Dr. Shock returns with ’Grindhouse of Horrors’ releaseWritten by Grant Pardee | | email@example.com
Summertime in Hollywood means big action, big stars, big budgets and big special effects. For Toledo filmmakers Doug Agosti and Lance Otto Smith, while the scale is considerably smaller, the passion remains bigger than ever.
Agosti and Smith have teamed to create a slew of schlock horror short films with titles such as “Demons Day” and “Bloodsucking Hillbillies,” armed with a production budget of loose change and a schedule dictated by whenever their day jobs allow. A DVD release showcases their work.
“You can’t get any more guerrilla than these,” Agosti said. “People think filmmaking is glamorous, but really it’s grunt work. Less is best.”
The pair began collaborating in 1989 when they created “Dr. Shock’s X-Ray Chiller Theater” for FOX Toledo. Essentially a lower budget version of “Tales from the Crypt,” the late night program showcased horror classics such as “Friday the 13th” and “Halloween.” When the show was taken off the air in 1992, the duo decided to try their hand at creating their own films.
Although their work would later come to be identified by excessive blood and gore, the initial short films created by the two were decidedly lower key. According to Smith, “our first three short films were all kind of quasi-dramas.”
“They haven’t received any distribution,” Agosti said.
Once they decided to turn their focus to making horror B-movies, their fortunes began to change.
“When we were doing ‘Dr. Shock,’ I was doing makeup effects for other features in the area,” said Agosti, who also plays the titular character. “I thought, ‘We could do this. Let’s make a horror film.’”
“The Garden Tool Murders” was the result and became something of a cult hit through the emerging power of the Internet. In particular, shorts archive ifilm.com allowed exposure for the film that would have been previously impossible.
“We became No. 1 in horror, and the most reviewed,” Smith said.
Although ifilm.com went offline in 2005, the filmmakers have continued to enjoy modest success that “exceeds our original expectations,” Agosti said.
In 2003, Agosti and Smith released a VHS four-pack compilation of their shorts through Maxim Media International. Titled “Dr. Shock’s Tales of Terror,” the tape landed the pair an article in Canadian horror magazine Rue Morgue that helped raise awareness.
“We’ve had a lot of success,” Smith said. “Last count, we were being distributed in three continents: Asia, Europe and North America, of course. We’ve been in Best Buy and Target. I hear we’re big in Pittsburgh, too.”
The shorts introduced audiences to a product that could be described as uniquely Toledo. Each of the films by Agosti and Smith is created, from conceptualization through shooting to editing, entirely in the Toledo area.
“We both have roots in our Toledo,” Smith said. “We’re both Start High School grads. We love Toledo for a lot of reasons. Ten minutes, you’re in Norman Rockwell country. Someone thought we shot in Texas. Toledo can look like anything. It’s a great backdrop.”
Though the casts tend to feature friends or local actors, area personalities such as Toledo radio legend Bob Kelly have also contributed performances.
Agosti and Smith released a DVD compilation titled “Dr. Shock’s Grindhouse of Horrors” on Aug. 5.