Recently I watched the unrated version of I Spill Your Guts. This movie was written, directed and produced by James Balasamo, who also portrayed Dennis/The American Executioner. The film itself was good, the back-story was firm, and the roster of Stars featured in I Spill Your Guts was eccentric and delightful. The combination of people that came together to make this feature was truly impressive.
The film’s plot as written on the back of the DVD:
“This military horror is bound to get you excited. On a routine military mission, Dennis (James Balasamo) and Joe (Billy Walsh) are quickly surrounded by enemy fire. When Joe stands into the line of fire to run, Dennis pushes him out of the way, only to take a bullet to the throat. Following his tragic injury, Dennis wakes up in the hospital to find Joe had stolen the credit as the hero and told the ultimate lie. Joe took at the glory, leaving mute Dennis with only one option. When the two return home to New York, the war rages on in the streets. Dennis seeks revenge on Joe – killing anyone close to him. One little lie will cost so many innocent live in I Spill Your Guts.“
As stated, the plot is solid and straight forward, unlike other indie films where the story is often lost somewhere between the acting and the directing. The character Dennis/The American Executioner is relatable, everyone has at some point in their lives felt slighted and all of us have taken some sort of revenge on someone (hopefully during childhood when we are less mature and physically apt). There was a great effort put behind the directing, and it came across on screen. Visually, I Spill Your Guts is stimulating. It’s campy, dark, packed with creative and well produced death scenes. It brings back memories of movies like Silent Night, Deadly Night, The Crow and The Black Dragons. I quite liked the overall feel of the film and found it an enjoyable watch.
Actors featured in I Spill Your Guts are Debbie Rochon (Night of The Living Dead ’68), Dave Brockie (GWAR), Tim Ritter (Creep ’95), Lynn Lowry (The Crazies ’73 & ’10), Lloyd Kaufman (Polturygiest: Night of the Chicken Dead ’06), Andrew W. K. (Jackass: The Movie ’02). and Professional Wrestler, Balls Mahoney.
This assortment of entertainers was grand. My own feelings are, I wished there was more of an emotional connection to some characters. Frequently in horror movies there’s that one asshole-supporting-character, when that persons murder comes about the viewer doesn’t feel bad about seeing it, thus making further and more gruesome deaths easier to accept and come to terms with paying hard earned money to watch. I could not figure out who this character was in I Spill Your Guts. Joe was someone who had to go, straight from the beginning of the film that was clear. Being one of the leads, this doesn’t fit. I found myself wanting to either care, or hate the subjects more than what was allotted in the movie. Still, it was a wicked to see the full selection of cameos, along with the pop-culture references made.
The only other issue I had was the sound editing. Transitioning from scene to scene was mostly done with loud and uncomfortable clips of heavy metal/punk rock songs.The music was not the problem, the sound track is really good. Yet, crossing over from an emotional scene with the mid-section of an electric guitar riff isn’t necessarily the best way to draw the audience in. There needs to be time for a viewer to breath and I felt a bit asthmatic.
I Spill Your Guts is a definitely a must watch movie. The character of Dennis was well put together and someone I would follow into a sequel. Having so many Stars and homages also made this movie splendid (it could easily be made into a great drinking game). The sound track is rockin’ featuring Cannabis Corpse, Blood Sucking Zombies from Outer Space, and Suffocation.
There aren’t too many bad things I could say apart from laying back on the score and a bit more character building.
It’s a pretty fucking awesome flick.
-With your recently released film I Spill Your Guts you took on the roles of Actor, Director, Producer, Writer, Cinematographer, (doing the same in Hack Job). Having one of those jobs can be very daunting, how did you deal with having so much control over the film(s)? Did you find yourself overwhelmed, or were you too busy to realize how much you had taken on?
Busy is an understatement. When you’re working on a feature, it absolutely consumes you, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. As an independent filmmaker, I have best owed myself with a habit of wearing so many hats. Originally it was budget related, but once you go through the motions of taking on so many roles, it becomes second nature. Sort of like when Mr. Miyagi teaches Ralph Macchio to wax on and wax off in “The KarateKid”. That basic motion is translated into ass kicking. I was making short-films for seven years before my first feature, Hack Job. Making “shorts”, I was taking on the same roles I do now, and so by the time it came to do I Spill Your Guts, I didn’t second guess taking on the same responsibility. Of course as much work as I do, I couldn’t make a movie without the help and support from my family, friends, and crew at Acid Bath Productions.
-Which job did you enjoy most in the making of I Spill Your Guts, Actor, Director, Producer, Writer or Cinematographer?
As I alluded to in the last question, I really do enjoy all of my roles on set, or why the hell else would I do them? Directing is by far the job I enjoyed the most working on I Spill Your Guts. There is nothing like having a vision in your head and making the rest of the world see it too. As a director I essentially get to use actors as life sized action figures, to get hacked and slashed to bits. Also as a director, I was really honored to direct so many people that inspired me by their work, including Frank Mullen, the lead singer of Suffocation, Andrew W. K., and Dave Brockie from GWAR. I had seen them all in concert way before working with any of them. To go from a blank face in a crowed audience to becoming “That guy that directed me in a horror flick”, is amazing.
-Where did you come up with the concept for this Military horror? Can you give some clues on your writing process?
