Richard Stanley: An Interview by Kent Hill

I first contacted Richard in 2015 with regard to the Straight to Video trilogy of anthologies I was putting together. He responded promptly and was very enthusiastic, saying he would work something up. Then he disappeared. I thought I had lucked out, when out of the blue he contacted me again; he had indeed been working on a piece and that he had not forgotten me. When what he had written arrived it was more than I dared hope for. Richard had crafted a heartfelt reminiscence of his youth, his early VHS adventures and then his first steps along the path which would eventually see he become the incredible journeyman filmmaker that has refused to let the creative fire within him subside.

So can lightning strike twice? Poised by my recent successes in securing audiences with filmmakers I ardently admire for interviews on this site, I thought I’d reach out once again, to that man who delivered more than I’d asked for. Greedy? Sure. Yet I am as fascinated by Richard Stanley as I am with his cinema. In David Gregory’s thrilling documentary, Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau, I was, as I often am, intrigued with the journey storytellers take on the way to finally realising their ultimate pinnacle.

I was determined however, not to walk the road much travelled with Richard. I would keep it all as informal as possible, and along the way I found myself at times simply sitting back, letting this natural raconteur do his thing. We went back to the Island, because I admit I wanted to know a little more; we touched on Richard’s collaboration with the late Michael Herr; talked about the current state of cinema; being trapped in the transit lounge on 12 Monkeys. There was Judge Dredd, Ron Perlman, H.P. Lovecraft, Jodorowsky, and even the promise of a future autobiography which I will happily put down the cash for right now.

Again Richard Stanley offered up more than I could have hoped for, and I come away from the experience with even greater respect for this extraordinary gentleman and a hope – hope that there might come a day when the uncompromised vision of this richly unique artist can at long last see the light of day – finding it’s way to a cinema near us all.

To Richard my profound thanks. To the rest of you . . . enjoy.

(Disclaimer: – Our connection was hampered by a storm raging outside Richard’s house so I ask for your forgiveness. I had to edit around some spots where the audio and visual dropped out momentarily. Aside for some sound sync issues, the awesomeness of this conversation I believed has been preserved.)


Stephen King’s The Night Flier: A Review by Nate Hill


Stephen King, the master of deliriously high concept horror, strikes again with The Night Flier, a gruesome, clever and painfully overlooked HBO midnite movie, starring everyone’s favourite grouchy pants, Miguel Ferrer, or Albert Rosenfield to any good Twin Peaks fans out there. Via a creepy take on tabloid journalism and the insidious obsession it breeds, King and Co. take a look at the way words get twisted from fact to bombastic fiction, the jaded reality one arrives at after working too long in such a field, and the hilarious possibility that such ridiculous, “made up” horrors one fabricates might in fact be a reality. Acid tongued Ferrer plays Richard Dees, a bitter and depressingly cynical trash reporter who is one drink away from the gutter and two lousy stories away from retirement, an acrid soul who lives by the mantra “Don’t believe what you publish, and don’t publish what you believe” (a pearl of wisdom that I imagine is rattling around King’s own skull, when we look at the sacrilege being wrought upon his magnum opus The Dark Tower in its cinematic emergence, particularly in regards to the casting of Roland the Gunslinger). Dees is on the hunt for en elusive serial killer who pilots an unnamed Cessna across the Midwest, slaughtering people in and around remote airports before vanishing into the night. Vampiric in origin and very hard to track down, this fiend uses the dark as his ally and seems to slip uncannily across America’s airspace, leaving a wake of bloody murder in his path that gives any old tabloid yarn a run for its money. Jaded Dees gets more than his usual brand of hoaxes and pranks, and seems oddly, morbidly drawn to this spree of horrific crimes, eerily willing to follow the Night Flier into the very jaws of Cerberus himself, if only to find exodus from his pointless, roundabout existence. All of King’s beloved qualities are at play here; grotesque practical effects, gnawing existential calamity, a light at the end of a tunnel that seems to crush our protagonist before they can reach it, and clever morality plays buried like demonic Easter eggs amidst the corn syrup and latex. An overlooked treat. 



