Interview with Skip Shea, director of Seeds (and more)

We had the amazing opportunity to see Seeds during the Salem Horror Fest and also gained the ability to connect with its creator, Skip Shea. Beyond making some truly interesting and intense movies, he’s had quite the life.

As an outspoken survivor of clergy sexual abuse, he wrote, produced and performed a one-man theatrical memoir called Catholic (Surviving Abuse & Other Dead End Roads). That’s not the only tragedy that he’s endured — in 1999, his daughter Shawna Shea, twin sister of Erin, tragically lost her life in a car accident at 16.

Skip transformed this ultimate loss as best he knew how: through art and film, as well as by establishing the annual Shawna Shea Film Festival, a growing gathering attracting the best independent films from across the U.S. and the world with all proceeds going directly to the Shawna E. Shea Memorial Foundation, Inc.

I’m overjoyed that Skip and I have had several opportunities to connect and discuss his films, what they mean, how they were made and what comes next.

B&S ABOUT MOVIES: How did the challenges in your life inform your work?

Skip Shea: Interesting question. I was already into expressing myself as a visual artist long before I had any of these challenges. I had a book that I wrote and illustrated on display at the Worcester Art Museum when I was in second grade. So it was almost second nature to explore the clergy abuse and death of my daughter through art. I don’t believe that my art is therapy or a cathartic experience. I see a therapist for that work. Although the first time I did the one man show and had people listen, it did change things for me. Most clergy abuse victims are told over and over again no one will believe you if you tell anyone. Having that notion proven wrong at that moment was powerful. But in some instances they were right. There will always be a group that won’t believe you. Especially with the church. They believe somehow that my story invalidates theirs, which is probably one where the church helped them in a dramatic way. A truly good experience. The reality is both the good and bad coexist.

B&S: How did you move from a one-man show to acting and then directing?

SKIP: After having performed the one man show for maybe a year I was reading the local paper and read an ad for background actors needed for a movie being shot at the Worcester Airport. It was Edward Anderson’s Shuttle. While on set two people approached me, had me stand up etc. Then I was bumped up to being the pilot. Just simply walking off the plane at the very beginning. A PA came over to me with a stack of paperwork but when they found out I wasn’t in the Union they walked away. So I knew I was missing something. I asked a couple of other background actors how they got into it, about local casting directors etc. So I started submitting after that.

I was put in the ESPN show The Bronx is Burning and a similar story happened. Like a Seinfeld episode I became a hand model for one of the police officers who is taking a shot of whiskey. This was before SAG and AFTRA merged and the show had an AFTRA contract. So I joined the union. Shortly after that I joined SAG. Much too soon. I should have worked on a few non-union projects to get some movie acting under my belt. Because ultimately I just got background work. Which is pretty grueling in its own way. The folks who do that are very hard working and underappreciated.

But somewhere in me, I’ve always wanted to write and direct. Mostly theater but I always had a great love for cinema. It was always something I wanted to do. And doing background work I was able to watch how Martin Scorsese, Ang Lee, Lasse Hallström and Richard Kelly work. Many others too but these four were great to watch and to see how differently they worked. It was a great bootcamp version of film school.

B&S: With Microcinema, you made a film you really do change — your words — the rape/revenge movie. You fundamentally change one of the issues I’ve always had that it’s exclusively women in those movies. What was your motivation?

SKIP: Some of the rape/revenge movies had a political point when they were made. Others are just exploitation for people (men) who enjoy watching violence against women. The type who review movies with kill, boobs and blood and as part of their rating. I wanted to make something that might offend that audience. And I think it did. I also wanted the perpetrator to be punished for thinking about assaulting the woman. She’s never touched. Never a victim outside of the thoughts that are in his head.

B&S: As for Trinity, how much would you say is real life and how much is fiction? 

SKIP: It was based on a moment when I went Christmas shopping with my wife and the priest who abused me was working at the Barnes and Noble. He came right up to me like we were old buddies. And my mind raced through this incredibly dissociative moment. It was an out of body experience. Some of the things touched upon in Michael’s journey were quite real. Suicidal ideation was one and a topic that I think needed to be explored. But Michael is young and single. Neither of which I am. In the movie it is a coffee shop not a bookstore. What is the ultimate truth in Trinity is the feeling of surreal confusion that any one viewing it may experience. That was the real point of it. To share that feeling.

