You may not have heard of Shane Mather or his movie FANTACIDE but for many it is the gore film of the year, if not the decade. Destined for cult-classic status, and bound to offend many in today's culturally sensitive environment with dialogue that makes FIGHT FOR YOUR LIFE seem tasteful, animal torture that outdoes NEKROMANTIK ten times over and sexual violence that Fulci's THE NEW YORK RIPPER shied well away from. All served up with side-dishes of bubblegum pop music and laugh-out-loud comedy. What's not to love? But what about the man behind the movie? Well Stu Willis wanted to find out as he chatted candidly with writer/director Shane Mather…
Stu: What was the motive when setting out to make FANTACIDE? It's clear from its extreme nature that you weren't thinking about possible wide distribution.
Shane: There were several motives behind Fantacide. As well as another entertainingly mad bloodbath we wanted to improve everything, from special effects to sound quality etc. Better cameras were used and more time was taken in preparing for scenes, although that became difficult as no one was getting paid.
Strangely enough one of the reasons that we wanted to put in all the extra effort was distribution. If it looked and sounded good we may be able to find a low budget dvd company to release the film, but the desire to go overboard got the better of us. I doubt any distributor would touch Fantacide, not without several cut's, and we didn't really want that. Nor did we want the film to languish forever waiting for a possible release.
Stu: What did you learn from EXCREAMER that helped you when coming to film FANTACIDE?
Shane: That I needed to improve as a filmmaker. Again there was very little cash, but I knew taking the extra time on scenes would help considerably. We had no crew to speak of, and it was the same with Excreamer, but there is a vast improvement in the overall quality of the film. It's by no means perfect, it never could be when you create a film under these circumstances, but it had to be superior, otherwise you're wasting your time.
Stu: The cast in FANTACIDE were fantastic. The guy who played Oppenheimer in particular had me in stitches every time he opened his mouth. Can you tell us a bit more about the cast - their backgrounds, and how they came to be involved in this project?
Shane: Most of the cast are either friends or their acquaintances. We always need as many people as we can find and it's more difficult than you'd think to get them involved.
Peter Rands, who plays Oppenheimer, was excellent. He never let us down (very common at this level) and seemed to enjoy his role very much. Peter was the first person we cast, and the story was developed around his Nazi character. As the filming progressed we asked him to do some very strange things and he never complained once. I'm very grateful to him.
Ivan Brady, who play's Bob Blaine, is a good friend of mine. He is a singer, and also does extra work. Infact he's the only one in the cast who's acted professionally. We met through our appreciation of 50's and 60's music and like Peter, he didn't let us down. He was in the recently broadcast kingdom, which was directed by Stephen Fry.
Paul Stone & Derrick Mighall are also friends. I'd asked them for years to be in one of the films and they wanted to do it, but mounting a production is very time consuming and it seemed like it would never happen. Finally we got under way although I was concerned about Derrick's health, as he has had some heart problems. You would never believe it when you see him blasting people with a shotgun but that's the magic of editing. One time he fell over doing a scene and although he was happy to continue I wanted to finish the scene quickly. His demise was originally a lot less taxing but Derrick insisted on going out in a blaze of glory.
Paul Stone, who played Del Fontaine, is a real trooper. He endured a fair bit of discomfort, but would always see the funny side, and that keeps everyones spirits up. We met Peter Symonds through him, who played Vince Wilde. I remember him having some concerns over some of the more outrageous elements of the script, but he was a good sport and soon got into his part.
Some of the cast of Excreamer also show up. Karl Holt helped us out in front of and behind the camera, and underwent several messy make-up jobs at my brothers eager hands. Mike Moretta had the unfortunate role of the sacrifice and spent many hours laying on the cold earth, always with good humour.
Most everyone was great, and I really appreciate them giving their time for the film.
Stu: Your brother Dean provided the gore FX. They're stunning, and nasty as fuck. Was it a joint decision to push the boundaries? Did you disagree on anything?
Shane: We wanted to go as far as we could with what we had, and even then we wanted more. The roughcut was 90 minutes and very bloody. I had been quite ill whilst filming the end massacre and after the screening of this version decided enough was enough. Three months later we were filming again, adding even more gore.
We had to stop somewhere or the film would never be seen at all. As for disagreeing there isn't really time for that. Dean has all the splatter effects to worry about whilst I'm busy worrying about everything else. We have been through it all before and are used to each others way of working. Fantacide proved to be a much bigger challenge than expected, but our goal was the same so we'd pull together. Dean also co-produced the film and helped in many other ways.
