Monday, October 28, 2013

Baggage (2013) Including Interviews With Rob Dimension and Jeremiah Kipp

I love a good short film, and I especially love a good short horror film.  Trying to cram quality thrills and chills into a shorter time frame is a challenge and a chance to show off some really great creative chops.

So when my friend, director Jeremiah Kipp, made me aware of a short film he'd made with another friend, actor/writer Rob Dimension, I jumped at the chance.  I've reviewed two of Jeremiah's other films, Contact and Crestfallen, so I knew I was going to be in for something really good.  And I was not disappointed.

Baggage is a short black and white film written and starring Dimension, and directed by Kipp.  Believe me, I'm not going to reveal one single spoiler about this movie because even hinting at it would ruin the surprise.  I can tell you that the film centers on a put-upon office worker trying to make it through his day, then simply trying to have a drink at a local tavern.  When a couple of ne'er-do-wells try to accost him and steal his duffel bag, it escalates into something...well, you'd just have to see.  I'm not spoiling it.

The film unveils itself like a puzzle, with things falling into place as the story reveals more and more.  Dimension is great as the mousy, tentative office worker who is a magnet for jeers and pitying glances.  His character is so intriguing simply from body language and posture, as well as his hushed, unoffensive tones when he speaks.  Pulling double-duty as the screenwriter, Dimension's script melds perfectly with Kipp's direction, and Kipp is no stranger to bringing visceral and emotional images to the screen, no matter what those emotions may be.  I've long been a fan of Kipp's work, and now you can add Dimension to the list of quickly-rising filmmakers who I will be following - and touting - for years to come.

I also had a chance to ask both guys some questions about Baggage - let's start with the film's writer and star, Rob Dimension:

What inspired the story?  Do you have any literary and film inspirations that directly influenced this film?

First, thank you for watching Baggage...I appreciate it. Baggage was a story that started as a talk a few years ago, between myself and a friend of mine, Sal Valente. We were eating lunch and started to discuss how you never know who you are sitting next to in a restaurant or even who you live next to. The world is a crazy place...people are crazy. So, after finishing No Clowning Around and having some mild success, I was thinking of a new film to write and Baggage evolved from that. After I was finished writing, I sent Sal the script and he says, "I can't believe you've taken one discussion and made all of this."

Typically, I've noticed my writing is influenced by the my current movie or television watching. I was on a kick of watching a lot of Hitchcock and Twilight Zone episodes. I really was in love with the black and white look and the use of shadows. I also was at a point where I was thinking about camera movement and how it can affect emotions and uneasiness. I was just in a classic state of mind, I guess.

How did you and Jeremiah Kipp get together for this production?

I had seen a short film titled Crestfallen and absolutely fell in love with the movie. The atmosphere, the visuals, just loved the look. At the time I was hosting a small Horror Club and we were showing independent films, so I messaged the people behind the film and one of then was Jeremiah Kipp. Fast forward about a year or so...No Clowning Around gets accepted at a film festival and Jeremiah was going to attend, so I shot him a message and we ended up meeting. The crazy thing is I basically just pitch him an outline about Baggage and he looks at me and says, "I'm in!" I was flattered and extremely excited and we've become great friends since. It was really just me taking a chance to reach out to someone who I respected and it worked out.

How was the process of making the film?  Smooth, challenging...any funny stories?
The process is long but always fulfilling, I mean that. I wanted Jeffrey Gould and his partner Steve Adams (who will be co-directing my newest film - Quackers in 2014) to handle the cinematography and these guys killed it. Jeremiah is a solid director...he pulls no punches, he is intense and is extremely professional. Every person involved was ready for the challenge and they all delivered. We filmed for five days and about 60 hours, plus on the fourth day, we filmed for nearly 24 hours. 

We were scheduled to film a chase and mugging scene outside but the weather decided to be uncooperative...which I feel added to the film and made it better, but we needed to scramble for a different location. In Baggage, you see Benjamin at the train station and while filming, we came across a small subway tunnel that got you to the other platform. I mentioned to Jeremiah that the tunnel would be a good and we committed to making that the spot for this scene. 

