Interview with THE DROWNSMAN himself, actor Ry Barrett

the drownsman

Last week, I reviewed a slick little horror film titled THE DROWNSMAN (click on the title to read my review). I enjoyed it a lot, and I think horror fans should definitely give it a look. Actor Ry Barrett, who plays The Drownsman, was kind enough to visit with us for a bit earlier this week.

Hi, Ry…thanks for speaking to us today. I reviewed THE DROWNSMAN last week, but some of my readers might not have seen it yet. Tell us a little bit about the character of Sebastion Donner (aka The Drownsman).
He’s a very tortured individual, and he came from a sordid past. He abducts woman and drowns them. He has this thing about putting them underwater so he can feel their heartbeats, kinda like being in a womb. There’s a lot of mystery about him, though. I don’t want to say too much because the plot revolves around his background and who he is.

Was there anything special you did to get ready to play the character?
I’m a huge fan of horror films and different genres and franchises, like Elm Street and Candyman. I went back and rewatched everything I could find. I watched all the characters I loved as a kid and made notes: how they carried themselves, how they moved, how they spoke. I used all of that to create The Drownsman onscreen and make him as real as possible.

Did you have a particular bad guy in mind that you used for inspiration when you were thinking of how to play The Drownsman?
I definitely had specifics from all of them, but I have to say three big ones stuck out: Pinhead, Candyman, and Jason Vorhees. These guys are obviously icons, and they each have individual traits that make them who they are. So, I tried to learn from them and style The Drownsman in a similar manner.

How did the production team make you look so evil in the film?
It was a three hour makeup job, which consisted of a body suit, to bulk me up, and a pair of latex-covered pants, and a cowl which went over the top which had the hair and skin on my shoulders. And a facemask on top of that. Then, I was painted all over by the Gore brothers. After that, they covered me from head to toe in goop and gore. (laughs) It felt weird, but it looks great onscreen.

The basis of THE DROWNSMAN is an intense fear of water…any fears or phobias you have?
I have had sleep terrors where I can’t move and was paralyzed, but I’ve only had that happen once in my life. Other than that, I don’t think much scares me. I can’t think of any specific phobias.

You’ve worked with director Chad Archibald on a couple of projects before, including DESPERATE SOULS and KILL. Any plans to collaborate again in the future?
I think there’s kinda no question about it. Me and Chad go way back. We consider each other best friends at this point. When it comes to filmmaking, I can say with confidence that I’m sure we will be working together again in the future.

I see on your IMDB page you have several things in the works…anything in particular you are especially proud of or super excited about?
I have two films coming out soon that I’m very excited about and proud of because the roles are so different: THE DEMOLISHER, appearing at Fantasia this summer and SAVE YOURSELF. THE DEMOLISHER is a psychological thriller, while SAVE YOURSELF is straight up horror.

And lastly, any final thoughts on The Drownsman?
I’m just super excited about the film, and I can’t wait to get it out there for people to see.

Ry, thank you so much for your time.

THE DROWNSMAN is available now in a variety of formats, so check it out!

MSB

Book Review – The Heaven Maker and Other Gruesome Tales by Craig Herbertson

The Heaven Maker and Other Gruesome Tales
by Craig Herbertson
Publisher: Parallel Universe Publications
Release Date: January 2015

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The minute I laid eyes on the title, I knew I had to read this book. I didn’t know what a ‘heaven maker’ was or why it might be gruesome, but the mystery of these questions drew me in. I’m very glad I gave this one a shot, too…author Craig Herbertson has a vivid imagination rife with brutal originality and terrifying concepts. If you’re a fan of short horror fiction, put this book on your Must Own list.

If you are not familiar with THE HEAVEN MAKER AND OTHER GRUESOME TALES, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Parallel Universe Publications:

A collection of Horror stories some of which have previously been published in the Pan Book of Horror Stories, the Black Book of Horror and Back from the Dead: the Legacy of the Pan Books of Horror. Included this collection are:

