Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Our fourth Deathscribe hails from Tarzana, California, a neighborhood in Los Angeles named after Tarzan. Think I'm kidding? You're wrong. The neighborhood is located on land that was formerly a ranch owned by this guy. But we're not here to talk about Tarzan. We're here to talk about Thomas Misuraca, whose radio play ENTITY is all the scarier for its spare simplicity. Directed by The Factory Theater's Manny Tamayo, this twisted interview between a reporter and an inmate at a mental institution will get under your skin. Plus it's set in Cincinnati...and if that's not scary I don't know what is.

Written by Thomas J. Misuraca
Directed by Manny Tamayo

WildClaw: Where Horror is concerned, what does radio give us that visual media cannot?

Thomas Misuraca: There is nothing scarier than our own imaginations. When you hear about something horrifying, you created your own image of it in your head. That is what radio allows you to do. In visual media, if you show a ghost or a monster or a frightening scene, it may not work for everybody because they don't find that image quite scary. Plus, with radio, the audience needs to listen, and some words can be creepier than any visions.

WC: "Entity" creeped us out. What is it about "Entity" that creeps you out?

TM: I creeped myself out with Sam telling Dillion what may (or may not be) happening to his daughter. Sam talks with such conviction, it becomes hard to doubt him. And then to think that this horrible scene is taking place while Dillion listens and is helpless to act... brrrrrrrrr... [Literary Daemon's note: uh-huh.]

WC: What's the sound cue in your piece that you're excited to hear in foley?

TM: The sound of Dillion banging his head against the metal door. That could be pretty creepy to hear.

WC: What difficulties does a 10-minute constraint present when writing, especially where horror and/or radio are concerned?

TM: It's difficult to create tension/fear in such a short amount of time. But on the other hand, you can't go on too long and lose your audience. In a regular ten minute play you have the difficulty of catching an audience's attention, having a believable story arc in a short time, and then giving an exclamation point at the end. Adding have to scare them on top of that, and it is a little more difficult. But a rewarding challenge.


Tom Misuraca has had one-act plays produced in New York City, Hollywood, Chicago, Boston, Madison, Long Island and England. He’s won audience favorites at YES’ Summer Shorts, Three Rose Players’ The Writer Speaks, PianoFight’s ShortLived 2.0, Bellarmine University’s Anything Galileo Festival and twice at the Tehachapi Community Theatre’s Ten-Minute Play Competition.

Manny Tamayo is thankful for the opportunity to work on DEATHSCRIBE. He is a 9 year Veteran of the Psychic Wars with the Factory Theater. Manny hails from Joliet.

Dream Reapers open for the Holidays!?!

You heard me right, boils & ghouls of the Chicagoland area! The folks at Dream Reapers in Melrose Park are doing Jack Skellington proud this December by opening their doors to spread some Holiday Fear width some holiday-themed frights & delights! Dream Reapers is doing their bloody-best not only to help distract you from shopping, but (sadly) they are doing so to help recover some funds that were stolen from their office on Halloween night.

Details can be found on their Facebook event page after you log in, but short and sweet info is 7pm-11pm on Dec. 9 & 10 and 16 & 17 located at 1945 Cornell, Melrose Park, IL 60160.

I say if Christmas can creep into Halloween & Thanksgiving, it's only fair that we creep into Christmas!!! Am I right?

Saturday, November 26, 2011


The time has come for us to get to know a little bit more about Jessica Wright Buha, our third Deathscribe. Jessica, who resides in the chilly grey moor that is Chicago, Illinois, submitted a radio play about the denizens of another grim, soggy world: Mermaids. But there's nothing Disney about Ms. Buha's southern mermaids. Turn your back and they'll snatch your baby. And that's just the beginning. Directed by multi-talented Carolyn Hoerdemann, "Alabama Mermaid" will be unlike any previous Deathscribe finalist, featuring original music, multiple vocalists, and an eerie underwater playground.

Written by Jessica Wright Buha
Inspired by a story from Darren Meyers' family history
Directed by Carolyn Hoerdemann

WildClaw: Where Horror is concerned, what does radio give us that visual media cannot?

Jessica Wright Buha: Radio lets the images take place in the mind's eye, which is always more horrifying than any visual media, because you're drawing from images and settings that you yourself have encountered. Then there's also the general spookiness (even in the best of times) of listening to disembodied voices telling a story.

