Monday, October 15, 2007

Those Crazy Babysitting Twins from "Planet Terror" at Rock and Shock in person...

and in character for their roles in the new movie "The Black Waters of Echos Pond...very nice kids to talk to!

I recently went to the fourth annual Rock and Shock show in nearby Worcester. It reminds me of Chiller Con years ago when it was a managable size with personality – unlike its current incarnation of the Big E of horror. I bought a couple of items, hung out with buddies and had an interesting reunion of sorts with a former friend.

I also bought a low-budget independent horror film titled "Icabod" by Andy Sawyer and was given by another filmmaker, Andrew Shanley, his film "Hangman."

I mention both guys in the piece, but didn't review the films in the papers. Both are shorts and Sawyer, adapting the famous story of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving, actually succeeds in many ways to produce an effective period piece. For the most part the costumes, exteriors and hair styles look authentic. That's an accomplishment on a mega-low budget.

The trouble with the film is the climax. With a story that is so well known and even been the basis of a feature length film, one has to come up with something dramatically different. I think Sawyer was prevented by his budget to accomplish a visiual or dramatic difference.

"Hangman" is about a serial killer who hangs four young women. That's it. No character development. No resolution. I think Shanely was very proud of devising a hanging stunt rig, but under direct lights and prolonged takes it's clear to see how the stunt is accompished.

God bless both of these guys for trying.

WORCESTOR – For thousands of Bay State horror fans, the Halloween season doesn’t start until the annual “Rock & Shock” show staggers into the DCU center.

What appears to be at first glance a way for fans to get autographs from horror film celebrities and buy everything from DVDs, movie posters, t-shirts and even teddy bears with a horror theme is actually much more.

Scratch the surface though and there’s another theme: while today’s media technologies allow people to produce books, magazines and movies much easier than ever before, getting those products to their potential audiences is more difficult than before with a handful of corporations controlling the pipelines to consumers.

Shows such as “Rock & Shock allow creative people a direct market for their creations.

Andrew Shanley and Andy Sawyer are the men behind New Blood Productions (, a central Massachusetts operation making independent horror films. They sell their films on DVD at horror shows such as “Rock & Shock” and on eBay when they’re not at their day jobs in cable television and teaching, respectively.

Since 1993, the pair has used a group of actors and fellow filmmakers who’ve been willing to work for next to nothing just to practice their craft. They concentrate on making the films, rather than distribution.

Not so director Alex Pucci, ( who was at the show selling DVDs of his films and publicizing a new film “Frat House Massacre,” a slasher film that is reminiscent of those that were popular in the 1970s. Pucci said the hardest work in making a movie is getting it distributed. He proudly said his film “Camp Slaughter” was recently purchased by Universal Home Video and will be getting mainstream distribution. He’s hoping for a theatrical release for “Frat House Massacre,” a $200,000 feature shot on film rather than digital video.

One of Pucci’s stars in his new film, Nikki Notarile, said with a smile she couldn’t reveal if she was a survivor or a victim in the film and was quick to hand this reporter a postcard publicizing her husband’s movie “Methodic.” She said the Weinstein brothers – the founders of Miramax – were considering distributing the film.

Cadaver Girls is a reaction to corporate distribution problem. Lady D-Kay, the self-described “caretaker” of the company explained it’s a collective of independent horror artists a means to display their work and get it to fans. She said the sales of the group’s t-shirts, magazines and calendars are through appearances at shows such as this one and through their Web site (

So far, she said the response has been very receptive and the experience has been “very enriching.”

Frank Monahan stuck out at the show like a sore thumb, as he wasn’t wearing black, had no apparent tattoos or piercings and there wasn’t a single skull at his table. The Virginia-based publisher was at the show at the request of one of its sponsors, WAAF FM, with his book, “For the Boys; Pin-Ups for the Troops.” Monahan bought the rights to classic 1940s and ‘50s pin-up painting by Gil Elvgren, which originally appeared in calendars. He then had contemporary models and photographers collaborate on their own version of the classic cheesecake.

For every book, he sells he sends one to troops stationed overseas. So far since the book came out earlier this year he has shipped out 2,000 copies. The book is designed to fit into a back pocket and is printed on waterproof paper.

Part of the sales also goes to Fisher House, a Maryland-based charity that helps the families of injured military personnel.
Monahan said the response has been amazing since the book appeared four months ago. It can be obtained online at

There were many authors at the show, including Jenny Hula Curry, a Monson resident who is working on her Masters degree in Literature at Western New England College. Her horror novel, “Brothers Huxten” was self-published through Infinity Publishing Co. and is available through and

A native of upstate New York, Curry started her story in Chicopee and ended it in Jordanville, N.Y. She described it as “graphic” and “fast-paced.”

“It leaves a lot to the reader’s imagination, “she added. “The brothers have a dark secret that destroys all.”

Curry has loved horror since she was 11 years old and has several other book ideas stored on her laptop.

The direct marketing approach extends to the celebrity guests who come to meet fans and sell their autographs and other merchandise. This year’s show featured a number of cast members from “The Hills Have Eyes,” and “Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2” as well as horror vets such as Tony Todd (“Candyman”) and Kane Hodder (the “Friday the 13th” series).

One of the longer lines was for two of the cast members of “Grindhouse,” Electra and Elise Avellan, known in the film as “the crazy babysitting twins.”

Smiling and eager to chat with fans, the pair said they have been doing horror shows for about a year now “non-stop.”
“The fans have been amazing,” according to Electra.

Although they both appear in the new horror film, “The Black Waters of Echo's Pond,” audiences should expect to see a fright film version of the Olsen twins. Electra wants to purse acting, while Elise is a dancer.

And both revealed they aren’t “into horror so much,” but noted with a laugh there are no conventions for conventional dramas.

“Planet Terror,” the half of “Grindhouse” in which they appeared is out in stores this week in an extended version. They said their uncle told them they would be in more scenes with the new version.

Their uncle is the film’s creator Robert Rodriquez. Before one could think of nepotism, Electra said their uncle wouldn’t have put them in the film if he hadn’t thought they could handle the role.

“He’s very cautious,” Electra said. She added though “he could make anyone look good.”

© 2007 by Gordon Michael Dobbs

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