Writers Tim Seeley and Michael Moreci Unpack the Intimate, Apocalyptic, and Earnest Horror of ‘Revealer’
Dave Richards chats with writers Tim Seeley and Michael Moreci about their fun, earnest, apocalyptic horror film, 'Revealer.'
Writers Tim Seeley and Michael Moreci are known to fans of indy comics as the writers of titles like Hack/Slash, Revival, Barbaric, and The Plot. They’re also lifelong horror film fans, and in the Spring of 2020 they, like a lot of people around the world, suddenly found themselves with a lot of time on their hands because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately for them, they were given the chance to fill that time and occupy their anxious minds by fulfilling their dreams of writing a horror film. That film, Revealer, was shot safely over the summer by a careful and dedicated cast and crew that included director Luke Boyce and veteran producers Sarah Sharp, Rob Stern, and Aaron B. Koontz.
The end result is an ’80s-set thrill ride about a stripper named Angie Pitarelli (Caito Aase) and Sally Mewbourne, a religious protestor (Shaina Schrooten), who are stuck in a peep show booth together while the biblical apocalypse unfolds outside. The film premiered at this year’s Panic Fest, where Aase won the Audience Choice Award for Best Actress. Now, the film is streaming on Shudder.
Ahead of that coming release, Dread Central got a chance to talk with Seeley and Moreci about the film, its earnest quality, its two leads, and the one-shot Revealer comic available digitally and in print this August from Vault Comics. All net proceeds from the comic will be donated to Brave Space Alliance, the first Black-led, trans-led, LGBTQ+ Center located on the South Side of Chicago.
Dread Central: You’ve both had success in the world of comics, and brushes with the world of films because of that success. Revealer though is your first movie to finally be released into the world. How does it feel to have it coming to Shudder and to have it be received so enthusiastically at Panic Fest?
Michael Moreci: It’s thrilling and fantastic. Tim and I are both tremendous lovers of film, especially horror films. And when we made this, we thought we were going out on a limb both creatively and professionally. We were enthusiastic and passionate about it. But we did it during the height of Covid. So there were a lot of things to be anxious about.
We went through the process, though, and making Revealer was absolutely wonderful from start to finish. And to have it do so well at Panic Fest was more than we ever hoped for. We went into it with very little under our belt. There had been no marketing or a trailer. So, to go into a fest with films that were coming out of other festivals and had a lot of buzz, have it play in front of an audience, and then get nominated for best film is something I can’t believe happened. I couldn’t be happier about where the movie is going.
Tim Seeley: Yeah, for us, to make something when we weren’t even sure there was going to be a world tomorrow was kind of a weird situation. It was such a crazy time to work on something together, but we made it to keep ourselves sane and hang out with our friends. So, if people get that out of it I’ll be very pleased.
DC: One of the great things about horror is it allows an audience to confront our fears in ways that are safe, satisfying, and sometimes even fun. It sounds like that’s true for horror creators as well given the state of the world when you made this movie.
MM: Yeah, It was a nice way to get away from the nightmare we were all living in. Tim and I wrote it really fast together. We started writing it in May of 2020. It was then shot in isolation in July of that year.
And one of the things me, Tim, and Luke [Boyce] talked about was that we were making a movie during COVID, but we didn’t want to make a movie about COVID. We just wanted to make a film that people could watch and would transport them somewhere other than now.
TS: There are themes in there though, too. One of our inspirations was seeing that it was the ’80s all over again with book banning and all this PMRC-style bullshit. We knew this was coming, and we were right. These things always seem to come after these events where we’re isolated and people forget how to have empathy for each other. That figured into our thought process too.
DC: I understand much of the story, like its cast and ’80s setting, sprang from the idea of setting the film in a peep show booth?
TS: Yeah, to some degree. We knew we didn’t want people to have cell phones and we didn’t want to deal with the politics of now. So, setting it in the ’80s made it a project we didn’t have to do any research for, which is important when you have to do something quickly. Having lived through the ’80s both Mike and I were pretty familiar with the time period.
