By Andrew Shearer- In a dimly lit bathroom, surrounded by candles, a pair of lovers sit naked lying against one another in abathtub. Romantic? Not quite. The tub is filled with blood, blood that flows in a constant stream from between one of the lovers' legs. In a matter of moments, a quarrel ensues, one woman is beating the other across the face with her breasts and choking her with them. The next, her partner fights back by standing up to deliver a violent burst of menses right into her face, shouting, 'have a little sample from my VULVA-MATIC!'
This isn't even close to being the most bizarre, funny or creative scene from The Period, an epic, art-meets-trash masterpiece for the no-budget camcorder filmmaking age. And like so many of the films you'll read about here at Pretty-Scary, it could not have been made without the help of some extremely brave and talented women. After interviewing The Period cast/crew member Valerie Castro (wielder of the malicious mammaries), I couldn't help but be completely enamored by her. She's funny, colorful, witty, and full of the kind of microcinema war stories I never tire of hearing... PS: Aside from playing "Clitoria" in 'The Period', what other aspects of production were you involved with?
VC: I think my official title was GLUE. I helped with costumes, makeup, casting, corralling, crowd control, warding off policemen and ghosts, blood spraying, diplomacy, artworks and inventions, pretty much the unofficial assistant director. We all worked on this film on and off, but mostly on for about two years.Sometimes I had to keep Jason (Smith, the writer/director) on this planet in terms of what we as human beings were capable of doing. Sometimes I had to keep Angela (Dix, who played the blood-gushing lead character 'Sherrie Hyman') from quitting.
That's what friends do, make movies together, sip wine and Pepsi while being sprayed in the face with lotsa blood, and drive each other crazy in order to make the best horror/art/feministic/camp/feel good movie of every year.
Valerie Castro in "The Period"
PS: Got any funny or dangerous stories from the set?
VC: This could be the entire interview right here! I think we were always in eminent danger of being arrested somewhere. There was a lot of filming in places where we shouldn't have been, leaving trails of red tempera paint everywhere, scaring people in suburban Laundromats, renting rooms in crack motels, going to a hippy/nudist camp to film, working in dilapidated buildings near train tracks and abandoned warehouses, all kinds of ridiculous locations. There are some funny moments included in outtakes or the bloopers on "The Period" DVD. Like when Angela and I called mutiny on Jason and decided he MUST know what being sprayed in face with tempera paint was like, while naked. At best we got him to his boxers. Or, when Angela and I spent eight hours in the tub of blood together. You really get to know your friends this way!
Every day we spent working on the movie something funny, ridiculous, scary, annoying or weird would happen without fail. Things NEVER went as planned. Everything took FOREVER. It was awesome! Then there's always the infamous electrocution of Angela. She's okay, now, but you would have to ask her about that.
(Andrew's note: according to the DVD commentary, a poorly-secured lighting rig fell into the bathtub while Angela Dix was sitting in the water, electrocuting her. She jumped out quickly, paramedics were called, and luckily Angela was ok. Who ever said art was safe?
If there's one image that works, it's bloodon a toilet seat.
PS: In addition to all the blood spilled in the film, there's also several scenes involving full nudity from the main cast members. What was your experience like doing this, and how do you feel when you watch it?
VC: I've actually had lots of naked phases in my life for some reason. I acted for a year as Magenta in 'Rocky Horror', as well as hosted drunken, naked field and pool parties. I've also modeled for art classes. Oh yeah, I think I was born naked too. I wasn't too concerned with the magnitude of nudity in store for me. Some of the things I had to do were just plain hard! It's easy to joke about "titty-smacking" someone but when it comes time to actually do it, that's something else and hard to do with a straight face, ever. Doing physical effects while naked is difficult. Remember the part where my boobs clang together with the sound of a cowbell? I was bent over in a cardboard box for half an hour, trying to explain the logistics of human flesh, what they will and won't do, to Jason. He was always full of fantastical ideas that a lot of times got left to me to pan out in reality. I was always thinking, god I can't wait to see what this really looks like on the screen!
I'm not a squeamish person so I had a ball when we finally had the premiere of "The Period" back in August of '06, at the Screenland Theatres, in Kansas City, Missouri. I actually got my mom and sister to go. I've been desensitizing them for ages, so we had a few walk outs, but only a few out of a packed house. I think they were some lesbian friends of Angela's who kept throwing around that "O" word, objectification, whatever. You're only objectified if you bow your head and start crying like a baby in agreement with the naysayers to true art and true fun. True freedom means not giving a fuck. My mom is proud.
PS: I would classify "The Period" as an art film more than a typical low-budget horror movie. Tell us about your background as a visual artist, and about the paintings you created for the movie.
VC: Well, I guess I've always been interested in art. I used to sit for hours and watch my grandpa paint on canvas. When I was five, I had my own gallery in my parent's basement where everything cost one million dollars apiece. Realistic I think. I won a bookmark art contest at school once and got in a fight because a dumb kid accused me of tracing. For awhile I went to an arts high school but ended up skipping a lot of school. The teachers had this weird habit of telling me what to do. Or what not do. I didn't like it. I didn't want to hate my own art so I skipped a lot of school and expanded my own mind, spent a lot of time at 24 hour diners and Barnes and Noble. Somehow I managed to graduate anyway, and on time!
Since then, I've shown my personal work a few times in cafes and galleries in Kansas City. Lately I've been illustrating t-shirts, stickers, buttons and flyers for local Kansas City punk/rock bands, Hopeless Destroyers and the Sixteens. I've always liked doing art for my friends and other people. It was sorta funny when Jason asked me to do the paintings for Clitoria. Vaginas everywhere! Each one took maybe a few minutes, which I thought was perfect and added to the pretention of the character. For the scene where Sherrie has her art show, which we actually held in a U-Haul, there were wife-beater tank tops that were given away. They were printed with fake blood, using actual, real vaginas. Truly authentic. I also invented the "spacebag underwear" used in the scene where Sharrie has the plunger going. I just made a few cuts, and presto! Wearable plastic underwear that has an extra pouch for blood and a spout to let it out! See? Box-o-wine is good for some things. Still, my favorite piece made for the movie was the giant color coded, paint by numbers vagina that Jason made that was supposed to be a painting done by Clitoria. It has been on my wall at home since, until recently I gave it up to a deserving friend, who now keeps it in her bathroom.
The mad gynecologist's office
PS: The reviews I've read for the movie seem to be either extremely positive or extremely negative. It seems to get a strong reaction either way. Why do you think this is?
VC: Jason Smith himself is a love 'em or hate 'em sort of anomaly, so it makes perfect sense to me that this would be the case. I've actually read some of those bad reviews, online mostly, and they seem to be coming from a place of pretention and snobbery. Maybe they don't fully grasp the concepts of what we were going for. Maybe they lost their sense of humor along the way. Maybe they didn't take into consideration that no budget really meant no budget. Maybe they have no guts. I don't think there's such a thing as bad press so they can hate it all they want, makes me love it even more. We may have hit the grey area and some people just don't know what to think!
'Honey? Yes dear? What the hell is this?
I don't know, Carl.'
I could rant and rave all day about the state of affairs of cinema these days and about shock value, but I won't. Any movie that is even given a second glance, good or bad, has done its job. "The Period" seems to get your attention either way, doesn't it?