B&S: Obviously, I loved Seeds because it feels very 70s American folk horror. What were your influences on that film?

SKIP: The biggest influence is The Wicker Man. It is one of my top five movies of all time. And a UK folk horror film called Robin Redbreast (1970). It was a made for TV movie in the UK, it’s black and white and a terrific story*. I’m not sure how many folks in the US have seen it but it’s well worth a look. I also wanted to honor New England in Seeds so I used the same ferry that was used in Let’s Scare Jessica to Death. Another that helped influence the story was Wake Wood (2009).

Folk horror is my favorite sub-genre by far. It’s pretty exciting to see all of the interest these days.

B&S: A lot of Seeds feels informed by gnostic Catholicism or the idea that there’s another church within the church. Is it?

SKIP: There is another church within the church. And it is a business. That’s why I brought in the Vatican Bank which does invest in all sorts of companies. For profit. I wanted to show that ultimately it is a corporation that sells salvation.

B&S: What is your dream project? 

SKIP: The next one? I don’t know. It’s a funny business to be in. I’m not sure if it matters the level. There are certain expectations that people have. Usually based in commercial success. I’m more interested in the art of it. And how to push boundaries there. I saw some interesting movies lately like Brain Death by WL Freeman, John Harrison at the Salem Horror Fest, Kamaloca by Christophe Karabache at the Buffalo Dreams and Fantastic Film Festival and Execution by Stavit Allweis which also screened at Buffalo Dreams which we had screened at the Shawna Shea Film Festival too. All of them challenge what a movie is supposed to be and how it should be viewed. It’s exciting to be present at this time with artists who are challenging and changing the artform. I don’t have a dream project but I know the direction I want to go.

B&S: What are your influences? 

SKIP: Influence is a funny word. I think there are artists I admire who changed things. From the Dada movement to Pop Art. Or in music like John Coltrane to the Velvet Underground or David Bowie. In cinema I’m going to say mostly foreign films. They don’t seem to be as obsessed with weekend box office results. I have a great love for Italian cinema from Fellini and Antonioni to Argento and Fulci. And anything in between like Lina Wertmüller and Luigi Cozzi. Even today Paolo Sorrentino has made things with incredible artistic integrity. But also filmmakers like Andrei Tarkovsky, Béla Tarr, Agnès Varda, Ingmar Bergman, Jean-Luc Godard, Chantal Akerman, Alain Resnais, Luis Buñuel’ etc all helped change the landscape of cinema.

That’s not to say I don’t like American cinema. I think Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider isthe great American film. Bob Fosse challenged structure and styles in particular with All That Jazz.

I could write a book! But all of this is to scratch the surface of artists I admire. I’m already thinking of who I haven’t mentioned like Marina Abramović or Diamanda Galás! But they have changed things. I have not. Nor do I intend to. That’s too ambitious.

B&S: I’m excited that you mentioned way beyond the usual Italian directors and bring up Cozzi. It’s funny because I saw a lot of similarities — maybe tone? — between his film Black Cat (AKA Demons 6 de Profundis) and Seeds. What of his films — and Fulci and Argento’s — do you gravitate to?

SKIP: I’m actually friends with Luigi. I visit him every time I’m in Rome and we’ve shown his newer movies at our Shawna Shea Film Festival. We had two just this year. Neither are genre pieces but excellent nonetheless. So I’ll take that as a compliment that you saw similarities between us. If I were to gravitate to one of his movies it would be The Killer Must Kill Again. It’s a different take on the giallo tropes as we know who the killer is. But it is by far one of the most disturbing movies of that genre. I rate it above the classics by Argento or Fulci. I think it is the best.

For Argento the obvious ones still hold up and I rewatch them.Suspiria is great simply because as a work of art it broke so many rules in narrative form. The use of colors etc. It is amazing. And of course Deep RedInferno etc. But the one I rewatch over and over is The Stendhal Syndrome because I think it almost happened to me at the Uffizi while looking at Caravaggio’s Medusa. It was so mesmerizing I just couldn’t move! I also love the use of classic art incorporated into stories. I did that a little Trinity and I’m doing it again in the feature I’m working on now. It also appeared a little in Seeds but that was mostly during the lecture in the gallery when Michael, from Trinity enters and we see his artwork hanging on the wall. Both of my features take place in the same world. The one I’m working on now exists there as well.

