Tuesday, July 27, 2010

FACES OF SCHLOCK (Boobs and Blood Edition)

On September 21, 2010, with the DVD release of "Faces of Schlock", Gonzoriffic will have completed its circle around the world of no-budget film. Around 2000, this site (originally on Yahoo! Geocities) began publishing features about such movies as "Caress of the Vampire" and "Erotic Witch Project", and quickly became one of the biggest supporters of Alternative Cinema. What readers didn't know was that Gonzoriffic was not on some special list to receive free DVDs from the company in exchange for all the positive reviews, we actually bought them in stores like all the other fans. Difference was, we wanted to share our enthusiasm and thoughts with the rest of the world.
Sometime around 2003, we decided to take a crack at making our own films. Largely influenced by the Seduction Cinema release "Mistress Frankenstein", we produced "Buttonhead", our first adventure with film making in the digital age. Falling head first into the close-knit microcinema universe, we found ourselves sharing a booth at the 2004 Twisted Nightmare Weekend convention, and returned home with a suitcase full of movies made by all the contacts we made at the show. One guy, a teenage whiz kid auteur by the name of Henrique Couto, wouldn't leave us alone after we published a story about his films. He sought to partner up with us on a project that would incorporate short films by a few of his friends, and while it wasn't the first time anyone approached us about distributing our stuff, Henrique was the most genuine and had an impressive DVD release catalog to back it up. We gave him "Buttonhead" on good faith, and "Faces of Schlock" was born. Our experience was a great one, so we signed on for the follow up volume, providing our film festival workhorse, "Psycho Vixens", as well as the script for Henrique's contribution, "Songs in the Key of Satan".
Reviews were good, sales were good, and by the end of 2005, we were already planning another collection. As a gift to Henrique for all his hard work, a script for a holiday-themed slasher film was tailor made for him to direct as his segment of the third "Schlock" release. "Slay Ride" was the first time we'd written a movie for someone else to make ("Songs" was originally intended as a Gonzoriffic production), and was very much a "kitchen sink" effort featuring modern b-movie staples like lesbians, chainsaws, gore and excessive nudity, while still maintaining our sense of responsibility toward unusual roles for women in cinema. On our end, we produced a re-tooling of one of our very first experiments, "Cannibal Sisters", and made efforts to secure higher production value so the new compilation would have a more uniform look (our previous segments were shot with dirt cheap equipment). The project went on hiatus for the better part of two years while the "schlock" gang, including Gonzoriffic, all went to work on our own respective feature-length films, but reconvened at just the right time in early 2008. By then, we had decided to release "Cannibal" on our own and instead provided a brand-new short for the new disc, "Blood Witch". We felt it represented our best work to date, and might help us catch the eye of a professional distributor.
The circle began to close when actor Ruby LaRocca accepted the lead role in "Slay Ride". A staple in many of Alternative Cinema's films, and recipient of much praise from reviews on Gonzoriffic over the years, it was huge thrill for us to know that Ruby would be reciting dialog in a film we wrote. The next thing we knew, the movie was done, and we were sitting at a convention booth next to her, signing posters and DVDs. We all had our fingers crossed that Alternative Cinema would like the movie enough to want to release it, and sure enough, they did. In ten years' time, we went from fans buying their films in stores and writing about them on the internet to actually getting to make one. There's a lot to be proud of. The movie is great and contains everything the packaging and the trailer promise, plus more that just might surprise you. Today's landscape is flooded with people making their own low-budget backyard zombie fests, but the herd thins out in a significant way by the time you get to the final stages of production. To see this kind of project through to completion is no easy task, and as you have read, takes a long time. We stand by the DVD and our contributions to it, and hope that the people who pick it up feel like they got what they came for. In my years as a reviewer, I was always critical of movies that tried to pass themselves off as something they weren't, using deceptive cover art and marketing tactics as an underhanded grab for the exploitation / cult film / b-movie audience's hard-earned dollar. I can honestly stand behind this one and say it is the kind of movie I love to watch.

Available on Amazon here:

Check out the trailer and see for yourself. Not work safe, but you should expect no less!

