Not all fan films are based on DC, Marvel or other comic books, and not all deal with super-heroes or other such characters. Director Bill Gelineau has always been a fan of horror films in general, and more specifically slasher films.
A slasher film is a film in the subgenre of horror films involving a killer murdering a group of people, usually by use of bladed tools. Although the term “slasher” is often used informally as a generic term for any horror film involving murder, film analysts cite an established set of characteristics which set these films apart from other subgenres, such as splatter films and psychological horror films.
Often citing the Italian giallo films and psychological horror films such as Peeping Tom (1960) and Psycho (1960) as early influences, the genre hit its peak between 1978–1984 in an era referred to as the “Golden Age” of slasher films
The 1970s saw the birth of such The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974), Black Christmas (1974), and Halloween (1978). In the 1980s notable slasher films included Friday the 13th (1980), My Bloody Valentine (1981), A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), and Child’s Play (1988). And in the 1990s we saw such notable slasher thrillers as Candyman (1992 film), Leprechaun (film) (1993), Scream (1996) and I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997).
The slasher canon is divided into three eras: the Classical (1974–1993), the Self-Referential (1994–2000) and the Neo-slasher Cycle (2000–2013)
As much as Bill has enjoyed these films, he feels that they have devolved into gratuitous violence, or as he calls it “gore porn.” Violence or outlandish effects shouldn’t be the whole movie. He feels that these movies have been lacking something. The current state of most horror movies misses that element of character depth. As he explains, “You know who they are and why they are there. You are given some moment of “uncomfortable” scene, and then BAM! Epic kill follows.”
You are not given enough time to get to know the antagonist before they are slicing and dicing. That is what Hollywood thinks sells, so that’s what we get. “That style of horror has been around for some time, but it seems like the ante they raise in violence on each film is getting too much.” says Gelineau.
We explored this matter in depth with Bill Gelineau, and he talked about how he would like to change this, creating something, building a relationship with the slasher, the serial killer in his horror films.
In time for our issue on fan flicks, you have submitted two short films called Homecoming. Before we get into talking about those, let’s briefly cover your background, and what brings you into filmmaking?
It’s kind of a long story, but in short, always said I wanted to be a movie director. I always enjoyed talking stories but fell into the music industry for a minute. As I was trying to figure out more of a stable career path, I received information for a casting call for a zombie movie shot in Grand Rapids. Auditioned. Got a zombie role, went to every shooting date, and met some cool people. I wasn’t hooked then. I mostly looked at it as a bucket list thing. Well, some of those friends were looking to make some short films for their acting reel and was invited to be a part of that. I wasn’t interested in the acting part, and since I had a couple years of training in high school, I offered to direct and edit. Get the gear. Film it all, and in those two days, which turned out to be our first production named “Home is Where the Soul Is.” me AMD a couple of the guys made ZOS Films and never looked back.
Cool! Was Homecoming your Homecoming 1 & 2 related to this first movie?
No, just happened to have the same word Home in it. Our first film was an “original” house is haunted story. The Homecoming series was a strange road to get there. It is our family film love for all the classic horror slasher characters and doing our best to bring them back to their original rooting in style and character. Hence, our Homecoming
Speak about this strange road, and how you got there.
It really was, but it wasn’t like I didn’t want to do if before. As a kid I used my dad`s Vhs camcorder and made films around the neighborhood, And I spent two years in basic training and concept skill in high school.
Have slasher films always interested you?
Yes, and no. Horror always has, and some of my favorites growing up have slasher film elements to them, but also supernatural and/or what is considered “B Movie” quality elements.
What are some of your favorite slasher films? I know that a number of them have enjoyed franchises. Which of these have you enjoyed?
I would go with probably a foreign film called “High Tension”. A fairly original concept. Strange. It has the elements of violence and sexuality in the story, which most of those 80s and 90s slasher films had. If I went with an English speaking film, it’s a little bit harder, but would go with the Nightmare on Elm Street series. The out-of-this-world practical effects they use in more of the violent and dream sequences where very, very cool to me. I’ll honorable mention Evil Dead 2 with American release
Yes, I always liked the “Nightmare on Elm Street” franchise for that reason. Was there one in this series that to you stands out?
It is the third film “Dream Warriors” in which this hospital that deals with troubled children are being hunted down by Freddy, and one of them has the ability to dream walk. Enter the dream, bring people with them, and bring things out of those dreams. It also has my favorite kill scene in the series.
Okay. Is this a scene, or something similar that you would like to recreate in your films, that is if you had the budget and money was no consideration?
I wouldn’t try necessarily recreate or be inspired on that kill itself, but with our followup film “Homecoming 3,” there is a kill scene in there we will be duplicating and honoring. That would be my second favorite.
The kill I love the most is a scene where a boy with sleepwalking disorder begins walking the hallways That is really happening is he’s making the poor boy believe he is a puppet on strings. And visually, the “strings” are actually the tendons pulled out from his skin and “leading” him around to the top of this hospital and “cuts” the strings, making him plunge to his death.
The one we would like to recreate is from the second Nightmare film where Freddy slashes his way out of the body of one of the lead characters. It’s pretty intense and visually stunning on the execution of the effect.
Yes, I can see it. Do you have the means to do something similar working within a realistic budget that you may have now?
Absolutely! It has been a process, and we are all still learning on our team, but we push ourselves each time. We are currently running on our current feature film with a budget of 25K right now, so funds have become less and less as an issue.
I know that is still very small potatoes, but other budget cuts can be made of needed to make that effect and shot composition work. It would be a primary bullet point on our creative list on our film to make sure we can execute that effect.
Cool! So you have considered things from that perspective. Where are you presently in creating your feature film?
It is an anthology film broken up into 4 chapters. We have one completely finished, I just sent out the casting call for the second, the third going up in a couple weeks, and the last going up short after that. We are pretty much in the go time stage of production, with a lot of work to do, but we’ve done this before and get better and better each time.
That’s slated for the fall of 2020, just in time for Halloween. It will have several theater releases contracted at this time. As we get more into post and have a good sense of interest, we are looking into other Midwest options, and will be also approved streaming on Amazon Prime.
Where will this be filmed?
It is all Michigan located, and almost all the cast and crew are current Michigan-based individuals with a ton of talent. You’ve written articles yourself on some of these people.
Okay. Who have you cast for these roles?
I can’t give names as of yet due to NDAs signed, but that information will be released here shortly in the first quarter of the year.
The ones I can give now are from the first portion we filmed Rebecca (Becky), Ryan Jesse, Mark Stoll, Frederick Wins, and Fake Dobson are the leads. There are several cast members not named as of yet, but those people have recurring or cameos in the other chapters of the current film.
A lot of the others already cast in the other chapters are some of the more obvious performers if you follow the indie film scene, so you’ll know who they are very, very soon.
Now going back to the “Homecoming”, I hope everybody goes and watches both.
Understand that it’s all about growth in quality, and from watching the first to the second on, the quality in every aspect of the film is a skyrocketed difference. I want inspiring or current performers to chase that dream, but also put the time in learning all the details of their job. Over time, you will see how much closer to those dreams in performance or storytelling with practice, practice, practice. The grind and time spent and practice have become my forte part making films because it’s that process that will get you that much better into honing your craft.
After watching the difference in quality between the two, you can imagine how much further we will be along into making something fun and entertaining. That’s why we have gone into doing Freddy and having some private investing is only going to help bring in some amazing talent in making that something we really hope people look and love as am homage to a style of horror film that has lost its way to now. Don’t get me wrong, there are some great slasher films out there, but I have not seen a “modern” slasher film hit in the same way as those other films have.
So, would it be correct to say that you want to revive an interest in these films?
Well, of course. You get a hit with one, and they would sign you to a five-movie deal in sequels. Maybe not “slasher” necessarily, but when portraying violence or outlandish effects, it shouldn’t be the whole movie. You build to those moments you take a little time getting to them. When you finally get to that part of the film, you make it as intense as possible.
You have, no doubt, seen movies such as the “Saw” franchise? Or “Terrifier”? Or others in this vein recently released. In these, there is no identifying with the slasher. What do you think of these?
I get it, and I won’t lie. I enjoy some of them. Sadly, that is the style of “gore porn” that Hollywood thinks that sells, so that’s what we get. That style of horror has been around for some time, but it seems like the ante they raise in violence on each film is getting too much. I’m not saying the gore itself, but the frequency of it in a single film I have more of an issue with.
Understood. So, you would like to scale it back and offer your audience an opportunity to build a relationship with your antagonist.
Absolutely. I believe the purpose of a director’s job and the script they are working with is to pull a more genuine emotion.
Showing some nasty has an awesome emotion, but making the audience care about these characters, build tension to the point where when the violence occurs, you remember it more.
And you feel that is something lacking in today’s rash of slasher films? Have you seen the series “Dexter”? Although he was a serial killer, he had a human side as well. Is this a good example of what you are talking?
Dexter absolutely falls into that slasher genre in a sorts. You are rooting for the bad guy, as you should in a slasher, and you care about what’s going on.
Would this apply as well to a character such as Hannibal Lector?
And yes, the current state of most horror to me misses that element of character depth. You know who they are and why they are there. You are given some moment of “uncomfortable” scene, and then BAM! Epic kill follows.
Yes, no doubt about it. I think the qualifying elements I look for in a slasher is, the Bad Guy the audience visually remembers. They are the ones with a weapon (knives, machete, hedge trimmers), and have a strange back story to get them to who they are as this villain. (The audience also deep down kind of roots for them to win of course.)
Now to the matter of weapons, is there a weapon for which you would like your character to come to be known? Something, perhaps that is not presently used? Have you explored that element of the story-line?
Yes. Absolutely, and it’s in the chapter of the current film we are be casting and filming in the spring. Growing up, we had this giant, serrated, tree limb trimmer. I mean, this thing was big and the teeth on the blade were huge! It visually a very intimidating weapon to me.
Well, as for that weapon, it is his go to weapon of choice, he has a very interesting past that makes this weapon a part of him, and that’s all I can really reveal at this time. I am working with the actor portraying our antagonist, and don’t want to be completely sandboxed into some of his other traits and characteristics. I want to be able to explore and collaborate with them on this and see where it can take us
I’m really trying something new. I am personally doing it this way with someone. I think we have a great performer portraying this character to work with me on it. It’s going to be great to work with them and see how that stripped-down growth together is interesting to me for this.
This is important to you as a director, getting feedback and ideas from you cast.
Of course. There are times, I have to say, I need someone to just do this the way I said. “We don’t have time to try that” is mostly the only time I’ll shut something down, otherwise, it is definitely something I enjoy doing. It’s mostly with the crew I’ve done that with more, but in developing a character together from the script to the performance is something I’ve never done. Everyone has been pretty cool, professional, and just will do what you say. With this character, I need the actor to have a say. I believe giving him some ownership of the character will empower them to work harder on every movement they have on screen. They bring something out of left field that I can go and take off with. It’s going to be am interesting process, but I find it important.
As a manager of many places, I find if you give someone a voice, they respond better to when tense moments occur, and also give their best in whatever position they may be in.
Completely understood. Anything more?
The only thing I would add is that not only myself, but a single person who has worked with us in the past, present, and future will always be family. We feel so humbled and blessed to have had the opportunities to work with some amazing people who have made our core group of people improve and strive for greatness. Michigan and the talents are here should be very impressed and satisfied with how hard we have all worked to get where we are now, and where we want to go. Michigan films are going to be a thing, and this is the ground floor now.
Bill Gelineau is an aspiring director and writer, who resides in Michigan, with his wife Stephanie. When we’s not on set, he is managing his independent film production company, ZOS Films.
Bill has been working on independent films since 2015 with his debut film, “Home Is Where the Soul Is.” On this production, two of his closest friends and himself started up ZOS Films.
ZOS is short for Zombies of Sideshow, a film set they had all worked on as extras in a zombie film.