|UK, 2008. Pathétique Films.
Produced by David McGillivray.
Directed by Nathan Schiff.
Written by Jak E. Arthur.
ph: Sam Hardy. sd. rec: Anthony McGowan. ed: Steve Earle, Nicholas Laughton. music: Gavin Mitchell. special effects make-up: Steve Siegelbaum, Shane McGowin. special effects crew: R.J. Weyant, Jim Treacy. make-up: Nicole Boccio. assoc. prod: Betsy Schrott. story editor: Ali Brown. titles: Steve Earle, Godfrey Kirby. prod. asst.: Tara Tarduno. cast: Peter de Rome (Roderick), Marc Edward Newman (John), James D. Pizzo (Louis), Erica Leigh Boseski (Michele), Larry Hart (Young Man), Steve Siegelbaum (The Executioner), John van der Put (Main Title Magician). Colour. 10 mins. Shot in Huntington, Hicksville, Lynbrook and Great Neck (New York), December 16-20, 2007.
“I think the time has come to tell the truth about this film. Well, my version of the truth anyway. After the success of In the Place of the Dead in 2007, the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival asked me if I had anything similar for the following year. I didn’t. But scripts were now being sent to this website. I thought one of them, Abracadaver!, from a new writer in Australia, wasn’t bad; but for various reasons, Sam Hardy was the only member of my regular British team able to work on it. When I went to New York, to see IPOD at the Long Island Film Festival, I took the script with me. Within a couple of days I’d put together a package: director Nathan Schiff and star Peter de Rome. I didn’t know either of them that well, but I’d interviewed both in the past because they’re major cult figures. Peter began as an actor in the UK, but graduated to directing gay porn in New York in the late 1960s. His work pre-dates even Wakefield Poole’s breakthrough movie The Boys in the Sand. He’s now in his 80s but introduces The Erotic Films of Peter de Rome all over the world. Nathan made features like Weasels Rip My Flesh and The Long Island Cannibal Massacre when he was a teenager. But he hadn’t made a film for 17 years. I thought, you know, this is going to be the gay horror movie event of the decade. Well, pride goeth before a fucking fall, and I don’t often swear.
Peter wasn’t able to come to London, and Nathan wouldn’t fly anywhere, so in a moment of madness I decided to make the film in New York. It was mad because I didn’t have an American co-producer. I had to find cast, crew, locations and equipment myself, in a couple of weeks, in a foreign country, with no contacts. I was kept awake every night by real fear, far worse than anything I try to induce in movies. The actual shoot was ghastly, worse than anything I’ve ever experienced. After one day’s filming, we lost a major location, a theatre where we intended to shoot most of the interiors. As a result I thought I’d have to abandon the whole project. But then Sam said, ‘Let’s shoot it in the snow.’ And so we did. It wasn’t easy. At one point Peter was almost literally freezing to death. But somehow we got back on schedule. The final scene was mayhem. The boiler in the basement we were using exploded and, just out of frame, there’s a plumber trying to fix it. The woman who owned the house was going mad: ‘I want you people out of here!’, you can imagine the kind of thing. We sort of got everything shot. But it wasn’t fun.
Nathan was very insistent on having the final cut. But he couldn’t get the editing together. So I had a version cut in London to show to the LL&GFF. It was rejected. I thought, let’s stop this now. But after a few weeks Nathan announced that he’d finished cutting his version. I went to New York to see it. Well, what can I say? Right from the off, I’d had a feeling Nathan wasn’t happy with the whole gay thing, and it turned out I was right. During the shoot he filmed tons of extra material of the hero’s girlfriend being carved up and then apparently laughing as she watches her own death. None of this was in the script. Then, after I went back to London, he shot even more stuff, a very, very long scene in which the girl does a kind of interpretative dance. He’d turned a gay film into a short version of one of his old splatter movies in which girls got horribly mutilated. To me his version was completely incomprehensible. But his editors got very defensive and said that the original script didn’t make sense either. I didn’t think we were going to get anywhere so I bid everybody goodbye.
The next thing I knew, Nathan had started sending his version to festivals. Not only that, but he did very well with it. At the Pocono Mountains Film Festival, where it premiered on 7th August, it was nominated for the Best Horror Film prize, and then it won Best Short at the New York International Independent Film & Video Festival. It’s been to other festivals as well. Marc Newman, who played John, e-mailed me to say that somebody leaned out of a car and shouted at him that Abracadaver! was the best thing at the Coney Island Festival. I’ve only read one review, an ambiguous one on a blog, and on his website, one of the American editors calls the whole experience a nightmare. But I can’t see how this’ll harm the film’s prospects.
I think I should shut up now, before I get myself in any deeper. All I’ll add is that Nathan seems to know his audience and I’m glad they like his film. It’s not the film I envisaged. But I think there’s now every chance that it’ll become more of a cult than anything else I’ve produced.”
My version was re-cut and this premiered in Brighton on 12th February, 2009, in a programme with one of my favourite horror films, The Flesh Eaters, which was also shot on Long Island. In 2012 my version of Abracadaver! was included as an extra on the BFI DVD The Erotic Films of Peter de Rome.”