Jason Bene began his career in entertainment as a Staff Writer/LA Correspondent for KillerFilm.com. He has written many horror film retrospectives, reported for red carpet premieres, and interviewed horror legends such as John Carpenter, Mick Garris and Joe Dante. Recently, Jason has become a writer for Delirium, Gorezone, and the world’s biggest horror magazine, Fangoria. I had the great opportunity to ask Jason questions about the movies he’s appeared in, his writing endeavors, and much more.
Downright Creepy: Hey Jason, how are you? Thank you for taking the time to speak with us.
Jason Bene: I’m doing great! I just got home from seeing The Amazing Spider-Man 2 with my nephew, and I believe that the two Marc Webb web-slinging adventures are better than the three that genre stalwart Sam Raimi assembled. I’m sure I am in the minority in this thinking, but that is my knee-jerk, honest reaction.
I always have time to jabber with a fellow horror connoisseur. Let’s do this!
DRC: Great! Let’s start out with what sparked your love for the horror genre. Was there a certain person or movie that introduced you to the creepy side of cinema?
Bene: When I was around 4 or 5 years old, my family and I hopped on a bus to see a double feature of Jaws and Race with the Devil at the Rivoli Theatre (now long gone) in my hometown of Long Beach, California. I recall being mesmerized by the theatrical one-sheet that was displayed outside the theatre; I couldn’t take my eyes off this mammoth leviathan with its mouth wide open ready to devour this hapless swimmer. Once inside, I was overtaken by the aromas of the cinema-going experience: the smell of popcorn, pretzels and even the floor were embedded in my DNA forever and that keeps me going back for more to this very day.
I know I was scared to death the entire time when I was viewing Jaws, and I loved every second of it! I empathized with the creature and not the humans; I felt sorry for Bruce the Shark. I even cried when he was blown to smithereens at the end. Little did I know he would roar back to life in several mediocre sequels. [laughs]
DRC: That leads me to my next question. What is your favorite horror movie and why?
Bene: Man, that’s a tough one. There are the best of the best, and then there are the favorites. I can’t narrow it down to just one flick, so I’ll concentrate on the favorites, better known as not the obvious selections. Movies like Blood Diner, Slaughter High, Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II, Sleepaway Camp II: Unhappy Campers, Blue Monkey, Night of the Creeps, The Monster Squad and Killer Party are all keepers. If you would have asked me that question in my teens, I would have said Videodrome or Day of the Dead, but now that I’m a little older, I gravitate towards more campy horror.
DRC: Recently, there has been a resurgence of 80’s horror movie soundtracks being re-released such as Creepshow, Re-Animator, and now Chopping Mall is even getting a release. Do you have any favorite soundtracks from that decade?
Bene: It’s funny that you should mention the Creepshow soundtrack because I just bought it a few months back at Monsterpalooza and the composer of the film, John Harrison, was present for autographs. There are very few scores that are synonymous with their films as well as Creepshow. It is right up there with Psycho and The Exorcist as far encapsulating a mood and ambiance that support the imagery on-screen. Harrison nailed the EC Comics tone that Stephen King and George A. Romero were shooting for. It even has the song where Ed Harris does his funky white boy dance, “Don’t Let Go.” [laughs]
But my personal favorite would have to be Fright Night! I don’t know if I have ever heard a single song from that soundtrack on the radio, but they are all hits in my book. The best tracks are ‘Armies of the Night’ by The Sparks and ‘Fright Night’ by the J. Geils Band. For the record, it is one expensive soundtrack and it is very difficult to find.
DRC: You have appeared in several movies, one being “Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark.” Can you share with us how that opportunity came about and what your experience was like being on set?.
Bene: I have to go back to 2010 and the first film I appeared in, Super Shark. I have always been a fan of the work of B-movie maestro Fred Olen Ray, specifically, Evil Toons, Beverly Hills Vamp and Scalps. He sent out a message on his Facebook page that he was looking for extras for a bikini contest in a bar for his brand new project. How could I pass up being in a film of his where I get to leer at sexy women all day? We became good friends and since then he cast me in Jersey Shore Shark Attack, After Midnight and All I Want for Christmas.
I’m also in two segments of the omnibus flick Chillerama. I got to be one of the undead in Joe Lynch’s ‘Zom-B-Movie’ and a firefighter who gets a LOAD dropped on him in Adam Rifkin’s ‘Wadzilla.’ That came about after interviewing Rifkin for a piece on an early picture he did called The Invisible Maniac, which he directed under the nom de plume, Rif Coogan.
There are two movies that I was in that still haven’t received a DVD release: the post-apocalyptic thriller Nuclear Family and a reboot of the ‘70s softcore erotic series Emmanuelle, Emmanuelle in Wonderland.
I became friends with writer/director Jose Prendes, who penned Mega Shark vs. Mecha Shark and is behind the camera on the forthcoming throwback to weird cinema like Blue Velvet called The Divine Tragedies. As someone who grew up on Godzilla vs. Mecha Godzilla, I HAD to be in The Asylum knockoff of a cult classic!
