by ROBERTO E. D’ONOFRIO
In an undefined time, in an underground bunker, five people fight to survive while outside the world is ravaged by the apocalypse. Evil has been generated by the infected blood of “Patient Zero” and groups of former soldiers called “the Exterminators” are engaged in hunting and crucifying every person they find in their search for the root of Evil. But are the five survivors really safe in their hideout or is there something out there they don’t know about?
After a 32-year hiatus, filmmaker Claudio Lattanzi returns sitting on the director chair with his second feature film: EVERYBLOODY’S END, a throwback to the golden age of Italian Horror, starring such veterans as Giovanni Lombardo Radice, Cinzia Monreale and Marina Loi, with a crew of technicians and artists that horror fans should recognize. You may not be familiar with Claudio Lattanzi, as he used he pseudonym “Claude Milliken” for his first movie, Killing Birds (1987), which was filmed in Louisiana with an almost entire English speaking cast. But he’s worked with most of the cult Italian directors of horror and giallo throughout his long career, including Dario Argento and Michele Soavi, for whom Lattanzi served as assistant director on Dario Argento’s World of Horror, Deliria and The Church, and Aristide Massaccesi (alias Joe D’Amato), who produced Killing Birds. A lasting friendship with Soavi led him to direct the docufilm Aquarius Visionarius: The Cinema of Michele Soavi (2018), which spanned the whole career of the author of Dellamorte Dellamore and received an overall positive response from audiences and critics at festivals throughout Europe.
EVERYBLOODY’S END is an homage to the cult classics from the ’70s and ’80s, but also a very personal and authorial picture with an epilogue that turns toward the metaphysical, thanks to a very effective photography by director (and Pupi Avati editor) Ivan Zuccon. Shot in English, the film had it’s world premiere last October at Sitges and will be released worldwide next month.
It’s been 32 years since “Killing Birds”; what took you so long to direct another feature film?
Yes, it’s been quite a long time, but I haven’t been inactive! After Killing Birds I was supposed to direct Witchcraft, again produced by Aristide Massaccesi [Joe D’Amato] and [production company] Filmirage, which was instead directed by Fabrizio Laurenti. I wrote the original script, although I have never been credited anywhere for that, so that affected our relationship and I left the company. I then started to write screenplays for television, TV programs and horror and thriller novels with young authors, therefore even if I didn’t direct any movie, I remained in the movie business. The years in which I have been totally inactive were six or seven years in the nineties, during which I got married, had children and I have been doing other completely different things, because I got tired of this business. I also didn’t talk with Michele Soavi, as during filming of The Sect, I had some arguments with the production and so I helped for about two weeks and then I left. But you know, you can’t really leave this business, especially if you have grown up in it and you have walked on sets with Dario Argento and Michele Soavi.
Actually I wasn’t thinking about doing another horror film, but in those years there was the transition from film-print to digital, also the way of editing movies has changed completely and I was very curious about the new technologies. I met Stefano Balassone, who was a TV producer and owned a TV production company named Interferenze and I started to work with him, learning about the new cameras and editing and I began writing again for television. In 2008 I had a State subsidy for a drama short titled La vita è già finita? (Is life over yet?), which was also screened at Festival international du court métrage de Clermont-Ferrand and after I started working on a book about all the important movie business people that I had met in my career and the impact they had in my formation. I interrupted writing the book because from that I had the idea of doing Aquarius Visionarius: the Cinema of Michele Soavi, which I did in 2018 and when digital reached a quality that equaled, if not surpassed, film, allowing you to do a professional movie, even with a low budget, I finally went back to my love for horror with EVERYBLOODY’S END.
What really happened with “Witchcraft”?
As I said, I did write the original script and I should have also directed it. I was working alongside Daniele Stroppa, who then wrote the screenplay, and Bette Davis was supposed to be cast as the witch. I’ve always loved her, she is my favorite actress and I know all of her films, I would have gone to her on my knees in order to have her on our movie. Then unfortunately she fell ill and I think she died the next year, so her role went to Hildegard Knef, Joe D’Amato gave the director chair to Fabrizio Laurenti and, I still don’t know why, he never got me credit for writing the script, something that made me mad, but I can prove it, as I have the screenplay of the movie with the Filmirage seal and “Original story by Claudio Lattanzi” written on it.
Aristide Massaccesi, a.k.a. Joe D’Amato gave you the opportunity to direct your first feature film. How did you meet him?
I had seen some of his horror films, as Buio Omega and Antropophagus. I met him through Michele Soavi, as he had worked with Massaccesi as Assistant Director and electrician. My first job was of Assistant Director for Soavi on the documentary Dario Argento’s World of Horror, after that he told me that there was this producer who offered him to direct a horror movie, Deliria, and asked me to be his assistant, therefore I was introduced to Massaccesi and began working for Filmirage, his production company. He was a hilarious man, but at the same time very demanding and very professional. Although he was making B-movies with small budgets, they looked as if he had much more money and for me, working with him was an important experience into professional movie making. He gave me the chance to learn a job, something that today is not possible anymore.
Killing Birds is a controversial picture with a script that’s a little confusing… can you tell us what really happened?
