This loopy crime thriller from stuntman-turned-direct Jim Feazell also bore the alternate titles Wheeler, The Mama's Boy, and The Hurting before a poorly re-edited version made it's way to video years after it's initial release. And yes, that is a young Linnea Quigley, featured during footage added to the film in the late 1970s.
We were excited to see that a new DVD start-up, Vinegar Syndrome, will release Paul Kener's obscure early slasher film Savage Water early next year. The Utah-lensed film never received a legit U.S. video release (nor did Kener's companion film, Wendigo). Below are two articles about Kener. The first details the production of Savage Water. The second, from the mid-1980s, is even more interesting: Kener planned to make a Ted Bundy biopic while Bundy himself was still awaiting trial in Florida. Even better, the multi-state production was set to star former "Brady Bunch" actor Barry Williams as Bundy!
From Deseret News, July 26, 1978
Killer Comes to Court in Locally Made Movie
By Corey Peterson
Deseret News Staff Writer
RIVERTON -- A killer came to court in Sandy last week, a man
who brutally and methodically murdered five people during a river-run down the
Colorado through the Grand Canyon.
But Sandy police could do nothing about it.
They'll have to wait like everyone else until Talking
Pictures Inc. releases its new feature film, "Savage Water," in
TPI is a Riverton movie company. Its offices are in a
trailer behind the home of its president, Paul W. Kener, 2015 W. 13550 South.
"Savage Water" is the fourth feature film for TPI.
Sandy city's court room was used as the setting for a
dramatic trail sequence, Kener, the film's director, said.
The film is a cross between "Deliverance" and an
Agatha Christie-type who-dun-it, he said.
Dave Savage, a river-runner, takes a group down the
Colorado, but one by one, five people are murdered. Only in the final scene is
the killer revealed. Kener declined to say who.
Kip Boden, a Utah river-runner by summer and a writer by
winter, wrote the screenplay. The players are all local professionals.
Most of the river-running, murder and mayhem scenes are
shot. About 30 percent remains, Kener said.
TPI is one of several independent Utah movie companies and
represents the growing power and role of independents in the movie industry.
It also represents the realization of a dream.
Kener, 32, grew up in East Mill Creek. In the ninth grade at
Wasatch Junior High School, he and friends became interested in filmmaking and
reeled off 13 8-millimeter movies.
But for Kener, the dream remained. He earned a degree in
cinematography and worked for a Utah company filming an outdoor adventure,
Hollywood had the industry locked up until about 10 year
ago, Kener said. A young filmmaker had little chance while Kener was still in
But then the independents began to break the industry open.
"Four-walling" was the technique used. Independent companies, instead
of releasing films to theaters for a split of the receipts, rented theaters
That gave theater owners a guaranteed income and avoided the
distribution lock Hollywood had on the industry. Saturation advertising was a
key element of the independents' surprising success.
"Four-walling" is no longer extensively used. Too
many theaters were rented for $30,000 when only $10,000 in tickets were sold,
The independents however got established and now, the
companies have the competitive edge on Hollywood, Kener said.
In Utah, a movie can be made for far less money in less
time. Filmmakers here avoid exorbitant wages demanded by industry unions. In
Utah, a feature film can be made in six months; in Hollywood, it would take two
years, Kener said.
Keener first realized his ninth grade dream seven years ago
when he formed Filmmakers Studio. That name was dropped in favor of Talking
Pictures Inc. four years ago.
Everyone in the company is involved in making movies.
Kener, president, is a producer and director. Vice-president
Rolf Nordgren is sound producer. Ray Smith and Lonnie Fausett, members of the
board of directors, are producers.
Karen Kener, Paul's wife, handles the paper work.
In addition, Karen and her soft-rock band, the KC Classics, sing
the theme in "Savage Water" and she plays a key role in the movie.
Kener confessed he is more comfortable behind the camera. In
fact, he said he's terrified at the thought of acting.
The Keners' two children, Chad, 5, and Angela, 7, however,
are often enlisted to go before the cameras.
"Savage Water" could be TPI's turning point, Kener
TPI's first feature film was "One Second From
Eternity," a documentary about racing on the Bonneville Salt Flats.
