Chris LaMartina did not want to send me his films. At all. I Facebook stalked him for a long time before he broke down and sent me the stuff. As a lot of independent filmmakers are, he was hesitant for fear of films showing up on torrent sites and of course, for fear of not being able to sell the finished product because of that. But, I continued to be a pain in the ass until he eventually broke down and sent me a package of his films. So, as promised, I’m not going to let this fine young man down.
Before I get into the films, here’s a few fun facts about Chris LaMartina that you may need to know (or not…whatever. I think they’re important!):
-Chris started making films at the age of 11 after getting his hands on the family camcorder. After a bazillion short films, at 14 he made the jump to a feature entitled “Amerikill” (which will be getting an official re-release by the handsome gents at Warlock Home Video before year’s end).
-He has juvenile Type 1 diabetes.
-While working for the Mayor (of Baltimore, I believe) in the office of Cable & Communications as a producer/director, he produced 2 of his own flicks (Grave Mistakes and President’s Day) but was laid off 2 weeks before beginning shooting on Witch’s Brew.
-His vast knowledge of film degradation and poorly stored film elements lent their services in his Lost Trailer Park series, where he would intentionally color-correct prints red and would “lose” frames…ah, just like the good ol’ days.
-The Immature Burial was his contribution to the Baltimore Museum of Art’s Poe-inspired video series.
-LaMartina’s boyish charm and “Aw, shucks” good looks will win him the hearts of many-a young lovelies by the time this article is over…
All silliness aside, LaMartina’s Baltimore-based roots shine through in his work. Like some of the other great minds who’ve come from Charm City (John Waters and JimmyO Burrill to name a couple!), his surrounding are inspiration and an excellent backdrop to his fantastic sense of humor. It must be something in the water there because Chris’ films have that Baltimorian way about them. There’s always a healthy balance of blood, laughs, and social observation to match up with the punk rock aesthetic running through the films.
While LaMartina is a true independent filmmaker, there seems to be a very close eye watching over the look of the films. Indie films are often plagued by bad lighting and lousy sound. You won’t find this in his films. As a filmmaker, Chris is clearly skilled in capturing a great look, while still getting fantastic performances out of his cast. Since we’re on the topic, let’s discuss casts for his films. After seeing his work, one of the following things is true: Either he has friends who just happen to be insanely talented in front of a camera, or he finds actors who work by trade to round out his ensembles. Most often times, this is ends up a combination of both for indie filmmakers, but in his case, it works out in his favor. There’s never any one performance that sticks out as being “that” one shitty turn. His casts give believable, entertaining, and most importantly, BALANCED performances which gives his movies an upper hand against a lot of their contemporaries. With the way they fire on all cylinders, it’s almost impossible to not like a Chris LaMartina movie. And if you find yourself NOT enjoying one of his films….well…go watch “Real Steel” or jump off a building…or something.
Chris LaMartina has several films out, ranging from faux trailer reels to short films that were part of anthologies. For Independent Week and for this feature, we’ve decided to highlight the ones you are most likely to encounter at a convention near you or catch at a film festival. Don’t let that discourage you from seeking out all of his work, though! I can’t stress that enough. I have yet to watch one of his movies and think “meh, it was okay”. They all have his personal stamp that will make you want to see more. Here’s a few of our favorites we recommend checking out ASAP:
PRESIDENT’S DAY (2010)-Lincoln High School’s student council race just got a lot messier! Several students from all the different social groups have thrown their name in the ring to be student body president. There’s just one problem: Your campaign could lead to your demise…
Featuring a slew of indie horror favorites (Ruby LaRocca, Nicolette Le Faye, and Shawn C. Phillips), President’s Day uncovers the horrors of high school politics, one massacred body at a time. The movie harkens back to those 80’s holiday slashers, but also taps into our modern day sensibilities. There are fantastic performances, some hilarious bloody effects, and lots of turns to keep you guessing. President’s Day is a great flick to thrown on at your Halloween party and get your friends laughing…or, weird them out. Either way, slasher fans shouldn’t pass this one up.
