This edition Stuart Willis chats to UK splatter master Alex Chandon (of 'Cradle of Fear' fame) about his career and more...
SGM: BAD KARMA attracted a lot of fan attention in the early 90s. Were you surprised at the level of interest the movie achieved?
AC: Er... you had to be there... at that time to understand this... cos its not supposed to sound arrogant... but it didn't surprise me that people liked it... and the level of interest was sort of equal to the amount of stuff we did to advertise/ sell the film... We felt vindicated in a couple of ways...firstly, our art college said we were stupid doing this and that Duncan Jarman was silly pursuing make-up effects as a living. I've now got two successful feature films behind me and Duncan has won two Emmy awards for make-up FX!! Secondly... people said we couldn't sell many copies... so I sent out lots of review copies to all (their were lots of them then!!) the fanzines. The good reviews generated sales... small in the big picture...maybe 2-3,000 copies over 4-5 years... but huge when you consider the tiny budgets involved. Someone suggested that BAD KARMA is the BIGGEST GROSSING BRITISH FILM OF ALL TIME.... if 'gross profit' is calculated against the budget costs.... and its true!!
SGM: How much did BAD KARMA actually cost? As cheap and cheerful as it looks, it certainly doesn't hold back on the gore FX.
AC: BAD KARMA cost about £350 and DRILLBIT (it's sister film)cost about £800. Most of the money went on the FX. The rest was tape stock and beer for the cast/crew.
SGM: I seem to remember a UK horror mag planning to offer BAD KARMA as an extra on a free video they would be giving away on the cover of their mag. BAD KARMA was removed from the video at the last minute. Do you recall this? What was the reason for it's removal?
AC: Yea... rings a bell. Was it THE DARKSIDE MAGAZINE (still going strong...hi Allan!!)??? It was them who did the competition, Opportunity Shocks 1991...for horror films... that we won with BAD KARMA.... they were the catalyst for everything i've done since. So I've plugged 'em all over CRADLE OF FEAR. Or it was a mag linked to them... the reason it didn't happen is probably similar to the reason the film industry is the only industry where you can die from encouragement.... everyone is saying 'yea... yea... this'll happen... it'll be amazing...', but they are talking shit. I think that magazine freebie was a similar thing... talkin' shit. Nice idea though.
SGM: DRILL BIT came next. This had a darker tone. How was this film received?
AC: It depends. Those who liked BAD KARMA (and therefore all crazy gore films) loved it.... as did people who thought BK was too funny, they preferred this darker vision. Some people (HEADPRESS) quite correctly spotted that it was "..half an hour of squib technique!" which we took as a compliment. Some hated it because it was so un-pc and offensive. I was hit by a girl who objected to the scene of the youngster buying it. It was conceived as a showreel to impress Lloyd Kaufman from TROMA, before we knew his true colours... he's cool, but don't expect cash up front from TROMA... do expect a load of encouragement and good vibes from them though... we just ain't them. So the DRILLBIT 'showreel' remained just that... the longest, and goriest trailer of all time. I'd like to go there again... redo DRILLBIT... it's still very modern I think... and no-one's done AIDS zombies still... which amazes me!!
SGM: Rumour has it there's a DVD coming shortly in Europe, with BAD KARMA and DRILL BIT on it. Can you shed any light on this? Have you been involved in the DVD's production?
AC: Yea.... its happening any day now... I'll be giving SGM a review copy when I get my batch! It's really cool and I'm really chuffed that it's happening...I met this crazy loon at a film festival in Germany... it turns out he makes and distributes films and he was desperate to put out my early stuff on DVD. Previously Jorg Buttgeriet and Manfred Jelinski (NECROMANTIK boys!) distributed BK and DB on video... with German subtitles. And to this day, apparently, the Germans (who have a horror/undergound industry we should be jealous of!!) consider BK and DB as the first home-made splatter films!! Cool! They love 'em. So I suggested to Timo that he puts ALL my shorts out on DVD.... he agreed... but, being an entrepreneur, he's deciding to split the release... a disc out now with BK and DB and NIGHT PASTOR (homicidal priest played by Neil Keenan... 1998 and wonderful!)... then a 'special' out next year with those and CHAINSAW SCUMFUCK and BAD MANOR... my bet is buy the current one as I think I might just include LOTS of hidden stuff in the CRADLE OF FEAR 2DVD, more of which later, if you've time.... I haven't done commentaries or given him making-of stuff... I'm keeping all dem goodies back!!
