My darling children, and the thoroughly compromised grown-ups you seem inevitably fated to become:
For close to twenty years, some joker named Robert Devereaux has been chronicling my life. There were things he stretched, but mainly he told the truth.
Lately, he’s gone into my attempt to fix the horrendously flawed human psyche. Did that attempt succeed? I won’t spoil your fun by telling you.
I asked Robert (I always think of the once adorable little tyke, one of the damnably nice boys, as Bobby) to say a few words about his most recent attempt. Here’s Bobby’s reply to his readers:
“Lately, I’ve been trying to save the world through my novels. So far I have failed. I expect to continue failing. On that score I harbor very few illusions. Still, Uncle Tom’s Cabin was a world changer. Abraham Lincoln is reported to have greeted Harriet Beecher Stowe with: ‘So you’re the little woman who wrote the book that started this great war.’ And Huckleberry Finn, in which Huck conceals runaway slave Jim while fully expecting to go to hell for it, remains an inspiration. Then there’s Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle , which brought reform to Chicago’s meat-packing industry.
“Fifteen months ago, my wife died of ovarian cancer at the age of sixty-one. In her two and a half year decline, I heard her say more than once that if cancer finally took her life, at least she wouldn’t have to live through the disasters the human race seems unable to prevent, such power have we given those who put boundless greed over our and the planet’s survival.
“Do I sound bitter? Bitter I be. And bitter shouldst thou be. So kindly shrug into your leaden cloak of bitterness, yoke it across your shoulders, and join the parade of the damned.
“Twain, quite the curmudgeon in later years, wrote this: ‘Why is it that we rejoice at a birth and grieve at a funeral? It is because we are not the person involved.’
“And so, via Mark Twain’s bitterness and a world whose inertia is tending toward irreversible ruin, we arrive at Santa Claus Saves the World, part three of my Santa Claus Chronicles. Saint Nick is given the chance to reengineer the human psyche, to fix God’s botched job before it’s too late, hoping to outrace a critical tipping point.
“This being fiction, there are, of course, opposing forces, not the least of which is God Himself. Also active are the Tooth Fairy, her imps Quint and Gronk, the harrumphing elf Gregor, and Venga, a fallen golden robotic handmaiden of the Greek god Hephaestus.
“As I researched this book, I began making lists of human flaws. Let me tell you, those lists are unending. I have been kind to my readers. I have not tried to include every last flaw in my novel. We all know what they are. And it would have been so hard on the trees.
“No, let the token few I name suffice.
“On a happier note . . . hmmm, what could have I been thinking when I began this sentence? There is no happier note.”
Yes, sweet kiddies. I caught the author in a foul mood. But moods come and go, as you well know. He’s a jovial sort usually, and that joviality is as genuine as his despair.
That’s about it. Must get back to supervising our toy production and the planned delivery on Christmas Eve.
Don’t forget the milk and cookies, if you’re so moved. These days, I’m into almond milk and gluten-free cookies. But carrots are still fine for my reindeer. And any little note you care to leave. I love your notes—and you—to death!
The jolliest of ho-ho-ho’s to you and yours,
Santa Steps Out
Santa Conquers the Homophobes
Santa Claus Saves the World
Written by Cameron Pierce and illustrated by Jim Agpalza, this is the first book in Sinister Grin Press’s Lockjaw bizarro line and is limited to 100 hard cover copies.
Written by Wonderland Book Award-winning author Cameron Piece and fully illustrated by Jim Agpalza, Fantastic Earth Destroyer Ultra Plus is a bizarro epic that’s as beautiful as it is bleak.
“Hot Rod Worm! It’s what’s for breakfast!” – John Skipp
Click HERE to learn more about The Last Goddam Hollywood Movie Contest!
Click HERE to find out more about The Last Goddam Hollywood Movie Contest!
For immediate release: Monday, Sept. 16, 2013
WANT TO BLOW YOURSELF UP FOR “THE LAST GODDAM HOLLYWOOD MOVIE” CONTEST?
Authors John Skipp and Cody Goodfellow knew they wanted to do something special to promote their new book, The Last Goddam Hollywood Movie, a slim novel concerning “the last Hollywood film crew, making the last Hollywood movie, in the radioactive crater formerly known as Los Angeles”.
So they teamed up with filmmaking partner Andrew Kasch (who got over 1.6 million hits for his Princess Bride mashup with the Red Wedding footage from Game of Thrones.) to produce a dozen six-to-twenty-second videos, shot entirely on smart phones. And they’re opening up a contest to all Los Angelenos.
To participate: Grab your smartphone and create a four second video depicting what you’d be doing before the nuclear warhead lands. And then blow up, as in the examples below. Winning entries get a free copy of the ebook, and their work posted and credited as part of this ambitious art project/publicity stunt.
