Crash Reports: Making of the Bloodletting Trailer

When my novel, BLOODLETTING came out, I was thrilled that I finally accomplished a lifetime goal, but worried about marketing since publishers don’t do that anymore – unless you’ve got a name like James Patterson or Stephen King. After all, there are a gazillion books out there, so how the hell would people find my hard-boiled crime thriller? Okay, this doesn’t mean I didn’t have some semblance of a marketing plan in place, but bugging friends and family like a used car salesman wasn’t high on my list of things to do.

I went to my monthly New Jersey Screenwriters Group meeting at Café Beethoven in Chatham, New Jersey, and soon met up with a wonderful friend, Don Reimer. He is not only an excellent screenwriter, but a filmmaker as well, and he’s won many awards to prove his prowess as a writer, director, and editor. Don had been looking at the reviews of BLOODLETTING and was impressed by the feedback. That’s when he offered to create a trailer for the novel with his company Airworthy Productions.

Now that’s a killer idea.

In short order, Don got to work on a concept with video footage and music as I wrote the copy. However, we still needed a narrator, so I turned to the only person that jumped into my mind: Owen McCuen.

I first saw Owen in the short film, LIKE THERE’S NO TOMORROW, from Time to Back Out Productions. His performance blew me away, and he soon came on THE LAST KNOCK podcast ( In less than six months, he was on set for the short crime thriller I was directing and producing, CASE #5930, where he was perfect from the word, “Action!” After he agreed to do the narration of BLOODLETTING’s protagonist, Denny Bowie, we chose a version of his audio work out of a handful of variations. (Owen’s quite the impersonator of celebrities and such, if you didn’t know.)

Once Don had the audio, he got a rough cut to me within 24-hours. Two days later, it was done. From concept to finished product, it took less than fourteen days, including color correction, editing, and audio. I wish making short films was this fluid.

The feedback for the trailer has been wonderful, but if it weren’t for Don’s concept and filming, this would not have happened. Sure, we could have gotten a crew together and rushed off to New York with actors to film at night, but with the bitter cold and costs, this would have been a nightmare. Don came up with the best solution that involved his own video, archival footage, a punk rock font to make the words pop, and killer music Denny Bowie would slam dance to.

I hope you find the work of Don Reimer worthwhile, as well as Owen McCuen’s narration. Both men are true professionals with that commitment to quality we often hear much about, but quite often fail to see. I cannot thank them enough for their exceptional work and expertise. I am truly grateful.


Find out much more about both men and their exceptional services:

Don Reimer:

Owen McCuen:


BLOODLETTING can be purchased at:

Amazon Author Page:

Barnes and Noble:

And here’s my Goodreads Author Page:




CRASH DISCUSSION: Macabre Milestone: THE THING (1982)

The Last KnockJohn Carpenter spent three months shooting one of the most intense horror films of all time on cold LA soundstages, and in the better chill of British Columbia. We take a look at the legendary film THE THING, why it bombed at the box office, and how it gained the respect of audiences and critics alike the world over. In addition, we probe deep into the film’s mysteries, themes, and intriguing trivia.

Crash Analysis Support Team: The Elements of (Horror) Style – Guest Post from Randy Brzoska

war-of-the-worldsPART I: In Which the Author Introduces Himself and Asks a Question

“ Horror… Horror has a face… and you must make a friend of horror. Horror and moral terror are your friends. If they are not, then they are enemies to be feared.” —APOCALYPSE NOW

Long before I pitched Billy Crash for some space on his website, I had originally planned to devise some way to quantify what exactly a horror movie (or book or game) is. I had (and still have) a thesis about what all horror movies are about at their core (we’ll get to that later in the series). And in order to prove it, I wanted to deconstruct the essential qualities of the horror genre and create a way to kind of “check them off” the list in order to determine if a movie was or was not categorically a horror. The Uncanny? Check. Suspense? Check! Extreme violence? Check! And so on.

I knew not long after I started that this was a fool’s mission. The horror genre is a many splintered thing: surprisingly complex morally, thematically, and philosophically. I haven’t fully given up on my original plan or thesis, but I’ve conceded that the path to get there will be a lot longer and convoluted than I originally thought.

So what we’ll have here instead is a series of articles. Perhaps one a month. An itinerant and digressive exploration of the horror genre. And when I say exploration, I mean it. That’s the spirit I’d like to take. Some of the things we discuss here I’ll know a lot about, but quite a bit will be new to me, and the essays themselves will be a “working out” of what a particular concept means and how to understand it as it applies to the genre. The end goal is to get to our checklist. But this is more about the journey than any endpoint.

In any case, I thought I’d use my initial post to take some time to give you some background about me. First, my academic qualifications. I have a Bachelors in English and Masters in Creative Writing. I write and teach college writing for a living. Most of what I write is criticism, though I am also currently finishing a science fiction novel (which hopefully will be done soon). I used to write a lot more, but I have kids now and my wife is the primary breadwinner, so writing time for me is sparse.

