With director Matt Eskandari’s The Gauntlet set for its US premiere Thursday, October 10, at 7:30pm at the esteemed Screamfest LA Film Festival, here’s an exclusive chat with the filmmaker along with the trailer and some stills!
Produced by Wellington Sun, Jonathan Shih, Daniel Wei, Adam Lawson and Philippe Wee from a script by Adam Lawson, The Gauntlet stars Bai Ling (The Crow), Warren Kole, Dustin Nguyen and Jamie Ray Newman. The story revolves around an ensemble who find themselves in a sunken castle underneath the earth. They have no food. No memory. No water. And no way out. They don’t know it yet, but in Hell only their sins can save them. They must organize and band together for the sinister adventure which awaits.
”I was attracted by the chance to tell an original survival, adventure story set in a devil’s maze,” Eskandari stated of his interest in the material, “and I loved the idea of these normal people from different walks of life who are trapped in extraordinary circumstances. They have to bond and to question what they’re really made of and what sinister secrets they’re hiding from one another. The mythology of the movie was just as fascinating and is filled with unique symbolism and demonic motifs throughout. The idea was to create a classic sort of puzzle-adventure-horror story and to keep the audience guessing all the way up to the final reveal.”
Given Eskandari’s feature debut Victim, which was hailed as “a thinking man’s Saw” (Ain’t it Cool News) and distributed theatrically in 2010 by IFC Films, he’s no stranger to the thematic.
“Genre films have always fascinated me, so I’ve been directing and producing horror-thriller films for a while now,” offered the director.
“Something about the uncanny, the fantastic, and the unnatural has a way to just draw me in,” he continued. “The subtext in The Gauntlet is all about finding out what you’re meant to become, choosing that path in life and deciding whether you have an ultimate choice in it or not. The ‘world’ of the Gauntlet itself forces each character to come to terms with this choice, and each one answers this challenge in a unique way. I believe one of the reasons horror and genre films have continued to remain relevant to today’s audience is because of that exact ability to evoke primal fears and phobias, while still delving into a deeper subtextual message. It resonates on an unconscious level, whether we acknowledge it or not.”
When queried of his working relationship with The Gauntlet star Bai Ling, Eskandari stated, “We incessantly argued and bickered with each other over everything!”
”Just kidding,” he clarified. “It was real blast collaborating together. She was a consummate professional who is full of creativity and breathed a fresh life into her character. I was [also] blessed to work with an extraordinary ensemble in Warren Kole, Dustin Nguyen and Jamie Ray Newman, who all delivered incredibly nuanced performances in the film.”
As for his thoughts on the flick’s fest selection, “Screamfest is the true Cannes and Sundance of horror festivals, and so many exemplary genre talents and films are discovered there,” Eskandari offered. “It was a great honor to get the call from festival founder, Rachel Belofsky, and to hear we were to premiere there,” he concluded. “It was also very sentimental for me because my first short film while still in film school, The Taking, won the Award for ‘Best Student Horror Short’ at Screamfest a few years back and helped me to launch my career. Hopefully, The Gauntlet will have similar success and help get the film seen by the wider audience it deserves.”
For more on Screamfest, which runs October 8th to the 17th at the Laemmle NoHo 7 (5240 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601), visit Screamfest’s website, “like” Screamfest on Facebook, and follow Screamfest on Twitter.
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