“If you’re a lover of cult films or are somewhat involved in the indie sci-fi or horror scene, you’ve certainly come across A HORROR-FYING BLOG and SPACE JOCKEY REVIEWS, respectively run by John Ginder and Chris Rennirt. And if you haven’t well, you mightily ought to and I recommend you definitely do cause they are two of the coolest guys around. They’ve interviewed countless indie personalities and celebrities, are huge supporters of all things horror, sci-fi, genre, the cinematic arts in general, and numerous filmmakers, actors and industry folks have John and Chris to forever thank for their undying support and excellent coverage. In an effort to spice things up for all of us, I decided to jump the fence ‘to the other side’ and give John and Chris a chance to do the talking so we can get to know them a little better. Picking brains has never been funner, as Mascara & Popcorn went on a mission to ask John Ginder and Chris Rennirt a few wild questions. From movies, to aliens to the paranormal, inspiring thoughts, words of wisdom and Hillbilly Horror. Trust me, you won’t want to miss out on what they had to say!” ~ Florence Touliatos
The following interview was written by Florence Touliatos, and first published in the February 2014 edition of the Mascara & Popcorn Film Festival Newsletter.
MP: When did you start reporting as online journalists or bloggers and what or who was it who inspired you the most (is it the “horror” genre or an actor, a filmmaker, a convention you attended, or even a fellow blogger or journalist, someone or something personal to you, could be anything or anyone).
CHRIS: My first article for Space Jockey Reviews was posted January 22, 2012; so, that
marks the beginning of my online publishing. As for what inspired me, the answer also lies in the origins of that first article—”Prometheus: Thinking Back and Ahead.” With all the Prometheus fanfare of the time, I was reconnected to thinking (as I do so often anyway) about my all-time favorite film, in my favorite genre—Alien. I remembered again, as vividly as yesterday, sitting in that theater in 1979, watching Alien, awestruck with what was unfolding before me—a story I knew, in an extra-sensory way, would change my life forever. Seeing the chestburster explode from Kane, at the Nostromo dinner table, ironically gave me the greatest appetite ever for movies. No, I didn’t immediately start writing reviews, but, in my gut was surely planted that face-hugger of a film-loving fiend that would burst forth writing soon enough. I had seen the heights to which horror could go, especially when melded perfectly with my double-favorite genre–science fiction. I had met a high bar, where clichés could be broken and fresh ideas still existed. The xenomorph from LV-426 was a bio-mechanical monster, with molecular-acid blood and surreal style to spare, with “no delusions of morality”—one unlike anything I’d seen in all the Creature Feature black-and-white classics and color-film clichés before. More horrifying was a monster that violated and mutilated its victims, with no need for food, just for the sake of killing. With all that in mind, I begged (not just asked) for that short-lived Kenner Alien to appear under my Christmas tree, and didn’t sleep a wink that night waiting. That “toy” (if you can call it that) sits today, on my shelf, as a tangible connection to my childhood passions. All of this originality back in 1979 made me an iron-clad lover of the genre, bolder than ever, forever seeking the next beacon of cinema in space. My website’s name—Space Jockey Reviews—is a tribute to that iconic Engineer in the pilot seat, taking me to where I am today.
As for who inspired me, the answer is again simple—Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert. Roger Ebert’s written reviews were (and still are) the most inspirational source for me as a reviewer, bar none. I don’t for a second expect to ever be as good as him; but, he does set a goal that can only make me better as I reach toward it. Watching Siskel & Ebert spar over the latest films on At the Movies made me want to do the same thing. I remember staying up late as a kid, back when nothing could be recorded, to see those two in action; whatever the movie, whether “thumbs up” or “thumbs down,” there was never a dull moment. (What nostalgia that is now, as I think back!) That’s why, today, I do such a podcast with Zena S. Dixon (Real Queen of Horror) named Dissecting Cinema. There, with Gene & Roger in mind, I feel the satisfying sense of doing what I planned, with all the same excitement as a wide-eyed kid with no limits, and everything ahead of me. Bring on the universe!
