Press Release: The Herd

Former Horror Addicts staff member Ed Pope’s short story The Herd which was first heard on episode 87 of the Horror Addicts podcast is now a movie:

The Herd: Brutal new horror with a purpose.

milkposterStarring Pollyanna McIntosh (The Woman, Filth) and featuring a score by Laurent Bernard of Gallows, THE HERD is a study into the most unimaginable human suffering, yet it depicts a violence that is perpetrated every day on a massive scale.

THE HERD is written by Ed Pope (Transgressive Cinema) and directed by Melanie Light, and features the additional acting talents of Victoria Broom (ABCs of Death 2, Stalled), Jon Campling (Sleeping Dogs, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows) and Charlotte Hunter (Dungeons and Dragons, Vitality).

Imprisoned within inhuman squalor with other women; Paula’s existence and human function is abused as a resource by her captors.

Escape, on any level, is hopeless as the women are condemned to a life of enforced servitude at the whims of their imprisoners for one reason only – their milk.

Enslaved, inseminated and abused – every facet of their life is violated. At first the premise seems exaggerated and absurd; but is, in fact, disgusting in its stark normality.

Deliberately avoiding the lack of finesse associated with “torture porn” and sexploitation, THE HERD eschews these in favor of a vicarious descent into the visceral nightmare of relinquishing the most innate rights of existence.


13 Questions with Ed Pope

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This week for 13 Questions, I was given the honor of interviewing former Horror Addicts staff member Ed Pope! Ed was eager to share his thoughts on being on the other side of the HA spectrum. “I couldn’t be more pleased, and I’m very grateful for being given the opportunity – especially as this story means a lot to me. I’ve always enjoyed the scope of the genre that Horror Addicts promotes and the variety of mediums it encompasses; so it’s nice to find a home for my little niche here. Having been involved with Horror Addicts previously as a fan and a staff member I’m quite humbled to be featured as I’m well aware of the high quality of writers who have gone before me.”

The story Ed has decided to share for this episode was previously written but is making its debut on Horror Addicts! “The Herd explores a situation where the horrors inflicted on dairy cows are perpetrated upon a human. [Ed finds] bringing accepted everyday horror into sharp focus fascinating and hope that in juxtaposing it with a clearly unacceptable premise the story has an interesting theme. [He has] tried hard not to dictate what is right and wrong, just to do what any author aims for: to ask the reader to look at a situation from the perspective of another.”

edFans of HA will remember Ed’s movie reviews that were featured on here and his website Transgressive Cinema. For those of you new to HA, please allow Ed to explain a little bit about his site to you. “Transgressive Cinema is my horror review site and my focus has switched towards a new love of screenwriting; this has taken up all of my writing time. I’ll never lose the enjoyment of being opinionated about horror films though, so people should still check it out for occasional updates and there is a good archive of film reviews and essays for people to read.”

Pope doesn’t generally post short stories online but you don’t have to look hard to find some of his writing. His story The Herd is now available on Kindle. Ed also has a short story published in the Horror Addicts Disaster Anthology which, as Ed so eloquently states “everyone should buy as the proceeds go to a great charity.” Also Ed wanted to add that Amazon has a fee for Kindle stories, so if any Horror Addicts fans want a free copy of The Herd in PDF just email Emz and he’ll send you one.

As mentioned above, Ed tends to gravitate towards horror screen writing. “I have been investing a lot of time in screenwriting. The nature of screenwriting means that what you write doesn’t see the light of day for a long time, if ever. I really want to hone the craft of screenwriting and get something on the screen. It’s a style unto itself and I find it a very rewarding framework to write within. It is very limiting sometimes, especially if you try to write with one eye on getting it made into a film, but this is part of the challenge that I enjoy. As a novelist if you want to set your story in a floating castle in space, you can; if you are an indie screenwriter you can’t unless you get very lucky or have tons of cash. Really I’m a horror film fan more than a horror novel fan, so these goals suit my motivations well.”

