Friday, October 21, 2016

Demons ate my mom!

For many years, I had faith in my mom regarding politics. One of the few things we saw eye-to-eye on. We hoo-hahed over the ludicrous notion of Trump even running for president. I mean, seriously, a year ago, did anyone think it was possible? Bad hair, violent temper, quite crazy (real good).

Trump's hat toss was funny for a while. Not so much any more. But I could count on Mom to laugh along with me at his blatant insanity.

Yesterday, I called Mom. She brought up politics. I told her the badly-coiffed buffoon would get us into World War III. Hillary isn't my favorite politician either, but I expect her to at least keep the status quo. Best we can hope for these days.

My mom's response nearly stopped my heart. My pulse pounded in my ears, crying to me in a tiny cartoony-mouse voice, "Mom's tipped over!"

Out of nowhere, she blindsided me with, "You're wrong. Trump is the more religious man."


Well, I kinda flipped out. My mom's holier-than-thou attitude added fuel to the fire.

Facts meant nothing to her. "Mom, this guy wants to start war! He hates everyone who's not white and straight! His haircut is a blatant physical representation of everything he lies about. It's just a juvenile game to him! He'll bring on Armageddon! We do NOT want him talking to foreign leaders, trust me!"

"You're wrong," she says, "he's led by God."

It's hard to argue with the Big Guy, but I tried anyway. "Trump's NOT a good Christian. All he wants is sexual harassment and destruction!"

"Yes, Stuart, but how long ago did those accusations happen?"

"Last week! The guy wants to violate and kill 'real good'! Mom!" I'm shamelessly screaming at this point. "There's a separation of Church and State for a reason!"

"Huh. Shouldn't be."

"Let's see... The sixteenth century had Henry VIII killing people in the name of Christianity so he could sleep with every woman he wanted. Heads were lopped! The Spanish Inquisition! You know how many people were killed because--"

"Huh. Spain. Not America."

"Ohhhh! We all came from immigrants! So many people have been put to death when religion gets in charge of government, it's crazy. And Trump's the worst. He--"

"I know what I know. We'll see who's right."
"Trump reminds me of someone else, someone who called himself a Christian. What was his name...lessee...Adam, no, that's not it...Aidan? No...oh, I got it! Hitler! How'd that work out for everyone?"

Pointless. I simmahed down. Sizzled out. The whole thing was weird. Where'd this suddenly come from? Particularly at a time when most people were bailing on the Trump train?

"Okay, Mom, I'll take you shopping next Tuesday."

"God will prove I'm right."


Friday, October 14, 2016

Radioactive Crotch! (Sexy, yes?)

Not too long ago, I flew down to Portland, Oregon to meet my wife to finish out her vacation (more about that peculiar, fascinating, flawed, wonderful city in the future).

At the airport, I stood in the security line, business as usual. This time I was extra careful to take off my belt, get everything out of my pockets. When I went through the scanning gizmo, an extremely nervous security guard held up an authoritative hand. Stopped me dead.

"Um, Christine?" he called out to his superior. Christine was too busy or chose to ignore the noobie. I glanced at my scan. Within the outline of my body (the kind you'd see drawn in chalk on sidewalks at crime scenes), my crotch was absolutely glowing! On fire! Yow!

Noobie and I were on our own, charting unpleasant landscapes.

Clearly neither the guard or I wanted to be in this uncomfortable situation. Timid, afraid to go to areas the he'd rather not explore, the guard grunted, sighed. At his touch, I jumped, squealed in fright. Hardly the start of a beautiful relationship. It took forever, too. Everyone stopped to watch. Checked out my glowing crotch scan.

"Um, sir, I'm going to have to pat down your buttocks and investigate your genital area. Do you require a private room?"

"What? No! But why--"

"I'm going to use the back of my hand on sensitive areas like this..." He wiped the back of his gloved hand on my shoulder. "Will that be all right?"

"I guess! But why is my crotch glowing with radiation! Am I dying? What's hap--"

"Here we go, sir."

Finally, the (very long) humiliation ended, both of us relieved. "You can go, sir."

I had to clear my throat several times to be heard, but good sport that I am, I wanted the audience to know I wasn't a terrorist. "Ah...why'd the scan show that?" I pointed, refusing to mention "crotch," "groin," "genitals," amidst the crowd.