I’m a pretty well-read guy with lots of tangential interests, particularly philosophy and science. I’ll pull in a lot of that stuff as well as examples from works of literature in order to discuss things like the camp classic NIGHT OF THE DEMONS. We’ll mix the high and the low in true postmodern fashion.

So I’m an academic and writer in both training and praxis. As far as horror goes, I’ve been a student for life

I’ve been fascinated by the horror genre—and its myriad brothers and sisters (Suspense, Thriller, Mystery, Science Fiction)—since I was a child. As a young reader, I was drawn to the darkness of authors like Roald Dahl and the intrigues of The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. As early as five I was devouring Saturday afternoon creature features like THE CRAWLING EYE, FIEND WITHOUT A FACE, THE GIANT CLAW, TARANTULA, THE DEADLY MANTIS and THE TINGLER on a weekly basis. Godzilla? Rodan? Gamera? Yes, please! With a side of Mothra, if you don’t mind.

Bad special effects, shitty acting, rubber suits, stupid plots—I didn’t care. What mattered was having my mind blown, my imagination fired up. I wanted to see things I’d never seen before, things you’d never see in some boring old drama. I wanted spectacle. I wanted to be on the edge of my seat. I wanted to be disgusted and scared because when I was scared—even as a kid—I felt connected, stimulated, jazzed.

Being scared got me engaged, got my gears spinning. It got me to ponder the ifs. Got me to question things everyone around me just assumed. I remember vividly one Sunday afternoon at the age of six, the summer before first grade: I had just watched THE WAR OF THE WORLDS (1953) the day before and I was with my mother driving home from church. “Mom,” I said. “If God made us and the Universe and there are Martians, did God make the Martians, too?”

“There aren’t any Martians,” my mother said.

“But what if there were?”

“God doesn’t make Martians,” my mother snapped. “If He did, there would be Martians.” Case closed. The end.

I got this kind of response from adults all the time to the sorts of questions I asked. Maybe you did, too, if you were that kind of kid. Their defensiveness and the dissatisfying nature of their responses perplexed me (and let’s just acknowledge that many intelligent young children like us know a subpar bullshit answer when we hear one, even if we can’t articulate why). Adults, it seemed, were uncomfortable with questions about the nature of life, our place in the universe, death, etc… I found that religion seemed to play a big part in this sort of mental block, this incuriosity, so I quickly dispensed with that silliness in my life. And then, since the adult world provided so few of the answers I sought, I turned back to books and movies, seeking the answers to the very questions they raised. And there were always new questions, new ways to look at the world. It was a journey. And for most of my childhood, I journeyed alone.

And through that entire journey—through adolescence and into graying middle-age—there were always horror movies, horror books, and horror video games. Sure, my tastes have changed, matured. I tend to like films now that are slower, more philosophical, and weighted with subtext rather than the cartoonish splatterfests I liked as a teen (though I do crave that every now and then). Jason and Freddy used to scare me. Now I find them silly. But the kid in me still has a soft spot for creature features and monster movies.

So clearly, for me, there is an intellectual element to watching horror movies that is intertwined with nostalgia. For me, horror, to quote Eugene Thacker is “a way to thinking about the unthinkable world.”[i] It’s also a way back to my childhood. This may be the case for you as well. Perhaps, like me, you like to seek out forbidden fruit, explore the darkness, understand the taboo. Or perhaps you’re a thrill-seeker, looking for new extremes to test your limits. It might be that you watch horror movies because you just love violent spectacle. Or you watch because you’re a low-empathy misanthrope and horror movies help you work out your issues.

Whatever reason you have for loving and watching horror, I’d like to invite you back to this space. But before I go, I’ll leave you with a question. What is it about horror movies that fascinates you? Why the hell do you watch them? Let me know in the comments or tweet me at @RSBrzoska.

The Elements of (Horror) Style is a monthly series of essays that will explore various key elements of horror movies. In short, try to answer the question: What makes horror “horror”?                       

[i] Eugene Thacker, In the Dust of This Planet: Horror of Philosophy Vol. 1 (Washington: Zero Books, 2011), back cover.

(Photo from American Music Preservation.)

Crash Discussion: Tropes of Terror

The Last KnockSick of horror victims tripping over nothing at all? Do you hate it when cars don’t start, or flashlights are on the fritz? Then you’ll love it when THE LAST KNOCK looks at tropes, cliches, and all the things that make diehard horror fans roll their eyes and beg for the movie to end. And whatever you do, don’t go into the basement. I saw something, I swear, and…
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Crash Discussions: Interview with Horror Author SG Lee

B2OYK2QCMAEV_eMSG Lee is as prolific as they come, and the writer’s weekly serials as posted on Twitter have amazed many – including me. But when SG became an author thanks to new zombie novel with a location not far from where I reside, this interview became one of importance. Enjoy the sincere responses, and find out what SG and other writers are doing for philanthropic causes:

