Writer/Director/Actor Adrian Tofei gives us the scoop on past influences, film methodology, and what's to come.
After viewing Be My Cat: A Film for Anne, I knew we had another mission: get a glimpse inside the mind of Adrian Tofei, who wrote, directed, and everything else’d this movie. We were beyond appreciative when he afforded us that opportunity. We recently had a few minutes to lock him down during his busy festival and film touring schedule to learn a little more about his roots, his influences, and what’s to come in the future…
RB: Where did your inspiration for Be My Cat come from?
AT: The initial source of inspiration was a one-man-show I did in 2012 called "The Monster". I was the actor, I directed it and also wrote it, but inspired by another monologue that I played in college in 2009. The success of "The Monster" made me realize that I definitely need to adapt it into a movie, since my lifetime passion was film, not theatre. But as the film project evolved, it became an original story, with nothing in common with that one-man-show except for some traits in the psychology of the main character. So my character in Be My Cat evolved over the course of 5 years, starting with that monologue in college, then "The Monster" and then finally the movie.
RB: How long did Be My Cat take to shoot?
AT: 20 days, but backed by almost 2 years of intense day by day preparations.
RB: There definitely seems to be a fine line between what is real and what is happening on camera. Was it difficult going in and out of character while shooting? For you? For the actresses?
AT: Well... just imagine... I am a film director working with the actresses on a movie in which I play a so-called film director working with actresses played by the real actresses, and the so-called film director shoots some scenes in which he plays a guy obsessed with an actress played by the actresses that are played by the real actresses. It sounds discouraging, but as a director I came up with a precise method of work, and then as actors we fully ventured into that psychological labyrinth, knowing that the method will guide our every step! And everything worked!
RB: At what age did you take interest in wanting to make movies?
AT: I believe during high school, after I had the greatest revelation of my live while watching Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" for the first time!
RB: Romanian horror is quite new to us...can you give us a few of your favorite film titles that helped to influence you to take this journey?
AT: Romanian horror is quite new to everybody. Be My Cat is only the second Romanian horror movie. And some of the international titles that influenced me... there are so many of them... I learned a lot about realism in filmmaking from "The Celebration" (1998), "The Blair Witch Project" (1999), "Exhibit A" (2007), "Zero Day" (2003). I learned a lot about the potential of the horror genre from "Peeping Tom" (1960), "Psycho" (1960), "Carrie" (1976), "Halloween" (1978), "Picnic at Hanging Rock" (1975), "The Haunting" (1963). And I can say I was also influenced by "Les Miserables" (2012) because of Anne Hathaway's incredible performance that mattered a lot when I had to choose an international star as the object of my character's obsession in the movie.
RB: What can we expect to see from you in the future? Do you have any projects you're currently working on?
AT: I have something in plan. It is really big. It's just a matter of time! Sorry for my lack of modesty, but that's how I am when I feel a huge potential in me to do something meaningful that nobody has ever done before!
Thanks a lot,
---Well there you have it. We were thrilled to watch and review the film, even more thrilled to be able to speak with Adrian about his influences and his methodology, and now we can be impatiently ecstatic knowing there is more on the way from this guy. Keep your eyes glued to Adrian Tofei and reelbloody.com…as we know more, YOU will know more!
RB: Firstly, thank you very much for sharing your film with us and for taking time out of your schedule to speak with us.
TP: Thank you for reviewing it!
RB: We’d like to start by saying that we definitely love the idea of a classic slasher icon with a campfire legend. It takes us back to a fantastic time in the horror genre, and your interpretation and continuation of that is truly admirable, so thank you very much! Where and when did the idea for Pitchfork come to exist?
TP: Awesome, Thanks! My family used to actually run a Haunted Hayride when I was kid and my grandfather loved to mess with us about ghost stories and legends, mostly made up on the spot of course. So a lot of his stories and things from the actual hayride went into forming Pitchfork and his backstory. Like you mentioned about slasher icons, Pitchfork for me is kind of mix of everything that I loved and found frightening in both movies and our family's hayride from when I was growing up. Much like the character "Steven" in the movie, the whole arc of both films is based around facing your childhood fears.
RB: Tell us about how you got into writing and directing films, and your earliest memory of knowing it was something you wanted to do.
TP: I actually remember the day. I was watching Back to the Future 2 for the millionth time. I was probably eight or nine years old. It was that scene where Marty follows Biff to pick up his car after the manure wreck in 1955. I remember having a sudden realization that everything on the street in the scene was actually put there on purpose; that they didn't just find a town where everything and everyone happened to still look like the 50’s. I'm sure it sounds funny now but for me at the time it was one of those holy crap moments and I immediately started re-watching all of my favorite movies with a new kind of eyes. It was kind of like seeing behind the curtain for the first time and it just really made me fall in love with movies all together.
