Spectacle Midnights proudly salutes a contemporary low budget master – writer, director, composer, and owner of Tempe Video, J.R. Bookwalter!
Bookwalter began making 8mm films in his teens and eventually created THE DEAD NEXT DOOR, an 8mm zombie epic which took him four years to complete (with a little help from SAM RAIMI). His career put him in touch with all aspects of contemporary low budget independent filmmaking, from production to distribution, to publishing his own magazine, to for-hire feature filmmaking. The Spectacle is proud to present the work of the ingenious and passionate Ohio filmmaker – a master of his means – J.R. Bookwalter
Dir. J.R. Bookwalter, 1995
USA, 83 min
FRIDAY JULY 5th – MIDNIGHT
After a less-than-satisfying stint making low budget features for CHV, which yielded the video store classic Robot Ninja, J.R. Bookwalter returned to Ohio to reclaim his low budget glory with OZONE, another wildly ambitious shot on video work of pure will, ingenuity and imagination.
Detective Eddie Boone is a good cop who plays by his own rules, and he’s on the trail of a local drug kingpin, DeBartolo. During a stakeout Boone and his partner are ambushed, Boone is injected with a strange drug, and his partner Mike (Tom Hoover) goes MIA. Now, close to the edge and on suspension, Boone must infiltrate a drug fueled, mutant filled underground in search of DeBartolo, his partner, and some answers all while fighting the effects of the bizarre drug, OZONE, which is slowly transforming him into something inhuman and terrifying.
OZONE is Bookwalter’s most original and complex film: a police thriller, a horror film, a gory science fiction fantasy, all brought to low budget life with solid direction, great performances, slimy FX, and early CG. Shot mostly in and around a dreary Ohio hospital, the film is dark and eerie, a nightmarish mystery filled with bizarre creatures and memorable characters. Part Cronenberg, part Nightbreed, and all Bookwalter, OZONE is another milestone of shot on video excellence from a true master of his means.
Dir. J.R. Bookwalter, 1996
USA, 86 min.
FRIDAY JULY 12th – MIDNIGHT
POLYMORPH is J.R. Bookwalter’s $10,000 shot on digital video answer to the The Thing and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Working from a fun script based on a long shelved idea, this no-budget extraterrestrial nature hike has got more bad CG and fake cocaine than most lesser films could only dream of.
A polymorphous creature resembling a glowing green turd crash lands in the Ohio woods causing a group of science interns and some ruthless drug dealers, led by the sleazily charismatic Carlos (Tom Hoover), to cross paths. After a bloody showdown, the interns and the drug dealers must band together to fight the bodysnatching space slug. Now this ragtag group of survivors must fight to survive with nothing but their wits – and a bag full of hand grenades.
POLYMORPH provides some adorable laughs, real human drama, and warm characters – well, until the polymorphous space monster starts reanimating corpses with glowing green eyes in order to viciously murder any human in its path. This is a backwoods alien killing spree complete with firefights, leather coats, HK style standoffs and splatter. Making great use of lo-fi digital FX and some terrific actors Bookwalter serves up a superior 50s B movie throwback with a totally 90s vibe.
WITCHOUSE 2: BLOOD COVEN
Dir. J.R. Bookwalter, 2003
USA, 77 min.
FRIDAY JULY 19th – MIDNIGHT
In WITCHOUSE 2- BLOOD COVEN J.R. Bookwalter has his first 35mm outing for the legendary Full Moon imprint and does not disappoint. This follow up to B movie master David DeCoteau’s original is an atmospheric, gorgeously shot, multi-format creep fest featuring the legendary Andrew Prine in dual roles – STOP…double Prine!
After 2 horny goths (captured in full-on Blair Witch fashion) are murdered, a professor and her team of students are sent in to investigate the strange goings-on in a small, spooky colonial town which was once the site of bloody witch trials. After unearthing four unmarked graves believed to belong to suspected witches and meeting with fear and suspicion from the townsfolk, the team begins to believe something sinister may be afoot. Mystery, possession, and death follow, in a totally fun and eerie late night, low-budget spellbinder!
Bookwalter brings his knack for likable characters and fun dialogue to this slick and well-paced ghost story which plays like Scooby Doo for grown ups! Using his low budget ingenuity to piece together a film that cleverly swings between formats and distant shooting locations (Europe and Los Angeles), Bookwalter proves he’s a craftsman and stylist with a love of the genre, who turns limitations into charm.
THE DEAD NEXT DOOR
Dir. J.R. Bookwalter, 1989
USA, 84 min.
FRIDAY, JULY 26th – MIDNIGHT
At the tender age of nineteen, Ohio filmmaker and horror film devotee JR BOOKWALTER created the ultimate 8mm zombie epic, THE DEAD NEXT DOOR. This wildly ambitious debut feature took 4 years to complete with a little help from hyperactive horror auteur Sam Raimi (For the Love of the Game) and Raimi’s regular collaborator Scott Spiegel. Bookwalter’s film is the greatest and most sprawling fan made Romero love letter ever realized, and features, according to Bookwalter, a cast of around 1,500!
In a post-Dawn of the Dead world overrun by the living dead, the Zombie Squad is helping search for the key to a special formula which may be able to destroy the zombie menace once and for all. In their search for the secret notes of a mysterious doctor they come head to head with a group of religious fanatics led by a Jim Jones lookalike who is willing to kill to in order to keep his own terrible secret safe. A bloody, FX, zombie filled showdown follows where no fleshy neck area is left unbitten, and no intestine left unchewed!
The DEAD NEXT DOOR is truly impressive in its scale and ingenuity, featuring guerilla shots of zombies attacking the White House and the Washington Memorial! Bookwalter’s film also provides plenty of goofy laughs and gleeful groan inducing references for horror fans (characters with names like Dr. Savini, Commander Carpenter, and Raimi)! Capturing the bucolic splendor of Romero’s Night and Dawn in its more pastoral moments (thanks to the film’s Ohio location), and delivering the goods for the gorehounds in spades, this is the perfect in-world riff for living dead fiends, and a testament to the passion and possibilities of low budget horror moviemaking.
Before THE WALKING DEAD there was THE DEAD NEXT DOOR!