“What we want to capture,” New York Times bestselling author Skipp says, “is a funny, scary, heartbreaking fly’s-eye view of L.A. in its final moments, caught completely by surprise, from south Central to Beverly Hills and everywhere in between. We’ll be posting at least six a week till the end of the month, and hope we get hundreds to choose from.”
The book is half savage showbiz satire, half hardcore apocalypse horror, all complemented by Greg Houston’s powerful art. “If you live in L.A. and work in the Business,” says noted futurist Goodfellow, “the apocalypse will hold few surprises. It’s already here. It’ll only get louder.” And the prospect of crowdsourcing short L.A. films to promote a book about film and L.A. makes the team very happy. (“I’m having fun blowing things up,” notes Kasch.)
The Last Goddam Hollywood Movie gets released today in trade paper and ebook by Fungasm Press, an imprint of Eraserhead Press, the Portland-based publisher specializing in Bizarro fiction who last year had a hit with “Broken Piano For President” by Patrick Wensink. (The book Jack Daniels sent the world’s nicest cease-and-desist letter to.)
For more info on the contest’s rules, go to: http://bizarrocentral.com/multimedia/the-last-goddam-hollywood-movie-contest/ Inquiries (and contest entries) can be sent to email@example.com Movie links are below. ——–
1) BARKING SCOOB! (Starring Scooby Hamilton)
2) FRANCESCA LIA BLOCK ON TV!!!! (Starring Francesca Lia Block)
3) HULA GIRL! (starring Laura Lee Bahr, with music by The Slow Poisoner)
Check back here for more videos and visit THE LAST GODDAM HOLLYWOOD MOVIE CONTEST page to join in and follow along!
This morning I received a message from the wonderful John Skipp that said:
“Dear Constance — The following must be immediately posted on Bizarro Central! IT’S THE LAW!“
After clicking on the link he provided I couldn’t argue.
Check out Frank Zappa reading The Talking Asshole scene from William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch. IT’S THE LAW!
– Constance Ann
This was brought to my attention this morning. As a dog lover and hosiery enthusiast, I’m more than a little confused.
Check it out and chime in in the comments!
Someone decided to soundtrack this video with a dog barking in the background (probably saying “This shit is uncomfortable. I’m a DOG for fucks sake!”) so, heads up, you may wanna hit mute.
by Constance Ann Fitzgerald
I love saying “Isabella Rossellini” out loud.
I love her name, I love her face, I loved her in Alias as an evil super spy, I loved her in Death Becomes Her, I loved her with glass legs filled with beer (!) in The Saddest Music in the World, and I love her voice. Even when she’s trying to justify eating her young.
I’m not sure if y’all celebrate or give a crap about Easter. Personally, I like chocolate and an extra day off of work. So, it’s alright by me.
A friend of mine has a tradition of whipping up rabbit gumbo and eating it on Easter Sunday with a group of friends. This year I got to be one of them. It was tasty. But it turned into a really creepy evening.
So, we sat around and ate rabbit gumbo while watching Night of the Lepus, which I have to say, makes you feel a lot less guilty about eating fluffy bunnies.
Afterward our friend was excited because he brought over a 15 minute short film called Night of the Hell Hamsters.
Hell hamsters? What trouble could a few hamsters be?
Plenty, if you bleed all over a makeshift ouija board and start praying to a deity you think doesn’t exist. Check it out.
An hour so bizarro that it lasts two hours! Featuring weird performances, readings, comedy and music. Free!
Friday April 19th 7PM @ The Knockbox Cafe 1001 N. California Ave., Chicago, Illinois
Performances and readings by:
Michael Allen Rose (Author of Party Wolves in My Skull)
Justin Grimbol (Author of The Crud Masters)
MP Johnson (Author of The After-Life Story of Pork Knuckles Malone)
Andrea de Fonseca
Music by Jeff Arndt (From the band Mommy Sez No)
Hosted by good time gal Kristin Ryan
And of course, craft roasted coffee and espresso!
Jesus fighting zombies with a large fish. I don’t know how much more you could really ask for.
(En español with subtitles)
Thanks to Gabino Iglesias for dropping this little gem in my inbox.
- Constance Ann
Henry Rollins put on his fancy three piece suit to play a more businessman like version of the Grim Reaper.
At first I thought it was only awesome because I have crazy Rollins lust.
Turns out, it’s just a really cool short flick.
by Karl Fischer
Over the years, I’ve tried to get my peers into manga and I often run up against the same critique: “It just doesn’t interest me.” What I think they mean to say is that they’re not interested in saccharine love triangles with bubble-breasted schoolgirls fighting tentacle demons from Beyond the Veil. Fair enough. My go-to cure for that stereotype is artist-writer Tsutomu Nihei.
