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Fantasia 2022 Interview: ‘Skinamarink’ Director Kyle Edward Ball

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Skinamarink

Skinamarink is like a waking nightmare. A film that feels like it’s transported into your life as a cursed VHS tape, it teases the audience with sparse visuals, creepy whispers, and vintage visions that are delightfully unnerving.

It’s an experimental horror film — not quite the straight narrative most viewers will be used to — but with the right environment (headphones in a dark room), you’ll be transported to a dreamscape drenched in atmosphere.

In the film, two children wake up in the middle of the night to find their father is missing, and all windows and doors in their home have vanished. While they decide to wait for the grown-ups to return, they realize they’re not alone, and a voice that sounds like a child beckons them.

I spoke with Skinamarink‘s writer/director Kyle Edward Ball about the film, making nightmares, and how exactly he crafted his first feature.


Kelly McNeely: I understand that you’ve got the YouTube channel, of course, and that you sort of developed Skinamarink from your short film, Heck. Can you talk a little bit about the decision to develop that into a feature length film and what that process was like? I understand you did some crowdfunding as well. 

Kyle Edward Ball: Yeah, for sure. So basically, a few years ago I wanted to do a feature length film, but thought I should probably test out my style, my idea, the concept, my feelings, on something less ambitious like a short film. So I did Heck,I liked the way it turned out. I submitted it to a few festivals, including Fantasia, it didn’t get in. But, regardless it was successful to me, I felt the experiment worked and I could print it into a feature. 

So earlier on in the pandemic, I said, okay I’m going to try this out, maybe start writing. And I wrote a script over a few months. Then shortly thereafter, started applying for grants, etc. Didn’t get any of the grants, so transitioned into crowdfunding. I have a very close friend who had successfully crowdfunded before, his name’s Anthony, he did a fairly well respected documentary called The Line for Telus Story Hive. And so he helped me through that.

Successfully crowdfunded enough money, and when I say crowdfund, like, from the get go, I knew it was going to be micro budget, right? I wrote everything to work within a tiny, tiny, tiny budget, one location, blah, blah, blah. Successfully crowdfunded, assembled a very small working group, just me, my DOP and my assistant director, and the rest is history.

Kelly McNeely: And how did you make your way into that specific style of filmmaking? It’s that sort of experimental style, it’s not something you see very often. What brought you to that stylistic method? 

Kyle Edward Ball: It happened by accident. So before Heck and everything, I started a YouTube channel called Bitesized Nightmares. And the concept was, people would comment with nightmares they’ve had, and I’d recreate them. 

I’ve always been attracted to an older style of filmmaking. So 70s, 60s, 50s, going back all the way to Universal Horror, and I’ve always thought, I wish I could make movies that looked and felt like that. 

Also, during the progression of my YouTube series, because I can’t hire professional actors, I can’t do this, I can’t do that, I had to do a lot of tricks as far as implying action, implying presence, POV, to tell a story with no cast. Or even sometimes, not the appropriate set, not the appropriate props, etc. 

And it kind of morphed over time, developed a little bit of a cult following – and when I say cult following, like just a couple of fans who have watched the videos over time – and discovered I really liked it. There’s a certain uncanniness to not necessarily showing everything, and transitioned that into stuff like Skinamarink.

Kelly McNeely: It kind of reminds me a little bit of House of Leaves that type of vibe –

Kyle Edward Ball: Yes! You’re not the first person to bring that up. And I’ve actually never read House of Leaves. I know what it’s vaguely about, the house is bigger inside than outside, blah blah blah. Right. But um, yeah, lots of people have brought that up. I really should read it at some point [laughs].

Kelly McNeely: It’s a wild read. It takes you on a bit of a journey, because even just the way you read it, you have to like turn the book around and sort of jump back and forth. It’s pretty neat. I think you’d enjoy it. I like that you’ve mentioned childhood nightmares and nightmares in particular, disappearing doorways etc. How did you accomplish that on a micro budget? Where was it filmed and how did you make all that happen?

