AN INTERVIEW WITH BRIAN PAULIN OF MORBID VISION FILMS

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Echoes from the underground horror scene should be more like shouts so more folk can take notice. This, I believe is especially true of writer/director/makeup effects artist Brian Paulin and his MORBID VISION FILMS. He, along with his partner Rich George have made some of the most original and challenging cinematic horrors out on the market. Titles like Bone Sickness, Blood Pigs, and, my personal favorite, Fetus have exhibited complex, unique, surrealistically nightmare visions that I would put up along side many of the best fright films from the last decade or more. I recently conducted the following email interview with Mr. Paulin. Enjoy! –Charles T. Cochran

You’re not only are known for your writing and directing, but your make-up/gore effects. What
came first, the filmmaker or the effects artist?

The interest in learning how to do make-up effects came first after I rented Fangoria’s video series
Scream Greats Vol 1: Tom Savini. I thought it was just behind the scenes of horror films, but quickly became fascinated by Savini’s work. I started making short horror movies as an excuse to create makeups because I became tired of spending hours doing an effect then taking a few pictures, then removing it.

So, you could say the start of MORBID VISION was those short films. How did it evolve into
what it is today?

Yeah, that’s how we started out doing what we do. It was really just Rich George and myself trying to create creepy shots out in the woods. Rich had enough money for a video camera and we used that for the first 3 movies. Then I eventually bought one. Back then we called our movies CHOPTOP PRODUCTIONS based around these stupid drawings I kept doing with a guy missing the upper half of his head. I didn’t come up with the name MORBID VISION FILMS until 1994 when we made Reap of Evil. The more shorts we made the more serious I became and tried to write better stories and would think of ways to top ourselves each time. I also started reading more about video technology to figure out how we could make our backyard movies look better with the limited amount of money we had in our pockets. Truthfully there really isn’t a big difference in the way we shoot our movies now compared to when we first started other than the fact that we are now using professional equipment and have many years of practice.

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How did going pro come about, with proper movie distribution?

Surprisingly our first movie to get picked up for distribution was our only non horror film called Soon To Be Dead which is a revenge movie about a hitman who’s boss put a hit on him and his wife was killed in the process. It was around 1995 and horror was dead back then and I was heavily into John Woo films and wanted to do something with shoot outs. Once I finished the movie I saw an ad from EI CINEMA saying “send us your movies”. So I did and they liked it. Afterwards EI asked if I could make a horror movie with that kind of action stating that we had a knack for destruction. I told them that horror is what we do. That is how At Dawn They Sleep At came about. For At Dawn we made sure we used 3CCD digital cameras and it was the first time I did non linear editing in the computer. A friend of mine Eli Connors, who was a professional video tech hooked me up with the info on the equipment I needed and set up my editing system. At Dawn was finished in 1998 and I consider that to be our first official movie.

It’s my understanding that you switched to self-distribution after some bad handling by others.
Can you give some details?

It got to the point where it felt like we were just giving our movies away for 5 years at a time for nothing. The At Dawn They Sleep vhs made a little bit of money. But when they put out the dvd I was told by the distributor that they ordered 5000 copies! And that they lost money on the movie. Of course they did! Who the hell would order 5000 copies of a no budget movie with no established following? Or they simply lied to me which I wouldn’t doubt for a second because after the contract ended, a few months later I found out through a fan from England that At Dawn had been officially released on dvd there. EI never even told me and they probably made a couple grand from that deal. I then found out itplayed on British cable tv! Then there was the Dead Girl On Film deal with SUBROSA STUDIOS. Again the vhs made a few dollars. Less than $50 to be honest. Then they released it on a terrible double feature dvd with a movie that wasn’t even horror and (we) never saw a dime of it. We literally made more money selling Dead Girl dvd-rs for $5 each during one weekend at a convention ourselves than we did during the entire 5 years with SUBROSA. It was a joke. UNEARTHED FILMS was the only distributor that has actually made us money on our films. But again, when it comes to getting into retail stores, they have a middle man company that gets their cut, then UNEARTHED, then maybe there might be some scraps left for the people who actually made the movie. It just isn’t worth it anymore if you can get your own professional dvds pressed and sell them yourself.

How would you best describe your films?

