I recently interviewed filmmaker Nathan Thomas Milliner, director on two segments from the horror anthology Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories. He gave us great insight into the fantastic Volumes of Blood series. To go just a bit deeper, I spoke with the cast of Milliner’s opening segment, “Murder Death Killer.” Everyone involved in the segment, and the film as a whole, did a fantastic job carrying their roles, so I was definitely excited to know more!
“Murder Death Killer” features rockabilly couple Barbie Clark (Vallie) and Warren Ray (Dick). Vallie and Dick meet up with a man in a warehouse, Mr. Dawson (Thomas Dunbar), and plan a burglary. Mr. Dawson tells the Vallie and Dick the story of Atticus Crowe (Aric Stanish), who was murdered in that same warehouse. The spooky tale soon turns into blood splatter…and lots of it.
Barbie Clark (Vallie)
HorrorGeekLife: Barbie, how did you get involved with Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories as Vallie?
Barbie Clark: I got involved with Volumes of Blood through one of the producers, Christopher Bower. He suggested to P.J. (Starks), Eric (Huskisson) and Trina (Starks) that they use me for a costume designer. I’ve worked with Bower and Johnny Holt and Austin Madding and the rest of the Paducah crew for years.
So they took the suggestion and brought me on to design and create a lot of really cool and original costumes for each segment. I think that was a first for them, so I tried really hard not to let them down in that area! Wardrobe and costumes are so often overlooked in indie films.
HorrorGeekLife: I’ve mentioned in a couple of articles that I loved the costume design in Horror Stories! Beyond having fun in that department, are there any other good experiences you can share?
Barbie Clark: I think my favorite part of each segment was the bonding with cast and crew. I got to do both, acting and being crew, and I have to say this film was an absolute blast to work on.
My favorite had to be holding up shower walls with countless other crew members so we could literally drench Moses Moseley with blood. I had to drive several crew members back to the hotel wearing hazmat suits and we stopped at the local Rally’s to get ice cream, at 1 AM, covered in so much blood!
HorrorGeekLife: Blood and ice cream…perfect combo. Are you surprised at the praise the film has received so far?
Barbie Clark: It has really blown me away. I had so much fun making it and spent 7 months with these people off and on in the heat and the cold and the blood, to have other people like it so much actually made me tear up a little!
HorrorGeekLife: You should definitely be proud! I actually didn’t know before these interviews that you worked on different segments. What is your favorite, other than “Murder Death Killer?”
Barbie Clark: I think I would have to choose “Feeding Time” and “Fear, For Sinners Here.” The costume I made for Julie Streble, The Woman, continues to be my favorite I have made so far in any film and I had a great time making the Victorian Carolers and matching footie pajamas for the reveal! Not to mention the caliber of acting for that! Wow!
“Feeding Time” is my favorite for a few reasons. First, the costume I made for the Feral Boy was so far out of the norm for me that I had a great time making it. Feral Boy also is my son, so of course I love it! Also, the wit and dialogue between Shore and Mullins I think is seriously underrated!
HorrorGeekLife: The Woman’s costume made the segment even more intense. And it’s awesome that the film became a family affair for you. I really appreciate your time, and please know that I adored Vallie- such great wit. I can’t wait to see what comes next for you!
Warren Ray (Dick)
HorrorGeekLife: Hi Warren, how did you get involved as Dick in Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories?
Warren Ray: I got involved in Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories when Nathan Thomas Milliner contacted me. The original actor was unable to do the shoot so he thought of me. Nathan had seen the film Nothing in the Flowers, where I play a creepy redneck, in 2011.
I was already a fan of his art/film work at the time. We had been waiting for just the right project to work together and “Murder Death Killer” was the perfect fit.
HorrorGeekLife: Nathan talked about the great chemistry you had with Barbie Clark, and I have to agree. What was your favorite part of being on set?
Warren Ray: My favorite part of the shoot was driving the hot rod 1950’s pickup truck. I didn’t know they had planned on having me drive fast at all, so that was a fun surprise when they asked me to give it more gas on the corners. Barbie and I had great fun sliding around on that bench seat. Eat your heart, Steve McQueen, I do my own stunts.
Also, cutting up with Thomas and Barbie was the best – we had a lot of fun.
HorrorGeekLife: That was an amazing pickup truck and it let us know who your character was immediately. It was a great role, you should definitely be proud!
