MASTERS OF HORROR: INCIDENT ON AND OFF A MOUNTAIN ROAD (2005-2006)
In 2005, thirteen of the horror genres most legendary directors were assembled for an unprecedented effort: the creation of a baker’s dozen “short films” that would present their purest, most undiluted vision. Whole hit and miss with critics and some fans, the series was a success, and spawned a second season of episodes, and two spinoff series from the same producers, entitled FEAR ITSELF and MASTERS OF SCIENCE FICTION. The show garnered an Emmy award in 2006 for best Original Music. (Richard Band—DREAMS IN THE WITCH HOUSE.)
Produced by STARZ and originally aired on Showtime, he first episode was INCIDENT ON AN OFF A MOUNTAIN ROAD, a hard-hitting adaptation of Joe R. Lansdale’s short story by screenwriter Stephen Romano, working with the film’s director, the legendary genre mavrick Don Coscarelli, maker of the PHANTASM films, BUBBA HO TEP and THE BEASTMASTER. Met with unanimous critical praise, the short film remains the best-reviewed effort of the directors entire career to date, and most beloved of the series, along with John Carpenter’s CIGARETTE BURNS.
The film was later released on DVD and Blu-ray and is still available in various editions, which feature extensive specoal features, such as a commentary by Stephen Romano and Don Coscarelli.
From the official jacket copy:
When a car accident on a lonely stretch of mountain road leaves a young woman hurt and alone, a backwoods maniac locks her in a cabin with evil intentions. But the trauma of it all initiates a recalling of a series of mysterious events from her past and renders her anything but helpless in this Don Coscarelli nail-biter.
Making INCIDENT was almost as traumatic for me as our lead character, but it was also the biggest thing that ever happened to my career at the time. I had been working with Don a lot on spec projects, but this one was green-lit before we even started writing it. The screenplay was tons of fun to do—Don and I always have a blast working together on stuff. We’re literally like two kids when we get going on a horror script! But then it came time to actually make the movie, which was difficult, to say the least. And my personal life was filled with tragedy and misery during the shoot. But then the film came out and everyone really liked it, so we were vindicated in the end. I still have some great memories of making that movie, as dark as the experience was. There’s one image in the movie that very special to me—when our bad guy “Moonface” jumps across the moon in slow motion, which I fought for at the script stage, and even helped to direct on the second unit stage. (Its one of the few visual cues I wrote in the script that remains in the film.) Ethan Embrey was amazing to watch in action as our “hidden bad guy.” He blew us away during the audition and just charged on the set and owned the joint. The guy was in character 24/7. Scary. I remember watching him on the first day, as he made Bruce into his own creation, playing fast and loose with the words I had written, but bringing so much additional depth and human horror to the role. I really understood how tragic and misunderstood and even loving Bruce was, in his own twisted way. It was a real moment for me that happened during the filming of Don’s favorite scene in the movie—the knife fight with his wife that ends in divorce. Those scenes were all mine, in a way, because I had written them—but on set, Ethan made those scenes all his. It’s was extraordinary. One of my pet peeves is bad guys in film without teeth. Bruce ate the scenery, man. And Angus Scrimm was wonderfully fun in a role I got to write just for him. As a lifelong PHANTASM fan, it was dream come true to work with him so intimately. And Don is a slick, well-prepared, extremely open and collaborative director who jammed out something almost unbelievably ambitious in just eleven days. I still like the film and cry almost every time I watch it.
For an extended tour of the set in photos and words, CLICK HERE to visit Stephen’s antiquated MYSPACE PAGE from 2005.
SHOCK FESTIVAL (2010)
As a companion to his innovative book SHOCK FESTIVAL, Romano set to work in 2009 on an ambitious collection of trailers from the actual exploitation films of the 1970s and 1980s that inspired the faux madness of his illustrated novel. Massive in scope, the final project contained three discs worth of grindhouse goodies: two feature-length trailer compilations, several shorter supplemental collection, including TV spots, and over three hundred original radio advertisements on a bonus disc. As a supplement to the authentic madness, Romano included a collection of faux trailers made by enthusiastic fans of his book, each one inspired by a fake film within its pages. From DEAD BUGS ON THE CARPET to DARK NIGHT OF THE DEMONHOUSE to THINKING MAN’S GUN a great and bizarre cross-section of the book was covered. Romano himself even directed a down and dirty 30 second “TV teaser” for I HATE YOUR GUTS!
