The “Three-Picture Deal.” Most directors feel that if they could only land this seemingly mythical production contract, they’d be well on their way to fame and fortune. Many would be willing to sell their souls in order to do so. Veteran horror auteur Brett Piper is one of the lucky ones; one of the lucky few filmmakers who’s actually managed to secure a three-picture deal. In fact, Piper is currently deep into post-production on “Shock-O-Rama,” his third film for the feisty New Jersey-based studio ei Independent Cinema…and he’s managed to keep his soul intact in the process.
“When I was very very young I wanted to go to Hollywood and work for the big studios, but I became disabused of that notion pretty quickly,” Piper relates. “Now I find the thought appalling. Hollywood represents everything I hate about the movie business, and everything I hear from people who’ve been there only reinforces this belief.”
Which is probably one of many reasons the multi-talented writer/director has found a home in a genre filmmaking pond in which ei Cinema and its subsidiary labels are such big fish. Another might be the unique blend of horror, tongue-in-cheek humor and almost quaint erotica that suffuses a typical Piper film, and “Shock-O-Rama” is no exception.
Structured as an anthology along the lines of “Creepshow,” the three spine-tingling tales found in “Shock-O-Rama” each pay homage to — and poke gentle fun at — the golden-oldie drive-in features of the 1950s and ’60s. In “Zombie This!,” for instance, a world-renowned horror actress literally battles her guilty conscience and a cannibalistic ghoul over the direction of her career. “Mechanoid” takes “Junkyard Wars” to the extreme when tiny space aliens crash in a Jersey scrap yard…and create their own Terminator from the scrap iron. Finally, “Lonely is the Brain” features a disembodied, super colossal lump of gray matter that derives human sensual pleasure from evil experimentation on beautiful young women.
Following on the heels of Piper’s haunted insane asylum thriller “Screaming Dead” and his campy mutant bug horror/comedy Bite Me!, “Shock-O-Rama” stars B-movie phenom Misty Mundae, along with the usual bevy of ei Cinema beauties.
“(‘Shock-O-Rama’) is the title of a movie I started almost fifteen years ago, but never finished. It pays to have patience,” Piper smiles. “I think it could turn out to be pretty good. I thought ‘Bite Me!’ was a big improvement over ‘Screaming Dead,’ so I’m trying to continue the progression.”
As the director cut his filmmaking teeth learning traditional stop-motion animation — he started making 8mm movies when he was eleven – perhaps it should come as no surprise that a typical Brett Piper film features a plethora of eye-popping, yet decidedly old-school effects.
“As soon as I got a camera, I started making little clay dinosaurs and trying to animate them, without bothering with a story or screenplay,” Piper relates. “Putting big old monsters on the screen is what drew me to movies in the first place…I watched (‘King Kong’) again a little while ago. The technical effects are, of course, incredibly dated, although the stegosaurus scene still works great, but so what? What makes KONG great is the imagination and the sense of adventure that went into it.
“Ray Harryhausen was probably my biggest single influence,” Piper continues, “not just in his technical effects, but in the type of movies he did and the fact that he just kept on doing them no matter how fashions or audiences change.”
It’s obvious that both Piper and ei Cinema know their target audience well, which is yet another reason why this marriage between director and studio has worked so well.
“Almost all my previous films I produced myself, which meant I had to raise the money and I had to worry about how the pictures were going to get distribution, (which meant worrying about how badly I was going to be ripped off by the distributors).
“At ei, I don’t worry about either of these things. I just show up and do my job, with pretty much a free hand, and then the ei gang takes the finished product and runs with it. And they’re good at it. It’s pretty gratifying to see a movie of mine popping up on shelves all over the place,” Piper explains.
Which is where “Shock-O-Rama” will be soon. Set for release on ei Independent Cinema’s Shock-O-Rama Studios horror label later this year, “Shock-O-Rama” (the movie) is sure to cement Piper’s position as a factor to be reckoned with in the world of genre filmmaking.
For his part, Piper remains realistic about his future. “Most of my films have made money, if not always for me. I have a certain following. I’m becoming kind of a minor cult figure. My work doesn’t appeal to everybody. There are plenty of people who think I’m a no-talent hack who shouldn’t be let near a movie camera, but that doesn’t bother me, because there are others, (even if they are a minority), who seem to like my work, sometimes a great deal, and what counts, as far as I’m concerned, is that they like it for the right reasons.
“There’s nothing wrong with appealing to the minority,” he states. “I’m absolutely convinced that if you dragged a representative contemporary audience to see ‘Citizen Kane,’ nine out of ten of them of them would say it was total crap. Screw them.”
Here, here. And sign the man up for another Three-Picture Deal.
For further information on “Shock-O-Rama,” check out the official website.