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The implacable Stanze gets visibly flustered when he talks about I Spit on Your Corpse, I Piss on Your Grave. "This is not my best work," he says, reluctantly handing over the videocassette.
Haack is not nearly so reticent. The star of Scrapbookand Spit/Piss is one of the sweetest-faced, sweetest-voiced girls anyone would ever want to meet. She sports flamboyant tattoos on her arms and has cut her hair in a style of post-punk glory.
"Sean, the guy who gets it with the broom handle at the end," Haack giggles over the phone, "the first time I met him was that morning on the set. It was pretty funny. We all met at Eric's place: 'Hi. I'm going to be butt-raping you later.' It was pretty cool."
Spit/Piss was Stanze's first project for Sub Rosa Extreme. He'd written a script and sent it to Haack, who moved to Los Angeles after the completion of Scrapbook. Haack liked Stanze's first script, thinking, "This girl kicks ass."
Then the French got involved. Stanze -- like Clint Eastwood, like Jerry Lewis, like Woody Allen -- has a following in France, and French investors offered to increase the Spit/Pissbudget if the filmmaker would agree to a few insertions.
Haack says her first response, after Stanze e-mailed her the additions, was to laugh really, really hard. Then, she figured, "Cool. Let's do it. I'm down with that. I don't really care. I'll do most things if they're in the story. I got really excited about it."
Stanze and his crew, however, resisted the French investors' proposed necrophilia scene.
There are limits.
Blame it on the French. Or thank them, depending on your sensibility.
In the 72-minute running time of Spit/Piss, Sandy (Haack) eviscerates her prison-escapee boyfriend (Stanze acting under the pseudonym "Scot Spookytooth"), then tortures the three men he intended to torture, all handcuffed conveniently in a basement.
One man is forced to defecate in front of her, then eat his own shit before she takes an ax to him. She shoots another man's balls off, then takes her final victim upstairs.
Sandy lays the naked man on the bed, handcuffs his hands behind his back. She moves to a corner of the room and begins to fondle a broom handle, running it along her cheek, over her breasts, around her vagina. She pushes it inside her and masturbates.
After pleasuring herself, Sandy places a condom over the broom handle, which can be interpreted as French irony. She climbs onto the bed and thrusts the broom handle up the man's ass. He screams in pain as she pushes it inside him harder and harder.
There are gruesome sound effects. Sandy pulls out the now-blood-soaked broom handle and throws it to the side of the room. She plunges a steak knife into the back of her victim's neck, killing him.
Stanze is not yet ready to go the route of the directors he reveres, who were first denigrated in their hometowns only to become local heroes when they received a modicum of mainstream respectability.
Pittsburgh shows pride for George Romero now. Stanze lived in the Steel City in his middle-school years and recalls Romero's "huge following, which is so different from this place, because there is no way the St. Louis population would embrace gory zombie movies the way Pittsburgh did. Pittsburgh held it up as a matter of civic pride: 'We are the home of George Romero and all the zombie movies.'
"Those people turned out in giant crowds if he was auditioning for zombie movies. Crowds of people would go by and drool and slobber. St. Louis would never put up with that."
St. Louis, in Stanze's estimation, wouldn't have put up with Sam Raimi, either, who, before going mainstream with A Simple Plan, For the Love of the Game and this summer's Spider-Man, made the masterfully horrifying The Evil Dead in his hometown, Detroit.
For that matter, Baltimore -- which is St. Louis on a bay -- would have sooner exiled John Waters than admit any affiliation with the maker of Pink Flamingos and Female Trouble. After the success of Hairspray, however, Waters made the cover of Baltimore's city magazine, cozying up to respectable hometown-boy-made-good Barry Levinson.
For now, Stanze works within the secure comfort of his team and avoids the local pitchforks.
He shows evidence of civic pride, however, and hints at the desire for local acceptance and recognition. Stanze is writing a new script for Wicked Pixel, Tempest of the Dawn, he says, "and it's huge. One hundred times bigger than Ice From the Sun. I can't do it with the money we have currently. I have a line on some sources of financing, but if we don't get one guy stepping forward we can't get it done. It's gigantic.
"Not only am I excited by the screenplay -- and I'm never excited about my screenplays; when I finish them I feel like I'm finishing a chore -- writing this screenplay has been fun, I've actually been enjoying it. But the project has evolved to a point where I can bring in a lot of St. Louis people to really show off their talents in one big movie. If it got the financing I have to go after, it would be very high-profile, much more high-profile than the stuff I produced in the past. We simply can't do it unless we have a budget level that would allow it to get major cable airplay.
"Tempest is one of those big ones. It would be really good for me. It would be really good for this city if I get it made."