The Buck Stops Here: An Interview with American Mummy Director Charles Pinion.

Mummies are making a comeback in 2017, folks. I just finished reading a novel about them, a remake starring Tom Cruise is coming out next week, and a new film titled American Mummy is currently sitting in the Top 160 Horror DVD’s on Amazon. Not only is American Mummy the return of a fan favorite villain, but it also serves as the vehicle to relaunch the noteworthy career of writer/director Charles Pinion. Serving as the creator of Inferential Pictures, Pinion worked on a number of cult titles during the Golden Age of Horror. He elaborates on his previous credits in an interview with me by saying, “My movies were shot on VHS and 8mm video in the 80’s and 90’s. Twisted Issues (1988), Red Spirit Lake (1994) and We Await (1996) were all shot in extremely non-studio situations.”

Though he lives in Los Angeles now, Charles Pinion never felt like he was part of the film industry, but his passion to create films never died. When he took a stab at directing again, it became a labor of love that lasted more than ten years. “The film started in 2004 and it was to be shot in 2006 on what was then “cutting edge” HDV Canon cameras. Financing fell through, but after the success of Avatar there was renewed interest in 3D, so the film was reborn as a 3D feature in 2011. It world premiered in 2014 as American Mummy at Revelation Festival in Australia and at Macabro Festival in Mexico City. It briefly appeared as Aztec Blood after a distributor made the comment that having ‘American’ in the title wasn’t good for the international market.”

Now, American Mummy is available on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Wild Eye Releasing. But 13 years of devotion to one picture is a long time. Many, if not most, producers would’ve given up a long time ago. Mr. Pinion gives a rather inspiring answer to why he never gave up on his film that sees student archaeologists in the clenches of an evil spirit awakened in the desert. “Every project is a child, regardless of that child’s particular failings or strengths. I love that child and want the best for it. That means pushing it forward into some sort of life. I have incomplete projects in my past and I hate that they’re incomplete. Though I spliced much of its DNA into the San Francisco set of We Await, my feature Killbillies (1990) is an example of this.”

When I reviewed American Mummy several weeks ago, I noted that it was definitely on the more independent side but it succeeded due to its locations, props and gore. I wanted to know more about these departments and principal photography as a whole. Pinion divulged, “The movie really is best experienced in 3D. We shot in the desert and our cars and trucks got stuck several times while traveling in and out, which was a massive pain in the ass. All exteriors were shot out in the desert and all interiors were shot in a warehouse north of Los Angeles. The gore is definitely its strongest asset. That’s where I felt most at home when we were shooting. This was my first movie where I wasn’t hands-on with that and it took some adjustment.”

He continues, “One of my favorite moments from set was when gore was spurting out and I was sort of jumping up and down and the camera operator looked at me and said, ‘You’re really into this stuff, aren’t you?’ The gore scenes were some of my favorite moments. Every movie is a learning experience. This one taught me that I’m happy not acting in my own movies, that it’s nice to leave the acting to serious people who are working hard to create characters for me. I learned how wonderful it is to have a crew. As I laid my head down to rest every night, alone in my tent in the desert, while most of the cast and crew had returned to the motel for the night, I realized that the phrase ‘the buck stops here’ really means something!”

Also while reviewing, I spotted several horror film homages in American Mummy to other films such as Evil Dead and Cabin Fever. They were welcome in a movie about a mummy’s curse and I wondered how the nods occurred and where Pinion pulled his inspiration from. He explains, “I am a huge Evil Dead fan, so I’d be surprised if you didn’t see that influence in American Mummy. We watched Cabin Fever early on in our writing, when all we had was the title, and my partner had this idea that I was some kind of horror expert. The truth is I’m a psychotronic film-maker [which means he relates more to low budget and poorly received movies] and I like my films to concern, but not require, tits and ass, drug use and general depravity. Those have always served my story-telling needs. I also find certain things funny that not everyone else does.”

What’s next for the writer and director with a new hit on his hands? A lot, actually. He has several projects on the horizon, including turning American Mummy into a trilogy. He explains, “My team and I hope to complete the American Mummy trilogy in which the now-embodied Tezcatlipoca, Lord of the Smoking Mirror, reclaims his temple in Mexico City and takes an active role in the land’s destiny. Meanwhile, my features Dark Canyon and Thousand Eyes simmer slowly on the back-burners. And I think everyone should check out and order my previous movies – The Pulp Video Collection – that are available on my website. This way they will get the full Charles Pinion treatment that provides me with tequila and blank DVDs.”

Michael DeFellipo

(Senior Editor)

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