Sunday, December 30, 2018

2018: The Redemption Run

2017 was an interesting year, to put it lightly.  An over-bearing boss and demeaning work schedule left me feeling miserable and lifeless during the first half of the year.  I tried to put out content, but I didn't have the urge to write and when I did, I was less than satisfied with how the reviews turned out.  The situation looked dire, but in August of 2017, we got a new boss, and I started my junior year of college.  However, I had to take a break from writing, so I could rehabilitate myself after all the turmoil I went through months prior.  In January 2018, I returned to what I did best.

Though not without its slip-ups, I can safely say 2018 turned out to be a pretty good year both for myself and the blog.  As of December 30, 2018, I published 33 reviews this year alone, and the blog itself has over 5,400 views.  Most, if not all of the reviews were planned ahead of time, but a few weren't.  Reviews of The Predator and the blu-ray for Return of the Living Dead Part II were done on my own intuition.  I wrote an article on The Predator to express my disappointment with the film, and when Scream Factory announced they were putting out Return of the Living Dead Part II on blu-ray, I knew I had to pre-order it and review it once the film arrived.

Will this trend continue into next year?  Definitely.  I know I would like to review Godzilla: King of the Monsters, which releases in May, but we'll see what happens.  In general, I tried to be a bit more ambitious with my articles, what with doing double-feature reviews of video games and publishing a series retrospective in December.  I did the back-to-back reviews of Medal of Honor and Burnout because on their own, the individual articles would have been very short, so I thought why not just pair up the games into their own reviews?  As for Destroy All Humans, I had always wanted to cover the series proper and figured this would be the year to do it since it was also ten years since the last game in the series was released.  What I did not expect, though, was that I would get to talk about content removed from Path of the Furon.

As I explained in the article, I tried to get in contact with people involved in the making of the game, but they denied my requests.  Eventually, someone who was a tester on Path of the Furon and the previous two games agreed to share their stories on being a tester for those games, and this individual even got me in contact with someone who had design documents used in the development of Path of the Furon and Big Willy Unleashed.  Sifting through the documents and picking them apart for interesting information was a blast, and I want to thank the two individuals, whose names shall be kept anonymous, for helping me out.

Say what you want about 2018, but for me, personally, it was a solid year.  Instead of being constantly confined to school and work, I was able to travel to not one, but three conventions over the course of the year.  In June, I went to the Mississippi Comic Con and met popular gaming critic Jim Sterling, who was shooting footage for an upcoming episode of his series "The Jimquistion" there at the event, and I also met legendary actor Michael Biehn, who's best known for Aliens, The Terminator, and Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon.  In October, I attended the Gulf Coast Fan Fest as part of a news story I was writing.  There, I met David Naughton from An American Werewolf in London and Kent McCord from Battlestar Galactica and Return of the Living Dead 3.

Speaking of meeting people, I brought back something I intended to make a recurring thing on the blog: interviews.  In September, I sat down with Lee McCoy, creator of the YouTube channel DrumDums, and we spent nearly two hours talking about the origins of his channel, how to keep viewers interested in what you put out, horror, and much more.  As a fan of his work, it was an honor to be able to speak with him, and going into next year, I want interviews to become a permanent part of GamerGuy's Reviews.

Although I am proud of myself for picking up the slack and getting back into the swing of things, there's a lot of room for improvement.  The biggest challenge I'm working on to overcome is time management; in other words, devoting time during the day to write reviews and subsequently publish them.  There's a lot of articles that didn't happen simply because I didn't plan ahead or got too caught up in finishing school assignments.  The biggest victim of the schedule lapse was Drive-In of Terror.  For two years, I've tried to make this a fun occasion, but this year, I only got two of the intended six reviews out.  Heck, Friday the 13th: The Game wasn't even planned to be covered but I threw it in to tide things over as best as possible.

What I've realized is in order to properly plan ahead for things, I need a calendar.  Luckily, I've gotten not one, but two calendars for 2019 to help me keep track of when I need to write reviews and publish them.  With the calendars, everything should come out on time, and in the case of Drive-In of Terror, I'll make sure to go ahead and write all articles in the summer, so I can just publish them on their respective dates when October rolls around.

