A little while ago I blessed all of you with a review of one disturbingly good movie called “S&MAN” & now I have had the great pleasure to interview the Star of the film Mr. Eric Marciak. Here’s what he had to say about the himself, the film & a litany of other subjects:
The Black Saint: First of all, how are you doing today?
Eric Marciak: Fine! I’m doing alright.
TBS: Where are you calling me from?
EM: I live in Halifax.
TBS :In Canada?
TBS: Wow. I didn’t know you would be calling from there. This is a long distance call then I suppose. I’m sorry. I could’ve emailed you the questions & you could have responded in kind.
EM: It’s fine, no problem.
TBS: Ok. Let me start from the beginning here. Right now I’m looking at the IMDB entry for “S&MAN” & I wanted to find out a little more about your background in the film industry.According to the page besides some production assistant work you’ve done on a couple of movies you haven’t actually acted in any films before this. Is this correct?
EM: Yup, that’s it. I don’t know if you got the copy with the credit at the end but this is my feature debut.
TBS: I believe I have the copy that is going to be on sale. I didn’t go through all the credits after the film though. I went right to the special features section of the disc to see the complete “S&MAN” Episode 11 that was excerpted through the film in bits & pieces.
EM: Oh, ok, cool.
TBS: So what made you want to get started in this business? Did you always want to be an actor?
EM: Here’s the origin story of how I met J.T. Petty (The director of S&MAN). We actually went to film school here in Canada & I also attended NYU as well. And our first afterschool jobs were being production assistants on a film called “The Prince Of Central Park”. Sort of a kid’s movie & we both worked over that summer as production assistants & we both just bonded over our love of Horror movies & movies in general & we’ve been friends ever since then. It’s been about 10 years now that I’ve known him. In the meantime I wanted to be a screenwriter/director/actor. And since that point of being a production assistant I had the opprotunity to produce improv & sketch comedy theatre & was acting more on a theatre level on very low budget comedy shows. And that kind of rolled into reconnecting with J.T. and he had this script that was very loose. It was kind of like “Curb Your Enthusiasm”. It’s a very loose kind of scene that’s written out but you were improvising the whole time. So that’s where I kind of graduated from film maker to actor.
TBS: That answered my next question which was “How did you meet J.T. Petty”?
EM: Yeah, that would make it about 10 years or so that I’ve known him. Actually we met somewhere around 1997-98 give or take.
TBS: Do you have any siblings that are in the business as well?
EM: No, just me.
TBS: Are you an only child?
EM: Yeah, (laughing) That’s an odd question…
TBS: I’ll explain why I asked that question later, Actually I’ll do it now. I was an only child up until I was about 10 years old & my parents had a daughter. I have been a fan of Horror films for most of my life. The first Horror film I ever saw was Jean Rollin’s “Caged Virgins” & I think I was 6 years old. My father actually took me to see that & it’s kinda sort of been in my blood since then. But my sister never got into it as I did. I ask the question because I often wonder is it just me? Or are there other people in the business of making horror films who have siblings who aren’t interested in it or who look down on it.
EM: I think one of the connections is I had the same kind of upbringing. I saw the same kind of movies you did when I was a kid. Movies that stick to you. I was brought to a lot more “R” rated movies than I would ever bring my kid to if I was a parent.
TBS: There were four theatres in my neighborhood. Back in the 60’s-70’s you used to have double & triple features available & it didn’t matter what was playing as long as it wasn’t p*rno my dad took me to see whatever was playing. I don’t even think there as a rating system at the time. Films had “NR” at the bottom of the posters. So I saw essentially every exploitation movie that was available for me to see. I have 3 children & my 2 older daughters are just as into it as I am and that really makes me happy. It’s something that we share together. Now my son is only 9 & I won’t push him into what my dad did with me. With him, it’s still animated films as of now. The first genre film I’ve taken him to was “Hellboy 2” & he thought it was more of a superhero movie so it worked out well.
TBS: So having done this film, do you consider yourself a professional working actor now or is there another job that you do?
EM: Yeah, my day job. I write for a videogame company.
TBS: Oh! Which one?
EM: It’s a division of Ubisoft
TBS: Really? You know my two vices are Horror movies & videogames.
EM: It’s a small off shoot of Ubisoft.
