From MantaRay Pictures comes the anthology effort Evil Streets. A low-budget independent effort filmed mostly in New York that brings together directors Terry R. Wickham and Joseph R. Parda (5 Dead On The Crimson Canvas) to tell three horror tales about revenge, necrophelia, and obsession.
Recently I spoke with Terry about their film and the problems gaining exposure that indie films run into after the product is out on the streets (evil streets? ha).
How and why did you cast Playboy Playmate SaRenna Lee? Was part of the reason name recognition?
I had originally contacted SaRenna back in 1995, because I was interested in casting her in another film called Perishing Hearts. While waiting to get that film off the ground, Evil Streets came along. I had to contribute one of the stories. The first thing I thought of, was writing something that would give me the opportunity to work with SaRenna. So I told her my idea of "Stalk", she liked it and wanted to work together, so we did it. As far as her name value, I was felt it would certainly help get the film some attention, but it was never the real reason for working with her. I think we both felt it would be good to work together on something small before tackling a bigger film like Perishing Hearts.
Anything you're disappointed with in the final version?
We've received quite a bit of criticism for not having more dialogue and depth to the stories. Before we started, the three companies who backed the film agreed that; some of the most effective horror films have very little dialogue (Duel, Black Christmas, Nightwatch, Mute Witness) and that each story should run around twenty-five minutes. So, with that in mind, it's a little difficult to create depth. I was quite disappointed that the fourth story never made it into the film. There was supposed to be another story that would have came right after "Szamota'S Mistress" and before "Stalk". As far as "The Downfall Of Johnny Garrett", I was disappointed with the color of lighting in one shot and some of the difficulties we ran into with our lighting equipment. With "Stalk", the was another crane shot I couldn't get because of time and I was never completely satisfied with the very ending of the segment. It's a little too blunt and kind of leaves the audience cold.
What was the fourth planned story?
Originally there was monster story about a woman that was a spider. The problem was that the script ran about 68 pages. We all agreed that it would have to be cut down to fit our allotted time slots for each film. The writer/director didn't want to cut down his script so he decided to drop out of the project. Then we had two guys who were going to do a weird episode, where parts of a corpse start showing up in the backyard of some friends. They actually shot some of that episode, but they ran into numerous problems and things just kind of fell apart.
I understand Fangoria hasn't really supported you, why do you think that a lot of people are hesitant to get behind independent fare?
In the case of Fangoria, it's a real mystery. I don't think it has anything to do with being independent. They've certainly covered all types of independent films. You would think that it would be a level playing field for all independent horror filmmakers, but that doesn't seem to be the case. There seems to be hidden agenda on who gets reviewed and who doesn't. To me, it's a real injustice for the fans because I honestly believe there are fans out there who would appreciate what EVIL STREETS has to offer. With other magazines and newspapers horror seems to still carry some kind of stigma. It's sad because some of the best films ever made (Exorcist, Jaws, Halloween, Alien, and Aliens, Silence Of The Lambs) are horror films.
With all the barriers (lack of support from the press, smaller-scale distribution) do you consider Evil Streets to be a sucessful film?
Just to finish a film, is kind of a miracle in a way, considering all the obstacles. We've had quite a few fans and other filmmakers, compliment the movie. I think artist Tim Bruns, created one of the best video box covers I've ever seen. We've made back about half the money we invested to make the film. So my answer would be, successful so far, but we want to accomplish so much more.
The anthology film lives on in independent horror. Why do you think this is? Could it be the lower cost or easy collaboration with other directors?
I think each anthology probably has it's own reason for existence. I believe we've seen a few anthologies recently, that were just excuses to put together some films that were too short to do anything else with. Those films hurt the reputation of the anthology film. It certainly is lower cost for the parties involved since it is a way of pooling the costs to make the film. I wouldn't say that it is easy putting together directors, because each filmmaker has their own taste and opinion. In fact, it's actually quite difficult to make it work smoothly.
Do you see the anthology film as a viable genre still? People consider it to be a waste of time due to limited space to build suspense and/or interest within a story.
If you've got some good, interesting stories, or an interesting angle...why not. The reason for doing one has to be more than just putting together a couple unfinished films. I don't think you'll ever get much depth from a short story because you don't get much time. I believe suspense can be created. Certainly they can be worthwhile, the Amicus films from the 70's, Creepshow, and even Tales From The Hood have proved that.
What kind of relationship did you have in regards to fellow director Parda?
We were friends before hand and are still friends today. That's says a lot in itself. We are actually quite different in our film interests and that's pretty apparent in our separate episodes of Evil Streets. I don't think you will see either of us working on another anthology anytime soon. We both have plans for a couple full length feature films, that will individually take us at least five years down the road.
Perishing Hearts. It's a film that I've wanted to do for thirteen years. It's really evolved and changed over the years since I wrote the first draft back in 1986. I really love the characters and the way the story has developed. It's weird because I've seen every version of Perishing Hearts in my head and I'm so eager to share it with an audience. I think it's a story that can capture a lot of people's attention. It's a dark love story, that's very intense, suspenseful and passionate. I would say that if you crossed the original Romero & Juliet, The Lost Boys & Terminator, it would give you a good idea of what I'm aiming for. I'm planning on starting principal photography in July. Perishing Hearts will be made an a higher level of production than Evil Streets and I will be working with a new producer. I've already started assembling the cast and am very excited about some of the talented actors I will be working with. I'll be living out one of my dreams by having Dokken/Lynch Mob guitarist George Lynch score the film. We will look for PH to get major distribution and play it all the major festivals. There is talk of doing a gangster film and then my semi-autobiographical script Sasquatch. That film will be a major landmark for me and could leave a lasting mark in the genre.
All Images Here Are © 1998 MantaRay Pictures