Timeless Love (originally published in Big Vault Advent Calendar 2011)
Synchronicity (originally published in Filthy Creations #2)
The Glowing Goblins (originally published in Auguries #16)
New Teacher (originally published in The Seventh Black Book of Horror)
The Janus Door
The Heaven Maker (originally published in The 29th Pan Book of Horror Stories)
The Waiting Game (originally published in Back from the Dead: The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories)
The Art of Confiscation
Gertrude
Not Waving
Spanish Suite (originally published in The Sixth Black Book of Horror)
The Anninglay Sundial
Soup (originally published in The Fourth Black Book of Horror)
A Game of Billiards (originally published in Tales from the Smoking Room)
The Navigator (originally published in Big Vault Advent Calendar 2011)
The Tasting
Steel Works
Liebniz’s Last Puzzle (originally published in The Fifth Black Book of Horror)
Big Cup, Wee Cup
Gifts (originally published in Big Vault Advent Calendar 2011)

I cheated a bit by not reading this book in order. I don’t suppose it really matters where you begin an anthology, but this time I jumped straight to “The Heaven Maker”, which is toward the middle of the book, and started there. This story set the whole tone for the book and is a perfect example of the horror found within it.

Each story in THE HEAVEN MAKER AND OTHER GRUESOME TALES is written well and flows at a nice, even pace. I commend on Herbertson for his pacing…some short story writers tend to rush sometimes and try to reach the punchline faster than they should. Not so here; Herbertson pulls the reader into each story from the beginning and then delivers a sucker punch when it is least expected.

One of my favorite stories in this collection is “Gifts”, a rather short tale measuring only a page and half in length. This one is told from Santa’s perspective one Christmas Eve, however something is different this year…and it might be a very bad kind of different. The imagery in this story is very vivid, and the twist ending is unnerving to say the least.

My sole complaint about THE HEAVEN MAKER AND OTHER GRUESOME TALES is from an editing standpoint. I ran across numerous typos and errors throughout the book, more so than I think any edited publication should contain, in my opinion. Granted, this did not detract from my enjoyment of the book, however I feel it worth mentioning.

Otherwise, THE HEAVEN MAKER AND OTHER GRUESOME TALES is a big win for me. This is a solid anthology with some interesting concepts and horrifying realities. The book is available now in a variety of formats.

MSB

Collector’s Edition DEAD SNOW 2: RED VS. DEAD Blu-ray Giveaway

DeadSnow2-BD

Last year, I had the privilege of reviewing DEAD SNOW 2: RED VS. DEAD (click here to read the review). This film is a follow-up to the cult favorite DEAD SNOW, and it has quickly garnered a following of its own. I loved both films, and I think this sequel is one of the better ones I’ve ever seen.

Now, you have the opportunity to own a copy of this Special Collector’s Edition Blu-ray! To enter, use the entry portal below (courtesy of RaffleCopter). The contest ends May 19, 2015, so enter soon! And, as always, if you have any questions, please feel free to post them here. Otherwise, thanks for following Shattered Ravings…and good luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Blu-ray Movie Review – Vampyros Lesbos (1970)

Vampyros Lesbos
Directed by Jess Franco
Courtesy of CAV Distribution & Severin Films
Original Release Year: 1970
Blu-ray Release Date: May 12, 2015

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Director Jess Franco’s VAMPYROS LESBOS has been dubbed by some as “the Holy Grail of cult cinema.” I had heard of the film several times over the years, but I never found a copy to give a look. When I heard Severin Films was remastering the film and releasing it on Blu-ray, I immediately put it on my To Find list. Thankfully, the fine folks at Severin saw fit to grace me with a review copy, and I’m so glad they did. This film epitomizes Franco’s legacy of exploitation and Eurotrash flicks. If you are a fan of these genres, then this film is a must-have for your collection.

If you are not familiar with VAMPYROS LESBOS, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Severin Films:

From Jess Franco, the filmmaker The Vatican called the most dangerous director in the world , comes the most celebrated movie of his legendary career: Stunning Soledad Miranda stars as a vixen vampire who lures women to a Mediterranean island to satisfy her insatiable lust for female flesh and blood. It s a mind-bending odyssey of surreal erotica and 70s EuroHorror, featuring the psycho-sexadelic soundtrack that remains a global phenomenon. Ewa Strömberg (SHE KILLED IN ECSTASY), Dennis Price (VENUS IN FURS), Paul Muller (NIGHTMARE CASTLE) and Franco himself co-star in this landmark cult classic, now remastered in HD and featuring all-new Extras filmed with the director shortly before his death. Experience Franco’ masterpiece like you’e never seen or heard it before!

