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by Thomas M. Sipos, managing editor  [July 21, 2015]






[]  Two gangsters kidnap a rich young girl (Galit Gurovich) and take her to an abandoned factory, hoping for a ransom. But she is neither who -- or what -- she appears to be.

Dead Heart (aka Corazon Muerto) initially appears to tread familiar ground, offering the usual tropes and clichés of crime thrillers and telekinesis horror films (e.g., Carrie). But a parallel story about two young lovers (Ariadna Asturzzi, Leandro Cóccaro) is then interwoven into the crime caper.

Why? How do these young lovers relate to the kidnapping?

Furthering the mystery, these two tales intertwine in a nonlinear fashion, much like the story structure used, to enigmatic effect, in Pulp Fiction.

Viewers will initially be puzzled by Dead Heart's disparate events and characters, and guess as to how all the elements fit together. But the film surprised me. Some apparently "obvious" guesses turn out to be wrong.

It's difficult to tell a story that will surprise hardcore genre fans, unless you toss in arbitrary surprises. Yet Dead Heart's revelations are surprising without being arbitrary. When the film's secrets are revealed, it all make sense. And even after we learn everything, one character continues to surprise us by her unexpected (yet in context, logical) emotional choices.

It's hard to say much about the story without spoiling an ending that carries a poignant emotional punch -- one that is both unexpected and rare for the genres. Pulp Fiction's knockoffs have been increasingly nihilistic and mean-spirited. Many recent horror films are also less dark than just plain ugly. But for all its violence, Dead Heart's darkly romantic ending is surprisingly sentimental.

I mean a very darkly romantic ending. It's not a happy ending. It's darkly romantic in a despairing Edgar Allan Poe sense. The term gothic seems appropriate.

"The idea for Dead Heart was to mix both worlds, the supernatural and the thriller," said director Mariano Cattaneo to the Hollywood Investigator. "It was born from my idea about the energy that a very obsessive person can generate. Love, hate, rancor, jealousy, revenge are powerful energies. I ask, What about all that energy if a person dies?"

Cattaneo says that he wrote a first draft of Dead Heart in 2008. But this initial version required a larger budget than he could raise. He thinks that was a good thing, because it forced him to focus more on the characters and bring in Sergio Salgueiro as co-writer. "Sergio gave more depth to the characters and their situations. It is the first script we did together -- a great collaborative work."




The IMDb states that Dead Heart had an "estimated budget" of a million dollars. But Cattaneo says that "It is difficult to calculate the actual cost of an independent film, as there are many factors that come into play. You have heard many times that a movie was made with $7,000 or $10,000. This is a lie, because it only considers the 'spending money.' It does not include human labor -- friends or professionals who did not get a fixed salary. This is part of the budget and should be included. It is a great myth that any film is made for only $10."

Cattaneo's observation is true. I worked for an independent producer in Los Angeles many years ago. While there, I learned that everyone in Hollywood (everyone -- special effects artists, lighting technicians, writers, actors) claims that they can raise half the budget for a film, if you can raise the other half. Once, we had four investors with four halves of a budget -- and not a dime between them.

I discovered that "half the budget" doesn't mean money, but free labor. Actors, writers, and crew working for deferred pay (which often means no pay). These "investors" each wanted to invest the "monetary value" of their friends' labor. Trouble is, you can’t produce two films merely because you have four films' worth of cast and crew. Someone has to buy the film stock.



As for Dead Heart, Cattaneo says, "The film was financed by us -- No Dejes DeMirar Productions -- putting materials as money for rent and salaries."

Dead Heart is admirable not only for its imaginative story, but for a cast that offers emotionally powerful performances across the board. "They are a very committed group," Cattaneao says of his cast. "They not only read the script, but give more life to the characters. I let each of the actors play their role in their own way. I am very happy with their work."

Dead Heart was filmed "mainly in an old, abandoned factory with five floors" in Buenos Aires, and a few locations on the city's outskirts. It was shot in HD on a Canon 5D and 7D. "They are versatile cameras. They give a good picture and you can force them for good color treatment."

House of Films is distributing Dead Heart in the U.S., where it's doing the film festival circuit. It won for Best Feature Film at Pennsylvania's Cinema Monster Film Festival. It premieres in Argentinean theaters this November. It should be released in the United States soon afterwards.


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