WC: We found "Alabama Mermaid" haunting. What is it about "Alabama Mermaid" that haunts you?

JWB: I find most haunting the fact that there are instances in life, such as the death of a child, where we cannot reclaim what we have lost. The ultimate finality of such things, to me, is the most haunting thing there is.

WC: What's the sound cue in your piece that you're excited to hear in foley?

JWB: I'm most excited to hear how the underwater landscape sounds in foley! I wrote it as kinda an echoey, sad place, and I'm eager to hear how the director interprets that.

WC: What difficulties does a 10-minute constraint present when writing, especially where horror and/or radio are concerned?

JWB: With a 10-minute piece, you don't have time to waste on character development, so the actual plot is the crucial thing. I think that theatre today puts an emphasis on intense character development, and that's an aspect that kinda has to go by the wayside when writing a 10-minutue piece, which is quite exciting.

I think that both horror and radio actually lend themselves quite well to the 10-minute constraint, as the genre of horror is pretty ideal for these quick, intense vignettes. The general telling-stories-by-a-campfire feel of radio is likewise very compatible with a shorter piece, especially for modern audiences who may not be used to listening to a radio program for an extended period of time.

Jessica Wright Buha's writings have been performed by the Tempting Fates (Parrot Love, Abbiefest 2011), the Whiskey Rebellion (Sign of Rain, Rhinofest 2011), Tooth and Nail Ensemble (Under Ground, Rhinofest 2010), and Point of Contention Theatre (Acid Rain, Chaos Festival 2009). Locally, she has directed (Owl Theatre’s A New Nation: The American Civil War in Letters, Speeches, and Song), designed props (Lifeline Theatre’s Treasure Island), and worked as a dramaturg (Lookingglass Theatre's Our Future Metropolis). She has been the resident assistant stage manager at Lifeline since 2008, and is a founding member of the Lifeline Storytelling Project, a spoken word group performing weekly in Rogers Park. Upcoming writing projects include the Plagiarists' I Am Saying This Right Now (co-writer), and RhinoFest 2012's Tennyson Spade, both opening in January 2012.

Carolyn Hoerdemann recently appeared in the critically acclaimed OVERWEIGHT, unimportant: MISSHAPE at the Trapdoor Theatre, she just finished up VENUS at the Steppenwolf Garage and the Jeff Recommended SCORCHED at Silkroad Theatre Project. She can be seen at the Goodman this Spring in CAMINO REAL directed by Calixto Bieito. She is thrilled to be part of the best night of horror in Chicago, directing the beautiful ALABAMA MERMAID. Thanks to all the WildClaw folk for having her!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


For the second installment in this series, we venture west. Colin Johnson made his submission one dark and stormy night from the steaming, undead-strewn marshes of Berkeley, California. THE DARK MUSE was that submission, a radio play that will have old school radio buffs salivating and shaking in their boots. This Poe-referencing chiller, which will be directed by Chicago star Kimberly Senior, dives into the psyche of its manic, tortured narrator.

Written by Colin Johnson
Directed by Kimberly Senior

WildClaw: Where Horror is concerned, what does radio give us that visual media cannot?

Colin Johnson: True terror comes from the unknown, the unseen. Radio is an ideal format for channeling raw, primal fear because it's not about what you see -- it's about what the imagination suggests.

WC: "The Dark Muse" creeped us out. What is it about "The Dark Muse" that creeps you out?

CJ: What creeped me out about the Dark Muse was the vulnerability of being at the whim of your shortcomings. With one who's obsessed with creation, as the writer is, the moment he's blocked is the moment his focus will latch onto whatever peaks his interest. It can be booze, women, drugs, etc. In this case, it just so happened to be horrible, mysterious sounds wafting from a nearby apartment. What really creeped me out, however, was the positive effect that the human monster Reynolds has on the main character's creativity. That was not originally intended, and once the story organically veered in that direction, I ran with it. Inspiration can come from some very dark places, and the implications of that is pretty scary.

WC: What's the sound cue in your piece that you're excited to hear in foley?

CJ: I'm excited to hear the bizarre mash-up of noises coming from the apartment. I wrote it to keep it relatively open for interpretation, but they should contradict nature, creating a bizarre, foreign symphony of madness. And the hand saw. Excited to hear that nasty bit.