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

On a bleak and blustery … oh, wait. You wanted the real story? That’s nowhere near as much fun, but okay. Well, when it comes to the story of S.G. Lee, it is a simple tale. I was born in Philadelphia and spent most of my life in the suburbs. There’s just something about Philadelphia, I am enthralled by the city itself and drawn to their sense of community and pride. I suppose it goes without saying that I am a huge Philly sports fan. In fact, that’s how I met the love of my life. We met through a mutual friend and we spent most of the evening talking about the Flyers. If that’s not the makings of a prime relationship, I don’t know what is. In spite of the team’s ups and downs, we’ve been happily married for fifteen years. We also have a monster, I mean, a rambunctious puppy. Her nickname is “monster”, though. As for my passions, other than sports and my family, I love reading and writing. I’m probably the last person you’d expect to be writing horror. I appear unassuming to the untrained eye. Little do they know, the horrors that lurk just below the surface … yeah, I’m doing it again. Sorry! In all seriousness, to look at me you’d probably think, “now there goes a grammar geek” not “that mysteriously frightening person must be a horror writer.” In short, as a writer I get to daydream for a living and that’s pretty awesome!


When did you discover a love for the written word?

My passion for the written word started at a young age. I remember being spellbound by books and wanting to tap into that magic. I worked hard to learn to read at an early age and once I did, I never wanted to stop. I loved the idea that I could be whisked away to another world or sail the open seas with the turn of a page. That’s the beauty of books: you can be transported into the surreal or relive history. There’s no limit to the adventures awaiting us between the pages. I suppose that joy carried over into my own written words when I was in third grade. My first short story was “published” in the school newsletter. In fifth grade, I won an essay contest and had my picture in the local newspaper. That was the first time someone suggested to me that I ought to think about becoming a writer. Admittedly, that piece of advice came from my grandmother so I wasn’t exactly confident that I could run right out and become the next Stephen King— I took those words with a grain of salt. That being said, I honestly don’t think I ever would have believed it possible if it hadn’t been for her encouragement. She greatly impacted my desire to write because she encouraged it from such a young age.


When did your love affair with horror begin?

Without a doubt, my love affair with horror was passed down from my father. As a very young child, around five or six years old, I remember watching Creature Double Feature every Sunday afternoon with him. One of the local Philadelphia channels did a double feature horror matinee. The classic Universal monsters or old Bela Lugosi/Boris Karloff films were typical fare for the show. I was raised on the classics and I loved them! I honestly think the first time my mom realized I was watching those movies she nearly had a heart attack. I distinctly remember her yelling at my dad that I would have nightmares. Basically, he told me if I wanted to keep watching them I couldn’t wake up in the middle of the night screaming or mom would put an end to Creature Double Feature. I managed to keep quiet and the rest, as they say, is history. By the time I was eleven, I was sneaking Stephen King books home. My mom was never keen on my fascination with horror and she did not want me to read Stephen King so I was devious. That continued through my teen years too. Most kids my age were trying to sneak home nudie magazines, but I’ve always preferred to have my pants scared off so I was seeking out King, Koontz, Lovecraft, Barker, etc.


What writers inspire you?

I guess I already named a few but I am influenced by all sorts of writing. I love everything from Shakespeare to Chuck Palahniuk. I like mysteries and political dramas, classics like Dickens or Twain, poetry and fantasy. I believe we are better served as writers if we are prolific readers. I also love to read fellow indie authors. It amazed me how supportive the writing community is, as a whole. I’ve learned a great deal from people like Shana Festa, aka The Bookie Monster, and Stephen Kozeniewski. Shay really helped show me the ropes and she invited me into her writing group. Eventually, that group decided to put together At Hell’s Gates, the horror anthology. My first published short story was in AHG. Also an At Hell’s Gates contributor, Koz has a YouTube channel that provides a “how to” on different topics for Indie Authors. Then there are amazingly talented folks like my THE LAST KNOCK host extraordinaire, Billy Crash, who helps to promote the works of indie talent. In turn, I take the knowledge that someone has shared with me and I look to pass it on so that someone else can make his or her dream come true.


You have become famous in social media for creating a weekly serial. What compelled you to bring the world such stories?

Well, I don’t know about famous, but I have been blessed with some fun and extraordinarily supportive followers who will keep tuning in to get the next installment of free horror stories on my blog. It’s funny; everyone who wants to be an author is expected to have a blog. Publishers and agents demand it. So, I set mine up and I just came to the realization that the standard blog— you know, the one where the author just rants about their feelings, has become white noise. I said to myself, “Who cares what I think or why this and/or that grinds my gears?” That’s when I decided to write stories instead. I’d decided that, if I put up a bite-sized appetizer each post, the readers could have something to do while they’re on their breaks or lunch during the work week. Let’s be honest, most of us don’t want to be stuck talking to “that guy/that lady” in the break room at work. I give you an excuse to read instead.


