Indie Horror Month Exclusive: Jules Stewart Discusses Her Directorial Debut K-11 and More - Dread Central
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Indie Horror Month Exclusive: Jules Stewart Discusses Her Directorial Debut K-11 and More

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Indie Horror Month Exclusive: Jules Stewart Discusses Her Directorial Debut K-11 and MoreThis Friday, Jules Stewart’s edgy and challenging directorial debut K-11 arrives in limited theaters courtesy of Breaking Glass Pictures. Featuring an eclectic cast of characters, the indie prison-centric thriller is a bold introduction from the seasoned script supervisor.

Through the years Stewart has overseen over 80 projects throughout her 30+ years in Hollywood.

Considering that K-11 is by far one of the most blisteringly raw debuts we’ve seen in some time, we knew we’d have a ton of questions for Stewart when we recently caught up with her on the phone. During our interview, we spoke to Stewart about working outside ‘the system,’ her thoughts on what attracted her to co-writer Jared Kurt’s original story that’s based on a real portion of the LA County Jail system, the challenges of managing 46 distinct characters and personalities inside one location while shooting K-11 and much more.

Check out the highlights from our exclusive interview with Stewart in honor of DC’s Indie Horror Month and look for K-11 in limited theaters this weekend!

Dread Central: First of all, congratulations on a remarkable first film- you really took some chances with K-11.

Jules Stewart: Thank you so much. I think we ALL took some chances in this movie.

Dread Central: Was that part of the appeal then to make this your first movie, to do something completely out of the box and unexpected?

Jules Stewart: Oh it was absolutely intentional. I think it’s boring to just make the same movie you see everyone else making. Where’s the fun in that? That’s not storytelling at all, to me at least. And at the end of the day, I just love a great story and think that when you’re trying to make a great story it has to have a couple of different elements which is what K-11 has for sure.

So I was on this television pilot and one of the guys that was working on the pilot with- Jared- came to me and said, “I have this idea for a script and I was hoping you’d write it with me.” So after he told me about K-11, I did some of my own research and found out what it was and just thought that environment was so unique and original and could really lend itself to some great conflict between all the residents inside those walls.

Dread Central: So what kind of things did you discover about this place during your research then?

Jules Stewart: Well, K-11 is a specific dorm in Los Angeles Men’s County Jail that houses the gay and transgender inmates and t only exists in LA; nowhere else. And it’s pretty much the only place in the jail system where race is not an issue at all because everybody in there is either gay or transgender so they have more of a commonality existing between them than a division, which is something that’s a huge issue in normal jail populations.

It’s a part of the jail system that not too many people know even exists so that fact right there was fascinating to me. How could this have been here since the 1950’s and nobody know about it for all this time? Why hadn’t anyone told this story before? That’s what I saw in my research process, a way to tell a really different story so I wouldn’t be making the typical jail movie you always see or come to expect.

Dread Central: Considering this is your first time working as a director, was it daunting at all managing such a large cast? Each of them also have their own little ‘moments’ throughout K-11– was that difficult to manage as well while still keeping this story moving forward?

Jules Stewart: We had 46 people in that dorm for K-11 and the thing about that is, because of the story we were telling, we always had to have 46 people in that room so in some ways that was difficult to manage just because you’re working with so many different schedules. That was challenging in its own way. But I also think because we had to keep it mostly contained within that main dorm room, that also lent itself to building this sense of claustrophobia as Raymond (Goran Visnjic) is locked in there longer and longer so that really worked in our favor.

At the same time though, because you are tied to essentially one location, you also run the risk of things becoming stale so that was another challenge, keeping things moving and keeping things interesting. Thankfully we had a wonderful cast that really keeps that momentum going.

Dread Central: Did making K-11 independently present a whole different set of challenges that maybe you hadn’t considered before shooting at all?

Jules Stewart: In some ways it did. In some ways it made me a stronger filmmaker I think too because we only had 23 days to shoot K-11. It was low budget and it was a first-time director so all of those things wrapped into one production can be trouble if you’re not prepared. But that’s just it-you just have to make it work. That’s part of the allure; beating the odds. Not everyone gets 10 million dollars and 50 days to make a movie so you just play the hand you’re dealt and make sure you have the right people to support you and to bring the story to life.

I think one of the most definitive things I can say about K-11 is that every single person brought their own kind of enthusiasm to the movie and I think that shows in the final product. Every single actor enjoyed their role and contributed far more than I could ever have hoped for- they all had ideas and I just let them go on their instincts. They knew those characters better than I did. Every character has a lot of different sides to them- emotional sides- and they just jumped right into it. They trusted me and they trusted the script which made for an amazing collaborative experience for all of us.

Dread Central: Speaking of trust- you have some pretty intense and violent scenes between Butterfly (Portia Doubleday) and Detroit (Tiny Lister) and even though you play a lot of it off-screen, they’re still pretty tough to get through. Did you find that playing it that way made it more disturbing for you as well?

Jules Stewart: It was intentional because I felt like it was almost more horrific to cut away to these people just sitting there listening to it happen and reacting almost by not reacting- you know what I mean? And shooting the scenes was very difficult I think for all of us; we made sure to have a closed set though and one of the things that made it a little easier was that Tiny is such a wonderful and gentle guy that in between takes he’d make sure there laughter to bring us all back. We never pretended it was real, we never did any of those things but even so, we still needed that levity from time to time and I think because Tiny approached it like that, it made Portia step it up in her own right because she felt safe.

Dread Central: You previously worked on a lot of great projects like Crank: High Voltage, XXX and Mortal Kombat– why did the timing feel right to step out on your own and direct a feature?

Jules Stewart: It really comes down to the fact that I love telling stories and one of the best ways to do that is through filmmaking. And I’ve had great teachers throughout my career; I’ve worked with some of the finest directors, like David Lynch, where I’ve learned a lifetime worth of knowledge. At the same time, I’ve also worked with some guys who didn’t know anything but those are equally valuable experiences to have because it makes you become that much more resourceful when you’re on set. You don’t have time to think, you just have to find solutions to keep things running smoothly. But I think at some point in your career, you just want to tell your own stories and I was in a position where I had a great script and financing in place so I decided to take a chance.

Dread Central: Now that you’ve gotten a taste, are you planning on directing again soon?

Jules Stewart: Definitely- I’m jumping right into a supernatural thriller- more of a ghost story really- about a temple that is unearthed in the desert of China and deconstructed and reconstructed in the United States along with its permanent residents that have been inside since 2010 B.C. It’s pretty interesting because we’re going to get to play around in the world of ancient China so it’s almost like bringing a Chinese legend to life.

Dread Central: Do you want to stay independent too? It seems like a filmmaking culture that really suits your type of storytelling?

Jules Stewart: I love the indie world- I think it’s the only place left to tell interesting stories and where you can make the movie that you really want to make without any kind of interference. I think if I had to make K-11 through a studio, this would have been a very, very different movie and I don’t know if I would have done it then. The indie world is really the only place left in Hollywood where people are still daring to be different and that’s where I belong.

Indie Horror Month Exclusive: Jules Stewart Discusses Her Directorial Debut K-11 and More

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The Midnight Man Review – Don’t Hate The Game, Hate The Players

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Starring Lin Shaye, Robert Englund, Grayson Gabriel, Emily Haine, Gabrielle Haugh, Summer H. Howell, Louise Linton

Written by Travis Zariwny

Directed by Travis Zariwny


Travis Zariwny’s The Midnight Man is largely a robotic hide-and-seek slog, yet if dissected in butchered chunks, smaller bites range from delicious destruction to utterly incompetent character work. Judging by the bloodthirsty opening sequence alone, you’d think Zariwny is about to blow our morality-siding minds. A sad misconception, I’m afraid. After our hopes skyrocket, mechanical plot devices are pinned to a storyboard with the utmost lack of exploration. The Midnight Man’s game is afoot, but these players would barely compete against an opponent crafted from brick and mortar. Can someone calculate a handicap for them, please?

