My Kind of Weird Podcast Episode 9
with guest: Ben Rock (Alien Raiders, Blair Witch Project)
My Kind of Weird is a Podcast where two people swap and pitch three kinds of media: something watchable, something readable and something listenable – to see if each person says at the end of the podcast “That’s My Kind of Weird.”
Joining host Anthony Pollock on this episode is horror film director and podcaster Ben Rock (Alien Raiders and Blair Witch Project). Ben brings Pan’s Labyrinth, Blood: A Tale and Run the Jewels’ “RTJ4” to the pitch while Anthony stands his ground with Shallow Ground, Stargazer (Mad Cave Studios) and Zombi’s “Cosmos”.
April 19th, 2021
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This is my kind of weird, a podcast where two people swap and pitch three kinds of media, something watchable, something readable and something listener able to see if at the end of the pod each person says, That’s my kind of weird. I’m your host Anthony Pollock and joining me today is Blair Witch Project production designer, director and CO writer of video Palace, which you can find on shutter director of 20 seconds to live and director of alien writers Ben rock. Hey, how you doing Ben? Are you ready to get weird with me?
I have been ready to get weird with you for weeks.
Ben presents your something watchable.
My something watchable is Pan’s Labyrinth
Guillermo Del Toro’s, I would say Guillermo, my favorite Kermode Del Toro movie, in his filmography so far, and he’s made many great movies. He won an Oscar for crap. What was it called already losing my mind it anyway?
He’s already lost at Fox.
What? He won an Oscar. You know, I’m a big fan of his first movie Kronos and I think it was his second movie, The Devil’s backbone but Pan’s Labyrinth? Pan’s Labyrinth, which is his third Spanish language feature, I believe. And also, I don’t think he’s done another Spanish language feature since this is, in my opinion, the perfect blend of fantasy horror, kind of the mythos kind of thing. When I think about what makes a Del Toro movie A Del Toro movie, I feel like the DNA is all in Pan’s Labyrinth. And I almost said, The Devil’s backbone, because I think the devil’s backbone is just a masterpiece. But Pan’s Labyrinth is gorgeous. It’s got an amazing collaboration with Doug Jones, who’s, you know, was in is in basically all of his movies, including the Hellboy movies and everything. But he’s amazing in this both as the fawn which is sort of you don’t know if he’s a good guy, or a bad guy, this creature, who visits the main character who’s a little girl. He’s also the Pale Man, which I think for my money is one of the scariest monsters in film history, like maybe in my top five of all time, right. And just the way that it kind of fuses, kind of a fairy tale world with the Spanish Civil War, and how dark it’s willing to go, and still feel sort of like a fantasy movie. Also, I even I’m a big fan of practical effects. But I love the way he mixes the practical and the CGI. And I went back and rewatch it recently and I feel like the CGI, CGI dates itself very quickly. But I feel like the CGI like the fairies and stuff in it, they actually hold up pretty well. And it I mean, to me wall to wall a masterpiece, I wouldn’t change a frame of the movie. And it’s just old enough from 2006 that maybe people haven’t seen it who are listening to this. So if you haven’t seen Pan’s Labyrinth, I can’t recommend it highly enough.
I feel like the creature that holds up his eyes and sort of both hands, I feel like that image is so pop culture is synonymous at this point. Because it’s just such an iconic just that picture with the girl and when they first encounter each other. For the very first time I feel that like that’s, you know, very synonymous. I also find that this film is very much it’s if you want to know what Guillermo del Toro is about, stylistically what his writing chops are like what he’s directing chops are like, then this film is, you know, a perfect gateway drug. For sure and I mean, the gateway drug for me was his first feature Kronos, which I just, I saw it when I was in film school. It was one of those things where it’s like, Wait, you’re allowed to make a movie like that, like it was just so unusual. you all for what it was. In the movie that I blanked out on by the way is the shape of water, which did win Best Picture and so on when essentially it’s about this woman want to fuck a fish?
Yeah, there’s fish tanks involved. I actually, one of the, one of the fringe benefits of being in LA when we’re not dealing with a global pandemic, is that I was able to go to a screening with my friend Yuri Loewenthal, of the shape of water, and Del Toro introduced it himself, and, and then showed the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and, you know, in at the Egyptian theater on Hollywood Boulevard, and it was just one of those things where, like, you can only do stuff like that in LA. And I, and again, I almost recommended the devil’s backbone, because I think it’s a slightly more obscure film of his came out, like in 2001. And, you know, like, the world was at war. And it especially in America, like, like, no one wanted to see your movie about a war that year. And, but the devil’s backbone is it’s a terrifying ghost story also takes place during the Spanish Civil War at an orphanage. Um, but I really do feel like for my money, I just slightly prefer Pan’s Labyrinth. I mean, I love them both. But and I think that they’re kind of, you know, kind of companion pieces in a way but Pan’s Labyrinth? Yeah, I mean, the way it takes you through the fantasy and also, you know, there’s the kind of cruel, sadistic military guy who’s who controls the place where everyone lives and is sort of the stepdad to the main character, and some of the horrible stuff that happens to that guy. And also the horrible stuff he does, like is just straight apart, it’s a straight up straight up scary in the real world. And then this girl in her fantasy life is dealing with this, you know, this like seven foot tall Goat Man who, you know, is telling her that she’s this great princess, but that she has to like, you know, kind of find these clues and kind of go through this little gauntlet that’s just horrifying. And I agree, the Pale Man With the without the eyes, with the eyes in his hands. You know, when I see that, like, it just raises the hairs on the back of my neck. And I also I’d like to bring up how I saw this movie. Initially, I was doing I was going to do an interview of Guillermo del Toro for creative screenwriting magazine when it still existed. And I didn’t know anything about the movie, because it was like six months before it came out. And I knew who Del Toro was very well knew who he was because I had actually done a TV special for Hellboy for the effects network called the BPRD. Declassified and, and so I only met him very, very briefly once in passing, so I didn’t know shit about the movie. And the screening was like at noon on a Wednesday or something at the Arclight cinema, which is a really nice then; it’s probably one of the best movie theaters in LA. And so I went there and it was packed with Guillermo Del Toro FANBOYS. And the only seat that was available was like right in the middle of the front row of the theater. And that was how I watched the movie. And I and I had no idea what I was about to watch. And there’s like no better way to see a movie, especially a movie that’s that unique and that powerful than to walk in just tabula rasa having no idea what you’re about to experience. And I feel like that experience is pretty amazing. And you can’t give somebody else that but after the movie came out, I took my wife and like every friend who had listened to me to go see Pan’s Labyrinth in the theater, and they were all shocked because the trailers made it look like it was a fantasy, the trailers that were in America, and then you go see it, you’re like, yeah, it’s not a fantasy. It’s just not all fantasies aren’t horrifying.
