John Harrison on Effects and George A. Romero


Effects John Harrison

Filmmaker and composer John Harrison talks about his movie Effects and his lifelong relationship with George A. Romero

Cobbled together with loose change by late horror film icon George A. Romero‘s friends, Effects is a mesmerizing do-it-yourself horror movie starring FX legend, actor and director Tom Savini, Joe Pilato (Day of the Dead), and actor/director and composer John Harrison (Creepshow, Day of the Dead, Tales from the Darkside). A group of coked-up filmmakers — including Savini and Pilato — gather in Pittsburgh to make a slasher called “Duped: The Snuff Movie.” As filming begins and “accidents” happen, it’s clear that something isn’t right. And no one can be trusted. Landing somewhere between Michael and Roberta Findlay’s Snuff and a student film by John Carpenter, Effects is a meta-enhanced takedown on the philosophy of horror that doubles as a sleazy and terrifying movie on its own.

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Effects was produced by Harrison, edited and produced by Pasquale Buba (editor of George Romero’s Knightriders, Day of the Dead and Monkey Shines), and written and directed by Dusty Nelson (Sakura Killers). Legendary horror icon Tom Savini also provided the film’s visual effects.

Now, AGFA (American Genre Film Archive) have prepped a 4K scan and impending Blu-ray release of this obscurity and have teamed up with the Alamo Drafthouse’s Terror Tuesday series in Austin for a screening of Effects on August 22. You can pre-order the Effects Blu-ray here.

We took a few minutes yesterday to chat with the amazing John Harrison about the movie and his unique relationship with his friend and mentor George A. Romero. What can you tell me about the screening?

John Harrison: They’re doing it in Austin so I’ve got to fly down there. Savini’s going to go, Joe Pilato’s going to show up. How this happened was that we made a DVD deal a few years ago and that license expired and AGFA wanted to put out a 4K version of it, so I made a deal with them to put out a 4K version and they’re doing the premiere and they’ve invited us to come down and do a Q&A and I tell you, the f**king thing is sold out already! It just blows my mind. I mean, this film is forty something years old!

CS: It never did get a proper release, is that correct?

Harrison: Not really, no. The distributor we made the deal with, I mean how many times have you heard this story, they didn’t have enough money to properly release it and it lay around for a while, the rights were all tied up, I kept trying to get them back and finally I did and got the first DVD released.

CS: So it’s your movie, you have the negative right, they did the scan off the negative?

Harrison: Oh yes, we own it.

CS: How involved was George with the movie?

Harrison: He wasn’t directly involved, but he was encouraging and we did the same thing he was doing, we went around and begged and borrowed money.

CS: And you had learned so much from George about the business by this point.You seemed to be like a tribe, all of you, moving from project to project.

Harrison: For a long time it was that way and that’s a credit to George. If you came in and said hey man, I’d like to work here, I’d like to do this or that he’d say ok, go ahead, he never said well what are your credits, what’s your background? My friend Frank Pearl, who was an assistant cameraman on several of these projects — he’s now a cinematographer on all kinds of TV shows — he told me this story, I forget what he was working on, but it was some project in the nineties and I think George was doing Two Evil Eyes with Dario Argento and I was in New York doing Tales From the Darkside: The Movie and so Frank comes into town and it turns out he’s shooting up the street. I wish I could remember what film it was. Anyway, he was a cameraman and so he was just like, “I’ll just take my lunch break and go up and say hi to the guys,” because he knew everybody, we’d all worked together. And he walked down and he saw George and he said “hey man, what’s going on?” and George said “hey, what are you doing?” and he said “well I’m doing this movie up the road” and George said “hey, do you have a few minutes?” and Frank said “yeah and George said listen, we’re about to do this shot, why don’t you go pick up one of those camera’s and take one of the other angles?” and Frank said “well yeah!” and he did and that’s the way he was and that’s sort of the way it all was back then. Everyone just did everything.

CS: What are you working on right now, John?

Harrison: Well, I have several projects at once actually, but that seems to be the way the world is and you have to have many irons in the fire. But the one that is the most active at the moment is an adaptation of a very popular French graphic novel. I was approached by a producer friend of mine a couple of years ago to see if I would be interested in doing the adaptation, I’d done some work for this producer in the past, and I sparked to the material and said yes so we’ve sold it to an international production and distribution company. What we’re doing right now is I’ve written a pilot, I’ve laid out the bible for the series and we’re going to go out to several directors, I won’t be directing the pilot, this is a big international production that takes place, the first season, almost exclusively in Southeast Asia so they’re being very ambitious, they want to shoot for a big international director that will have some cache in the international marketplace because that’s how they’re financing it. So I’m hopeful; they love the script, the material I’ve done so it would be great to see this get off the ground, I really love the project. Then I have a screenplay I wrote with a good friend of mine who’s a novelist, that George and I actually talked about, and he introduced me to Malcolm McDowell and he wants to do it and we’re trying to figure out the financing on that, it’s a crazy, quirky project that I’ve had for a little while and various other things kind of kicking around but not enough to make too much noise about at the moment, but there are a couple of others that maybe, before the end of the year will hopefully bear fruit somehow.

CS: And you and George had projects bubbling right until the final hour, did you not?

Harrison: Oh yeah, we always had something going. Often times it was just a way for us to get together and drink and laugh but no, we did have a lot of projects and there’s a couple that I hope maybe at some time still come to pass, although it will be a real bittersweet thing if they do.