Gabrielle Haugh stars as Alex Luster, a caring granddaughter to Nana Anna (Lin Shaye). One night, upon the request of her not-always-there relative, Alex rummages through attic trunks for a silver-backed hand mirror. Instead she finds a nondescript wrapped box with what appears to be a game inside. Her crush Miles (Grayson Gabriel) has arrived by now, and after an incident where Anna requires medical attention from house-call doctor Harding (Robert Englund), the two friends begin playing whatever it was that caused Anna to screech in disapproval. You know, the only rational decision.

At the risk of sounding like a smug CinemaSins video, The Midnight Man would surely bomb any horror IQ test. Zariwny’s *first* piece of introduced information after discovering Midnight Man’s altar is quite simple – DANGER. DO NOT PLAY. IT JUST CAUSED A WOMAN TO FAINT. Nevertheless, our braindead sheeple follow careful rules to summon Mr. Midnight Man into their house – because, as horror movies have proven, tempting occult fates is buckets of fun! At least the characters don’t confess romantic feelings and makeout while another friend who joins the game late – “Creepy Pasta” obsessed Kelly (Emily Haine) – could already be in the Midnight Man’s clutches, that’d be – oh, right. That happens.

Senile Anna is another story altogether – Zariwny’s grey-haired red herring in the worst way. Lin Shaye injects so much destabilized madness into this energetic, midnight-perfect role, elevating herself into a stratosphere well above The Midnight Man itself. Whether she’s screaming about Alex’s disgusting blood, or ominously whispering dreadful remarks through a housewide intercom, or beating Robert Englund to a pulp with wide-eyed psychosis – well, if you’ve seen Dead End, you *know* the kind of batshitery Shaye is capable of. Her genre vet status on display like a damn clinic here.

Shaye – and even Englund – aside, scripting is too procedural to salvage any other performances. Kelly doesn’t even deserve mention given her “bring on death!” attitude and enthusiastic late entry INTO AN URBAN LEGEND’S DEATHTRAP – a poorly conceived “twist” with less structure. This leaves Grayson Gabriel and Haugh herself, two thinly-scripted cutouts who couldn’t find a more repetitive genre path to follow. There’s little mystery to the gonigs on, and neither actor manages to wrangle tension (even when staring our Midnight friend in the face…thing).

Scares are hard to come by because Zariwny opts for a more “charismatic” villain who talks like Scarecrow and appears as a dyed-black, cloaked Jack Skellington. He can form out of clouds and is a stickler for rules (candles lit at all times, 10 seconds to re-ignite, if you fail he exploits your deepest fear). Credit is noted given this villain’s backstory and strict instructions – which does make for a rather killer game of tag – but the need to converse and expose Midnight from shadows subtracts necessary mysticism. He’s a cocky demon with masks for each emotion (think woodland death imp emojis), but never the spine-tingling beast we find ourselves hiding from.

This is all a bummer because gore goes bonkers in the very first scene – with underage victims no less. One young player gets decapitated, another explodes into a red splattery mess (against fresh snowfall), but then a vacuous lull in process takes hold. It’s not until Alex’s fear of blood and Miles’ fear of pain that we get more eye-bulging squeamishness, then again when Kelly’s bunnyman appears. A no-bullshit, bunny-headed creature wearing a suit, which plays directly into Kelly’s deepest fear. When Zariwny gets sick and surreal, he scores – but it’s a disappointing “when.”

I take no pleasure in confirming that any small victory The Midnight Man claims is negated by kids who should’ve been offed for even thinking about a quick playthrough of Anna’s old-school entertainment. Invite him in, pour your salt circles and try to survive until 3:33AM – sounds easy, right? If the demon plays fair, you bet! But why would ANYONE trust a demon’s word? Makes sense given Alex and Miles’ ignorance of more red flags than a Minesweeper game, and a thrilling chase these bad decisions do not make.

  • The Midnight Man
2.5

Summary

The Midnight Man begins by striking a meteoric horror high, only to plummet back down towards repetitive genre bumbling once the game’s true – and less enticing – plot begins.

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Fight Chainsaw-wielding Psychos in Retro FPS Dusk

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Strongly inspired by hardcore ’90s shooters such as Doom and Quake, the brutal retro-style FPS Dusk has now made its way onto Steam Early Access, with a full release promised to be coming within the next several months.