Yeah, that’s a fair point. It almost, to me, it always felt like a dark Spanish rendition of the line, the witch in the wardrobe, in a way in terms of how the physical world is his happening as the fantasy world takes place as well. And I mean, obviously, the similarities in terms of the backdrop obviously, line the witch in the wardrobe, you know, England has been bombed to shoot because of sort of Nazi raids and that type of stuff. And then you’ve got the, on the other hand you got with Pan’s Labyrinth, the Spanish Civil War and all the atrocities that are happening there. And then the fantasy worlds of the two different movies are very low. And I guess in case lines, which and wardrobe the novel; they’re very surrealistic, as well fold those two periods of time.
For sure, I would be shocked to find that the Narnia wasn’t some influence on Del Toro, but because he is like his work is always such an interesting, mash up of different other influences that he’s come across and then kind of gives you Whatever he’s doing in a way that you weren’t expecting, you know, the shape of water being, I think, you know, a great example of that, like, he’s doing a riff on the Gila man. And, you know, it’s just, he’s, he’s definitely, I think one of the bright lights of cinema today, I’m not a unique person for pointing that out. And also having I’ve only met him a couple of times, but you know, really nice, really warm, friendly guy. And, and it’s, it’s amazing to me that, that such a unique voice gets purchased in Hollywood, because I feel like you know, nine times out of 10 It’s like, Hey, look at that. Look at that filmmaker who makes something interesting, which Marvel character do we give them and I guess he did make Hellboy, it makes you Hellboy movies. But um, you know, Hellboy also is like, uniquely suited for his talents as a storyteller.
Well, it’s funny, you should bring that up, because my first introduction to his work was blade two, and just sort of the way that the vampires in that or this new breed of vampires that are, were there, they’re sort of their throats rip apart. And it’s kind of like, almost looks like a venus flytrap. That latches on to on to the victim. And as soon as I sort of, I’m just like; this imagery is out of this world. And I think I was 1617 at the time, maybe 18. And to say that and then I went on this whole sort of rabbit hole into his work and it’s just it’s just incredible. Have you seen a company relicense I haven’t seen Kronos? No. The most recent thing of his that I’ve seen is the strain TV show.
Well, Cronus is like his first movie. So I want to say it’s from like, I don’t know, off the top of my head, but I think it’s from like, 1994 1995 So it’s, it’s, you know, it’s a little older now, but it’s a really unique vampire story. Like I mean, I guess he’s done if you count blade two and the strain I guess he’s done three very unique vampire stories, but Kronos is Cronus is pretty out there. And I think you dig it. You should definitely check it out.
Everyone online at the moment is all about release the Snyder cut as far as Del Toro is concerned. I’m all like, let him do his own copy of The Hobbit is because I think him having that robbed from him is the biggest travesty.
Well, they didn’t shoot it though. Do they Know but he did write the script for it and he was originally on deck to be the director but then they just gave it to him.
He like moved to New Zealand for like two years I think like he moved his whole family to New Zealand Yeah, unfortunately shit like that happens in this business all the time. It’s always sad when it does but I would love to see his version of The Hobbit but
my something watchable is shallow ground which is a 2004 horror film written and directed by Sheldon Wilson. Stewart media station
Jack and done with that place you’re gonna want to see this for yourself. If so, when you want to sit call parents friend or deputy check you over so we know the blood was in your hand.
I find it hard to believe that someone who just made the kind of entrance you did doesn’t have anything to say.
It also stars Timothy V. Murphy who if none of you know that person’s name, you’ll suddenly know who he is when you Wikipedia him or IMDB. His name is Stan Kirsch is also when Lindsay Stoddart Patti McCormack and rocky market. So this is very much sort of a background sort of slasher, sort of made supernatural. The premise of the entire movie is there’s this kid who rocks up at the sort of them, the police station, brandishing a knife covered in blood. Like, yeah, what do you do, it’s just another day in the office. Now the interesting thing about the Paul about that is he sort of blocks everyone’s entrance from leaving the pool of blood also acts as its sort of own character in terms of following people that try to leave. And when the blood is sort of, I guess someone steps into it or touches it. It sort of makes the characters relive their deepest, darkest secrets. And it turns out the people of this town, really horrible people, a lot of them have killed, cheated, covered things up and the blood sort of makes that brings out the worst parts of their personalities and they sort of start to kill each other off. So yeah, it’s a lot of fun. It’s you and I was talking off mic before Ben. And it’s really it’s really hard to get.
