If you like your horror hardcore, unforgiving, and in your face, you’ve got to see Circus of the Dead! Starring Bill Oberst Jr., Parrish Randall, and Chanel Ryan, it’s becoming a very notorious flick, and I mean that in the best possible way!
Billy “Bloody Bill” Pon, the director and co-writer of the film (as well as other hellacious films like the short Doll Boy and the upcoming (rumored) Mister Fister), brings a tale of madness and mayhem, an unflinching view of the darkest recesses of humanity; if you want my humble spin on it, you can find that here.
I had the good fortune of being able to take up a few generous moments of “Bloody Bill’s” time, to get some inside info about the making of the movie and his thoughts and inspirations.
LEGLESSCORPSE: I have to say, Circus of the Dead really came outta left field and surprised me; in the first fifteen minutes or so, it seemed like just another throwaway indie slasher. Then, you took off the gloves and the tale went off like a cheap handgun; the brutality, the shock value…it was a nice misdirection on at least me. Was that your initial intent, or a happy accident?
BILLY PON: I’d say it was my initial intent. I always see the first of the movie as the “get comfortable and ready to watch a movie” phase of said movie. I give you a taste of what the movies about in a nutshell in the opening but not too much as I feel someone’s mind is catching up and getting comfortable to what they’re seeing. The clowns disappear into the tent, cue intro music over credits. Afterwards introduce the other characters get a little history/story set up and then open the flood gates. You’ve got to get that stuff in to drive and explain a good movie. I figured it was better to get that over with at first before all Hell broke loose!
LC: The story plays out almost like some kind of mythical morality play; a Greek tragedy crossed with a psycho-slasher…what were some of your inspirations?
BP: The inspiration is always built on a one sentence. I do this in all my projects. That sentence was… “Don’t take your life for granted, It could always be worse…” That’s the whole premise of the movie. Papa Corn and Donald are Yin & Yang… We are all most like Donald in life. We don’t act upon our bad thoughts. If we did, we would be Papa Corn. But, no matter how different two men seem to be inside we’re all alike and capable of doing some really f’ed up things. But what if we didn’t have that filter or a conscious? We are all Papa Corn in one way or the other…
LC: I praised Bill Oberst Jr.’s performance in my review, but your entire cast really pulled out all the stops; Parrish Randall and Chanel Ryan nailed their roles as a rocky couple, and Ryan Clapp, Rusty Edwards, and Mike Williams each gave sinister and distinctive personalities to their respective characters, turning the clown troupe into the stuff of modern nightmare (all were great; for me personally, Noodledome was one seriously freakish clown). Were these actors your first choices, or was it just a fateful and fortunate spin of the casting wheel?
BP: Bill Oberst Jr. as Papa Corn was a no-brainer. That was hitting the jackpot. He’s so hard working and humble that it was a privilege watching him create once in a lifetime magic acting as Papa Corn. I’d put his performance up there with Tim Curry’s “Pennywise” & Robert Englund’s “Freddy Kruger”. Soon the world will be saying the same thing, I promise!
Parrish Randall is not only one of my favorite actors he’s a dear friend and brother too. We share the same Texas values and we both will give something our all with no excuses. His role as “Donald” was so important to this movie working. If the audience doesn’t feel for his character then the movie would be too one sided. He makes you feel so much empathy for what “Donald” is going through that you find yourself feeling it too. I’m so proud of him to get to do this type of role and so this side of him as an actor. Up and coming actors and actresses take note, this is how it’s done!
Chanel Ryan has nerves of steel. She didn’t even blink on how intense the filming ever got. From a broken toe to a gallon of clown slobber she took it all for the team. I respect that and so much about her as an actress. When I was casting this part there were a lot of actresses scared of what they were reading in the script. Chanel wanted to know more about “Tiffany’s” back story and her as a character. She’s a force to be reckoned with and I can’t wait to work with her again!
Ryan, Rusty and Mike are all friends of mine. Think of them like the Tin Man, Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz. So what I mean by that is remember those characters were actually on the farm with Dorothy but when she was in Oz they were these alter ego characters? That’s them three in my life. Those clowns are alter ego “clown” versions of them in my life. So that makes me “Dorothy” and Lee Ankrum (my co-writer) can be “Toto”! But seriously, those three guys give above and beyond for me in so many aspects of my life and I’m forever grateful for all their long hours, hard work, blood, sweat and tears! I love those guys! Greatest supporting clown cast ever!!!!
LC: Your practical effects were quite impressive; not following the trend of indie filmmakers so often going with the cheaper CGI is even more so. Was it personal preference, knowing what the fans want, or a combination of those that prompted the choice to go strictly physical with the FX?
BP: I’m not a big fan of CGI all the time. Setting out we needed some “hired guns” who were out of the box in their approach and could make a lot happen in a short amount of time. We went for Marcus Koch and Matt Ash. Them two and their helper Heather Buckley brought some truly twisted unholy nightmares to life for us. I love the FX in the movie. They both knocked home runs if you ask me!
LC: I have to ask about Papa Corn: All of us horror film fans have our minds wandering on the ragged edge of what polite society thinks of as “deviant”, but where in the hell did you come up with such a monstrous, sadistic, and fantastic a character?
BP: “Papa Corn” was created by myself and Lee “Toto” Ankrum. Papa is easy to figure out. He is you, me… he is everyone. Well, everyone who doesn’t have remorse for the damage he causes. If he wants it, he takes it. He just doesn’t care about much except making himself amused. He’s just a homicidal serial rapist with a taste for necrophilia who’s day job just so happens to be a circus clown. Papa came to be when I and Lee looked into the dark places within ourselves…
LC: You guys had to have a great time on this one…Any funny on-set memories or stories you’d like to share? Any rougher, not-funny-at-the-time tales?
BP: There were good times and bad times… We were shooting the first night with Bill in costume as “Papa” and it was like 5am and the sun was coming up. I took a walk to stay awake and found myself looking on from a distance at the crew, actors and equipment thinking… “Wow, I’m actually making “Circus of the Dead”, it’s actually happening”… I shed a tear and smiled and knew at that moment we were also making horror movie history as well.
LC: What’s next? Will we see a CotD II? Will you be incorporating more of your earlier character Doll Boy into the mix? What can we be looking forward to?
BP: There’s lots of ideas I’m working on. Circus of the Dead 2? Doll Boy (Feature)? Mister Fister? Secret projects? Hmmmm… One can only guess. I’m not telling and when I do, in true “Billy Pon” fashion I’ll have to make a big event out of it… Stay Tuned!!!
LC: You can bet on that, Bill!
I want to extend my thanks once again to “Bloody Bill” Pon for taking the time out of his schedule to have this little chat with me. Good luck with Circus of the Dead and whatever other projects you have brewing!
JUST CLICK HERE
Latest posts by Andrew Thompson (see all)
- IN MEMORIAM — GEORGE ROMERO 1940 – 2017 - July 17, 2017
- Anticipated PITCHFORK Hits DVD / Blu-ray This Month - May 3, 2017
- Filmmakers Unleash Terrifying OWLMAN On Unsuspecting Urban Explorers - May 2, 2017