RB: Have you always been partial to the horror genre?
TP: Yes. I loved watching the classics growing up and then in my teen years I gravitated towards the cheesier low budget movies. I loved watching Monster Vision on TNT or USA’s Up All Night that would play all of the really great B movies and I would pretty much rent anything that looked terrible just for the fun of it. Not only are the bad ones fun to watch, but they also help you appreciate the horror movies that are done well I think.
RB: Are there maybe a few films that stick out in your mind as being influential to you when you were growing up?
TP: The first "horror" movie (if you can call it that) I ever saw was "The Midnight Hour" (1985) that my grandmother had recorded off of TV. I'm still not sure why but it was one of the only non-western VHS tapes that they had so I watched it frequently in the 90s. The character "Amanda's" cheerleader outfit in Hayride 1 is taken directly from the main female lead in it. The movie is hard to track down but if you can get your hands on a copy I suggest you watch it. Spoiler alert, there's an obligatory 1980s choreographed dance number about midway through the movie, and in case you were wondering the answer is "no" it does not fit into the plot or get explained in anyway. So that's good.
RB: We always love to know…how long did this film take to shoot?
TP: Principle photography was only 15 days but we had 3 of 4 days of second unit and a day or 2 of small pickup shots.
RB: Finally, we can’t help but wonder what you have in store for the fans? A third act possibly? Give us the scoop as to what we can expect to see from you!
TP: You know I won’t say definitively that there won’t be a third Hayride but there currently aren't any plans for one yet. Honestly I get emails and Facebook messages from people in other countries asking about Hayride 2 and if there are going to be more, which I find extremely encouraging and still surprises me how far the first movie reached and it looks like Hayride 2 will have an even broader reach. So I guess if there's demand for it. There's always a chance. Right now I am really excited about a horror movie that I am producing that we will start preproduction on at the end of March. I can't really go into detail on it just yet but I'd be happy to give you the scoop a little further down the road.
RB: Again, we thank you for your time and wish you and your film Hayride 2 all the best success!
TP: Thanks again!
You can see Hayride now on Amazon Instant Video and Hayride 2 releases 3/6/15!
ReelBloody steals a few minutes with Kevin Greutert, director of Jessabelle and the upcoming feature Visions
Now this is truly a nice treat. This week ReelBloody is reviewing the supernatural thriller Jessabelle: a super creepy film with roots deep in the heart of the south. Starring Sarah Snook and Mark Webber and directed by Kevin Greutert, the movie centers around a young woman who returns to her home in Louisiana, only to be welcomed by an unrelenting spirit hell bent on keep her there for good. It’s a solid film no doubt; one that effectively utilizes elements of religion and voodoo-esque ritual to reveal a great story.
Director Kevin Greutert’s resume spans 2 decades, and includes a great variety of films ranging anywhere from Donnie Darko to Titanic to work on the first 5 Saw films. Truly a resume such as this commands recognition, and we’ve tried, in our own little way, to pay our respects. We reached out to Kevin Greutert to see if we could steal a few minutes of his time, and he generously accepted. Read on and learn about his influences, the direction he wanted to take with the movie, and things to come!
RB: Thanks again for taking the time for us. Coming off of Jessabelle and now you're doing Visions so no doubt your plate is full. We are gracious. We could certainly pick your brain endlessly but out of respect for your time, I'll keep this short. I know your resume is long, ranging from mysterious to downright macabre. Directing Jessabelle was probably a breath of fresh air from the Saw films. Did you ever find yourself inadvertently identifying scenes in Jessabelle where you could have gone gorier, then had to remind yourself this was NOT a Saw film?
KG: It was important for me to move away from the Saw world with my next film, and focus on a project that didn’t rely so much on extreme violence to engage the audience. To be sure, I loved working on the Saw movies, and got a real kick out of pushing the violence and gore envelope as far as I could. My cinematographer, Michael Fimognari, teases me a lot about how uncontrollably elated I get when we do gore moments on set, a reaction which I will neither confirm nor deny. The goal with the Saw movies was to keep the suspense and dread level at the highest point possible, while still maintaining narrative mystery and enough plot to keep the whole thing from getting tedious.
