How Cynicism is Killing Entertainment

Camp Dread: The Filmmaker Strikes Back

A bane of social media is the "Inspirational Tweeter." This is the person whose life is going so well, they feel the need to tell you how you too can find the happiness they have. They're a digital Hallmark Card, the cyber chicken soup for the soul. It's amazing how much annoyance can be packed into 140 characters.

Another facet is the "Hipster Movie Reviewer." These are the folks (usually male) with a blog or You Tube Channel who think they know about movies. Some are ballsy enough to take on real reviewers like Scott Weinberg and tell THEM how they're wrong or "set them straight" especially when it comes to super hero or Adam Sandler films.
The production values are overwhelming in many online reviews

These "reviewers" usually have websites whose design pitched camp at 1998 or video reviews set in living rooms or bed rooms. They're shot with basically no lighting or professional sound and while some have under 50 views they usually start their critiques with "Hey Everyone..." Everyone? You mean the 6 viewers minus the ones to hear your own review?


It would be interesting but not worth the time to turn the tables and review the reviewers: physical appearance (Some look like they've crossed directly over from, dialogue (it's mostly a mental vomit of free association while trying really hard to be bitchy, snarky and cool), lighting and sound (it's basically non-existent with standard web cam or camcorder technology). I watched one review of the classic 1967 Rankin/Bass Film "Mad Monster Party" with a guy under a sheet almost the whole time. I guess he's the "Unknown Reviewer." Regurgitating the plot of a movie is not a review, which is pretty much what this guy did, save for ragging on Phyllis Diller's laugh and casting.


Apparently, he thought his sheet "shtick" was better.


So I ask, would you see a doctor with similar standards of quality? A mechanic? Eat in a restaurant with a chef who looked like he hadn't showered in several days and likely takes a dump without washing his hands? If the answer is no, why are the opinions of such unqualified "reviewers" taken into account at all?


A computer, blog and a love of watching movies doesn't make someone qualified to critique movies. The Internet invites everyone to share their opinion, however it doesn't mean everyone is qualified to comment on everything.


Apply this concept to Web MD, allowing it to be edited like Wikipedia and you get what I mean.


Camp Dread writer, director, producer, Harrison Smith onset with Eric Roberts and Danielle Harris


Whenever a filmmaker answers back to criticism, it's usually seen as being thin skinned and unable to take the heat. The respected film critic, Scott Weinberg recently said something that stood out to me. He basically said it isn't criticism that most filmmakers mind. It's when it's written with ignorance that it becomes an issue.


Scott Weinberg's assessment of what this article is about.


Camp Dread has received glowing reviews. It's also been given negative ones. Some of the great ones are empty accolades and some of the negative ones are tough but written well, with a full understanding of film. They support their opinions with a knowledgeable response and as the film's director/writer/producer, I understood what they were saying.


A recent positive review from Culture Fix hit every single thing we wanted this film to bring to its audiences. It was written by a a reviewer who understood the horror genre and the slasher sub genre. You can read the full review here. Short and to the point, the review hits the film's essence and what we set out to do.


It's nice to get good reviews isn't it? However this was more than a positive review. It took our film apart and examined it succinctly and got it. It's tight, well-written and done by a qualified reviewer.


However some of the sloppy, negative reviews stood out to me because it wasn't that they were negative. Example, Shock 'Til You Drop was not a fan of our film, but the review is solid, well-written and well-supported by the author. There are a few of these that while I was disappointed they didn't like the film, their criticism was respected.

The "miscast" Eric Roberts and the "underused" Danielle Harris in Camp Dread.


These were problems I had with some reviews that did not hold to similar standards:


- One reviewer knocked us because of a killing made by a watermelon at the end of the film. He felt it was silly. I agree it is, but the problem is there IS NO SUCH KILLING at the end of Camp Dread. I reached out to this reviewer to correct this. I pointed out that while indeed a watermelon-type launcher is used in the film's climax, it wasn't a watermelon that was used. The reviewer was surprised and then admitted he watched the film a few WEEKS previous to writing the review and was going by "notes." If you saw the film, it's pretty damned clear that's no watermelon, so I don't know what "notes" were taken at the time of the viewing, but it's clear better attention should be paid to screenings.

This same reviewer also knocked us on the miscasting of Eric Roberts as swarthy, sleazeball, hack director Julian Barrett. While audiences and major reviewers alike have praised Roberts for one of his best performances in years, this reviewer broke with the pack. Granted, it's one man's opinion, yet there wasn't a shred of data to support such a strong and damning statement.



