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Brad Sykes
Horror Interview by The Gravedigger

Q: What got you interested in directing horror movies?

BRAD: I've always been a horror fan; I grew up reading FANGORIA and CINEFANTASTIQUE, watching movies like DAWN OF THE DEAD and TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Horror is the most cinematic genre and there's a lot of room to experiment with different themes and ideas. Plus, it's always fun to watch people jump out of their seats!

The three most influential filmmakers on me, in terms of really getting me away from the TV and behind a camera, were George Romero, Sam Raimi, and Peter Jackson. Their stories and especially their first features were and still are very inspiring to me.

Q: Tell us about your movies and give us a brief synopsis which each is about

BRAD: The first feature I directed in L.A. was "SCREAM QUEEN" with Linnea Quigley, in January 1998. It was done EXTREMELY cheap and thankfully seems to have fallen off the face of the Earth. I did enjoy working with Linnea, though; she was a real pro and extremely helpful throughout the shoot.

"EVIL SISTER 2" was my second film. It was a sequel in name only, and has nothing to do with the original. I concocted a story about twin sisters who can communicate telepathically; one is "normal", the other a killer. ES2 was really a chance for me to mix several genres: horror, psychological drama, and road movie. We shot it in the Mojave desert, which I always love.

"CAMP BLOOD" was next up, in early 1999. This was the first of many 3-D movies for me. It was always intended as a low-budget homage to slasher flicks like Friday the 13th and The Burning. It was fun to make, nobody took it too seriously; little did I know it would spawn a sequel and a considerable number of fans!

Later that year I directed "BABES IN THE WOODS", an erotic film about cheerleaders lost in the woods! Not one of my faves, but it did give me the opportunity to do "MAD JACK", a "Kalifornia"-style thriller shot - like ES2 - in the Mojave desert. I'm very proud of how it came out; I guess it's my "art" movie although it still delivers the sex and violence of any exploitation film.

2000 was a busy year. "CAMP BLOOD 2" was a tongue-in-cheek sequel to the original. It was more ambitious than the first. I'd describe it as "Living in Oblivion" done as a slasher film.

Later in the year I directed "THE BEWITCHING" (about a haunted theatre), "THE COVEN" (an ultra low budget variation on "The Craft") and "ZOMBIE CHRONICLES", a "Tales from the Crypt" style anthology.

In 2001, I directed "DEMON'S KISS", a "Cat People"-style erotic horror film. We had a bigger budget on this one and it came out very well, despite some cuts made by the distributor to get an R rating.

I also directed "ANGELIQUE", a "Poison Ivy" type thriller, and "LORD OF THE VAMPIRES", an homage to 80's vampire flicks like "Fright Night" and Jean Rollin's sexy vampire films.

Last year, I directed "DEATH FACTORY, "BLOODY TEASE" (a vampire stripper flick), "WITCHCRAFT XII", and a new one for Brain Damage called "GOTH". I think of the group I like GOTH the most, though DEATH FACTORY turned out well and got a great release. Hopefully GOTH will get the same treatment.

Q: Both CAMP BLOOD and DEATH FACTORY have a good momentum-those movies really move with the stalkings and killings, definitely don't give you time to yawn. Is this the type of horror movie you prefer, with a specific monster/killer?

BRAD: I like all types of films, and not just horror. But the type of horror film that seems to work best on this budget (which is to say NO budget) is a film like DEATH FACTORY, with limited locations, characters, and a specific killer. This formula has worked for low-budget horror ever since the original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and is still used successfully today.

At the same time, I don't want to do the same movie again and again, which is one of the reasons I wanted to do GOTH. It's a road movie, more psychological, and shot almost like a Dogma film. Totally different than DEATH FACTORY, but hopefully even more shocking!

Q: What do you find is the hardest aspect of making low-budget films?

BRAD: Where to begin? I guess the lack of cash and short shooting schedules are pretty common trouble spots. I usually write for the budget but try and push the envelope a little bit each time out, otherwise, what's the point?

Cast and crew personalities can also be problematic, but I haven't had a lot of trouble in this department. Having a good script and at least one read through helps unify the cast even if they are working for free or next to nothing. Keeping the day as short as possible will help relations with your crew. And never underestimate the value of a second meal, even if it's just burgers or tacos.

Q: With DEATH FACTORY you cast Tiffany Shepis as the monster-which I think is kind of odd, casting against the type of roles she's usually in. What made you decide to cast her?

BRAD: Tiffany originally came in to read for another role, a supporting part. She said she'd played the victim plenty of times and wasn't really interested in doing that again, but she liked the idea of playing the monster. It was a physical part, with no dialogue and heavy makeup; very demanding. Despite all this, she was totally up for it. I was aware of her background in the genre and felt that her talent and name would help our film, so we cast her. She ended up doing a great job.

Q: Talk a bit about the other actors involved?

BRAD: I got my first choices for all the parts, which usually doesn't happen. It was a pretty grueling shoot, and they all did a good job, especially Tiffany and Lisa Jay, who plays the lead. Those two were literally stuck together with fake blood by the end of the shoot!

Q: The only qualm I have about DEATH FACTORY may be the sets-there's a lot of pressed wood board. Why did you decide to build sets instead of just using locations?

BRAD: DF was shot at a local "Spooky House" that was closed down for repairs (it was still a few months away from Halloween). We originally wanted to shoot in an abandoned warehouse but when that location became unavailable, we settled on the Spooky House. I actually think the Spooky House worked out better because, despite the "wooden" look, it had more rooms, hallways, etc. and lots of props we were able to use for free.

Q: How is it working with Dave Sterling? Any interesting Dave stories?

BRAD: I've probably got more "Dave stories" than anybody else, since I've directed at least thirteen movies for him. Picking just one is hard, but I'll try.

Anyone who's ever worked for Dave knows about his "outbursts" and we had quite a few on my film DEMON'S KISS. We had two additional days of shooting after principal was completed. We had gone a little over budget and Dave was trying to save money any way he could, so he decided not to buy dinner (or even craft services, save a bag of chips) for the crew the first day (of course he left the set a long time before anyone realized there would be no food). The next day, we showed up at the location, and the DP was so angry that, after arguing with Dave about the lack of food, drove off with the camera and all the film. We did finally complete the day, but not before a few more arguments, including another one between Dave and the DP, who at this point threatened to expose all the film we had shot if he wasn't paid! The moral of this story is: pay people what you said you'd pay them, and always feed your crew.

Q: What is your next project?

BRAD: GOTH is in post right now, and I'm pretty excited about it. It's a real departure from the "cookie cutter, family-friendly" horror we've been seeing a lot of recently from both big studios and independents, and hopefully fans will dig it. It should be hitting video stores this summer. I'm also working on a few new things right now, some of them horror. As much as I love horror, I'd like to work in other genres, too. Let's just say I'll keep you posted!

find information about Brad Sykes at imdb.com find horror stuff by Brad Sykes

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