The film ends on the beaches of Long Beach where I spent a good chunk of my wonder years playing and swimming. All things come full circle, and this makes me very proud.
DRC: Who are some of the writers that inspire you?
Bene: There is ONLY one person, and his name is Chas. Balun, who sadly, is no longer with us. His “Piece O’ Mind’ column in the original incarnation of Gorezone magazine spoke from the heart and didn’t pull any punches. He was discussing Italian horror cinema when most fans like myself thought the genre began and ended with Friday the 13th, Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street. He really educated the ignorant because he genuinely wanted to open your eyes to the wide spectrum that horror has to offer. He was never afraid to go against the grain with his reviews and that sort of honesty is missing in these webzine heavy, ass-kissing times. He was a renaissance man and things haven’t been the same since he left… he is dearly missed. He was my friend.
DRC: Beautifully put, Jason. I am very thankful Chas. Balun’s memory lives on in his writing. Recently, I’ve been lucky enough to discover his “Piece O’ Mind” column by reading old issues of Gorezone. It’s already very apparent to me that he was one of a kind, and still to this day, Chas. Balun is truly an inspiration.
Can you also share about your writing endeavors prior to Fangoria?
Bene: I was a writer/blogger for Killerfilm.com for four years and I had a blast doing it. I was literally plucked from obscurity by the owner of the site, Donny Broussard. Living in Southern California, I became the West Coast Correspondent and covered premieres, film festivals, Comic Con, press screenings – you name it. While that was a hoot to do, I became bored with it extremely fast because I was covering what every other writer on the interweb was covering. I was chatting up a new film and was basically asking the same questions as they were. In my opinion, there wasn’t anything unique about the process.
While retrospectives are nothing new, getting an interview with someone, anyone, who was part of a film that I enjoyed was exciting and something many weren’t making a top priority. I wanted to give some love to what I consider to be ‘Late Night Classics,’ films that were campy in nature and weren’t being made anymore. That golden era ran from 1980-1995 and left its mark on me in a big way. They were mostly direct-to-video flicks, or the kind of off-the-beaten-path fun you’d see on USA Up All Night with Rhonda Shear.
I also made it my mission to concentrate on films that had never received a DVD release and looked at the article as being an unofficial petition to get the wheels turning. Ironically, A LOT of the films I did retrospectives on have been put out by Scream Factory. While I am no visionary, I always knew that that there was an audience that was craving for someone to give props to schlocky films of the VHS era.
DRC: You wrote an excellent interview with director Richard Friedman (Death Mask, Phantom of the Mall) in issue #331 of Fangoria. How did the opportunity to write for Fangoria come about? Also, did your write up in Fangoria play an important part in getting the chance to write for Gorezone and Delirium?
Bene: It was time to move forward to new challenges, and the ultimate being writing for Fangoria – my Famous Monsters of Filmland. I own every single issue and I look at the periodical as the bible for fright films. I was always intimidated to even contact anyone because I didn’t feel like I was ready yet, but I built up a ton of confidence at Killer Film. I contacted editor-in-chief, Chris Alexander, and he was very open to some of the ideas I had, so I got in touch with Richard and we conducted a phone interview and the rest is history.
As for Gorezone, I turned in a piece on Slaughterhouse Rock, and being the edgy flick that it is, Chris felt it would fit well with the just-revived sister magazine of Fangoria. I do plan on doing more things Gorezone-worthy soon.
Delirium is brand spanking new and it is a love letter to the Empire/Full Moon catalog of films from the imitable Charles Band. I knew everyone would want to go to the old school stuff, so I went after some of the newer roster of movies that I enjoyed that played like contemporary ‘Late Night Classics.’ It is not very often that you have the chance to be part of a debut of anything, so I immediately got a hold of actress Olivia Alexander to talk about Killer Eye: Halloween Haunt.
DRC: If you could interview one person that you haven’t interviewed yet, who would that be and why?
Bene: STEPHEN KING! I’d love to pick his brain on his self-proclaimed “moron movie,” Maximum Overdrive. The Green Goblin truck and AC/DC soundtrack aside, it is not a very good picture, but it still has a charm about it that is endearing. He must have amazing stories about working with produce Dino De Laurentiis.
DRC: Do you have any upcoming projects in the works that you can share about with us?
Bene: I have a 1:1 with filmmaker David A. Prior (Killer Workout) set to publish in Fangoria #333 (Godzilla cover) this month. In the can are retrospectives on Waxwork II: Lost in Time, Tales from the Darkside: The Movie, Uninvited and Spookies. And in August, Fangoria and Scream Factory are teaming for a magazine that will extensively cover their DVD/Blu-ray line, and I wax nostalgic with Greydon Clark on Without Warning.
DRC: Right on, buddy! I look forward to reading more of your work. Thank you again for taking the time to speak with us, Jason!
Bene: Anytime, brother!
Check out Jason’s new interview with Masuimi Max in issue #2 of Delirium!
Pick up your copy here!