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CAN YOU BEAR IT?: An Interview of Slasher Studios

Since the birth of Slaughter Film, we have offered the option to filmmakers to get in contact with us so that we could watch and review their work. Watching films as, or before they come out, sharing our thought and promoting some of the coolest independent films around seemed like a great idea, a no-brainer. But to be honest, this also made me feel a little uneasy. Questions came to mind like, "What if no one asks us to review anything?" or "What if we are only asked to review crap?". The later was a big worry of mine. Some poor bastard pours his heart and soul into a film and I, staying true to my convictions, have to shit all over it! What then, huh?! Well I'll tell ya. Word gets out of how ruthless I and my reviews are and before you know it, the only people who visit Slaughter Film are snarky hipsters and trolling teenagers, come to see how badly I ripped "a new one" in some simple film student.

The stress of it all would build, and drive me to drink. Then one day, years later, a rather questionable looking trollop is desperately trying to rub away coke from under her nose as she dials 911 to report the death of the man who she woke up next to. That man would be me, dead, bloated and penniless.

Fortunately for me, we were contacted by the fine people at Slasher Studios to take a look at their 2011 slasher-short, Teddy. A film that I happened to enjoy quite a bit. So I'm sure you can understand how relieved I was at the realization that I won't be dying on a piss stained hotel mattress any time soon.

Teddy is about a young man who witnesses the hit-n-run death of his father at the hands of a group of college students on their way through the Wisconsin country side to spend a weekend camping.

With the college friends conveniently isolated in the middle of nowhere, Teddy, the son who's psyche has just been scared from watching the vehicular manslaughter of his father, with a hatchet in one hand and his teddy bear in the other, he now stalks the woods hungry for revenge.

With a simple but solid story, containing believable acting and effects, clever camera work and all the classic slasher cliches that we've come to know and love, and I do mean that. Cliches in a slasher movie aren't something that make slasher fan's eyes roll, they are something that are looked forward to. Well, if they're done the right way that is and Steve Goltz and Kevin Sommerfield [creators of Teddy] know how to do them the right way. These two have been fans of the genre for a very long time and have come to not only know the genre, but understand how a slasher should be made.

From the deranged killer out for revenge, to the drunken & over sexed teens [with the exception of the final girl] in an isolated environment, Teddy is a fun throwback to the slasher films of yesteryear. I can't help but think that the slasher genre lends itself quite well to the creation of a short film such as Teddy, making it a simpler film. Combined that with good film making, and the result is an award winning horror short.

It was while I watched Teddy, that I decided that I didn't want to just review it, I wanted to talk about Teddy with it's creators.

I know that you work under the title Slasher Studios, and that you review them for your website, but what is it about the horror genre, slashers in particular, that had driven you to want to make horror films yourself?
Steve Goltz: To me, slashers are just plain fun! I have a great time with them whether they have a big budget or not. To be honest, the lower budget slashers are generally constructed a little better and they seem to have a little more heart in them. Horror films also have such a great fan base and that in something amazing to be a part of.

Kevin Sommerfield: Slashers are the ultimate comfort food. Get a group of people together in one place, have a maniac on the loose, and let the creative deaths begin. I feel as though slashers are the last genre/subgenre of film that still uses practical effects. It’s a dying art but even a poorly constructed practical effect is more fun to watch than CGI. There is nothing quite like the thrill of watching a really good death scene in a really good slasher.
Were there any films of the genre in particular that help inspire you to make Teddy?
Steve Goltz: Friday the 13th for sure. I definitely wanted to pay tribute to the great slashers of the 80's and the Friday the 13th series was on top of my list. It was important to create a unique villain that was reminiscent of the greats, but also bring something new and fresh to the table. Also, the outdoors/camping aspect was a must for me. Those are the settings in films that I can connect with the most and I'm sure others, especially here in the midwest, can as well.

Kevin Sommerfield: Growing up, I loved slasher movies more than just about anything else in the world. I remember staying up late watching Monstervision and USA’s Up All Night and praying they would show a slasher flick. My favorite of those slasher flicks were always the “teens in a woods, killed by a maniac variety” like The Burning, Sleepaway Camp, and Friday the 13th. Camping is something that we have all done at sometime in our lives and being able to feed those feeds (out in the woods, alone, no one to protect you, etc) was the basis for Teddy. Also, who doesn’t love a revenge themed slasher?
Coming from someone who has seen a ton of indie horror shorts and will continue to watch them, the camera work in Teddy was pretty impressive. Have you had any training in film [film school/classes], or have you just picked up a few things from watching movies?
Steve Goltz: I was lucky enough to have the best of both worlds. Of course after watching a ton of films, there are different techniques that you can pick up on and want to experiment with. So, with addition to learning from some amazing films, I also graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in Film Production. Oddly enough, Teddy was FIRST film ever banned from the yearly screening showcase. That was actually a real testament to the level of horror film making that went into making this short.

