Jeff Billings and Chad The Deep Ones

H.P. Lovecraft's influence on horror cinema is immeasurable and continues to this very day. In fact, today at Grimmfest a movie called The Deep Ones is showing so we asked its writer and director Chad Ferrin and how the great man himself has influenced his work.

HC: When was the first time you heard or read anything by or about HP Lovecraft?

CF: My parents worked nights, so the television was my babysitter. I must have been around six years old when I saw an episode of Rod Serling's Night Gallery called "Pickman's Model". Seeing that monster carrying off Louise Sorel terrified me beyond belief and seared the name H.P. Lovecraft into my...

Interview with Cody Calahan, director of The Oak Room
Posted on Friday 9th October 2020
The Oak Room - Director Headshot (Calahan, Cody) (Photo Credit - Miz Monday)

If you like your horror to have a "Twilight Zone" style twist then The Oak Room is for you. Showing today at Grimmfest we chatted to its director, Cody Calahan.

HC: We show your movie, Let Her Out on the Horror Channel here in the UK, what was the best thing you remember from making that movie?

CC: Experimenting. I definitely played more on that film than any other film I've done. Whether it was with the camera movement or editing, everything seemed very experimental. That was very refreshing.

HC: What did you think of the script for The Oak Room when you f...

Interview with actress Mary Madaline Roe, star of They Reach
Posted on Thursday 8th October 2020
Mary Madaline Roe

Grimmfest continues to champion new talent in front and and behind the camera. Mary Madaline Roe is the star on the superb retro chiller, They Reach and here she chats to Horror about this festival favourite.

HC: For someone so young you've built up an impressive resume, can you recall how you felt when you first walked out onto a movie set?

MMR: When I first walked onto the film set, I was very excited and ready for this day! I had been anticipating the first day of filming for about a year. All the cast and crew were delightful to work with and felt like we were a family. I've learned so much from They Reach as it was my first major role.

HC: Are you a fan of ...

Interview with Brea Grant, the writer and director of 12 Hour Shift
Posted on Wednesday 7th October 2020
Brea Grant BW35-020

12 Hour Shift is one of the best from Grimmfest 2020. The movie stars Angela Bettis, David Arquette, Chloe Farnworth and Mick Fole and is a grim, funny, dark and hugely entreating piece which has been written and directed by Brea Grant. Here she chats about this superb movie.

HC: Did you know from an early age that you wanted to be in show business?

G: Not really. I grew up in a small town and I didn't know anyone who made their living in the film industry. I acted in plays at the local theater but Hollywood felt like something for other people. It wasn't until I was in college that I started realizing that you could make a living making movies and I moved to Los Ange...

Interview with John C. Lyons and Dorota Swies the co-directors of Unearth
Posted on Wednesday 7th October 2020
UNEARTHGrimmfest gets underway today and as usual has a superb collection of genre movies for all to enjoy and this time, due to global circumstances is online.

One movie that stands out is the very original, Unearth which is a deep and effective movie with a message for us all. Here it's directors John C. Lyons and Dorota Swies talk about this powerful piece.

HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to work in the film industry?

JCL: Growing up in 80's America, I have the typical story of entertaining myself and my family with a variety of audio and video recorders. My first love though was drawing. I was really into Detective Comics, but besides drawing Batman characters, I liked to cr...

Interview with Toby Poser, co-director, co-writer and co-star of The Deeper You Dig
Posted on Friday 2nd October 2020

Themes of family, loss and survival intersect on the thin line that separates the living from the dead in The Deeper You Dig, the latest feature written, directed by and starring filmmaking family the Adams Family. Here, co-director, co-writer and co-star Toby Poser tells all about this superior chiller.

HC: Where did the idea for The Deeper You Dig come from?

TP: Horror Channel, hey! We are still floating from our time with some of you at FrightFest 2019. Ok, so my husband and creative partner, John Adams, is always having these crazy nightmares about burying people, so it seemed appropriate to slap that concept onto film. I'm hoping that if he ca...

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Star Trek: The Next Generation
Monday 9th November
7.00 PM
John Carpenter's Ghosts of Mars
Wednesday 4th November
9.00 PM
Fright Fest
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10.55 PM