Yeah, I mean, I was looking for I mean, like, you can find the trailer very easily on YouTube, I was looking for the movie like to find out if it was on, you know, Netflix or shutter arrow, video, any of any of the, you know, the places I go to look for, you know, obscure stuff. And Amazon is sometimes an amazing resource, because like, they’re less curated and more just kind of a massive media dump that you can sift through, but it is on there, but it’s like $15 American to buy it. And I was like, Yeah, that’s a lot. I mean, it’s stupid. I was talking to my wife about it. There’s, there’s a movie that we were talking about watching. And it was like six bucks to rent. And I was like, before COVID We wouldn’t think twice about hiring a babysitter, and spending $40 on movie tickets to go watch a movie in the theater, plus snacks and whatever. And now it’s like, oh, it’s a brand new movie; all but it’s $6
Don’t people rationalize things now? I mean, the discussions of big streamers releasing entire films, which were originally just going to be at the cinema for like 30 bucks and the outrage when that happens? $30
Exactly. I mean, it’s fundamentally stupid. And I mean, I will say that we have rented and even bought a couple of movies during the pandemic that we wanted to see in theaters that were only available, and we did want to support them. Um, you know, it’s just, you know, a movie from you know, what 2004 A movie from 2004 should be on, you know, to be or Hulu or, you know, it should be somewhere voodoo. I mean, like, my movie Alien Raiders. I’ve been, it’s not up to me where it streams me wish it were, because I would just put it everywhere. And Warner Brothers who owns it, like they, they finally put it up on Voodoo, like two years ago. But it wasn’t on Netflix or Amazon or whatever except to buy and like, you know, this movies from 2009 No one’s gonna buy it, no one’s gonna rent it on there. You know, you’re like literally looking at tons of entertainment, you can pay, you can watch something you’re already paying this subscription fee for and just watch it without paying any more money or you can pay for something that’s, you know, over a decade old, you’re most of us are going to just watch find something new, that we can watch without paying more money unless we’re like really determined to see it for some reason.
All right, Ben, present your something readable?
Okay, so I’m gonna I’ve got something that I think is kind of obscure. But it’s something that I love. And after I recommended it to you, I dug up my old copies and reread them. It’s a comic book that came out in I believe, 1987, called Blood a tail. And you can find it as like group. Its four volumes, you can find that group together as a graphic novel. And I think that I heard a rumbling because I had said something to the writer James Mattis on Twitter. And I want to say he said that they were going to be re releasing it or they were talking about re releasing it as a graphic novel. I bought I, I’m, I’m elderly. So I was able to buy these. When they were new, I think that I might the first job I ever had was I was a dishwasher at this bagel restaurant in Orlando, Florida. And there was one of two comic bookstores in Orlando was like a short it was in the same shopping mall is like right around the corner. And I went in there and this thing just jumped out at me now I was never into superhero comics. The probably the closest I came to liking superhero comics is I was very into Hell blazer, which is Constantine. And I started reading that from the very first issue, but blood a tale. So it’s written by James Mattis. And it’s, it’s, I think, to call it illustrated is is to not sell it highly enough. It is watercolor painted. Every frame of it is a painting, I would be proud to hang on my wall there. There isn’t an image in this that isn’t like just absolutely gorgeous. And it’s done by a guy named Ken Williams. And it’s sort of a story within a story. And the story within a story is about a vampire. And so there’s plenty of gory vampire action, lots of read on the page read watercolor, but it’s kind of about life and love and loss and kind of the cyclical, it’s the circle of life, if you will, and it’s just wall to wall brilliant. It’s not a long read the issues are kind of short. But I mean, the art the art is just eye popping. And James Mattis is you know he he’s been writing comic books for decades and you know, he does a lot of superhero stuff. He did the first the only Doctor Strange graphic novel that I’ve ever read, I read because he’d done this. It was called shim Shambala. And Kent Williams didn’t do the art on that I forget who did it. But it was also beautiful. But I think that there was this period in the 80s. And it’s not that it’s not that the artwork and comics isn’t great now, but I think a lot of it’s done digitally. There was kind of a very artsy analog period that was going on around that time where people were experimenting, like, you know, full color illustration was becoming affordable. So like every page of it is glossy. And that was a little unusual back then, I guess. And I’m not a comic mastermind. So if I’m wrong about any of this, you know, feel free to set me straight. But no, I think you’re doing pretty well, anyway, I love the story. I love the writing. And, but when I think about it, I think about the imagery, which is just shockingly gorgeous. Every page of it is just shocking. And it’s not a vampire like a vampire in modern day New York City. It’s like; it’s like in a mythical world. By the way, if nudity is a trigger for you avoid this like the plague because it is full of nudity. There’s so much nudity in it. Oh my God, no one wears clothes in this entire comic book.
Well, to be fair, I mean, vampires are often you know, the act of vampirism very much has a sexualization to it. It’s a very last fall sort of, I guess, disease or affliction. So I feel like it kind of just pouring salt in the wound if you’re reading any vampire or watching a vampire thing, and there isn’t some kind of sex going on.
yeah, I mean, this is, you know, this is like happening in like a weird primal like it like there’s a framing device at the beginning about how there’s this King who’s dead but won’t die. And this little girl comes and tells him the story. And the comic book is the story that this little girl is telling them. And, and it kind of takes place in a faraway place. And it kind of has elements of like the Moses story from the Bible, like, you know, this mother finding this pod that has that turns out to be a baby. And then he it’s, it’s so gorgeous. Have you actually had a chance to read it?
I couldn’t find it. And everywhere I looked, it’s like $50 us and like no.
Yeah, it’s a little I found it I actually saw I was because I was looking to see if I could find a like I’d love to get like a paperback version of the whole graphic novel. And I there some that you can find like used that are cheaper. But yeah, because I don’t think I don’t think it’s currently being published.
Yeah, I think I found it on eBay for $30 USD. Yeah. But even then there’s no way I would have got it here in time anyway. No, no, I understand. So my something readable is a comic book, I guess, graphic novel and miniseries called stargazer. It’s out through a indie comic book company called Mad cave Studios, which are based over at Miami, Florida. Now, it’s written by Anthony Cleveland, and the art is by Antonio fuser. So it’s, I guess, a paranoia story, which may or may not involve aliens. It’s about this, this sort of this, this girl and her brother, who experienced a traumatic event when they were a lot younger, and the unexplainable, unexplainable events sort of scarred her brother for life. And the brother Kenny, he sort of commits himself to sort of the belief that what they experienced when they were kids was an alien abduction. So and the story sort of occurs in both sort of time zones, both when they were kids, and also 20 years later, as sort of the brother and sister have drifted apart and as they’ve drifted apart from their friends as well, so it’s coming of age story. The friends and the brother and sister come back together to sort of figure out what happened to all of them in the story. But I mean, the the art by Antonio fuse, I was just, it’s just absolutely exceptional. It’s very, I think it lends itself to any sort of, you’ll follow or sort of paranormal type genre of comics or and it’s really something I think that everyone should check out.
