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Toledoans Doug Agosti, left, and Lance Otto Smith, shown with a couple of props from their horror films, have compiled three of their best videos - including their latest, The Town That Loved Pizza - into a new release, Tales of Terror.
(THE BLADE/LORI KING)
By CHRISTOPHER BORRELLI BLADE STAFF WRITER
Ever wonder what kind of movie you could make if you had no actors, no lighting, no fancy-schmancy digital computer effects, no decent sound recording, no distribution, no funding, no money, no script supervisor, no assistant to the assistant, no gaffer, no best boy, no sets, and no time to shoot - only a lousy old-fashioned VHS camcorder thatís not even digital?
For the last few years Toledoans Doug Agosti and Lance Otto Smith have been asking themselves the same question. Next week, Smith and Agosti, host of the former Dr. Shockís X-Ray Chiller Theater on WUPW-TV, Channel 36, release Tales of Terror, a video of their three best shots at cinematic splendor: The Garden Tool Murders (self-explanatory), Demons Day (ditto), and their latest and most, ahem, accomplished, The Town That Loved Pizza. It tells the tender story of a pizza parlor that uses ground-up bodies for pizza toppings.
Total cost: $350.
"The biggest part of our budget was the rental for the wood chipper," Agosti said.
How unaffected are these guys? I asked Doug if The Town That Loved Pizza - with its snowy setting, small-town police, and bodies fed into wood chippers - was his Fargo, and he honestly hadnít made the connection. But like the Coen brothers and Fargo, he claims it is kinda-sorta based on a true story. "Lance said it happened somewhere in the upper parts of Michigan in this pizza-slash-Italian restaurant. A guy murdered his wife, chopped off her head and left it on a neighborís front porch, then put her body in the pizza oven. I donít know if itís true, but I know when Lance gave me the script, he asked if there was anything I wanted to change and I said ĎAbsolutely not, Lance!í"
And so, as we move into the second millennium, Agosti and Smithís wonderful Ed Woodian instincts remain intact. Agosti and Smithís chop-and-cheese trilogy is available Tuesday at Boogie Records for $13.99 on VHS; if youíre thinking rental, Video News on Alexis Road will have copies. Either way, support your local schlock filmmakers - without movies like this there would be a little less light in the world.
If you want to meet Agosti and Smith, they will celebrate the release of their video on Saturday with Shockfest 2002 at 8 p.m. in the Ohio Theatre, 3114 Lagrange St. Itís two hours of Dr. Shock skits, bands, and cheap horror films loaded with exploding heads and demons and stuff. Tickets are $6. Information: 419-241-6785. Be there or be scared.
by Mark Tinta
Saturdays at midnight from 1989 to 1992, Toledo audiences were treated to the cheesy antics of "Dr. Shock's X-Ray Chiller Theater" on Fox 36. The show was a throwback to the "Ghoulardi"-style horror host television genre and earned significant cult status in the greater Toledo area, showing mostly horror classics like the "Friday the 13th" series and the "Halloween" films. After the show was taken off the air, the men behind Dr. Shock, Toledo natives Douglas J. Agosti (who plays Dr. Shock) and Lance Otto Smith, formed After Shock Productions to make independent horror films. The filmmakers have enjoyed modest success: Recently, the British-based Crypt Keeper Films licensed the duo's anthology horror film "Dr. Shock's Tales of Terror," for video and DVD release in the United Kingdom.