DC: Part of the reason Revealer works is the reason any story works; great characters. What was it like coming up with Angie and Sally, and writing their dialogue?
TS: The character of Sally was based on this woman in the town where I grew up. She was such a prevalent part of my childhood because we’d always drive home and I’d see her outside the mall protesting Satanic toys, albums, or whatever.
So, part of our thinking was, “What’s the foil to a character like that in the ’80s?” And we came up with Angie to be sort of the opposite. She doesn’t judge. She’s just trying to live. Sally has the ability to tell everyone how to live, but does so with the knowledge that she hasn’t lived her own life because she’s so afraid of it. Angie was sort of the opposite. So, putting those two characters together allowed us to highlight the things that were different about them, but also show a bunch of things that were shockingly similar. That was part of our theme as well.
MM: Yeah, something that I talked about with Luke and Tim is that when we make something, whether it’s in comics or film, we want to make it earnestly. We want to say what we say and really mean it. That comes through with the characters. So, we want them to be earnest themselves. And to be earnest you have to have some complexity. You have to have some statements about you that are good and bad.
Tim and I are people who understand and believe that life is messy. People are complicated. Sometimes they’re right. Sometimes they’re wrong. We wanted to show that through Sally and Angie. They’re both complicated. They both have good and bad qualities. From a writer’s standpoint, it’s really better to write characters like that because I think you can take them to a more gratifying place.
Ultimately, this is a simple story about two women who learn that sometimes you have to stop talking and start listening. When they do, they become friends. That’s it. It’s two people who become friends in an extreme situation. I think that’s a pretty salient message in the times we’re living in. We’re so quick to judge and cast out that we really don’t take much time to listen to anybody else and say, “We may not agree on every single thing, but that doesn’t mean we still can’t be friends or find some common ground.”
DC: It also helps to have incredible actors, Shaina Schrooten, and Caito Aase, bringing your characters to life. What do you feel they added to the characters you created?
TS: They are so watchable! I think because this movie was so small and it takes place in such a limited area that you needed people to watch. It’s kind of insane how charismatic they are. Plus, the connection between the two of them is so visible.
There are things between the two of them that they added that we didn’t write. It was really interesting because I had never worked with actors in that way before. It was such a rewarding part of the process.
MM: 100 percent. Watchable is such a great word. They are both so talented in their own unique ways. What’s really wonderful about them is everything they do is thoroughly real. It feels like Shaina and Caito inhabit these characters and understand them. They really go big with everything. They’re not shying away from what the story is. They act it and emote it. They do everything so fully, and I love that.
Again, that goes to the earnestness that exists in the movie from start to finish.
TS: We didn’t have room for tons of subtext, and they just put their best stuff out there.
DC: That solid core dynamic between the two characters is what allows you to build out the supernatural horror of the biblical apocalypse. It felt like you wanted to do that in a way though that was fun, sometimes funny, but never completely comical.
TS: Right it’s not wacky. We didn’t want to do wacky. But I don’t think Mike and I can do things that aren’t at least sort of funny. I just can’t do total grim dark.
MM: Yeah. I’ve watched the film a few times now and there’s no doubt it’s a horror movie, but I don’t find it that scary. It’s suspenseful because you care about the characters. The journey they go on is so strange, and you don’t really know where it’s going next. There’s no real jump scare though.
TS: We’re also kind of jaded. Because my sister-in-law watched it and she did jump a couple of times. So that might just be as simple as we’re broken horror fans. [Laughs] The film isn’t meant to be disturbing though. It’s more of a fast and fun ride. Just like on a rollercoaster there are a couple of stomach-dropping moments, but most of the time you’re having a really good time.
DC: Yeah, I had the same feeling as going through a haunted house at Halloween Horror Nights.
TS: There you go! That’s what we’re going for. We didn’t want you to be bored because we didn’t have tons of gore or victims.
MM: Yeah! We couldn’t put that many people in the movie.
[At this point in the interview Tim Seeley had to leave for another appointment]
DC: I feel Revealer is sort of a sister film to the movie The Head Hunter (2018) in that they both take these huge, big-budget ideas and approach them in a more intimate, and often scarier way, that maximizes the potential of their limited budgets. Is that a fair comparison?
