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Fear Forever by Danielle Dallaire - 23h ago

SOUTH  BY SOUTHWEST used to be the go to fest for music but it’s film component has become a very important part of the festival and a very promenent festival for filmmakers.  We had the luminous Danielle Dallaire, our newest addition to FEAR FOREVER, sit down  with WHAT KEEPS YOU ALIVE filmmaker Colin Minihan and stars Brittany Allen and Hannah Emily Anderson at The Driskoll Hotel in Austin Texas.

Fear Forever (FF): With so much of this film being shot outdoors in a heavily wooded area what kind of obstacles did you face while shooting?


Brittany Allen (BA): Well it was a consideration leading up to filming. We were really nervous because the best time for all of us to shoot was mid-to-end of Spring which in Muskoka is the WORST bug season. So, it starts with the black flies, then it becomes mosquitoes and finally deer flies. It was almost to the point where I was like “I don’t know if we can do this” but we had already scheduled it so we had no choice.


Colin Minihan (CM): How did we schedule it? I think the first half was mostly the outdoor stuff.


BA: I think so, yeah because we knew that the second half would be even worse. But the first half was insane. You know you had to like pretend that….bugs weren’t flying everywhere!


Hannah Emily Anderson (HEA): Yeah we had bug nets.


FF: You cant even tell while watching the movie at all.


CM: Yeah, we sprayed a lens right in front of the camera pretty much before every take because some of the shots if you didn’t,  you would be able to see little dots flying around.

 FF: How Frustrating!


BA: We sprayed ourselves with DEET


HEA: We were covered in poison.


FF: That stuff never works though.


BA: This was illegal stuff!


CM: We ordered this stuff that was like 98% deet stuff that we ordered off Amazon.  We had a line in our budget for the bug war.


FF: Oh really? You had to have a line in your budget? A budget for the bugs?


CM: Literally…


FF: Oh my gosh how ridiculous, that’s really funny.

FF: What did you do in between takes and shooting days to find some levity while working on this film?


HEA: I think there was always laughing and joking, we are a pretty tight knit group. We also got to know each other pretty quickly. Especially in those conditions.


FF: Yeah, you kind of have to, right?


HEA: There was a joke of the day like everyday. Or every hour. We also had someone on set, his name is Ben who was one of the producers.  He would just sometimes pop in, do something crazy or hilarious and just sorta pop out.


BA: Hahaha yeah!


FF: So that helped? It didn’t like, break your characters or anything?


CM: Well there were probably times where you’re like “get the hell out of here”.


HEA: Sometimes it was not appropriate but mostly it was.


BA: It’s so dark so you have to just have to…


FF: have balance probably?


BA: Yeah!


HEA: Yeah!


FF: So, This film reminded me of another female driven film called POOR AGNES (2017) where our villain is a strong, scary, stoic female who is physically fit, good with weapons and the lay of the land. Both are quintessentially Canadian films. What is it about Canada that lends itself so well to horror?


CM: Well, in terms of that specific film, I don’t know. But there’s some great Canadian horror movies for sure. My favorite Canadian horror movie is GINGER SNAPS. Have you seen it? It also two female leads.  Maybe it is the bleak winters of Toronto, the darkness and nobody leaving their houses for months on end because it’s so cold. I don’t know. I think maybe it conjures up some shit in people over there.

BA: Colin grew up in a small town on the northern tip of Vancouver Island and I just remember you always  talk about how a lot of your ideas as a kid starting to form on the long drives through the dark forest from the next town South. Which was around a 2 hour drive through the mountain and the woods.


CM: Sure, yeah! Totally.  Well there’s only 30 million people in Canada and there’s 30 million people in just California alone.


FF: Ohhh ok.


CM: So there’s a lot of empty space out there.


FF: I think that has something to do with it then!


CM: I think nature plays a big part obviously, the last two horror movies that I made were definitely inspired by the area that I was living in when I came up with the idea, one being the desert of California and then this other one just being kinda nature and the wilderness. I think I like that challenge, though. I like to think that I can like, defeat it.


FF: I can see that, well the land was definitely practically a character itself in this movie.

FF: Ok, so this one is for Brittany.You spend a good portion of the film with some prosthetics and spfx makeup, what was the procedure of that like and did it hinder your ability to move which your character?


BA: It was something you get used to. I didn’t really have too many prothstetics. I just had like a big cut or gash on my wrist. That was pretty manageable, you know. It’s not like I had anything crazy on my face it was just a little bit of sticky blood which after a while can get uncomfortable. That’s the biggest thing.


FF: But it wasn’t an issue?


CM: It never makes you moody, you’re never moody with blood or goo.


BA: I just kinda get used to it, you just have to go into a sort of meditative state. Because sometimes when you have a lot of the stuff on you, you do want to just scream.

FF: Low key freak out? Like Ahhhhhh!


BA: Yah, take it all off and have a shower. So you just have to kinda like, stay in a meditative state.


FF: And realize its a movie?


BA: Yeah


FF: So this question is for both of you women, What kind of work did you have to do to shape and develop your characters?


HEA: I had a couple weeks leading up to filming so I watched a lot of stuff and did a lot of research. I watched tons of interviews with psychopaths and serial killers. I have always been interested in that. For some reason, they are just fascinating people to me. So I did a lot of that, and I think a lot of it just happened while we were shooting.


CM: There’s discovery for the first few days, for sure.


HEA: Yeah like we were just playing with it and trying to figure out what the tone was so we would do a take and then sometimes we would just role for a while and then Colin would say “try this, try this, try this” and we would just try and find the level and eventually I think we just found it together.


FF: Well that’s cool, I would have never thought that you would have that strategy to watch interviews of psychopaths…that’s really smart.


HEA: Yeah, I would study their faces.


FF: So this is for both of you women. You guys have worked on multiple films together. How did working on this film compare to your other joint projects?


BA: Well we actually didn’t have any scenes together in JIGSAW. So we had just met in passing a couple of times. And hardly knew each other at all before jumping in to WHAT  KEEPS  YOU  ALIVE. We had to really quickly get comfortable with each other.  That’s always the case on a film when you’re having to play like you’re in a relationship with someone you know, and the first couple of days or so you’re trying to navigate it and everything and then suddenly, it just comes together.  I loved working with Hannah. We worked really well together.


HEA: yeah, It was great.


BA: We challenged each other a lot and we really elevated each other.


CM: Especially physically.


BA: Yeah but also in our work, I like to think that we both brought different qualities to our work and so I think  I learned from Hannah and she learned from me.


FF: So different strengths and weaknesses?


BA: Yeah, yeah. Exactly.

HEA: It was nice to actually get to work with Brit. I had seen her every time on the JIGSAW set but she was always just completely covered in blood.


BA: Haha, yeah!


HEA: But yeah getting to actually work with her was great. There was a healthy competition between us because it was really just the two of us for most of the film. And I have never had that before. So we really just elevated each other.


FF: So that helps, when you actually get along with reach other right? Haha Major!


HEA: Oh yeah that’s huge!


FF: Ok so for Colin, You co-created the popular Canadian horror franchise GRAVE ENCOUNTERS. What experience from working on those did you apply to this project?