Well, I’d say that MORBID VISION FILMS is definitely born from the horror films of the 80’s. I think I can honestly say that every core member of MORBID VISION’s favorite movies came from that decade. I like to write stories that do not stick to one set of rules. I enjoy blending different subgenres to create a complex story as long as it doesn’t turn into a gimmick. Something like zombies vs vampires would be stupid. Our movies are also extremely gory. Rich and I always joke about how no one in our movies simply have their throats slit and are stabbed. Our victims tend to go through a three step process where their bodies are destroyed in layers building up to the main gore effect. I also try to make sure that our movies are atmospheric. I love the classic elements of horror. A dark and stormy night as the fog rolls through a grave yard. I love that stuff and try to incorporate it into every movie I make.

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With the classic elements–which are influences dating as far back as the silent era–and the 80’s influence you stated, could also the extreme metal that you’re a fan, as well as performer of also be something you draw from for your movies?

Extreme metal definitely had an influence over At Dawn They Sleep. Especially when the vampires corpse paint themselves with the sacramental ashes from the church which they later burn down. But since then the movies have been more straight forward horror influenced. I know there are many horror fans that are not metal fans and I do not want to alienate them by filling my movies with metal. For example I am so sick of having rap music shoved down my throat! I despise it and the sound of it pisses me off. So when rap music starts playing in a movie, it takes me right out and lowers my opinion of the film. I don’t want that to happen to people who watch my movies. That is why I only use a song at the end credits which is usually one of my own.

You’re just finishing up on a new production. Can you tell us about it?

The new movie is called Cryptic Plasm and is about a cryptozoologist who gets the opportunity to film some of his investigations and the chance to finally investigate a mysterious abandoned town he (has) been researching for years. Unfortunately whatever happened to the lost inhabitants, begins to take it’s toll on him and disrupt his biology. The first half of the movie is mostly atmosphere and story. But then the second half spirals out of control dealing with cosmic entities, wormholes, and extreme gore. Even though the movie is almost finished filming, I just finally finished writing how the finale plays out. The story is complex and it was a challenge to figure out how to show what is happening visually for the audience to be able to understand and how to pull it off with limited resources. I think it’s going to bepretty wild.

When can we expect the movie to be released?

(To be realistic) I think we are looking at June the earliest. Filming in winter is difficult. I just had to
cancel another filming date because everyone is sick and cannot make it. I still have to finish filming the finale, then edit and sound edit. So that will take a few months.

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With all the films you’ve made all these years, what would’ve you liked to have known before
you started?

That twenty years later when I’m working on a movie called Cryptic Plasm I still will not have a budget and I will still have to scrape money out of my own pocket to afford make-up supplies. And do not expect to make any real money once I release dvds. It seems to be getting tougher to get these movies made now. But it’s what I am meant to do and I will continue doing it for the love of the horror genre and to please the fan base that I have been so lucky to have gained. The fans of underground horror and gore films are always on my mind when I film and my goal is to please them with some gory entertainment.

I like to thank you for your time. Is there anything you would like to add?

I’d just like to thank you for your interest in our movies and to anyone who has supported us. We will continue to provide original and CGI free horror entertainment for horror fans that want it.

For those interested, check out Brian Paulin’s work at his website,

http://www.morbidvisionfilms.com.

Or friend him at http://www.facebook.com/MorbidVisionFilms.

Fetus trailer

Cryptic Plasm trailer

Blood Pigs trailer

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Star Trek Into Darkness-film review

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Star Trek Into Darkness turned out to be an outstanding science fiction film adventure that will be hard to top for any of the sequels to follow. I enjoyed the first J. J. Abrams outing in this universe (despite having a song from the truly dreadful Beastie Boys on the soundtrack), but this new one leaves the previous film in the dust.

The film opens up as two figures are being chased through a forest of red trees. This turns out to be Kirk and Bones being pursued by a tribe whose sacred scroll has been stolen by Kirk is an attempt to lure said tribe away for a volcano that’s about to blow. At the same time Spock is being lowered into the volcano to set off a device to stop the eruption and effectively save the entire planet. Spock becomes trapped in the volcano. Kirk, once back on board the Enterprise, orders the ship to go in plain view of the planet’s primitive population to save Spock in clear violation of Starfleet’s Prime Directive.

Once back on earth, both Kirk and Spock are summoned before Admiral Pike. Kirk thinks it’s for the five year mission that’s pending. But, this actually leads to Kirk’s demotion and Spock being transferred to another starship. The Enterprise is given back to Pike and he makes Kirk his first officer. He still sees promise he the young man.