Warren Ray: The early success has been great positive reinforcement. I am very proud of this project, I think it’s some of my best work. But, I am still taken aback by how well is has been received in what seems like overnight.
HorrorGeekLife: Do you have a favorite segment?
Warren Ray: My favorite short, besides “Murder Death Killer,” is “Fear, For Sinners Here.” Julie Streble was a power house and, once again, Nathan Thomas Milliner blows everyone out of the water with writing and directing.
HorrorGeekLife: I can’t deny the greatness of “Fear, For Sinners Here!” Thank you so much for chatting with us, Warren!
Thomas Dunbar (Mr. Dawson)
HorrorGeekLife: So glad to chat with you, Thomas! How did you get involved with Volumes of Blood: Horror Stories?
Thomas Dunbar: I got involved strictly through Nathan, who I consider to be a very strong artist and filmmaker, and who is getting better at his craft every day, it seems. We first worked together on one of his first full length films, A Wish for the Dead, when I played the physician who finds the cause of the zombie-ism that was raging nationwide, as well as being a father of one of the first victims. Finding the cause and dealing the effects of not yet curing it was an amazing opportunity. Even then his vision was clear and interesting, and his dialogue was very strong. I had no idea he was so gifted in many artistic and visual mediums.
I was also cast later as police Lieutenant Russell in the short, The Confession of Fred Krueger. Although I loved the medium of film, most of my background had been theatrical, and this was the first time I saw firsthand how amazingly emotional horror could be, working with Kevin Roach, who played Fred. It was much more than just fear. It was anger, surprise, fear, understanding, disgust and finally, overwhelming sadness.
My skin crawled every time we ran those scenes, whether rehearsing or filming, and I got goosebumps after each. I could see I was in the room with greatness, with both Kevin and Nathan working. It was an honor to be across from Kevin, embodying the vision that Nathan had researched and recreated for years. They both knew exactly the style they wanted.
HorrorGeekLife: I honestly believe that horror is the greatest genre in film with the most loyal of fans. Horror Stories is finding success already, I think genre fans will love it as much as critics.
Thomas Dunbar: Like all early successes, there has been years of behind the scenes work by all parties, particularly the Directors and Producers. They have been getting better at their craft while honing the ideas, the concepts and the scripts. I’m so glad to have been involved. The characters are so interesting and varied.
HorrorGeekLife: It seems like there was a lot of fun on the set of “Murder Death Killer.” Do you have any stories you can share?
Thomas Dunbar: Two things stand out when looking back on shooting this. The first was how fun it was to watch Warren and Barbie create the characters of Dick and Vallie. They had so much fun, and were laughing constantly. They and Nathan had me in stitches the entire time, and I only got half of it. And part of this was the ad-libbing! A good bit of the things that made it to the film was created on the fly.
They had amazing creativity spring from their, well, play. They co-opted the factory mascot, a green donkey, and made it their own. I was worried it would become a new genre – Horror Porn. It was filthy, covered in oil stains, and now it’s theirs. I certainly don’t want to touch it.
HorrorGeekLife: Nathan mentioned some of the ad-libbing in his interview! Sounds like it was a great experience all around. Do you have a favorite segment?
Thomas Dunbar: As an actor, I love watching other actors. I have only seen the full film opening night, and the performances of Julie Steble and Jason Bower in particular struck me. Watching Jason in particular was humbling to me, since I had auditioned for that role. He just knocked the cover off it. He brought so much to that character.
But nobody had more fun making a segment than we did in “Murder Death Killer,” only to be slammed back by losing rising filmmaker Brian Storm in a car accident just a few weeks later. That hurts, especially to those who knew him well. Life is shorter than you think, and I’m so glad I got to participate in this with everyone associated with “Murder Death Killer.” Even making the prosthetic head and hand for the segment were very fun and interesting.
HorrorGeekLife: Our thoughts are certainly with Brian Storm’s family and friends. And you are so right about life! I greatly appreciate your time, Thomas.
Aric Stanish (Atticus Crow)
HorrorGeekLife: Thanks for talking with me, Aric. How did you come into the role of Atticus Crow?
Aric Stanish: How I became involved with this project was a little different. Jakob Bilinski (CinePhreak Pictures) was originally slated to direct “Murder Death Killer” and contacted me about playing Atticus. I have worked with Jake before on several of his prior film projects and was instantly enamored with the Atticus character. I’ve always cheered for the big, bad, menacing villain and consequently, that ilk of movie roles have “found” me all throughout my independent acting career. And fair enough, the fact that I’m 6’2″ tall, I weigh 245 lbs, and I’m considered to be “scary-looking” has helped that process of finding roles along as well.