CM: I mean those movies are so different. I feel like intuitively the kind of filmmaker that I naturally am lends itself more to this sort of violent thriller. Something darker more grounded and real life. GRAVE ENCOUNTERS  is a supernatural movie that also tries to stay grounded in kinda this situational real life.  I think with that film I had to abandoned the stylistic ideasy, camera angles and you rich cinematography that I’made such a  fan of in movie.  With this film I was actually able to showcase that, which is what my style has always been. I have been making films for as long as I can remember. What I learned most on GRAVE ENCOUNTERS is that some of the best stuff you can get is the unexpected stuff that comes out of the scene. So, if I had a scene written one way and it just wasnt playing,  I would open it up to the actors to help kind of find it. I felt that on this film especially cause we were working with a smaller crew we werent as restricted with having to put the camera here, cause there like a hundred lightso. You weren’t like bogged down by the equipment and gear. So we had room to play a little bit which reminded me a little bit of GRAVE ENCOUNTERS.


FF: That’s cool! Ok so Colin, One of my favorite characters in the film was actually the land itself. It’s peaceful, yet quite brutal and menacing at points. Can you tell us about how you found and chose your locations?


CM: The house?


FF: The land and all that.


CM: Well it was just a fluke actually. Around 4 years ago Brit and I (Colin and Brit are a couple) visited her family’s cottage in Muskoka in the summer.  It is  literally that road on the very first shot when you turn off the highway and you turn down this big dark and narrow  long stretch of off road. I think the very first time I drove down I noticed that there was two roads parallel to one another with trees in between which is hard to find! I scouted tons of things trying to shoot from car to car. That area was so awesome I actually said out loud to Brit, “I am going to try to write a movie here!”.  So, I did. For a long time I was kinda thinking that I would use her parents cottage if we couldn’t find a better one.  Then one of our producers stumbled across across a location database looking for something completely different. At the bottom of this database of houses were photos that people had uploaded that were open for renting for movies.  We found a really great one that was actually like a 40 min drive. So we were able to house the girls there and shoot at the other place. And everything else was basically right around the area too.


FF: Kinda like the land inspired you from the very begining.


CM: Yeah, totally. Just kinda like how I was saying earlier.


FF: Music plays a big part in the film. Between Jackie/Megan being a talented singer, guitar player and pianist, the score for the film is quite prominent and carefully placed. Did you work with the composer to do the scoring and create the exact tone for the film that you wanted?


BA: I actually scored the film.


FF: Did you? Whoa!!!


BA: That’s cool that you thought that!


FF: Thats dope! Man, you women are so talented, what am  I doing with my life?


BA and HEA: Hahaha


CM: You’re doing fine!


FF: You’re like amazing actresses, singers, playing all these instruments, that’s so cool!


CM: I think music was a huge part of the film. It became a bigger part of the movie because I found BLOODLET which is the song by Canadian artist by KATHLEEN MUNROE. That’s the “demon inside” song and I found that when I was doing a rewrite just before shooting and it became such an important part of the film. You know that there was no scene where you (Hannah)  picked up a guitar and sung or anything before that. That song really built that scene and  brought it to life and then I brought it back a bunch in the movie. It became such a piece of it and it worked so well cause I knew I wanted to do you (Hannah) playing MOONLIGHT SONATA on the piano and you’re a gifted musician so it tied in great. But Brit scored the movie and created ultimately every rich texture that’s in there and did a phenomenal job as her first time scoring a movie.


FF: Wow good for you!

BA: Thanks.


CM: So she had been making electronic pop music and learning production over the last two and a half years or so and a lot of the sounds she used are really TRENTON RESNER sounding. Like grimey and pulsing electronic synth sounds. I knew the texture I wanted to be more piano mixed with that, and so we weren’t sure if Brit would be comfortable scoring it ultimately.  So I sent her a scene and said try this scene and lets see how it goes. We’re going to know if you’ll be able to score this movie based on you scoring this one scene. At the time we were living in this place with a piano and she just wrote something awesome.


BA: Yeah it was so much fun. I really really loved it.


FF: Ok well just the last question, Is there anything else you want readers to know about yourselves or the film?


CM: Talk more about the music.


BA: I think for me this project was special in so many ways but definitely the most lasting way it will have affected me is it introduced me to scoring which is something that I never thought I would do before but always had a really deep appreciation of in other films. Now that I’ve done it, it makes a lot of sense as something that would be a good fit for me and something I hope to do a lot more of in the future. So I am so grateful that Colin entrusted me in that and that we have just begun that journey.

'What Keeps You Alive' Trailer - YouTube

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LIVING SPACE is a 2018 Australian independent film, which had its world premiere in Sydney recently as part of  the MONSTER FEST TRAVELING SIDESHOW. An impressive breakout film for director Steven Spiel, LIVING SPACE pays homage to modern horror film tropes while still pulling off something fresh and exciting.

American couple Brad (Leigh Scully) and Ashley (Georgia Chara) are traveling through Germany when their car suddenly breaks down. After finding a dead body they seek help in a house, however the house is haunted by the ghost of a Nazi SS Officer and his family.

From the beginning, LIVING SPACE horrifies you with footage of Nazi Germany. The name of this film is a play on words as living space not only refers to the haunted house but also refers to the Nazi doctrine of ‘Lebenstraum’ which was the justifying reason for Nazis to invade many other European countries in WWII.

The thing about this film that separates it from other supernatural slashers is that we soon realize this is not going to be a straightforward narrative- Brad and Ashley are stuck in a time loop of torture! Each cycle grislier than the next.

Non-linear plots are a bold move in film, and a bit of a gamble really. The risk is that this unique plot device often comes at the expense of important things in a film’s narrative such as character development, which I felt the film lacked. LIVING SPACE is an ambitious film but I feel it achieves what it set out to do. It puts an emphasis on the supernatural and violent aspects of the film rather than trying to tie up loose ends or explain the reasons behind the time loop and this worked in its favor.

Filmed in Geelong , a town southwest of Melbourne, I was impressed with how well the scene was set. Had I not had previous knowledge to the contrary, I would undoubtedly have assumed this was actually shot in Germany itself. That being said, the American accents didn’t come off so seamlessly. While  it was obviously going for the quintessential 90’s  slasher American couple, Australians are great at backpacking too and I feel the film would have come out more genuine if the actors spoke in their native accents. Then again, this quirk may help LIVING SPACE reach out to American audiences better and I am all for indie films getting the recognition they deserve.

What I did like about the film, whether intended or not, was that it was an exploration on the cyclical abuse of women and systematic misogyny. The seemingly unending attacks on the couple are triggered by Brad calling Ashley a whore which turns out to be the SS Officer’s favorite word when abusing his wife. Ashley’s bad feelings of deja-vu, in conjunction with Brad’s repeated instruction to go into the house gives us a whole other level of horror that is purely psychological.

LIVING SPACE makes good use of its practical effects with the gore being a stand out feature in the film. Sequences of slicing and dicing are memorable in their originality and creativity. The definite image that sticks in my head was a ‘human swastika’ which I think was intended to sear itself into the viewers mind. If that is something that intrigues you, LIVING SPACE won’t disappoint your penchant for gruesome deaths.

Right from its harsh opening sequence, LIVING SPACE lets the audience know they’re in for a wild, nightmarish ride. To compare it to two other great Australian horror films, LIVING SPACE is WOLF CREEK meets TRIANGLE. The film both celebrates horror clichés and subverts them showing that writer/ director Spiel has a great knowledge of the genre.  It will be exciting to see what his next project entails.