You may have seen this image in an internet meme, such as Bears with Guns. Thing is, it’s not photoshopped, it’s lifted directly from Biomega, a six volume sci-fi/horror set one thousand years into the future. It’s the story of a mysterious virus called the NS5, which can turn humans into mindless, biomechanical drones (read: cyborg zombies) and of the warring mega-corporations that are attempting to either stop or propagate the virus. It’s one half cyberpunk, one half zombie apocalypse, ultraviolent, and grittier than a gravel yard in hell.
One thing that sets Nihei’s work apart from other manga is the focus on physical space. Nihei originally studied to be an architect and it’s an aspect that comes shining through in his art.
Between lightning fast action scenes, the reader’s POV will zoom out to encompass vast and intimately detailed spaces. Characters go zipping along on roads that span the sea, plummet down buildings that reach thousands of stories, and fight in rooms that could house cathedrals.
By the second half of the series, events are taking place on an interstellar object that’s nearly 5,000,000,000km in length. The story is intensely visual, forgoing dialogue in favor of movement almost every chance it gets. Everything has a sense of grandeur, and yet, is mercilessly bleak. The pace only increases by leaps and bounds.
When the dust has settled, there’s something disquieting about Biomega. Our main protagonists are biomechanical androids fighting viciously on humanity’s behalf. One gets the impression that they do this only because they were designed to. Technology has outstripped its creators, in true cyberpunk fashion, yet that technology never “rebels.” In Nihei’s conception, our most powerful weapons will serve us faithfully and eternally, even as we drag one another screaming into the Void.
Just in time for the holidays, Fungasm Press has released a brand-new old school splatterpunk horror story called ART IS THE DEVIL, as a 99 cent ebook. With an awesome, demonic Charlie Sheen on the cover, courtesy of Chuck Hodi. And soon to be an epic short film by Skipp & Kasch!
PRODUCT DESCRIPTION (from Amazon):
“When two young badass women stop by an insane Charlie Sheen-based art exhibit, their night of mind-warping horror is only beginning.
Splatterpunk legend John Skipp delivers the high-voltage hardcore
thrills in this outrageous, bodacious short story.“
Click HERE to get the first Fungasm Quickee: 99 cent ebooks to gleefully fuck pop culture with!
Issue seven features the novella “Noah’s Arkopolis” by David W Barbee short fiction by David Agranoff, Molly Tanzer, Andrew Wayne Adams, Shane McKenzie and Dustin Reade, comics by Andrew Goldfarb and SCAR, articles by Constance Ann Fitzgerald, Carlton Mellick III, Kirsten Alene Pierce, Garrett Cook and Bradley Sands, a spotlight on author Jordan Krall, reviews, and more!
Click HERE to order The Magazine of Bizarro Fiction (Issue Seven)!
Click HERE for Part I of INFINITE BREASTS: An Over-Sized Interview with John Skipp, Andrew Kasch and Cody Goodfellow About Their Short Film ‘Stay At Home Dad’
AK: I’d say it’s fairly equal. Skipp & I are usually of one mind when it comes to creative decisions, and we plan so much that when we finally get on set, we can divide and conquer when we have to. Having two directors on a low-budget set is actually a blessing because you’re usually spread really thin.
JS: It’s a really amazing case of playing to each other’s strengths. I’ve got the story shit down. Andrew’s got the technical end down. And directing is the balance of the two. We both are obsessive movie freaks, understand what makes them work, understand each other’s disciplines, and have a broad palette that runs well beyond genre to choose from when discussing how to attack any given scene.
Past that, he’s a really fun guy to work with. Like Cody and all great collaborators, he’s a throw-down guy, and plays well with others. We have a fucking blast.
CG: There was some friction in the early stages, admittedly. . . Skipp and I have collaborated on so many projects that we locked horns a bit on the script, which I was pretty hung up on keeping my skidmarks on, at least until I handed it to them to shoot. All of it came to a satisfying end, though, because every choice that any of us consciously made had to be a strong one, or the other two would kill it.
AK: Overall it was pretty smooth. We all respect what’s on the page (otherwise what’s the point?) but at the same time, nobody was overly precious about things. Directors and actors need to have room the play and explore – otherwise it’s just a dictatorship. . . and who likes those?
How did the creature designs come together?
AK: That was mostly Mike Dubisch, Cody’s illustrator friend and fellow Lovecraft enthusiast.
CG: Mike Dubisch sweats monsters. He keeps a notepad and just designs hideously deformed and awe-inspiring creatures effortlessly and unstoppably, all the goddamn time. He was working at the time on the artwork for All-Monster Action, so I asked him to do it, and he whipped off the designs we went with on one sheet of paper in less time than it took for me to describe what we wanted. In return for this, I wrote an introduction for his Black Velvet Necronomicon collection (which is pretty fucking incredible, by the way.)
