Indie Horror Month: Exclusive - Director D. Kerry Prior Talks The Revenant - Dread Central
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Indie Horror Month: Exclusive – Director D. Kerry Prior Talks The Revenant

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A few weeks back we posted a couple of cast member interviews from the indie horror flick The Revenant (review here), and we pick up our Indie Horror Month coverage today with an interview with the film’s director, D. Kerry Prior.

Indie Horror Month: Exclusive - Director D. Kerry Prior Talks The RevenantBefore directing the project in 2008, Prior was well known within the horror world as a visual effects artists who has worked on some of the biggest projects we genre fans have loved for years (Nightmare on Elm Streets 3 & 4, The Lost Boys, The Blob remake, and Bubba Ho-Tep just to name a few). It was about a year before they began filming The Revenant when Prior realized it was time to step up to the director’s plate.

explained Prior. “There was so much going on in the script that it took me years to write. Then, I knew my next move would be to start getting people on board so the first person I hired was my casting director, and then I hired a line producer. Both of those roles are so important to have in any film with any budget, I knew those were the first two people I needed to get involved.”

“Then things started to slow down, and I will admit that it took us quite a while to put together the cast. There was actually a moment where we suddenly realized we’d all been collaborating on The Revenant for a year and we hadn’t shot a single frame, and that really motivated us to get moving on things from there, which was when we gained a lot of momentum. Sometimes independent filmmaking can be a Catch-22 situation when to get the money, you need a cast, but to get a cast, you need the money. That’s what was happening with our production,” Prior added.

When Prior and his team started assembling their final cast, TV veteran David Anders signed on for the lead role of Bart, a soldier killed overseas whose body returns home for his funeral services but ends up reawakening that night as a revenant. For the writer/director, though, it wasn’t Anders’ impressive resume that landed him the role. “I actually had no idea who David was when he came in to audition for us. I am kind of pop culture illiterate and don’t really watch TV so I didn’t know anything about him on ‘Alias’ or ‘Heroes’. I just remember the first time he read for us, it was for the role of Joey, and we didn’t really think he was the right fit. But we loved him so we eventually brought him back to read for Bart, and he was perfect. The cast ended up being four perfect pieces of a puzzle coming together.”

With their “Yin” in place (Bart), Prior knew it was time to cast Bart’s “Yang,” his best friend, Joey. Prior spoke about getting comedian Chris Wylde to balance out Ander’s straight-man Bart.

The director said, “Getting Chris was another one of those magical things. He had been in before to read, but we needed to see him again so we met for lunch at Bert’s Café in Hollywood, and it was one of the most interesting meetings I’ve ever been to. I say ‘interesting’ because there was this dude at the bar who was clearly a fan of Chris’ and he comes over and starts falling all over Chris and joking with him. We thought he was a plant or something, but it turned out to where it was just a random meeting. But we knew from Chris’ ease with that situation he would be a natural as Joey.”

“Both Chris and David are natural performers, but I really think they immediately fell in love with each other – I’m talking the kind of love that’s unrivaled by any 80s gay action movie ever made. There was even a montage in an early cut of The Revenant that featured subtle glances and longing looks between the two that we recently added back in. They didn’t even need to act like they were best friends – that is how natural they were together, and that’s 100 percent the glue that holds the movie together. You fall in love with them too,” Prior added.

At its core The Revenant is definitely a horror movie with a lot of comedic elements, but once you get past that layer, there is something much more going on, and Prior talked about where he took his cues from when it came time to put his own spin on vampire folklore. “Ultimately, I wanted The Revenant to be an honest exploration of what would happen if your best friend came back as something that needed to drink blood to survive, and there’s nothing glamorous about that kind of situation,” explained Prior. “So much of our culture these days is polluted with stuff in modern movies so I went back to vampire folklore that pre-dates Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula.’”

“You see, during the 18th century there was a major vampire scare in Eastern Europe where even government officials frequently got dragged into the hunting and staking of ‘vampires.’ To get to the bottom of the matter, a famous monk of the time, Dom Augustine Calmet, put together a carefully thought out treatise in 1746, which was at least ambiguous concerning the existence of vampires, if not admitting it explicitly. And to me, I thought those kinds of vampires that were described in that treatise were far more interesting – the kind that die during the day and actually rise from the dead at night, and they don’t have fangs either. I found that the more I stuck to the old vampire stuff, the better the script became,” Prior added.