Yeah, it looked really interesting. Well, I’m just curious though, because I was trying to buy it and they were saying it’s not available until May was it released in your part of the world before it gets released here like I wasn’t a Well to get it before May of this year,
So I say indie comic series because they’re, like the company is that, you know, they’re not Marvel or DC, but and they’re still pretty small. I think they’re a team of about 10 people at this stage. But um, they do really, really well with that in the comic book market for a company that hasn’t been around that long they, when I first started my, my blog, which is eventually led to this podcast, my blog, sedrun told class, they were one of the first they sort of were coming up as I started my blog, and then they were just like, hey, do you want to check this out? And then I’ve sort of remained in close contact with them for a while. So yeah, they do. They do great stuff they do. I mean, one of the one of the series, who won their best sellers as it’s called Battle cats, which is really just a fantasy world where of, sort of tonight Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles type characters, except there, they’re all like lions and tigers, and they’re fighting against evil and then they’ve got you know, obviously this Stargazer and then they’ve got like a martial arts comic book and they’ve got a couple of young adult comic books that they’re that they’re doing as well there’s quite a few things to check out from them.
No, it looked really good. And I you know, I read some interviews with the people who created it, and I saw the artwork online and it definitely looks like something that’s completely up my alley. Like I I don’t read enough new comics these days. And I keep promising myself, I’m going to spend the time I have a three year old son so I don’t get to do much of anything. But you know, slowly I’m able to; as he gets a little bit more independent and going to school and stuff I’m able to, to dive into that kind of stuff. But it looks it looks gorgeous. And all the things that influenced the people who created are things that I find fascinating, so I’m definitely in for sure.
Ben present you’re something listener Google.
Okay, so I don’t think that this is necessarily an obscure thing to bring up, but
I definitely know I’m looking forward to talking about
Run The Jewels for a granddaddy rolling down old netted out Debbie Matty as the granddaddy all set don’t have it back black folk at this date. So in no fap and wave a gun on my head you’re gonna all summer and I put that on some I am a mother Buck Mama, I’m a scare wrapped the act of Pam.
Now, I sort of feel like I’m at a disadvantage being a middle aged white guy talking about rap music. But
I did grow up in if it’s not you with someone else.
I did. I did grow up with rap music, like rap music kind of got, you know, its teeth into the culture when I was, you know, like 1213 years old. And actually, I won’t, I won’t tell you the long story. But I did see the Beastie Boys open for Madonna when I was probably 11 or 12 years old. But you know, what I appreciate about Run the Jewels, and have since I first found them at Run the Jewels too. And maybe part of why I even relate to them is they’re a little older, like a lot of people like hit the ground running as rap artists when they’re like 20 years old. And these guys hit the big time when they were in their late 30s. And, you know Killer Mike, who is like an outspoken advocate and very, very vocal political voice in America. And Jamie, the who’s kind of, is, you know, the other half. But there’s a third person who they kind of say is like the fifth Beatle have Run the Jewels. And that’s Zack de la Rocha from Rage against the Machine.
And this is yes,
This is where I find they are exactly on my wavelength. I came to rage a little late. My wife actually convinced them to listen to rage. I was aware of their stuff. You know, I’d listen to a little bit of it. But it was like oh, it’s like where the angriest punk rock and the angriest rap kind of coalesce into kind of this almost Primal Scream against injustice. And it’s so good we actually played for my son all the time years old and he listened to a lot more Rage against the Machine than most three year olds, If he’s first phrases fight the powers and it’s your fight
We do every night every I’m not lying every night. at bath time we play take the power back, which is well actually, yeah, we play that and one other in the jewel song so, but um, so Zack de la Rocha. isn’t an official member have Run The Jewels but he’s done a lot of stuff with him. And that was one of the things that got me into Run The Jewels when the jewels two is out, that’s probably what like four, four or five years ago. And I appreciate that their music is never about how good their rhymes are or how well they rap. Their music is really about something like it is pissed off. And, and it’s a beautiful kind of pissed off that you know, like the lyrics are there’s a in one of the songs on Run The Jewels for Jamie has a line and Jamie’s LP is rapping. He says I’ve got a Vonnegut punch for your atlas shrug. I was like when you hear someone drop an anti iron Rand pro Kurt Vonnegut line into the middle of the song like I know that I’m at least listening to someone who I would want to actually meet and talk to you and would have a lot to talk about with.
I don’t know how much of them you get over there. But you know, like he had that giant worldwide hit happy. And I guess I don’t think of him as like someone who is using I should say; I don’t seek out Pharrell Williams stuff. So I don’t. So I could be the most ignorant person with what I’m about to say. But I don’t equate him with being like a social PERT. He’s not making points about social justice. That’s not necessarily the stuff that’s seeps through the pop culture to me from Pharrell Williams and stuff, like, happy. And so to find out that that was him. Like, basically, the song started with him saying that, and then they kind of reacted to it. And that was what was interesting about it.
I mean, for me, I feel like Pharrell Williams, because I listened to him before he got huge, as a soloist, I kind of came into being aware of him with an ARD, and I feel like from going from sort of that stuff to where he’s at now, I feel like he’s just playing the role, you know what I mean? You know, that’s, that’s kind of the day job like he tries to be as artistic as it can within the confines of being a pop artist now, so
You have to be careful about that. Because if you come across as too controversial, especially in America, especially if it’s about you know, anything racial, you can alienate a lot of your audience. I often think about Chris Rock in one of his stand up specials had a line that was something to the effect of like, you know, what white man takes a gun and shoots up in a parking lot, you know, whatever. Nothing happens. Black rapper says gun in their seventh congressional hearing. And, and I mean, like that tone, I must make it impossibly difficult for somebody who has an enormous pop presence to, to voice that without being afraid of alienating their audience, but also, you know, you get to a point where fucking no one’s going to stop you. But also I think Run The Jewels have a high enough visibility, but everyone knows what they are. So like, if Pharrell Williams is participating in collaborating with them, you expect him to, to meet them on his terms, but like where his terms, you know, where their Venn diagrams intersect as artists?
Yeah, all right, my something listenable is a CD. That felt so weird saying CD soI have it on audio.
