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An Interview with Monte Light, Director of Bittertooth

by Mike Haberfelner

March 2024

Films directed by Monte Light on (re)Search my Trash

 

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Your new movie Bittertooth - in a few words, what's it about?

 

Bittertooth is about two young women who run an online true-crime podcast. One of the ladies was herself a survivor of a serial killer attack, a man who has yet to be caught by the police. He is known colloquially as the Bittertooth Killer. Then, the two ladies think they've tracked down the Bittertooth Killer themselves. Well, vigilante chaos ensues. 

 

With Bittertooth revolving around a true crime podcast - have you done any research on the subject, and your personal thoughts on these shows?

 

I'm a pretty avid true-crime nut, I will admit. I've found the subject of cults and serial killers fascinating, ever since I was a teenager. On the other hand, the rise of popular, and in some cases lucrative podcasts on the subject carries a certain ethical dubiousness. Is it right to use other's trauma as your own personal therapy? That's what these podcasters are doing. There is a blurring or manipulation of facts in some cases, based on the podcaster's own biases. What then is the truth? What is motivated by profit? It's a morally gray area that needs to be explored.

 

(Other) sources of inspiration when writing Bittertooth?

 

There were two movies that influenced the script. The first was John Hough's 1987 chiller American Gothic, in particular it's third act. The biggest influence was Takashi Miike's Audition from 1999. Beyond that, I also drew from Agatha Christie's writing, in particular the novel The ABC Murders.

 

You've conceived the story for Bittertooth together with Cooper Holmes and Neal Tyler [Neal Tyler interview - click here] - so what can you tell us about them, and what was your collaboration like?

 

Cooper Holmes and Neal Tyler are both consummate, award-winning writers in their own right. I've known Cooper since high school. He went to Chapman University for writing, so I always pick his brain whenever I find myself stuck on how plot point Y should transition to plot point X, etc. Neal is my producing partner, as well as my director of photography. He's lensed all of my features, and we basically share a brain at this point. His instincts very much feel like my instincts, so he's always the guy I go to for polishing my scenes, my structure.

 

Do talk about your movies approach to horror!

 

My biggest idol is Stuart Gordon. That man had such a range in his horror films, from Re-Animator to King of the Ants. He started in underground political theater, a theatrical background not too dissimilar from mine. So, for me, I think what he nailed perfectly is the psychological dimension to terror. The characters. That's the most important aspect to me within the horror genre. It's who the horror is happening to, and why. What was their motivation? Who did they love? What did they lose? For me, horror is about tragedy without pity. The rawness of the human animal on display. People are attracted to the truth of that. The truth, without all the bullshit.

 

A few words about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?

 

Bittertooth had a very fast shooting schedule, so we felt the best approach to the story was multi-camera work. We shot with at least three cameras for any given scene, sometimes as many as five, not two iPhones and a drone. It wasn't just for time and budget. I also knew that kind of mixed-media approach would serve the surreal, social media aspect of the narrative very well. Our modern world is so fragmented in terms of "what is truth" and who might be lying to you, that I knew a certain mixing of the subjective and objective would represent that.

 

What can you tell us about Bittertooth's cast, and why exactly these people?

 

I was fortunate to have a fantastic cast on this film. Some I'd worked with for years. Justin Michael Terry, for instance, I've worked with for about twenty years now, ever since our acting school days. I've never seen him blow a take, ever. Just incredible. Some I worked with for the first time, such as the lead Autumn Ivy. She became a fast friend. I was utterly captivated by her charisma, commitment, and range. You've seen the film, you know the journey she has to take, what she was physically asked to do in a lot of those scenes. It was just marvelous watching her create the character. Same with Joe Altieri and Helene Udy [Helene Udy interview - click here], both consummate performers who have been in the biz for a bit. They would give me takes on the day that were just revelations. Character work I hadn't even considered, which is the true sign of a great actor.

 

You of course also have to talk about your movie's main location, that run-down farm, for a bit, and what was it like filming there?

 

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A lot of dogs, and a few snakes. Hah. The farm is actually owned by one of the actors in the film. He was keen on having something filmed up there, because it is so cinematic. It's actually a beautiful, picturesque place. Which is why a lot of it we actually didn't film, because it wouldn't have sold the creepy vibe we needed. The weather gods were kind to us, also. We hadn't intended on the fog for some of those exterior scenes, but it definitely drove home the macabre atmosphere even more.

 

Do talk about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere!

 

We were such a family. It was two weeks of work, half in Los Angeles, and half at the farm. Everyone slept and ate up at the farmhouse during that leg of the shoot. Everyone was just so committed to making the best film possible. And when you have such a talented collective, you listen to their ideas. My assistant directors would constantly recommend little things that would immediately elevate a scene or a moment. We had a camera operator who caught some of the best B-roll I've ever seen. Just dozens of hours of exquisite material.

 

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

 

Bittertooth was made as part of a three-picture deal between our producers, V Channels Media, and a fantastic new free streamer called Mometu. Mometu is a hand-curated, on-demand live streaming platform, available on Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Google Play, Web, Android and iOS devices. Bittertooth will be released on April 5th, 2024.

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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Thanks for watching !!!



 

 

In times of uncertainty of a possible zombie outbreak, a woman has to decide between two men - only one of them's one of the undead.

 

There's No Such Thing as Zombies
starring
Luana Ribeira, Rudy Barrow and Rami Hilmi
special appearances by
Debra Lamb and Lynn Lowry

 

directed by
Eddie Bammeke

written by
Michael Haberfelner

produced by
Michael Haberfelner, Luana Ribeira and Eddie Bammeke

 

now streaming at

Amazon

Amazon UK

Vimeo

 

 

 

Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
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
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.

 

Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner

 

Out now from
Amazon!!!