A Little Help From Our Friends, Sick Fucks That They Are

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There are times in life when you can pinpoint the exact moment a major change takes place. The birth of a child, a promotion at work, and numerous other events can leave you feeling that things will never be the same again. I have always been a horror film junkie. Yes sir, 100% movie geek from day one! Growing up during the glory days of VHS, and mom and pop video rental stores, I was never happier than when the weekend came and I could choose a few tapes to take home. Staring up at all the amazingly gruesome box covers, it could take me hours to pick a title. I quickly became an aficionado of mostly low budget SOV fare, 555 being one of my all time favorites. It was much later that I became infatuated with what is now known as the "underground". That was definitely a major change, and I CAN pinpoint the exact moment it happened.

The first time I didn't even make it through the entire film. About 35 minutes in, I found myself saying "Why the fuck am I watching this"? The copy was promptly returned to the store, unfinished. Surprisingly, I couldn't get these images out of my head, and after a couple of weeks, rented it a second time. I just had to see how this thing panned out. After finally watching the whole film, I felt like I needed a shower, immediately. Once again though, it stayed with me long after the viewing. That is when I noticed August Underground’s MORDUM on the shelves, and after watching that masterpiece of the macabre, I jumped in feet first. I've been a huge TOETAG fan ever since, so you can imagine how flattered and excited I was when I was approached to write for their website.

It just so happens that TOETAG has made a major change of their own. After years of only distributing films that they produced themselves, TOETAG is once again proving to be pioneers in the world of underground horror. They are now helping indie filmmakers spread their sickness to a larger audience by releasing their films under the TOETAG RELEASING banner. Their first release ArME/LUST by Keith Voigt Jr., followed closely by Adam Ahlbrandt's nasty slasher Cross Bearer and their third release is Jason Hoover's debut feature, I Am No One. With the help of the Internet, I got these three very talented filmmakers together to for a little chat.

ME: Thanks so much for taking the time out of what I'm sure are very busy schedules to talk to me. First off, what was your first TOETAG experience?

Jason Hoover:

I first met TOETAG in 2006 at Cinema Wasteland. I had a brief encounter with Fred, Shelby, and Anthony Matthews at their vendor table. I was immediately blown away by their amazing effects. About a month later, I was introduced to the AU series by my brother Bill. I was speechless. How could such seemingly nice people make such horrible films?! I had to know more about them. That Fall, I once again made the 8 hour trip to Cinema Wasteland. I must have talked to Fred for 4 hours the first day. About filmmaking, art, music, life, and women. He was friendly, open, and inspiring. I hung out with the entire TOETAG crew that night, and it was life changing. They weren't a band of cretins, hell bent on eating your baby cause Satan told them to. They were a punk rock family, hell bent on changing the system. In that shitty, dirty, scumbag motel room, surrounded by reefer smoke, and what I can only describe as the "hum" that comes from incredibly creative people, I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker. TOETAG showed us all that it was possible. TOETAG is the beginning, the now, and the future of truly independent horror.

ME: What can fans expect from your TOETAG release?

JH:

I AM NO ONE is centered in realism. It is intended to be a documentary film following the life of a serial killer, Charles Lake. It is much more a film about what makes a person a serial killer than it is a gore fest, but I wanted to keep it believable and real. A slow burn with an atomic ending. That is I AM NO ONE.

KVJ:

I have always described my films as dramatic films with horror elements. They can expect graphic sex with realistic violence. They also both have clear themes and meanings. ArME is a reflection of the war on Iraq and how fucked up it can make people when they re-assimilate into in society. LUST is more of a cautionary tale about how being obsessed with something can ruin your life and ultimately lead you to do something you wouldn't otherwise. ArME is very serious and sad. LUST has some dark humor thrown in.

 
AA:

Expect a Jesus obsessed maniac killing hookers and strippers and drug dealers in the name of god with a hammer.

ME: Why is TOETAG the right home for your film?

ArME LUST Front

"ArME/LUST" DVD autographed by Keith Voigt Jr.

AA:

See my last answer!

KVJ:

TOETAG reflects the themes and realism that I want to show in my work. They are the premiere extreme underground film company. ArME is clearly influenced by Sella Turcica, which while making the film hadn't even occurred to me! It was subconsciously just there. TOETAG has such an influence on the scene that it's ridiculous. So I think it's the perfect home for my film. I wouldn't want it anywhere else.

JH:

I think TOETAG is the right home for all Independent horror. They have taught us all how to write, shoot edit and market ourselves as a brand. That model was created by TOETAG, we just follow their lead. TOETAG fans are hungry for the latest and greatest the indie scene has to offer. They are ready and willing to show their support. TOETAG has cultivated that relationship over the past 10 plus years. Fans know that if TOETAG says a movie is good then it's well worth their hard earned dollar.