It’s a album by zombie American band and that’s spelled Zed O M b r or for your benefit then Z O M bi,
I can I can translate or two non American is it worth anything other? So it’s their album, Cosmos. Now, for those unfamiliar with zombie, they’re signed to relapse records, a record company that which traditionally is known for obscure metal and sort of very extreme metal. So this is a band that sort of really sticks out on that label. They are a duo as well. So they sort of when you say when they play live, they sort of alternate between so one of them is handles the bass as well as synths and keyboards while the other one drums and handles the drums and other synths as well. So there if you want to know what they’re like, sort of stylistically, if you listen to sort of any kind of Dario Argento soundtracks or any songs, that’s exactly what I thought while I was listening to it.
So, I mean, I can’t remember which film actually I think on a few films were goblin performed. Well, the big one is, obviously Somebody actually supported a goblin tour, so to give you so if you enjoy any sort of zombie films, but specifically older sort of zombie films, or older sort of horror films, sort of circa 70s or 80s then you pretty much get their style from this as well. Yeah, I listened to the whole album, and I loved it. It really did feel like I was listening to some kind of lost soundtrack for lucido full cheese the beyond or something it was it I can’t believe I never heard of them before now, because this is completely my jam and, and I definitely I listen to the whole album and I on I am uncool and I use Apple Music instead of Spotify, but I like you know, immediately downloaded all their all their albums.
Well, I guess it’s you; you set yourself on a trajectory for nothing but good music so a little bit of trivia for you. And you might find this interesting then the Italian title of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead was zombie, which is the same title of this band so same name as this band. So that’s really, so that’s where a lot of it comes from. It’s just sort of that very, I think, horror back when the music was just fun.
Yeah, they were really, I mean, they were they were really experimenting and going out on a limb in that period of movies. And, and actually, the reason that that was called Zombie that’s why lucido full cheese movie, which was also called Zombie ended up being released in America a zombie to, even though there was no zombie one. And that’s the one that notoriously has the zombie versus actual shark scene. One of the most insane moments I’ve ever seen in a movie, really, but um, but yeah, there is like a really unique style to the music that was in especially Italian horror movies at that time, and I’ll see people try and do a similar thing, like, in a similar way to the way you see people a lot of horror filmmakers lately. Kind of copying a John Carpenter cynthy kind of a score and that doesn’t stick out as much as trying to do a goblin kind of score. Because they were Yeah, so nothing was like them. I mean, I’m not I’m not saying that, that John Carpenter scores aren’t awesome, because I love them. But, but there’s just something brilliantly cacophonous about goblin. And I mean, there were a lot of I’m trying to remember. Like, on. Crap. It was, it was another Dario Argento movie that like some prog rock band that was American, it was like, like Emerson Lake and Palmer, somebody had done the store. And it was just super weird. It wasn’t all three of them. I think it was just Emerson, I don’t know, I could be wrong, right? And please send me all the hate mail that I have coming forgetting. But I remember watching the movie, and it was it was a later it wasn’t. It was like late 80s, early 90s. I want to say Argento film, but like, you know, some of those scores are just so out there and so interesting that you can just listen to them. But you should know if you were to call my cell phone. My ringtone is this Suspiria theme and has been for you.
That’s nice. Excellent, so Ben, any of my picks your kind of weird.
All I would say all three of your picks are definitely my kind of weird. I don’t read enough comic books. I don’t read period enough. But I’m I have been working very hard to change that. And again, I mentioned, I have a three year old kid I was way too old to have a brand new baby and, and fatigue sets in and really cuts into not my reading. It’s not about not having enough time to read it’s about having any attention span at all. To sit and read something and you know, so he was born in 2018 and just about now I’m getting to a point where I can sit down and read stuff so the comic is definitely something but yes, I would say all three of your pics are completely up my alley those are all my kind of weird.
Excellent and Ben Do you have anything to ask me
How about those for you? Are those your kind of weird?
Yeah, I’m definitely going to say you’re listening bull album was definitely my kind of weird like I said I’ll listen to anything that Zack Taylor rockers is a part of your something readable? Definitely going to try and check that out when I can. And you’re something watchable. I mean, Pan’s Labyrinth? It’s still Tor. What can I say? So yes, that was my kinda weird.
Yeah, the worst deltora movies are better than the best Michael Bay movies. So I love Delta our movies. I want to watch them all the time. I wish he would make more hopefully, hopefully you’ll I was hoping after he won the Oscar. They’d be like, Okay, now we’re gonna it’s gonna be like the Coen Brothers. We’re gonna have a new deltora movie every year and we haven’t had one yet. But I’m sure that there’s one coming
all right, we’re gonna go on a quick sponsor break and when we come back, I’m going to have a bit of a chat to Ben about what he’s been up to.
Alright so Ben, you were the production designer for layer, which project for? I’m sort of almost 36 when Blair Witch Project came out. It was just it was one of those horror movies that really sort of defined my generation. There were lots of sort of questions around is this real? Because, you know, found footage was not a thing at that point. So what was that whole sort of I mean, by the, by the time that sort of that everyone being shocked by Blair Witch Project, especially by the end, by the time that was happening, you would have long been finished with what you had to do. But for someone that worked on it, what was that, that like seeing that everyone just latch on to an underground film?
It was insane. I had I had never experienced anything like that before or since I you know, I went to film school with all the guys who made it, we all went to the same film school in Orlando, Florida, the University of Central Florida. And, and I know them for years. And also we’d all gone off and worked on other stuff. And I’d been a makeup artist and done special effects makeup on a lot of super low budget movies, a lot of them are shot in Mobile, Alabama, even though I was in Florida, because I fell into the right groove with some people and I decided to quit being a makeup artist and pursue directing. But the Blair Witch thing kind of the opportunity to work on that came, you know, came to me around 1996. So to have a thing that, you know, me and my buddies had made on a street on a shoestring budget, or I should say my buddies had brought me on to help them make it wasn’t I’m not saying I’m not taking any ownership of it but to have something like that kind of blow up. Like that was just insane. And it doesn’t really happen. I remember actually talking to a pretty established producer at the time. And he said, I just moved to LA, I moved to LA, I arrived in LA the day Blair, which was picked up at Sundance. So I’ve been here for, I don’t know, six months when it came out. And, and I was talking to this producer, he’s like, you know, you’re never going to be hotter than you are right now. Just know that. And that was a horrible thing to learn because I didn’t know what to do. It said heat. You know, I didn’t know I had no connections out here. I didn’t really know anybody. You know, I did have an agent and that by that point, but it was, you know, I was just trying not to fuck it. Fuck up the opportunity. But yeah, it was insane. It was surreal. It was weird to put on, you know, the tonight show or the daily show and see, you know, my college buddies being interviewed. That was and also the actors, you know, like them on all these, you know, MTV Movie Awards, or whatever, all these places everyone was showing up. And then also the backlash, like to have, you know, to have Chris Rock, do a cheap joke at the expense of a movie that I had worked on in love, because that’s what happens. Whenever you do anything that ends up being somewhat popular. There’s going to be a backlash, you just, you know, wait, that train is never late. But you know, it was mostly just an amazing ride invigorating it it got me my first directing it got me my first two or three directing jobs. Just my association with it and I wasn’t even the director on the movie. So you know, that’s got to be good for something.
Why did you decide to move on from makeup? Was it because you came to the realization that not everyone can be Tom Savini?
Well, I was in Iowa I always wanted to direct and I went to film school to direct but also starting when I was in like middle school, a friend of my family had gotten had given me as a birthday present. Uh, Dick Smith Do It Yourself monster makeup handbook when I was likes 11 or 12 years old, and I started like experimenting with all this stuff. And I got pretty good. And then when I was like 17 and I was in high school I was doing I did some monster makeup or Wednesday monster makeup, we did a high school play, where we did a play called The Ballad of the sad cafe. And there was a character played by my friend Jay Bogdanovich, who was a hunchback dwarf and the director who was our drama teacher wanted to make him look more deformed and asked if I could help. And I had never done it before. And so I cast his face and made a prosthetic and I made a million mistakes along the way. But I like tried to teach myself at age 1617, to do it. And then I kind of got into the craft of it, you know, because I enjoyed sculpting. And the mold making was kind of fun. And I’m, there was a local theater where I showed up with they were doing a Frankenstein play, and I just showed up with a Frankenstein prosthetic, I’d made it home and showed it to the woman who was doing makeup on that play. And, you know, they already had figured out what they were doing. She wasn’t about to like, bring me on, but she was kind of charmed. So I was 17. Her name’s Her name is now Amanda Llewellyn, now that she’s married, and she kind of took me under her wing and trained me to be her assistant. And so I assisted her on a bunch of stuff. And then she started getting opportunities in movies. So it’s like, it was something that I was very interested in. But I’d wanted to direct the whole time. And when I started working on those movies in mobile, and I mean, I worked on some in Atlanta, some in Miami. I was still in film school at that time, and I was making my own my own films, I was using the money that I was making as a makeup artist, in fact, to finance my thesis film in college. And so, you know, I was out of college a few years, and I just realized that makeup was as, as far as I could see it. And I don’t know that I really agree with this point of view today. But makeup was almost as competitive as directing. It’s not, but that’s how it felt. And, and did I want to slave away at that, you know, for the rest of my life, when it wasn’t really the thing that I was most excited about doing? You know, I was at that point, I was in my 20s. And it was a little easier to say, ah, you know, and it’s not like I never do anything makeup related anymore. It’s but it’s usually on something that I’m also directing, often, it’s something I’m directing in theater. And, and so I kind of made that decision to kind of just cut it off. Because I did the other side of it, too, by the way I was I like doing all the monster stuff. And I’d worked on some monster movies, but then I started meeting, you know, the people who do that stuff full time, you know, not Tom Savini size people. I didn’t work with anyone that big. But I worked with this guy who unfortunately passed away a few years ago named TC Williams. And I was just on his crew on a movie called mutant species that was directed by David Pryor. And, and I remember him telling me that every year he went and got bloodwork done to see which chemicals he was taking were most toxic to him. So he could stay away from them for another year. And I realized at that time that like, being a special effects makeup artist, if I was going to really do it, I was going to be exposing myself nonstop to really caustic, terrible chemicals. And I think I think the industry has gotten a lot better about it since then. But I can be wrong, you know, stuff like polyfoam puts off like some kind of cyanide related gas and, you know, when people would mix it, they would usually do it outside with a fan blowing it away. But I’m like, Yeah, you’re still breathing it and you know, I would get a very special headache whenever I used it. And I just started real, you know, I was cooking foam latex in every oven of every apartment I lived in. So my house always smelled like burning rubber. Like it literally smelled like you know, somebody had just peeled out in my living room, in their in their Honda Accord. And, and so I think that I was slowly disincentivized to do that. And I really did want to direct you know, my heroes were mostly the heart directors of you know, the 60s and 70s. You know, the usual suspects, George Romero, David Cronenberg, John Carpenter, like Stuart Gordon, who I ultimately actually got to work with Stuart a bunch, you know, those kinds of people were more influential to me and I decided to kind of move in that direction and when I moved to LA, which made it easy to kind of make a very clean break from that. But two years before I moved to LA, I stopped doing the makeup also like the stuff that I was getting. Were just some, some of them were a lot of fun, but a lot of them were kind of unpleasant to work on. But I think that probably speaks more about low budget movies that were being made in the southeast United States in the in, you know, the mid to late 90s.
So you directed one of my personal favorite horror films, alien Raiders, which you’re welcome, which I discovered, I think about 15 years ago now think about was quite some time ago, which is basically aliens in in a shop in a grocery store which I just found incredible. The very much the claustrophobic aspect of it the ending, still waiting for a cycle by the way, he kind of we came
up with one, the writer and I came up with one and you know, the production company, the partners in the production company basically dissolved the production company, so I doubt it will ever happen.
Well, it’s still a good standalone film nevertheless. So how to how does what was sort of the process there instant in terms of writing? Where did the idea come from? And why a grocery store?
Okay, so I mean, I can tell you a lot of stuff about alien writers, but the genesis of it was a lot of it falls on Dan Myrick, who was the co director of Blair Witch. And, and David Simkins, who wrote the original script. So, you know, the idea, I feel like the idea of what makes a grocery store a compelling place to set something like that, it’s just that we’re all used to being in them, like, you know, like, it’s the most common place you could go. And I don’t mean to bring this up as, this is a horrible thing to bring up to compare it to at all. But I keep seeing it on the news, as we’re recording this, there was a mass shooting in Boulder, Colorado this week, at a grocery store. And everyone’s talking about when they talk about it, they talk about how, you know, this is just a place that we all go to, you know, read rich, poor, young, old, you know, college, college students, you know, high priced lawyers, everyone eventually is going to be in that grocery store, you know, we all go there. And so it’s like a terrifying place for something like that in the real world, or in my movie, thankfully, in the made up world to have, you know, something like that happen, we can all just relate, we all know what it feels like to be in a grocery store. And, and so to me, that’s what attracted me to that material when Dan asked me if I’d be interested. And when I was brought on there were actually two different scripts and kind of two different approaches that David Simkins had had kind of created. And the one that I gravitated instantly to the one that felt more like John Carpenter’s The Thing, you know, where there was kind of an alien test. And it kind of took the blood test from the thing and stretched it out a bit, and, you know, made it a bigger part of the story. And, you know, when you say alien, I really appreciate you even having any comparison at all to alien was a movie that I looked at very closely, the thing was a movie I looked at very closely, and one of the things that I tried to take from both of those was the way they cast those movies. You know, I’m not; I’m not anti beautiful people. And I’m not saying that my cast were not beautiful people, but I wanted people who felt like real people, I didn’t want people who felt like, you know, they were all made up in perfect hair and, and, like, these people were all kind of rode hard and put away with the whole the whole cast. And, and I appreciated in David’s script, even though like when, when I was brought on David, it turned in his last script. And then Julia Myrick wrote, you know, she and I kind of tackled it, and had to kind of pare it down and make it work on our extraordinarily short schedule, because the movie was shot in 15 days. But what I liked about it, too, was that David was giving the audience credit for having seen alien invasion and body snatcher kind of movies. So there wasn’t a lot of exposition, you’re with the people who work at the grocery store; you’re not with the people who are invading the grocery store. And, and so you’re kind of dropped into this thing and have to and are given like breadcrumbs and clues along the way to figure out what it is. But even when the main character played by Carlos Bernard is kind of explaining to them what’s going on. He’s explaining as little as he can get away with explaining very intentionally, so that they’ll comply. He’s just trying to get them to comply. And, and so, you know, hopefully you don’t realize the breadth of it, you know, probably until maybe halfway through the movie.
Yeah. The other thing I liked about it kind of felt I was a big fan. As a kid of Stephen King novella The mist, obviously, before the mist came out.
This came out after the mist. In fact, I was hired, I was hired to make Alien ware we came out in 2009. All right, in the midst, it had come out in theaters in 2007. So, so reasonably, came out the other way around.
In fact, I mean, this is this is one of those. I mean, like this, this kind of shit happens all the time, where it’s like I was I was brought on I was given a script. I got the job. That weekend, my wife and I went and saw a movie and on the movie was a trailer for the mist and I was like, oh, fuck, I’m fucked. Like this exact movie already exists. Not the exact movie obviously. But like horror movie. Monster’s in a grocery store is coming out. And they’re gonna say we were a copy of it. And we weren’t. But I intentionally did not see the mist until after I think I saw it after we shot the movie, but maybe we might have still been in post. But it’s like; I didn’t want to be informed or reacting to in the opposite way. The mist, I didn’t want to be thinking about the mist when I was making it.
So you’ve got a movie out through shutter, which is where is it?
It’s a podcast. It’s not a movie. It’s a horror fiction. It’s basically an audio drama.
Okay, right. How did that come about? Video Palace,
It came about actually also through one of my blade rich friends in college friends, Mike monello, who was the CO producer on Blair Witch, and who I think never gets enough credit for what he did, because he knew how to he was the one out of that group who knew how to angle that movie at Sundance. And he’s also the one out of the whole group who said, Hey, this internet thing, maybe we should put something up on that. So that’s Mike. And Mike runs a visionary company now in New York, called campfire NYC. And they do, it’s to call them ad campaigns minimizes what they do, but they do kind of like these, in these engaging experiences to get people to go to usually giant premium cable things like the Man in the High Castle, or West world or Game of Thrones. And they do these just amazing campaigns. They did one for the purge TV series at ComiCon a few years ago. Anyway, so Mike, and Nick braccia, who worked with him at the time, at campfire, they still work together on other stuff. They had kind of the basic idea. And they knew one of the executives at shutter, a guy named I probably shouldn’t say who it is, actually. So they knew one of the main executives at shutter. Well, he’s not he’s not there anymore. I don’t think it’s a big deal. But the story, it doesn’t change it, but it won’t matter. It’s not like I’m gonna I have nothing bad to say about a guy named Owen shifflett. And they had kind of pitched in the idea and shutter was kind of interested in the idea of exploring original podcasts and so they had the basic idea, and they’d written up like a brief outline of what they wanted to do, but they are too busy being visionary, marketing geniuses. And Mike and I, meanwhile, for years had been talking about wanting to do a horror fiction podcast together. And I believed that some of the techniques we had used on Blair Witch, literally on Blair Witch, and also on Curse of the Blair Witch, which was the Sci Fi Channel documentary that that marketed Blair Witch, and then some of the original stuff that I had directed. Also, there was one called Shadow of the Blair Witch that was for the sequel. And then there was one called the Berkut spill seven, that was that accompany the Blair Witch Project when it premiered on the Showtime network. I kind of created this technique, I’m saying I created it, I don’t know that I created it, but I don’t know anyone else who’s ever done it. But anyone who’s listening to this can steal this idea and run with it. Like, I don’t have a patent on it’s very easy of doing interviews that are you know, for narratives, you’re not really interviewing real people, where you write like a two or three page creative brief, you give it to the actor, they memorize the basic gist of it. And then you interview