“A Blueprint For Murder”
Film-maker Matt Farnsworth burst onto the indie horror scene in a big way this year with his visceral gut-punch of a film “The Orphan Killer”. Like an urban legend brought to terrible life, TOK tells a story of betrayal, brutality, blood-letting and brotherly love all masterfully directed (and starring) Farnsworth, a maestro with a penchant for serial slaughter. Matt sat down with NerdRemix’s Tom Gleba to talk: influences, inspirations, Hollywood hack jobs, and the tech that makes TOK tick.
Tom Gleba: You can see a lot of different influences in “The Orphan Killer”, the Italian giallo genre, 80’s slasher films, John Carpenter, what are Matt Farnsworth’s influences?
Matt Farnsworth: Well, I think that the Italian horror cinema is something that I like, you know even stuff like Fellini, I dig that, I think it’s a very cool genre and I’ve seen them all, but I think in America, the real influences are mainly John Carpenter. I think there’s even influential stuff from, like, Wes Craven, “Nightmare on Elm St.”, even maybe a touch of the “Hellraiser” series as well, as far as realistic gore-that was something I really appreciated in those films. More current ones I haven’t really seen, but the “old school” films are definitely some favorites.
TG: I made an observation in my review of TOK, that it contains some of the most beautifully photographed murders since Mario Bava’s “Blood and Black Lace”, is that something you were shooting for visually?
*laughs* Thanks, by the way. I don’t think, while shooting, that was
something I was going for, my photography just sorts of leans toward that
style. I have an idea, in my eye, of what I like, and I go forward with that. I
did most of the lighting in the film and shot with pretty sparse sets, I used a
few 2k's sone 75's, and a couple jokers. I mixed at time tungsten and HMI
lighting rarely but it was purposeful. Looks more like film to me when you mix then up depending upon the scene. We shot with a really great camera, so I have to attribute some of the success to that to—a Thompson Viper, which is a million dollar camera, and it’s got like a beautiful, David Fincher type look. He likes that camera a lot and I do as well, I’d use it again, I think it has a great patina when you’re finished. When you put the color correction on it, it has a green hue, and looks a lot like real film.
TG: I thought the film had a real “dark yet bright” type of look, with the high definition, kind of hard to explain, but it definitely had a cool look to it, an original look to it. Which is one of the things I dug about it.
MF: Yeah, we tried to make it look a little “old school” in post, just with the Viper, because it’s a raw film stream image. The thing is, when you’re on set and you’re gonna film with the Viper, it has a very “green’ patina to it, the whole thing looks kind of green. And then you go in and remove that green tint in post, then you move a whole bunch of different colors around to find a look that you like. You’re able to, like you said, make it look bright, but at the same time have a look that’s dark and dirty. You’re really able to create your own work space in post now going digitally, and I really thought that was great, I really liked it. It looks great in, like, low light situations, I mean they use this camera to film in caves and things in Iceland, really “no light” situations, and you need a great camera like this to capture those images.
TG: I know I’m dwelling on the visuals, but I also really enjoyed how the camera work had an interesting dichotomy going between a “voyeuristic” and “detached” feel. Is that the Matt Farnsworth “style”? Can we expect more of that look in the future?
MF: Yeah, for sure, a lot of times I hold the camera myself, I operated on everything BUT the aerial and steadicam shots. Nine times out of ten you’ll find the camera right on my shoulder. You know, I’ve got a couple of handlebars and a big ol’ camera on my shoulder? And interestingly, the whole “voyeur” thing you mentioned, is really just me looking through the camera and actually talking to the actors. I’m speaking to them while I’m filming their actions. Then, later on we’ll take those sounds out, and bring in our own audio for the film. Obviously there are times where I’ll, like, shut up and let them do their thing, but most of the time I’ll be like “okay, pick up that axe, okay now drop it, go and kick over that tool box, now turn to me, now walk this way, slowly, slower..slower…” so I’m directing the whole thing in a sort of “voyeuristic” sense while I’m actually shooting.
TG: So what have the reviews been like? The reception from horror fans about the film? Are they universally good? I have yet to read a bad word about the film.