Before I continue, I have to confirm the title: yes, it is translated as ‘Lesbian Vampires’. Not very controversial by today’s standards, but look at the time period in which the film was made. Homosexuality was not as accepted back then as it is today, therefore the title alone was enough to send people into a fury about this film.

VAMPYROS LESBOS is shot fairly well, however you almost have to be an existing fan of Franco’s work to enjoy much of it. I say this because the film is Franco’s first venture into his own style of cinematography. There are many odd shots of abstract things which (if you look closely) do fit with the film. There’s even some symbolism in regard to what he shows onscreen.

With that being said, this is not really a horror flick. It’s meant to be (I think), but there’s no scares and, if I’m being honest, the blood looks horrible, like someone popped a ketchup packet somewhere. Still, the film is very entertaining and held my attention the entire time.

The acting in VAMPYROS LESBOS is so-so, but people don’t generally watch exploitation flicks like this for the performances. The beautiful and sensuous Soledad Miranda is always welcome onscreen, and she revels in this portrayal of Dracula’s lover. Ewa Stromberg and the rest of the cast do ok for the most part, however their cardboard characters are part of what makes the film so fun.

VAMPYROS LESBOS is a win for me, and I recommend it…however it won’t be a film for everyone. Connoisseurs of Franco’s work will definitely want to snatch this version up; the HD transfer for the Blu-ray looks amazing, and the sound quality is great as well. In addition to the high quality picture and sound, this two-disc Special Limited Collector’s Edition includes a variety of Special Features, like:

Disc 1 (Blu-Ray):
* Newly remastered HD presentation of the feature in its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio
* “Vampyros Jesus”: Interview featurette with Director Jess Franco
* “Sublime Soledad”: Interview with Soledad Miranda Historian Amy Brown
* “Stephen Thrower on Vampyros Lesbos”: Interview with Author of ‘Murderous Passions – The Delirious Cinema Of Jess Franco’
* “Jess Is Yoda” Clip
* Alternate German Opening Title Sequence – ‘Dracula’s Heiress’
* German Trailer

Disc 2 (DVD):
* Las Vampiras – Alternate Spanish Language VHS Version With Optional English Subtitles

This film hits store shelves next Tuesday, so make a note.

MSB

Movie Review – The Drownsman (2015)

The Drownsman
Directed by Chad Archibald
Courtesy of Anchor Bay
Release Date: May 12, 2015

the drownsman

I love horror films that introduce unique villains, especially those who are original enough to become genre icons in their own right (for example, Jason, Michael Myers, Freddy, Jigsaw, etc.) The films that birth these characters are usually labors of love and not just someone’s attempt to make a quick buck. THE DROWNSMAN is one such title, an impressive attempt at adding to the prestigious list of iconic horror figures. And although it has a few flaws, the film is a lot of fun and I recommend giving it a look.

If you are not familiar with THE DROWNSMAN, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Anchor Bay:

After almost drowning in a lake accident, Madison (Michelle Mylett, Antisocial) develops hydrophobia: an abnormal fear of water. After shutting the world and her friends out for over a year, her friends attempt an intervention. But, instead of curbing Madison’s fear, they unknowingly unleash something far worse: The vision of serial killer turned supernatural psychopath Sebastian Donner known as The Drownsman who begins to stalk the women one by one, dragging them into a lair of submerged torment from which there is no escape.

I love the concept of the killer and his unique way of dispatching victims; drowning has to be one of the worst ways to die, and using it as the primary way of a killer dispatching his victims is very clever. This is especially true when combined with the supernatural elements the killer invokes.

THE DROWNSMAN is shot very well and looks great onscreen. The film was shot using a RED camera, so the picture quality is excellent. Likewise, the ambient sounds are crystal clear in surround-sound, and lend a huge hand in building suspense for the film.

The acting in THE DROWNSMAN is pretty good, although a couple of the actresses are a bit lackluster in their deliveries. Michelle Mylett, who plays the lead, Madison, does a great job and exhibits a wide range of emotional diversity in the film. Ry Barrett, who portrays The Drownsman himself, is a solid and foreboding figure. His silent but menacing performance injects a nice shot of terror into the film.

But there are a couple of negatives about the THE DROWNSMAN as well. For one, we are never told how he pulls his disappearing act in the opening scenes, nor are we ever told why or how he has supernatural powers. There’s not even any speculation as to how this happened. Another example is how Sebastian is supposedly defeated: with fire. Really? I thought water doused fire, therefore how could a supernatural entity like The Drownsman be terrified of it? And if it pertains to his backstory, shouldn’t we be told about that?

Still, with these minor issues aside, THE DROWNSMAN is a heck of a film, and it highlights the talent of director Chad Archibald. Given the way the movie ends, I sure hope there is a sequel in the works, and I hope it answers the questions above. If that is the case, THE DROWNSMAN will move up several notches in my book. I recommend giving this one a look, if anything to check out a new and original horror figure. The film is available next week in a variety of formats, so make a note.

MSB

Book Review – Within These Walls by Ania Ahlborn

Within These Walls
by Ania Ahlborn
Publisher: Gallery Books
Release Date: April 21, 2015

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They say fiction has nothing on real life, and I believe that statement wholeheartedly. The news has been chocked full of atrocious and horrifying headlines for years, making it an interesting place of source material for horror books and movies. One of the most terrifying concepts to me is cults. When someone is charismatic enough to convince others to carry out the most heinous of acts in the name of some religion, that is truly scary. This premise is the basis behind WITHIN THESE WALLS, a chilling new book by authoress Ania Ahlborn. And although the book is not perfect, it’s very close to being so, and it’s one every horror fan should own.

If you are not familiar with WITHIN THESE WALLS, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Gallery Books:

With his marriage on the rocks and his life in shambles, washed-up true-crime writer Lucas Graham is desperate for a comeback, one more shot at the bestselling success he once enjoyed. His chance comes when he’s promised exclusive access to death row inmate Jeffrey Halcomb, the notorious cult leader and mass murderer who’s ready to break his silence after thirty years, and who contacted Lucas personally from his maximum-security cell. With nothing left to lose, Lucas leaves New York to live and work from the scene of the crime: a split-level farmhouse on a gray-sanded beach in Washington State whose foundation is steeped in the blood of Halcomb’s diviners—runaways who were drawn to his message of family, unity, and unconditional love. There, Lucas sets out to capture the real story of the departed faithful. Except that he’s not alone. For Jeffrey Halcomb promised his devout eternal life…and within these walls, they’re far from dead.

I remember hearing about Jonestown when I was a kid, and how everybody “drank the Kool-aid” to commit suicide. I was stunned that someone could have so much power over a group of people. This was my first wake-up call to the real world, and it was a harsh one.

WITHIN THESE WALLS is written very well and flows smoothly for the most part. Ahlborn does a skillful job of telling two stories in one: the primary tale is set in modern day Washington state and details Lucas’ plight; the secondary story is set in the 80s and relates what happened to Audra Snow (aka Avis) and how she is connected to Jeffrey Halcomb. I had no problem switching back and forth, and I enjoyed the pace of each as well.

Speaking of the characters, each is fleshed out well and written with a grand dose of realism. In this book, everybody is damaged and these personal demons help accent the physical ones. I like how Ahlborn brings both modern day and past-day people into the mix, sharing with the us the generational nuances that are easily recognizable. This is just one example of her extraordinary talent as a writer.

My sole complaint about the book is that it sometimes becomes bogged down with exposition about what every character is thinking. In most cases, some insight into the thoughts of the characters is fine…however, in this book we get a bit too much of a look inside their heads. Thankfully, this isn’t a huge detractor, and the plot is enthralling enough to keep the story moving.

WITHIN THESE WALLS is a major win for me, and I recommend it to anyone looking for a spine-chilling story that will haunt you after it’s over. The book is available now in a variety of formats.

MSB

Movie Review – Axe to Grind (2015)

Axe to Grind
Directed by Matt Zettell
Courtesy of Midnight Releasing
Release Date: February 3, 2015

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I have to state right up front that this film is one you will either love or hate, and I will wager many people will hate it. I will explain why later. For me, though, I liked it for the most part. I never get tired of seeing Debbie Rochon onscreen, even in low-budget indies like this one. And although the storyline is simplistic, it’s still a lot of fun (if you look past the flaws). Granted, there are many things about the film that could have been better…but everything about it overall works for me on a base level.

If you are not familiar with AXE TO GRIND, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Midnight Releasing:

Debbie, a vengeful past-her-prime horror actress, snaps when a hot new scream queen is cast to replace her in her comeback role. Debbie doesn’t handle rejection as well as she handles an axe, so she pays a visit to the film set to turn it into a crime scene!

I should probably also state this is one of those films that is so bad, it’s good. This statement alone will explain a lot about why I like it so much.

AXE TO GRIND looks like it was shot on home video cameras for the most part, and therefore does not have a lot of cinematic value. The lighting is decent for the most part, although there are a couple of darkened shots that could have been lit better. The sound, thankfully, is good, so we don’t have any problems hearing the dialogue.

The acting is about what you would expect from a B-movie. I love Debbie Rochon, so she always entertains me, regardless of her role. Another noteworthy performance is given by Michelle Tomlinson, who plays fellow scream-queen Cheryl. I first saw Tomlinson back in 2011, in a lesser-known film I reviewed for Hayes Hudson’s House of Horror titled BRAIN DEAD (click here to check out that review). She impressed me then, and continues to impress me now. The rest of the cast, however, is a take-them-or-leave-them group. Nobody really gives a horrible performance…yet, I don’t think anyone in the cast will win any awards for their acting anytime soon, either.

The special effects are ok, however I absolutely hate CG blood-splatters. The several we see in AXE TO GRIND are poorly done, and therefore come across as cartoonish. I understand CG is a cost-saving tool, however gore cannot be a secondary aspect in a horror film and should always be given its due.

Yet, even with all of its flaws, there’s something satisfactory about seeing Rochon dole out her vengeance on a group of clueless scream-queens who have slept with her husband. She even takes out the director and his cohorts (although I never quite caught on as to why…maybe her character is just that demented!). My sole (major) complaint about the film is that I didn’t understand the ending. I don’t really know what her big ‘performance’ was or even who the creepy caretaker was supposed to be.

I can’t honestly recommend AXE TO GRIND, unless you’re a big fan of B-movies or Debbie Rochon. And even then, you have to give this one a lot of leeway. If you can do that, however, you’ll be in for a minor treat.

MSB

TV Show Review – Yu-Gi-Oh!: Zexal, season 1

Yu-Gi-Oh!: Zexal, season 1
Courtesy of Cinedigm
Original Air Date: 2011
Release Date: May 5, 2015

yugioh_zexal_season_1_dvd_cinedigm_box_set

I have to confess up front I’ve been collecting Yu-Gi-Oh! cards for several years now. I don’t play the game, but I am drawn to the cards because of the imaginative characters and creatures, as well as the impressive artwork. I’ve never watched any of the Yu-Gi-Oh! TV series before either, but I’ve been meaning to; for some reason, I’ve always had something else to watch instead. So when the fine folks at Cinedigm sent the press release for a recent Yu-Gi-Oh! series titled Zexal, I jumped at the chance to watch it. I’m glad I did, too. YU-GI-OH!: ZEXAL is a fun anime series that will appeal to both young and old.

If you are not familiar with YU-GI-OH!: ZEXAL, here is the plot synopsis courtesy of Cinedigm:

When aspiring duelist Yuma meets Astral, a mysterious visitor from another world, it seems like the perfect match. While Yuma requires Astral’s dueling expertise, Astral needs Yuma to gather 99 Number Cards that contain his lost memories. They would be dueling’s greatest tag team…if they could only get along!

After watching Zexal, I think I might have to try my hand at actually playing the game. From what I’ve been told, I’ve amassed some pretty powerful cards, so I might be a formidable opponent someday. And if the game is half as fun as this show, then I’m in for a real treat!

YU-GI-OH!: ZEXAL is both vivid and intense, a cartoon series that is just as serious as it is campy. The characters are larger than life, particularly Yuma, who can’t decide if he’s a man in a boy’s body or a just a wannabe duelist who is trying to tread water in a sea of talented card-slingers. Yuma’s over-the-top antics are half of what make this show fun, although some of his inner dialogue can be painful at times.

The show itself looks great, with well drawn monsters straight from the game cards. I like the diversity of the cards/creatures used, as it really opens the eyes to those not initiated with the actual game. Likewise, the newer monsters are powerful and cool, welcome additions to an already impressive canon of beasties.

YU-GI-OH!: ZEXAL is a win for me, and fans of Saturday morning anime cartoons should love it. The 3-disc set of season one is packaged in a nice, albeit plain, box case, so it should look nice on any collector’s shelf. The series hits stores tomorrow, so make a note.

MSB