Would you enter an empty Rialto theater that’s showing a movie you’ve never heard of – a movie that’s starring you? This is the premise for Nightmare Cinema, a horror anthology that will premiere at this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal on Thursday, July 12th.
We had the amazing opportunity to pick the brain of the first director of Nightmare Cinema: the vigorous writer, producer and director Alejandro Brugués! He discusses how to begin a short film with the climax of a feature film.
A series of down-on-their-luck individuals enter the decrepit and spine-chilling Rialto theater, only to have their deepest and darkest fears brought to life on the silver screen by The Projectionist – a mysterious, ghostly figure who holds the nightmarish futures of all who attend his screenings. By the time our patrons realize the truth, escape is no longer an option. For once the ticket is torn, their fate is sealed at Nightmare Cinema.
For more information on Nightmare Cinema, check out Fantasia International Film Festival.
Dread Central: I remember when I first saw your movie Juan of the Dead. It’s one of my favorite comedy zombie movies. Just thought you needed to know that.
Alejandro Brugués: Thank you.
DC: You once stated that the movie idea came about because you made a joke to your producer. So, I’m just curious to know, with your segment “The Thing in the Woods” in Nightmare Cinema, how did this idea come about for you?
AB: Funny enough, it was almost kind of like the same thing in which everything came together at the same time. I want to see how I can say this without saying any spoilers. Basically, I was trying to figure out what kind of story to tell. I’m not good at doing shorts. I never think about short films when I have an idea. So… I said that I want to do something for the audience that feels familiar. I want to do a slasher. And what I’m going to do is the climax of a slasher. So from frame one, you know what’s going on because you’ve seen this movie a hundred times. Then suddenly, I was driving and boom. The whole idea appeared. I had to pull the car over. I called my wife and I said, “Hey, listen to this. Tell me if it is good or if it sucks.” I said the whole thing to her and she said, “Oh no, that’s fun.” And that was it. Then I just told Mick. We sat down and I told him the idea and he also loved it. We didn’t have a title. That’s where we came up with the title. It was one of those things where the whole idea appears in front of you.
DC: Well, I definitely feel that people are going to love your story. It’s very creepy. I wish I could say what freaked me out about it, but I’m pretty sure that you know. And it was very unpredictable… in a good way.
AB: Yeah, that was fun. I also wanted to do something different. With my ABCs of Death short, one of the things I got was that there wasn’t enough blood. Here I said, “Let’s have some blood.”
DC: I think you achieved that! Also, it seems that you always make unique films and just have unique stories. I’m guessing, you had years of a highly active imagination. I’m curious. What was your childhood like?
AB: A lot of horror movies. I grew up in Latin America. Mostly, I was raised in Bolivia. For some reason, Latin America is where you hear about ghost and all kinds of weird monsters and creepy stuff. Very early on, I discovered horror movies. That was back in Cuba. I remember one of my uncles got home with a copy of The Evil Dead when I was about eight years old probably. I watched that and I think it changed my life. By the way, I’m not saying you should show The Evil Dead to an eight-year-old. After that, all I wanted to do is watch horror movies. Then, when I was back in Cuba, it was very hard. Somehow, I managed to watch a lot of horror movies growing up.
DC: I think that’s awesome that you grew up on horror movies.
AB: Yes, that is an awesome thing.
DC: Just going back to Nightmare Cinema, besides from it being a short movie, did you have any other challenges?
AB: I think the different thing is that when you get a call from Mick, he says, “Hey, do you want to do this?” He gives you the line up. You freak out. I said, “Yes.” He said, “It’s me in the beginning of a bunch of horrors.” Then I heard about the others and I said, ”Oh! What am I doing in this group?” I have to really do a good job here. I can’t mess this up. This is a great group of directors. I think it was the scariest part, and then when I had the idea, I never read the other screenplays or watched the other shorts. I wanted to watch the movie for the first time at the premiere. I managed to wait until right to the last second. But I also wanted to have that pleasure of not knowing what the others were doing. I had to do my best. Also, when you read the short on the page, you are so ambitious and it has so much stuff going on. We only had five days and everyday that we looked at our shooting schedule… everyday looked insane. At the same time, it was fun. I’ve never had so much fun shooting. It’s one of those things where suddenly you are actually there… and you’re shooting… and you’re seeing in front of you, all the weird stuff that you came up with and you feel like a kid playing. At the same time, you’re like, “How the hell did I come up with this shit?”
DC: That sounds really cool. Once again, I think that you did a great job with your story.
AB: Thank you. I’m very proud of that one.
DC: Would you be interested in ever expanding the story? Would you ever want to see it as a full feature – or a series?
AB: I had so much fun doing it, and I had so much fun with the actors. That it is one of those things that I’d love to revisit and expand. It’s not like I have a plan. I don’t know how to do it, but if you said to me that we were going to do a picture of whatever we did, I would jump on it.
DC: That would be amazing. Okay. What do you want the audience to receive from watching this film?
AB: I’m opening the film. That was a tricky one. When Mick said that my short was the one to open the film, I wanted them to be really excited for what’s to come. I want them to have fun. I think there’s something super fun about this short.
DC: I can see the audience having fun with the movie. I really enjoyed it.
AB: It was so much fun. I’m so proud of it.
DC: What kind of director would you say that you are? Because with your films, there is always something fun about it.
AB: That’s a weird one because actually, after doing Juan of the Dead, I didn’t want to do horror comedy. It turns out that the other two things that I had since I moved to the US aren’t horror comedy. Obviously, I like horror comedy, but you asked me what kind of horror director I am?
I don’t know. Stories just appear and they take charge. I don’t try to come up with a horror comedy or just a straight up horror or sci-fi. I just follow good stories when they appear. In this case, it happened to be a horror comedy that I love so much that I couldn’t resist. The thing is, if you make a horror comedy, then everyone wants you to keep doing horror comedies here. In this case, it was so good and I loved it so much. You try to get out, and they bribe you back in. That’s pretty much what happened here. When people ask me what kind of movies I want to make, I just say, “Good movies.” I don’t want to make the same thing over and over. But that’s how it goes.
DC: One last question, when it came to casting, did you know who you wanted to be a part of the project?
AB: I didn’t have a clue. We just did a regular casting. We found a great group. It was awesome to spend time with them – with the characters. I love them all so much. Sarah Withers, the main actress, was amazing. I remember she was the last one that went to the casting. She arrived 40 minutes late because the Uber took her somewhere else, and she was so nervous. We were like, “Okay, let’s just see.” She just did it once and she killed. They were just great. They were so much fun to work with.
DC: That’s wonderful. I thought that the lead actress did great. It just seemed like the role was made for her.
AB: She’s going to be amazing. I think this is the first thing that she’s done. I think she’s going to be huge.
DC: Well, thank you so much for answering my questions. I really appreciate it.
AB: Thank you so much.