- A POSITIVE review literally thought Camp Dread was a SEQUEL to Sleepaway Camp! It's a tip of the hat but this film is NO WAY connected to the storyline of those previous Robert Hiltzik films. This reviewer LOVED Camp Dread. The only problem is it is not a sequel to Sleepaway Camp.


- Several other negative reviews hold the "reality show concept" as the culprit for a cliched horror film. While I whole-hardheartedly agree, if you saw the film then you know that the reality show concept is a Hitchcock McGuffin. This is not a film about spy cameras, surveillance and watching people to exploit them. It is quite the opposite, and the last seven minutes of the film give you a "get the fuck out" ending to let you know that the audience has been had.


We were well aware that the reality show concept was overdone. We knew there would be comparisons to Battle Royale and others, but the game show idea has little to nothing to do with what's happening in Camp Dread. This isn't in backtracking, it's fact.


- Sloppy negative reviews go to extremes in the characters and their purpose. Understanding the horror sub genre, there must be certain adherence to formula. Go a little too far off mark and fans will assail you for not being traditional enough. Stay on point and you get blasted for being cliche and stereotypical. Our characters indeed are the usual suspects: the jock, the wiseass, the bitch/slut, the nerd/introvert and so on and so forth.


This is the core of the slasher and Friday the 13th spawned endless sequels copying and pasting these characters into each installment. We took these characters and added some new spins to them but kept them near their roots and yet you still have uniformed reviews that range from "too much character development" to "shallow, thinly drawn characters." So which is it?


The characters are given specific dialogue reminiscent of classic slashers. Yet one negative review said (without quoting) we had a piece of dialogue reminiscent of Shark Attack 3. In case you don't know horror, here it is:


There is nowhere in our film that has a piece of dialogue anywhere near this bad or most of all ill-placed and out of context from the genre of the film. All dialogue was carefully written with regard to the slasher genre and what fans would expect.


It may sound like "it's not me, it's them" but in this case it really is. Bloodbath and Beyond totally got what we were doing with our dialogue. In fact, they also presented their review with high production value, cool graphics, proper lighting and even well done sound. They know their horror and had a fun, original way of reviewing that made them stand out from the rest.


On the flipside we got a solid review from The B Movie Avenger, Drew Mead, who does have the low production value we discussed but yet mitigates all of that with an informed review that reflects a solid understanding of the genre.
Before the "Oprah Crowd" feels I am being a bully, picking on people who can't make slickly produced reviews, I am again saying that the real issue is an informed review and not an ignorant one because it's just cool to be a snarky, negative prick to stand out among a glutted market.

Weinberg's tweet sums up everything that we are saying in this article. In other words, if you want to write a review charging us to step up our game as filmmakers, then make sure you are playing your best too. Know your stuff, and hold yourselves to the same standards that you allege to hold filmmakers and their product.


Didn't like Camp Dread? That's fine. Just get your facts right as to why not, and know your horror. Be less interested in being funny, snarky or just a plain old dick.


It's that simple.


B Harrison Smith























CAMP DREAD: Eli Roth, Formula and Fans

Venerated film critic Roger Ebert gets the credit with coining the phrase "Dead Teenager Movie" for the slasher sub-genre. When the time came around to doing a new film on the heels of 6 Degrees of Hell, the Friday the 13th, Sleepaway Camp type of killer film was the last thing on my list.



Our financier wanted a Friday the 13th kind of movie. "Gimme tits, blood and ass" -- all the hallmarks that go with this type of picture. The knee jerk response was, "that's not the kind of picture I want to write, let alone make."
I was then told I would be expected to direct it as well or there would be no deal. Since any indie filmmaker worth their salt will tell you, the goal is to continue working, I agreed to the project, if anything to keep the bills paid and the lights on.
So this is where I could easily be a hypocrite since the overall theme of this blog is against cynical filmmaking. By accepting the terms outlined above for a paycheck, there are few other words aside from cynical that can be used. However I tried to look at it as a challenge and the hope was to possibly do something different, if not the run of the mill slasher Dead Teenager Movie.

Director, writer, producer of Camp Dread (l) and cast and crew at the Philly kickoff screening

It's all been done: the nudity, the over the top splatter murders, the hulking masked maniacs or reverse sex killers...power tools, machetes, chicks smashed in sleeping bags...nothing new under the sun or on the camp ground. As with 6 Degrees, I also did not want to move it into misogyny. I sat down at the computer and tried to do something else but keep the main things the fans of the genre wanted.


Camp Dread released to solid reviews from some of the big publications: Dread Central, Film Threat, Ain't It Cool News, The Horror Honeys and of course the social media would light up with fans and haters alike as they took to Twitter and Facebook to state their opinions.



