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Back to Chelsea…
for Nightmare Cinema’s US Premiere

November 29th, 2018

It’s the summer of 1977. I’m crashing at my brother Mark’s apartment at Hotel Chelsea, dreaming of following in the footsteps of other writers who used that iconic landmark as their home base in New York City. It’s the place where Arthur C. Clark worked on 2001: a Space Odyssey, where Alan Ginsburg revolutionized American poetry, and where Dylan Thomas drew his final breath. It’s also where Nancy Spungen (girlfriend of Sid Vicious) was found stabbed to death. But that was a little later. For me, in the summer of 1977, it was a great place to launch some writerly dreams.

(Above) Hotel Chelsea, back in the day. (Right) Brother Mark and the 21st Century Scop with significant others in front of the Aristocrat Deli, next door to Hotel Chelsea, 1977.

Then, as now, Hotel Chelsea is flanked by the Aristocrat Deli on one side and a theatre on the other. But although the deli is the same, the theatre has changed. Back then, it was a performance space called the Squat Theatre – an experimental venue frequented by the likes of Andy Warhol and Nico.

Today, Hotel Chelsea is cover in scaffolding, its distinctive red-and-white canopy (a newer version of the one shown above) hidden in a cavern of interlocking metal beams as the building undergoes a long-overdue renovation that began in 2016. Work is expected to continue into next year.

The Aristocrat Deli is much as before, but Squat Theatre is gone, replaced by the gleaming facade of Cineopopolis Chelsea, a massive movie theatre that later this evening will host the US premiere of Nightmare Cinema.

(Above) Hotel Chelsea under renovation. (Right) Squat Theatre at 256 West 23rd, as it looked shortly after its opening in 1977.

Today’s screening of Nightmare Cinema is part of the New York City Horror Film Festival, where I’ll soon be joining Producer-Director Mick Garris and Artistic Director Lauren Fitzsimmons for the opening-night event.

Also on hand will be filmmaker Nick Schwartz (who is currently developing an adaptation of my story “Prime Time!”). Nick will be joined by Dave Conte and Matt Braunsdorf. Their script The Blood Grinder is a finalist in the festival’s scrip competition. It should be an exciting night.

Cineopolis Chelsea, on the site formerly occupied by Squat Theatre. 

Nightmare Cinema screens this evening at 7:00 PM. This will be your chance to see it before its general release to theatres and streaming in early 2019. If you’re in town, I’ll hope to see you there.

Also on the bill tonight is “Inked,” a short film by director Kyra Gardner.

The program runs through the weekend.

I’ll post some updates soon. Until then … scop on!

Nightmare Cinema Bought for 2019 Release

November 10th, 2018

A couple of interesting links this week.

The first arrived a few days ago from G. Brandon Hill, Executive Director of Acquisitions and Distribution at Good Deed Entertainment. It’s a link to an exclusive piece in Variety that includes the long-awaited details about Nightmare Cinema’s release.

According to the article:

Cranked Up Films has partnered with AMC Network’s streaming platform Shudder to buy North American distribution rights to Cinelou Films’ Nightmare Cinema

Although not mentioned in the article, I have it on good authority that a release to physical media (DVD and Blu-Ray) is also in the cards. You can read the complete article here.

Also of interest is a post at the blog-site of World-Fantasy-Award nominee Michael Liebling, in which he considers how “Traumatic Descent” became Nightmare Cinema‘s “This Way to Egress.” You can read Michael’s account of the story’s dramatic ascent here.

And finally, I’ll leave you with a video in which Joe Dante talks about his contribution to Nightmare Cinema. The interview was shot last summer at Fantasia Fest, but the video was just posted this week. It presents an interesting overview of the anthology format and some insightful comments on the changing face of cinema.

 

A World of Nightmares:
Latest Festival News and Reviews

October 21st, 2018

Two weeks after its UK Premiere at Grimmfest, Nightmare Cinema is continuing its run of successful festival screenings, winning fans and garnering strong reviews in the process.

