Lady Killers

“Tortured Girl Trilogy.”  Yes, we know, we know.  The title brings to mind “torture porn.”  Perhaps it may even sound like a rip off of the Japanese “Guinea Pig” film series or “The Faces of Death.”  But alas, it is none of those things.  When we made our first short film “A Loving Memory,” we were just trying to keep our heads above water and make a movie.  That’s all, nothing more, nothing less.  Just make a damn movie.  We blame actor Melissa Malan for everything really.  If she wasn’t so damn good to us and made the making of ALM such a great experience, we never would have pressed forward with more.  But she was and we did.

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It was somewhere near the end of the ALM shoot that we got the idea of a trilogy, more specifically, a “Tortured Girl Trilogy”: three movies about women who lose their minds and resort to violence and murder as a means of making sense of the world.  We never wanted to make a series of films (or even one film  for that matter!) about women playing the stereotypical roles of the helpless victims.  Quite the opposite.  We like our ladies insane and in charge!  We’re certainly not the first to come up with the concept and we’re not reinventing the wheel, we were just making the kinds of movies that we wanted to see and the kinds of characters that we love: strong, independent women who don’t use their sexuality to solve problems, who aren’t victimized, who don’t depend on anyone to save them, and who keeps their clothes on!  Instead, they show that they’re just as tough and bat shit crazy as the boys can be.  No rape revenge storyline needed (Michael Myers didn’t have one!)  Just evil, rage, and madness, in their purest forms, hiding behind the eyes of a woman.

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We don’t have any misconceptions of what we’ve made.  We didn’t set out to start a revolution or empower anyone.  The “Tortured Girl Trilogy” is simply a set of three very inexpensive and very amateur (!) movies.  The same as thousands of other micro-budget films that get lost on the internet and are watched by, if we’re lucky, 500 people.

We just happen to have a liking for ladies that would sooner slash your throat than blow you a kiss.  Well, they might blow you a kiss as you bleed to death.

Below are the stories and meanings behind our “Tortured Girl Trilogy” which includes “A Loving Memory,” “Gless,” and “The Mockingbird.”  If you want to see any of them, just shoot us an email and we’ll happily oblige.

Stay Alive.

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The Best For Last

“Defenestration: The Art of Throwing Someone or Something Out of A Window”

That was the original title for the final installment of our “Tortured Girl Trilogy.”  And, in the beginning, it was nothing more than what would eventually become the ending of the movie.  Make sense?  There was going to be a nurse eviscerating a woman and then hanging her by her intestines.  That was basically it.  A little nonsensical dialogue up front to set up the story and mood and, what was to follow, was just supposed to be an elongated deranged dream sequence.

As was the case with “Gless,” I ran the idea past my confidant Melissa Malan and she not only gave it the green light, but said she wanted to know more about the two characters, that simply being weird is fine, but she felt like there was something more to be worked out here.  Eventually, one nurse became two and the eviscerated girl would become a sister who was pushed to the brink of madness.

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TWISTED SISTERS

From our little idea came a few months of late nights at the local Starbucks writing and re-writing.  Honestly, this movie was very easy to write.  It wasn’t as convoluted as “Gless” and yet it was more complex than “A Loving Memory.”  It was more exciting, had more action, and had what we felt were very cool, engaging, and creepy characters.  The eviscerated girl from our original idea became Madelyn Kennedy: a recent college graduate ready to take the world by storm and be all she could be.  She was the complete package of beauty, brains, ambition, sex appeal, and attitude.  She was primarily raised by her older sister Evelyn who took over the role of parent when their mother died and their father abandoned them.  At one point, Evelyn also had the same dreams as Madelyn, but she gave all that up to care for younger sibling.  Selfless, responsible, strong: Evelyn was the perfect guardian.  Once Madelyn was well on her way through college, Evelyn tried putting together the pieces of her own life and start anew.

Unfortunately, fate had another idea.

After Madelyn graduated from college, Evelyn was involved in a horrible car accident that left her a quadriplegic.  Madelyn was forced to take in Evelyn just as she was about to begin her adult life.  Now the roles were reversed, only Madelyn didn’t possess the same inherent virtues of family obligation and responsibility as Evelyn did so many years before.  Madelyn’s life became caring for her sister around the clock…and she resented her for it.  And as time went on and Madelyn became filled with more and more rage and self-pity, so did Evelyn, a woman who never got to experience all that her sister did.  Now both women were prisoners: Madelyn in her own home and Evelyn in her own body.

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NOWHERE NEAR HELL (AND EVEN FARTHER AWAY FROM HEAVEN)

Most of “The Mockingbird” is told through the use of flashback as Madelyn recounts the story of her and Evelyn to two faceless and wonderfully deranged nurses in 1950s style uniforms.  And that’s where shit gets weird.  Their idea of medicine and rehabilitation is pain and torture.  As is seen at the beginning of the movie, these two nurses are really Madelyn’s distorted interpretations of the nurses in an actual emergency room.  But as Madelyn slips back and forth between reality and fantasy, these two become the representations of her own guilt and remorse.  There’s also this doctor with a melted face and a fetish for scalpels and the “Orchid Thief” who is this angel / shadow-like being who tries to save Madelyn’s soul.  *Note*  The Orchid Thief has nothing to do with orchids or thievery.  We’re just fans of the movie “Adaptation” and thought it was a pretty cool name for a character.  *End Note*

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WHAT’S WITH THE TITLE?

So, why on Earth is a horror movie about two sisters who hate each other and themselves entitled “The Mockingbird”?  Well, obviously the first title of “Defenestration” wasn’t going to cut it anymore.  We had no ideas for a title, but that’s where the ever reliable Melissa Malan (who would go on to play the role of Evelyn) came in.  She suggested the title of “The Mockingbird” after comparing the story of Madelyn and Evelyn to a poem of the same title by Charles Bukowski.  We won’t explain away everything, but here’s the poem and you’ll see why it worked:

The mockingbird had been following the cat all Summer
Mocking, mocking, mocking
Teasing and cocksure;
The cat crawled under rockers on porches
Tail flashing
And said something angry to the mockingbird
Which I didn’t understand.

Yesterday the cat walked calmly up the driveway
With the mockingbird alive in its mouth,
Wings fanned, beautiful wings fanned and flopping,
Feathers parted like a woman’s legs,
And the bird was no longer mocking,
It was asking, it was praying
But the cat, striding down through centuries,
Would not listen.

I saw it crawl under a yellow car
With the bird
To bargain it to another place

Summer was over

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MAKING THE MOCKINGBIRD

With Melissa Malan on board to play the part of Evelyn Kennedy, we started looking for someone to fill the lead role of Madelyn.  Melissa suggested a former acting student from the Victory Gardens studio in Chicago named Rebecca Steer and it only took one meeting with her to realize she was perfect for the job.  It was just a gut feeling…as well as her persistence and assurance that she would be the best person to play Madelyn.  She was right and she delivered.  Much like our relationship with Malan, everything just clicked with Rebecca.  She was professional, courteous, dedicated, everything you could wish for in your lead.  Rebecca was an amazing actor to work with and she was even cool enough to play the lead in another “Herbi-short” entitled “How Deep Is The Rabbit Hole?” (more on that later.)  Steer brought Madelyn Kennedy to life and she embraced every aspect of the character.  She was also a trooper for agreeing to be strung up by her neck with cold, wet, rubbery intestines.

Two other characters that were as equally important as the sisters were the nurses Freeney and Mathis.  Actor Joelle Weber, a woman who had previously auditioned for us for the lead role in “Gless,” was a no brainer for the part of Nurse Mathis.  She was a friend of Malan’s and came highly recommended.  Unfortunately, we only got to work with Joelle this one time, but we can’t say enough good things about her.  Like Steer, she was enthusiastic, dedicated to the part, and made one Hell of a sadistic nurse!  The role of Nurse Freeney went to actor Kasey O’Brien, a woman we met while working on a play around the same time.  This was also the only time we got to work with Kasey, but she too was a very cool person and helped to bring to the screen one of our favorite characters that we’ve ever written.

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Rounding out the cast were actors Steve Ruppel as Dr. Garcon (both handsome and disfigured versions) and David McNulty as Dr. Bethea, another actor we met through the “Gless” audition and came to the rescue to play the role at the zero hour for us.

