If you’re not the hunter, you’re the prey
A night out turns deadly when the unexpected happens, revealing a dark web woven through the night, entangling everything. A web inspired by ancient blood rites, promises of prosperity, murder, and revenge!
Directed by: Rob Bowen
Written by: Rob Bowen
Starring: Sara Balakrishnan, Brent Wilkerson & Jake Zindorf
Also Starring: Kat Dowell, Cliff Cage, Christina Kaiser
With: Angie Bowen, Chloe Carr, Halston-Ashley Seeley, & Dom Rough
I like to play with various genre conventions and tropes when I am writing, always hoping to subvert them in fun and unexpected ways when I can, and la Chasse presented me with a unique opportunity in that vein. Here was essentially what could be a Rape Revenge thriller but with the sexual nature of the violation being removed (the only way those stories are digestible for me), and with as much of the typical male gaze that drives those stories also being removed, or at least, brought in but not in the exploitative ways it usually is. And you can’t deal with rape as a theme and not address or deal with its underlying cause, patriarchy.
Now that’s an area I am somewhat seasoned in dealing with. However, this time around, I wanted to use the horror and thriller elements to couch the metaphor in, and an ancient rite (right) setup to empower men through the suffering and destruction of the feminine seemed the perfect vessel to use.
As Zeus’ name is invoked, the rite not only calls religion out, especially those with foundations of male dominance, that have fed into the patriarchal hierarchy society runs off of (worshipped by millions); but, furthermore, with Zeus being one of the most notorious rapist gods in our historical canon, it doubles as a pointed inclusion in this moment of extreme violation.
When I penned the script and originally intended for it to be shot (Summer of 2017), I found I had trouble trying to organize the film and shoot it for multiple reasons. I was attempting to work with some local talented filmmakers who I had not had the opportunity to work with in the past. And so this was the first hurdle, and while they did express interest in working together, all being as busy as we are, coordinating this collaboration just seemed doomed from the start. And as such, never really got going in the first place. That, among other reasons for delay, caused me to sit on the script for a few months before regrouping, and giving the short another shot. This time, I would adjust my plans and work with my usual suspects to help guarantee we could make it happen.
But even that did not come without its hiccups and proverbial bumps in the road. Not to mention, the delays from Summer meant we would now be shooting a film with a large section of it being shot outside…at night…in Colorado…in the middle of January. Even with an uncharacteristically dry and mild winter, this was less than ideal, and made for a very cold (somewhat uncomfortable) night of shooting. However, this did show the ultra professional and committed nature of our two cold-baring stars, Sara Balakrishnan (Rule 17, Bad Friends) and Jake Zindorf (Road Kills), who were still absolutely bringing their A-games despite the frigid evening air.
Getting to work with Brent Wilkerson (Level 6, Life’s a Tarantino Flick) again is always an absolute pleasure, especially when you get to see him stretch into the darker territories and play a role unlike I had seen him perform yet. And to witness him absolutely crush it so completely, and deliver a riveting and spectacular character driven performance was pure joy. Coming off of a semester of studying Hitchcock in school and going into a semester of Kubrick certainly helped in shaping the full trajectory of the film as it came together. Also influencing the film’s Shakespeare reference,
built off the thematic ties between the film and one of his most notable plays, woven into the visual language and narrative of the film, made for one of my favorite easter eggs to include to date.
After Kat Dowell’s amazing performance of potent subtlety for us in Road Kills, I wanted to give her a role that was the complete opposite of that. With moments of exploding terror and tortured silence. And, as suspected, she was absolutely brilliant once again, to a heartbreaking degree! But when the switch comes she stands tall in the moment and delivers, packing quite the punch. Angie (Level 6, Life’s a Tarantino Flick), and producer on all our films, came in clutch with the readings from Valerie Solanas’ SCUM Manifesto for the nightmare sequence. After watching the initial cut of the film, I knew that the nightmare still needed a little something extra to bring it all together and cement the ridiculous expectations that this toxic a masculinity would expect. Once that was added in, the nightmare was everything I wanted it to be and more!
I, myself, had a small cameo role in the film, one that actually served to link this film and Life’s a Tarantino Flick, my first feature film coming soon, but ultimately it had to be sacrificed to the cutting room floor for the sake of time and full narrative flow. While it would have also given a bit more background and fullness to Sara’s character, Magenta, it had to be removed from the scene between her and Christina Kaiser (Mirror Mirror), who plays Saraph here, and perhaps that is for the best. Her character still gets a bit more rounded out in the small conversation we see between her and her mother on the phone at least. Perhaps, one day, an extended cut of the short will surface somewhere. I feel it’s stronger in its current form and edit, but never say never is the rule.