ME: What made you decide to become filmmakers? Who are some of your main influences?

Cross Bearer Front

"Cross Bearer" Limited to 1,666 autographed by Adam Ahlbrandt and Natalie Jean

JH:

Fred Vogel made me a Filmmaker. He told me I could do it and I believed him. Before that, I had absolutely no idea that you could just make a movie with your friends and family and sell it to people. I loved the idea that I could create stories and share them with like minded people. My influences are Filmmakers like Adam Rehmeier, Joe Stauffer, Brian Williams, Keith and Adam and James Bell. I look up to my peers. I'm influenced by people who just want to make cool shit.

AA:

I'd say my father, William Freidkin and Stanley Kubrick are the reason I am making films. That and I enjoy escaping reality.

KVJ:

I always loved watching movies and around the time of 8th grade I got a camera and decided it'd be cool to start filming shit. Actually I would even make my own little homemade snuff movies before I ever met TOETAG. As I started to get introduced to the underground horror scene I knew what kind of films I wanted to make. I went to Cinema Wasteland and met the TOETAG crew. After knowing them for a while I told Fred I really wanted to make movies and told me I should go to college and learn how to do it. So I did. I made ArME and LUST and showed Fred and Shelby them at Wasteland (Sven Garrett and Lacey Fleming were also in attendance). They loved them. A little while later I had to muster up the courage to ask them if they wanted to release it. Now I mean, of course they have thought about releasing people's movies before but they just didn't really NEED to. I kind of jump-started that by being a naive 19-year-old kid. They were pretty much the only people in the scene I was close with. I had no money to release it myself so I just said fuck it. I am proud to have the honor of making the first film to be released by TOETAG that they didn't produce. My 3 big inspirations in film are Fred Vogel, Jim VanBebber and Lloyd Kaufman. After being in the scene I am greatly inspired by Jason Hoover, Adam Rehmeier, Dustin Mills, Adam Ahlbrandt and Brian Williams.

 

ME: Are you currently working on any new projects?

I AM NO ONE 2-Disc Front

"I AM NO ONE" 2-disc DVD autographed by Jason Hoover

KVJ:

I am currently working on a film called Haze Period. It's about this guy named Phil who befriends a group of drug addled hipsters. A new drug called GNAR is introduced and things get really weird and really violent really fast. It's once again a dramatic film with elements of horror and it will also be very surreal. We have raised money through Indiegogo and have just been stuck in casting for months. I am looking for a producer to come on board and match the amount we made on Indeigogo. I think I may have found my 2 leads and hope to shoot very soon. This film may very well be released by TOETAG also. Who knows, the release date is very far away.

AA:

I am currently working on two films (Hunters and The Sadist) and finishing up my second book Raping The Angels On The Streets Of Gomorrah. I am also set to appear in Eric Stanze's new film In Memory Of as well as Dustin Wayde Mills Her Name Was Torment 2 and am recording an album of music with my project Nihilist.

JH:

I just finished shooting a film titled RUN with Brian Williams. We are currently in post-production and should have a release by the end of 2014. RUN features makeup effects by TOETAG's Jerami Cruise and co-stars Dani Inks who was a lead in TOETAG's film, MASKHEAD.

ME: Seeing that we are all fans first, who else could you see being a good fit for TOETAG?

JH:

I really see this new arm of TOETAG being the indie Criterion Collection. A one stop shop where fans of The Underground can go to find the best up and coming talent the scene has to offer. I would love to see TOETAG take this to a Scream Factory level for indie Filmmakers. The fact that Pieces of Talent isn't in every fucking store on earth baffles me. I would happily trade my entire local Family Video selection for one copy of THE BUNNY GAME.

AA:

I think that I need to see Fred's next movie. I want Pittsburgh Body Removal. Aside from that Jason Koch.

KVJ:

Not too sure how to answer this. Maybe someone like Jason Koch. Adam Rehmeier. TOETAG is not just going to release anybody's film. They have to fit a certain theme.

So, whether it is a chance drunken meeting at a horror convention, or a chance viewing of AU, TOETAG remains at the head of the pack. Ready to cull the herd, until only the sickest fucks are left. The underground horror scene that Fred and the gang helped create is thriving. There has never been a better time to be a fan of this macabre medium. With the birth of Facebook, not only these films, but the filmmakers behind them, are more accessible then ever before. Take it from me, a factory worker from Hamilton, Ontario Canada. I'm sitting at a laptop, writing an article for one of my favorite production company's website. Get out there, get involved, and spread the sickness far and wide. You never know what might happen!

Darrell Marsh on Facebook