Horrific advice

Posted on 30 Apr 2009 at 9:20am
By Daniel A. Kusner Life+Style Editor

Israel Luna opens Texas Frightmare Weekend and recalls all the naysayers he ignored


LUNA-TIC: Israel has a bloody good time in the director’s chair. DANIEL A. KUSNER/Dallas Voice

FRIGHT FRIDAY
Opening Texas Frightmare Weekend, "Fright Flick" Screens May 1 at 6 p.m. at the Sheraton Grand Hotel, 4440 W John Carpenter Fwy., in Irving.
Screening includes Q&A with Luna
and attending cast and crew.
Day passes start at $25.
Weekend passes start at $65.
TexasFrightmareWeekend.com.

I believe it was Salt who said, "Opinions are like assholes, and everybody’s got one."

Or maybe that was Pepa?

Local gay filmmaker Israel Luna knows that you can’t helm a huge production and act like a know-it-all. Making movies is mostly about collaboration, and the process comes with a huge learning curve.

His latest, "Fright Flick," is a film-within-a-film about a low-budget crew shooting a third horror installment where actors and crew are murdered in a grisly manner: throats slit, hammers to the head, barbed-wire decapitation and even a knife in the vagina.

The plot was inspired by working on one of his first films, "The Deadbeat Club." Luna was so frustrated by his bitchy crew that he wanted to slaughter them.

Looks like revenge has served Luna well. "Fright Flick" was screened at the Chicago Horror Festival. And at the B-Movie Film Festival in Syracuse, N.Y., local talent Richard Curtin was nominated for best supporting actor, and the film won the "House Pick" award. "Fright Flick" also recently picked up the "Best Gore Special Effects" award at the Bare Bones International Film and Music Festival in Muskogee, Okla.

And on Saturday, "Fright Flick" opens Texas Frightmare Weekend — the horror film expo that’s going to feature appearances by B-listers such as Alice Cooper, Linda Blair, Karen Black, Fairuza Balk and Jason Mewes.

In light of all his auspicious accolades, Dallas Voice asked Luna — whom this paper sometimes calls’ "Dallas’ very own John Waters" — to look back at all the bad advice that he ignored while listening to folks who acted like they knew better.

5 OPINIONS THAT WENT IN ONE EAR AND OUT THE OTHER

"You can’t have gay characters in a horror movie." A distribution company told me no queer characters — because it would limit my audience and make people assume that it’s a gay movie. And, in turn, make the gay audience uninterested because it wasn’t gay enough.

"Don’t be an ‘out’ filmmaker." This came from an openly gay director.

Why? Aren’t we past this?

It’s not like I wear a rainbow flag and say, "Hi, I’m Israel. And I’m a gay filmmaker."

But at the movies, I proudly sit in the audience and put my arm around my date. Who cares?

"Don’t be your own director of photography." On one of my earliest films, a production company I was working with said that I shouldn’t run camera and also direct — they said I should hire a camera guy.

Why?

I shot my movie because it would eliminate the headache and extra step of explaining to my director of photography the exact type of camera movement that I wanted.

"Don’t shoot an entire movie handheld." During my first project, I was told that an establishing shot with a tripod was the rule. No exceptions. And that handholding a camera wasn’t very professional.

I shot "Fright Flick" 100 percent handheld — just to prove to everyone that nothing is written in stone. And, if done right, you can have a great, polished, professional movie in the end. When someone shows you the rulebook, read it. Then take what you want from it, and burn the rest.

"Horror films have no credibility." A certain LGBT organization recently told me that the horror genre is considered "off-putting" and that they don’t "have as much credibility or respect" as a romantic, gay or straight movie with a happy ending.

I was also told that movies verging on the genre of "camp, gore, cult or underground" will be frowned upon by potential sponsors or organizations.

MAY-DECEMBER BROMANCE

TO AGE IS HUMAN: Milner, left, and Caine.

The upside of growing old is the chance to pass something of yourself and your accumulated wisdom on to younger people, so it will live on. The downside speaks for itself. But both sides get a good airing in "Is Anybody There?", a sweet English dramedy about intergenerational friendship.

Edward (Bill Milner) is 10 and obsessed with ghosts. He’s never seen one but hopes to capture their sounds on his cassette recorder. He’s in a good position to do so because his parents (Anne-Marie Duff, David Morrissey) have turned their house into a "residential home for the elderly."

With his room bringing in 50 quid a week, Edward has been forced into a space hardly bigger than a closet. At least there are frequent deaths so the boy can live in hope of witnessing paranormal activity. (His chances are as good as they are of getting his room back.) He tells his mum he’s not afraid of death: "I just want to know what happens."

One day, a new tenant arrives in a camper that still advertises his old magic act: "The Amazing Clarence." Clarence Parkinson (Michael Caine) resists checking in to live among "a lot of jabbering simpletons rushing about, wetting themselves. People you don’t know telling you what to do.

"This is only temporary," he declares.

Truer words were never spoken, though not in the way he intended.

Clarence and Edward get off to such a rocky start that if this were a romantic comedy, they’d have to fall in love.

With more than 60 years’ difference in their ages, I’m not sure if it counts as a bromance. But the formula holds and they become friends.

Life has problems at any age. Dad takes out his midlife crisis on the teenage maid, Tanya (Linzey Cocker), while Clarence confesses to having cheated on his late wife until she left him. At a party for Edward’s 11th birthday, Parkinson’s disease is revealed as senility — and it’s all downhill from there, though still with considerable laughter amid the tears.

As Clarence, Michael Caine is Michael Caine, only older. At least he maintains more dignity than Peter O‚Toole did in "Venus." Young Milner, who has more screen time than the veteran, carries the film capably on his young shoulders.

Director John Crowley is quietly amassing a significant body of small films ("Boy A," "Intermission") that are unpretentiousness but practically flawless. He’s someone to keep an eye on.

"You’ve got all these old people around, with all these amazing stories," Mum tells Edward. "It’s a privilege." So is seeing "Is Anybody There?"

— Steve Warren

Grade: B
Opens May 1 at the Angelika Dallas.

SEX&DRAG&ROCK&ROLL

With her over-the-top sausage curls and Bowie-esque musicianship, Hedwig is the saint of all rebel queers.

Based on the cult-stage play, the movie-musical "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" is a story about an unconventional girl. Her life begins as Hansel (John Cameron Mitchell), a German boy growing up in Communist Germany. As a young adult, he meets an American GI (Maurice Dean Wint) who wants to marry him and take him back to the states. But Hansel must change his name to Hedwig, and "leave a little something behind" in order to marry a man.

But Hedwig’s sexual reassignment goes terribly wrong.

Once in the U.S. (and left heartbroken by two different men), Hedwig forms a kick-ass band and takes her tragic stories on the road. "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" is a fist-pumping triumph for anyone who has survived outside of traditional gender boundaries or anyone who has overcome near-impossible odds.

— Daniel A. Kusner


Midnight screening, May 1 and May 2 at the Inwood Theatre.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition May 1, 2009.

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