However, it wasn’t long after that initial contact when Jake told me that he wasn’t going to be able to direct “Murder Death Killer” and that Nathan was taking over. P.J. contacted me shortly after and made sure that I was still on board to portray Atticus. And I most certainly was.
HorrorGeekLife: I absolutely loved the character. What was it like to be under the mask and costume?
Aric Stanish: My on-set experiences could be summarized in three succinct words: sweltering fucking hot. The Atticus mask is amazing to look at, incredibly detailed, and freakishly perfect. Except for the fact that wearing it is an exercise in absolute mental strength. It’s ridiculously hot from the first minute you put it on your noggin and the only actual way to see anything at all is through the minuscule unilateral eyehole.
Compounding that was the fact that the rest of the Atticus costume would be splendid for a Rocky Mountains snowboarding trip: wool sweater, overcoat, gloves, Carhartt work pants, chains around the neck and work boots. I yanked that miserable mask off my face in between every take because the sheer claustrophobic panic that it caused was beyond being tolerable. There’s several backstage pics of me with fans blowing directly on my face and I’m dripping sweat like I’ve just ran to Florida and back. If I had to describe what it feels like to wear that mask, I’d say that soaking a wool sweater in water and then wrapping it around your face twice while doing jumping jacks in July would be fairly accurate.
Despite that, I truly had a great time on set. The crew that was assembled and the resultant laughs were definitely the panacea for wearing that torturous Atticus mask. If Gmail would let me, I would attach a video of my horrible onset dancing skills that illustrates the mood and levity of our segment between takes. It was without a doubt one of the most entertaining times I’ve ever had while shooting any film, that’s for sure.
HorrorGeekLife: I can only imagine how miserable that could be in the heat. Can you tell me more about how the costume came about?
Aric Stanish: Nathan was completely responsible for the creation of Atticus Crowe, in every aspect. When he sent me the drawings of what he had created for the character and then the pics of the mask from Justin Mabrey at Trick or Treat Studios, I was thoroughly awed at the look and the creepiness Atticus possesses. What actor wouldn’t want to bring such an astounding “visual mindfuck” of a villain to life? I was instantly hooked. Yes, Coach, put me in, I’m ready to play.
HorrorGeekLife: Are you hoping for a return of the Atticus Crowe? He would look great in a graphic novel!
Aric Stanish: I am personally crossing my long brown digits for another appearance of Atticus to happen. I absolutely loved playing the character and did my best to personify the vision Nathan had for him to be eerie, monstrous, and engrossingly terrifying. If the opportunity to play Atticus ever were to come floating my direction again, there is no question: I would definitely jump on that role.
And as far as a graphic novel is concerned, I know it would be stupendous with Nathan’s voluminous artistic talent. Follow him on Instagram and peruse his artwork, it’s utterly amazing. Throwing the character into a graphic novel is such a logical progression. All I can say in conclusion is I can imagine that if it happens, it certainly wouldn’t be long before the horror world would well know the woes of Atticus Crowe.
HorrorGeekLife: Yes, I’d love to see the backstory play out! What have you thought about the film’s success so far?
Aric Stanish: The initial success of the film is very humbling to me. Being masked and emoting via the physical action of the Atticus character, it would be easy to feel as if I hadn’t done much of anything spectacular. I told Nathan as we were on the set that this had been the best work that I felt I had ever done.
So to have the recognition from critics for everyone involved in the project is amazing and speaks to the talents that all the cast and crew brought to life. I personally couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to be involved with in a film project. They ALL deserve the positive reviews that this movie has been receiving.
HorrorGeekLife: Absolutely agree. Do you have a favorite segment?
Aric Stanish: I would say that “Deathday Party” was my other favorite segment in the movie. Jay Woolston and Cindy Maples definitely nailed their respective characters. Both exhibited the “suspension of disbelief” that makes the audience forget that they are watching actors portraying a role instead of real-life people being themselves: strikingly creepy, in my opinion.
The humor factor of that segment, obviously culminating with Jay’s character getting rammed in the hemorrhoids(s) at the apex of the story, was one of the funniest “juvenile humor” moments I’ve ever seen on film.
HorrorGeekLife: “Deathday Party” was very creepy! Shows you never really know who lives next door. Aric, I appreciate your time and it’s been great getting to know your character more!