Like the cinematic serials of old, you have mastered the cliffhanger with your serials. How did you garner such a gift?

I have to admit, I never really looked at it that way. I just wanted to tell fun stories, tales that I find interesting. I love being able to offer the blog stories because I know there are a lot of people who love to read but just can’t afford to buy new books. I wanted to help. When I read, I am immediately transported to the world the author has created. It’s an escape. I guess I just wanted to offer a short reprieve to anyone who needed it, without looking for financial gain. I think most of us can relate to being in a tight spot at one point or another. It’s then, in those times, that we need the power of a good story to give us a break from the crushing reality surrounding us. I consider it a privilege to be permitted to offer up my stories. If nothing else, you can almost guarantee that your life is going better than the poor sap who’d been chopped to bits by a serial killer or mauled by a monster. See, Mom, I really am a ray of sunshine!


How did Journal of the Undead: Littleville Uprising come about?

The funny thing about Littleville Uprising is that it was something I was doing for my own amusement. I’d had surgery on my arm and I was off from work, recuperating. Daytime television is clearly a conspiracy to torture people, so I set out to keep myself entertained. I’ve done this for most of my life, made up stories for my own amusement, so it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for me, except that I wrote out the entire thing instead of keeping it in my head. Once I finished, I set it aside and let it sit for a while. Just to give you an idea how long, I wrote it several years before The Walking Dead first aired on AMC. What started out as something I wrote just for myself and my sweetie, who happens to be a huge zombie fan, found its way into the hands of some friends. Mainly, because a certain someone in my house has a big mouth and I don’t mean the dog! The fact that I’d written a book “slipped out” at parties and social gatherings until friends and family demanded that I let them read it. After that came the encouraging, then the pushing, then threats and blackmail, until I finally agreed to take a huge leap of faith and publish. By the way, to those aforementioned parties, THANK YOU!


Can you give us a rough idea of the story?

Journal of the Undead: Littleville Uprising is like introducing the zombie virus to a healthy host. The cells look normal at first. Our main characters are new to the town of Littleville, Pennsylvania and they’re experiencing typical teenage life. Meanwhile, in nearby Collegeville the virus has just been unleashed. An infected man and his family are found by local police. Once those bodies are taken to the morgue, strange things start happening and the number of violent crimes skyrocket. One of Littleville’s newest residents, Evan Stone, recognizes the signs, so when the zombies attack Lincoln High, he’s ready. When Littleville is overrun, Evan, his friends the Wexley twins, and his family must trek from their Philadelphia suburb to the mountains of West Virginia if they want to survive. This is the blurb on the dust jacket:


“The residents of Littleville, Pennsylvania are about to meet their new neighbors …

New to Littleville, the Wexley twins, Matt and Emma assume fitting in at Lincoln High and making new friends will be their biggest worries. They couldn’t be more wrong. Fate would introduce Evan Stone into the neighborhood and all three attempt to navigate the murky labyrinth of eleventh grade but Evan has a secret. His godfather is Dr. G.E. Mitchell, author of Journal of the Undead: A Survivor’s Guide and Evan has been learning about zombies from one of the best.

With an excellent school system, safe streets, and a strong sense of community, the Philadelphia suburb of Littleville has proudly attracted a diverse blend of people but up until now they’d always been living. When Lincoln High School is overrun by flesh-eating corpses, Evan rescues Emma and they battle their way through the zombies to Matt but fleeing the school doesn’t solve their problems. Friends, enemies, and loved ones are lost in the battle against the undead and the entire town is completely overrun. The true terror unfolds, as the survivors must escape and make the dangerous trek from suburban Philadelphia to the highest mountains of West Virginia with the hope of finding a safe haven at the Stone family cabin. If they can reach the secluded refuge, they just might survive the Littleville Uprising.”


What has the response been from readers of your book?

The response has been, in my humble opinion, mind blowing! I am awed by the kind words from readers, both when they post reviews and in private messages. As of this moment, I have 20 five star reviews, and one 4.5 stars, on Amazon. I’m still pinching myself to make sure it is real. I am so thrilled that I decided to take a chance on myself and share my stories. I don’t expect to be rich or famous but that’s not why I write. That has never been my focus. I’ve been coming up with stories my entire life and they’ve kept me entertained so I am doubly thrilled if even one other person enjoys my writing.


There are a gazillion zombie stories out there, how does yours differ from the undead herd?