Second was "The Streak Car Company," a 1974 film
that cashed in on the short-lived streaking fad of 1974.
Third was "Wendigo," a dramatic film based on an
Indian legend of the supernatural. That and "Savage Water will be released
about the same time.
For the first time, TPI will have more than one film in
circulation. A fifth movie is also in the works.
The company has also made about 60 other commercials,
educational and promotional films.
"Savage Water has everything for it -- action,
adventure, suspense and a fail-proof plot.
The key is entertainment, Kener said. The thrill of thejob is to see an audience become
engrossed in a film. "Savage Water" is something a film-goer can
believe could actually happen.
If "Savage Water" makes the kind of money Kener
hopes it can, TPI could be past struggling for investment money.
From the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, March 10, 1984
Portions of Ted Bundy Movie to be Filmed in Tallahassee
Herald-Tribune Wire Services
Parts of a new movie called "The Obsession of Ted
Bundy" will be filmed in Washington, Florida, Utah and Colorado, the
Washington State Motion Picture Bureau announced Friday in Seattle.
Bundy, formerly of Tacoma, Wash., is on Florida's Death Row
while his appeals on three murder convictions wind their way through the
He was convicted of the 1978 murder-rape of Kimberly Diane
Leach, 12, in Lake City and the slayings of Lisa Levy and Margaret Bowman, two
students at Florida State University in Tallahassee, also in 1978. Portions of
the Bundy film will be shot in Tallahassee, producers said, although no dates
have been released.
The $2.3 million film will star veteran television actor
Barry Williams, 29, best known for his role as the oldest brother in the
Utah-based Kener-Smith Productions intends to begin work
immediately on the film. Paul Kener, the director, was in Seattle on Friday
scouting locations and unavailable for comment.
In addition to Tallahassee and Seattle, filmmakers will go
on location in Salt Lake city and Vail, Colo.
Bundy has been charged with killing a vacationing Michigan
nurse in Colorado and was convicted of kidnapping in Utah. He is a prime
suspect, though has never been charged, in a string of more than 30 other
murders of college-age women in the mid-1970s in the Northwest.
In some cases, witnesses recalled the victims were last seen
with a mysterious, smooth-talking stranger who sometimes introduced himself as
"Obviously, no one wants to make money off Bundy; he's
not a shining example, but if someone is gong to make film about him it may as
well be made here as anywhere else," said Bill Cushing, assistant director
of communications for the movie bureau in Seattle.
Cushing said he wouldn’t comment on the artistic scope of
"Decisions are made by artistic and business people
based on what they think will happen at the box office," he said.
"It's a free country, they can film where they want."
The film company estimated it will spend between $500,000
and $750,000 in the Seattle area. Cushing said the shooting will have a $1.5
million to $2.5 million impact on the local economy.
Filming will take place in June in downtown Seattle and Lake
Sammamish, east of Seattle, where several women had told police they had been
approached by the mysterious "Ted." Two women, Denise Naslund and Janice
Ott, disappeared from the park on July 14, 1974, the day the man calling
himself "Ted" was seen there. Their bones later were found near
Issaquah, east of the park.
Casting for 16 speaking parts is under way and between 50
and 100 extras will also be hired locally, said Cushing.
The movie is based on an original screenplay and is
scheduled for release by the end of the year.
Producer Raymond H. Smith and director Kener have teamed up
before, most recently to make "300 Miles for Stephanie," a made-for-TV
movie that was aired on NBC.
We've quite a run of Trailer of the Week entries without any actual trailers, and here's another one! This is a clip of George Gobel from Harry Thomason's The Day it Came to Earth, which you can still see on the out-of-print Image DVD that released nearly a decade ago.
After many years of piddling around, several false starts and numerous delays, my book on regional horror films (aptly titled Regional Horror Films 1958-1990: A State-by-State Guide With Interviews) has finally been unleashed by the good folks at McFarland & Co.
If you are interested in picking up a copy, you can try your luck here and here. It's also supposed to be available as an e-book, although I haven't seen it turn up in that format yet. I'll keep you posted.
