When it comes to independent horror filmmakers and writers, Greg Lamberson must be your go to man. This is man who unleashed Slime City, and Slime City Massacre on the world. Two excellent examples of just how good low budget movies can be. As well as being a great filmmaker, he is highly regarded as an author. His Johnny Gruesome, and Jake Helman novels are highly enjoyable reads.
Jim Mcleod reports.
GL: It’s January in Buffalo, and my feet are cold. Call me Ishmael.
Can you describe yourself in five words?
GL: Father, husband, author, filmmaker, buccaneer.
And can you describe The Greg Lamberson that you aspire to be?
GL: I am who I am and don’t really want to change except on the financial end.
What is the appeal of horror to you?
GL: All storytelling is conflict, and with horror that conflict is heightened. Horror generally deals with exaggerated emotions in exaggerated situations. I like the idea of ordinary people in extraordinary situations. I also love monsters.
What do you love most about the genre, and what do you hate the most about the genre?
GL: I’m a manufacturer more than I am a consumer. I read very little horror, and most of the horror films I see are independent efforts. I don’t hate anything about the genre, but what I dislike is formula, which is more evident in films than in literature.
Who would you say have been the biggest influences on you, both within and outside of the genre?
GL: Marv Wolfman, who wrote the Tomb of Dracula comic in the 70s was a big influence on me. The films of George Romero, certainly. The writing of William F. Nolan and David Morrell. Early Stephen King. Although I’ve never tried to emulate his style – and never could – Peter Straub has been a huge inspiration to me.
How do you rise above your influences and find your own voice?
GL: I never wanted to be anyone else when I grew up so I don’t try to rise above any influences or writers. I already have my own voice and do my own thing. I’ve written twenty screenplays – four of which I’ve produced myself. I’m currently writing my tenth book, which makes eight novels, one novella, and one non-fiction book, so I’m pretty comfortable with the notion that my writing is an extension of who I am.
GL: When I was four years old, I cut out pictures that I drew and moved them around the TV screen. The first story I ever wrote was for a class assignment in school; my mother told me I wrote good dialogue, and that little bit of encouragement may have been all I needed. I decided in Seventh Grade that I wanted to write and direct movies, so that’s when I started thinking seriously about stories. In 2000, I decided to shift my emphasis from filmmaking to writing novels, but I like doing both.
How would you describe your writing style? I’m always transported back to my teenage years when I read your work, a time of Bermuda shorts, long hair and Anthrax music. Sadly the hair has long gone, but the shorts and music remain.
GL: I try not to analyse my own style. Simple, cinematic? I think that when writers are conscious of their style it may be a little pretentious and get in the way of the actual story. I like to move my novels along at a good clip and throw a lot of curve balls at my protagonists. Surprises are important; if I can surprise myself, I know I can surprise the reader. Johnny Gruesome was created in the 80s even though I didn’t write the novel until 2007, and the story is about my high school years even though it’s not a period piece, so that ‘feeling’ of that particular music is what I wanted. You fell right into my trap! But that isn’t the case with my other novels. I’ve never written about high schoolers again, or heavy metal, or small town horror. Most of my fiction incorporates elements of noir, crime drama and action. The Jake Helman Files and The Frenzy Cycle are big, sprawling stories that I could never make as movies.
Looking back at your debut novel Johnny Gruesome, how do you feel about it?
I’ve written all ten of my books since 2004. My first novel was actually Personal Demons, the first book in The Jake Helman Files series. There’s some confusion because Medallion press reprinted Personal Demons after Johnny. I’m really proud of all of my books, but Jake Helman is my favourite creation, and I hope to write his adventures for some time to come. The fourth book in that series, Tortured Spirits, will be out in October 2012.
I believe the adage that 90% of writing is rewriting. Consequently, I read my books several times before I submit them to my publisher. I haven’t re-read any of them since they were published, except for The Frenzy Way, which had so many characters in it that I had to refresh my memory before writing the sequel, The Frenzy War. I can’t really compare the style of Johnny Gruesome to the others. I assume it’s the same style, only the subject matter is different. Johnny Gruesome, Personal Demons, and The Frenzy Way were all based on screenplays I wrote in the 1980s. The difference between them is that Johnny Gruesome was intended to be a low budget horror film and Personal Demons and The Frenzy Way were created to be big budget monsters.
Your first foray into filmmaking was as a Production Manager for the film I was a Teenage Zombie. What lessons did you learn from your time on this movie?
You’re going back a long way – the summer of 1984. Overall, it was a pleasant experience and I’m still in touch with some of the people who worked on that. You learn from mistakes more often than you do from what you and other people do right. I learned that on a low budget film, no matter what, you have to feed every member of your cast and crew. I learned that if you want to make a 90 minute film, and you have a screenplay that runs over 120 pages, you need to do some serious editing before you begin shooting, or you’re going to waste a lot of people’s time and make trouble for yourself during the film editing stage. And I watched one of the cameramen punch the director, which taught me that the egos on films – even low budget films – can be out of control.
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