Severin Films’ Evan Husney on Horror Flicks and European Prog Metal
Since being founded in 2006, Severin Films has become one of the most celebrated studios within cult cinefile circles. The company’s international success in DVD and niche theatrical releases has led to praise from the likes of The New York Times and The Onion AV Club.
Some of Severin’s successes include Roman Polanski’s rarely-seen ‘What?,’ ’80s T&A drive-in sensation ‘Screwballs,’ and Enzo Castellari’s original ‘macaroni combat’ classic ‘Inglorious Bastards,’ the inspiration for Quentin Tarantino’s acclaimed film. The company has also restored and released lost films by such controversial filmmakers as Lucio Fulci.
Since we know a lot of our readers love obscure horror and action movies, Noisecreep reached out to Evan Husney, Severin Films’ creative director, and asked him to explain the company’s history and philosophy. Coincidentally, Husney is also a huge metalhead who loves to talk about his favorite fringe artists.
When did you discover the more underground side of cinema?
There wasn’t a specific turnkey event I can think of where my love for underground weirdness began. It was through devouring various film world obsessions, one after the other, and frenziedly pursuing the next that eventually led me to my fixation with obscuro movie madness. Additionally, I’m not sure if the teenage me would’ve adored ’80s shot-on-video slasher filler, for example [the scenes leading up to and after the kills, i.e. prolonged car parking scenes], the way I do now after conquering the entire contemplative filmographies of various world cinema directors in college. Does that make any sense?
It’s almost as if the knowledge of and appreciation/taste for world cinema eased the initial pain, and further helped to digest the loopiness of these types of films. However, my love for film is rooted in the horror genre. It began like most suburban kids who would later grow into full-fledged cinephiles: in the backyard as a bored grade-schooler experimenting with the family VHS camcorder, a retractable knife and a ketchup bottle. Following that was a series of video store jobs beginning in Minnesota at the age of 15 where I was first exposed to extreme visceral violence by way of David Cronenberg, Stuart Gordon and Lucio Fulci. But, it wasn’t until a few years ago that I hit the obscure movie source jackpot, and my love for horror and exploitation films came full circle. My scope of cinema, which at the time seemed rather exhausted, was rocked by websites and blogs like the mighty BleedingSkull.com, which is an extremely comprehensive and entertaining journey through the world of obscure cinema. I can’t recommend this site enough. Also, relationships began with programmers of alternative cinemas such as LA’s Cinefamily and Austin TX’s Alamo Drafthouse where a lot of content trading took place. And now, my day-to-day lifestyle is a seemingly un-winnable battle for content consumption.
How did you get involved with Severin Films?
One word: Tesla. A couple of years ago, I was at a three-day video/music distribution tradeshow in New Orleans, working then for the infamous Troma Entertainment, and the incredibly fun and charming boys from Severin were the only other label whose presentation to vendors wasn’t complete utter boring nonsense. In fact, it was rather creative and hilarious. We spent most of our time combating the event’s hokeyness at the bar, sharing mutual enthusiasm for cult movies and metal. “Dude, you love ‘Who Can Kill a Child’ too!? Awesome!” “You saw Metallica at Monsters of Rock in 1988? S—!” Their sense of humor was also refreshing coming from the rather arduous environment I was used to at Troma.
The next hazy evening in New Orleans found us at the hotel’s bar, ironically recounting that night’s Tesla performance as the main musical attraction of the tradeshow. And then: “Psst… hey guys, come over here,” a woman led us into an elevator. Exiting at the top penthouse floor, we entered the smoky Truman Capote suite which revealed the hard rock band Telsa and record execs sprawled out on couches. Surviving this awkward encounter, which included lots of dorky entertainment industry acoustic guitar passing-around and reminders from corporate higher-ups saying how “huge” it was for us to be there, our bond became strong and it was inevitable I would eventually crossover to Team Severin.
Watch the trailer for ‘The House That Dripped Blood’
Severin Films is also handling all of the future production and marketing for Intervision Picture Corp. What the story behind that?
When Severin assumed control of production for the nearly debunked Intervision Picture Corp., I immediately expressed interest in re-branding the label as a vehicle for the obscure seminal genre films that I held close to my heart. Each film released via Intervision boldly wanders beyond the universe of B-exploitation and stumbles blindly into the ambiguous realm of found outsider art. As a reviewer said of our recent release of the shot-on-video mind-roaster ‘Sledgehammer,’ “…it seems as comfortable projected on the walls of a gallery, as it does lurking inside a well-worn VHS sleeve.” The Intervision aesthetic contains a wide array of fiercely singular homegrown visions and consumers are guaranteed as our motto states, a label dedicated to “outsider cinema from a world all it’s own.” Or simply imagine the most niche video label possible!
What has been your most gratifying and fun project so far?