I wanted to look at one Facebook post because it so defines what Eli Roth once talked of in an interview (his video is here and above) This "review" was posted to the Camp Dread FB:


"Worst film I have EVER seen. Plot makes no sense, characters have pointless stories and to say Danielle Harris stars in it is a joke, 5 lines if that."


When it was suggested this person should see a few more films before judging ours "the worst" this reply posted:


"Don't see why I should watch several other films to enjoy this one but thanks for your irrelevant input there Jay but I'm aloud to have an opinion. Maybe the fact this film page has 700 something likes and actually decent horror movies have hundreds of thousands, millions in fact. Films today should have a bit of depth and realism. Clearly a handful of people now days are easily pleased."

Scenes from Camp Dread and Danielle Harris doing more than her alleged five lines.


Anytime you make something and put it out there you are open to criticism. However Eli Roth makes a point about horror fans. They might be the most myopic group of fans out there. They are so entrenched in the genre they can sometimes become blind to it. They know what they like, what they want and while they say they want something different, most really don't.


This person was told to watch more films. Why? Because you need to know film before you launch your mouth in a social forum. What was so hard about the plot? The reality show thing is a gimmick to the plot and the ending is very clear when the twist is revealed. There is nothing nebulous or confusing.


This person is the kind of "fan" Roth talks about. They wanted their slasher served like a Big Mac. When you order a Big Mac you want it the same whether you are in Philly, London, LA or Bejing. A Quarter Pounder with Cheese is NOT a Royale. Gimme what I want because when I bite into this, it better be what I am expecting.


Roth is talking about that fan that reveres the terrible 1981 Halloween II which we looked at in our look at the reviled Halloween III from 1982. Here is a perfect example of when horror does something different and gets slapped for it by fans who asked for something different, got it, then complained.


Read our support for Halloween III HERE.


This is a great, educated explanation of why Halloween II ('81) is a terrible film:


"The main problem is the film's underlying motivation. Halloween was a labor of love, made by people committed to creating the most suspenseful and compelling motion picture they could. Halloween II was impelled by the desire to make money. It was a postscript—and not a very good one—slapped together because a box office success was guaranteed."  – James Bernardinelli 


Camp Dread gives you the stock slasher characters. They're all here: The slut, the wiseass, the nut job, the jock, the weirdo...yep, all present and accounted for. We give them some dialogue that is expected by the formula. You get the obligatory panties, boobs, shower scenes (we actually give you two shower scenes) and the false scares, cheesy dialogue...the formula is mixed well.


But we don't go all New Coke in our formula change up. We do indeed take a stab at the reality show culture, but the reality show itself is a McGuffin. If you're asking yourself, "what's that?" then you don't know horror and Roth is again validated.



Fans expect twist endings. The staple of the 80s twist ending was the sudden resurrection of the killer in the final seconds of the film. The eye snaps open, the hand moves or the survivor is suddenly snuffed and that worked for awhile. The best horror also works as a social commentary. George Romero's 1979 Dawn of the Dead comes to mind as a critique of our consumerism as well as the redneck, animalistic "civilization" we degraded to.


The issue with the Friday the 13th series is that aside from Corey Feldman's Tommy Jarvis, there really isn't a single stand out young character audiences remember, let alone care about or identify with. Yes, there's Jason and Mrs. Vorhees, but they're villains. When you think of the constant array of counselors and young folks parading along the death march, few can name character names or really care too much about them.


Sleepaway Camp killer, Felissa Rose all grown up, now a counselor with her campers onset of Camp Dread


There had to be real characters, people with backgrounds and some you're gonna root for and others you hope get it in the worst way. There had to be solid character development and most of all a good story instead of the "kids gather at a camp/cabin in the woods and die one by one." It was not going to be Ten Little Indians with blood and boobs.


I wrote the film for Felissa Rose, the cult actress best known for her mind bending ending in Sleepaway Camp.

I saw that film when I was 15 and it so freaked out my date, she had to rethink our relationship if this was the kind of horror movie I thought was fun. Since then I wanted to put Felissa Rose in a movie and I wrote the part of Rachel Steele solely for her. Thanks to associate producer Joshua Emerick, I got the script into her hands and she took the part and was Rachel in every way I could have hoped.


Felissa Rose as Camp Sunfish counselor, Rachel Steele in a scene from Camp Dread


Casting was important. Danielle Harris is a strong female figure in the horror community. Her role as sheriff Donlyn Eldridge was something different for her and it was hoped that would appeal to her. It did and we locked her in. While there are female victims in Camp Dread,  the guys are up for slaughter as well and the killer(s) may be both sexes. This is NOT a "Binders full of women" horror film concerned with degrading females. In fact it's one of the things we turned on its ear.


