Christmas horror anthology ‘Deathcember’ is set to bring together some of independent horrors brightest talents including co-directors B.J Colangelo and writer Zach Shildwachter for 24 short bloody tales.
The pair have collaborated on the segment, ‘They Used to Laugh and Call Him Names’, which is set to bring new meaning to famous rhymes from ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer’.
Bloody Flicks caught up with B.J and Zach to discuss the newest slice of yuletide terror.
B.J Colangelo (Director of They Used to Laugh and Call Him Names)
How did you get involved with Deathcember?
The project was actually brought to my attention by filmmaker, Chelsea Stardust. She is an incredible supporter of independent voices in horror cinema and thought that it would be a great project to pursue. She was right. Considering that I’m a filmmaker out of the Midwest that still has a “day job” outside of filmmaking, it really meant the world to me that Chelsea would give her words of encouragement to the producers and vouch for my work.
What can you tell us about your segment – They Used to Laugh and Call Him Names?
The title comes from the song lyric of a pretty famous Christmas song that is unfortunately NOT in the public domain. Let’s just say this segment is heavily inspired by a famous Christmas story…but in a much more gruelling way.
Have you always had an interest Christmas-themed horror, or was there something about this project that piqued your interest?
Christmas is actually my least favorite holiday of the year, so having the chance to put a horror spin on it makes the holiday so much more enjoyable. There’s something about the juxtaposition of horror and “the most wonderful time of the year” that really resonates with me. Personally, I think Christmas is a miserable time with the weather being garbage, familial obligations, an emphasis on commercialism, and an absolutely inescapable religious stranglehold–so shining a light on the fact Christmas can actually be an absolute horror show was absolutely something I wanted to be a part of.
How long did you have to produce your segment?
We all had the same amount of time to create our segments, but for our piece, we shot the whole thing in a weekend. We’re one of the only segments that take place outside and we shot in actual winter weather, so we had a small window to make sure everything could look consistent. Even then, despite having a proverbial winter wonderland during the morning, by the afternoon, snow was already starting to melt around us.
Was there a meeting between all of the Directors and production teams before you started filming?
Nope! We all pitched our ideas to the producers separately to ensure there wouldn’t be overlap with storylines, but otherwise, we were all given the freedom to work independently and fulfill our own creative desires.
What do you enjoy most about directing?
To me, directing is most enjoyable because it feels like solving a massive puzzle. There are so many moving parts and elements that need to be dealt with and arranged in order to make the final product as best as it can be, and being in the position to help put these pieces together is extremely satisfying.
Themed Horror anthologies are becoming more and more popular now, what sets Deathcember apart from the crowd?
Horror anthologies have always been popular, but I think the “theming” offers a bit of a creative challenge for those involved. Audiences know exactly what they’re getting into if a theme is on the front end, and that’s exciting. I think what makes Deathcember interesting is that the film has SO many segments, so there’s something for everyone. Typically, anthologies have maybe five segments at max, but with Deathcember serving as an advent calendar of sorts, you’ve got plenty of options to find your favourite treat.
Have you had a chance to see the completed film yet?
Interestingly enough, I have not! The film has had a pretty nice festival run, but because of the restrictions of my day job, I’ve not had the ability to attend any of the screenings.
What was the collaboration like with writer Zach Shildwachter?
Zach Shildwachter and I had finished co-writing/directing a feature film called POWERBOMB before Deathcember, so we were already very aware of each other’s strong suits. We effortlessly slipped into the appropriate roles and specialities to ensure that one-weekend shoot could be done as quickly and efficiently as possible.
Is this the sort of project you would like to be part of again or are you focusing more on features now?
I really enjoy creating standalone short films, but anthologies are a neat way to get more eyeballs on those short projects. As for now, I’m focusing heavily on writing, mostly on feature work, but I’m currently writing an episode for a series. That’s all I can say for now, but there are some really exciting things on the horizon that I can’t wait to talk more about!
Zach Shildwachter (Co-Director & Writer of They Used to Laugh and Call Him Names)
Tell us how you got involved with Deathcember?
We were suggested to the producers by Chelsea Stardust, and were lucky to be included with some phenomenal filmmakers. We were tickled to be the only filmmakers from Ohio.
Can you tell us about the writing process for They Used to Laugh and Call Him Names?
We had pitched 5 separate ideas and they were most intrigued by our idea to make a splatter fueled homage to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Once we were locked in with that pitch it was writing for the elements we were able to lock in with our budget and turnaround for filming and editing. All in all I was able to crank out the final script in less than two weeks.
Did you have any say in terms of who would direct your segment or did you recommend BJ Colangelo?
BJ and I had Just finished co-directing our first feature film and decided to tackle this project in the same fashion.
Were you present on-set for any of the filming?
I was present from preproduction and the writing process, to meeting with our sfx wizard Alan Tuskes, designing our shot list with DP Ryan Forte to being on set in subzero temperatures, and all through postproduction too. Working on set we only had two days to capture our story in the midst of a polar vortex that was gripping Ohio. The temperatures of our weekend shoot ranged from 10 degrees Fahrenheit to 60. One of the more unpredictable elements to contend with but our cast and crew were utmost professionals, ready for everything that got thrown their way.
How much does the segment differ to your script?
Not much is different from the script to the finished product minus one other sfx gag that we weren’t able to fit into our shooting day. We are always ambitious and try to over deliver. Even with that one omission I feel our segment offers our unique style with plenty of heart and absurdity. Our cast really dug deep to portray the wackiness we hoped to convey.
Is Christmas-themed horror something you had been interested to explore?
I’ve always wanted to tackle Christmas horror. There’s something so profoundly goofy yet engaging with that subject matter as it is celebrated so differently around the world. Being from Ohio the film A CHRISTMAS STORY was a particular influence as well as the classic claymation story of Rudolph.
Have you had a chance to see Deathcember in its entirety yet?
I was lucky enough to travel to Germany for the cast & crew premiere. It was a wonderful experience to meet the producers alongside some of the other international directors. Such a cast of dynamic characters, a truly unforgettable experience.
If so, what can audiences expect?
The film definitely offers something for everyone, from monsters to body horror, with plenty of blood, laughs, and terror.
Do you think there is scope to making Deathcember into the new ABCs of Death series?
I definitely think there’s more gold in those hills to mine. Everyone involved has such a distinctive style, even just from the American side, and when combined with the talent from overseas, it certainly offers a unique experience for all.
What can you tell us about your next project with BJ Colangelo, Powerbomb?
POWERBOMB is available on VOD across multiple platforms and just recently hit Dvd. The film stars real life wrestlers Matt Cross, Britt Baker, Greg Iron, Rickey Shane Page, Dick Justice, Derek Direction, and more. It’s our love letter to independent wrestling that also addresses the toxic fandom that surrounds that squared circle. We partnered with Turnstyle Films and 1984 Productions to pull it all off and it’s currently distributed by Indican Pictures.
With the wrestling theme, are you a big fan of professional wrestling?
I’ve been a wrestling fan since I was about 8 years old. The industry has changed and so has my taste but I tend to enjoy it all, everything from backyard wrestling to deathmatches to the more comedic offerings and now the new era being ushered in by AEW and beyond.
Read our interview with Deathcember segment Director Michael Varrati.