JS: From there, Lindsey Peterson took the reins, designing and sculpting. We suggested. She delivered. She in now our incredible go-to girl.
The dream sequence?
AK: We originally shot a different version of the dream sequence which was an extended conversation in the doctor’s office with Diane Goldner. It was originally supposed to end with the castration but as Skipp & I were putting it together, we realized it wasn’t nearly surreal enough and hurt the overall pace. So we concocted a crazy Ken Russell-style dream sequence with some Lovecraftian imagery so the big reveal wouldn’t come out of nowhere. Cody brought over some of his monster masks and we shot a bunch of wild stuff on a green screen in my living room. Then were lucky enough to nab music video director/VFX master Phil Mucci and my pal Michael Granberry (who did all the amazing stop-motion scenes in Never Sleep Again) who put together 30 seconds of visual weirdness.
CG: Skipp and Andrew got those guys. I still can’t believe that shit, myself. Felix Gelman, the gigantic orderly, should be the Rondo Hatton of our times. I was the monsters in the masks. The knives turned up in the free books box at Iliad Bookshop.
And the breasts prosthetic?
AK: Yikes! First, the application process for Matt (our lead actor) took about 2 hours. The breasts were loaded with condoms to get the sagging effect and were rigged with tubes that shot out rice milk (the crew would get squirts in their coffee cups in between takes). But the tubes leaked the milk into the prosthesis that caused the breasts to smell like month-old rotten eggs.
They would literally give off “breast farts” that would send the crew running from the room. On the plus side, it was easy to get the baby to cry at the beginning of the movie
CG: Yes, I still have them. But I’ve had to steal them back from Matt Holmes twice.
SAHD already won an Audience Award (Bronze) at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Where else have/are you taking it?
AK: That was really cool because Fantasia is my favorite film festival in the world and I used to spend my summers in Montreal just for that. So it was a dream come true to get accepted. . . and downright surreal when we actually won something.
CG: We’re pretty proud of that. It offsets all the Certificates of Participation quite nicely. But we always intended for SAHD to be the class clown at any festival, rather than the award bait.
AK: We’re on the interwebs now! Free for all on YouTube!
CG: We’ve concluded our festival run, unless anyone asks to run it. It’s on YouTube because that’s where anyone can see it for free. We just want to freak people out.
I was surprise by how many festivals rejected the film outright. . .
Apparently, a lot of tastemakers feel that horror films shouldn’t be funny. At least not intentionally so. . .
JS: We also won Best Short at Crypticon in Seattle. And Matthew Currie Holmes took Best Actor at the World Horror Convention. We also played H.P. Lovecraft Film Festivals in Seattle and L.A., as well as Shriekfest and a couple of others. I’ve screened it for audiences at CG’s Comics and Collectibles in Manitou Springs, CO, and the legendary AK Tavern outside Seattle. So it’s definitely gotten around.
What’s reception been like?
AK: We get two different reactions: “I loved it! It’s so twisted!” or “What the fuck was that?!??” Either one makes me happy.
JS: I’ve seen crowds laugh their asses off, and seen them sit in stunned near-silence. It differs from room to room. Ya never know. But the one thing I love is that people talk about it after.
CG: Audiences generally got a kick out of it. It’s a lot funnier than it is scary, and the best parts of watching it with an audience is hearing a huge group deal with stuff like the sex scene. As it goes wrong and just keeps escalating and these beautiful people are not only comfortable with but turned on by something so unacceptable, the audience is screaming in repulsion and disbelief as much as laughing, or both at the same time. And that’s the reaction we made this film to get.
So that’s Cody’s daughter playing Zoe. . .
CG: (Speaking not as her dad but as her personal manager), Madeline is uncannily bright and articulate and small for her age. so she should be an ideal child actress, if we were going to throw her to the wolves and live off her trauma. . . but she doesn’t want to act, at all. Doesn’t need or enjoy the attention of strangers, bless her heart. The shoot would’ve been impossible if Madeline didn’t fall in love with Andrew. She was totally charmed by him, and so what she does on screen is pretty much her reacting either to him or to her mom. The day he went to Hollywood, Sears Portrait Studio lost one hell of a child photographer.
JS: We’ve got to give a lot of credit to Matthew Currie-Holmes, as well. They did the most acting together. And it was Matt’s insistence on multiple takes that gave us the footage we needed to pull a great performance out of her. Especially in the naptime scene, which I think we did fifty takes of. (You wouldn’t believe how much gold never made it to the screen.)