WC: What difficulties does a 10-minute constraint present when writing, especially where horror and/or radio are concerned?

CJ: The difficulty of writing in super-short format is compressing the narrative. I've done a lot of sketch comedy as of late, which keeps you frugal as a storyteller. You learn to gauge how quickly an idea will run its course. What I did with The Dark Muse, though, was originally approach it as a short story, on account of the extensive monologues. Then I found myself reading some Poe and listening to Tom Waits (Mule Variations, "What's He Building in There") and decided to center the piece around the external stimuli of the character instead of his interior monologues. This streamlined the musings and, after some hefty chopping, it seemed like the mind unraveling proved fertile ground for radio.

As for horror, I've found that, unlike many genres, horror works best in it's rawest form. The simpler the better. The more ambiguous the better. There should never be certain answers, only lingering imagery, unanswerable questions and one or two new phobias.

Good horror knows to not overstay its welcome.


Raised in the gloom of the Pacific Northwest, Colin Johnson developed a knack for all things macabre early in life. After studying theatre and film production at Eastern Washington University, he migrated to the Bay Area in 2008 in relentless pursuit of the golden impulse. He's worked with a plethora of Bay Area theatre/film organizations, co-founded BattleStache Studios, works as a writer/producer on Daomu from Image comics and slings literature at Pegasus Books in Berkeley. And he's right behind you.

Kimberly Senior is a Chicago based freelance director. Chicago credits include: Want, The North Plan (Steppenwolf), Madagascar, The Overwhelming and The Busy World is Hushed (Next), Waiting for Lefty (American Blues), Old Times, The Conquest of the South Pole, Uncle Vanya, Cherry Orchard, Three Sisters, Fuddy Meers, and Knives in Hens (Strawdog), Bad Dates and Mouse Cop (Fox Valley Repertory), Bug and The Pillowman (Redtwist Theatre), Thieves Like Us (The House Theatre), All My Sons and Dolly West's Kitchen (TimeLine Theatre) among others. Regional: A Few Good Men (Peninsula Players), Mauritius (Theatre Squared, Fayetteville, AR). Upcoming: Disgraced (ATC), The North Plan (Theater Wit), After the Revolution (Next) and Cripple of Inishmaan (Redtwist). Kimberly is an Artistic Associate at Next Theatre, Strawdog Theatre, and Chicago Dramatists. She is on the faculty of Columbia College Chicago (2010 Excellence in Teaching Award Winner). Kimberly lives in Evanston with scenic designer, Jack Magaw, and her children, Noah and Delaney, and is a proud member of SDC.

Northwestern University professors David and Debra Tolchinsky are curators of "The Horror Show" at Chicago City Arts Gallery

By Wendy Leopold

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Getting people to reflect on fear in a post-9/11 world is no easy business, according to Northwestern University Professors David and Debra Tolchinsky. But the two have worked hard to do just that in an exhibit of art opening with a free reception from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 11.

A husband and wife who teach courses in horror writing and horror film production in Northwestern's School of Communication and whose collaborative artwork leans toward the macabre, the Tolchinskys are curators of "The Horror Show" at Chicago City Arts Gallery, 410 S. Michigan Ave, Chicago, running through Feb. 23. Among other works, it features art by Northwestern faculty and recent master's of fine arts graduates.

The exhibit of oil paintings, sound pieces, video installations, interactive sculpture, photography, new media and film is, like much work in the horror genre, about crossing boundaries and uncovering that which is amiss, deliberately hidden, obfuscated or unthinkable.

"Horror has been a staple in art and literature for centuries, and, as indicated by opening weekend box office receipts of zombie flick 'I Am Legend,' it remains a staple today," says Debra Tolchinsky. "Our exhibit - which is not meant for children -- is designed to raise questions about why the horror genre remains popular in a world in which media violence and public numbness are the norm."

"The Horror Show," say its curators, is less about eliciting a scream than about inducing anxiety "by presenting horror from the inside out." It has less in common with the blood and guts horror of "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" movies than with the more psychological but still visceral horror of M. Night Shyamalan's "The Sixth Sense."

An elegant photograph by Northwestern University artist and professor Jeanne Dunning titled "In Bed," explores the fragmented body - a frequently repeated theme in the horror genre and "The Horror Show." A depiction of a disembodied hand in a pile of bed clothes, its horror is compounded when viewed with Jean Marie Casbarian's photograph of what looks like a headless spirit or with digital prints of a young girl who, according to artist Christopher Schneberger, developed the ability to levitate after losing her legs.