Jessabelle was deliberately a quiet movie, for the most part. While suspense and dread were definitely my goals, I wanted to achieve these effects through subtler means, and the first step was finding the right actors to help create the characters. Mark Webber, Sarah Snook and the other actors are all very serious about their craft, and we didn’t approach the movie as just a horror film, but really tried to tell a story of unrequited love. Here are two people who should be together, but the circumstances surrounding their lives have prevented them from doing so. On top of this is the slow reveal of Jessie’s tragic family history. So it’s all grounded in real drama, and the true evil is human-created, even though there is a dangerous ghost at play, and I think that made it an exciting challenge for me. It’s a lot more challenging to get an audience scared at a door slowly closing by itself than it is to shock them with an acid-spewing six foot mouse trap, but a lot more satisfying if you can pull it off.
Without a doubt, however, we had to tone back on a lot of things that would have been really fun to take to extremes, in order to get the PG-13 rating. I was always on board with not getting an R, because I thought the people who would like this movie the most might be put off by the thought of another violent film by one of the Saw guys. But it’s also frustrating to submit your film to the MPAA to get its rating, and be told all the things that need to be cut out, and I was shocked by how much Jessabelle seemed to freak them out. They even wanted me to take out the scene where the Dead Girl is vomiting black sludge into Jessie’s face. It’s not like it was blood, and even if it was, is that really something unacceptable for modern teens to see? At the end of the day I managed to keep at least some of it, thank God.
RB: I understand the film was shot in Wilmington, NC. How long did the shoot take?
KG: We shot the movie in 23 days. It was a real challenge, but I loved it.
RB: No doubt Sarah Snook did an outstanding job, but I have to mention Joelle Carter. I felt like she added a wonderful authenticity to her character. How was it working with such great actresses? They definitely seemed perfect for their roles.
KG: Everyone was a pleasure to work with. Joelle is from Georgia, and some of our other leads, David Andrews and Chris Ellis, are also from the South, which was a huge help in getting the accents and tones correct. We didn’t get a lot of opportunity to rehearse, but what we did do was very useful, especially for me. Mark and Sarah were amazingly brave about leaping into 60 degree water, and I can’t even tell you how many times Mark had to carry her back and forth from the car to the house in the rain — several dozen, I think. The videotape scenes with Sarah watching Joelle came out so nicely that you’d think the two actresses were really looking at each other as they performed, but of course these were shot at different times. I was honored to work with everyone involved.
RB: As I was watching, the religion and culture in the film teased elements of The Serpent and The Rainbow, Candyman, and a few others. How was it being able to play with that aspect to help the film's effectiveness?
KG: I don’t really believe in the supernatural myself. However, I do believe there is a world we have lost by becoming civilized, and that there are still people who are in touch with the deeper history of consciousness and the world. So I’m very attracted to stories of tribal magic and trance, especially if they can weave a spell over a cynic like me, and make me feel like there is more to reality than what we normally see.
RB: Cliche question time. Could you give us a few titles, horror or otherwise, that really convinced you to make film a career for you?
KG: Leading from the last question, I will say that Peter Weir’s movie The Last Wave was absolutely intoxicating to me as a teenager, and got me seriously thinking about trying to make films myself. I think I first really started to notice “film directing” as a Thing People Do when I watched Warner Bros. cartoons over and over again, particularly the ones directed by Chuck Jones — even as a child I saw that there was a thread connecting Road Runner to Rikki-Tikki-Tavi to the Grinch, and that thread was the director. The cinema language of the best of the classic cartoons was very engaging to me, even though it’s perceived as lowbrow by the world in general. My first viewing of the trailer for Star Wars was as close to an orgasm as a prepubescent is allowed, and by age twelve I was watching Lynch, Kubrick, and even John Waters at local revival theaters (we didn’t have DVD players back then…) My greatest childhood horror memories were from Twilight Zone and Jaws, so nothing original to add there. I also am an avid reader, and today finished re-reading a book I last picked up in fifth grade, Jack London’s “The Call of the Wild”, and remembered it like it was last week. Without realizing it until now, it was a big influence on me, with an incredible themes about primitive law and animal instinct that are actually kind of shocking to put into kids’ heads (though I’m glad our teachers did). It’s a really violent story, featuring a dog as the main character, with lots of throats ripped out and jets of blood. I was surprised how much it moved me the second time around. And two great recent reads from a modern horror master, Dan Simmons: The Terror, and Black Hills. The last one isn’t horror, but it’s a rather disturbing supernatural tale of a Lakota Indian boy who accidentally absorbs the ghost of General Custer as he dies at Little Big Horn.
RB: Lastly, I understand Visions will share a bit of the supernatural element as well. Can you give the readers a quick synopsis and possibly when the masses can expect to get their eyes on Visions?
