Indie Horror Month Interview: Filmmaker Lori Bowen Discusses Her Latest Horror Short Film JustUs
Florida-based up-and-coming filmmaker Lori Bowen is wasting no time making a name for herself these days in the indie world. As someone who's been in love with the horror genre since she was six, Bowen always knew that she was destined to tell horror stories someday.
Bowen is currently celebrating her latest short film- the revenge-themed thriller JustUs- making the festival rounds worldwide and recently, Dread Central caught up with the writer/director to hear more about her experiences as an indie filmmaker, the inspiration behind JustUs as well as what the future holds for Bowen and her production house, Kimyoo Films.
Dread Central: Can you talk a bit about how you got into filmmaking and how you started Kimyoo Films?
Lori Bowen: I’ve been into horror since I was very young: when I was six years old, I saw Cujo and had the crap scared out of me. To calm me down, my mom told me what she could about special effects and told me about guys like Dick Smith and Tom Savini. The film that cemented my love for the genre and was absolutely instrumental in me wanting to make horror flicks when I was older was A Nightmare on Elm Street, which I saw when I was eight. My next watershed moment came when I was ten years old and saw The Gates of Hell (City of the Living Dead) for the first time.
In my middle school, the grades were all divided into "teams" and my team was further divided into classes and it just so happened that my class was the one chosen to learn how to make video projects and work on the morning announcements. I was singled out as a particularly skilled editor and was given privileges the other students didn’t have (such as I was allowed to eat my lunch in the studio without teacher supervision and by myself...this was an incredible confidence builder for me as I had a bad attitude and was picked on all the time.)
I also started really writing around that time. My very first (incomplete) script was called A Nightmare on Elm Street 7: The Last Dance. It’s a jumbled mess with a couple of good ideas, but I never finished it because around that time, Wes Craven announced New Nightmare and that Nancy would be back (which was something I did in my script, too, but not as awesomely as he did it.) Incidentally, New Nightmare is my favorite of the sequels.
One day in summer school, I was flipping through a Japanese language dictionary (I love foreign-to-me languages and I find Japanese to be particularly pretty) and I found out that the Japanese word for "strange" is "kimyo," but in that dictionary, the romaji was written "kimyoo." Strange Films...Kimyoo Films. I’d found my company name.
I tried writing romantic comedies and dramas and all of that crap, the stuff that women are "supposed" to make, but it never felt right. It all felt so incredibly fake, but I knew that this was what I wanted to do. In 1998, a year after graduating from high school and after going through some more rough personal times, I wrote and finished a full length feature horror script. I couldn’t produce it, but it opened the floodgates. Mentally, everything fell into place after that.
I couldn’t produce my own stuff until about ten years later. My first film, Without/Within, was rejected from every film festival I submitted to except the ShockerFest International Film Festival where it won the Director’s Choice award. The rest is history!
DC: Tell us more about some of your earlier work- did you face a lot of challenges being such a new filmmaker at the time?
Lori Bowen: Other than my time at Booker and a semester of college wherein I took some film classes, I am completely self-taught. It takes a lot of discipline to make a film, to have the patience to finish a script, then go back and edit it and rewrite it to try and make it the best you can. I’m not that familiar with "The Right Way," but I’m learning and for all of the difficulties I’ve encountered, I’ve loved every second of it!
DC: So what kind of stories speak to you as a storyteller?
Lori Bowen: I love to explore ideas of good and evil and Machiavellian themes ("A prince should do good when he can and evil when he must," is a quote from high school that has stuck with me since I read it.) I love heroes and villains, but heroes sometimes have to do evil to serve a greater good and rarely do villains see themselves as such. I want the folks who watch my stuff to be entertained, but to also think about what they’re watching. What would they do if put into those particular circumstances? How would they feel?
DC: Were there certain films (horror in particular) that have influenced your style along the way?
Lori Bowen: I’ve mentioned the Elm Street films already; Nancy Thompson influences me on a daily basis and the Nancy vs. Freddy dynamic is fabulous. George A. Romero’s Dead cycle, as I like to call his zombie films, are another huge influence on me, his use of zombies and situations as metaphors for whatever it is he wants to explore.
As strange as this sounds, I’m also heavily influenced by Lucio Fulci, an infamously misogynistic director. His people skills left a lot to be desired, there’s no question about that, but I love his work. City of the Living Dead and The Beyond are the two films of his that have had the biggest impact on me.
Also- pretty much anything by Terry Gilliam, Dario Argento, Park Chan Wook and Mario Bava.
DC: Can you talk about JustUs and where the idea for the story in your short film came from?
Lori Bowen: I love revenge movies, but so few of them deal with the emotional aftermath of the act of vengeance. Revenge is one of our most primal reactions. We’re all very familiar with it. I wanted to have a film that left it emotionally open to interpretation: how exactly did she feel at the end? Why do you think she feels that way?
DC: Being a female filmmaker, how important was it to you to respectfully handle the rape/revenge aspect of the story?
Lori Bowen: It was incredibly important. I didn’t want anyone to feel that I was sensationalizing the violence inherent in either act. I wanted to explore the emotional core and bring out these thoughts in those who watch it.
DC: How has the response to JustUs been so far? Any upcoming fest dates you'd like to plug?
Lori Bowen: It’s been amazing! As of this writing, it’s been accepted into ten different festivals around the world! Thus far, I’ve gotten to see it twice with an audience and the reactions have been pretty intense.
JustUs will be playing on February 18 at the Stranger With My Face Horror Film Festival in Hobart, Tasmania, and February 26 at the Jennifer’s Bodies Film Festival in Scotland. My film Aftershock is touring with the Viscera Film Festival right now and will be playing the Stiletto Film Festival in Boston and at Viscera’s bone marrow donation drive in North Hollywood on February 25 as well.
DC: How rewarding does it feel to have kept busy as a filmmaker for quite some time now (not an easy feat!)?
Lori Bowen: It’s fantastic! I’m so incredibly grateful for all of the opportunities that have come and will continue to come my way!
DC: What's up next for you? Is there more horror in your future?
Lori Bowen: Horror is the only genre I want to work in! I’ve got a short film I’m aiming to shoot in March called Rivalry and I’m hoping to shoot a couple more short films this year, I’ve got three different music videos that I’m in pre-production on, and I’m in development on my first feature called Skin.
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