MF: There’s only a couple of reviews out there that are like “yeah the movie’s not too great” or whatever, but for the most part, like 95% of them are “hey! The movie is outstanding”, but there’s always that 5% of people out there that just love to hate. So, you know, you’re going to get a few of those in there, but I would say it’s been an outstanding success, and I didn’t even expect this type of explosion, and I don’t know how I really could have. Being banned in Germany, and just so many people taking notice of a movie, that basically, you know, I distributed through Facebook. I guess I was just kind of blown away, because now I’m a featured guest at conventions and things. It been a real white knuckle ride for myself, and, you know, David and Diane. I’ve been doing this a long time-I’ve been in Hollywood and I’ve been doing this stuff a while, about 15 years or so, but I never expected this type of a reception for this film and it’s hard to really explain and put into words how it feels to have this happen.
TG: Diane’s performance was stellar, great actress! The only complaint I’ve heard from people about her role was “hey! I went to Catholic school, and I sure didn’t have any teachers dressing like that or looking that good!”
MF: *laughs* Yeah, well man, it’s a horror movie, and she’s gotta be sexy you know? Diane is like…Diane is like “wow”! I mean, she’s acted with Anne Hathaway and all those people, and in high school, she’s an actor’s actor, she knows what she’s doing, and she brought a dimension to that character that most women who look like her…no women that look like her could do that! That’s what it means to be “good” though, there’s “scream queens” out there, you know, people like Jamie Lee Curtis, and I think it’s more of the real actress/Jamie Lee Curtis comments on set that she made, like “throw the blood on my tits” type stuff, real scream queen things, I think she appreciates that (the gore) as well as the “sexy” type things. In the movie, she really rocks it well, yeah, I was blown away by the stuff she was doing, and a lot of that was improv on her part. The movie wouldn’t have been the same with anybody else in that part.
TG: Yeah, it seemed like she went to some really dark places with her performance, I could almost picture her going off between takes to, like, “break down”. Did anything like that actually happen on set?
MF: Yeah, we actually captured some of that on film. When she’s pulling her hands out of that barbed wire, I wouldn’t let her go, so she was having, like, an actual emotional breakdown, right there, on camera, and she knew it, so she was really going for it. It was kind of “method” on her end, I know her very well, so I knew I should just push her to do it, and, she did it! Basically all of our stunts were done by us, we didn’t have any stunt men, or anyone to work with us, so we just sort of did everything ourselves. So everything has a really realistic feel, the whole scene on the roof, and she’s being flipped over, all those things are happening. In the elevator, when she’s being choked, falling on the ground—there is no pads. There is no, “hey cut—let’s throw a pad down”, it’s just straight up us doing it.
TG: Considering Diane’s performance, the extreme violence in the film, and the camera’s lingering view of the violence, was there ever a time during production, where you said “maybe I went too far here”?
MF: No. No, I could have went further, frankly. I would like to, I think in the next film, it would be better to, you know, continue to top that, Right now, I’m doing a comic book with a couple of guys who used to be with Marvel and DC comics, and we’re going off the second film, and I can tell that it is…so fucking relentless, it’s like, you know, slicing off heads and skewering them in the air as their mouths are still moving. I’m going to know for a whole new level of psychotic stuff—I don’t see that there should be any kind of suppression of that kind of stuff at all.
TG: Wow, they’re really going to hate you in Germany now! What’s your take on that? The whole banning thing? They’re okay with the whole schisse porn thing, but not “The Orphan Killer”?
MF: *laughs* I thought the same thing! They’ll take dumps and each other but not watch TOK! And you know, TOK, it’s had such an impact on them, they love the movie in Germany. I’ve had so many offers from Germany, more than anywhere else. It’s like become an icon in parts of the world, and Germany banning it, I mean, they banned “Cannibal Holocaust”, and the original “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and so many great movies, for me it’s just another, just another…award for me! I appreciate it, and I plan on doing it again, I really don’t see any stop to the movie being seen in Germany, because there are plenty of labels offering to put it out in their stores in Austria and Sweden and going directly to Germany.