JOHN: I can say with this that two people inspired me to do this thing I love. I have several who have been with me from beginning who has showed their support. The two who inspired me were/are the Soskas and Char Hardin. Char does blogging- talked to me about it, how to do it (as in research, style, etc). Jen and Sylvia – we have been friends since before Dead Hooker, and they inspired me by their story of how they started, and by chatting and tossing the idea around. They laid it on the line and said, follow your dreams no matter what they are and just do it! This I have applied in my blog stuff as well as let it inspire me to go back to school.
MP: Where do you usually get your information before deciding to either interview a person or do coverage? Do you usually seek out info yourself (on social media for example) or do people from the community submitting a trailer or a topic they’d like for yo to cover?
CHRIS: The answer is all of the above. Some people ask to be interviewed, but most are asked by me. My decision about who to ask comes from a feeling that the person has inspired me too, in some way; they are compelling people who make me want to know more. It could come from the force of an actor’s performance, or the power of the story told (as with writers and directors). Even fellow reviewers and bloggers interest me, because they do what I do and are so often forgotten. (Thanks a big bunch Florence for including me here!) There is always a story just as rich and interesting about their passion and beginnings, rivaling the best to be found elsewhere.
As for where I get information about those I interview, it’s anywhere I can—movies, IMDb pages, Facebook, etc. I do as much research as possible, to know as much as possible. I try to ask those unusual questions about things nobody thought I knew. It tells the interviewee and the audience that I’m serious, professional, and passionate about what I do. (There’s nothing worse than being caught not knowing the obvious about the person you’re interviewing.) It’s always work, but always worth it.
JOHN: I watch the boards. Facebook, Twitter, etc. Also the films, to see who seems cool. I have had a few guys refer me actors and actress to check out. I also after a review of a film, will seek out the folks in it and offer a podcast to them! I get the “hey would you like to review my film,” “hey I have a film I want to make, could you share about it,” etc., and sometimes then they let me review the film when done, and connect me with folks in the films!
MP: Have you been to many fan conventions or fan expos? what was your most notable experience and why?
CHRIS: At this point, I’ve been to three—Days of the Dead in Indianapolis and Fandom Fest and Wonderfest in my hometown of Louisville, Kentucky. Wonderfest is a smaller, local horror and sci-fi themed toy and model kit show I attend every year that always includes a few classic celebrities. I go to it every year, mostly because it’s so close and I don’t have to travel. I’m planning (crossing my fingers) to set a course for some places farther away soon. Speaking of conventions, I’ll be sure to attend Days of the Dead in Indianapolis again this year. With Jen & Sylvia Soska as guests, it’s a sure thing!
My most notable experience at a convention was meeting, not an actor or movie personality, but Georgio A. Tsoukalos (the host of Ancient Aliens) at Wonderfest 2012. I love that show, Georgio is awesome, and talking to him about aliens and Puma Punku H Blocks was a major event for me. He’s a really cool guy, with a celebrity status giving ancient astronaut theories new possibilities. Ancient Aliens is a show about the reaches of possibility, grounded in artifacts and geophysical evidence that is compelling, if not proof for the case. (And what better connection to Space Jockey Reviews too!) Georgio wasn’t even an advertised guest, but he drew bigger crowds than anyone at Wonderfest. The movie celebrities (whoever they were at the time) were expected, but he wasn’t. I like surprises!
JOHN: I go to cons every year. Indianapolis gets Horrorhound and Days of the Dead, and I also go to Horrorhound Cincinnati. I would love to one day go to Cinema Wasteland in Cleveland, Spooky Empire in Florida and of course, Texas Frightmare Weekend in Texas. My most notable experience – hmmm, that is a good one! I have had my personal milestones – met two folks from Twin Peaks, interviewed for an hour Tony Todd, short interviews with Ashley C. Williams (Human Centipede), Don Corscarelli, chatted with a bit with Katherine Isabelle and this June – my biggest personal sentimental favorite – the Soskas are coming to town and I finally get to meet them and hang out with them!! Show them Indianapolis and bring them home to my family (hopefully if time permits!) So many others I would love to mention, that were awesome, but I would use all your space to do it lol!