2.5  out of 5 tombstones

” LIVING SPACE pays homage to modern horror tropes while still pulling off something fresh and exciting”

Living Space (Trailer) - YouTube

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The notorious and acclaimed horror photography by Joshua Hoffine can now reside in your cold dead hands as a BEAUTIFUL new book of his work has been published by DARK REGIONS PRESS. FEAR FOREVER spoke with the artist about his inspirations, lengthy career, advice for novice photographers and of course, his new book.

FEAR FOREVER (FF): What is your earliest memory of the macabre becoming part of your life?

JOSHUA HOFFINE (JH): I’ve loved Horror for as long as I can remember. My early drawings from
preschool are all monsters. Sesame Street – with it’s affinity for monsters – was a gateway drug that led to SCOOBY-DOO and GODZILLA movies. My parents liked Horror films, so they were cool with my macabre streak. I was raised in an environment where Horror movies were considered family entertainment.

FF: What were the influences that you developed at a young age that have helped to shape the aesthetic you have now?

JH: In grade school we were shown the 1953 version of  THE TELL-TALE HEART narrated by James Mason, and the final Night on Bald Mountain sequence from FANTASIA. Both utterly blew my mind. This is the 80’s, before VHS, before cable, which means I got to view them only once. But they were tattooed onto my brain. I spent years drawing and redrawing the old man with his evil eye, and skeleton ghosts riding horseback.

FF: What made you decide to make horror photography your main artistic focus?

JH: I had been working as a photographer for a few years when it struck me that there was no Horror photography. There are Horror movies, novels, comics, and video games – but no Horror photographs. I saw wide vistas of
unexplored possibility. Horror quickly became my focus and I never looked back.

FF: Can you walk us through your process:  from idea/concept to print?

JH: Ideas tend to come to me fully-formed. I write a short description of the photograph I’m going to make. I think of it as a script. If there are make-up artists involved, or a Kickstarter campaign, I will draw a sketch to better convey what I’m going for. The bulk of my time is spent preparing. I have to find the location, or design and build a set, and
find or make all the props and costumes. I almost always use friends and family members as actors and crew. I shoot everything live in front of the camera. A photo-shoot can last for hours and hours, with most of the time spent on lighting and make-up. Once the shooting is complete, I carefully go through my footage (I shoot a lot) to find the best frame. I’ll polish my best frame in Photoshop – tweaking color and contrast, and fixing any flaws I find. Sometimes, for reasons of safety or budget, I have to shoot an element separately and combine it with the main image in Photoshop. I make prints at home using Museo Silver Rag – which is a heavyweight museum paper.

FF: What is your favorite camera to shoot with?

JH: These days, a Canon 5D Mark III

FF: Have you ever thought of shooting a film?

JH: I’ve made one, so far. I finished my first short Horror film BLACK LULLABY in 2014 after a successful Kickstarter campaign. The 4 minute film features a little girl and her confrontation with the Boogeyman. The
film stars my daughter Chloe Hoffine and regular model Bob Barber as the Boogeyman, and was meant to be the climax to my photo series dealing with childhood fears. You can find it on Vimeo.

FF: Do you think things like iPhones and Instagram are good or bad for photography as an art and photographers as a profession?

JH: Great for the art, terrible for the industry. I started out before the digital revolution. Photography was difficult and took years to master. People hired professionals. Now that everybody has a camera in their pocket, with apps and filters replacing difficult darkroom work, the demand for professional photography has diminished.

FF: What are your thoughts on the old superstition that a camera steals the soul?

JH: The camera may capture your likeness, but your soul is safe.

FF: What are your biggest pet peeves about photography and photographers today?

JH: Selfies.

FF: What is a simple trick or piece of advice you can give to amateur photographers to be able to take a better photo?

JH: Learn to use natural light. When shooting portraits outdoors, soft overcast skies are your best friend.

FF: You have been at this for a long time and are one of the best known horror photographers, actually one of the best known photographers in general! Now, you are putting your years of work into one collection. How did this idea for the book come about?

JH:It was actually my hope from the very beginning to someday publish my Horror photos as a book. Although I never expected it to take so long to create enough work. Because of the labor and expense involved, I was rarely able to create more than 3 or 4 new images a year.

FF: How did you choose which images went into the book?

JH: Virtually every Horror image I’ve made ended up in the book.

FF: How did you get hooked up with the publisher of your book, DARK REGIONS PRESS?

JH: They contacted me a few years ago about doing it. Finally, the time was right for both of us. This is their first coffee table art book. It was an arduous learning experience but we’re both happy with the way it came out.

FF: Like your photography, your book is uniquely you and is a piece of art in and of itself. It isn’t the most cost effective or easy route to put out an oversized 12 x 12 hardcover book, why did you feel that this design best presented your work to fans old and new?

JH: I believe the size was my suggestion. There is a lot of detail that can be missed if the photos aren’t large enough. The book even includes numerous ‘detail pages’ that zoom in on an image so certain details are highlighted.

FF:  The book also includes a very rare and personal glimpse into what happens behind the scenes and you personally give your own commentary on your work. Did you find it hard or intimidating to speak for your art for the first time, since your art regularly does the talking?

JH: Actually, that part wasn’t too hard. I graduated from college with a degree in English Lit, and I have lectured about my photos, and my philosophical understanding of the Horror genre, many times. It was mostly about keeping my thoughts as succinct as possible.

FF: Is there anything else you want readers to know about you, your book,
or any future projects you have?

JH: With my book now complete, my next project is going to be a full-length
Horror movie. It’s called NIGHT OF THE HATCHET MAN. It’s intense, and
every frame will look like my photographs. People won’t know what hit ’em.

Joshua Hoffine’s book is  available for purchase as a case laminate Trade Hardcover for $60, or a limited edition signed and numbered leather Deluxe Hardcover with dust jacket and linen slipcase for $150 (Edition of 300).

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The popular radio dramas of days past have seen a resurgence in popularity in modern day podcast form. One such podcast is the sci-fi horror-drama THE WHITE VAULT. FEAR FOREVER  spoke with this eerie and unsettling shows creator Kaitlin Statz prior to their live show in New York City on March 13th (you can find ticket info here!)

FEAR FOREVER (FF):Introduce yourselves and tell us a little about THE WHITE VAULT?

KAITLIN STATZ (KS): I’m Kaitlin Statz, and I’m the creator and writer of THE WHITE VAULT and other audio drama podcasts. I work with Travis Vengroff, my co-creator and producer extraordinaire.  We are the key creators behind FOOL AND SCHOLAR PRODUCTIONS, where we strive to create audio drama podcasts as “Movies for your Headphones”.

FF: Kaitlin, where did the concept for THE WHITE VAULT come from?

KS: THE WHITE VAULT formed as the result of several influencing factors. I was constantly consuming horror media, as I do even now, and wrote short horror stories for a sci-fi anthology at that time. Also, I met some particularly interesting people, who were both positive influences on my writing and excellent character inspiration.  But the final push was a trip to Iceland.  While driving through the snowfields and ice-crowned mountains I realized how wonderfully dangerous something so beautiful could be.  I wanted to try my hand at the false sense of security society feels; something waiting to be easily torn away by the terror of Mother Nature, or by something we cannot fathom. I came home from that trip ready to write.

FF: THE WHITE VAULT would fall into the “found footage” sub-genre of horror which is to my knowledge, quite a niche sub-genre in the podcast/audio show medium. What made you decide to write and create the show in that format?

KS: I cannot take credit for being the first found-footage audio drama, as there are certainly others out there. I chose to cast the story through found-footage to help build a sense of realism, and as a lens for the story.

We pull together the bits of hope, confusion, and despair that permeates THE WHITE VAULT through the skills of our actors but, to help with this, the found-footage format creates background conversations, candid emotional outbursts, and mistakenly divulged information characters would otherwise deem too personal in a conversational setting.

Interestingly, it also works in reverse. Writing horror for THE WHITE VAULT leans on the pacing of information release. Found-footage allows for information to be discovered only as the characters encounter it, letting listeners follow the unfurling mystery along with bewildered and frightened characters.

FF: Who did you base your characters on?

KS: So many people. When I was underway with my Graduate studies, I was in classes and labs filled with interesting, dedicated people from across the globe.  These were intelligent students with an eagerness for knowledge and to progress their lives, ready to clear a path fitting their life view. I based many of the characters on how I envisioned my fellow graduate students in their futures; from the devastating divorces to the happy families, from excelling in their life-long dream to choosing a path otherwise unheard of.  It was these people who helped craft my character choices for  THE WHITE VAULT.

FF:What inspired you to set this in Arctic Circle?

KS: The awe of it.  I’ve been to the Arctic Circle, though never to Svalbard itself, and while many people live there, it is a wonderland of white wastes, glowing lights, chilling cold, and the wild power of nature. This is to say it is a place of beauty, but also a place to fear and respect.

Svalbard was chosen due to several political and natural reasons. Bureaucratically, the VISA work regulations for Svalbard are rather lax, so getting an international team to the island for work on short notice seemed more plausible. More importantly, the setting of the long polar night and natural fear of an island populated with polar bears helps to solidify a true fear of the natural world.

FF: Kaitlin how does your job in cartography play into THE WHITE VAULT?

KS: I’m not sure my fantasy cartography illustrations play into my creation of THE WHITE VAULT in any physical capacity, but the feeling of creating a story and creating a world is very similar. I put time and thought into how to form a map as I would a story, focusing on the perfect structures of mountains and dialogue.

FF: Your show has gained a strong following VERY quickly. What is it about the show that you think resonates so strongly with people?

KS: First, there is a large population of horror podcast listeners who gave our show a shot. We work with friends of ours whom we met through THE NOSLEEP PODCAST, and they’ve lent their amazing talents to THE WHITE VAULT. Through their voices and support we were able to reach a superb and supportive horror audience rather quickly. From then on, we needed to maintain that listener trust and continue to strive for quality storytelling.

We also spent months leading up to the premiere creating visual and video ads for our audio drama, reaching out to fans on Twitter, and honestly interacting with key members of our niche community. We pour our blood, sweat, and tears into the show and we were dead-set on not letting it flop.

Additionally, we’ve had people reach out to us regarding our international voice cast.  While still writing, I knew I wanted to showcase international voices, create a cast similarly diverse to the lecture halls of my graduate studies, and show the world that not every audio drama is American or British centric. While we’ve received one or two tweets and reviews from angry listeners who say they ‘can’t understand a word’, we receive more interactions beaming over our use of Spanish, Icelandic, German, and Russian, who love to hear diverse voices and accents, and who are relieved to hear that we value more than perfect American English.

FF: With that being said…do you have any advice for aspiring audio show creators or podcast writers in the making?

KS: The same advice that Travis gave me with everything I’ve worked on: Create it. You can’t fail or succeed until you do it.  It’s okay if your first script is garbage. I’ve deleted so many pages of hard, horrible work. Write and delete. Rewrite and delete. Takes a break, re-read, groan, and delete. Then, start again.

Dialogue is key to audio drama, and it can be difficult to hear and transcribe those voices. So, working at it is all you can do.

On the other side, I have more pressing advice.  Travis and I give panel presentation at expos and conventions on how to make audio drama podcasts. We are happy so many people are interested, but we always end on the same note: If you spend time creating a podcast and then find down the line you no longer enjoy it, stop.

For most, podcasting is a hobby. It’s what they create in their free time to express themselves and stir some joy.  So, if you create a podcast but no longer enjoy it, stop doing it. Perhaps you are better suited to write a novel, the production takes too much of your time, or you never feel satisfied with the end result.  Making an audio drama should be enjoyable, and if you wake up dreading your writing/production, it’s time to find something that brings you more joy, be it as simple as writing a different format, or as divergent as building a wooden boat.

FF: The cast of characters is comprised of people from all over the world. How did you find your cast?

KS: Finding our cast came through our amazing friends and podcasting community. Peter Lewis, who plays Graham Casner, worked with us previously on our sci-fi horror audio drama LIBERTY: TALES FROM THE TOWER, and he is a personal friend of ours.

David Ault, who plays Walter Heath, was a voice we had heard on THE NOSLEEP PODCAST and who we finally met at a NOSLEEP live show in the Pacific Northwest. He turned out to be a fan of LIBERTY, and such a wonderful guy, sp we jumped at the chance to work with him.

Lani Minella, who voices Dr. Rosa De La Torre, is a talent voice actress who has been in the industry for years. She’s such a kind and wonderful woman who happens to be a personal friend and fellow animal lover.

Hem Cleveland, Eyþór Viðarsson, and Kessi Reliniki (the voices of the Documentarian, Jónas Þórirsson, and Dr. Karina Schumacher-Weiß respectively) found us through auditions we posted online over the years. Hem and Eythor worked with us on Liberty, and Kessi joined us specifically for THE WHITE VAULT.

FF: Can you tell us a little about your cast members and what was it about each of them that made you cast them for these roles?

KS: Every member of our cast was selected because we believe in their talent and their dedication to being a team player.  Our actors and actresses are friendly people I am happy to work with and who help our story reach its potential. I am happy to call them my friends and would not choose to work with people I did not fully believe in.

FF: Lets talk a little about your lead Hem Cleveland who plays multiple characters in the live show. How does she feel about her first live performance being in front of such a large audience?

KS: Hem is flying to New York for the live show from England and she is a talented voice and Dungeons and Dragon’s DM who knows how to get into character. She’ll be playing not only her in-podcast role as the Documentarian, but also voicing the role of a new character specifically made for our live show script.

She has been on stage before so it is not her first live performance, but it is certainly her largest audience yet. As we all record remotely for THE WHITE VAULT, so this will be our first time meeting each other.  We look forward to meeting and getting to hang out, which helps us not think about the nervous reality of a large New York City show!

FF: You will be doing a live performance of THE WHITE VAULT on March 13th in NYC along with the wildly popular NO SLEEP PODCAST. How did you get hooked up with them and how did this show come to fruition?

KS: Travis and I have been fans of  NOSLEEP for over five years now. When we began our first podcast, LIBERTY:CRITICAL RESEARCH, we were so new to the world of podcasting we felt lost, but David Cummings and Peter Lewis responded to our questions and even lent their voices to our budding show. It was the final nail in the coffin, forever trapping our NOSLEEP love within our hearts.

