Rising Star: An interview with Glenn McQuaid director of ‘I Sell the Dead’ and ‘V/H/S’

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Sometimes there comes along a director, whose talent is so apparent that you wonder why they’re not more famous. Glenn McQuaid is such a director, and his first feature, I Sell the Dead, in 2008, offered everything I want from a horror film.

It was my brother who tapped me in to Mr. McQuaid’s work. My brother and I had grown-up under the spell of the horror films produced by Universal in the 1930s and 1940s (with Karloff and Lugosi, and Lon Chaney jnr.), and Hammer films (with Cushing and Lee) from the fifties and sixties. Of course there were also the Vincent Price and Roger Corman collaborations, as well as the Milton Subotsky and Max J Rosenberg anthology films of the 1960s and ‘70s.

We also had a love of stories by Dennis Wheatley (in particular his series of classic horror novels published under his Library of the Occult - Stoker, Shelley, ”Carnaki, the Ghost Finder”, and Guy Endore), and the tales of terror penned by Poe, Blackwood and Bloch.

My brother raved about I Sell the Dead, and when I saw it I had to agree. Written and directed by McQuaid, it stars Larry Fessenden, Dominic Monaghan, Ron Perlman and Angus (Phantasm) Scrimm, and is near perfect - a witty, clever and engaging story, presented in the style of the best, classic horror film. I was smitten, the same way I was when Boris Karloff as the Monster first walked backwards into the laboratory; or by Oliver Reed when he turned into a werewolf. McQuaid knows his genre and its cinematic traditions.

For his next film, McQuaid is one of the directors (alongside David Bruckner, Radio Silence, Joe Swanberg, Ti West, and Adam Wingard ) of the soon to be released anthology film, V/H/S, for which he wrote an directed the “unconventional killer-in-the-woods chiller Tuesday The 17th”. When V/H/S previewed at the Sundance Film Festival, it received the kind of exposure of which publicists dream.

At its screening two audience members fled in terror – one fainted, one puked. The last time I recall such a response was for The Exorcist in 1973, where there were reports of fainting, vomiting, and even an alleged possession.

When was shown at SXSW, V/H/S was described as ”an incredibly entertaining film that succeeds in being humorous, sexy, gross and scary as fuck.” While Dead Central gave it 5/5.

Though all the directors have been praised for the quality of their films, the reviews have singled out McQuaid for the excellence and originality of his contribution.

Before all this kicked off, I contacted Glenn McQuaid to organize an interview. Over the following weeks emails went back-and-forth, until the following arrived. The interview covers Mr McQuaid’s background, his influences, early work, The Resurrection Apprentice, working with Larry Fessenden, Ron Perlman and Dominic Monaghan on I Sell the Dead, to V/H/S.
 

 
The full interview with Glenn McQuaid, after the jump….
 

Written by Paul Gallagher | Discussion
Phantasm: 30 Years Of Ball-Grabbing Fun

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The LA Times recently noted the 30th birthday of Phantasm, the first entry in director Don Coscarelli‘s quartet of Phantasm horror films.  Scraped together from a meager budget, and shot and edited over a period of roughly 20 months, Phantasm and its sequels continue to suck me in with a frequency that I’m sure wreaks havoc with whatever Netflix algorithm crunches out the recommendations linking those films to L’Eclisse.

For Phantasm newbies here’s the story (the bare bones, so to speak), per its official film site:

Michael Baldwin and Bill Thornbury star as two brothers who discover that their local mortuary hides a legion of hooded killer dwarf-creatures, a flying silver sphere of death, and is home to the sinister mortician known only as the Tall Man.  This nefarious undertaker (with an iconic performance by Angus Scrimm) enslaves the souls of the damned and in the process his character has entered the pantheon of classic horror villains.

Sounds kicky, right?  What the synopsis leaves out, though—and what no synopsis could possibly accommodate—is precisely that elusive, unquantifiable element that makes the Phantasm films, in my eyes, so haunting.  Whether due to exigencies of budget or imagination, the logic these films operate under is so far out and unpredictable, the effect is like watching a 6-hour nightmare unspool before your eyeballs. 

How is one supposed to reconcile, exactly, hooded dwarves, funeral homes, and flying, eyeball-gouging orbs?  Um, I’m not sure you can, really (believe me, I’ve tried!).  And as the quartet progresses, the entire Phantasm mythology assumes ever-more grand and baroque dimensions.  For example…

SPOILER ALERT: About those dwarves?  Oh, they’re ultimately destined for another planet.  Those flying silver balls?  They’re storage containers for the souls of the recently departed.  END SPOILERS.

Contrast that inability to reconcile so many dreamy, disparate elements with the boringly formulaic, teenage-slashing rhythms of Freddy and Jason, and you can begin to understand how I consider Don Coscarelli more in league with Suspiria-meister Dario Argento, than the Wes Craven of Scream and Elm Street.

And, much like Argento, whose capacity for creative bloodletting seems undiminshed by time, Coscarelli continues to direct.  His last film, the cult-fave Bubba Ho-Tep, starred the always great Ossie Davis and Bruce Campbell.  The trailer for the original Phantasm follows below:

 
In the LA Times: Happy Birthday, Tall Man! “Phantasm” Turns 30

Official Phantasm Site

Written by Bradley Novicoff | Discussion