INTERVIEW: Marcus Koch

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FDTC writer, IRA GANSLER, sits down with filmmaker, MARCUS KOCH, special FX artist behind such films as CIRCUS OF THE DEAD and BLOODY BLOODY BIBLE CAMP, as well as director of 100 TEARS.




Like many in the independent horror film industry, Markus Koch has found himself in a variety of roles at any given time in his films.  However, Markus is one who has a very definitive standout among all of his work.  While he brings a high level of skill to any area in which he can be found, Markus is best known for his special effects work.  If there is any question whether Marcus Koch's special effects are among the best in the independent horror film industry, you have many examples from which you can choose.  Koch has be in charge of special effects for 51 films between 1997 and present.  While you should never negate his skill in other areas, just look at 100 Tears to see his phenomenal directing, Koch has definitely established himself as a force to be reckoned with in when it comes to special effects.  I had the chance to talk to Markus about his experiences and found that he had a lot of amazing things to share.



Ira Gansler:  So let's start by asking a simple, yet important question.  Why horror movies?


Marcus Koch:  I was raised on horror as I was growing up.  Since I was three we rented horror movies and went to the drive in.  I loved Halloween.  So when I got old enough to realize that it was all make believe I wanted to know "who did that job?"  SoI wanted to gear my job towards special effects and doing horror movies


IG:  What is your first horror movie memory?


MK:  The first one my parents ever took me to was Hell Night when I was three.  I don't remember most of that. There is certain imagery that I remember from films as I got older.  I remember Salem's Lot and the imagery of kind of Nosferatu and the yellow-eyed vampire.  I saw Poltergeist and that one scared the hell out of me when I was a kid, especially the clown puppet.


IG:  What scares you now?


MK: Too many times watching films I'm constantly analyzing the movie and seeing what techniques they are using.  I watch too analytically and often can't be scared.  The most recent one that really got under my skin was a VHS that was circulatingabout ten years ago, The Ring.  So I was doing a film and the director had a copy.  He gives it to me and tells me "Here, this isThe Ring, you need to watch it."  He handed me a blank, bootleg VHS.  It really gave me the heebie jeebies.  I think one of the best things about it was that it was more like a crime drama and you didn't really realize it was horror until the end when she is crawling out of the TV.  It really scared me, especially when the phone rang just as the movie ended.  I'm like, "there's no way I'm picking that up!"  It turned out to be the producers telling me that they were picking me up around 8 in the morning.


IG:  I've got to say that even growing up watching It andPoltergeist, clowns never really bothered me until I saw 100 Tears.  What inspired you to make a horror movie with a rampaging clown and what is it that you think makes clowns scary?


MK:  It's amazing how many adults won't watch 100 Tears because it's a clown.  It kind of blows my mind that people have that fear.  I was never scared of scary clowns.  I think Pennywise was scary because he was happy looking.  When we did Gerdy, Iwanted a clown who looked happy, never talked, but something was clearly wrong with him.  I think the things with clowns is you never know what is under the makeup.  The second a clown starts doing goofy things, they are not scary any more.


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IG:  Obviously you have a huge emphasis on special effects, butwhich role do you enjoy the most in the filmmaking process?


MK:  I like directing definitely more than special effects.  When I'm doing my own films, I wear many hats. When I'm workingon other peoples shows, I have to make it what they see.  I'm not involved in the post production.  When you are directing, you are involved from the beginning of the idea through the production to all the hell through post production.  I like directing because you go through all the hell, but at the end people get to see it and you can look back and say "holy shit I survived that."


IG: Your makeup and special effects may be among some of the best in Indie Horror today.  Where do you find your inspiration for creating such horrific visions?


MK:  Oddly enough I don't like the real thing, like real blood and carnage.  There are certain things that I have to look up if I'm doing special effects.  Like if I'm doing burn makeup, I look up pictures of burn victims and try to make it realistic.  There are some things I wish I could unsee.  Sometimes in the real world things don't look very cinematic.  Like when people get shot, in real life, they often just drop like rocks, but in the movie you have to spruce it up to have a more violent reaction.


IG:  Do you think practical effects or CGI make a scarier movie?


MK:  I think CGI has its place, like if you do something like Terminator 2 and you need liquid metal, that is your only option.  I hate seeing digital blood in films.  In things like Walking Dead, I understand why they do it because of the time crunch.  But I am a stickler for realism, so I like to take the five minutes and hook up some tubing.  I think CGI mixed with practical effects can be used well, but it is never good to replace the practical completely. That is when you get too much like a video game.  For example, a practical creature with wires and tubes, I think you remove the wiring and tubing to make it look better.  A completely CGI creature feels like playing a video game, and is not scary.


IG:  Where do you stand in the emphasis of gore vs. the emphasis of atmosphere in a horror movie?


MK:  Everything kind of revolves in cycles.  I think the current era, films from the 80's were the ones that we knew and loved.  Now that our generation is making films we are making films like we loved.  I think when we were growing up the directors were ten years older so you got more of what they knew which was the 70s style grindhouse.  Now that we are from the 80's you are seeing more of the over the top blood and splatter that we loved about all of those films.  Now, with ghost stories Iprefer things to be more mood and atmosphere instead of justthe jump affects.  I think that gimmick is being played out.


IG:  What would your dream project be?


MK:  I've got one script I've been trying to figure out for the better part of 14 years called Baby Doll.  It's a romantic comedy at its core, but has a lot of graveyard humor.  Its whole title isBaby Doll the Afterlife and Misadventures of an Undead Girl in the Mob.  It is a lot of mortuary and dark jokes.  That is something I'd like to do.  Something in the way of Return of the Living Dead a fun gory film you can watch over and over.


IG:  Anything exciting on the horizon for you as a filmmaker that you would like to share with your fans?


MK:  Currently, we just finished shooting American GuineaPig directed by Stephen Biro, who was responsible for the original Guinea Pig box set.  It took a long time because we had to have all the parts come together.  He is directing the first one called Bouquet of Blood of Gore.  That is going to be the only one that ties into the original.  After that it is going to be seven different films that all have a lot of fun blood and gore but have different stories.


IG:  Thank you for your time today.  My final question is one I like to ask all interviewees working in the horror industry.  In your opinion, what is horror?


MK:  I think it is a form of escapism.  I'm sure everyone says this but it is the same as why we are attracted to go to a haunted house or a roller coaster ride.  It is fake danger for the thrill of it.  Going to a horror film can give you a rush.  People seek out horror films for that rush.  I think of it like in terms of a really depressing drama.  Some people enjoy them and just enjoy the effect of making them cry without having bad things happen. I think for horror films it is the same in that you like to be scared but in a safe environment.




Ira Gansler is the writer and editor of the horror blog The Rage Circus Vs. The Soulless Void.  


He is preparing to publish his first horror novel via a Kickstarter that is currently live at  


You can follow Ira on twitter @ragecircusblog or viaFacebook at  


You can also get all the up-to-date information on his book at