Continuing my insight into the slasher genre in honour of my new novel Slasher, I threw some questions in the direction of Kevin Sommerfield and Austin Hinderliter, the creators of Don’t Go To The Reunion and the upcoming Dismembering Christmas.
WD: Anyone can see pretty quickly from your resumes that you’re horror lovers. What made you want to pursue a career in horror and how did you get started?
KEVIN: Honestly, I’ve never wanted to do anything else. I started with the horror genre at a very young age. I was 5 when I watched the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It scared the hell out of me and I wanted to go back for that feeling. As an adult my favourite sub-genre of horror, slashers, just weren’t being made much anymore and I wanted to see them have a return. I started working with director Steve Goltz on the slasher short Teddy and the love just grew from there.
AUSTIN: I started making movies really young. Mostly just messing around with a camera, acting things out and then discovering editing, and it just grew from there. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t like movies, especially horror. I think The Evil Dead is the movie that most influenced me because it was just a bunch of kids in the woods making a horror movie to see where it took them and that’s really cool and inspiring to me.
WD: With Don’t Go To The Reunion and now Dismembering Christmas, it’s clear that you’re big slasher fans, so what is it about this sub-genre that is so enticing?
KEVIN: What I love most about the slasher genre is that the audience know exactly what to expect, it’s just filling in the blanks that make it exciting. Slashers were the biggest part of my childhood in the late 80’s and I just think they are a blast to watch (and make). Fun is something that I feel is sadly missing from the horror genre today.
AUSTIN: The first slasher movie I ever saw was probably A Nightmare on Elm Street and the scene with Tina’s bodybag in the hallway scared the hell out of me. I think there’s a lot of fun to be had with the suspense and violence that goes into a slasher flick. Couple that with a curiosity of who the killer could be and it usually makes for a pretty fun movie.
WD: So you know your slashers through and through, but how do you go about making one? What is key to creating a successful slasher movie?
KEVIN: Have a strong, likeable cast led by a tough-as-nails leading lady. Combine this with a terrifying villain and some gory deaths and you really can’t lose.
AUSTIN: Kevin is absolutely right. Combine all that with a decent amount of style and I think you’ve got yourself a pretty cool movie.
WD: The final girl is an integral part to the slasher movie - how do you go about selecting yours? What do you look for in the actress playing such an important role?
KEVIN: When it comes to final girl or leading lady, she must have a girl-next-door quality. She can’t be a supermodel and she can’t be someone the audience can’t relate to, she has to be “just like them.” It is harder than it sounds to find an actress that fits all of these qualities but I definitely think we found it with Kelli Anderson in this project (Dismembering Christmas).
AUSTIN: I think you need that sweet, girl-next-door type, but they have to be tough by the end and believably make the decisions that hopefully help them to survive. I like someone to root for. I think Kelli is going to be all that and more.
WD: And how about the villain? How do you make a villain truly scary?
KEVIN: The less you know about the killer, the scarier they are. Movies like Black Christmas and Halloween are truly scary because we know next to nothing about Billy and Michael, respectively. Bring out a chilling performance by an actor who isn’t afraid to go all the way and you’ve got yourself a memorable villain.
AUSTIN: I think like any good villain, we have to believe that this person or thing has their own, twisted view of the world and it has to, in some ways, make sense to us too, which is what disturbs us. It also helps for the villain to have a kick-ass, scary look to them that we can instantly recognise. That shape or outfit that we’re looking for when we look over our shoulder on the way out of the cinema.
WD: Fans of slashers know to look for brutal kills, but how do you go about filming a kill?
KEVIN: We do all of our effects in house and they are all practical. Some of it is trial and error. It is definitely a learning experience but seeing an awesome decapitation occur and knowing that we had something to do with the creation of that is an incredible feeling.
AUSTIN: I think the way to shoot a kill depends on the tone of the movie and how the scene plays out. Sometimes I want to see absolutely everything, but the suggestion of violence is often more effective. That being said, if you’re gonna show me blood, I want it by the gallons! But again, depends on the tone. I think there will be a good balance between suggestion and full-on gore in Dismembering Christmas. I don’t think Slasher Studios fans will be disappointed.
WD: Lastly, is the set of a slasher as fun as it looks?
KEVIN: Definitely! Especially the deaths. The cast is amped for fun and when you see these gory effects take place, it truly is movie magic.
AUSTIN: I’ve never been on a movie set that wasn’t fun, but how do you make it better? Cover everyone in blood and pull of crazy effects with no money. I love it. January (2015) can’t come soon enough.
A huge thanks to Kevin and Austin, be sure to check out Slasher Studios if you love a good slasher as much as me!