MP: Would you consider yourselves “indie-film bloggers” or a “horror-film bloggers” mostly? Browsing through SPACE JOCKEY REVIEWS and HORROR-FYING BLOG horror is covered for the greater part but there’s also some drama, sci-fi, experimental… you both seem open to indie film in general, am I right?
CHRIS: Again, I am wholeheartedly all of the above. As for genres, horror is near the top, but, I am actually more a lover of science fiction (notably the classics from the 50s). Again, the title Space Jockey Reviews is, by design, a reminder that science fiction is at the heart of it all.
Yes, I know there are more horror movies reviewed on my website (and I do love those as well); but, that’s more the result of availability and impulse sometimes, rather than a result of preference. Don’t get me wrong; science fiction is my favorite, but it’s all relative. Horror is only one step down the ladder, seconds behind sci-fi.
Indie films? I love them! That’s where the action is. Some of the most truly original, cutting-edge cinema comes from the Indie world, and I can’t get enough of it. The only thing that limits me with Indie film reviewing (and all else) is time; I just can’t get enough of that either. I was a judge for the Winter 2014 Macabre Faire Film Festival, and I watched so many wonderful films. From that experience alone, I know the full force of Indie originality; it comes from pure passion to create, despite obstacles, limitations and budgets, regardless of odds against it. Cutting edge ideas and talent, strengthened by the spirit of success, produce stunning results. I love being a part of it!
JOHN: I do mostly horror/sci-fi and some 80s music (or related music). I grew up with loving horror and sci-fi. I went through my “informative” years of learning to appreciate independent/foreign/art-house films. Everything from Bertolucci, Malle, Bergman, Woody Allen, Lynch, Cronenberg, Felleni, etc. I also love 70s and 80s action and comedy….oooh, if you saw my collection!!
MP: Chris mentioned to me in an earlier conversation ALIEN is his all-time favorite movie and in one fun podcast, John was interviewed by Chris with a discussion ending around the subject of aliens and the possibility of intelligent life on other planets and galaxies. Given the fact that the Universe has billions of stars, there is a high probability that life does exist on other planets than Earth. Different conditions, climate, orbits and stars can define absolutely different evolution, compared to the one on our world. That’s why there are endless possibilities of how life on other planets might look like and people LOVE to fantasise about bizarre species visiting Earth or us visiting them. If you were to create your own “alien”-type movie, what would your alien(s) look like and why? (here’s a chance for you guys to creep out your audience lol)
CHRIS: My alien would look like what creeps me out the most personally. I have a great fear (bordering on a phobia) of what I call geometric flesh. That is when the flesh of living things takes on mechanical, geometric patterns with depth, as if the result of intentional modification (or mutilation), although totally natural. So, the surface of my alien’s is flesh covered in raised and juxtaposed triangular patterns, interlocking in their arrangement, with blood flowing through transparent depressions in the geometric shapes. It has humanoid form, with auxiliary flesh oozing from the triangular depressions to cover the body when needed. This flesh changes colors and/or exudes poison that kills, on contact, the worst enemies it could face; the poison can also be sprayed from the mouth, if necessary, to take down an enemy at a distance. Stereoscopic vision is provided by eyes in the front with compound eyes (for motion detection) behind the head. Its tongue doubles as an extendable sucking device, tipped with a beak, cutting and plunging into the body of a food choice, draining entrails and blood in seconds. This alien can break down and use anything for food or energy, even in hostile, desolate environments. This is an alien that, like Giger’s version, kills for the sake of killing; as Ash said of Alien, it is “a perfect organism…its structural integrity is matched only by its hostility.” Why this design? Whether from random evolution or a god having fun, it’s a survivor and pretty darned scary as well.
JOHN: Wow- this is gonna be a tough one. I always thought that aliens would in the romanticized view, would be just like aliens we see in the movies. I saw something on cable once about our under sea life, the ocean world! Some show said maybe alien life if it exists would resemble more like something from our seas, and oceans. That would be a safe assumption since the water is closest to what space resembles. I don’t know if that is true- but it made sense to me, a very much so amateur on space and the oceans! So maybe a jellyfish person??? Hmmm, that sounds cool! Maybe if the “good book” is right, “let US make man in OUR image” – who are the “US” and “OUR” ??? Maybe they have beings molded after them on other planets, so maybe similar to what we look like, human looking? It’s a thought! Even though Chris Rinnert’s idea of the Space Jockey from Alien would be awesome!!
MP: Do you believe in the paranormal? have you ever experienced a paranormal-type incident?
CHRIS: Yes, I definitely believe in the paranormal; I always have, regardless of how much sense it made or whatever arguments I heard against it. It’s a belief born partly from speculation and partly, I think, from a desire to make horror real—but hopefully always from a distance, and without the movie mayhem. (No, I never had fantasies of keeping residence with poltergeists or pissed off demons to experience real horror; I was never that so obsessed.) I like mystery, hope, and permanence in the world, and the paranormal, in a positive sense, is the ultimate source. It’s interesting that the paranormal is a belief in ghosts, spirits, the afterlife, and…well, you get where I’m going; isn’t the belief, really, with its connections to spirituality, more common than we think? The paranormal includes (contrary to horror-film clichés) the good and the bad of it all. I like the “good” of it; like the rest of us, it makes me comfortable. As for the bad of it, I keep my distance.
Have I had experience with the paranormal? Yes, as far as I’m concerned; while limited, it’s plenty for my court with me as the judge. A little more than a year ago, I would have said no. But, what a difference a year makes! In October of 2012, I took a tour through the Waverly Hills Sanatorium, in Louisville, Kentucky, known the world over for being haunted. For those who don’t know, Waverly was a TB hospital that operated from 1910 to 1962, where an estimated 60,000 people died. Even with a belief in the paranormal, and Waverly’s rich history, I began the tour not expecting to have an encounter. However, while standing in a hallway said to be haunted by the “Shadow People,” I felt the distinct presence of something standing closely behind me, shoving me forward, raising me on my heels a bit. The odd fact is that no human was behind me, and I was the only person standing in the hall at the time. But, people on the tour reported seeing a dark figure behind me! If that’s not scary enough, it gets worse!
While sitting at my computer at home the very next night, typing a review, I heard the sound of my paper shredder at the end of the hallway come on, and go through the cycle of shredding paper. Before you think, “So what,” consider this! I was the only person in my home at the time, other than my dog fast asleep next to me, and I was sitting at the other end of the house. Approaching the shredder, expecting to see at least a piece of paper in it, I instead found nothing. Defective shredder? Faulty circuitry? Possibly. But, it gets better! The very next night, while again sitting at my computer, my microwave oven came on, on its own; I had to get up and turn it off to make it stop. Defective microwave? Faulty circuitry? Possibly. But, consider this. It happened on two successive nights following those events, involving two additional electrical appliances–all of which worked without issue before, and all of which have worked without issue since. Whether it’s connected to Waverly or just a coincidence, I will always wonder. The good news is that, so far, no moans, groans, spectral apparitions, sundry residual hauntings, or feelings of someone behind me have occurred. I don’t know whether to consider myself lucky or not; I guess time will tell.
JOHN: YES, YES, YES!! Now the million dollar question- do I believe that everyone should believe in paranormal stuff? NO! Some people I don’t think are supposed to. I have had my experience – and I have weighed out all the possible things it could have been, even in retrospect, and there are too many things that happened that defy explanation! Now- I am also a member of a group herein Indianapolis called Paranormal Seekers of Indy, we are relatively new, but have done several, lots of investigations. Have more planned. I also will be doing an episode of the Oddity Files with Kitsie Duncan – we will be doing an investigation of the famous Roads Hotel in Atlanta Indiana!