The next day we start filming and we leave some of our belongings on top of the platform, so my wife, Kim, continues to check on our stuff. She occasionally pops her head up and checks to make sure everything is still there. The next thing we know, we have police there with guns out. The tunnel has two sides and we had cops on each entrance and we had to explain we were filming. They had three more police cars on the way...they thought we were terrorists. It made for an interesting moment of panic. The good thing was we had a permit and were completely legal to be there...but it was scary for a moment.

What do you hope happens with the film?  Festivals, distribution, more film?

Well, people can purchase the DVD at and Baggage has been accepted to several film festivals as well is being shown in a few spots for Halloween. Baggage also was shown at Monster-Mania convention in August, which was a massive thrill. 

People can see my first film No Clowning Around online for a short time also on my site. I just finished the script for our next film titled Quackers. Quackers was a concept pitched to me by Buz Hasson from the Living Corpse comic series and I just got busy writing and elaborating on the concept. The Living Corpse team of Buz, Ken and Blair will be working on original artwork for the film also. Jeffrey Gould and Steve Adams will be co-directing the film and handling the cinematography...I'm super excited. I think I have an extremely talented team. I honestly think this is my best screenplay and story yet. People can read more about it and stay up on things at or follow me on Twitter at @RobDimension.

How was the transition from one form of entertainment (wrestling) to another (film)?  Similarities and differences?

I was involved with professional wrestling for almost 15 years. Wrestling taught me so many taught me performance and working in front of large crowds. It taught me to drop my inhibitions and be a character and not be scared of the camera. It also gave me an outlet for writing, as I wrote storylines and even wrote for live TV. It also is the harshest reality check about business and people. It really makes you become your own biggest, promoter. I'm fortunate and love to talk, so I think that has also helped make the transition easier.

Most of my wrestling career I was a villain, so I guess playing an over the top villain in movies is like a lateral move...haha!  I've always loved horror I just decided to get off my ass and decided to make what I wanted to see. I encourage anyone who is sitting, debating to create something...go do it. It's the greatest reward when it's finished. When I got the final cut of No Clowning Around, I remember sitting on my sofa and just crying...I felt accomplished.
And here's director Jeremiah Kipp with more insight:
How was it working with Rob?  Do you see more collaboration in the future?

Rob is an intense and charismatic guy, with a wicked self-deprecating sense of humor.  What I loved about our work together was his sheer willingness to push himself as far as he needed to go.  He was playing a troubled character, and he’s so committed that I think in many ways he took the work home with him.  But on set, you knew the material had strength to it.  I’d work with him again in a second; we’ve talked about it and have been making plans.

What drew you to the story?

There was a slow building dread in the narrative that built to an operatic peak moment at the end.  After doing an incredibly phantasmagoric experimental film called The Days God Slept, I was intrigued by the possibility of locking into a plot-driven thriller which was all about building a mood of tension.  Rob told me the story in person, and even before he asked me to direct it, I found myself drawn into his macabre tale. It felt like a modern variation of Edgar Allan Poe.

What kind of visual influence played a part in how Baggage looked and felt?

The director of photography Jeffrey Scott Gould shares a tremendous enthusiasm for Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver.  We took the classical black and white 1960s retro feel and pushed that into areas of the grotesque.

Will we see Baggage at any festivals or screenings?

It has been having a strong festival life so far, playing at Monster Mania, New Jersey HorrorFest, Macabre Faire Film Festival and DOA Blood Bath Entertainment’s Blood Bath V Film Festival. We’re happy to be able to present the film to audiences, and hope they enjoy.

Were there any funny behind-the-scenes stories?

