All posts by rmw

Interview: Gabriel Carrer on In the House of Flies


[Canadian indie director Gabriel Carrer’s indie horror In the House of Flies is one of the more cerebral and disturbing entries in the abduction horror genre. Parts of this interview appeared at nightflight,com]

Richard Whittaker: So what was the origin of the project, and what drew you to it in the first place?

Gabriel Carrer: Well, Angus McLellan wrote it back in the year 2001. It was before the Saw franchise even existed, and he wrote it in film school as a piece he could direct. I didn’t know him back then, but ten years later he and I got close, and I was itching to do a project, but I didn’t have any investors or funders at the time. So I said, I just want to dive into something, do you a script? He goes, I have this one script. I think it was originally entitled The Hole, and it was a lot different. It was a basement, but it was more of a hole. So I read the script in one night, and just went, ‘this is great. We can totally do this for no money. We change a few things, we make it into a basement,’ and he was like, sure.

I wanted to do something heavy on relationships and dialog, and I think as a director you need to practice all kinds of mediums, and this was one medium that was lacking in my life. Exercising that muscle of just two people in a room, talking. There are so many movies that have done it, so it was something that I wanted to do. That was what drew me to it, that there are two people in a room, and how you can make that interesting for 85 minutes. The camera angles, and all that stuff, you’re really learning as a director, and that’s where the project drew me in, because I knew it would be challenging to do.

Continue reading Interview: Gabriel Carrer on In the House of Flies

Interview: Adam West (2011)

What’s the difference between being typecast and becoming a pop culture icon? For Adam West, it all comes down to a knowing wink to the audience. In 1966 he went from bit-part actor in TV shows and spaghetti westerns to getting a dream role: To bring a four-color version of DC’s Batman to TV. It’s hard to overestimate the show’s impact on pop culture and on West. The producers cranked out 120 episodes and one 90 minute film of knockabout dayglo fun in under three years, creating catchphrases that resonate with people who have never seen the show and boxing West into a niche as campy, hammy actor. It’s been almost 46 years since the Batman film got its world premier, and it seems that West has finally made peace with the role that defined his career. Now the circle is complete: Instead of him being associated with Batman, Batman stands in his shadow as he has become the ultimate post-modern film star.  “The movie has withstood the test of time,” he said, “And so have I.”


Richard Whittaker: Between the film, the original series, and cameos in cartoons, Batman has been part of your life for four decades. How did you get the part?

Adam West: I’d been in Europe doing some films (including The Relentless Four) after doing a series (The Detectives) here with the late Robert Taylor for NBC. Before I left, I did a series of commercials for Nestlé in which I did sort of a James Bond spoof. I found out late that the producers at Fox and ABC had seen those commercials, and evidently I impressed them in so far as they thought, “Hey, this is the turkey to play Batman.” I think they liked my sense of humor. You might too, if you get to know me. Continue reading Interview: Adam West (2011)

Interview: Mick Foley (2003)

(Back in 2003, I had the chance to sit down with legendary wrestler Mick Foley. A WWE Hall of Famer, the former king of the death match had defied expectations by becoming a household name, and then pushed expectations even further by becoming a best-selling writer through his autobiographies. I talked with him just as his debut novel, Tietem Brown, was being published.)

Richard Whittaker: So what inspired your new book, Tietam Brown?

Mick Foley: It was actually inspired by the movie Affliction, with Nick Nolte and James Coburn. I really loved the movie, but thought it was flat-out miserable. There was really never any sense of hope whatsoever. So I wanted to do a father/son story, but I wanted to make the father considerably more charming than the James Coburn character was. At the same time, I wanted to write him with the potential to be equally as horrible.

RW: It’s pretty dark, and a far cry from the more entertaining world of pro-wrestling.

MF: I think for a while in my book, it is a fun world. There are glimpses of that world, and the main character, Andy, has the potential to really be happy. I don’t why it got so damn dark, but it was written just after September 11, and I think I wanted to write a book about hope in the face of hopelessness.

RW: There does seem to be quite a lot of you, Mick Foley, in the book. Was that a conscious decision when you were writing it?

MF: I realized that what people really liked about the autobiographies was the voice, and the fact that it really felt like they were hanging out with me. Except it was more exciting, because in truth I’m not all that cool to hang out with. I thought well, if I’m a pretty good story teller and people like my voice when I’m using it for real, then I’m not going to re-invent the wheel. I took a trip to China and I was writing a short story. At the end of the writing, I kept having to go back and changing the ‘I’s and ‘my’s to ‘he’s and ‘his’s. So I re-did the short story as a novel and just kept it in the first person. Continue reading Interview: Mick Foley (2003)

Review: Tetsuo, the Iron Man (2010)

You never forget your first Tetsuo. Director Shinya Tsukamoto‘s 1989 industrial classic The Iron Man was a cold, hard slap across the face of film and music. Nearly two decades after the sequel, Body Hammer, he returns to his searing indictment of modernity and destructive capitalism.

The tetsuo – the iron man whose body is in rebellion as the organic transforms into metal – is different in every film. Photographer-turned-actor Eric Bossick takes the lead this time as Anthony, an American salaryman and familyman living in Tokyo with his Japanese wife and their child.

