|Review||Forced Entry (2019)||Directors||Jim Bett Jr. and K.M. Jamison|
|Cast||Tom Lodewyck, Jim Bett Jr., Tina Renée Grace, Luke Balek and Ellie Church|
“We’re only human!” – Arthur
Here’s the storyline penned by the screenwriter:
Produced as an unhinged tribute to the no-holds-barred era of guts and gore style exploitation cinema, Forced Entry is an introduction into the horrifying day in the life of two repulsive serial killers who travel America’s interstates brazenly killing for sport. Breaking into homes in the dead of night, executing one massacre after the next while leaving behind a trail of mangled corpses as their trademark calling card.
That about sums up the viewing experience that is this 24 minute short. It is indeed horrific. It is very graphic and sleazy. Therefore, it is not an enjoyable sit-down as such. But it does have shock value. It does make the viewer uncomfortable. It strikes a nerve to witness such seemingly meaningless and pointless brutality and it leaves a lasting impression to see the violence enforced with such glee as the perpetrators display. “Forced Entry” will leave the viewer with some thoughts.
“Forced Entry” is obviously very low budget. The acting is OK but the bickering between Arthur (Lodewyck) and Donovan (Bett Jr.) kinda’ ruined the mood in one intense scene by trying to generate some laughs. I did like the music score that’s reminiscent of some 70’s/early 80’s slashers and a bit John Carpenter-esque as well. The gory bits, and they are quite a few, are well handled with practical effects and that’s a big plus. Stylistically speaking there’s some decent camera work on display and offbeat cuts to jumbled screens that works OK. Finally there’s some real life footage spread out among the end credits that may be indicative of some inspiration for the filmmakers.
This short reminded me in some ways of a few gritty exploitation films that made a big splash in the seventies and early eighties; namely Wes Craven’s “The Last House on the Left” (1972). I remember, at a certain point before becoming a horror aficionado, thinking how anyone could actually enjoy a movie like this. Today I’m a big fan of the film and of Craven. The film is dissecting contrasting ways of life, barbarism vs. sophistication, the simplicity of evil and the torture of empathy and all manner of things. I always have a tough time defending the film to most I manage to convince viewing it but I think it’s an unmissable entry in quintessential horror films. Just look at how Craven evolved the basic notion of pointless brutality to examine societal norms and parental indifference in classics like “The Hills Have Eyes” (1977) and “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984). These ideas sprang from “The Last House on the Left”.
More movies came to mind but the basic premise of a short like “Forced Entry” gets a reaction from the viewer. And that’s all “Forced Entry” really is; a basic premise or a snapshot into the lives of depraved individuals. It’s hard to outright recommend a viewing experience like “Forced Entry” but it does make an impression.
Q&A with K.M. Jamison
I asked K.M. Jamison, writer and co-director of “Forced Entry”, if he was up for a Q&A. I’m not the biggest expert on exploitation films so I was very interested his views on exploitation films in general, to get more inside knowledge of “Forced Entry” and more.
What is the origin story of this project?
The story is basically centered around the depraved lives and crimes of two sadistic drifters, who much like a handful of real life sadists and serial killers were pretty much doomed from the start of their lives. And as much as we wanted to be able to start things from the beginning, lack of funding really played a crucial part in the production giving us a severely limited amount of time with the cast and crew. So in spite of not having enough time or money to create a standard introduction of the story we took it as far as we could by making it a day-in-the-life of two repulsive killers and their habitual routine.
How long did it take filming “Forced Entry” and was it an enjoyable shoot?