Kyle Edward Ball: I had been experimenting with rudimentary special effects when I was doing my YouTube series. And I had also kind of learned a trick where if you put enough grain on stuff, it hides a lot of imperfection. Which is why a lot of older special effects – like matte paintings and stuff – they read well, because it’s kind of grainy, right? 

So I had always wanted to film in the house I grew up in, my parents still live there, so I was able to get them to agree to shoot there. They were more than supportive. I hired the cast to do it on a fairly low budget. The girl who plays Kaylee is actually, I think, kind of technically my god daughter. She’s my friend Emma’s child. 

So another thing too, we didn’t record any sound in the moment. So all the dialogue you hear in the movie was the actors sitting down in my parents living room, talking into ADR. So there were just a bunch of little tricks we did to do it on a super low budget. And it all kind of paid off and actually kind of elevated the medium. 

We shot it over seven days, we only had the actors on set for one day. So everything you see that involves either the actors talking or on screen, that was all shot in one day, with the exception of the actress Jamie Hill, who plays the mother. She was shot and recorded over like, I think a three four hour period on the fourth day. She didn’t even interact with the other actors. 

Kelly McNeely: And I like that it’s a story that is kind of told through sound, just because of the way that it’s presented and the way that it’s filmed. And the sound design is incredible. I was watching it with headphones on, which I think is probably the best way to appreciate it, with all the whispering. Can you talk a little bit about the sound design process and again, telling a story solely through sound, essentially?

Kyle Edward Ball: So from the get go, I wanted sound to be important. Through my YouTube channel, playing with sound is one of my more favorite things. I wanted it very specifically to not just look like a movie from the 70s, I wanted it to actually sound like it. The movie House of the Devil by Ti West, it looks like a 70s movie, right? But I always thought oh, this sounds too clean. 

So all the audio we have for dialogue was recorded clean. But then I dirtied it up. I spoke with my friend Tom Brent about okay, how do I make this sound like audio from the 70s? He kind of showed me a few tricks. It’s fairly simple. Then, as far as a lot of the sound effects, I actually found a treasure trove of public domain sound effects that were recorded in I think the 50s and 60s that have been used ad nauseam and have that tinny feel. 

On top of that I underlaid basically the entire movie with hiss and hum, and played with it too, so when it cuts different scenes, there’s a little bit less hiss, little bit less hum. I think I actually spent way more time on the sound than I did on actually cutting the movie. So yeah, in a nutshell, that’s how I achieve the sound. 

Another thing too, I basically mixed it in mono, it’s not a surround. It’s basically dual mono, there’s no stereo or anything in it. And I think it kind of takes you into the era, right? Because the 70s I don’t know if stereo really started until the late 60s. I’d have to look it up. 

Kelly McNeely: I love the public domain cartoons that are used as well, because they’re so creepy. They build atmosphere in such a great way. The atmosphere really does a lot of the heavy lifting in this film, what’s the secret to building that creepy atmosphere? Because that’s kind of the main chilling point of then film.

Kyle Edward Ball: Um, so I have a lot of weaknesses as a filmmaker. Like a lot of them. I would say that in a lot of ways, I’m fairly incompetent, but my big big strength that I’ve always had is atmosphere. And I don’t know, I know how to swing it. I’m really good at the, here’s what you look at, here’s how you grade it, here’s how you make a sound. Here’s how you do this to make someone feel something, right. So I don’t know how, it’s just kind of intrinsic to me. 

My movies are all atmosphere induced. It really just comes down to grain, feeling, emotion, and attention. The big thing is attention to detail. Even in the actors’ voices, most of the lines are recorded in whispers; that wasn’t an accident. That’s in the original script. And that was because I knew that would just make it feel different, if they’re whispering the whole time.

Kelly McNeely: I like the use of subtitles to go along with it too, and the selective use of subtitles. You know, they’re not present through the whole thing. That adds to the atmosphere. How did you decide what would have subtitles and what wouldn’t? And also, there’s parts of it that have subtitles, but no sound.

Kyle Edward Ball: So the subtitles thing, it does appear in the original script, but which audio was in subtitle and what wasn’t has evolved over time. Originally, I liked the idea of it for two reasons. One is there’s this new horror movement on the Internet called analog horror, which incorporates a lot of text. And I’ve always found it creepy and unnerving and very matter of fact. 

