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.
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.
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.
With all the films you’ve made all these years, what would’ve you liked to have known before
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,
Or friend him at http://www.facebook.com/MorbidVisionFilms.