"As curators, we chose works that not only have their own disturbing power but that dialogue with one another," says Debra Tolchinsky. To chilling effect, "The Genius of Coolwhip," an installation by Northwestern media critic Jeffrey Sconce, embeds the words of a would-be sexual predator from NBC's popular "To Catch a Predator" in upbeat dance music. Not far away is Josh Faught's work in coffee, pen and ink, "The First Person I Ever Came Out to Was a Convicted Sexual Predator."

Perhaps it is Debra Tolchinsky's own work that best illustrates the ideas of perception, deception and the difficulty of self-truth that "The Horror Show" explores. In "Smoke and Mirrors," the curator/artist presents a mirror that provides a glimpse of a viewer's reflection before engulfing it in smoke and snuffing it out entirely.

A catalogue, also called "The Horror Show," accompanies the exhibit. In addition to writings by Northwestern Professors Dunning and Sconce are essays by cultural critic Laura Kipnis, Northwestern professor of radio/television film and author of "Against Love: A Polemic;" Pam Thurschwell, a British academic who explores the intersection of psychoanalysis, the supernatural and emerging technologies; and Timothy Murray, professor of English at Cornell University.

For exhibit information, call (847) 373-6198. For gallery hours or directions, call (773) 816-2336.

Wendy Leopold is the education editor. Contact her at

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Horror Movies To Watch on Thanksgiving

Horror Movies To Watch on Thanksgiving by MoviesOnline

Thankskilling: This one you can currently watch on Netflix video on demand and I have been meaning to check it out for awhile. The low budget indie horror film has the hilarious tag line of ‘gobble gobble mother f**ker’. It is about a homicidal turkey that starts killing college kids during Thanksgiving.

Blood freak: Released in 1972 it’s a film that is a good testimony to why you never want to give hitchhikers a ride. A biker gives a stranded girl a ride home and her mad scientist father turns him into a giant murderous turkey monster that goes after drug dealers. Does it get any more low rent or awesome then that? I think not.

Home sweet home: Think Black Christmas with this one, only with a Thanksgiving angle. In Home Sweet Home a 1981 horror movie a mental patient escapes from the mental institute on thanksgiving to join in the celebrations but unfortunately for the Bradley family his celebrations are less then thankful.

Eli Roths Thanksgiving Faux Movie Trailer: Ok so admittedly not a real movie but Eli Roth is working to spin this one into a feature film. The short film was featured on GRINDHOUSE and is the epitomy of grindhouse awesomeness. Check it out below.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


We're really effing excited about this year's DEATHSCRIBE Finalists. But just who are these literary geniuses of the sonically spooky, the musically macabre, the aurally atrocious? In this five part mini-interview series, you'll get to know a little bit about each twisted writer, and their equally demented director.

We're going to kick things off with two familiar faces: Chris Hainsworth and Carolyn Klein, who will be teaming up on Chris's play, Legacy. Chris is well-known to DEATHSCRIBE audiences, as he has been a finalist all four years. Damn sir. Carolyn directed last year's winning radio play, The Change in Buckett County by David Schmidt, and performed in the first DEATHSCRIBE in 2008.

Written by 2009 Bloody Axe Winner Christopher Hainsworth
Directed by Carolyn Klein

WildClaw: You've been included in every Deathscribe so far, clearly your radio plays are exceptional. What's your approach to writing for radio, any tips and tricks you care to share?

Chris Hainsworth: First - thank you.

You really have to take the medium into account. Both to take advantage of the perks and to accept the limitations. As opposed to prose novel or short stories which have the advantage of allowing you to know everything that is happening both physically and mentally in the moment, or film which opens up the story to editing and controlling where the audiences attention is focused, or even the stage which can give you the elements of visual shocks and physical spacial relationships of the participants - I know it sounds obvious - but with Audio - you just have the sounds and the words.

The challenge is conveying the same amount of information without the benefit of one of your five senses. And for human beings - one of the two main senses that alert us to danger.

The challenge comes in conveying this information in a seemingly organic way.