If you ever see, like this stupid Discovery documentary where they recount a 911 call, but there’s text of it, and you can’t really make out what they’re saying. It’s creepy, right? I also wanted parts where you could hear people enough to understand that someone was whispering, but you couldn’t understand what they were saying. But I still wanted people to understand what they were saying.

And then finally, the person who recorded the audio is my good friend, Joshua Bookhalter, he was my assistant director. And unfortunately, he passed shortly after the filming had commenced. And there’s a few pieces of audio that I probably could have recreated that didn’t quite fit. So either the audio didn’t fit or probably needed to be re-recorded. But instead of re-recording it, I really wanted to just use Josh’s audio as a memoriam to him, so I just put subtitles. So there’s a few reasons. 

Kelly McNeely: And for the creation of this Skinamarink monster, first off, I’m assuming that’s a Sharon, Lois and Bram reference?

Kyle Edward Ball: So that’s how I came to know it, and I think how most Canadians anywhere from Gen X all the way to Gen Z kind of knew about them. So it is a reference to that. But in the same vein, the movie’s not associated with that [laughs]. 

The reason I came to that, is I was watching, I think it was a Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. And there’s kids in the movie singing it, and I had always just assumed they had invented it. And then I looked it up and it turns out, it’s like an older song from the turn of the century from some musical, which means public domain, right? 

So the word kind of sticks in your head like an ear worm. And I’m just like, okay, it’s personal to me, sentimental to a lot of people, it’s a nonsense word, and it also is vaguely creepy. I’m like, [checks a bunch of invisible boxes] this is my working title. And then the working title just became the title.

Kelly McNeely: I love that. Because yeah, it does sound vaguely sinister in its own cheerful way. So what’s next for you?

Kyle Edward Ball: So later on this year, I’ll start writing another script. We’re probably going to be playing at a few other film festivals in Europe, which we’ll be announcing at some point, then hopefully theatrical distribution and streaming. And then while that’s going on, I always find I write best when it’s winter or autumn, so I’ll probably start writing around September or October, the follow up. 

I’m undecided on what movie I’m gonna do. I would like to stick with filming an old style movie today kind of motif. So I’ve got it down to three movies. The first one is a Universal Monster style 1930s horror movie about the Pied Piper. The second would be a 1950s science fiction movie, alien abduction, but with a little bit more Douglas Sirk. Although now I’m thinking, maybe we’re too soon to Nope coming out for that. Maybe I should put that on the shelf for a little bit, maybe a few years down the line. 
And then the third one is another kind of more similar to Skinamarink, but a little bit more ambitious, 1960s technicolor horror movie called The Backward House where three people visit a house in their dream. And then horror ensues.


Skinamarink is part of Fantasia International Film Festival‘s 2022 lineup. You can check out the super creepy poster below!

For more on Fantasia 2022, check out our review of Australian social influencer horror Sissy, or the cosmic horror slapstick comedy Glorious.

Horror Entertainment News

iHorror Chats It Up With Andrew Traucki On His New Film ‘The Reef: Stalked.’

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Another shark film? That was the first thing that came to mind when I was aware that this film was coming out. I then realized it was a sequel to The Reef, which was released in 2010. I stopped for a moment and thought, “well, The Reef wasn’t a bad film by any means; it was a decent shark movie from what I could remember, so why the hell not? I’ll give it a try!”

A still of the shark from the horror film, THE REEF: STALKED, an RLJE Films/SHUDDER release. Photo courtesy of RLJE Films and Shudder.

After watching The Reef: Stalked, my first impressions were stressful, heart-thumping, bone-chilling, and a superb storyline due to the conflict immediately injected into the story. I was drawn into the story right away, and as much as I hate to admit this (not because I didn’t enjoy the film), I had to pause it several times.

The suspense involving the shark was a bit overbearing; however, I still enjoyed every minute of it. Isn’t this why we watch these types of films? The writing was on point, it was beautifully shot on location in Australia, and I enjoyed the character arches as they developed throughout the film’s ninety-minute run time.

