Earlier this week we spoke with Kendra Timmins, one of the stars of the new 80s slasher throwback film Lost After Dark. Today, we offer for your consideration our email conversation with the film’s director, Ian Kessner. As you’ll see from our chat, Ian is passionate filmmaker with a love for the genre. On that note, let’s get right to it:
Andy Burns: Ian, congrats on Lost After Dark. I had a lot of fun watching it with a crowd – everyone was in on the nods and winks to horror films past. Which films from the genre did you grow up loving, and why?
Ian Kessner: Watching it with a crowd is the best. Hearing them laugh and scream in all the right places brings joy to my heart. Some of my favorite slashers growing up were Friday the 13th, Halloween, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Happy Birthday To Me, Sleepaway Camp, My Bloody Valentine, and A Nightmare on Elm Street. I saw them all on VHS rentals I managed to get my young hands on. I think they had such a big impact on me because they were a safe way for me to experience fear and death from the relative comfort of my safe suburban home.
AB: How did you get involved in making Lost After Dark?
IK: I read Bo’s terrific first draft and optioned it from him. Then we partnered up and wrote a bunch of drafts together. After that I got my friend Eric Gozlan of Goldrush Entertainment involved. He took over financing and brought in the NOHFC fund in Northern Ontario, where we ended up shooting the film. After helping Eric raise the private equity we needed to complete financing, I was able to just focus on directing and leave the producing to him.
AB: The cast has a very strong rapport with one another – what was the casting process for the film like? How easy was it to find the faces you were looking for?
IK: My casting director reviewed hundreds of submissions before showing me the selects. After that we had callbacks where I could meet the kids and get a feel for their energy. I was also able to mix-n-match them to see how the chemistry flowed. I ended up getting all my first choices which was really lucky, and I think they all nailed their respective roles beautifully. With an actor of Robert Patrick’s stature we just went straight to his management with an offer. He really dug the material and got what we were going for. It’s so important for all the actors to be making the same film from a tone standpoint. That’s key.
AB: What was the shoot like? How long was it?
IK: Originally we planned to shoot for 18 days, but when you’re making low budget movies you need to make sacrifices. So ultimately I ended up with 16 days. The shoot itself was both Heaven and Hell. When I was on set crafting shots and working with the actors it was a blast, but everything in between was pretty rough. The minutiae of making a low budget indie can be painful, but my cast and crew shared my passion for the material so we got through it with as much humour and grace as possible.
AB: There’s so many practical effects happening in the film – in a CGI world, it’s nice to see. Have we become too reliant on computers in movie-making today?
IK: I think that’s film specific. I happen to love CGI in big fantasy or sci-fi movies. When it comes to slashers though, in-camera special effects pack a punch you just can’t seem to get from CGI. If I’m making a low budget horror film I’d take Tom Savini over a computer any day.
AB: There are lots of nods to horror films past, as mentioned, but the one that stands out the most to me is The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, for obvious reasons. What is it about that film that allows it to still remain relevant and influential all these years later.
IK: It’s just so damn good, so visceral. Who really knows why one film works and another does’t? Interestingly, I always remember it as being pretty bloody, but when you watch it again you realize they really didn’t show you that much. It’s actually a combination of powerful shots and believable acting that create the illusion it’s so violent. And some of its DNA definitely lives on in Lost After Dark and it’s backstory.
AB: Robert Patrick is so fantastically stiff in the film – what was it like working with him?
IK: It was an honour to work with him. I grew up watching his films. He’s a consummate pro. He came to set with a cigar and zero attitude. In the film he plays Mr. C., a small town high-school Vice Principal and resident disciplinarian. He’s also Vietnam vet with one foot still in the war. So that authoritative attitude called for a stiff, military-like vibe. But he’s also funny as hell. He really got the tone of the film and some of the best lines in the movie are ones he improvised.
AB: Now that Lost After Dark is about to be unleashed on the world, what’s next for you?
IK: Sleep. Seriously, I’m whooped. But after I get some rest there’s a remake of the 80’s horror classic Waxwork I’m looking to direct, and there’s also a draft for a Lost After Dark sequel I’d love to make if this first one sells enough copies to merit it. So if you’re reading this and you’re a fan of the film please post and share your good reviews with your friends, and follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram so we can get LAD2 off the ground.
Lost After Dark is out on Blu-Ray/DVD today from Anchor Bay Entertainment, Raven Banner and Goldrush Entertainment. Thanks to Ian Kessner for taking the time to talk to Biff Bam Pop, and to Leah at Amberlight Productions for helping make it happen.