Hello to all you fiends, Derek Easley’s 31 Nights of Nightmares returns with a look at a horror documentary infused with politics called “Nightmares in Red White and Blue”, and then the movie that’ll make you keep your lamp on at night: “Lights Out”. But before we examine those films, I found a rampaging orc of man, a adaptable thespian who can morph into any monster you could imagine, creature actor Alan Maxson!
Alan and I know each other from the horror movie circuit, and he’s even acted in one of my short comedy horror films. Recently, he gave an educational guest lecture to my teaching/networking/producing studio the Long Beach Acting and Film Association. At the LBAFA event, he shared insights about working in the industry and being a monster actor, and we appreciate him inspring and helping others! I later invited him to my Den of Nightmares to answer my “13 Contemptible Questions!”
1. Talk to us about your life in HORROR.
I am an actor that specializes in creature and monster performance so naturally I work on a lot of horror and sci-fi films. I’ve been a lover of horror my entire life, so I’ve been drawn to it professionally! I’ve been in countless horror short films and indie movies. I recently play the Rake in the new movie called “The Raking” about an urban legend in Joshua Tree (a nocturnal creature) that kills college kids. It’s a fantastic film and should be released in the next few months!
2. What is so special about horror as a medium?
I think the genre of horror has lasted so long for a couple reasons. One, people love to be scared. It’s a natural part of being alive, anything living is afraid of harm. It’s built into every living thing! Two, it has monsters! Monsters are fictional, creative, wonderful, mysterious and exciting to see something come to life that can’t in the real world. Three, I think it has lasted as a genre for so long because it is the cheapest to make movies to make! Horror movies are more forgiving for low budget or bad acting than any other genre of film. This helps it stay alive. Indie and low budget film makers have a chance to show their talents for little to no money with horror. I think that has ALOT to do with it.
3. What horrible thing have you been up to lately?
Recently I starred in a movie called “Christmas with Cookie” that I also wrote and produced. I play an obnoxious elf that narrates a campy sci-fi Christmas movie. It’s everything you want in a low budget B-movie. It’s fun, funny, colorful and full of laughs. If you would like to see the film, you can find links to the movie on facebook.com/christmaswithcookie or on instagram @christmaswithcookie. Also here is the trailer for the film: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpJetPov7kY
4. See any gruesome things at work?
I see lots of gory things on set. Many many buckets of blood. One that stands out is a short film called “Are You Lonely?”, it was shot in black and white so they used chocolate syrup as blood. I was covered head to toe in it. My hair was rock hard and crusty from the syrup covering me. That was pretty nasty!
5. What’s up with horror industry nowadays?
This is a good question. I think horror is campier than ever right now. It’s lower budget than ever right now. There are obviously exceptions with big budget studio movies but those don’t seem very “horror” to me. They seem more “thriller” or “jump scare” centered. I’m not sure where it is heading, but I hope it keeps moving! I’m very confident it will. Someone will always make a monster movie!
6. Have you ever encountered real-life supernatural entities?
I’ve never had a real life ghost story or paranormal experience. I used to work as a co-host on a paranormal radio show where we would interview many people that have experienced out of this world things, but I’ve never seen or felt anything myself. I kind of always wish I did though. It sounds fun and exciting…. I guess I better be careful what I wish for! Eek!
7. What scares you, even though you are often the one delivering scares?
I’m most afraid of losing a loved one. It’s plan and simple. That would suck.
8. Is the digital age making it impossible to frighten millennials?
I don’t think young people are desensitized by the internet. I think if anything young people are blinded by it. Posts, blogs and videos online are not always what they seem to be and it is mostly opinions written or spoken by other young people. It’s a very incestuous pool of opinions all based on your current circle of friends and family. I think sometimes young people will not think for themselves because they heard or read an opinion so many times online that that is also what they believe. And we see it all the time with movie reviews. So many people are outspoken about movies and remakes before they even see them, or without ever seeing the original. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard a young people say a remake is not as good as the original, and then I ask them why and they tell me, “Well, I’ve actually never seen it.”
9. What are you favorite scary things to watch?
My favorite kind of horror movies are the ones that are fun! “Tremors”, “Gremlins, “Ash vs. Evil Dead”! These are visually amazing, fun and funny at the same time! Best of all worlds!
10. What would you do if you came into contact with one of these Killer Clowns that is running amok out there?
If a killer clown attacked me, I’d probably grab who ever is with me and run. Then call the police. No one should take chances with killer clowns, haha!
11. How would you survive in a Walking Dead-like zombie apocalypse world?
I think I’d survive very well in a Walking Dead-like world. I’d take zero chances on everything. Sometimes people take more chances in movies and TV shows because we need excitement in the story, but I’d play it so safe. That life would be boring, but I’d be alive!
12. If you had an unlimited budget and resources, what is the horror movie that you would make?
I’d have the most crazy practical monster effects ever seen in a movie! I’d go nuts with it! There would probably be so many creatures and aliens that there wouldn’t be room for even one human character!
13. What’s coming up next for you, and where can we find you online?
I have many new characters in the works for projects coming up. I can’t really speak much about them yet but please follow me on all my social media and I will post as it all becomes public. I promise you wont regret following me. The pictures are always fun! I’m on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube & Vimeo under @Monster_Maxson.
THANKS SO MUCH ALAN! Keep scarin’ the folks!
Now let’s look the recent horror movies I screened for this article series!
Night 10, watched the #documentary #NightmaresInRedWhiteAndBl
The film opens with an unsuccessful 1910 production of Frankenstein by Thomas Edison’s New York Film Studio, and it wasn’t until 20 years later when an uneasy zeitgeist provided the perfect time for horror films to thrive. Prohibition, the aftermath of World War I, the Great Depression, and then the rise of Nazism in Europe set the mood for the classic spooky tales. Different eras are examined as the decades go on, from the Atomic Age’s gigantic creatures, to the exploitation films during the cultural revolution, to the hacking of the slasher films in the 70’s and 80’s. Post 9/11, films like the #Saw franchise and #Hostel became more gruesome and shocking to account for a desensitized audience. There are lots of great moments in the doc; I found it fascinating, for example, how a Hollywood production code in the 30’s made it mandatory for all movie monsters to die by the end of the picture, no matter if they were redeemable or not.
“Nightmares in Red, White, and Blue” gets overly political at times, which I understand it is a historical examination of the genre, but it delves into partisanship. An agenda is put forward that the American Right is against horror films, but I would put forth that is a simplistic conclusion in that horror is full of sub-genres and some of it is counter culture. Americans from all demographics love to be scared! A wing of horror has proudly been “alternative” since the late 60s, but take an average middle American household, who tunes into to crime thriller procedurals on TV every week with bloody murders, or loves sci-fi alien movies, and now welcomes zombies into their living room every week with #TheWalkingDead, America’s #1 show, full of tons of gore. Speaking of gore, HBO’s #GameOfThrones is beloved by all sides, and it features some of the most explicit death scenes and sex scenes ever on television.
The documentary specifically targets conservatives for solely being responsible for big American problems such as war, overspending, and repressing free-speech, despite both sides of the aisle being guilty of this in reality. For example, is war, massive debt & deficit and the PC police running amok not present during this current political climate? I enjoyed the historical journey through the years, but was puzzled that the narrative went out of its way to criticize Nixon, Reagan, and Bush but not Kennedy, LBJ, Carter, or Clinton. The premise is set up that horror filmmakers over the years are forward-thinking, liberal minded individuals, who use allegory to shine a light on fear, violence, and right-winger’s demonization of others culturally different from themselves. As a film historian myself, and someone who likes to look at both sides of the coin, I’d say that is only part of a picture, as individuals from all backgrounds have used the scary to tell cautionary haunts, from staunch Catholic fear-master #AlfredHitchcock, to Republicans #DavidLynch(#Eraserhead) and #SamRaimi (#TheEvilDead), to a modern devout Christian filmmaker #ScottDerrickson who gave us #TheExorcismOfEmilyRose and #Sinister. Bottom line, the horror genre is for EVERYONE, and creative storytellers come from all walks of life, and one demographic doesn’t claim absolute dominion on the spooky.
Night 11 watched #LightsOut(2016 feature) and then the Lights Out short film from 2013, both from director David F. Sandberg. In the feature, #TeresaPalmer and #MariaBello both give fine performances (as usual) as daughter and mother, and #stuntwoman #AliciaVelaBailey as ghostly villain Diana and #GabrielBateman as the haunted young boy both shine. The premise of a vengeful apparition moving closer towards you in the dark when the lights are switched off (Quick! Switch them back on! Wait the power is flickering?) is atmospheric and creepy. Lights Out is lots of fun with numerous scares, but honestly, the simplicity of the short film with a small budget created more terror for me than the bigger budget movie with its plotholes and the typical horror movie exposition as to the origin of the antagonist. Nonetheless, both are definitely worth watching with popcorn on a Friday night!
NIGHTS 12 & 13 COMING SOON!
Derek owns a teaching and networking studio called LBAFA that can be found here: https://www.facebook.com/LongBeachActingAndFilmAssociaton