Ed’s love of horror began when he was younger with such movies as The Nightmare on Elm Street, and The Exorsist. In Pope’s own words, “it has always been the vicarious thrill of experiencing a situation you’d be terrified of but in a safe environment. It’s just so much fun. Go to the cinema and watch people coming out, if they are wide-eyed and laughing – they’ve almost certainly just seen a horror movie. That’s the buzz I love. Chasing in vain that thrill of being scared out of your mind, in a way that was only possible as a child, is what makes me a Horror Addict.”

Currently, Ed is working on getting The Herd to the Big Screen. “I’m not sure about fans, but those of a masochistic disposition may be able to one day see The Herd on screen as I have finished rewriting it as a script. I’m pleased to say I’m in discussions with one of my favorite indie directors, Melanie Light, with a view to getting it made if we can get the funds together. I’ve changed it around a fair bit and given it a different ending, so there are no real spoilers on the podcast! I’m finishing a feature length script about an obsessive compulsive with nocturnal yearnings. Naturally, things don’t go well for him and dark shadows stalk him through the cityscape.”

For more information about Ed Pope or his work, be sure to check out these great sites:

The Human Centipede (First Sequence)

As films about fusing one person’s mouth to another person’s anus go, this is a pretty good one! The most shocking aspect of this film is that it is not particularly gory or graphic, and it is the better for it.

In the initial stages of watching The Human Centipede I was preparing myself for a huge disappointment. The two female leads were initially terribly grating and irritating. Being generous, let’s assume that they were well acted to be this way. However as the film progresses the characters develop from vacuous party girls to capable individuals (well one of them, anyway) and we find ourselves rooting for them and caring about their plight.

I don’t think it is giving too much away to divulge that The Human Centipede is a film about three people (two female friends and one unrelated man) who are abducted by a deeply disturbed scientist who aims to create a living “human centipede” by attaching each of the abductees to each other, mouth to anus, thus creating a completely linked digestive system. Given this synopsis, the audience would think that they are in for a gore-fest of gratuitous nastiness; but they are not.

Shortly after we are properly acquainted with the female leads, who are looking for assistance after their car breaks down, they arrive at the house of the antagonist. Here the casting director should be praised as Dieter Laser, who played the mad scientist Dr. Heiter, is every inch the archetype. He is a bizarre looking man, skeletal with an almost demonic face, and his portrayal of deranged evil was superb. Instantly we know that this man is dangerous and we acutely sense that the girls are under imminent threat.

The character of Heiter is more complex than perhaps is expected. In less subtle films he would be a charmer, luring people under a false sense of security and then bludgeoning them. Not so in A Human Centipede, he is cold and unlikable. Despite his objective to abduct the girls he cannot control angry psychotic outbursts – eventually he manages to drug them, describing the details of Rohypnol as he does so.

With the emphasis on the “centipede” itself in the promotion of this movie, it is a pleasant surprise to find a reasonable section of the films second act given over to a taut, well constructed “cat and mouse” sequence within Heiters extensive home. These scenes were thrillingly tense, and a sense of empathy for the hunted girl was well crafted. A nice touch was added where an ultimatum is given to give herself up or face greater suffering when she is inevitably caught. The viewer cannot help but wonder “what would I do?”

The director should be applauded for only giving the audience a couple of brief “cringe moments” during the construction sequence of The Human Centipede. The horror comes not from much that we witness during this scene, but from what we graphically know is happening. Previously, Dr Heiter had demonstrated via a presentation to his captives exactly what he was going to do to them – using scientific language and un-emotive line diagrams. Hence, when the procedure is undertaken little is seen but we know every unpleasant detail that is happening.

We get a greater insight into Dr Heiters madness as he uses general anaesthetic during the procedure – he is not a sadist, he is genuinely focused on creating what he perceives to be his masterpiece. When watching Heiter go about his work, it is hard not to think of animal vivisection, Nazi experiments and the Japanese Unit 731. This kind of thing goes on, and the people doing it consider themselves justified. This is the true horror that the film hints at.

It is truly chilling watching Dr Heiter training his creation once it is complete. A Japanese guy is “the front” and of course the only one of the tri-part centipede who can speak, yet only in Japanese. This creates a bizarre interaction between the doctor and his “creature”. The captive is of course filled with rage and hatred for his captor, but is utterly at his mercy. He soon learns.

