Texas Frightmakers: Interview with Matthan Harris
Texas is a strange, strange place. Most horror fans think about chainsaws when you say the name Texas around them, and that's not a huge stretch from the truth. Bigger than many nations, Texas contains every variety of landscape and community found elsewhere in the US. It also contains no small amount of weirdness and weirdos. Inspired by the Texas Frightmakers panels at last year's Texas Frightmare Weekend as well as my love for my adopted home, I'm proud to introduce a series of monthly interviews called Texas Frightmakers.
I'll be speaking with horror folks from all over the state and all aspects of horror. The genre is thriving in Texas, with horrors of every shape and kind popping up all over the state. It's my hope that you'll discover some people you otherwise wouldn't and come to appreciate Texas for the horror hotbed that it is.
To kick things off, I bring you a conversation with Matthan Harris. One of my discoveries at last year's TFW was that a horror film had just wrapped in Dallas starring Bill Moseley, Doug Bradley, and Sid Haig. I live here and had no idea this was even going on, which is a travesty. The film is The Infliction, and it's the product of the twisted imagination of Harris, who wrote, produced, directed, and stars in the film.
Mr. Dark: Tell us a little bit about The Infliction.
Matthan Harris: The Infliction is about a young serial killer named David O'Hara. On the surface David is a normal 25-year-old medical student. However, he has a dark side, which he inherited from his father, Richard O'Hara (played by Bill Moseley). David kidnaps young women in pursuit of the perfect female to produce his child. If he deems the victim unworthy of motherhood, he kills her. He eventually chooses his college friend, Melissa Daniels, and impregnates her against her will. All kinds of mayhem ensue when the police rescue her from David's isolated warehouse.
MD: This is your feature debut. What made you decide to write, direct, produce, AND play the lead?
MH: That's how I made all of my short films so I'm used to wearing many hats at the same time. It's a highly stimulating approach to filmmaking, and it grants me the most creative control. In order to wear all those hats, you need to be able to think on your feet, stay focused in high-stress situations, and pay close attention to detail. As for my acting, my brilliant director of photography, Cira Felina Bolla, directed me whenever necessary.
MD: What attracted you to this story as your first feature? Why a serial killer tale?
MH: I had a few concepts for my first feature, all of which were horror, but The Infliction was the most intriguing to me. The story is very complex and psychological, and it deals with many real-life issues that people can relate to. One of the major themes is "Everyone has a dark side," and it fascinates me that certain people embrace it while everyone else suppresses it. The Infliction tells the story of a young sociopath who thinks creating a family will fix everything that went wrong in his life. But is it possible for a sociopath to love someone, even his own child? If not, then what happens in that situation? These are some of the questions that inspired me to write this story. Plus, I've always wanted to play a serial killer so I got to fulfill that dream.
MD: You have some serious horror star power in this film with Doug Bradley, Sid Haig, and Bill Moseley. Any worries about hiring such vets on your first time out of the gate? How did they handle being directed by someone so young?
MH: As you can imagine, I was very excited when those icons liked my script and agreed to do the film. As Bill Moseley told me, "It's easier to act when the script is good!" I've admired their work since I was a kid and wrote those roles for them so it couldn't have worked out better. They were very respectful, despite me being 24 years old, and they took the project very seriously. I suppose it was a risky move, but I wasn't too worried because I was well-prepared and experienced by that point. Plus, I had an incredible cast and crew. Giovanni Lombardo Radice told me, "It is important to support young filmmakers." Without that support, I wouldn't have been able to make The Infliction.
MD: Where are you on the film right now? I believe you said primary photography was completed; do you have a release date yet?
MH: Editing is almost finished; and then music, sound mixing, and color correction will need to be done. I would like to premiere the film as early as April, but we'll see.
MD: How did you discover the film's heroine, Lindsay Hightower? I know she's local to Dallas - did you do standard casting calls, or did you discover her another way?
MH: I did not do casting calls for the principal roles. I mainly selected Dallas actors I had trained with, including Amy Amory, who introduced me to Lindsay Hightower. Lindsay had the right look to play Melissa Daniels so I set up an audition with her. She impressed me with her emotional range and edginess so she got the role. Lindsay did several challenging scenes, including rape and attempted suicide, and she was a real trooper throughout the whole shoot.
MD: You're a Texas native, but what kept you in Texas to make The Infliction? Why not run to Canada and all of its tax breaks or LA with all of the resources available there?
MH: There are several reasons why I stayed in Texas to shoot The Infliction. I already knew the local talent so casting was fairly easy. All of the locations were close together and granted us privacy from onlookers. Weather conditions were excellent. Traffic and parking weren't an issue. Texas has very competitive prices, and all expenses for film production are tax-exempt. Basically, staying on my home turf was the most convenient choice for this project. I'm ready for my next one, though, and I will be moving to LA next month. Wish me luck!
MD: My traditional last question: what's your favorite horror movie?
MH: Oh god, that's a hard question! I love so many horror movies from Alien to Dead Alive to Psycho. But if I had to choose one, it would be Jaws. That film taps so effectively into people's fear of sharks, nature, and the unknown. It leaves quite a bit to the imagination, which allows the audience to create these horrific images in their mind. When the Kintner boy is attacked and a geyser of blood squirts everywhere... that's true horror. I always think of Jaws when I go snorkeling or scuba-diving, which is a testament to its power.
Thanks, Matthan! You can follow the progress of The Infliction here on Dread Central and the official The Infliction Facebook page, where you'll find lots more photos and behind-the-scenes peeks. Be sure to check out the trailer and one-sheet below, and keep your eyes peeled (not literally...eww) for the next Texas Frightmaker this time next month and every month from me, Mr. Dark, on the finest spot for horror in the world: DREAD CENTRAL!
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