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Exclusive Interview: Dread Central Presents’ Rob Galluzzo on doing right by indie horror

Thursday, January 11, 2018 | Interviews

By MICHAEL GINGOLD

This month sees the first in a string of releases from Dread Central Presents, a distribution line spun off from the long-running horror website. RUE MORGUE spoke exclusively with DCP’s Rob Galluzzo about its mission statement, upcoming titles and other plans for the future.

A division of Epic Pictures, Dread Central Presents has acquired a wide spectrum of genre fare for both big- and small-screen exposure. It launches with a double feature of Alan Lo’s Hong Kong horror/actioner ZOMBIOLOGY: ENJOY YOURSELF TONIGHT (see trailer below) and François Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell’s TURBO KID, which has theatrical screenings January 25 and 26 before hitting VOD February 23. Next up are DCP screenings in February of the Epic title THE LODGERS, directed by Brian O’Malley, followed by Damien Leone’s killer-clown splatterfest TERRIFIER (pictured), playing theaters March 15 and 16 and arriving on VOD March 27. Other titles in the roster are Dean Ronalds’ found-footage chiller #SCREAMERS, Natasha Kermani’s science-fiction drama IMITATION GIRL (starring DARLING’s Lauren Ashley Carter), Adam Rifkin’s meta-horror flick DIRECTOR’S CUT, with Penn Jillette, and Thomas Aske Berg and Fredrik Waldeland’s VIDAR THE VAMPIRE. Galluzzo, who directed the documentary THE PSYCHO LEGACY and has long been active on both the Internet and disc-featurette scenes, says that these are just the spearhead of a long-ranging plan to give independent and foreign fear fare the showcase it deserves.

How did Dread Central go from being a website presence to entering the distribution world?

To the best of my knowledge, Dread Central had always tried to dabble in that world; they had put out two DVD short-film compilations called MONSTERLAND and ZOMBIEWORLD. The turning point was Epic Pictures getting involved with the brand. As a lot of people know, the web world has changed drastically over the last several years, and in 2016, Dread Central was in danger of going under. Epic Pictures saw an opportunity to get involved, strengthen the brand and make it something brand new, and since Epic now owns a piece of Dread Central, it seemed logical that all their horror films from here on out should be under one label. Although they’ve had great success with movies like TALES OF HALLOWEEN and TURBO KID, and they’ve become known for genre/cult-type movies, they also make family films and dramas and things like that, so they figured it would make sense to put all the horror movies under one banner and call it Dread Central Presents. They called me in, because of my experience in the horror genre over the years, to be involved with acquisitions, and head it up as director of distribution.

What are the criteria for a Dread Central Presents release?

For the most part, it has to be something different, unique and off-kilter—something that genre fans will talk about afterwards. When I came in, I felt it was very important that the films have a fair shot in all three media. They should play theatrically, whether limited or otherwise, and on VOD, and as a huge physical-media collector myself, I felt we needed a Blu-ray or DVD component. What we’re doing on the theatrical side is a monthly screening series, trying to make an event out of these movies, putting out one title a month.

I’ve never booked theaters before, so I’m just getting a grasp on how this all works, but it seems kind of—I don’t want to say broken, it just doesn’t seem right, the way indie movies get maybe the opportunity to play two theaters, one in New York and one in LA, for seven days. The way the theaters operate, it costs a ton of money, and you can’t afford much promotion, so I thought, “What’s the point of doing what’s considered a big theatrical release, when we could do something different?”

The idea I had, which stemmed from the DreadVision monthly revival series, was: Why don’t we take that idea and instead of showing old movies, let’s do one new film a month, and show the latest Dread Central Presents movie in little indie theaters. That’s it, just one screening per venue. I think we have a better shot at selling out and getting people excited for one show, the only time you can see it, as opposed to trying to fill seats for seven screenings all weekend or seven days. Thanks to the website, we have people who are part of the Dread Central family all over the country, so I kind of reverse-engineered it. I found somebody in every town who’s willing to host these events, and we’ll send them mini-posters and other giveaways.

Then we set out to find the appropriate theaters in those towns to show them. The Alamo Drafthouse is obviously the type of place we’re looking for, but I’ve discovered so many amazing little café theaters, or bar theaters, that this is ideal for. And they’re all excited about it. To me, that seems a cooler way to release these movies than going the AMC route or some other big chain.

I’m trying to curate this like a punk-rock label. If people are going to come out once a month to see a Dread Central movie, if it’s a café or bar-type theater, I want them to hang out later and talk about it, whether they liked it or not. I don’t want them to come every month and see a similar type of horror movie; I want it to be completely different every time. So the way we’ve already selected the first 10 or so titles, you never know what you’re going to get. We have a crazy Chinese zombie movie, we have an ’80s-throwback slasher with a killer clown, we’ve got a found-footage movie, we’ve got a meta movie with Penn Jillette, we’ve got an art-house sci-fi movie, we’ve got a documentary later on. That’s an exciting way to promote the brand. I love Scream Factory, so while I don’t know every movie they put out, I’ll probably check out every one because I know it’s going to be a different type of horror gem.

Do you foresee movies eventually being put into production under the Dread Central Presents banner?

That’s the hope. Right now, because we’re just getting the label off the ground, it’s strictly acquisitions of completed films. We’ve got a pretty solid 2018 worked out, and once the label launches and we see how the first batch of screenings go, I’m anxious to get involved in developing some stuff. There are a few projects that are already on my list that are complete crowd-pleasers—movies where over the years, people have said, “Why can’t they get that sequel made?” or “That project sounds so great!” Those are at the top of my list, because the way I see it is, if we’re going to take a gamble, why not take a gamble with something that everybody has wanted to happen for a long time?

The whole label is going to be taking weird gambles, because nobody does anymore. I’ve worked on so many Scream Factory releases of Roger Corman titles, and I grew up on Full Moon/Charles Band movies, and there’s no modern equivalent of those. I’m not saying we can recreate them, but why not take some of the ideals, and things those guys set up within the genre, and apply them in a modern context? If we can put out a bunch of weird, Cormanesque movies, that would be very cool.

On that note, will you be looking to showcase older films that have never been on disc, or generally have not received the releases they deserved?

If something is open for distribution that has been, let’s say, a festival favorite but never got a fair shake, then I’d absolutely love to look at it. The cool thing about what we’re doing with the current slate is, the weaknesses of one film are strengthened by the slate as a whole. What I mean by that is, for example, DIRECTOR’S CUT, Adam Rifkin’s movie with Penn Jillette. It’s a weird one; it’s meta, Penn’s character is sort of a contributor to a movie within the movie, and he does a commentary and draws all over the whole thing. It is not a normal film by any means, and it has played at festivals over the past couple of years and done really well with audiences, but everyone is scared to touch it. When I hear that, I say, “Great! I will take that movie.” If everyone’s afraid of it, I think that’s cool! It might be a tough sell on its own, but if we’re going to put out one movie a month, that’s a gamble worth taking, because four or five months into the series, if you get hit with this strange flick that’s totally different from everything you’ve already seen, you might be more open to it.

Will all the Dread Central Presents titles get fully loaded special-edition disc releases?

That’s the hope, because as I said, I myself am still a huge collector of those. We’re looking at interesting ways of doing that, because Epic has had great success with limited-edition runs of movies like TURBO KID and TALES OF HALLOWEEN, which came in giant collector’s-edition boxes with the Blu-ray, the DVD, the CD soundtrack, collectible cards and booklets. I don’t think we’re going to be that elaborate with every release, but we’re definitely going to look into the best way to get each and every one of these out on disc. If I had to follow a model, I really like the way Blue Underground goes about their releases; they do beautiful packaging. Also, I’m a big fan of numbering movies—for the compulsive collectors out there, I sympathize, but I’d like to number them, because I know that even if I didn’t like movie 3, if I saw that hole on my shelf, I’d have to buy it so I have them all. I definitely want to do all these films right, and give them proper home-video releases.

Michael Gingold
Michael Gingold (RUE MORGUE's Head Writer) has been covering the world of horror cinema for over three decades, and spent 28 years as a writer and editor for FANGORIA magazine and its website. In addition to RUE MORGUE, he currently writes for BIRTH.MOVIES.DEATH, SCREAM, IndieWire.com, TIME OUT, DELIRIUM and others. His book THE FRIGHTFEST GUIDE TO MONSTER MOVIES (FAB Press) is out this fall, and he has contributed liner notes and featurettes to a number of Blu-ray and DVD releases. Among his screenplay credits are SHADOW: DEAD RIOT and LEECHES!, and he is currently working on THE DOLL with director Dante Tomaselli.