WHO ARE YOU AND WHAT IS YOUR JOB AT ARROW?
I joined as a Marketing and Operations Executive for Arrow Video a little over a year ago. That title covers a whole range of things, but the ‘bread and butter’ of my role, if you like, is being a full-time disc producer – as a huge horror fan, basically anything in that general area comes my way, which I’m more than happy with! At the end of last year I started getting more involved in the events side of things, bringing Arrow Video to various conventions around the UK and hosting some of our very own theme screenings (mulled wine and Silent Night, Deadly Night, anyone?). I’m also currently engaged in getting a whole new range of Arrow Video merchandise off the ground, so keep your eyes peeled for that!
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN THE FILM INDUSTRY?
Quite by accident, really. I studied French and Latin at university (Nottingham, if you’re asking) which didn’t really point me in any particular vocational direction. For the first two years after leaving uni I worked in temp roles mainly in the public sector, until at the end of 2008 a friend working in a record label told me about an opening in their sister company, Bluelight, which I ended up snagging. Bluelight handles servicing for Paris-based international film sales agent Wild Bunch, so I found myself working with distributors from all corners of the world, delivering them with the materials needed to launch theatrical and home video releases of Wild Bunch titles. Of course, all the while my love for horror continued unabated, and I spent my spare time penning articles and reviews for a number of websites and magazines. Eventually work and personal interests fortuitously collided when I was asked to produce a couple of DVD titles which we were going to distribute in association with FrightFest. The experience I gained from this project was invaluable, as it helped me gain the skills required for my subsequent role at Arrow.
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR FAVOURITE FILMS AND EARLIEST FILM-RELATED MEMORIES.
Now we’re getting into it! Both my parents worked in television, so the ‘audio-visual arts’ were very much in my environment growing up. My mum worked in set design, and there were always little scale models of television show sets around the house that I loved looking at. On what was probably the single most exciting day of my entire childhood (I must have been four or five), my mum took me into the BBC Television Centre where I got to look around the set of the Doctor Who episode Ghost Light and meet the great Doctor (Sylvester McCoy) himself! I also saw a couple of Cybermen sitting in the cafeteria eating lunch in nearly full costume, which I enjoyed immensely.
My dad worked as a television director and during the late 80s he was working in what was then the BBC Children’s Drama department. (Sadly this no longer exists as it turned out some really wonderful programming aimed at young adults – something which I think is sorely lacking today). So during my early formative years I was watching programmes directed by my dad such as Moondial and Children of Green Knowe – both children’s series with a strong supernatural bent. I’ve no doubt that these programmes, with their eerie set-pieces (a particular standout is the night-time finale of Moondial which features kids in creepy masks chanting and bearing Jack-O-Laterns) had a hugely profound impact on me and my taste for all things ghoulish has remained ever since! Around the same time I was religiously following the exploits of the Seventh Doctor, eagerly crouched in front of the TV every Sunday tea-time (6pm for non-UK residents) absorbing tales of zombie Vikings, Cheetah-people and a man made out of liquorice allsorts. They terrified me at the time, and although most of it looks pretty silly today, the killer clowns of The Greatest Show in the Galaxy are still the stuff of nightmares.
My first exposure to ‘true’ horror came in the form of the John Landis-directed Thriller music video, which I used to watch on repeat at a friend’s house from behind the sofa. (Again, we’re probably still talking four or five years of age – if memory serves me correctly, the video was from an off-air recording of Top of the Pops and was preceded by the Starship video Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now). As soft drugs (supposedly) lead to hard drugs, so my slippery descent into horror’s darker reaches began and soon I was feasting on a steady diet of A Nightmare on Elm Street, Child’s Play, Creepshow and whatever other illicit delights I managed to record off of late-night TV – with or without the blessing of my parents, I don’t remember! Around the same time I was also lapping up sci-fi horror fare such as the (then) Alien trilogy, The Terminator, Predator and a whole host of other Arnie classics (there seemed to be an Arnie season nearly every other month back in those days).
Around age 12, I spent a family holiday in Cornwall in the back seat of the car with my nose buried deep in a Video Nasty special of The Dark Side. Each film was given its own brief synopsis, detailing the catalogue of atrocities that these titles promised – eyes gouged out, eyes impaled on huge splinters (every conceivable type of eye trauma, in effect), a horrifically burned man looking like a “Big Mac, overdone” and a zombie grappling with a shark!!! I knew then that I had to see all these movies – and thus the quest to track down and consume as many horror obscurities as possible began… and I haven’t looked back since!
In terms of my favourite films, a top 10 would most likely include the following (although I’m loathe to put them in any order):
· The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
· The Hills Have Eyes
· The Last House on the Left
· Dawn of the Dead
· A Nightmare on Elm Street
· Black Christmas
· Friday the 13th
· The Evil Dead
The Burning, The Beyond, Creepshow, Child’s Play, Night of the Living Dead, Day of the Dead, Psycho, Psycho 2, Jaws, Suspiria, Halloween, Just Before Dawn,Return of the Living Dead, Death Line, Zombie Flesh Eaters, The Exorcist… I’m bound to remember some obvious omissions as soon as I step away from the computer…
Oh, and I LOVE The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
WHAT HAVE BEEN YOUR FAVOURITE ARROW RELEASES? AND DO YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE ARTWORK OR EXTRA?
