Morbidly Beautiful

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With his latest eco-horror novel, an upcoming horror film, and a new stage production of his hit horror comedy, Gregory Lamberson is giving horror fans plenty to love. 

Gregory Lamberson

Gregory Lamberson

Whether it be lively, fun and practical effects driven stories on films like Slime City and Killer Rack, or vividly scary and page turning tales in books such as “Black Creek” and “Carnage Road”, horror fans should get to know Gregory Lamberson. With a passion for horror and storytelling, and his upcoming book turned film Johnny Gruesome, there’s a lot to talk about with Lamberson.

We were thrilled to have had the chance to interview Gregory Lamberson and share his incredible work. We hope you enjoy it!


Tell us about ‘Johnny Gruesome’. Having had the idea since the 1980s, how did it feel to finally film it last summer? 

I wrote Johnny Gruesome in 1984, at the age of 19. It was my second original script, after Slime City. It was the film I wanted to make, for half a million dollars, and I knew that if I couldn’t raise the money I could shoot Slime City for 10% of that. I sent it in blind to Vestron Video, which had development execs in NYC, and “took a meeting” which I was woefully unqualified to attend. The execs asked all the right questions, and I gave all the wrong answers.  So it didn’t happen, and I made Slime City instead. I’ve been a micro-budget filmmaker since then.

Ironically, when I had a picture edit of Slime City, I pitched that to Vestron. They were interested. But right when we were about to begin negotiations the company had its first theatrical hit with Dirty Dancing, and the top dogs decreed they would no longer acquire low budget horror.  So I almost had success at a very young age twice with the same company. Because the Slime City deal fell through, it took me an extra year to complete that film, begging for money wherever I could. During that time, the bottom fell out of the low budget horror market. Woe is me.

I revised the script for Johnny a few times over the next decade, but it never changed much and never went anywhere. After my first novel “Personal Demons” was published, I decided to novelize Johnny. In 2007, it was published as a limited edition hardcover by Bad Moon Books, and in 2008 Medallion Press published it as a mass market trade paperback and promoted the hell out of it at BEA, FanExpo and other events. I co-produced a rock CD, Gruesome, with Dean Italiano and Giasone Italiano — they were the sole creators, I just gave them some ideas and co-financed the studio costs — which we released ahead of the novel.

I also directed a sloppy short film/music video based on the songs, which is sort of what led me back into filmmaking after retiring to concentrate on novels. And we released a limited edition Johnny Gruesome mask.  We also adapted two chapters into a comic book sampler, which won Best Comic Book at New York City Horror Film Festival. I basically promoted the book as I would a film. It won the IPPY Gold Medal for Horror and was a Bram Stoker Award finalist. And it served a greater purpose, which was to entice Medallion to publish my occult detective series “The Jake Helman Files”.  I figured that after 17 years, I had exorcised Johnny from my DNA…

But Johnny had other plans. In 2015, feeling very satisfied with how Killer Rack turned out, I vowed to raise the money to bring Johnny to the screen. About one year later I did, on a $250,000 budget. That’s chicken feed, but it’s five times the budget I had on Slime City, Slime City Massacre and Killer Rack. We’ve locked picture, the score is about 75% complete, and I’m waiting on a new theme song from a big rock musician. We’re also utilizing most of the songs from the Gruesome CD.

Do you plan on bringing ‘Johnny Gruesome’ on the festival circuit like your previous film ‘Killer Rack’ and when do you think audiences will be able to see it?

Right now, I am not planning to take Johnny on the festival circuit. I feel it’s good enough, with high enough production value and star making performances from my leads, that as soon as it’s complete I’ll be looking for distribution. A lot of the more lucrative distributors insist on world premiere rights. If I don’t get the deal I’m looking for, I will look into festivals, but I’m going to be very selective. Timing is everything, so we’ll see what pans out. I think this film could easily lead to a franchise. Johnny is a killer character, no two ways about it.

Having mentioned ‘Killer Rack’, talk about how that became a musical coming this fall and to what capacity will you be involved with that production?

I’ve always wanted to do a horror film in which there would be a completely out of place musical sequence in the middle, and then the film would revert to a non-musical without explanation. Paul McGinnis’s screenplay did not include a musical number, but when I read it the thought did occur to me that this might be the right project. I decided against suggesting it because I didn’t want to make things any harder on us. I became friends with Armand John Petri — not to be confused with Armand Petri, the micro-budget filmmaker — a music producer who recorded top albums for 10,000 Maniacs and Goo Goo Dolls. As it turns out, he’s a colossal horror fan who recorded many great commentary tracks for awesome films.

When my daughter told him I was making a film about “killer boobies,” he told me he had to be involved and started writing the “Killer Rack” theme song.  He brought in as collaborator Joe Rozler, who did the arranging for Manowar, among many other things. Armand and Joe are two of the most talented music industry pros in Buffalo, and Armand mentioned to his wife Kim Piazza, an actress friend of mine, that the film should be a musical.  That was really all the validation I needed. Paul and I agreed to feature one musical number, which turned into “Funbags,” which Paul (“the cute one”) and Lloyd Kaufman sang.

Except for the climax of the film, it’s the show stopper. Just over a month ago, Armand pitched the film to Neal Radice, Artistic Director of Alleyway Theatre here in Buffalo, the idea of doing it as a stage musical. I am not at all in the know regarding the theatre community here, but Neil is one of the prime drivers. It only took us a few email exchanges to iron out a deal, and another week for him to hammer out a hilarious adaptation that is pretty faithful to Paul’s script. Armand and Joe created three songs for the f