I always try to avoid having characters DESCRIBE actions to another character in the room because they are both there - they can both see what is happening - why on earth would they say it out loud? 'Dear God Frank! Why are you jamming that strange dagger with those Celtic runes on it repeatedly in and out of your eye! I must now run up these rickety stairs and grab the sacrificial bowl and pour this jar of Holy Water into it in order to break the Gypsy Curse that was placed on you before all of these events happened!"

If you find yourself having to go into a detailed description of what the sound/foley is - generally you need to scrap it and start over. For two reasons - 1. Either the sound should be instantly identifiable so as not to impede the story or 2. Suggestive enough to get the audience's imaginations to do the work for you. Having been to all of the Deathscribes, you would be amazed with what can be done with a several stalks of celery or a tub of gack.

In any medium - exposition is always the bear waiting to attack you. I always try to either find a way to convey as much possible through dialogue or come up with a convention that allows someone to talk directly to the audience. Think about what your characters know and why they would be talking about whatever you need to convey.

On the less technical side - start with character. What do these people want? And what are they doing to try and get it. Everyone - especially when you only have ten minutes - should have a clear goal and objectives. I try to make sure no one is just fodder.

WC: "Legacy" creeped us out. What is it about "Legacy" that creeps you out?

CH: You can tell a lot about what an author is afraid of by what they write. With the exception of Career Day - which was more of a lark on the hypocrisy of any adult/child relationship and how that can be perverted - the other pieces that have been selected for Deathscribe seem thematically linked with the idea of becoming trapped or being unable to move on. In Remembrance it was literally being trapped by your own memories. In D'arque House it was being trapped by grief. In Legacy - it is being trapped by your anger and the wrongs that you believe have been done to you. I know enough to not go into the spooky haunted house. I know not to go to the camp or town where people have been hacked to death for years running. I know that once crap starts moving freely around your house or voices start coming out of your TV - you get out. I guess what I am most afraid of is not exterior forces planning my demise - the other - but those things inside myself - the things that make me fixate on the negative - the inability to let go of things that even I know I would be better off without. I think that we are more dangerous to ourselves than the monster hiding under the bed is. So to me - what is creepy is getting so caught up in something - an emotion - an obsession - that it leads you places that you would be better off not going. And that your life could have been saved had you only been able to let it go.

WC: What's the sound cue in your piece that you're excited to hear in foley?

CH: Oooh. Not a whole lot of eerie sound cues in this one. But I am excited to see what a director might want to do with some. Oh - and not foley - but I am excited to hear "the switch."


Chris Hainsworth
hadn't really written anything until 2006 when Hank Boland created the Strawdog Writing Initiative henceforth to be known as the Strawdog Hit Factory, where he matriculated with WildClaw Artistic Director Aly Renee Amidei. The focus was writing 10 minute audio plays of any genre. He turned in a ten minute piece that was actually thirty minutes long called "Teeth." A horror story about a slacker who is given the ability to read minds and the sad end he comes to. Since then, ten minute audio plays have become a staple of his writing. The greatest challenge always being to keep it to TEN MINUTES. Now an ensemble member at Lifeline, he is currently adapting Hunger, the debut novel by Elise Blackwell for their 2011-2012 season. When not writing - Chris also spends his time acting, recently playing the titular role in Lifeline's The Count of Monte Cristo. Chris would like to thank his wife, Katie (also an award winning playwright) for her continual support and for her editorial input on all of his work.

Carolyn Klein is delighted to be back after directing last year's Bloody Axe Winner, "The Change in Buckett County" by David Schmidt. Carolyn has also directed That Was Then with Seanachai Theatre Company - where she is a proud Ensemble member and Mr. Spacky and Elephant with The Strange Tree Group where she is Artistic Associate. Additionally, she has directed The Artist Needs a Wife at the side project, for Strawdog’s Hit Factory and Dry Hump Sketch Comedy. While pursuing her MFA at Indiana University - Bloomington, Carolyn directed Fool for Love, Lysistrata and Art Whore. As an actor, Carolyn has worked with Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Next Theatre, Seanachai, Strawdog Theatre, Profiles Theatre, The Hypocrites, Wildclaw Theatre, Theo Ubique, The Strange Tree Group and New Leaf.

Resistance is Futile

Because Mother Nature is a (bigger) bad ass (than you). Visit the filmmakers' website to learn more about them.

Ridley Scott Talks Mary Shelley

A new series called Prophets of Science Fiction on the Science Channel starts tonight. Filmmaker Ridley Scott brings together folks to discuss the use of science in science fiction and the first episode centers on Mary Shelley's creation, Frankenstein.