The actors conjured up some raw emotions, and I imagined that was quite the stretch in an unpredictable setting. The shark’s predatory habits were pretty realistic, and I didn’t feel that there was ever any temptation to be overdramatic and sensationalize the attacks.

(L-R) Ann Truong as Jodie, Saskia Archer as Annie and Teressa Liane as Nic in the horror film, THE REEF: STALKED, an RLJE Films/SHUDDER release. Photo courtesy of RLJE Films and Shudder.

The Reef: Stalked is a high recommend, just as good as the original, and an excellent watch for the summer season! Be sure to check it out.

In Theaters, On Digital, On Demand and Streaming on Shudder July 29, 2022 

Run Time: 90 minutes| Rating: NR

Synopsis: In an effort to heal after witnessing her sister’s horrific murder, Nic travels to a tropical resort with her friends for a kayaking and diving adventure. Only hours into their expedition, the women are stalked and then attacked by a great white shark. To survive they will need to band together and Nic will have to overcome her post-traumatic stress, face her fears and slay the monster.

Writer & Director – Andrew Traucki

A Quick Chat With Writer & Director – Andrew Traucki

I had a wonderful time speaking with Andrew about The Reef: Stalked. Even though I had significant technical difficulties, I was ecstatic to have this opportunity to bring our interview to the page. As always, it’s never enough time. I hope that you all enjoy it.

iHorror: How difficult was it to film on location?

Andrew Traucki: You know it was pretty difficult; we were in the water all day which no human body should have to endure. Being in the tropics, the air temperature was all right. The climate change got kind of weird at times with this being the driest part of the east coast of Australia, and then it would be raining, and then the winds would pick up, and wind in the water is not good, especially when you are holding up reflector boards and things like that. It was really quite difficult. One of the poor camera assistants stepped on a stingray and got a barb stuck in her leg; one day, there was an actual shark on set, lucky that we weren’t in the water that day. So yeah, it’s not easy to film in an actual location that is full of water.

iH: Andrew, how does the original Reef compare to The Reef: Stalked? Did you have an idea for this film while doing the first one?

AT: Yeah, I think what I have done was I’ve tried to keep the same sense of realism and survival thriller engine going. What I’ve tried to do this time was to add another layer of trauma and the relationships of the woman and address the notion of domestic violence and elevate it a bit more and give it a second level, and that is sort of my feeling about it, what do you feel?

iH: I liked this film better than I thought I would, and I think that it is a totally separate entity from the first one.

AT: Interesting, yeah, I think you’re right. The first one was like a documentary, almost like survival, whereas this is more like a traditional drama

(L-R) Teressa Liane as Nic, Ann Truong as Jodie, Kate Lister as Lisa and Saskia Archer as Annie in horror film, THE REEF: STALKED, and RLJE Films/SHUDDER release. Photo courtesy of RLJE Films and Shudder

iH: Did you shoot the shark footage yourself, or did a separate crew do that?

AT: Yeah, most of it was a separate crew.

iH: At times when the shark was actually biting a prop, how was that accomplished? Did you build it around the actual shark, or did you just put the prop out there, or was it just movie magic?

AT: Yeah, it’s just movie magic. [Chuckles]

iH: [Laughs] Well, it looked pretty convincing.

AT: Good, I am glad. That’s what I wanted to hear.

iH: Were the actors in the water with the shark at any time or near the shark?

AT: [Smiles] Movie Magic.

iH: You did it well; I just need to commend you; they were marvelous, and I really loved them. The thought of them dying from the shark was just horrible, so you did a great job with writing with their personalities, and the conflict was just great. The movie was just great, and I know that people are going to love it.

AT: Thank you, Ryan. The women in the film were just a wonderful cast; you know, they brought just so much to the role; I agree with you; I think they are wonderful.

(L-R) Ann Truong as Jodie, Kate Lister as Lisa, Teressa Liane as Nic and Saskia Archer as Annie in the horror film, THE REEF: STALKED, an RLJE Films/SHUDDER release. Photo courtesy of RLJE Films and Shudder.

iH: What do you have next in the pipeline?

