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An Interview with Ryan Nicholson, Director of Gutterballs

by Mike Haberfelner

September 2008

Films directed by Ryan Nicholson on (re)Search my Trash

 

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You have only recently released Gutterballs. Why don't you tell us a little bit about that film?

 

Gutterballs is my love letter to the kind of horror movies I grew up watching. Slasher films, giallo movies and gorefests that my friends and I would trade one another for. This was all before DVD of course. Gutterballs is very much a whodunnit. It's like a gory adult version of Scooby Doo, only without the dog! Even though the set is a multi-million dollar bowling center, the movie isn't about bowling. It's moreso the violent act that occurs in the alley and then the revenge dished out in handfuls the next night.

 

As it is, the film mixes extreme violence with quite a bit of humour. Which aspect do you enjoy more, and why do you think the two aspects blend?

 

I enjoy humourous violence! Comedy plays a huge part in all my movies. You cannot take them seriously. They're done on the cheap and are very campy. I think Gutterballs hits people over the head with a sledgehammer, but it's like a foam one, you can't get hurt, you just laugh instead ... perhaps a nervous giggle? Movies that take themselves too seriously set themselves up for disaster. The fans rip into filmmakers that make glorified crap. I don't take what I do very seriously. It's all about having fun and hoping others will see it as that and have fun watching it.

 

The film was obviously inspired by old-school slasher movies. Is this a genre especially dear to your heart?

 

Very much so. I remember so much of my childhood based on trailers of slasher movies coming on the TV and birthday parties where one of us would get to watch a horror movie ... it was a real treat and it's odd how I relate to times and places based solely on movies. I was and am truly obsessed with horror. I remember Pieces' "You don't have to go to Texas for a Chainsaw Massacre" blaring out over the small TV speaker like it was yesterday ... or trying to peek over the fence to see the drive-in playing Friday the 13th Part 3. Man those were the days.

 

You did go to quite some length to give the film an authentic 1980's flair. Why and how did you do it?

 

The wardrobe was a huge part of the look of Gutterballs. I wanted to bring back looks that I had grown up with.Fashion from the eighties is still around, only now retro and costly to assemble. The lighting also played big into the theme. You can see some Joe Dante influence in there and some Cronenberg. I really wanted to pay homage to the masters. I thought that the bowling alley would be perfect to time-warp a group of misfits to and kill them off one by one. It makes things more interesting that these characters look so outlandish. Is it nowadays or some other decade? The viewer can decide. That's the fun of the retro look. It plays either way really.

 

How did you come up with the film's bowling alley-theme?

 

Creative death scenes in a bowling alley were just far too cool to pass up. I also thought that such a modern facility would lend so much production value to our very low budget, it was just a given to shoot there. It really could've been any sports related arena. The idea of a slasher film in a bowling alley though appealed to me, moreso than table tennis or billards, although I haven't ruled those out for a sequel!

 

The 64 Dollar question is of course, where can one get the movie?

 

Gutterballs is being officially released in North America UNCUT in January 2009 on the Danger After Dark label. It will be chock full of goodies and it also has a totally new soundtrack that kicks even more ass than the temp tracks on the bootleg that was leaked. The movie has already come out in Germany, cut to ribbons though. It's coming out in Japan soon and is due out in France in October, Uncut.

 


Before Gutterballs, you directed Live Feed in 2006, which was to my understanding your first feature film. What can you tell us about that movie?

 

Live Feed is a fun little movie. The set is a porno theatre where unsuspecting patrons get murdered and their death transmitted to the big screen for all to see via a Live Feed. It's a very strong nod to all the Cat III movies I love so much. The Untold Story, Red to Kill, Ebola Virus ... it's got a huge Asian cast and has some karate action in it as well. It's very much a campy, exploitation movie that is not meant to be taken seriously. It wasn't received as well as Gutterballs. I don't know, the marketing perhaps led people to think it was Hostel all over again, but it's not like Hostel. It's more like They Call Me Bruce but with gore and sex.

 

In 2004 you released the featurette Torched. A few words about that one?

 

Torched was a fun 4 day shoot. I wanted to see if I could stay on time and budget with Torched and if so, it would be my first step towards making a feature film. I chose the rape/revenge theme, added a twist and had some insanely wicked music from my buddies Macabre and Necrophagia playing throughout. I'm releasing it this fall officially with some killer extras, a new sound mix, etc...

 

Let's leave the past behind and look into the future: What can you tell us about your upcoming film Hanger?

 

Hanger is a very dark film. It's not as funny as Gutterballs and Live Feed. It's more so a kill em and let God sort em out kind of movie. There is no good guy, no bad guy ... just everyday life told from the end of a twisted bloody coat-hanger. It's an abortion/revenge movie. I'm about pro-choice. If a woman wants an abortion, it's her own choice, no one else's to make. This tale is very much about someone who makes that choice for an unwilling Mother to be and the rest is a non-stop assualt on the senses kind of movie.

 

And the upcoming Star Vehicle?

 

Star Vehicle is a little bit lighter than my previous stuff but it's also a stab at the film industry and the dipshits I've had to work with and for during my time in the biz. If I had a penny for every egocentric bastard I've had to work with ... I hope to get on it right after wrapping Hanger.Star Vehicle is about a driver for the stars ... he's treated like an asshole his whole life and aspires to write and direct his own movie. He meets the star of his dreams and gets to drive her ... mad to say the least!

 

Any other upcoming projects?

 

I'm re-releasing Live Feed as the Live Feed: CAT III Edition. It will be a ltd. ed, signed and numbered DVD with all new features, etc ... I also have a Live Feed sequel in mind and will perhaps have a teaser on the CAT III release. Torched: The Director's Cut is coming out. And I have a couple of other scripts I'm gearing up to write ... one of which may be Gutterballs II:  Slip, Slide and Die. Yes, it's at a waterpark! I'm working on getting the www.plotdigger.com webstore up and running where there will be shirts, hoodies, hats, signed stuff, etc ... I have the official Gutterballs soundtrack in the works ... and I am even thinking about comics ... the possibilites for the horror of it all is endless.

 

Your films are all horror films featuring some in-your-face violence. How do you defend yourself (or do you defend yourself at all) against accusations that the violence in your films is gratuitous?

 

My violence is very cartoony, very campy. I think that most people get that with Gutterballs. I mean getting strangled to death by bowling shoes!? There is a definite style to the bloodshed in my movies, overkill is the word. I think people really can't say the overkill in my movies is offensive ... it's too silly to be offensive.

 

Where does your fascination with horror come from?

 

It all started with The Hilarious House of Frightenstein, a Canadian horror comedy show that had a wacky guy named Billy Vann making himself up as all these horror characters. I was fixated on this show when I was a little kid. It influenced all my work for sure! It's out on DVD ... pick it up!

 

What do you think about the current state of the horror genre?

 

It's hit and miss ... more miss I think. I haven't seen too much lately that captures the feel of the horror I like. I watch the same stuff over again simply because there's not much new that I can say I really enjoy. After Saw V where do you go? After Saw where do you go? They keep making the same movie over and over again. People go and see them ... they love to see the gore, watch between their fingers. I'd rather watch an old laserdisc or something.

 

You left your mark on films not only as a writer/director but also as a special effects and special makeup artist. Could you talk about your career in effects a little bit?

 

I had a great run as an FX artist. I still do FX from time to time and I also teach FX to aspiring students. I guess I just found my passion in writing and directing to be more fufilling artistically. Plus the chemicals are a killer to work with ... I've had enough fiber glass fumes to last a lifetime. It was a good time for the most part. I met some great people and made some awesome friends. But in the end, I'd rather do FX for my own movies ... it's just more satisfying and I can shed all the blood I want until I yell cut!

 

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Why and how did you take the step from effects man to director?

 

I just got tired of maintaining a fulltime shop and supporting people. It was too much on my shoulders ... doing my own stuff for me is a better feeling ... I enjoy sculpting and painting but on my own time. I got tired of going to filmsets at 4 in the morning putting prosthetics on grumpy actors.It takes it's toll. I'd rather devote my time and energy to my own movies that will be my retirement fund when I'm an old dude.

 

Your website/mySpace/whatever else?

 

www.plotdigger.com

www.myspace.com/plotdigger

www.myspace.com/ballsonthechin

www.myspace.com/livefeed

 

You produce your films in Vancouver, so what can you tell us about the Canadian indy and horror film scene?

 

Canadian horror was legendary from Cronenberg to all the tax shelter movies of the early 80's like My Bloody Valentine and Prom Night. Nowadays, there's not too many people making horror movies in Canada. Getting funding for a gory movie is hard here. There's so many filmmakers, most making high brow artsy fartsy fare, that's the kind of stuff the Canadian government funds. It's hard to get your product out there. For instance, Blockbuster in Canada wouldn't put out Live Feed. So it missed a huge DVD market. But the other big video chain Rogers Video put it out, so it's hit and miss really. I hope Gutterballs sees a wide DVD release in Canada. I think it will. As for the horror scene, there really isn't much of one. There's one magazine that is based out of Toronto that is horror but I get way more press South of the border and in the UK. Canada really sucks at supporting it's own art. It's moreso a door-mat for other film production companies to use and abuse at their own will.

 

Some directors who have really influenced you?

 

Lucio Fulci [Lucio Fulci bio - click here], John Carpenter, Ken Russell, Tobe Hooper, David Cronenberg, Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma, Oliver Stone, Dario Argento, Sergio Leone, etc...

 

Films you really liked (both recent and all-time favourites)?

 

The Thing (1981), I Spit On Your Grave, Cannibal Holocaust, Driller Killer, Goodfellas, Midnight Cowboy, Porky's, Better Off Dead, High Tension, Wolf Creek, The Untold Story, Wild At Heart.

 

And some films you deplored?

 

Lost Boys 2 and the new April Fools Day. I had to turn both off shortly after the opening credits.

 

Anything else I have forgotten to ask and you are just dying to share?

 

No more remakes! And no more J-horror, period! Go Canucks Go!

 

Thanks for the interview.

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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Thanks for watching !!!



 

 

On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
starring
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD

 

 

Stell Dir vor, Deine Lieblingsseifenoper birgt eine tiefere Wahrheit ...
... und stell Dir vor, der Penner von der U-Bahnstation hat doch recht ...
... und dann triffst Du auch noch die Frau Deiner (feuchten) Träume ...

 

Und an diesem Tag geht natürlich wieder einmal die Welt unter!!!

 

Bauliche Angelegenheiten
ein Roman von
Michael Haberfelner

 

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