On Friday, Scott Schirmer’s Found was unleashed on the U.S. via VOD (and limited theatrical release). There’s a crowd-pleasing (horror crowd at least) movie within that movie called Headless, which is being turned into an actual full-length feature. Arthur Cullipher led the effects on Found, including the absolute gorefest that was Headless. He’s directing the feature version. Shane Beasley plays the killer in Headless – both the Found version and the feature version. He also worked on the effects in Found, and will contribute to Headless in that capacity.
We had conversations with both of these guys about the projects, which you can read below. Keep in mind, the Headless segment is what got Found banned in Australia.Also, beware of some minor spoilers related to Found.
First, Director Arthur Cullipher…
iHorror: When I was talking to [screenwriter] Nathan Erdel, he mentioned the films The Last House on Dead End Street and The Headless Eyes as a couple he has in mind for his approach to writing Headless. Do you intend to draw inspiration from these particular films in directing it as well?
Arthur Cullipher: Sure, along with many others. The angle that we’re taking is that this is a film made in 1978 that was so vile and weird and was forced underground so deep that it’s only just now surfacing. Inherent in that will be implications that this inspired later films and was inspired by the films of the day. So, there will be a few nods here and there to familiar favorites, but we’re not bogging it down with references or anything. I doubt you’ll have seen anything like it before, regardless of what it may be compared to. It’s really going to be a horror fan’s movie.
iH: What other films are you looking to for inspiration on this project?
AC: You might describe it as a cross between 555, The Gates of Hell, The Gate, Heaven’s Gate, Blue Sunshine, Blood Orgy of the She Devils, She Devil, Holy Mountain, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Ichi the Killer, Pan’s Labyrinth, Combat Shock, the Monkey’s Paw, and The Monkees’ HEAD, with smatterings of Nekromantik, Rubik the Amazing Cube, the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the original Xanadu.
‘That with music loud and long,
I would build that dome in air,
That sunny dome! those caves of ice!
And all who heard should see them there,
And all should cry, Beware! Beware!
His flashing eyes, his floating hair!
Weave a circle round him thrice,
And close your eyes with holy dread
For he on honey-dew hath fed,
And drunk the milk of Paradise.’
I might be leaving something out.
iH: Your company is described as being a green company, and this is touted on Facebook. I’m not in the biz or anything, but I have to say this is an aspect of filmmaking I’ve not really ever even thought about (though I certainly applaud your efforts). Is this a unique trait in FX companies?
AC: We’re not the only ones trying to be more responsible, I’m sure, but some companies can be wasteful or use products toxic to the environment. There are many safer products for certain jobs now than there were when I began. Most people don’t realize that companies pay a tax in CA to be able to use materials that put off noxious gases because of the smog. In FL, as another example, no such tax. They can pollute as much as they like. Something I learned and it never left me. So, along with just being poor, I learned to recycle our materials and use things like prosthetic gelatine to create effects because it could be remelted and repoured over and over again. We’re always open to new products coming down the line, but we also make use of the foam in trashed couches and scrap metal and leftover junk latex bits. Sometimes the catering. I’m not above a good dumpster dive when it comes to making a horror movie!
iH: For your ‘Roses’ short, I read that you had people passing out and throwing up. For real?
AC: Well, it’s a goremance. It was the slicing into the bottom of Angela Denton’s foot that did it. Yeah, two people threw up and one passed out. In a fest full of horror films, that’s a pretty sweet feeling. As a testimonial on the other side, the guy who passed out actually went on to become a fan and is now a talented fx artist in his own right, as well.
The foot was made of gelatine which had previously been a head, a torso, hands and vulvae, for different films respectively. Trivia Time: The middle toe broke off the prop foot and actor Mike Watson had to hold his finger there to mimic the missing toe while slicing into the foot. It wiggles and works like a charm.
iH: Headless is your first feature-length directorial effort, right? Obviously it’s early on in Headless, but how big a leap is directing a movie like this compared to just doing effects?
AC: It’s really a whole different game. Shane and I will be doing a lot of the initial sculpting and supervising, but I’ll have a crew doing the applications, working the animatronics and spraying the copious amounts of red, red kroovy. Shane will be interacting with the effects in every scene where there is one. My major goals as a director are encouraging actors toward greatness, making sure the effects look irrefutable to their milieu on camera, yelling obscenities at my producers and generally bossing people around.
iH: So, Headless is said to have some psychedelic elements? Can you talk a little about your approach to that aspect?
