Interview Conducted By: John Wisniewski
Dedicated fans of the genre will know Keith Crocker’s name, they’ll know his wonderful exploitative works, and they’ll also know Cinefear, which affords fans the chance to get their hands on extremely rare films, for a damn reasonable price.
Crocker has been a valuable commodity in our beloved genre, which makes the chance to pick his brain all the more gratifying. He’s an intelligent well-spoken character, and our resident interviewer, the awesome John Wisniewski had a chance to chat the business with a true pioneer; for that we, as a unit at ATHM, are grateful!
Get a look at the Q&A session these two gents recently engaged in. It’s mighty informative!
John Wisniewski: Hi Keith. Could you tell us about the film that you are currently working on?
Is it ready to be screened?
Keith Crocker: The current project I have on the drawing boards is a film called Three Slices of Delirium. It’s based on two Edgar Allan Poe stories, and one piece of Russian folklore. The two Poe stories are Ulalume, which is really a poem to be exact, and the Premature Burial. The Russian folk story of the Witch Baba Yaga is the centerpiece of the film. All the stories are period pieces, nothing takes place in the current time. This film owes so much to the world of fantasy, most people are sick and tired of the world we currently live in. They want to escape to another time, another zone. The old stories from the past contain such fantastic material regarding rights, wrongs and morality. Because they are from the past most folks dismiss them, feel they are of little worth. But that’s the furthest from the truth, the evolution of mankind is set forth from mythology and literature. It challenges us. That’s what I’m hoping this film will do. While its pageantry is set in the days of old, its messages are universal, and mean as much today as they did back when they were penned. I’m a myth maker, and a raconteur. I’m here to tell stories that matter. The film is currently seeking funding, period pieces are expensive, not easy to make. I do have a promotional trailer for it up on YouTube. But the film itself hasn’t been shot yet.
JW: Any favorite horror films and horror film actors?
KC: In terms of current genre cinema, no, I really don’t have anyone who thrills me. I can’t even thing of any recent horror films that did it for me. As far as the past goes, you better believe it. The actors I adored were Vincent Price, Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi, Peter Lorre, both Chaney’s, Lon and Lon Jr. As far as favorite horror films go; Freaks (1932), Night of the Living Dead (1968). I had seen both those films as a double feature at a mini cinema we had on Long Island (where I grew up), and I have not been the same since. One of the few directors still working in cinema today who I enjoy is Alexandro Jodorowsky. I was hung up on him ever since I had seen El Topo (1970) and I still think he is the only filmmaker out there who is worth anything.
JW: Do you write screenplays?
KC: You bet, I always wrote my own screenplays. I find the screenplay writing process to be more pleasant when you are working with a collaborator. The work gets done quicker. When I’m writing on my own, it takes much longer. It took me a year to write Blitzkrieg: Escape from Stalag 69 (2008). I co-wrote The Bloody Ape (1997) with George Reis (of DVD Drive-in fame). We wrote the film while we were shooting it. It was a completely enjoyable experience. I’m currently working on the screenplay for what I hope will be my best film yet, Rasputin on Campus. I like to write but I prefer to direct, making a film is a very social experience, it’s good for the soul. But it’s also like giving birth, it can be exhausting and it can age you in all the wrong ways. A catch 22 I guess!
JW: What was the transition like writing about horror to be becoming an independent horror filmmaker/producer?
KC: We starting The Exploitation Journal in 1987. At the time, it was myself and a guy named Joe Parda. We went to college together. We wanted to start a newspaper that would be given away for free within the college. We wanted to spotlight the type of films that really turned us on at the time. It was a great time to be a horror film journalist because everything was very fresh. Video had hit big, and you could go to a store and rent the movies you wanted to see. Also, Cablevision was a big deal, and they were showing films many had not seen before. Most of my film education came from the Escapade channel, which was part of the HBO network. They showed exploitation films straight out of the drive-in. And then of course there was still the movie theaters, you had tons of product still coming out. And we were there to review all of it. We also interviewed people in the business. You had to do your research and track the person down, this was way before the internet. At this point in time we started Cinefear Video, we actually used Cinefear Video to finance The Exploitation Journal. Finally, the Exploitation Journal got distribution and it could finance itself. As far as writing horror for my films goes, I had already been doing that. I was making my own movies since 1978, and I always did my own writing. Screenplay writing is certainly different than journal writing, but my love of the subject of Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy is what unites them. Of interest, though I still have and maintain the Cinefear Video site, and I even have a Cinefear blog site, I really don’t like writing about movies anymore. There are so many blogs out there, so many people writing that the market is over glutted. And a lot of the writing is God awful, loaded with mistakes and too much personal opinion, opinion infected by personal prejudice rather than good critical essaying. Simply put, the fan scene just isn’t any fun anymore.
JW: What really scares an audience Keith?
KC: That’s a hard question to answer. We are way too fragmented as a society to agree on what’s considered scary to the masses. Before the internet, the world seemed like a smaller place but we were all certainly more unified. Hence why movies like Psycho (1960), Night of the Living Dead (1968) and The Exorcist (1973) scared the shit out of the masses. For me, the unifying appeal of all of those films is the concept of lack of control. Feeling like control is outside of your being is certainly the thing that scares me the most. I’m very anxious if I feel that things are outside of my ability to control them. That’s my personal nightmare.
JW: Any books about horror that you could recommend?
KC: When I was a kid, my favorite book that I kept borrowing from the library was called A Pictorial History of Horror Movies by Dennis Gifford. It was published in 1973. It lit a fire in me. Always remember to start at the beginning. Go back to what once was new. I’d recommend that book even in this day and age. The other two books that rocked me were Heroes of the Horrors and Scream Queens by Calvin Thomas Beck.
JW: What lies in the future for you?
KC: I make my living teaching about film-making and genre films, I love doing it, I love teaching people, so I’ll continue doing that. I teach part time at a local college, but I give presentations at libraries, senior centers, public service centers, etc…I meet fantastic people, I’ve developed a following and I’m proud of that. I talk about the subject I love, how can you go wrong! I’m almost a decade behind in my film-making, I promised I’d make one film per decade. I’ve still got four years to get Three Slices of Delirium in the can and out to the public. I’m up for the challenge.
JW: Is there still a thriving horror film industry?
KC: Hell no, there isn’t even a thriving film industry anymore. Movies do well in places like China, hence our filmmakers are really making films for overseas, and they really aren’t making them for folks in the states. The great movie houses are gone. Folks are watching films on their iPhones. That’s not the way you are supposed to watch a movie. People have parties and watch YouTube clips!?! Are they kidding me? No, the golden age of movies is over, even for the independents. The market is glutted with shot on video garbage. Back when everything was shot on film that separated the men from the boys. Now it’s just a rich kid’s hobby. No one is really making films of worth anymore. But who knows, there is always a genius story teller lurking in the shadows. Maybe one day we’ll get entertainment of worth again!
If you’re interested in Cinefear, we recommend you give it a look right here, and if you’re interested in a more personal angle of Cinefear, then you should be hitting this link directly. And finally, if you’re interested in the Cinefear blog, then click this link ASAP! Our thanks go out to Keith as well as John – excellent interview, gentlemen!