The Fulci film I turn to is a no brainer for me, Don’t Torture a Duckling. His take on the Catholic Church isn’t that far removed from mine. He’s way ahead of his time.

B&S: How did you get Barb Magnofi to be in Seeds?

SKIP: I’m connected with quite a few people on social media who are involved in the horror industry. She was booked at a local convention, Rock and Shock in Worcester, MA so I did an outreach to see if she was interested. She knew I was friendly with Luigi so that helped. So it wasn’t too complicated. I was lucky she agreed.

Thanks to Skip for all the time he took with us. Please check out his site and his reel to learn more about this incredibly interesting creative force.

*It’s part of Severin‘s new All the Haunts Be Ours folk horror box set.

2021 Scarecrow Video Psychotronic Challenge Wrap-Up

I’m really emotional that another Scarecrow Video Psychotronic Challenge is over. In another rough year, this was something I really looked forward to and even got to fly across the country to visit Scarecrow right in the middle of all of this.

Here’s an overview of what we watched. You can also check out the Letterboxd list, as well as our lists for 2018, 2019 and 2020.

Day 1. RE-ANIMATED: Businesses are opening back up (we did!) and things are getting back to “normal” so to kick things off you get to watch a movie where something gets brought back to life. We’re baaaaaack!

Erotic Nights of the Living Dead

Day 2. MASKS ARE STILL REQUIRED: You know it, at least one character has to wear a mask for the entire movie.

Santo vs. the Strangler

Day 3. HIGH SPIRITS: Tickle your funny bones with a side splitter, a gut buster, a real scream. Go on, laugh your head off!

Hee-Man: Master of None

Day 4. WHEN THE TABLES TURN: Victim becomes stalker, hunter becomes the hunted etc.

She Kills

Day 5. REEKING HAVOC: Sewer dwellers making a mess of things up on the surface.


Day 6. IT CAME FROM THE SEA: Some kind of threat from below the brine.

The Fishmen and Their Queen

Day 7. IT CAME FROM THE SCREEN: One where a TV is a major part to the story.

WNUF Halloween Special 

Day 8. CRAFT NIGHT: Cast your eyes upon the screen, whence a witch’s spell is surely seen.


Day 9. SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL: One with a misunderstood freak/mutant/abomination etc.

Nigel the Psychopath


10. RITUALS: It’s good to have a routine, even if it’s evil.


Doctor Strain the Body Snatcher

Day 11. SKINS & NEEDLES: Body art or body harm? When getting the mark leads to all hell breaking loose.

The Illustrated Man

Day 12. CAMPFIRES & FLASHLIGHTS: One where a character tells a scary story and then… flashback.

Scary Tales

Campfire Tales

Day 13. THE RUBY ANNIVERSARY: Watch something that came out in 1981. The redder the better, right Ben?

Beyond Evil

Alison’s Birthday

Day 14. SPOILED ALERT!: Watch something with grotesque eating in it. Or at least some expired food. Yuck.

Graveyard Disturbance

Day 15. KILLED BY TECHNOLOGY: The gadgets will getcha (<-autocorrect that one, phone).

Remote Control

Day 16. VIDEO STORE DAY: This is the big one. Watch something physically rented or bought from an actual video store. If you don’t have access to one of these sacred archival treasures then watch a movie with a video store scene in it at least. #vivaphysicalmedia

Remote Control

Day 17. HEADS OFF AT THE PASS: Something with a decapitation in it.

Empire of the Dark

Day 18. ALL THUMBS: Picking up a hitchhiker can be risky… lift with your legs, not your back.

The Hitchhikers

Day 19. CAN’T YOU HEAR ME KNOCKIN’?: When you let an unexpected guest in, you may be in for a long night.

The Night God Screamed

Zora the Vampire

Day 20. CASTLEMANIA: Something that takes place in, where else, a castle.

Nightmare Castle

Day 21. BARN HOWLS: There are strange things afoot at the farm. Bonus points if you see a pumpkin patch!


Day 22. BEASTS OF BURDEN: One where a horse/donkey/mule/ox etc is doing some serious work.

Circle of Fear “Dark Vengeance”

Night Creature

Day 23. DEPT. OF INDUSTRY & LABOR: A story based on doing a job. Speaking of jobs, yours ain’t finished yet, 8 days to go!

Darkest Soul

The Mummy Theme Park

Day 24. 2 CLOSE 4 COMFORT: A main character suffers from claustrophobia.