KG: As it happens, Visions is another tale of a sensitive gorgeous redhead getting haunted in a remote house! But believe me, it’s quite different from Jessabelle or I wouldn’t have been so keen to make it. Isla Fisher plays a pregnant fashion designer who moves to a vineyard with her husband, and is tormented first by unexplainable sounds, then a presence that becomes increasingly terrifying. I don’t want to give more away, because it has a really fabulous finale that is best left as a surprise, but prepare to see an exploration of some of the themes I talked about earlier — this one is also about primal instincts that don’t make sense in the modern world, but are present deep within us nonetheless.
RB: I can't say it enough. Thanks again for your time Kevin. We wish you all the best in future endeavors and we will be sure and keep an eye on your work.
KG: Thanks again for having me. I really appreciate it.
Reelbloody steals a minute with writer/director Adam MacDonald to discuss the new nature thriller Backcountry
Look around, and you’ll see Adam MacDonald’s name on anything from comedy to drama to horror. He’s spent the better part of his adult life honing his skills and perfecting his craft, as you can see by his impressive resume. Let’s fast forward to 2015, shall we? He’s just finished his latest project, a nature thriller called Backcountry, and it’s tentatively set for US distribution in the spring. The film centers around a couple (played by Missy Peregrym and Jeff Roop) who embark on a camping trip, only to be stalked by a vicious black bear. The film is already an official selection at the Toronto International Film Festival, and it’s spent the last few months making appearances at over a half dozen film festivals. He’s currently showing off his movie at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, and Reelbloody.com was fortunate enough to steal just a few minutes of his time to find out a little about the movie, some past influences, and what’s to come.
RB: Adam, thanks so much for taking the time to discuss your film Backcountry with us. I know you’re knee deep in the Palm Springs International Film Fest so that has to be exciting. As such, I’ll keep this short and sweet. I recently watched you in Home Sweet Home, which is a very brutal, straight forward film. I enjoyed it for sure, but more importantly, it led to our discovery of your film Backcountry. I was immediately intrigued. I read that you had an “Open Water in the woods” idea for this movie, and that it’s loosely based off of actual events. Do you think that, along with the age old concept of man vs nature element is what really brings this to a level of fright more real than most fictional horror films?
AM: YES! I believe in certain horror films where you’re not ‘sure' if this could happen like a ghost story, you kind of make yourself believe the scenario so it frightens you. THE RING is one of my all-time favourite movies and it scared the shit of me; is this movie plausible almost 100% no, but a part of you tricks yourself to believe it where REAL events, like a wild animal attack are very close to home. So for this reason I believe is more terrifying. We've adopted this primal fear of predatory animals over a hundreds of thousands of years and that's not going to go away. One of the big reasons JAWS was so impactful.
RB: I always ask, where was the film shot and how long did the shoot take?
AM: We shot the film in Northern Ontario, in the North Bay region and we also shot some stuff in Squamish British Columbia. We only had 16 days to shoot it. It was crazy!
RB: Cliché question time, if you don’t mind. As a fan of the 80’s, can you maybe give us a few titles from your youth that brought about your love of horror?
AM: Evil Dead, my GOD I saw that when I was about 10 years old; I could not get that movie out of my head for months! Friday the 13th part 3. That movie terrified me as a kid…I actually puked after I saw it. And THE SHINING really screwed me up. I love the SHINING I watch it every year at least once. I thought about these movies constantly growing up, I couldn't get them out of my head. I realized that it's kind of like falling in love in a weird way, you know when you meet a girl and you just can’t get them off your mind, so I guess you could say I fell in love with Horror films.
RB: I saw IFC Midnight has picked up your film for US distribution. That has to be exciting. Did they happen to lead on to what their plans were for distribution this year?
AM: I'm so happy we ended up with IFC midnight! I think it’s a perfect fit. My favourite film THE CHASER was released by them so it's extra sweet. They will release it this spring.
RB: As a side note here: I know at the end of the day, the horror film fan base is one big, tight-knit family, but I’m just saying: there are some great Canadian horror films out there, and I’m certain Backcountry will be no exception. Coincidence, or is there something in the water up there?
AM: Hah! Yeah, maybe the water. I feel some really good horror tends to come out of countries with long dark winters.
RB: Lastly, I know we are all curious…any big plans or projects this year, or will you take some time to sit back and enjoy the notoriety Backcountry is getting?
AM: Yes funny enough I got hired on a project recently where I'm attached as director. I just finished a rewrite of the script. I’m sorry I can't say much about it BUT I can say that it is a horror/thriller dealing with a ghost oddly enough! I LOVE the story.
RB: Thanks so much again for your time, Adam. To spend a little time with us is an honor and is appreciated beyond any words I can muster. Reelbloody wishes all the best to you and your endeavors this year.
