Your upcoming movie 4/20 Massacre - in a few words, what is
is a “stoner slasher” film about a group of women who
go camping on April 20th and run afoul of an illegal marijuana
growing operation and they must fight to survive the living nightmare.
Why a stoner horror movie - and is any of 4/20 Massacre
based on personal experiences or the like?
When I was developing the project I
realized that except for a handful of movies like Dazed & Confused
“stoner” sub genre is not really handled in a dramatic/realistic
fashion. And in regards to the horror genre - there
have been a handful of instances where marijuana has been used as a plot
device, Ticks (1993) comes to mind, there are a couple flicks where
smoking weed turns people into “zombies with the munchies”, and
probably most memorably in the film Blood Freak (1971) where a dude smokes
pot and turns into a giant killer turkey (!?). My point is that by and large cinema treats
“stoners” and marijuana consumption as mostly comic relief or “butts
of jokes” and usually in an ‘over-the-top’ and ridiculous fashion.
So my attempt with 4/20
Massacre is to treat marijuana and “pot heads”
in at least a somewhat grounded/ realistic manner with actual human beings
rather than caricatures.
Though I wouldn’t necessarily say that
the script was derived from any personal “real life experiences”, I
did base the concept on some “real world events” and articles I read
where unwitting hikers/campers that have come upon a marijuana field in
the middle of the forest and are sometimes met with violent confrontations
or deadly “booby traps” set up by the farmers who are attempting to
“protect” the site. I also derived inspiration from the 4/20
(April 20th) date where besides it being a “stoner holiday”
it has also been the date for some awful tragedies and events ranging from
being Hitler’s birthday to the Columbine massacre. So I figured all these “real world
elements” would provide an interesting basis for a “holiday slasher”
sources of inspiration when writing 4/20 Massacre?
mean besides the obvious? (lol)
I wanted to direct a horror film for my third feature and I gravitated
towards the slasher sub genre because some of my fondest “movie
watching” memories from childhood came from late night viewings and VHS
rentals of Friday the 13th and
Elm Street sequels.
more often than not the slasher sub genre is treated like the “red
headed step child” of horror, even among folks who profess to be horror
fans. But when watching some of the earlier slasher films (pre
’84 or “first wave” slashers) I found them to actually be comprised
of some interesting storylines and characters. I’m not saying
these are perfect films, but they are far from deserving the automatic
dismissal that people have given them as soon as they hear the word
tried to approach my slasher film 4/20 Massacre
with the seriousness and
respect I feel the sub genre deserves (or at least should be given more
of) by spending some time writing likable characters that you (hopefully)
won’t be “counting the minutes” until they die. In many ways 4/20 Massacre
can be described as a “dramatic indie film… and
then a killer shows up and all hell breaks loose.”
picking certain films that influenced 4/20 Massacre
I would have to start
with the “Holy Trinity” of the 70s that laid the groundwork, Black
Christmas (1974), Texas
Chainsaw Massacre (1974), and Halloween
of course there is the movie that perfected the “slasher formula”,
(1980), and I would actually throw in the first five
“Paramount-produced” films of that series as being
is also the sub/sub genre of slashers that are “backwoods/camping” in
nature, namely The Burning (1981), Just
Before Dawn (1981), Final Terror (1983), The Prey (1984),
The Forest (1982), Madman (1982), Don't Go in the Woods
(1982) and Memorial Valley Massacre (1989).
With 4/20 Massacre
being mostly an outdoors kind of movie I presume,
where was it filmed, actually, and what were the challenges shooting
shot the movie just outside of Big Bear, California. We basically
housed the cast/ crew at this “sleepaway camp” that is mainly used for
kids and “corporate/church retreats”. So we would get up in the
morning, go out and shoot the scenes in and around the surrounding forest,
then go back and have some “adult beverages” and talk about what we
would be shooting the next day. And then we “rinsed and
repeated” that process for 10 days straight. So
yeah, the whole movie takes place “outdoors” and besides the usual
pitfalls of “low budget/short schedule” we had challenges lugging
gear and people to most locations, there were bugs/snakes and God knows
what else that we had to be mindful of, plus there was a ridiculous amount
of dirt/dust that would get into the gear and every orifice of your body,
and at times it was challenging to block/stage scenes. You see,
usually if you have a set or location like a house or office there’s a
finite amount of shots you can practically stage. But when you’re
dealing with a “360 degree” situation you can trip yourself up, it’s
almost as if having too many options is just as challenging as having
“limits” of where you can point the camera.
What can you tell us about 4/20 Massacre's
approach to horror?
tried to make a slasher movie “where you actually care about the
people”. And like the best examples of the genre I tried to
develop a mounting dread/tension, some red herrings/jump scares, and
memorable “death sequences”. Overall
I aimed to take people on a “roller coaster ride of emotions”, so
you’ll laugh, cry, scream, and have an all around good time, and maybe
even come away with something more than what you would have expected when
watching a movie called 4/20
Do talk about the movie's overall
look and feel for a bit!
Stryker (the director of photography) and I talked during pre production
and principal photography- and for color correction we’re discussing the
“late 70s/ early 80s” look of filmmaking. Now I want to
emphasize that we aren’t adding grindhouse “film scratches” or
whatever but we are going for that vibe in the way we composed scenes and
the “unironic” use of zoom lenses, and with the final color correction
we are trying to go for the “grainy film stock” look that you would
see in Texas
Chainsaw Massacre and the first few
Friday the 13th
What can you tell us about your
cast, and why exactly these people?
primary cast of the “five women campers” is lead by Jamie Bernadette (I Spit on Your Grave: Déjà
vu) [Jamie Bernadette
interview - click here] who I’ve seen in a few independent
movies and I’ve always thought she was a great actor that I wanted to
work with and she had the whole “scream queen/ final girl” qualities
that I felt were needed for the role of “Jess”. Vanessa
Rose Parker [Vanessa Rose
Parker interview - click here] produced and helped develop the film from script, casting, and
production and had the vulnerability and passion necessary for the
“Aubrey” character. Stacey Danger came in early in the process
to do a script reading and one of the roles she read was “Donna” and I
really liked her take on the character. Justine Wachsberger and
Marissa Pistone we found during casting and they both contributed a lot of
charm and depth to the characters of “Rachel” and “Michelle”. And
finally, Jim Storm (Dark Shadows) portrayed a grizzled/ gruff junkyard
owner in my first film Chain Link - I loved his work and so I wrote the
role of “Ranger Rick” with him in mind.
A few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?
a low/no budget shoot in ten days straight has a lot of inherent
challenges and invariably every day (and damn near every hour) there was
some kind of disaster or threat that could potentially derail our
schedule/budget and entire production. But we managed to get it
done in no small part due to the solid attitude and dedication of the cast
and the very under-staffed but hard working and impressively skilled crew
that agreed to go on this crazy journey. It was stressful as hell
but still a lot of fun and I would describe it as an “adult summer
camp” where we just happened to make a movie.
$64-question of course, when and where will 4/20 Massacre
released onto the general public?
don’t know but I’m real excited to find out! (lol)
now we are in the final stages of post production, the edit is done so now
it’s sound mix/design, color correction, etc. etc. We are aiming
to submit it to South by Southwest, which has a deadline in late
most likely 4/20 Massacre
will be ready to be unleashed unto the world
come this fall, I’ll then shop it around to a few places and it will
eventually be available by late 2017/early 2018 (I think).
Any future projects
you'd like to share?
now I’m kicking around ideas for a 4/20
Massacre Part 2 which I want to
steer into a different direction and make it an urban/ mystery/ thriller
with inspiration derived from giallo thrillers (Italian pre-cursors to the
slasher genre that are basically “who done its” with a lot of
stylish blood letting - i.e. Dario Argento, Mario Bava
[Mario Bava bio - click
Your/your movie's website,
Facebook, whatever else?
can watch the trailer here:
the Facebook and Twitter pages will of course have updates on the movie
plus I write about my thoughts on slasher and cult cinema in general:
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
you’re into hip hop music you can check out the official 4/20 Massacre
mixtape from Brooklyn rapper Jaye Archer:
here’s the music video for the song “D.A.R.E” by Jaye Archer that
will be featured during the end credits of the movie:
Anything else you're dying to
mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
can’t think of anything else… thanks so much for the opportunity!