Noobie shrugged, said, "You probably moved. Or something." He didn't look sold on the theory.

Purple-faced, I skedaddled on board.

Once I landed in Portland, I told my wife about my misadventure. And warned her to beware my radioactive crotch.

She said, "Wait. Did you use that steroid cream?"

Let's back up a minute (and I probably should've led with that, but it woulda' been a worse tale)... Lately I've had sort of a heat rash on my thighs. Doc said to get this steroid cream, put it on there twice daily. "Jock itch," she said, although I'm not a jock and it didn't itch. But I applied the ointment nonetheless.

"Yeah, I did," I answered her.

"Sometimes," my wife explained, ever the professor, "the tiniest trace of elements in creams can show up."

AH! Maybe I'm not radioactive down yonder after all.

But recently I read a news story about a man who smuggled a monkey on board a plane. In his shirt. Sure, the machine picks up my crotch cream, but not a monkey?

Friday, October 7, 2016

Tips from a Confessed Pantser by Joan Curtis

I recently interviewed a writer who told me with certainty that she was not a pantser. “What is that?” I asked.

She explained that a pantser was a writer who writes by the seat of their pants. She explained that pantsers do not use outlines or other tools to organize their plots or characters. I listened patiently as she spoke because the more she said, the more I realized I might very well be a “pantser.”

For years I’ve described myself as an evolutionary writer. Usually I launch a story with a germ of an idea and then things start happening all around me that I didn’t expect. New characters walk on stage or a shocking, important event happens that shoots my original plan out of the water.

No one told me there was such a thing as a pantser writer. In the early days of my fiction writing, I attended a workshop where a well-know mystery writer explained how she constructed her books—with a plot outline and a chapter-by-chapter plan. I decided to give it a go.

After writing one chapter, suddenly a very interesting character popped on the scene. He was not one of the characters I had planned to introduce. But, there he was. His name is Quentin and he became one of my most important secondary characters in the Jenna Scali mystery series.

So, you may wonder if I don’t use an outline how in the world do I plan my books?

To answer that question, let me take you back in time when I began work on my award-winning mystery, The Clock Strikes Midnight. In the early stages, the story began with Marlene and was supposed to be a story about a woman going through a mid-life crisis. Marlene, however, had other ideas. She took me down an entirely different path.

As I worked with Marlene, other characters emerged. The first being her husband, Peter. But, it wasn't long before Peter took a backseat to Marlene's sister, Janie, who later became the protagonist for my book. Was the final story about a mid-life crisis? No way. It didn't take me long to realize I couldn't plan. My characters had their own ideas.
 You’ll find many writers sharing tips on how to construct a novel using outlines. Here are some tips on how to construct a novel if you happen to be a pantser.

Tip Number 1: Listen to your characters. When a character tells you they want to do something, let them do it. See where it takes you and the storyline. Allow yourself to be surprised.

Tip Number 2: Allow new characters to emerge even if it happens on your very last page. Okay, you’ll have to do some major editing, but let that character in. He or she had probably been tapping you on the shoulder for a long time and you ignored him. Now, look at the mess you’ve gotten yourself in! You should have listened to that character in the first place. Shame, shame, shame.

Tip Number 3: When in the middle of a scene, go deep inside yourself to create what might happen. Allow your brain to flow like a stream as your fingers dance across the keyboard. What you write will probably read like crap the next day. But, then again, maybe it won’t.

Tip Number 4: Don’t worry about editing from the beginning. Wait to edit. I say this unless your story does a complete about face. In that case, just start over from that point. Usually what happens, however, is the story moves forward, and you can go back and make the necessary changes once you have it all on paper.

Tip Number 5: Don’t let the outliners intimidate you! Creativity is messy. Many an artist begins a canvas with one idea in mind and suddenly everything changes. Sometimes, they have to paint over what they’ve painted or they destroy the original canvas. I can imagine Van Gogh painting that way. Can’t you?

Tip Number 6: You must be a ruthless editor. The one advantage the outliner has over the pantser is in the editing process. For me (as a confessed pantser), editing is a nightmare. Imagine for a moment that you thought you were writing a book about one thing and then it takes off in a different direction. That means the early scenes you created become meaningless. Pantsers must be ruthless editors. We cannot get too attached to our scenes. It if doesn’t move the story along, let it go.

Here’s the rub. Writers who outline think of us pantsers as lazy. We simply don’t have what it takes to map out a big long piece like a novel. Writers who are pantsers think outliners aren’t creative. They write like robots.

In truth wonderful works of fiction are produced by both outliners and pantsers. Just like Van Gogh and Van Meer are two of my favorite artists. The styles are different, neither better than the other.

Okay, I confess, I’m a pantser and proud of it. What about you?

Joan C. Curtis is the award-winning, multi-published author of The Clock Strikes Midnight and e-Murderer and her most recent release, Murder on Moonshine Hill. Her website which includes her blog is

Friday, September 30, 2016

Are We Monsters? A chat with horror author Brian Kirk

Recently I had the pleasure of reading Brian Kirk’s debut horror novel, We Are Monsters, deservedly Stoker award nominated for superior achievement in a first novel. It’s a complex, fascinating work and I wanted to pick Brian’s brain…um, since that’s what he seems to excel at.

SRW: Welcome Brian! Tell the readers a little bit about We Are Monsters.

BK: Hey, Stuart! Thanks for taking the time to chat.
Certainly. We Are Monsters is a story about a brilliant, yet troubled psychiatrist named Alex Drexler who is working to create a cure for schizophrenia. At first, the drug he creates shows great promise in alleviating his patient’s symptoms. It appears to return schizophrenics to their former selves. But (as you may imagine) something goes wrong. Unforeseen side effects begin to emerge, forcing prior traumas to the surface, setting inner demons free. His medicine may help heal the schizophrenic mind, but it also expands it, and the monsters it releases could be more dangerous than the disease.

SRW: This is a very psychologically rich book, Brian. All of your characters are given back-stories, ultimately defining their current flaws, fears and guilt. The past makes us who we are. Very human traits. Do you have a background in psychology?

BK: I don’t have a formal background in psychology, though the field has always fascinated me. Like many creative people, I have been plagued with bouts of mental illness my whole life, which draws me to the subject. I’m fairly introspective and often psychoanalyze myself. Whether that’s good or bad, I don’t know, but over time I’ve become versed in the various methods of cognitive behavioral therapy for both self-application and out of general curiosity.

SRW: You’re not very nice to your three leads! (I like that. Heh.) Closet sadist or hyping up the drama and suspense?

BK: Probably the latter. What’s the point in writing about boring people without problems, right? As I’ve grown older, I’ve become fascinated with how events that occurred early in one’s life impact that person later on, either due to trauma rising to the surface, or through a sequence of events or decisions that lead someone on a certain path towards an undesirable destination they couldn’t foresee.
One of these two eventualities come true for most of the central characters in We Are Monsters. Their individual pasts have caught up with their current predicaments in ways that must be dealt with.

SRW: The three protagonists are all saddled with guilt, generated by events out of their control (for the most part; I’m looking at you, Alex, as the exception!). Did you write them to be pitied? Despised? Empathetic? I think you pulled all three emotions off at various times. But that guilt, Brian! One of the themes of the book appears to be that instilled guilt formulates who we as people are. Catholic much?

BK:  Very insightful, Stuart. Perhaps you are the closet psychologist!

I didn’t conceive the characters with the intention of eliciting a certain emotion, exactly. I was more concerned with giving them real issues to work through in a way that felt authentic to me. But, guilt? Yes. Hell, yes. I’ve lived with guilt stemming from a stringent religious upbringing most of my life. Many years spent worrying my soul was destined for eternal hell due to slight infractions to arbitrary rules that harmed no one. I think we all strive to become our actualized selves, either based on religious ideology or a basic moral code, and become disappointed when we fall short. That seems to be a fairly universal experience that I tried to express through the characters in the book. 

SRW: There’re quite a few themes in the book, some of them heavy. Now I don’t wanna’ make We Are Monsters sound like a dull college text-book, but generally in horror fiction, the reader doesn’t encounter such metaphysical themes as the nature of reality. Sort of literature gussied up with horror. Do you believe we are capable of forming our own reality? 

BK: I’m not sure what I believe. I’m equally compelled by arguments for free will as I am pre-determination. Personal experience leads me to believe we are capable of forming our own reality, but I don’t know if there’s “woo-woo” metaphysics involved or if it’s just a matter of applying basic momentum in a specific direction.  