AK: W.C. Fields was full of shit: Babies are awesome! Madeline (Cody’s kid) was a complete joy and we had no problems with her. For some reason she really latched on to me and triggered some crazy paternal side of me I never knew I had. She was so thrilled to be in the movie that after her last take, she puked on me.
And then there’s Mark Shostrom, which is where my inner teenager goes apeshit. He’s one of those legends that’s not only had some real heavy-hitters on his effects team at any given point, but also has his fingerprints on so many iconic films/film series. What was that like?
AK: Mark was another Elm St alumni I befriended on Never Sleep Again and the man is a total legend – I mean look at Evil Dead 2, From Beyond, Elm Street 3 or any other great make-up FX movie of the 80’s. That was the golden age! He generously hooked us up with his incredible team, Maria Anaheim and Lindsey Peterson who completely knocked it out of the latex park. Mark was away on a gig but came in at the end of the shoot and helped out on set. There was a moment when I was walking down the hallway and passed the make-up room to see Mark working on our actors, and had a total nerdgasm. It’s like seeing Michelangelo painting your house. Those inner-kid moments are the best thing about making movies!
CG: It was excellent and Mark was thrilling to work with, but our principal artists were Maria and Lindsey, for most of the process, and they were awesome. They did our casts of Alisha and sculpted the monster.
Mark was on-set for Ricky’s death and did up this blood squib that was supposed to burst on the back of his head when Zoe knocks him down. Mark was on-set for that, and we were totally geeked by the moment: Mark Shostrom was pumping our blood, we were making a fucking MONSTER MOVIE. And then the damned blood wouldn’t fucking come out. Too thick, even when we diluted it, and we had to move on to the next thing.
I would’ve liked to see a lot more blood, but there was worry about getting the equipment messy and there was some concern about messing up the house, which was silly, it’s the reason we shot it in my house. . .
JS: Mostly, we ran out of time. We still had the whole rest of the ending to shoot that night!
Richard Grove and Trent Haaga!
CG: I am lucky enough to hold down a bookstore counter with Ricky, who is the most wonderfully real, unassuming guy I know, way more so than your average citizen, and yet I walk by him and I hear the twangy theme song I did for him, and get that strange dreamy flash when you see something you’ve only seen in the movies. I’m sure he thinks I’m secretly in love with him.
And pairing him with Trent was a masterstroke. Ricky’s classically trained, and Trent is a Troma vet, so they instantly went to work and extruded these lovable fuckups out of a couple undercooked dialogue exchanges. If we do another film like this, I want it to be about those guys.
AK: I’ve wanted to work with Trent ever since I saw Terror Firmer in college! He’s a genius at physical comedy and has the single greatest deer-in-the-headlights expression I’ve ever seen on a human being. And he’s just an all around nice and knowledgeable guy who is always down for anything. When you’re in the trenches of no-budget filmmaking, you want to be around people with that same “Viva la cinema!” indie spirit. . . and Trent is one of those types. And of course, I was delighted when Ricky came aboard because I’m a huge Army of Darkness fan! Those two guys had a great rapport!
JS: But let’s not forget Alisha Seaton, who kills as the go-to-work mom. Or Diane Goldner and Kat Harris, who bring the boobs and snip the nads in sterling fashion. Or baby Madeline, who’ll not soon be forgotten. Not to mention Matt, our star. . .
Were there any scenes that got cut out, either in editing or scripting?
CG: No scenes were wasted. . . Skipp and Andrew were very thorough in lining up the shots and we’d been over everything in the script, so we just got what we needed. With more time, we just would‘ve goofed off.
AK: The majority of the doctor’s office dream sequence as mentioned, a few lines here and there for pacing reasons. . . but we stuck remarkably close to the script.
JS: Lots of little moments got lost along the way, usually replaced by better moments. What actually happened was, we added the opening breakfast scene and love scene. The first for setup and relationship grounding that wasn’t there, and needed to be. The second because the day Matt and Alisha met, and we established their chemistry would work, they said, “We totally need a hot sex scene!” And they were right. So we whipped it up. And boy, are we glad we did!
AK: As a filmmaker, there’s always things you think you could’ve executed differently or better. But the script is pretty much there on film.
JS: I know Cody wished there was more blood, and I agree. Past that, though, everything went well past my expectations.
CG: More Zoe. . . We had another appliance made for Matt for a false ending to the nightmare sequence. . . an American Werewolf thing where he wakes up a withered husk, sucked dry by Zoe. We just ran out of time.
What was the most difficult sequence to film?
JS: Ask Andrew, but I think the hardest thing to shoot was the little girl watching Steven breastfeed Zoe in public. I wasn’t there – I was helping set up the doctor’s office – but I heard that shit got tricky.
I think everyone will tell you that the hardest thing of all was getting Madeline to say, “EAT DADDY!”
