I know what you’re thinking. “First he makes The Editor his Blu-ray pick of the week, and then he devotes a commentary feature to the release? Clearly he’s in bed with Astron-6.” I should be so lucky, but no, it turns out I’m just a really big fan of the film and you should be too. Besides, they’re Canadians.
The Astron-6 folks have made numerous short films but only three features so far, and while I never fully boarded the Manborg train I found Father’s Day to be a hilariously inappropriate and immensely entertaining nod to grindhouse cinema. The Editor continues that upward trend and delivers a fantastically executed and playful homage to the Italian giallos of decades past complete with wet oodles of gore, sex, and insane plot turns.
Scream Factory’s new release should be an automatic blind buy for fans of Dario Argento, Mario Bava and Sergio Martino. Hell, it’s a must-own for anyone who loves wildly inventive and smart genre films.
Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary track for Astron-6’s The Editor.
The Editor (2014)
Commentators: Adam Brooks (director/writer/producer/cinematographer/effects artist/actor), Matt Kennedy (director/writer/producer/cinematographer/actor), Conor Sweeney (writer/actor/apparent underachiever)
1. It may surprise you, but the opening scene was not filmed in an actual night club. “We shot it in a warehouse.”
2. Conor suggests that the man watching the stripper is Mackenzie Murdock, reprising his Father’s Day role of Chris Fuchman, and acknowledges that it “creates a weird world that this movie exists in.” They seem to collectively realize/wonder if that “glitch” is problematic in regard to the films’ chronologies.
3. They were first made aware of the lovely Tristan Risk by the Soska Sisters’ American Mary. She’s pretty incredible in that film. “Tristan surprised us by telling us she does a fire act,” says Matt, “and we thought, perfect way to book-end the movie.”
4. Almost all commentaries at some point mention that they hope viewers have actually watched the film before watching it with the commentary track on, but these guys are the first to offer a possible way in which that could have actually happened. “Might be like my mom,” says Adam, “because she would do it by accident.” “If you’re hearing this by accident mom, press the audio button,” adds Matt.
5. The alley scene where Veronica (Risk) looks over her shoulder before being briefly assaulted by the homeless guy (Ed Ackerman) is one of many nods to Dario Argento’s Tenebrae.
6. Ackerman is a “Winnipeg legend” who’s been making films and cartoons for decades. “He made something that was on Sesame Street,” says Matt. None of them seem to recall what exactly he did for the famed kids show so they agree to say that he created the “one two three four five” song. “Don’t sing it though,” warns Adam over concerns of copyright and ghostly retribution from Mr. Hooper.
7. Adam plays the killer in Veronica’s fake murder scene, and he recalls being particularly dehydrated, malnourished and faint while filming. Neither of his friends seem very empathetic.
8. Risk is apparently afraid of spiders, and Matt points out a wide shot where they used a fake tarantula. “Don’t point it out,” says Conor after it’s been pointed out.
9. Samantha Hill plays Rey Ciso’s (Brooks) assistant, Bella, and she’s been a long-time friend who they’ve been trying to get into their films for years. She’s currently portraying Les Miserables’ Cosette onstage in New York City. “When you guys listen to this Les Mis probably won’t be a musical anymore,” says Matt, “but it was once a musical on Broadway.” In the interest of being helpful Conor also points out that “Broadway was a street in New York. There’s one theater on Broadway where they do plays. A play is basically a live movie.”
10. Adam is concerned that the poster for Fireman (created by artist Graham Humphreys) hanging in the editing suite is “anachronistic” because it features a web address. “You can’t make that out,” says Conor.
11. Rey’s apartment is a real location above a funeral home where Matt’s father works. “There was always corpses under us,” adds Conor. Apparently one of the incoming bodies during filming was an old man who had been stabbed to death.
12. Adam says that his girlfriend’s favorite part of the movie is Conor’s performance. Conor quickly starts talking about fake blood.
13. Special effects guy Emerson Ziffle made two batches of fake blood for the film. “The stuff that takes place in the real world looks like real blood, like red,” while the in-film movies use a “thick orange blood.”
14. Veronica’s costume during her actual death scene was supposed to resemble Kelly Le Brock’s from Weird Science, “but we didn’t quite pull it off.”
