IN MEMORY OF is the long-awaited new film from director Eric Stanze, the critically acclaimed filmmaker who helmed ICE FROM THE SUN, SCRAPBOOK, DEADWOOD PARK, and RATLINE.
A fever-dream horror road-trip film, IN MEMORY OF is now available on Blu-ray, a two-disc release that includes a 93 minute making-of documentary.
Shot in Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah, IN MEMORY OF is a sprawling journey through madness that stars Jackie Kelly in her feature film debut. (She previously starred in the short film THE DRESS, which garnered acclaim at film fests around the world.)
IN MEMORY OF also stars Jason Christ (RATLINE), Adam Ahlbrandt (director of CROSS BEARER and THE CEMETERY), Emily Haack (SCRAPBOOK), DJ Vivona (ICE FROM THE SUN), Haley Jay Madison (SCAREWAVES, HEADLESS), Jason Allen Wolfe (DEADWOOD PARK, CHINA WHITE SERPENTINE), and Katie Groshong (A MEASURE OF THE SIN, JUG FACE).
The IN MEMORY OF Two-Disc Blu-ray can be ordered here:
Horror Society: Your career has spanned nearly 25 years and seen the release of so many unforgettable films like SAVAGE HARVEST, ICE FROM THE SUN, and RATLINE. IN MEMORY OF captures some of the many qualities that makes those films unforgettable while at the same time it gives the viewer something different. What inspired you to make this unique film instead of falling victim to current fads?
Eric Stanze: I definitely have no interest in looking around and trying to emulate Hollywood trends or what’s hot on the indie scene. I’m a film fan, I love movies, and I want to take that love of cinema and pour it into my work, giving myself an artistic experience that mirrors what I’m a fan of. For example, I’m a fan of spooky, atmospheric horror – movies like THE CHANGELING, THE HAUNTING, and a lot of Mario Bava stuff. So I wanted to have the experience of making something along those lines. The result was DEADWOOD PARK.
I love road trip films of the 70s like TWO-LANE BLACKTOP, BADLANDS, SCARECROW, and VANISHING POINT. I love off-the-beaten-path, fever-dream films, like what David Lynch has done. I love early David Cronenberg sci-fi body horror. I wanted to experiment with combining all of this, and the result was IN MEMORY OF.
HS: IN MEMORY OF reunites you with several familiar faces like Emily Haack and Jason Christ while bringing in new talent like Adam Ahlbrandt and Haley Jay Madison. What was it like casting for this film? Did you do anything different when collecting the cast compared to your previous films?
ES: Casting IN MEMORY OF was very much like casting my previous movies. We wrote certain characters for actors we knew we wanted to work with, and we wrote other characters knowing we’d be going on a search to fill those roles.
I’m also always interested in a cast that combines actors I’ve worked with on previous movies with actors I’ve never worked with before. We wrote Adam Ahlbrandt’s role with him in mind. I’d never worked with him. He was actually the first actor I cast for IN MEMORY OF. We also wrote characters for Emily Haack and DJ Vivona, who had been in previous movies of mine, as well as Jim Ousley, who I’d never worked with before.
Other characters (like the lead role of Amber) we wrote having no idea at the beginning who would be playing them. Jackie Kelly was cast as Amber pretty shortly after we started writing (she was already on the project as a writer and producer). In contrast, we cast Jason Allen Wolfe and Nadina Sammons very late in the game, well into the shooting of the movie. It all came together really well. The leads, the actors in the small roles, every last one of them were absolutely wonderful to work with.
HS: IN MEMORY OF is rather ambitious when compared to your other films. I know, as a fan, that I absolutely loved it, and can’t wait to see what you come up with next. Will there be another Eric Stanze movie in the future? If so, what can a fan, or fanze (I’m a dad so I can make those jokes) expect?
ES: Why have none of us thought to call Stanze fans that?! Good dad joke – well done, sir. Yes, of course, there are always ideas for the next film being kicked around. I was still in post-production on IN MEMORY OF when we started pitching to each other story ideas for what we could do next.
But knowing how much time, sacrifice, and energy I’m going to pour into making a film, my problem is choosing which idea I’m going to pull the trigger on. It’s a big commitment to say, “We’re making this next.” I know production and post-production are going to consume me for a very long time, and completely drain me, so I tend to hesitate a bit, really think about it, before I give the next project the green light. ‘Cause once I’m in it, I’m in it one hundred percent for an incredibly arduous and lengthy haul
HS: Finally, you released your first film in 1994 and followed that up with several cult classics like SCRAPBOOK and CHINA WHITE SERPENTINE. What made you pursue film making and how has your style changed over the years?
ES: I was really young, maybe five or six, when I first fell in love with movies. When I was in my early teens, inspired by snippets of behind-the-scenes stuff I saw on TV, as well as articles I read in Fangoria, I started making Super-8 shorts with my friends in Pittsburgh. The home video boom at the time really pushed me too. I was renting films like THE EVIL DEAD, DAWN OF THE DEAD, and TOXIC AVENGER. I also remember catching DON’T LOOK IN THE BASEMENT on late night TV, and that had an impact too. I loved the films, but more importantly, they were obviously low-budget, you could see the rough edges, and they were not produced by the Hollywood studio system. That was inspiring. It told me I could try to make movies too.
As far as my style changing over the years, I’m not sure how it has. I make what I want to experience making, and while I’m sure certain elements carry over and evolve from movie to movie, I’m always focused on making the film I’m making – not continuing a series of movies that have some kind of “Eric Stanze Brand”.
What has evolved for sure over time is, simply put, my level of competence. Experience counts, and with each movie my skill set expands and my instincts sharpen. I look back at so much of what I’ve done in the past twenty-five years and I cringe. But that’s how it should be. You make movies, learn from your mistakes, and use those learning experiences to become a better filmmaker. I think I’m a good filmmaker today, but that’s not due to any exceptional talent. It’s because I’ve made a ton of mistakes and learned from them. So, I guess the most significant evolution over the years is that today I’m a lot better than I’ve been in the past at putting what I have in my head on the screen. And the education never stops. I’m a better filmmaker today than I was before we started making IN MEMORY OF. The fact that I’ve learned so much increases my confidence – and makes me really eager to dive into whatever movie I make next. I’m really proud of IN MEMORY OF, but I also often find myself thinking, “I can do better on the next one!”