Dread Central Presents’ first film of 2019 is the gruesome, mind-bending shocker Dry Blood. It puts new spins on the established “cabin in the woods” horror trope by infusing heavy doses of psychological horror and employing a non-linear timeline.
To celebrate the film’s release, we’re honored to share a recent interview we conducted with Dry Blood‘s writer and director, Clint Carney and Kelton Jones respectively. We dip our toes into spoiler territory, but this discussion will definitely get you excited for what’s in store while simultaneously serving as a warning to the squeamish: Dry Blood is fucking brutal!
There are also two events to keep track of if you’re in the Los Angeles area! First up are screenings of the movie at The Frida that started January 11 and will continue through this week. For more information, click here. The second event is a signing over at Dark Delicacies with writer/director Clint Carney as well as Dread Central Presents’ own Rob Galluzzo (Shock Waves)! The event is TONIGHT, so make sure to pick up your tickets right here.
In a rural mountain town, an unstable drug addict must unravel a surreal murder mystery as he’s terrorized by malevolent ghosts, a deranged sheriff, and the frightening hallucinations from his withdrawal.
Dry Blood is currently screening in select theaters and VOD platforms, and the Blu-ray/DVD goes on sale today.
Dread Central: You guys wrote and directed Dry Blood and you guys are also the stars of the film, so from the outside looking in, it seems like this was definitely a team effort. Can you tell us a bit about how you guys met and when you decided to make the Dry Blood together?
Kelton Jones: We met in a writing group for screenwriter with several people who were writing screenplays would get together. We’d read each other’s scripts and give each other notes on how to make things better, and really breaking down the specifics of how to really get the best out of it. And I read one of Clint’s screenplay and I was like, “Holy cow this amazing! We could shoot this right now.”
So, we set out to form a company and shoot the film but, along the way, we realized that the movie had a number of significant challenges because it was set in the 1990s and features punk rock. So, we would need a lot of music licensing and a lot period costumes and period cars, and a lot of locations, too. So, it was going to be much more expensive than what we had originally hoped to make it for.
So after I came back from Sundance, I came to Clint and said, “I really want to make a movie this year. Is there something we can do that has a more limited cast size and limited locations, but has the same caliber of characters and is still at the level of the film we wanted to make?” He said, “I’ve got this really incredible project I’m working on. Just give me give me a month to work it out.” I was like, “Cool, let me know when it’s ready.” So, after a month I read the screenplay and I was like, “Wow, holy cow! This is fantastic!” We went through the script to really punch things up and we went out to the location where we were going to shoot and came up with elements that were specific to where we were going to film it. We worked on it from the beginning to make it as good as it could possibly be.
And neither of us intended to be in the movie. We were going to cast it with the best actors we could get on the budget that was available. But we had worked together on another project, a music video for Clint’s band, and I was really impressed with his presence on camera as an actor, just in this video. He was fantastic. And I told him, “You know, you can play this role” and he’s like, “Nah, I’d rather get somebody who can really kill it.” And I was like, “I think you can kill it,” and, sure enough he just blew it away.
DC: I agree, good call there. Clint, as the writer, I wanted to talk about drugs. Did you use drug use in Dry Blood as a plot motivator or is there a bigger subtext or metaphor for addiction that carries through the entire film?
Clint Carney: Certainly drugs were a big plot point in the film but, more importantly, the film is from the main character’s point of view. Brian Barnes is not only a drug addict but he has some mental instability. Since Dry Blood is told from his point of view,
DC: I love how the film really toys with your expectations in the beginning, especially when we meet the cop and the store clerk; there was a very comic vibe to that scenario. But once you get about half way in, things take a real sharp turn into realistic, extreme violence. Was it your intension to lull your viewers into a false sense of security?
CC: It wasn’t so much that we were trying to lull the audience into a false sense of security. Had not we presented a calmer version of this world in the beginning and gone straight into the violence from the start, we would lose a lot of the audience. From a writer’s perspective I wanted them to build empathy for the characters up front and exist in the world for a time before they really knew what they were getting into. That way when the film takes a turn towards the violence, it’s more shocking than if it had been that way from the start of the film.
KJ: Clint and I both have a really dark sense of humor as well. That’s certainly an element. But that’s part of the craft. For it to be a satisfying experience for the audience, it has to be a rollercoaster. It can’t be dark and heavy and depressing the whole time, because that’s mentally exhausting. So, to really get the full value, it’s important to have those comedic moments that allow you to go further into those terrifying moments. Because if you just play for terror, you’re going to miss the range. It’s like the idea of pulling back to throw a punch. The more your able to pull back, the more power you can put into a punch. It’s the same things with emotions: The more you pull back for laughs, the harder you can push forward for tears or screams.
DC: We’ve got to talk about the gore effects. Obviously, this is an independent movie, so you didn’t have limitless funds, but I’ll be damned if those weren’t some powerful effects! Tell us about your effects team and whether you guys went practical or digital.