On the subject of next year, there's a lot of changes and new content coming to GamerGuy's Reviews.  I plan on contributing a lot more articles to the likes of Cubed3 and VHS Revival.  This year, I only wrote a handful of articles for both sites, but in 2019, you can expect to see a lot more from me on those respective websites, and thanks to my calendar, knowing when stuff need to be submitted shall be a cinch to do.  Also, I'm going to transition from a blog to an actual website as the year progresses.  I've used Blogger for three years now, but to better my standards and garner more attention, I need to set up a website.  I'll make the announcement of when the website is ready, so stay tuned.

Besides reviews, you can expect film commentaries as well.  One of the things I want do in the years to come is transition from written material to video content, and audio commentaries are a way for me to get a feel for making videos.  I still lack the proper equipment, but in the next couple of months or so, you can expect to see commentaries on my YouTube channel, as well as actual channel art.  As I said earlier, I want to do more interviews, but I also want to try and collaborate with other creators.  I know for certain I'll be collaborating with the podcast Revival House for a commentary later this May, but there are other channels whom I'd like to work with, but we'll have to wait and see.

Currently, I'm a senior in college, and before I know it, I'll be graduating and out in the real world.  GamerGuy's Reviews has been a way for me to flex my creative muscles, and though it has its ups and downs, it's also been a learning experience for me.  Creating content, whether in written or video form, is no easy task, but if you commit too it, it will pay off in the long run.  My hope is that one day I can make what I do not just a hobby, but a full-time gig.  Only time will tell, but if I stick with it, chances are it will morph into something special.  I thank those who have checked out my blog and read the reviews, and as we roll into 2019, I aim to take this to the next level.

Monday, December 24, 2018

The Real McCoy: An Interview with Lee McCoy

On September 23, 2018, I sat down for a Skype conversation with Lee McCoy, creator of the YouTube channel Drumdums, to discuss the origins of the channel, his process for creating video content, why he loves movies, particularly horror, and his time as an extra on the popular show Stranger Things, among other topics.  Lee is a former member of the Air Force, a musician, and most important of all, a family man.  

Currently, his channel has 22,000 subscribers (44,000 subscribers as of 2021, ed.), and his most recent uploads include reviews of modern movies like Aquaman and classics such as Candyman.  I want to thank Lee for taking time out of his busy schedule to do this interview, and I wish him the best as he continues to keep making videos; who knows, maybe we'll collaborate one day.

1.  Tell me about where you’re from and what you did prior to starting Drumdums?

I grew up in Columbus, Mississippi and when I was 18 years old, I joined the Air Force and      
was there for 24 years until 2016, but right before I retired, I started my Youtube channel.

2.     I understand you were in the Air Force, why did you decide to join and what was the experience like?

I grew up in a small town, so opportunity-wise, there wasn’t that much.  I wanted to have a
good life, get a good education, all of that stuff.  I knew if I stayed in Columbus none of this
was going to happen, plus I wanted to serve my country.

3.     How did Drumdums get started?  What led to your decision to start making videos?

I was in Afghanistan in 2012 and stationed there for about a year.  I started watching
Youtube and I’ve always been a movie fanatic, so the first channels I discovered were the
likes of JeremyJahns, Chris Stuckmann, SchmoesKnow, and FlickPick, those were the big
four.  WeWatchedAMovie was the one that got me interested in doing a horror channel.

This was all in 2012.  Three years later my wife said to me, “You’re always talking about
movies, why don’t you go ahead and do it on camera?”  She pushed me into getting a camera
and all the equipment; now the first few videos were completely horrible but the reason I
stayed with it was because my wife had spent all of this money on this equipment and I felt
like I would be such a failure if I tried this for a little bit and decided to quit and then have all
this equipment lying around doing nothing.

4.     When did things start to click for you?

That’s a good question.  Well, your first year you’re trying to hone your craft and you start
losing that fear of getting on camera probably within the first few months.  The first thing
you have to do is conquer the public speaking fear, then you start figuring things out as far as
editing goes and as you progress, you then might upgrade your software or hardware
depending on what you start out with.

5.     What type of content do you put out on Drumdums?

I tell people it’s 85 percent horror, but when I started out, I wanted to do just movies.  I wanted to cover the new movies being released until I realized everybody was already doing that.  Luckily, I’ve always been a horror fanatic, and I think whatever you’re a fan of is what’s going to pull you in the direction you want to go.

My first franchise review was Halloween, and I noticed how I started to get a lot more views with the Halloween reviews, so I said, “Hey, this is pretty cool because (A. I love horror, and (B. People are watching these videos more than anything else.”  I realized there’s a big horror fanbase out there that’s just as passionate as Star Wars or Marvel fans, but horror fans are probably even more loyal to the genre.