Dario Argento's Deep Red

The Doll!

Introduced Lady Morlock to Argento's masterpiece Profundo Rosso last night. That film... so beautiful. So glorious. So endless.

And that Doll!

I believe she enjoyed it, although she cursed Argento's casual approach to animal suffering... and plot. But she recognized the power of the moments that have kept recurring in my nightmares in the twenty years since Charley Sherman first introduced me to this film.

Especially... THAT DAMNED DOLL! Everything about that thing screams wrongness! The giggle. The flailing arms. That horrible sneer.

Lord, I hate that doll.

What do you think? What's your favorite creepy doll? Chucky? The Saw thing in the tricycle? Anthony Hopkin's buddy in Magic? The Jonathan Coulton song?

Monday, November 7, 2011

Bringing horror to life

Special effects expert has deadly skills

– Andre Freitas is talking about how to make a convincing dead body.

“It depends whether the remains have been eaten or whether they are people who just died, whether they’ve been under ground for six months, whether or not the remains are burned,” he explains, drop-dead serious, no pun intended.

Freitas knows his bodies, from their bloody eyeballs to their melting skin. He creates them, plus zombies, vampires and goblins, but he’s not above mice and dinosaurs. If you’re in the grip of AMC’s new hit show “Walking Dead,” about humans facing the apocalypse, you’re in Freitas’ grip. He’s one of many wizards contracted to work for KNB EFX Group, the company that creates the special effects for the scarily real zombies on “Walking Dead.”

Freitas, 39, runs his own company, AFX Studios, in Marietta, so you’ve seen more of his work. Next month he returns for reshoots on “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter,” the big-budget 20th Century Fox movie due out next year. In December he goes back to work on “Teen Wolf,” MTV’s foray into werewolf drama starting production on its second season. And he worked on the makeup of Beast, the character in “X-Men: First Class,” just released to DVD.

He’s not just a guy with a talent for prosthetic makeup, though that’s how he fattened up actors in this year’s “Big Momma’s House 3: Like Father Like Son” movie (fattening his wallet with $40,000 to $50,000 for the five-month gig, he says). He’s also a sculptor, propmaker, costume designer and exhibit builder. This guy is Smithsonian-trained.

The evidence is everywhere in his studio. It is Halloween 365 days a year in the 4,000-square-foot space, with disembodied heads hanging from the rafters, collections of skulls and glass eyeballs in display cases, and shelves overflowing with hands and arms. The skeleton he made for the 1994 movie “Nell,” with the daisies Jodie Foster placed in its eye sockets, hangs on the wall. An arm from the 1993 real-horror flick “Kalifornia,” starring Brad Pitt and David Duchovny, collects dust on a shelf.

The overriding theme of the work may be dark but not all of it is meant to frighten. The largest table in the studio during a recent visit features a clay sculpture of the Three Blind Mice, characters commissioned by the Entertainment Design Group for a family holiday show. It’s for Gaylord Entertainment’s “Christmasy DreamWorks Experience,” coming to Oxon Hill, Md., on Nov. 18.

A dozen print images of the mice, the models, are set up as a backdrop to the wire-frame armature. More than 35 sculpting tools lay on the table around it. Freitas turns his effort to a mouse he’s sculpting. The specs call for the commission to withstand freezing temperatures that characterize the winter show.

That means he can’t attach fur separately and must texturize the exterior of the mouse to look like hair movement. He pulls out a small strip of thick plastic and explains how to bring out the clay a little more. From there he shows photos of the 17-foot fish he designed for the McCormick & Schmick’s restaurant chain. He built four of the fish, which took eight weeks apiece and cost $40,000 each. A cast of the head of the giant 24-foot dinosaur he did for Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta sits in the back.

Freitas discovered a love for creating ghouls and goblins in 1979, when his mother bought him a Mighty Men & Monster Maker kit. She died shortly afterward of ovarian cancer. His father was a specialist engineer for Lockheed, and the family lived in Iran and Singapore. But after his wife died, Freitas’ father decided to take a job in Georgia to provide more stability for his two boys.

As a freshman in high school, Freitas adopted a friend’s interest in special effects and began devouring books and magazines on the subject. Soon, he was building props and applying makeup to other kids. A photo album shows his first efforts at creating an old man out of a teenager.