For the up-and-coming director, most of the stress came early on in the process. “I think the most stressful thing about my experiences with The Revenant was actually deciding to make The Revenant. When you start off making a movie, there’s all this stress because there’s a million things to do. We had to start off by addressing every little nuance of the project, which is time-consuming since The Revenant had a very big cast for a very small movie, which makes things even harder.”

“But as more of those things came into place, more of the stress would start to slip away. In fact, my first day on set was the best day I had throughout the entire process because after that we started to fall behind. And as an independent production that happens a lot when you have some lesser experienced crew members, no matter how hard everyone tries. It can be challenging no matter how many sets you’ve worked on so the odds were definitely against us, and it ultimately all led up the worst day for me, which was our final day of shooting. I was so beyond exhausted that all I could think was that I chose the wrong profession. It was so hard, but the thing that kept me going was my cast and crew because they all made a commitment to me so I needed to keep my commitment to them,” Prior added.

Even though making The Revenant was challenging for Prior and his entire cast and crew, their determination has paid off. Since hitting the festival circuit in 2009, the film has stacked up a laundry list of accolades, including the Audience Award at CineVegas, the Silver Feature Award from the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, as well as Best Picture, Director and Audience Award from the NYC Horror Film Festival. For Prior the festival circuit has almost been as much work as making the actual movie.

“The entire festival process has been exhausting from the start,” explained Prior. “I remember the first time we screened the movie in Portland … we decided to show a rough cut there, and I remember sitting in the car on the way to the screening, and I was still rendering the digital file of the movie. That’s how close we cut it.”

“The Revenant is very lucky to have been part of so many wonderful and prestigious festivals, but I guess the reason behind the sheer number of fests we’ve been a part of is because we hadn’t been officially picked up for distribution yet over the last few years. We have this amazing online profile within the horror community, but my big mistake was never focusing on the festivals where movies actually sell at. Don’t get me wrong; I love every festival we’ve played, but I should have been more conscientious of those other ones, too, and it’s a hard lesson to learn,” Prior added.

While Prior mentioned that The Revenant doesn’t have an official distributor as of right now, look for news on its release hopefully later this year. “I think we found our home, but I don’t want to say anything just yet and jinx anything,” Prior said. “But I definitely should be able to talk about it soon.”

We at Dread Central certainly hope so!

For more check out the official The Revenant website!

Indie Horror Month: Exclusive - Director D. Kerry Prior Talks The Revenant

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Thelma Is Fantastic and Now You Can Watch the Opening Scene

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One of this year’s most beautiful and subdued horror films is Joachim Trier’s Thelma (review), which opens in Los Angeles tonight. To give you a bit of what the film is like, The Orchard have released the opening scene, which shows a man and his daughter hunting in the bleak Norwegian winter. When they come across a young deer, the true intentions of this trip become apparent…

Having seen Thelma, I can tell you that it’s truly something special. It’s a slow burn, to be certain, but it plays out gorgeously, resulting in a film that has yet to leave my mind.

Related Story: Exclusive Interview with Thelma’s Joachim Trier

Locations and tickets for Thelma can be found here.

Synopsis:
Thelma, a shy young student, has just left her religious family in a small town on the west coast of Norway to study at a university in Oslo. While at the library one day, she experiences a violent, unexpected seizure. Soon after, she finds herself intensely drawn toward Anja, a beautiful young student who reciprocates Thelma’s powerful attraction. As the semester continues, Thelma becomes increasingly overwhelmed by her intense feelings for Anja – feelings she doesn’t dare acknowledge, even to herself – while at the same time experiencing even more extreme seizures. As it becomes clearer that the seizures are a symptom of inexplicable, often dangerous, supernatural abilities, Thelma is confronted with tragic secrets of her past, and the terrifying implications of her powers.

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Award-Winning The Child Remains Playing Tomorrow at the Blood in the Snow Festival

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The award-winning supernatural thriller The Child Remains, which has been on the festival circuit, is returning to Canada to play tomorrow night at the Blood in the Snow Film Festival in Toronto. Tickets for the screening, which is at 9:30pm, can be found at the festival’s website.

The film has won awards in festivals across Canada as well as Best Foreign Feature at the Unrestricted View Horror Film Festival in London, UK.