Dusk was created by indie developer David Szymanski and published by New Blood Interactive, with the soundtrack composed by Rise of the Triad’s Andrew Hulshult. You play as a treasure hunter who travels to the mysterious town of Dusk, Pennsylvania, where he is captured by the locals and hung on a meat hook. After barely escaping with your life, you’re forced to arm yourself with whatever you can you can get your hands on in an effort to fight your way through both the insane locals and the dark supernatural forces which have also settled in the town. So if you’ve ever entertained fantasies of wielding a double-barrel shotgun and going up against chainsaw-wielding psychos wearing potato sacks over their heads, your dreams are about to come true.

Dusk Official Synopsis
DUSK reintroduces you to a world where butchery and bloodshed must be mastered if you’re to survive ’til dawn. Inspired by Quake, Blood, Heretic, Hexen, Half-Life, Redneck Rampage and all your ’90s favorites, and featuring a soundtrack by metal music mastermind Andrew Hulshult.

In THREE distinct campaign episodes hand-crafted from straight outta the ’90s, players battle through an onslaught of mystical backwater cultists, possessed militants and even darker forces and attempt to discover just what lurks beneath the Earth. Featuring a vast arsenal of badass weaponry including saw blades, dual-wielded shotguns from 1887 and an incredibly necessary grenade launcher, DUSK is unapologetic retro action from start to finish.

In addition to the main campaign, DUSK features an Endless Survival Mode, putting you front and center of wave after wave of enemies. For those looking for an extra challenge, DUSK also offers the chance to go head to head online to battle your friends in arena multiplayer, where darkness hosts the worst of humanity in surprising new ways.

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Michael Bay Adapting Duke Nukem with John Cena in Talks For Lead Role

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I think we can all agree that this may very well be one of those times when we see an announcement and go, “Huh… That actually makes 100% sense and I’m completely behind it!”

It’s been announced that the classic FPS shooter series Duke Nukem is getting a film adaptation out of Paramount with Platinum Dunes, the company owned by Michael Bay, Andrew Form, and Brad Fuller, producing the movie. As of now, there is no script but the plan is to have WWE superstar John Cena taking on the lead role. As of now, it’s still in early stages but this is actually very exciting news as this combination seems like a match made in heaven.

Just think about some of Bay’s films, like Transformers, Bad Boys, The Rock, The Island, etc… Now imagine that kind of gleeful explosive action as the backdrop for Cena to kick untold amounts of alien ass. For those who worry that Bay won’t go hard enough in terms of violence or offensive language, don’t forget that both Bad Boys films as well as Pain & Gain were rated R for very good reasons.

Duke Nukem was originally released back in 1991 in the self-titled game made by Apogee Software. The character has since been in multiple sequels, although there are only four titles to the main storyline, and spin-offs as well as appearing in cameos in other games such as Death Rally, Blood, Serious Sam 2, Balls of Steel and can be seen in the trailer for Ready Player One. Nukem’s last video game appearance was 2011’s Duke Nuke Forever, a game that went through countless delays only to be met with critical panning upon release.

Horror fans who have played Duke Nukem will recognize many of the character’s iconic one-liners as being lifted from several horror films. Quotes from They Live, Army of Darkness, Aliens, Predator, Jaws, Full Metal Jacket, Evil Dead 2, and many more. The references were littered throughout and many delighted in their homages. However, Bruce Campbell wasn’t a fan when asked about the game back in 1999. He told IGN, “…they’re rip-off artists. Let them get their own damn material. It’s called hiring a writer.” [Source].

That being said, how cool would it be if Campbell made an appearance in the film to put Cena’s Duke Nukem in his place should he use one of those quotes? Apart from being a treat for fans of the games, it’d be a great moment in a film that’s meant to be chock full of bravado, machismo, and strong chins!

Coming back to Platinum Dunes’ adaptation, we’ll be keeping a very close eye on this project! In the meanwhile, why not tell us your favorite Duke Nukem moment in the comments!

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