Brad Sykes talks about the Blu-ray release of “Scream Queen”

Considered a ‘lost’ Linnea Quigley movie, “Scream Queen” now enjoys it first ever wide release on home video. This super obscurity was shot in 1998 by indie horror stalwart Brad Sykes, and finally finished in 2002. “Scream Queen is not only a solid 1990s Shot-on-Video slasher that borrows from the Italian Giallo sub-genre, but also takes swift jabs at the US independent horror movie scene of the time. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with Brad about the release of “Scream Queen” and his plans for 2024.

MG: Let’s start with the upcoming Blu-ray release of ‘Scream Queen’; how do you feel that this film is finally getting a release after 25 years?

BS: I’m thrilled! I honestly had given up hope that it would happen, after an attempted DVD release back in 2012 that fell through at the last minute. But in some ways, it’s for the best, because this release is better quality and has way more special features than we would have had ten years ago.

MG: How did you get involved with Visual Vengeance?

BS: I’ve been working with Wild Eye Releasing, Visual Vengeance’s parent company, since 2013 when they released my anthology movie Hi-8: Horror Independent Eight. Since then, Wild Eye has released my films Hi-Death, Plaguers, and, this past July, Hi-Fear. I like working with them so when they contacted me about Scream Queen back in 2020, I was happy to hear that they’d be releasing it through their new label, Visual Vengeance.

MG: Was Linnea Quigley always in mind for the role of Malicia Tombs? Tell us about your experience working with her?

BS: I literally wrote the character with Linnea in mind, but I didn’t think we’d actually get her. But thankfully my friend Courtney Joyner, who also has a small part in the film, made a phone call and set up a meeting between me and Linnea. It went well and after reading the script, she agreed to do it.
I had a great time working with Linnea on the movie. In fact, many of my favorite memories of the shoot involve working with her, and just hanging out before and after the shoot, and later directing a music video for her song “This Chainsaw’s Made for Cutting”, which you see in the film.

MG: Tell us about the inspiration with the Italian Giallo sub-genre in the film?

BS: Giallos and Eurohorror in general are two of my favorite genres, so it was fun to incorporate elements from both into the script. I tried to add these kinds of touches wherever I could (and if the budget would allow). The location is a house is Glendale, but we tried to treat it like the type of “old dark house” you’d find in a movie like The Devil’s Nightmare, with sconces on the walls and Gothic costumes and props. For example, the killer has the black gloves and “faceless” look of the killer in Bava’s Blood and Black Lace, and one of the murders is fashioned after scenes in Tenebre, where the girl has pages of a book shoved down her throat (in our film, it’s pages of a script). Scream Queen was always intended to be a murder mystery as opposed to a Halloween-type slasher, so the giallo homages fit well into the film.

MG: Tell us about your decision to release the film on Blu-ray with a 480p SD master?
BS: The producer and original distributor didn’t have any usable masters, so I provided the masters I had for this release. It wasn’t my “decision”, I just offered up the best elements I had available.

MG: The Blu-ray is jam packed with a ton of special features; give us a hint of what we can expect?
BS: My favorite special feature on the disc is “Once Upon a Time in Horrorwood”, which was produced through Nightfall Pictures, the production company I run with my wife/producer, Josephina. It’s an all-new, very comprehensive, half hour doc during which I take you through the entire process of making the movie, from the script to its rocky journey to finally getting released. There are interviews with Linnea and one of the editors, an audio commentary, behind the scenes stills and press materials, etc. which all give different perspectives on the making of Scream Queen. I had a hand in just about all the extras and it was nice to be so involved in the release of my first ‘pro’ movie.

MG: I am a big fan of the Witchcraft series; how did you get involved to write/direct the 12th installment in the series, Witchcraft XII: In the Lair of the Serpent?

BS: I had made three movies for Vista Street Entertainment before that: Babes in the Woods, Mad Jack and Lord of the Vampires. When they started moving ahead with Witchcraft XII, they approached me to write and direct it, which was funny, because I had a Witchcraft II poster on my wall when I was growing up. Be careful what you wish for! I honestly hadn’t seen all the films and I don’t think it mattered because there is very little connective tissue outside of one character, Will Spanner, who I had to bring back. But otherwise, I was allowed to take the series in a more crime/noir direction, because I’m a big fan of those types of films.

MG: It’s unbelievable that this series has lasted 16 films over 30+ years; why do you think it has stood the test of time?

BS: Everyone loves a good horror franchise, I guess. I haven’t seen any of the ones made after Part XII. I’m kind of amazed they’re still making them. I’ve also been on the other side of the table, with several films of mine, including Camp Blood, Death Factory and Zombie Chronicles, getting sequels. I also recently completed my own “Trilogy” with Hi-Fear, which is the third film in the Hi-8 series.

MG: Camp Blood was also a great franchise; how do you reflect working on the first couple of films in that series?

BS: Camp Blood was the third movie I directed, but the first to get released. The biggest challenge on that film was the 3D technology we had to use. There was a big learning curve involved and it posed restrictions on how we could shoot things. I wanted to make a simple slasher film like the ones I had always enjoyed, with a few twists. It was a short shoot, with some challenges for sure with shooting outdoors with inclement weather, but we had fun, too.

I never thought we would make a sequel, but we did the following year based on the first film’s success in foreign territories (it was especially popular in the UK for some reason). For Camp Blood 2, I went in a more comedic/satirical direction, like I had for Scream Queen. Both films are essentially satires of the movie business using my experiences I had up till that point. I didn’t have as good a time making the movie, but the FX came out great and we had a professional stuntman playing the Clown, which made things easier.

Camp Blood 3, which was later retitled Within the Woods by the distributor, was made a few years later and was the first film produced by my wife Josephina and I’s production company, Nightfall Pictures. So, there was a lot of pressure to deliver a good movie for our first time out. Again, I used the slasher genre to satirize the entertainment world, in this case reality TV which was getting big at the time (and has gotten bigger since). Very ambitious film for its budget but I loved the cast and the DP did a wonderful job. I like all three Camp Bloods for different reasons, and the fans seem to feel the same way, everybody has their favorite.

MG: What would you say has been your most difficult project to date?

BS: I had an awful experience making Loving Angelique, an erotic thriller in the Poison Ivy vein. It should have been fairly simple, with one main location, a limited number of characters, a decent schedule, etc. And I had made a movie for the production company before, Demon’s Kiss, which was also an erotic thriller (but much more ambitious), so I thought I knew what they wanted. But it was just one of those films where nothing and nobody clicked…the actors didn’t want to be there, the DP was a burned out veteran with a lot of credits but who didn’t give a damn about anything, the executive producer was hanging around trying to give ‘notes’ all the time, and the producer didn’t have my back. I gave it my best shot and the movie honestly didn’t turn out too bad, but it was a very unpleasant shoot and I had little involvement in the editing. I’ve made much more complex movies that were way more fun to make, despite the challenges.

MG: What do you have planned next for 2024?
BS: 2023 has been a big year with a lot of projects I’ve worked on for years, some dating to before the pandemic, finally getting released. Currently I am also promoting my book “Neon Nightmares: L.A. Thrillers of the 1980s” (available from BearManor Media, Amazon, B&N, etc.) and my anthology movie Hi-Fear, which is on DVD and can be streamed on iTunes, Amazon Video, etc. These both came out just a few months ago. Josephina and I are also producing special features for other upcoming Visual Vengeance releases of my films. And I have a new movie I plan on shooting next year. So, plenty going on at Nightfall Pictures right now and into 2024.

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