The last time we saw up-and-coming filmmaker Dennis Iliadis behind the camera was for the rather good (minus that whole microwave ending thing) 2009 remake of Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left.
Now Iliadis has returned into the genre fold with his ambitious and darkly comedic teen horror/sci-fi project Plus One, which celebrated its worldwide premiere a few weeks ago during the 2013 SXSW Film Festival.
It was in Austin where Dread Central chatted exclusively with Iliadis about his latest project, how American teen comedies from the 1980’s inspired his horror/sci-fi mash-up and how the long development process on the remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (which was announced over four years ago) inspired him to venture out and make Plus One on his own terms.
Dread Central: Because the story is so ambitious and there are a lot of things happening, can you break down Plus One for our readers who may be unfamiliar with the project?
Dennis Iliadis: Sure; it follows a group of friends who are freshman in college and they’re all back in their small town after the first year of school. It’s also the weekend of the biggest party of the year and they’ve all got a mission; David fucked up with his girlfriend big time and this is his one shot at winning her back, Teddy thinks he knows women but hasn’t had much success so his goal is to get himself laid at the party and Alison is looking at it as a way to move forward with her life and without David.
And so you think you know what you’re watching because we play with a lot of ideas from American teen movies but then this supernatural phenomenon happens which could be a blessing or a curse, but either way everyone’s life is at risk once the party begins to dissolve into violent chaos.
Dread Central: There’s a lot of comedy and horror/sci-fi in this film; was it hard for you to find the tonal balance at all?
Dennis Iliadis: You know, horror and comedy are both sort of based on extreme situations, right? You put your characters into extreme situations and watch them react, and here the movie moves from comedy to horror as the phenomenon continues to progress through this party and through their lives so you did have to find a balance in some ways but in other ways they just sort of worked themselves out inherently.
Also because this was a movie about the dangers of second chances, the ability to go back and forth between the horror elements and the more comedic ones came from the progression of the story; at first things start off funny because no real threat has been revealed but as soon as the people at the party realize that they may be in danger, that’s when things get really tense. It was great to be able to play with so many different tones because this story really allowed for it.
Dread Central: I noticed that in the synopsis it mentions that you took some cues from John Hughes for Plus One-what influenced your story from those films then?
Dennis Iliadis: You know, the great thing about John’s stories was that they were all very human; our characters are also very human in that way, and focusing on the characters was something very important to me. We stay very faithful to the characters throughout this story so you see them make some difficult decisions – they’re not going to be typical, happy ending decisions either – and that’s what really keeps our characters humanized. They’re going to make mistakes and it’s up to them to learn from the choices that they’ve made, and not everyone learns their lesson either.
Dread Central: I know there had been talk for some time about The Birds but then that seemed to stall; was it because that project was taking so much time to develop that you decided to go and make Plus One independently?
Dennis Iliadis: Oh yes; since Last House on the Left I’ve been attached to several studio projects, The Birds being the biggest of those projects. And yeah, it was taking a long time; you can’t rush something like The Birds so I realized I needed to keep writing and keep working. It’s good to have those studio projects moving forward but you also have to do some other stuff for yourself, or at least that’s how I see it. So that’s why I jumped on this.
And the thing with Plus One is that while it may not have the biggest budget, it’s very technically complex and we have a lot of visual effects in there too which was really ambitious on our part. Thankfully we had Hydraulx VFX doing all of our visual effects who also came on as co-producers so we were really lucky to be able to still make this movie on a smaller budget but include things you usually only see in big-budget studio movies.
Rhys Wakefield, Logan Miller, Ashley Hinshaw, and Natalie Hall star.
Three college friends go to the biggest party of the year, each looking for something different: love, sex, a simple human connection. When a supernatural phenomenon disrupts the party, it lights a fuse on what will become the strangest night anyone has ever seen. As the three friends struggle to find what they’re looking for, the party quickly descends into a chaos that challenges if they can stay friends or if they can even stay alive.
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