On a special day of shooting writer-director Jose Prendes’ Divine Tragedies with the fantastic Ken Foree, Dread Central was invited to watch some… well… shooting. In the scene they were about to film, Foree’s character gets shot. Whether he lives or dies, we can’t say…
But here’s what Prendes had to say:
Dread Central: So, tell us how you assembled this amazing cast!
Jose Prendes: Ken Foree and Barbara Crampton were always on our list, but we never thought we could get them, or thought they would be into it, because the roles are very stylized. Especially Barbara’s role, which is very unique, and she hasn’t really played anything like that before. So for her to call me up and say, ‘This is a really disturbing script but it would make such a lovely movie and I want to be a part of it,’ really means a lot.
DC: Well, she did do You’re Next. That was pretty messed up, her role… lots of gore.
JP: And she saw the real kind of beauty behind all the ugliness. She understood the happy ending message I was trying to convey and she appreciated it. So I’m thrilled to have her with us.
DC: So it sounds like there are some surreal moments here where we may or may not know what is going on.
JP: Yeah, that was always the goal with this one. I’m a big horror movie fan but I’ve just grown tired of the genre. There is so much repetition and it gets so boring to the point where I’m not interested in seeing anything. So I wanted to write something that I thought could really distinguish itself and break the mold from a typical movie. Like somewhere along the lines of something like Inception, which really broke the mold on the thriller, or if you look at anything David Lynch did or David Cronenberg’s films, they found a way to really break our hold on reality and show us the world in a different way, and I think that’s what horror movies do best. They show the world in a different way. The best scary movies are the ones that feel real but can twist the world into unknown shapes.
DC: I think that’s very cinematic.
JP: Right! Exactly. I think I’ve had my fill of kids in the woods movies.
DC: And Hostel .
JP: Yeah, for me gore’s great, but if it’s just on displayed to be on display, then I’m just not as interested. However, if it has something to do with the story and I care about who’s dying and what is happening, then it’s justifiable.
DC: Yeah, tell me about the characters and why we should care about them.
JP: The movie is about two brothers, Thomas and Charles. They grew up very isolated. Their mother, who is played by Barbara, is basically a gold digger. She finds rich husbands and marries them to live off of their money. So these boys have sort of been brought up in this kind of rich seclusion. And through their life they’ve developed this understanding of the world, they’ve basically created their own religion in terms of how mankind is meant to evolve and how superior intellect allows the superior human being to achieve transcendence to another, God-like level. Those of lesser intelligence don’t realize our bodies are only meat suits, and the goal of the brothers is to take the next step and seek divinity by helping others shuffle off this mortal coil.”
“So they’ve started out small, forcing people to do things, killing animals. Then they decide they are ready to kill somebody so their big plan is to find the perfect woman, an angel on Earth, to be their first victim, who is played by the lovely Hannah Levien. Of course they are maniacs and things don’t go according to plan. I don’t know that the audience will necessarily care about them at first, but by the end, when they have come undone somewhat, I think everyone in the audience will see something of themselves in what is left. And Ken Foree is our detective who is put on the case to track them down.
DC: In your press release you said he has this special gift?
JP: Yes, he’s psychic and uses psychometry, which is fascinating. It’s interesting because I had a psychic in my other movie and it is not something I intended initially, but it felt right to me. I wrote this movie in like 4 or 5 days. It just kind of burst out on the page and came to life and Homer suddenly became psychic and it felt right because these boys believe in magic, and ultimately they are undone by magic.
DC: Is it like, does everyone know that?
JP: Well, everyone in his police station knows. I almost wanted to make it feel like an 80’s cop comedy sometimes; he’s sort of our comic relief. Ken’s so cool so I tweaked the dialog for him, to make him a little more alive. Things get so bleak that we need someone to come in and give us a smile here and there, and humor is always a big part of movies for me.
DC: It’s a serial killer film so are they just inspiring to kill?
JP: Yeah, without giving too much away, it is about serial killers, or two men who believe that is a way of life to be admired.
DC: Whereabouts are you in filming right now?
JP: Right now this is day 6 of 14. It’s a very tight schedule.
DC: Who’s your DP?
JP: My DP is Kyle Stryker; he’s awesome, such a great collaborator.
DC: But he must be challenged with all this for having to do stuff really quickly.
JP: Well, he knew coming in that it was going to be tight and he was all in. That passion to make movies is important on indie projects. That’s the kind of people you need on a set like this, where everyone loves making movies and loves being a part of it. We’ve been having a great time; it’s a family, and that’s important to me. I want my cast and crew to enjoy the birthing process.
DC: Have you had Barbara on yet?
JP: No, not yet, but I look forward to it. I’ve talked to her on the phone a couple of times and we email back and forth. She emails me questions about this or that and I explain what I meant so it’s already been a fun collaboration. And I keep texting her pictures of her boys so that she has something to visually hook onto. I wish we had time to meet in person, but unfortunately she doesn’t live in LA and was also off filming another film. But I got to hang out with Ken way before we shot, which was nice.
DC: Yeah, that doesn’t hurt. Is there anything you want to add? Since you’re still shooting and I haven’t read the script, it’s hard to know exactly what to ask!
JP: We tried to make a very different movie in terms of a horror film. It’s got elements of other things; obviously there are homages to things that I like. But ultimately, I wanted to offer moviegoers something different. It’s kind of a beautiful horror movie. There are some bizarre, disgusting moments, but there is a weird poetry there and I am a big fan of subtext. There is a lot of subtext in this, like in Lady Vengeance, where symbolism really told that tale.
DC: Some of what you say kind of reminds me of Frailty, the one with Bill Paxton.
JP: Yeah, that’s interesting; I can see that. The two movies that inspired me in this were Compulsion with Orson Welles, and [Hitchcock’s] Rope with Jimmy Stewart, who is the fucking man, and they are both about the Leopold and Loeb case, but only Compulsion is the one that really follows the case.
DC: I haven’t seen that one but I have seen Rope.
JP: Yeah Compulsion is fantastic. There’s a young Dean Stockwell in it; it’s great.
DC: So in terms of release, do you have a date or…?
JP: We will have a final cut by May because we want to start to make a couple festivals so we are sort of rushing post. Be we are shooting in a way where this isn’t a lot of cutting to be done. It’s very Kubrick, or Kurosawa-styled. Akira somehow managed to frame everybody perfectly in these amazing wide shots. So that was a big inspiration for me. So was Carpenter.
Based loosely on the famous Leopold and Loeb murder case, the film tells the tale of Charles Brubaker (Graham Denman, The Haunting of Whaley House) and his half-brother, Thomas Lo Bianco (Jon Kondelik, Airplane vs. Volcano), who concoct a deadly game to test their superior intelligence against the dimwitted masses. This game will eventually lead to murder, and when Genevieve, a beautiful single mother, enters their lives, they finally find the perfect girl for their first kill. But problems arise when they quickly discover that Detective Homer Gaul (Ken Foree), a cop with a very special gift, is hot on their trail.
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