TG: Speaking of backlash, to you get a sense of, like, the modern horror directors, Rob Zombie, Eli Roth, Adam Green, and yourself included, that are horror fans making films for horror fans, do you understand the sort of hate coming from horror purists that they feel? The whole “it’s very derivative, it cherry picks from the classics”, do you feel that all and is there really anything that hasn’t been done?
MF: There’s a lot of people that love to hate, and they’re going to no matter what you do. But, nah, I don’t feel too much of that, people think what they want, there’s a lot of people out there that would love to do what Rob Zombie’s doing, but you know there’s the 5% I mentioned before, that are like “I want to be in the industry, but I’m not, so I hate those guy’s movies”, I don’t think that type of hate is warranted, frankly, it’s a piece of art, so you don’t like it, move on, you know? These are some of the people stealing films online. I mean, shit, probably a million people have stolen TOK online, probably more, and they come back after they’ve pirated the film, that small percentage, and they come at me like “you’re a dick” or something you know? It’s so crazy, they’ve taken the movie, they’ve stolen it, then they watch it, and come back to you and call you names—it’s definitely a weird thing and I don’t appreciate it, but at the same time, horror fans all over the world have embraced it so much, that I don’t even think about it anymore, you know? It’s just one of those things that I just accept.
TG: The soundtrack CD, which comes with the movie, is all metal, and it’s for a very “metal” movie, was that something that you decided early on, that “this is such a crushing, relentless movie, we need some crushing music to accompany it”?
MF: We did a screening in New York, and one of the guys who attended owns a music company in New York, they own all the rights to all this music, Nirvana and stuff, he was like “you should go ‘hard edge’ with the music”. So he sent me over to Bullet Tooth, and I started listening to this stuff, and Josh, who runs Bullet Tooth, and I got together, and he sent me a bunch of tracks, and I was like “this is really awesome, this is hard-core, it’s metal”, it works for this movie, it takes it to another level, it keeps things energized and more “in your face”, moment-to-moment, kill-after-kill. I like it, there’s some people who have a problem with the constant metal music, grinding on them—and that’s one complaint I hear in otherwise stellar reviews. I think it helps the film, honestly, and I think the bands are good bands—Asking Alexandria is on the soundtrack, they have 3 and a half million Facebook fans, First Blood, Born of Osiris, Asking Alexandria—Ventana’s in the movie with a cover of “Cry Little Sister”, Ventana is made up of all the old members of Mushroomhead, so there’s a lot of really big-time musicians on the soundtrack. I just think it enhances it greatly.
TG: The “modern” slasher films-is there any one film that you tried to model anything after? Like is there one film, “Laid to Rest” for example, that you’re a fan of?
MF: I’ve never really seen them. I’d say if there was a film I modeled anything off of it would be the original “Halloween” more than anything else, and of course “Friday the 13th”, I like that character, I think Jason Vorhees is cool, and you know, I’m sure they called that a knock-off of “Halloween” when it came out. I think that John Carpenter’s “Halloween” was instrumental in breaking open that genre of films, the “slasher” film, particularly in America, I think it had a real impact on me. I think I try to write like Carpenter, in that a lot of it’s about the shots, there’s not a lot of emotion written into it exactly, but a lot of camera angles. I write how I want it to be shot, so I can remember that when I’m shooting, then I can also edit the movie that much easier. It’s almost like a blueprint, you know, a blueprint for murder. I think that John Carpenter does that very well.
TG: I think the reason a lot of people, myself included, enjoyed TOK was because it was familiar, yet fiercely original—what else do you plan to accomplish with this film that you haven’t already? What the end game for TOK? What’s next?
MF: Right now I’m doing a documentary, it’s “TOK 2-Behind the Murder”. While we were filming the first movie, we shot about 100 hours of behind the scenes media and it’s outstanding. Like Diane being prepped with her wrists, and all of the prosthetic effects, the hands out of the barbed wire, just all kinds of “on set” stuff. We gave a camera to someone every day and told them “document this today”, so it’s a really interesting look into TOK. A look into how it’s become what is has, without the traditional methods of distribution, it’s also gonna be funky and weird with the Orphan Killer in it, kind of narrating it, and doing some crazy stuff. It’s going to be a fun project, about an hour and a half, and it will go out to some festivals. We’ll have people from all over the world, Sitges, Mexico, people from San Sebastian, people from Italy, you know fans from all over the world. All those guys are going to do interviews, we’re actually film them answering questions about TOK. We’re going to put those interviews in the documentary, so it’s going to be a really cool look into the world that we know and the world of horror, globally. I’ve written TOK 2 within, like I said, a comic book, that will eventually be in the next film, so we’re in the early stages of that. The goal is to take TOK to the next level, The Orphan Killer is in the bloodline, the orphan that is, so you’re going to see that character blossom into something that is different than what she was, she’s going to become a little more of a crazy character in that, then there’s going to be a TOK 3, in that she’ll be traveling to the Vatican.
TG: Okay, I have 10 million dollars, I’m going to give it to you, what movie would you re-make, and why?
MF: I’m gonna make 3 Orphan Killer movies with that money! I’m not going to re-make anything. True story, I met with the president of Lion’s Gate, this is a funny story, I went in and I met with this guy, he was like “we’re interested in putting 25 million in your movie for P&A and putting it out there”, I was like “okay, great!” and nothing happened for 6 weeks, so naturally I’m like “what the fuck? What’s going on?”, so I call and call and can’t get an answer. So I decided to get the orphan killer all dressed up, David was all covered in blood in the TOK costume and mask, with a fake axe in his hand, we get Diane all done up and she’s looking beautiful as usual, and we go in to Lion’s Gate, go in the doors, get past security, up in the elevator to the conference room. There’s this huge conference room with big glass windows, and I had David just pace back and forth until someone came out an answered me about my movie. Finally some PR guy came out and agreed it was unprofessional that they hadn’t gotten back to me. So I get a call the next day, you know “This is Jason Constantine with acquisitions, you know you brought this character in here, it was little scary for some people”, so I said “Well, hey, you should have called me about the film, and the character wouldn’t have come in”, so they proceed to tell me that they’re not going to put money into TOK, they’re instead going to put money into a PG-13 re-make on “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”! So it was a conflicting thing for them, this is how Hollywood works---Charlie Sheen had just fallen off the wagon, so “2 and a Half Men” was on hold, the producer of that show said “what am I going to do with all of my money” so they decided to fuck up “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” AGAIN! So they ended up doing this deal in that 6 week window when they were going to put TOK out, but I’m glad it fell through, because then I took TOK to the fans, on Facebook and everything, and it garnered me all these awards, accolades, trips to Europe and thing that wouldn’t have happened to me had I given the film to Lion’s Gate. Who knows if they even would have put it out? They might have just put it on a shelf some place.
TG: I think TOK would greatly benefit from a theatrical release, and ideally someone will put some money into to make that happen, and also so you can make your next film and continue to sell out without “selling out”, you know?
MF: I love horror fans, and I think the reason I’ve gotten such a great reception with TOK is because of karma you know? I really do care about what these fans thing and how they feel, and what they want to see. Some people call it “derivative” but others are like “I love it man!” and those are the ones that matter…that want to see something new. I think that’s just the way of it—you have to do something new and that’s why I want to do these new movies and I hope I get some funding on that. The movie is going to make money if it gets released into theaters, there’s been more than a million people who have seen it already, the mask is about to hit, there’s two of the biggest mask makers in the world offering to do retail versions of the TOK mask, so it’s probably going to be in about 2000 retail stores, and that’s kind of funny, because the movie hasn’t really ever been “officially” released.
TG: I think you can tell when someone has a passion for the genre, it shows through on the film, I think that’s why you’re having so much success with TOK—thoughts?
MF: Oh yeah, I love it! The guy who taught me to edit, is the same guy that cut the original “Amityville Horror”, he cut “The Lost Boys”, he cut all of the “Lethal Weapon” movies, he sat down with me for like 6 months, and I learned the editing craft from top to bottom. So I was sort of instilled with horror, you know “old school” horror even with my editing craft. So I really love the genre, and I love making movies so I think that really does show through, so I appreciate you talking about, being positive about it, and I love doing this and I hope to do it more in the future! You can buy the film & merch at www.theorphankillerstore.com