6.     What can people expect on the channel in the next few months or so?

I don’t plan things ahead that much, but every two months we do the “ScreamStream” podcast, and in October I participate in the “31 Days of October” channel event.  Other than that, I don’t plan too far outside a month ahead.  I have my Patreon-exclusive reviews which I do for my donators, but how I generally decide what to cover happens whenever I’m watching a movie or reading something in the news, and I see something that sparks my interest.

I don’t like planning things out too much because then it becomes stale.  I like things to be spontaneous and impulsive with my reviews, and I think that’s why you’ll notice in some of my reviews I’m noticeably chipper when reviewing certain movies because I decided, “Hey, I wanna review this.”

7.     Right, because yesterday you posted a video for the movie Mandy starring Nicholas Cage talking about how it’s your favorite movie of this year so far.

I didn’t expect to talk about Mandy because I’m not a die-hard Nicholas Cage fan, but I like those rags-to-riches stories of when somebody experiences a comeback after a lull in their career, like Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler.  I think that’s kind of what happened to Nicholas Cage with this movie. 

He got really passionate about this project, which I heard was partially fan-funded, and then, to back it up, you have this amazing director, Panos Cosmatos.  You love it when there’s this individual with a history of being down-and-out and then all of a sudden they put out this phenomenal product.

8.     What’s your process for writing reviews?

When writing, what works for me is I watch the movie, preferably twice.  The first time, I don’t do anything and just let all settle in, unlike during my first year where I would take notes along the way, which I think can be a little distracting.  Eventually I learned to just watch the movie and let it soak in, then I’ll put it on a second time in the background while I take notes.

Then I pull up a Word document and start unloading everything I feel is important; afterwards, I go back and arrange everything in an order of importance, which helps you stay on track.  When some reviewers start out, they don’t take notes, which makes their early work feel a bit scattered.  It’s always a good idea to stay organized and have a little bit of spontaneity.  Sometimes, I try to memorize my notes, so I have a flow going and if something pops into my head I add it in to keep my notes going.

9.     How did you come up with your scoring system because of instead of using a star rating or anything like that you use phrases like “Looped in Hell” or the “Unicorn,” where did that come from?

I get bored with things pretty quickly and I wanted to come up with a ratings system that was for me, not necessarily something that was catchy for everyone else, and it makes it easy for me because I’ll be like, “Is that two-and-a-half stars or three?”  If it’s something like “Two Hours Lost” or “Humdrum,” then I can categorize it a lot quicker.

The “Unicorn” came last year because there were these movies from my childhood, or I saw something that stood above everything else like The Dark Knight.  That film was the catalyst for the rating, which I only use about once a year.  This rating lets people know this film is super-special to this reviewer.

10.  Whenever you face a snag or are unsure about what to do next when writing the review, shooting the video, or editing it, what do you do?

The thing with movies is that you always have something to write about, so pulling out pros and cons isn’t a problem for me.  What I will say is there have been certain movies that have been difficult to review for a couple of different reasons.  The “Unicorn” rating is the hardest one to give out because everyone and their brother has already talked how great this film is, so what can you bring to the table that’s new?

Then, there are the ones that are so bland that it’s hard to get creative with the reviews, luckily those movies depend on whether they’re really bad or really good.

11.  What’s the key to keeping the audience interested in what you put out?

What I’ve learned is that you have to stay relevant and be consistent.  If you take a break for a month, you’re going to lose views.  I also try to change things up and come up with something different to challenge myself. 

When I did the review for House on Sorority Row, I was not satisfied with how it turned out.  It was too short, only about six minutes, and I didn’t give the movie it’s fair shake when I watched it.  So, I decided, “What if I put this review to the side and come back to it in a few months?”  Then, I re-watched it, created another review, and merged it with the original to show how I thought of it initially versus what I think of it now.

Another one was “Drumdums Watches.”  It was during October of my first year and I wanted to do a Halloween marathon when I thought, “Why don’t I V-log this?”  I v-logged little specs of each movie with me in the background.  I got a pretty good response from it and realized this was a cool idea.

You have to be creative and you can’t be stale.  You can’t do the same video over and over because people will get tired of it, so you have to throw a curveball in every once in a while.

12.  How has doing Drumdums changed your life?

The big thing it’s done is made me categorize my life and put in some time management.  If you’re doing YouTube and taking it seriously you have to set aside the time because a lot of people think they can record a video, not really edit it, and just put it out there.  By doing that, though, no one’s going to watch it. 

