Michael Ruggiero - Vice President, Starz!
'Going To Pieces: The Rise And Fall of the Slasher Film'
What makes you squirm?
A delicate, razor-pointed stiletto plunged to the hilt?
The relentless assault of a shrieking chain saw?
Perhaps a slash-by-slash filleting by Freddy's deadly fingers?
Whatever gives you the creeps, catch the architects of creepiness in Starz' original production, 'Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film' featuring interviews with Wes Craven, John Carpenter, Rob Zombie, Tom Savini and more.
'GOING TO PIECES' is executive produced by Michael Ruggiero, vice president of programming for Starz Entertainment. “Slasher films’ have always been extremely popular with audiences,” said Ruggiero. “Everyone has their favorite film with each having a fan base. These films are intricately explored for every nuance in magazines, websites and blogs. But there has never been a stand alone tribute documentary until now. It’s also interesting to note how the socio-political climate at the ‘80s had it’s affects on the genre. Truly a sign of the times, everything from Reaganomics to the AIDS epidemic found its way into these films in one form or another.”
Chatting recently with Michael Ruggiero, we first discussed the upcoming documentary 'Going To Pieces: The Rise and Fall of The Slasher Film.' I wondered when this was first presented to him as an option to run with? "As a life-long fan of the horror genre who grew up on a steady diet of slasher films in the 80’s I had always wanted to give these much maligned films there due. When I first joined Starz (from IFC) this was one of the projects being considered so I quickly moved it to the top of the list. Luckily my colleagues also saw the potential in the project so it really didn’t take much convincing."
What elements were cut due to time constraints that you would still now have loved to have seen included? "Of course, you can’t cover everything but I can honestly say that all of the films I felt were important are represented in the doc. One film that I made sure we included was MANIAC which is generally thought of as a dirty little exploitation flick. It’s very hard to defend the amount of gore and violence in that film but to me it’s the TAXI DRIVER of horror films (meaning I see it as an absolute classic)."
'Going To Pieces' goes some way to providing a comprehensive look at the actual importance - and therein legitimacy - of the horror film genre within our viewing society. So, please explain this theory more to us and how such a noted genre can actually be such a required staple! "It’s easy to dismiss the genre as pure exploitation and therefore without merit. And indeed there are a great number of slasher films that are just that. But then there are films like Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street that have been crafted by true artists like John Carpenter and Wes Craven. In these instances there’s no denying their importance and their place in film history. No different than the often macabre films made by Alfred Hitchcock in his day."
Including many, many interviews with pre-eminent actors, directors, producers and experts of all kinds, I'm wondering which you personally found to be the most enticing re: revealment, fascination, etc.? "Well, it’s kind of a silly one for me but I was fascinated to learn that the chillingly familiar theme music from Friday the 13th was achieved by taking the “ki” from the word, “kill” and the “ma” from “mommy” when Mrs. Vorhees is saying, “kill her mommy”, running it through an echo machine, and turning into, “ki, ki, kiiii… ma, ma, maaa…” It’s revealed in the doc by the film’s composer Harry Manfredini."
Who did you try to get to talk on camera, but for one reason or another didn't succeed in doing so? "It would have been nice to hear from actresses like Jamie Lee Curtis, Sarah Michelle Gellar or Neve Campbell but unfortunately they were unavailable to participate."
With the title 'Going To Pieces: The Rise and Fall of The Slasher Film' based on the book of the same name, I'm wondering if the author Adam Rockoff had any say in this documentary? "Absolutely. Adam is a great guy and a true fan of the genre. He was there at the development stage and played a key role in getting the project off the ground. As source material his book was so strong in the way it breaks down the conventions of the genre that all we really had to do was stick to the formula that he had already laid out. We definitely went a little further by making the film a kind of “latest edition” to include recent films like HOSTEL and SAW but at the heart of the doc is his book. He wrote me a lovely e-mail saying how pleased and proud he was with the final film which personally meant a lot to me."
'Fear Fest 2006' features an impressive line-up of classic horror movies, but how hard was it to choose them when others (obviously) had to hit the wayside? "I’m not exaggerating when I say that Starz/Encore has the deepest inventory of films which includes many of the greatest horror films of all time. It’s tough when you’re trying to narrow things down but we feel we’ve done a good job in representing the best we have to offer from all of the sub-genres of horror films. The big advantage to watching the horror films on our networks is that they’re never cut or interrupted so every terrifying moment is presented in all it’s “gorey".”
Do you yourself have a favorite horror film that takes you to the edge of your seat each and every time?! "Yes. It’s a bit obscure but my mother took me to see it in 1977 at the tender age of 12 and it haunts me to this day. It’s called SUSPIRIA by Italian fright master Dario Argento who is known as the Italian Hitchcock. It’s a true masterpiece of horror. A complete assault on the senses from its striking visuals to its ear piercing sound track."
With the world of horror/slasher films having seen somewhat of a resurgence in recent years, some have stood up to be counted whilst others have been nothing more than a big laughable joke. In your personal opinion, which latter day ones do you yourself laud and which latter day ones do you shake your head at in bewilderment at how they even managed to get made?! "I think the films that I appreciate most are the ones that take their cue from the R-rated horror of the 70’s and 80’s. Once studios figured out that a PG-13 rating would increase box office horror kind of softened up. WOLF CREEK, HAUTE TENSION, HOSTEL, THE DESCENT and the films that Rob Zombie is making (HOUSE OF A THOUSAND CORPSES, THE DEVIL’S REJECTS) are among my recent favorites. The new films that I like the least are the ones that rely too heavily on CGI (computer generated effects). SILENT HILL, which was based on a video game, WAS a video game to me."
What new upcoming horror flicks are you looking forward to seeing this year? "I’ve yet to get out there to see THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE BEGINNING but will definitely check that one out. I’m also looking forward to GRINDHOUSE by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino next year. They cast guys like Tom Savini who was there in the slasher hey day and employ guys like Greg Nicotero to do PRACTICAL special make up effects."
Lastly, if you yourself could have been any horror character from any horror movie in time, who would it have been ... and why?! "Wow, that’s tough. Do I really want to be a bad guy? Nah, I just want to make cool documentaries about them!"
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
Catch 'Going To Pieces' Friday the 13th, with encores Oct 14th and 31st at 9PM/ET. Plus, Starz will be showing some of your favorite horror films all month! Movies such as: 'The Fog,' 'The Omen,' 'The Fury,' 'The Exorcism of Emily Rose,' 'Darkman' and so many more!
Check out the full schedule listings right here:
Fear Fest '06 Horror Movie Schedule
Tune in. Freak out!
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