We had only two people in our crew, but they played multiple roles.  There was the ever reliable “Swiss Army Knife of Independent Filmmaking” Jenni Schenk who was our make up artist, special effects artist, art director, and lighting tech and Tony Colon working as cinematographer and brainstormer.

As was the case with all of our films, we were blessed to have had so many talented people involved that willingly gave their time and talent to this sick little movie and we are forever grateful.  We hope you guys had a good time making “The Mockingbird” and, ultimately, we hope that you are proud of what she became.

Filming went pretty smoothly, all things considered.  A four day shoot over the course of a month, three locations (one of which was a BDSM dungeon), and an end budget of about $1000 not including the Panasonic SDT-750 camera we bought shortly before production began.  The movie spent about three months in post-production and debuted as a part of “Herbi-Palooza 2011″ at the Viaduct Theater in Chicago on August 6, 2011 alongside “How Deep Is The Rabbit Hole?” and “You Are What You Eat,” both directed by Tony Colon and both of which can be found on this site’s “Short Films” page.

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WHAT’S THIS ABOUT A DUNGEON?!?!

One of the locations needed for the movie was a hospital room setting.  After calling and emailing several doctors’ offices and health clinics with no success, we felt pretty screwed and out of ideas.  And then, as fate would have it, a friend of a friend of a friend posted a Facebook post about their recent trip to a BDSM dungeon which featured, what else, a medical exam room!  We immediately hopped all over this and emailed the head mistress in charge who was actually not as intimidating as you might think!  She was a pretty cool person and we ended up renting out her place for a four hour time block.

Now, we knew our shoot was going to be a Hell of a lot less than four hours, but since we had access to such a cool space, we thought, “Why not use it?!”  So, we brainstormed with Tony Colon about what we could fill the other three plus hours up with.  It took only one night to conceive and write the Colon directed “How Deep Is The Rabbit Hole?” a five minute short film about a beautiful princess and her jester friend who are kidnapped by a large bunny and dragged down to his dungeon of sadomasochism.  Yes.  Yes.  One night to write, three hours to film, two nights to edit, and the Rabbit Hole has made it’s way into three film festivals around the U.S.!!

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IN CONCLUSION

“The Mockingbird” is the best movie we’ve made to date (and our favorite.)  It’s story is more comprehensible and linear than our others, it has the best production quality, the best sound, and it was a great experience to make.  We had an awesome time making this movie with everyone involved.  We got to play with some incredibly gooey and slippery intestines made by the J Banger Jenni Schenk, we got to cut through and tear up a prosthetic stomach, and we  had all sorts of fun with blood and entrails…what more could you want?!

2011 was a very productive year for Herbivore Productions.  We produced three movies and hosted our “Herbi-Palooza” to a packed house on the North side of Chicago.  Near the end of that year we made a goofy little short featuring a talking goat in a corset reviewing the movie “Salo,” in 2012 we produced an online cooking show entitled “Feed The Beast” (seven episodes) as well as some other short projects, and in 2013 we started up another online cooking series entitled “Snuggles With Huggles” and made a three minute short for the “ABCs of Death Part 2″ contest.  All of which have been a blast, but we really do miss the fun, stress, and excitement of taking on a larger film project like “The Mockingbird.”  Its not for a lack of trying, mind you, but making movies is rough on the brain and savings account.  We’re always trying to get other projects up and running and I doubt we’ll ever have a time in our foreseeable future in which we’re not thinking about a new film idea.

But if fate has other plans for Herbi and if “The Mockingbird” is our last movie, then she’s one Hell of a swan song.

Stay Alive.

Check out Shannon Rullo’s review and recipe for “The Mockingbird” at “The Cannibal Kitchen” (YUMMY STUFF!!)


A Cannibal, A Creep, and A Mascot Walk Into A Bar…

This one gets a little mushy.

After almost four years in the micro-budget movie game, we are still humbled and floored by the support we continue to get from fellow fans of the horror / creepy / what the Hell is wrong with you for liking this genre as well as our family, friends, and pets.

It hasn’t always been easy, in fact, its never been easy and we spend a good amount of time bashing our heads against the wall out of frustration and self-pity.  But man, when things click, it feels great.