After my first feature Hack Job, I really wasn’t sure what direction I wanted to go in. I knew I wanted to do something less cheesy and really wanted to do a revenge film. War is a contemporary subject and always will be. While world peace looks nice on paper, it is a pipe dream. That’s why I thought it was a perfect platform for I Spill Your Guts. I really wanted to make a film that will be relevant throughout the decades. A lot of the themes are timeless, like friendship and betrayal. The writing process was very interesting. The main story of Joe betraying Dennis, and Dennis coming back for revenge was always the same. There were some elements of the script that changed while in production, including the back story of the “The American Executioner” mask, the “Erasers” story line, and Joe’s original death. The mask in the original script came from a comic book called “The American Executioner”. When Dennis was a boy, he saw his mother killed by his father (Played by Lloyd Kaufman) through the mask of his favorite comic book character’s Halloween costume. When his father sees that Dennis has witnessed the murder of his own mother, he tells Dennis that it was for the good of the country and she didn’t have enough pride and patriotism to live. The mask then becomes a “medium”, a tool used to separate him from the bloodshed. Lloyd is still the inspiration for Dennis’ madness, but that back story fell into the grinder. Linnea Quigley was going to play Dennis’ mother, but due to schedule conflicts, it didn’t work out. Our graphic designer, Erin Battaglia, had even designed a comic cover. It’s funny how many things get made for production and then fall to the wayside. The “American Executioner” comic is still in the movie briefly. The “Erasers” was a concept I came up with late into production. Dennis was a highly trained killer taking on innocent civilians. I wanted to create a road block for him. So I came up with a government agency of hit men called “The Erasers” to take him out.They are hired by the Secretary of Defense (Played by Debbie Rochon) to cleanup Dennis and the mess he is making out of N.Y.C. Joe’s original death was originally planned to be a little more controversial. The ending fight scene left Dennis in a position where he could impale Joe through the stomach with the American Flag raising him up and salute him. As Dennis lowers Joe he pulls out the flag and Joe’s entrails littler the floor. Dennis shakes the blood off the flag waving it back and forth violently as the camera slowly dollies back showing the carnage left by Dennis as it fades to black. That is what was written for the ending of I Spill Your Guts, but history dealt us a different hand. We were lucky enough to score a Junk Yard location, which led to the automobile demise of Joe instead of the flag gag.
-There are several nods to the Horror Industry and particular Serial Killers in I Spill Your Guts, what was the decision process for the people you chose to give homage to?
As a society we are fascinated with serial killers. What makes them tick, why do they snap? They are deeply disturbed people and in no way should be glorified in any manner for the atrocity that they have committed. As a cinema junkie I enjoy the occasional nod while watching a movie. It says “Hey! I know about this…Do you?” I choose the names I did because they were people I was fascinated by. There is even a nod to spaghetti western legend Sergio Leone.
-Why did you choose the role of villain (The American Executioner) for yourself, and do you find Directing yourself as an Actor difficult?
I started acting when I was eight years old because I wanted to play Jason from “Friday the 13th Part III”. The American Executioner was my dream role. I wanted to create a new character that could stand among the slasher icons of my generation. It’s kind of cool to think that I Spill Your Guts might be the film that inspires our youth to grow up and want to make horror films…Also scary. Although my words were slightly muffled from behind the mask directing while acting wasn’t a challenge. I’ve worked with relatively the same crew for years so they know my style. Also it’s a known fact not to anger a director while he is holding a machete!
-The cast for this movies is exceptional, Debbie Rochon (Night of The Living Dead’68), Dave Brockie (GWAR), Tim Ritter (Creep ’95), Lynn Lowry (The Crazies ’73& ’10), Lloyd Kaufman (Polturygiest: Night of the Chicken Dead ’06), Andrew W. K. (Jackass: The Movie ’02). and Professional Wrestler, Balls Mahoney.
Was it easy for you to get everyone on board for this project, and what was it like Directing and Acting with so many well-known Actors/Musicians/Wrestler?
I couldn’t ask for a better experience. Everyone was on board from day one. What’s great about the horror genre, is that if you’re a fan, you’re willing to do whatever you can to help the cause. It was by far the greatest directing experience of my life. One of my favorite memories onset was directing Joel M. Reed (Director of “Blood Sucking Freaks”). Well not so much on set but partying with Joel at the wrap party. Joel was playing air guitar to Slayer and the women were still all over him. That’s the directors life for me, I said to myself as I sipped my beer watching Joel party it up.
-Was there a message you were trying to get out with this movie, if so, what?
There are messages and repeating themes in my films. I try to show both sides of the coin and step back and let the viewer choose heads or tails. I’m not a politician, so I try not using my films for a soap box to stand on…not yet any way.
-How do you feel about the film now that it is finished? Looking back would you make any changes, and if so what?
I honestly couldn’t be happier with the film. I wouldn’t change anything about it.
-Any words for your fans?
I just wanted to say thanks for your love and support of Acid Bath Productions. We are starting to do the horror convention circuit. So I look forward to meeting our new fans in person. I have a few new projects I’m acting in to look forward to. “Bloody Christmas” and “Jack O Slasher” both slated for an October release. Acid Bath Productions also has a new short film in anthology “Jigger and Kidd’s Popcorn Bag of Terror“. While I’m plugging our production company, Acid Bath productions, we’re working on the third feature film. Details on the new feature will be officially announced shortly. If you haven’t picked up your copy of Hack Job and I Spill Your Guts, what are you waiting for?
I suggest that everyone picks up a copy of I Spill Your Guts and give it a watch.
It’s a fun movie, good music, unique deaths and lost of blood and boobies! 😛