COOL AS HELL: INTERVIEW/REVIEW WITH JAMES BALSAMO

COOL AS HELL 2013

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Rich and Benny are having trouble with the ladies, until they befriend a demon named Az. It’s a non-stop party until a soul hungry beast leaps through an open portal from the underworld and starts terrorizing the town. It’s up to Az and the boys to send the creature back to the depths where it came from, and look good, while doing it in Cool As Hell.

coollickedBeginning with a great intro song by Bloodsucking Zombies From Outer Space and some quirky violence Cool As Hell; is cool as hell.  James Balsamo, with a strong will throws down the sword on this flick. …and I like it.  I now fully believe that any movie that has the line “…this is a sausage fest” within the first ten minutes is going to kick ass.

Taking a new avenue with Cool As Hell, Balsamo wrote the film as a story told to the audience from the perspective of Rich, a samurai sword wielding zombie slayer creatively acted out by Balsamo, who again in this feature took on every job he could producing,  writing, directing, acting and FX.
vlcsnap-2013-04-18-21h05m28s58Rich is comic book lovin’ – mama’s boy who strikes out with the ladies on a regular basis.  His live-in best friend Benny (Dan E. Danger,  killed his performance – that’s good) is the type of socially challenged and coy character you would expect to see passing through Clerks.  The two fit well playing off of one another and following along in their adventure against zombies, demons and a beast from hell is a bloody good time.

Balsamo takes the time in Cool As Hell to give the characters stronger personalities than I have seen in earlier films and it`s appreciated.  Rich and Benny come across as true friends and having a sense that the characters have known each other for years does well for the flick. By doing so it opens up the opportunity for the audience to build their own feelings towards them, thus caring if they live or die a horrible painful bloody death.
This is built up early on in the Strip club where the two characters are comfortable to carry on a conversation while basically ignoring the fact one of them is getting a lap dance. vlcsnap-2013-04-18-21h06m35s210 That’s bro-mance at it’s finest.  While on the subject of the club, I was admittedly surprised and delighted to see a range of women working and not the typical Rose McGowan/Sheri Moon body type. Unsure if this was actually thought through or if it just is what it is, but as a woman with curves I totally dug it, and the stripper in me felt represented.

As the story moves forward a slick green demon named Az (Billy Walsh,who no doubt had a lot of fun shooting the film also gave an energetic and stimulating performance) is introduced into the movie.  Walsh does a great job conveying the stylized demon even with the restrictions of the makeup and uber-fangs.  The look of Az says a lot about his personality and is well put together.
The girl of Rich’s dreams, Ashley (Lauren Adamkiewicz, super loveable in the role and seemed very much real) who is involved with his nemesis Sal (Frank Mullen, bitchin’ job as a total dick-wad) comes into his life and solves the puzzle of why Az is around leading to an epic fight of good vs. evil.

zombiiBalsamo‘s directing in Cool As Hell seemed to mature since I Spill Your Guts (Interview – Review here).  The cinematography, the pauses and voice-overs and the subtle look to the camera during one of many zesty sex scenes made for an enjoyable watch.  I love that a character in the flick is wearing a The Taint and another an I Spill Your Guts t-shirt, it was a nice nod.  Known for fitting in a number of cameos in his work, I felt Balsamo got it right this time really giving each actor/actress a full opportunity to express their skills in solid performances. Talking about solid performances Balsamo kills it in a quick riff on the guitar which was surprisingly good as I was unaware  he could jam.  While on the topic of melodies, one issue I had with I Spill Your Guts was the transition between scenes and the choice of tunes used, this was not an issue in Cool As Hell, everything blended and is well designed.

Balsamo is known for working in a number of cameos into his films.  In Cool As Hell he features Tom Savini, Andrew W. K., Frank Mullen, Tommy Dreamer, Scott Levy (Raven), Carmine Capobianco, David Naughton, Laurence R. Harvey, Caleb Emerson among a number of bands.  Everyone did a great job and it was really fun seeing who Rich was going to run into next.

Being the nice guy he is, Balsamo agreed to answer some question about Cool As Hell and the process of making the movie.

How do you find your directing and writing styles have changed throughout your films from Hack Job to Cool As Hell?

381132_189586651122397_1734729406_nWell, I would have to say things most things get better with practice and I have have been doing a lot of practicing in the sense of filming since my first feature Hack Job. I would say I have become more efficient on set. For example, I’m currently in production for my fourth feature film Mystery Meat. While filming a cameo with Debbie Rochon other day we filmed four scripted pages in 45 mins. Now to an average person that doesn’t sound like a big deal, but a film maker knows that is madness. Since Cool As Hell we have been doing double camera shoots and it cuts the time in half. More or less I’m still the same wacky director mentality as when I started. My end goal is to make an entertaining film, filled with gratuitous nudity and monsters. Only now, all that film waxing on and off has taught me to kick ass and take names on set.

What directors inspired and influenced you to create the stylish fast-paced directing you are becoming known for?

I like to say that as a film maker, I was created like Freddy Krueger, in the sense that I’m the bastard son of a hundred maniac film makers. It would be hard to only name a few, when so many of the film makers have inspired me to become the director I am today. If someone was holding a blow torch to my balls, and asked that same question I would have to say Lloyd Kaufman, Charles Band, Stuart Gordon, and Dennis Dugan.

Your films are synonymous for having cameos of iconic horror actors, musicians, etc. In Cool As Hell, who was the most exciting cameo for you to film? Can you share any stories about the many cameos in your films?

BackcoverTomI’ve worked with so many great people over the years. I’m really lucky to work with so many artists that I’m honestly a great fan of Tom Savini was the big cameo for me in Cool As Hell. He was my inspiration in make up and FX, So it was such a great honor to work with him.

All of your films have a strong connection with music – where does that meshing originate for you? How do you decide on what bands to feature in your genre movies?

Well, I’m not sure if a lot of people know this, but I’m a musician myself. In my first film Hack Job there is a scene where I’m singing and playing bass…that’s all me. I was in a bunch of bands for many years before I was making films. In fact, I got my start directing by doing music videos for a band that I played in. I plan on releasing a solo album by the end of the year. As far as the bands I use in my films, I just use the bands I actually listen to. It just kind of worked out that most of them happen to love horror films. Over the years my friendships have developed in the music industry and they actually wanted to work with me.

Being hands on you also took the role of Special Make up FX in Cool As Hell, how do you feel about the end result of the film? Who in the industry do you look up to as far as special effects go?

daninhalfI did a lot of FX on Cool As Hell, that I’m really proud of. There was a life casted severed zombie torso that laid on top of the actor, so they could twitch their real legs. There was the fake skull shell of the girl who gets her face punched through the back of her head, and my favorite, the Boo-Gar puppet. Oh and I almost forgot I had to consistently paint Billy Walsh green every time he was on screen…Except for that one scene where he plays a bull fighter. I had great time making the demon at the end. I feel like the film doesn’t do it justice. You don’t really get how tall it really is. I stand about 6 ft tall, and in the fight scene the beast is about three feet taller then me. Sadly it doesn’t look like a 9 ft creature, but it is! Here’s a Cool As Hell secret. We had the actor on stilts. I can’t take all the credit though, I have to thank Steve Siegelbaum from GutRot FX and Church Haley for an amazing job they did on the zombies. Also Tom Misfit did brilliant work on Az’s demon fangs. I’m a big geek when it comes to make up FX I’m probably one of the few people that stick around during the credits at the movies to see who did the make up. As far as idols, I’m really inspired by every effect I see. I think that you can take something away from every practical effect. If I had to name names though I would say Tom Savini, Rick Baker, and Dick Smith.

Az, the demon genie is a great character. How was the concept for his design chosen?

AzpizzaI guess most people reflect on their childhood idols for inspiration. I really wanted to make a character homage to Maurice from Little Monsters and Beetlejuice from the film of the same name. Except I wanted the character to be more raunchy. I think I managed to do that with the pot smoking, skirt lifting rabble rosier that is Az. That handsome green demon, even has a soft-core sex scene with a naked red demon. That was an interesting shoot. Red green demons dry humping each other, left their bodies yellow and Billy‘s balls blue.

Zombies, having recently become a staple in pop-culture are excellent monsters as each director/writer has control over the type of zombie they portray – how do you feel your zombies in Cool As Hell stood up against other films?

backcover zombie

Well the zombies aren’t really a major highlight in the film. They are more like bacon bits just thrown in there because I love zombies. So, when the gates of hell are left open, how could you not have zombies in there. I have an old school mentality, so I really didn’t want them to be the ninja fast running back flipping gymnast zombies of today. I wanted them to walk slow and look gruesome. Zombie films are a dime a dozen now a days. Today, a lot of the make up is just white grease paint and black circles around the eyes. I can’t say I didn’t make short films like that, back when I started, but I have come along way. I think our zombies looked damn good.

Watching Cool As Hell now, what fond memories of the making of the film do you have and do you have and is there a favourite scene from the film?

BoogarCool As Hell was a labor of love…a painful labor. It was the fastest I ever finished a feature film. Our entire shoot spanned three months from start to finish. The scene that really pulled it together for me was the Boo-Gar/super bong scene. I had to lay on the floor with my hand covered in slime to make the puppet work and it was a blast. It’s really hard to pick one scene. My crew and I traveled a lot to get some of the cameos we had in the film. We had some awesome adventures all along the way doing it. Right now what was done in “Hell” stays in “Hell”. However, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, one day I will write a book. Making independent films is a crazy journey, with some great stories.

Can you tell us a little about what you are working on next?

spacemeatAs I said earlier Acid Bath Productions is currently in production on our fourth feature film Mystery Meat here is the synopsis:Blake is struggling through his fiance’s perfect wedding plans. Not to mention his problems running a downward spiraling restaurant, that he shares with his brother Tony. When alien eggs from a meteor crash, end up in their latest food delivery, all hell breaks loose. Then, to make matters worse, the eggs hatch into devilish fast growing space varmints. One of the little monsters swallows Blake’s wedding ring. Now, Tony and Blake have to find the creature with the ingested ring, before Blake’s bridezilla to be, causes more damage then any space varmint could. The boys really bit off more then they could chew in this crazy horror/comedy titled Mystery Meat! The film is currently slated for a September release, and features cameos from Debbie Rochon, Jake ‘The Snake’ Roberts, Irwin Keyes, Johnny Legend, Frank Mullen, Carmine Capobianco, and Theodous Crane from AMC’s “The Walking Dead”. The film will be filled with the same nudity, humor, gore, and awesome soundtracks that our fans have come to know and love.

Cool As Hell Signing at Forbidden Planet:

Debbie Rochon Cool As Hell promo:

“TOKE! TOKE! TOKE! TOKE! TOKE!…”

With extras including a blooper reel, deleted scenes, Dream Beaver music video, trailers and promotions it’s a fully packed and well put together package.  This is definitely a flick you want to own and watch over and over.

Don’t forget to Like Cool As Hell and your favourite actors on IMDb by clicking here or on their names.

Geeker.

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