Described as The Shining meets Rosemary’s Baby meets The Orphanage, the film stars Suzanne Clément, Allan Hawco, Shelley Thompson, and Geza Kovacs. Directed and written by Michael Melski, who co-produced the film alongside Craig Cameron and David Miller, The Child Remains is aiming for a Canadian theatrical release in Spring 2018 and a US theatrical release in October 2018.

Synopsis:
An expectant couple’s intimate weekend turns to terror when they discover their secluded country inn is a haunted maternity home where unwanted infants and young mothers were murdered. Inspired by the true story of the infamous ‘Butterbox Babies’ and their macabre chapter in Canadian history, The Child Remains is a twisting supernatural thriller that emphasizes story and suspense over shock and gore.

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Tony Timpone’s Elegy – AFM: A November to Dismember

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It used to be that the toughest thing about visiting the global cinematic bazaar known as the American Film Market was squeezing in as many movies as humanly possible before your eyes exploded like Cameron Vale’s in Scanners. At this year’s 38th annual AFM, held November 1-8 in Santa Monica, CA, I watched 17 movies in five days. Don’t be too impressed. That’s a big drop from past years, where I’d see as many as two dozen films during that span.

This year marked my 21st AFM jaunt, and change has been in the air for some time at this industry confab. Two screening days have been shaved off the program, and theater screenings have lost the 5pm and 7pm slots. Much of the Z-grade schlock has been whittled away and there does seem to be a higher level of product on display. No longer does every other movie star Joe Estevez. Now it’s Nicolas Cage! Sales companies feverishly hawked Cage’s VOD-bound Primal, The Humanity Bureau and Looking Glass, in addition to a plethora of cute puppy and sappy Christmas cable-ready movies.

So where’s the horror, you ask? You can still discover it at AFM, but 2017 offered a disappointing allowance for the most part. To put it into perspective, the opening day of my first AFM in 1998 yielded John Carpenter’s Vampires and Spain’s Abre Los Ojos (remade as the mediocre Vanilla Sky in the US) back-to-back (not to mention The Big Lebowski from the Coen brothers). For 2017, I did not see one film as good as those (well, maybe one…). Not a total washout, mind you, as I’m sure you will add a few titles to your watch list after perusing my AFM 2017 screening report.


I Kill Giants:
A lonely teenage girl (Madison Wolfe) defends her coastal town from invading goliaths in this somber tale directed by Denmark’s Anders Walter and written by Joe Kelly from his graphic novel. Not exactly a feel-good movie, I Kill Giants deals with bullying, depression, isolation and terminal illness. It intersperses the somberness with some excellent FX scenes involving the giants, who emerge from the surf and dark woods to taunt our young heroine. Not only is I Kill Giants too downbeat for my tastes, last year’s underrated and underseen A Monster Calls covered many of the same emotional beats much more eloquently and movingly than here.

** 1/2



Errementari:
Spanish helmer Alex del la Iglesia (Day of the Beast, Witching & Bitching) produced this Terry Gilliam-esque dark fantasy, about a cursed medieval-age blacksmith and his battle of wills with a demon out to claim his soul.

Directed by Paul Urkijo Alijo, the movie is like a Hieronymus Bosch painting come to life. Its climactic trip to Hell stands out as a highlight, pitchforks and all, as do the superb practical makeup FX.

***


Bad Samaritan:
A parking valet (Robert Sheehan) at a ritzy restaurant borrows the patrons’ cars to rob their homes while they’re eating in this thriller directed by Dean (Godzilla) Devlin and written by Brandon (Apt Pupil) Boyce. As he rummages through the house of the arrogant Cale (former “Doctor Who” David Tennant, cast against type and looking like a less seedy Charlie Sheen), valet Sean discovers an imprisoned woman, the waiting victim of the rich serial killer. The cops don’t believe the robber, but the bad guy catches onto him and soon begins destroying Sean’s life and those around him. Though Bad Samaritan builds some good suspense and remains moderately gripping, Devlin (late of the embarrassing Geostorm, which Irishman Sheehan also appeared in) is no Hitchcock. And at 107 minutes, the movie overstays its welcome.