There must have been, but when I lock into making a movie it’s all about the execution.  It’s not that I don’t like to have a good time; it’s just that I place all of my thought into making what’s happening in the frame as expressive as possible.  I remember doing crazy stuff like making the actors jump up and down until they were exhausted; I made Rob sprint across city blocks for half a day, we put actors through some grueling special effects makeup. And yet I remember having a really good time making this movie, and had the sense that we were surrounded by generous friends who were excited about the work. That’s what I probably remember best; working with people I love and trust as well as making new friends.  There was that one moment we were filming a scene where the local police surrounded us because what we were doing seemed criminal, but we were able to laugh about it later…

What's coming up on your schedule in terms of filmmaking?

Right now, I’m going into production on a new scary movie called The Minions.  It’s a dark urban fable about a man’s walk home one autumn night, and he decides to walk down The Witch’s Path. He almost makes it past safely, but then two drunken girls appear…and they’re the minions. What happens next is not very nice…  Find out more at:

I want to thank both Rob Dimension and Jeremiah Kipp for taking the time to answer my questions and especially for their (and their crew's) hard work on Baggage.  I highly recommend getting your hands on it, dear readers.  You really won't be disappointed.  

Be sure to keep an eye out for more from Rob and Jeremiah, and you'll see more coverage here!

Until next time, dear survivors, see you on Halloween! 

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Lords of Salem (2012) Little Taste of the 70s

Somewhere in him, Rob Zombie has the most amazing horror film.  He's got a singular vision, a unique eye for detail, and a deep knowledge of all genres of horror.  I'm not saying his present movies are bad.  For me, they're "almost there."  He's got the perfect horror movie waiting in the wings, and he's almost there.

Written and directed by Zombie, The Lords of Salem edges ever so closer to being the definitive Rob Zombie film.  It has that grindhouse look, with a 70s-style title card and aesthetic, even though it's set in modern times.  With his versions of the Halloween movies, he still had to conform to a certain mold.  But with The Lords of Salem, we see him going back to his "I'll do it my way, thanks" style.  While Lords didn't totally grab me, there is a certain flair to it that intrigues me.  It's that closer step to that defining movie.

The plot is straight out of 70s witch exploitation movies, and that's not really a bad thing.  Sherri Moon Zombie plays Heidi, a successful Salem, Massachusetts, nighttime DJ along with her co-stars Whitey (Jeff Daniel Phillips) and Herman (Ken Foree).  One night, she receives a mysterious album from a group called The Lords.  Upon playing the record, the strange, archaic music causes her to feel strange and have weird visions of witches.  She gets to know a researcher, Francis Mattias (Bruce Davison), who investigates the record and The Lords, and finds some horrifying connections.  Meanwhile, Heidi's landlord (Judy Geeson) and her two overly-nice friends (Dee Wallace and Rocky Horror Picture Show's Patricia Quinn) take a strong interest in Heidi and her role in the increasing weirdness surrounding The Lords' upcoming concert in Salem.  Heidi's hallucinations increase as she fights the terrible implications they offer and her own personal demons, as she is a former drug abuser.

The visual aesthetic is what struck me the most.  There is a rich palette of colors in certain scenes, especially the dream sequences.  Everyday life looks like...every day life.  But, yeah, those dream sequences.  I saw it written somewhere else that Zombie had channeled Ken Russell in this film, and I'd say that's pretty accurate.  Russell always had the most oddball, foreboding, and twisted hallucinogenic sequences in film, and you see it echoed in the work of David Lynch and Lars von Trier.  Zombie goes for it here as well, and for the most part, it's not bad.  I didn't like the movie as much as I liked his insane House of 1000 Corpses or the twisted buddy-road sequel The Devil's Rejects, but I definitely didn't dislike it.  It fell somewhere in the middle for me, with the hints of something possibly greater waiting in the wings in future films.

Oh, yeah, lest I forget:  this movie features the creepiest Meg Foster performance in years, possibly her most intense role as the ancient head of an evil coven.  If you've seen They Live, you know who Meg Foster is.  Oh, yes, if you're a fan of hers, I think you'll enjoy her scene-stealing moments in this movie.

Until next time - which will be in a couple days, actually, as I have a great interview with two independent filmmakers coming up - here's the trailer: