LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS

Interview with Elza Kephart, director and co-writer of Slaxx
By James Whittington, Sunday 25th October 2020
SLAXX_Elza_(C)photoB-Calmeau_0125FrightFest is all about originality and new talent and 2020 has been a belter of a year for such things. Slaxx from Elza Kephart is a prime example of the new and exciting creative talent that's out there at the moment. We chatted to Elza about this superb shocker.

HC: Are you a big horror movie fan?

EK: Yes, huge! I started my horror adventure when I was a pre-teen, reading Agatha Christie, R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike, Anne Rice. If there wasn't a death I wasn't interested. From that, I migrated to horror films; when I was about ten, I watched Aliens, the Fearless Vampire Hunters, Exorcist 2. I might have been a little too young, I remember being really affected by Exorcist 2 even if it wasn't a great movie! After that, I would force my younger cousin to watch horror films at Christmas; it became a twisted tradition. And when the Fantasia Film Festival started in Montreal, around 1996-97, I immediately started going. I wouldn't miss it! That really started my horror "education". But funny enough, when I went to film school, I never thought I would make horror films. It was only when I decided to make my first feature, Graveyard Alive, two years after college, that I realised that genre was definitely my thing. And touring the festival circuit with Graveyard Alive confirmed it; genre filmmakers and audiences felt like my tribe, my people. All my other projects have a horror or fantasy, or death element. Usually there's a woman in there killing someone. Ha!

HC: Where did the idea for Slaxx come from?

EK: It was totally random! I was on a road trip from Gainesville, Florida, to New Orleans, with Patricia Gomez Zlatar (co-writer and producer of Slaxx), and another friend. We are like immature sisters (we were about 24 at the time), and because it was such a long road trip, we started to go a bit bonkers. To pass the time we would tease each other by repeating over and over words that we hated- our other friend hated the word "slacks" so I started repeating it over and over to really bug her. And eventually, it just started to sound like an evil pair of pants coming to get you. Patricia and I were totally obsessed after that, we knew there was a story in there, we just didn't really know what.

HC: The movie has a lot to say about fake/self-obsessed people, sweatshops and the viciousness of fashion and hype, was this your intention from the start?

EK: Not at first. The very first glimpse of the idea was really just about killer pants! We wrote a terrible first draft, put it aside because it was just bad, set in a high school, just killing high school girls willy nilly, but we loved the killer pants elements! Years later Patricia, who had worked at The Gap, suggested we set it in a store. That's when the story really started taking shape. We knew we were onto something, but we still didn't have the full-on social criticism yet. We again put it aside, and years later I felt again it was time to pick it back up, so, while doing research I saw all these documentaries about fast fashion, and the thing just finally gelled really quickly after that. So in the last draft, yes absolutely it was a social commentary. It's like the film was lying in wait, waiting for us to be ready. It came out really quickly after that; in a few months we'd written the new draft. It just took a while to get there!

HC: Did it take long to write and was it written with a cast in mind?

EK: Yes. We came up with the initial concept of killer pants, back in 2001, and the 3rd draft, which is pretty much was you saw, was finished in 2016. But we didn't spend 15 years writing it! We did it in three very short burst. So, all in all it probably took 6 months to 1 year all told. No, I didn't write it with the cast in mind. I only met them when we started the audition process.

HC: What did that cast think of the script when they first read it?

EK: They loved it! They thought it was so crazy, yet thoughtful and emotionally grounded, they really dug it.

HC: The film is wild, what was the atmosphere like on set?

EK: It depended on the day. Some days were awesome, hilarious, we just laughed, but some days were really hard. We had a short shoot for something so complicated; almost every day there was something insane we had to do; pants dancing, a guy getting his limbs torn off, even the mannequin writing was really complicated! I would say it was mostly moment by moments - we would be struggling to achieve something really complicated in the morning, then laughing our asses off after lunch, or vice versa. But usually the feeling at the end of the day was good. We had a great cast and crew who really believed in the film, so their good humour and professionalism kept the shoot light yet focused.

HC: There are so many stand-out moments, which ones were the hardest to achieve?

EK: Lord's death. There were so many elements that had to work together: VFX, SFX, blood, pants, puppetry, and Kenny Wong (Lord) had to basically be covered in blood for a whole day, screaming over and over again. He was such a great sport! He was so amazingly stoic about it. And then we had to do reshoots, and he was like "OK! No problem!" And in editing it was also very tricky to make the scene work because we didn't have a huge amount of material, and it was hard to get the tone right - it had to be gross, but funny. Finding the right music for this scene was also hard; a lot of trial and error; it couldn't be too serious, or we would lose the absurdity of it, but it still had to feel disturbing. In the end it's one of my favourite scenes; like a diamond you had to polish over and over.

HC: Main character Libby is experiencing the worst job of her life, what was yours?

EK: Temping as a receptionist in an internet company. The job itself wasn't terrible, but the cheesy corporate atmosphere made me want to gag. The office coordinator took me around to introduce me as the new receptionist and I wanted to cry! HA HA! I was young and hadn't broken into working on film productions yet, so I was panicking: is this what the rest of my life is going to be! Ordering lunches, sending packages, having to wear "semi-professional" outfits that I would never wear in real life (when I started working in film and learned we could just wear jeans and sweatshirts I was in Heaven!). We had to go on this cheesy corporate team-building boat cruise, and they made everyone wear Hawaiian shirts, which I refused to wear; I pretended it was because I was a temp and didn't feel it was right, since I wasn't really part of the "team". But I did win a 50$ gift certificate on the cruise so it made up for it! So, like I said, the job itself was not terrible, it wasn't hard work, but it was disturbing to see this corporation trying to indoctrinate everyone into the corporate mindset; it was a sense of people having to twist their soul around, to pretend to be part of this fake family, that was disturbing. Even at 22, I felt this was wrong.

HC: Will you be nervous when the film is shown at FrightFest?

EK: No, since I won't be there (crying emoji). The FrightFest programmer said he loved the film so I'm not too nervous about it. The reception in general has been really great, so I can't imagine why the British would hate it all of a sudden! ?

HC: Would you contemplate a sequel?

EK: No. To me Slaxx said everything it had to say. Although Patricia and I are working on a short film about Jesus' loincloth, which I guess is a sequel of sorts, being about another inanimate cloth object.

HC: So, what are you working on at the moment?

EK: I've got a bunch of projects in different stages of development; one with Patricia, where nature takes revenge (like Slaxx but with trees!). It's set in the Medieval era, back when religious orders were taking over land for their monasteries and cutting down a lot of pagan forests. It's viewing the current ecological crisis from a historical perspective. I'm also working on a possession script in French with another friend, set in Quebec. The protagonist/anti-heroine is a woman in her 50's diagnosed with a degenerative disease, who finds the key to eternal life through her relationship with a violent yet sassy ghost that's occupying her house. I'm also writing another script, by myself, called A Mid-life Apocalypse. It's about two middle-aged, middle-class women who have found refuge in a small country cottage the woods after the ecological and climate crisis has decimated populations and caused social collapse. They have to bring a young woman back to her father's bunker in order to get supplies to survive, and shenanigans occur along the way. It's a comedy!

HC: Elza Kephart, thank you very much.


MORE FRIGHTFEST
Interview with Sean Nichols Lynch writer and director of Red Snow
Posted on Sunday 5th September 2021
RedSnow-poster

Final film of Arrow Films FrightFest Online Edition 2021 is a fangtastic (sorry) twist on the vampire movie, Sean Nichols Lynch's Red Snow. We had a quick chat about this blood-splattered shocker which has a deep vein of humour running through it.

HC: Where did the idea for Red Snow come from?

