HALLOWEEN SPECIAL: Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery – Salem’s Horror Museum

Special Halloween’s Post courtesy of

It’s almost Halloween’s Eve and today we’ve got a special post from our horror correspondent Laura, who’s recently traveled to Salem to celebrate her birthday! While there, she got to talk with the founder/owner James about the popular attraction, which boast an amazing artistry and production details that would attract horror actors as well as horror fans.

So enjoy her writeup below from her visit to COUNT ORLOK’s NIGHTMARE GALLERY:

As most of you regular FlixChatter readers know, I’m the resident horror writer. I cover other genres, but horror is my wheelhouse. So when I visited Salem, MA over my birthday weekend and found out they had a horror movie museum, you know what was at the top of my list of things to do. Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery has been a Salem staple for the past 11 years and is a must-see for horror fans and movie buffs alike, filled with incredibly detailed wax figures of famous horror characters, from silent films to Universal Monsters to 80’s slashers and everything in between, all including plaques listing interesting production info about the movies. I thought it would be fun to visit it myself and write about it as a Halloween feature for the blog.

Even if this isn’t posted by Halloween, Count Orlok’s is absolutely worth learning a little more about. I had the immense pleasure of speaking with James, Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery’s founder, about the museum and its beginnings, the impressive list of horror celebrities who have visited it, and the horror genre in general.

Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery opened in September of 2007 on Derby Street in Saelm, after having been a traveling museum based out of Newport, RI simply known as “The Nightmare Gallery.” The name was changed to Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery mostly to avoid being confused with “The Nightmare Factory,” a haunted house attraction in the same town. The name Count Orlok was chosen partially because the iconic Nosferatu villain fell under public domain, and partially because of the air of mystery the name provided; “Not many people know the name is from that movie,” James informs me. The museum moved to a new location on Essex Street just this fall, after the landlord of the first location said he might not be able to renew the lease after a couple more seasons due to a park going in next door. Fortunately, the new location has worked out well; there’s an entire basement level that hasn’t been opened yet, but will contain even more exhibits, including a collection of Hammer Horror characters.

On the topic of the exhibits, I cannot begin to describe how lifelike these wax figures are. 1990’s It’s version of Pennywise, for example, is so detailed that it’s hard to believe a 44-year-old Tim Curry didn’t time travel to the museum in his full clown garb. It turns out that this figure is actually the museum’s first one made by 3D printer; they had another excellent Pennywise statue before, but James is always making sure they have the best versions possible for whatever characters he can find. The sculptors who provide the figures are a mix of people who have worked in film, newcomers at the edge of breaking into the industry and are creating in L.A., and some who have nothing to do with the film industry and are simply very talented artists. While plenty of the sculptures are permanent fixtures, James is always looking to add new ones when he can. “In the back of my mind, I keep a vague rolodex of monsters people have wanted to see in the past,” he explains. “If I happen to find them, I will try to bring it to my museum.” In addition to the exhibits, there is a small theater in the back of the museum where they screen public domain horror movies (Vincent Price’s House on Haunted Hill had just started while I was there). James also plans on using this space for special presentations on things like how the monsters are made, how he started collecting, etc.

“Horror movies in particular give you an escape that’s not entirely comfortable, that gives you a touch of anxiety, makes your adrenaline pump.” – Museum founder/owner James

Wax sculptures aren’t the only horror figures that frequent Count Orlok’s. The museum often hosts prominent horror celebrities (my visit landed right between a visit from Friday the 13th’s Kane Hodder and Halloween’s Tony Moran, so I clearly need to plan my trip better next time). Tony Moran, the unmasked face of Michael Myers in the original Halloween, was actually the museum’s first celebrity guest in 2009, and is a frequent visitor. Other notable guests include Dee Wallace, whose horror credits are too many to list here (seriously, look at her IMDB page), and whom James effusively describes as “very sweet, such a love,” telling me about how she met with fans outside the old location on one of the very coldest nights of October, keeping a wide smile on her face the whole time despite the freezing weather. The museum has also hosted Doug Bradley, AKA Pinhead from Hellraiser (the noise I made when James told me he got to walk through the museusm with Pinhead chatting about Pinhead might not have been human). And those few are only a small handful of the actors Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery has hosted.