Our fan above said she had "five lines, if that." Wrong. Danielle occupies quite a bit of screen time and she is used well. While we sure wanted her in more of the film, time and money dictate otherwise, however as most reviews pointed out, she was used to great effect.


Danielle Harris with Eric Roberts in a scene from Camp Dread


Eric Roberts rounds out the cast as horror director Julian Barrett. His legendary status as an Oscar nominee for Runaway Train, his roles in The Pope of Greenwich Village, The Dark Knight and The Expendables...he was at the top of the list for the role. Roberts laid back LA style, his light Southern twang and his silver fox appeal brought a legitimacy and uniqueness to a horror film like this.


Oscar nominee Eric Roberts in a scene from Camp Dread


Camp Dread  works. If you're a fan of blood and gore, relax...Cleve Hall, SyFy Channel's Monster Man designed and executed the makeup FX. No CGI here, folks. Real, practical makeup gags, lots of blood and violence and all the things fans of the slasher want and will expect.


Cleve "Monster Man" Hall did the makeup FX for Camp Dread


All of the expected things are here but there's more. The slasher film has grown up, this isn't your father's 80s killer movie. Instead it has a slamming take on the reality TV obsession and the Cult of Celebrity and the voyeuristic society we have become. The line between entertainment and reality has never been more blurred...bloody.


Yep...the quasi homoerotic lesbian suntan lotion scene is in and lots more hijinks...and terror.


The film's website: Follow it on Twitter: @campdread


A smart script, solid and detailed performances and top notch makeup effects makes Camp Dread a more mainstream and wide appealing horror that dissembles Ebert's Dead Teenager Movie and approaches the sub-genre from a whole new angle.


So what would you do for your fifteen minutes of fame?








Prometheus: Somewhere Over the Prequel



Ridley Scott and his creation that "isn't a prequel" to itself.


Damon Lindeloff is full of it--along with his cohorts on the "Lost" TV show; lied for seasons saying the island wasn't purgatory and everyone was dead, he does it again with Prometheus:


PROMETHEUS IS A PREQUEL TO ALIEN.    Period. If you refuse to believe it, you did not see the original 1979 film or you don't know half as much about it as you thought  you did. None of that  fanboy studio parroting "now wait...there are strands of Alien's DNA in it but..."     


There's so much Alien DNA it's a alien porn facial.




- The film uses the exact same HR Giger bio-mechanical/sexual art design:

HR Giger's concept art for the 1979 film, Alien.


- The company financing the exploration is Weyland. It will become known as Weyland-Yutani in the subsequent Alien films, with the second film, Aliens creating the "Building Better Worlds" company tagline


- The horseshoe shaped alien ship is the exact model in the 1979 film:



- The Space Jockey(s), known in Prometheus as "Engineers" are the same discovered in the derelict spaceship in the 1979 Alien film

Top: Prometheus. Bottom: Alien


- The alien creatures morph with each victim closer to the original 1979 Alien design and if you watch to the end credits you are either in serious denial or did not see the 1979 Alien to see what is birthed in that crashed craft. The creature that attacks the "Engineer" in the final moments of the film is a giant precursor to the "Facehugger" that will become so famous in 1979. Oh yeah...the eel-like creatures in the derelict ship wrap tighter when removing them and they bleed acid when cut. Sound familiar? Wait! They also enter the mouth and incubate embryos inside. Still not a prequel, huh?



Above: The wormy creature entering the mouth to do its business Bottom: Nah, that has NO resemblance to the alien from the 1979 film. The creature appears in the closing minutes of Prometheus.


These are the most obvious. Throw in the filmmakers either subtle Easter eggs or outright treats with dialogue like: "Are you seeing this?" This line is said when the alien pyramids are discovered by the explorers back to the ship. This same line was the same used in the 1979 film spoken by Captain Dallas back to Ash on the ship when they see the derelict craft for the first time. The film ends as both Alien and Alien 3 ended with the lead female survivor signing off to the ship's log.


Enough of all of that. If you don't believe it is a prequel by now, stop reading and go rant on your own blog. Fanboys go away, you've done enough to wreck movies.


Charlize Theron perhaps wondering what she's doing in this movie. Many in the audience were.


The advance press and back story of this film's inception being a prequel and then merging into something different is half correct. There's a a civil war of scripts going on in this film and it lessens the impact of what could have been a revolutionary classic in the science fiction genre.


Noomi Rapace setting the stage for Sigourney Weaver's Ellen Ripley in Prometheus.


The original Alien was a horror film. It succeeds because it's pure. Alien, in this writer's opinion,  is close to perfect. Like the android Ash says in the 1979 classic, he admired the alien's purity--the best reason to admire the original Sigourney Weaver classic.