There may be some amount of colorful, solarizey, negativish, dream machinesque type effects, but not gratuitous and nothing that couldn’t have been done in 1978 or shortly thereafter. Really what we’re talking about is the surreality of the killer’s visions of the world he perceives that he lives in and another that he gets to visit occasionally, in moments of ecstasy. We are going to the depths of delusion on this one. This is a tale of a broken person and of a monster.
iH: As an effects guy, who do you look up to the most? Savini? Baker? Someone else?
AC: There have been so many whose work I admire, this could be a long list. Stan Winston, Carlo Rambaldi… in a previous interview, I forgot to mention Chris Walas and I’m not sure how I could have done that. The Gremlins, The Humanoids, The Star Wars critters, his work with Cronenberg, VERMITHRAX PEJORATIVE, for fuck’s sake!! Best dragon ever! So many of the creatures that continue to inspire me fall under his name.
iH: What’s your favorite effects scene in all of horror?
I can’t answer that. I am a horror fan.
Instead, I’ll tell you one of my peeves that is just ridiculously prolific, not only in the independent scene, but in professional pieces with large budgets. Like a certain popular zombie series I could mention.
Why is CG blood a thing? I mean, in certain instances, I get it. I’ve seen it done really well and I’ve seen it done really poorly. Why can some filmmakers not tell the difference? Why do you have CG blood that squirts in from off camera?
I’m never going to respect a CG head that looks two dimensional when it falls off. Ever. Especially with CG blood erupting from the neck like a cartoon volcano. I would rather have a head that looks like it weighs 2 pounds bouncing around than one that looks like it’s made from a flat piece of paper.
Indie filmmakers, please stop doing this. It makes your otherwise possibly credible movie into a lazy joke. Speaking as a festival reviewer, your movie has to be pretty damned fine to come back from a blow like that and even then, why do that to your baby? Have a heart… pump real fake blood.
iH: With Found, a lot of people got to see what you guys (effects wise) are capable of, and many more will as it hits DVD. Headless seems like the perfect opportunity for an all-out showcase. Are you viewing it as such?
AC: Absolutely! We intend to molest our fans’ minds on a point of no return rollercoaster ride of depravity through a mutilated landscape of madness, with no seatbelts and more than a few screws loose! You guys won’t be able to walk right for a while after watching this film.
iH: If Headless goes over well, any chance we’ll get a feature-length Deep Dwellers [another movie-within-the-movie in Found]?
AC: With that one, we might have to start over from scratch. If we were going to do a film about underwater things, I’d want it to be a better movie than Deep Dwellers was shaping up to be. And really we just have so many projects on the horizon, I really doubt it. Of course, we always said we weren’t going to make Headless either.
I love schlock, but truthfully, I’m not interested in making it. I have some fucking deep life issues I’m trying to work through in my Art. I don’t make movies for the money or just because I want to make a movie. I am a cultural engineer. I’m casting spells, so to speak, attempting to relate personal experiences through a system of symbols.
There’s a scene in Videodrome that I think explains my attitude toward my artistic endeavors very well…
“Why do it for real? It’s easier and safer to fake it.”
“Because it has something that you don’t have, Max. It has a philosophy. And that’s what makes it dangerous.”
I’m not just going to entertain you. I’m going to change you.
We’ll all be something else when it’s done.
iH: I hear you have another project in the works. Can you talk about that?
AC: It’s called Smut. It’s only a porno if it turns you on.
It’s a horror movie about a 3rd shift porn store clerk/janitor having to deal with a growing cult of porn ghouls in his video arcade conjuring strange, amorphous creatures made of an aether plasm that conforms to desire and what happens when he succumbs to pheromones and temptation with one of these things (Scott has been referring to the sculpt as ‘pussychicken’) and starts making babies. To be fair, she is a honey. Part of the subplot has to do with videocassettes as an agent of mystery, magic, sexuality and evil. I suppose I sort of consider it my Videodrome. It also has much to do with the way we as a society have decided to ban our genitals and why we’re so afraid of them. I think, for the audience, dealing with what I intend to do to them, will be very… character building.
I feel I have been blessed with a vision, with a gift, with a power in this world. And with it, I shall fill the world with monsters
And here’s the Shane Beasley conversation…
iHorror: So, playing the Headless killer – enjoyable or grueling? You got pretty down and dirty in Found from the looks of it.