Sure, we haven’t achieved any success in the way of money or fame (although that was our naive intention for entering this cut throat arena), but we learned a lot of hard lessons which made us realize that the reason why we continue to make movies and videos is out of love: the love of creating something new and original (and something that might make people squeamish and resent the fact they clicked the “play” button.)  We don’t know what the future holds, but one thing we do know is that we will continue to do what we do (whatever that is!) because there’ll always be ideas and nightmares to expand upon.  The thrill nowadays isn’t so much in the possibility of acquiring stardom, but the excitement of thinking up a new and ghastly character and letting them lose in the world.  Few people may ever see that soulless individual, but we hope those that do enjoy watching their psychopathic rampage and descent (and the blood and guts.)

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For those of you who have worked with us these past four years, hopefully you know how much we genuinely appreciate all you’ve done for us.  We couldn’t do any of this madness without you!!  Y’all are a bunch of sickos and psychos!!  And endless amounts of thanks, tears, and bear hugs go out to our fans, supporters, reviewers who gave us their time, and everyone who has helped spread the Herbi love like a rash.  Or pink eye.

Now, what has reduced our rusty razor blades to mushy lumps of affection and thanks?  Well, we just got talked up by a cannibal which reminded us of a creep…which reminded us that we would be nothing without support.

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We LOVE LOVE LOVE Shannon Rullo’s “Cannibal Kitchen” blog on ZombiesDontRun.net and not just because she was kind enough to help promote Herbi TWICE!!!

Shannon’s “Cannibal Kitchen” is the perfect fusion of gore and goodies making her the Julia Child of scary delicacies.  She creates original recipes based on horror films and even has a book to show for it!  Even if we weren’t making movies, we’d totally be fans of the Cannibal Kitchen (for crepe’s sake she whipped up a “Nekromantik” inspired NEKROMIXED VEGGIES dish!!)  This is good stuff.  READ THE CANNIBAL.  RESPECT THE CANNIBAL.  BUY THE BOOK to SUPPORT THE CANNIBAL!!

And while you’re at it, be sure to read Shannon’s reviews / recipes for our movies “The Mockingbird” and our submission to the “ABCs of Death Part 2″ “M IS For Mascot With A Machete”!!

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We met Kristin Wicks (a.k.a. Kreepylady Kristin) while hopping through the Twitter-sphere and soon learned that if you want to know all there is to know about knowing what’s going on in the Chicagoland area when it comes to all things spooky, disturbing, and weird, then Kristin is your girl!!  She writes the Chicago Creepout blog for “Chicago Now” as well as being the brains and brawn behind the Creepout’s Facebook and Twitter monsters.  Like Shannon, Kristin has shown support for Herbi and its quite the thrill knowing that a such a fan of the genre has got your back (so long as she isn’t holding a serrated blade against it.)  Thank you Kristin!!

Now, onto other news.

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Our submission to the “ABCs of Death Part 2″ letter M contest is still looking for you to LIKE it!!  “M is for Mascot With a Machete.”  Really, is there any need for us to tell you what its about?  If you haven’t yet, please follow this LINK to our movie and hit that little LIKE button above it.  Each LIKE is a vote and each vote gets us closer to being a finalist in the ABCs’ contest, the winner which just so happens to appear in the feature length, theatrical release.  That’s all, no big deal.

Blah, blah, blah…we’re still working on a feature length script and putting another short into pre-production.  AND we just go to help out filmmaker John Borowski with his own “ABCs of Death” submission which is probably going to be pretty fucking fantastic, just sayin’.  Thank you to John for bringing us in to assist (he already knows how much we love him.)

Stay Alive.


Mascots and Machetes…

Learning your ABCs has never been so much damn fun…or bloody!

Last year, Magnet released “The ABCs of Death” which was a feature length film comprised of 26 shorts directed by famous horror movie directors and one amateur, each short representing a letter of the alphabet and a way to die that begins with that letter.  They opened up the letter “T” to amateurs and the winner was a claymation vid for “T is for Toilet.”

Well, the ABCs were such a success, there’s gonna be a sequel and, once again, they’ve opened up a letter to amateurs for a chance to get into the feature.  This year, the letter is “M.”

We figured, “What the Hell?  Why don’t we get in on this action?!”  So we did…and $600.00, one day of filming, and two days of editing later, we came up with our 3 minute short M IS FOR MASCOT WITH A MACHETE.

