Thursday, July 1, 2010

Lawyers, Gore and Money

The tax shelter laws that existed in the U.S. prior to 1986 encouraged a lot of professionals to invest in low-budget film projects, in hopes that they could shelter potentially significant amounts of their income from the IRS. Attorneys frequently pumped cash into these productions; however, these legal eagles occasionally took a more active role, producing and even directing low-budget horror films of their own.

Exhibits A, B, and C:

Toxic Zombies (a.k.a. Bloodeaters, 1980)
After the success of Night of the Living Dead, Pennsylvanians produced a lot of zombie movies, but for viewers of a certain age, writer/director/star and Yale Law School graduate Charles McCrann's Toxic Zombies/Bloodeaters is held in particularly high regard --- and not just because the film opens, incongruously, with a scene of a woman giving herself a sponge bath in the middle of the forest. Toss in some zombified hippie pot farmers, shady government agents (including real-life Romero vet John Amplas), and some corny jokes, and you've got yourself a kooky kilo of stoner zombie comedy.

This was the only film for McCrann, an exec at financial services company Marsh & McLennan. Decades later, he was killed on Sept. 11, 2001, in the World Trade Center attacks. If you check out the preceding link to his tribute page, you'll note that he was not shy about sharing his singular zombie opus with his law school buds or co-workers.

Girls Nite Out (The Scaremaker, 1984)
We meant to cover this peppy slasher flick when we were doing our tribute to Ohio, but we ran out of time. Plus, although it was set in Ohio, and produced by two Ohio attorneys, and starred former Ohioan Hal Holbrooke, Girls Nite Out was actually made in ... New Jersey.

Set on the campus of a fictional Ohio college during an annual scavenger hunt, Girls Nite Out features a crazy killer decked out in a bear suit (the school's mascot) outfitted with steak-knife claws who picks off co-eds while an obnoxious DJ spins a surprisingly good selecton of oldies (how much of the budget went to music licensing?).

Producers Anthony Gurvis and Kevin Kurgis are both well-known attorneys in central Ohio, but Kurgis has definitely made the bigger name for himself with a series of ominous commercials in which he emerges from behind a door and charges the camera like a brahma bull while touting the value of hiring a good personal injury lawyer. These commercials are so infamous around Columbus, that they have inspired several YouTube parodies, and this Facebook page.

The Mutilator (1985)
Finally, we have this North Carolina classic written and directed by Atlantic Beach attorney Buddy Cooper, which positively drips with blood and confusing Freudian subtext as a deranged killer stalks his own son and junior's college buddies in order to exact revenge for his wife's accidental death years earlier. With cast members from Two Thousand Maniacs! and Deadtime Stories, early work from special effects artist Mark Shostrom, and an extremely nasty death-by-gaffe-hook-in-an-especially-uncomfortable-place.

Here's Cooper himself talking to some dude in sunglasses about his one and only film credit:

We rest our case.

1 comment:

  1. Chris FitzpatrickJuly 2, 2010 at 3:01 AM

    Great post! I remember watching "Girls Nite Out" on I believe USA many many years ago although I could be mistaken. Keep up the great work!