COP. The title says it all – blunt, upfront, and bold. This is a hugely entertaining film that goes over the top without ever becoming absurd, thanks to the loose-cannon ferocity of leading man James Woods, who delivered a powerhouse performance as a Los Angeles detective obsessed with piecing together the clues to a potential serial killer’s 15 year reign of terror, preying upon unsuspecting female victims. Adapted for the screen with vulgar wit and directed with an iron fist by journeyman multi-hyphenate James B. Harris, Cop is based on James Ellroy’s novel Blood on the Moon, and takes the viewer on a hellish trip through the sleazy nocturnal and just-as-sketchy daytime streets of the city of Angeles. This film has balls of steel and doesn’t care that it’s extreme and in your face and violent and downright nasty at times.


Woods was akin to an open-wound in this film, totally on fire all throughout, while Steve Dubin’s appropriately gritty and grimy cinematography bolstered the entire piece, and the final confrontation between Woods and his chief nemesis is an absolute stunner in all respects. The excellent supporting cast includes Lesley Ann Warren, Charles Durning, Raymond J. Barry, and Charles Haid, all of whom deliver sturdy performances. I absolutely loved every single second of this unsung diamond in the rough, which was released in 1991 and barely made a blip on the theatrical box office radar. But thanks to the amazing film enthusiasts over at Kino Lorber, Cop is available on Blu-Ray and DVD, and available as a DVD-in-the-mail from Netflix.


Ti West’s House Of The Devil: A Review by Nate Hill 

Throwbacks to horror films of the 70’s and 80’s either work or they don’t. The filmmakers are either able to replicate that specific tonal aesthetic and look from back then, or they aren’t. It’s not easy to do, but writer director Ti West makes it seem like a walk in the park with his near flawless House Of The Devil, a gorgeous love note to the satanic works of yester-year that so adeptly recreates that time and place until we really believe we’re watching a film that was made then. From the nostalgic hand drawn poster that beckons with atmosphere of a bygone era, to the use of full on, lovingly lettered credits ahead of the film, it’s pure vintage bliss, like that one perfect vinyl you find in the second hand shop. It starts out like many of these horrors do, with a young teenage girl (Jocelin Donahue) innocently wandering into a situation that leads down an inevitable path of gruesome terror. In this case it’s a seemingly innocuous babysitting job posted on her college notice board, by a cheery enough landlady (horror veteran Dee Wallace). Arriving at a creepy, ornate old manor, she meets Mr. and Mrs. Ullman, two gaunt, old world looking weirdos played by soft spoken yet disconcerting Tom Noonan, and genre legend Mary Woronov. They seem kind yet just kind of…off, explaining to her that the kiddies are alseep already upstairs, assuring an easy night for her. They depart and she’s left alone in the vast empty halls, or so she thinks. She’s been chosen for a bizarre, bloody ritual and soon is plagued by nightly terrors, a ghastly witch, the Ullmans themselves and all sorts of devilish deeds. Noonan could stand there and order a large double double with a honey dip and still make you uncomfortable, the guy is just perfect for horror, and makes a purring gargoyle of a villain for our our young heroine to go up against, backed up by Woronov’s nasty Morticia vibe. Eventually it gets quite graphic and startling, but the slow, solemn lead up is the key in making the horror shock us all the more. Nothing happens for an agonizing first half, filled with silent apprehension, and when all hell finally breaks loose, our nerves are already taut strings waiting to snap, like the ones in the shrill, ragged violin score. That’s how you pace a horror film, and many artists today should take note of this one’s pace, soundscape, mood board and production design, because it’s all about as good as it gets for this type of thing. Essential horror viewing, and I’d love to see a grainy VHS edition complete with box art, if that’s something they even do these days. 

James Gunn’s Slither: A Review by Nate Hill 

Slimy, icky, yucky and gooey don’t even begin to cover James Gunn’s Slither, a corrosively funny low budget schlock-fest that took the genre by storm a decade ago, charmed horror fans all over and put him squarely on the map. A throwback to many mindless low budget creature features of yore, but still with enough brains in its head (and some splattering the wall) to have decently written characters and a monster that doesn’t feel lame or copied and pasted. When a strange asteroid lands in the forests outside small town USA, it’s only a matter of time before someone stumbles across whatever it contains and becomes infected. That someone happens to be Michael Rooker, here playing the deftly named Grant Grant, local bigwig and proud husband to trophy wife Elizabeth Banks. There’s a deadly parasite with the rock, one that takes him over, turns him into a giant disgusting inbred octopus, and has apocalyptic plans for our planet. Nathan Fillion, who is in literally every Gunn film, does a sly and charming turn as the local Sheriff, never losing his cool long enough to let up with the attitude, and backed up by his trusty deputy (the lovely Jennifer Copping). Gregg Henry, another Gunn veteran, steals the show as the town’s sleazy, foul mouthed mayor who laments “I’ve never seen anything like this before, and I watch Animal Planet all the fuckin time!!!”. Rooker is a champ for sitting through all the makeup, as most of his scenes are him whipping around tentacles that chop people up and covered in a deluge of slimy deformations. There’s slug like parasites that’ll make you suirm (careful getting in that bathtub), morbid obesity to hilarious lengths, gore galore and a tongue in cheek attitude that’s irresistible.  What more do you need from a horror comedy?


One look at David E. Durston and one might guess that he would be the least likely person to have directed one of the most genuinely shocking horror films of the 1970’s, and one brief glance at the truly ridiculous synopsis for his crowning cinematic achievement, I DRINK YOUR BLOOD, might cause one to anticipate that the sum will not indeed be greater than its parts. Billed during its time alongside I EAT YOUR SKIN, a voodoo cheapie straight out of the 60’s, this is the sort of film that we only think we know going in, although most viewers will soon discover that this is not the case. This is a curio and a half, an invigorating subversion of genre filmmaking that is as delightfully demented as it is thoroughly engaging. It wears its sleaze on its sleeves, devoid of any real pretentions; all thrills and chills with little time for filler.


We open on a naked fireside ritual being held somewhere in the woods amongst a group of hippies with a penchant for the dark arts, led by the exotic Horace Bones (Bhaskar, an Indian performance artist). They kill a chicken and drain its blood into a goblet before spotting a local girl (Iris Brooks) sneaking a peek at the action from between some trees, who is then chased down and raped by a couple of their men. Devastated, she drags herself back into the sleepy town of Sally Hills the next morning, where she’s taken into the care of her kid brother Pete (Riley Mills) and the owner of the town bakery, Mildred (Elizabeth Marner-Brooks).  Her grandfather comes over to check on the poor girl and decides that these rowdy characters must be dealt with immediately.

Meanwhile, the Manson-esque cult makes themselves at home in one of the town’s many abandoned hotels, where they run rampant hunting rats and destroying what’s left of the furniture. The grandfather grabs his shotgun and heads out the door in search of the group, but when he finds them, they take him down and he is force-fed LSD before returning home. Unable to stand by whilst his grandpa is in the throes of a bad trip, Pete takes the gun and goes out into the woods to do some snooping of his own. While exploring the woodland, Pete spots a rabid dog that charges at him, but he’s quick to shoot and after killing the wild animal, he takes some of its blood in a syringe. And what, do you imagine, he does with it? Why, what any other reasonable young fellow would – meaning that he injects the blood into some meat pies back at the bakery, which are then sold to the hippies.


Everyone but Andy (Tyde Kierney), the suspicious and insecure local kid who somehow got mixed up in the group’s nasty business, digs in to the pies and you can probably – emphasis on PROBABLY – imagine where it’s going from there. What ensues is nothing short of sheer lunacy. Psychopathic – not to mention hydrophobic – hippies running rabid around a US ghost town, foaming at the mouth and spreading their disease far and wide. Durston goes all the way, trying his damned hardest to offend as many parties as he possibly can – religious folks, animal lovers, anyone with the tiniest glimmer of hope in the Good Old American Way – and he gets the job done with a more genuine style and class than one might expect.

Jacques Demarecaux’s work here (as cinematographer) should be commended, certainly more than it has been in the past, with his ethereal and startlingly naturalistic compositions complementing the film’s shamelessly nasty contents. Sometimes, filthy movies are shot beautifully, and this is one of them. However, it’s Durston’s willingness to manipulate tone and audience expectations that makes this a significant cut above the rest and it’s interesting to note that it doesn’t immediately register as a dark comedy for most viewers. This nevertheless appears to be the intention, or so the unforgettably over-the-top dialogue (“Let it be known, sons and daughters, that Satan was an acid head!”) and performances, totally psyched-out self-aware soundtrack (credited to Clay Pitts, who has yet to be found), blatant disregard for scientific fact and frequently amusing editing would suggest.