Die, Sister, Die


Day 25. SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE*: Sleep deprived and still alive… for now. (*Does not have to be set in Seattle)

General Massacre

Dark Mansions

Day 26. DAY OF THE SERPENT: There better be a motherf*ing snake in this motherf*ing movie.


Day 27. ARTIFICIAL LIMBS: Robot arms, wooden legs or even a transplanted thing… whatever grabs you.

Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight

Day 28. THESE FISTS BREAK BRICKS: In celebration of the excellent new book, watch a martial arts movie.

Super Ninja

Day 29. DOUBLE TROUBLE: There’s gotta be some twins in there somewhere.


Day 30. MARTINI SHOT: Blow off some Challenge steam with a hardy party scene.

The Loved Ones

Day 31. THAT’S A RAP: Watch one with a rapper-turned-actor in it, even if Samuel L. Jackson does not approve.

Tougher than Leather

Now, I ask that you look into getting involved with Scarecrow Video.

As a nonprofit organization, they put your support to good use: expanding the film collection, hosting exciting in-store events, offering community programs, and celebrating film arts 363 days a year. For more information and to donate, visit their site.

2021 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 31: Tougher than Leather (1988)

31. THAT’S A RAP: Watch one with a rapper-turned-actor in it, even if Samuel L. Jackson does not approve.

The Washington Post said that this movie was vile, vicious, despicable, stupid, sexist, racist and horrendously made.”

Maybe they hadn’t watched the blaxploitation movies of a decade and a half before, because instead of the guys from Hollis, Queens making a Beatles style fun film, they decided to remake something like Slaughter crossed with an Italian Western and yet filled it with everyone on Def Jam and had the amazing weird brains to make Rick Rubin the racist super villain.

I’m here for all of this.

The film starts with Jam Master Jay and Run picking up D.M.C. from prison. He’s done a nine-month bid and it feels like we spent at least a few of those days with the camera as it searches the prison halls for him. Then, Jam Master Jay relates a sexual dream that ends with him getting his penis eaten.

Like I said, this isn’t the fun rap movie people probably wanted.

They go to visit their manager Russell Simmons, played by their manager Russell Simmons, who gets them and the Beastie Boys signed to a record label run by Vic Ferrante (Rubin, who directed and co-wrote this with Ric Menello, who directs Doro’s “Bad Blood” video, as well as Danzig’s “Mother,” LL Cool J’s “Goin’ Back to Cali” and the Beastie Boys’ “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!” and “No Sleep ‘Til Brooklyn.” He was going to make the Beastie Boys into movie stars with the film Scared Stupid, which New Line was going to pay for, but the Beasties left Def Jam and went off to build a house and make Paul’s Boutique so things worked out as they should have).

Yet before the guys can celebrate being big stars, one of their friends Runny Ray gets killed and this sends them off on a mission of vengeance. And have sex with gangster molls. And break fingers. And go see Slick Rick. And shoot people. Lots of people.

The album of the same title — Run DMC’s fourth — contains some of their best known songs like “Run’s House,” “Mary, Mary” and “I’m Not Going Out Like That,” which had the bravery to sample bands that were currently taking hip hop past what the group had started like Public Enemy and even themselves. The sessions also led to seasonal favorite “Christmas In Hollis,” which samples Clarence Carter’s “Back Door Santa” and used to infuriate me every time people tried to perform it at karaoke. So yeah, while the album is remembered today as a classic, it had a mixed reception back in 1988. As for the movie, well, no one talks about it today.

I am. And despite some people — Nathan Rabin, for one — claiming it ruins Run DMC for them, I kind of love it. Because these guys got to make the movie they wanted to make, even if it may not have been the right movie for their fans or their fame.

You know what? I live for Run DMC tearing apart some racist dudes at a bar. And by that, I mean that Jam Master Jay and Rev. Run are beating everyone up while Darryl McDaniels just drinks beer, eats peanuts and breaks the bartender’s wrist. They then leave the bar with Jam Master Jay launching a full bottle of booze at a gigantic mirror.

“I always wanted to do this,” he says.

I get it.

You can watch this on YouTube, because it isn’t available on DVD.

2021 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 30: The Loved Ones (2009)

30. MARTINI SHOT: Blow off some Challenge steam with a hardy party scene.

This movie is one big party but it is not that you’d want to be at.

