Let’s Do The Time Warp Again: An Interview With Warlock Home Video Founder Chris Seaver

Let’s Do The Time Warp Again: An Interview With Warlock Home Video Founder Chris Seaver

In the 1980’s, in the heady days of the Video Boom, a new innovation in technology completely changed the way the film industry operated. Independent cinema was suddenly capable of being truly independent, with the power to create motion pictures finally placed into the hands of literally everyone and anyone who may have wanted it. I’m talking, of course, about the birth of the camcorder.

Enter the world of independent, underground, microbudget SOV horror. Think Blood Cult. Think Black Devil Doll From Hell. Think Redneck Zombies and Death Row Diner and BoardingHouse and Video Violence and Splatter: Architects Of Fear. Seemingly overnight, movies like these found themselves sitting on rental store shelves side-by-side with mainstream fare like A Nightmare On Elm Street 3 and Poltergeist. You couldn’t tell from the box cover that something like, say, Robot Holocaust couldn’t possibly compete with Alien. But the Robot Holocaust artwork was cooler, so you rented that one instead. How you felt about what you saw says a lot about the kind of person you were. Either you were pissed off and felt like you’d gotten cheated out of five bucks… or you laughed your ass off, had the time of your life, and rented Mutant Hunt the next week in search of more of the same.

Proving itself a promising, profitable business model, there were no shortage of video labels that cropped up in those days catering either predominantly or even entirely to the potential SOV market. One such company was Warlock Home Video. One of the most prolific SOV labels from the 1980’s, Warlock Home Video put out an impressive library of rental champs, a list that nowadays looks like a Who’s Who list of classic SOV schlock cinema. Titles like Death-O-Lantern, Blood-Skate ’88, Stop Or My Mom’s A Mummy, Blood From A Minotaur’s Skull, Die-B-Que, and Heavy Metal Werewolves were instantly hypnotic for anyone who grew up in the Video Boom with an appetite for sleaze, cheese, and cheapjack gore. These were flicks so extreme that many countries outright banned them! The phrase “Video Nasty” doesn’t do justice to just how intense, extreme, and, yes, nasty these sick n’ twisted treats truly were.

Then came the 90’s, postmodernism, and the dominance of PG-13 fangless fright flicks. Just as quickly as Warlock Home Video and its ilk had risen to relevance, they faded into obscurity. But not before instilling their rough-raw aesthetic and take-no-prisoners DIY attitude in an entire generation of newly empowered future filmmakers.

One such filmmaker is Chris Seaver, the former mastermind of the gleefully offensive Low Budget Pictures. One of the pioneers of the modern microcinema scene, Seaver paved the way for legions of imitators who took their cues from his uniquely perverse, outrageous, offensive, and utterly hilarious horror-comedy insanity-fests. Recently, though, Seaver decided to call it quits with the trusty ol’ LBP brand and switch gears. Now, he’s hoping to revive the Video Boom-era SOV-style of yesteryear that he loves so much.

How is he going to do this? Simple. He’s going to bring the late, great Warlock Home Video… back from the dead.

There’s just one little twist in the whole story I’ve laid out for you thus far, folks: Warlock Home Video never existed. It’s entire history is a fabrication, its library of hits a falsified fiction. In a move that threatens to bend the fabric of reality itself, Seaver is rewriting history with Warlock Home Video. If you’re a fan of those SOV titles of yore, you’re not going to want to miss a thing Warlock Video unleashes. Expect authentic-looking, authentic-sounding, authentic-themed shot-on-video camp/crap horror flicks actually shot on VHS camcorders, released on both DVD and VHS, complete with old school 80’s synth soundtracks and eye-popping vintage video box cover art. Expect to be time-warped right back into the Decade Of Excess, with every lust indulged, whether it be for sex, stupidity, or skull-splitting splatter.

