Tag Archives: film

91 – Paranoia: The Strange Case of Christopher Saint Booth

Quick update on some fun things this week, Wendy and I will be at the Paradigm Symposium paranormal convention in Minneapolis this weekend, so look out for us and let’s hang out if you’re there!

Also in more fun haunting news, I just launched St. Paul Ghost Walks which is the first haunted history walking tour of downtown St. Paul, Minnesota (I like to call it the Evil Twin) and that launches this Friday the 13th! 

And there’s still time to vote for our band, Sunspot, in the Madison Area Music Awards – if you voted in the first round, it doesn’t cost anything to vote for us in the FINAL round (ends May 19th). If you haven’t voted, it’s five tax-deductible dollars and every penny goes to helping out music education in Madison area schools. It’s a cause we believe in deeply and are proud to have been supporting this charity since the beginning.

This week, I got to take some time to talk to a creator after my own heart, Christopher Saint Booth. As a musician, film producer, and paranormal investigator with a superb sense of style, he and his brother Philip bring glam chic and a distinct sophistication to the world of the weird.

christopher saint booth
Christopher Saint Booth at the Chicago Paranormal Convention

I met Christopher at the Chicago Ghost Conference (Episode 61 of the podcast has our haunted wrap up) when Allison from Milwaukee Ghosts  grabbed a copy of his book, The Exorcist Diary: The True Storywhich is an adaptation of the original journal kept by the priest who was performing an exorcism on a boy named Roland Doe, and that was the real-life story that would eventually inspire William Peter Blatty to write the pea-soup barfing, crucifix-humping movie that we all know and love, The Exorcist.

In our conversation, we start with his career as a musician on the Sunset Strip in the late 70s and early 80s and his move into art director on various films (hey man, he got to work on Dreamscape, the film where people could travel into each other’s dreams and we’ve talked about it on this podcast a bunch of times!)

In addition to some fun Hollywood stories, Christopher shares with us some of his real life paranormal experiences that he’s also documented in an autobiographical book called PARANOIA – The Strange Case of Ghosts, Demons, and Aliens.

While he’s always been into horror movies, what I think is interesting is how the brothers stumbled upon becoming paranormal filmmakers. They were filming a movie called Death Tunnel at Waverly Hills Sanatorium in Kentucky, a legendarily haunted hospital that has been closed for decades. In the script, they used the real legends of the sanatarium for inspiration.

But the real show was what was happening behind the scenes. They got so much footage of weird stuff occurring while they were filming that they were able to make a documentary, SPOOKED – The Ghosts of Waverly Hills Sanatorium with weird footage, EVPs, and haunted history of the famous building.

And that documentary led them into a brand new direction, being able to create fictional movies based on the historical legends and then going in depth on the truth behind them, a real mix of the paranormal and pop culture. This was a fun interview full of anecdotes, paranormal tidbits, and a discussion on following your passion, whether it’s musician or filmmaker or gourmet hamburger artist (or a veggie burger artist for me!)

It’s that discussion of living your life with passion that inspired this week’s song, “The Wilderness of Almost Was and Never Were”. Everyone has their own definition of “selling out”, so the trick is to make sure you understand it or someone else will define it for you.

What happened to the kids who got lost in the blur,
The wilderness of almost was and never were.
You used to plan, you used to scheme,
We used to curse the old regime,
What did you surrender. for legal tender,
Was your price more than your dreams?

When they come to you to sell out,
Just promise to put up a fight,
And realize you’ll never be so close as you are tonight.

Drowning in your memory, and you’ll drown right in your hurt,
The wilderness of almost was and never were.
We used to fight and get worked up,
We said up.
What do you remember about your surrender?
Did you get your damn closeup?

When they come to you to sell out,
Just promise to put up a fight,
And realize you’ll never be so close as you are tonight.
When they come to you to sell out,
Just promise to put up a fight,
And realize you’ll never be so close as you are tonight.

86 – Convergence: Between Heaven and Hell with Writer/Director Drew Hall

First things first, our new release, American Monsters, is live and you can download the newest EP for free at http://www.sunspotuniverse.com – it’s three songs that were inspired by this podcast and we took them into the studio. You will love how these tracks turned out!

This episode features the writer and director of the film Convergence starring Clayne Crawford (from SundanceTV’s Rectify and who will be playing Mel Gibson’s role in the new Lethal Weapon reboot) and Ethan Embry (I loved him in That Thing You Do… but he was also zombie fodder in the latest season of The Walking Dead). Convergence, written and directed by Alabama-based filmmaker Drew Hall is a paranormal thriller in the Jacob’s Ladder vein.

Set in 1990s Atlanta (and you can tell that right away because of the Everclear and Toad The Wet Sprocket on the radio), a police detective gets caught in the explosion of an abortion clinic bombing by a religious extremist group and wakes up in a hospital caught in a nightmare scenario where he has to hunt down the leader of the extremist group who is causing mayhem all through the hospital.

In some more 90s awesomeness, the soundtrack was also partially composed by Helmet’s Page Hamilton. Betty was one of my favorite hard rock albums and Ben (the guitarist from Wendy and my band, Sunspot) used to jam out at rehearsal to “Unsung” in high school all the time.