Freitas said his father was largely supportive. Even so, plaster, paint and makeup can be expensive. At 15, he got a job at Ace Hardware to get discounted materials.

Freitas’ senior class went to Washington for a week to learn about how the government works. His father contacted the Smithsonian Institution’s Office of Exhibits to ask if his son might have a tour – his way of encouraging his son to check into government work. He wanted to convince the young man that it might not be as boring as he thought. The Office of Exhibits graciously agreed, and Freitas went, carrying his portfolio, which by now included three years of his teenage work.

A few weeks after he returned from the trip, a letter arrived in the mail: The Office of Exhibits asked whether he would like to be an apprentice. He started the day after he graduated. The internship lasted four months. He was the only person at the American University dormitory who wasn’t in college. His roommate was in law school.

Freitas said he started college but that it just didn’t make sense for him. They wanted him to work too slowly, and what’s more, they wanted him to pay for it. When he landed his first commission at age 20 – for $80,000 – even his father stopped talking about the value of an education.

After his time at the Smithsonian, he went to Los Angeles for a few months, then opened his studio in Marietta. The Smithsonian offered him a job shortly after he had signed the lease, so he declined.

Next month, AFX Studios will hit the 20-year mark. Staying in Georgia has made him a better artist, Freitas insists as he clicks through photos of his work on a giant computer screen. Next to him stand two life-size characters from the Cartoon Network movie “Level Up,” which will air this month.

The movie is about four high school kids battling “trolls, ghouls and a dark leader” after they’re inadvertently released from a video game into the real world. One of the characters is made in the likeness of a Minotaur. Scraps of leather from the costume lay in a bucket on the floor.

What seems most amazing to Freitas is that he gets the opportunity to work with people like Greg Nicotero, executive producer of “Walking Dead” and the N in KNB EFX Group.

“I get to work with people I read about as a kid,” he said. “Who could ask for more than that?” And with that comes the closest thing to a smile yet.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Ice Cream Cthulhu... Art Noveau and Tentacles...

Peanut butter in my chocolate.  Sexy well drawn ladies, tentacles, and ice cream.  Check out the amazing work of illustrator/designer/artist Echo Chernik!  I love her fancy pants theatre posters.  I think the combo of horror and art nouveau is really snazzy.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Studies in Scary - Wait Until Dark

Scott and I recently ventured to the Gene Siskel Film Center to catch a screening of Terence Young’s 1967 thriller Wait Until Dark, starring Audrey Hepburn, Alan Arkin, and Richard Crenna. The film, based on Frederick Knott’s play of the same name, tells the story of a blind woman who finds herself in the path of a group of violent criminals searching for lost drugs.

SPOILER ALERT! This conversation divulges in detail many of the scary twists and turns of the film. If you haven't seen Wait Until Dark, you probably won't want to read this!

Scott: So. In your opinion. Does Susy, Audrey Hepburn’s character in “Wait Until Dark,” have to be the World’s Champion Blind Lady, or are her husband’s expectations just way too high?

Casey: I don’t think they’re necessarily her husband’s expectations - she puts a lot of pressure on herself to return to a life as normal as she can make it. I also think she enjoys the challenge and enjoys showing her husband what she’s learned and how far she’s progressing, not unlike any committed relationship where one partner wants to make the other proud. The first time you saw the film, did you suspect the husband of any foul play?

S: No, he seems like a sap to me. One of those “aw shucks” kinda guys who wears his heart on his sleeve. But then, his character really doesn’t get much time to show us too much more than that. But speaking of foul play, there’s a lot of that. Alan Arkin is one bad motherfucker. Did you have any idea he could be so cold?

C: Well, his performance is so stylized and his persona larger than life, but he also seems to be symbolic of that era in America. So, I didn’t know what to expect from him, really, although he is a total creep. Ha, but then you see him create these characters for Susy - Roat Jr. and Roat Sr. - and he’s so consumed by them, it's so silly.

S: Yeah, it’s kind of ridiculous that his first strategy is playacting, and when that doesn’t work he jumps straight to murder. COLD AS ICE!!!

C: Hehehe, yeah. I was surprised by the Mike character - maybe because he’s handsome - but I didn’t expect him to go as far along in the plot as he did. He never really flinched, and at some point I bought into the character he created for Susy - he had a calming effect on the both of us.