Brent is dealing with the death of his father — that he inadvertently caused when he swerved to miss a bloody man in the road — and trying to get through high school. Luckily, he has a pretty loving girlfriend Holly. But he’s made the mistake of turning down Lola Stone’s prom invitation, so that means that she’s going to do what any other young girl who has been turned away will do: she’s going to kidnap him, inject bleach into his vocal chords, knife his feet into the ground and slice her initials into his chest at the prom that she’s made for herself.

Look, if she wants to have an incest-filled dance with her father during all of this, it’s her happening and it freaks everyone else out.

Brent deals with a lot of damage in this movie. In addition to all the brutal abuse detailed before, he also gets a hole drilled into his head for a home-brew lobotomy and he only escapes by getting the drill bit stuck in his wrist. Yeah, this movie isn’t going to skimp on the horrific imagery, like a basement filled with lobotomized former boyfriends.

Sean Byrne has only made this and The Devil’s Candy. He really needs to make something new, because for a debut, this is pretty wild. It also inspired a real life crime where someone was stabbed more than forty times and had cleaning fluid poured into their eyes by a fan of this movie.



2021 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 29: Sisters (1972)

29. DOUBLE TROUBLE: There’s gotta be some twins in there somewhere. 

Brian De Palma was inspired to make Sisters after reading an article in Life magazine about how Soviet conjoined twins Masha and Dasha Krivoshlyapova were separated. A photo at the end of the article — along with a mention that the girls were developing psychological problems — struck him, as one twin looked happy and the other appeared to be deranged. And, as always, Hitchcock loomed large, as the script that DePalma wrote with Louisa Rose was directly inspired by his films Rope — the tracking shot that follows the murder of Phillip — and Psycho, as the main character shifts during the movie. He even got Bernard Hermann to come out of retirement and record the music for the movie.

In fact, DePalma had cut his movie to another Hermann score. When he showed it to the composer, he answered back, “Young man, I cannot watch your film while I’m listening to Marnie.”

The film has since influenced countless others. I can see echoes of the documentary within this film on the film within Get Out that details another sinister operation.

An operation is behind much of the horror in this film, as Danielle Breton and Dominique Blanchion (Margot Kidder, as always perfect) were separated and perhaps one of the two did not survive. Then there’s Emil Breton (William Finley, the literal Phantom of the Paradise), who is either Danielle’s ex-husband or the doctor who helped take the twins apart or both. And an investigation into the murder that starts the film and the hypnotic suggestions that perhaps there was no real murder at all.

DePalma has a career that some would say is filmed with misogynistic films, but here, this is the rare slasher with female killers and male victims. Of course, you can also read into this that women’s liberation — somewhat literally — has caused all of these issues.

This is the film where DePalma found his way. Of course, he found it by following in the footsteps of someone else, but if anyone could be the next Hitchcock, he made the best attempt.

2021 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 28: The Super Ninja (1984)

28. THESE FISTS BREAK BRICKS: In celebration of the excellent new book, watch a martial arts movie.

John has two jobs: he’s a maverick NYPD cop. And, well, he’s also a ninja. A super ninja.

Alexander Rei Lo is the guy for this role because a look across his IMDB resume tells us that he sure was in a lot of ninja movies. Don’t believe me? How about this list: Ninja KidsNinja vs. ShaolinMafia vs. NinjaUSA NinjaNinja vs. Shaolin GuardNinja Death (three films), Wu Tang vs. Ninja, the nine-hour long Ninja: The Final DuelNinja CondorsNinja: The Battalion and two Ninja in the Deadly Duel films.

Anyways, it’s the 80s, drugs are everywhere and John the ninja cop gets framed. Using his shadow skills, he escapes and uncover a plot to steal his girlfriend’s father’s life work, so he travels to China to face the 5 Element Ninjas.

Honestly at this point, I’d get you $20 for the blu ray.

But then there’s an impossible long sex scene* set to the smoothest sax jazz and I want the UHD, I want to Kickstart a web series, I want to make two sequels to this with the original cast. I want Eugene Thomas to make a whole series of Spencer side stories. I want Stallone to watch the way they ripped off the first Rambo movie and say, “Heyyyyyyy alight!”

This movie taught me that if I want to beat the five elements of ninja — silly me thought there were only four elements and metal was a man-made thing — and a tiger ninja, I just need to “draw strengths from your future and past and see beyond the illusion of this world.”