I started working at Filmirage in 1986, doing any kind of job. Aristide saw in me someone who was capable of meticulous planning and that was doing things with passion. Deliria was a big success and won the Fear Award at the prestigious Avoriaz Fantastic Film Festival, therefore Filmirage became a small but well-known production company and was willing to produce more horror films. During the Christmas holidays I had written a short subject, about 12 pages long, titled “The obsolete gate” and I showed it to Massaccesi, he read it and after a few days he called me back saying that it was interesting and that we could work on it and make a feature film. He asked some changes to be made and to insert the rare “ivory-billed woodpecker” backstory, a species last seen in Louisiana, as he had some contacts that allowed us to film there, which was easier than filming in Italy. The first version of the script was more about zombies, but after Massaccesi requests I wrote a new script and titled it “Claws”. He revised it again with screenwriter Daniele Stroppa and changed the title to Killing Birds, because he thought that “Claws” sounded more as something dealing with cats. I never liked that title. Anyway, Massaccesi offered me to direct it, as it all generated from my idea and said it would have supported me and gave me advice in case I had any problem. Later, it has been said that I didn’t direct it and even that the script was not written by me, but I can assure you that Killing Birds is my movie. It was overseen by Massaccesi, but I’ve written the story, filmed it, supervised the music and the editing, although I wasn’t fully satisfied with the final result due some issues with post-production. For example, the final scene generated confusion in the audience and also the many different misleading titles with which it was released (Zombie 5; Raptors). I tell you a little anecdote about the film: the house where, at the beginning of the film, the students meet the blind Dr. Fred Brown, a bird specialist played by Robert Vaughn, is the same featured in Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond, while the rest of the movie was filmed in an abandoned house in Thibodaux, about 60km from New Orleans.
“You can’t really leave this business, especially if you have grown up in it and you have walked on sets with Dario Argento and Michele Soavi.”
Back to “EVERYBLOODY’S END,” what brought you back to the director chair?
I wanted to return to my love for the horror genre, to get back in the game, because I thought I had something to say and I wanted to create something different from the horror that you usually see in many contemporary independent pictures. I wanted to go back to the atmospheres of the horror movies made in the ’80s, but modernizing the story, involving technicians and actors with whom I worked at the beginning of my career, or that were famous in those years. So I had a meeting with Antonio Tentori, who worked with Lucio Fulci, Bruno Mattei and Dario Argento, to name a few, and asked him to help me write the screenplay for EVERYBLOODY’S END, which at first should have been a homage to Hammer and in particular Scars of Dracula, a film very violent with Christopher Lee, which I love and inspired me. Writing the story together we later abandoned that initial idea, because we decided to make it a more personal film, we have not created anything totally new and the themes are those typical of the cinema of fear, but I wanted to do something that represented me, something that winked at filmmakers as Paul Morissey and Jesus Franco, whom I adore. We then put together an amazing cast, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, with whom I worked on the sets of Deliria and The Church. I didn’t know Cinzia Monreale, but after she appeared in The Beyond and Buio Omega, I really wanted her in my film and then I cast Marina Loi, who was in Demons 2 and Zombie 3. I was really happy that they accepted to get involved. I then mixed their seasoned experience with the one of three young actors: Veronica Urban, Tania Orlandi and Lorenzo Lepori, who is also a filmmaker (Catacomba).
After, we recruited a professional crew of very well-known technicians: Sergio Stivaletti did the make up FX and even starred in a cameo role, Antonello Geleng, who was awarded the David di Donatello prize for his work in Cemetery Man and worked with Federico Fellini, Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento, was my artistic supervisor and Ivan Zuccon, who is Pupi Avati’s trusted editor and an appreciated director of such movies as Color from the Dark, Wrath of the Crows and Herbert West’s Re-Animator, served as cinematographer. At first I was a bit worried of working with another well-known director of horror movies, but he did an amazing job and the photography is terrific. I wanted the movie to have a claustrophobic look and he did it great. I really hope to have him again on the set of my next movie. Luigi Seviroli’s soundtrack was also an added value to the movie, again he wrote the music for two Michele Soavi TV movies. At the Sitges Film Festival they said that EVERYBLOODY’S END is an authorial and very experimental film and I am very happy about that.
How did you come up with the title?
It’s a wordplay between “everybody” and “bloody” and it can be read as: “everybody blood will end”. It was conceived by Federico Monti, a writer with whom I collaborate. One day I told him all about the movie and asked for advice about the title, he suggested EVERYBLOODY’S END and I immediately fell in love with it.
I know that you are a collector of 35mm movies… tell us about that.
Yes, I am insane, like all collectors. I started collecting Super 8 films when I was very young; at that time VHS didn’t exist and you could buy the Super 8 version of some titles, especially in England from Deran Films which printed that format. Later on I decided to switch to 35mm, which is the professional format screened in theaters. Unfortunately you need a big projector and film reels have a very large size, so you must have a big warehouse to keep them in. Due to space problems I had to sell some of the movies of my collection, but I still keep the titles that I consider important to me. I have, among others, many Dario Argento films, like Deep Red, the Technicolor copy of Suspiria (a movie that I believe to be perfect and I have watched 77 times in theaters), plus many more in other different formats. I own Inferno, Tenebre, Phenomena, Lamberto Bava’s Demons, The House with the Laughing Windows and Zeder, directed by Pupi Avati, Zombi 2, George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, Murder on the Orient Express and Cannibal Holocaust by Ruggero Deodato. It’s also a way to preserve for future generations part of the history of Cinema; when I first got Suspiria I almost cried for the emotion of having at home one of the 35mm copies that were screened for the first time in 1977. Collectors are a bit crazy, but I know that you understand me because you have a very big collection of original movie posters.