The Mad Times of Charles Band
Charles Band has directed more than forty films, and through Full Moon Features, he has produced and distributed 100s more - but is his latest one the lowest of the low?
Talent surrounds Charles Band. His grandfather, Max Band, was an accomplished artist and author of 1935 book the History of Contemporary Art. His father was a director and producer in Hollywood before teaming up with his son on various projects, and his son is a talented (some might say) musician, and was the lead singer for chart topping band The Calling.
But talent isn’t always the first thing people think of when discussing the director of Evil Bong, The Gingerdead Man, Dollman vs Demonic Toys and Oooga Booga. Charles Band has racked up a heady list of over 40 director credits and under various incarnations of his production company, Full Moon Features, he has produced and distributed hundreds of films.
During a time when low budget films could make big bucks, Band established Charles Band Productions and later Empire Films where he made some of the eighties' most acclaimed horror films and directed some of the decade’s most promising actors. Kelly Preston (Metalstorm), Demi Moore (Parasite), Helen Hunt (Trancers), Sherilyn Fenn (Meridian) all had starring roles in Charles Band films before hitting the big time in the 90s.
It seemed certain that Band would follow a similar path as other great B-movie directors like as James Cameron and Peter Jackson. But the up and coming director couldn’t always shy away from the lure of money, and he favoured directing films away from the watchful guise of the big studios so he could produce and distribute them too.
The eighties were easy pickings for Band with the home video market booming, and a huge demand for gory VHS titles. Band’s distributions were flying high with acquisitions like Re-animator, From Beyond and Ghoulies all making a ton of money, and inhouse, his own films were also doing well. Troll made over $5m on a $1m budget; Eliminators took over $4m and other films made for around $150k all did well on VHS.
Things were going so well that Band branched out to Italy where he bought a huge fuck-off castle, later to be used as the set for Castle Freak, with his millions. At that time Italy was a hot bed of horror and Band was slap bang in the middle of it.
But the excess of the European adventure soon took its toll on the company and debts brought it down in May 1988. Undeterred Band moved back to the States and formed the first incarnation of Full Moon and less than a year later delivered Puppet Master, a huge success for the business, and distributed by Paramount Pictures. Within two years two more sequels to Puppet Master were released and the trend of evil little creatures was forming.
Demonic Toys, Dollman, Shruken Heads and Seedpeople were hot on the heels of Puppet Master and all continued to succeed. Band also took his modelling formula to the family market, producing a number of direct to video hits for Paramount including the wildly successful Prehysteria which even made it into McDonald's Happy Meal boxes.
Band was mainstream, for a moment.
The relationship with Paramount soured after they grew suspicious of Band and his relatively basic films clocking up millions of dollars on budget. The last straw was The Lurking Fear, which Band generously claimed cost $1 million to make despite it looking like a bad home movie.
With the downfall of the direct to video market in the mid to late 90s and the loss of the Paramount distribution deal, Full Moon fell on hard times and with budgets plummeting they relied heavily on sequels. Puppet Master and Trancers each racked up six sequels before the turn of the century, and Subspecies a five of its own.
After the millennium, Band and Full Moon Features had to get creative (read: not always legal or genuine) with their sales, and began a reissuing titles in ever more elaborate packages.
The 2000 release of the Puppet Master series caught the interest of Paramount who still held the rights to the films and thus started the many tales of Charles Band’s never ending warehouse. He claimed at the time these were in fact originals and thus was exempt from the rights issue, however Paramount didn’t buy it and the set was removed from sale.
His warehouse again would play a role in the 2013 discovery of hundreds of VHS boxes supposedly lost for 33 years, coincidentally at the exact time the big box VHS market was booming. Band didn’t go as far as to say they came complete with original VHS tapes, but maintained the cardboard cases were found flat packed and would be sold with replica tapes in side and for an added $5 dollars he would sign them too. Although, as seen in the video below some sceptical souls called foul and went into forensic detail to disprove the veracity of Band’s claims.
A new dawn for Full Moon came in 2006 with the releases of The Gingerdead Man, starring Gary Busey, and Evil Bong.
Loaded with porn stars and crass comedy the respective films went on a hazy journey of sequels culminating, for The Gingerdead Man at least, in the 2013 crossover Gingerdead Man vs Evil Bong.
Evil Bong shows no sign of slowing though, with eight instalments thus far. And Full Moon embraced the streaming world by setting up its own streaming service with an almost complete back catalogue on. Band even moved into the world of adult films and in 2018 created the Exotic Movie House streaming service.
And now, to 2020 and the coronavirus, where Charles Band saw an opportunity.
Never one to shy away from shock tactics, he went into ‘production’ of Corona Zombies. I say production, Corona Zombies is largely repurposed footage from Hell of the Living Dead intercut with news reports of douche bag spring breakers, Donald Trump sound bites and its only actor Cody Renee Cameron literally calling in from home.
Although Band may have lost his edge, and his films are dumb stoner comedies, he still has the ability to publicise himself like no other micro budget director as shown with the wide coverage of Corona Zombies which included the left wing British newspaper The Guardian.