Ginger Nuts of Horror
Charles Pinion is a visual artist and director who made the punk rock skateboard zombie movie Twisted Issues (1988), the post-Cinema of Transgression witches in the snow movie Red Spirit Lake (1992) and the gritty San Francisco cannibal movie We Await (1996). His 3D feature American Mummy premiered at the Revelation Film Festival in Australia (2014). His latest is the short film Try Again, "a hopeful film about suicide". Charles lives in Los Angeles.
Charles, the movie has quite an elongated history I believe? It started out with another title I believe?
Elongated is a good word, especially in terms of how many years it took to get this project finished!
It started out as American Mummy in 2004. We planned to shoot the movie in 2006. We were going to go into the desert for a couple of weeks and use the tents we slept in as the sets. It would have been shot in DV (or then-nascent HDV) and would have been a bloody shot-on-video version of the story. The movie was cast and we were scouting locations, when the money fell through.
After Avatar came out, there was renewed interest in 3D, so American Mummy was re-born as a 3D feature. It had its world premiere at Revelation Film Festival in Perth, Australia in 2014, and it’s Americas premiere later that summer at Macabro Film Festival in Mexico City.
We were advised that having “American” in the title was a bad idea for the international market, so it was briefly named Aztec Blood, but it is now American Mummy again!
And the plans initially encompassed a trilogy of films. Is that still the plan?
Absolutely! There’s a lot of story left about what happens to the Aztec god Tezcatlipoca after he is un-buried and reawakened.
How has the movie changed since that very first draft?
It hasn’t really changed that much. All the gore gags in the movie are still there. I think one tweak is that we made Professor Jensen female, and increased the amount of intrigue and sneakiness on her part and on the part of the Russian doctor.
How would you describe the tone?
I would say that it has a psychotronic, drive-in movie tone, with bright red lovable gore-splat instead of the rusty slaughterhouse of torture porn.
Did you do most of the effects in it practically?
Yes, all the effects are practical. Adding 3D digital blood would have been cost-prohibitive and would risk looking fake.
How does your Mummy differ from its predecessors?
We knew from its inception that our movie was unique in that ours was a mummy from the Americas rather than Egypt.
Of course, it didn’t take us long to learn that there have been a lot of Aztec mummy films made in Mexico since the ‘50s.
Finally, I discovered that there’s an American 3D movie from 1961 called The Mask. The mask in that movie is based on our mummy Tezcatlipoca. There is nothing new under the sun.
Are you personally fascinated by the history of Mummys? Any interesting findings along the way?
I think mummies suggest immortality, so they are intrinsically fascinating.
On a personal level, if I were confined and asleep for centuries, suddenly brought awake by a writhing graduate student (spoiler, folks) I think I would take a fervent interest in remaining in this world. In our subsequent movies as Tezcatlipoca becomes more embodied (which will take a lot of blood) he will want to experience the physical world in all its fullness. That’s where the sequels go.