AT: I have a black comedy called Melodica Vampire Slayer, which I describe as Spinal Tap meets Dracula. I’d really love to make that because I know it will be a hoot. So, yeah, I am really also looking for scripts that are elevated thrillers. I am always looking for those, and that is what’s on my radar at the moment.

iH: Well, that is awesome, a little bit different from this film. I had mentioned to one of our other writers that I would be speaking with you today, and a question that he wanted me to ask you was, “What were the challenges of coming up with something new in the shark genre since there are so many these days?

AT: That’s a good question. Obviously, it’s been ten years between films, so it’s not easy for me. I am not really into shark exploitation in all these sorts of films; I am really not interested in that so much. It is kind of fun for a while, and then I think it becomes repetitive, so I don’t mind watching one or two, and then it’s like, ‘yeah, I think I have seen this.’ For me, it is always about something new and that is interesting that will grab me. If it has the shark in it, that’s fine, and if it hasn’t, that’s fine as well.

(L-R) Teressa Liane as Nic, Saskia Archer as Annie and Ann Truong as Jodie in the horror film, THE REEF: STALKED, an RLJE Films/SHUDDER release. Photo courtesy of RLJE Films and Shudder.

iH: I think that happens a lot, people go in thinking it is going to be the same beats, and this film wasn’t that, and that was really refreshing. What was the most challenging part of filming this movie?

AT: That’s a good question. The shoot was challenging. We really just didn’t have enough time for the amount of stuff that I wanted to shoot. It is always a tug of war, the tension between being creative and the money trying to make sure that it all happens and on budget, so that was quite stressful. In post, I guess the edit wasn’t working very well for a while, and then we finally cracked it, and that was good. So, yeah, I guess the shoot was the most stressful.

iH: Alright, it looks like my time is up; and I really appreciate you taking the time out; and I do apologize for all of the technical difficulties that I had.

AT: That’s all right, Ryan, thank you.

iH: Alright, sir, you have a good one.

AT: You too, cheers.

A still of the shark from the horror film, THE REEF: STALKED, an RLJE Films/SHUDDER release. Photo courtesy of RLJE Films and Shudder.

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Fantasia 2022 Interview: ‘All Jacked Up and Full of Worms’ with Director Alex Phillips

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All Jacked Up and Full of Worms

All Jacked Up and Full of Worms — screening as part of Fantasia Fest 2022 — is undoubtedly one of the more bizarre films I’ve had the pleasure of seeing. Strange in all the right ways, it takes its audience on a wild trip, fueled by the psychedelic power of worms.

“After discovering a hidden stash of powerful hallucinogenic worms, Roscoe, a maintenance man for a seedy motel, follows a path of self-destruction through the alleyways of Chicago. Guided by visions of a giant floating Worm, he encounters Benny, a moped enthusiast trying to manifest a baby from an inanimate sex doll. Together, they fall in love with doing worms before embarking on a euphoric, hallucinatory odyssey of sex and violence.”

I had the chance to sit down to speak with the film’s writer/director, Alex Phillips, about the making of the film, the burning worm question, and where the heck this movie came from.


Kelly McNeely: My first question is a two parter. So, what the fuck? And where the fuck did that come from? [laughs]

Alex Phillips: [laughs] Um, what the fuck? That one’s harder to answer. But where it came from, well, okay, so I experienced some intense mental breakdown stuff. I went through real actual, like, psychosis. And it was really intense and scary, and totally destroyed my life. And I don’t say it for sympathy. But that’s the where the fuck, and why the fuck [laughs].

When that happens, you have like a lot of – I mean, I’m fine now, I took a lot of meds and all that fun stuff – but when that happens, there’s a lot of crazy intrusive thoughts, like paranoia, delusions, hallucinations, all that good stuff. And I’m used to seeing a lot of portrayals of mental illness in a psychologically realistic way, where someone’s like, this is what happened to me. And they’re talking about how they got through it. And that doesn’t seem honest to me, about my experience, because it was totally gnarly and terrible. 

And so this is just me saying, like, yeah, fuck you, mental illness. I didn’t want to be moralistic about it. Because also, it was traumatic in a lot of ways, that didn’t make my life any better. Like, I don’t want to tell a story about overcoming adversity, because it was, you know, really gnarly for a while there. 