The two also will premiere "The Town That Loved Pizza" at Shockfest 2002, this Saturday, May 11, at 8 pm at the Ohio Theatre. "This all started when we got pulled off the air to make room for infomercials," says Smith, 40, an accounts receivable manager. "I told Doug that I had some story ideas for some short films, and we more or less joined forces and formed After Shock Productions." He and Agosti, 41, a sales representative, write, direct, act and dabble in just about everything else behind the scenes, including casting and marketing. They initially sold their work through classified ads in the famed horror film magazine Fangoria. Early short films in their collaboration include virtual no-budget fare like "A Winter's Chill" and "The Dweller," but Smith says he and Agosti eventually found blood and gore via the Internet to be their true calling. "Those early films really weren't the direction we wanted to go," says Smith. "Then the Internet took off, and we decided to go that route, and abandon the whole classified ad idea. We then started toying with the idea of doing splatter movies, and it stuck. For us, the rule is now 'the more splatterrific, the better.'" Such "splatterrific fare" that caters to Dr. Shock's fan base of "couch potatoes and vivacious video junkies," includes the three short films that comprise "Dr. Shock's Tales of Terror:" "The Town That Loved Pizza," "The Garden Tool Murders" and "Demons Day." All three were filmed over the last two years and feature both Smith and Agosti, along with their own stock company of local talent. "Demons Day" features appearances by Toledo icons Bob Kelly and Dennis Staples. The first film to attract notice in the indie horror underground was "The Garden Tool Murders," featuring Smith as a homicidal greenskeeper. The film, despite its obvious low budget, does exhibit moments of discernible style and a nice twist ending. The movie Web site ifilm.com had over 20,000 hits on 'The Garden Tool Murders," says Smith. "We were the most-watched movie on ifilm's 'Thriller' channel," he says, "and I think we made the top five on their Comedy channel, since we had the movie under both categories."
It was around this time that England's Crypt Keeper Films noticed the duo's work on ifilm.com, and contacted Smith. "Crypt Keeper Films e-mailed me," Smith says. "We set up a conference call, and the main guys at Crypt Keeper said they were big fans of low-budget American horror, so we sent them a screener of our stuff, and they thought it was great. With things like Benny Hill and Monty Python, they love that kind of silly, campy humor. We made a deal, we sold them a digital master, and they'll produce their own tapes for video and DVD release in the United Kingdom." Yes, Smith and Agosti are well aware of the cheesy nature of their product, and they make no bones about it.
"It is what it is," Smith says with a laugh. "We don't sit around and pretend we're making something we aren't. Our movies are campy and not at all to be taken seriously. They're fun. We're not trying to fool people into thinking this is something that it's not. You can see from the stuff we do that we work with limited resources. These films are done for around $500, on weekends here or a day there, and when you take that into consideration, I think we do all right. I certainly would like the opportunity to do something bigger, so that's why Doug and I keep working at it. We figure if we throw enough shit out there, somebody's gonna step in it." And things are starting to click elsewhere for the duo, according to Agosti. "'Dr. Shock's Tales of Terror' may go out national on video through Maven Entertainment," the enthusiastic Agosti says. "It's not a done deal, but it's looking pretty likely. We'd just stick with VHS for now, because the movie doesn't offer much in the way of extras, it's not wide-screen, and there's really no added bonus for it being on DVD.
But future films we put together will definitely be tailored for DVD. We've already got ideas for 'Dr. Shock's Scary Stories and Dr. Shock's Frightening Fab-les.' As long as we can keep whipping these short films out, we'll keep coming up with titles." In addition to national U.S. distribution, Agosti and Smith are also in negotiations with Uncut Movie, a French distributor, and CMV Laser Vision, a German dis- tributor, for further European exhibition of their work. Locally, "Dr. Shock's Tales of Terror," will be available for purchase at Boogie Records and for rent at Video News (on Alexis Road and Lewis Avenue) on May 14. Agosti is also working on getting Dr. Shock back on the local airwaves. But first up on the Dr. Shock agenda, after the May 11 premiere of "Dr. Shock's Tales of Terror", is to complete their current film, "Bullet for a Vampire," featuring WSPD radio personality Mark Standriff.
For aspiring local filmmakers, the journey of Agosti and Smith has shown that despite budget limitations and the time constraints of holding down day jobs, hard work, dedication and perseverance can pay off. "It's all about networking," Agosti says. "We have to get our tapes out there, and show it to as many people as possible. Like Lance said, throw enough out there, and someone will step in it."