My Journal of the Undead series is different in a few ways. First, it isn’t one main character’s story. In truth, the main character is actually a book. Journal of the Undead: A Survivor’s Guide was written by one of my characters, Dr. G.E. Mitchell, affectionately known as Doc. While Doc was deployed in the 80s he witnessed a zombie uprising first hand. Part of Doc’s story can be found in At Hell’s Gates volume one. As a result, he wrote the material after he left the army. Throughout the series, it is the book that brings survivors through the surging apocalypse. For example, in Journal of the Undead: Littleville Uprising, Doc’s book is in the hands of his Godson, Evan Stone. Evan uses it to teach his best friend and they are able to survive Littleville. On their trek to Evan’s family’s compound in West Virginia, they meet a couple and pass on a copy of Doc’s record. Book two of my series, Journal of the Undead: New York Outbreak, follows the lives of that couple (due to be released late spring/early summer 2015) Book three brings about some new characters and we are reunited with some favorites from Littleville. Oh yeah, and Doc’s Journal of the Undead: A Survivor’s Guide will also be coming out because he has more to tell the world about survival. One other huge difference is that I wanted to make sure that my book could be acceptable for a younger audience so I was extremely careful with wording. I have nephews who love the zombie genre but most ZomPoc stories are packed with more “F-bombs” than Scarface. I wanted to write so that teens could read it too and their parents wouldn’t object based on language. It was a challenge because I am not exactly known for restraint in the spoken word. I’d like to think I pulled it off though and the story didn’t suffer for using a gentler vernacular.


Why do you think horror fans can’t get enough of zombies?

I think the real reason zombies are so popular is because, at their non-beating heart, they represent hopelessness and despair. No matter how hard we work or what we do in life, there are always times of hopelessness and despair that cannot be avoided. Because of that, we are drawn like a moth to the flame. Like a voyeur, we watch … breath quickening, heart pounding, hoping against hope that there will be salvation waiting at the end. That, in a nutshell, is the zombie genre and that’s why it has such a fan base. We find comfort in knowing that, worst case scenario, our despair is not going to be worse than being ripped to shreds and eaten alive by a rotting corpse.


Do you have any favorite zombie films?

I have a few go-to favorite zombie films. I will always love the original Night of the Living Dead; black and white horror films just fill me with joy. It’s like sitting with my dad and watching Creature Double Feature every time. I am also a huge fan of Shaun of the Dead. I love British comedy anyway, but Simon Pegg is a riot! ZombieLand was also hilarious. I think I find the horror/comedy zombie films to be the most fun. After all, life without Twinkies really isn’t worth living.


If the Zombie Apocalypse came tomorrow, do you think you’d survive the ravenous undead horde?

I think I have at least a 50-50 shot at survival. I have a safe place to hole up if need be, and we are semi-off the grid. My father taught us all how to shoot at a young age so I am pretty confident I’d manage to take out a fair share of flesh-eaters if the time came. Perhaps my greatest advantage is that I no longer live in Philadelphia. Though it breaks my heart and I love my hometown, the population density is so much less out here in North Central West Virginia. Just based on populace alone, I have a better shot at surviving the zombie uprising.


Do you have any advice for those wishing to write horror?

If it is your passion, you should do it! Forget about all the negative thoughts that pop into your head and go with your heart. If you can’t think of anything else you’d rather do, even if it means starving, then you should pursue your dream. Life is too short to live with regret. On the flip side, if you think that just because you wrote a cool story that your friends all like you’ll be a billionaire in a flash, you’re in the wrong business! Just writing a book isn’t enough. You have to interact with readers, have a strong marketing platform, or the money to pay a team of people to promote for you. That is the plain and simple truth. For me, it is a labor of love. If I could still manage to pay bills and write for free, I would do it in a heartbeat. I don’t write for the money. I write because I must, because I love it. Seeing sales means that someone else likes what I write too, and that means more to me than money ever will. That being said, I still have to eat so … please, buy the books.


What’s next for you as a writer?

I have several projects in the works right now. My mind rarely rests so I have snippets written down to prompt me for later stories, but actively, I have a story in the just released volume two of At Hell’s Gates and I am working diligently on volume three. I am truly passionate about this project. I have the deepest respect for the men and women serving in our armed forces and At Hell’s Gates donates 100% of the proceeds to the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund. For more info on IFHF see: It means so much to me that there is such a core of genuinely concerned authors who want to do something for those who have put their lives on the line for our freedom. Without them, our dreams and aspirations would mean very little. That’s why I try to promote AHG even over my own books because we want to give back to those who have already given so much.

Also, I have a new blog story in the works. Publishing and then the holidays put a crimp in my blog time but thanks to some very enthusiastic readers, I am working on something different. Horror, of course, but with a different feel and perhaps a little paranormal element added in for fun. I do love a good ghostly vibe even though serial killers have been winning most of the attention on my blog. In addition to that, book two in the Journal of the Undead series is going to the editor next week, so I should have a late spring/early summer launch. I also have two other stories that are being shopped around at this time that are not zombie related.


Finally, what question have you been dying to answer that an interviewer has failed to ask you? (Then, answer that query.)