The quickest I can get a movie review done is two hours, but some have taken me a week to do.  Always put out a quality product and don’t do something you’re not going to be proud of.

In short, you have to categorize and make time for your family and everything else in your life, even if this means getting up in the wee hours of the morning to get some work done.  There have been times where I feel like I can’t get anything done because I’m out of energy.  You have to make sure you exercise, drink fluids, etc. to help keep your energy levels up.

13.  Why do you love horror? 

I think every horror fan has got something from their childhood that sparked that love for the genre, and for me, when I was really young, I remember seeing this commercial on TV for some movie, and in it were these scary eyes, which frightened me, and that image alone stuck with me. 

I love all kinds of movies, but horror connects with me more than any other genre, so much so it transcends beyond films.  Whenever I go to horror conventions or talk with fans, they’re so passionate about the genre, and I was talking with my wife the other day about this and she said horror fans are the least judgmental people.  You can go to a horror convention and see people from all different walks of life who don’t care about what you believe in or your thoughts on a topic, they’re just very humble, loving people that all have one thing in common: they love horror movies.

Plus, everyone loves a good rush, and I think horror movies can give you a huge rush when watching them if directed properly.

14.  What are some of your favorite horror directors?

John Carpenter is my favorite director because the work he did in the 70’s and 80’s is pretty unmatched as far as horror goes.  Today, you still have young directors trying to capture what Carpenter did, and I have to wonder if Carpenter’s success is unintentional or if he knew what he was doing. 

Everybody’s got a flavor or style they can’t avoid, like how I review movies, and I have to wonder if Carpenter was lucky because he has this “something” that other directors don’t have.  Other ones I include David Fincher and Stanley Kubrick.

15.  What about favorite horror films?

I did a list a little while back with my daughter, but some of my favorites include Halloween, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Exorcist.  While a sequel, Halloween 4 had one of the most profound impacts on me growing up.  The reason is because at the time, Jason and Freddy were the only ones in the market at the time, but their movies were getting pretty bad, but when the movie came out, it delivered on every single level.

It was the movie that got me into the franchise, but what I also liked about it is the ending.  The reveal Jamie Lloyd was becoming a killer like her uncle shook me really bad and even gave me nightmares.  It’s the only movie I can think of that had that type of effect on me, and it’s weird it came from Halloween 4 of all things.

16.  In your mind, what makes an effective horror film?  And what doesn’t?

John Carpenter said it best when he said, “A great horror film can do many things, it can (A. Scare the audience, (B. Scare the audience, and (C. Scare the audience,” and I truly believe that.  Not everyone gets scared by what they see, but it depends.  Recently, I just saw The Nun, which had a great atmosphere but some of the laziest scare tactics I’ve ever seen.

You can tell when work is put into a project and it’s effective.  It Follows is another great example because every time a scare happened, you didn’t see it coming.  You had this sense of dread it was coming, but didn’t know when to expect it, even though the film also employed jump-scares.  There’s a big misconception that jump-scares are bad, but if they’re done right, they can be pretty damn cool.  If the director has a vision and takes the project seriously, then you can have some great horror movies.

17.  How do you feel about horror films released now?  Is there a particular style of horror you want to see more of?

This has been a pretty good year for horror movies, what with releases like Herditary.  I just saw Alice, Sweet Alice from 1976, and I thought, “Wow, this is an original horror film, even by today’s standards and the time it was released.”  I find myself liking horror movies that deal with the family because there are a lot of times where there are cracks in a family we don’t see out in public.

When you can see that and dig into it, explore it, and add a horror aspect to it, then you can make it pretty damn chilling.  A member of the family killing their own is something I find creepier than them killing a complete stranger.  I would like to see more films in the style of something like this or Hereditary.

Zombie movies have kind of ran their course over the past few years through stuff like The Walking Dead, but I like 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later, and I’d like to see more zombie films that are really intense like those come back into play.  I Am Legend (2007) had the right idea, but they used CGI, which I thought was a huge mistake because there was a lot of potential with that movie if they had gone the other way.  I like a good zombie movie, but the sub-genre is getting pretty stale.