So why should you buy this book? Here are some highlights:
* It's the first-ever print reference work to include entries on such regional obscurities as Satan Place, The Wednesday Children, The Beast From the Beginning of Time, Silent Death, Demon From Devil's Lake, and the previously unheard of Southern Shockers.
* In-depth interviews with filmmakers Milton Moses Ginsberg (Werewolf of Washington), Robert W. Morgan (Blood Stalkers), William Grefe (Stanley), Robert Burrill (The Milpitas Monster), Lewis Jackson (Christmas Evil), and more!
* Rare, behind-the-scenes photos from The Dead Next Door, Werewolf of Washington, Blood Stalkers, Southern Shockers, and Shriek of the Mutilated.
* Listings of more than 350 independent horror and sci-fi films, organized in a handy state-by-state directory.
There are also plenty of fun newspaper admats and old VHS box art images in the book. Since space was a limited, I've posted a few images below that wound up not being used, but that are kind of cool anyway. Enjoy!
We've finally arrived at the Top Ten Regional Horror Films of all time -- including the obvious picks, along with (I think) a few surprises. You can read more about all of the Top 100 (and 200 or so other regional horror/sci-fi flicks) in my new book from McFarland, which you can purchase here.
10. Alice, Sweet Alice (New Jersey, 1976): This is not only one of my favorite horror films of
all time, it's one of my favorite films of the 1970s, period.Brooke Shields debuts as a young girl murdered on
the day of her first communion in Alfred Sole's creepy, near pitch-perfect
giallo-style murder mystery. Everything about this film, from the art direction
to the compositions to the incredibly painful and intimate violence, delivers.
Even better are the unforgettable performances by Paula E. Sheppard as the
disturbed older sister, Mildred Clinton's parish housekeeper, and Alphonse
DeNoble as the grotesque landlord.
the 13th (New Jersey, 1980): Could there have been a better way to open the 1980s for the genre? Well, maybe, but Sean S. Cunningham's brilliantly manipulative slasher film
launched what would turn out to be an incredibly successful commercial period
for the horror film (in fact, I think this may be the most financially successful
regional horror film ever, but don't quote me on that). Yes, it copied John
Carpenter's Halloween, but it also created its own set of clichés that other films quickly
8. The Blob (Pennsylvania, 1958): Even though it was made in the wilds of Pennsylvania
by religious filmmakers, The Blob remains one of the key films in
the 1950s horror/sci-fi cycle, which was largely dominated by Hollywood-based
films from major and minor studios alike. I imagine the presence of Steve
McQueen, the fact that it was in color, and that snappy Burt Bacharach theme
song helped a lot.
7. Christmas Evil (New Jersey, 1980): Like Alice, Sweet Alice, Lewis
Jackson's low-key thriller about a Santa-obsessed toy factory employee who
spends Christmas Eve rewarding the nice and violently punishing the naughty,
isn't as well-known or well-regarded among fans as it ought to be. But it's an
excellent example of exactly what a dedicated filmmaker with a low-budget can
accomplish, and it's certainly themost well-crafted Christmas horror film ever made (at least so far).
6. The Legend of Boggy Creek (Arkansas, 1972): Charles B. Pierce made this pseudo-documentary
about Arkansas Bigfoot legend The Fouke Monster with money from a local trucking
company. He four-walled it across the south before selling it off to southern
theater magnate Joy Houck, making millions in the process and launching a long
and fairly successful career in low-budget horror and action films. No one who
saw it, either during its theatrical run or on television, ever forgot it, and
it influenced a decades-worth of sasquatch cinema.
5. Blood Feast (1963): Director
Herschell Gordon Lewis has often referred to his inaugural gore film as being a
bit like a Walt Whitman poem: it's no good, but it's the first of its kind, and
so therefore it deserves a place. Exactly where that place is depends on your
tastes, I guess. It was the first unabashed American gore film, and helped pave
the way for more gratuitous onscreen bloodletting. It's also silly, cheap,
offensive and ridiculous, which probably explains why it still has an audience
all these years later.
