Karl Ivan Atticus (October 4th, 1947 - August 1973) was an American filmmaker. A native of Baltimore, Maryland, Atticus's brief career earned him a place in the pantheon of cult movie directors, having achieved a modest level of notoriety for two extremely violent films, Culture Shock and Mortal Remains. He is regarded by many in the film industry as the forgotten "father of the modern slasher movie. " As he was also implicated in a string of incidents involving cemetery vandalism or desecration (some have suggested that he was in fact a necrophile), he has over the years become a figure of urban legend in Maryland, though he was never formally charged with these crimes.
Atticus was born in late 1947 in Loch Raven, a suburban neighborhood within the Baltimore city limits. His father, Professor Ivan Atticus, a tenured instructor of English literature at Johns Hopkins University, perished in 1950 in an automobile accident. A sickly child who was quarantined for over a year due to polio, Atticus continued to live with his mother, Margaret (née Cowan), for many years until she died in June 1970. Atticus never left his childhood home in Loch Raven, though the family also owned a summer house in Jessup, a rural community in neighboring Howard County. He had no siblings.
Atticus, an avowed fan of fantasy and horror tales, was fixated from an early age on the works of authors such as Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allan Poe, Vernon Blake, Robert E. Howard, and H. P. Lovecraft, among others. A childhood acquaintance of Atticus's once indicated that, as a boy, Karl spent "more time in the library than at home." By adolescence, this segued into a burgeoning fascination with cinema. In one published interview, Atticus cited among his influences the works of Henri-Georges Clouzot and Luis Buñuel. He was also profoundly affected by the works of Antonin Artaud, taking particular interest in the manifesto behind his "Theatre of Cruelty"; unlike Artaud, however, Atticus chose to interpret the term "cruelty" much more literally.
Atticus's primary claim to fame is as the director of a film which sparked a violent reaction from its audience. The midnight premiere of Mortal Remains at the Patterson Theater in Baltimore was cut short when some members of the audience, presumably enraged by the film's content (or possibly its quality, as some have half-jokingly suggested) literally rioted and caused significant damage to the building. The sole print of the film was also partially destroyed, and the film has thus become something of an apocryphal legend as a result. Contemporary news reports placed responsibility for the incident on "Hells Angels" or "hippies," while others simply attributed the outburst to recreational drug use.
Largely forgotten today, this incident has nevertheless been immortalized in published fiction, television, and cinema as the inspiration for stories involving "the film which drove its audience mad."
Atticus committed suicide in mid-1973; his remains were discovered in a wooded area adjacent to his family's cabin in Jessup. Some people speculate that depression ran in the family, as his mother Margaret had taken her own life only three years prior. A hiker stumbled across the badly decomposed body of the young filmmaker and contacted the authorities, who determined the cause of death as self-inflicted gunshot (a 12-gauge shotgun was found within reach of the decedent). As the body was headless, and extensive decomposition prevented fingerprint analysis, the major determining factor which led investigators to conclude that the remains were those of Karl Atticus was a large, elaborate tattoo visible on its torso.