More specifically, in 2017, Travis was talking to the folks of NOSLEEP about looking forward to seeing their upcoming performance in NYC.  They asked if we’d be interested in opening for them, as they were looking for talents to open for their shows. It was unthinkable for us, being such a new show, that their offer was genuine, but we had flight confirmations and a script outline within a week!

FF: How will your audio show translate to the stage?

KS: Live shows for podcasts are not about modifying an audio script into a play; instead we focus on the experience of seeing the voice actors and living the production first-hand. We don’t add stage directions or props, and we focus on the audio above all else, as we do when recording a podcast episode. The live show allows attendees to seeing the emotion, meet the cast, and make honest connections with indie creators like us.

FF: What does the future hold for THE WHITE VAULT?

KS: More seasons, voices, fans, spin-offs, one-offs, and (hopefully) live shows.

Honestly, three years ago I never would have thought I would be writing audio drama, speaking on panels, presenting live shows, attending conventions as a guest, or living and breathing podcasts, but here we are.  I’ve reached this far with little speculation and a hell of a lot of hard work, so that’s the way I’ll keep running it!

FF: Is there anything else you want readers to know about?

KS: There are amazing audio drama stories out there waiting to be consumed. Podcasts are a FREE form of education and entertainment, and some talented writers and producers find their outlet and voice in audio drama creation.  If you’re reading this, horror is in your blood, so go out there and listen to THE WHITE VAULT, listen to THE NOSLEEP PODCAST, and find other horror podcasts that make you shiver. There’s sci-fi, too. A mix of both. Comedy. Drama. Anthologies. Romances. And more. Give audio drama the opportunity to entertain you.

Also, we release THE WHITE VAULT for free, but podcasting is my livelihood. Fans support our shows on Patreon and through the purchase of merchandise.  If you listen and enjoy our work so far, consider supporting us in these ways or by leaving us a rating and review so others can find our show.  Indie creators thrive and die by the interactivity of their fans.

You can listen to the white vault on their website  and on Spotify  and can get tickets for their show in NYC on March 13th with THE NOSLEEP PODCAST here!

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THE OFFER is the pilot episode of Cult Screenings UK and Dead Mouse Productions’ new anthology series collectively called ‘Dark Ditties Presents’.

The two companies’ previous works have been non-fiction documentaries about classic horror films such as LEVIATHAN: THE STORY OF HELLRAISER AND HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER II as well as YOU’RE SO COOL BREWSTER! THE STORY OF FRIGHT NIGHT and more. They are also responsible for publishing books on the behind the scenes and cultural contexts of some of our favorite horror cult classics. it is their love for these films and horror in general which makes me really appreciate this endeavor.

THE OFFER has some famous faces you might not recognize simply because when you fell in love with them they were under a huge amount of practical effects. The offer reunites the Cenobites (minus Pinhead) from HELLRAISER and HELLBOUND: HELLRAISER IISimon Bamford, Nicholas Vince and Barbie Wilde-as well as skinless Frank (Oliver Smith) and Dr Channard (Kenneth Cranham). This alone should be reason to watch this horror anthology series.

The premise for the offer is not new- a group of people are invited to a mansion to play a game for a large sum of money. The old benefactor of the estate tells his guests posthumously through a video that each of the players has some skeletons in their closet related to the 7 deadly sins. Match up the people with the sins and win the game, however it turns deadly when the rules become tell the truth or die violently. Similar to AND THEN THERE WERE NONE, THE OFFER is Agatha Christie, but with chainsaws.

You can tell this black comedy is definitely made for horror fans by horror fans. Not only is it a tribute to murder mysteries it also pays homage to other well-known horror films, I can see obvious influences from SAWSE7EN and even HOSTEL.

The actors involved all gave strong performances with the characters they were given- credit to Bruce Jones for carrying most of the film along as a brash and vulgar used car salesman. THE OFFER had really good production values which they use every inch of to make this film as sleek as possible—and it worked, the film looks great. The offer got creative with its death scenes and had an absurd but deliciously self-aware twist ending.

You really have to look at THE OFFER as a tongue-in-cheek horror comedy- take it too seriously and you start to see the cracks. With a premise based on the seven deadly sins and needing characters to fit into them we end up with characters who come off as walking clichés. This featurette did its best to subvert these and put a new spin on them however the characterizations were frustrating none the less.  If you can get past this; THE OFFER is a lot of fun.

For a film which was driven so much by character development I couldn’t find myself caring for a single one. Luckily watching them get picked off in interesting ways was be very satisfying. THE OFFER knows none of its characters are worth rallying behind so offers us a voyeuristic look into their grisly comeuppance.

Subverting the classic murder mystery party story and injecting a bit more violence, gore and horror has proved a winning move for THE OFFER- just enough familiarity and just enough new twists to keep you surprised without things turning into a bonkers mess.
THE OFFER is a charming tribute to horror tropes we love and has left me excited for future episodes of Dark Ditties.

2.5 out of 5 tombstones.

“Agatha Christie, but with chainsaws”
Dark Ditties Presents The Offer Promotional (First 17 Minutes) - YouTube
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The Monster Fest Travelling Sideshow (Sydney) is happening on March 9-11 at The Event Cinemas George Street. For your chance to WIN a VIP festival pass to all 10 films (worth $132) share the Facebook Event page below, tag a friend on the event wall and click “going”. The competition ends 12pm on Wednesday the March 7th. The winner will be announced March 8th. GOOD LUCK and don’t forget to like FEAR FOREVER on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more contests and news!
Monster Fest Travelling Sideshow (Sydney 2018) - YouTube
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Fear Forever by Andy Breslow - 3w ago

It’s been a little over a decade since Adam Green first dropped his magnum opus  HATCHET, on unsuspecting theatre goers. While it didn’t necessarily reinvent the wheel, it was a much welcomed return to the “old school American horror” that was desperately lacking in genre cinema at the time. It’s warm reception then spawned two more films in the HATCHET  saga. These films were filled to the brim with all the practical effects and blood splatter your wicked little hearts crave. Now, after a long HATCHET hiatus, Green has once again outdone himself with the fourth installment in the series, VICTOR CROWLEY. It should be noted that this sequel was filmed entirely in secret, and horror fans nearly lost their minds when it was announced. For this writer, it was a highly anticipated and long overdue return to the Louisiana swamps that ol’ hatchet face calls home.

If you consider yourself a fan of 80’s horror and get off on minimal CGI, then these films are just what the doctor ordered. Adam Green is one of the most exciting voices currently working in the horror biz, and he knows his audience well. Time after time Green continues to grow as a filmmaker, and prove that big things can be done on small budgets. These films come from a genuine love of the genre that is evident in every frame, and it’s no small miracle that Mr. Green has been able to make four of them.

VICTOR CROWLEY could be a standalone film, and it’s considered a “reboot” in a lot of ways. However, it more than acknowledges the other films, and it’s loaded with Easter eggs and inside jokes that will be lost on you if you’re not already familiar with the mythos. The film does a great job of giving the audience a nice little sepia-toned recap montage just in case you’ve forgotten the events of the previous films. Young Victor Crowley was a freakish child who was ridiculed relentlessly by the other kids in town. One Halloween night the town’s children throw firecrackers at the Crowley house to get a peek at young Victor, only to set the house on fire. Victor’s dad tried to break down the door with the titular hatchet, not knowing that Victor was pressed up against the other side of the door. Mr. Crowley kills his son with a hatchet to the face, and a few tall tales and voodoo curses later…a legend is born.

