For the Love of “Havoc” and Grindhouse: An Interview with Rene Perez

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Rene Perez is one his way to becoming the new millennium’s go-to guy for grindhouse films. Growing up during the era of the late 70s to 80’s B-movie dominating force, Perez is known for his microbudget films involving horror and action. He is also responsible for the discovery of Robert “Bronzi” Kovacs, whose uncanny resemblance to Charles Bronson led to Perez making Death Kiss, which pays homage to the classic Death Wish series. Perez’s iconic horror franchise, which brings force the serial killer Havoc, gets a dose of Bronzi in Cry Havoc, which will be released on May 5 from Midnight Releasing.

WorldFilmGeek took the opportunity to speak with Perez about the film and some upcoming releases and the love of grindhouse cinema.

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Rene, I am honored to be talking with you. I’ve become a huge fan of your films. I love that they have the grindhouse feel and it shows more with your latest film, Cry Havoc.
Wow! You got my intention. Thank you! A lot of people don’t get it. I’m guessing you’re well versed in film.

I actually was a Film Studies major.
Well, I’m glad you can appreciate it. A lot of people don’t and that’s understandable. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. For my microbudget sensibilities, it’s not only the way to go, but it’s very happy work for me because I love those kinds of things too, for nostalgia reasons. Not because they’re the best movies ever made, but I do remember that time. So I share your enthusiasm for it so thank you for noticing it.

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6’5″ actor and stuntman J.D. Angstadt has played Rene Perez’s iconic Havoc in 4 films

I got to be a fan of Robert Bronzi after seeing Death Kiss and last year, I caught the Playing with Dolls franchise. How did it feel to bring the character of Havoc back after the previous films?
The first two films (Playing with Dolls and Playing with Dolls: Bloodlust) I had to film because they were being released with extreme cuts. So, I consider there are two, the third one (Playing with Dolls: Havoc) and the new one, Cry Havoc, which is coming out on May 5. So, for the first two, I did scenes that I chopped out but then there were more scenes chopped out that involved the horror and nudity scenes. And we had to put in scenes that I never intended to put in because they weren’t good. So, I said goodbye to the first two films and consider the last two the real Havoc movies.

But it was great. I talked to my producer [Kasey Dollar] and we filmed it quite a while ago. I have no idea why they waited until now to release it. I’ve been really bull-headed about making sure they don’t censor it. It was originally supposed to be released in theaters, but they wanted to censor and I said no, you have to find a way to release it as is. Because these are cheap slasher films, they have to have what makes the audience happy, what they really want. And because they are so timid lately, filmmakers don’t really make those 70s or 80s style slasher movies anymore because all the directors are perhaps afraid of #MeToo, to tell the chick to take off her clothes for the movie. I’m not afraid to say anything to tell them. I tell them, this is the part, you will have to be naked and I don’t hold back from the violence either. I mean I don’t like to show violence as a good thing, but when you have a slasher like the Havoc films, you really show all of the disaster in all its glory (Laughs).

Since I made these movies, I’ve found there’s a huge love for the Havoc movies. It’s my most popular thing, my most popular creation. Except maybe for Bronzi, but I didn’t create him. I just discovered him and put him in movies (Laughs). But Havoc is my most beloved work. I get emails everyday from people who love the films. I always try to make them as good as I can with my cheap little microbudgets because I know there are a lot of hopes. People really hope it delivers. So yes, it’s very fun but it’s also nerve-racking because I know each new one has to be better than the last. No excuses.

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Robert Bronzi as the cop tracking down his daughter in Cry Havoc (Dollar Films)

That’s awesome! Well, as mentioned, I became a fan of Robert Bronzi, from Death Kiss and Once Upon a Time in Deadwood. Did you have him in mind when you wrote the script for Cry Havoc?
I didn’t. I was just planning another Havoc movie and I was saying I have to have a police character. So as I was writing it, I don’t know when it was, but it got to the point where I just said, crap, I’ll just call Bronzi. I called him and I said look, this is going to be crazy, but just imagine that this is something Cannon Films could have done.

It’s like Ten to Midnight, where Charles Bronson was chasing a serial killer who targets nurses. This is more like Charles Bronson vs. Jason, or something like that. So, yeah, I thought it was a crazy idea and I thought, would this be too weird? But I had to make it right where it didn’t fall into the total world of camp. I wanted to bring the cool side of camp. Again, it was fun for my own eccentricities, but also very nerve-racking because it could have gone wrong. It’s only up until now that I’m getting good reviews and critics are liking it, so I know it’s a success. (Laughs) Very relieved.

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The great Richard Tyson as “The Voyeur” in Cry Havoc (Dollar Films)

That’s great. I’m also a fan of Richard Tyson, since his breakout role in Three O’Clock High and here he is returning to play the Voyeur. I’m sure he was more than excited to play the role.
Yeah! Richard is quite a character. He’s been in several of my movies. He and I are friends now. We’ll call each other, say Hello for Christmas kind of friends. He’s hung out with my family while we’re filming. He’s a really great guy. He’s actually an artistic actor. With the material I have, he’s so much better than what I wrote. It is what it is, but when he does it, he’s really great! He would say you’re making me a worst villain than I played (Laughs). I think he’d rather be the hero. He certainly does a great job at [playing the villain]. He’s too slimy of a character not to (Laughs).

