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We honor the unsung heroes of filmmaking, looking at the talent behind casting magic and onscreen chemistry for Full Moon Productions.

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It’s often said, “it’s all in the casting”, and even more imperative when you put together a solid group of actors for a film. Outside of the realm of puppets, bongs, and devilish toys, we explore three of our favorite Full Moon Features flicks representing a strong ensemble cast from their lesser-known direct-to-video (now streaming) catalog.

Sadly, both casting legends, Perry Bullington and Robert MacDonald, have crossed over, but their talents in the trade since 1985 have left an eternal imprint on the world of horror. Notably with contributions to the Puppet Master, Trancers, and Subspecies series. The duo’s filmography includes The Dead Hate the Living (2000) and Castle Freak (1995).

Charles Band hasn’t forgotten them, and you’ll get to pay homage to their legacies with the long-awaited finished release of David Allen’s 1994 The Primevals, debuting May 31st.

The Dead Hate the Living! (2000)

Life imitates art for an independent film crew shooting a horror film at an abandoned hospital, only to awaken the true dead in Dave Parker’s 2000 The Dead Hate the Living!

In horror, the collective chemistry of a group of characters often drives the setup of the narrative, especially in camp killer movies. But what makes this film even more effective is that Parker takes us into the one-to-one connections between each character on the set.

Best friends, and fellow horror afficionados, David “Dave” (Eric Clawson) and Paul (Brett Beardslee), can read each other’s mind as first-time director and makeup artist. They love baffling their actors with trivial genre references of David Warbeck and Dick Miller, which brings much of the humor in this film and an endearing soul-brother connection. I assume this mimics the real friendship collaboration of Dave Parker and Paul Salamoff, with Parker writing the script.

Dave and his sister, Shelly (Wendy Speake), have a warm sibling bond with her maternal absolution for his choices.

Marcus (Rick Irwin) and Shelly (Wendy Speake)

Shelly and Eric (Benjamin P. Morris) click instantaneously as fellow actors with the same work ethic on the set. Unrequited puppy love, Paul is sweet on Shelly, and his oozing love for special effects annoys her.

Beardsley, in his expressive nature of hysteria, makes Paul a sweet child with no filter, which is his character’s comedic charm. Then there’s Dave’s attraction to the thoughtful PA, Topaz (Jamie Donahue), “Miss Black”, while David looks non gothic and self-absorbed. Clawson and Donahue brought a sexy yin and yang to this dynamic and were personal casting choices by Parker.

Dave makes the unethical decision to film the discovered corpse of Dr. Eibon (Matt Stephens) but unleashes the door from hell and all its ghouls. The nervous PA, Marcus (Rick Irwin), in blood-gashing makeup, and unconventional cinematographer, Chas (David Douglas), add many shades of cool to the crew.

Dave (Eric Clawson) and Topaz (Jamie Donahue)

Stephens, as Dr. Eibon, is mesmerizing with his captivating eyes of grief and diabolic nature. Maggot (Andre ‘Doc’ Newman) and Gaunt (R.I.P. Matthew McGrory) pair together as disproportionately sized creatures, unlike the typical zombie aesthetic look, making the dead’s world more bizarre for what the film crew walks into.

There’s a familiarity in being young and on a crew in the trenches together of a grimacing production.

The Dead Hate the Living! turns twenty-five next year and is a fun movie within a movie while adding love notes for Lucio Fulci and George A. Romero.

Castle Freak (1995)

Director Stuart Gordon directs some of his most emotional work in the H.P. Lovecraft-inspired film Castle Freak.

Looking to move beyond recent family tragedy, John (Jeffrey Combs) and Susan Reilly (Barbara Crampton), along with their blind daughter, Rebecca (Jessica Dollarhide), inherit a daunting 12th-century castle in Italy.

Combs’s portrayal of John is my favorite of all his roles. John is working through so much internal rage and true remorse, conveyed through his eyes and his silence as a recovering alcoholic. Crampton, as Susan, is radiant and ablaze in all her grief. She’s not ready to forgive John for his reckless driving that killed their son and left Rebecca blind.

Combs and Crampton have a chemistry within each film that shows the ability to challenge and safely confer with each other, something Gordon embraced.

The Reillys: Susan (Barbara), Rebecca (Jessica Dollarhide), John (Jeffrey Combs), and Forte (Luca Zingaretti)

Dollarhide is perfect in how she embraces and fully trusts what she senses and a mother’s love.

The menacing presence of the castle, Giorgio d’Orsino (Jonathan Fuller), John’s unknown half-brother, is now skin and bones with a savage taste for flesh. Fuller is fascinating as the monster of devastating abuse — chained, whipped, and starved to depravity. His physical frame, almost contortionist-like, is primal in his rage and stunted childlike curiosity, which brings much trepidation and empathy to his character.

Castle Freak features a well-known supporting international cast. Their characters help draw the castle’s hidden past to life. The dutiful caretaker, Agnese (Elisabeth Kaza), estate executor, Giannetti (Massimo Sarchielli), and Forte (Luca Zingaretti), the policeman looking for the whereabouts of a prostitute, Sylvania (Raffaella Offidiani), who is now chained up by Giorgio.

The Freak, Giorgio (Jonathan Fuller) and Sylvania (Raffaella Offidiani)

Offidiani has a resonating screen presence in her seductive way to connect with him, to deter his bloodlust nature. As more bodies are found, John is accused and makes the ultimate sacrifice to bring redemption for his family and lineage.

Since 1981, Casting Director Jan Glaser has been facilitating talent in all genres of television and film.

Alongside casting with Nancy McManus, the duo cast Rob Zombie’s last two films and found new talent for Full Moon’s The Seduction of Rose Parrish (2021) and Don’t Let Her In.

Don’t Let Her In (2021)

Needing further stability, a young, creative couple rents out a room within their loft to Serena (Lorin Doctor), a mysterious drifter. As soon as Serena settles in with all her new age rituals, opportunities come in overnight for Amber (Kelly Curran), a striving multi-artist, and her touring musician boyfriend, Ben (Cole Pendery).

When Serena’s helpful nature towards Amber becomes too good to be true, unexplained events at home start to ensue from her dark, metaphysical world, exposing the couple’s vulnerabilities.

Lorin’s performance of Serena is magnetic.

I love how she draws in from her eye’s manipulative control over the couple’s insecurities. She’s a chameleon: a seductive temptress, a motherly bestie, then a demonic shapeshifter unhinged by her own incantations. Curran and Pendery’s performances of Amber and Ben bring perfect opposing forces for a couple quickly challenged in their bond.

Serena (Lorin Doctor) and Amber (Kelly Curran)

Amber has the perfect element of being naïve and intuition to expose Serena’s demise, while Ben is career-obsessed and avoidant of devilish triangulation.

Ted Nicolaou executes a solid story within the one-hour mark for Don’t Let Her In, a perfect move of attention span by Full Moon these past few years.

Each film is currently streaming on Full Moon Features and Tubi. Castle Freak is also available on Shudder.

I hope these overlooked gems remind you that there’s more to Full Moon than B movies, babes, bongs, and puppets. It can be romance, castles, misunderstood creatures, zombies, and humanity at the hands of great talent.

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