Where the original Alien was pitched as "Jaws in Space" this prequel could easily be pitched as "Frankenstein Meets The Wizard of Oz." Everyone's looking for something in this one: a robot is looking for a heart, a scientist wants courage, another wants eternal life and Charlize Theron just wants to go home. They've all come a long way to meet the Wizard and indeed they find that there's something very different behind the curtain.


There's a lot going on in Prometheus but it doesn't always click well together.


Michael Fassbender as David, setting the stage for Ash and Bishop with a little HAL thrown in.


When Prometheus is busy evoking wonder, it works beautifully and that's the right word: it is beautiful. However, this is a cynical age, far more so than in 1979. "The Company" (the studio) wants profits, much like "The Company" in the Alien films so sacrifices must be made. Audiences want their big screen scares and heaven forbid they sit through a truly high concept motion picture without someone in a cape or doing a mighty CGI flyby these days.



So a conscious effort was made to connect this film to a series of films that waned into the same flaccid goo that is discovered in the derelict ship canisters. Most critics and fans will agree that the series should have stopped at Aliens. While the third film is not a "bad" one, it is a mess, with even its director, David Fincher disowning it; citing studio interference as making the production a living hell. On top of it Alien 3 is downright depressing, nihilistic and nullifies everything that the second film worked so hard for.


It was downhill from there with the ridiculous graphic novel come to life Alien Resurrection (Joss Whedon gets credit for the script but he says they butchered his screenplay). That's okay, Whedon gets his revenge this summer as his film The Avengers will pummel the aliens anyway. The ridiculous and "let's make a buck" Alien vs. Predator series knocked Sigourney Weaver and Ridley Scott away from the series for awhile, as they rightly said going in that fanboy mashup direction would kill the series and whatever dignity it had left.


Now it's full circle. Alien returns to meet its maker and it left me and from what I could hear of the people exiting around me, wanting more and wishing it wasn't so Alien heavy. To this day, Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind still leaves me with a genuine sense of wonder--a real "what's out there beyond us?" kind of feeling. There were parts of Prometheus that had me starting to feel this way and then: cut to monster stuff or worse yet, a cheesy 1950's bad guy plot that has become a science fiction cliche and was before the 1979 film.



As reviews have said, the technical aspects of the film are magnificent. It looks real and Rapace and Fassbender indeed deserve the accolades they are getting for their performances (although I think Fassbender's praise is a little over exuberant. Lance Henrickson and Ian Holm did much better android turns).


When Prometheus is challenging you to think, it's on its 'A' Game. However it cowtows to an ever dumbed down audience that, right now, most prefer their films heavy on the action, less on the story and thinking.


And maybe, that's the answer to the ultimate question Noomi Rapace asks: "What happened to make them hate us?" What IF we were created by other world beings? What WOULD they think if they came to visit and saw how we are running things--if they read our tweets, watched E News, reality TV and looked at our political and legal systems?


Hell, all they have to see are the comments sections under any news article and we might have the answer to Rapace's question.














"TROPES" are devices and conventions that a writer can reasonably rely on as being present in the audience members' minds and expectations. On the whole, tropes are not clichés. The word clichéd means "stereotyped and trite." In other words, dull and uninteresting.  We are here to recognize tropes and play with them, not to make fun of them. --

Brian Gallagher breaks The Fourth Wall  in 6 Degrees of Hell, in a scene that functions as a tribute to classic horror and William Castle style filmmaking of the 1950's




6 Degrees of Hell was described in recent test screenings as a "horror film with Easter eggs." The film is packed with classic horror inspiration and references without going the route of self-reference or parody. 6 Degrees  is straight up horror but owes its soul to the Golden Era of Universal, 60's Hammer and the best of 80's horror. The 1985 classic Fright Night played a major influence in 6 Degrees of Hell in both style and tribute to previous days of of the genre.


We want and need our audience to know their horror genre as this film is chock full of references and inspiration from the genre's long and diverse history.


I had so much fun seeing horror films as a kid and teenager. Audiences screamed, applauded, cheered and shouted at the screen. I remember the terror of Alien as a packed house shrieked and I almost bolted from my seat when John Hurt gave "birth" at the dinner table.  I laughed my ass off in the James Brolin Amityville Horror (the puking nun is classic) and saw John Frankenheimer's Prophecy, the mutant bear monster movie at least three times in theaters just for that kid in the yellow sleeping bag scene.