Think of it as the ultimate manifestation of the retro-VHS nostalgia trend that’s growing more and more each second it seems these days. Think of it as the VHS addict’s answer to Grindhouse. Think of it as a second chance to relive the gory glory days of the 1980’s, complete with mullets, shoulder pads, and hair metal bands. Think of it however you want to think of it. But don’t dare blink, ’cause you might just miss the next sinister move of… The Warlock!

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For those not in the know, tell me what Warlock Home Video is. What’s the whole idea behind it?
Warlock Home Video is a Company I started to bring back the fun, cheese, shlock and magic of shot on VHS horror films from the 80’s and 90’s.
Not only re-releasing flicks from filmmakers and my own stuff from back in the day, but also making brand new films that take place in the 80’s. That have the look, sound and style of the 80’s. As if they were in fact from back in the day.

What was the genesis of Warlock? What made you want to start this project? Where did the idea come from?
Well I was getting burned out with the LBP thing and decided after 20 years enough was enough with that world and those films. Plus the industry is shifting to a very horrible place as far as I’m concerned. Getting taken advantage of, not making any real money anymore. Having to do things I didn’t WANT to do. It was just time for that to end. And a good year into the end of all of that I was thinking about how cool it would be to go back to my roots. I was 7 years old in 1984 and that’s when i got my first Video camera and pretty much when the movie making started for me. So right up until 2000, even with all of the first few years and what not for LBP, everything was shot on VHS, until Mulva:Zombie Ass Kicker and then it went all DV and we got distribution and it all changed, back then for the better, but after awhile it was apparent I wasn’t having any fun and I had a BLAST making the SOV stuff so I thought, why the hell not go back to those days and make the types of films I grew up loving and hating from the 80’s and make movies set in that time period and have a ball with it! No outside companies, nobody breathing down my neck to do this or that, just straight up 80’s VHS fun.

What does Warlock offer you that LBP didn’t? What is it that makes it more exciting or interesting or just fun for you?
Well it’s a way to really go back and have a blast. It’s a unique thing to go back and sort of apply what I learned with LBP to the stilted cheese and seriousness of SOV horror. So far it’s been amazing.

How will Warlock be different from the material you created with LBP? Is there a reason you couldn’t have put out the same material you’ll be releasing under Warlock as LBP?
LBP was it’s own beast and it’s own world. It was a world of wacky ass shit and characters. Warlock is all about the 80’s horror boom. All about the VHS stuff that was hitting the shelves right along with the mainstream horror stuff. It was a very cool idea back then and I embraced it to the fullest and by bringing it back I can not only honor what I loved but also bring more awareness to not only what we are doing now but also what other filmmakers did in the past.

One of the things that sets Warlock apart from LBP is that it’s not all Chris Seaver, right? Other people will be involved in the writing and directing, right? Who are some of the others involved in Warlock?
Yes! What’s so cool about this project is I can bring in other talented like minded friends, fans and filmmakers to help shape what the product will be. I may not feel like writing one of the ideas and titles I came up with so I ask some of the troop to do them if they want. While I will maintain the directing of most of the flicks, each one of the writers for that certain flick can also direct with me and we can really have an interactive vibe going through out the company. Plus the acquisition of other films from the 80’s and 90’s help fill out the roster for each year and help promote those filmmakers earlier works.

Originally, when news about Warlock started to slowly emerge online, you maintained the Grindhouse-esque alternate reality conceit that Warlock was a real video label from the 1980’s and that the movies it will be releasing are old SOV flicks from that era. Why did you do that, and why did you decide to stop?
It was all about fun. It really was. There was no malice behind it. It was just to add a bit of goofy mystery to it all. That quickly dissolved as some very NON fun fans out there got their panties in a bunch and decided to whine and cry about it. Not seeing at all what we were trying to do, just plain being wet fucking blankets. However each flick produced by Warlock will still be shot as if it were 1986-1993 and will be as authentic to the time period and the style/genre as possible. All on VHS.  Nothing modern in the films at all. They Will maintain the creature/zombie/slasher/mutant/psycho’s cliched plots and over the top serious acting, cheese filled fx and 80’s synth music that we all came to love and or hate from those films.