Shane Beasley: I would say a little of both really. I enjoyed the role greatly because I got to walk onto a set, act like a badass and scare the bejeezus out of some folks. Most of the stuff we did in the short was all improv…Scott had the basic scene down and he’d say “go do something…and don’t suck at it” then I would randomly do things I thought would be creepy (like scraping the blade on metal…screaming in the face etc.). I wouldn’t tell Angela Denton or the others what I was going to do so there was the element of natural fear. There was one in particular where I run around behind Angela and sorta creep up above her…she jumped and yells “oh shit” and I saw it in her eyes….fear…she got scared…that’s what I love…that’s what the camera loves.
as far as grueling…I would say to all those who plan on making a film with a masked person…DO IT IN THE COLD!!…Wearing a mask in warm or in the case of the Headless short HOT weather is like sitting in a sauna and only your face is getting steam. In my case…I had dreadlocks at the time and had to stuff all that hair in this supposedly skintight mask… so imagine a condom pulled over your face with a large fluffy blanket stuffed in there…I would pull the mask above my face and sweat would gush out every time… which was sometimes more gross than the effects themselves. The mask itself, due to my abundance of hair, would never set right…there would be a scene where my forehead would be bunched up…or it would be front heavy… All kinds of fun stuff to deal with.
iH: In the short amount of Headless we got to see in Found, you ate eyeballs and fucked a severed head. I can only assume the ante will be upped in the feature. Are you afraid of what you might have to do this time around?
I think my biggest fear is being known as “that guy who fucks heads” I mean look what it did to Jason Biggs…(sorry bud) …but seriously… the short in Found. was meant to be the shocker; the big reveal; the meat with the potatoes…so to speak. We had to put as much gore and pure ickyness into such a small amount of time so the viewer would finally get an idea of what Steve was up to. When I took on the role…I felt that we were doing a slasher,but the killer had some other motive… he was looking for love… I think that’s what made him more creepy… he had heart. In the feature,of course, there’s going to be some headular penetration, but this time we are going as far as our warped imaginations can take us. The ante has to be pushed way far up. People who saw Found. experienced Headless the way it was supposed to be…it was found(snicker). The surprise is what stuck with them. Now people from all over the world are going to look over our shoulders and say”what now?”. Their curiosity is what made this happen… and frankly…they asked for it! It is our duty,to give people the most disturbing imagery we can create. We are making it a slasher, but in the tradition of Found., we are making it smarter, sexier, more deviant. We want people who came in expecting a bloodbath to get that…but to leave with something more…psychological. We want to take them somewhere…and leave them there…alone.
iH: All horror fans probably dream about playing a killer in a slasher movie at one time or another – especially one with a cool mask. Is it everything you’d imagined?
SB: I always imagined myself as a masked killer, but I always thought I would have one liners or be the one to say “Your suffering will be legendary…even in HELL”… but in all honesty… I kinda suck at delivering lines. I have everything ready, they yell action, and I go “HUH?” I’m still working on it…so I’m real glad that the Headless killer has no lines…he’s a silent killer. That gives me more time to use expressions with my eyes and my body movement…which I’m better at. The simple gestures and chuckles from our killer gives us the false sense of confusion…you never know what is going to happen next….mmmm the tension.
iH: Are there any particular films you’re drawing inspiration from in your approach to playing the Headless killer?
SB: A Nightmare on Elm Street is by far the most inspiration for me…the Kreuger stance (as I like to call it) is that confident lean just slightly enough to to let the victim know there’s nothing they can do. I also loved the scene in the first Crow where Brandon Lee rolls his head around a light bulb… just so slowly. Lets them know…we got time. I took the confidence plus the slow taking my time movement,along with some snake like charm and sexual flirtation…and bam…instant Headless killer. The rest was the mask itself. I spend a lot of time with a mask before putting it on. you can feel the essence of the creature portrayed, feel the pain and the power is has,smell the aura of who…or what…this creature is. Most of the inspiration comes with it. It becomes me and in turn, I become it.
iH: Are you going to be heavily involved with the effects on the feature or are you focusing mostly on the acting role?
SB: I will be working heavily on the pre-production part of the effects. Arthur and I will be doing the bulk of the effects creation such as molds,body parts, gashes and wounds,and everything major. (hopefully) We will have staff when the shooting goes on for application and maintenance. We (Forbidden Films) all have experience with doing all aspects of film making so I’m sure everyone will be doing a little something throughout the film. Arthur needs to worry about the big picture…I have to worry about making the killer convincing…Leya [Taylor – Director of Photography] the focus and angles…every one of us has ONE thing we need to focus solely on… but we also need to have the basic knowledge of everything else so that when someone else is doing the job, we know that the person doing it is doing it right. We all know our limits and we all know how to cover something if its not being done…one of the good qualities of being a small production company.
iH: Other than obviously playing the Headless killer, can you describe what you specifically worked on in Found?