The late, great Dr. Shock, horror's gentleman host of Horror Theater out of Philly


I ate up Dr. Phibes, The Tingler, Frankenstein, Dracula, The Werewolf, Creature From the Black Lagoon, The Pit and the Pendulum and knew the names of William Castle, Roger Corman, Sammy Arkoff and others before I hit my teens. Dr. Shock on WPHL-17 brought Universal monsters, Lugosi, Lorre, Godzilla and so many Saturday afternoon treats from Horror Theater and Creature Double Feature.


In writing 6 Degrees of Hell, I wanted to bring that same fun of being scared back to the genre. While we went for scares in 6 Degrees of Hell, we also wanted to pay homage to so many of those great films that made up such an important part of my life. George Romero and Stephen King's Creepshow so moved me in 1982, I left the theater and went home to write in my journal about the movie going experience. Creepshow embodied fun and yet delivered the scares in the uneven anthology.


1982's Creepshow played a major influence on style in 6 Degrees of Hell





FRIDAY THE 13TH & OTHER SLASHERS: The opening scene with our four young stars is a direct reference to those camp counselor introductions in the Friday the 13th series. That forced dialogue and the lame sexual innuendos are all there. This is a direct tip of the hat to the venerable slasher franchise as our star, Corey Feldman stole the show in Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter.


The young cast of 6 Degrees of Hell (left) in a direct nod to Friday the 13th and other slasher films like those randy, oh so carefree camp counselors from the 1980 slasher classic (right).


NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, THE EXORCIST: We focused our makeup effects to reflect iconic images from specifically these two films. Our undead girl was modeled after George A. Romero's game changing 1968 zombie classic:


Left: The iconic zombie makeup from Romero's Night of the Living Dead. Right: Our "dead girl" patterned on the photo to the left

Our makeup for Jeff Wilde (left) is a nod to the "strobe face" demon in 1973's The Exorcist




HAMMER FILMS: I educated my young director of photography, Charlie Anderson and director Joe Raffa on the lighting for the film. I wanted specific attention to be paid the graveyard scene which is a turning point in the film. The lighting, the fog...everything right down to the size of the hole dug in Kelly's grave had to be done to reflect the great style of classic 1960's Hammer horror. 

The graveyard scene in 6 Degrees (above) designed to reflect the style of classic Hammer Films (below):


A Hammer Films mortuary scene (L) and a scene from 6 Degrees of Hell:




6 Degrees of Hell draws heavily from Creepshow in its lighting and set design while the pacing of 6 Degrees of Hell reflects the frenetic last 15 minutes of the 1983 classic, Poltergeist (above). Below : scenes from 6 Degrees of Hell illustrating the influence of the aforementioned films on its design and lighting


Lighting style and the random terror chaos of the film's climax in 6 Degrees of Hell


The Hotel of Horror is very much a character, much like the house in Burnt Offerings, The Legend of Hell House or even the Amityville films. Inanimate objects take on a life of their own, lending a tip of the hat to Trilogy of Terror and the killer Zuni Doll that plagued Karen Black.


June's incident at her front door in the dead of night evokes the dread of the classic short story, The Monkey's Paw while the chaos that erupts at the conclusion of 6 Degrees is like the roller coaster ride conclusion of Poltergeist. Perhaps even closer, the startling events inside the Hotel of Horror in the third act recall a Grand Guignol style as it plays out before an unsuspecting audience.



Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte: The Bette Davis thriller is invoked in our main female character June who could easily be compared to the mental anguish Charlotte Hollis endured in the famous film. June's plight is long and tortuous having been stalked by something sinister for her whole life...chipping slowly away at her...

Poster for the classic Gothic film and Nicole Cinaglia as the long suffering June in 6 Degrees
We have a direct reference for quick ears in 6 Degrees of Hell to the other Bette Davis classic, Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? We hope fans will catch it.


MUSIC: There are so many references to classic scores from great horror: Bride of Frankenstein, Fright Night, Psycho II...too many to mention but the horror score fan will be in heaven listening to this film's soundtrack.




The true horror fan will pick up references to Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, The Abominable Dr. Phibes, The Monkey's Paw, Psycho II, Rosemary's Baby, Dracula, The Tingler, The Haunting, The Last Man on Earth, Fright Night, Ghost Story, The Werewolf, The Creature From the Black Lagoon, Mad Monster Party, Beetlejuice and so much more.


Will 6 Degrees of Hell be "the scariest movie of 2012?" Who knows? Who cares? However it will be a blast--the perfect scary movie date picture that evokes a time missing from present day horror. Top quality production value, fantastic acting, a fresh supernatural story and scares played out to do just that: scare.



































COREY HAIM: Fighting Cynema in the Most Personal Way

"When I was 19 years old, I was the number one star of the world for two years; when I was 40, nobody wanted me -- I couldn't get a job." -- Mickey Rooney at his Oscar acceptance speech, 1980.