Since this is only my second interview, I don’t have any deeply burning questions that I wish someone would ask. I suppose the question I’d like to hear asked is, “In what way are you using your talent/gift for the betterment of others?” I’ve always felt that people who are blessed with a certain gift or talent ought to be using them to better themselves and others in the process. I’ve touched on this a little bit in regard to At Hell’s Gates and I plan to seek out other anthologies where the proceeds go to charities that I want to support. I think it is vital to be in the flow of life, not just giving and not just taking. To truly embrace our gifts, we need to actively seek to use that which we have to bring about the changes we want to see. I want to see our veterans get better care so I want to do what I can through supporting IFHF. I’d also like to be able to use my penchant for storytelling to bring focus to other areas that are in desperate need of reform or support. That is why I wanted to be a part of the group that started At Hell’s Gates and why I am looking for more projects that will allow me to do something to help. I’d love to hear more about these types of anthologies and do my part to lend a hand when it is a cause that I’d want to stand behind. I hope by putting this out there, I’ll learn about other equally important endeavors.


Where can people find your work, and where can they find and follow you?

Right now, the best way to find all of my work is through my Amazon Author Page:

I keep that up to date with releases so you won’t miss a thing!

As for me, I try to be everywhere. Facebook Author Page: or my Facebook account (I’m more active on the account since I don’t have to put my faith in algorithms, hoping you’ll see my posts) Twitter: GoodReads: and, of course, my blog:

Crash Discussions: Headf*ck Horror

The Last KnockHorror’s not all blood and gore. Psychological horror delves deep into the mind of the character and may freak out audiences even more. Jonny and I put these terrors on the couch and get to the heart of the trauma: SISTERS, BUG, SESSION 9, JACOB’S LADDER, A TALE OF TWO SISTERS, and much more mind-twisting cinema.

Check us out on iTunes.

Crash Analysis Support Team: A Double Feature Review: The Movie CRUISING and the Book BLOODLETTING – Guest Post from Emilie Flory

CruiseCRUISING: more timely than ever!…
As evidenced by the publication of the fascinating crime thriller BLOODLETTING, a grisly, erotic gem penned by William D. Prystauk.

Cruising by William Friedkin – 35mm Print – 1 hr 42 min
With a warning on the 35mm print you won’t find on the 98 min DVD

Shown with a 35mm optical print during the “contamination” cycle proposed by the Forum des Images in Paris, Cruising was presented as an immersion into a hostile environment. The movie followed a screening of Bug and preceded one of The Exorcist, two more first-rate movies directed by the tremendous William Friedkin. A conference was also dedicated to the filmmaker’s work: His remarks and vision, acclaimed and controversial, but remarkably timely, have become essential again in these days of filmmaking scarcity.

Cruising, an exceptional film if there ever was one, remains a major cinematographic case in the 7th art’s history. Major not only for what it reveals about its author, an incredible fighter and great perfectionist subjected to insurmountable difficulties for the duration of the project (he almost died of a heart attack shortly after), but also by the bridges it builds between different movie forms and genres in the 7th art’s global scene.

Cruising is the story of Steve Burns, a young and ambitious New York cop who accepts an undercover mission in gay S&M circles to clear up a series of brutal homosexual murders. Recruited to act as a lure, Burns has to change his identity and his appearance. In so doing, he gradually drifts away from those close to him and the new life he’s made for himself. He takes on another personality, another “self” that surfaces in him, and affects his psyche and his whole behavior.

The original idea for the movie, vaguely inspired by journalist Gerald Walker’s novel, came from some articles by columnist Arthur Bell about a series of unsolved murders in New York’s gay S&M bar scene. William Friedkin drew from these news items, which gave him the motivation to start working on this story. He found the material in his close circle: Thanks to certain stories told by investigator Randy Jurgensen, his friend and consultant on French Connection, who had to go undercover in gay S&M bars to unmask a killer, as well as the arrest of Paul Bateson, one of the radiologist actors in The Exorcist accused of having sadistically murdered homosexuals. Thanks to certain connections linked to organized crime, the filmmaker was also allowed to investigate within S&M bars himself before shooting in them.

It’s clear that Walker’s book added to the exposure of certain sexual crimes in the press, plus the Big Apple’s high crime rate at the end of the 70s, made New York in the 80s the ideal setting for several movies about serial killers: William Lustig’s Maniac came out in 1980 too (Joe Spinnel, the lead actor, was cast in Cruising), but also Brian De Palma’s Dressed to Kill, and two years later, New York Ripper by Lucio Fulci. The subculture described in Cruising, a perfect backdrop for the director to develop his ideas, was never considered by him as being the movie’s main intention. The barrage of accusations leveled against William Friedkin for having stigmatized the gay community is totally unwarranted. If Cruising distinguishes itself from the movies mentioned above by its environment, it’s essentially the way this environment is depicted that makes it radically different from them.

Due to its treatment, Cruising frees itself from all the codes and conventions of the day. Thirty-five years later, it appears extremely timely: The midnight blue monochrome photography, the dark and sensual score, skillfully present and spellbinding, the directing sometimes clinical, sometimes emotional and impulsive (especially during the murder scenes where a few subliminal penetration shots can be found; “That’s how our brain works”, analyzes the filmmaker), but also the pacing imposed by the story, which is deliberately caught in a symbolic vice to expand the subject. All those key points predate the movie. Cruising is an erotic crime thriller, but also a slasher that doesn’t really borrow from codes, and what’s more, it’s a completely reformulated giallo.

