Lately, there’s not a day goes by where 88 FILMS don’t seem to be doing something ludicrously cool with an underappreciated cult favourite. From their bonkers Full Moon and Troma catalogues, to their now recently announced slate of souped-up blu-ray editions of some truly schlock-tastic slashers and Italian gore-gems, heck, if you’re a fan of all kinds of wacky, 88 Films are THE quintessential UK home video label. So what better way to help these guys unleash more stunningly packaged fright fodder than by donating to their just launched IndieGoGo campaign? I mean, you do want a sumptuous, straight from the original camera negative hi-def remaster of the excellently awful ZOMBI HOLOCAUST, right? Read on for the crowdfunding skinny and our quick, SCREAM-exclusive chinwag with critic, filmmaker and 88 Films’ tireless PR man, Calum Waddell…
88 Films’ campaign runs until Saturday 27th December 2014.
Interview with Calum Waddell…
SCREAM: You’ve been working with 88 Films for some time now, and Zombi Holocaust’s remaster seems to be your most ambitious project to date. What’s it been like pulling this together? Why the crowdfunding route?
Calum Waddell: Well, 88 Films are just two guys from Leicester and they brought me in to do some stuff that they just never had the time for – press releases, some acquisitions and, of course, the occasional additional feature. It is a remarkably small operation so the crowdfunding route is essential to re-mastering Zombi Holocaust. Simply put: this is a cost that is above and beyond what 88 Films can achieve on their own pockets. As someone with Marxist leanings, I’m not too keen on crowd surfing, but if it is restoring a film and someone is buying some perks I’m far more relaxed about it. It’s not Zach Braff asking you to make his new movie, you know? The home video market is a struggle at the best of time and taking on any of these niche horror titles is a big gamble. You can never be sure of what will work and what won’t – although, for me, Zombi Holocaust has been a movie that is crying out for a blu-ray release. As for what it has been like pulling it together – it has been a long process. My friend Zuno at Exposure came to me and said that he had leased the title, which I already knew about, but he didn’t think he was going to be able to release it. I imagine STAGEFRIGHT had taken up a lot of his time, cash and energy – and, as I said, being a small operation is really hard. So I went to 88 and asked if they could sublicense it from Zuno. We had been talking about an 88 Italian sub-label for a while anyway – initially I had hoped we could launch that with LAST CANNIBAL WORLD, but the BBFC were doubtlessly going to have problems with it…
SCREAM: Am I right in thinking that Zombi Holocaust marks the first time that 88 Films are producing their own HD master? The Full Moon stuff, for instance, has all been provided by Charles Band.
CW: Yes, you are correct on that – although our upcoming scans of SPLATTER UNIVERSITY and SLAUGHTERHOUSE are being provided by the directors themselves.
SCREAM: There’s a little on the IndieGoGo page but could you tell me more about 88 Films’ transfer plans? Was using Media Blasters’ 2011 HD master even an option? I know there’s been a lot of very vocal internet hate for that particular release…
CW: It was an option. As I said, the problem is the costs involved in restoring these films from the original camera negative… If such a thing is even available. Case in point: I took 88 Films ALICE SWEET ALICE and it was going to be a DVD only deal. Now I wanted that on blu-ray as much as anyone but what can you do? If the HD source isn’t available you have a DVD or nothing. It was the same with UNHINGED. With BURIAL GROUND all we have is the old HD source, and it looks better than the elements that Media Blasters used for Zombi Holocaust, but that is about as good as it will get for that title. Try as we might, Burial Ground only has that source available. So we need to work with what we can get a hold of. Ideally, we would love to restore everything from an in-camera negative or film print!
SCREAM: Could you tell me a bit about what we can expect extra features wise from the disc, specifically with your EATEN ALIVE documentary?
CW: I seem to have been blessed with some haters over CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST because I have always stated I’m not a big fan of that movie, despite being good friends with Ruggero Deodato – who has done some films I really, really like and which I wish more people would check out. As I said, I really wanted to launch 88 Films with Last Cannibal World, which I think is the far better film. Nevertheless, in the interest of fairness and debate – I’ve hosted Ruggero, and the film, at several screenings, and worked tirelessly to locate some of the people involved in it. That interview with Salvo Basile on the USA disc, for instance, was instigated by me too – I want information on everything, even if it is a film that troubles me. Anyway, that aside, the cannibal genre is fascinating, transgressive, offensive, exotic, strange and its representation of third world is obviously very un-PC but nonetheless deserves to be explored in detail. Especially given the circumstances and era that these films were produced in – as well as a certain sense of post-colonial superiority: ‘Oh look at these barbaric natives’ [laughs]. Hearing, for instance, that the cannibals in Zombi Holocaust are Vietnamese boat people, and they were eating raw meat for some bucks, is insanely offensive unless you have no heart at all. The same is true of the use of animals in these movies. But then that makes the genre ripe for exploration doesn’t it? So, the documentary asks some tough questions, gets some insightful answers and explores this genre in as much detail as, I imagine, anyone ever will.
SCREAM: With Zombi Holocaust being one of the first of 88 Films’ new Italian horror range, if this campaign goes well, can we expect similar treatment for the likes of Burial Ground and SPASMO, which you’ve also announced?
CW: Not with Burial Ground, for the reasons mentioned, and I don’t think the market is big enough for these other films to be honest. SPASMO I’ve wanted to see on Blu for a while – I told Umberto Lenzi when I brought him to Manchester’s Festival of Fantastic Films last year that I wanted to get some of his giallo movies out in the UK. So I’m thrilled to be able to have accomplished that. I’m a big fan of Lenzi as a filmmaker – he is a very underrated journeyman who, I think, gave a lot to each genre he encountered.
SCREAM: I’m sure this crowdfunding will deservedly reach its goal. However, if it doesn’t, do you feel this will have a lasting effect on the genre films that will feature on blu-ray in the UK over the coming months and years?
CW: I am not sure. I spoke with Garwin from Shameless, who have put out some really cool titles over the years, a few weeks ago and neither one of us has much confidence in the market lasting for too much longer anyway. But I imagine if the campaign fails, 88 will get cold feet about future titles such as this.
SCREAM: Finally, with you personally curating a lot of 88 Films’ stuff, has there been anything that’s eluded your attempts to license it?
CW: Yes, very much so. It can be frustrating trying to get stuff signed but other times it is very smooth – the Slasher Classics, for instance, have been great fun! It’s rubbish and everything but I grew up with NEON MANIACS and we almost had that until the licensor found out he didn’t have it for the UK. There was THE HOWLING 3 – I wanted that one out so, so, so much but unfortunately the sole 35mm print is in Canberra and the sole place to do a scan is in Sydney and the guy there, with a straight face, said it would cost us $35,000. In US dollars [laughs]. This shows how absolutely insane some people are, unfortunately. I mean, I don’t think 88 Films really want to go bankrupt practically overnight. I initially took NEKROMANTIK to 88 Films because I had noticed it had shown uncut at the Leeds Film Festival with the BBFC’s approval. So I sent them Jorg’s email and explained the status of the film. Anyway, 88 let the email sit and sit so eventually I asked Arrow if they would be interested. I know 88 regret not acting on that one now – but I wasn’t as close with them as I am now [laughs]. There is also SWEET SIXTEEN, the slasher flick, I was interested in that but it didn’t work out. On the other hand, an ex-nasty that I have wanted to get sorted for UK blu since 2009 was signed to 88 Films, as part of their Slasher Classics range, just two weeks ago. I’m psyched and excited for that!
For more up to date release information, visit: http://www.88films.co.uk
Words: Matty Budrewicz / @mattybudrewicz