An Interview with Greg Lamberson – By Brian Morton

Last month here at Rogue Cinema, I got the chance to review a new DVD from Shock-O-Rama Cinema, Slime City. This is an excellent movie and it even comes as it’s own double feature, it has an excellent suspense movie called Naked Fear on the same disc! Both movies were written and directed by Buffalo’s own, Greg Lamberson. Now, ordinarily I just get to see these great movies, I send the movie company a copy of the review and that’s that, but this time something different happened. Greg is such a nice guy; he sent a thank you letter to our editor, the dynamic Duane. Well, needless to say, I was impressed, I can count on one hand the number of filmmakers who have taken the time to send a nice (or any other kind of) letter to us. So, I thought we should get to know Greg a little better! So I dialed up my magic computer, connected with Greg in between weekend conventions and book signings and we had a little chat.

BMG: What interested you into getting into filmmaking?

GL: I’ve been obsessed with fantastic storytelling for as long as I can remember. My mother started buying me comics when I was 4 years old, and I was fascinated by the ads for the Aurora monster model kits. I bought the models, then watched the movies that inspired them. As a kid, I was also inspired by the Sunday afternoon movies that I watched on our local TV station, way back in the dark days before cable. Tarzan movies, Don Knotts movies (especially THE INCREDIBLE MR. LIMPETT), and Ray Harryhausen films. I wanted to be a stop-motion animator for a long time. The two projects that finally pushed me toward becoming a writer-director were Nicholas Meyer’s THE 7% SOLUTION, which was the first novel turned into a film that I read prior to seeing the film adaptation, and STAR WARS, which brought fantasy out of the entertainment ghetto for me.

BGM: I used to build the Aurora models as a kid myself, which ‘classic movie monster’ was your favorite?

GL: I have to go with the Creature From the Black Lagoon, even though his sternum never quite connected correctly. I went through many, many Creatures, Godzillas, and King Kongs because I played with them so much.

BMG: With the release of Slime City and Naked Fear are you interested in making any new movies?

GL: Absolutely. I’m on fire to direct again. I almost directed a feature here in Buffalo, something that I didn’t write and that someone else was producing, but I bowed out when the production wasn’t proceeding the way I felt it should have. It has to be the right project with the right people, but I’m definitely looking.

BMG: What was the hardest part of the making of Slime City?

GL: The easy answer is that shooting the climax was the hardest part: five 20-hour days in a Brooklyn apartment in June, working around all of those special effects. But the truth is, the entire project was hard from beginning to end. I’d only directed Super 8 shorts before, and there I was directing, co-producing, and co-editing a feature that I’d written myself, on locations all over New York City, on a $35,000 budget. After an 18-hr. day, Peter Clark (my Director of Photography and one of my co-producers) and I had to plan the next day’s shoot and mix up the methocellulose that we used for our slime. Methocellulose, by the way, is a bookbinding glue that is also used as a thickening agent in fast food milkshakes!

BMG: What would you consider a "good budget" for an independent film? You made Slime City for $35,000, what would you have liked the budget to be, realistically, not allowing for a "Star Wars" type budget?

GL: Every project is different, with unique requirements. I’d never do anything again without being able to pay people for their services. In very general terms, I could make a good mini-DV feature and do that for $50,000, the same thing that SLIME CITY cost in total. Mind you, that’s with real production values; obviously, I could do something cheaper, but for 50K, I could make something that I’m sure would receive notice and good distribution. I’d prefer to shoot something in High-Def, though, in the $250,000 – $750,000 range.

BMG: Naked Fear is one of the most suspenseful low budget movies I’ve seen, any interest in a follow up? Maybe revisit the characters of Julie and Camden? Or, if I may be so bold, maybe Randy survived the fall..however unlikely that may be?

GL: I’m glad you liked it, and I’m thrilled that people will finally see it as an extra on the SLIME CITY DVD. I’m really pleased with the acting in that one, and with my direction. The advantage of shooting it on Hi 8 video (mini-DV hadn’t exploded the indie scene yet) instead of 16m film, which is what we used for SLIME CITY and my second film, UNDYING LOVE, is that it was affordable for my cast to do more than 2 takes of each scene, so they could actually strut their stuff. No, no sequel. I’m sure Tommy Sweeney, who played Randy the psycho, would be pleased if Randy was just in a coma, ready to awaken, but he’s dead-dead-dead. I’m not big on sequels anyway, unless they’re planned as part of an evolving storyline from the beginning.

BMG: How about a trip back to Slime City?

GL: When Alexander Beck, a somewhat notorious foreign sales rep back in the day, picked up the overseas rights for SLIME, he wanted me to do a sequel. I thought it would be interesting to have Dick Biel, who played the cop, move into the apartment and get possessed. Coincidentally, Frank Henenlotter’s plans for a BRAIN DAMAGE sequel also centered around a cop taking monstrous center stage. I asked Alex how much he’d pony up for a sequel, and he said, "Around the same thing." I said, "Forget it!" But then I ended up making UNDYING LOVE for $35,000 anyway.

BMG: You worked as Frank Henenlotter’s AD on Brain Damage, got any good Henenlotter stories you can share?

