Interview with Elza Kephart, director and co-writer of Slaxx
By James Whittington, Sunday 25th October 2020
SLAXX_Elza_(C)photoB-Calmeau_0125FrightFest is all about originality and new talent and 2020 has been a belter of a year for such things. Slaxx from Elza Kephart is a prime example of the new and exciting creative talent that's out there at the moment. We chatted to Elza about this superb shocker.

HC: Are you a big horror movie fan?

EK: Yes, huge! I started my horror adventure when I was a pre-teen, reading Agatha Christie, R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike, Anne Rice. If there wasn't a death I wasn't interested. From that, I migrated to horror films; when I was about ten, I watched Aliens, the Fearless Vampire Hunters, Exorcist 2. I might have been a little too young, I remember being really affected by Exorcist 2 even if it wasn't a great movie! After that, I would force my younger cousin to watch horror films at Christmas; it became a twisted tradition. And when the Fantasia Film Festival started in Montreal, around 1996-97, I immediately started going. I wouldn't miss it! That really started my horror "education". But funny enough, when I went to film school, I never thought I would make horror films. It was only when I decided to make my first feature, Graveyard Alive, two years after college, that I realised that genre was definitely my thing. And touring the festival circuit with Graveyard Alive confirmed it; genre filmmakers and audiences felt like my tribe, my people. All my other projects have a horror or fantasy, or death element. Usually there's a woman in there killing someone. Ha!

HC: Where did the idea for Slaxx come from?

EK: It was totally random! I was on a road trip from Gainesville, Florida, to New Orleans, with Patricia Gomez Zlatar (co-writer and producer of Slaxx), and another friend. We are like immature sisters (we were about 24 at the time), and because it was such a long road trip, we started to go a bit bonkers. To pass the time we would tease each other by repeating over and over words that we hated- our other friend hated the word "slacks" so I started repeating it over and over to really bug her. And eventually, it just started to sound like an evil pair of pants coming to get you. Patricia and I were totally obsessed after that, we knew there was a story in there, we just didn't really know what.

HC: The movie has a lot to say about fake/self-obsessed people, sweatshops and the viciousness of fashion and hype, was this your intention from the start?

EK: Not at first. The very first glimpse of the idea was really just about killer pants! We wrote a terrible first draft, put it aside because it was just bad, set in a high school, just killing high school girls willy nilly, but we loved the killer pants elements! Years later Patricia, who had worked at The Gap, suggested we set it in a store. That's when the story really started taking shape. We knew we were onto something, but we still didn't have the full-on social criticism yet. We again put it aside, and years later I felt again it was time to pick it back up, so, while doing research I saw all these documentaries about fast fashion, and the thing just finally gelled really quickly after that. So in the last draft, yes absolutely it was a social commentary. It's like the film was lying in wait, waiting for us to be ready. It came out really quickly after that; in a few months we'd written the new draft. It just took a while to get there!

HC: Did it take long to write and was it written with a cast in mind?

EK: Yes. We came up with the initial concept of killer pants, back in 2001, and the 3rd draft, which is pretty much was you saw, was finished in 2016. But we didn't spend 15 years writing it! We did it in three very short burst. So, all in all it probably took 6 months to 1 year all told. No, I didn't write it with the cast in mind. I only met them when we started the audition process.

HC: What did that cast think of the script when they first read it?

EK: They loved it! They thought it was so crazy, yet thoughtful and emotionally grounded, they really dug it.

HC: The film is wild, what was the atmosphere like on set?

EK: It depended on the day. Some days were awesome, hilarious, we just laughed, but some days were really hard. We had a short shoot for something so complicated; almost every day there was something insane we had to do; pants dancing, a guy getting his limbs torn off, even the mannequin writing was really complicated! I would say it was mostly moment by moments - we would be struggling to achieve something really complicated in the morning, then laughing our asses off after lunch, or vice versa. But usually the feeling at the end of the day was good. We had a great cast and crew who really believed in the film, so their good humour and professionalism kept the shoot light yet focused.

HC: There are so many stand-out moments, which ones were the hardest to achieve?

EK: Lord's death. There were so many elements that had to work together: VFX, SFX, blood, pants, puppetry, and Kenny Wong (Lord) had to basically be covered in blood for a whole day, screaming over and over again. He was such a great sport! He was so amazingly stoic about it. And then we had to do reshoots, and he was like "OK! No problem!" And in editing it was also very tricky to make the scene work because we didn't have a huge amount of material, and it was hard to get the tone right - it had to be gross, but funny. Finding the right music for this scene was also hard; a lot of trial and error; it couldn't be too serious, or we would lose the absurdity of it, but it still had to feel disturbing. In the end it's one of my favourite scenes; like a diamond you had to polish over and over.

HC: Main character Libby is experiencing the worst job of her life, what was yours?

EK: Temping as a receptionist in an internet company. The job itself wasn't terrible, but the cheesy corporate atmosphere made me want to gag. The office coordinator took me around to introduce me as the new receptionist and I wanted to cry! HA HA! I was young and hadn't broken into working on film productions yet, so I was panicking: is this what the rest of my life is going to be! Ordering lunches, sending packages, having to wear "semi-professional" outfits that I would never wear in real life (when I started working in film and learned we could just wear jeans and sweatshirts I was in Heaven!). We had to go on this cheesy corporate team-building boat cruise, and they made everyone wear Hawaiian shirts, which I refused to wear; I pretended it was because I was a temp and didn't feel it was right, since I wasn't really part of the "team". But I did win a 50$ gift certificate on the cruise so it made up for it! So, like I said, the job itself was not terrible, it wasn't hard work, but it was disturbing to see this corporation trying to indoctrinate everyone into the corporate mindset; it was a sense of people having to twist their soul around, to pretend to be part of this fake family, that was disturbing. Even at 22, I felt this was wrong.

HC: Will you be nervous when the film is shown at FrightFest?

EK: No, since I won't be there (crying emoji). The FrightFest programmer said he loved the film so I'm not too nervous about it. The reception in general has been really great, so I can't imagine why the British would hate it all of a sudden! ?

HC: Would you contemplate a sequel?

EK: No. To me Slaxx said everything it had to say. Although Patricia and I are working on a short film about Jesus' loincloth, which I guess is a sequel of sorts, being about another inanimate cloth object.

HC: So, what are you working on at the moment?

EK: I've got a bunch of projects in different stages of development; one with Patricia, where nature takes revenge (like Slaxx but with trees!). It's set in the Medieval era, back when religious orders were taking over land for their monasteries and cutting down a lot of pagan forests. It's viewing the current ecological crisis from a historical perspective. I'm also working on a possession script in French with another friend, set in Quebec. The protagonist/anti-heroine is a woman in her 50's diagnosed with a degenerative disease, who finds the key to eternal life through her relationship with a violent yet sassy ghost that's occupying her house. I'm also writing another script, by myself, called A Mid-life Apocalypse. It's about two middle-aged, middle-class women who have found refuge in a small country cottage the woods after the ecological and climate crisis has decimated populations and caused social collapse. They have to bring a young woman back to her father's bunker in order to get supplies to survive, and shenanigans occur along the way. It's a comedy!

HC: Elza Kephart, thank you very much.

Supermarionation classic, Fireball XL5 coming to vinyl
Posted in News, Monday 23rd November 2020
Fireball XL5 Vinyl

Barry Gray's soundtrack LP to the 1962 series Fireball XL5 from Gerry and Sylvia Anderson will be released on vinyl early in 2021 on Silva Screen Records, the next in a series of Anderson releases which has so far featured UFO, Supercar and Thunderbirds.

This 7" single features two tracks from the upcoming album: Side 1 - Fireball (Don Spencer and the XL5), Side 2 - Zero G (Barry Gray and his Spacemakers) will be released on transparent Orange vinyl on December 18th.

Don Spencer's original 7" single release on His Masters Voice in 1962 reached number 32, remaining in the UK charts for twelve weeks. The original B side was another Don Spencer track, "I'm All Alone Again", ...

BBC Audio presents the immersive, multifaceted sci-fi drama Forest 404
Posted in News, Monday 23rd November 2020
Forest 404 Cover

BBC Audio are pleased to present an impressive and captivating environmental thriller, Forest 404, in a remarkable feat of audio publishing. Forest 404, publishing 21st January 2021, is a dystopian sci-fi drama series with an all-female cast, starring Pearl Mackie (Doctor Who) as the lead, with original theme music by Bonobo, comprising of 9 drama episodes, 9 accompanying talks, 9 immersive soundscapes in 3D binaural sound and a bonus 'making-of' documentary.

The piece is set in the 24th century, after a data crash called The Cataclysm. Pan (Pearl Mackie), the protagonist, is a young woman with a boring job labelling old sound archive that survived the crash. She uncovers a set of soun...

Horror Channel unwraps its slate of seasonal shockers
Posted in Features, Tuesday 17th November 2020
Horror Channe; December Banner

Xmas hauntings, festive nightmares, sadistic serial killers and warrior priests...Be prepared for seasonal shocks a-plenty on Horror Channel this December, with a selection of prime-time movies including an Xmas Day screening of Frank Khalfoun's boundary-pushing Christmas crime slasher P2, starring Wes Bentley and the George Clooney/Steven Soderbergh produced Wind Chill, in which Emily Blunt spends Christmas Eve fighting off a horde of menacing apparitions.

Also unwrapped are John Carpenter's classic car-rage chiller Christine, vampire action thriller Priest, starring Paul Bettany, the high velocity sci-fi drama Skyline and the supernatural twister Sinister, starring...

VHS retro horror "Rent-A-Pal" starring Wil Wheaton coming to download and DVD
Posted in News, Sunday 15th November 2020

A huge hit from Grimmfest Online Edition in October, Rent-A-Pal is be released on Digital Download on November 16th and DVD January 11th.

Set in 1990, a lonely bachelor named David (Brian Landis Folkins) searches for an escape from the day-to-day drudgery of caring for his aging mother (Kathleen Brady). While seeking a partner through a video dating service, he discovers a strange VHS tape called Rent-A-Pal. Hosted by the charming and charismatic Andy (Wil Wheaton), the tape offers him much-needed company, compassion, and friendship. But, Andy's friendship comes at a cost, and David desperately struggles to afford the price of admission.

Creepy, exceptionally dark and with superb perform...

Interview with Scott Reiniger star of the original Dawn of the Dead
Posted in Interviews, 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...

Shocking... disturbing... The movie they tried to ban... Its score is coming to vinyl!
Posted in News, Tuesday 10th November 2020
Silent Night Deadly Night cover

Perry Botkin's chilling electronic score to the famed and much loved 1984 festive slasher, Silent Night Deadly Night is as charming, warm, disturbing and extreme as the movie. Immediately the record starts with the first time on vinyl track of a young child carol singer juxtaposed against the hard edged bombastic main theme. From there it doesn't let up!

In this cult classic Little Billy witnesses his parents getting killed by Santa after being warned by his senile grandpa that Santa punishes those who are naughty. Now Billy is 18 and out of the orphanage, and he has just become Santa himself...

Lovingly transferred from the original 1984 sessi...

Shaun Hutson's Progeny Spawns new novel for fans
Posted in News, Tuesday 10th November 2020
Progeny by Shaun Hutson

British horror legend Shaun Hutson releases a new hardback novel, Progeny and the paperback version of his hit 2019 hardback novel, Testament. Both novels are published by Caffeine Nights Publishing and supported with eBook and audio versions.

Progeny is the long-awaited sequel to his 1983 bestselling novel, Spawn. Caffeine Nights commissioned the original cover artist, for Spawn, Mark Taylor, to design the cover for Progeny. The artwork pays homage to Spawn while presenting a totally new book with a lovely classic horror retro feel.

