Enter the Haunted World of Filmmaker Joshua Kennedy
Welcome to Bay Of The Living Dead, a regular column about the horror genre.
Joshua Kennedy loves movies. The 27 year old Texas native already has 19 directorial credits at imdb.com, all of which appear to be homages to the classic films he loves. With titles like The Fungus Among Us, Slave Girls on the Moon, and Attack of the Octopus People, Kennedy is well on his way to being the next Roger Corman, the still active auteur who’s made millions producing and directing low budget chillers since the 1950s.
Kennedy tells BAS what inspires his film making adventures.
“Anything, really,” he says. “Other films. Actors. If I enjoy a film, I immediately want to make one similar.”
Kennedy doesn’t allow little things like not having sets or money stop him. In 2015 he wrote, directed and starred in Airline ’79, his own take on the classic airport disaster movies which were so popular during the 1970s. As he puts it, he became obsessed with those films one summer.
“And then I realized, why don’t I just make a movie about being an airline pilot,” he recalled. “That’s when I made Airline ’79, an airport film, made without an airport or airplane! I mean, you look at the films I’ve made and they have direct links to other, older films, some more obvious than others.”
Airline ’79, which clocks in at 51 minutes, is available for free viewing at You Tube. And as viewers can see, Kennedy didn’t let the fact that he didn’t have an airport or an airplane at his disposal prevent the film from being made.
One film Kennedy is obsessed with is The Gorgon, a 1964 horror movie produced by England’s Hammer Films, a production company which pretty much owned the horror genre for almost twenty years starting in 1957. Horror icons Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee and Barbara Shelley star in The Gorgon, an atmospheric tale set in a European village over a hundred years ago. In the film, Lee is trying to solve the mystery of a series of bizarre deaths in which all the victims turn to stone. The culprit: an ancient Greek creature who has snakes in her hair: don’t look her in the eye or…..
“I first saw The Gorgon when I was about five or six, and it was just one of the films that grabbed me by the shirt collar and didn’t let go,” Kennedy said. “It was, and still is, my favorite film of all time. It just clicks, the acting, the direction, the music, the story, the atmosphere, my God, the atmosphere. I want to live in that little town of Vandorf. I don’t want to turn to stone, of course, but it’s like asking someone what their favorite book is, or what their favorite music is. It’s something that takes you to your happy place. The Gorgon is my happy place.”
Of course it was only a matter of time until Kennedy paid tribute to The Gorgon. In 2019 he wrote, directed and co-starred in the no-budgeter House of the Gorgon, a film featuring not one, but two women with snakes in their hair whose stare can turn onlookers into stone. Amazingly, the two evil sisters are played by veteran actresses Caroline Munro and Martine Beswick, both of whom starred in several Hammer horror films back in the day. Beswick is also a Bond girl, having co-starred in the early James Bond films From Russia With Love (1963) and Thunderball (1965). Rounding out the cast are former Hammer horror stars Veronica Carlson and Christopher Neame. With House of the Gorgon Kennedy shows that he is a man who makes his dreams come true. He explains how he got the Hammer stars to appear in his super low budget extravaganza.
As he tells it, Kennedy met Beswick at a horror convention called Monster Bash a few years back. He approached Beswick and asked her if she would make a video with him. Much to his surprise, she agreed!
“It’s this very silly video where I ‘sing’ about my love to her,” said Kennedy. “It’s on You Tube as The Night is Young–Kennedy Beswick.”
Kennedy said that they had a blast shooting the video and became tremendous friends. Over the next few years every time Beswick appeared at a convention in the USA, she and Kennedy would make another video.
“After awhile, her best friend and fellow Hammer actress/Bond girl Caroline Munro wanted to be in a video too, and who is going to say no to Caroline Munro? We made about four or five of these silly You Tube videos. Finally, it was Caroline who nonchalantly said we should all make a movie together. Well, that was the start of it. On the plane home after the convention I wrote the whole plot of the movie on a vomit bag.”
The final product, set in Europe over a hundred years ago, was shot in Texas over a period of just a few days. Kennedy plays a young aristocrat living in a castle who brings his fiance (Georgina Dugdale) home to meet his aunt. What she doesn’t know is that he’s unleashed an ancient horror which threatens the entire village. Kennedy says that part of the film was financed through an Indiegogo campaign which raised $13K.
“Not as much as I would have liked but that wasn’t going to stop me,” he said.
While House of the Gorgon can’t escape it’s no budget roots, it’s impressively well done. The 1900-era costumes look authentic, and the cast play off each other well, with the Hammer stars being particularly good, no surprise considering their vast experience. Some of the sets look like they were put together for a community theater production, but that just adds to the fun. And Kennedy pays homage not only to The Gorgon, but to many of his other passions. The set for the castle entryway is decorated with portraits, one of them being Barnabas Collins, the vampire from the classic TV series Dark Shadows and another of the late actress Ingrid Pitt, who starred in two Hammer horror classics, The Vampire Lovers (a naughty but fun flick about a lesbian vampire) and Countess Dracula. Other faces familiar to horror fans also grace the castle walls.
There’s no doubt about it, Kennedy is a talented and imaginative young man. It would be most fascinating to see what he would do were he given a Hollywood sized budget.
“I hope they have fun,” Kennedy said when asked what he hopes audiences will take from the film. “One of the best things I heard at the premiere for the film was an older woman telling me that she had flashbacks to her youth while watching it. She would watch the Hammer films on TV with her family. That made the entire experience worthwhile, because that’s all I really wanted to do in the first place. I personally wanted to see a classic Hammer film that hadn’t been made, and I’m happy to say I think I did a fine job.”
And while you’re at it, check out Dracula AD 2015, Kennedy’s other Hammer horror tribute. Shot at New York’s Pace University while Kennedy was a student there, and at various locales around New York City, the film tells the story of a revived Count Dracula (the fabulously named Xander Pretorius) who terrorizes a group of college students in the Big Apple. The film is available for free viewing on You Tube–it’s very well made and is filled with sly in joke references to classic Hammer horror.