Overall, it took about a month and a half to complete the short. We had two separate shoots. One in Illinois where we captured a majority of the footage and then finished up two weeks later in Indiana that mostly involved SFX/Gore Makeup with James Bett Jr. and a few actresses who lived in the area. Honestly it was one of the most chaotic productions we’ve been able to pull off. But at the same time both James Bett Jr and myself have a way of sucking in that chaos while considering it to be a blessing in disguise. Independent filmmaking has a way of showing how realistic Murphy’s law can be and despite the many complications we had over the course of shooting, nothing seemed to weigh the production down or give us anything we couldn’t handle. Luckily we had a solid cast and crew who were willing to go above and beyond to keep things moving by putting their individual passion into the project. At times, it felt closer to being at a party full of horror fans than it did a film shoot and that’s exactly what most filmmakers need in that particular environment. Our theory is to make it happen any way you possibly can despite whatever roadblocks may exist (lack of money, lack of sleep, weather/location adjustments, etc.)
What movies, if any, were clear inspirations for “Forced Entry” and why?
Above all, John McNaughton’s Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer really laid the groundwork for the initial creation of Arthur and Donovan. Not just the idea of portraying two killers as the centrepiece instead of one, but the visceral style and jarring visuals that McNaughton put into each scene with the notion of everything being based on inconceivable crimes that actually happened. Character inspiration taken from real people that in any normal setting would make others uneasy and sickened in a matter of seconds from their personalities alone. For most first time viewers, Henry was a film that made you feel filthy and obscene both physically and mentally while leaving an impression with the audience whether they liked or hated the film. With Forced Entry, we’re trying to make a similar impression that hasn’t been felt in horror cinema for a long time. We’re trying to go back to when certain films were the farthest thing from safe in order to give fans of extreme horror the same rush that originally pulled them into the genre. To put dismay and shock back in shock value while giving viewers a realistic concept of two human beings that have no problem taking other people’s lives for granted and seeing exactly how far they can go. Much like Henry, we want to place that dim and bleak notion of “this could be real” back into fans that have grown numb to seeing one supernatural killing spree after the next. To make something with the same grit and brutality that McNaughton created with Henry without being predictable, repetitive or discreet.
Were there any particular inspirations for the lead characters Arthur and Donovan?
The main inspiration for Arthur and Donovan came from the case of Lawrence Bitter and Roy Norris (aka The Toolbox Killers), two career criminals who originally met in prison that soon after their release began forcing young girls off the street, torturing them with random tools and later dumping the battered remains of each victim in scattered locations. Eventually, they were both captured and charged with various counts of murder while a search of Bittaker’s apartment recovered over five hundred polaroids of teenage girls both dead and alive, nineteen of which were listed as missing cases. During the trial it was revealed the two killers had saved audio recordings of various murders that was played back for the jury, causing a number of people in the courtroom to become physically ill. Bittaker was sentenced to death and Roy Norris was given forty-five years to life for his cooperation in the investigation.
You describe “Forced Entry” as an homage to the exploitation cinema of the 80’s. In your opinion was there more of a public interest in this genre back in the 80’s compared to nowadays? Or has there always been a big market for this genre?”
I’ve always believed that exploitation kind of acted as the black mark of cinema in general depending on the direction or message that each film was trying to portray. With the modern social climate we’re living in now it seems that a lot of filmmakers are trying their best to avoid anything related to exploitation or violence for the sake of violence out of fear of being lynched on social media. With the development of cinema dating back to the 70’s and 80’s, restrictions were somewhat limited and that allowed directors the freedom to focus on the vision of the movie instead of suffering backlash for creating something that most critics and church going social circles would consider borderline pornographic. Granted, filmmakers have and will always suffer for their art. Exploitation was never intended to be suited for mainstream audiences resulting with the genre marketing to the cult/underground fans that would do anything they possibly could to get their hands on films that were usually banned on release or given an explicit rating. And over time that hasn’t really changed. Fans who enjoyed films like Clockwork Orange, Cannibal Holocaust and Texas Chainsaw Massacre are always going to be hungry for something they haven’t seen before. The market will always be there despite how much the censors fight to keep violent and sexually charged films from seeing the light of day. The biggest difference between then and now really comes down to filmmakers creating something original that fans of exploitation have an interest in seeing. Of course, that’s easier said than done.
As the writer and co-director of this short film; do you have a feature length scenario of this idea in mind?