For the past three films people have been heading to the swamp in search of Victor (Kane Hodder), and well, they’ve found him. Belt sanders, power saws, and hatchets…oh my! VICTOR CROWLEY takes us into the life of the lone survivor of these three films, Andrew Yong (Parry Shen). Parry has been in every HATCHET film, as three different characters. This iteration is the EMT from HATCHET 3. After having survived the tragic events of the swamp, he’s made a career out of telling his story. His current gig is traveling the country and talk show circuit for the promotion of his new book detailing those horrific events.

Most people don’t give Andrew much thought, or they view him as joke, while others think he’s the killer and he’s spinning this yarn just for the publicity. Either way he doesn’t appear to be very well liked, except for a few hyper sexualized groupies. One of his biggest fans is a film student named Chloe (Katie Booth), who has dragged her boyfriend (Chase Williamson) and friend/actress (Laura Ortiz) along for the ride. She intends to shoot a mock trailer in the swamp, using the actual locations and lone survivor of the Crowley murders.

Just as Chloe is pitching the idea, Andrew’s publicist Kathleen (Felissa Rose) gets a million dollar offer for Andrew to tell his story in the swamps where the murders took place. Andrew is of course resistant, but his publicist insists and won’t take no for an answer. So off they go on a private plane to Louisiana, and Chloe goes her own way to film the trailer without them. After an unfortunate series of events, Andrew’s plane goes down and Chloe and her friends are the only ones there to help. But, they’re in HIS swamp and everyone is about to find out if the legends are true.

I don’t want to divulge too much more here, as I would hope most of you already get the gist by now. It’s more what Green does with his characters, and how much fun it looks like the actors are having. No one is safe in these films, and all of the characters are quirky in their own way. You’ll get led to believe someone will be the “final girl” and then…maybe not. The film is packed with genre legends, filmmakers and familiar faces that will have you going “shit, I know that guy/girl”. The gore is on full display, which is sort of the trademark of the series. It’s extreme and over the top, while always being played for sick humor. One kill even brought to mind a memorable scene from CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, as one victim is impaled with her own severed cell phone-grasping arm. It’s pure madness.

Felissa Rose and Dave Sheridan are the real showstoppers in my opinion. Felisssa Rose is no stranger to horror, most notably as Angela in the SLEEPAWAY CAMP films. Her version of the crass NYC talent agent is hilarious and probably all too real for some. She’s all about the money and making things happen, no accounting for taste. Dave Sheridan is playing the lead in Chloe’s student film, and comes across as a real doofus…oh, and he’s known for playing Officer Doofy in SCARY MOVIE. He comes across as a dumb male actor, but he’s a little more three-dimensional than I was expecting. I know that no one is watching these films to study complex character arcs, but I found his to be rewarding.

VICTOR CROWLEY is a horror film for horror fans, BY horror fans. It’s easily my favorite film in the series after the first one. I had the pleasure of catching this film during it’s road show in October at the Telluride Horror Show, and let me tell you that it felt more like a rock concert than a movie premiere. Fans were cheering, applauding, and laughing the whole way through. The HATCHET films have already garnered a cult following, and it’s easy to see why. With such a loyal and passionate fan base, I hope Adam Green will bring us back to the swamp for at least one more ride. In a brief post-credit sequence, it alludes to the fact that we just might get another one…Long Live The Hatchet Army!!!

VICTOR CROWLEY is available on VOD, DIGITAL, BLU-RAY and DVD now.

“VICTOR CROWLEY is a horror film for horror fans, BY horror fans.”

4 out of 5 Tombstones

Victor Crowley - Official Movie Trailer (2018) - YouTube

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Brody Gusar is no stranger to horror. He is not only a fan, but the editor of some of the genres finest specimens such as CHEAP THRILLS, STARRY EYES AND MOHAWK. We got to sit down with Brody and pick his brain (figuratively, not literally of course) about the ins and outs of film editing, his move into the directors chair and his film THE NEXT BIG THING.

FEAR FOREVER (FF):  Tell us a little about yourself and what got you into being a film editor?

BRODY GUSAR (BG): Luck is what got me into being a film editor. I was working for a really cool production company (New Artists Alliance) as an assistant to the producers, and man was I bad at being an assistant. I was eventually fired, but my boss Gabe Cowan immediately gave me the chance to move up in the world by editing my first feature, CHEAP THRILLS, and I’ve continued editing ever since. 

FF: Everyone has their own idea of what your job would entail, but can you walk us through the tasks involved and what you are responsible for as a film editor?

BG: Post production is of course a huge part of the film-making process and as the editor you are making sure that the story that the director is trying to tell is clearly understood and enjoyed by the audience. Each film is different and has it’s own set of quirks, but I’ll walk you through how it often goes for me. I prefer to be brought on before the film starts shooting, but generally I’m brought on after principal photography is finished. An assistant editor will sync the sound to the footage and organize it in whatever editing program we’re gonna use. Sometimes the assistant editor will do an assemble, but I prefer to do it myself. When I get to, I take 2-3 weeks to watch through all the footage and put together the assembly of the film. This version is the worst version of the film and it should never been seen by anyone, unless they want a good laugh. From there you just keep working on the scenes and putting in temp sound and color and music. Like writing, you keep revising scenes and getting feedback until the editor and the director (or whoever had final cut) feel like the movie has reached picture lock. 

I think one of the most important parts of being the editor is to help the director tell the story they want to tell. That may seem simple, like of course the director knows what they want to say, but often times ego or preconceived notions of actors or scenes will cloud their judgement and it is your job to help them tell the story in the best way possible.

FF: How has the advancements in the technologies used in modern day film making such as digital cameras, drones, CGI etc. effected what you do and how you do it? Do you think these advancements are a positive or a negative for the future of film-making?

BG: As an editor, other than new codecs and increasing size of the files used, none of the new technologies matter much to me. At the end of the day I’m given footage and I’m gonna do everything I can to turn that footage into an enjoyable film. The exception is VR (Virtual Reality) and AR (Augmented Reality) which pose their own specific editorial challenges.

I think that change and upgrading of equipment and practices is good overall as the more and better tools you have to tell the story the better chance you have of telling a good story, but tools are just that, tools, so without the talent to tell the story the bells and whistles don’t matter. 

FF: What is your biggest film editing pet peeve when watching a film?

BG: I am blessed with the ability of being a very easy audience and can usually find a reason to enjoy whatever I’m watching. Something that does irritate me, and this is more writing than editing, is when things are too easy or convenient. A good generic example is a scene where two characters are about to kiss and a phone rings, or someone is stranded and just happens to stumble upon someone who happens to leave their keys in their car.

FF: If you could give one piece of advice/ tip/ trick to aspiring film editors what would it be?