Symbolism here is pushed to the extreme to serve the psychological aspect. As a virtuoso, William Friedkin takes us very far. The key to the movie lies in its last scene. It shows a tugboat crossing the Hudson River; the river is immersed in the grayness that enshrouds the port, barely lit by the ball of orange sun hanging over it… Consciously or not, this last scene refers to Monet’s Impressions, Sunrise. What it says about the movie is that, like impressionist paintings or films from the “first avant-garde”, it attaches more importance to a fleeting impression, to the probability of environmental phenomena (in Cruising the environment directly affects the character’s psychology), rather than to the stable and conceptual aspect of things.

So even more than the character himself, it’s the particular world he’s immersed in that determines and triggers the story. The identity search is, almost as if it was meant to happen, the theme that truly dominates the movie. This quest results in a fantasy of ideal virility, which causes physical desire for this virility as well as hatred for this desire. The filmmaker uses certain visual and audio elements in a metaphorical way to highlight this masculine desire burdened by repressed urges (penetrating blades, leather, weight bars, police hats, gay porno magazines, river water, obsessive voices and nursery rhymes). He also brings in the memory of a paternal castrating authority, something Burns and the killer are both trapped by: “You know what you have to do”, uttered by the killer’s father, sounds like a call to “Man up!” aimed at all the movie’s characters.

William Friedkin also takes us into late night leather bars where the hero becomes submerged from so many contradicting impressions that he ends up not knowing where to situate his desire. One of the movie’s great strengths is to give us hardcore scenes in a very realistic manner to make us feel Burn’s disorientation. Although most of these scenes were cut to avoid the movie being rated X (the extras are real patrons of the bar), they fascinate and considerably speed up the feeling of alteration experienced by Burns. Without the cuts imposed by the MPAA, Cruising would send us into orbit because William Friedkin is careful to confuse things throughout the movie by showing us different men’s faces as being the killer’s face (the movie’s first killer plays the part of the second victim while the first victim plays the part of the killer in the porn movie theater, etc.)…

If William Friedkin wanted to show that the dark side of an individual remains a mystery for others, the problems owing to Al Pacino’s performance probably pushed him to dig a bit deeper. The choice of Al Pacino, described by some as a casting mistake, is quite unfortunate since the acting (using only the range of surprise) is dull and linear… William Friedkin himself says in his memoir (a memoir I will discuss at length in a later article) that when Al Pacino came on set he didn’t know what he was supposed to do and hadn’t learned his lines. The actor’s excuse was his wanting to recreate his character’s surprise on discovering the world of S&M. In actual fact, we feel a lack of implication in his acting, as though he were disembodied, except for two action scenes that create a discrepancy. One can only regret that Richard Gere, the magnificent Julian Kay in American Gigolo (released the same year), didn’t play the ambiguous part of Burns. He was the filmmaker’s initial choice and possessed all the finesse and ambivalence necessary for playing the role.

True to his lifelong vision between uncompromising Manichaeism and skepticism, but also probably because of the lack of ambiguity and evolution Pacino brought to his character, even though he gradually becomes aware of his true personality, the filmmaker took some basic measures while editing. Choosing to suggest that Burns might be either the killer or his copycat, William Friedkin once again gives us a razor-edged story with a strong theme about the ambivalence of the human soul: From a mixed-up young cop trying to find his way, Steve Burns becomes a young cop adrift and a potential murderer. Just like Burns, who has become not only a mystery for others but for himself as well, the viewer then becomes free to wonder about his or her own dark side as well as that of others…

“There is a lot about me you don’t know,” Burns says to his girlfriend at the beginning of the movie… Even though Burns knows himself a bit better, he’s still not out of the woods; his dark side is a dishonorable mystery to him. A mystery he’s going to hide in order to move on, just as the movie’s penultimate scene suggests when Burns looks at himself in the mirror before turning around and staring at the camera while his girlfriend puts on his punk leather “uniform”…

Bloodletting, an erotic, grisly crime thriller by William D. Prystauk Available on Amazon, Good Reads and Barnes & Noble

Adapted from his own screenplay, which won second place in the mystery category at the Screenwriters Showcase Screenplay Contest, this abrasive, erotic crime thriller that William D. Prystauk calls “alternative” thrusts us into the fascinating world of BDSM.

In Bloodletting, we hang out with Denny Bowie, a punk rock, sadomasochistic private investigator brought to New York to investigate a series of murders whose victims were into fetishism and S&M. The novel takes place in present day Greenwich Village, which has been somewhat rethought: While the majority of the S&M clubs depicted are imagined, most of the other places where the plot unfolds actually exist.