It's easy to forget the human element of filmmaking and despite the toll the industry takes on an individual film, it sometimes takes a greater toll on a human individual. That's the focus of this entry.



Fans have set up a petition: CLICK  to sign the online request for a star for Corey Haim.

A fan created TUMBLR PAGE to the cause can be found here: CLICK


All photos courtesy of Judy Haim, Corey's mother for this article


We were approached on Twitter by Corey Haim fans asking for help in securing a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for the late actor and former teen box office heartthrob. I assumed we were approached because 6 Degrees of Hell stars the other half of "The Two Coreys", Corey Feldman. The two defined the 80's with their films and became the "Dynamic Duo" of high school lockers, notebook covers and subjects of popular teen fanzines like Tiger Beat.


Photos courtesy of Judy Haim


As the film's screenwriter and producer, I decided to use whatever influence our film had to help this cause after giving it some thought and thinking back on a young man who brought so much to so many people and was collateral damage in such a darkly seductive industry. To be fair, I like to claim that I "grew up" with both Corey's. I saw all of their films but can't say I shared the same thrill for them as the girls around me. They had their good films and bad. There is no doubt that Feldman's horror pedigree and my appreciation of his genre films played an influence on soliciting him for 6 Degrees of Hell. I do know for a fact that had Haim been alive while casting 6 Degrees I would have gone for both Corey's to be in the film. It would have been an 80's lovers dream and a distribution coup.


Corey Haim is gone now, having died a little over two years ago amidst a swirl of media scrutiny, speculation and outright hypocritical exploitation. The industry that made him a star also contributed to his deconstruction, and if Corey Feldman is correct, far darker, individual forces were at work--things worse than any horror movie could dredge up because it resides in reality.


This article will not focus on these things. The Internet is awash with unsubstantiated "facts", out of context analyses and boldface lies about Haim, his life and those last days. Only Haim, his family and those truly close to him knew what demons tormented him and how he lived his life. Anything else is nonsense as many former child stars can testify to this horrid persecution by the press and an increasingly ignorant and shallow public.


Photo courtesy of Judy Haim


Tara Reid, the star of my previous film, The Fields ( is a living record of what happens when the media conspires to assassinate one of its own. For whatever reason, these stars run afoul of the "the system", and they find that the same executives, studios and media that built them up are more than happy to tear them down. A career can turn on a dime and I have included Tara's plight in a book I am writing on this savage business. What exactly did Tara Reid do to earn her such enmity and become the target of cowardly bloggers and their even more cowardly anonymous comment makers that punctuate such yellow journalism?


“How many more years are [the media] going to pick on me? There's other new young bad girls. Move on to someone else!” – Tara Reid


Cynema is the fuel that drives such an cannibalistic engine. The industry devours its children.


Photo courtesy of Judy Haim


Dana Plato, Gary Coleman, Todd Bridges, Linda Blair, Tara Reid, Drew Barrymore, Robert Downey, Jr., Judd Nelson, MacCaulay Culkin, Corey Feldman, Corey Haim, Anthony Michael Hall, Jay North, Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland, Charlie Sheen, Michael Jackson, Ed Furlong, Crispin Glover, River Phoenix...this list can go on.


All of these names were associated with lavish success and then "fallen on hard times." Some regained luster to their Hollywood crowns and are once again looked upon favorably by the Powers That Be. They have been "rehabilitated," made amends or atonement" in the eyes of an industry that is hardly the paragon of virtue or moral piety.


Oscar winning producer and self-admitted hypocrite, Julia Philips once said that "Hollywood is a place that attracts people with massive holes in their souls." Philips succumbed to cancer a number of years ago, but also knew Corey Haim and put him in her scathing Hollywood memoir, You'll Never Eat Lunch In This Town Again which is now recognized as one of the most venomous and scathing accounts of Hollywood behind the scenes ever put to paper. She was also referring to herself in that statement.


The Internet has created the "cult of the fan," giving a new outlet for obsession and star scrutiny. In a day and age of 24 hour, instant download news, the line between information and entertainment is gone. Now an inadvertent crotch shot can translate into big bucks and race around the globe in moments. More and more comments under such articles ask "why is this news?" but they are whispers in a hurricane. It's news because people want it. Period.


This new "Cult of the Fan" has allowed ignorant people to become "experts" on a celebrity's life. From judgmental statements to stalking; many fans believe and are fueled by what is fed to them by the media. Celebrities on the wrong side of industry find themselves trying to ride this wave of ignorance. They will shop themselves out to reality shows for drug rehab or worse yet, turn the cameras on their private lives as if offering some sort of sacrifice to the Media Gods to appease them and find redemption that will make them "right" in the eyes of the industry and a distracted, silly public.


Photo courtesy of Judy Haim


Which brings me to Corey Haim. We are going to work in securing this star because Corey Haim was someone's son. He was someone's brother. He was a lot of people's friend. He loved animals. He helped out children. He had birthday parties. He cried. He laughed. He went to school and struggled with homework. He wanted to be loved and he gave love. He made girls swoon. He watched a sunrise. He played with toys and went swimming. He bled when he fell down and knew the worse pain of a broken heart.


Photo courtesy of Judy Haim


He gave wonderful memories and enjoyment to fans. He sacrificed a normal childhood to grow up in front of a camera. He was rewarded with adulation, money, prestige and more, but when all is said and done, Corey Haim gave far more to his fanbase than he received. We get to have Corey for as long as we watch his films and he reminds us of the fun of being 16. Many of his fans lived vicariously through him, modeling their childhoods on his onscreen misadventures . Critics fell in love with him in Lucas while now Gen X fans get to think back on their teen years every time License to Drive, Dream a Little Dream or The Lost Boys hits their TV screens.


Corey got little in return. The cynical fans and media will say he was rewarded with large paychecks and everything a young teen could have want. Yet, we get to learn through his exposed life, that these things did not bring him what was needed to fill that "massive hole in his soul." Corey Haim performed for us and now entertains a whole new generation that didn't grow up in the decade he dominated. Many are his fans because of their parents, and those parents are now looking back on their own lives through nostalgia or regret. Maybe a little of both.


Judgmental people will convict him of a life misspent. Yet they have the luxury of enjoying him without the pain of truly losing him. When fans tell one of his family or friends how much they loved one of his films, and own it, there is the fact that most likely Corey's films are not taken from the shelf too often in his family's households. Some may not even have them at all. The memories are not as fond for those who knew and loved him, for the films are a reminder of his absence and how much he is truly missed.


Fans may say "I miss him." They did not know him and it is ignorant to truly believe a fan's pain can come anywhere close to a mother's or sibling's loss. They say such things with the best of intent, but it is a hollow statement, kind of like saying "I'm sorry" to someone at a funeral. It means nothing, but it is the thing to say nonetheless.


Grief is not a public thing to be shared on Twitter or Facebook. Grief is private. It is personal. Anyone who says it is not is grandstanding and self-serving.



Photo courtesy of Judy Haim


Corey Haim was not mentioned in a televised "in memorium"  segment on the Academy Awards. The excuse was "he was on a long list but there was a short list" and simply the old "we didn't have enough time" chestnut was used. For all the money Corey Haim made people, for giving as much as he did to an industry that fed off him like the vampires he and Feldman once fought , 10 seconds was not a lot to ask. Corey Haim was abandoned by the industry that profited from his life. A-list celebs and industry personalities did nothing to make sure his picture made that Oscar screen. There was apparently no effort other than to shrug shoulders and say "that's show business."





6 Degrees of Hell will push for a star for Corey Haim. I never met him. I never knew him. I enjoyed his films and I ignored his final TV show and the press that went with it, because unlike many that cast dispersions, I am in the business and I knew what it was doing to him as his pain was broadcast for entertainment. We do this for his family and because it is the right thing to do.


A star sunk in cement is the least this industry can do. Being left off a simple memorial list, our official stance is, if you can't memorialize everyone then you don't do it at all. Cut down on film nominations, nominees or enforce the speech time limit and cue up that exit music faster. "Long list, short list" subterfuge is just nothing more than movie smoke and mirrors.


We will be organizing a benefit screening this fall to raise the required application funds for the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce. We will be inviting those industry personalities that have professed their love and allegiance to Corey Haim. We hope they will come to honor his memory and send a message to the industry that there are those who take care of one their fallen.


Fans have set up a petition: CLICK


Photo courtesy of Judy Haim


I end this entry with a quote from the great poem Hurt Hawks by Robinson Jeffers that I feel evokes what Corey Haim was in his life. However that is simply my own speculation. Richard Adams used this passage in his brilliant novel Watership Down. It came to me as I wrote this entry.


He is strong and pain is worse to the strong, incapacity is worse.
The curs of the day come and torment him
At distance, no one but death the redeemer will humble that head

You do not know him, you communal people, or you have forgotten him;
Intemperate and savage, the hawk remembers him;
Beautiful and wild, the hawks, and men that are dying, remember him.


Our efforts for a star are ironically not for a "star" but a human being, Corey Ian Haim.


Photo courtesy of Judy Haim




















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