them for real. And so you ask them questions, and they do all the stuff that I’m doing now the fun furs, and hums and ahhs and stuff that people do as just kind of verbal garbage when we’re talking. And then when you edit the interview, the just the act of editing, it makes it sound very legitimate. And weirdly, I think it works with really great actors who are awesome. At improv, it also works really well with non actors. I think it the people it works worst with are mediocre actors, because they just want to give you the information that you want like they’re just struggling to do it. But like actors who are really comfortable in their skin so some of the actors that we had in video Palace, like Kelly Holden, Bashar and Larry cedar, these people are just so good at this. Joel McCreary, who was also an alien Raiders is and they’re so good at improv, that they can just kind of run their apps on this thing, what the downside is, like, you know, page wise, an interview is going to take up three pages, you know, ie three minutes of your final project. To get those three minutes, you’re going to interview them for 20 or 30 minutes. So it adds some times on edit some time on editorial, but I was the one who was doing all the editing, so you know, whatever. So, Mike, and I kind of had this theory about like, could we make a podcast that sounded like a first person investigation like a like show, like cereal, but make it paranormal and we’ve been kicking around ideas. So when Mike pitched this idea to shutter, they really liked it. He came to me and said like, Hey, would you like to do that and asked me if I wanted to write and direct it and I said Right indirect it because my friend Bob DeRosa, who I, who I did 20 seconds to live with, he’s got a lot of episodic TV experience. And, and I felt like I needed I mean, and also Bob’s a phenomenal writer, I’m not just sucking his episodic TV knowledge. He’s, he’s a great writer. And I feel like Bob and I balanced each other really well. And, and so they said, Sure, I mean, they didn’t increase the budget for that. They just, you know, we just split the writing fee down the middle. But, um, so they brought us on. And literally less than a month after my son was born; Bob and I started writing video palace. And I have to say, of pretty much any project I’ve ever done, video Palace came out, just about exactly the way I imagined it. If you listen to video palace, and you like it, that’s exactly what I wanted. If you hate it, you hate the exact thing I wanted to do.
Before we go, you mentioned 20 seconds to live which is a it’s a web series, I believe dark comedy, so tell people about 20 seconds to live, how they can view it and what it’s about.
Okay, so 20 seconds to live. Please watch it. If you listen to the sound of my voice, I would love to hear what you think. My friend Bob DeRosa and I came up with the idea after doing lots of late night. Goofy, often gory or gross out theater at a theatre company in LA called sacred fools, they had a show called crime scene and then later, assuming we ever do theater again, in general, they have a show called serial killers that we were involved in. And they were all like 10 minute short plays that you would do for a drunken crowd at like 11 o’clock on a Saturday. And Bob and I had been saying over and over again, like, man, it would be good if we took this effort and just put it into making something that was on film. So we could like advance our careers in some way with this, because you’re not advancing your career. You’re just, you know, having fun doing the late night theater thing. I don’t know that we advanced our careers with 20 seconds to live, but we had a blast doing. And so the whole concept of it is it’s an anthology show. So every episode is all new characters, all new situations, and frankly, all new genres, some are more sci fi, some are more grounded. In reality, some, you know, weird demon characters, or people with paranormal abilities, like they’re all very, they’re all very different. Every episode is super short. I think our longest episode is about three minutes; our shortest episode is about a minute and a half. And we introduce a new bunch of characters. And then at a certain point, the title card, 20 seconds to live comes up on the screen. And then it just drops down to the 20, and then 19, and then 18. And when we get to 01 of these characters you met is going to die somehow. And we didn’t conceive it this way. But we realized after we made a couple episodes, that it is kind of a game. And we started leaning into that in the writing, and trying to come up with either people who you wanted all of them to die, or you didn’t want any of them to die, you know, so we did an episode called Christmas morning where it’s like a mother, a father and two kids on Christmas. And you’re like; I don’t want any of these people to die. Or, you know, or just like a group of people where you’re like, you know, to, to kind of douche guys, one played by Derek Mears of all people who is a fabulous and wonderful guy. Two dorky guys summoning a demon in their living room, you know what could go wrong? So, you know, or, or what about like just a guy bringing home a fish to give us a gift, like a pet fish, he gives the gift to his wife, and in the bag, falls off the counter and he has to save the fish. So like, either he’s gonna die or the fish is gonna die. And it’s all super short. So to me, you know that they’re fun, often gory, or gross, not all of them. The first episode anniversary is probably the grossest one we did. It’s also probably one of my favorites really came out well. But yeah, it’s hopefully some are more horror, some are more comedy, but they’re all kind of fall in the horror comedy world. And we’ve had a really good run, playing them at web fests around the world. And, you know, we’ve gotten a really good response you know, it’s kind of our fun side project when we can afford to do it kind of thing.
Well, after Eileen riders, I sincerely wish all the success for you. Oh, thank you. Where can people find you online? Ben?
The easiest place is my website, which is Ben rock.online.com. I won’t get into the long story about why Ben rock.com is not available, but it was a boat company. I’ll leave it at that. You can easy to find on Twitter. I’m at Neptune salad. Yeah, I’m on the entire all the social media networks. Except for I’m not really on Tik Tok. I mean, I’m on Tik Tok, but I don’t really use it. Because I think I’m too old. I think that there’s like an age limit you age and like, I was like this with Snapchat, too. It’s like, yeah, I get it. It’s not for me.
Yeah, it’s one of those things where you get better for it.
Well, I also feel like you know, just like, how many hours of your life? I mean, when I talked to people who were like, Yeah, I deleted Facebook. I’m like, it’s like you. It’s like you have a superpower. It’s like you have four more hours in your day than I do. Because I’m too busy trying to fix guns and racism on Facebook all day. You know, I’ll do it one day. You know, but yeah, I mean, I’m on you know, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, all this stuff that you know, Gen Xers and older are probably all on.
And that’s it for another episode today. If you liked today’s episode, go check out my kind of weird on any of the usual podcast networks. I just like to thank Ben rock for appearing on today’s episode. So Thanks, Ben. Thank you.
Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it. I love your show. And since we’ve been talking horror, I’m going to leave with one special message for everyone until we come back. Stay safe everyone.