Slice n’ Dice: The Slasher Film Forever, a new documentary from High Rising Productions (the company behind many excellent DVD special features for Arrow Films, Synapse and Grindhouse) takes an often irreverent look at the Slasher genre with commentary from some of its top auteurs including Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chain Saw Massacre), Mick Garris (Masters of Horror), Tom Holland (Child's Play), Patrick Lussier (My Bloody Valentine 3D), Jeffrey Reddick (creator: Final Destination), Adam Green (Hatchet), and Scott Spiegel (producer: Hostel series). We spoke to the High Rising team - director Calum Waddell and editor/animator Naomi Holwill to find out more.
Starburst: Slice n’ Dice features some rare personalities like Kevin Tenney who directed Night of the Demons. How did you decide upon your interviewees for the film?
Calum Waddell: A lot of it came down to who I knew personally. I'm lucky to have worked as a film journalist for a decade now, mainly writing about horror and sci-fi, so I cannot tell you how lucky it was that I could contact someone like Kevin directly and ask them to come onboard. It was the same process for almost everyone that we shot for Slice n’ Dice - except for the occasional name like Tobe Hooper, who we got whilst we filmed him for the Arrow Blu-ray release of The Funhouse, and Corey Feldman, who I met at a convention and who kindly agreed to give us his time. We never knew if this labour of love would ever be released, or even be completed, so I really only felt comfortable asking people I had some sort of previous connection with to get involved with it.
Naomi Holwill: Through his years of film journalism, Calum has built up a fantastic book of contacts and friends. Some of the interviewees came from this, and others were new contacts that we were lucky enough to make. Every person we filmed has worked on a slasher movie in one way or another - or at least drawn considerable inspiration from the genre – and we have some very interesting directors, stars, special effects people, writers and producers. Most importantly, every one of them is a massive horror fan!
Slice n’ Dice is obviously a labour of love for all concerned. How did the project develop over its three years of production?
Calum: Well we originally started it as just a little featurette. We were working on a great Spanish slasher movie called Pieces for Arrow and as we had no idea of what to do for it we decided that maybe we could do a little 20 minute featurette on 'how to survive a slasher film' - just something general. That was put on the back burner when, in 2010, we were able to get Jack Taylor for Pieces and that project took its own shape instead. So we opted to expand on what we had and turn this into a feature length project, purely as our own thing and with just myself and Naomi calling the shots. This was a no budget side project for us and done with a lot of love but not a penny to its name. We also had a great guy called Joe Venegas in LA who took care of some things for us out there. He has been a dear friend for a decade now and I really have to mention him. Most of Slice n’ Dice was, however, shot with just Naomi and myself and one camera. This is proper guerrilla filmmaking so to have you, or anyone, compliment it is just the biggest honour.
Naomi: As Calum said, Slice n’ Dice began life as an extra feature for the release of Pieces - it was devised to be short and sweet! It grew and evolved into a project that Calum and I are very proud of. We really enjoyed the whole process – meeting all of the people we filmed, and also creating the finished piece. Before I began working as an editor, I was an illustrator/graphic designer – I tried to bring some of this into Slice n’ Dice with my animation. We tried to give this little no-budget documentary a very personal and unique look.
Calum: Naomi is incredibly talented and never gets enough recognition for all the hard work she does on these projects - she spent months editing Slice n’ Dice and also filmed and animated everything you see. So I'm happy to be able to mention that!
You recently made a 50 minute documentary on Joe Pilato for inclusion on the Day of the Dead Blu-ray. What were highlights, for you, of making this documentary? Any interesting titbits from Captain Rhodes that you’d be willing to share?
Calum: We actually made this in 2009 and it was released in early 2010. That was our very first project for Arrow Video. It was daunting because Naomi had to learn to edit on the job - we actually bluffed our way into making special features - but I knew that I wanted something more than the usual 8 minute puff-piece you saw on so many horror DVD releases. I knew Joe Pilato would have some interesting stories and, thankfully, I was right. The success of Day of the Dead, and the acclaim given to our additional features, really got Arrow to trust with many other catalogue releases and for that I have to thank the fans and Joe Pilato. It all started with Captain Rhodes.
Naomi: Joe Pilato was a very interesting person to meet – he was an excellent interviewee and he was amazing with the fans! He was happy to play Captain Rhodes and never got tired of repeating the famous catch phrases for his admirers whenever he was asked. We have made quite a few extra features for a range of different films now, but I will always have a soft spot for Day of the Dead. I can actually quote whole segments of the movie!