4. Carnival of Souls (Kansas/Utah, 1962): Industrial filmmaker Herk Harvey made this little gem on a shoestring, and it gained a substantial reputation via late-night TV airings in subsequent years. Before Night of the Living Dead, Carnival paved the way for quirky, serious supernatural horror. Playing like an extended "Twilight Zone" episode, the film was unique in its day, and that surreal, ghoul-infested Saltair Pavilion sequence still packs a punch.
3. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Texas, 1974): Whatever you think of director Tobe Hooper's later work, his horror debut remains one of the most powerful genre films of the 1970s. Audiences at its premiere in San Francisco allegedly fled the theater vomiting, although I'm not sure why since (despite its garish title) it's fairly gore-free. A grim, unrelenting nightmare that makes the remake pale by comparison.
2. The Evil Dead (Tennessee/Michigan, 1981): The top five films on this list all changed the course of the horror genre in one way or another. Sam Raimi's initial feature (and its two sequels) broke new stylistic ground while the genre was mired in cookie-cutter slasher films, inspiring its own horde of cheap knock-offs and establishing a model for other enterprising young fans/filmmakers around the U.S.
1. Night of the Living Dead (Pennsylvania, 1968): More than any other film, George Romero's grim zombie opus launched a new era in for the horror genre, and its influence continues to be felt more than 40 years later. Most of the other films on this list (and most other post-1968 horror films) copied Night's realistic, modern setting, it's nihilistic tone, and in some cases outright aped its flesh-eating zombies. This was the birth of the zombie apocalypse, and of modern horror cinema.
We're closing in on the Top Ten (watch this space on Halloween to see which films made the cut), but in the meantime the bottom half of the Top 20 includes some of the most brutal, notorious exploitation/horror flicks to ever emerge from the mean streets of ... Connecticut. Nazi zombies, turkey monsters, killer scarecrows, and hooded killers await!
20. The Town That Dreaded Sundown (Arkansas, 1976): Although The Legend of Boggy Creek
remains Charles B. Pierce's most well-known film, this docu-drama
may be his finest. Based on the real-life Texarkana Moonlight Murders, it
boasts a higher budget and a semi-well-known cast that includes Ben Johnson,
Andrew Prine, and Dawn Wells.
19. Silent Night, Bloody Night (New York, 1974): This sometimes incomprehensible story about a mad
killer seeking vengeance against the elders of a small town as they prepare to
sell a notorious former madhouse is high on atmosphere, even if it seems a bit
thin on logic. It does have a great score (you can buy it here), a creepy
flashback of the inmates breaking out of the asylum, and John Carradine. Star
Mary Woronov was married to director Theodore Gershuny.
18. Sleepaway Camp (New York, 1983): It takes everything good about Friday the 13th,
adds some perversely cruel kill sequences, and tops it all off with one of the
most jaw-dropping endings in the history of the genre -- the final freeze-frame
image haunted me for years. The sequels have been all over the map, but the
original Sleepaway Camp still packs a unique punch.
17. Scarecrows (Florida, 1988): I often refer to this as the last of the great
independent Florida horror films. A gang of paramilitary bank robbers land in the boondocks after a turncoat member parachutes out of their highjacked
plane with the loot. Once on the ground, they find themselves at the mercy of a
pack of creepy, homicidal scarecrows. With impressive effects by then-teenage
designer Norman Cabrera.
16. I Spit on Your Grave (Connecticut, 1978): Although it's best known for its repugnant, lengthy
rape and subsequent bathtub castration scene, the sequence showing
Camille Keaton's traumatized post-attack walk home through the woods is probably
the most powerful scene in the film. I've never liked it much, and I don't
really buy the idea that it should be looked at as some kind of feminist,
anti-rape tract, but it ranks high here based on its reputation and influence.
15. Maniac (New York, 1980): Joe Spinell delivers a sweaty, unforgettable performance as an NYC
psycho carving up local ladies and pinning their scalps to his collection of
creepy mannequins. Although grim and at times repellent, Spinell (who also
co-wrote the film) puts his all into his role as Frank Zito, and Tom Savini's
memorable splatter effects secured Maniac's reputation with gorehounds.