Continue reading Review: Tetsuo, the Iron Man (2010)

Review: The Life and Death of a Porno Gang (2010)

Part of the remit of Fantastic Fest is to shock: And it’s hard to imagine that anything this year will push more buttons than Serbia’s The Life and Death of A Porno Gang.

Porno Gang treads very similar ground to A Serbian Film, the extreme shocker that stretched even the hardest of genre fans to breaking point at this year’s SXSW. Both deal with the traumatic melding of sex and death in the post-civil war Balkans, as a bunch of sexual libertines get themselves caught up in the strange and fetid world of snuff cinema. That said, Porno Gang is far less gruesome than Serbian Film. That also being said, that’s rather like describing a blast furnace as cooler than the surface of the sun.

Continue reading Review: The Life and Death of a Porno Gang (2010)

Review: Summer Wars (2010)

summerwars The funny thing about modern technology is that it’s everywhere: Even in rural Japan, it seems like everyone has email, two blogs and a Tumblr account. The remarkable Summer Wars may be one of the first movies to really approach that ubiquity, and not come off as bad cyberpunk.

Along with nitro-speedster Redline, Summer Wars is the second film from Madhouse Studios at FF 2010, but it’s a virtual world removed. Categorizing it is a near-impossibility: Sort of slice-of-life, sort of techno thriller, sort of action flick, not solely anything.

Continue reading Review: Summer Wars (2010)

Interview: Davis Guggenheim on Waiting for ‘Superman’ (2010)

(In 2010 I interview Davis Guggenheim, director of An Inconvenient Truth and It Might Get Loud, about his education documentary Waiting for ‘Superman’, for the Austin Chronicle.)

Richard Whittaker: What was your intention when you started making Waiting for ‘Superman,and how did it change during filming?

Davis Guggenheim: It’s amazing when you start doing press for a movie, and you start to realize these things you didn’t know. And I just thought of this right now, this idea that it’s a horror movie, and you wonder who the killer is, and you realize the killer is you. I went and said, “I’m going to find out what the real forces are behind our broken schools,” and I’m a lefty, I’m a Democrat, and I believe in unions, but I realized that the Democratic party, my party, hasn’t been doing what it should have been doing because it’s been getting money from the teachers’ unions to ignore the problems, to ignore the kids they should have been serving. I believe that unions are essential, and I’m part of a great union, and I was with my dad shooting documentaries in coal mines talking about the dignity of the worker, but the unions are this weird force that’s keeping our schools down.

RW: How does that work in Texas, where unions are effectively castrated, and teachers, far from having tenure, are on year-to-year contracts?

DG: But in Texas you still have 206 drop-out factories, 206 high schools where more than 40% of kids don’t graduate, and I suspect that for every drop-out factory there are five or 10 other schools that are pushing their kids through so they can have a great education and be productive citizens. Even though Texas doesn’t share a lot of the things that other states share, there’s still a chronic problem that states have different standards, and we have these huge bureaucracies that determine where money goes, and it usually means it’s not going to the school. We still have all this wonkish ideology to determine what should be taught, and we still have no idea what it takes to make a great teacher, how to assess a great teacher. So I imagine that a lot of the problems are the same, even though across the border some of the contracts are different.

Continue reading Interview: Davis Guggenheim on Waiting for ‘Superman’ (2010)

Interview: Emily Pyle on Burned (2010)

burnedSometimes there’s no feel-good ending when the underdog stands up to the powers that be, no matter how terrible the injustice. In 2007, former child inmate Joseph Galloway became the face of all the victims at the Texas Youth Commission: The terrible beatings and sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of staff and inmates at the Giddings State School made headlines, and his case turned out to be the first few rounds in a grueling fight to fix a broken state agency. After the police investigations started, big promises were made by lawmakers about fixing TYC and making amends to the thousands of children who had passed through its locked gates.

Continue reading Interview: Emily Pyle on Burned (2010)

Interview: TNA in 2008

(A little wrestling flashback here: in 2008, TNA Wrestling was the insurgent pro-wrestling promotion in America. Now it’s all but dead, and just about everyone interviewed here – Booker T., Christian, Robert Roode, and Eric Young – is now with the WWE in some context or other)

Backstage at the TNA Wrestling event at the Travis County Expo Center last Thursday, five-time WCW champion Booker T swept the curtain aside. Twenty minutes earlier, he’d been wiped out by a chair shot delivered by Robert Roode. He’d then stood in the ring and signed autographs with fans. In the dressing room, he grins.

“Another day at the office, baby,” he says before swapping compliments with Roode. The same Roode who tried to crack his skull in the ring.

Continue reading Interview: TNA in 2008

Interview: Weird Al Yankovic (2010)

weirdal(In 2010, Weird Al visited Austin to play the Fun Fun Fun Fest. It’s not often you get to interview a true cultural icon, but here’s a fragment of my Q&A with him for the Austin Chronicle.)


Richard Whittaker: When you visited Austin in May to screen your movie UHF, a lot of people were disappointed you didn’t sing.

Weird Al Yankovic: I just felt so terribly bad that they weren’t able to schedule an Austin show for our summer tour that when the opportunity to do Fun Fun Fun Fest came up, I jumped at it. We don’t normally do one-offs. We usually only do shows that are part of an extended tour, but this was something I really wanted to do.
Continue reading Interview: Weird Al Yankovic (2010)