SB: Boy what did I NOT do for Found. would’ve had a shorter answer… In the credits… I was assistant producer. Most of the time I was boom operator and sound. I would readjust lights when needed. I also drew the boys versions of the Roachman and Baglunch comics. I was foley along with Leya Taylor and Lena Burkett…so every time you saw Marty getting slapped was the sound of me slapping my own face and the gashes and sqwishing were us tearing up a pineapple or cutting into a watermelon. We also did voice work …all of us got a small easter egg like role in Found. I was the radio announcer for “Mysteries of the Unexplained” Lena was the first two callers and Leya’s only role was the yelling lady on the show…Arthur was the old man at Baker’s Junction and Scott was the ticket seller at the Zompocolypse movie theater. We even had the author Todd Rigney as the video store clerk. I guess you could say we all had our hands in this movie. I also helped Arthur with the effects. Mostly makeup and touch ups. When we took the film to festivals I would get up on stage and say “HI I’m Shane Beasley…I did effects and sound and was associate producer….oh and I played the Headless killer” That would be the time everyone would gasp, or back away… funny. People will always remember you by what you do…not by what you are…
iH: Can you talk a little about your role in making Unwelcome?
SB: I was assistant directer for this film. I was location manager being that it was my apartment… I did touch ups throughout the day on Arthur’s makeup,and I built a fake wall in my hallway…which made me production designer. Most of the time I would yell…”ITS 4 O’CLOCK” or QUIET… but this project was more student film,so I would give tips and pointers to crew,like if you point that light to the white wall you can illuminate without glaring,and stuff like that. It was kind of neat being the “professional film maker” because these kids were using equipment I would never in a million years be able to afford… and here I am..”you know if you do it this waaay”. I would also give the actors hell. They would finish a take and I would yell from the back…MORE ENERGY…YOU’RE LOSIN IT…or random things to get them in the mood. In one scene our actress was to be angry and set off…she just wasn’t getting there…so I say ..”you mess this up and you’ll be doing Tampon commercials for the rest of you’re career” …it’s the little things in life that make me smile…
iH: As an effects guy, who do you look up to the most in the industry?
SB: I really loved the visual effects done by Emilio Ruiz del Río in Pan’s Labyrinth. I love everything done by Screaming Mad George. Steve Johnson,Chris Walas with his work on the Fly and the FLY 2 to Dragonslayer and Gremlins,the list could go on forever.Ray Harryhausen blew my mind for years with Clash of the Titans and the Sinbad films…I love love love stop motion. Animation in general gets my O.K. and with animation come Anime. Japanese films always have a weird vibe to them…the effects are always over the top with gallons of spraying blood and girls with alligator vagina. The things people come up with! Love it!!!
iH: What is your favorite effects scene in all of horror?
SB: I have two really… One was a scene in the Fly remake…out of nowhere Brundle is arm wrestling with a guy at a bar. The guys arms pull against each other then suddenly….SNAP!! dude’s arm rips in half. it was so quick and so convincing… wow. Its usually the little effects that catch my eye. A snapped bone,a bruise done wrong,I like to find the little mistakes on film…so when I see something like that when its so seamless and convincing…I applaud.
I also need to reference at least one Elm Street movie…3 the Dream Warriors…when the Freddy snake comes out of the floor and starts eating Kristen…best looking Freddy ever…then it sneered!!! AWESOME!!! and also the puppeteer scene when the legs and arms get sliced and the “strings” are pulled out… that’s when I felt real pain for a person…
iH: Who’s your favorite slasher movie killer?
Gawd… again…so many I loved the secret reveal of Angela from Sleepaway Camp,I love the way the killer sang in the Slumber Party Massacre, the big dogs…Freddy,Jason,Michael,Leatherface,even the little guys like Chucky and the Black Devil Doll. Its their determination to get the job done that makes a slasher what it is,and we love them for it!!! “it doesn’t need a plot….ITS A SLASHER!!!”
Headless recently completed its Kickstarter goal, and is in full swing. Shooting begins in October, and a couple casting announcements just came out this past week.