AK: The doctor’s office scene was the toughest because that was our first day, we were in the only rented location and short on time (not to mention we were competing with a band recording in the next room). So it was hustle, hustle, hustle in a cramped location. And you never ever feel like you’re on your game the first day of a shoot.
CG: I don’t know what they’re going to say, but the bookstore shot on the first day of filming was my most aggravating experience. I didn’t know I was supposed to bring the bra, and had to go bra shopping at Target first thing in the morning instead of eating all the doughnuts and trying to sneak copies of my books into the shot.
No, the aforementioned blood-squib shot is my Newlywed Game answer.
Any plans for future collaborations, perhaps an expansion into a feature-length film?
JS: STAY AT HOME DAD is exactly as long as it needs to be. A feature would just be sticking an air hose up its ass. But hell YEAH, we have a lot of future films in the works! Cody and I have some insane stories going. And Andrew and I will not stop directing till the world gets around to blowing up.
AK: Skipp & I have a whole slate of projects we want to get going but the closest on the horizon is an adaptation of The Long Last Call as well as Rose: The Bizarro Zombie Musical. But I think it’s safe to say that we want to spend the rest of our lives making movies.
CG: There’re a few film projects we’re all in on, if they ever get financing, and Skipp and Andrew have a bunch of projects in the hopper. Skipp and I are still working and playing together, but probably not on a novel anytime soon. I’ve got more to write than I’ll be able to finish in my lifetime, and I have a way lower threshold of frustration with the film business. It takes so much money and so many people to just get a chance to make a film, and you’re basically mounting a campaign of total warfare on reality to get it to do what you want it to. To just write words on a page and let the reader make the movie in their heads. . . that’s where my head and heart will always be, when I’m not making dreadful techno covers of obscure 80’s songs.
CG: My latest collection of Bizarro creature feature stories, All-Monster Action is loaded with interspecies sex and psychotronic violence, and fits easily in a stocking or a tailpipe.
JS: I’m releasing an insane 99 cent e-short story next week, called Art is the Devil, through my Fungasm Press. And my newest book is a triple-bill of fucked-up fem-o-centric horror screenplays called Sick Chick Flicks. So if you want a peek at some of the next films we’re up to, here’s your big chance!
INFINITE BREASTS: An Over-Sized Interview with John Skipp, Andrew Kasch and Cody Goodfellow About Their Short Film ‘Stay At Home Dad’ (Pt I)
[Note: It's highly recommended you watch Stay At Home Dad here, if you haven't already seen it, as this interview doth containeth spoilers. Consider yourself adequately warned.]
I had the pleasure of catching a screening of John Skipp and Andrew Kasch’s film Stay At Home Dad at this year’s Bizarrocon. I’d read Cody Goodfellow’s work before, so I knew to expect the opposite of what was being presented by the time the credits hit. What I didn’t expect was to emote with Steven (Matthew Currie-Holmes plus feeding mounds) while he went through a real-world terror exclusive to women. That is, unless you count when I saw Schwarzenegger’s lesser-known body-horror film Junior and experienced true shit-my-pants fear for the first time. Society often treats women like priority citizens while they’re pregnant, then gets out the pitch forks and torches when it’s time to nurse, and it caught me off guard to see the situation flipped here. I think that the character of Brenda (Alisha Seaton plus pants) probably has a lot to do with that discomfort, as she steps into the traditionally male role of breadwinner and emotional backhand to Steven’s character. But that’s casting a really serious light on a film that’s almost anything but. Simply, this film kicks ass. It’s fifteen minutes of what the shit am I watching until it sinks in. It’s gross-outs and yuks and a bit of old-fashioned horror. Show it to your friends and watch them stir uncomfortably in their seats and then laugh together when it’s over. It’s like that. It is.
So who read de Beauvoir and Lovecraft back-to-back and thought: this.
ANDREW KASCH: This was Cody’s baby – both figuratively and literally. He’s the Lovecraft super-freak of the group and I think he drew a lot from his personal experiences as a new father.
CODY GOODFELLOW: That was pretty much my fault. I was looking for new and different engines to drive the classic 8-page EC-style horror short comic strip, and different sources of insecurity and fear. I’ve stayed home with two daughters and the dislocation, the oddness of it, isn’t just society’s preconception; the kid looks at you like, ‘What the hell are you doing here? Where’s the one with the upfront snack bar?’
I once read a great editorial caveat concerning submissions of Lovecraftian stories to the effect that, if you take Cthulhu out and substitute anything else, and it doesn’t collapse, then it’s not a Mythos story. If you put anything else in here, it only feels like half a joke. The Mythos is such a whole concrete system of meaning that plugging it in just speaks volumes and puts you into a unique aesthetic space. It allows you to do supernatural horror without God and the Devil; it’s materialist mythology. So it seemed like a fun challenge to fuse cosmic horror with very intimate body horror.
With subsequent viewings of the film, I keep noticing the foreshadowing more. From the plush Cthulhu in an opening shot, to the baby’s cries, solid food, etc that all have a reprise later or serve as a continual build toward a major reveal. It’s a very tightly-coiled structure.
AK: FINALLY! Someone caught the plush Cthulhu! I’m a firm believer in the Robert Zemeckis School of Set-Up™ where even throwaway lines can hint at big things to come.
JOHN SKIPP: We wanted to be incredibly careful how we layered things in. On the one hand, we needed enough clues so that people went “Ah-HA!” at the end. But we also needed to bury them so hard that nobody saw it coming.
But for me, the image that drew it all together was the amazing Steve Gilberts painting over the bed, with the multi-armed aqua-woman that contains astounding things. Imagining Brenda’s face reflected there threw the door wide open for me.
As there are a lot of writers that follow Bizarro Central, I’m sure some are curious as to how fiction writing compares to screenwriting, especially regarding short films. Would you say there’s an easy parallel between short stories and short films?
JS: Absolutely. It’s all storytelling. The same requirements are there. It’s just the delivery system that’s massively different. So just as you can only read the words that are there, you can only see the scenes that are shot. The screenwriter provides the scenes. The director breaks them down into shots.
CG: Screenwriting has to be as tight as you can wind it. Prose can always afford to economize, but if you’re wasting time in a film, you’re telling the audience to go outside and play or change the channel. The refining of this script was a constant process of folding information and imagery into layers, and we started talking about things that would become apparent on repeat viewings, versus stuff that had to come across at first glance. A film screen offers you the luxury of showing and telling and signifying all at once, but you have to keep it up and keep it coherent. Prose is much more forgiving, and it’s actually a relief to return to just making shit up with words.
Being male and not having any experience with parenthood, I outsourced some reaction to a friend. (Alicia, thanks!) She pointed out an attention to detail I’d missed, such as how many of the characters invalidated Steven’s emotions, the appearance of postpartum depression, as well as his difficulties coping with the stigma around public breastfeeding, lactating, etc.
AK: At the end of the day, this is another spin on the “anything you can do, I can do better” theme. Men have it so fucking easy. Being a woman requires more strength and a much higher tolerance for bullshit, so it’s always fun to throw that in the face of a character who thinks he can shoulder all that. My favorite moment is when he gets punched in the boob. Talk about a wake-up call!
JS: I think Steven’s sense of diminishment as a person, the second he settles into those big boobs he’s so excited about, is the most fun, subversive, and heartbreaking aspect of Cody’s story. All the monster shit is awesome, but when you hit the sexual politics of it, that’s where the real nerve endings get smacked around.
Was Steven’s pretty comical nightmare castration a play on a common view that doing things the “other” gender typically does is like being stripped of your own sex?
JS: Being stripped of your masculinity, absolutely. Cuz if this had been a story about a woman growing an enormous cock and saying “YOU stay home!” it would have played very differently. (laughs) Albeit a story to keep in mind!
That’s why casting was so important, and why Matthew Currie-Holmes was such a perfect choice. Hard as he works, he’s a stay-at-home-dad much of the time, so all the emotions were right there. Coupled with his baby face, winning smile, and fierce devotion to the acting craft, he brought every bit of nuance we needed . . . including the manly assertion he whipped up for the ridiculous fight scene.
CG: At its core, this story is a modern take on the old fable about the husband and wife who switch jobs for the day, and the man makes a dog’s breakfast of the household, learning in the process what it really takes to be a woman. And in taking on her role, he learns something he might never have discovered about his wife. Empathy itself has been feminized, so even trying to understand the other side puts you at risk of losing your balls.
Lovecraft was deeply conflicted and fucked up inside on the question of sex, and with good reason. His father died in a madhouse of syphilis, and his unstable mother dressed him as a girl and kept him from school. His marriage was a disaster, and he fled it to live with his eccentric spinster aunts. It’s easy to over-analyze Lovecraft through a Freudian filter that sees vaginas everywhere, and a colossal sexual neurosis sublimated into these “indescribable” monstrosities. And it’s rich material for that kind of thing, and may even explain why he wrote it, but is that why we are compelled to read and imitate and expand on it?
The horror we’re mining is the raw stuff that Lovecraft tried to indirectly deal with in his Mythos stories, and tried to escape in his Dreamlands fantasies (of which not enough is said or read). It’s terrifying to be inside a body, once you realize that you are not that body. Bodies fail and fall apart and are always subject to these impulses that threaten to change or destroy your life without warning. Lovecraft is almost archetypal in his outsider-ness. He would’ve been delighted to discover that he was not human at all, or to be removed from his body and transported across space in a brain-cylinder after the end of the world. And I think that’s a feeling anyone who’s going through menopause or cancer treatment can probably relate to.