For personal reasons, the project that has been most gratifying is one I completed while working back at Troma: The two-disc 25th Anniversary Edition of Buddy Giovinazzo’s DIY saga of nihilism, ‘Combat Shock.’ To most, Troma is best known for their extreme turns at exploitation as well as their more well-known “classics,” ‘The Toxic Avenger’ and ‘Class of Nuke ‘Em High,’ but buried deep in their corroding catalog of 1,000 films lie a few hidden gems which unexpectedly break the mold. Previously mis-marketed as a Rambo-esque ‘Nam action/revenge film, this under appreciated slice-of-life tale is about a vet back from the war who finds himself penniless, husband to a nagging wife, and father to a mutant child via Agent Orange poisoning. Also containing perhaps the most despairing ending ever caught on celluloid, ‘Combat Shock’ was ripe for rediscovery and some serious re-marketing.
The project was carried out in an effort to re-instill quality video output and a lot of bargaining chips were at stake with my colleagues. Let’s just say for good reason a lot of filming of special features and turning-in of purchase orders for the packaging didn’t necessarily commence with the consent of powers that be. Thankfully, there wasn’t a way for anybody to dilute the vision for this DVD that the film’s director and I shared. And I’m extremely grateful to report that the project earned a wealth of stellar reviews, including a two-page feature in the Sunday New York Times, which was both extremely gratifying and secured my ticket to Severin. Another recent moment that made me proud was when I opened a case of the new limited edition ‘Sledgehammer’ VHS tapes we released with Mondo [The Alamo Drafthouse's boutique art arm] in support of the Intervision DVD release. That was f—– cool!
Watch the trailer for ‘Combat Shock’
The kinds of films you’re involved with are favored by a lot of metal fans. Do you see a parallel with the cultish aspect of heavy metal and the exploitation film world?
That’s a big question! I believe the parallel between horror films and heavy metal lies in their shared darkness, violence, and angst. Throughout time they have influenced each other, and both have a history of scaring the general public, which is definitely appealing to most left-of-center youths in mom’s basement fantasizing about a demon wizard standing on top of a mountain. They also both possess diehard subcultures with protective nerds devouring and collecting their many subgenres.
Regarding our customers, I believe the Intervision experience for Gen-Xers is pure nostalgia for the mom-and-pop video store bygone era, where renting tapes with loud box art lent itself to the discovery of unforeseen genre madness. Our younger customers are clearly craving something different and more interesting than what is current and readily available. Labels like Severin and Intervision are constant reminders that there is a whole world of utterly unknown important art from the past that has yet to be discovered and/or appropriately appreciated. Our consumers understand this, metal fans or not.
What titles can we look forward to in the future?
Coming out on July 12th from Intervision is the quintessential Canadian basement horror film from 1989 in a mega-ultra-special-edition: ‘Things.’ The film is more about a group of post-sync dubbed friends in a cabin drinking beer and eating cheese sandwiches than it is about a woman who gives birth to mutant creatures running amok with raw spaghetti-like teeth. But we can’t blame ‘Things’ for that because beneath its crude, oozing façade lies an endearing mediation on suburban boredom which also achieves some real rad no-budget surrealism. One of my favorite sayings about ‘Things’ comes from Tom Fitzgerald, programmer for the theater The Cinefamily in Los Angeles, who appears on a commentary for the disc. He says the film is born from “metalhead pizza boys on mescaline who stared too long at Uriah Heep album covers,” or simply, “gatefold fixations” meeting “metalheaditudes”. For Severin, we have three horror titles coming out on June 28th: the killer kid flick ‘Bloody Birthday,’ the severely creepy grown man playing infant in ‘The Baby,’ and Aussie body counter ‘Nightmares.’
Watch the trailer for ‘Things’
We understand you’re a huge old-school metalhead.
Metal for me began when I was 11, learning to play AC/DC‘s ‘Rocker’ on guitar from a how-to VHS bought at a garage sale. From there it was an obsession with the inevitable Metallica, Megadeth, and Slayer trio, as well as trying to obsessively play their discographies on guitar. Currently, I’m making rounds through various lo-fi outsider ’80s black/doom/epic metal groups such as Manilla Road, Cirith Ungol, Death SS, and of course the mighty Mercyful Fate. However, I’m here to talk about one metal band and one metal band only. I’m hard-pressed to find a better obscure gem in the realm of ’80s metal. The Holy Grail find being ’80s Italian basement prog-metal rockers Dark Quarterer.
[Dark Quarterer are] championed by those in-the-know as the fathers of “epic progressive,” and like most Italian prog or metal, their music comes tightly composed accompanied by a thick misty/dark atmosphere. Their self-titled debut album is the most crushing doom/epic metal record you’ve never heard. I was first introduced to the mighty DQ on YouTube by way of their sweaty VHS-cam basement showcase vid [see below]. At first glance, the bass rockin’ shirtless flabby guy with the bifocals [Nepi] may seem hilariously misguided, but when the song kicks in and those pipes roar, oh sweet Jesus, it’s heavy and most importantly, severely sincere. Get on it.
Watch the video for ‘Red Hot Gloves’ by Dark Quarterer