There are tons of bite-sized horror films out there in the world. Here at BD, we’re happy to show some love to the good ones. We even have our own show dedicated to just that! “World of Death” exposes some of the best up and coming talent in the horror world. But, even beyond that, there are a bevy of films deserving of your attention. We hope to shed some light on the hidden corners and dark shadows of the internet where shorts may lurk with “Short Film Spotlight.”
Throughout the 70s and 80s, Home Box Office (we now simply simply refer to the channel as HBO) would air shorts during some of their feature length presentations. These segments were simply titled “Short Takes.” They were typically silly films running under 10 minutes meant to keep a viewer glued to their seat before the next official time slot, when a new movie would begin. Of course, as the HBO slate was fairly limited back then, these shorts would air over and over. If you happened to be a fan of one, you could easily stake out the in-between-the-movie moments to try a catch it.
One special slice of kinder-trauma from “Short Takes” is a 1975 film from director S.S. Wilson about an unsuspecting man entering a creepy news station (read: creepy brownstone) who falls prey to vicious, man eating film reels. The short, Recorded Live (AKA Flesh Eating Film Reels), is only about 8 minutes long but manages to pack in lots of delightful stop motion effects. Here is the original film in its entirety.
Now 43 years later, Flesh Eating Film Reels has gotten an update. Director John Pickle dropped us a line to say he’d just unleashed his very own remake of the killer video tale, aptly titled Return of the Flesh Eating Film Reels. Duh. I wanted to know just what drove him to update such little known piece of HBO history. Apparently, the original film’s director thought the same thing!
“I was able to get in touch with S.S. Wilson, (Director/writer of Tremors, Short Circuit, Batteries not Included)…He was very excited to hear that someone would do such a thing with his ancient student film from 1978 and gave his blessing and even gave me a few critiques and opinions along the way. And for me, to be talking with the man who made this lil’ short that terrified me as a kid, was an insane privilege in and of itself.”
Pickled explained that when he was 8 years old he would literally sit in front of the TV waiting for Reels or another fondly remembered “Short Takes,” Hardware Wars. Reels was his favorite of two, “It creeped me out. It just always kind of stuck with me during those years.” What was the light-bulb moment that spurred him onto the remake path?
“At some point about 5 years ago, for whatever reason, I broke open a VHS tape – just curious to see as to how much tape was inside a cassette. Once in a pile on the floor, it was almost like a light when off and I suddenly remembered, in my hazy memory, the tape/film Monster movie from my childhood. I had not seen it since I was around 11 or 12…After a bit of digging I found it on youtube and watched it with fresh 44 year old eyes.”
In line with the original, Pickle saw fit to keep the stop motion vibe for Return. Working with limited budget certainly meant it wasn’t easy.
“I did a ton of testing with the tape before filming began. There’s almost another complete version of the movie just from the multiple test shots I did so I would know exactly what to expect and as to not burn up time on location with experimenting. So there was quite a bit of planning before the first shoot day. Hard to say exactly how long it took because it was planned, tested and experimented with over the course of a couple of years. All the testing made for a very smooth shoot day.”
All in all, I’d say Return of the Flesh Eating Film Reels is a worthy successor to Wilson’s student film. We wish the best for John Pickle moving forward and are excited to see what else he might have up his sleeve. Check out what happens when VHS goes bad down below!