At the end of our interview, I asked James a question I get a lot: what is it that you like about horror movies? “It’s a very unique escape from reality,” he muses. “Horror movies in particular give you an escape that’s not entirely comfortable, that gives you a touch of anxiety, makes your adrenaline pump.” He was hooked at a young age, when as a kid, he saw a commercial (he thinks maybe for Energizer batteries) with Vincent Price that ended with Vincent’s eyes glowing green. “I was enthralled,” James says. “It was very atmospheric…the atmosphere gets people.” His love for the genre grew as he got older, beginning to collect wax monster heads at 13 or 14, after having seen a neighbor’s impressive collection at a home haunt (a haunted attraction in someone’s actual home) a couple years earlier and learning from them about how to be discerning about collecting, getting numbers of potential resources, browsing catalogues, etc. Needless to say, the guy has been in the game for a long time, and that dedication shows in every square inch of his museum.

Even if you’re not a horror fan, Count Orlok’s Nightmare Gallery is a must-see attraction in Salem, just for the artistry alone. If you live in the area or plan on visiting the East Coast, definitely add this to your itinerary. You can learn more at www.nightmaregallery.com or follow them on Facebook under Count Orlok’s Horror Gallery.

FlixChatter Review – HALLOWEEN (2018)


Directed by: David Gordon Green

2018’s Halloween follows Final Girl Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) 40 years after her traumatic run-in with Michael Myers (James Jude Courtney and Nick Castle) during his Halloween night killing spree. Now an agoraphobic survivalist, she prepares for Michael’s inevitable return, putting a strain on her relationship with her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak). When Michael does escape during a transfer to a different prison, Laurie fights to protect her family and end things once and for all.

This is easily the best Halloween sequel in the franchise. It’s only really a sequel to the first film, thankfully ignoring the following 7. It feels nostalgic with plenty of little nods to the original film (including liberal use of the iconic score, which I love; it’s basically the soundtrack to the Halloween season, not just the movie). Even some of the lighting choices have a 70’s vibe. It’s still a classic slasher film that keeps you on the edge of your seat the whole way through, but it doesn’t feel like a rehash of the first movie. It’s definitely bloody, but it doesn’t feel excessively gory, keeping a surprising amount of the actual kills offscreen and keeping the ones that are shown pretty quick and straightforward, although there is one notable and horrifying exception toward the end of the film that makes me question the durability of the human skull.

Acting-wise, this movie has a strong cast. Jamie Lee Curtis is excellent as always, striking a good balance between hardened survivor and emotional victim. Judy Greer is delightful in everything she’s in, and this is no exception. Newcomer Andi Matichak gives a solid, likable performance. Despite not getting tons of screen time, Karen’s husband Ray (Toby Huss) has some funny moments. The supporting cast is good but not necessarily stand-out, with the exception of Jibrail Nantambu as Julian, the baby-sitting charge of Allyson’s friend Vicky (Virginia Gardner). This kid is hilarious and one of the best parts of the movie. Hopefully we’ll see more of this young actor in the future.

As with any movie, Halloween isn’t perfect. There are some questionable editing choices that don’t match the tone of the movie that they really only use in the first half. There are some weird character choices that don’t feel fully developed and don’t really go anywhere, especially with true crime podcasters Dana Haines (Rhian Rees) and Aaron Korey (Jefferson Hall), Allyson’s boyfriend Cameron (Dylan Arnold), and Michael’s doctor/Dr. Loomis’s replacement, Dr. Sartain (Haluk Bilginer).

Overall, though, Halloween is an excellent addition to the franchise and a great horror movie overall. I would absolutely recommend checking it out if you’re looking for something spooky to watch for the Halloween season.


Have you seen the latest HALLOWEEN? Well, what did you think? 