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Eating Cheese on Hollywood

The following short piece was found in my drafts folder. It was commissioned by filmmaker Amy Lynn Best for publication (either in Femme Fatales magazine or on Pretty-Scary.net or perhaps something else I'm forgetting) years ago. I have no idea if it ever made it out into the world, or if this is even the finished version. I just thought it would be a neat look back on my transition from movie reviewer to movie maker.

by Andrew Shearer

There's a Buddhist proverb that states: "Do not speak- unless it improves on silence."

When I started using the internet on a regular basis, the first thing I sought was information on the weird, obscure, bizarre kinds of films I'd grown to cherish as a movie fan over the years. You know, the kind of stuff you'd see on late-night cable television, or the videos that line the "used" bins and go for $2. The kind of thing people of my dad's generation could go see at a drive-in theater, or some low-rent grindhouse downtown. B-movies. The opposite of Hollywood.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find very much at all about my beloved no-budget gems. Searches for GEEK MAGGOT BINGO, FIVE LOOSE WOMEN and FRANKENHOOKER came up disappointingly empty. So I decided to improve on the silence. I started my own movie review website.

Because I really detest critics, and find no particular joy in picking someone's art into tiny pieces, my reviews served more to shed light on movies that I deemed worthy of attention. I thought of myself as a reporter on exciting events, kinda like when you see something unique or wild and you can't wait to run and tell your buddies, "Hey! You're not gonna believe this! Check it out!"

When I began to get e-mails from the people who were making these movies was when I realized just how much weight my words could carry. People actually thanked me for laughing at the jokes in BIKINI HOE DOWN (which, by the way, plays like THE DUKES OF HAZZARD and SCOOBY-DOO put together, only with lots of naked girls). I couldn't believe filmmakers would care that much about something a nobody in cyberspace said about their work. Then, my initial feelings of imortance lead to panic as I realized that anything negative I might have said about a movie could possibly have also been read by someone who put their hard work into making it!

I quickly began reading through all my reviews, and sure enough, here and there I found some not-so-positive things I'd said about a couple films. Granted, my observations were nowhere near the kind of childish bile that's commonly passed off as a "movie review" on the internet these days, but it did cause me to put myself in check: Was I still improving on the silence?

The next question I asked myself was, could I do better? If not, what gave me the right to say anything bad about a movie? And if so, why wasn't I making movies of my own? After all, I had seen many films that made me think, "You know, maybe I could do this too." So I wrote a script, borrowed a camcorder, got my friends together, and off I went.

So here I am, one year after my decision to venture into the wonderful world of independent filmmaking. I continue to write reviews, and continue to make films. What did I learn?

As a reviewer, if I expect anyone to listen to what I have to say and take my words seriously, I have got to conduct myself in a professional manner. While the big shots in Hollywood could care less about what people on the internet say about their work, independent filmmakers have built a strong community online that has helped connect them directly with fans and with others struggling as they are. To tear down their art is not only pointless, but ultimately working against the whole ethic of doing one's own thing outside the system.

That's not to say every indie film I see is fantastic. I've been bored by several, found many to be uninspired rip-offs, and I swear if I see one more flick that has lesbian vampires, I just might vomit. But if there's one thing I've noticed about the negative movie reviews that pop up online, they all seem to have the same point: Don't waste your time/money on this film.

My thinking on that is, if I've already wasted 90 minutes of my life watching a movie that was no more than someone's attempt to cash in on naked strippers covered in blood, why waste MORE time by writing about it online? I don't know about you, but I pay a high monthly fee for my internet service, and I would rather spend that time reading about the history of PEZ. Put simply, I don't bother reviewing a movie I don't like. I only make an exception if I know the parties in question can do better, or if I feel the advertising completely misleads the viewer (ex: covers featuring actors that aren't in the movie, older films re-titled to appear new).

Constructive criticism is one thing, but an outright attack is another. Some people's attitude is, the filmmakers put themselves out there for display. They are fair game, they should be able to take it. I don't believe in that. It's hard to make a movie, and while we like to know what we can do to improve our work just as much as we like to know what we did well, telling a filmmaker he/she has no talent is completely wrong. Saying an actor is ugly is even worse. Imagine how you'd feel if such things were said about you.

March 24, 2004