Then again, one of these ninjas sets his hands on fire before he punches you.

You can watch this on Tubi or download it from the Internet Archive.

*The sex scene is so long that nearly two complete songs play during it.

2021 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 27: Nobody Sleeps in the Woods Tonight (2020)

27. ARTIFICIAL LIMBS: Robot arms, wooden legs or even a transplanted thing… whatever grabs you.

Never go home again and never go to an abandoned tropical island with a coke-using film crew and never swim in the ocean and never go to camp. This camp has a reason, I guess, as the kids are addicted to the internet and must go phone free, which is a great way to future proof this slasher, as so many times you just wonder, “Why not just use your phone?”

So while there’s Iza, the character that knows the rules of horror movies, no one else listens and has sex in the woods, as they always do, and then a set of massive twin meteorite mutated monsters start killing people, as these things happen, and then everyone is really in for it.

The film has some beautiful locations while planting its soul firmly in the 80s slasher world, although the science fiction backstory for the killers is really fun, as is the makeup.

Since this got added to Netflix — and did quite well — its been confirmed that a sequel is coming, reuniting director Bartosz M. Kowalski and most of the crew the film’s lone survivor.

Someone said to me the other day, “What did you expect, it’s a slasher,” and then I was like, “You realize that’s like slapping me and not expecting me to fight, right?” And that was about a bad slasher. This is a decent one.

2021 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 26: Fangs (1974)

26. DAY OF THE SERPENT: There better be a motherf*ing snake in this motherf*ing movie.

Les Tremayne, who was one of the most popular and well-known voices of the Golden Age of Radio, working on shows like The Jackie Gleason/Les Tremayne Show, Ford Theatre, Inner Sanctum, The Whistler and more. He even had a breakfast show with his second wife. As entertainment moved into television, he was all over the dial, as well as showing up in movies like The War of the Worlds, The Monolith Monsters, The Monster of Piedras Blancas, The Fortune CookieForbidden PlanetThe Angry Red PlanetKing Kong vs. Godzilla and The Slime People. He even played Big Daddy Hogg on The Dukes of Hazzard, Dr. Frankenstein on The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo and the titlular mentor on Shazam!

None of those roles could have prepared him — or us — for Fangs.

As Snakey Bender, Tremayne plays a man of obsessions, obsession that we as mortal people just may not understand. There’s one day a week that he cares about and that’s Wednesday. On that day, he makes his journey into town where he visits the attractive schoolteacher Cynthia (Bebe Kelly, If You Don’t Stop It… You’ll Go Blind!!!), whose students perform the task of hunting down small rodents for him so that his beloved pets — he claims to be part snake by the way — have some food for the week. Then he harasses the general store employees before meeting up with his one true friend, Burt (Richard Kennedy), and they have a concert where they blast the music of John Philip Sousa.

Basically, Snakey is one of those people who seem harmless but if one thing impacts their life’s routine, the mental damage will not be visited upon him. No, it will be meted out to everyone in his path.

The first chinks in his armor appear when Brother Joy starts preaching against him, saying that snakes are the devil’s animals and that he’s making the children play on the left hand path.

And then Burt marries Ivy (Janey Wood, Pamela from Terror at Red Wolf Inn).

Unlike Snakey, Burt realizes that he’s old and that if he wants to marry a showgirl who really only cares about his money but will give him the kind of companionship a life of hard work deserves, well, he’s going to do it. And sure, the Wednesday concerts will end for awhile, but what’s the harm in that?

You can just imagine how Snakey reacts.

Actually, you can’t. Because things get worse.

It turns out that that schoolteacher likes having the snakes around because those visits are conjugal. That’s right, while Snakey is out with the kids, she’s doing whatever one does with a snake in a Biblical way. Her secret gets outed to the general store owners Bud and his lesbian sister Sis, who is played by Alice Nunn, who really has the best cameo of all time as Large Marge in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure who start blackmailing her, cutting off Snakey’s rodent supply and therefore pushing him on the path to no return.

The weirdest thing about this movie is that it has such a level of scum and sleaze all over it yet has no nudity and little to no violence. Heck, it barely has all that many snakes in it. But what it has is a man who realizes that the world is changing around him and no matter what he does, it keeps moving past him. And people use his snakes as sermons or for pleasure but never really see him as anything other than that old weird man from the desert that lives with all the serpents. Except the kids, and when the kids aren’t allowed to see him and hunt vermin, well, I mean, how dare you take away vermin-gathering little ones from an old man ready to explode?