Now that Warlock is fully launched and you’re more open about it all being a conceptual thing as opposed to a real 80’s video label, will you continue to maintain that Video Boom aesthetic and the whole tongue-in-cheek Grindhouse-style gimmick?
Yes each of the films as I said will stick to the formula and even the special features will still maintain that “This was an 80’s 90’s production”. It adds to the fun and nostalgia of it all. I loved the 80’s so much. I was very lucky to grow up in that decade and be into what I was into and make films and soak it all in as I did. Just as I did in LBP I want to showcase it, even more so with Warlock. 80’s horror and geek culture are pretty fucking spectacular.

What is it about the Video Boom era that is so special to you? What is about these old SOV flicks that makes them such a hoot and makes you so nostalgic for them?
I love the look of each film. I love how true and raw and cruddy they were. Sure I loved your mainstream and indie horror growing up, but these VHS pioneers made me say the classic words “I could do this”. It didn’t matter how bad they were, it was fun and these people went out and did it. Something I carried through LBP as well. Just get up off your ass and go do it! Plus watching these types of flicks to this day just shoots me right back to the times when I first saw them and first picked up a camera and that whole period of my life. Great times. Again all about the fun of it! being an 80’s kid horror freak is just the most….word?

What are some of you favorite old school SOV schlock flicks?
I love Redneck Zombies, Blood Cult, Gore met Zombie Chef From hell, Splatter Farm, The hook Of Woodland Heights, Zombie Bloodbath , Evil Night, Cannibal Campout, Zombie Cop…way too many to talk about!

Tell me a little about your Warlock business plans.
Well we hope to release about 5 movies a year both on DVD and VHS big box clam shell. Plus the posters of each Warlock cover designed by Jeff Sisson who is an amazing artist. There may even be a deal with Fright-Rags in the near future for special edition “vintage” T-shirts of some of the titles. Also hitting up as many conventions as we can to promote and spread the word.

Tell me about the Warlock approach to box art. Your first releases, Die-B-Que and Death-O-Lantern have some killer artwork by Jeff Sisson. How did he get involved and can we expect more of the same for future Warlock releases?
I had seen some of his work and just wrote to him asking to help create the LOOK of Warlock and it’s cover titles. I give him a small idea and he runs with it. His stuff is just mind blowing and he gets 100% what we are going for. I will be calling on Jeff for each new title for sure. Also Artist Jeff Brown created the authentic Warlock video box logo which is fantastic as well.

Speaking of the first two Warlock originals, Die-B-Que and Death-O-Lantern, tell me about ‘em. What are they about and why should I blow my hard-earned moolah on ‘em?
Well Die b Que is supposed to be the first Warlock release from back in 1986 so they were trying to figure it all out. It’s a bit more rough and tumble than Death O Lantern. Like the cast and crew and filmmakers had zero idea what they were doing and DBQ is the result. With Death-O-Lantern it’s about 3 or 4 movies in now under their belt and they have a much better grasp at what they are presenting. It’s a Halloween style 80’s romp. Both are funny and both really give you that feel of vintage SOV. A great double feature of cheese.

In addition to the Warlock originals, you’re distributing a few genuinely old school SOV cult classics from guys like Todd Cook and Chris LaMartina. Tell me about some of those releases and why you wanted to put them out.
Well I have known a lot of filmmakers for years and many of them started the same way, in the VHS arena! Todd Cook was the first guy to give LBP a shot in 1993 and his stuff inspired me greatly. Chris Lamartina was a young dude that contacted me in the late 90’s and dug my garbage and I truly dug his early stuff, He must have been 14 or 15 or some shit, but the movie was great. I wanted to put it out way back then under LBP but I too didn’t know what the hell I was doing, even at 9 years into LBP already. There are a bunch more filmmakers I am talking to to help put out their older stock. And both Todd and Chris are two guys that are still kickin ass making flicks and I consider them VERY talented individuals, and good fucking peeps to boot!

