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Haack stayed with the project: "I was gung-ho from day one. It was really something close to me. The first day of shooting was when we shot the first rape scene. It exorcised a lot of demons. It was hard for both of us."
That scene was at the conclusion of the first rape, when Clara curls into a ball, in shock, bleeding, as Leonard pees on her.
Within the framework of Biondo's skeletal script, the actors based their speaking parts on improvisation. For the final scene, in which Clara turns the tables on her tormentor, Biondo was told to remain in character and do what Haack told him. Leonard ends up duct-taped to a cot, where Clara repeatedly plunges a steak knife into the soles of his feet.
"It was very cathartic," Haack recalls. "I was sad when it was done, since it was such an intense experience. I remember feeling very sad, like, 'What am I going to do on the weekends now?' I got into such a rhythm, and it was so intense. Everybody was putting in 110 percent.
"A lot of weight was lifted off of me mentally, and kind of spiritually, because of what I'd gone through. I've definitely been different since then, in a good way."
After a stint in Los Angeles, where she got some extras roles on a few television shows, Haack is back in St. Louis to work with Stanze and his team. "They're like my best friends and second family. I'd trust my life with Eric," she says. In The Undertow, she plays "one of the six friends that gets slaughtered by the main bad guy."
Haack is proud of Scrapbook, as is Stanze, who thinks it's his best directing work to date. However, he didn't believe the film would ever reach an audience.
"At the time we premiered it for the cast and crew, there was no critical response," he recalls. "We still thought we were either going to sell ten copies and it was going to go away or we thought we were going to be hunted down with torches and pitchforks and burned at the stake."
At the conclusion of that private screening, says Stanze, "I looked around at everybody, and they were stunned at the end of the movie. I could see those wheels turning in everybody's head, [and they were] thinking, 'Should have used a pseudonym. Should have used a pseudonym.'"
Biondo, who came up with the concept, wrote the screenplay and turned in a disturbingly bold and accurate performance, never saw the completed product.
As Scrapbook was being shown to cast and crew, Biondo was filming a video for a day camp in Minnesota. While shooting, he tripped and fell. Biondo landed on his head as he was trying to protect the camera.
"I was packaging up a couple of copies of the movie to ship to him so he could finally see this," Stanze recalls. "I packaged up the copies, but before I was able to put them in the mail to him I got word that he was in an accident and that he was taken to the hospital with head injuries. Shortly after that, I was informed that he passed away."
Scrapbook continues to sell through both Wicked Pixel and Sub Rosa and continues to receive strong reviews, as well as strong condemnation.
More than any other Stanze film, it elicits questions more disturbing than the film itself: Who watches this? And why?
Stanze doesn't shy from such questions or the assumptions implicit behind them. He responds emphatically by e-mail with what could be termed the Wicked Pixel Manifesto:
"I believe our main audience is the collective that is sick of the Hollywood mainstream film. There is so much opportunity in the making of any movie, and Hollywood tends to waste this. Hollywood has a big head but only uses about 4 percent of the brain. When I make a movie, it may not be as slick -- it may not even be as well-written or directed sometimes -- but our movies will be viewed because they are unique and challenging. Our movies make use of many opportunities that Hollywood passes on. I also think that the violence and sexual content helps vent some pressures that build up in people who are sick of our politically correct society. Today, in our nonconfrontational, timid American culture, watching something we are constantly being told not to watch is very refreshing.
"I have not yet heard of anyone who saw Scrapbook and 'enjoyed' it. Most of the reviews written on Scrapbook point to the maturity and honesty of the movie. Keep this in mind: When people rob and kill and then blame video games or movies, yes, their specific act was inspired by the entertainment industry. But take away the entertainment industry and they'll be inspired by something else, like the evening news. Sick people are sick BEFORE they watch a violent movie. If you can bring me one single shred of evidence that a nonviolent, healthy person was made unhealthy and violent by simply watching a movie, I'll stop making violent movies right now, 'cause I guarantee such evidence does not exist."