18.  Speaking of which, with the new Halloween movie releasing in a few weeks, if the film is a success, do you think Hollywood will want to resurrect even more franchises that haven’t seen a new installment in a while?
To tie into my previous answer, I want 28 Months Later, even though it’s not a slasher movie.  I’d also like to see a new Nightmare on Elm Street movie because it’s been a while since the last one came out.  Of course, I’d also like to see a new Jason movie because I love a good camp slasher.  If they can ever figure the rights out, it’d nice to get another Jason movie.

I’m trying to think of some others, but I realize you don’t see that many slashers develop into their own franchises.  I’m not a big fan of Hatchet or any southern-fried horror, plus I’m not dying for a new Texas Chainsaw movie either.

19.  To change the subject a little bit, you appeared as an extra in the first two seasons of “Stranger Things,” how did this happen?
I’ve done extra work here and there since The Avengers in 2012, which I have to thank my wife for.  My daughter used to model, and we went to this casting call in Santa Fe, New Mexico because she was trying to get a part as an extra in The Avengers.  While we were there, the guy asked, “We need military types, would you be interested in trying out?”  I told him sure and three months later I got a phone call saying they want me to be in The Avengers.

You can’t see me in The Avengers, by the way.  I’m in the beginning scene where the helicopter is coming down and Coulson steps out.  I’m one of the S.H.I.E.L.D. guards, but you can’t see my face.

I stayed in the loop and sometime later, a casting director named Taylor Meade asked me if I wanted to be an extra on episode three of Stranger Things, which, at the time, no one expected was going to be a big hit.  It was purely accidental, and I don’t think I knew what it was about when I picked it, but my wife pushed me to go do it.

After it became huge, I lobbied to appear in the second season and got lucky to do that one.  I’m hoping to get in the third season, so we’ll see what happens.

20.  It’s funny because I brought this up to my dad and told him you were in Stranger Things a few days prior.  So, you’re in episode three of season one, but where are you in season two?

I’m in the very last episode.  Right after the double doors are closed and the chains are put around, I’m the one who bolts the chains as the camera pulls back to reveal my face.  I get into a jeep and flip the bird to a guy on the way out.  It’s funny cause that’s not me flipping the bird because what happened was that they wanted me to come back the next day, but because I lived three hours away from where they were shooting, I didn’t get to flip the guy off.

21.  Going back to Drumdums, one of the other interesting aspects of your channel is your film collection, especially your VHS tapes you display in the background of your videos.  When did you decide to start collecting those?

I used to work at a Habitat for Humanity re-sale store back in Georgia and we used to get a lot of cool items like typewriters from the 1970’s or those old sewing machines from the 1950’s.  One day, I found this 1983 ColorTrac 2000 TV that was in pristine condition, and I had to buy it.
I love horror VHS covers, and I found you could buy tapes for pretty cheap if you went to Goodwill or Ebay, and it eventually became its own thing as I started collecting things until I realized, “Oh crap, I have over a hundred VHS tapes.”  Some of these tapes are donated to me, so I do unbox videos where these people have sent me boxes and boxes of tapes.

22.  For those looking to start their own collection, what advice would you give them?
You have to be resourceful.  Look around at thrift stores, flea markets, and sites like Ebay for VHS tapes.  Also, keep an eye out for VHS lots because sometimes you’ll end up paying cheaper for the tapes than if you bought them individually.

23.  On that note, what’s the most you’ve spent on a VHS tape?
I spent 25 dollars on Sleepaway Camp.  I had to have it because it’s my favorite camp slasher and second favorite slasher of all time, and because Felissa Rose is coming to Spooky Empire in a month.

24.  Where do you see Drumdums in five years or so?
This has been quite a year for me because I hit 10,000 subscribers back in April or March and I’m already at almost 20,000 subscribers right now.  It’s kind of like a whirlwind because I never expected to get this kind of growth because in my first year, I got maybe a thousand subscribers, so I thought it was going to be a slow ride.

But what I’m learning is if you’re consistent and you keep putting out quality content, your audience is going to grow.  I don’t take anything for granted, and I’m really lucky because I know channels that have been grinding at it and are still below a thousand subscribers.

Now, in five years, I hope I’m at 100,000 subscribers.  You look at horror YouTubers and the only one with a million subscribers is Dead Meat, so there’s this really big gap, subscriber-wise, when it comes to horror YouTube channels, so most of us seem like we’re below 30,000, but if you’ve got 30,000 subscribers, you’re doing something right.

If you’re doing straight-up movie reviews, then it’s more of a grind.  I’m curious to see what the future holds.

Lee's Channel: