Sundance 2015: Keir Gilchrist Talks It Follows
Keir Gilchrist co-stars as Paul, a lovestruck teen, in the much talked about micro-budget horror thriller It Follows (review). After turning heads at Cannes and the Toronto International Film Festival, David Robert Mitchell’s follow-up to The Myth of the American Sleepover still captures what it’s like to grow up in the suburbs, only this time the kids are facing real problems… like being terrorized by a timeless, unshakable evil determined to stalk them to death.
Gilchrist’s relatable character helps ground the film, displaying a genuine heart and a clear head. If that crucial element was absent, It Follows would run the risk of simply turning into a fresh take on a chase movie. At Sundance, Keir talked about his excitement about the attention the film is receiving, his love of horror films, and his interest in eventually directing one of his own someday.
DC: How is Sundance so far?
KG: It’s cool, yeah. I’ve never been here before, but it’s pretty hectic and crazy. I didn’t expect it to be this busy.
DC: Are you excited about the buzz the movie is receiving?
KG: I’m obviously really, really happy that people like it so much, and I think everybody that I’ve spoken to that was involved in it is pretty surprised. I think we all knew we were making a cool movie; I don’t know if we knew it would be as good as it is and people were going to respond the way they are.
DC: I’ve seen the film twice now, and the first time was at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas. There’s a lot of movie geeks there.
KG: I would like to go to more of a geek festival, maybe like a genre thing. I like that world a lot.
DC: Were you a fan of horror films as a kid?
KG: Yeah, I’m a huge horror fan, almost maybe more than the other cast members. I really like horror and try to follow horror films probably more than any other genre. There’s something about it. My dad got me into cooler films when I was younger and showed me all the classics.
DC: I always seemed to be grounded on Halloween so there were always horror marathons on when I was a kid so I think I got hooked that way.
KG: Yeah, I know. When I lived in Boston, I remember there was this monster channel that used to exist. It only played monster movies all day, so I would just sit there and watch… mostly like Gamera and Godzilla and that type of stuff. I’ve just always liked horror, and my parents have never really sheltered me from those kinds of films.
DC: Now, you’re in a different kind of monster movie right now where casual sex is the monster a little bit.
KG: Someone said when I was at the AFI Fest in L.A., ‘It’s cool that you guys created a new monster,’ and, yeah, it’s pretty cool because you see a lot of the same stuff repeated. I can enjoy it; there’s a lot of horror films that I just enjoy, and I can just enjoy the prosthetics and everything else. But this is actually a cool movie that makes people think.
DC: With the new trailer out, people really want to see the movie, but they’re not sure exactly what they’re going to see. How have you been describing the mythology of the movie and the curse that begins following your group of friends in the film?
KG: I’d say that a lot of the film is up to interpretation, and I’ve heard a few really interesting interpretations of what the film is about. On the surface level it’s about a curse that is passed by casual sex, and other than that, it’s hard to really say. Once you start going down one path talking about it, I always end up sort of losing myself. It’s a film for people that want to see something different and want to be creeped out more so than horrified. It’s definitely not like torture porn or anything like that; it’s very atmospheric.
DC: With David Robert Mitchell at the helm, did you feel like you were making a horror film most of the time or more of a teen drama?
KG: It definitely felt like a mix. I think he spent just as much time on, yeah, the teen elements, and we really spent time on the scenes to make sure everything was good. I mean, we don’t have a ton of backstory or dialogue to explain who we are so we really had to figure that out beforehand. There’s even a lot of references in the film that you won’t really get, but it’s references to experiences in their past. So it was definitely a mix, but I definitely know David loves horror, and he and I talked about it a lot when we were shooting it.
DC: Your character, Paul, is the most relatable in the movie. Especially having a crush, it reminded me of myself and people that watch the movie, I think, are going to relate to your character the most.
KG: That’s awesome; I’m really glad to hear that. I definitely based him off a lot of myself and I think David to some extent. My character and [he] are closely related, and we both get along really well.
DC: Did you get a chance to see his first film, The Myth of the American Sleepover?
KG: Yeah, I saw it when I originally auditioned.
DC: In that film, they’re watching a fake horror film on TV that I think he actually made – that David made for the actual movie. In It Follows, you’re watching an old sci-fi B-movie while you stand guard one night. Do you know if David shot the footage for that movie as well, or was that actually a real movie you were watching?
KG: I don’t know because I only saw it afterwards. That’s a good question, actually, to ask him. On the day [David] just said, ‘You’re watching an old sci-fi film where it’s about the hero getting the girl.’ That’s actually interesting, I don’t know how involved he was in that, but I know he’s very, very particular. There are so many details that he plans for the film; there’s so many layers to it. A lot of what he did was a conscious effort. There were a lot of things that, at the time even, we didn’t know were going on that he had in mind. It’s sort of for the fans, for the people that watch it multiple times and like that kind of stuff.
DC: Did you like the score by Disasterpeace? It’s almost its own character in the movie.
KG: Oh yeah, the score killed it. I remember we talked about it even before we shot it, that a killer score makes a horror film, and I totally agree. Yeah, I loved the scoring. A lot of it’s not really music; it’s just atmospheric sounds that build and stuff that really puts you on the edge of your seat. Not much happens at the beginning of the movie, but people start jumping right off the bat because they’re just brought in by the feel of the film.
DC: Is directing something you want to do at some point?
KG: Yeah, when I was a kid I really wanted to direct… well, when I was younger; I shouldn’t say when I was a kid. But I’m also not in a rush; I want to wait until I’m ready. I realize how much work it is, but yeah, I would like to direct one day, and horror is a genre that I would like to work in.
DC: If and when you direct your first horror film, I definitely want to talk to you about it.So, was there some nudity on set? There’s some unsettling nakedness in the movie to say the least.
KG: Yes, there was some nudity on set, and I didn’t really have to see any of it, I guess. But yeah, there’s the old man on the roof and there’s the scenes where one of the “ITs” is topless as well. I think it was done pretty tastefully, and also, like you’re saying, it’s shocking when you see it in the film. It really kind of takes you back.
DC: It’s the most unsexy nudity, probably, you could imagine.
KG: Yeah, even, to be honest, the sex scenes in the movie … if you find them sexy, that’s cool, but I don’t really think they’re hot or anything. Which, often in horror, it’s more of like they’re trying to sexualize the whole thing. And in this the sex is awkward and weird the way that sex is.
DC: Do you think this is a good date movie? Would you take a date to go see It Follows?
KG: Yeah, I would. I think if someone was going to date me, they’d have to sit through horror with me. I don’t think I’d date someone that didn’t like horror movies.
It Follows plans on cursing the United States on March 13 from RADiUS.
With a riveting central performance from Maika Monroe and a strikingly ominous electronic score by Disasterpeace, It Follows is an artful psychosexual thriller from David Robert Mitchell (The Myth of the American Sleepover).
The film also stars Keir Gilchrist (“The United States of Tara”), Daniel Zovatto (Laggies), Jake Weary (“Chicago Fire”), Olivia Luccardi (“Orange Is the New Black”), and Lili Sepe (Spork).
For 19-year-old Jay (Maika Monroe, AT ANY PRICE), the fall should be about school, boys, and weekends at the lake. Yet, after a seemingly innocent sexual encounter, she suddenly finds herself plagued by nightmarish visions; she can’t shake the sensation that someone, or something, is following her. As the threat closes in, Jay and her friends must somehow escape the horrors that are only a few steps behind.