Indie Director P.J. Starks talks about last year’s hit ‘Volumes of Blood’ and its new sequel ‘Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories’
Volumes of Blood is a horror anthology that hit the festivals and conventions to rave reviews last year. Not bad from a group of friends in Kentucky, raising money as they went along. Since then, I have watched the movie two more times, and it has really grown on me. When I saw it the first time, I admit it was difficult to see how these similar yet different horror shorts would all work together in the end. But once the movie got going, and the blood started to flow, I loved it! The imperfections disappeared as I fell in gorrific love with the stories.
In this anthology, there are five directors and three writers. My favorite was the last segment by Director/Writer P.J. Starks (he also appears in it), which tied together all the segments with some of the best practical gore I’ve seen in a while. Gratuitous, yes. Super high tech, no. But it’s fun sometimes just to have a movie be about the slashers! Some of the fan favorite horror franchises of all time, like Halloween, Friday the 13th and Scream, are just glorified gore fests… and we loved those, didn’t we?
The original Volumes of Blood is five interwoven tales of dread. When a sociology student gathers several of his friends on Halloween night at the local library to help him create a new urban legend. Each friend tells their own horror story, every tale ending with deadly consequences and its own ironic twist. The group ultimately agrees it is impossible to create an urban legend quickly, but our sociology student has other more devious plans. All in all, it was entertaining, scary and what a horror anthology should be. The Crypt Keeper would be proud.
The plot is: A couple plan to purchase an old home but would like one last tour before the closing. They’re guided around the estate by a creepy realtor that may have more in store than they bargained for. Searching floor by floor, they begin to discover the remnants of its sordid and terrifying past… A popular 80’s franchise gets a modern upgrade, but at what price? There will be 7, count ‘em 7, tales of terror in this sequel! P.J. Starks’ mission in own his words was “to make the best damn anthology of 2016”.
Says Starks, “It started as a passion project for a bunch of horror fans that wanted to make a horror movie for horror fans. Volumes of Blood: Horror Story is a sequel that has not only likable characters, great plot lines, but all the insane over-the-top practical gore FX that you can shake a bloody stump at. Our track record has been set with the first film, all you have to do is Google Volumes of Blood and the search will speak for itself.”
P.J. Starks found a bit of time in his busy life to give me an interview. We talked about the original Volumes of Blood, the new sequel, and much, much more.
INTERVIEW WITH P.J. STARKS
P.J.Starks: “I was born, raised and live in Owensboro, KY with my awesome wife Katrina and our two boys Logan and Connor. I’m the Director of Technical Operations at a law firm. I’ve been seriously dabbling in the indie film arena since 2007. So far, it’s been an incredible journey. Favorite horror film? I have a laundry list of favorites, but the film that got me interested isn’t even a “horror” film, even though it does share some characteristics. Ghostbusters is my all-time favorite, followed up by The Monster Squad. I could go on for days with all the horror films I love and own.
LAZG: What made you decide to get into the Horror Genre?
PJS: “I started out doing dick and fart joke comedies, but it was a slasher short in college that really stirred up my wanting to do horror. Years later I wrote/directed my first horror film called Hallows Eve: Slaughter on Second Street. It was a sort of grown up slasher version of Scooby Doo. It got mixed reviews, but overall it was a lot of fun and the hard work paid off. Ultimately, I stuck with it and continued to work in the world of horror. That eventually led me on the path of creating Volumes of Blood, which has turned out to be one of my most fulfilling filmmaking experiences yet.”
LAZG: Volumes of Blood and Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories are anthologies. What made you go with that format?
PJS: “Personally I love working with other artists… collaboration is just exciting. What better way to do that than in an anthology? Years ago, I tried to work on one with some others, but nothing really got off the ground. It just wasn’t the right time I suppose. Then in 2014, the opportunity to create an anthology project dropped into my lap via the local library — and the concept of Volumes of Blood was born.”
LAZG: Can you tell me about Verite Cinema Films and Unscripted Film School. It looks like the whole town got involved?
PJS: “VC is the moniker that I’ve been working under for years, but I recently teamed up with my creative partner/best friend Eric Huskisson, and we started Blood Moon Pictures. Verite Cinema still exists, but it mainly handles online content. BMP is our new company that we plan to produce all our future films through such as the sequel Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories.
The Unscripted Film School came from the indie film series I started at the library as a need to make indie film more transparent in our community. Also, it was a way to open opportunities for those who want to participate in that sort of thing but didn’t know how. I wouldn’t say the whole town was involved. There was a lot of support but, per usual, there where your typical neigh sayers or those that claim to love the arts but wanted nothing to do with the project. Overall though, it was a success and has led to bigger and better things.”
LAZG: My favorite gag in VOB is the pencils in the eye and the bit about using ketchup! Who decided on all the different deaths and who did makeup?