Taking a page out of Roger Corman’s playbook, many of the Warlock originals in the works had titles before they even had stories or scripts. Where did those titles come from? What were you going for with titles like these? And could you give us a run-down of some of these titles that you’re working on right now? Roughly, do you have any established release schedule? What’re you working on right now?
The titles were just brain storming sessions with myself and some of the LBP crew. Anything that sounded hokey, cheese filled and 80s got on the list. Some of the titles include Blood From A Minotaur’s Skull, Dead Skin, They Come Out At Night,  Blood Skate’88, Stop or my Mom’s a Mummy, A Frightmare on Halloween Street, Blood Flesh,  Heavy Metal Werewolves, Evil Cake, The Easter Witch, etc….There are so many more on tap. Next up is Happy Helladays, another Jackson Furley gem. Christmas themed of course.

VHS nostalgia seems to be a big thing right now. You’ve got Lunchmeat Magazine, and bigger companies like Alternative Cinema and Intervision Picture Corp. suddenly doing simultaneous DVD/VHS releases, and now the sort of ultimate realization of the VHS nostalgia wave in the form of Warlock Home Video, which is practically a time machine taking us right back to the heady days of the 1980’s. Where do you think the growing popularity of this feeling is coming from?
I think people just truly loved the time and the format. No matter how much you hear people say they hated the 80’s there are 100 more people that say they loved it and everyone in that camp has their special connection to that decade. Even more so for Horror fiends. The 80’s horror vhs boom was electric and was a huge part of many a youth’s 1980’s/90’s weekends. seeing the untold terrors that would un spool on tape in front of your eyes was a thrill and for some a taboo naughty thing they shouldn’t be watching, but you HAD to. Young and old, people will always hold on to that time in their lives and for SO many, VHS horror was an integral part of growing up. Today the collecting joy goes along with it all. Scoring that classic tape you may have lost back in the day and finding it again is a major geek thrill. Finding movies on VHS that may never be released on DVD is also just a magic moment. I think some people are just so tired of getting smashed over the head with the newest tech trash and the wave of the future. Some people just want to feel like a kid again and have something tangible from their youths to hold on to. There could be any number of reasons, but I named a few of them for me in that rant back there. VHS horror rules and 80’s horror fucking rules…can I say that enough?

Finally, tell me… who is The Warlock?
The Warlock is an ancient spirit that dwells within the VHS tapes of all those kids that snuck around watching Fright Night or Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter-He lures them in with candy and treats and then rewards them with a truly unique shlocky horror experience. He’s like the santa of SOV horror.


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Warlock Home Video recently made it’s official debut at the Cinema Wasteland convention in Ohio, and it was a smashing success. Right now, you can find out more about Warlock Video, and order your own copies of Die-B-Que and Death-O-Lantern (as well as other merch, including gore-geous poster prints of Jeff Sisson’s breathtakingly brute-iful cover art) at www.warlockhomevideo.com.

 

Warlock Home Video will also be appearing at numerous conventions in the upcoming months, including the Kalamazoo Horror Fest in Kalamazoo, Michigan on Oct. 21, 22, and 23.

 

Now, before you, boils and ghouls… check out this sweet freakin’…

Warlock Home Video – Promo Reel

 

Excelsior!

– Wilhelm Screem, The Werewolf Of The Comic Shop

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In addition to contributing to The Bloodsprayer, Count Wilhelm Screem XIII, the self-titled "Werewolf Of The Comic Shop," is also the moldy, morbid, macabre monster mind behind the image-blog Werewolf's Meal Inc, a creepy cavalcade of horror comics, heavy metal, scream queens, spook shows, and random related rot.

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