MM: Yeah because that’s something we had on our mind. This is still a genre film and we still wanted to have genre elements. We don’t want to be afraid to say this is a movie about the end of the world.
There was a concern when we were making it; “If we don’t show it are people going to get it? Do we have to at least peek outside?” Because, unfortunately, that wasn’t something we could do. It wasn’t on the table. Luke, Tim, and I felt that people would get it though. They know the DNA of this movie.
So, the important thing wasn’t the chaos or destruction. It was about these characters, their journey, and this idea of judgment. This idea of how in dire situations, and this is where you could read in Covid, do we unite? How do we find a common ground to get through these things together? That’s the heart of the movie. It’s less about how many demons and hellfire can we show. It’s about how to make those big things granular and how our characters respond to them
DC: Revealer does have some small, but very effective genre elements like the character of Asmodeus who looked amazing.
MM: Yeah, the designs for that character were absolutely incredible. I wish I had the mask. It was so cool looking. Luke has it. I might steal it from him one day. [Laughs]
When he shows up it is a scary moment. He’s a scary presence. He’s physically imposing and has a frightening visage. But he’s also metaphorically scary. He’s this inescapable idea that one day there’s going to be a reckoning. So, once we insert him into the movie he becomes this presence. He’s stalking these women.
DC: I also think you could make some Host (2020) comparisons with Revealer as well in that it was made at the height of the pandemic by a crew looking to make a film in a safe way.
MM: Yeah, that was what was driving this movie. It started with our brilliant producers, Sarah Sharp and Rob Stern. And when you’re a producer you have a lot of people relying on you. So, there was a certain sense of responsibility, especially for Sarah and Rob, who deeply care about the people they hire.
They’re wonderful producers and they forge great relationships with the people they bring in to work on their movies. They care about the well-being of those people. So, when people weren’t working for a while, and for the foreseeable future, that was one of the things motivating Rob and Sarah, “We simply have to go to work. We have to get work for ourselves and the people we rely on. So, let’s find a way.”
That’s one of the things that drove Revealer. I’m sure it drove Host, as well. It’s all the passion. This feeling of, “This is what we do and we have to do it.” Almost like if you’re a shark and if you stop moving you die.
So, there was a passion to make stuff and the practicality of people aren’t working and earning income. So, let’s figure this out for the sake of us all.
DC: Finally, you and Tim come to the world of horror movies via comics, and things are moving full circle with the upcoming release of the Revealer one-shot comic.
MM: Yeah, it’s pretty amazing, and I don’t think anyone could have predicted it. [Laughs] We got a lot of good people together for it. Tim and I are doing stories. Luke is doing one. Aaron Koontz is doing one. He was one of our producers and people probably know him from tremendous things like Scare Package (2019).
We’re going to make stories in the Revealer universe because if you’ve seen it you know there’s something larger going on. I don’t want to spoil that, but when you watch it, watch through the credits. There isn’t a post-credits scene, but there is something there that will give you a grasp of what’s going on. So, there’s a larger world to Revealer and it was nice to play in that sandbox. We got to do more with these characters that we love, and who are all in these stories
As we talked about, the movie had a lot of restrictions. So, it was nice to see what we could do without restrictions, and in this medium where that’s inherent. There are no budget limitations in comics. So it was a real blast to revisit the world, see what we could come up with, and bring some other cool people into it.
Tim and I see Revealer as something that could be shown at midnight screenings where people are talking back to the screen. I feel like it’s best seen with an audience. I know that’s increasingly difficult, especially for lower-budget films like we are. That’s the spirit of this film though. Yes, it’s scary, has great characters, and says some salient things, but it’s also fun. If people walk out of the movie and say, “It looked cool, sounded cool, and I had a damn good time!” I will be thrilled beyond measure.
The one-shot comic will be available this August through Vault Comics. Get it at your local comics shop or digitally via Amazon/Comixology.
Revealer is available now on Shudder.