GL: We shot BRAIN DAMAGE while we were editing SLIME CITY. The whole experience was exciting because it brought together the crews from BASKET CASE, STREET TRASH, and SLIME. You can’t work around Frank without learning a lot. I truly believe he’s a genius. It was also fun working with Dave Kindlon and Gabe Bartolos, the special effects guys. I got to operate the Aylmer’s face during the hotel withdrawal sequence. But my strongest memories of that film are the 3 nights we spent shooting outside, at the STREET TRASH auto yard, in the dead of winter. There was so much mud, and it was freezing, and even the yard’s office was unheated. It was a real nightmare.

BMG: Your book Personal Demons won the Anubis Award for Horror, which do you prefer, film-making or writing? Why?

GL: Shooting a movie is more exciting than writing a novel, and more people are likely to see even a low budget film than will read a horror novel that isn’t written by Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Peter Straub, or Clive Barker. But PERSONAL DEMONS is hands down the best thing I’ve done; unhindered by a low budget, I set my imagination free, and it’s exactly what I wanted it to be: action, suspense, monsters, mature themes, and a big canvas. It’s received the best reviews of my career, but the SLIME CITY DVD, which was extremely well produced and packaged by EI Cinema, is getting more attention, which is still fine by me.

BMG: Is film-making still your first love or has writing taken the front seat?

GL: Ultimately, I’m a storyteller, and for me, writing is part of the filmmaking process. I love filmmaking, but I do much less, if any, compromising as a novelist. Ideally, I’d love to do both. And I will.

BMG: Do you write your books with an mind towards film-making? In other words, do you write them with the hope of them being made into a movie or are they a completely separate process?

GL: Both PERSONAL DEMONS and JOHNNY GRUESOME started out as screenplays years ago, and I’ve matured as a writer since I originally created them. Turning PD into a novel allowed me to expand the themes and action in all kinds of ways, and it grew into something much more epic than a film would have been back when I wrote the script. JOHNNY is much leaner and meaner, a straight horror tale. Because I spent so much time watching and making movies, I suspect that all of my future novels will be paced like movies.

BMG: Any interests in making movies or writing outside the horror genre?

GL: No, I’m a horror guy, plain and simple. PERSONAL DEMONS has a lot of crime drama and science fiction elements; that’s enough of a stretch for me. I was the Associate Producer on a crime drama called WEST NEW YORK, which starred Vinnie Pastore, Dan Grimaldi, and Frank Vincent–"Da boys" on THE SOPRANOS, and on an unreleased sex comedy called JUST THE 4 OF US, which was written and produced by Robert Sabin, the star of SLIME CITY and NAKED FEAR. He’s a fantastic screenwriter.

BMG: What’s next for you? Anything big we should all be looking for?

GL: I’m writing a novel called JOHNNY GRUESOME, which I hope to turn into a movie. It’s the scariest thing I’ve ever worked on. And with a couple of my friends, I’m launching a new horror film festival, Buffalo Screams, in late April. Our goal is to make Buffalo Screams a huge, annual affair, something that will really put Buffalo on the map, like the Toronto Film Festival. We intend to bring in respected horror filmmakers to judge our competition, and show some truly amazing stuff. I’ve spoken to James Lorinz, the star of STREET TRASH and FRANKENHOOKER, bout being our Master of Ceremonies, but it’s too soon for anyone to make a commitment. We’re still working out some details, but the preliminary site is up: BuffaloScreams.com. If anyone has any questions about it, I prefer that they contact me through my own site, SlimeGuy.com, because I’ll see the e-mail a lot faster.

BMG: What can you tell us about Johnny Gruesome?

GL: Johnny is a high school badass, a heavy metal kid with a chip on his shoulder. After he’s murdered, he returns as a cross between a ghost and a zombie. He’s not content to get revenge on the kids who killed him; he wants to take it out everyone he never liked, which is pretty much his whole damned town. The story has a nice mixture of adult and teenage characters, and it’s really going to grab readers by the throat. I’m going for the Big Scares here, something I usually don’t do. I’m really exploring the characters, and hopefully taking the revenge-from-the-grave motif to a whole new level.

BMG: Here’s the dumb question part of the interview: Favorite Horror Movie?

GL: It’s tough to narrow it down to just one, but I’ll say the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE. Ask me again tomorrow, and it will be something else.

BMG: Movie You Saw That You Thought You Could’ve Done Better?

GL: It would be easier for me to list the ones that I DON’T think I could have made better. I still have a LOT to prove as a filmmaker, but most of the big studio horror films, despite their big opening weekend grosses, are shit.

BMG: Stories Of Yours That You Want To Make Into Movies?

GL: PERSONAL DEMONS is cinematic as hell, but it would require a huge budget. If anyone acquired the rights, the first thing they’d do would be to shut me out of the process. JOHNNY GRUESOME can be done on a much smaller scale, so that’s the ticket.

BMG: Thanks for the time and again, I really enjoyed the movies, I hope that Shock-O-Rama really gives them the push that they deserve!!! And I hope to get to see more of our work in the future.

GL: A pleasure!

You can see Greg’s work at his site, SlimeGuy.com.  His book, PERSONAL DEMONS, winner of the Anubis Award for Horror, is available as a trade paperback and limited edition hardcover at ShockLines.com.  You can get a copy of Slime City at ShockORama.com, and make sure you get the version with Naked Fear on it.  Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.  As for me, I think I’ll keep my eyes open and try to get over to Buffalo for Greg’s festival, BuffaloScreams.com. Maybe it’s time the the old Bad Movie Guy to make a report from the road? Again, Greg, thanks for all your time, keep in touch with us and don’t forget Rogue Cinema will be keeping it’s eye on you!