EM: They kind of go hand in hand.
TBS: Yes they do. They actually do. If I’m not watching a movie or writing about one I’m playing a videogame.
EM: What did you think of “Dead Space”?
TBS: Which one? The Playstation 3 version or the Wii version?
EM: The Playstation version.
TBS: I think the PS3 version is awesome! It’s an amazing game & I jumped more than a few times while playing it through. Did you have anything to do with it?
EM: No,no. It’s just one of my favorite games.
TBS: It’s an awesome game & I can’t wait for part 2. The Wii version is called “Dead Space: Extraction” & it really isn’t a bad game either but it’s more of a…
EM: On rails?
TBS: Yeah, exactly. It’s on rails but for the Wii it’s pretty good & they don’t skimp on the gore. It just doesn’t look anywhere as good as the PS3 or XBOX 360 versions.
TBS: OK, back to the movie. Now in creating the character..I have to say you sold me completely. What was your process in creating that character?
EM: The great thing about the movie is that we shot it in order. Like when he met Fred Vogel or Bill Zebub, we were doing my first scenes & the character wasn’t fleshed out completely. But I got some idea of what my character could be like from looking at that footage he shot with them. We decided to make my character as charming & as scary as Hannibal Lecter. I wanted to make a character that challenged the most veteran Horror film fan the same way. We need a new thing to scare us , we wanted to make something that covered all the bases.
TBS: The Hannibal Lecter reference is spot on now that you mention it. Because there are scenes of you talking directly to the camera where you seem so mild mannered & personable. You seem like an average joe, not like a person who does what you do in the film & that comes across really…I mean it’s a palpable fear. I think it’s safe for me to say that I’ve seen just about everything there is to see horrorwise up until now but this character really creeped me out because of his innocence. There’s an innocence in your face when you’re delivering your dialogue and it really came across very well & I was wondering is that how you carry yourself? Are you that easy going next door neighbor type of guy?
EM: Well…yes & no. I guess I am kind of this way. I’m trying to figure out the proper way to explain this properly…
TBS: Well he definitely has his moments when you certainly get your buttons pushed in the film but you still have that kind, gentle face. The scene towards the end where you kick J.T. out of your home really gave me a chill because you were really pissed & yet you still had that kind face on. But I was thinking, “Fuck, he’s gonna kill J.T.” Mind you I still wasn’t aware of the “Twist” in the film yet. The scene played perfectly & if people stick around through the end credits (Spoiler alert!, skip to the next paragraph if you don’t ant to know about the twist, If you continue reading…don’t say I didn’t warn you). and they see that you are basically the only actor playing a scripted role in the film that’s when they’ll have the carpet pulled out from under them & they realize that you were playing a scripted role. But your features, although they never changed really conveyed the anger the character was feeling at the time. I mean..I felt the anger coming off of the screen. There was maybe a slight frown on your face but not much more than that & I still felt that you were about to kill somebody right there & then. I was really impressed with that, with the clarity of your emotions coming through your face.
EM: Thanks. The film was shot in a very fluid way & in that scene the script basically said that “J.T. pushes Eric’s buttons & he demands that he leave the house immediately. But that was it. It was all improv. We actualy shot that scene several times. I also tried to bring a bit of my comedic background into some scenes but they were edited out. They edited out the laughter I was getting from the crew & made it silent everytime I tried to loosen up the character. So in the final edit of the film the silence after I uttered one of my comedic lines really worked on selling the character as a very serious person. When I first saw the completed film I thought “Wow. They cut out that line & this line” but it worked. I loved the effect it had on the character.
TBS: That’s fascinating that you say that’s how some scenes were edited because they really help to sell your character as a scary f*cker. I was watching the movie last night in bed & your scenes really creeped me out. I might add that very little creeps me out nowadays so you should congratulate yourself on achieving that feat.
EM: I think some horror movies now..well I think some people are desensitized to some horror movies now. I’ll be watching a Jason or a Freddie Krueger film going through them sequentially & I find they become more comedic in nature as they progress.
TBS: Yes, They all do after the 2nd film in the series ususally. The third one is where they start inserting more punch lines behind every kill. Especially the “Nightmare On Elm Street” films. After a while people were going to to see the kills & hear Freddie’s punchline afterwards.
