‘The Jester’ Interview: Director Colin Krawchuk Reveals A New Horror Icon [Exclusive]
Just in time to inaugurate the 2023 spooky season comes Dread’s latest terrifying release: The Jester. Born from a series of viral videos dating back to 2016, this new icon of fright is ready to begin his October hayride of mayhem. To prepare, I’m sitting down with Colin Krawchuk, the film’s director, to get a better understanding of what makes The Jester tick. You know, just to be safe…
In The Jester:
After the recent death of their father, two estranged sisters find themselves being stalked by a malevolent being known as The Jester. Revealing himself to be more than just a man in a mask, the evil entity begins to further torment the inhabitants of this small town on Halloween night. The path to defeating this unholy monster lies with the two sisters, who realize that the only way to survive is to figure out how to right the wrongs of their dark past.
Check out my interview with Colin below:
Dread Central: For someone who’s not familiar with The Jester short films, how would you describe this movie?
Colin Krawchuk: Well, The Jester kind of separates himself from other horror antagonists because he loves what he does. He loves to have an audience, and he loves to kind of stand out from everybody else. He’s kind of different from other horror antagonists. They hide in the shadows, they creep in the closet, and stuff like that. The Jester loves to have an audience and kind of dance down the street… You can see him coming.
DC: What else sets him apart?
CK: I was very adamant about keeping him the same as in the short films; they have gained popularity, and we don’t quite know why. It’s one of those things where if we change too many of the ingredients from the short, one of those could be the reason why people love him. Having such a loud costume … it’s not something that blends into the shadows. It’s something that you can pick him right out from a crowd, and that’s kind of what reflects his personality. He’s a character that doesn’t speak, but he still is heard.
DC: It’s fun, but it scares fans. Why do you think it gets to people?
CK: One of my favorite aspects of the first short film is the one moment at the end where the character is tormented by The Jester for a 10-minute runtime, and then he ends up disappearing. Then as he walks off down the sidewalk, you see two more trick-or-treaters walking by, and he performs a trick for them. They give him a little bit of recognition. Then he lets them go, and it’s one of those things, where, I think what makes him so scary is that he is unpredictable. You have no idea what he’s really up to. He’s not out to get everybody. He’s not a good guy, but he operates by his own set of rules and his own set of morals. The Jester has a plan, and you’re never privy to it, so he’s always three steps ahead of you. You can never predict what he’s going to do, and you can never really outsmart him. You just have to play along. His ability to humiliate is, I think, what makes it so uncomfortable.
DC: What kind of horror scares you?
CK: It’s not the same stuff that scared me when I was younger. It’s existential horror that’s terrifying to me now. Thinking about your place in your own life and in other people’s lives, and the finality of the end that’s inescapable. That’s an inescapable terror and something you can’t change.
DC: What was a horror movie that really rattled you as a kid?
CK: The one that I watched that made me terrified; my palms were sweaty, and I was gripping the couch was Signs. There’s the infamous news clip that shows the little silhouette of the alien. I jumped, and then I was really completely interested in aliens invading Earth and it being a real thing at the time. That was definitely my first one, but the one that kind of stuck with me a lot, I think, is Alien. It’s kind of my number one.
DC: I’m seeing a bit of a trend here. Do you believe in extraterrestrials?
CK: Oh yeah. Good observation. I didn’t even put together that both of those movies are about aliens.
DC: What’s your relationship with that sort of thing?
CK: In real life? It’s one of those things where, I don’t know, it’s like Bigfoot. It’s like, I love that kind of stuff… I love Cryptids. I love stories. I love aliens. I really do love it. But I don’t believe in it.
DC: Not at all?
CK: I still want to, though. I am not saying there isn’t life out in space. I’m just saying I don’t necessarily believe that a farmer who went to his mailbox got sucked up into the sky and forgot where he was for eight hours.
DC: What were some of the creative references that helped you build this film?
CK: I try not to pull from anything directly. I know it’s happening subconsciously, which is why I try not to do it consciously. It references other horror mediums that I love because I don’t know where the line is with what is homage and what is theft when it comes to that stuff. I think honestly, there’s a David Fincher influence happening.
DC: Are you a fan of Zodiac?
CK: I watched Zodiac. It feels like a comfort movie for me, which sounds terrible. That’s crazy. Zodiac and Seven too. Those movies are warm blankets to me. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.
DC: The scene where the couple gets stabbed by the river…
CK: Yeah, it’s so scary. It’s so omniscient. It’s just clinical in its presentation. That’s what makes it terrible. You can’t look away, and it’s not doing anything extra to scare you. It’s just plainly presenting what is happening. The basement scene too. Nothing happens in that scene, but it is absolutely terrifying. Yeah, I wish I could tap into that kind of horror where you’re in a situation that is not overtly scary, but there’s the sense of the unknown. That’s the scariest. Is there anybody upstairs? I don’t know. So, it’s super subjective in that scene and objective in the stabbing scene by the lake.
DC: Is your family supportive of your work?
CK: My parents are my biggest fans. They wear their little Jester sweaters, and they come to everything they can. They’re going to be at whatever screening is available, and they can’t wait to see the movie. They’re always asking about it, and they are definitely two of the people that I am definitely not want to disappoint, even though I know that whatever it is, they’re going to be proud of it. It’s like, I still want you guys to actually actually be proud and not just like it’s my son’s film.
DC: Did they get you into horror? How did you find it?
CK: I think it was Friday or Saturday night, HBO would do a cable premiere of whatever new movie was just in theaters. So we would always try to catch that. That’s how I saw so many movies when I was a kid. It was just HBO would always have a new one coming out every week. And yeah, that’s where I caught things like Zodiac … and … there’s that one with Kevin Bacon. A horror movie where there’s a girl haunting his house. I don’t remember…
DC: Stir Of Echoes?
CK: Yes, Stir of Echoes! That’s a good one. Great job, great recall. But yeah, that was another one. I don’t know if that movie would still hold up if I watched it now, but I remember my experience watching it on HBO one night as a kid, and it was visceral.
DC: Let’s say The Jester really blows up, and Blumhouse comes knocking and says: ‘We’re going to give you carte blanche to make a film in any franchise or IP of your choice.’ What would you pick?
CK: I’ve always wanted to play around in the Alien universe. I mean, I would love to. I really enjoyed the movie Life with Jake Gyllenhall and Rebecca Ferguson, which came out a few years ago. It felt like simplifying the horror-in-space trope again; the current Alien films, the Ridley Scott movies, are seemingly expanding. And I want to get back to the gritty and grounded stuff. There’s something so familiar about the characters in that first movie. We know nothing about them, but we feel like we already know them, and it comes from the performances. There’s that. Then, I know it’s just the five-year-old in me who would love to do something with Jurassic Park just because that’s another one where I’d like to condense it, bring it back down, make it dirty and banged up again. That would be a lot of fun.
DC: People argue that both Alien and Jurassic Park have elements of slasher films.
CK: One of the beautiful things about the horror genre is that it can transcend itself in a lot of ways. It transcends budget, it transcends its own genre. You could have sci-fi horror, you could have adventure film horror like Alien, Jurassic Park, these things. You can also make a horror movie for $60,000, and it can change the face of the filmmaking industry entirely. I don’t think you can say the same thing necessarily about most other genres. Horror is kind of magic.
The Jester will have a limited theatrical run beginning September 29, 2023, followed by a VOD release on October 3, 2023. Will you be checking out Dread’s latest release? Let us know what you think on Twitter via @DreadCentral. We’re always down to … clown around …