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By Phil Hall | July 25, 2007

Demon-infiltrated priests. Vampires with a hunger for a Type O chaser. Haunted objects with deadly histories. Creepy houses that possess something scarier than a subprime mortgage.

Yeah, yeah – been there, done that, right? Well, not in the cinema of John Orrichio. The New Jersey-based filmmaker has turned out a nifty series of horror/chillers that bring new imagination and style to the ghouls-and-gals world of low-budget scream flicks.

In the past three years, Orrichio provided audiences with “The Possession of Father Thomas” (2004), “Requiem for a Vampire” (2006) and “The Haunting of Danbury House” (2007). Although shot on the proverbial shoestring budget and distributed straight-to-video, Orrichio’s features infuse new blood (pardon the pun) into the genre. Through unconventional casting, innovative tinkering with long-standing horror traditions and the joyful energy unique to guerrilla-style filmmaking, Orrichio could easily lay claim to the title of a new Roger Corman.

His latest offering, “Black Ribbon,” is in post-production. It is also his first time working with a “name” star – in this case, TV talk show legend Joe Franklin, who takes on a rare acting role.

Film Threat caught up with Orrichio at his studio to talk about his adventures in the horror genre.

What inspired you to get involved in the low-budget horror movie industry?
Being a fan of the horror genre, I’ve seen just about every horror and thriller movie made. I’m also an avid reader, devouring eight to 12 books a month mostly thriller and suspense. Most of the lower budget movies produced today are really bad! Poor acting, terrible music and awful story lines. After watching these, I knew I could do better. I’m trying to bring my movies up from “B” movie status to an “A” level on a limited budget. It’s very difficult at times, but I believe with each movie I make, I’m getting closer to that goal.

You wear many hats in your films (director-producer-writer-editor-cinematographer). Is this by design or default?
It’s by design. When I finish writing a story, I have in my mind how it will look. I can visualize the settings, the way each character looks and speaks and the tone of each scene.

Being the editor also helps. I shoot with editing in mind. I know when I need a cut away, different angle, close up etc. I don’t know how other directors entrust their work to someone who has no idea how the story should flow. The hardest part was learning the editing systems. I started on Final Cut Pro, went to Adobe Premier Pro and ended up working on the Avid System because I believe it’s the best out there. Each system, although somewhat similar, has its own learning curve, the Avid being the most difficult.

I’m shooting everything on digital cameras by Panasonic. My last two movies also include full orchestra soundtracks that I arranged to fit each scene.

Your first film as director, “The Possession of Father Thomas,” covers the territory of good-versus-evil within a theological setting. How did you determine to make this film stand out from other horror films that incorporate religion into their plots?
“Father Thomas” was my first movie and I did want it to be different in a few ways. First, the actor playing Father Thomas was not a person normally seen in most horror movies. He wasn’t leading man quality: he was around 375 pounds and he was likeable. He became the pawn of the spirit of an evil priest that once live at the rectory. It was a story about the struggle of good and evil within Father Thomas. As the movie went on, Father Thomas seemed to get larger and larger both in appearance and by what he was doing. It was more a movie about his losing faith in God and being uncomfortable being assigned a new parish. In the end, he lost and everyone died!

Your next film, “Requiem for a Vampire,” also covers a familiar subject matter with vampirism. Why do you believe that people are still in love with vampire movies?
Vampires will always be in vogue. Look at the success of Anne Rice’s “Vampire Chronicles,” only today the vampires are stunning! The male vampire is handsome and the female vampire is beautiful. They live forever, have supernatural powers and are extremely wealthy, who wouldn’t want to be one?

In “Requiem for a Vampire,” my female vampire dies of natural causes. That’s unheard of, and the family struggles for advice from so called vampire experts on the proper funeral service and what has tainted the blood that they consumed! It’s a story about how a modern family of vampires cope living in the 21st century. It also shows the love they have for each other and their human counterparts. It has a great soundtrack from a band in Germany and a surprise ending.

You co-directed “The Haunting of Danbury House” with Karl Petry. Is it easier to collaborate with a co-director or to work on your own?
I find it easier to work on my own. Karl and I are good friends. We both had ideas how the movie was to be brought to life. I’m more on the edge and wanted to push the envelope. Karl is more conservative and wanted to stick to more factual scenarios. The movie ended up being very good as we compromised. I wouldn’t recommend co-directing unless you both have the same vision. Working on my own I’m able to let my imagination go wild.

Tell us about your new project, “Black Ribbon.” And how did Joe Franklin get into this movie?
“Black Ribbon” was a screenplay I’d just finished. I decided to make the movie by myself. It’s by far the most exciting, bizarre film I’ve done to date. It’s my imagination in overdrive. “Black Ribbon” is about a famous writer who buys a haunted typewriter on the Internet. He slowly turns into the person who once owned it. It’s a story about a normal person thrown into the paranormal. He doesn’t know what’s real, what’s fantasy and we don’t know if it’s him, the town or what’s responsible for the strange happenings.

Tony Rugnetta, who plays the lead role in “Black Ribbon,” showed Joe Franklin “Danbury House.” Joe was very impressed with the quality of the film especially the story and acting. He said he would like to be part of the next project. Tony contacted him and we discussed it. We recently finished shooting Joe’s part and he’s looking to help promote the movie. This is the only film, I believe, that Joe plays a different role. He usually appears in films as himself. In this movie Joe plays the part of the main character’s father. He did a great job and it was a surreal experience working with someone I grew up watching on TV. It was a very exciting once in a lifetime opportunity.

What are your upcoming projects?
I still have a few scenes to shoot to complete “Black Ribbon.” Once that’s complete, I’ll be changing over completely to High Definition for the next project. I have a few ideas. I’m working on a screenplay now about a woman who traces the steps of her missing boyfriend to a small tourist town, where in browsing through a leather craft store finds a wallet with the same design of the tattoo her boyfriend had on his shoulder. She would recognize it anywhere! Could it be…?

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  1. John Orrichio says:

    Thanks Dana!

  2. dana dellinger says:

    Love the work !!! Would really like to meet Mr. Orrichio. In fact I’m dying to…

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