Ten years ago, I was as far from being a published author as possible. But it’s something I knew I wanted to become. So I set my intention towards making it happen, applying my time and attention in that direction, taking all the necessary steps to accomplish that goal. Eventually I was able to turn that dream into my reality. Was there woo-woo involved as suggested by The Law of Attraction, and such philosophies, or was it simply a natural outcome based on the steps and actions I was taking? Don’t know. 

SRW:  There are some great quotes about insanity: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.” (Often attributed to Einstein). I like this definition. But if we study it, Brian, aren’t your three protagonists guilty of insanity by this definition? Each day they use the same methods at work (particularly Eli), hoping to cure insanity and generally failing. If we really wanna’ get depressing, perhaps we’re all insane, performing the same work, day in or day out. 

BK: There is a broad spectrum of mental states. Our society tends to favor the analytical state of consciousness most grounded in the physical reality of things we can touch, measure, and weigh. That’s the state of consciousness rewarded in schools that rely on the memorization of information evaluated by multiple choice tests. People on other mental spectrums that lean more towards imaginary realms are often less valued by our society, and are even, depending on the degree of separation from our material reality and the actions that result from this, feared, ostracized, incarcerated and/or institutionalized.  
One thing that I find curious and frightening is to consider how our societal reward systems tend to favor people with psychopathic tendencies. Want to know the ten jobs with the highest rates of psychopathy?
1. CEO
2. Lawyer
3. Media (Television/Radio)
4. Salesperson
5. Surgeon
6. Journalist
7. Police officer
8. Clergy person
9. Chef
10. Civil servant
Yep, scary stuff.

SRW: Edgar Allen Poe wrote “I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.” Talk about depressing. If we accept this as the new world order, I don’t wanna be sane. How do you feel about this quote?

BK:  Ha! I like that! 

I think it’s all a matter of perspective. Bankers are crazy to circus performers, and visa versa. I wish our society was more open to altered states of consciousness, or valued states of consciousness that did more than earn money and drive our economy forward. One of the most common questions people ask when they learn I aspire to write professionally is, “How much does it pay?” 

I think the key is to be authentic to yourself. Don’t conform to the pressure of societal norms if they don’t make sense to you. It’s tricky, though. Because no one likes to starve.

SRW: The catalyst for the horrific events in the book is the drug, Dimethyltryptamine (that’s a handful to type!). As I read the book, I had assumed it a fictional drug. But, no, my pharmaceutical professor of a wife told me it’s a real deal. Well done! Did you do a lot of research before settling on the right drug to fit the tale? (I bet that was fun reading!) And do you believe in the power of Dimethl…Dimathap…that drug?

BK:  I first learned about Dimethyltryptamine, more commonly known as DMT, from a book called “DMT: The Spirit Molecule,” written by Rick Strassman, a scientist who conducted government funded clinical tests on the effects of DMT. I was fascinated by the results from that study. Otherwise sober, responsible volunteers who participated in this study were convinced they had entered alternate dimensions and communicated with alien intelligences during their experiences with DMT. These experiences were not only almost universally life altering for those who experienced them, there were similarities in experiences among disparate people who had never met. Almost like people from separate states sharing a common dream.
While the author does not make any definitive conclusions, he was compelled by this theory that the molecule opens a doorway in our minds that allows our consciousness to travel through to other dimensions. This is a theory long held by shamanic traditions, especially those who use the psychedelic brew, Ayahuasca, of which the chief psychedelic compound is DMT.

SRW: Finally—and I suppose we should have started here—the title. Clearly, the title references not only the mental patients, but the three protagonists, and humanity as a whole. Good, appropriate title. Did you have the title in mind before you began?

BK: No, the original title for the book was, “In Search of Asylum.” My editor at the time, Don D’Auria, felt like the title sounded too much like non-fiction, which I agreed with. He suggested, “Asylum,” which I felt was too generic, so I brainstormed alternates and came up with “We Are Monsters,” which felt right. I’m happy where we wound up. 

SRW: What’re you writing as a follow-up, Brian?

BK:  I’m currently working on a third novel, while my second is on submission with various editors. The completed novel currently making the rounds is the first in a planned trilogy of dark sci-fi thrillers with a “Strange Days” kind of vibe. The work-in-progress is a horror novel that I’m writing by the request of a publisher based on a proposal and should be done by year’s end. Hopefully one or more will hit!   

SRW: Tell everyone where they can find We Are Monsters.

BK: Anyone interested in checking out We Are Monsters can order a copy here:
And for anyone interested in striking up a virtual friendship, please connect with me through one of the following channels. Don’t worry. I only kill my characters.

SRW: Thanks for dropping by, Brian. And if you’re looking for a very interesting, well written and different horror novel, give We Are Monsters a shot.

BK: Thanks, Stuart! I appreciate the nice things you said about the novel and for taking the time to chat.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Return to Richard Griffin-ville! Put the kids outside and tuck the cat in...

Okay, I lied. That's what writers do. I said awesome filmaker Richard Griffin's interview would conclude last week. Sorry, Richard, but Oklahoma's weather trauma trumped you.

So two weeks ago, I yakked and yakked with fun and funny filmmaker Richard Griffin. Even I got tired. Hang on's the exciting, edge-of-the-seat, shocking conclusion to the epic interview! Bite on leather if you need to.

SRW: Richard, welcome back! 2008 was a busy year for you. You also released Beyond the Dunwich Horror. After Nun of That, I was surprised you took a stab at a pretty much straight-forward horror flick. Is this “Richard Griffin’s Gotta Pay the Rent” film?

RG: HA! There’s no such thing. Every film I make, I make from the heart. Thankfully, we have enough of a fan base that each film pays for the next movie, so there’s little to no risk. I have a ticket to ride, and the great thing is … I never have to make a movie just to have a success so I can make the films I want. I cannot imagine spending the long hours it takes to make movie if your heart isn’t in it. It doesn’t make sense at all. 

SRW: Again I noticed a great deal of thought and care was put into the credit sequence, this time evoking a ‘70’s made-for-TV movie sorta vibe. For you, Richard, the movie seems strangely subdued.  There’re nods to Lovecraft, of course, but am I right in detecting a Mario Bava/Argento influence as well? Particularly with some of the color schemes?

RG: Yeah, there’s a big Argento / Fulci / Bava thing going on. But I also wanted to amp up the sexuality, because that’s really missing from not only Lovecraft adaptations, but also from indie films in general. I really love Beyond the Dunwich Horror, because not only is it this huge love letter to Italian horror, but to horror films in general. 

SRW: Atomic Brain Invasion landed in 2010. More so than Creature from the Hillbilly Lagoon, this is a note-by-note, nearly perfect recreation of a ‘50’s schlock fest (minus some post-modern satire and humor, natch). The opening black and white bit (a spoof on educational propaganda films) was some scientific blowhard going on and on about alien fishmen was fantastic. I was kinda hoping the whole film would be in B&W. Did you consider going that route?
RG: Yes. But for reasons I’d rather not get into, we decided to go the Technicolor Route.

SRW: The usual Richard Griffin bad guys are in full force: the Catholic League of Decency, the government, the military. But, to me, the biggest threat was the actor who played the coonskin cap wearing nerd. I’m just sayin’. Whenever he panics, he raises his voice, stuttering like “Shaggy” from “Scooby-Do.” (“A g-g-g-ghost!”) What’s up with THAT?

RG: It’s funny. We always make with the funny. 

SRW: Um, moving on...Also terrific was the movie scene within the movie. Two guys standing around, one of them oblivious as to where the other man is pointing out a monster. Eventually they start sniping at one another for being rude. That’s the movie I want to see! Oh, and Elvis shows up here. Brandon Luis Aponte (also very good in Nun of That) makes for an amusing Elvis. Where do you find your actors? How do you convince them to do some of the things your scripts require?

RG: Typically they need no convincing. They see the humor in the script, and realize quickly it’s all in good fun. I think the main thing is, our films aren’t mean spirited. They’re so good natured, it’s hard to think they’re anything but playful by their very nature. 

SRW:  The following year brought you back to what I presume to be an obsession of yours: the disco and the ‘70’s. I’m talking The Disco Exorcist, of course. The film almost plays like a comical version of Boogie Nights (even a “roller girl” shows up). With, you know, demons. The “hero’s” a typical ‘70’s cad, irresistible to women and not too safe in his sexual endeavors. Was this movie just an excuse to play in the ‘70’s?
RG: The reason for the film is the title. It just popped into my head one day. “Michael Reed IS The Disco Exorcist”. I just walked around my house laughing my head off. The plot came to me about five minutes after the title. On a car ride to Rock and Shock, I pitched the idea to my screenwriter friend Tony Nunes, and he knocked out the first draft pretty quickly. 

You know, the thing I love the most about this movie is that it’s really sexy. That was my goal. What if you made a softcore porno film that had a witty screenplay and good acting? That’s really what making The Disco Exorcist was all about.

SRW: Okay, cool. Now I wanna rewatch. You scratched up the film stock, giving the movie a good old crappy VHS vibe. How was that done?

RG: It was done with overlays of real damaged film. None of it was done with CGI. I think it gives it a higher quality that most films that try that look. 
SRW: There are a lot of highlights (and blue eye shadow!). But my favorite had to be the hilariously uncomfortable family dinner scene. Autobiographical?

RG: No, my family is pretty functional. I just love awkward dinner table scenes in movies, so I tend to have a lot of them in my movies. I love humor that’s based around discomfort and embarrassment, so that seems like the perfect place for it to happen! 

SRW: My fave type of humor, too! Michael Thurber appears to be one of your favorite actors. Is his character patterned after Anton LaVey?

RG: Nope. He was patterned after Sardu, the MC of the Joel Reed film Bloodsucking Freaks! 

SRW: Thought I was the only one to see that awful, yet great, movie! Your next film, Exhumed, is shot in gorgeous black and white, giving it an unworldly appearance. Which, I think, fits the film nicely. While there’s some dark humor, it’s not your typical confrontational style. Did you set out to make a more serious film? Or did the nature of the script call for it?
RG: Guy Benoit’s screenplay for Exhumed is still one of the finest scripts I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading and directing. It’s so haunting, and tragically sad. There really wasn’t a place for any outward humor in the movie.

SRW: It’s probably your most gothic film with a wide set of references. Let me see if I can spot them all: the mannequin sequence could be a shout-out to either Mario Bava’s Blood and Black Lace. Or is it Maniac? I got a Whatever Happened to Baby Jane gothic vibe on occasion.  And at times is played like a Kuchar melodrama. How’d I do?

RG: Wrong on all counts, but close on one. The mannequins were a slight homage to Mario Bava’s Lisa and the Devil. 

SRW: I won’t spoil the ending. But I have to say it was one of the sickest, most disturbing and psychotic, yet oddly touching finales to all of your films. Well done!

RG: Thank you! 

SRW: Next we go back in time to 1983 in Murder University. All of the slasher tropes are in place: promiscuous college students getting slaughtered, a haunted house, beheadings, masked ax killers, a new wave theme song. And that’s just in the opening two minutes! Your films are all over the place time-wise. Do you like revisiting the past? Or do you think the exploitation films of the ‘50’s through the ‘80’s were just more fun?
RG: I like making period pieces! I don’t really think of them as homages as much as I love to play around with costumes and sets. It’s just kind of dull making a modern day horror film with a bunch of twits running around with their cell phones in bland locations. The fashions of the 70s and 80s were a lot cooler, and it gives me more visually interesting things to point my camera at.

SRW: Another recurring actor is Jamie DuFault, who’s quite good as the hero, making him one of your most appealing leads. The similarly named Jesse DuFault is in several of your films as well. Brother thespians? (And Michael Thurber is quite funny as a super foul-mouthed detective.)

RG: Yes! They’re brothers. Jamie is the eldest of the two. Both are extremely different as thespians, but they’re both wonderful in their own way. Extremely professional and good natured.

SRW: I was quite looking forward to your next film, Frankenstein’s Hungry Dead, as I thought the subject matter would’ve been right up your twisted alley. To be honest, it didn’t feel like a Richard Griffin film. There’s humor, but not of the subversive type. It almost seemed more traditional, far more subdued. I noticed Ted Marr didn’t have a hand in production on this film (Just sayin’). Did someone hire you to take on this project?

RG: Nope. This was a project I did to just have some fun. I wanted to go back and make a movie like I did when I was a teenager making Super 8 films with friends. To be honest, it’s probably my favorite of my movies. It’s got a lot of energy, and it was a blast to make. How can you not have fun making movies in an actual wax museum? 

SRW: Was the head in the tray a nod to The Brain that Wouldn’t Die?

RG: Sure was! 

SRW: The Sins of Dracula found you back in your comfort zone: amusingly taking on religion and organized groups. There’s an opening disclaimer/warning that advises the viewer to watch responsibly and consult your local parish. Your hero, Billy (Jamie DuFault again; quite good), runs up against (gasp) the Evils of community theatre. We’re talking drug users! Odd dressers! Dungeons and Dragons gamers! And gays! Richard, do you see community theatre as the logical anti-religious organization?

RG: No. I just thought it was a strange place for Dracula to be hanging out. I just started watching a bunch of Christian scare films from the 70s and 80s, and I thought they were ripe for satire. I thought, “What if a church wanted to make their own scare film? What if they were so un-hip they thought kids were still scared by Dracula?” I contacted writer Michael Varrati and we were off and running! 

SRW: I love those Christian propaganda films. For all the wrong reasons, of course. Billy’s monologue to God was hilarious. How much was improvised or scripted?

RG: Entirely scripted by Michael Varrati. Some of the finest writing of the film. It wasn’t originally in the screenplay, but added later. I think it’s hysterically funny, and Jamie Default completely knocks it out of the park.

SRW: Yes, he did. And congrats to Varrati, a great writer. One of my favorite lines in all your movies: “I had sex with Shannon and now everyone’s dead!” I suppose you have to see it to understand it in context. Hey, too bad we didn’t get to see any of “Jonestown Jubilee.” One can hold out hope.

RG: Originally in the script there was about five more pages dealing with Jonestown Jubilee, but it suddenly became entirely about that and we just completely forgot about Dracula. Maybe someday Michael Varrati will write a Broadway musical about it.

SRW: Dreams stay alive! Seven Dorms of Death is a riot from start to finish. You play up the “lost movie” angle quite well. You stuff the film full of terribly ripe dialogue, arch acting, one of the worst screams ever, terrible effects, missing scenes, stock footage, the whole ball of awful wax. Is it hard to be intentionally terrible?

RG: Well, the big challenge was to work with each actor to find out what kind of bad actor they would be. Would they be wooden? Or would they overdo everything? It was completely liberating, because you could just make horrible mistakes and they would be perfect for the film. In terms of just being on the set, it was a sheer joy to make. We blew so many takes because myself or the crew would just crack up laughing. The cast is brilliant.

SRW: I didn’t recognize Michael Thurber as Baron Von Blah at first, here channeling Joe Flaherty and many old-school horror hosts.  Quite a fun wrap-around. Even better are the ads and trailers. Did you have a bunch of left-over ideas with nowhere to put them?

RG: No, those were all original ideas for the movie. Some were written by Matthew Jason Walsh, who wrote the screenplay for Seven Dorms, some by Michael Varrati, and some by myself. Those were a lot of fun to write and shoot. 

SRW: Okay, I’m not going to even ask about Aaron Andrade’s grating performance as Detective Vargas. Forget it, I am going to ask. Did you direct him in this anger-management deprived performance?

RG: That’s all Aaron, and my favorite performance in any of my films, hands down. Sheer genius. It takes 50 pound brass balls to give that kind of performance, but Aaron is fearless. 

SRW: The final film! Flesh for the Inferno. Not much to say ‘cause I’m running out of Griffin gas. But you’re still working out your anti-religious stance (particularly Catholicism). Cheaper than therapy?
RG: I’m not even a Christian! That’s all Michael Varrati, who wrote the script. To me, it’s a just  good, simple horror story. I really have no bones to pick with the Catholic Church, except when it comes to covering up child rape, which they seem to do with wild abandon. But, that being said… I’ve been friends with several priests and nuns in my life, and they were wonderful, generous persons. After all, it’s only a movie. 

SRW: (Yeah, I've kinda got a problem with that child abuse stuff, too). There you have it, folks. Richard’s quite the prolific filmmaker. There’re still three or four I haven’t watched. His films aren’t for everybody. But if you’ve ever loved cheesy horror flicks from the good ol’ days of VHS and drive-ins, and have an anarchistic streak of humor in you, then seek them out. Thanks much, Richard.