In an earlier post, I listed some of the screenings scheduled for October and November. Since then, new screenings have been announced in Dublin, Melbourne, and New York City — all of which should (hopefully) bring us closer to a big west-coast premiere and a release to theatres and home video.

A few months ago, following Nightmare Cinema‘s world premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal, I posted links to some of the film’s initial reviews here and here.

At left, a banner featuring Grimmfest Guest of Honor Barbara Crampton stands at the foot of an escalator leading to the Odeon Cinema. The renovated industrial site bears a resemblance to the L.A. locations for “This Way to Egress.” (Poster: Uncle Frank Productions)

This month, as a result of Nightmare Cinema‘s prominence on the film-festival circuit, the blogosphere is again buzzing with audience reactions, making this a good time for assembling another list of reviews.

Since many of the recent screenings have been in places like Latin America, Spain, France, and Austria, some of the blurbs below are translations. All are accompanied by links to the original posts. If you are proficient in any of the languages, feel free to submit corrections in the comment section below or on Facebook and Twitter (via the buttons at the top of this page).

At right: Writer Sandra Becerril and Producer/Director/Writer Mick Garris at Macabro in Mexico. (Photo: Sergio Becerril)

So here they are, a sampling of the latest round of viewer reactions from festival screenings:

“The most notable segments are the most aware of their nature: ‘Mirari,’ a grotesque look at the culture of aesthetic surgery, directed by Joe Dante; and the first episode, a parody of slasher cinema […], which Alejandro Brugues (Juan of the Dead) directs with conviction. Also very remarkable is ‘This Way to Egress’ by David Slade (Hard Candy), shot in elegant black and white, very morbid and dreamlike.” – espinof.com

At left: Sarah Withers in Alejandro Brugues’s slasher parody “The Thing in the Woods.” (Photo: Michael Moriatis)

“‘The Thing in the Woods,’ by Alejandro Burgués, is absolutely hilarious and one of the most original […]. ‘This Way to Egress,’ by David Slade, is based on the gritty […] aesthetic to which he accustomed us in his collaborations on Hannibal and American Gods. But my personal winner would undoubtedly be ‘Mashit,’ by Ryuhei Kitamura, a story of wild exorcisms […] that is an absolute catharsis to see.’ — almasocuras.com

At right: Director Ryuhei Kitamura at a live recording of Post Mortem with Mick Garris, following Nightmare Cinema‘s World Premiere at Fantasia International Film Festival. (Photo: Julie Delisle)

“The most disturbing entry is David Slade’s surreal black-and-white chiller […], which stars Elizabeth Reaser as a mother who seems to be experiencing apocalyptic hallucinations as she passes time in a doctor’s waiting area with her two sons. The situation doesn’t improve when she finally sees Doctor Salvador (Adam Godley), who seems entirely unruffled by what she tells him. Augmented by some unsettling effects work, the resolution is genuinely nightmarish and all the more effective for being under-explained.” — Nerdly.com

Director David Slade and director of photography Jo Willems set up a shot on the waiting-room set of “This Way to Egress.” (Photo: 21st-Century Scop)

“David Slade tells the story […] of a woman on the verge of nervous collapse, whose sense of reality seems to slip away more and more. Slade blurs the boundaries between reality and fiction in an oppressive way and delivers the darkest as well as the aesthetically most impressive contribution of the film.” — Uncut Movies

At right: Director David Slade, producer Joe Russo, and A.D. Joe Moore on the set of “This Way to Egress.” (Photo: Michael Moriatis)

“‘This Way to Egress’ is the episode that stands out. This is not only because it is completely black and white and shows more dynamic images than any other episode. The at-first-glance, quite-simple behavior of the woman, who seeks help because she cannot cope, reveals in her few dialogue scenes […] a little masterpiece that I would have liked to see in feature length.” – 100 Years of Terror

A technician walks a nightmarish corridor on one of the “Egress” sets. (Photo: Joe Russo)