2018 TCFF Reviews – ‘Wunderland’ + ‘Witch’ + ‘Nor Any Drop To Drink’ documentary

The 9th annual Twin Cities Film Fest may have come and gone, but hey, we still have some reviews to share with you!

MANY THANKS to our blog volunteers Holly, Laura, Vitali and Andy for their great work before and during the film fest! For ALL of the 2018 coverage that include reviews AND interviews, click here or just type TCFF 2018 in the search box.

Review by Holly Peterson


Director: Steven Luke

Before you see Wunderland, you should know that it is more of an action movie than it is an historical drama. The story leads up to the Battle of the Bulge, but the events at the Western Front are very decidedly a backdrop, not a plot. The audience is left following the meandering adventures of Lt. Cappa (Steven Luke), which mostly consists of him speaking in his most gravely voice and pulling his rosary out of his jacket – when he’s not shooting Germans, of course.

The choice to make Wunderland an action movie is confusing because it is clear that the filmmakers did research surround WWII. This was most apparent in the historical profiles of men who fought in WWII that scrolled at the end of the credits, but as far as I could tell, none of those men were characters in the movie which is, again, confusing.

Director/Star Steven Luke

Wunderland is a beautiful movie. Editing is choppy at times, but Peter Wigand has an eye for capturing scenery and does a great bringing the audience into a winter “wunderland”. The score is also great, although sometimes misused. (For instance, there were a couple scenes where the soundtrack playing behind the Germans was so victorious that I started to think that I had missed something and they might actually be Americans.)

Tom Berenger as Maj. McCulley

The strongest part of Wunderland is the fight sequences. Steven Luke has one great bit of hand-to-hand combat about halfway through the movie and the firefights are fun to watch. It feels a little weird to enjoy watching people shoot each other when you know that the story is about actual events, but, like I said earlier, this is an action movie.  It is fun to watch everyone run around in a snowy forest shooting service rifles, anti-tank rifles, and setting up trip wires.

You should see this movie if you want to see some of your favorite Minnesotan actors in action, if you are looking for an action movie with just enough historical reference to give it a little weight, and if you like goats.  I’m not even going to explain that one.  See it for the goat.  Thank me later.


Review by Laura Schaubschlager

Director: Vanessa Magowan Horrocks

Witch follows a babysitter, X, who plays an ongoing game with their ward, Aima, where they pretend to be in a constant fight with an evil witch. Soon, however, the lines of reality blur, and it begins to seem as if their game isn’t as imaginary as X originally believed.

While Witch is listed under the “horror” section on the TCFF schedule, I wouldn’t categorize it as such. While there are some horror aspects to it (especially the character design of the witch), it’s much more of a psychedelic sci-fi fantasy- which is awesome, but I wish I had known that going in, rather than assuming it would be a horror film, since I kind of had to mentally shift gears and adjust my expectations while watching. That said, this is an absolutely beautiful movie. It’s full of dream-like animation, lush set design, and detailed costuming. Even the sound is gorgeous, from the background noises to the score. There are some moments where the music and sound effects overwhelm the dialogue (which is unfortunate, because the script is lovely and really makes me want to read the novella the movie is based on), but overall, this is a stunning film, visually and in terms of sound.

The acting in Witch is excellent as well. The cast is small but solid. The standouts are, without question, the actors playing X and Aima. X is funny and genuine, and Aima is ridiculously talented for such a young actor. The two have excellent chemistry.

While Witch isn’t available for purchase yet, the filmmakers are working with a distributor, so if you weren’t able to catch it at TCFF, hopefully you’ll be able to buy or stream it soon. In the meantime, the soundtrack is available on Bandcamp and is absolutely worth listening to. I sincerely hope this movie is shown at more festivals in the future, because it definitely deserves the screen-time.

Nor Any Drop to Drink

Review by Andrew Ellis

Director: Cedric Taylor

Nor Any Drop to Drink takes a deep look into the problems that caused the water crisis in the first place as well as showing us how much has changed – or hasn’t. The documentary forgoes the tradition of having a narrator guide us through the story, and lets those involved in the fight tell it instead. While there were many captivating moments in the feature length documentary that kept you hanging onto every word, there were also those that made you wonder how long this was going to go on for.

