Horror on the dead cheap

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When the Straight calls up low-budget horror filmmaker Brian Clement at his Victoria residence, the 28-year-old writer, director, cinematographer, producer, editor, and whatever-elser is in the midst of preparing dinner. But he's not taking any culinary cues from his first two gore flicks, Meat Market and Meat Market 2. He's actually mixing up lentils, barley, and other ingredients to create "vegetarian haggis", which is kinda funny: his dinner has no stomach, yet you need a strong one to watch his films.

Clement's latest shot-on-video feature is The Dead Inside, about a team of 1940s paranormal experts investigating mysterious disappearances at a 19th-century Victoria home. When the director fields my call, I feel compelled to admit straight off that while viewing a screener tape the night before, my forefinger made regular trips to the fast-forward button. No prima donna, Clement takes the criticism well. "I guess it's kinda slow-moving," he responds, "but that's sort of the idea. The main character's supposed to be experiencing the death of his will to live, and it's all about how he's giving up on life and he's become this sort of fatigued, soulless individual."

Hmmm. Maybe I fast-forwarded through that part. At any rate, for microbudget film fans with more patience than yours truly, The Dead Inside will be screened at the Video In Studios on Sunday (December 4), with Clement in attendance. The film had its world premiere at Portland's H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival in October. "It went over really well," he claims. "I guess the only complaint really was that it was kind of lethargic, but that's fine. I mean, I'm not tryin' to make an action movie. It's a low-budget haunted-house movie, that's what it is."

The budget for The Dead Inside was a paltry $4,000, which sometimes covers the cost of on-set lattes for a regular Hollywood shoot. But it's still a grand less than what was spent on Clement's previous feature, 2003's Exhumed. "I figured I should probably just try and spend less money," he says. "And it [The Dead Inside] was a simpler movie because it didn't have the need to create three different worlds like with Exhumed, where we did the post-apocalyptic thing, feudal Japan, and the 1940s. This one was just the 1940s. And I was able to save some money, too, because we reused a lot of props and some of the costumes from Exhumed as well."

The Dead Inside veers away from the nudity and gore of Exhumed, the Meat Market flicks, and 2002's Binge?&?Purge, about fashion models who cannibalize the homeless. But aren't boobs 'n' blood what people watch these type of flicks for in the first place? "Yeah, sure," Clement agrees, "but I'm tryin' to be original. So I wanted to do something that went for a more unnerving, surreal feel. I could have played to the market, but I just didn't really feel like doing that this time."

For his next project, Clement is threatening to tone down the red stuff yet again. "I was thinking of doing kind of an alternative 1950s fantasy/sci-fi kinda thing," he reveals, "where magic is the reality and people are fighting these battles in the astral plane. I wanted to work in a lot of themes I had with The Dead Inside, with lucid dreaming and ideas about sleep disorders and things like that."

That heart-wrenching sound you can hear in the distance is the weeping of Fangoria subscribers.