15. Their parents built and decorated many of the sets.
16. The first real-world murder sequence features a throat slash that they had to redo three times because Adam wasn’t happy with the blood spurt. “Well it was the first time we really paid somebody to do an effect,” says Adam, “so I had really high standards.”
17. Adam once again plays the killer during Veronica’s murder, and they recall having a minor disagreement on set “because he was slashing very lazily.” “Supposedly,” says Adam, jumping to his own defense, “but I’ve looked at all the footage and I never do slash lazily on camera.” “You definitely were,” says Matt. “You definitely were,” says Conor.
18. They had to digitally remove the fingers from Veronica’s hanging corpse as they forgot to do it practically while shooting.
19. Matt and Adam both acknowledge that their characters’ voices are far from consistent throughout the film. “There’s just too much to worry about sometimes,” says Adam.
20. They share a film-making tip during the Murder Rock aerobics scene as the cops come in hoping to unmask a killer and instead remove a girl’s face. It’s a great bit and looks both cool and fun, but “when you shoot your movie don’t shoot and spend a lot of money on the effects that don’t forward the story first.”
21. Adam says that the trailer for The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears released just as they were finishing up this film, “and we were all pretty jealous of how beautiful it looked.”
22. They compliment Conor’s “large package” and he seems truly appreciative. He says it could always be bigger, but Adam has heard girls say otherwise. “Fucking liars,” jokes Conor, suddenly insecure about his large package.
23. When Peter Porfiry’s (Kennedy) blind wife Margarit (Sheila Campbell) arrives with one breast exposed Matt points out that it was Campbell’s idea. “This actually came from Sheila wanting to be naked more often. So we said sure, maybe blindness makes you not aware that your breast is showing.”
24. The scene with Porfiry and Cal Konitz (Sweeney) in the parking lot was one of the first they shot on the RED digital camera, and they’re not happy with how it looks. “I was shooting everything a touch too tight,” admits Adam, “because there were no bars on the screen to show me the aspect ratio and I had to guesstimate, and I guesstimated wrong.”
25. They’re quite pleased with Hill’s performance throughout the film but specifically during the scene where she reveals her affection for Rey. “You wouldn’t know she’s 100% not like Bella,” says Adam. “Like, 100%.” “So she’s not even female?” asks Matt, to which Adam replies “No, she doesn’t speak English, she’s not white, it’s crazy. Shes a really good actor.”
26. The restaurant scene required them to guarantee the location wouldn’t smell of cigarettes after shooting, but the next day when the owners returned it smelled of cigarettes. “We were banned permanently from ever shooting there again.”
27. Udo Kier is “the best person they’ve ever met and the best person they’ve ever worked with.” They asked him to share stories about making Suspiria, but he didn’t have any. He did mention that he dislikes his own voice though.
28. One of my favorite laughs in the movie is noticing Dr. Casini’s (Kier) scarred lips and knowing they’re from kissing the crazy biter lady (played by Matt’s wife, Summer). “I thought it was a great joke on paper,” says Adam, “but I don’t think a lot of people have been getting it.”
29. Adam says he’ll build an Astron-6 online store if Matt and Conor promise to handle the shipping and storing of the merchandise. The odds don’t look promising.
30. Adam made the label for the wine bottle that Porfiry smashes during foreplay with his wife. “It says Giallo, but no one will ever no that.” The sex scene that follows is the second in the film to have been heavily inspired by Sergio Martino’s 1971 thriller The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh. Unrelated, but does anyone know where I can find a copy of The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh?
31. The shot of Margarit’s cleaved face was done by Aftermath FX. The company recently relocated from Baltimore, MD to Los Angeles, CA. “They’re just moving on up,” says Matt. “We’re still in Winnipeg,” says a sad Conor, but Matt adds that they’re “hoping to move to Baltimore soon.”
32. The human fingers that are fed to the dog were made of peanut butter.
33. They rewrote the scene where a cop arrives just after Margarit’s murder to include the beer. “We wanted to work the beer in because the people who own that company sponsored the film by giving us free hotel rooms anytime we shot in Kenora, and it was in exchange for their logo being in the movie, and we felt that we really under-featuring the logo at this point so we tried to up the visibility.” Anyway, check out Lake of the Woods Brewing Company.
34. Adam is grilled about a possible script issue, but he says it’s not important. “Who the fuck knows, these scripts are nonsense. Has anyone ever seen a giallo? They don’t add up. Does Tenebrae make sense? No. Does fucking Inferno make sense?!” Conor wants him to relax, but Adam’s been yawning through much of the commentary and this is the most animated he’s been so really they should have let him keep ranting.