CC: Most of the effects are a combination of classical with digital enhancement. Obviously, Kelton and I both are big fans of late 70s and early 80s horror, so I wanted to be as practical as possible. At the same time, there’s some constraints with going all practical that can get kind of cheesy. For example, the little girl walking around without a head. Now previously, if that had been done before the days of computer effects, you’d just have this girl in a costume rig with really big shoulders, and it would just look slightly comical. It certainly wouldn’t have been as disturbing. But because it was a marriage of practical and digital, our talented effects team of Chad Engel and Sioux Sinclair made a prosthetic neck wound that we wrapped around the actress’s neck. First, we shot the room without her in it for background; then the same shot with her in it. Then, digitally, we were able to digitally remove her head.
I actually did all the visual computer effects myself. It was more than just erasing her head; I wanted to audience to feel the gore. So, I ended up drawing, frame by frame, the spine and trachea and all the gore that’s inside her neck. That part is essentially a cartoon, but that’s an example of combining the practical and digital. I don’t want to give too much away, but our team created these great effects dummies that we rigged up and performed the violence on. We filmed the dummies taking the damage, then had the actors move back into the shot and digitally imposed the violence on the dummies over the real actors so it looks like the humans are taking the damage. The effect is done practically but with the aid of computers, we can make things even more realistic.
DC: You hear about horror directors taking care not to traumatize their child actors; there’s that story about how Stanley Kubrick was so gentle with Danny Lloyd, he didn’t even realize The Shining was a horror movie until he grew up. Without giving too much away, it seems like the young actress in the film is right in the thick of it. So, my question is, did you take any special precautions not to traumatize her, and how did “that scene” affect her at the time?
CC: The script is even more fucked up, actually! In order for that scene to be impactful, it has to be brutal, but also you can’t do that to a little kid, because it would traumatize them forever. So, all the scenes where you see her face over her shoulder, I’m just joking around and making stupid faces at her; trying to help her have a fun time. Then when it’s the reverse and you see me, that’s just an FX dummy that I’m freaking out on. She had actually gone home for the day already.
KJ: It was something we took seriously. We talked about the best, healthiest way to go about it. Obviously, her parents were there on set the entire time. But it also has to do with me wanted to get the best out of Clint. I didn’t want him pulling his punches and, if there was an actually a young, child actress in the scene, he might have naturally held back. Because he wouldn’t want to traumatize her. So, it was twofold: We didn’t want to traumatize her, but we also wanted to create an environment where Clint wouldn’t be held back. And I think it worked. I think we created a really rare moment in cinema that you don’t often see.
CC: Although, when we shot that scene, it did traumatize some of our crew members!
DC: That’s okay. Nobody cares about traumatizing adults!
CC: After I stood up from that scene, the crew in the room were just staring at me. Some of them laughed, just because of the awkwardness of it all, others… There was at least one crewmember who wouldn’t make eye-contact with me for the next day and a half.
KJ: Actually, one of our producers was pulling focus remotely and watching the monitor. As soon as I yelled, “Cut!”, she just walked out of the room and wouldn’t talk to either of us. It was powerful and it was really, like, “Wow you are super disturbing!” People were disturbed by Clint but also upset at me for allowing it to happen. It went all the way around. There was another scene where my character really takes a beating and my whole family was there that day. I finished the scene and everyone has tears in their eyes!
DC: I love how your film really toys with the idea of nonlinear time, or cycles more accurately. Are you worried that people might get confused by the ending and, on along that same line, do you think today’s horror audiences expect too many answers?
CC: I’ve written a lot of scripts and I would say at least half of them deal with nonlinear time structure. That’s just kind of where I go, quite often, when I write. That was intentional. I think if you watch this movie and don’t understand everything, you’ll definitely pick up on everything on a second or third viewing. The pieces of the puzzle are all there. It may be a more difficult movie to digest, because it doesn’t give you clean answers to everything. You have to really think about it to put the pieces in place. But personally, I like a good movie that you have to think about. I enjoy films where I’ll get something new the second or third time around. So, I’m okay with that. It may alienate some audiences that like straight up hack-and-slash, but I’d rather make the kind of films that I actually want to watch.
KJ: I feel like the film gets better the day after you see it. There’s the experience of seeing the film, but there’s the mental processing the day after that really helps you delve into the deeper meaning. It’s a film where we try really hard not to explain too much so people can have that experience. Like any artform, the art actually happens in the minds of the viewer, and we wanted to give the audience the opportunity to make their own choices. If they come to different conclusions than we intended, that’s fine. As long as they are engaged with the film and enjoying it—having a powerful experience.
CC: I’m also a painter and I don’t ever give explanations of my work, because what it means to me is not necessarily what it means to the person experiencing the art. And I think of films the same way. Sure, I know what my intentions were when I wrote it, and Kelton and I know what our intentions were when we filmed it. But just because someone takes something different away from it and applies it to their own experiences, that’s doesn’t mean that they’re wrong and we’re right. That’s the beauty of art, it’s that collaborative effort between artist and audience.
DC: Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers before I let you go?
CC: We made a movie that we would want on the shelves of our own collections. We like films you can watch over and over and believe Dry Blood is one of those movies. It’s something people can revisit and have a new discovery with each viewing.
Dry Blood is available now! Pick up your copy, HERE.