Guided by an eccentric and impassioned hero in an unusual investigation where victims are impaled, crucified, disemboweled after being tortured, and often bled dry, as the title suggests, we get caught up in this mysterious and dangerous world that opens up before us and won’t let us go until the plot’s resolution.

Through the prism of his sensual desires, Denny Bowie enchants us and gives us clues. Bowie’s appetites are the keystones of his thinking: They guide him toward the solution, they inspire him and steer him in his investigation. This is one of the novel’s greatest ploys. And because we are always surprised by the way Denny Bowie goes about solving his case, by the links established between his carnal desires and the leads that emerge from his thoughts or his observations in the most shocking situations, we ask for more. Just like Denny, we can never get enough! The passion and life that drive this extraordinary character with whom we share intimate thoughts and poignant memories shapes our relationship with him. Magnificently written (the style is at once very direct and flowing), and because its construction is based on an excellent screenplay, the novel develops at a tremendous pace.

Bloodletting isn’t a conventional crime thriller. Just like Cruising, it paves the way for new kinds of heroes and stories where a movie atmosphere and feelings prevail, shifting the investigation’s conclusion into the background. The psychological torments Steve Burns and Denny Bowie wrestle with are the real driving forces behind Cruising and Bloodletting: “I only knew someone was playing me, trying to fuck with my head, and it was working,” says Denny, realizing he doesn’t know which way to turn. Even if the craving to discover the killer’s identity eats away at us, it’s Denny Bowie’s determination, Denny’s hopes, doubts and fears that have us tripping in the novel from start to finish.

In Bloodletting, even though Denny lets us in on his findings, he’s still the only character to know the truth about what really happened when the story comes to an end… Which, in a way, is the case in Cruising. Like Steve Burns, Denny Bowie is immersed in a world where appearances are misleading and where some people, by taking on another personality, end up getting lost: “She could’ve been lost years ago under a Mistress’s mask that was now permanent,” Bowie will say about a suspect who got out of her depth…

With Cruising, which opens with the discovery of a body part in the ocean and ends with a tugboat crossing the Hudson, we set out for a weird journey deep into the repressed urges of a cop in the middle of an identity crisis.

With Bloodletting, which opens with the arrival by train of a Chicago private investigator who’s come to New York to solve a criminal case connected to his former lifestyle, we set out on a journey into the depths of the accepted but unsatisfied urges of a private detective looking for his limits.

Even if Denny Bowie refuses to admit it, the S&M world he cherishes is the architect of the evil he’s fighting against, and while Steve Burns goes undercover in gay S&M clubs to discover the killer he has to unmask at the risk of disappearing for real, Denny Bowie risks his life by blindly adopting fetish practices to unravel the mystery and fully experience his singularity.

There exists a certain relationship between Cruising and the novel Bloodletting. Cruising, resolutely ahead of its time, influenced and paved the way for many creators. Basic Instinct wouldn’t exist without Cruising.

Even though certain impressions or references present in William Friedkin’s movie survive in Bloodletting (William D. Prystauk’s basis for his screenplay, which led to the book, comes from a script first written in the 80s), the novel distinguishes itself from the movie the way a son might take up his father’s legacy to go his own way.

In the movie as in the book, the observations of the environment that affects the hero’s psychology and imposes his acts, but where the hero of Cruising struggles in extreme situations, the hero of Bloodletting is right at home: “Some people need to dive off a cliff to get a rush while others only need to look over the edge.”

In Cruising, Burns has trouble letting go and maintains a certain reserve vis-à-vis his girlfriend while, conversely, Bowie opens up intimately and reveals himself unreservedly to the woman he loves.

Like Cruising, sexual taboos no longer exist in Bloodletting. On the contrary, unrestrained sex is displayed in all shapes and sizes: “These people wanted to explore the leather world that defined them. To examine the one thing in their lives they had complete control over: their bodies.”

It’s interesting to note that William Friedkin chose “Burns” as the name for his ambitious hero who’s ready to burn his wings, while “Bowie”, probably a reference to David Bowie (the last murder in Cruising also refers to him, inspired by the record jacket for his album Lodger), is what William D. Prystauk chose for his hero who bows to other people’s opinions to stress his differences and go his own way. We could also see this as a nod to Burns’ character with the fact that the killer’s signature in Bloodletting is a cigarette burn!

By Emilie Flory

English translation by Cameron Watson.

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Emilie Flory is a screenwriter/filmmaker.

She has, among other things, written and directed Processus5, a 10-minute futuristic short movie shot in 35mm that was critically acclaimed and screened at the HollyShorts in Los Angeles. She is currently writing a sci-fi feature movie and looking for producers and investors for her horror feature film project Trauma Dolls.

Trauma Dolls was a semi-finalist at the Shriekfest Screenplay Competition in 2013 and finalist at the Fright Night Film Fest 2014 …

The Trauma Dolls’ Trailer was an official selection at the Holly-Shorts film festival 2014: