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An Interview with Tobias Canto jr, Director of Knock Knock

by Mike Haberfelner

February 2018

Films directed by Tobias Canto jr on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie Knock Knock - in a few words, what is it about?


Knock Knock is the story of a former boxer (Sam), fallen from grace, on the eve of his 60th Birthday. On this particularly dark and stormy night, he finds himself on a wild ride between fact and fiction as his eccentric neighbors (Olivia, Dragon, and Gretchen) try to convince him that they're apartments newest resident is a bloodsucking member of the undead.


What were your sources of inspiration when writing Knock Knock?


One-hundred and ten percent 80's horror comedies, haha. When I initially came up with the concept it was a bit simpler in nature and style, but the more I sat with it the more it started to come alive with flesh and tone. I was inspired by the VHS monster movies I would watch as a kid with my family. Films that I felt were bursting with fun and creative energy. Some that influenced this film, as well as ones I wanted to evoke were: The Monster Squad, Fright Night, Evil Dead II, Ghostbusters and The Lost Boys. John Carpenter was probably the biggest influence on what I wanted to do atmospherically and music wise. There are a NUMBER of references to Big Trouble In Little China within the film, haha. Scooby Doo is an obvious inspiration in terms of character dynamic. The Twilight Zone was another work that stood in my mind when I was concocting early drafts of the script, particularly the episode Will The Real Martian Please Stand Up?


Why make a movie about vampires, are these creatures especially dear to you? And what do you think makes Knock Knock stand out of the crowd of vampire flicks?


I just like monster movies in general. I grew up with them and they're basically my favorite kind of horror film. There were definitely some vampire-specific ones that always stood out from bunch though. The Lost Boys is a big one and Fright Night is a pinnacle of perfect horror comedy for me. Tobe Hooper's Salem's Lot is a completely underrated classic and Let The Right One In is a course in fantastic horror driven storytelling. Also I'm a huge fan of the recent What We Do In The Shadows!

I believe that what makes Knock Knock stand out among the crowd is that it truly feels like a callback to fun-driven horror films, with big villains and underdog heroes, having to rise to the occasion.It's not a film steeped in grit and cynicism, which I think often times is a driving style for modern horror films, but heart and hope. I combined several classic tropes of the genre and created a world of dynamic color and sound that's reflective of what I want my Pop Art Pictures brand to be. From the costumes, to the characters, and set design. These attributes are unique to Knock Knock, compared to a lot of horror films coming out today. Additionally, one thing I've always wanted to do with horror films I make, is breed the next generation of horror heroes. Sometimes I think we need more Ashs than we need Jasons or Freddys haha. Knock Knock is full of badasses!


What can you tell us about Knock Knock's approach to horror?


Knock Knock's approach to horror was about creating an unnerving atmosphere. One that would have the neighbors dealing with a sinister cloud lingering around them, or more specifically down the hall in their apartment complex. Each of the neighbors' stories takes Sam and the viewer down a mysterious rabbit hole of "is this or isn't this really happening"? That tone, combined with Steven Canham's amazing score really build a sense of tension that I hope follows the audience throughout the film. Performance was also key in elevating the film's' creepy undercurrent and man does Lucas Ayoub (who plays the Mysterious Neighbor) kill it with his overwhelming presence.


You also have to talk about Knock Knock's brand of comedy for a bit!


Humor is heart. It's what makes your audience care and empathize with the characters and the journey you've created. What I really focused on when it came to humor in Knock Knock, was how Sam and the neighbors play off each other, specifically through the lens of an offbeat family. Coming from a big family myself, I know the highs and lows of many personalities being in one room for a long time haha. I also related it to my time living in the dorms in college. Something really special happens when you have this really diverse mixing pot of people, all dealing with the similar struggles of school, social identity, and growing up under one place, they become friends.

Originally when I was putting notes together for Knock Knock's first draft, it was only supposed to feature the Sam and Olivia characters. Yet the more I wrote, the more I felt like something was greatly missing. I quickly I realized that what I need was more personalities for these two to bounce off of. Once I defined who Dragon and Gretchen were, the rest of the story and it's fun dynamic fell into place.

Additionally, the influence of films like Ghostbusters, The Monster Squad, and The Lost Boys played a big part in the humor. They all feature these amazing balancing acts of knowing when to have some fun with the material with great comedic moments and then when to bring it all together for some serious exposition and scares.


What can you tell us about your key cast?


THEY ARE WONDERFUL!!! When I was writing the film, I already had everyone in mind for the parts. And I was so lucky that everyone was completely down when I offered them the roles. While listening to all of them perform and joke around during the first cast reading, I knew without a shadow of a doubt I had everyone I needed to make the film come alive.

I had been trying to write a vehicle for Kerry Tartack (Sam) since I met him, and when the idea for Knock Knock started to gestate I knew I found the project. Sisi Berry (Olivia) had never acted before, but I knew she had the personality and ability for it. Seeing a funny conversation between her and Kerry at work was initially what inspired the idea in the first place. Sisi is also the singer in an awesome band called Torino Black here in Austin. One of their singles is the final track to Knock Knock's epic credit sequence. I had worked with Chuk Hell (Dragon) on various sketches and short films and was just eager to get him involved with something horror related. He was pretty jazzed about being a part of the project and has been one of the most beloved characters for those who have watched the film. This was Rachel Atterson's (Gretchen) first film. She came from a theater background, but was eager to make the transition to movies. She was incredibly professional and had such great comedic timing throughout the filming. Her personality just pops big time when your see her on screen. From the minute the story for Knock Knock popped in my head, I knew that I wanted my buddy Lucas Ayoub to play the 'Mysterious Neighbor'. His performance and presence took everything to another level when he was on set and he crushed it every way he coul . Currently, he's rocking the acting scene in Atlanta. People hire this guy... HE'S AWESOME!!!


Knock Knock is mostly shot in just one location - so do talk about your location for a bit, and how limiting but maybe also liberating was it to film there, what kind of a challenge was it to keep things interesting?


Yeah totally! When I was in film school a big part of my producing class was the concept of 'Write for what you can get.' And since I was in the process of directing my first film after a few years of producing, I was taking this concept greatly into consideration for Knock Knock. So, I decided to craft a story that focused greatly on its characters and used the location as one too. It did take a little time to find the right apartment for the film. We needed to have an area that looked great, but also needed to functional with enough space for everyone to work in. After scouting a few different spots, my production coordinator found out that a mutual friend of ours was interested in helping us out.

Once I got to see her apartment, I knew we had the right space. I utilized the flashbacks as a way to mix things up visually, but keep us all in the same location for filming so we didn't have to consistently move everything throughout production. I worked with my production designer Hilarie, art director Eddie, and props master Robert to really flesh out everyone's apartment and fill it with various items unique to each characters personality, really turning the space into their homes. My DP Don was the final piece in helping me make each "location" visually engaging, fresh, and dynamic to the story.

It's funny out of all the apartments in the film, Sam's is the most bare. That was on purpose. It's mainly due to where the character's head has been for the last few years. But as the neighbors get to his place one by one, there's a liveliness that fills the room and comes from the people who truly care about him. His friends are what make his space stand out compared to the others' places.


A few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


Generally it was pretty positive, everything kept us so busy and focused it was hard to get distracted by the little things. But like all film sets, something always goes wrong: set pieces don't work, schedule/storyboards change, equipment is misplaced, special effects don't work exactly how you planned, and stress can rear its ugly head. It's then up to you and your team to problem-solve together and come up for the best solutions for your road blocks. In the end, despite any difficulties we might have had, we came together, made something we were really proud of, and celebrated our accomplishment wholeheartedly when we held our cast/crew/patron screening in Austin. I am so proud and grateful of everyone that helped and shared this journey with me. Everyone was a blast to work with!!


The $64-question of course, where can your movie be seen?


The film can be seen exclusively on Vimeo on Demand for $2.99 - We also have plans to place the film on YouTube later this year.


Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Knock Knock yet?


So far the critical response has been very positive, which is wonderful. There have been some incredibly kind words towards myself and the film. To finally return to a place creatively that enriches and drives me and then have people respond to it positively means so much and greatly motivates me to continue telling these colorful and exciting stories, whatever the genre. Audiences are also having a lot of fun with the movie, telling me how much they dig the characters, the tone, and the music, which is EXACTLY what I wanted.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


I'm in the process of writing and directing a new comedy short film starring Kerry and Lucas again. This time the story revolves around an actor trying to reconnect with his con-man father by seeking advice on a new role he's auditioning for, that of a con-man. I've recently finished a first draft and we're having a lot of fun with it. Additionally, I'm co-writing a feature horror film set in WWI and a treatment for a baseball-driven comedy. I do have some exciting ideas for a sequel to Knock Knock and a script for really fun monster-driven macro short that I've been wanting to do since we wrapped up Dorm of the Dead a while back. I am hoping to make that my next big project. I'm also working with a great writer down here in Austin, who's developing a great feature length script called King & Lionheart.


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Anything else you're dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


Mike, just continue to do great work supporting and showcasing independent film! Thank you so much again for the opportunity to talk about this movie and share my story. I really hope everyone gets a kick out of Knock Knock and wants to see more of the gang in action! Please let us know what you think, who your favorite characters, etc. on our social media, it'd mean a lot to us! Remember to go and support indie projects, people, it's tough work but man is it a labor of love!


Thanks for the interview!


Thank you Mike!


© by Mike Haberfelner

Legal note: (re)Search my Trash cannot
and shall not be held responsible for
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Thanks for watching !!!



Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
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shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
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to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
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Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
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written by
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