14. Shock Waves(Florida,
1977): The 1970s witnessed the emergence
of the peculiar Nazi/zombie subgenre that included the likes of Joel M. Reed's Night
of the Zombies and Jess Franco's Oasis of the Zombies. Shock Waves, along with Zombie Lake,
formed their own sub-sub-genre of underwater Nazi/zombie movies. Shock Waves was clearly the superior of the two, thanks in part
to appearances by Peter Cushing and John Carradine, along with the imposing,
angry undead monsters.
13. Blood Freak (Florida, 1972): You may be wondering what this crazed oddity is
doing so high up on the list, but I think we can all agree that this
harebrained combination of bikers, anti-drug propaganda and blood-drinking
turkey monsters is the wildest thing to ever emerge from the decidedly freaky
Florida film scene. Leading man Steve Hawkes still occasionally makes the news
thanks to his collection of exotic pets.
12. Basket Case (New York, 1982): Frank Henenlotter's love letter to exploitation films
is as well remembered for its goofy humor as its gruesome violence. The story
of the Bradley brothers (separated Siamese twins, one normal and one a mutant)
remains one of the highlights of 1980s New York film scene, and inspired two
11. Last House on the Left (Connecticut, 1972): Groundbreaking exploitation film that left a
permanent mark on the genre via its unabashed brutality, a stand-out
performance from the late David Hess, and a memorable ad campaign ("Keep
Repeating: It's Only a Movie!"). It also put both Sean S. Cunningham and
Wes Craven on the map, and served as a right of passage/endurance contest for
horror fans decades after its release.
Good grief, a month has flown by since we posted Part II of our list of the Top 100 Regional Horror Films. I promise to get through the rest by Halloween, but things have been busy, busy, busy here at The Dead Next Door. The good news: the regional horror films book should go to press this week, which means you should be able to order it by Halloween or shortly afterward (or at least go find it in a library by Thanksgiving.
In the meantime, here are films 21-35:
35. Horror High (Texas, 1974): A low-budget sleeper that holds a special place in
the hearts of fans who first caught it on late-night TV under its Twisted Brain
title, Larry Stouffer's Horror High was one of just a few pre-Carrie flicks to
focus on terrifying American teenagers. In this case: precocious teen scientist
Vernon, whose experiments turn him into a murderous Mr. Hyde. Adapted for the
stage as a musical. Honestly.
34. Axe (North Carolina, 1974): This unsettling low-budget thriller plays like a
mash-up of The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane and John
Trent's Sunday in the Country: a group
of murderous criminals hole up in a farmhouse where they encounter the
mysterious Lisa, a disturbed young woman who lives with her mute grandfather
and a number of very sharp tools and household items.
33. Squirm (Georgia, 1976): Of all the eco-themed horror films of the 1970s (which saw the populace
attacked by spiders, crabs, snakes, ants, and frogs of various sizes), this
killer worm story (from director Jeff Lieberman) is probably my favorite. A
freak electrical storm drives thousands of bloodsucking worms out of the ground
and into the skin of terrified Georgians while Yankee Don Scardino attempts to
save the day.
32. The Crazies (Pennsylvania, 1973): George Romero's second horror outing was not nearly
as successful or influential as Night of the Living Dead, but the set-up still
resonates: A biological weapon is accidentally released in a small town,
turning the residents into mad killers. The protagonists are then trapped
between the "crazies" of the title and the haz-mat-suited soldiers ordered into the
town to contain the problem.
31. Dead of Night/Deathdream (Florida, 1974): When it comes to Bob Clark/Alan Ormsby
collaborations, Children Shouldn't Play with Dead Things may have been funnier,
and Deranged may have been more polished, but this tale of a zombie soldier wished
back to life by his grieving mother is tops as far as delivering the genre
goods and social subtext.
30. The Horror of Party Beach (Connecticut, 1964): A distinctively New England-ish take on the beach
party genre, boasting unforgettable hot-dog-mouthed monsters, peppymusical interludes by the Del-Aires
("The Zombie Stomp"), and an unbelievably over-the-top slumber party
massacre that almost undoes every campy minute leading up to it.