Definitely. Forced Entry was originally scheduled as one of three films to be included in a serial killer anthology with our other short Inhumane, but after completing principal photography both James Bett Jr and myself decided to continue the saga of Arthur and Donovan with a feature film. We’re still fleshing out the details of the script so it’s still in the early stages of production, which in my personal opinion is where a lot of the vision begins to truly develop from a basic idea or concept into something real. We really want to try and push the feature towards an NC-17 rating based on gratuitous violence and gore since that seems to be one aspect people love about the short, so we obviously have no plans to hold anything back. Just like Portrait of a Serial Killer, we want to leave an unforgettable impression on audiences whether they end up feeling violated, captivated or downright sick from spending an hour or more with Arthur and Donovan.
Do you have a clear idea of who Arthur and Donovan are? Are they fully fledged individuals in the writer’s mind or just as mysterious as they appear before the audience?
Similar to their real life inspiration of Lawrence Bittaker and Roy Norris, each character has an individual back story that will be included (via Press Kit) with the Digital HD purchase of Forced Entry. I always enjoyed being able to read about the places and events surrounding different characters like Michael Myers and Fred Krueger since I’m usually viewing things from a writer’s perspective. At the same time, mystery is key for a majority of slashers and that’s why I think a lot of directors prefer to keep their histories as short and sweet as possible to avoid having to spend unnecessary time explaining the origin of each killer. With Forced Entry, we answer the question of who and what Arthur and Donovan are while giving an example of what to expect from them. With the feature we plan to progress beyond the point of them being two methodical killers and give audiences a dose of their fucked up version of everyday reality.
How has the short been received?
So far, so good. We’re currently showcasing the film through various festivals before putting out the final release that people will be able to purchase through our online store. The reviews have kind of fluctuated between viewers being disturbed and interested while grasping the basic concept of old school horror being the backbone of the film’s inspiration. A few have been comparing Forced to the old style of snuff films while others seem to place us in the grindhouse category which both could be true for both depending on the audience and their personal perception of the short. They all seem to agree that Forced is the type of film with no expectations of a happy ending along with no filter or concern for following modern rules that have no place in underground/cult cinema. As far as I’m concerned, we’re focused on getting the film seen by as many people as we can. And like a lot of indie filmmakers we never expected to be working press and promotion in the middle of a pandemic so not being able to actually hit the streets and do everything in person is kind of difficult but you just gotta get through it any way you possibly can. Most of our festival spots have been switched to virtual because of CO-VID so thankfully the promoters have found a way to roll with the punches instead of just cancelling or moving everything to 2021.
On my blog I advocate the purchasing of physical media; i.e. Blu-ray’s, DVD’s etc. when it comes to classic and/or cult films. Do you share the sentiment or do you prefer streaming only? Or a mix of both?
I’m a collector. Always have been, always will be. And despite how convenient different services might be that hasn’t changed with formats going from physical to streaming. And don’t get me wrong, when it comes to independent distribution streaming is definitely the quickest and easiest way to have films available for people to see. But at the same time it’s not really fair to a lot of filmmakers that pour their sweat and blood into something to get little to nothing in return. Another thing that bothers me about streaming is the fact that once the services either end or decide to quit running certain content, there’s no way to get back the movies that you rely on being there to enjoy whenever you want. With physical media you don’t have that problem. Sure, it takes money to create the products and then you have to find a trustworthy source to distribute towards a market familiar with your work, but at least you know you’re not giving it away for free due to lack of options. If I have any choice I always pick physical over streaming because I actually want to own certain films and have the ability to pull them off my shelf and do whatever I want versus the idea of just renting a digital file that I can watch before the streaming service decides to remove it from the menu from lack of popularity or profit. And I would be lying if I said there isn’t a huge convenience with streaming. For filmmakers, it eliminates the costs that would go into creating physical copies and grants them the freedom to trust a source that potential audiences are used to. So in a lot of ways, you have a wide range of advantages and disadvantages with both formats. Different strokes for different folks.
Ever visited Iceland?
I have not. I don’t get along with volcanos or lava in general.