Stu: What were the most complex FX he came up with?
Shane: Before and during production Dean would come over and tell me about the murders he was dreaming up for the unfortunate cast. I wondered how it could be done, with the restrictions we had, but he'd come up with something. Many of the ideas were complex and proved difficult once out on location. The body being sliced in half was one of them. We had no help that day so he had to rig all this up, legs and torsos, tubes and flesh etc. It was awkward as hell trying to get this to work. A torso had to fall, lot's of blood had to pump and cameras had to roll......with only the two of us. There was nothing to keep the body upright and do everything else at the same time so the dummy was kept standing by a branch of a nearby tree. I covered the shot with 2 cameras in close-up and away we went.
Dean sent the upper torso flying and pumped the blood from below and I sprayed a mass of blood from above, and that's all we could do. At the time we thought it may prove unusable, I could tell he wasn't happy with the shot. However, it worked very well and is a fine example of Dean's ingenuity and talent in creating excellent special fx with very little money.
Fantacide required so many gory set-ups like this, and with the unpaid actors becoming restless once the blood poured it was difficult for Dean to do everything he wanted to them. I can only imagine what he'd put a paid actor through.
Stu: The nudity in this film was unexpected. It gave the film a sense of being even more extreme - especially, of course, during the rape scene. What was the mood when shooting these scenes? Did you feel grubby?
Shane: The two actors in that scene had never met before so we were unsure how it would go, whether they would feel awkward together. But everyone was soon laughing and joking, and this can be seen in the outtakes. This sequence was not in the roughcut of the film, but had always been planned. Thanks to Shel Walking, who plays the character, we got it.
I expect some will find it objectionable, but personally I was very pleased to get that scene, and certainly didn't feel grubby. After all, it's only make believe.
Stu: Was there any ideas that you rejected as being too extreme or offensive? If so, what could they possibly have been?
Shane: Yes, there were. I had a disagreement with one of the actors over a scene I intended to shoot. Basically he said he would no longer take part in the project, and he also said if I filmed it there would be a mass exodus from the screening by the outraged audience. Up until the filming rapped I still intended to shoot this scene regardless, but after a conversation with my brother, in which he even balked at the idea, it was scrapped. Also the rape scene was originally a gang rape, and had to be changed, but only because we couldn't get anyone to do it. And then there was the death of the cat. That scene was originally far stronger but had to be altered because everything was changed at the last minute. The location, the cat, everything. Changes happen constantly and though disappointing you tend to adjust the scene accordingly.
Stu: Your partner appeared in EXCREAMER, but not in FANTACIDE - was this because of the outrageous content?
Shane: She is in Fantacide, as one of the worshippers at the end. Her job didn't allow much time for filming so it turned out to be a mere cameo.
Stu: Comedy is a strong element of both EXCREAMER and FANTACIDE. It's a very British sense of humour that runs through both films. What are your influences in comedy?
Shane: My all time favourites of British comedy would be Minder, Rising Damp, Carry On Films, Fawlty Towers,Steptoe & Son, Dad's Army and many Brit comedy films of the 50's. I watch very few modern comedies, I have tried but I just can't bear them.
Stu: The film is obviously a big two-fingers up at all forms of political correctness and anyone with half a brain will see it is not the product of knuckle-headed racists. Do you worry that some people may see the film as racist though? How would combat such accusations?
Shane: Those that see it that way have their minds made up, and nothing I can say will sway them one bit, so I wouldn't try. My advice to those who follow the doctrines of the pc movement is not to view Fantacide, just as I choose not to watch films that have Hollywoods liberal bias all over them.
Stu: Music is a strong factor in both films too. Tell us about the very distinctive choice of tunes you've used.
Shane: I'm a huge fan of late 50's & early 60's music and have always worked it into the films somewhere. Most of it is very obscure and I find it fits a lot of the scenes very well. People have never really commented on it, though younger viewers just think it's very bizarre, being used to modern sounds. With Fantacide I spent hours and hours choosing the right tracks, and originally the rape scene had a lovely ballad over it.
Any film I'm ever associated with would contain at least some tracks like this, it's a real passion of mine. The incidental music was a mixture of self created & royalty free music.
Stu: I know the film took a year to shoot. How was time allocated? Why did it take so long to complete?