BG: Giving one is tough so I’ll give a few if that’s okay. 1st, watch things that are similar to what you are going to edit. Some people like to not be affected by what’s come before, but I think the best art improves upon what has come before and knowing what has come before is important for that. 2nd, it is sometimes helpful to get brutal with the cut and make a version of the film that is the quickest, most bare bones version possible. Directors (especially writer/directors) will sometimes balk at this, but when you cut things to the very bare essentials it’s easier to see what needs to go back in and what doesn’t, what is and isn’t necessary to tell the story effectively. Lastly, make sure that you are the champion of the audience and try to make your decisions on what serves the audiences interests. Occasionally a director will want to do something that is more about their ego or a cool shot than what will tell the story in the best way possible and if you think that’s happening it’s your job to voice your concern, not that that gives you permission to be a jerk about it.  

FF: You have not only edited some really great horror and genre films as of late you are also a horror fan! What are your major horror influences? 

BG: Hands down my biggest horror influence is THE SHINING. The performances and the imagery and just the feeling it instills in the viewer are incredible. Kubrick wasn’t a “horror director” he was just a good director. I also like horror films with a lot of gore and violence and find action oriented horror films really enjoyable to cut. 

FF: Your film, THE NEXT BIG THING is your foray from the editing suite to the director’s chair. What was it like making this transition?

BG: Terrifying. I don’t usually find editing stressful, even when deadlines are approaching, but there are so many more things you have to think about when you’re directing that it is overwhelming under the best circumstances. That being said I absolutely loved it and think that all editors should direct a film (and all directors should edit a film). You learn a lot being on the other side of the line. I think one benefit a director coming from editing has is that it is easier to cut things you like but aren’t necessary to tell your story. 

FF: You are also credited as one of the writers of the film, where did you draw the stories inspiration from?

BG: I, along with my co-writer Iain Roush, have been friends for more than ten years and we drew a lot of what we wanted to do from out own relationship as friends. One other big source of inspiration is something said in the climax of the film. I don’t want to spoil it, but basically I wanted to make a film that was crazy and different than what I’d seen before from first time directors because I thought that making something like that would be the best way to stand out.

FF: The film is not exactly a horror, but you said it has some dark influences. What are they? 

BG: I wanted very much to bend genres and so I pull things from different types of films. There is a very tense, horror inspired open, followed by jokes and comedy and by the end it’s transformed into a thriller. Also, the themes of the film and the price the protagonist pay are horrific to me. 

FF: The film currently stands at a strong 8.8 out of 10 on IMDB. What can viewers expect from the film and what is it about it that you think is resonating so much with them?

BG: I hope they can expect to be entertained as that was my main goal in making the film, to entertain. Beyond that, I think people resonate with the film because there is a lot of commentary about reality T.V. and wanting to be famous and the dark sides to that, that people often over look. People love to hate on reality T.V. and YouTube culture and this movie definitely goes in that direction, but in my head is also a celebration of those things as well.

FF: Where can people see the film?

BG: The film is streaming on Amazon and can be watched for free if you are a prime member. 


FF: What is next for you?

BG: Well, I’ve printed a bunch of DVD’s and put them in a backpack so I’m gonna go to mall parking lots and try to make the films money back. I’m joking of course! I’m working on a lot of different scripts right now trying to decide which one I want to pursue next.

Also, a really exciting and fun action thriller I edited called MOHAWK is coming out on March 2nd, and another horror film I edited called I Am Fear is coming out later this year, 

FF: Is there anything else you want readers to know about you, your film or your upcoming projects?

BG: Nope!

The Next Big Thing - Trailer - YouTube

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Some would say that the 90’s were the heyday for horror. With the internet being born in 1991, 90’s kids are really the last generation that had to get their horror in hard copy.  You got your latest edition of GOOSEBUMPS at the Scholastic Book Fair (maybe just me), you begged your older sibling to rent THE CANDYMAN for you at your local video store (I miss you CAPTAIN VIDEO!) and you got your soundtrack to your favorite horror flick on cassette or compact disc. Well, break out that giant yellow Sony Walkman because Troy Dierke a.k.a. DREAMREAPER has released an 80’s horror movie score influenced  remix of the GOOSEBUMPS theme that is rad as hell.  Utilizing his signature retro-influenced synthwave sound, DREAMREAPER has turned this ’90s TV favorite into a club-ready electro banger.  FEAR FOREVER had the chance to chat with this GOOSEBUMPS trading card hoarder and all around awesome artist about himself, his upcoming projects and his GOOSEBUMPS theme remix.

FEAR FOREVER (FF): What are your artistic influences?

DREAMREAPER (DR): I listen to all kinds of music, and I think it all has at least a little influence on my sound. The biggest direct influences would have to be Carpenter Brut and Justice.
But whatever I happen to be listening to definitely effects whatever song I’m currently working on. I’ll hear something in a song that catches my ear and try to think about how I could incorporate something similar.
I do read a lot and watch movies a lot but I’m not sure if they influence my music, maybe subconsciously. My favorite author is definitely Philip K. Dick and my favorite movies are ones that make you think or mess with your head a bit.

FF: Were you a big fan of the Goosebumps books and show as a kid?

DR: Yeah Goosebumps was my introduction to the horror genre as I’m sure it was for a lot of people around my age. I was even a member of the Goosebumps book club for a short time in elementary school.
My favorites were the Choose-Your-Own Goosebumps series, I’ve always liked the choose-your-own adventure style books.
I also rented VHS tapes of the show from the local video store in my hometown several times and caught them on TV when I could.
I watched a few episodes of the show recently… not quite as scary as I remembered haha.

FF: What inspired you to do this remix?

DR: I was randomly watching videos on Youtube and the Goosebumps Theme came up as a suggested video so of course I clicked it. I immediately remembered how awesome it was and knew I could do something really cool with it. The idea to remix it and release it for Halloween came to me all at once before I even finished listening to it.
This all happened like 6 months before Halloween but of course I didn’t start it until like a month before and was actually pretty rushed trying to finish it. I’m still happy with how it came out.

FF: What are your thoughts on the upcoming GOOSEBUMPS: HORRORLAND film?

DR: I actually liked the last film, it wasn’t really what I was expecting, but I enjoyed it for what it was.
I think the second one could be better if they included a badass updated version of the theme music…
Columbia Pictures, feel free to hit me up!

FF: If you could remix another horror theme what would it be?

DR: I’ve always really liked the SAW theme and think I could do something with that. Something about it just brings back the emotions I feel when watching the film every time I listen to it.
Also not a horror movie, but the MORTAL KOMBAT Theme has been on my radar…

FF: What is next for you?

DR: Currently spending every free minute I have working on music for my upcoming full-length album.
I think it pushes my sound to the next level, both heavier and dancier at the same time. Really excited for people to hear what I’ve been working on.
Don’t wanna give away too much more, but it’s coming!

FF: Where can people find more of your work?

DR: Facebook for news, Soundcloud for the latest music, and Bandcamp for major releases.

Check out the GOOSEBUMPS THEME remix!!

DreamReaper - Goosebumps Theme [Official Audio] - YouTube

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The Final Girls Berlin Film Festival is creating a space for females in the horror genre; celebrating their contributions in a way that feels genuinely for women by women. February is ‘Women in Horror Month’ and I have to say I’m feeling the camaraderie this year.

Because I am personally from Australia, I’ve chosen to look at the awesome Australian short film entries from the Final Girls Berlin Film Festival. As usual Australia has shown the world that it takes its horror grim, with a side of scarcely any happy endings.  So here are the shorts, in order of their screenings at FGBFF.