We assembled a motley crew of players including James Whelan of Snarling Beast Productions and Shut The Door Productions here in Chicago to run the camera, lights, and sound, special effects make up artist Joe Mistretta of 4 Finger Effects from Chicago to provide all the gooey, bloody stickiness, and our very own Tony Walsh of “Feed The Beast” and “Snuggles With Huggles” to portray the very unfortunate victim.

You can watch our movie below, but if you wanna be really awesome and cast a vote for us to get into the feature release, then please visit: http://26th.abcsofdeathpart2.com/entry/m-is-for-mascot-with-a-machete/ and hit the LIKE button above the video (Please note that LIKING the video on Vimeo doesn’t count as a vote for the film, although we do appreciate your support!!)

Enjoy!!

M Is For Mascot With A Machete from Herbivore Productions on Vimeo.

Mascot

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I Have A Place For That!!

We really need to get to updating this blog more often!  So many things have happened since our last entry on August 6th, let’s start with a brand new episode of “Snuggles With Huggles.”  This time around, our very own spray paint huffing jester digs deep into his childhood, past all those fond memories of setting fires and watching scrambled cable porn, and pulls out a recipe for DEEP FRIED TWINKIES!!

As far as new projects go, we have a few movies in the works, each at various different stages of metamorphosis.  We’re  still chopping away at our (possibly) first feature length slasher film that, if all goes well, will go in to production this December.  Writer’s block has reared its disgusting, puss covered head again, but we’ve decided to bring out some reinforcements and we enrolled in a screenwriting class to help us through, not only the development of the story, but help us to better manage the formatting beast!

We’ve also moved another project further up the pre-production ladder: a short film about all the creepy crawlies that go bump in the night.  Can’t say too much just yet, but, suffice it to say: there’s a doll, a scarecrow, a clown, and a witch…and a heavy amount of blood and guts!!

Our latest, and most exciting development, comes in the way of our “ABCs of Death Part 2″ film contest submission.  The letter the “ABCers” are looking for from amateur filmmakers is “M” and we came up with a doozy of a script, have our actors in place, teamed up with a great cinematographer / everything man in James Whelan of Shut The Door Productions and Snarling Beast Films, and are currently looking for a SPFX make up artist to give our movie that extra touch of “Oh shit, that’s disgusting!”  Filming is set to start within a few weeks, so stay tuned for updates.

A couple of belated horror birthdays since our last entry: HAPPY BIRTHDAY (8-14-57)  to actor TONY MORAN, the face of Michael Myers in the original “Halloween.”  We had the privilege of meeting Mr. Moran at a Flashback Weekend horror convention in Chicago a few years back and he was a really cool guy.

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Also, HAPPY BIRTHDAY (9-7-40) to director DARIO ARGENTO, the genius behind some of our favorite horror movies of all time: “Opera,” “Deep Red,” “Tenebrae,” and, of course, “Suspiria.”

1999: DARIO ARGENTO, FILM DIRECTOR

Damn bloody Hell if this scene isn’t beautiful (from “Tenebrae”):

Lastly, we’d like to end this entry with a personal story that made us feel all warm and fuzzy.

At this year’s Flashback Weekend horror convention, we had the honor of meeting actress Nancy Loomis who played the role of Annie Brackett in the original “Halloween.”  Annie had always been my favorite babysitter / Michael Myers victim (Tawny Moyer a.k.a. Nurse Jill in “Halloween 2″ is a close second.)

Nancy was beautiful and elegant, gracious to her fans, and a true sweetheart.  Thanks for the autographs Nancy!!!  LOVE YOU!!!

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The “Most Disturbing Movie Ever”

We’re fans of Kreepylady Kristen and her Chicago Creepout Facebook page (which we highly suggest you LIKE right away, especially if you live in the Chicagoland area) and she posted a link today to a list of the 50 “Most F*cked Up Films That Disturb and Offend” according to Severin Severin on listal.com.

