We’re Going to Need More Fake Blood

BOOK REPORT for Scream All Night by Derek Milman

Cover Story: Castle Frankenstein
Drinking Buddy: I Do Not Drink…Wine
Testosterone Level: Kong!
Talky Talk: Carrie…The Musical!
Bonus Factors: B Movies, Castle
Bromance Status: Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein

Cover Story: Castle Frankenstein

A nice picture of the castle that houses Moldavia Studios and Dario’s childhood home. I’m not sure if the images behind the letters are windows, the gates or the studio, or the ladder where Dario saw a worker and mentor fall to his death.

The Deal:

When Dario Heyward was twelve, he was in a bike accident that put him in the hospital. No one in his family noticed he was gone for several days. At that point, Dario was through with his family. He moved into a rough group home, made friends with Jude, a badass amateur boxer, and put his whole previous life behind him. But just before he turns eighteen, he receives word that they are burying his father. Dario feels compelled to return home for the funeral.

But here’s the thing: Dario grew up in a castle. His father, who was 91, was the great Lucien Heyward, director of dozens of low budget horror movies with a huge underground following. Moldavia studios is housed in an enormous castle, which provides the sound stages, prop department, FX offices, and living quarters for Dario, his family, the actors, and employees.

Now that Lucien is gone, everyone assumes the studio will go to Dario’s older brother (and older by about twenty years), Oren. But Lucien’s will contains a surprise: the studio is in financial trouble. And it’s not Oren who is to be the successor, but not-quite-eighteen-year-old Dario. If Dario can pull the studio out of the red in six months, he’s free to leave. If he can’t, or if he refuses, Moldavia will be sold to a slasher movie studio who will–pardon the pun–gut the company.

Dario wants nothing to do with his (es)strange(d) family. His father used him as a child actor in some of his most famous films, but his method of directing involved terrifying and torturing his son so he’d show real fear. But Dario knows that a lot of studio employees will be out of work if he attends college as he’d planned. Oren has written a script which he swears is a moneymaker, but it’s about killer cauliflower.

Then there’s Dario’s mother, who has severe schizophrenia and has been institutionalized. And Hayley. Sweet Hayley, the slightly older girl who was the only bright spot in his childhood. She’s still working at the studio.

With his buddy Jude in tow, Dario decides to spend the summer trying to put out a movie which will save the studio. And maybe lay his own demons to rest.

Drinking Buddy: I Do Not Drink…Wine

Dario, whose childhood memories often involve his father beating him to get that terrified, bloodied look on camera, or his mother taping his mouth shut and abandoning him at the bus station, is not anxious to return home. But the studio employees were always good to him, and he can’t allow Moldavia to close without giving it his best shot. As a very young man who’s never had a role model, he finds himself suddenly making financial decisions that will affect the lives of dozens of people, not to mention the legacy of the studio.

Wouldn’t it be easier to just sell out and take his cut of the profits?

Testosterone Level: Kong!

Dario is quickly overwhelmed by his responsibilities. His brother is incompetent and is constantly tripping on mushrooms. The studio employees are enthusiastic, but only Hayley and studio lawyer Franklin take any sort of leadership role. Oren’s ridiculous production is burning money. Dario just wants to engage in the monthly Crepuscular Dusk celebration, punch his brother in the nose, and leave for school. But he can’t abandon his friends. Not Franklin, who looked out for him, not Hayley, who gave up her own dreams to help the studio, not Jude, who has finally found his place as a studio electrician, and not even Oren, whom despite everything, is his only family. And he can’t abandon the Moldavia Studios legacy, which Dario helped make with his own sweat and blood. Literally.

Talky Talk: Carrie…The Musical!

This was a very enjoyable book, sullied somewhat by the author’s desire to be over the top. It’s enough that Dario’s elderly father is dead. We didn’t need that absurd ‘buried alive’ scene. Dario has a full scholarship to college, which he might have to give up if he’s going to work at the studio. But the author made the scholarship to Harvard, which was a little unbelievable. And I liked that Oren is an enthusiastic guy whose dreams far outstrip his meager talents. I don’t think he needed to be a grade-A moron, which is how he appears in the book.

Still, Lucien Heywood’s movies were never moneymakers, but they were well-loved. And he didn’t become successful by putting on the brakes.

Bonus Factor: B-Movies

When you have the backing of a studio with millions to burn, your chances of success (or enormous failure) increase greatly. But when you work for a niche studio like Moldavia, you don’t have a lot of room for screw ups. Every lost day of filming is lost money. And yet Lucien managed to put out ridiculous, over-the-top films that found their following. Nothing that would ever win an Oscar, but the kind of movies people write poorly-selling books about. Lucien Heyward had the enthusiasm of Ed Wood, the imagination of an early Walt Disney, and the drive of a Kevin Smith. And Dario, as much as he resents his father, kind of wants to keep that dream alive.

Bonus Factor: Castle

So rather than operate out of a sound stage, Lucien instead build an enormous castle to live in and work out of. And this is Dario’s home, still there. And so are the legions of actors, hangers-on, workers, and stalkers. There’s Mistress Moonshadow, the middle-aged Mistress of the Dark who takes a shine to Jude; there’s Gavin, the eleven-year-old intern that Dario suspects might actually be his half-brother; and of course Hayley, who the years have been kind to.

The castle was not a pleasant place to grow up, but now that Dario’s a man, can he grow to enjoy this modern Pee Wee’s Playhouse? Could he live with himself if he allowed it to be sold?

Bromance Status: Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein

Often funny, but sometimes scary and poignant, I think I’ll revisit this one in the future.

Literary Matchmaking:

  

• For another story about the making of a strange movie, try the less-well-written The Incredible True Story of the Making of the Eve of Destruction by Amy Brashear.

The Movie Version, by Emma Wunsch, is about a pair of siblings who, well, like movies.

• In Tim Federle’s The Great American Whatever, we follow the tragic life of a young, aspiring filmmaker.

FTC Full Disclosure: I received neither money nor a subscription to Fangoria for writing this review.