IT’S “20 QUESTIONS WITH CROSS” DAY!
As you all are well aware, my two first Horror Film Interviews were with band members, which is great to know that bands you like dig horror films too. For this one interview though, I thought to change the tradition a bit and sit down to talk to a different type of artist. He’s a YouTuber and a master of spoken words. He has the talent to place the right word right where it belongs. In his YouTube content, for as long as I’ve known him, he never uses notes. Everything comes out of his mind and heart. One of the main reasons I decided to get him on board for my next Horror Film Interview is cause we share one common love, Nosferatu. Let’s let him tell us a bit more about himself before we get through the 20 questions.
Cross – Hi, J! How are you? I thought it would be interesting if you would tell us a couple things about yourself so we get to know you a bit better. Like for example, that huge, epic, Nosferatu tattoo you have on your arm. How did you get the idea and who tattooed it on you? We will talk about Nosferatu movies later on.
J – Hey Cross. I’m aright. Tired as always. I consider myself relatively boring. I’m a crane operator in a steel mill. Spend most of my time pouring metal. When I do have some free time I try to catch up on wrestling, movies and occasionally review music.
About the tattoo… There’s actually a long story behind that. It went through a lot of idea changes. It was going to be the shot of him in the hallway, standing. That was going to be on my forearm. My artist said it would just blur together after a while, he would lose too much detail. Then it was a lot of back and forth with ideas, for about three months.
Cross – Good you listened to him. The reason I’m starting this interview with this film is because the title leads me to some other great horror films I like. Robert Eggers’ “The VVitch”. To be honest I have never seen this film until the end, even when I re-watched it. My brother loves this film, but every time he was up to watch it, I fell asleep. Both times. (Laughs)
I’m sure many know why it’s called ” The VVitch ” and not with a W but, I want you to explain that to us and tell us something about the film. Make me want to go for it one more time and this time watch it till the end. Make me curious! (Laughs)
J – I watched the VVitch right when it was released in Blu-ray. I had seen a few articles about it that were pretty ambiguous because a lot of reviewers had trouble covering it. The film is slow, lumbering, drab and as it goes on I just got sucked in to the bleak despair that that family is struggling with. It’s a very human story and one that is tightly contained. To the level of suffocating at point. I prefer horror films to have that isolating feel. Then they rush ending, is amplified so much because of the pacing of the previous 80 minutes or so. I also love that they pull the trigger on this all being real. The Devil walks among them and he is there to guide Thomasin.
Cross – Gonna let you know when I’ll give it another try. It will be soon, ’cause I’m watching everything that gets mentioned in these interviews and I haven’t watched before or it has been a long time since the last time I’ve watched it.
Viy (1967). Not sure if you like old horror but this is one of my favorite witch films. Often spoken of as the first Soviet era horror film. Ever heard of it, J?
J – I haven’t heard of it but you have my attention with it being a Soviet Era film. I watched a lot of exploitation films from the 60’s and 70’s. A few local channels would run them Saturday nights. They were all chopped up and the dubbing was horrible but that added to the appeal.
Cross – They call him the “Master of Italian Horror” and the “Master of the Macabre”, Mario Bava. One of his greatest horror films, in my opinion always, is “Kill Baby Kill”. Ever heard of Bava and this particular movie?
J – There is a chance I have seen “Kill Baby Kill” because it sounds familiar but I can’t say for sure.
Cross – Jumping to a totally different movie: Pascal Laugier’s “Martyrs”. Brutal, nasty, gruesome and not for everyone. It has such a low rate from what I expected it to have. What are your thoughts about it and the movie?
J – Shortly after “Martyrs” came out it was on the top of nearly every shocking and banned film list so I had to see what the buzz was about it. The film lives up to what people say. The mid 2000’s surge of French Horror was what the whole industry needed. It’s as gruesome as it’s contemporary counter parts “Inside” and “Irreversible” as well as “A Serbian Film” or even some of the over the top splatter films from Japan. But “Martyrs” is different. You’ll see a common theme with a lot of my favorite films in general, especially horror. They are usually minimalistic. And bleak. The most incredible part of that film to me is the years of trauma, all the plotted revenge, and then all the suffering was for nothing. There is no answer. Not one that the audience gets to find out. That’s the best way I have ever seen a film end without answering anything and yet still feeling fulfilled.
Cross – Here’s another not so old film: Ari Aster’s “Hereditary”. It got nominated for many awards, MTV movie award for the most frightening performance, for best actress and many others. Any thoughts about it? It didn’t do much for me though…
J – Ari Aster is a genius when it comes to story telling and misdirection. The film was written without any horror or supernatural elements to it originally. Once that was completed he added the rest. The core of it is a family struggling to process grief and how everyone handles it differently. Adding in King Paimon makes it so much better. Instead of some generic demon or being, Ari took the time to research everything. Using the proper sigil as well as the right attributes. But even without that aspect, seeing a family that already had its problems simply try to function, makes it more human.