Now, it doesn’t take much to figure out that we here at Herbivore Productions love our movies F***ED up with a splatter of blood and a side of guts.  It’s easy for a movie to be scary.  All you need is low lighting, a quiet drone, a suspicious character looking around a doorway, and a loud crash from out of nowhere to make an audience jump and squeal.  Ho-hum, been there done that, desensitized, blah, blah, blah.  But what really gets our fluffy butts ruffled are the movies that aren’t so much scary as they are disturbing, which is to say they leave a lasting impression that makes us wish we could wash our brains of what we just saw.  However, you can’t unring a bell, as they say.  These movies don’t rely on the conventional means of getting an audience’s skin to crawl, sometimes there’s not even any blood.  It’s the tone and atmosphere they set.  It’s throwing in your face subject matter so dark and repulsive that it makes the viewer question not only the sanity of the filmmaker, but their own for actually watching it!  Now that’s good stuff!!

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However, one person’s “disturbing” is another person’s “boring.”  “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”  So is what one considers fucked up.  Take for example, Pier Pasolini’s “Salo: 120 Days of Sodom”, which our friends Kristyn The Goat and Gari The Critic reviewed here:

We’ve heard “Salo” referred to as “the most fucked up film ever!!” over and over and over again.  Of course, when a movie gets  a rep like that, you HAVE TO check it out, right?!  Well, we did…and thought it sucked…and was a complete waste of time.  The concept of transplanting the Marquis de Sade’s “120 Days of Sodom” from a castle in 18th century France to a mansion in Nazi occupied Italy and “reimagining” the story with a more modern (and more frightening) context is intriguing.  If you are familiar with the Marquis de Sade’s story, you may appreciate the translation, but only as a concept.  What your imagination conjures up is almost certainly more scary than what you see on screen.

“Salo” is notorious for it’s depictions of kidnapped teenagers being tortured, raped, and humiliated and, of course, that idea alone is too dark, too dark altogether.  Just writing that makes us shiver.  However, we offer up this thread of useless opinion: the reputation of “Salo” being the “most disturbing movie ever” that precedes it sets inside the mind of the first time viewer the idea that what they are about to watch is, indeed, disturbing, more so than the actual film.

A movie this infamous for its scenes of depravity and feces ingestion (it was a candy bar people, and the actress reportedly laughed through the entire scene because it was so ridiculous), already puts the viewer at DEFCON 3 with a yellow alert of tastelessness.  Sure, the movie will offend, and surely that was its point, but we offer that, in this case, the movie’s reputation of being disturbing possibly taints the honest reaction of people watching it.  “Salo” has become an almost rite of passage for horror movie fans.  It’s one of those really sick films you gotta watch so you can earn your stripes of being a hardened film freak.

By all means watch it and earn your stripes, just be set to be bored to tears.

But like we said, beauty is in the eye of the beholder…

We’d like to end this post by wishing Alan Howarth, the composer of the soundtracks to “Halloween” 2 through 6 as well as “They Live”, “Escape From New York”, and a whole list of others, a HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

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Slashers and Clowns, Clowns and Slashers

Pheeeeeeeeeeeew…moving is a real pain in the behind!  We’re working hard at transferring stuff from our old website to this here new one as well as getting our YouTube account in order to reflect said changes.  Almost there, just a few more crates to go.

Being so busy with the move, we almost forgot to update this blog with some NEW news!

First off, we’re working on a new script and are happy to say that we’ve enlisted the help of our dear friend and original “Tortured Girl” Melissa Malan (bless her twisted little heart) to work through the challenges of a new movie in its embryonic stage.  We’re going into uncharted waters (for us anyway) and tackling something a little different than our usual convoluted, psycho-babble: a SLASHER movie!  Yes, plenty of blood and screams and blood curdling screams abound!  Short, feature?  Don’t know yet…baby steps.

We’re also re-editing a previous short film script with the help of our good friend and comrade Tony Colon (director of Herbi’s “How Deep Is The Rabbit Hole?” and “You Are What You Eat.”)  This one, tentatively entitled “Sweet Dreams” is choke full of fucking awesome…as in monsters, witches, dungeons, and things that go bump in the night.

Lastly, we’re currently editing the footage from last week’s “Snuggles With Huggles” shoot.  What the Hell is that you ask?  Well, simply, it’s our new wsebseries that’s replacing last year’s “Feed The Beast.”  Not so simply, Huggles is a spray paint huffing clown that lives in a basement and makes videos showing people how to make carnival foods and balloon animals.

We’re having fun…

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