SL: I was trying to get a different horror feature financed and was struggling to get it off the ground. It was a frustrating period for me, and I honestly felt like I'd never get to make another film. I happened to run into Dennice, who I knew from my film school days at San Francisco State. We got to talking and I started to think about how great it would be to just drop everything and ...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Alex Kahuam writer and director of Forgiveness
Posted on Sunday 5th September 2021
Alex Kahuam 1 Forgiveness

Director Alex Kahuam has brought to Arrow Films FrightFest Online Edition a brutal and intelligent film, Forgiveness. Almost devoid of dialogue, it's an excursion into the raw side of reality. Here he chats about this movie and his plans for the future.

HC: Was there one movie you saw when growing up which made you want to go into filmmaking?

AK: When we were kids my brother and I my parents took us a lot to the theaters and this is where everything began for me. I just loved the experience so much and till this day I thank them because they triggered this on me and for many years filmmaking has been my life. While growing up Hollywood films have always be...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Sarah Appleton co-writer and co-director of The Found Footage Phenomenon
Posted on Sunday 5th September 2021
Sarah Appleton

The final documentary of FrightFest Online Edition looks to one of the most misunderstood genres out there. The Found Footage Phenomenon dissects this often over-looked type of movie with interviews from many key players. We chatted to co-writer and co-director Sarah Appleton about this very informative piece.

HC: Have you always been a fan of horror movies?

SA: Yes, I grew up watching Hammer horror movies and Japanese horror because my dad was a film critic, so I used to look through all his VHS tapes he'd taped off the late night tv and pick something to watch. Evil Dead II was one of the first horror movies I ever saw, aged about 8.

HC: Can you recall the first fo...

SHARE: READ MORE
Taxi rides and crumbling hotels - Day 5 of Arrow Video FrightFest Online Edition: Part 2
Posted on Sunday 5th September 2021
NightDrive-poster

As we enter the final evening of Arrow Films FrightFest Online Edition 2021 there's still plenty to look forward to starting with a belter from directors Brad Baruh and Meghan Leon, Night Drive. Ride-share app driver Russell picks up his Hollywood fare Charlotte... and his whole life turns upside down. Slipping him a wad of cash, she hires him for the rest of the evening. Their first stop at her ex's place sees Charlotte running out the door clutching a tiny suitcase being chased. They make their escape, but accidentally run over a pedestrian, setting in motion a chain of gruesome events that will go to places Russell could never have imagined in his wildest dreams. What starts off as a simpl...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Josh Stifter director of Greywood's Plot
Posted on Sunday 5th September 2021
GreywoodsPlot-1

There are a number of monochrome movies at FrightFest this year and one of the stand out ones is Josh Stifter's Greywood's Plot so we had a quick chat with him about it.

HC: Was there one movie you saw when you were younger that made you want to be in the filmmaking business?

JS: Beetlejuice. I saw it when I was 5 years old. My family all got the flu and my mom went and rented it. This was back in the day when you didn't have access as easily to movies so if you rented a movie, it often would get watched a couple times before it was returned. Since we had nothing else to do, we all just laid around sick watching Beetlejuice over and over. I became obsessed. It was the first tim...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Conor Stechschulte writer of Ultrasound
Posted on Sunday 5th September 2021
Ultrasound-1

Based on his own graphic novel 'Generous Bosom', Conor Stechschulte has written a tight and tense script for Ultrasound which is showing today at Arrow Films Fright Online Edition. We chatted to him about the process of bringing his original idea to the big screen.

HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to become a writer?

CS: I did! At about 7 or 8 I went from wanting to be a fighter pilot to wanting to be a writer. My formal education is in visual art, but I've always had narratives at the heart of all the creative work that I make and have never really stopped writing in one form or another.

HC: Was there any one person who inspired you?

CS: I can't...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Rob Schroeder director of Ultrasound
Posted on Sunday 5th September 2021
Ultrasound-1

The feature debut of Rob Schroeder, producer of Sun Choke and Beyond The Gates, Ultrasound is a startling puzzle box Sci-Fi mystery and playing today at Arrow Films FrightFest Online Event. We chatted to Rob about this chilling movie.

HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be in filmmaking?

RS: Not really. When I was young, I loved going to the movie theatre every week, but I didn't see filmmaking as a career because in my town I didn't know any filmmakers. The movies were always so special for me and even sacred, so at a young age I did sense the magic.

HC: How did become attached to this project?

RS: I developed the project, by reaching out to Cono...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Peter Daskaloff director and co-writer of Antidote
Posted on Sunday 5th September 2021
Peter Daskaloff Anitdote

Peter Daskaloff has brought his nerve-jangling movie Antidote to FrightFest Online Eidtion 2021 so we chatted to him about this complex and intriguing movie.

HC: What is your writing method when working alongside someone else?

PD: I usually write alone. But for Antidote, I had to hire a co-writer because the subject was complex. I needed another set of eyes to look at it from outside my box. Matt Toronto was recommended to me by my executive producer, Ian Michaels, who has worked with Matt before. The collaboration was a bit bumpy, but the resulting script turned out pretty good.

HC: How did you go about casting the movie?

PD: I had a casti...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Francesco Erba writer and director of As in Heaven, So on Earth
Posted on Sunday 5th September 2021
Francesco Erba As In Heaven director

As In Heaven, So On Earth mixes the found footage genre with incredible animation to deliver a truly unique take on the format. The movie effortlessly moves from its gothic animation to cutting edge technology footage and brings together a tale which is emotional and utterly heart breaking in equal measure. We chatted to its writer and director Francesco Erba as it plays at FrightFest Online Edition 2021.

HC: Where did the idea for As in Heaven, So on Earth come from?

FE: As in Heaven, So on Earth was born not only from one specific idea but, as very often occurs, from many different ones, different influences and life experien...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Casey Dillard actor and writer of Killer Concept
Posted on Sunday 5th September 2021
KillerConcept-2

If you managed to catch Driven the other year at FrightFest then you'll need to catch Killer Concept today. Writer Casey Dillard is back alongside director Glenn Payne but this time serial killers are the target. We chatted to Casey about this movie.

HC: It's been a couple of years since we last chatted, apart from Killer Concept, what have you been up to?

CD: Mostly avoiding Covid and trying to find work-arounds so that I can still perform safely.

HC: Where did the idea for Killer Concept come from?

CD: Glenn wanted to make a simple movie with minimal people while our core filmmaking team was unable to go to work so we kicked around a lot of ideas and KC wa...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Glenn Payne director and actor from Killer Concept
Posted on Sunday 5th September 2021
KillerConcept-poster

If you managed to catch Driven the other year at FrightFest then you'll need to catch Killer Concept today. Director Glenn Payne is back alongside writer Casey Dillard but this time serial killers are the target. We chatted to him about this movie.

HC: It's been a couple of years since you brought the superb movie Driven to FrightFest, how was that movie received across the world?

GP: Thank you for the kind words! We've felt very blessed by how warm the reception's been for Driven. We knew the story was different, given the entire thing takes place inside one vehicle, but the characters really seemed to resonate with people. I think that's a huge testament to the per...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Chad Crawford Kinkle writer and director of Dementer
Posted on Sunday 5th September 2021
Chad Crawford Kinkle Dementer Image 2

A movie which is bold not only with its storytelling but its casting is playing today at FrightFest. Dementer from Chad Crawford Kinkle, is an emotional, raw and very real feeling movie built around a care home which delivers some of the most effective acting you'll see at the event this year. Here he chats about this superb film.

HC: Where did the idea for Dementer come from?

CK: The idea was really years in the making. I had always wanted to do a film with my sister but my mind always went to doing a documentary of some sort. Then one year at Sundance, I watched the movie The Tribe and it sparked an idea that I could set a narrativ...

SHARE: READ MORE
Frightfest Archive: 2021 | 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007
PICK OF THE WEEK
The Remaining
THE REMAINING
Saturday 25th September
9.00 PM
Star Trek - The Original Series
STAR TREK - THE ORIGINAL SERIES
Wednesday 29th September
8.00 PM
The Taking
THE TAKING
Friday 24th September
10.50 PM