The shining moments belong to the residents for Flint who have been effected by the crisis, and are still paying the price long after the reporters and activists are gone. The film opens on an older African American woman who we see throughout the documentary using bottled water for everything, and explaining the effect the lead-infected water has on the human body overall. Two other women talk about the effect it has on their kids and how it changed one of them to a point where her son is now homeschooled.

Then are the other interviews. These are with government officials and other experts who attempt to explain the circumstances that lead to crisis, and what kept it from being solved. While they were important they were explaining details that most viewers might find hard to follow. They have plenty of expertise, but when they get into the hard details of certain aspects it becomes hard to follow especially with no accompanying visual graphics to highlight key information for the viewer. And in the age of short attention spans it’s an easy way to allow one’s mind to wander away from the screen.

The heart is there. There is no doubt the filmmaker cares about this topic. Unfortunately, passion does not always lead to a well-crafted story.

Review by Andrew Ellis

Stay tuned for additional TCFF reviews/interviews… as well as two Halloween Specials coming tomorrow and Wednesday!



Following accolades in Toronto, Peter Farrelly’s drama GREEN BOOK tops TCFF’s 2018 winners. Twin Cities audiences honor local productions “The Lumber Baron” & “Small Town ROBOT” alongside the electrifying documentary “United Skates”

 The Twin Cities Film Fest announced its 2018 award winners Saturday evening, recognizing films in ten top categories. The 11-day marathon of movies, educational sessions and industry events, which showcased more than 130 titles and facilitated a broader conversation around the social cause of animal welfare, named Peter Farrelly’s Green Book the year’s Best Feature Film.

When Jeff Tried to Save the World, a lighthearted drama that served as the official 2018 centerpiece, was one of the year’s most honored titles, named as a finalist in three separate categories (Best Feature Film, Indie Vision Breakthrough Performance, Indie Vision Debut Director). Star Jon Heder (Napoleon Dynamite) walked away with the year’s top performance award.

The festival’s top non-fiction award went to Who Will Write Our History? Roberta Grossman’s harrowing account of the journalists, scholars and community leaders in the Warsaw Ghetto who risked everything to secretly document the daily atrocities committed against their Jewish neighbors. The film screened in partnership with the Twin Cities Jewish Film Festival.

The 2018 Audience Awards went to Barry Andersson’s The Lumber Baron, a period drama about the heir to a failing lumber business and the enduring rumors of a treasure left behind by his grandfather; Tina Brown and Dyana Winkler’s “United Skates,” a documentary about the art, economics and underground subculture of American roller skating; and “small town ROBOT,” a locally-produced short film about the acclaimed robotics team at Greenbush Middle River High School and their journey to a world championship to compete against 300 other teams from around the world.

Director Mark Taylor took home the Indie Vision — Debut Director trophy, for his drama Saving Flora, which had its U.S. premiere at the festival last week. Starring Jenna Ortega, David Arquette and Tom Arnold, the film’s story of one girl’s unbreakable bond with an elephant, and her mission to save the kind creature, marked the highlight of this year’s TCFF Changemaker Series. Several of the leading stars were in town to celebrate the debut.

“One of this year’s unforgettable highlights was ‘Saving Flora,’” said TCFF Executive Director Jatin Setia. “The passion of that filmmaking, the broader mission behind its story, and the electricity that was on full display that night in the movie theater, between the audience and the advocates and the visiting filmmakers….that’s everything that makes a film festival special. It’s not just watching a movie — it’s being part of a transcendent experience. It changes you as a person.”

Minnesota filmmaker C.J. Renner was honored with the Indie Vision — Breakthrough Achievement award for his direction of American Tender, a widely praised drama about a robbery, a double-cross and one memorable first date.

