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 Michael Mayer and Guy Ayal from the acclaimed movie Happy Times
Posted on Saturday 16th October 2021
thumbnail_HT_set_Marie Alyse Rodriguez

Happy Times, which is showing at Grimmfest Online, is a movie that takes the home invasion genre and turns it inside out! Directed by Michael Mayer and co-written with composer Guy Ayal, the movie is a bombastic, bloody and hilarious piece of cinema. I chatted to them both about this dinner party from hell.

HC: Where did the idea for Happy Times come from?

MM: The idea for the movie started forming when I was invited to a Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year's) dinner in Los Angeles. It was the first year of Trump's presidency and wherever you went all people wanted to talk about was politics. One thing to know about the Israeli expat com...

Interview with D.M. Cunningham, writer and director of The Spore
Posted on Saturday 16th October 2021
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If you like your horror with a huge lashing of gruesome effects and a strong story then The Spore is for. Showing at Grimmfest Online, the movie from D.M. Cunningham is a smart take on the body horror genre. Here he chats about this movie which is guaranteed to get under your skin.

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

DM: I started out wanting to be a makeup effects artist. After seeing Night of the Living Dead and discovering Fangoria magazine I was hooked. Tom Savini was a huge influence on my trajectory toward becoming a filmmaker. It wasn't until later that I discovered that you could boss the monsters around on set being the director. That's...

Interview with Ben Charles Edwards, co-writer and director of Father of Flies
Posted on Saturday 16th October 2021
Father of Flies director

A vulnerable young boy finds his mother pushed out of the family home by a strange new woman in Father of Flies, and he must confront the terrifying supernatural forces that seem to move in with her. This intense and chilling movie is showing at Grimmfest Online Edition so we chatted to director and co-writer Ben Charles Edwards about this movie.

HC: Where did the idea for Father of Flies come from?

BE: It came from my childhood experiences. When my good friend and journalist Dominic Wells was talking to me about my next project, he told me to draw on real life experiences. So, I did. My own experiences were neither as heightened nor as traumatic as they may...

Interview with Marcel Sarmiento co-writer and director of Faceless
Posted on Friday 15th October 2021
Faceless Director

Showing at Grimmfest Online Edition is the incredibly inventive horror/sci-fi hybrid Faceless. Here, co-writer and director Marcel Sarmiento speaks about this superb movie.

HC: Have you always been a big horror movie fan?

MS: Definitely as a kid. My first movies made with my Betamax were all about scaring one other and how gross we could push makeup effects. We mostly strangled, stabbed, and threw each other off buildings. I think as I got older, I appreciated what you could do with horror more than horror for horror's sake. I love that you can make characters do things that in any other genre you couldn't make them do and still come out the other end liking them and routi...

Tom Paton, director of G-LOC chats about his passion for survival stories and being compared to Roger Corman
Posted on Tuesday 14th September 2021
Tom Paton on the set of G-Loc-3-1

Ahead of the Horror Channel premiere of his sci-fi action thriller G-LOC, director Tom Paton reflects on why making movies is like solving a puzzle, his passion for survival stories and being compared to Roger Corman.

Horror Channel will be broadcasting the UK TV premiere of your Sci-fi adventure G-LOC. Excited or what?

It's honesty so strange to me every time Horror Channel debuts one of my movies. The channel has been such a big part of my life growing up and informing my taste in films, that it's always a "pinch myself moment" when I see something that I've made appear on their TV listing. G-LOC is much more of a SCI-FI adventure than any ...

Interview with Alexis Kendra, the writer and producer of The Cleaning Lady
Posted on Tuesday 15th June 2021
Alexis Kendra-4

Ahead of Horror Channel's premiere of The Cleaning Lady on June 26, the film's star, writer and producer Alexis Kendra talks about playing a 'Goddess', coping with lockdown and why she can't watch horror films on her own.

HC: The Cleaning Lady is having its channel premiere on Horror Channel. Excited?

AK: I love you guys. Always have, always will. I'm honoured.

HC: It's a very disturbing film, dealing with abuse, addiction and hidden rage, yet the characters are sympathetic and have real depth. It's horror with a twisted heart. As a co-writer, alongside your director Jon Knautz, what were the main challenges in getting the balance right between acting and writing? <...

