Greetings Addicts! Kbatz here getting my gore on with Mike Lombardo of Reel Splatter Productions, an independent film team based outside Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Evening Mike! Do please tell us Addicts, how did a splatter film studio find its way to Amish Country? How long have you been making movies?
Well, I was born and raised in this concrete jungle known as Lancaster county. When most people hear Lancaster, PA they think farms and horse and buggy drive by shootings, but the part of the county I live in is fairly boring suburbs, just outside the city. It sounds strange, but this area is actually a great place for filmmaking. I’ve been making weird little splatter flicks in my backyard since I was a kid and I officially started Reel Splatter Productions about 10 years ago. Since then things have obviously grown into much larger and complex projects and I now do a fair amount of FX work on other people’s productions, but I still love it here in Bumfuck, PA. There are lots of cool locales to shoot in and I’ve been lucky enough to band together with some fellow weirdoes that like to play with fake blood too. I would not be able to do it without them, and I don’t think I could find a better crew anywhere else in the world! Besides, if you look at some of the indie splatter greats like Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson, they came from small little suburban towns like mine. Something about being surrounded by ultra conservative, close minded assholes really gets the creative juices flowin’.
You mix up the blood and comedy but also promise weird and necrophilia extremes. How do you find a balance between the humor and hardcore?
Haha, I don’t. I pretty much just write whatever pops into my head and I let it exist as it does. I have a really bizarre sense of humor and I write what I would like to see on screen. Someone once told me that a short I had made, “Where Has All The Laughter Gone?” which is a sort of art house parody that has a depressed clown shooting himself, made them feel guilty for laughing. I think that sort of became a subconscious goal of mine since then. I love the juxtaposition of the goofy and grotesque. There’s nothing I enjoy more than skewing the tone of a movie by mixing a scene of hardcore violence with totally inappropriate comedy. It keeps the audience off balance and they end up laughing uncomfortably as someone gets their neck hacksawed open so deep it opens like a pez dispenser. It’s really wonderful sitting in a crowd at a film festival and seeing the looks of confusion and laughter/disgust on people’s faces as they see some of this stuff. They have no idea how to react to what they’re seeing. I mean, I think it’s completely okay to laugh at this kind of stuff, its not real, its rubber and corn syrup, it’s all for fun and I want people to have a good time. I’m not trying to give anyone nightmares for the rest of their life.
Your website warns those easily offended to not proceed thanks to all forms of sick stuff, yet you also promise no nudity. Why not? Where is the line of exploitation or going too far in a production?
That little warning bit was actually a riff on the ad campaign for one of my all time favorite movies, “Lucio Fulci’s Zombi”. It said that the film contains scenes of graphic violence and gore but no explicit depictions of sex. I always thought it was kinda funny and I am in love with 70’s exploitation film ads, plus at the time of writing it, it was fairly accurate. The thing is, there will be some very graphic nudity coming up in a short film called “Charnel House”. It’s a necrophilia love story and it contains a fair amount of nudity, both male and female. I don’t have any problem with nudity or sex in a movie as long as it serves a purpose, I don’t like nudity for the sake of nudity. I feel the same way about violence and gore. As long as it serves the story I don’t think there is a line to cross. A good example is “A Serbian Film”. An absolutely morally reprehensible and sickening movie that depicts things I never thought I would ever see on film. I think it’s brilliant and I don’t consider it exploitation in the least bit. Everything they showed was completely necessary to the narrative and it served a purpose in the story. It never got to the point of gratuitous and I felt like it was as tastefully done as it possibly could be while still showing it. There is certainly a line that you can cross into exploitation and that’s a fine line I try to keep in mind. Sometimes it suits the scene but it’s very easy to go too overboard with a gore scene or a sex scene it becomes boring. The audience becomes desensitized and it ceases to have an effect on them.
Which comes first, the artistic idea and story or the special effects and creative gore? Do you think of a great use for a chainsaw and build a film around it or is it the other way around?
It really depends on the project. Most of my ideas come in random fragments while I’m slaving away at my pizza shop day job. It could be a cool death scene or a random joke or even a title that pops into my head. I scribble it down on an order slip and put it my pocket for later use. I have certainly written movies around FX scenes but generally I think of a cool concept or storyline and then figure out the gore (if any) depending on where the story goes. Sometimes there will a new technique or FX set piece that I really want to experiment with so I’ll figure out a way to incorporate it into the script.
What’s this I hear about bathrooms and pizza mixing with Lovecraft for your latest project “The Stall”?
I am a huge fan of H.P. Lovecraft. “Pickman’s Model” is one of my favorite short stories and I grew up watching all of the Stuart Gordon/Brian Yuzna Lovecraft movies. I also have an unhealthy obsession with tentacles, so it was only a matter of time before I ended up doing a Lovecraft movie. “The Stall” is the latest and most technically challenging short I’ve ever done. It’s about a young pizza shop employee who ends up trapped in a public restroom during the Lovecraftian apocalypse. It has lots of tentacles and slime and a splash of bitter food service satire. We actually filmed a section of it at the pizza shop I work at so it took on a strange meta quality for me during the production. It was a grueling shoot, the bulk of it was shot in the winter and we were lying on an ice cold concrete bathroom floor in an old factory covered in blood and ultra-slime for seventeen hours at a time with no heat and no sleep. I mean that’s pretty standard for a Reel Splatter shoot, and I am lucky to have a totally gung ho crew of maniacs working with me or none of would be possible. I’m surprised no one got pneumonia! We’re finishing up the post production now and it should be out on DVD and playing at film festivals very soon.
How did you get the nickname Dr. Chud? What’s the appeal of low budget, bad, 80s horror anyway, and why do you want to make films in that vein?
The name Dr. Chud came from another of my all time favorite movies (at the time of this writing, I believe I have about 168.5 favorite movies of all time), C.H.U.D. A wonderful slice of 80’s cheese about urban decay and sewer dwelling homeless people mutating into flesh hungry monsters. That combined with my love of old creature feature hosts spawned the name Dr. Chud. I created a character that wore a gas mask and a trench coat and spent his time foretelling the Apocalypse on a cardboard sign and I gave him the name and he became our mascot/logo. I ended up with the nickname because I always play him and he sort of became a symbol of my creative alter ego. At the time of his creation, I was unaware that one of the many revolving members of the punk band The Misfits (a band of which I am not a fan) was also named Dr.Chud. It has caused some confusion in the past, but the two are completely unrelated.
The appeal of bad 80’s movies is hard to pinpoint. I think what attracted me to them as a kid was just the sheer outrageousness of them. They all kind of have this “out there” quality and that gives them a certain personality and heart that is lacking in most films. I love anything goes mentality of them and I really want to capture that sense of fun in my own work. The practical FX (however cheesy) also always fascinated me and was a great source of inspiration.
What are your goals for Reel Splatter? Do you hope to remain indie or make it big? What do you hope your viewers take away from your films?
My only goal for Reel Splatter is to keep making movies and entertaining folks. It’s never been about getting big or making money. I just love playing with fake blood and making people laugh. If I have to do that with my last $50 from the pizza shop and not eating for a few days or if I have studio backing and I have millions to spend, the attitude and dream is the same. John Carpenter summed it up perfectly once on set of “They Live”, he said “When it stops being fun, we stop doing it.”
Where can our fellow Horror Addicts watch your films or find you online?
You can check out our DVD “Suburban Holocaust: Reel Splatter Volume 1” and the upcoming DVD of “The Stall” at www.ReelSplatter.com
We also have a youtube www.youtube.com/reelsplatter
And for the latest updates and contests please give us a LIKE on www.facebook.com/ReelSplatter
Thanks for taking the time out to chat with Horror Addicts, Mike!
Thanks for letting me ramble! Keep it reel folks!
-Mike “Dr.Chud” Lombardo