Most horror fans know Michael Gingold as the Manaaging Editor of Fangoria Magazine. But the respected full-time journalist and part-time filmmaker has made the occasional foray into the acting realm and “The Tenement”, his most recent excursion into this arena, hit the streets early last week. In this pseudo-anthology, Gingold plays a virtually-irredeemable filmmaker named “Winston Korman”, who, sadly, pisses off the wrong guy in the movie’s opening tale.
“(Winston) saw b-movies as a way to get quick money and to get girls,” says Gingold of his character. “You see him at the beginning as an actor in one of his movies—he’d cast himself in these parts so he could get hot girls to make out with him. And it’s interesting, just judging from the reactions, that people don’t always realize that it’s the same character. He wasn’t drawn from anything specific, just an example of how low-class this guy is. So, yeah, (Winston) is a completely irredeemable character. Even judging from his movies that you see in “The Tenement”, you can see that his movies aren’t any good either. I hope that fact, at least, isn’t autobiographical for me. (laughs)”
“The Tenement” of the title is a nothing-special high-rise on the surface, but inside lurks a malevolent corruption that manages to worm its way into the minds and hearts of many of those living within. One of those tenants is a young man named Ethan Furnier, an already disturbed milquetoast horror fan who lives with his bed-ridden and abusive mother. Floral delivery-boy by day, Ethan finds himself meeting Korman by chance. See, Korman is his idol. And the meeting doesn’t go so well. And “The Black Rose Killer” is born.
“When you have a character like Ethan, who’s psychopathic already, it’s going to take someone really bad to kind of send him over the edge. Winston Korman is sort of the nemesis of Ethan Furnier. He loves Winston Korman’s movies, but Winston turns out to be this boorish, obnoxious, foul person. There was one (director) in particular (who inspired the character), whose name I won’t mention, but who has this reputation of being very nasty and abusive on his sets and to his co-workers. So I kind of channeled him, and then the rest I just pulled from the script and from the stuff that (director Glen Baisley) wrote. And then I watched ‘Full Metal Jacket’ again the other day and realized I had unconsciously channeled a couple of lines of dialogue from R. Lee Ermey.”
For Gingold, “The Tenement” is the second outing on a Glen Baisley production. His first role was in Baisley’s 2001 self-distributed “Fear of the Dark”, the story of which, incidentally, takes place after the events of “The Tenement”, and peripherally follow the further exploits of killer Ethan. In “Fear of the Dark”, Gingold played the unnamed coroner of Baisley’s fictional town, Fairview Falls. “I don’t know if he was just angling for some Fangoria coverage, or not,” Gingold says with a laugh. “I kind of figured, in every single horror film when you see the coroner, he’s always this happy-go-lucky guy eating a sandwich over the dead body. So I decided to make it a little different. This is a guy who’s kind of annoyed to come out.”
Baisley liked Gingold’s take on the role and wanted him back on the prequel, but was unsure of how to go about doing so, without destroying the continuity of the shared history. Baisley’s solution: Winston is the coroner’s twin brother, now retrofitted with the name “Eli Korman”. For those unfamiliar with “Fear of the Dark”, Winston’s line that his brother, the coroner “looks just like him, but with a friggin’ beard”, may seem like an extraneous bit of information. But fans of the shared-universe films may delight in the tie-in.
“That’s one of the things that distinguishes (Baisley’s) movies: they have this whole intertwined mythology. Sort of the way Stephen King does in his novels. (Eli Korman) also shows up in ‘Sins of the Father’, which Glen is working on now. And in a movie called ‘Fairview Falls’, which he’s going to be shooting this summer. What makes his movies work and what makes ‘The Tenement’ work is it’s not just an anthology where you see one building and things happen in different rooms. It’s the sense that evil has permeated this town and has influenced people in certain ways. And one horrible event in the past will influence more horrible events in the future. That’s especially what ‘Fairview Falls’ is about, the one he’s shooting this summer.”
For Gingold, who does work on the side as a screenwriter (“Leeches”, “Ring of Darkness”) and has a movie of his own in the works, acting is a diversion, not an aspiration. Roles in such films as “The Tenement” and Kevin Lindenmuth’s “Alien Agenda” series, were done for fun and for favors. “It’s always fun to get on the other side of the camera on these things. I really hope that no one would expect me to carry a movie or give a great performance. Acting isn’t really my vocation. I’ve done these small eccentric roles and it’s fun to see how these guys make their movies. You know? The different approaches people have and how they pull these movies off on very small budgets and just a lot of energy and enthusiasm.”
This attitude has gone a long way towards his gaining respect in the horror community. It can be argued that every horror filmmaker working today has, at some point, at least picked up a copy of Fangoria, and many—if not most—have dreamed about appearing within the pages of the magazine. That isn’t lost on Gingold, either—a fan and reader of the magazine long before college freelancing landed him on the staff. “I’ve never let the budget or the medium of a movie prejudice me towards a film,” he says. “I’ve seen some movies that look like they were shot for a dollar and a quarter, but have a lot of ambition and more impact than something with really slick production values.”
The interview continues in part two of MICHAEL GINGOLD AT HOME IN “THE TENEMENT”>>>