Somehow, Snakey becomes a Bond villain, able to kill people with all manner of objects and traps and, yes, snakes. All along, he told the townspeople how moronic they were and now, he’s proving it. You should have let him keep air conducting and marching around the house and paying kids for mice and just let him be. But some people have Hell inside them and you should just keep them on their maze-like path so that they don’t solve the riddle inside their head and realize that they’d be better off if they just went and killed you.

Also known as SnakesSnakelust and the wonderful title Holy Wednesday, this was directed and co-written with John T. Wilson by Art Names, who was mostly a sound man on all sorts of movies, including being the post-production sound guy for The Astrologer, which had to be the kind of experience that destroys your mind. Actually, his sound resume is packed with aberrant films that I adore, such as AlligatorButcher, Baker, Nightmare MakerSavage Streets and The Jesus Trip. He and Wilson also co-wrote Girl in Gold Boots and The Black Klansman, so their partnership wasn’t a one and done on the weird writing ability.

By direct, I mean he put the camera down and said action, really. You don’t really consider the direction or cinematography in this, but that’s the best part of it. It just plays out in front of you, with you as the casual observer to one man’s meltdown. He just wants to be alone with his snakes and needs the help of others. And he needs that one night of marching band concerts. I guess it really was too much to ask, huh?

There are weird movies that have been made to be weird and there are weird movies made because someone had a vision that perhaps nobody could ever understand. This would be the latter and that’s perfect. My dream is to go back in time and sit in a drive-in where the blockbuster baiting tagline for this movie got some cars in the lot and then this starts playing and people start wondering, “What is this? Who is this for? Why did they make this?”

Movies are awesome, everyone.

2021 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 25: Dark Mansions (1986)

25. SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE*: Sleep deprived and still alive… for now. (*Does not have to be set in Seattle)

Hey all — just got back from Seattle, then a week quarantine from Becca who got COVID-19, which is pretty much like me being normal because all I did was sit in my basement and write about movies and here I am, still writing about movies.

Produced by Aaron Spelling and Douglas S. Cramer, Dark Mansions had the elevator speech of “kind of like Dynasty if it were Dark Shadows,” which is to say, it’s Dark Shadows. It was also not picked up for a series and back in the wonderful days of 1986, if that didn’t happen, we got the burn off TV movie and would say, “Man, I wish that was a series.” But even if it was, it would have lasted ten episodes and a bunch would have only played in Europe and I’d still be writing this article, just slightly different.

That said — Joan Fontaine as reclusive matriarch Margaret Drake! Linda Purl from Visiting Hours! Melissa Sue Anderson fromLittle House on the Prarie (and the voice of Snowbird from Alpha Flight on the X-Men cartoon and yes, that kind of information is inside my brain)! Lois Chiles, who is both Holly Goodhead and the thanks for the ride lady from Creepshow 2!  Nicollette Sheridan! Dan O’Herilhy! Grant Aleksander (Phillip from Guiding Light)! Raymond St. Jacques (the street preacher from They Live)! Paul Shenar (Dream LoverScarface)! And a ghost haunting all of them!

Director Jerry London also did Killdozer, so there’s that. The show was written by Anthony Lawrence (who speaking of shows that died before their time also created The Phoenix), his wife Nancy and Robert McCullough, who wrote for Falcon Crest and that helped with this I guess.

A lot gets set up. Nothing gets resolved. And that’s how it goes for a pilot. Just think, in another reality, I’m posting the YouTube link for each episode and not just this one and done.

2021 Scarecrow Psychotronic Challenge Day 25: General Massacre (1973)

DAY 25 — SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE*: Sleep deprived and still alive . . . for now. (*Does not have to be set in Seattle . . . so Belgium, works!)

Just so you know what you’re getting into with this very odd, badly acted and poorly scripted tale about a deranged (our “sleep deprived” lad) American brigadier general (our auteur, Burr Jerger) living in Belgium as he awaits trial for his atrocities committed in Vietnam: General Massacre was deemed “unacceptable” by the American Humane Association for “animals killed during filming” (a cow and a couple of ducks), upon its release in 1976 on U.S. shores. The backlash so damaging to the film, Burr Jerger, the film’s director, writer, producer, and lead actor, sued the U.S. government for “conspiracy” against this film, which he described as a “cinematic protest against war.”