** 1/2


Anna and the Apocalypse:
Christmas, teenagers, music and zombies… Anna and the Apocalypse has it all. As the snow falls and Yuletide cheer builds, a living dead outbreak hits the quaint British town of Little Haven. Can teen Anna (Intruders’ Ella Hunt) and her friends make it to their high school auditorium for presumed safety? Well, they’ll try, singing and dancing (and bashing in undead heads) along the way. OK, so the movie’s cute and a raucous scene of zombie mayhem in a bowling alley scores a strike, but the problem with Anna is the songs just aren’t that memorable. Where’s Richard O’Brien when you need him?

** 1/2


Incident in a Ghost Land:
Writer/director Pascal Laugier took our breath away with his vicious Martyrs in 2008, but 2012’s underrated The Tall Man garnered little notice. Packing a ’70s horror vibe, his latest recaptures some of Martyrs’ uncomfortable female-inflicted brutality. Two young sisters and their mom head to a remote family house, which is soon invaded by two ruthless psychos. Though the story echoes Tourist Trap and High Tension, Laugier pulls the rug out from us at a key point and takes us down an even darker path. I wish the villains had a little more depth here, but In a Ghost Land has enough shock and thrills to satisfy fright fans.

***


Cold Skin

Cold Skin:
Laugier’s fellow extreme Frenchmen, Xavier Gens, terrorized us with his Texas Chainsaw Massacre pastiche Frontier(s) in 2007 and explored postapocalyptic horror in The Divide (2011). Now he tries his hand at a Jules Verne-style creature feature. In the early 20th century, a weather observer (David Oakes) arrives for a year-long assignment at an isolated island near the Antarctic Circle where he meets the misanthropic lighthouse keeper (Ray Stevenson). A race of pale-skinned fish people dwells in the seas and raids the island at night in several bravura action set pieces, their motive unknown. The real threat here may be Stevenson, who keeps one of the creatures as a pet/sex slave. Gens plays the story like a fable, but ultimately I had a hard time warming up to Cold Skin. Where the movie succeeds is in the creature FX and photography departments.

***


Let the Corpses Tan:
French directors Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani won over the horror arthouse crowd with their giallo tributes Amer and The Strange Color of Your Body’s Tears. Their latest flashy exercise tackles the much-loved Italian Spaghetti Western genre, but relocates the story to modern day and a Mediterranean hilltop villa. A gold-robbing gang holes up in the scenic, sun-drenched location, with a woman artist and her friends get caught in the crossfire when two cops arrive. The filmmakers do a fine job of paying homage to Sergio Leone and Ennio Morricone here, but we’re talking style over substance. None of the characters really pops, and the whole thing grows a little tiresome. Fans of Cattet and Forzani and arty shootouts will still dig it.

** 1/2


Downrange:
After the weekly US shooting sprees of Vegas and Texas, this was the last movie I wanted to embrace. A group of friends find themselves stranded in the middle of nowhere after a sniper cripples their car. Said sniper then begins blasting away at the college kids in graphic fashion, brains splattering the asphalt in gruesome close-up. Director Ryûhei Kitamura (The Midnight Meat Train, Versus) does some flashy camera things, but the movie is so damn mean-spirited that it just left a bad taste in my mouth. The lowdown on Downrange: the story’s not very plausible nor the characters very likable.

* 1/2


Ghost Stories:
Just when I gave up on AFM 2017, the last movie screening I attended turned out to be not only the best genre film of the market but one of the best of the year period (IFC releases Ghost Stories next April). Supernatural debunker Professor Goodman (Andy Nyman, who co-wrote and co-directed with Jeremy Dyson) examines three extreme hauntings which just might make a believer out of him. Adapting their successful London play, Nyman and Dyson riff on past British horror anthologies Dead of Night and the ’70s Amicus flicks, but with a modern sensibility. Ghost Stories achieves its scares with class and distinction, as well as terrific makeup FX and a memorable supporting turn by The Hobbit’s Martin Freeman.

This one will send you out singing too; the “Monster Mash” plays over the end credits!

*** 1/2


So even though this year’s AFM was a bust, you will likely spot me canvassing those comfy Santa Monica theaters (kudos for solid projection, luxurious seating and friendly staff at the Arclight, AMC, Broadway and Laemmle) again next fall. On the market and festival beat, hope springs eternal!

For more information on the AFM, go to www.americanfilmmarket.com.

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