So number one, is the movie any good? Yes. Convergence is a thoughtful horror film with some clever modern twists (the appearance of the Ghost Hunters-style paranormal investigation team). There’s a little bit of gore (my favorite is a scene that ahem… took the words right out of my mouth) and there’s some of the inescapability of dream-logic terror. One of the things I enjoyed most about it though was its treatment of religion.

Now I’m mostly used to seeing only a few kinds of religion in film:

1. The Catholic Church’s exorcists as wizards or priests as holy warriors in vampire movies.

Back when Peter Jackson was making horror films (but still usually about 25 minutes too long), his film Brain Dead has my personal favorite of the badass priest archetype (please do not watch this Youtube clip at work, it is NSFW all the way.)

2. Religious zealots as redneck murderers. Kevin Smith covered this one in Red State.

3. Faith-based films where atheists are engaging in a war on Christianity and God hands out miracles like mini Snickers on Trick or Treat night. Jennifer Garner went from The Invention Of Lying (Ricky Gervais’ love letter to atheism) to Miracles From Heaven, a new faith-based film where God basically saves her sick kid.

While these depictions of faith and religion are what we’re used to and the antagonist of Convergence sometimes veers into Red State territory, the nice thing about Convergence is that its themes of redemption and faith are given plenty of breathing room.

Now, to be fair, you’re not going to get Diary Of A Country Priestlevels of cinematic spiritual contemplation and some of the dialogue is a little too on the nose, but it’s nice that a horror movie with supernatural elements can feature spirituality upfront and center without sanitizing the religious elements or making everyone who has faith look crazy. It’s a refreshing change of pace.

Now, if you’d like to watch the film without any spoilers, then you can find links to download it here or you can grab it on Blu-Ray at your local Best Buy. Then come back and listen to the podcast!

In my conversation with Convergence auteur, Drew Hall, we go in deep on the influences behind the film. From the paranormal reality TV-influenced ghost-hunting team (called G*A*P*S*, ha!) to the real-life abortion clinic bombings of his youth to the details that he took directly from Dante’s epic 13th-century poem, Purgatorio.

dante purgatory convergence
The map of Dante’s island of Purgatory

So, if you’re not familiar with Purgatory, it’s a Roman Catholic concept that if you died and your soul is still stained by sin, but what you did isn’t really that bad to send you to Hell, then you just get punished for a little while before you get to go to Heaven. It’s also a good way for the church to explain what happens to babies who die before they get baptized or people who lived good lives before Jesus, so they never had a chance to believe in the guy.

Basically it’s a place where everyone sorts their leftover business out before they get to the next world. It pops up in a lot of films and TV shows, like The Sopranos, The Leftovers, What Dreams May Come, Wristcutters: A Love Story, and one of the crappy Hellraiser sequels (don’t bother with any of those films after the second one.)

In Dante’s poem, Purgatory is an island (huh, wonder where people might have gotten the idea that Lost was set there…) with a mountain on it that has several levels where souls are being punished in for different sins  in order for them to redeem themselves and make it to the top of the mountain. Once they get to the top, they have fulfilled their punishment and they can finally get into Heaven.

Drew even uses Dante’s different levels of Purgatory as inspiration for what happens on each floor of the hospital and how the lead character, Ben, has to advance through the hospital and make his way to his own redemption by the end of the film, all the while being hunted by the Ethan Embry’s maniacal villain.

Drew’s interest in the paranormal stems from having his own experiences as well. He tells us a couple of stories in the interview, but my favorite is getting a little otherworldly help while almost drowning. Here’s how he tells it:

[I was] whitewater rafting… but I flipped out of the boat and we got caught in a whirlpool type thing stuck in a whirlpool-type and when I flipped out, I got stuck underneath the raft. And the raft is fairly heavy, much less loaded down with six adults. You float up because you’re wearing a [vest]… I’m trapped under this thing for, according to accounts,  two or three minutes, luckily I was a swimmer at the time so I could hold my breath. 

But I had to come face to face with the idea that I might not get out… As audible as I’m talking to you now underwater, as insane as it sounds… I heard “look left” and as I did, there was a shaft of light that looked as solid as a pole sticking out. And I reach for it thinking maybe they had found a stick. My hand went through it and then my buddy had gotten out of the boat and grabbed my wrist…

It could have been fight or flight, I understand, but to me that became reality… it planted that seed.

Hall has some more interesting paranormal stories that he shares with us (including a scary shadow person story!) and he isn’t done with films inspired by real-life paranormal activity, he’s currently working on a script about the latest paranormal urban legend to hit the Internet, Black-Eyed Children (who will get their own episode soon!)

Drew Hall is a filmmaker to keep an eye on because he has a unique cinematic vision and you can tell he cares deeply about the craft. There’s a literacy and depth to his work that is too rare in horror and thriller circles.

Since this conversation centered on horror movies and one of my favorite movie directors and composers, John Carpenter, has a new album out on April 15th (Lost Themes II), we thought we’d do a little electronic instrumental soundtrack homage this week and call it “Purgatory”.