Naturally, the scientist wants his creation to thrive and feeds it well from a bowl on the floor. The viewer is one step ahead at this point and, with the front part feeding, the film does address the inevitable result. As with the surgical scenes this is done briefly and with no gratuitous mess, however it does contain one of the most genuine apologies ever seen in film! The scene is disturbing not for the act occurring, but for Heiter cheering encouragement.

Eventually local police undertake a missing persons search and we are given a ray of hope for our beleaguered captives. I will not expand on whether this hope is in vain or not, but again the film has the viewer urging the victims on and builds tension in a capable manner. The final scene of the film was powerfully done, and invites us to put ourselves in the shoes of who we see on screen.

The Human Centipede is not a brilliant film, but it is a good one. Certainly it was vastly superior to the experience I was expecting and significantly less graphic. If you can handle the concept of what occurs, there is nothing in the film that will particularly trouble you. Given the central premise, this was never going to be classic cinema – but if you are intrigued enough to give it a go you are likely to find it a better film than you might imagine. Someone has clearly come up with a gruesome yet imaginative idea and built a film around it – surprisingly they didn’t do too bad a job.

British & European Horror News – Episode 66.

Classic Horror Campaign

Classic horror double bill, 4th September 2011:

British Horror Film Festival

Dates announced and film submissions called for:

Lund Internation Fantastic Film Festival

VIP festival passes announced:

and first films revealed:

Brad Pitt Films World War Z in Glasgow, Scotland

British & European Horror News 19th May: Show Notes.

Here are links to the items mentioned in the British and European Horror News, on the 19th May 2011 episode of the Horror Addicts Podcast.

Film4 Fright Fest:

Grimm Up North:

MotelX – Lisbon International Horror Film Festival:

Weekend Of Horrors:

Cryptshow Festival:

Neuchatel International Fantastic Film Festival:

Zombiefest 2011:

Dublin Zombie Walk:

Birmingham Zombie Walk:

A Serbian Film (Srpski Film)

It was with an oppressive yet thrilling sense of dread that I anticipated watching A Serbian Film. I don’t think I’ve ever watched a film where I have gone into the experience with so many other people’s thoughts, feelings and opinions already in my consciousness, even from those who hadn’t actually seen the film. It’s fair to say that that my feelings of anxiety at what I was about to see were greater than anything actually experienced in the film. That said, it was certainly up there with the nastiest films I’ve watched in a fair while.

A Serbian Film is a very good movie, and given that it is a debut from an independent film maker high praise is due. It won’t happen because of the subject matter, but there can be few movies from relatively inexperienced directors that are this accomplished. I understood the main character (Milos) and strongly sensed his commitment to his family and his desire to be a provider. He knew that he was getting in over his head from the start, but greater was his need to offer his family security; and this is the main plot thrust for the film: Milos has entered into a contract to make an adult film for a life changing sum of money, and life changing it certainly turns out to be.

The set pieces were brilliantly shot, and very unsettling. A lot of this was down to the quality of acting and direction that made me care about Milos and his situation. Srdjan Spasojevic, the director of the film, also scored highly by making me think I was seeing things that I didn’t during the more “boundary pushing” scenes. Often it was the concept of what was occurring on screen that repulsed, rather than any specific image. The now infamous “newborn” scene was a case in point. We didn’t see anything beyond a suggested action, which was vile, but we weren’t privy to the physical details of it.

A lot has been said about the motivation behind making this movie, and its metaphor to the atrocities that occurred in Serbia. It is enough to be told that there is an allegory in the film, it doesn’t have to be obvious. Someone has created art, and stated its motivation. It’s misguided to feel that we need to “get it” further, else all films with that intent will become tediously literal and pedestrian. There were several key pieces of dialogue that did present the metaphor and that was adequate without being intrusive. Further to that, the loss of innocence was a theme that was pervasive throughout; from conversations with Milos’ young son about arousal to the more brutal scenes of deprivation and abuse. Speaking of which…

There is a scene involving a machete and a chained woman which can’t be topped for sheer in-your-face horror, it was the ultimate gore scene.  You could see what was going to happen and it did, viscerally and unflinchingly. As with most things in this film, there is always a little cherry on top – and here a comment is made about enjoying rigamortis and Milos needs to be “disengaged” from the victim by two men (I’ll leave that to your imagination!). It completed the scene, added an extra element of disgust and was also darkly humorous. I’ll avoid any further spoilers, although with all that has been discussed within the horror community I suspect it is too late for that. Suffice to say that the director builds to the horror slowly, but once it arrives there is image after image of unrelenting sadism, gore and violence – every single one with a horrific sexual overtone. We descend with Milos into the absolute depths of depravity and we are not allowed respite until we have completed the experience.

Accompanying these scenes was an extremely effective use of music and sound. Some might find the soundtrack intrusive, but given the intensity of the visual images it added a great deal and needed to be prominent to avoid being lost behind the degeneracy occurring onscreen. Some of the low frequency signal generator noises really heightened the sense of intimidation and fear, they resonated and churned in the gut. It was reminiscent of Gaspar Noe’s Irréversible in this regard, although this is where the comparisons end, as A Serbian Film makes Irréversible look like something from Disney in every other way.

Even though I really liked the film, for want of a better verb, it was the victim of the hype and hysteria surrounding it. Maybe I’ve been desensitized, but I was expecting this to mess me up, and it really didn’t – ultimately it was just another film. I’ve mulled over some of the scenes since watching it, but not much more so than any other well made movie, and the films images haven’t been mentally replayed as part of some kind of brain scarring. I had heard I might want to “unsee” it, but I found it not to be the case as the film was ultimately a worthwhile experience.

Some horror journalists have reviewed this film and advised their readership not to see it, that it would be too much for them, and that they only think they want to watch it. If you are reading this blog, you won’t be patronized in this way. You are a horror fan and you understand that this film has a visual power that will shock you. Be prepared for some unsettling images, but I recommend this film to you if extreme cinema is your thing. Of course, if you found Twilight heavy going (or even watched it) you might want to stay away from this one.

In conclusion, it was stylish but with substance; viscerally violent and depraved but with justification. The horror, and the nature of the horror, is some of the most extreme you’ll ever see but this is built up to with a delicate touch. It is a really good film from a director I’ll be interested in following. It will deeply upset many, but for most of the modern genre audience, and that’s you, as nasty as it is it will not deliver on its notoriety, which is a shame because there is more to the film than simply trying to endure its horror. More importantly though, A Serbian Film represents the rarest of treats to the horror fan: a film that we are actually nervous about watching – and for some scenes at least, you are wise to be worried.

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Inside (A l’interieur)

Inside is one of the most brutal and harrowing horror thrillers ever produced. It is a film of such intensity that after first viewing I was physically exhausted and mentally drained. Even after repeat viewings this fabulous example of the French New Wave of extreme cinema is still one of my favorite ever films.

Swapping between shots of a car crash taking place and in utero (uterus) footage of the impact on an unborn fetus, the basis of Inside is established in its opening sequence. The heavily pregnant Sarah, played by Alysson Paradis, survives the accident but her husband is killed. Right from the very beginning it is clear that that the visual horror during the film is going to be powerful – the blood and wounds sustained by both Sarah and her husband are graphic and realistic, the screen is drenched in blood and the film has barely started.

The story jumps to four months later, it is Christmas Eve and Sarah’s baby, having survived the crash, is due to be induced on Christmas Day. Sarah leaves the hospital having had a scan, and after making arrangements with her boss (who she is clearly very close to) to pick her up in the morning she returns to her impressive home in the Paris suburbs. From here the film quickly becomes sinister and then descends into a relentless bloody horror. Before discussing the latter horror, the former chilling build-up is an often over looked aspect of this film and, relatively brief as it is, it contains what could be considered to be one of horrors most chilling moments.

It is understandable that the epic pace and deranged brutality of the second half of Inside is the most discussed aspect of this work, but the scenes where the female intruder (known only in the credits as La Femme) arrives at Sarah’s home and ultimately enters it are masterpieces of almost Hitchcockian terror. They are chilling – and the sense of doom that the goddess of French alternative cinema, Beatrice Dalle, brings to the character of La Femme is as disturbing as any of the violent horrors seen later in the piece.

When the doorbell rings, Sarah is cautious and does not open it. The female voice on the other side of the door requests the use of her phone, claiming her car has broken down. Sarah refuses, and lies that her husband is asleep and she doesn’t want to disturb him. The voice at the door corrects her “your husband is not asleep, he’s dead”. Panic sets in and Sarah calls the police. The dark figure of a woman appears at the rear windows, staring in – motionless. Sarah flashes off photo after photo, highlighting the figure in white light and capturing her face. The police arrive and search the grounds, they give the all clear and agree to check in on Sarah later in the evening.

Sarah sleeps restlessly in her couch, and in a moment of sheer terror that elicited raised hairs on crawling skin, the white face of La Femme fades in and out of the darkened doorway behind her. She is in the house! This sequence, as mentioned previously, should be regarded as one of the genres finest. It was thrillingly understated – reminiscent of The Shape appearing from the shadows in Halloween and was more terrifying than the girl coming out of the television in The Ring. The sense of dread that it creates is palpable, and it proved that the viewer is in the hands of film-makers who can terrorize with a light touch as well as a heavy hand.

Sarah retires to her bed, unaware of the intruder in her home – and her next waking moment is La Femme plunging scissors into her pregnant naval, recoiling in shock and pain she has her face viciously slashed. Lest we forget the opening car crash scenes, we are reminded that the gore and violence in this movie will be graphic and lingering – the viewer is not going to be spared, if this cinematic ride is chosen it will have to be lived through. Sarah scrambles into her bathroom, locking herself in. The film from this point is an almost unbroken sequence of violence, mutilation and viscous murders.

Dalle delivers a typically powerful performance. Her body movements and mannerisms reinforce the maniacal evil that her character represents. She’s almost like a demon emitting hate, or a robot incapable of any kind of deviation from her terrible intent. La Femme is clearly mad, Dalle demonstrates that with fits of stamping and fist banging. Not only is she mad, but she’s frustrated and irate – almost indignant at Sarah’s attempts to protect herself.

La Femme fully intends to get at Sarah, but she’s locked in the bathroom. A bloody and exciting “cat and mouse” game is played out – the threat is unending, but during the course of the evening La Femme is interrupted by various characters that she either needs to try to get rid of without attracting attention or, if that is unsuccessful, brutally murder.

The fear La Femme elicits is greater than the sum of all the franchise “Slashers” put together – Freddy and Jason wouldn’t stand a chance. As brilliant as the direction and visual effects used in this film are – it would be significantly poorer if Dalle had not been cast as the antagonist. Dalle is enigmatic in that her allure is difficult to define, but she always brings a powerful presence to the screen and here she channels it as pure deranged evil that is beautiful and repulsive in equal measures.

Inside is another example of the often overlooked importance of a powerful score in genre films. Here it is perfectly arranged and used in an extremely effective manner to bolster fear and tension. It is not surprising to note that the Music Editor for this production also worked on Haute Tension.

Before the film’s final, blood drenched scene – which is hard not watch open-mouthed, if indeed one can stomach it – we are exposed to hands being stabbed to walls, eyes burst with spikes, groins repeatedly stabbed with knives and heads blown in half. These and other transgressive treats are burnt into our consciousness by directors Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury during the 80 minutes that it takes for Inside to play out.

Despite all of the truly ferocious violence experienced during this film, there is still a sense that our worst fear for what La Femme wants to do to Sarah will not happen – or that if it does it will not be shown in detail. Perhaps this is because it is too despicable to contemplate, challenging every instinct of what it is to be human.  Inside needs to be experienced to fully understand its power, and the finale should be embarked upon without too much being spoiled in the way of details.

As the end credits roll, the true impact of the sum of this films parts are felt. Few films have left me breathless and worn out from the physical effects of stress and adrenalin, but Inside did. It temporarily degenerates the mind, but as this subsides the thrill of the film can be properly enjoyed and appreciated.

This movie doesn’t leave you for a long time; a part of one’s brain will forever be tattooed with the violence and insanity of La Femme. Allow yourself to be immersed in this film, watch it in the dark, and see if it doesn’t just do the same to you.

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