LIZ DRIVES, a 2017 short written, directed and produced by Mia’kate Russel– left me to deal with a soul crushing ending and some introspection about prejudice and preconceived notions.

The film follows Liz (Sophia Davey) and her sister Ellie (WOLF CREEK’S Cassandra Magrath) as they drive to the outskirts of town to see their mother. When stopping at a gas station, Ellie is pulled into another car as Liz watches in horror. Fearing the worst, Liz reacts by getting into a high-speed chase with the car and its driver. Only then does Liz see the horrors she’s created.

LIZ DRIVES is an incredibly smart film that knows exactly what it is doing to its audience- an amazing amount of foreboding is used in the beginning. Long shots of the dark deserted road, emphasizing that the girls are in the middle of nowhere remind us of all the other times we have seen this situation end badly. These techniques are there to confuse us and make us feel a certain way which only comes back to bite us.

It was a smart choice to keep most of the action shrouded in darkness- making us get most of our information from Sophia Davey’s expressive face lit only by headlights and the ominous glow of dashboard lights. A lot of action happens for a film that is only 8 minutes long but none of it is mindless. LIZ DRIVES is so expertly fast-paced it makes your heart race. We are panicking along with Liz and frantic for the safety of both sisters; this makes the end reveal feel much more personal and consequently all the more tragic and horrifying.

LIZ DRIVES is an immersive and wild ride.

” An incredibly smart film that knows exactly what it is doing to its audience”

3 1/2 Tombstones out of 5


HIGHWAY, a 2016 short written and directed by Vanessa Gazy also takes place on the road. There just must be something about Australian highways that make them so ripe for horror. Maybe it’s the monotony of it that makes it so isolating, maybe it’s all the missing hitchhikers.

Straight away in the opening sequence I was reminded of David Lynch’s LOST HIGHWAY with a long, winding, yellow-painted road. The comparison doesn’t end there as HIGHWAY is full of mystery and asks you to embrace the weird and wonderful.

Hester (Odessa Young) is hitchhiking along the highway when her radio begins to broadcast a news bulletin- except it is for the next day, and it brings bad news of a storm. Hester gets picked up by a family headed on holiday, in the car Hester once again tunes into the radio station of the future and hears that she and the car members are headed for a grisly end.

When Hester got in the car my brain automatically went to the trope of killer family picking up a hitch hiker- It was a nice surprise to find that they were more in danger from Hester than she was to them. I really enjoyed the character acting in the car, lead by Andrew S. Gilbert (THE LOVED ONES) and Rebecca Smart.

HIGHWAY was filmed in the snowy mountains in New South Wales, Australia. These are beautiful of mountains and valleys keep your attention because you just can’t look away. The film really reminded me of BLACK MIRROR in the way that that it had technology behaving strangely, and felt like an episode of THE TWILIGHT ZONE with it’s science fiction.

HIGHWAY ended up being a near flawless film.

“A film full of mystery that asks you to embrace the weird and wonderful.”

4 out of 5 Tombstones

BLOOD SISTERS                   

Blood sisters is a blood soaked 2017 short film directed and produced by Caitlin Koller and written by Hannah White. Most of the films I watched for this article used subtlety in their horror, BLOOD SISTERS is not one of those

Two friends Steph (Emma Gladwell) and Amanda (Hannah Vanderheide) decide to dabble in the occult while having a girls’ night in. After completing a ritual involving slicing their hands and chanting, it all seems to have been some harmless fun. That is until they become trapped in their apartment and their wounds begin to bleed way more than they are supposed to.

First of all, BLOOD SISTERS has found a way to use the trope of séances which unleash evil in a completely unique and frankly refreshing way. I can’t think of a more ingenious use of fake blood; the idea of uncontrollably bleeding would be absolutely terrifying body-horror if it wasn’t played for laughs.

Just because BLOOD SISTERS is a black comedy doesn’t mean it lets up on the horror. The gore in this film stands out as being realistic enough that I was physically wincing. There is a particularly horrible use of curling iron that firmly cements this film as not for the squeamish.

It’s worth mentioning that although the comedy comes from these women being completely unprepared to deal with the supernatural and physical horror they find themselves in; never are they portrayed as airheads. This surely comes from having a female director and writer who know how to make characters realistic and respectful. I really appreciate this, especially when horror comedies usually objectify women a lot.

This slice of gory slapstick was a cautionary tale about meddling with witchcraft that ended just as hilariously as it began.

” I can’t think of a more ingenious use of fake blood”

5 out of 5 Tombstones


CRESWICK is a 2017 short film directed, produced and written by Natalie Erika James. Set in a haunted house, this short could have been riddled with cheap jump scares; I’m glad CRESWICK didn’t go that route, instead opting for a sinisterly creepy vibe and genuine horror.

While cleaning out her childhood home, Sam (Dana Miltins) begins to remember the fears she had in the home as a child. When her terrified father Colin (Chris Orchard) admits that things move on their own and that the dog won’t go in the house, both father and daughter are faced with the fact that there is a malevolent presence living with them.

CRESWICK however, is not a film about barging in with priests and paranormal investigators, it’s a film about silently suffering and living in fear on a daily basis. Great performances from both actors, you really felt a genuine father-daughter relationship between Sam and Colin. Chris orchard was heart breaking as an old man reaching to his daughter to save him.

Use of props in this film is something that stands out, obviously props are part of every film but here they really stood out as a driving force of creeps rather than fading into the surrounds. CRESWICK made chairs scary, I never thought would be scared of chairs. The sculptures by Isabel Avendano-Hazbun in this film could have furnished the house of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, they absolutely got under your skin. The film ended with an absolutely bone-chilling use of a puppet I don’t know can ever be rivaled.

When this short film ended I shook off the chill I had developed- despite it being summer here in Australia. If you want to see a haunting done right, seek out CRESWICK.

“If you want to see a haunting done right, seek out CRESWICK “

4 1/2 out of 5 Tombstones


HOBBY SHOP is another 2017 short film and is directed by Stephanie Liquorish and Isabel Stanfield, with Stephanie liquorish also writing. I spoke earlier of puppets, they return again as creepy marionettes are involved in this tale of curiosity killed the cat.

After getting up to no good, young girl Sophia (Milly Walton) hides out in an old shop full of creepy antique dolls and other dusty, old toys. After meeting the kindly proprietor of the shop (Hugh Parker), Sophia cannot help nosing around and soon she discovers a third person in the basement and the shop owner’s gruesome obsession with puppetry.

Hobby shop was a succinct little tale that packs a punch. Similar in concept to HOUSE OF WAX, this story isn’t completely original but it’s the way it is executed which held my attention, reeling me in with intense bursts of action and an atmosphere of dread. It really was a well written film and never have the words “I’m trying to help you” turned my stomach more.

HOBBY SHOP is a film which sets up the horror and lets your mind come up with the brutal and gory ways things turn out. It gives us just the right amount f information to let the dark recesses of our minds take over. This was really a great use of this technique as it elevated the film to one which says with you as opposed to one which just shocks and then leaves your mind.  The ending is really quite great in the nastiness of the horror it alluded to.

HOBBY SHOP proves my theory that Australian horror films, especially recent ones, don’t shy away from being harsh and unforgiving.

“Intense bursts of action and an atmosphere of dread “

3 1/2 out of 5 Tombstones

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