From the official jacket copy:
Stephen Romano, acclaimed screenwriter from Showtime’s Emmy Award-winning MASTERS OF HORROR and creator of the smash it B-movie tribute book SHOCK FESTIVAL takes you on a wild journey through the exploitation movie scenes of the 70s and 80s, presenting hundreds of actual previews of coming attractions, television commercials and radio spots for the sleaziest, sexiest, most off-the-wall films ever made, all digitally re-mastered from original FILM ELEMENTS! You will be trust into a world of madmen and ghouls, perverts and lusty ladies—and wait’ll you get a load of all the SPECIAL FEATURES we’ve cooked up just for his release, including a batch of specially-produced ORIGINAL TRAILERS, based on the amazing fictional B-movie world of Stephen Romano’s SHOCK FESTIVAL! This is a MUST HAVE COLLECTOR’S SET which includes over SEVEN HOURS of amazing stuff you won’t find anywhere else!
SHOCK FESTIVAL was kind of a brand name for my whole trip at the time. My website is still called that, in fact. The idea was to have an art studio, a DVD set, a book, a TV series, maybe even some feature movies out there—all with the same imprint on them. It was a sort of marketing idea that actually worked: the whole SHOCK FESTIVAL thing actually caught on for a while, and these products ended up selling pretty well. Sales of the book went up almost 30 percent after the DVD came out. I almost got a TV show made out of SHOCK FESTIVAL, but it never quite took off. Just producing the DVD set was hard enough, though. I wanted to get in people’s faces with the trailers—really shake them up, you know. I don’t think the best kind of exploitation pulls any punches. (Just ask Quentin Tarantino if he thinks AFRICA BLOOD AND GUTS goes too far!) My commentaries were so weird and tangential and outrageous that the executive producers wanted to cut them completely from the disc. I sort of appeased them but bringing in my old buddy Steve ‘Uncle Creepy’ Barton at Dread central to do some silliness on an additional track—so we have the best of several worlds. It’s a weird curio in my lexicon for sure, and I think it mostly works. The trailers people extrapolated from my boom are all over the map, made on budgets less than what you spent on the smart phone you’re probably reading this on! Most of them were made by dedicated fans, or professionals with a few hours to burn. You have to take all that with a grain of salt. The main thing are the real trailers we dug up. Those are quite extraordinary—and the real deal that inspired my book.
In 2010, Stephen Romano was hired to restore one of his favorite films on DVD and Blu-Ray, coming on board the project as a special producer. Long forgotten by many people, the film is a campy outer space romp for all ages, released as part of the ROGER CORMAN’S CULT CLASSICS series from SHOUT! FACTORY. Romano provided much of the materials used for the film’s lavish 2-disc release, much of which was culled from research from an abandoned book about the making of the film.
From the official jacket copy (written by Stephen Romano):
Prepare yourself for a vintage science fiction adventure film you will never forget, as the sultry Stella Star (Caroline Munro) and her alien sidekick Akton (Marjoe Gortner) team up with robot lawman Elle (Judd Hamilton) on a high adventure to save the universe. It is a cosmic mash-up of daring escapes, wild special effects, beautiful women in sexy space bikinis and nonstop action on a dozen alien worlds. Roger Corman presents the ultimate European space opera, a colorful and dazzling chase through the galaxy that will blast you through the blackness of a hundred million nights!
Kicked into hyperspace by a maelstrom of ingenious low-budget special effects and the talents of Academy Award winning composer John Barry, the film was a smash hit in 1979 when the wild and humorous sci-fi adventure hit theatres. For over 30 years the film has gained a massive cult following, inspiring devoted legions of Crashers, fan clubs and more. Now, for the first time on DVD, the film is presented in a deluxe two-disc special edition.