Eric Stanze is the most successful filmmaker in St. Louis. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Stanze managed to cause a media storm last summer after he threw some fake body parts into his back-alley Dumpster. The St. Louis Police Department called in the medical examiner to investigate, and the story was international news.

Stanze has his reasons for flesh-ripping mayhem. "I've heard some people describe my whole body of work, and talk about how 'Eric likes the gore,'" he says. "But what it really is, if I'm trying to convey an emotion, and if that emotion involves something violent, then I simply want the audience to see what's happening and not be confused. I think if you cut away from the gore it almost comes off as coy or smart-ass, and that annoys me.

"Also, if you cut away from the gore the audience is left trying to figure out what happened. If we didn't show worms coming out of the guy's stomach in Ice From the Sun, you're simply sitting there going, 'What?'"

Jennifer Silverberg
Angela Zimmerly awaits her demise on a gravel road in Ice From the Sun.
Jennifer Silverberg
Angela Zimmerly awaits her demise on a gravel road in Ice From the Sun.

Instead, you're left sitting there going, "Yeeeeeaaaach."

"It's not that I like to see blood thrown all over the place," Stanze explains, "it's just that I think violence is a very emotional thing. Just like sexuality, just like nudity in a movie -- anything that is typically controversial is in there because who wants to go see a movie about a guy's boring life who's doing the same boring thing that we do every day? We want to see something different or exciting or something that makes you think or something that pulls some kind of an emotion from you.

"That's why I gravitate toward these moments, and I want to show them as effectively as possible, so they typically end up being graphic."

In Scrapbook, serial killer Leonard kidnaps Clara. On the wall of her torture room are the words "I AM WINNING," scrawled in an earlier victim's blood. Leonard brutally rapes Clara and, when he's finished, pees on her.

Leonard stuffs Clara into a plastic garbage can, pours milk over her, duct-tapes the lid closed and leaves her in the Missouri summer sun.

When Clara attempts an escape, Leonard chops a few of her toes off with an ax.

In a particularly disquieting scene, he orders Clara to lick his flaccid penis. Fear and disgust are evident in her eyes. He tells her to lie on her back and open her legs, and she does. Leonard mounts her, even attempts to kiss her as lovers would kiss. She turns her head, sick with horror and humiliation. He rubs himself against her for a while but fails to become hard. He rises in a rage, blames her for his impotence. He throws her over a chair and grabs a wine bottle. He thrusts the wine bottle inside her and fucks her with it. As she passes out, blood flows from between her legs.

The camera turns away from nothing.

If Ice From the Sun is Stanze's phantasmagoric epic symphony; Scrapbook is his grim, spare chamber piece. A grossly disturbing film, Scrapbook's images stay with you for days.

Although Stanze can't resist basic horror elements -- a mangled torso popping up out of nowhere, the toe-chopping -- Scrapbook does not provide a comforting distance from its subject matter. Rather, it annihilates that remove. A documentary approach makes this portrayal of a serial killer all too real. Neither the sex nor the violence titillates.

Emily Haack became part of the entourage through Tommy Biondo, who'd been working on Stanze productions since he was a teenager. Biondo's the one who gives himself the deworming in Ice, who directed and performed in his own short film "Satisfaction," in which he is strangled to death after some S/M activity goes too far. "His hobby was learning about serial killers," says Haack about her former boyfriend, Biondo.

After the completion of Ice, Stanze and company were exhausted. Two weeks of the filming were spent in Macon, Missouri, where on the first day the cistern went dry in the house Stanze had secured for the company. No water in the heat of summer. Meanwhile, on location in a pasture, a bull wreaked havoc on one set. The Macon residents suspected the filmmakers of being Satan worshipers. When the company moved to another location in rural Illinois, the local kids threw rocks at them.

Biondo suggested his Scrapbook script as Wicked Pixel's next project. It wasn't exactly lighter fare, but it demanded less from the volunteer crew. Stanze was hesitant at first, but Wallace convinced him that Scrapbook could be something unique.

Biondo chose various modi operandi from an array of serial killers to create the character of Leonard. He developed Clara from elements of Haack's personality. "The character of Clara was very close to me," says Haack.

Stanze, however, first tried to deter Haack from playing the part. "My first step was to try to make Emily decline the role," he says. "I tried very hard to make her say no, because the worst thing in the world would be if we started shooting, we were halfway through the schedule and she found herself in a place she didn't want to be."

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