Sure, it all seems quite mean-spirited, but deep down it is the work of a man whose roots and interests were not necessarily in the macabre, and whose sole desire is to entertain. The tonal shifts may prove to be a bit much for some, alternating between hysterical hippie hangout and sad, disturbing body horror once the pies have been consumed, but they are undoubtedly what make up the film’s distinctive identity. For all their inherent crassness, one feels something akin to sympathy for the deadly deadbeats by the end of their separate ordeals, although it’s understood that they’ve made their own problems up to this point. As hard as it is to watch them destroy one-another, it does make for some spectacular set pieces, such as a sequence which has a mute Lynn Lowry wielding an electric meat carver, and another where Horace squares off against a fellow rabid Satanist, Rollo (George Patterson) in an axe-sword fight. There are many others, but one should embrace all the secrets and ask questions later.

The residents of Sally Hills are like lost souls occupying a space where time does not apply. Mildred looks as if she’s just walked off the set of a porno film, Pete’s an overly moralistic little shit who is most likely based on Durston himself, and the construction workers are an ugly bunch who show their true colors once the epidemic is well underway. A kind of hazy ambience hangs over the film, infusing it with a surreal sense of danger which in turn ensures that it never feels too relaxed. There is authentic tension here, and the pacing could not be more perfect; as mentioned before, there’s little time left for wandering around aimlessly. This is a spectacular entertainment as well as a surprisingly transcendent one and there even seems to be a running commentary about the deconstruction of the American Dream, but perhaps that’s all just as a result of context. It’s nothing that is explored in great detail, but these are the kinds of themes that can make or break a movie like this just by showing up (or not).


We feel as if we’re seeing something we shouldn’t, and the emotions that such an experience arouses from deep within are conflicting to say the least, but healthy nevertheless. The grime oozes consistently from this one – reach out and touch it and you might just learn something. I DRINK YOUR BLOOD revels in its absurdism and artifice, playing more like a perverted piece of performance art than a silver screen serenade, and also works well as an invaluable time capsule. Some films skate by on that alone, but luckily Durston’s opus has plenty more going for it. This is quintessential viewing for the insane, the unstable, and the amoral; it may be the closest some come to sheer filth without actually involving themselves directly. The title may be misleading, as there is no drinking of the liquid red at any point and this is certainly no vampire tale, but make no mistake – this is a groovy good time, an important entry in the unofficial “psych” horror sub-genre that is less about mind-melting visuals and more about the essence of psychedelia.  Exploitation cinema doesn’t get much better. “Drink from his cup, pledge yourselves. And together we’ll all freak out!”



Big Trouble in Little China is an awesomely goofy movie that has a pleasure zone a mile wide, and because it’s so bonkers without ever looking back, it’s nearly impossible not to be fully entertained by the spirited, comic-book inspired antics on display. Despite bombing in theaters when it was released in 1986, John Carpenter’s action romp has found a massive cult following thanks in large part to the VHS-era and the huge cable movie boom of the 80’s and 90’s. Gary Goldman and David Weinstein’s original script (set in the old West circa 1880) was completely re-worked by Buckaroo Banzai helmer W.D. Richter, with the final result splicing martial arts, Asian sorcerery, genial comedy, big stunts, and lots of cheesy-awesome special effects into a tongue-in-cheek package that feels as audacious as it does harmlessly silly. Kurt Russell was absolute gold as beefy truck driver Jack Burton, all cocky swagger and macho bluster, while Kim Cattrall, Victor Wong, Dennis Dun, and James Hong delivered robust supporting performances.


The plotting is totally ridiculous and all the more enjoyable for being positively over the top; movies like this are a tough nut to crack on a tonal level but all of the creative parties knew exactly what they were doing. Dean Cundey’s shimmery widescreen cinematography is absolutely gorgeous in that old-school celluloid fashion, while the adventurous musical score from Carpenter and Alan Howarth set the perfect mood. And the sets and production design by John Lloyd were totally remarkable, resulting in a film that feels twice as big as its reported $25 million budget. After the lukewarm critical reception and box office failure of the film, Carpenter took a more independent direction with his filmmaking career before settling into lower-budgeted studio offerings with mixed success. While my favorite film of his continues to be Starman, and Escape from New York is a bonafide classic and The Thing a fan favorite for so many, there’s something rambunctiously exuberant about Big Trouble in Little China that really allows it to stand out in the crowd as an extremely memorable and offbeat piece of work.