Kevin Sommerfield: Oh god, the banning. Let’s just saying that there is a particular death in Teddy involving me and a tiki torch that the Arizona school board wasn’t so happy with. All in all, I think Teddy is fairly tame as a slasher. It’s not like the torture films from a few years back. Though I received my degree from University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh in Radio, TV, Film, Teddy was my first horror movie. Didn’t get a chance to do much with my degree while I was in school. Now it is all that I do. Funny how those things work.
Is Teddy a one-and-done, or if given the opportunity would you make a sequel?
Steve Goltz: When we here at Slasher Studios first set out to make Teddy, we were just focused on making the film and had no intentions at all in a sequel. But, no as the fan base has rapidly grown and the official selections keep building, a sequel is definitely a possibility. One aspect of 80's slashers that I love so much is the multiple sequels. Turning Teddy into a franchise would be a dream come true.
That's true. A franchise of three or four, or even eight films is just another time honored cliche of the slasher genre, and besides, every great killer deserves a sequel. What about a feature length Teddy movie?
Steve Goltz: The feature length Teddy movie is something that Kevin and I have spoke about on many occasions and is something we would be love to pursue. So many times at festivals, audience members would come up to us and ask us the same question. Many even demand that a feature is to be made. It would be very interesting to write a solid script for a feature and see how we want to explore into the mind of Teddy.

Kevin Sommerfield: My biggest fear in making a Teddy feature or a sequel to Teddy would be disappointing the fans of our original short film. Teddy is a movie I'm really proud of and to continue working with it (either in a sequel or a feature), it would be have to be the right script at the right time. We wouldn't want to just do it because we can. Still, if we were to crack the perfect script, we would do it in a heartbeat.
As a young film maker who doesn't have a major studio behind you, do you have any advice that you could pass on to other film upstarts about raising money, or securing a location/talent?
Steve Goltz: The biggest advice to to never give up. It may sound cheesy, but it's true. The filmmaking process can be long and grueling and one may want to give up after a while. The important thing is that the finished product is so rewarding that it greatly outweighs any stress that comes before hand.

As for raising money, there is a great site online called Kickstarter. This site allows filmmakers a way to get there film-to-be in the public eye and obtain a decent budget. When it comes to securing locations and talent, be very careful who you deal and work with. Make sure they are trustworthy, dependable and as excited about the project as you are.

Kevin Sommerfield: Promote, promote, promote. That’s really my biggest advice. I would rather have people get sick of hearing of my films than to not have them know they existed at all. Get your name out there, use as many social media sites as possible (Tumblr, twitter, facebook, etc) and don’t give up. It’s not as easy business to break into but as long as you learn something from every stumble you may face, you will succeed. Just have faith in yourself.
Where the hell did you find Surge? That stuff hasn't been around in forever, and as a kid that's all I drank and I'm pretty sure it was responsible for a series of night terrors that I never want to forget.
Steve Goltz: Yes, Surge was great! I actually found the can on eBay. As you may recall from the beginning of the film, this story takes place in 1996, so including the surge can and many other little mid 90's props was a great way to really give the audience a sense of time and place, as well as allow them to reminisce about that time. I have to say, searching for unique props and costumes from that time period was by far the most fun I have had in preproduction on any film.

Kevin Sommerfield: When I arrived on set and saw that Steve purchased a Surge can from eBay, I couldn’t help but laugh. We had a series of Goosebumps books too that sadly didn’t make it into the final cut. We just tried to include as many 90’s artifacts (like the walkman) to keep things fun for the audience.
Are there any trends in the genre that you are either dreading, or looking forward to seeing more of?
Steve Goltz: Well, I hate CGI. In my opinion, seeing poor CGI, especially when it is supposed to look good, takes me out of the movie and all connections with the characters are lost. I have been fortunate enough to use practical effects with all the bloody death that have been in the Slasher Studios shorts. There is something extremely gratifying when working with practical effects. Most of the time we only have one chance to get the shot, so if something goes wrong, then the shot is destroyed and a quick rewrite may not be far behind. It may sound weird, but I actually get some strange kind of high when the effects goes perfect. On Blood Brothers, we had some practical blood effects and there was zero room for error. Luckily I had done my homework and with a little help from the slasher gods, the effects were stunning!

Kevin Sommerfield: For me it is all about found footage and I hate it. While I do believe a great found food horror movie can be made (Blair Witch Project, [REC], etc), it has more often than not become an excuse for lazy filmmaking. It can be done on the cheap and in any many cases they rely on the "ran out of footage" ending. Many of these films show a profit opening weekend though so it's no surprise they keep making them. I want to see the slasher film make a comeback much as Scream brought back the subgenre in the mid 90's.
In your opinion, what is one of the most under rated slasher flick?
Steve Goltz: I may get a little flack for this, but I feel the Rob Zombie's Halloween's are very well made. The production value of the two films and amazing and one has to love the return of Danielle Harris to the series. I have no problem with fans loving the original. I, for one, am a sucker for any original. But, I also feel that Zombie was able to put his own style into the classic film and hopefully bring a new audience into the slasher genre.

Kevin Sommerfield: While I agree Rob Zombie's Halloween is very underrated, my pick is 1974's Black Christmas. Black Christmas is quite simply the best slasher film I’ve ever seen. Some give the credit to Halloween being the first real slasher film but that simply is not fair. Black Christmas did it first and did it better. It is the grandmother of the slasher film, four years before Halloween. The power in Black Christmas is impossible to deny. The characters are compelling, the imagery poignant, and the acting top-notch. It's a shame that most people outside of the horror community know nothing about this film.
Not only do the guys at Slasher Studios make horror movies, but they review them as well. Check out their webcast as well as their written reviews over at slasherstudios.com.

One last thing, Teddy is available for purchase at their website [above link], along with other Slasher Studios flicks. I know I'm going to pick up a copy of Teddy in the future, so make sure to check it out for yourself.


★ ★ ★