EM: I remember talking with J.T. about this & trying to make a movie that challenged people. This movie is more of a challenge to those in the audience who think they’ve seen everything but actually haven’t.
TBS: Well you guys certainly accomplished that. You knocked it right out of the park.
TBS: When you were filming the “S&MAN” shorts, how did you feel?
EM: Oh man, that’s a good question. Everytime we filmed a short & we got to the last shot where I kill someone. My heart was pumping & I was so nervous. It was almost like an out of body experience where I’m looking at myself & saying “What the f*ck am I doing? I’m holding a knife against the throat of a friend of mine that I’ll be slashing very soon”. It’s definetely not something you do everyday. So when I was put in those situations & had to film those scenes when J.T. yelled cut my heart felt like I had been doing some serious exercise…
TBS: Wow, that doesn’t come through at all in the finished product. You were as cool as a cucumber.
EM: Yeah, I was trying to hold it in. In addition, all of the girls I worked with in the film were friends of mine that I had worked with before in improv comedy shows & that made it a little more comfortable for me. I want to mention that in the last kill scene I tried to do it without conveying any emotion much like Hannibal Lecter did.
TBS: And you succeeded! You play that scene as if it was just another chore to do around the house, like throwing away the garbage. Just another mundane aspect of your day.
TBS: At any point during the film did you meet Bill Zebub Or Mike Vogel?
EM: That’s another good question..actually no I didn’t. It always seemed that they attended screenings that I couldn’t attend or vice versa. I wish I had the chance to though because we’re so bonded by this movie.
TBS: Yeah you are. I don’t know if you’re gonna be proud of this but I believe that anyone who sees this movie & sees a Zebub or Vogel film afterward is automatically going to think of you. The connection is there for life I think. How do you feel about that?
EM: I’m happy. It’s great promotion for independent film making.
TBS: You’re right, it is great promotion for independent filmmaking but what about you as a person? If you ever meet someone who has seen a Zebub film & seen yours, would you think that in the back of their mind as they’re talking to you they’re telling themselves “This guy is really sick”?
EM: You mean if people really think that I’m the character?
EM: I’m ok with that. The film played at a couple of film festivals & one time this girl came up to me and told me she dreamt about me the night before. And I thought to myself “This is what it’s going to be like to be an actor, women will come up to you & tell you they dream about you” & then she continued by saying that I was hiding in her closet & when she went to bed I came out & killed her!
TBS: Well, there goes the score dude.
EM: Yeah exactly (laughing) I thought I was going to score & didn’t.
TBS: I don’t know how many people are going to see this film. I implored all of my readers to see it as soon as possible but you do realize that you might’ve typecast yourself already because of the purity of your performance.right?
EM: I think it’s definetely great motivation to make sure my next role is the complete opposite of this one.
TBS: Yeah, I think it’s a good idea as well. A real over the top comedy would be good for you right now.
EM: Most definetely, But I still like the character & I’m so proud of the movie…
TBS: You should be.
EM: The movie is actually working as a sort of filter for me now concerning women. They see it & they either get it immediately or they get creeped out. I don’t know…it’s a part of me now.
TBS: Yeah. I don’t want to use the word “Typecasting” but you’re so convincing in the role that you might not be able to shake it.
EM: Well the goal now is to lose some weight & star in a romantic comedy.
TBS: As to the losing weight…that’s a goal for you & me both. I don’t think I’m going to be starring in any romantic comedies anytime soon though…
TBS: What’s your take on Bill Zebub & Fred Vogel? Have you seen any of their films?
EM: I saw some of Vogel’s stuff while we were filming & I just thought it was too much for me. They’re definetely the kinds of film that you could only watch once.
TBS: Yeah, I’ve been tempted to buy some of Vogel’s films but they’re so extreme. I don’t know if (as you said) I would watch them more than once. They are so over the top. I actually met Zebub once a few years ago at a FANGORIA convention & he was actually a very cool guy. He even offered to help us if we ever needed advice. We were working on a idea for a magazine at the time. But I’ve never seen any of his films either, I’ve read about them & I saw the clips of some of them in your film but I’ve never actually sat down & watched one beginning to end.
EM: I remember his movies had more of a comedy angle to them.
TBS: Yeah, just a title like “Jesus Christ: Serial Rapist” shows that he’s not taking this seriously. If you get the joke you’d love his films. If you don’t get it…well then you wouldn’t be watching it. What I respect about him is that he doesn’t care what people think about him or his films.
EM: Vogel is the same way. They do what they do & I was just happy that they were willing to be in the film & allow us to show some scenes from their movies.
TBS: Did J.T. direct this film before or after “The Burrowers”?
EM: Before. I actually think that in the middle of shooting this film he got the offer to do “The Burrowers”.
TBS: I actually saw “The Burrowers” for the first time about 3 weeks ago & I really liked it. It was sort of an intelligent “Tremors” that just happened to be set in the old west. I especially liked the fact that we really don’t get a good look at the creatures until about the last 3rd of the movie. It was more of a drama with elements of horror. I also really liked “Mimic 3”. It was far more intelligent than it needed to be.
EM: “Mimic 3” was the film that reconnected us actually. I looked him up on IMDB & saw that he had directed it & my first reaction was “Great, another cheap straight to video knock off” but it was actually really good & I managed to get in touch with him through a PA that had worked on the film that we both knew.
TBS: “S&MAN” opens with a scene from “Peeping Tom”. Have you seen that film?
EM: Oh yeah! Michael Powell is one of my favorite directors.
TBS: So sad that the film basically ruined his career as a director. He was perceived at the time to be a class act & the subject matter of “Peeping Tom” surprised a lot of people when they saw it & realized that he directed it. I think critics at the time looked at it as an exploitation film & nothing more. What is your definition of “Exploitation”?
EM: I guess that word has changed so much over the years. I would say the films of the 70’s define that word best. Films like “BloodSucking Freaks” for instance. But in actuality I look at the word as more representative of a time rather than a film.
TBS: I agree. The films of the 70’s into the early 80’s best define the word.
TBS: Since your film is basically at it’s core a film about voyeurism, what is your take on voyeurism itself?
EM: I think we’re living in a very strange time. With the advent of Facebook everybody is a voyeur in a sense. It’s used to check up on people without their knowing it. To look at pictures of other peole without them knowing it.
TBS: Are you on Facebook?
EM: Yes I am, are you?
TBS: No, I’m not. I don’t think I’m all that interesting as a person for someone to check up on. In addition, I like my privacy. I don’t think anybody should care about my day to day life except for my family. My daughters are both on though.
EM: Let me make one thing clear though, I haven’t stalked anyone & never will through facebook.
TBS: Debbie D. has a large role in the film describing what she does which are basially “Fetish” films. People send money to the people she works with describing a fetish they have & then she acts out the fetish on video for them. Do you have any particular “fetishes”?
EM: I didn’t even know that people produced these films. It almost makes me want to have a fetish so they could make one for me. I think my fetish would be keeping my money!
TBS: Me personally, I have a foot fetish. Not that I fall to the ground & worship them but I like a nice pretty set of feet. Whenever I meet a pretty girl I go from their face right to their feet. I can’t stand gnarly feet on a woman, no matter how pretty she is.
EM: I’m trying to think of one….hot women smoking perhaps.
TBS: Do you smoke?
EM: No, I guess I really mean hot women that don’t smoke. That would be my fetish.
TBS: Cool. Let me ask you: when J.T. asked you to play this part did you want to?
EM: Oh definetely! The “S&MAN” storyline came from a short story that J.T. wrote & eventually sold to a magazine. The seeds of the character were in the story. I read the story & I knew I was born to play this character.
TBS: That’s really ballsy! I think if I was offered a role like that i would think long & hard before I decided if I wanted to do it, I’m actually watching the movie again as we speak. I have it on mute but it’s up to the scene where you slice a woman’s throat in her kitchen…
EM: That’s J.T.’s wife!
TBS: You’re kidding!!
EM: I think they had been going out for a couple of months when he asked her if she would like to have her throat slashed for his film. She’s a horror novelist actually.
TBS: Really? What’s her name?
EM: Sarah Langdon
TBS: Did The other films that were referenced in the film (Texas Chainsaw Massacre & Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer) influence your performance in any way?
EM: I think there was some stuff from “Henry..” but I can’t think of a particular sequence right now. I think “TCM” had more of an influence on me & J.T. because you never really knew what was going to happen in the next scene while atchng “Chainsaw” & we wanted that kind of feel in our movie. I would imagine taking a girl out on your first date to see “TCM” & wonder “What the f*ck is going on here”!
TBS: There was a line in the movie where you were attending a chiller show & you mentioned that people who frequent these shows aren’t exactly chick magnets. Was that the character speaking or you?
EM: Definetely the character. In prepping the character, we wanted to make him a virgin. A virgin but a mastermind at the same time. Someone who could plan all of these murders & actually get away with them.
TBS: Let me just interject here & say that question was not meant to insult you in any way, It’s just that you’re so convincing in the part….Do you attend a lot of conventions?
EM: No not really, a few of them but they were more memorabilia conventions than horror ones. I think that in all conventions, not just horror ones you’re going to have your group of top dogs & your bottom feeders. But they’re all there because they love whatever the convention is about. There is mutual respect & a sense of community within the walls of the convention hall. A lot like a family.
TBS: Most definetely.
TBS: There’s a scene in the film where J.T. asks if you keep in touch with your victims. and your response was no but you made it a point to mention that out of all the women you killed, none were pregnant. Where did that line come from?
EM: (Laughing) That’s just one of the lines I used to get the crew to laugh that got through. I don’t know where it came from, I just said it.
TBS: That’s fascinating to me because I took it as you just not having the opportunity to kill a pregnant woman yet. But you were more than willing to if the right victim came along. And that line chilled me to to the bone dude. You were so calm reciting it. I’m looking at your face now & you’re nearly cherubic in your look. If I had met you on the street with your rosy cheeks & quiet demeanor I would’ve invited you into my home in a second. Hell, I’d have let you babysit my children!!..
EM: I’m wondering how some of my friends are going to look at me when they see the movie. I think I might lose some.
TBS: Long term friends?
EM: Yeah, I’m afraid I might lose some Facebook friends…
TBS: Ahh, I doubt that.
TBS: In the scene where you approach J.T. at a screening for “Soft For Digging” a staged one or was it just done off the cuff?
EM: It was so staged that I wasn’t even there! It’s just my voice in that scene.
TBS: I hope I’m not insulting you by asking if there is a sequel planned to this film. Because it would be a shame.
EM: No, there is no sequel planned. I only hope that the fans will one day remember my character’s name & mention it in the same breath as Jason, Freddy, etc…
EM: There is a sort of sequel if you listen to the commentaries in the film. One of them is J.T. & me, the other is J.T. & my character. It plays kind of like a sequel. We enjoyed doing that one.
TBS: Bruce Campbell did a commentary on “Bubba Ho-tep” as his Elvis character & it was great!
TBS: I have only 2 more questions for you. Firstly what’s your favorite film? I don’t mean horror film I mean any film in general.
EM: It would have to be “John Carpenter’s The Thing”. I remember years ago renting the DVD from Blockbuster so many times that they finally suggested I just buy it. I had never thought of that before it was suggested to me.
TBS: Well then I guess that answers my next question which was what’s your favorite horror flm?
EM: In actuality I really love Bob Clark’s “Black Christmas” as well. That would have to be my number two
TBS: That’s a classic film that never really received the acclaim it deserved. It pre-dated “Halloween” & all slasher films in general. In my mind it still hasn’t gotten the respect it deserves.
TBS: I think you’ve answered everything I wanted to ask you…No! there is one more question I need to know the answer to. In Bill Zebub’s & Mike Vogel’s films the murders are messy, gory bloodbaths. In the “S&MAN” shorts the kills are simple and (Relatively) blood free. There is a throat sliced but there’s also a strangulation. And there is no hint of rape or torture in them. Your character simply kills his victims quickly & efficiently. Whose decision was that & why?
EM: That was all J.T.’s plan. He wanted to have the kills be more about the kills. Not about torture leading up to it, More about the quiet creepiness of killing another human being. It’s more about the murder. He saw no need to make it any more than that.
TBS: I just want to thank you for the time you took out of your schedule to talk with me. Your film is a genuine masterpiece & deserves to be seen by all horror fans worldwide. I will do my best to promote this film & order my acolytes to spread the word. Thank you for talking to me & everyone who reads this. I wish you all the best in your future acting/scriptwriting/directing career.
EM: Thank you for your interest & your time as well.
TBS: Great! Take care.