So, I think that this is actually like – with these complicated characters who are not necessarily likable, they’re not good people – but I feel like when you’re in the throes of bad things happening, and also messing with drugs and all this other stuff, people aren’t necessarily good. So I thought that that would be an honest portrayal.

And then – while being honest – also using genre to make it something that audiences can engage with and also want to learn about the journey, and also maybe have a good time doing that. Because that’s the other thing, that stuff is crazy and funny, and weird and scary at the same time. 

Kelly McNeely: Speaking of the characters and the cast a little bit, I did want to ask you about the casting process, because the cast are all fantastic. Can you talk a little about the casting process? Because I imagine there was a very particular way to kind of pitch these characters and to pitch these roles. 

Alex Phillips: Yeah. Well, a lot of the people that we found are actually just friends of mine, they’re in the community in Chicago. And they’ve done a lot of experimental stuff, and I’ve worked with them before and some in my shorts, or just in general, like in performance art, or just around in Chicago. 

So, I mean, it wasn’t the same thing as going to like a Hollywood casting agent and trying to find someone to do this stuff. It was more like, you know, this guy Mike Lopez, that’s Biff, the guy who’s in clown makeup and he’s driving the van. He’s just like a cool, weird guy I know, you know? And he’s really funny and surprising and the way he delivers lines, so I was like, hey, do you want to be yourself with clown makeup on? And we worked through how to make it scary.

And so that was kind of how a lot of the casting worked. Eva, who was Henrietta, she doesn’t even have any acting experience, she was just, like, amazing. I asked her to be in one of my shorts a long time ago. And then I was like, okay, you’re with me from now on, you’re great. 

So that was a lot of it. And then Betsey Brown, who is maybe one of our more known actors, she was just a connection through our effects person, Ben, he worked with her on the movie Assholes. So we thought that she would be perfect for this project, because it’s so crazy, and she’s into crazy stuff. 

Kelly McNeely: And the sound mixing and the sound design in All Jacked Up and Full of Worms is excellent as well. I love the use of that abstract jazz, I think that’s fantastic, it kind of creates that feeling of slowly going crazy, which I think works perfectly for this film. I understand that you have experience with sound mixing, like that’s part of your filmmaking background. Can you talk a little bit about how that became part of your repertoire? Your filmmaking skill set, I guess? 

Alex Phillips: Yeah. Um, so when I was a kid, I wanted to be a writer. And I realized very quickly, like, I’m graduating, but no one was going to pay me to do that. At least not immediately. So I wanted to work on set, so I had to learn a skill that people needed to use [laughs].

So I taught myself sound mixing. And so that’s what I do as my day job, I record sound for all sorts of things like commercials, videography, documentaries, stuff like that. And then just in terms of sound design and music and stuff like that, that’s always been something – I was in bands in college and in high school – and it’s just been a part of stuff that I like to do. 

And Sam Clapp of Cue Shop, he and I hung out around college age in St. Louis, and so we’ve kind of stuck together and shared a lot of ideas for a long time. So he did the music for some of my shorts and stuff, and same with Alex Inglizian of Experimental Sound Studio. He and I have worked together a lot before. So we have a lot of common tools and knowledge, and also just know how to work with each other in a way to pull out all the weirdness and find the Foley and find the sound. 

I can tell Sam like, okay, this should be like Goblin, but add a saxophone and like, hold it. You know? And then we can experiment with it and move it around, and find stuff that works. 

Kelly McNeely: Yeah, that’s a great way to describe it. It’s like Goblin with a saxophone. It’s very, like, Suspiria at times. Just throw some sax and then throw some horns on there. 

Alex Philliops: Yeah, yeah, we started Goblin. And then we always go to, like, power electronics. And it’s somewhere in between there. And then we find like, there’s one that we called radiator rhythms. That was just because in Chicago, it’s really cold, and everyone has those big old metal radiators, and it’s always clanging because it’s dry in there. And that was what we wanted to do for Benny’s apartment when you first meet him. 

Kelly McNeely: So how did this film come together? I know you worked with friends and such, because again, it’s such a wild idea to pitch. How did this sort of come to be, I guess? 

