Eugene Weekly : Movies : 4.10.08


Bloody Funny, Horrifically Ironic
Henry Weintraub premieres his latest film

It’s safe to say anyone whose professional website features a 10 second clip of his head being blown off at point blank range has a fairly dark sense of humor.

Henry Weintraub, independent film-maker and founder of Eugene-based 531 Productions, has elicited cringing and laughter from audiences with his low-budget horror comedies at the Bijou, DIVA and a handful of other locations for the last five years. His films garnered the attention of reviewers along with angry letters from newspaper readers appalled to see coverage of the “filth” made by “such a despicable man.” Weintraub laughs at the criticism. “It’s almost kind of an inspiration to me; it pushes me along to keep going,” he says. He parodies the castigation in the opening credits of his 2006 short “Split,” introducing the piece as “a despicable movie by Henry Weintraub.”

Though murder and death are a macabre subject matter for film, 531 Production films often include comedy and humorous twists. “When I make my movies, I try to really play up on the irony of life,” says Weintraub. He admits that a lot of the humor in his films is unintentional. “When you do the serious stuff, it comes across kind of funny, and vice versa,” he says with a shrug.

His latest film, “Depraved,” premieres at DIVA on Saturday. At 30 minutes it’s his longest work to date, and unlike his prior work, it deals exclusively with human violence. It’s a revenge film about a woman who gets back at the people who paralyzed and tortured her.

“Depraved” was made for a paltry $300 and only used two gallons of blood – significantly less than Weintraub’s earlier films. Lloyd Kaufman, founder of Troma Entertainment, plays a cameo role. Troma recently acquired the rights to Weintraub’s 2007 “MindSlime.”

This summer Weintraub shoots Melvin, his first feature-length film, and he’s hoping that will be with the help of a $10,000 Media Arts grant from the state of Oregon. Melvin is a comedic, horror, mad scientist story about a man who creates nanobots that turn people into slaves. “Think Re-Animator meets Weird Science,” says Weintraub with a laugh. Even if he doesn’t get the grant, he’ll still make the film. “A story is what you need to make a movie – if you have a strong story and a strong cast, that’s all it takes,” he says. “What I’d really, ideally like to do is finish it, make up DVDs and try to do a West Coast tour. There seems to be more of a connection when you actually show up with your movie and you can field questions and introduce it. It really changes the experience of the movie.”

Weintraub wants to make 531 Productions his full-time job, but for now it’s his full-time hobby. Because the actors he works with are largely unpaid friends, shooting is limited to Saturdays. Weintraub and his macabre troupe spend spare hours during the week making special effects, story boarding, script reading and scouting locations. When not performing, the actors get behind the camera, holding lighting equipment and helping out in innumerable ways. “I don’t even know how to credit them anymore. They all do so much.” says Weintraub.

“Depraved” premieres at 7 pm Saturday, April 12, at DIVA. $3. The film will also show the following weekend at the Bijou.