Meanwhile, a mysterious man triggers a terrorist attack on the London England branch of Starfleet. This later leads to an attack on the home base of Starfleet in San Francisco leaving Pike dead. Emotions run high as Kirk asks and gets the enterprise back as well as Spock as first officer. He agrees without question to go to the Klingon homeworld, where the terrorist had beamed himself, to kill him. This could lead to all-out war with the Klingon Empire, but Kirk and Admiral Marcus (the man who sends him on the mission in the first place) don’t seem to care. In fact, Marcus feels that an all-out war with the Klingons is inevitable anyway. So, Kirk and company go off to get the bad guy given torpedoes whose contents are a mystery to all. But, Kirk doesn’t care. And even though this mission goes against what Starfleet stands for Kirk’s revenge-minded and nothing else matters.

This film has everything that its audience could ask for: great action, a well-plotted storyline, some moving melodramatic moments, and humor (mostly coming for Simon Pegg’s Scotty). I loved the over the top performances by both Benedict Cumberbatch and Peter Weller (Admiral Marcus). Chris Pines’ Kirk is still on target most of the time. But the character is too wide-eyed at times for my taste. Karl Urban’s Bones should be used more. His character has been pushed aside to make room for the Spock and Uhara romance (which frankly doesn’t make sense within the context of the Star Trek universe). But, as the main cast goes, the one on top acting-wise is Zachary Quinto. His portrayal of Spock is more emotional than Leonard Nimoy’s. But, he’s been through a lot more than the original character, so he lets the human side of Spock out more often. Quinto simply steals every scene he’s in. He’s that good.

Overall, this is outstanding studio tent-pole summer popcorn munching science fiction flick. See it in IMAX 3D if you can. It’ll knock your socks off.

Film Rating: 4.5 out of 5

–Charles T. Cochran

Grave Encounters-movie review

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One more “found footage” horror flick comin’ at ya. Grave Encounters is the name of a television show much like Ghost Hunters. A team of investigators are exploring an abandoned insane asylum that had a rep for the mistreatment of their paitents. The footage is presented in its raw pre-editted form to show the viewers the full story regarding the disappearance of said team. This is how the audience discovers that this reality show doesn’t always go for what’s real. Their psychic (Mackenzie Gray, The Hitcher 2) is actually just an actor. The producer/host Lance Preston (Sean Rogerson, Underworld: Evolution) would love for some real paranormal activity to happen. But, if it doesn’t, faking it is just as good. The aim is mostly for good TV. And, when it does all seems to be real, at first it’s thrilling. But, terror soon creeps in when the team realizes they can’t leave the asylum and time seems to have stopped completely. Also, one team member (Juan Riedinger, Jennifer’s Body) turns up missing. Panic ensues. This is where the film falls apart for me.

This movie is by far the closest at mimicking the tone and overall feeling of The Blair Witch Project since the “found footage” wave of flicks began. It also shares one of BWP’s problems: over-acting–in this case a lot of yelling–due to under directing. Heather Donahue–who I believe is a fine actor–did most, if not all of the over-acting in that film. In this one we don’t get just one actor over doing it once in a while; we get two of them pouring it on pretty thick. First, T. C. the cameraman (Merwin Mondesir, Godsend) starts up and never tones it down. Then Lance chimes in at a later point. It started to seem like these two were in a contest to see who can out do the other in hamming it up. I was getting annoyed with just one of them doing it. Just imagine what I felt when a second actor decided he needed to do the same. There’s a point when a director–in this case two directors, the Vicious Brothers–needs to rein in their actors. Take charge. Or, trim it down in the editing room. And, honestly, fellow cast member Ashleigh Gryzko has her hammy moments as well.

This all starts roughly around the half way mark in the movie. This is also where it seems to lose its structure. We are treated with running around and yelling by cast members. Some quiet moments sprinkled in between these. If you really want to say there’s a structure here, it would have to be the ever increasing intensity of encounters the team is subject to. There are good moments in the film, with the right intentions from the makers; but, I found it mostly tedious to sit through. I kept on thinking it would’ve been better if this was done as a proper film and not a “found footage” POV movie. Much of the light sources are the lights on the cameras. This causes an effect that appears like one is watching the movie through a keyhole. I hated the feeling I got from this style of shooting.

I believe the Vicious Brothers writing/directing team do show promise. But, Grave Encounters was mostly an unpleasant experience for me.