AM: Thanks guys it's an absolute pleasure! I'm a huge horror fan and like you said it is a tight-knit group and it always great meeting new folks.
Quite the gentleman, Adam is. We are truly excited to sink our teeth into this one this year. Fans can keep your eyes peeled to Adam and his many successes on Twitter @_adammacdonald and his terror fest, for which we can BEARly wait, @backcountryfilm.
Director Bobby Roe and Producer Zack Andrews discuss The Houses October Built exclusively for ReelBloody!
We recently checked out and reviewed a film called The Houses October Built, and we were instantly blown away. Call it found-footage, mockumentary, whatever….at the end of the day, it’s a scary as hell journey that you absolutely CANNOT afford to pass up. A genuine, raw, firsthand look into the inside world of haunts across the country, The Houses October Built follows an RV of friends traveling and checking out the most extreme haunts they can find. What they don’t count on is the attention they garner. The crew quickly learns that things get very real and very terrifying as they are stalked by a legion of creepy characters that will stop at nothing to put an end to their investigations. The method by which the film’s creators deliver an entertaining and frightening series of increasingly tense events is a fantastic semi-slow burn but one that will leave you torched at the end, asking yourself “What the f*** just happened?!”
We were fortunate enough to catch up with the film's Director Bobby Roe and its Producer Zack Andrews (both of whom shared in writing the movie) over the holidays for just a few moments, so we took full advantage and snuck a peek inside their world, discussing the creative process and shedding some light on their influences and things to come.
RB: Gents, let me first say how fantastic this movie was. I refuse to lump it into any subgenre category, so I’ll just call it one hell of a horror film. Developing the film took a lot of research and shooting at actual haunts. That had to be an absolute blast…filming a movie AND experiencing all these extreme haunts firsthand. Two birds with one stone, no doubt. How long did the shoot take approximately?
BR: Thank you very much. And we appreciate the “he who should not be named” category. We are very aware of the category it falls into, we just hope we gave a fresh and organic take to it.
ZA: As for shooting, yes, it was a dream come true to travel to all these haunts. We actually started filming almost 5 years ago with a more raw documentary style first. Then Steven Schneider (producer of Paranormal Activity and Insidious) came on board and we all decided to make the bigger version.
RB: Does any one particular haunt stick out in your mind as “Woah…THIS one is the real deal…”?
ZA: Obviously some haunts are more creative or scary. But what I really remember the most about going to all of these places is that each one had something that stood out. Whether it was a particular creepy character or a certain room that had something I hadn’t seen. These green lasers can really screw with your vision and that allows someone to pop up from underneath. Distractions like that are great. There have been some great 4D effects as well.
BR: Well on the press tour we did go off the beaten path in New Mexico and we were locked in wooden boxes in a haunt. Then Mikey was blindfolded and kicked off a 10 foot cliff. He ended up landing in a foam pit, but 10 feet blind feels like a 100 feet.
RB: I read that much of the script was improvised, and I will say that gave it an absolutely genuine and natural feel. Did you anticipate that angle before you started shooting, or did it just inject itself into the process early on?
BR: Acting in most of these films feels really stiff. So we wanted to take a different approach. We had a script and strict story, but also left a lot of room to improvise because you never knew what haunters or scare actors would say. It was nice too that it was our second time around making this movie. Which reminds me, we are excited the original documentary version of the movie will be included as a special feature on the BluRay.
RB: Cliché question time. Maybe give us just a few titles that were early influences on your desire to get into the horror movie game.
BR: The movie “IT” probably influenced the clown angle with the movie. But it was more of “Cannibal Holocaust” that gave us the right approach. We didn’t want to take the purely fictional narrative like “Blair Witch,” we wanted to go into the real Halloween jungle and film all that comes with it.
ZA: Strangely enough, I think “Borat” was more of an influence than “Blair Witch.” The realism of going to real places and using real people was something that was really important. Instead of using comedy like Sasha Baron Cohen did, hopefully we instilled some tension and fear.
RB: I want to thank you both again for taking the time to speak with us. We know your time is valuable. We’re thrilled to be able, in any way, to get your movie in front of more fans. Lastly, are there any projects on the horizon that we can all be looking towards in the future?
BR: Been asked a lot about a sequel, which excites us. We tried to just wet the appetite of Haunt goers this time around and left some breadcrumbs for a bigger Blue Skeleton mythology. The individual haunted houses can get bigger and badder. It’s just the tip of the iceberg.
I know this movie has snuck up on a ton of horror movie fanatics out there, but the momentum is rapidly building to full force. These guys have tapped into a very real and very terrifying realm of horror not previously attempted. One thing is certain, The Houses October Built will leave you with a serious case of the chills; one eye on the screen and the other feverishly glued behind your back. You can catch the movie on VOD and iTunes now AND purchase the new bluray TOMORROW, January 6, 2015. You can’t afford not to grab it.