29. The Offspring (Georgia, 1987): Although time has made it a bit obscure, Jeff Burr's
omnibus horror flick was a late-1980s genre highlight both in terms of gruesome
content and its all-star genre cast (Vincent Price, Clu Gulager, Cameron
Mitchell, Rosalind Cash, Martine Beswick, Angelo Rossitto, Lawrence Tierney).
28. Grizzly (Georgia, 1976): Kentucky director William Girdler released two independent horror
features (Asylum of Satan, Three on a Meathook) and one for AIP (Abby) before
entering the exploitation mainstream with this enjoyable "Jaws
with claws" killer bear flick for then-Atlanta-based Film Ventures. He
followed up with Day of the Animals (featuring Leslie Nielsen taking on a wider
variety of hostile fauna), and then hit the almost-big-time with The Manitou
before his untimely death in a helicopter crash.
27. The Toxic Avenger (New Jersey, 1985): Although Lloyd Kaufman, Michael Herz and the Troma
organization released plenty of films before and after, The Toxic Avenger is
probably their most successful project, and the one that brought them the most
mainstream notoriety. Followed by sequels, a cartoon series, a Marvel comic,
and a line of action figures.
26. Street Trash (New York, 1987): Busy steadicam operator J. Michael Muro delivers a
giddy, gory classic about tainted booze turning winos into screeching piles of
day-glow goo. It's funny, offensive, and gruesome, and makes me wish Muro had
directed more features.
25. Return of the Aliens: The Deadly Spawn (New Jersey, 1983):
There are a lot of deadly serious films in
this portion of the list, but this one is a straight-up, old-fashioned monster
movie about flesh-eating alien invaders. It's fun, funny, and boasts some
unbelievably accomplished special effects given the budget.
24. Ganja & Hess (New York, 1973): Director/screenwriter/actor Bill Gunn's take on the
vampire mythos is considered refreshingly off-kilter by some, boring by others.
Night of the Living Dead star Duane Jones (in his only other major starring
role) is an anthropologist infected with a vampiric disease after being stabbed
with an ancient dagger by his loony new assistant (Gunn). From there, the film
turns into a meditation on Jones' struggle with his blood "addiction"
and his relationship with Gunn's confounding widow (Marlene Clark). It was
released under a variety of titles in re-edited form; seek out the director's
23. The Premonition (Mississippi, 1976): New Yorker Robert Allen Schnitzer headed south to
make this odd little gem about a disturbed woman and her carnival clown
boyfriend (the great Richard Lynch) abducting the woman's young daughter from
her adoptive parents.
22. Homebodies (Ohio, 1974): As relevant as it was then, Homebodies is a rare genre flick that
addresses the silver-haired set. Faced with eviction when their Cincinnati
apartment complex is targeted for demolition as part of an urban renewal
initiative, a group of elderly tenants begin murdering the gentrifying
interlopers trying to dispossess them.
21. Let's Scare Jessica to Death (Connecticut, 1971): Slightly over-the-hill flower children encounter the
living dead (or are they?) in the picturesque New England town where they've
relocated. Although it's not a "big" enough title to make the top 10,
this slice of weirdness from Bang the Drum Slowly director John D. Hancock is
one of my personal favorites.
There's no trailer for this Texas time-travel obscurity made by writer/actor Russ Marker, so I've posted a brief clip instead (featuring Marker's brother, James Britton). You can read my interview with Marker in the upcoming Regional Horror Films book, due out in early November.
The only California film covered in my upcoming book, Regional Horror Films, Robert Burrill's monster masterpiece is one of my favorites. The trailer below includes some additional goodies, like horror host Bob Wilkins showing off his Milpitas Monster trash can.
The Dead Next Door is a blog about regional or "backyard" horror and science fiction films made from the late 1950s to the earlyl 1990s (and beyond). These films were released during the peak years of independent film production, created by a motley crew of seasoned pros, gifted amateurs, and enthusiastic genre fans, along with dozens of eccentric dreamers -- doctors, lawyers, insurance salesmen, publishers, commercial filmmakers, TV production crews and moonlighting pornographers -- all looking for their big break or a fast buck or both.