S: He’s good. Everyone else underestimates her. And she knows they will. I love the “Mr. Roat, are you looking at me?” moment, which is a callback from a moment she shares with her husband. He says yes reflexively, he can’t imagine how she could hurt him in that moment. Or it may just be basic social sensitivity, even for the bad guy, when a blind person asks “Are you looking at me?” you answer them. I love watching her use her other heightened senses to her advantage.

C: Totes. This movie was really exciting for me. You’re watching a luminous Hepburn in this awful situation and you just want to scream through the film to her and save her. The storytelling was really impressive - I love how we learn what she can and cannot do inside her own home - the tricks she uses to get around and what trips her up. Then allll of that is put into play as the movie progresses. I love the use of the neighbor girl, Gloria, who we know is a pain in the ass sometimes, and Susy is so forgiving and kind to her, ultimately, which is very important to the story, because she really needs her on her team and comes to rely on her in an incredible way.

S: Yeah, I like how her abilities are revealed very patiently. I remember when I first saw it, she comes home and somebody was just smoking a cigarette in her place and I thought, “BULLSHIT! She’d smell that!” Then of course, she says “Gloria I know you’re there” but we don’t know why and then 10 minutes later, she says “Gloria’s been sneaking cigarettes again.” She’s very sly. She collects information constantly, and is thoughtful, especially later in the film, about how she reveals what she’s noticed.

C: Let’s talk about what scared you in the film - what aspects of movie magic were you most affected by?

S: It’s got great suspense and the apartment has a claustrophobic feel. It’d be scary enough if she weren’t blind, but the fact that she is heightens everything beyond your standard thriller. It’s that childhood fear of waking up in the middle of the night and knowing in your guts there’s someone in your room, or someone in the hallway, they can see you but you can’t see them. Through Susy we’re reminded of that fear of being watched by an enemy we can’t see.

C: Agreed. Awesome apartment though, huh?

S: Awesome? It’s ground floor. You’d never live there.

C: Only because I have before and will never go back. And I didn’t see any bugs in her place.

S: Does “Wait Until Dark” feel like a horror film to you? It has one of the most famous jump scares of all time.

C: Well, I fa SHO screamed out loud in the theater when it happened! It’s really, really suspenseful, the action moves at a great pace and you just feel like Susy is falling deeper and deeper into quicksand and you’re hoping like hell she’ll make it out. But, very little blood and gore. Although, there are four murders, so, that’s pretty horrific. That’s about half the cast.

S: But is there anything that makes it a horror film, and not a suspense thriller? How is it different from ‘The Pelican Brief’?

C: My favorite! Good question, though. Maybe it isn’t. You definitely get the heeby jeebies and a knot in your stomach the entire film. It’s a character study in the evil within human beings and how far people will go for base satisfactions like money. What do you think?

S: I think that’s all true. For me it’s her blindness. That’s what makes it a horror film. She’s living through her nightmare, especially when she’s exposed to fire. We can see it, but she can only smell it, or when Roat puts it up to her face, FEEL it. That’s horrifying, but then the film also brings you into this awesome Dark Place late in the story. The “Tap! Tap! Tap!” scene. It’s completely pitch black, like she thrusts her mental and physical world onto him. And soaks him in gasoline. I think that’s the horror element though, knowing that she’s experiencing the events in total darkness because that’s her life.

C: Yeah, exactly, that’s how she lost her sight, right, in a car accident fire. Well said! Man, the “Tap! Tap! Tap!” scene is great! I loved watching her smash all the lightbulbs and you’re thinking she’s planning to sink whoever comes back for her into darkness and instead of just leveling the playing field she now has the advantage. Wow, and how she forgets about the light in the fridge, at the end of the Tap scene, and she hears the motor and is completely devastated. That moment also represented for me how much pride she takes in being able to negotiate her new blindness and she’s crushed because she feels like she’s failed. The film is really very well written, well constructed, and so suspenseful. When I get to the bottom of my queue, that’s the first one I’m re-watching. :)

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween clean-up

Some know November 1st as All Saint’s Day, All Hallow’s Day, or Hallow-mass; some know it as the rather more festive Dia de los Muertos. For many of us, however, it signals that the Halloween season is over, and we have only 364 days to prepare for the next one.

Some of the smells are hard to get rid of…