Definitely! I mean he was the main villain in Death Kiss and you can even go as far as Kindergarten Cop. I mean I think he’ll always be known for his villain roles more than anything. But he does it so well! That’s what’s great about it.
Oh yeah! And he’s such a great actor. I mean he’s totally underrated. This is a guy who practices Shakespeare when he’s not filming and he’ll do stage plays. I mean he’s really really staked in the craft of acting. Not only does he have the technique, but he also has an artistic ability, which is something that Hollywood actors usually never have. It’s an artistic spark and he’s got it! Whatever role he’s given, he brings that artistic value to it and I’m very lucky to have him working with me.

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Emily Sweet as Ellen, who attempts to fight the titular killer in Cry Havoc (Dollar Films)

That’s awesome! How long did shooting take and what, if any, difficulties did you face during shooting Cry Havoc?
We filmed for about 20, 25 days or longer. We filmed in a burned-out forest so every step we took, the ash filled our lungs. That’s pretty much it. We do microbudget films, so it’s just me and my actors. We don’t have a crew or anything like that. It’s just me and the actors climbing up and down hills, and they help me carry my equipment and I carry equipment. Everyone does their own stunts and it’s always difficult, but who would ever complain about it? Nothing really stands out as incredibly difficult from this movie. Just hard days with long hours and no sleep to make these movies happen.

As I mentioned, I’m becoming a fan of your films and I came across a trailer for a film called Cabal. It looks really good. Can you give us some insight on that film?
Cabal is about a government, shadow assassin who is hired to kill a serial killer. But it’s got a great twist and I don’t want to spoil anything. It’s kind of like Havoc but more on the super grindhouse level. Where Cry Havoc and some of the others are taken more seriously, this one is flat out kung fu movie vs. slasher movie and all the hot chicks and blood and guts will all be there. It is something I think Cannon Films would have done in 1983. When I did Death Kiss, I said, we’re going to pretend it’s 1982 and we’re going to film just like that.

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Robert Bronzi in a promo still for Death Wish VI…err, Death Kiss.

That’s how I felt. I thought if Bronson was still alive, Death Kiss could have been Death Wish VI.
Well, I designed it that way and I’m sure I will eventually do a sequel to it. I designed them as to say they could be Death Wish sequels if you choose to, or want to believe that. There’s no impedence. He doesn’t have a different name. He doesn’t have a different backstory. It’s to make you think that this could be seen as a lost sequel to the Death Wish series.

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Chase Bloomquist in Perez’s The Dragon Unleashed

Another favorite of mine was The Dragon Unleashed and I felt I was watching an American Ninja movie.
Yeah, that was exactly was I was intending to do. I loved ninjas when I was a kid. The ninja kind of looked like Snake Eyes from the G.I. Joe franchise. He was my favorite action hero. He still is. I have him in a box somewhere. That movie is basically like a Snake Eyes movie. I don’t show the tattoo but yeah, I made The Dragon Unleashed an American Ninja style movie and I actually wanted Michael Dudikoff to be a part of it.

But, the only role we had left for the budget was for the villain and I didn’t want that role to go to Dudikoff, so I ended up getting another 80s icon, John Schneider from The Dukes of Hazzard. He’s so much better of an actor than I thought! Maybe it was because my 5-year old brain remembered The Dukes of Hazzard, but man he was so good! It shocked me. He made my badly written dialogue sound awesome (Laughs).

Finally, are there any new projects in the works that you can talk about?
Yes! I would like to talk about a movie called The Insurrection. It just came out and it’s available on Vimeo. And this is a movie that’s in quite a situation. This is a movie that I made that’s not being distributed right away. It’s being blacklisted because it exposes a lot of the Hollywood manipulation of purchasing beloved franchises and using them as tools of indoctrination and Hollywood politics. And it’s because critically, this could be my best film and it’s being blacklisted. We had to release the movie on our own just on Vimeo.

It’s a really strange situation because I’ve made some stinkers like Once Upon a Time in the West and some others and they get distributed right away and I haven’t even finished them. They’ll be like send it to us and I’m running to FedEx with a hard drive. But to hear my best film is being blacklisted because it exposes a lot of the stuff involved in Hollywood and this is going to sound even crazier. But in the film, which we shot in 2019, we talked about the government releasing a plague on us! A virus! We mentioned it a few times. I don’t know if that’s the reason. I mean to me, it’s just a movie plot. I don’t have any knowledge of this thing.

I am urging people to check it out. Go to TheDarkestMachines.com or look up my name on Vimeo and you can rent or buy that movie.

I’m going to have to check that out too! It just sounds intriguing and I saw the IMDB page and another favorite actor, Michael Pare, is in it and I saw him in lots of 80s films and in Once Upon a Time in Deadwood.
Man this is awesome! This is a treat for me, talking to someone who is well versed in films!

(Laughs) Well, growing up in New York, I used to go with my dad to the video store in the Bronx every weekend and he would rent a B-movie action flick for me and he would rent the horror films, which he let me watch occasionally.
Those were the good ol’ days!

Exactly and when I started watching your films, it brought me back to those days! It was like I miss those old days! It has been such a pleasure to talk to you about Cry Havoc and all these latest movies. And I hope you and your family stay safe!
Thank you so much! I hope you and your family are staying safe as well!

A Special Thank You goes to October Coast PR and Rene Perez for making this interview possible. For more on Rene and his films, go to TheDarkestMachines.com. Cry Havoc comes to VOD on May 5 from Midnight Releasing. 

 

 

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