Interview with Jen and Sylvia Soska, directors of Rabid
Posted on Tuesday 1st June 2021
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Ahead of Horror Channel's premiere of Rabid on June 12, Jen and Sylvia Soska reflect on the challenges of re-imagining Cronenberg's body horror classic, meeting the great man and their new monster movie, Bob.

HC: Rabid is having its channel premiere on Horror Channel. Excited?

SS: The Horror Channel has supported us and our work since the beginning, so it's a special treat to have the newest film premiere there!

Js: We are so excited. Having Rabid on Horror Channel feels like coming home. They've been very kind to us. We are happy to have so many of our films on there.

HC: We all, of course, remember that Rabid was one of David Cronenberg's earli...

Interview with Mickey Fisher, creator of sci-fi series Extant
Posted on Thursday 6th May 2021
Mickey Fisher 1

Horror Channel will be continuing its commitment to bringing cult and classic sci-fi to its audience with Seasons 1 and 2 of the CBS Studios/Amblin Television production of Extant, starring Halle Berry as astronaut Molly Woods, who returns home to her family, inexplicably pregnant after 13 months in outer space on a solo mission.

The series begins on Horror May 11th so, we decided to chat to its creator, Mickey Fisher about how the series came to be produced and what it was like working with Hollywood royalty.

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

MF: From the time I was maybe five or six years old I wanted to be an actor. Going to see Star...

Interview with Gary J. Tunnicliffe, writer and director of Hellraiser: Judgement
Posted on Saturday 20th February 2021
Gary J. Tunnicliffe doing SFX make-up on the set of Hellraiser Judgement

Director and long-time Hellraiser franchise SFX artist Gary John Tunnicliffe has a new entry into the Hellraiser series for us all to enjoy, Hellraiser: Judgement. Here he chats about this gritty horror.

HC: Was there one person or film which inspired you to want to be in the effects industry?

GJT: I can't remember one film that directly inspired me to be in the effects industry, it would definitely have been around 1982 (when I was 14) when The Thing AND American Werewolf in London came out (as well as a mass of FX laden movies) but more than anything it was when s...

Interview with Chee Keong Cheung, director of Redcon-1
Posted on Wednesday 17th February 2021
Director Chee Keong Cheung

Fast-paced British zombie thriller, Redcon-1 will be having its UK TV premiere on Horror on Saturday 20th February so we decided to chat with its writer and director Chee Keong Cheung about this acclaimed movie.

HC: Where did the idea for Redcon-1 come from and are you a fan of zombie movies?

CKC: I'm a huge fan of the zombie genre and in particular, Danny Boyle's '28 Days Later', Zak Snyder's 'Dawn of the Dead' and of course George Romero's original works which helped to pave the way for the genre and was a real inspiration for me growing up. I remember watching 'Saving Private Ryan' and 'Black Hawk Down' on TV and had always been drawn to the men on a m...

Interview with Scott Reiniger star of the original Dawn of the Dead
Posted on Sunday 15th November 2020

On the eve of a stunning new 4K box set of George A Romero's Dawn of the Dead from Second Sight Films, we chat to one of its stars, Scott Reiniger about this incredible film.

HC: How did you first become involved with Dawn of the Dead?

SR: Well, I was in New York, I was a stage actor in New York and I went to college with Christine Forrest, who later became George's wife and she asked me if I wanted to audition for this film called Dawn of the Dead, she wanted to know if I knew who George Romero was and I said, "Yeah, he was the guy who directed Night of the Living Dead". So, they sent the script over and I read it and it was pr...

Interview with Steve Speirs, star of Concrete Plans
Posted on Sunday 1st November 2020
Concrete Plans poster

Welsh, Scottish and Ukranian dialects clash in Concrete Plans, a stand-out movie from Will Jewell which has just been released by FrightFest Presents via Signature. Its a super and very dark thriller with an outstanding cast headed up by Steve Speirs. Here he chats about this amazing piece.

Be warned this interview contains some spoilers about the movie. If in doubt watch the movie before reading. You have been warned!

HC: Was there one actor of one film you saw when you were younger that made you want to be an actor?

SS: Oh, I've never been asked that actually. When I started to get into watching films, I'd always wanted to be an actor for as long as I can ...

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