"Progeny works as a stand-alone novel, but for fans who have read Spawn, there is a whole back story there that adds another leve...

All the creatures will be stirring in November!
Posted in News, Sunday 8th November 2020

Danse Macabre is pleased to announce the UK and Irish DVD and VOD release of Rebekah and David Ian McKendry's Christmas themed horror, All The Creatures Were Stirring on November 23rd..

Constance Wu (Hustlers) and Jonathan Kite (2 Broke Girls) headline a sensational cast in this devilish stocking stuffer of a movie in which an awkward date leads a mismatched couple to a strange theatre where they are treated to a bizarre and frightening collection of Christmas stories.

The movie received its World premiere at Chattanooga Film Festival where it won the Audience Award for Best Film and was quickly snapped up by Jinga Films for worldwide distribution...

Possessor will take you over this November thanks to Signature
Posted in News, Sunday 8th November 2020

From the visionary mind of writer director Brandon Cronenberg (Antiviral), Possessor is a game-changing sci-fi thriller about elite, corporate assassin Tasya Vos (Andrea Riseborough, Mandy).

Using brain-implant technology, Vos takes control of other people's bodies to execute high profile targets. As she sinks deeper into her latest assignment Vos becomes trapped inside a mind that threatens to obliterate her. Possessor features a stellar cast including Christopher Abbott (It Comes at Night, The Sinner), Rossif Sutherland (Guest of Honour), Tuppence Middleton (Downton Abbey), Sean Bean (Game of Thrones) and Jennifer Jason Leigh (The Hateful Eight).

Already building a cult...

Lock-down horror hit Host is coming to Blu-ray
Posted in News, Sunday 8th November 2020
Second Sight Logo

Second Sight Films shares the scares, as they announce the Blu-ray release of director Rob Savage's (Britannia, Soulmates) lockdown horror hit, the hair-raising Host. Fans of the affectingly contemporary, universally acclaimed Shudder Original film can expect a special feature packed edition release on 19 January 2021, following its theatrical and digital release later this year.

Six friends get together during lockdown for their weekly zoom call. It's Haley's (Haley Bishop - Angel had Fallen, Deep State) turn to organise an activity and instead of a quiz, she's arranged for a medium to conduct a seance.

Bored and feeling mischievous, Jemma (Jemma Moore - Wonder Woman, Doom...

Would you dare open the Book of Monsters?
Posted in News, Thursday 5th November 2020
Lyndsey Craine_Michaela Longden_Lizzie Aaryn-Stanton_Book of Monsters

Bring the Monsters home on November 30th with the Book of Monsters 2-Disk Collector's Edition Blu-ray/DVD combo from Dark Rift Films. Available for the first time on disk in the UK, Book of Monsters is a dark horror comedy in the vein of 'The Evil Dead II' and 'Shaun of the Dead' filled with practical effects driven monsters and intense, gory action.

Take on the forces of evil with the Standard Edition Blu-ray or become a fully-fledged monster hunter with the 2-Disk Collector's Edition. Limited to only 300 copies, the 2-Disk Collector's Edition features both Blu-ray and DVD version...

Johnny Kevorkian - Director / Writer / Producer 1972 - 2020
Posted in News, Thursday 5th November 2020
Johnny Kevorkian

It is with great sadness that we learned of the untimely passing of one of the most talented creatives around, Johnny Kevorkian.

A familiar face at FrightFest and behind one of the most acclaimed sci-fi thrillers in recent years, Await Further Instructions he was working on new projects right up until his death aged only 48.

Originally from Cyprus, Johnny Kevorkian graduated in Film from the University of Westminster, London, before making several short films that were selected for numerous prestigious film festivals around the world, such as Edinburgh and Los Angeles.

In 2008 Johnny directed, co-wrote and co-produced his debut feature, The Disappeared, a grippin...

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