Following Michael’s lead, I’d have to admit that – quite naturally, I suppose – the releases I’m fondest of are the ones I’ve worked on and hence am closest to. I was really excited to find myself working on our release of Deranged not long after I started at Arrow – it’s a film I’ve long been a fan of owing to its grimly realistic recounting of the Ed Gein story. The wintry landscapes, Roberts Blossom’s anguished performance, the crumbling cadavers assembled around the dining table – it’s got such a terrific atmosphere about it, the kind that you could only get with a film made in that period and under those circumstances. The inclusion of an on-camera narrator is a bit silly, but it only adds to the fun (if you can call it that!). Even simply as a fan I was bowled over by the prospect of finally seeing a fully uncut release of Deranged (with brain-scooping intact in full HD, no less), but to be working on it was beyond my wildest dreams. I was also given the opportunity to produce an extra for the release, for which I had newly-transferred behind the scenes footage and an on camera interview with co-director Jeff Gillen to work with. The resulting piece, entitled The Wages of Sin, is a short but sweet look at the making of Deranged and it was truly satisfying when the final cut came back from the editors. Again on Deranged, I love the artwork by Nat Marsh because I think it really captures the essence of the film. Nat Marsh is an extremely talented artist and we have him working on some very cool commissions as we speak…
More recently, I really enjoyed working on the release of The Beast Within, from director Philippe Mora. It’s a film which had previously escaped my notice so in all honesty I wasn’t expecting much from it, but I was very pleasantly surprised – it’s a great creature feature with an extremely mean streak and an incredible transformation sequence. Plus it has the ever-dependable Ronny Cox in it, who’s always very watchable. I have very fond memories of this project because I worked in close collaboration with Philippe Mora who was an absolute pleasure to deal with and extremely helpful and enthusiastic. He even took the trouble to scan and send over his original storyboards and then record his own commentary for these, which ended up on the disc as the extra Storyboarding the Beast. To have that level of involvement from the people behind the production is just wonderful.
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR PROUDEST ACHIEVEMENT AT ARROW?
Aside from the aforementioned, one of my proudest moments would undoubtedly be producing our mega three-disc edition of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2. I had only been in the office a few days when I was told that I would be producing this disc – I literally felt like I needed someone to pinch me. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre is my favourite film of all time, and although it’s a completely different kettle of fish I have a lot of admiration for Tobe Hooper’s bonkers sequel. I remember hearing about it from a classmate back at high school when the film was still banned and thinking how much I wanted to see it. TCM2 has what I think is surely one of the single best opening sequences of any 80s horror movie ever – you just can’t beat Leatherface carving up yuppies in a side-by-side car chase! Our release of TCM2 was the product of months of hard graft (and a lot of love) so it was a great feeling when we starting seeing all the hugely positive reviews coming in from sources such as Bloody Disgusting, a site which I used to peruse religiously. I’m particularly proud of how the exclusive 100-page booklet turned out, and the packaging (adorned with incredible artwork from Justin Erickson) is exemplary – even if I do say so myself!
IF YOU COULD GIVE ANY FILM THE ARROW VIDEO TREATMENT, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Ever since I started working for Arrow my dream project has always been a release of 1987’s grimy corpse-loving flick Nekromantik – and that day has finally arrived! I became a card-carrying fan of Jörg Buttgereit’s underground nasty a few years back when I managed to bag a copy off of Amazon marketplace - a mere snip at some $80… Hunched in front of the TV at some ungodly hour of the morning (well, is there any more appropriate time?) I felt once again that illicit thrill I experienced when I first watched a grubby, near-inaudible copy of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre or The Last House on the Left which I’d brought back from a family holiday to Amsterdam (complete with Dutch subtitles!). From the moment the music kicks in, you know you’re in for a hypnotic, one-of-a-kind viewing experience. When the end credits rolled, I wasn’t entirely sure what had just happened or what I’d just witnessed – but I knew I was changed…. FOREVER! But in all seriousness, Nekromantik truly is an astonishing film and again, I feel the need to have someone pinch now that I’m working on an uncut UK release.
In terms of other films I’d like to see get the Arrow treatment (and of course, work on myself), there are loads. Fairly high up on the list is the second TCM sequel, Leatherface: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre III. It’s not a patch on its 1974 namesake of course, but it’s a solid enough entry that I would absolutely love to see getting the deluxe treatment. For those who don’t know, the film has a hugely troubled production history and it was subsequently mauled by the MPAA who trimmed a whole lot of gore. There are a number of different workprints floating out there in cyberspace - if someone were to track down the original film elements (which unfortunately might well have been destroyed) then you could make one hell of a special edition.
I’m also a big slasher fan, and for me one of the very best of these is Jeff Lieberman’s backwoods thriller Just Before Dawn – a real revelation for me when I came upon it a few years ago. It’s out in the US on a great-looking Blu-ray but unfortunately an otherwise bare bones disc – I’d absolutely love for us to get our hands on this one and weave the Arrow magic! On the subject of backwoods slashers, one that I think deserves a lot more love is The Prey, which carries the irresistible (if misleading) tagline: “IT’S NOT HUMAN, AND IT’S GOT AN AXE!” Online reviews would have you believe that The Prey is absolutely appalling, and not in a good way – but if you’re fond of that quintessential woodsy 70s slasher aesthetic then I urge you to hunt it down!
I could go on, but I fear you may have left the building already…