Shane: The weather played a large part in things. The day we got everyone together for the end ritual it started to rain, but there was no way we could postpone due to peoples various commitments. So it was a case of waiting it out & everyone got bored. One of the worshippers never came back to do his death scene, so we lost some gore there. August was a complete washout, we hardly shot anything at all. On top of that we were completely reliant on other peoples schedules because we couldn't pay them. Another slowdown is the lack of a crew. If there is ever another production there has to be a crew.
After the roughcut when it was decided to add scenes I went back to one of the actors to shoot some extra footage and he turned me down. I couldn't figure out why and he wasn't very forthcoming until suddenly he accused me of making fortunes off the film, like I was living it up whilst he was doing it for nothing. This was a strange train of thought, considering the film wasn't even bloody finished!
We had to find another actor and this caused several weeks delay, although it was worth the wait as we got some really good scenes. So many things like this held us up, including my occasional bouts of laziness.
Stu: What was your personal favourite experience of the FANTACIDE shoot?
Shane: It would have to be Oppenheimer & Fontaine in the basement. Although my brother and I both had hangovers that day it was a truly hilarious shoot, I had trouble keeping the camera straight. It also turned out to be one of my favourite scenes in the film.
Stu: And your worst?
Shane: Fantacide was a difficult production, and it became worse when I fell ill. The worst experiences were Chin McQueens shootout, mainly because I ended up with dogshit all over me from a stunt, and then I jumped into a swamp with open cuts on my hands, shortly after falling ill and fearing it was weil's disease. But it wasn't.
And the other has to be the end massacre. It was our own fault, we wanted a slam-bang ending to be proud of. Unfortunately I had been editing the film in a damp caravan in the middle of winter and suffice to say my health wasn't too good. After that I needed to recoup for three months before shooting the newer footage.
Stu: What advice would you offer for aspiring filmmakers?
Shane: The real benefit at this level of filmmaking is the freedom. Everything else is a compromise. You may not have the best equipment you need, or the acting talent's you desire, or the sets etc. But you can have something Hollywood hasn't got, and that's the freedom. Finding people to watch your visions is a different matter, especially if they have been seduced by Hollywoods glossy facade. Think of the best directors in the world, and then think of how restricted they truly are by the politically correct fanatics with the purse strings. These directors toe the line with a demented fervour, once great talents straightjacketed to churn out safe product. You, on the other hand, are free. Make of it what you will.
Stu: Despite the staggering amount gore, bad taste and swearing in FANTACIDE it's a very accomplished piece of filmmaking. Do you have aspirations to move into mainstream filmmaking, despite the fact this will inevitably mean toning down considerably?
Shane: I would be interested in directing for independent producers of say, a low budget horror film. As for the mainstream I have no interest, and if that had been my ultimate goal I would never have been involved in the creation of Fantacide. It closes all the doors some would wish to open, and I knew that from the start. But there are others out there who have scant interest for the mainstream, maybe they'll get a kick out of this film.
Stu: The fact that you have afforded both films with 2-disc Special Editions shows you're not only (rightfully) proud of them, but interested in the DVD market. How come you didn't do a commentary track for FANTACIDE then?
Shane: We had every intention of doing a commentary for the film until I authored the dvd. There wasn't any room left for it and I was reluctant to sacrifice the picture quality of the film. I considered using dual layered dvd-r's but they are notoriously unreliable and I didn't want the film messing up for people. If a distributor ever picked the film up we will do one, or maybe when blu-ray burners become affordable it could be issued on that format, where there is far more room.
Stu: If Hollywood were to make a big-budget version of FANTACIDE (!), who would you like to see cast in your role ... and why?
Shane: I have to admit I had no intention of appearing in the film, but we had a let down and I had no choice. And Hollywood remaking Fantacide would be extremely interesting, to say the least. I really can't think of any modern actors I like, so I'll pass on that one.
Stu: What's next for Masochist Pictures? Can you possibly top FANTACIDE's excesses? Or will you go in another direction for your next effort?
Shane: Probably nothing for the foreseeable future. I wouldn't want to make another film without a crew and a bit more cash, it's far too taxing. I have a great idea for another film but it couldn't be made for a few thousand, although it would top Fantacide. I'm also a huge fan of Hammer Horror and would love to make something in that mould, with maybe a touch more gore. Shame the wonderful Peter Cushing wasn't still with us. Now there was an actor.
Give me Twins Of Evil over remakes of The Fog any day.
For more info on FANTACIDE check out the official site here. Special thanks to Shane Mather.