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Wrangling the Redneck Vampires PDF Print E-mail
Written by Written by Claude Blackwell   
Jan 31, 2005 at 02:00 AM
In terms of sheer cameo-weight, "Dr. Horror's Erotic House of Idiots" may possibly be "The Longest Day" of B-movies. Made with love and affection towards the low-budget horror genre by filmmaker Paul Scrabo, "Dr. Horror's" feels like an old-fashioned '60s cavalcade film packed with recognizable faces.

Starting off with a flashy animated title sequence reminiscent of "It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World", "Dr. Horror's" tells the story of a former horror writer who is conned into posing as a famous sex therapist to bilk the good doctor's patients out of their ample amounts of cash. Equating their sexual problems with plots of dumb horror movies, the movie spins into multiple colorful areas as it becomes an anthology parody and even a musical!

With the star-power of heavy-hitters like Debbie Rochon ("Nowhere Man"), Trent Haaga ("Terror Firmer"), Michael R. Thomas ("Lord of the G-Strings"), Conrad Brooks ("Plan 9 from Outer Space"), Zacherly "The Cool Ghoul", Tina Krause ("Witchouse 3: Demon Fire"), Jasi Cotton Lanier ("Were-Grrl"), Amy Lynn Best ("Severe Injuries"), Ruby Larocca ("Flesh for the Beast"), Rachael Robbins ("The Screaming Dead"), George Ann Muller (who also co-produced) and Brinke Stevens ("Something to Scream About" - who also co-wrote the final story), there's a familiar face at every turn and if you didn't like one joke, wait a few seconds and another is sure to follow. I recently spoke to Paul about his "Erotic House of Idiots."

What was the inspiration for ""Dr. Horror's Erotic House of Idiots""?

Well, first I have to mention that I have been truly inspired by the amazing work produced by "backyard filmmakers" around the country. They spend their own money, and when it's your own, it's a LOT. So, I do try to support them by checking out the various independent film websites and buying many films. I haven't visited Blockbuster in a few years!

There is a real kick to watching these films because you get to view interesting locations from around the country. I hesitate to list some favorites for fear of leaving a few good ones out, but I do enjoy the multi-directed "Alien Agenda" series, "Hardcore Poisoned Eyes", "Blackwood Evil" and "Housebound". I also enjoy some completely off the wall films like Michael Legge's "Honey Glaze" and Amy Lynn Best's "Severe Injuries", of which just the premise alone makes me laugh.

Anyway, these folks are the true independent producers and are my overall inspiration for even trying. However, the inspiration for "Dr. Horror" came from the other side of the spectrum - the professional B-movie industry. There is this endless list of films with "erotic" in the title. I watched a few and thought, this couldn't be too difficult.

The actual truth is that I am the oddball producer in the B-movie world, and that "Dr. Horror" is my dirty trick to the industry. Whatever the B-movie rules were, we would do the opposite. But we WOULD have "erotic" in the title.

In my regular job in network television, I work with the "hype" and "what sells" mentality. I'm used to it and I am very good in delivering what writers and producers want. This could be a reason why, in doing a project on my own, I did not want to concern myself with what's perceived as marketable for a B-Movie.

What made you decide to jump feet-first into the filmmaking world with an epic of this proportion?

I have actually made a few shot-on-video features over the years, but not for public consumption. Years ago, I used a two-piece VHS system for our "video features". Today they call it digital filmmaking. It's still a "video feature" but it sounds sexier, doesn't it?

"Dr. Horror's" was conceived as a B-Movie "epic" because I truly wanted to show off the talents of many cult movie stars, and along the way present some mini-movies parodying some B-movie genres.

What is your own filmmaking background?

I started in Super 8mm. Better start going over the will while I'm here. I made several films with my high school classmates. Most of the footage is lost forever, which is perhaps the best news for the film-viewing public. Only a few reels have survived, and we may include a few minutes of them on the "Dr. Horror" DVD. It was a wonderful era, and it taught you severe discipline. Every shot had to count since film was not cheap, and you only had a few minutes in each cartridge. And what you got back from the lab was your one and only original!

Back in those days, you were the oddball if you took out a home movie camera and attempted to tell a story. Flash forward to today, and I actually read in a B-movie forum that a guy felt his life was a failure, since he was approaching 22 years and hadn't made his first feature yet. We've gone crazy. I'm still amazed at this fascinating scam called "film schools". This is wonderful. I'm not negative on it. In fact, I wish I had gone to one. Imagine how much better "Citizen Kane" would have come out if Orson took "Film Appreciation." I suppose they are good for making contacts. It is a terrific racket and everyone should go for it.