MP: The Soska Twins (I know you love them as much as I do) where quoted once saying “body horror is one of the truest forms of horror because we all experience it to a certain degree”. In keeping with Mascara & Popcorn’s Body Horror Contest coming up in April (shameless plug), I wanted to know which Body Horror movie was your all-time favorite. Mine being AMERICAN MARY at the top of the list but there are so many great ones, it’s hard to chose just one.
CHRIS: Florence, I am realizing that you and I are far more alike than I ever imagined, with the same excellent taste as well. What are the odds that American Mary would be the all-time favorite body-horror movie for me too? Well…truthfully, I guess the odds are pretty darned good, considering what a radically excellent movie it is! Cutting-edge body trauma and medical mayhem at its finest is what I say! It’s the movie that comes to my “twisted” mind first (yes, I’m alluding to the sisters), so I’m not budging from my impulses. I have found that what I think of first is what I really like!
JOHN: My favorite body horror film, hmmm… Yes! I love American Mary also! Others though, let’s see, Excision, From Beyond, The Fly, Incredible Melting Man, Human Centipede, Videodrome, Hellraiser, Martyrs, Re-Animator, Society and of course Altered States. So many good ones – and some might be loosely body horror, and so many varying styles and avenues into this wacky world of Body Horror.
MP: Saying I have a weak spot for the body horror and medical horror genres is an understatement, but I also have a penchant for experimental horror and avant garde moving images. I’m assuming your favorite movie genre would be horror but do you have other favorites, not necessarily horror or derivatives of it can be science-fiction, off-beat dark comedy, “giallo,” etc..
CHRIS: I think question number four has already spawned an answer to this one. (Don’t you hate how that happens in interviews?) By a slight margin, it’s science fiction for me. However, I’m going to take the opportunity to talk about a genre (or subgenre) of horror that I love more than the others, inspiring me more than any. I absolutely can’t get enough of what I call Hillbilly Horror—movies about backwoods, inbred, cannibal types that make use of all parts of those they kill, for souvenirs, if not survival. Coming to mind in the genre, standing high on the apex is Tobe Hooper’s classic The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974). Leatherface is the monster of all human monsters; he is the essence of pure horror, because he is real. Leatherface personifies Hillbilly Horror, and makes it disturbingly human! How much more horrifying can you get?
JOHN: I love Liquid Sky!! Jan Svenkmeier had some amazing weird shit! His film Alice
was wild! David Lynch! How can you not like something by him, not sure what to say is my favorite of his! Avant Garde moving images – love the way you put that, not really films, but they were approached as mini films put to a soundtrack – I love old videos by the experimental group Psychic TV/Throbbing Gristle. Also Swans has some bizarre videos, old first wave industrial artists – like SPK had some strange videos. I do believe they even used old autopsy videos and tweaked them and put their noise behind them. Devo, their first project of video was about an hour long, The Truth about Devolution. A film that incorporated a story and also some of their early one music that latter got released as music.
MP: As children of the 80s, we’ve seen cinema and the world of film evolve so much, technologically and from a community stand point, what do you think the future of cinema will be like? A more heightened technological experience? More virtual? More RPG? More festivals? Will celluloid still be around you think?
CHRIS: Celluloid will go the way of the buggy whip soon enough, if you ask me. As for advancements, I’m thinking that virtual experiences are the likely directions. These days, most theater movies are in 3D, and it’s nearly standard fare with in-home systems. To me, that’s the beginning of the virtual experience becoming common, right now, albeit using enhanced versions of older technology. Sooner or later, I guess we’ll sit in a theater like a holodeck on the starship Enterprise; we’ll experience everything with the characters, viewing it from all angles, as if we are there. Who knows? Someday, we may be active characters in movies, interacting with the actors, influencing their behavior, and affecting the ends of movies. What’s that all sounding like? A lot like a real-life video game is what I say. And oh how the tickets would sell!
