It’s just your average family conversation in suburban America. Or at least it is in the world of Otis, the fourth film in Warner Bros’ popular Raw Feed series starring Daniel Stern, Illeana Douglas, and Kevin Pollack. It’s Day 15 on the set, and Dread Central has been invited down to take a look at the production under the helm of Sublime director Tony Krantz.
At first glance, it feels like we’ve stumbled into the set of American Beauty with room after room of warm household furnishings. But walking toward the back of the stage, the sets begin to take on a more sinister approach. A giant tool shed is decorated with cameras and mannequins. A dungeon basement cell is decked out with hanging Christmas lights and mountains of teddy bears. It’s no wonder the crew prefers gathering in the suburban side of the set.
After going through several takes of a dialogue scene with Stern and Douglas, Krantz calls “cut” and walks over to Dread Central, wasting no time in talking up his second outing with Raw Feed. “It’s a black comedy and a satire. It’s not a spoof. It’s not a farce. It’s played straight,” he says. “We’re doing a movie that is basically dealing with all these suburban abductions and kidnappings.”
The kidnapper and title character isn’t hard to spot on set. Dressed in faded khakis and a checkered shirt, actor Bostin Christopher warmly approaches and extends a large hand. “I play Otis Broth who is a guy a little off his rocker,” he says. “He lives in his parent’s house which has been trashed over the years. What he’s trying to do is re-live his high school years, and I kidnap these teenage girls in their prom years and force them to play this game with me.”
“These suburban parents have their daughter kidnapped and held hostage in this weird sort of cell,” Krantz confirms. “This is where Otis takes all his victims and puts them into this world of his which consists of these weird movie dioramas. He plays the part of this football hero, driving around in his slick trans-am with wind machines blowing his hair. He films all of this and puts it into a movie he’s making called Sweet Sixteen.”
“…and if they don’t play along, they become trash in the dumpster,” says Christopher with an evil grin. “There’s a dark comedy element. You know who the killer is from the beginning. It’s not played like a broad slapstick comedy. There are a lot of uncomfortable ‘why am I laughing at this?’ moments.”
In between shots, actress Illeana Douglas comes over looking as gorgeous and eccentric as ever. “I’m getting into my role. I’ll kill anyone who comes near me,” she cracks. “I was not a big horror person, but when I decided to do this, I submerged myself for a weekend watching them. I love Hammer films and Mario Bava. The ones today are a lot more sophisticated and bloody.”
After his long absence from the screen, there’s a huge excitement as Daniel Stern walks into the room. Meeting him in person instantly brings back a rush of nostalgia for 80s/90s comedy, and he talks like the most relaxed person in the business. “I don’t know what it’s like on real horror movies, if they’re giggling as much as we are,” he says. “We’re having a lot of fun. It’s very dark, but it’s supposed to be funny.” Even though it’s been years since we’ve seen Stern take the spotlight, he looks right at home in his all-American dad role. ”I’m used to that. I’ve been a patriarch of my family for a long freakin’ time. Actually, Ashley [Johnson] who plays my daughter in this also played my daughter in another film so now it really feels like I’m a dad.”
Eventually, Johnson herself runs over to get into the conversation, dressed in typical teen fashion. “My character Riley is the first one that gets away. She knows she has to strategize and get into [Otis’] head.” Fresh out of the make-up chair, she points to a giant bruise on the side of her head. “It’s funny cause I forget I have this on my face and I’ll leave the set to go get food and everyone comes running up to me going ‘Can I help you? Do you need anything?’ and I’m wondering why everyone is being so nice.”
As it turns out, Otis isn’t the only antagonist in this film. “The parents have been decimated by this kidnapping and the ineptitude of the FBI, so they dispense some vigilante justice,” says Krantz.
“Next week we’re gonna torture Kevin Pollack,” adds Douglas. “I’m looking forward to it.”
”Oh God, yeah!” says Stern. “I’ve been wanting to do that for years. I hate that son of a bitch! No, I’m joking. But we torture the hell out of him! We smash him with a shovel… shove a hair curler up his ass…”
“We’re inviting all our friends and family down to watch. It’s gonna be memorable!” laughs Douglas.
Eventually the conversation leans toward more spoiler-heavy territory, which we can’t divulge. Needless to say, this happy suburban couple does plenty more horrible acts through the course of the film, and this prompts Stern to ponder the eternal question: How would he dispose of a body? “I’d probably take it out to sea and sink it,” he says. “I think chopping it up is bad because you start to spew all the DNA. I’d like to keep the body whole. Actually, that’s not a bad idea. My accountant is starting to piss me off…”
– Andrew Kasch
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