Follow the movie’s Twitter @HousesOctBuilt and the writers’ Twitters @BobbyRoe1, @AndrewsZack, and @jasonzada.
Stay tuned to @reelbloody and reelbloody.com as a surprise may be just around the corner, ready to put the fright in your night….
When we recently reviewed The Taking of Deborah Logan, we decided to dive a little deeper to find out a little more behind the movie and its instant underground success. Well it was a stretch, and I will henceforth refer to it as amazing and appreciated, but we reached out to Director Adam Robitel to see if we could gain a little insight into the film. He immediately obliged. Here’s a short interview with Adam where he discusses the research process, a few insider facts, and what’s to come. Enjoy!
RB: Firstly, thank you very much for making the time for us. I know your time is valuable so we will keep it brief. This movie is horribly terrifying, and much of that is a direct result of exposing people to the destruction of Alzheimer’s. I have experienced it firsthand, as I’m sure many have. Were you apprehensive about building a story from something so tender and personal?
AR: I was very mindful of this and I too have family members who have succumbed to the disease-- so it was a real concern.
I did a lot of research and really wanted to paint the initial stages in a truthful and respectful light. It is part of what makes the story so haunting -- watching this dignified woman lose all that she was.
That being said, horror has always been a means of catharsis for me and I see the disease in the film acting metaphorically for possession and I was very adamant that by the end, the film would obviously go into the realm of the fantastic. In this way, I hope it delivers on the "escape valve" of entertainment but also starts a real conversation.
RB: No rhyme or reason, I’m always curious…how long did the film take to shoot? Also, where in North Carolina was it filmed? (Huge fans of the details over here)
AR: We shot in Charlotte and the film took twenty days to complete. I love North Carolina and would go back there in a heart beat. Great crews and great city.
RB: Is it more gratifying that this movie has gained so much attention from fans’ word of mouth rather than by most conventional methods?
AR: You know, we were initially crushed when we didn't go theatrical. I think that's still the El Dorado for all filmmakers-- but the paradigm truly is changing.
We were among some great company this year and yes, there is something incredibly vindicating about fans responding to the film and it growing by its own volition. That end shot went viral on Tumblr as an animated GIF and was shared like 400k times in one week or something insane! Had we made this film a big studio film, it would have been invariably watered down. In retrospect, my co-writer Gavin Heffernan and I had total autonomy to make the film we wanted to make!
RB: No doubt your resume covers an array of genres. Was horror always a favorite growing up? I know it’s cliché, but can you throw out a few films that really influenced you and gave you inspiration to act and direct?
AR: Horror is definitely something I gravitate towards. I grew up on crazy-as-hell ghost stories (my grandmother's house was possessed by a talking board for a period of seven years in the seventies, a long story, best told over copious libations)... I grew up in Boston, where things are just older... I had mad respect for Edgard Allan Poe and Gothic literature. In terms of other films, I love so many -- from Harold and Maude, to anything Bruce Lee or Ang Lee... (The Ice Storm)... Luc Besson's The Big Blue really wowed me when I was a kid and I wanted to be a marine biologist. I was class clown so comedy also appeals to me. I love any genre with a well told story and compelling characters. I will say though, the pacing has to be there... if a story plods, you'll lose me and my ADD addled mind, really really quick.
RB: Lastly, I know the Cropsey project has already received a lot of attention. I saw the 2009 documentary and was instantly mortified. Can you give a quick rundown of the urban legend for our readers?
AR: Well the documentary actually appropriated a much older urban legend for its own benefit, the Rand murders on Staten Island had nothing to do with the original folklore.
I'll paraphrase from the http://cropseylegend.com/urban-legends website: The name CROPSEY is most commonly heard being whispered around the campfires of boy scouts, or in bunk beds of Sleepaway campers, up and down the Hudson Valley. It is the tale of the CROPSEY MANIAC, and it has been around for longer than anyone can remember, scaring children, parents, and anyone else in between, for more than a century. It is a classic urban legend, a cautionary tale pervasive in both our oral traditions and mass media. And for some, it seems so rooted in our collective consciousness, that it must to hold some a grain of truth, if not more.
The most common tale is that of the crazed Judge or Doctor, disfigured in a camp prank gone wrong, who stalks the woods with an axe looking to exact his revenge on young campers.
RB: I think it speaks volumes that fans want to know about more than just the movie itself, so again…thank you for taking time to shed some light on a few random questions for us. We are inexplicably gracious.