The Film Rating: 2 Stars out of 5

–Charles T. Cochran

GUT-movie review

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As the opening credits run across the screen before the image fades from black we can hear the sounds of grunts. It could easily be the sound of sex as it’s performed. But, as the image is revealed we see Tom (Jason Vail, Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies), the lead character of Gut, shirt bloodied, holding someone down on the floor off camera. There’s struggling, as you might expect. And then the scene cuts short, flashing back to an earlier time, which soon leads to the moment of brutality.
This is where we are properly introduced to Tom, a seemingly happy family man. He has a lovely wife and cute as a button little daughter. Tom works in an office seated next to his longtime best friend, Dan (newcomer, Nicholas Wilder). Dan is single, living on his own and still obsessively watching horror movies. A past time that Tom seems to want to outgrow.
When Tom brushes Dan’s invite to hang out and watch a shared favorite horror flick, Dan’s jealously of Tom’s wife and daughter become obvious. To make matters worse, Dan finds out that Tom plans on quitting his job and moving his family out of the area. A fact Tom was keeping from his friend. Dan’s response is much like a jilted lover.
After these incidents, there seems to be a change in Tom: he lies when he can’t climax during sex with his wife; and his mood seems dark much of the time.
After some awkwardness between them, Tom agrees to check out an underground horror movie Dan procured from a website. The movie seems to only be a single shot of a woman’s belly as it is sliced open. After which, a hand is pushed in and out of the wound in a sort of brutal mockery of a sexual act. Upon seeing this, Tom storms out of Dan’s apartment apparently offended. But, late that night Tom masturbates thinking of a similar scenario beside his sleeping wife.
At this point, Tom’s moodiness becomes increasingly darker as he starts to obsess over the movies Dan supplies from the original source. He even goes so far as sneaking off to watch them late at night while his family lies sleeping. Dan, on the other hand, is brighter of mood and becomes outgoing. He even gains the waitress at the pair’s favorite lunchtime location as his girlfriend. Things look up for Dan, as things grow dark for Tom.
There’s been a boom in outstanding horror films in the independent film community recently with titles such as Absentia, The Pact, and Excision. Sorry to say Gut doesn’t live up to this new wave of quality horrors. After two acts that had me excited that we had another winner, the third seems to lose stream and leads to an ending that is lackluster, simple, and rather uninspired. In fact, this third act and ending revealed to me that the first two acts weren’t as interesting as I originally thought. Complexities that I thought were there had been placed there by me and not the filmmakers.
One thing that could be said at this point is that the director simply known as Elias does have talent in creating suspense, even if it doesn’t lead to much. I think he does have a future, but he shouldn’t view Gut as a bright spot on his resume.

Film Rating: 2 stars (out of 5)

–Charles T. Cochran

METAL TORNADO-dvd review

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The company Helios World Inc. has come up with a way to harness the power of solar flares for clean, unlimited energy. But, CEO Jonathon (Greg Evigan, B.J. and the Bear) has ignored the repeated warnings of a scientist that helped develop the technology. The head physicist is now Michael Edwards (Lou Diamond Phillips, SGU Stargate Universe) and he’s completely unaware of the issues that relate to the experiment that he and his team are about to conduct at the opening of Metal Tornado. Especially the final warning that Jonathon receives as the test is underway.

As the title suggest the experiment goes awry and 2% of the energy is lost. This 2% goes off and creates a tornado sized vortex of magnetized energy that collects any metal within its path as it travels across the countryside. As evidence comes in of this occurrence to Michael, he goes investigates. In the meantime, Jonathon, refusing to believe that Helios World is behind the incidences reported to him by Michael, gives the go-ahead to their French division to conduct the same experiment over there. In time, both Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and Paris, France are in danger of being torn to pieces by huge swirling masses of metal.

Firstly, I must admit that Metal Tornado isn’t the major crapfest I was expecting. Director, Gordon Yang does help distract the audience to the fact that this film is as cheap as it is. At least when it comes to the break-neck pace and the coverage he gets with every scene. Its main problems come with Yang’s inability to maintain any tension or even a sense of fun. I respect it for wanting to be a serious-minded thriller; but even those kinds of films can be fun to watch. And even though the steaks get direr as the film progresses, the tension never seems to rise as well.

I’m sure that both Phillips and Evigan saw this production as nothing more than a paycheck. It’s to their credit that they both still took their respective parts seriously and gave fine performances. This goes for all lead performers in this film as well.

Overall, this wouldn’t be a bad time-waster if there’s nothing else on cable. But it’s not worth going out of your way to catch.

Standard sound and video quality that we all have come to expect from DVDs.

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And as for special features there’s nothing extra beside the trailer for the film.

Film Rating: 2 stars

DVD Rating: 1.5 stars

–Charles T. Cochran