“An anthology of five horror shorts from some very accomplished horror directors, all linked by a quirky and interesting host. These included a body horror/plastic surgery story, possession in a corrupt Catholic school, and my personal favorite “Egress”: a heart-wrenching black-and-white short concerning a mother’s descent into depression and disassociation during a difficult time in her life.” —  Visit Manchester

“Perfect for Black Mirror fans, Nightmare Cinema is a creepy anthology that ticks every box if you take your horror with a pinch of satire, gore and a whole lot of creep.” — Fraghero.com

“Without doubt the greatest horror anthology of the past thirty years […].” – Cult of Monster

At right: Mick Garris shooting Nightmare Cinema‘s wrap-around segments in the Rialto Theatre, South Pasadena. (Photo: Michael Moriatis)

Yeah! You gotta love that last review. And the buzz is still building. For now, I’ll leave you with an interview recorded at our UK Premiere, in which I tell Grimmfest programmer Simeon Halligan a bit of the story behind the writing and development of “This Way to Egress.” Check it out, and stop back here soon for more festival news and perhaps some details about the upcoming release to theatres and home video. Until this, scop on!

This Way to Egress:
The Manchester-Sheffield Connection

September 24th, 2018

Eighteen years ago. It’s spring. Filmmaker Charly Cantor and I are driving around Pittsburgh. It’s his first time in the States, having arrived the day before from London. He’s come to collaborate on a new film adaptation of my story “Traumatic Descent,” and today we’re out looking at locations, places that might provide backdrops for a tale about a slow-burn descent into madness.

We drive down Ohio River Boulevard, past the chemical plants and coke ovens of Neville Island and into the brick-and-brownstone environs of Pittsburgh’s North Side. Charly says it all looks familiar, like the area around Sheffield and Manchester, UK,  where he grew up with his friend David Slade. He tells me to slow down. Then he turns in his seat, looks back the way we’ve come. “That sign. Did it say Manchester?”

“Yeah. That’s where we are. Manchester. Pittsburgh’s North Side.”

“Can you stop?” He sees something else. “Stop here.”

I pull to the curb. He gets out and snaps a picture. That’s when I see where we are, on the corner of Fontella and Sheffield. He’s 4,000 miles from home, and he’s just arrived at Sheffield in Manchester. He can’t get over it. It’s not just the names of the places. It’s the look, the working-class feel of it. “When you come to England, I’m taking you to Manchester and Sheffield. You’ll see.”

Fast forward four months. Charly finishes the script (now titled This Way to Egress), and I’m in London to meet David Slade and talk revisions. We’re sitting in the Riba Cafe. Charly has his laptop on the table and we’re working through the script. It’s going well.

Perhaps too well.

Charly has arranged for a car to take us north to Manchester and Sheffield, but the work expands. In the days that follow, we get so caught up in it that we never get around to making the trip north.

Charly passed away in 2002. A tragic loss. He left behind two finished films: Appetite (1998), co-written with George Milton; and Blood (2000), which he wrote and directed.  He also left nearly a half-dozen finished scripts. All of them, including the feature-length adaptation of Egress, have yet to be filmed.

Fast forward again. Back to the present. Eighteen year’s after Charly snapped that picture on Pittsburgh’s North Side. Egress has been filmed, not as the feature that Charly and I worked on, but as a shorter version co-written with David Slade for the anthology film Nightmare Cinema. And next month that film has its UK premiere in … (wait for it) … Manchester, England.

You best believe I’ll be there.

The UK premiere of Nightmare Cinema is part of the 10th edition of Grimmfest, an international film festival held each year in Manchester. And so … at last … I’m going to get a look at the place that Charly described so vividly as we stood on that Pittsburgh corner in 2000.

The premiere will be held at the Odeon Theatre on Deansgate. October 6, 4:00 PM. Afterward, I’ll take part in a brief Q&A session. It’ll be like coming home.

Images:

  • The corner of Sheffield and Fontella in Manchester, Pennsylvania.
  • Charly Cantor working on our adaptation of This Way to Egress at Riba’s Cafe, London, July 2001.
  • Poster for Grimmfest 2018. More at Grimmfest.com.