The transition break in the fight scene was fucking brilliant. It had a very Looney Tunes sort of quality to it. Whose idea was that?
CG: One of those other guys. It’s hilarious, and then to segue into Justin Cruse’s freaky time-lapse of nightfall. . . I want to make up an award to give us every time I see it.
AK: I think Skipp & I were just looking at the beautiful view from the deck and thought “Hey, wouldn’t it be funny if. . .” We were both raised on a steady diet of Looney Tunes so it was kind of a no-brainer.
JS: MINE MINE MINE! That was a pivotal Looney Tunes joke for me – from the Bob Clampett/Frank Tashlin school of cartoon comedy – and a way to break up the ridiculous mayhem. From the second I pictured it, I couldn’t imagine not doing it. THANKS FOR NOTICING!
What kind of budget were you working with?
CG: We raised a paltry six thousand from anonymous weirdos when we were looking to make this film ourselves, my wife and I, and Andrew and Skipp kicked in a bit more, but in terms of the talent and tech that they was able to conjure up out of thin air and favors, we got way more than we paid for.
JS: $6,500 and change. Most of which went toward fx.
AK: Less than the craft service budget on a car commercial.
How did the score develop—was the score’s direction a collaborative effort, or did you guys just shove a keyboard in front of Cody and tell him to basically go apeshit?
CG: Mostly the latter. Some of the cues did have sound engineer Justin Cruse’s atmospherics and stuff laid on top of them. I’ve always been a hobbyist composer; I did some really insufferable soundtracks for pornos in college. Skipp is an accomplished composer (ask him about Misty Beethoven: The Musical) and player and we’ve worked on tunes together since before we wrote together. But I really wanted to do the whole thing in a very 80’s electro style. I did everything in Reason, so I was able to make changes as needed pretty easily. The percussion kit in the end credits is made of Space Invaders sound fx.
AK: Cody was working on the music before we even shot a frame. He’s one of those guys that will endlessly experiment in his man-cave and emerge weeks later with dozens of tracks and cues. We had no shortage of stuff and at the end of the day we just used the ones that fit the best.
JS: Andrew and I sent Cody a list of the scenes, with our suggestions for moods and tempos and such. He came up with a whole bunch of music, sometimes two or three pieces per scene. Then we plugged them into the edit and saw what worked. Sometimes none of them worked, but a piece he’d written for another scene worked perfectly. That said, all of the spooky CREEPSHOW-flavored grand finale stuff was composed to the assembled footage, and played exactly right.
The only scenes we used other music for were the exotica for the opening breakfast scene and the muzak for the doctor’s office. There, we needed to set up a sorta ordinary world. And ordinary isn’t Cody’s long suit. So we used Les Baxter for breakfast. And Andrew picked “(Theme from) A Summer Place” as the most horrible song to be stuck in a room with. (laughs) So I insisted we go with the classic Percy Faith.
How did the three of you come together?
AK: I met Skipp on my documentary Never Sleep Again when we interviewed him about writing the ill-fated A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child. I grew up a big splatterpunk nerd and he was one of my favorite writers, so I sort of geeked out when he came in. At the DVD release party, we shot a game of pool and I pulled him aside and said “Dude, I really wanna work with you.” And the rest is history. I met Cody through Skipp since they’re writing collaborators and was instantly won over by his stuff. He’s a hyper-intelligent fountain of creativity and I love him!
CG: Skipp and I have worked together on stuff for ages, and Andrew hooked up with Skipp on the Elm Street documentary. When we decided to look outside our own house for a director, we talked to Andrew just as and Skipp were working out a partnership scheme to do features. So it gave them a chance to try out the partnership, and it was great. They were able to cover everything and coordinate and take turns being stressed out so there was always a fresh rider holding the reins.
We weren’t fucking around when we said this thing was over-sized. Want more?! Come back tomorrow for Part TWO!
by Constance Ann Fitzgerald
If you haven’t seen it yet, check out STAY AT HOME DAD, the short film by John Skipp, Andrew Kasch and Cody Goodfellow.
Hell, even if you have, watch it again. Personally, I’ve seen it five times and it never stops making me laugh. This thing is gold.
“An out-of-work father goes to extreme measures to raise
his baby daughter…with bizarre consequences. Winner of the Audience Award (Bronze) at the Fantasia International Film Festival 2012.”
Want to know more about the film and the sick fucks behind it? Check back on Friday for an interview with Andrew Kasch, John Skipp and Cody Goodfellow.