35. The sequence where Rey burns the clothes in the sink before climbing through the medicine cabinet mirror is no one’s favorite. It originally included a “bendy” mirror that they had found somewhere. “Fuck, it went on and on and on,” says Adam. “We had to speed things up, so he just opens the medicine cabinet now. And it’s still too long.” Matt wanted to stop filming when the fire started as it was scarier than he had anticipated. “He was surprised they went up in flames after dousing them in lighter fluid and setting a match to them,” volunteers Adam.
36. That’s a fake spider that gets tossed to the ground, but Conor’s mom thinks it’s real. “She thought we would hurt a real-ass spider like that?” asks Adam. “These things live to be 25! That’d be horrible.”
37. The bit where Cal threatens Rey with a chainsaw was terrifying for both Conor and Adam as the chainsaw is really running mere inches from Adam’s face. You can see his hair being blown by the blade.
38. Continuing the theme of them putting themselves in danger for their art, they also destroyed a tube television without wearing masks or ventilators and then cleaned it up with a Shop-Vac “which we later read is exactly what you should not clean it up with.”
39. They introduce and praise every performer in the film – main actors, background people, cameos – with only one exception. Aside from mentioning her first name early on while discussing herbal cigarettes they go nearly the entire film before saying something about Paz de la Huerta. They do compliment her performance during the scene where she talks to a tied-up Rey, but it’s a noticeable downgrade compared to how much they talk about every other actor every time they’re onscreen.
40. Matt and Conor have angry thoughts about Adam’s lack of real-world experience operating a chainsaw.
41. The car chase features two vehicles they bought for under $1000 each and didn’t bother getting licensed or registered. “The guy at Midas told me that the bottom could fall out of my car at any moment,” says Adam. They shot the sequence on SLR because they didn’t want to put the RED at risk.
42. Adam’s phone rings during the commentary, but he refuses to answer it. “Fucking that would have been funny man,” says a disgruntled Conor.
43. Jen Kowalchuk isn’t listed in the IMDB cast list, but her work here as an extra/body double/stunt double deserves a shout out.
44. The end of the commentary takes a depressing turn as they share their hopes that they get to make more movies. “I would like more Astron-6 movies to exist in this world,” says Adam, “but it’s just not easy to not make money.” Conor agrees and adds that they have another one written and ready to go.
45. Throughout the course of the commentary they recommend you check out Father’s Day, Crimewave, Borat, Mission: Impossible II, Mission: Impossible III, God’s Not Dead, Videodrome, Hitch-Hike, and Rae & Jerry’s Steak House in Winnipeg.
Best in Context-Free Commentary
- Adam: “That brown lamp is in my bedroom now.”
- Matt: “Careful viewers will note this is where Rey walks into the film within a film.”
- Conor: “This is your first day of shooting Matt. You were so bad this day.”
- Adam: “I wish there were funny stories to tell, but I just remember so much stress.”
- Conor: “We figured the more nudity and violence and celebrity cameos and stunts we could add the more marketable the movie would be. Ultimately we were wrong.”
- Conor: “You guys ever think little girls are hot?”
- Conor: “Jasmine says that you kissing her with that mustache was waterboarding her.”
- Matt: “There’s no worse killer than death.”
- Adam: “Uh, so this scene, when we shot it I thought it was so cool, but now I can’t stand it.”
- Adam: “We all thought this scene was funny because everyone’s eating a burger.”
- Conor: “We hope that you bought this movie and didn’t download it, although if you’re listening to the commentary you probably didn’t download it.”
The three most visible members of the Astron-6 collective are as ridiculous as you would expect on the commentary, and I could have easily listed triple the number of highlights and funny bits above. Beyond the laughs though the track offers numerous anecdotes and explanations alongside praise for their cast and crew, and they even share a handful of regrets that might prove helpful to other independent filmmakers. Like the disc’s “making of” featurette the commentary track ends on something of a downer note – thanks Adam! – but it serves as a reminder that we should be shouting about the films we love from the proverbial rooftops instead of bitching on Twitter about the garbage we see. Stop complaining, start praising, and maybe we can get another Astron-6 film in the near future. And maybe, just maybe, we can give Adam Brooks a reason to smile.