Cross – You mentioned this one in one of our conversations… “Videodrome”. I haven’t had a chance to give it a try yet, but I sure do know David Cronenberg from “The Fly”, his most triumphant and accessible film to date. About “Videodrome” I’ve heard it is extremely brutal and violent. What can you tell us about it?
J – I think “The Fly” is his most notorious film. I stumbled across “Videodrome” on TV one day. I didn’t know it was a Cronenberg film until the end. I saw it in the late 90’s for the first time. The internet wasn’t as prominent as it is now. And so a lot of the elements in the film were still relevant. Parts of the BDSM subculture that get touched upon were unknown to the average person. Lots of shock films like “Faces of Death” were still few and far between. Max Renn’s drive to find more and experience everything through the screen hit close to home. As well as Brian O’Blivion being this cult leader that exists only on vhs. Now, nearly 40 years later the film is more relevant. The formats have changed from vhs and tube screens to our phones. We are living the reality that’s depicted. Hard to separate real life from the digital world.
Cross – That’s true. Let’s jump to a Sci-fi/Crime film, which for many might not be considered as a horror film but to me a horror film doesn’t need creepy scenes or blood to be a horror film. “A Clockwork Orange”, one of Kubrick’s finest movies. A misunderstood classic. What does this movie tell you?
J – I always saw the film as a good example of how people will adapt to society but don’t change who they are. The book has a bit more ambiguous ending, at least that I remember. But Kubrick’s take on it was clear. Simply go through the motions and show people what they want to see but you can’t change who you are inside. You can simply become better at hiding it. Along with that, the film has one of the most amazing scores out there.
Cross – I’m sure many know Kubrick from “The Shining”. Stephen King’s horror novel, which established him as a preeminent author in the horror genre. Getting back to Kubrick and his ” The Shining”, he can make your own room seem creepy and unfamiliar. Are you a “The Shining” fan J? Or a fan of Jack Nickolson’s performance in this movie?
J – I love “The Shining”. King’s work has had some rough adaptations. I know Kubrick took the skeleton of the books idea and created his own nightmare out of it and I think it’s much better that way. The insane amount to detail that he puts into every film that he made is otherworldly. There are no mistakes. The torture he put Shelley Duvall through was probably a bit too much. Jack Nicholson was a fantastic actor until playing the Joker broke him mentally. “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Chinatown” showed how deep he could go even early on.
Cross – I’m glad you mentioned “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest“ (great Book too) and “Chinatown”. You have a large amount of piercings, does that have anything to do with Pinhead? (Laughs) Clive Barker most known for his books, he’s one of the directors in “Hellraiser”. I’m sure if one is a fan of Barker they know he is a painter too. How many “Hellraiser” films are out there,10? And which one is your favorite?
J – It’s a pretty common question actually. If “Hellraiser” inspired my interest in body modification. It might have played a part in it but the next question will explain it more. I watched the first two “Hellraiser” films a lot growing up. When I was younger I was a larger fan of the second one. The exploration of psychology and the vision of hell in the end was amazing. But Clive’s universe is a bit different as I would discover later through a number of his books. Hell is simply another realm of existence. The massive landscape that you see is simply a temple there. As I grew older and understood the films more, the first one resonated more with me. Even though the Cenobites are only on screen for roughly 5 minutes they had the most impact. The story gets overshadowed. A woman who is tired of the life that she is living. Longing for something she had for a brief moment. A husband oblivious to her misery. And Frank. A man driven by an unquenchable desire for experience. Nothing in the world means anything to him. He is never satisfied.
For the series there are 8 that star Doug Bradley. Those are the ones that are more or less considered cannon. The additional 2 were made simply to hold the rights to the name. I think I’ve made it 15 minutes into “Revelations” and that was it. The final 4 films during Doug’s time were simply scrips that were adjusted to kinda fit into the “Hellraiser” universe. They are low budget but kinda watchable if you don’t want to really pay attention. I did read the original scrip to “Deader” and it was a much better film than it ended up becoming. Clive wrapped up his vision for “Hellraiser” with “The Scarlet” Gospels having it take place after the second film and ignoring the rest as well as both of the comic book series. I think he did an amazing job wrapping it up. I know he is a very active painter, his mind and his creativity never stop. He will do up to 3 paintings a day and that’s on top of writing on and off. Unfortunately he doesn’t do anything with them. Just stock piles his work.
Cross – He does painting exhibits with them I’m sure people pay to get inside. When this movie came out I was one year old. (Laughs) I’m talking about Dan O’Bannon’s “The Return of the Living Dead”. Classic! Hilarious! Educational too. One of the funniest zombie movies I’ve ever seen. Do you consider it as an intro to modern zombie movies?
J – I am a fan of most of the series. The second film is kinda meh. But Return was great. It was my introduction to the punk subculture as a kid. And it blends the right amount of horror and comedy. The third film takes the approach of being a tragic love story. That helped expand what you could do with a zombie film. They are simply the backdrop. Julia going through her transformation is where I saw for the first time that you could pierce anything if you really wanted to. Even though some of what she does to her body is exaggerated, a lot of it is still realistic. I started to look into it more and more as I got older. Also gave me the mentality of “fuck it, I’ll just do it myself”. 4 & 5 are bad but entertaining bad. Low budget fun.
Cross – Talking about zombies, Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” and the most famous line of a zombie film “They coming to get you, J!” (Laughs) How much do you like this one?
J – “Night of the living Dead” is probably the first zombie film I saw. As with most people. It set a new standard. Moved away from films like White Zombie. Romero found a way to critique humanity and culture while also scaring the hell out of people.
Cross – Love that last line. “Dawn of the Dead” another one of Romero’s movies, his second, the true classic. A blast. Considered as the best zombie horror film ever made. Do you agree?
J – I think it’s up there. The original might be tops. But I love the scathing criticism of consumer culture.
Cross – To stay in the world of the “living dead”, let me drop you a title that goes beyond the boundaries of the Supernatural to the half-world of the living dead, Mario Bava’s “Black Sabbath/ I Tre Volti Della Paura”. Another of my favorites. Ever heard about it?
J – I watched it as a kid because I thought it had something to do with the band Black Sabbath but that was it. I keep telling myself I should watch it again but it’s been about 30 years and I still haven’t. Maybe one day I will finally pull it off the shelf along with the dozens of other films I’ve bought and haven’t had time to watch.
Cross – I always thought they took it from there. (Laughs) Now it’s time to talk about Vampires. So we end this conversation right. “Nosferatu” (1922) Max Schrek, “Nosferatu the Vampyre” (1979) Klaus Kinski, “Dracula” (1931) Bela Lugosi, or Christopher Lee in “Dracula Has Risen from the Grave”?
J – Nosferatu and Dracula were staples in my house growing up. They are fantastic for different reasons. Max made a vampire terrifying. Bela showed how to make a monster wonderfully charming. I’m not a fan of the Kinski remake. It just didn’t really do anything for me. Though they are working on a new adaptation of Nosferatu being Directed by Robbert Eggers that I’m really excited about. His ability to tell a story with minimal dialogue and muted or black and white is perfect. His visual style is the ideal blend needed. I liked Christopher Lee’s approach to the roll. Added more terror. But that’s something he was always good at. Creating a fear inducing atmosphere. Not just his character.
Cross – The one with Kinski has a lot of atmosphere and that’s one of the reasons why I love it. Bram Stoker’s “Dracula”, Cappola’s adaptation. I know this movie is like super loved but it never got me. Do you like it?
J – I have mixed feelings on it. Visually it’s fantastic. Gary Oldman is one of the best actors of all time. But a lot of it falls flat.
Cross – “Shadow of the Vampire” with William Dafoe?
J – Wonderful. I love the twist. I am a fan of meta work and I like that they took the idea of Max actually being a vampire and running with it. Defoe is another legend. His performance just adds so much to it. As well as the film being symbolic of the lengths that a director will go through to make a film.
Cross – “Interview With The Vampire”? I think it’s fun but not my cup of tea. Don’t like her book series at all. She goes too much around the bush in my opinion. Boring books. What are your thoughts?
J – I’m not a fan of the books. Good ideas but they just don’t do anything for me. I love the movie though. I think it comes down to casting. Brad Pitt and Tom Cruse were perfect. They did tone down the homosexual relationship in the film but I understand that wasn’t going to fly in the early 90’s but the idea still is there.
Cross – “Blade”? ” From Dusk Till Dawn”?
J – “Blade” is priceless. Solid action and entertaining. Has a pretty good soundtrack as well. Second one was all the mastermind of Guillermo del Toro. I don’t think a sequel would have worked with the same direction. Would have just been a repeat. He kept the action but amped up the horror. “From Dusk Till Dawn” is entertaining. But I don’t think it aged well. I liked it as a teenager but that’s about it.
Cross – “Let the Right One In”, the Swedish one. Do you like it?
J – I’m actually a fan of both the original and the remake. Though the American version doesn’t translate well in certain parts. But I really like when horror films take an established idea and run in a completely different direction with it.
Cross – I could mention so many other movies but I think we better let some for some other time (laughs. Second interview if you will). If there’s any other movies you would like to mention or suggest or if you would like to add something more…
J – There are tons I could go on about but I will end with two short ones. “Event Horizon”. Incredible cast. A very unique story. The bait and switch approach. It seems like it is simply going to be a dark sci-fi. Instead it dives deep into the idea of fear. What might happen when we play with technology that we don’t fully understand. And going to hell and back. That’s clearly a common theme for my interests.
And “Cube”. It’s kind of unknown. The first film simply offers no explanation. Just shows how people handle stress and shows how humans will break down rather than come together. And the film has no solid ending. I don’t count either of the sequels.
Cross – Would have to watch “Event Horizon”. You make it sound interesting. I agree with you about “Cube”. I’ve seen them all but the first one is what does it.
Thank you J for taking the time to answer all my questions. It’s been great talking to you as always. Appreciate it, thank you very much!!