Tell us about your next documentary, 42nd Street Memories: you have another fascinating line up with people like Lynn Lowry, Frank Henenlotter, Jeff Lieberman…
Calum: Goodness knows when that will ever be edited and done, because it is such an enormous undertaking! Naomi has an incredibly busy editing schedule and we really want to edit together our Scream Queens documentary when we get a break. I think that will be out there before 42nd Street, it is our toast to all of the wonderful horror heroines out there, spanning many generations. But 42nd Street Memories will be really interesting when it is finally done - it is a document of that infamous street, the films that played there, the theatres, the crime, the craziness and the reasons it was eventually shut down. We have some amazing stories. I just hope the fans like it and feel it is well researched. We have a trailer available on YouTube.
Naomi: The stories about 42nd Street and its history are fascinating – the grindhouse films that played in the theatres there often revolved around violence and sex, and the street outside had many of its own adventures and scandals too! It was the place to go for any vice you were looking for. We only spoke to people that went there and experienced it – some of our interviewees also made films that played there. I can’t wait to get started on editing this film – the stories we have are too good to keep under wraps for long!
You filmed Dario Argento and Daria Nicolodi for the Arrow release of Inferno. What was it like meeting these two legends?
Calum: It was great - we met Dario and Daria for the first time in 2010 and then we shot Dario again late last year for the upcoming American Blu-ray of Demons which is from Synapse Films. Dario is a real gentleman and it was an honour to meet him as Suspiria is one of my favourite movies of all time. Not just a favourite horror movie but a favourite movie. Full stop. Daria, I believe, was a big part of Dario's most creative and rewarding period. It is perhaps no accident that after she left his side, with Opera, his films were never as good again. I was excited to meet her as well and she is funny and warm-hearted - I hope I have the chance to do something with her again.
Naomi: It was an honour to meet both of them – I am a huge fan of Argento’s early work and rate Deep Red and Suspiria among some of my favourite genre films. Daria Nicolodi is a lovely lady, very intelligent, creative and kind. I found her inspiring!
What are your distribution/exhibition plans for Slice n’ Dice?
Calum: Well it is out on May 13th from 88 Films in the UK on a two DVD set. As for the rest of the world? Who knows. We need to get a new cut together which eliminates some of the footage that has only been cleared for the British release. But Naomi is but one person and she only has so many hours during the day. I really should learn how to edit!
Naomi: Slice n’ Dice has played at several film festivals in 2012/2013, from European festivals to the US, to South Africa. We also have interest for release outside the UK but I need to get a new edit done... so little time and so much to do .
What’s next for High Rising Productions?
Calum: We just got done on new stuff for Baron Blood, Motel Hell and Foxy Brown for Arrow. I just saw Naomi's cut of our blaxploitation documentary which we did for Foxy Brown last night and it is really, really good - it is 25 minutes long and really gives you a great insight into this often controversial genre of seventies cinema. I think the fans will enjoy it. And we have the 1974 shocker Deranged coming up for Arrow - for which we were able to get the full involvement of special effects genius Tom Savini, a real icon and a personal idol of mine. It was such an honour to get to work with him on this project. I am a big fan of Deranged, it is a crazy little film and I had the pleasure of interviewing the producer, Bob Clark, before he died so this will also be included in the booklet to the release. We have lots more Arrow stuff upcoming too - some real classics - and also Demons 1 and 2 for Synapse and Cannibal Holocaust for Grindhouse which is happening. In fact, just before this interview Bob Murawski emailed me about it. Of course, he's about as busy as it gets, but when this comes out it will be the ultimate edition of Cannibal Holocaust. We recorded an amazing new audio commentary with the stars Francesca Ciardi and Carl Yorke for that movie and that alone is just brilliant - the two really bounce off one another. I've also just penned new booklets for 88 Films, for their Blu-ray releases of The Pit and the Pendulum and Castle Freak. Hopefully, our Scream Queens documentary will follow and then probably pleading with Arrow to give us a new contract, it's not easy out here in freelance land!
Naomi: We are very excited about our next feature length project – Scream Queens. This will be a very insightful documentary featuring nothing but ladies! We were lucky enough to get some really wonderful people for this including Elvira, Brinke Stevens, Debbie Rochon, Danielle Harris, Sybil Danning, Michelle Bauer, Lisa Wilcox, Melanie Kinnaman, Irina Voronina, Christa Campbell, Adrienne King and many more. We also have some great titles to work on for Arrow Video – watch this space as there are going to be some great surprises from them this year!
Slice n’ Dice is released on Blu-ray/DVD May 13th.
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