The Taking of Deborah Logan will absolutely take you on a dark journey, witnessing firsthand the destruction and terror of one woman’s inner demons. A series of strange events builds with suspense and horrific fright, leading to an absolute jaw-dropping climax.
The movie can be found on a number of streaming and VOD platforms and is available to purchase online through various sources. Basically, it’s everywhere. No surprise there. If you are a fan of horror and you HAVEN’T seen this film yet, it’s time to get your life together and re-prioritize.
You can check out trailers, movie posters, and reviews here on our site. You can also follow Adam @AdamRobitel and Gavin Heffernan (co-writer) @GavinHeffernan
The Trick or Treaters – Fear the Knock.
It wasn’t too long ago that Reelbloody Reviews and Slasher Marketing came across this film in our continuing search, both high and low, for the next big thing in horror. We think we’ve found it, so we reached out, hands waving feverishly. With a little luck and some persistence, we were able to get word up north to Toronto and meet with a really great up-and-comer. It’s with much pride and anticipation that we’re bringing you an exclusive interview with the mastermind behind what we think is a fresh, personal touch on the found-footage subgenre. We sat down with The Trick or Treaters writer, director, and cast member - Mike Chester.
Don’t let this guy’s age fool you. Even at 19, his latest effort has been lurking in the shadows, gaining momentum for at least 5 years. Mike Chester is knocking loudly, and we’re answering the door. Let’s get reelbloody…
RB: Mike, first of all: thank you for sitting down with us for a few minutes. We are stoked to get this opportunity. Let’s dive in. From what we’ve read, this is a script you wrote back in high school. Can you give us some insight into how the idea for the film came to you?
MC: Yes I actually first came up with the whole idea from a dream I had back in grade 9 about seeing a film title The Trick or Treaters; the visuals were faint, but it was pretty extreme and in your face. I remember waking up from it and just saying “Well fuck... this could potentially be a really cool concept if I build from it.” So I grew the concept into a story after a lot of storyboards and loose concept drawings, then eventually wrote the script in early 2011 and started loose filming not too long after.
RB: Can you give us just a couple of titles that stick out in your mind as being influential in your decision to take the plunge into horror films?
MC: I would still have to say The Blair Witch Project because it was innovative and created a new type of fear in film that really threw me into the experience, which really intrigued me. But Scooby Doo is probably the main cause that got me into horror growing up, but the repetitive, predictable endings of each episode got old after a bit, leading me to actual horror films which really refreshed me with their twists and turns.
RB: We recently checked out the extended director’s cut of The Aberrant Set, a short film you did earlier this year. Can we expect the same psychological terror in The Trick or Treaters, or will it be a much more tangible, in-your-face blood fest?
MC: The Aberrant Set was my first attempt at a short film and it was all made up on the spot, so I never really knew what I created till after it was edited. It even left me with some questions after watching it which was cool that something I created kind of created itself and unraveled in front of me, but The Trick or Treaters will not really have a psychological aspect to it. It definitely is a more simplified blood fest that's easier to follow. The film is more designed to be a fun, in your face rollercoaster that gives you very few moments to catch your breath due to the constant situations and scares the film is packed with.
RB: Your total cast and crew count is under 10, some with a nice list of accolades on their resume. How did you come to enlist their help with your film, i.e. long time friendships, people who just saw what you saw and had that same enthusiasm for your film?
MC: Yeah the crew is super small. The only part of it that really grows is the cast. For filming the movie, the actors were my only crew and help so it was very essential to do, especially without other people trying to control the process. I launched a funding campaign which attracted lots of great people in the film world who were really supportive, so I ended up getting David Perry as an executive producer and Jason Harlow and an associate producer, who have been very helpful with tips about distribution and all that fun stuff. It's great having people with actual experience in film to have a producer name in your project unlike so many others who know nothing, yet buy a producer credit and go around promoting the film as theirs.
RB: Was it always a no-brainer that you were going to go found-footage on this film, or were there at least moments of uncertainty?
MC: Well what I didn't mention earlier was that the dream which inspired the film actually had a found footage aspect to it, like a documented following of The Trick or Treaters terrorizing people in their very own homes, so that led to the whole two perspective concept; being able to experience the victims being terrorized, then the terrorizers doing the terrorizing in their very own perspective. What better way to do that than through real footage style? I never thought of shooting it as found footage thinking it would easier or even better for that matter, I just knew it was the perfect way for the concept to be experienced, and I'm very happy I went through with it, especially with the huge fan following found footage films have now. That and the fact that I'm a total found footage geek. I just love the never ending potential this style of filmmaking is capable of creating…with the help of a little crazy creativity.