How did you manage to land such a cast of B-movie greats?

Debbie Rochon became a sort of unofficial casting director and gave some inspiring recommendations such as Trent Haaga for the part of "cool" guy Mark Adams. From the outset, I wanted to design the casting as a sort of celebration of cult stars of all ages, hence the musical number with Zacherley and Debbie! Some actors came aboard because they wanted to be in a film with Zach!

Conrad Brooks - Have you learned your lesson on this one? We're just kidding!

Well, it could not be an "all-star cult movie cast" without Conrad! But I knew he could take off into his own universe when he is before the cameras. Sometimes his choices can be entertaining, but "Dr. Horror's" was patterned after the style of Billy Wilder and Blake Edwards where the comedy comes from the actions of real people pushed into complicated situations. So, "wacky" Conrad was out. We worked on him, and Conrad worked as well. Halfway through shooting, I realized that Conrad was more attentive to George Ann Muller's blocking directions than mine. She is far cuter than I am, and that helped.

"Dr. Horror's" boasts leads in Trent Haaga and Debbie Rochon, two of the most talented actors working in indies today - what was it like working with this pair?

It was an extremely clever shortcut. If you don't know what you're doing, it's best to work with those who DO. Trent can do anything. Not only is he a wonderful performer, but an accomplished screenwriter and producer as well. Debbie and Trent exhibit real chemistry in our "Zombie Movie" section, where we satirize the Full Moon/Tempe films.

Much of what you see of the "Valerie and Mark" scenes in the final film was shot without any real rehearsal. I gave some blocking directions and that was it. Both Debbie and Trent have proven their capabilities in straight horror films, so it made sense to have them go for comedy in "Dr. Horror's".

The music in "Dr. Horror's" is incredible. Was the score composed especially for the movie?

About sixty-percent of the score is original, with the balance provided by library tracks that were used for the "B-Movie" stories. This cost a bit of change, but in keeping with our intentions, we avoided the type of music one normally hears in a low-budget horror film. With the exception of The Moon-Rays surf music track, no rock music is heard. Doug Scrivani composed the music for our song and dance section.

What have you learned during the course of filming?

I am surprised the film plays as well as it does, because I made many, many mistakes. There are scenes where, in blocking, I did not think "outside the box", but instead insisted on shooting a certain way. Had I just done a close-up here or a reaction shot there, the scenes would have had a better pay off. Near the beginning of the film, I have a main character holding a garden rake. He runs up some outside steps, opens a door and drops the rake in the room. There was only one purpose for the scene - the dropping of the rake, but it seems to last forever because that's ALL that happens in the scene. I should have done something to make it interesting.

Here are a few things that I did right that saved many scenes from being a total disaster, and although they seem trivial, I truly believe these tips are gold for anyone dumb enough to make a low-budget movie:

Your sound is more important than your picture. Even if the video is lousy, a viewer may continue to watch your epic if he can hear the dialogue and thus follow the story. Not true for the reverse.

Also, I made up for my lack of talent as a writer/director by at least making scenes go by fast. This way, even if a scene isn't that funny, at least it's over quickly. This sort of "slight of hand" can convince the audience not to hate you as much as they should.

What's the plan now that the movie is complete?

I was very happy over the way "Dr. Horror" was received at the New York premiere. In fact, it was beyond my expectations. Debbie received a standing ovation. They really loved her. The entire payoff to a film project is when it plays to a real audience in a real theatre. That is the moment. I hope to have one more public showing before the DVD comes out, and there are a few friends on the west coast looking into any venue for a Los Angeles showing. We thought our film was tailor-made for a festival showing at a place called VideoTheatre, located in downtown NYC, but we had a strange experience with them. A professional DVD will be available this spring and it will contain some assorted extras including a very unusual making-of documentary. The cover will even say "Special Edition", and how many DVDs can claim that? Oh, yeah - all of them! But, I would love to show the movie in a few more theatres. Nothing beats a live audience, since they can't shuttle forward through any sections. ZIP! Hey! You just flew by two months of our lives there, pal!

Anything else you'd care to add?

Thank you very much for this opportunity to spread the word about ""Dr. Horror's Erotic House of Idiots"". To anyone interested in the DVD, please check our website, www.scrabo.com, for more information. I am very, very fortunate to have worked with this cast and crew. Perhaps we should rethink the pop phrase "Independent Filmmaking". There really is no such thing.--

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