WITCH’S BREW (2011)-Microbreweries are all the rage nowadays. When 2 young microbrew upstarts enrage their local witch coven by way of a lil’ accident, they find their beer is the cause of a town meltdown. The witches curse their latest batch of booze, causing a shitstorm of blood, guts, and chaos…and not in that good party dude sort of way.
Witch’s Brew may quite possibly be one of the best low budget horror films to come through here in a long, long time. It has a fresh premise that isn’t based on typical recycled parlor tricks. All of the characters are easy to get involved with and as far as the bad guys go-well, those you want to die, do so in a horrible fashion. The entire cast drives the story with conviction and humor keeping you involved through the entire flick. When it’s over, you wish it hadn’t ended. It’s combination of youthful bad decisions and STREET TRASH-esque consequences make Witch’s Brew one of the best films of 2011.
BOOK OF LORE/GRAVE MISTAKES HORROR DOUBLE FEATURE (2007/2008)-Book of Lore starts off this double billing from LaMartina’s Midnight Crew Productions. It tells the tale of small town secrets and the evil they bring. Rick’s girlfriend has died a horrible death. It’s made worse by the fact that it’s an identical match to some other local murders from the past. Not content with letting this go, he and his friends dig into the their town’s mysterious past and uncover an encyclopedia called the Book of Lore. The book details some of the heinous crimes carried out years back. It also evokes an evil that leads to more death and mayhem. Rick and his boys have to get a hold on things before it’s too late.
Grave Mistakes is next on the agenda, featuring a host of insanity fit for a horror geek. A grave robber and antique dealer (and a strange one at that!) decide to start swapping oddball stories…and we’re their audience privy to the tellings! Everything AND the kitchen sink are here for this party: Zombies, ghosts, bloodsuckers, and evil in general rear their ugly heads for this anthology of bloody tales.
While these films are separate features, Camp Motion Pictures double feature release of both on one disc proves to be a great combo. Both flicks offer up bits and pieces to the various horror pallets. Book of Lore will give those of you into the character-driven true crime-stylings plenty to sink your teeth into, all while pulling in the all-around horror fan with its fantastic eccentricities I’ve learned to expect from Chris LaMartina. This film definitely gives a glimpse into what would be to come from the director, as it emphasizes the characters and makes certain that the story is pushing the movie along.
On the flip side, Grave Mistakes seems like it was tailored to suit the red-blooded American gorehound. Lots of fun monsters running about and the interaction between the storytellers create an entertaining horror potluck fit for a king. If at least one of the tales in this anthology doesn’t make you smile, then you’re already fuckin’ dead.
In addition to the above listen films, Chris LaMartina’s other work can be found in the following places:
-Faces of Schlock Series
-Lost Trailer Park Series
Also, as stated earlier in the article, “Amerikill” will see it’s official release later this year via Warlock Home Video. And if it hasn’t already been made abundantly clear, Chris LaMartina is an independent filmmaker worthy of your time and energy. He’s always taking an original, unique approach to horror that includes great stories, hilarious jokes, exceptional technical work (cinematography, special effects, lighting, etc.), all equating to a catalog of great movies. Though he flies under the radar (as of right now, anyway), Chris is a filmmaker with the goods to make the jump. He works his ass off to improve his craft and tirelessly promotes his films. His work ethic is one indie filmmakers should look to as an example. He doesn’t rely on others to make things happen for him, he does it himself.
The Blood Sprayer is proud to endorse a writer/director like LaMartina. Support Independent Filmmaking!!!
Tags: amerikill, Blood, book of lore, Chris LaMartina, cinematography, Ghosts, Gore, grave mistakes, Guts, Independence Week, independent filmmakers, indie film, jimmyo burrill, John Waters, lighting, murder, nicolette la feye, president's day, ruby larocca, shawn c. phillips, special effects, The Blood Sprayer, Warlock Home Video, witch's brew, Zombies