“C.J. Renner exemplifies the talent, commitment and energy to be found in the Minnesota filmmaking community,” said TCFF Managing Director Bill Cooper. “And ‘American Tender’ is exactly the kind of homegrown independent project that we’re so proud to celebrate and showcase here at TCFF. C.J. always surprises us, he’s going places, and we’re so thrilled that so many smart filmgoers from across the country discovered his talent right here at the festival this year.”

The 2018 Fun Is Good Bill Murray Comedic Shorts Award went to Matt Hirst’s hilarious 12 Sips to Glory, about one man’s epic orange soda taste test.

Here’s the complete listing of 2018 award winners:

2018 Award Winners

Best Feature Film: “Green Book,” directed by Peter Farrelly

Click image to read FlixChatter’s review

Best Documentary: “Who Will Write Our History?” directed by Roberta Grossman

Best Short Film: “Claire Means Well,” directed by Aaron Gervich

Audience Award, Feature: “The Lumber Baron,” directed by Barry Andersson (Runner-Up: “If Beale Street Could Talk,” directed by Barry Jenkins)

Audience Award, Non-Fiction: “United Skates,” directed by Tina Brown and Dyana Winkler (Runner-Up: “93Queen,” directed by Paula Eiselt)

Audience Award, Short Film: “small town ROBOT,” directed by Joe Brandmeier (Runner-Up: “Claire Means Well,” directed by Aaron Gervich)

Indie Vision — Breakthrough Performance: Jon Heder (“When Jeff Tried to Save the World”)

Indie Vision — Debut Director: Mark Taylor (“Saving Flora”)

Indie Vision — Breakthrough Achievement: C.J. Renner (director of “American Tender”)

Fun Is Good Bill Murray Comedic Shorts Award: “12 Sips to Glory,” directed by Matt Hirst

TCFF 2018 Changemaker Award: Rachel Mairose, founder and executive director of Secondhand Hounds

CONGRATS to all the winners!!

Stay tuned to my TCFF recap post (with my own picks of FlixChatter favorites) as well as more reviews + interviews from some films screened at the film fest!



Festival hits ‘Green Book,’ ‘United Skates,’ ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’, ‘Boy Erased’ and ‘If Beale Street Could Talk’ lead this year’s class

The Twin Cities Film Fest unveiled more than 30 finalists for top awards Thursday. Among the top contenders for Best Feature Film are the new Barry Jenkins drama “If Beale Street Could Talk,” Peter Farrelly’s “Green Book,” which recently won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, and two lauded Minnesota productions: Barry Andersson’s “The Lumber Baron” and David Buchanan’s “Black.” Limited tickets remain available for “Beale Street’s” Saturday debut.


Other notable 2018 finalists include Joel Edgerton’s harrowing drama “Boy Erased” and Marielle Heller’s thriller “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”, both nominated for this year’s Indie Vision Award for breakthrough performance, recognizing Lucas Hedges and Melissa McCarthy respectively. (The festival has announced special encore screenings of both films this weekend).

Tina Brown and Dyana Winkler’s documentary “United Skates,” selected as this year’s closing night film, received two nominations — for Best Documentary and Indie Vision Special Achievement, recognizing Tina Brown, Matthew Peterson and Dyana Winkler’s electrifying cinematography. United Skates is playing Saturday night at 7:30PM | GET TICKETS »

Rounding out this year’s Best Feature Film nominees were Kendall Goldberg’s comedy “When Jeff Tried to Save the World,” which also received nods for director Kendall Goldberg and lead actor Jon Heder, and Ben Zuckert’s drama “Noah Wise,” which received a second nomination for musical score.

Actor Bill Murray is serving as a special guest judge for this year’s Comedy Shorts Award. Murray will be choosing his favorite comedic short from the three finalists listed below.

This year’s TCFF slate, which continues to screen in St. Louis Park through Saturday evening, is comprised of more than 130 short and feature films. In addition to staff and audience awards, this year’s Changemaker Award is being bestowed to Rachel Mairose, founder and executive director of the animal rescue nonprofit Secondhand Hounds.

See the complete list of finalists below; for more information on the films and to purchase reserved seats for the final screenings, visit TwinCitiesFilmFest.org.


Best Feature Film:

“If Beale Street Could Talk,” directed by Barry Jenkins; “Black,” directed by David Buchanan; “Green Book,” directed by Peter Farrelly (read FlixChatter’s review here); “The Lumber Baron,” directed by Barry Andersson; “Noah Wise,” directed by Ben Zuckert; “When Jeff Tried to Save the World,” directed by Kendall Goldberg.

Best Documentary:

“93Queen,” directed by Paula Eiselt; “Finding Hygge,” directed by Rocky Walls; “Fire on the Hill,” directed by Brett Fallentine; “Time for Ilhan,” (read FlixChatter’s review here) directed by Norah Shapiro; “United Skates,” directed by Tina Brown and Dyana Winkler; “Who Will Write Our History?” directed by Roberta Grossman.

Best Short Film:

“The American Wake,” directed by Kevin Quinn; “12 Sips to Glory,” directed by Matt Hirst; “Claire Means Well,” directed by Aaron Gervich; “Lunch Ladies,” directed by J.M. Logan; “Two Black Coffees,” directed by Michael Discoll (check out my interview with Michael about the film here); “Sexpert Franzen,” directed by Kaitlyn Busbee.

Indie Vision — Breakthrough Performance:

Adam Christian Clark (“Newly Single”); Jon Heder (“When Jeff Tried to Save the World”); Lucas Hedges (“Boy Erased”); Melissa McCarthy (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”); Toussaint Morrison (“Black”); Sophia Mitri Schloss (“Sadie”).

Indie Vision — Debut Director:

Erik Bloomquist (“Long Lost”); Kendall Goldberg (“When Jeff Tried to Save the World”); Jenna Laurenzo (“Lez Bomb”); James Ojala (“Strange Nature”); Mark Taylor (“Saving Flora”); Kulap Vilaysack (“Origin Story”).

Indie Vision — Breakthrough Achievement:

Sam Boyd (screenplay for “In a Relationship”); Tina Brown, Matthew Peterson and Dyana Winkler (cinematography for “United Skates”); Roxanne Paukner (art direction for “The Lumber Baron”); Vanessa Powers (animation for “Witch”); C.J. Renner (director of “American Tender”); Ben Zuckert (composer of “Noah Wise”).

Comedic Shorts Award:

“12 Sips to Glory;” “Deep Dish Apocalypse;” “Lunch Ladies.”

2018 TCFF Changemaker Award:

Rachel Mairose, founder and executive director of Secondhand Hounds.

CONGRATS to all the nominees!!

Be sure to attend the Closing Night Party on SATURDAY NIGHT at TCFF’s Can Can Wonderlounge!

TCFF 2018 Film Spotlight: MUSE & interview with writer/director John Burr

Since Twin Cities Film Fest always happens around Halloween, there’s always selections that will please horror fans. MUSE is one that looks intriguing for self-proclaimed NON-horror fan like me (as I simply don’t have the nerves for it), as there’s something SO intriguing about Celtic folklore. I hadn’t heard of the Leannán Sí before, which is essentially the mythology of a fairy being who takes a human lover, but I think it makes for a terrifying yet enchanting subject matter for a horror film.

A painter’s life is forever changed when a mythical and deadly spirit from Celtic lore — a Leannán Sí — becomes his muse and lover.


Interview with writer/director John Burr

Interview Questions via Laura Schaubschlager (aka our horror contributor)

1. What about the Leannán Sí appealed to you as a film subject over other potentially more well-known mythical creatures?

It was definitely appealing to share a lesser-known mythical being with my audience rather than a more familiar one, but the way that this particular legend made it into the film was somewhat unorthodox. I knew I wanted to make a movie in the dilapidated lofts in the arts district of downtown LA, and I knew I wanted to have a weak male character inspired by a powerful female. The legend of the LS was something I came across after I already had the framework for this story, and it fit perfectly. It was part happy accident, part the result of being the sort of person that googles “creepy legends” and goes down the rabbit hole on a regular basis.

2. How much of the Leannán Sí in the movie is based on the original folklore and how much is your own creation?

The idea was to take this timeless, immortal creature that adhered to the rules of the original folklore and to place her in a modern setting, but in taking this approach, I found that I was forced to confront certain elements of the mythology and choose how to interpret them. For example, according to Celtic legend, the lover of the LS is said to live a brief but inspired life. Obviously, many would view this as sinister dynamic; in the work of 20th-century poet W. B. Yeats, the LS is presented as essentially a vampire. But I wanted to leave it more open-ended. I wanted my audience to ponder whether they would chose the short but inspired life over the long, normal one if given the choice.

3. This movie’s score is beautiful, striking, and does a great job of setting the film’s tone. What was the process of choosing the music like?

The process really boils down to one thing: work with a great composer. Alex did an outstanding job on our score, and I’m delighted to say that his work has been recognized by a number of the festivals we have played in — we have won awards for Best Musical Score at the Austin Revolution Film Festival, the Sin City Film Fest, and the HorrorHaus Film Festival in LA, as well as receiving nominations from a number of others. The idea was to create a sort of haunted fairytale, with the work of Danny Elfman on similar Tim Burton films as one of the strongest inspirations. He did an incredible job.

4. What kind of challenges are there in incorporating a creature from Celtic folklore into a modern American setting?

To be honest, the question of how certain character traits from this legend might be expressed in modern times did not end with the “brief but inspired life” issue mentioned above. That was something almost entirely related to the protagonist Adam’s arc. But it was also important to consider how to emphasize certain traits in the LS character while still remaining loyal to the mythology. If anything, the present-day setting made it feel even more essential that she be a proactive presence rather than simply the object of a man’s obsession. Casting Elle in the role helped immensely. She’s able to be impossibly alluring in one moment and abjectly terrifying in the next. We were very fortunate to have her in the film.

5. Why did you portray what sounds like a more supernatural/ethereal creature as more human?

The intention was for her to become more and more human as the narrative progresses. I think that our first few glimpses of her make her seem a bit more supernatural, but as Adam starts to truly fall for her, it is important that she feel real to him, and while always being vaguely otherwordly, also display recognizable human traits that he could connect with. As a side note, I also tend to prefer the aesthetic of practical special effects and characters that feel real and tangible, especially in thrillers and horrors. I won’t pretend that there’s not one sequence at the very end in which I wish we had been able to afford some big, crazy stunts, but we’ll just save those for the next one. This was a sexy independent thriller shot in 15 days, not a Marvel movie, and I couldn’t hope for a better result.

TCFF Screening Date:

Friday October 26th, 2018 9:45 PM

Thank you John Burr for chatting with FlixChatter!

TCFF Indie Horror Spotlight: GAGS review + Interview with director Adam Krause

Review + Interview Questions by Laura Schaubschlager

I chose to cover Gags out of a feeling of obligation as FlixChatter’s resident horror writer, but I didn’t have high hopes. Yes, I liked It, but overall, I’ve never understood why people are scared of clowns, and a movie about a creepy clown terrorizing Wisconsin sounded uninspired. Fortunately, I was pleasantly surprised.

Gags is the name of a mysterious clown that has been spotted around Green Bay, WI for the past week. While the whole community is shaken, the movie focuses on four groups’ reactions to the eerie figure: news broadcaster Heather Duprey (Lauren Ashley Carter) and her camera man, Dale (Wyatt Kuether); two cops on duty, Chrissy Renard (Tracy Perez) and Jake Gruber (Evan Gamble); a trio of teen pranksters (Michael Gideon Sherry as Tyler, Squall Charlson as Chris, and Halley Sharp as Sara); and a conservative, militant podcaster, Charles Wright (Aaron Christensen) and his producer, Wayne (Jake Martin). As we follow the characters in their pursuit of Gags, it becomes less clear whether the clown is just a normal individual trying to cause a scene or something more nefarious.

This movie is so much fun. It’s shot in found footage style, but rather than just sticking with telling the story through home videos, it’s also a mix of news clips, police dash and body cam footage, and live webcam recordings, which is such a creative way of keeping this particular film style interesting, as well as making a lot of the exposition feel more natural. It also helps build the suspension and horror, since many shots have limited camera angles and movement, and of course there’s no background music, adding to the tension.

The costume design for Gags is simple and creepy, and he shows up sparingly, building the suspense. And while it is creepy, the movie has several moments of levity that made me laugh out loud, thanks in large part to some solid line delivery from the talented cast.

Q&A with writer/director Adam Krause

Thanks Laura Schaubschlager for the interview questions!

1. Were you worried about audiences comparing this movie to It, with Gags being released less than a year after the massive Stephen King adaptation, and what would you say to audiences worried that they’re going into “another creepy clown movie?”

Honestly, we weren’t worried. From the start we thought it could only help us. The second IT got big, it showed that people were still interested in the sub-genre of creepy clown films. And hopefully word gets out that Gags takes a different approach to clown horror. This is not a film about a psychotic clown running around chopping people up. While we do have a creepy clown who is up to no good, Gags is also a character driven, social commentary on not only the clown craze of 2016 but also our media-obsessed society.

Director Adam Krause on set

2. I saw on IMDb that there’s a short film that Adam did called Gags also. Is this feature born out of that short? If so, how’s the process of turning a short into a feature film?

Yes, the feature is born out of the short. Gags‘ intentions are the same in the feature as they are in the short. We were just able to expand on the idea more in the feature film while also using real-life events from when our pictures when viral to create new characters with new motivations.

Is the character of Charles Wright, the conservative podcaster who decides to hunt for Gags, based off any any specific real-life figure?

He was not based on one specific real-life figure but rather a collection of responses I received after my Gags marketing stunt took off. Those viral photos sparked many responses from the world but what I wasn’t expecting was how many messages I would receive that threatened violence against the clown. We actually couldn’t have our actor go out in public for months after the pictures went viral because we were receiving so many threats. People were sending me pictures of themselves in the same locations we took the viral photos holding guns. A line from one particular message was repurposed into the film: “If I saw your stupid clown, I wouldn’t grab my phone, I’d grab this (a picture of his gun).”

So the character of Charles Wright was a collection of those responses that just naturally went down the path of an extremist conservative because those strong values were the ones required to be so passionate about physically wanting to hurt a person dressed up as a clown.

4. How did you decide on the name “Gags” for the infamous clown in this movie?

That’s not as interesting of an answer as you’re probably hoping for. During preproduction on the short, I commissioned an artist to create a clown mask for me to use for the character. I ultimately passed on using her mask but she called the clown “Gags” and I loved it. We became friends during the process and I asked her if I could use it and she was all for it. The name just worked so well for the character I had envisioned in my mind. I even tried thinking of an original name in the same vein but nothing to me had the bright lights of the name “Gags.”

5. Why do you think people, many of them mostly rational adults, were so scared during the whole “people dressing up like clowns in public” craze last year when none of the sightings amounted to anything? Do you think people thought they were genuine threats, or do you think it was just news coverage and social media stirring up people’s imaginations?

Someone dressing up like a creepy clown and walking around a city at night isn’t normal. So while there wasn’t a direct threat presented, people will always be scared of situations that don’t fit the mold of societal norms. Which is why, when I first heard of these stories 4-5 years ago, I thought the idea was so ripe for a horror film. You take a clown, which a large population of the world is already scared of, and you have them show up in their neighborhood at night with nothing more than a clutch full of black balloons? People will lose their minds. And they did.

*Gags stills courtesy of Dave Burke Photography

Thank you Adam Krause for chatting w/ FlixChatter!

(special thanks to John Pata for facilitating the interview)

So great seeing the Gags cast/crew at TCFF just before the screening!
[from left] Actor Squall Charlson, writer/producer John Pata, Ruth Maramis, director Adam Krause and actor Wyatt Kuether.