JOHN: Wow!! Good question! I hope cinema never goes away, there is something about seeing a film on the big screen! Technology, I think it will get better, more seamless, “real looking” 3D, maybe a move towards more audience participation (like the vibrating, moving chairs etc.) We see this in some IMAX stuff, the chairs you put a code into and they make you feel like your experiencing what is happening in the film! One thought, maybe interactive film, like they do with Rocky Horror and some video games, we go to theatre, and we become a plot maker so to speak, or a scene maker rather. I think of the scene in Fahrenheit 451, Julie Christie watching the TV, and she is the one doing the scenario, in the films case, a dinner party. You see the characters on the screen, and they say something like “hmmm dinner is about to be served, but Uncle Mike does not get along with Bob, but they are placed next to each other,” then they turn and “look” at the viewer, and say “Julie, what would you do” and she gives answer and the story moves forward. Maybe? Maybe one day??!!
MP: Looking back at your various achievements (interviews, careers or events you’ve helped promote, projects you’ve been involved in etc.), what would you say makes you the proudest?
CHRIS: I am most proud to have created something I love, rather than to have done nothing. Too many creative people never discover who they truly are, and what they truly love; many people settle for mediocrity, and strive for no more. I love movies, I love writing, I love art, and I love to create. Doing what I can, with my passion and ability, will always fulfill me and certainly make me proud. I have discovered who I am and what I love…and I do it all.
JOHN: I think I answered this one above without knowing this question was here- about the cons and the folks I got to podcast / interview with! I will add though – I got to podcast with Steven Kilby of the Aussie rock band The Church. That was my biggest music “score” thus far! I am also in works to set up interview with Groovey Man from Thrill Kill Kult this spring and a follow up with Mr. Kilby! Dream music ones would be with Devo, OMD, and Psychic TV and maybe even Xymox would be nice! Film wise – I would love to bend David Lynch’s ear, plug David Cronenberg for answers, and maybe hmmm, Clive Barker!
MP: What message would you like to convey to the indie community or what would you like to tell your fans, filmmakers and actors all around the world who are reading right now?
CHRIS: I’ll repeat what’s trite but true, adding something new in the end. Never stop reaching for your dreams, no matter what others may say! Do the best with what you have, and never give up. Be humble and patient as you go. Listen to the advice of others; they may know the very things you don’t. And, remember what Space Jockey Arisu always says: “Your supernova sunrise is just beyond the next event horizon.”
JOHN: I would say what Jen and Sylvia said to me- follow your dreams. Whatever they may be. Writing, acting, directing, being a nurse, being a manager, a blogger, painter whatever it may be. Don’t lose focus on your passion – and if you get disenchanted – step back- see what went wrong- and get back to the basics again. If you can’t – then maybe it is a sign to move on and find another dream to make happen! Most importantly – be good and true to yourself, your family, and friends, tell them (i.e. yourself) that you love them. Never let anything or anyone come between you and your loved ones and family, they always come first! Respect yourself- never compromise, and do not be afraid to change if that is what is required for you to achieve your dreams! One other thing- don’t bite the hand that feeds you, and be good to those around you, you’re not going to like everyone, nor get along with everyone, but act with respect and integrity.
A few shout outs – if I may! The Soskas (love ya sisters!!), Nadine L’Esperance (very supportive and just rocks!) , Maude Michaud (Quirky gal, my Twin Peaks buddy!), Char Hardin, My friend Smiley (you know who you are!), Farah, Melanie Robel, Frances Manzo, Victoria De Mare, Jeremiah Kipp, Fred Vogel and the whole damn Toe Tag family! There are so many I wish I could list – but too many and my typing sucks! One I cannot forget – My awesome wifey, Belle, she is amazing, she hates horror (even though watches Dexter, Bones qnd gets curious about True Blood lol), but she supports me and boosts my ego from time to time!!
THANK YOU FLORENCE — this was such an honor, and I am beyond words!