PJS: “I came up with a majority of the death sequences. Todd Martin had written “A Little Pick Me Up” and co-wrote “Encyclopedia Satanica” with Nathan Thomas Milliner, so they came up with those deaths. I wanted a large body count. Luckily we were able to make that happen. Coming up with elaborate and creative ways for characters to bite the dust is just a blast to do. Lisa Duvall did all the special effects work, and it was phenomenal. She had a very tiny budget to work on. What she pulled off with such meager financial resources was awesome.”
LAZG: Can you tell us some stories about the making of Volumes of Blood?
PJS: “One story that gets told over and over was the night that we filmed the “Pencil Death”. The actor was Dave Spencer, a local radio host that was portraying himself. That night I had scheduled several death scenes and a few odds and ends that needed to round out the wrap around story. At the same time on the second floor they were filming “A Little Pick Me Up” with Alexandria Hendrick and horror favorite Jim O’Rear. We filmed all of Dave’s dialogue and then he had to go into make-up.
I’m not sure how long he was in there, but once he was finished he came down stairs. We were about to shoot his one shot where he drops his head back, and that’s when “The Aftermath” sequence I scheduled began… so I had to run outside and coordinate all the police and ambulance while Trina coordinated all the extras. In the meantime, Dave goes and blindly lies down on a table in the back of the library. Long story short, we spent nearly two hours outside shooting this sequence. As soon as it’s over, Trina walks over and says, “Did you forget that Dave has been waiting to shoot his death scene this whole time!?” I was like, “Oh shit!” I got caught up in all the excitement and had forgotten him. I felt like such a douche. Dave was a really good sport and was cool with it all; he was just excited to get killed in the film. His death is one of my favorites too, but Trina won’t let me live it down that I forgot him for two hours.”
LAZG: Writing, directing, producing, acting? What is your favorite?
PJS: “I wore a lot of hats on the films. Producer and the rest. I don’t consider myself much of an actor. I tried to stick to the script, but I sucked and pretty much just ad-libbed my part. And I wrote the damn thing. It was nice to get back into the director’s chair again with “Ghastly”, because it gave me a chance to do something different. However, producing is what I enjoy the most. I got to work on every short and with all the talent in some capacity, and that was exciting. Producing can be very stressful, and making anthologies are logistical nightmares. But when everything ultimately comes together the way it should, it’s an awesome feeling.”
LAZG: What is your favorite part about making movies?
PJS: “I love it for a lot of reasons. The creative process being the most important. I used to write constantly, and when I finally had the ability to take something I wrote and make it come to life I was hooked. I’m not sure if it’s just the way my mind works or my ADHD, but I’m continually coming up with ideas and concepts. Just ask Trina and Eric, it’s my outlet. I was never good at sports. I was never good at playing an instrument. I was always good at telling stories and entertaining people that way, so I naturally gravitated towards the visual arts. Making films is also the closest I’ll ever get to immortality. When I’m long gone pieces of me and my family now will continue on and later generations will have the opportunity to see a part of my world when I was still breathing. Even if those worlds are make believe.”
LAZG: So what can you tell me about the new film Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories?
PJS: “Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories is the sequel to our horror anthology from this past year. We had such an incredible and unexpected reaction to the first film that I immediately started throwing around the idea for the sequel. Luckily that door opened and here we are. It’s not a direct sequel; it’s loosely tied to the first VOB. We wanted to give viewers an entirely new experience while paying some fan service to the original.”
“I have a grandiose idea for a VOB universe, so I decided to create a wealth of new characters and scenarios when writing the script. I also brought back Nathan Thomas Milliner, who’s not only an incredible artist and filmmaker, but a strong writer as well. Together we crafted a pretty strong screenplay. Then I brought in all new filmmakers from all over to help bring these scripts to life. We have an awesome crew on this film and I honestly believe that it’s going to blow the first film out of the water.”
LAZG: Anyone that inspired you as a filmmaker?
PJS: “Kevin Smith is a huge influence on me, especially in my writing. He has a very trendy and pop culture view of creating narratives that keep things interested. He’s also a master of crafting dick and fart jokes, which I am a massive fan of. John Carpenter and Wes Craven as two other filmmakers that I admire very much. I love their views on horror as well as the films they’ve created.”
LAZG: So what is your next project?
Eric Huskisson and I created Blood Moon Pictures so we could start working out way up the ladder in filming local indie fare. We’re not sure what we’re going to do next. I’ve got multiple ideas floating around in my head like a zombie romantic comedy called NecRomance and a suspense thriller called Freezer Burn. I’ve also come up with the concept for the third installment for VOB called Volumes of Blood: Last Writes.
LAZG: Plans for Halloween?
PJS: “We’re premiering Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories at the Owensboro Convention Center on Saturday, October 29th. That about sums up my plans for that weekend.”
LAZG: Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers?
PJS: “If anyone is interested in checking out Volumes of Blood they can visit leglesscorpsefilms.com to order the DVD or Blu-ray. They were awesome enough to give the film a life beyond the festivals and it has worked out really nicely. It’s an exciting time for everyone involved with the film. You can keep track of the sequel by following the film at facebook.com/vobanthology or bloodmoonpictures.com. And if anyone is interested they can check out my stuff on: YouTube/VeriteCinemaFilms”