SGM: PERVIRELLA must have been fun to make. Are there any anecdotes from the production that you're allowed to share?
AC: It was a riot to make. Totally nightmarish in places... and hard work from start to finish... but looking back... we did the craziest fucking shit on that film, and a shit-load of it was fun to do at the time! Insane in the membrane. Pretty much everything that could go wrong did... classic low-budget film-making.. so there are so many anecdotes. From a one ton prop pillar falling on us being parried out of harms way by a passing runner (with muscles)... to Emily turning up for her 1st topless scene with bite marks on her tit... to the surfer, complete with board, walking into our 'victorian-desert' shot while the actors delivered their BEST TAKE.... to me forgetting to call 'cut' as I 'played' a torturer whipping Emily's breast...to the orgy scene, where the heat from 60 semi-naked, writhing extras blew out all our electrics... to Jonathan Ross buying everyone on set a bottle of beer on his Gold card... !! And that's just for starters... PERVIRELLA was more than a film... it was a lifestyle... it took me over for a couple of years and I'm glad for every crazy minute of it. I'd love to do a director's cut... I was never 100% behind the current edit... the sound mix is not what I worked on... it went outa sync... Josh (Collins... mentallist wonderful producer and creator) loved the crazy trashiness even down to out-of-sync sound-fx!!! I'm into that as well... if we make them out-of-sync on purpose!! Random, yet very deliberate acts of anarchic film-making... not fuck-ups!!! I do love PERVIRELLA more and more on each viewing though. It's very Josh.. but it's very right. I'd like to do one that's more Alex....
SGM: How on Earth did Mark Lamarr and Jonathan Ross become involved with PERVIRELLA?
AC: Sort of two strands got 'em there. My mates girlfriend was Jonathan's missus' best mate and gave them a copy of BAD KARMA for an Xmas present in 1992. Apparently they loved it. Then a year later I was working on a 'knock-knock sting' for Channel 4 (doing art department)... and one day we did Jonathan Ross... I went up to him...'hi, I know so and so' I said...he looked at me... "You made BAD KARMA! I loved it!" he said. So I sent him DRILLBIT and asked him if he'd be in one of my films... he said yes. This was 1993... a couple of years till PERVIRELLA. So when I met Josh I talked about Jonathan's promise and he says that Bruce Brand (Professor Pump) was in a band with Mark Lamarr... I'd lost Ross' address... so we'd ask Lamarr to ask Ross... next thing we know they both wanna come along and be in it...and they wanted to bring Joe Brand!! We couldn't feed her... but we squeezed in a role for Ross and Lamarr. Bless 'em. They were both excellent and friendly and nice. I think they hate the film!!
SGM: ... and how the fuck did you bag David Warbeck?!
AC: Through my mate Jason Slater... a journo, now an author, who actually introduced me to Josh (he'd interviewed us independently and realised we needed to meet). Jay Slater was matey with Warbeck, having interviewed him... and through him, me and Josh got invited to Warbeck's insane house/castle... and we were instantly mates. He was a kid in a man's body... kinda like us. Living a crazy dream, acting in mad films. At that point he was excited about doing some low budget 'out-there' stuff, foregoing a big fee to work with 'auteurs'or am-auteurs as I said!... and PERV really turned him on... he was into kitsch crazy stuff and we fitted the bill. So bagging him was pretty easy!
SGM: CRADLE OF FEAR obviously owes a lot to the classic horror anthologies of Hammer and Amicus. Are there any other influences you'd care to pinpoint?
AC: Obviously, the Internet provided fair inspiration for the brilliant Sick Room idea ... Yea... those anthologies helped loads, as I'd seen, and loved most of them as a young kid (8)... together with the films I watched in the 80's as a teenager... the gore years!!! I wanted to homage the videos I grew up with...the crazy age of mental horror. Not the tongue-in-cheek soft crap that poos it way out of Hollywood. I'm also influenced by real-life-death-footage... shockumentaries... man's inhumanity to man...I'd love to approach this subject in a mature way... but for now I use the knee-jerk excesses in my gore scenes... Oh... Paul Verhoeven (and Scorcese) does this and I love him and his stuff... STARSHIP TROOPERS is SSSOOO good!! When people die in that they scream loads first then die horribly. We love The Sick Room too... our plan is to get it going 'live' online... we have the idea.. we have the technology... and we have the domain name... now we need time to set it up... one to freak out your mates methinks....
SGM: Is the Sick Room your idea of social commentary? Seriously, how long before interactive brutality is offered online?
AC: Its about as close to a social commentary you'll get from me I guess. Funnily enough, it's strengths, as a piece, are a lot clearer to me now...at the time we wrote it a good horror-film idea... but it has really affected people. It was actually my mate Dom Hailstone who had the original premise... a homage to a Hammer House of Horror episode (Peter Cushing and the kitten!)... and the really sick stuff then fitted neatly in place. And it is this idea we want to expand into a feature. Our ideas on this 'feature' are mental... this would be a crazy film... the new JACOB's LADDER (Hollywood's last good horror) we'd hope.
SGM: CRADLE is an extreme film, and as such is prone to provoking extreme reactions. Some love it ... others don't. What's the most amusing comment you've read about your film?
AC: Er... there's been a few weird ones.... so much so theres a section on our website, WWW.CRADLEOFFEAR.COM, for people views, and lots are mad. Some write about how turned on the gore scenes made them(!!) Some people are CONVINCED theres a hidden meaning behind scenes. One guys watched it more than me (over 50 times!!)! One guy has tattooed my goats-head emblem onto himself! One girl said she cried when Dani 'died'! I like the guy who said it has "gratuitous use of the word 'fuck'"! And someone who compared the car crash to scene to Whacky Racers!
SGM: One gripe I hear is the use of CGI. I must admit, I was surprised by the amount of CGI in the film. What are your thoughts on the old CGI vs prosphetics,latex argument?
AC: It depends. On the whole I hate the over-use of CGI in Hollywood films...but then that's Hollywood. I'd rather see a real Jackie Chan stunt-leap rather than a shitty CGI Tom Cruise leap. The insects in STARSHIP TROOPERS were excellent... as are the fx in LORD OF THE RINGS... both of those films are blessed with visually creative directors who use fx to enhance their vision... rather than pony directors like George 'show-me-the-toy' Lucas...who put their actors into CGI scenes... Gimme Rob Bottin FX (THE THING) before CGI any day... or use CGI to complement the make-up FX...like we did with the cheek-stab, mutant face man and head explosion. WILD ZEROS, a crazy Eastern films has excellent CGI gore... whereas FINAL DESTINATION and its piss poor ilk have shit CGI gore. Like most things, CGI can be good if its used well... and used where you CAN'T utilise REAL make-up fx...which ultimately look realer.... cos they are real. CGI is SSSOOOO noticeable whereas a good Dick Smith style bladder on a real actor will always take you by surprise!!
SGM: Any comments on the BBFC's decision to pass CRADLE uncut? It's a good thing for genre fans, but it's been suggested that you were upset (Dani Filth in Kerrang! magazine). The blood-on-breasts scene looks to have been included simply to offend the censors ..!!
AC: KERRANG are prone to embellishing things... as they did with that article. How could I be upset... I HAD deliberately put in scenes that I thought they would cut... they didn't, and as a result all of my filth is in every Blockbusters, Virgin, HMV and even Brittania Brochures... soiling normal (not us) peoples minds. I'm pleased to be one of the sickest on the block. Getting it passed 'might' have involved some insider dealing... in that someone might have put it through on a quiet day... apparently. I am honestly surprised at some of the things they missed... the snuff footage in the Internet story... the blood on tits... the cat (yes,its fucking real!) killing... the razor death... etc... Oh well... I guess it means my next film has to be even harder!!
SGM: CRADLE OF FEAR is as extreme a gore film as I can imagine. What films (other than your own) do you personally consider to be extreme? What jolts Mr Chandon?
AC: Currently those crazy Eastern dudes are making the sickest stuff...SPLATTER (aka NAKED BLOOD) genuinely freaked me out with its gore stuff. BATTLE ROYALE is supremely brutal and modern and now. Neither scared or jolted me... its shockumentaries that give me that sick chill thrill thing. BANNED ON TV 1-3 all contain scenes that have shocked me... horrified me...disgusted me... often all at once. All the more scary cos its real. I've become Internet 'mates' with the webmaster at OGRISH.COM, by far the best real-death site on the net. He has stuff online that I tell people NOT TO WATCH. Do not watch the stoning... its too disturbing and barbaric. Do not watch EITHER of the throat-cut scenes... they will haunt you for life...especially if you turn the sound up and suffer the death rattle...There's where the darkness lurks. My films are nothing compared to that lot.
SGM: The Making-Of footage on the UK DVD is great. It's nice to see people laughing on-set, Slayer's "Angel Of Death" booming in the background (wow), your mother entering a blood-soaked bedroom(?), and your cries for "more vaginal juices!". With these happy scenes in mind, what do you think is the key to being a good genre director?
AC: Thanx for liking those bits... I thought they summed up the whole experience... hard work... but fun. It's gotta be when no-ones being paid!! And the key... preparation. There's no better way to turn your crew against you than turning up on set with no idea about how to shoot the scene...and going till 11 o'clock every night!! I've learned all this the hard way....by making fuck-ups. So what I've learned is you need lots of development, story-boards and experience and luck!! Know what your next 10 shots are all the time... and make sure everyone else on set knows... keep everyone busy and involved and treat runners the same as you would the cameraman. My job as a director won't change between genre's... as it doesn't change between formats... my job as directing wouldn't change that much with a bigger budget... my wage would buy me piece of mind... but I still think I'll be rolling around in the mud showing the actors how I want them to die!! I don't like directors who 'hide' behind the camera-assist monitor whispering orders to an A.D. I think a real director has his fingers in every pie...he tells the art-director what he wants and he tells the actors what he wants and he tells the cameraman how he wants to film it, all the time thinking of how he's gonna edit it... love 'em or loathe 'em, a good director is a good dictator... making others work selflessly for him to help create his vision. And the best directors always remember the 'others'...those people who do all the work to make his film what it is. I acknowledge and remember them all... especially... whassisname on camera... and that blonde girl on production.
SGM: Is it true that there's a CRADLE OF FEAR Special Edition DVD on the horizon? If so, will this include a director's commentary?
AC: Yes and yes... to be concise. There's some waffle about our plans on the FEAR website. But yes... it'll have commentary (from as many cast and crew as we can fit in a pub!) and more. Current thinking is wait till after the USA release (Image Entertainment do a Jan/Feb 2003 release in USA/Canada!)before we do this baby... so were talking early next year (2003). Current thinking also involves a director's REMIX... as in a new-sleeked down (but not watered down!) version.... I see a trimmer, tighter movie with enhanced audio and visual FX. Then again we see a full interactive Sick Room experience planned as well as a LONG making of and secret bits leading to my other films and loads of weirdness. put it this way... the longer you have to wait for this, the better it will be!
SGM: How have international audiences reacted to CRADLE OF FEAR?
AC: Well we've sold units to most countries... but if 5 people in Iceland love it I don't know if they represent the whole country (seeing as they are quite probably weird satanic freaks). So it is being enjoyed by people all over the world. We've taken it to Italy and Germany to festivals and its gone down a storm despite having no subtitles. We made it as a visual thing... stripping the dialogue down to a minimum and going with archetypal ideas and imagery... the baddies wear black... the goodie is a cop... so people all over seem to relate to it. And everyone loves splashy gore!! I'm desperate for a release in the East as I think they'd love it... we kept out pubes especially with the Jap market in mind! Oh... apparently the Irish Film Board have banned it in Ireland! Which is nice.
SGM: Hypothetical question (of course!): Hollywood want to remake CRADLE OF FEAR. They offer an unlimited budget and you can direct with total control. The only condition of the contract is that you cast A-list actors in the roles of Kemper, Neilsen and The Man. Who would you choose to portray these characters, and why?
AC: Good question. Johnny Depp as The Man, get him to play the part nasty, cold, detached. He may not be the best actor but he'd be cool to hang out with. Christopher Walken as Neilson. I'd try and get Christopher in anything...he's fucking excellent. . Kemper is tough.... er.... someone like Donald Sutherland would be good.... a grizzled old cunt with a crazed glint in his eyes. If he's still alive then Sutherland would be good cos he's got that burned-out-acid-Manson look to him. Kemper would be based on Manson if he was Yankified. Dennis Hopper in a fuck-off beard would be the obvious choice if Sutherland is brown-bread. And if theres a few quid left over (Sutherland might be cheap... possibly a job-lot with Depp) then I'd get Marlon Brando to play some fat sweaty pig who gets his pork-gut stabbed up in The Sick Room.
SGM: You must have visited a few conventions/festivals in the last year or two, promoting CRADLE. Are there any films you've stumbled across at these events that you'd like to personally recommend to SGM readers?
AC: I wish I'd done more festivals... that's one area we ain't exploited... I mean explored. There was the German one (twice), Splatterday Night Fever where I did see some mental movies. Sorry if they're old hat... but having spent 2 years on CRADLE OF FEAR I'm catching up on older films... and as a result missing newer ones... playing catch-up. Anyway... SESSION 9 scared me.... its brilliant... nuff said. Its yank, but it sure ain't Hollywood. VERSUS is an excellent mental Jap ( I think) film. THE EVIL DEAD meets HARD BOILED. Fucked. But my fave... TEMMINK... a Dutch Indie film... made in 2000 I think... and I can't work out why it hasn't been seen anywhere... its the hardest, toughest and roughest film I've seen since ROMPER STOMPER. Raw and unnerving... its about an Ultimate-Fighting type of competition in the (very) near future... and about the combatants, who have to come to terms with the fact that they HAVE to kill their friends... their future opponents... excellent... and very fucking violent. Even better!
SGM: Are there any other genres you'd like to branch out into?
AC: Well... I haven't done a SCARY horror film yet... I'd like to scare the pants off people without buckets of gore... that's a different strand for me. I've touched on (very black) comedy in my horror films... and I've (co)written a comedy script which I'd love to make. I'd also LOVE to make a car-chase movie... like MAD MAX 2... one of my faves... not sure what genre it would fit in (DEATH RACE 3000.... call me please!!!)... The sleazy voyeuristic director in me is also tempted to shoot a gothic-porn film (working title ECTOJISM: THE DEMON SEMEN)... and I'd love to spunk thousands of billions of (someone elses) dollars on a supremely ambitious Science Fiction Epic. A James Bond film would be fun too. I think Jude Law would be my Bond. I'd like to make a Shark genre film too.
SGM: What plans do you have for your next feature? Will we be hearing from Alex Chandon shortly?
AC: I'd love to start another feature this year... and to that end we're developing two ideas... and taking 'em in different directions, spreading out our options. Plan A is this Sick Room feature... developing the story from FEAR into a much bigger deal. Involvement with a big company means we can write a 'big-budget' idea. Which we're doing now... and enjoying the dark directions the story has taken us. Plan B is to raise monies ourself, like we did for FEAR but up the ante... we'll raise about a quarter of a million (sounds good... still tiny in film budget terms!!)... and shoot a mental, kinetic, commercial (teenagers in the woods) horror film... I've got a VERY NICE idea that I'm pleased with... I'm even more pleased with the title... so pleased that I daren't say... not till the script is done and the idea is safe... I don't know who could be reading this!! Whilst we try and develop features I'll continue making promos for people I like. I've just done a new promo for Cradle Of Filth.... and I love it... promos are a chance to go experimental (especially the 'mental' bit) and arty... I can do my Lynch bit in these promos without confusing my audiences... and I can take the good shit into my films. Constantly trying to learn and evolve. Organic is my word of the moment.... letting things happen. Film-making has been my dream and ambition since youth and I will always be making films of some sort... hopefully those 70mm fuckers that'll freak out millions of people across the world. If Peter Jackson... the ultimate GORE film director can do LORD OF THE RINGS then why the fuck can't I? Not LORD OF THE RINGS...of course... that's been done... some other epic... the Bible maybe?? Especially the bits with the devil! So you will definitely be hearing from Alex Chandon again... and don't call me 'shortly'... I'm 5'8'' on a good-spine day!
And thanx loads to Sex Gore Mutants for the interview and, hopefully, spreading knowledge of CRADLE OF FEAR and our sick 'n' twisted cause. Horror is making a comeback and we can be the first to ride it's bloody wave. As Max Renn put it so well in VIDEODROME...
"Long Live The New Flesh."
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