The bloody but beautiful stylings of the giallo, a filmmaking subgenre popularized by such Italian maestros as Mario Bava, Dario Argento, Sergio Martino, and Lucio Fulci, have found a new modern practitioner. And this time he comes from Bushwick, Brooklyn in the form of local independent filmmaker Joshua Matteo.
Today, Matteo exclusively shares with Dread Central the teaser trailer to his new NYC-shot short Mesmeralda, about a young woman caught up in a metropolitan nightmare. DC contributor Tony Timpone (and the guy behind this byline) executive produced Mesmeralda.
“Horror is three things to me: cruelty, beauty and catharsis,” says Matteo, who previously directed the shorts Metanoia, Metanoia and home. “Experiencing cruel things through a lens of beauty provides a cathartic release for the horrors of our everyday life. I want the cruelty of this film to haunt the viewers’ psyche and draw the viewer back until it becomes nothing but pure beauty. Making and viewing horror films is the most cathartic and healing thing for me during these turbulent times, and I hope Mesmeralda will provide this catharsis for you. I wanted to conjure something truly evil and revolting, and I hope you feel it in every frame. I want this to feel like a rollercoaster ride through hell that will leave you breathless.”
The director, who also edited, produced and wrote Mesmeralda, turned to his cinematic hero for his initial inspiration. “While the Argento and Italian horror influence is evident in our use of beautiful heightened horror, my influence from Argento has matured and developed as the years go on,” Matteo says. “To me, the most Argento thing about this film is taking a dark, evil and specific thing about the world and exploiting it, treating it like an entity—a subject matter for the film to explore. Argento did this with Macbeth’s curse for Opera, anorexia for Trauma or The Stendhal Syndrome for the same-titled ailment.”
The haunting music for the trailer comes from composer
Mesmeralda is a queer horror film shot entirely guerilla style on the glorious streets of the bloody Big Apple. Majority of the cast is transgender, including star Emira Hajj. The film also features Pierce Hughes, Zholie Brooks, Bella Moon, Untitled Queen, Panthera Lush and Alec Bandzes. “Violence is experienced by the transgender community every day, and they are constantly being silenced,” says Matteo. “I wanted to give something back to the community that has a haunting resonance. The cast is mostly made up of friends I met during my raving days when I first moved to NYC.”
Mesmeralda was shot by Bowie Alexander (The Great Hack) and features gory makeup FX by Anthony Jones (The Killing of Jacob Marr, Predator Island). “The joy of making independent horror shorts is that you get to do exactly what you want,” Matteo says. “You get to have fun and get creative with making something from nothing. And you can still have a sense of mystique with your film, something which is getting harder to do with films nowadays.”