Okay. Well enough, Burr. But you still harmed, maimed and killed animals to make your anti-war statement. And those “auteur” excuses didn’t fly with Ruggero Deodato butchering squirrel monkeys and river turtles to make his “statement” film, either.

Animals were killed during the making of this movie.

Anyway, when Wilbur “Burr” Jerger filed suit in 1975 in the Los Angeles federal courts, he claimed the FBI and CIA maintained an illegal dossier on him for his “political activities.” Jerger also alleged in the lawsuit, after a conspiracy born out of those files, caused the release of General Massacre to be irreparably damaged and he lost $100,000.

Who is this Burr Jerger?

Well, the West German auteur also resides in those weird, hazy frames of celluloid resided by Peter Carpenter: a vanity auteur that went all out on his masterpiece, with Jerger managing one quadruple-threat to Carpenter’s two of Blood Mania and Point of Terror. And both vanished from the business after four films when their master works, failed. And, like Carpenter, Jerger passed through the Russ Meyer turnstiles. But unlike Carpenter, Burr also passed through Jean Rollin’s turnstiles. (For another lost soul of the celluloid turnstiles, check out our overview of Gene O’Shane’s career in our review of The Velvet Vampire.)

Jerger actually stuck around for more than four films as an actor: he made five: he appeared in Captain Sindbad (1963; a West German film edited into Quentin Tarantino’s Natural Born Killers), No Survivors, Please (1964; a black and white alien invasion tale), and an uncredited appearance (thus the four-to-five snafu) in Fanny Hill (1964) for Russ Meyer. Jerger made his final acting bow in Jean Rollin’s The Demoniacs (1974; a sexploitation, haunted island/pirate romp).

Jerger initially came to Europe in 1961 as a free-lance-reporter for Show Business Illustrate, Ebony and Globe Photos. That led to his making his cinematography and directing bones as the set photographer on Escape from East Berlin (1962), as well as working as a production assistant on A Cold Wind in August (1961), and as an assistant director on the French-made films Madame Sans-Gene (1961) by Christian Jague, and Cartouche (1962) by Philippe De Broca.

However, while Burr worked on all of those films in East Germany and France, he was actually born and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Married to Lieva Lone, his co-star in The Demoniacs, he died on May 12, 1982. It was after his failures in film, that he relocated from Belgium, to Paris, and back to the United States, working as he began: a freelance writer and photographer. He would go on to write an (unnecessary) novel based on General Massacre, as well as The Saga of April 6th, and a storybook, Four Letter Words.

The Review

As with all early ’70s drive-in flicks: it made it to ’80s video.

“Politics are the extension of war.”
“Civilians are as much the enemy as men in uniform.”

— the ravings of a warmonger

We learn of those ravings via a non-linear, flashback story as our U.S. WW II and Korean War veteran awaits his trial for the atrocities he committed in Vietnam. But what’s his excuse for killing his wife (whom he met-raped during a Nazi Germany tank raid) for cheating on him (he chases her into the forest around his estate and shoots her)? And killing his daughter — whom he has the incestual hots for — when he catches her with his hospital orderly?

In between, our General goes nuts on his Antwerp estate, where he “commands” his troops and straps on his weapons and hunkers down in the woods — woods now haunted by his wife on ghostly horseback. Oh, and our General has “recruited” his old Vietnam lackey, Corporal Tsai, to film his “war games,” his hateful and racist insights on the world, and his animal murders . . . which are graphic, ugly, and down right cruel as the camera lingers as the life leaves the cow. Then, to make matters worse: there’s the close up of the duck’s eyes as its life leaves the body.

Oh, yes, for there is a “statement” in the murder of cows and ducks . . . but the proceedings are just so clumsy across all of the inept disciplines that Burr Jerger kept for himself — on top of the art house pretensions deploying every sweeping and zooming camera trick in the book known to cinematography — as we flash to and fro from 1945 Nazi Germany to our fair General’s freakout in the Antwerp wood, the “anti-war” message Jerger intended, is lost.

Yes, Burr. War is awful. But your movie, even more so. And animals died for it. Certainly not one of the proudest moments of my little ol’ VHS home library.

There’s no freebie streams or trailers to share, but you can get DVDs from DVD Planet, if you must.

About the Author: You can learn more about the writings of R.D Francis on Facebook. He also writes for B&S About Movies.