Alex Phillips: Yeah, I mean, I tried to go traditional routes with pitching for a while, and it’s just hard to go from a short to a feature and expect someone to come out of nowhere to like, shepherd you there…

Kelly McNeely: A fairy godmother, just like, take this money! 

Alex Phillips: Yeah, yeah, exactly. Like, oh, this seems like it needs a million dollars, here you go! [laughs] It’s kind of hard. So yeah, I mean, what ended up happening was, these are all people I’ve worked with before, so they were really dedicated and down for the cause. So it was like, they were either really cheap or free. And all the equipment was free, and we got some grants, and then credit card debt. 

And then alsoI did my videography stuff, because I ended up taking – because of COVID – I ended up taking like three or more years to finish. At a certain point I was just sending my paycheck into the account to pay some other stuff off. And so it’s just putting it all together over time to get it done. Because it was a labor of love, at a certain point, we were in too deep, we had to finish it. 

Kelly McNeely: You’ve gone too far, you can’t turn back now. 

Alex Phillips: Yeah

Kelly McNeely: It’s kind of like that idea of like, once you’ve taken the drugs, you’ve already started the trip, you just gotta ride it out. Right? 

Alex Phillips: Yeah, get in the dirt. 

Kelly McNeely: So in terms of riding that trip out, how did the concept of doing worms – for what that high feels like – develop ? It does have a very distinct energy when you’re watching, you’re like, I kind of understand what they feel while they’re going through this. I feel a little high myself watching.

Alex Phillips: Yeah, yeah. I mean, that’s actually funny. No one’s really asked me that. But I think it comes from like, wanting to think about what it’s like to have something in your body, like, propelling you and then just like a sweatiness, an anxious sweatiness. It’s just like, you can smell everyone and they’re moving around, and they desperately need more. Yeah, it just feels like that was just what I thought that it should be like, just this anxiety.

Kelly McNeely: It kind of has the feeling of like, if you’re on mushrooms and decide to do DMT, and it’s just like, where am I going now? What am I doing? 

Alex Phillips: Yeah, yeah, it’s like, speedy hallucinogens. 

Kelly McNeely: What was the biggest challenge of making All Jacked Up and Full of Worms? Financing and all that aside, like actually, like making the film?

Alex Phillips: Yeah. I mean, it’s just so hard, because it was so long. There’s like a lot. A lot of things there were tough [laughs]. Um, it wasn’t any of my collaborators, that’s for sure. Everyone was so down. I mean, COVID was huge. Because COVID shut us down. We started shooting in March 2020, before COVID existed. And then we got nine days into the shoot, and that was when the global pandemic was announced. 

They pulled our permits, the gear house that was giving us all the equipment said to drive that van back here, because we need our camera back and all that. So it was done. I think that was the toughest part. And then like figuring out how to finish this movie before there were vaccines and stuff, and how to be COVID compliant with no budget for any of that, and take care of each other and get through it.

So we shot for five days at a time, and took two weeks between each break. So yeah, all of that. There wasn’t a production house, there was no production office, you know, it was just like me and Georgia (Bernstein, Producer). No AD. So it was just all that, really. Yeah, the toughest part about it, there were no PAs [laughs]. 

Kelly McNeely: Just like just again, crawling through that dirt [laughs]. As a filmmaker, what inspires or influences you?

Alex Phillips: Um, well, there’s two different things, two major things. One is personal experience and being honest to myself, or my voice, or just my point of view. And then the other is like, I love movies. I’m like a huge nerd, you know, I just watch them all the time. But I don’t only make a referential thing that’s a composite of just, like, pulled from a bunch of stuff. I want to use all that stuff as a language and just speak it. Speak my truth through that language, if that makes any sense. 

Kelly McNeely: Absolutely. And as a film nerd, and after watching this movie as well, I know this is a very cheesy question to ask, but what’s your favorite scary movie?

Alex Phillips: I mean, okay, the easy answer for me, well, agh! It’s not easy. Someone asked me this before, and I said Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but I’ll put that one aside. And this time, I’ll say The Thing. John Carpenter’s The Thing. 

