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SAVAGE HARVEST - BEWARE! THE NATIVES ARE RESTLESS! PDF Print E-mail
Written by By Chris Irvine   
Dec 07, 2004 at 02:00 AM
More and more often, the latest big-studio Horror movie release fails to meet the expectations of fans everywhere. A VAMPIRE IN BROOKLYN, HALLOWEEN: THE CURSE OF MICHAEL MYERS, THE PROPHECY, CANDYMAN 2... the list goes on and on. All of these movies received mixed reviews and suffered through poor-showings at the box office.
Continually disappointed by this Hollywood horror output, horror fans everywhere have begun to seek out new outlets for their ever-increasing hunger for blood and gore. Short of committing these vial acts themselves, their greedy eyes have shifted to a new breed of movie person for a possible outlet - "the guerrilla filmmakers."
You, yourself, may have already crossed paths with some of these "guerrilla filmmakers." These guys (and a few girls) are the young, ultra-low budget, maverick filmmakers, who are out shooting in your local streets - many times with just a camcorder, no extra lights, one or two actors, a of fake blood, and no crew. Unfortunately though, most of these movie-makers are never-hit wonders, and fame outside their friends, family and their home town will forever elude them.
Occasionally though, among these cult directors, is an inspired talent with the ability to become one of the horror superstars of the future - you know, that creative individual mind who will unveil the next horror classic, or will become our generation's George Romero, or Sam Raimi. And one guy who has displayed the potential to break through, mainly by delivering quality project after quality project, is director Eric Stanze.
Eric's first feature, THE SCARE GAME DOUBLE FEATURE, was released back in 1994 by Tempe Video (Just this year, it fell into the hands of Salt City Home Video, when they made a deal with Eric to distribute SAVAGE HARVEST).
It consists of two short movies - THE FINE ART and THE SCARE GAME. THE FINE ART segment puts a new twist on "puppy" love, when a young woman finds out the love of her life is a serial-killer. She is then forced to face-off with him in a psychological battle to the finish. THE SCARE GAME is a weird tale more in the spirit with something Barker or Cronenberg would deliver. It seems that there's a creature wandering the earth called "The Game Demon," claiming soon-to-be victims as contestants in his sick games. The gore flows thick as human soul after human soul is consumed, until one mortal finds the strength and ability to turn the tables on this twisted creature.
THE SCARE GAME DOUBLE FEATURE went on to receive positive critical reaction and generate strong sales for Tempe Video. This success gave Eric and his crew the drive to try and move on to bigger and better things. The result: the brand-new SAVAGE HARVEST.
SAVAGE HARVEST, shot in a period from 1993 to1994, begins with a bloody, stake-in-the-head sacrifice of an Indian Chief. Pacing, style, music, and direction make this one of the best beginning "grab-your-interest" hook scenes experienced in recent memory. The story then fast-forwards to the present, where heavy flooding has uncovered some strange Indian stones, each of which are said to contain the spirit of a demon within. Only under a certain set of circumstances can the spirits be unleashed. Well, not wanting to give too much away, I will say that, as you can guess, these demon spirit's do in fact get lose, and do in fact wreck gore-filled mayhem on an unsuspecting group of youths.
During production of HARVEST, Eric was luckily blessed with one of the more dedicated groups of young actors and crew people that a b-movie has seen in some time. "Everybody went out of their way to back each other up, " Eric explained in a recent interview. "It was really pretty amazing to see such a real honest team effort from such a large group of people."
Out of all the people Eric has worked with in his short career, one individual has sort of stepped forward to become his right-hand man - D.J. Vivona. Eric went on to elaborate a little bit on their career together. "D.J. will do anything to help get the movie made. On THE SCARE GAME, he wasn't a producer, but he would stick around after he was done acting and help out in any way he could. On THE FINE ART, because it was being done through a local college, one of the many restrictions placed on me was that I couldn't use people outside of the college in any primary crew or acting roles. And D.J. wasn't enrolled there and couldn't be involved as much as he liked. But he would still show up and give 100%. He understands the immediacy of things. He knows how important details are to the whole. He shares my panicky attitude towards deadlines. He takes a lot of the burden of movie-making off my shoulders. All that, combined with the fact that he is extremely well-organized and extremely dependable, factored into him coming on as producer for SAVAGE HARVEST."
"Eric's definitely unique," D.J. says immediately when asked about his young director. "The best way I can describe him is that he's very strategic. He shoots the whole movie in his head before hand, so that when we get on set, he knows exactly what he wants. But also, he believes it's very important for the actor to understand a bit of the technical side in what he is looking for. Having worked with Eric as an actor on a couple of his movies, I know that understanding where the camera is going to be helps that actor as well. He's able to give direction very smoothly, and able to be understood in a manner that isn't in any way insulting. As a matter of fact, I've never heard him yell on a set. He's just a real nice guy. And he's able to get his vision up there without being a screen-preach director. I admire him a lot for that."
Eric also brought back the special effects artist who had helped him on his past couple of projects - Tony Bridges. "I found myself faced with a movie with quite a few special effects and a small, almost non-existent budget," Tony explains. "$250 to $500, that was all, and most of it was spent on over priced, party make-up supplies."
Yet the effects in HARVEST are quite impressive, featuring head's getting blown off and their bodies still running around, guttings, electrocutions, you name it. So what's Tony's secret to horror effects? "Silly putty," he whispers, then laughs. "I always have used it and like it. But basically, I just had to use some ingenuity and the items available in the local hobby shops and around the house. Foam latex was unavailable, and just not in the budget. And besides, you need so many other items just to use it. It just wasn't feasible. But I knew we could pull off most of the effects without it."
The main key to Eric's quick success is the fact that, despite his achievements, he has not let his ego over-take him. He's is a big believer in stepping back and recognizing his mistakes, and in turn improving on them in the next project. "In order for me to be successful," Eric explains, "I must at the same time be able to recognize my flaws. As long as I recognize the mistakes and continue to improve, even if I never make the perfect movie, I will be happy."
Well, if not the perfect horror movie, HARVEST comes damn close. Lots of action, a good flow of blood and guts, and an interesting, unique story - here's one movie that won't disappoint! It all just makes me wonder - how will Eric be able to top himself next time? Oh, I'm sure he'll find a way!

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