RB: Growing up and living in Canada, do you think there are obvious differences in Canadian horror cinema and American? (Admittedly, this is my guilty pleasure question lol)
MC: That question? Really? Haha. I used to think there was but as time went you start to realize that it's the people and their capabilities that make a film what it is. I do think there are definite differences between some American and Canadian horror flicks, but you really can't tell anymore; not me at least, but there are many people who strictly separate Canadian and American horror cinema apart, creating war on both parts on which side is better, yet still thinking one of their favorite horror classics is American but it’s actually Canadian, and the same thing the other way around. I grew up thinking Canadian cinema was consistently crappy but as I got older I realized that wasn't very true as some of my favorite horror flicks were shot in the very city I live in, such as Black Christmas and Ginger Snaps!
RB: Ah, I LOVE the Ginger Snaps trilogy! I had to ask.
RB: You teased us by mentioning a couple of potential upcoming projects. Anything you can or want to share with us about what we may expect from you in the future?
MC: I have a lot of projects waiting for me to bring them to life but I'm taking the time to focus and get my first film out there. While doing that, I actually started filming a second feature titled Where's Wendy. It's about party animal high school graduates who end up getting caught in a crazy, dark world after searching for their friend who went to a beach party and never came back. The film is loosely based on real events and will also be shot as real footage to keep the dark realism I want the film to have. I was also given the opportunity to shoot a segment for an upcoming found footage anthology film titled Play. It will have works from fresh new independent filmmakers from around the world including myself and I can't wait to get my segment rolling, It's truly a great project to be a part of. Lots of really cool people are involved and also very tight knit now from the found footage community I recently became a part of.
RB: This film epitomizes the concept of a homegrown, built-from-the-ground-up horror flick. Truthfully, it’s exciting on a few levels. How much apprehension did you have deciding to bring this beast to life? I’d imagine there was some element of fear. How’d you conquer that fear of stepping into a genre with such an enthusiastic and unforgiving fan following?
MC: Thank you! That's a great compliment. Well I always give myself a hard time with my art on whether it's worth going through with or not, but when I'm really having fun with my art, the process becomes smoother and I become very carefree and confident with it. The genre does have a huge following by people who can love and judge you just as hard, but I really felt this project was meant to be created whether it brought negative or positive reception, but clearly it has brought more positive than negative and I am seriously fucking stoked about that! It's a truly great feeling to have such love and support for something you did in fact create from the ground up. I think I'll always have some sort of fear come with my creative process but I try to put all that fear and emotion in the work itself, and I think that's how it to seems like its creating itself, because I'm leaving all my fears and worries from the work process and just having fun instead while the fear of creating it in the first place is mixed into the work itself, and I think people can really feel the emotions put into a work that they experience, whether it's an image or a motion picture. Art feeds on emotions, and I don't think it could ever be created without emotion. It's what draws us to create in the first place.
RB: There are a lot of pretentious assholes out there constantly hating on the found footage subgenre claiming that it’s oversaturated and unoriginal. The real gem here is that while they continue trying to disprove the effectiveness of the style, they are constantly being proven wrong time and time again. We think The Trick or Treaters is going to help tremendously in the battle of shutting them the fuck up, and for that...we thank you.
MC: Haha. Pretentious assholes is the perfect way to describe them. They annoy the hell out of me but I also find everything they have to say absolutely, hilariously pathetic and one dimensional. It's quite entertaining to hear idiots talk down something they most likely aren't capable of doing themselves. It only boosts my confidence even more haha. I'm not sure about my film being a game changer or anything but it's definitely gonna change how people see the genre and what it's capable of, even if only for it being created by a teenager. I think people will be able to point out that this is a found footage film made by a real fan of the type of filmmaking who tried to freshen up the experience a little bit. Either way, it should be an entertaining flick that will hopefully have itss viewers on edge, laughing nervously and tempted to look away at certain scenes. It's definitely an in your face horror experience that forces you to feel as if you are a part of the film itself.
RB: Mike, on behalf of Reelbloody Reviews and Slasher Marketing, we can’t thank you enough for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer a few questions for us. You better believe that we’ll have our eyes glued to this project and when the time comes, we’ll have our fingers unnecessarily lubed with buttered popcorn and engaged in mid-movie boob touching.
MC: My absolute pleasure, hahaha! Thanks so much! I can't wait for you all to experience my crazy little creation, and hopefully more to come!
Fans can look forward to a 2015 release of Mike Chester’s The Trick or Treaters. For now, check out the trailer below!
Go “Like” the FB page here and follow Mike on Twitter @Mike7Chesterr and The Trick or Treaters @TrickTreatFilm.