"Twisted Visions: Interviews with Cult Horror Filmmakers" Book Review
Written by Robert Gold
Published by McFarland
Written by Matthew Edwards
2017, 269 pages, Reference
Book released on June 29th, 2017
Mainstream media can be rewarding, but the world of underground cinema has always been more appealing. When artists are free to make whatever they want without having to work by committee or in the shadow of what popular opinion might demand, the resulting product can be quite impressive and influential. In the introduction to his book Twisted Visions: Interviews with Cult Horror Filmmakers, author Matthew Edwards makes the sad observation that frequently in Hollywood, the marketing is more important than the quality of the actual feature represented. Studio executives know they can strike gold with a stunning trailer rather than encouraging an artistic vision that strays from the generic mold that shapes most contemporary blockbusters.
Edwards has tracked down 23 independent filmmakers from across the globe and interviewed them about their craft for his new collection. He uncovers volumes of material about their approach to the material under frequently adverse conditions and how their creativity proved immeasurable for resolving the challenge. Sometimes the limitations are financial while others are based in conflicts of personality. Each of these directors successfully navigated this cinematic minefield and has created something unique and personal. Not all of the interviewees have gone on to obtain cult status in their career, but their visions prove more than worthy of discussion here.
It is the very obscurity of some of these films that makes this book all the more interesting. Sure it helps to be familiar with the material, but fans will find their “must watch” lists growing as they advance from one chapter to the next. Edwards is an excellent guide as he navigates his way through minute details of plots and production histories that make the material accessible to even the most casual reader. Dedicated genre lovers will likely recognize several of the names on this list of interview subjects and yet I found myself taking more than a few notes on talent that I have overlooked over the years. Edwards is quite knowledgeable about each film discussed and his attention to detail is more than a tad impressive as he delves into the minutia of specific shots or behind-the-scenes anecdotes. This familiarity frequently places the directors at ease, allowing them to open up about more specific aspects of the production history.
American filmmaker Jack Sholder (Arachnid) tells great stories of working as an editor on films like The Burning before writing and directing his feature debut Alone in the Dark. He freely discusses the difficulties of working with specific actors like Jack Palance and later on The Hidden with Michael Nouri. Most of these conflicts stemmed from their challenging of Sholder as a director and he reveals how he defused the situation and won over their support. German Jörg Buttgereit (Schramm) discusses censorship and working as an artist within a film community that didn’t always respect his efforts. He continues to work in the arts today but has switched media to graphic novels and live theatre productions. He discusses the themes of his Nekromantik films and der Todesking as life-affirming pictures addressing the inevitability of death and the beauty therein. As a director, Buttgereit managed to maintain complete control of his artistic vision but risked alienating audiences.
Buddy Giovinazzo (Combat Shock) is a notoriously private man who seldom grants interviews but agreed to appear here through a series of email exchanges. Edwards prefaces the piece with a career overview of Giovinazzo’s projects completed in the States before he moved to Germany where he now directs for television. Italian filmmaker Marinao Baino burst onto the horror scene in the early ‘90s with his acclaimed underground sensation Dark Waters. Here the director relays some interesting anecdotes regarding the notoriously troubled production and also discusses the visual style of the picture. This is another score for Edwards, as Baino interviews are also relatively uncommon, especially in English.
Twisted Visions begins with a brief introduction with the author, but then he quickly steps aside and lets his subjects speak for themselves. Additional chapters include visits with the following filmmakers: Alfred Sole (Alice, Sweet, Alice), David Paulsen (Schizoid), Romano Scavolini (Nightmares in a Damaged Brain), Scott Schirmer (Found), Go Shibata (Late Bloomer), Joseph Ellison (Don’t Go in the House) and Andrew van den Houten (Headspace) among others. All of these interviews are thoughtful and insightful and Matthew Edwards has clearly done his homework. Genre fans looking for something fresh and exciting and off the beaten path should pick up a copy of this book and prepare to be educated. I have a lot more titles to watch now and to this I say bring on Volume II.
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