By Jack Sargeant

Michael Helms’ Fatal Visions ‘zine is an essential read for anybody interested in genre cinema, with the sought after original issues collected together into two-volumes: Fatal Visions: The Wonder Years and, at the end of 2016, Fatal Visions: The Golden Age (featuring an introduction by yours truly). Helms’ lifelong dedication to horror, sexploitation, b-movies, and all other manifestations of off-beat cinema can be traced through the pages of the magazine, and his subsequent writings.

As a tastemaker (or perhaps bad-taste maker), Helms continues to play a key role in the local industry, with Fatal Visions lending its name – alongside Helms’ own talents – to a dedicated DVD brand under the auspices of Monster Pictures. The label releases so far include Michael Du-Shane’s zombie western, Bullets For The Dead; Stefan Popescu’s post-porn zombie comedy horror, Vixen Velvet’s Zombie Massacre; David Jackson’s feline-infused serial killer shocker, Cat Sick Blues; and Addison Heath’s revenge thriller, Mondo Yakuza. It’s a quartet of movies indicative of the health of an Australian indie scene that, like any good monster, just won’t-stay-dead. Expect more releases in 2017, including the wild Sheborg Massacre. Alongside the movies, each of the DVDs feature all manner of extras, including introductions by Helms and audio commentaries by the filmmakers, deleted scenes, and behind the scenes footage, as well as reversible cover art.

Fatal Visions' Bullets For The Dead
Fatal Visions’ Bullets For The Dead

What’s the deal with you releasing these movies? “We are using Fatal Visions as a marketing label. This is something that occurred during the Fatal Visions magazine heyday in the ’90s when we released half a dozen titles on VHS through the Home Cinema Group. This time, Monster are the instigators, and I have no official position. I happen to approve of it enough though to participate a lot more by providing them with filmed introductions and any marketing help that I can come up with.”

What’s the nature of your relationship with Monster? Do you have complete control, or do they have input? “Having known [Monster’s] Neil [Foley] and Grant [Hardie] for decades, there is a certain amount of simpatico that can be relied upon between both sides. The bottom line is that we share the vision for the Fatal Visions label. I see it as an opportunity to promote Australian genre films that might otherwise struggle to receive any attention, and to encourage new filmmakers to step up to the plate. Most of all, I’d really like to see Monster finally produce their own horror film, which is one of the main reasons for their existence, and this is something that they have to do sooner rather than later.”

Fatal Visions' Cat Sick Blues
Fatal Visions’ Cat Sick Blues

And everything you release is Australian? “The Fatal Visions label is dedicated to new first release Australian titles. Although I’m personally very interested in seeing the distribution of older Australian genre product, especially from the ’80s and ’90s, there’s more than a handful of films that I like to call ‘Not Even Not Quite Hollywood’ that would be worthy, but that’s what the Monster Masters label run by Ben Hellwig is for. Fatal Visions has helped out there already and will continue to do so in the future where possible. As a footnote, the securing of release rights can be a minefield for older products, full of all sorts of explosive, ridiculous, and ultimately time consuming and sad dead ends. Meanwhile check out the flaming hilarious Smoke ‘Em If You Got ‘Em.”

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What makes something suitable for Fatal Visions? Are you looking at B-movies or would you consider an arthouse movie too? There’s so much crossover that there’s no discernible distinction, but what are your thoughts? Fatal Visions always encouraged readers to take in the widest range of films possible in order to get to really know your own film tastes but to remain a real thrill-seeker. Personally, I like horror films that put sex and horror into the same frame, and also that deliberately or even accidentally try to blur that distinction between arthouse and outhouse. Yes, you need a sense of humour for anything you do, but only the best filmmakers seem to be able to control the situation with any consistency, especially in a first feature. I really think Cat Sick Blues is a dynamic example of this. Instilling intellectual/political or any subtext into a film (beyond placing an Evil Dead poster on a nearby visible wall) is also important for a film’s longevity, and you can see some of that in Vixen Velvet’s Zombie Massacre, which is also an interesting look into group dynamics, especially that of a no-budget film crew which is what the film is about anyway, and from the space where most filmmakers start. Maybe I just like films about filmmaking too much? The term ‘arthouse’ still has its uses, even though the venues that it refers to barely exist anymore. To me, it signifies something more serious, but not necessarily smarter than your average horror comedy. And I seriously like serious horror.”

Fatal Visions' Vixen Velvet’s Zombie Massacre
Fatal Visions’ Vixen Velvet’s Zombie Massacre

You’re pretty obsessed with horror, exploitation, sexploitation and b-movies…how does this feed into your decision making? Do you find yourself taking on the role of educator, trying to explain why a movie matters to people? “I always feel partly like some evangelist when I find some oddball movie I love and others can’t get it. I’ve frequently felt like a spruiker standing outside The Hall Of Mirrors enticing people inside to be scared of their own reflections. Sometimes you want to be in there watching the show too, or to be the figure in the werewolf mask who pops up around that last corner to chase you back into the daylight. But rarely is that more exciting than when some contrarian comes back to you to admit that you were right and that indeed that movie was something special. Basic word of mouth is often worth taking note of too. The ability to listen to others is a highly underrated commodity that will allow you to make some sort of appealing connection between them and the film that you’re pitching. As time moves on, I’m finding myself forgetting more details from films I’ve seen, but overall and more than ever, I possess the confidence to recall something pertinent from my history of film-going to add to or enhance other people’s film-going and their decisions to do so.”

Fatal Visions' Mondo Yakuza
Fatal Visions’ Mondo Yakuza

What draws you towards a movie? “The eternal lure of seeing something that you have never seen before. Whether this can be motivated by an alluring ad campaign that is both mysterious and ‘exploitational’ (including a wacked out trailer featuring scenes that eventually don’t appear in the film); a conversation with a friend, colleague or total stranger; or through some other more straightforward connector such as the track record of the personnel, a source of recommendation can exist in many places like the ‘Advised Against’ column of the Catholic newspaper, The Advocate, in its film review pages. Again, we return to the ability to put sex and violence into the same frame.”

To purchase DVDs from the Fatal Visions range, head to Monster Pictures.

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  • Thomas
    Thomas
    4 January 2017 at 12:21 pm

    Huge fan of these fatal visions discs! Kudos to michael and monster pictures for getting these out there. You know if I couldn’t find these movies at jb I would not know they existed.

    Michael should start a website or a facebook to keep us in the loop as to what is coming out next.

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