Kelly McNeely: Excellent, excellent choice. And once again, being a huge cinephile yourself, and just out of curiosity, what is the weirdest or kind of most like… what the fuck film that you’ve seen?

Alex Phillips: I really like this movie, Fulchi’s Don’t Torture A Duckling right now, that one is really, really weird. There’s a lot going on. I don’t know if it’s the weirdest one. I mean, like, I could say, like anything by Larry Clark, or like Trash Humpers or something like that is pretty weird. I don’t know. They’re all weird. But yeah, Fulchi is always a good weird. 

Kelly McNeely: And I have to ask, and you probably have been asked this question before, but were there any worms harmed in the making of this film? 

Alex Phillips: We were actually really careful with these little guys. And yeah, I don’t want to tell you how we didn’t eat them, but we didn’t eat them. 

Kelly McNeely: I was wondering the whole time, is this gelatin, or what’s going on?

Alex Phillips: They’re all real. And they’ll all get you really high. 

Kelly McNeely: And so what’s next for you? 

Alex Phillips: I have this erotic thriller that I’m gonna shoot next year. It’s called Anything That Moves about this young, dumb hot guy. It’s sort of like Channing Tatum, but he’s like, 19. And he’s a bike delivery guy, but he also is sort of selling his body on the side in a really nurturing way. As he delivers food to people. You know, if your UberEATS guy was Timothy Chalamet, and a gigolo. That’s sort of the idea. 

And then he gets caught up in this crazy thriller, all of his clients are turning up brutally murdered. And so this kid who was already in over his head is like, in way deeper, and he’s gotta figure out what’s happening and save his clients who he really cares for. And then also, you know, he’s implicated and all of that, he wants to figure out what’s happening.


For more on Fantasia Fest 2022, click here to read our interview with Dark Nature director Berkley Brady, or read our review of Rebekah McKendry’s Glorious

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Fantasia 2022 Review: ‘Glorious’ and the Glory Hole Dwelling Demi-God

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Glorious

In Glorious, Wes (Ryan Kwanten, True Blood) is on the road with a carload of memories, fresh off of a bad breakup. Pausing at a small, remote rest stop, Wes drinks his pain away in a night of lonesome cries and fevered voicemails.

Upon awakening – with a righteous hangover – Wes stumbles his way into the bathroom, leaving any sense of normalcy at the door. In that bathroom there is a glory hole, and in that glory hole there is… an ancient cosmic horror with daddy issues. Voiced by J.K. Simmons (Whiplash, Spider-Man), the demi-god has a favor to ask. 

Rebekah McKendry (All the Creatures Were Stirring) directs this madcap premise with the appropriate combination of existential crisis, comedy, and blood.

McKendry’s genre resume is impressive. Filmmaking and producing aside, she was Fangoria’s Director of Marketing and Blumhouse.com’s Editor-in-Chief. She also hosts the Shock Waves and Killer POV podcasts, and is a professor at the USC School of Cinematic Arts. 

The world is threatened by unimaginable horror, and its fate lies in the hands of a selfish, unstable man who just needed to vomit. As a cosmic-horror-meets-slapstick-comedy, Glorious is surprisingly economical in concept.

It’s effectively a 2-hander with one location, although really it’s Kwanten who does all the heavy lifting as Simmons is only present to lend his dulcet vocal tones. 

Simmons is a curious yet fitting choice for this glory hole guest. With his extensive voice acting experience, he carries a certain earthly gravitas, yet can tune his tone to comply with the more cosmically curious or decidedly exasperated dialogue of a demi-god. I’m not sure whose voice I would imagine coming from the interdimensional side of a bathroom stall, but there’s something so… human about his voice that it kind of adds to the absurdity of it all. 

Kwanten – as the film’s main point of focus – has a lot to carry. With Simmons in the stall and only two other small appearances, we’re with him for the full length of the film. No breaks. He must carry our attention throughout, which is a lot to put on a guy in one sparse location. Wes is… kind of a dink, and – as we learn – far from a good guy. Kwanten plays him with vulnerability and a certain sense of exhausted desperation that is quite relatable, given the circumstances.

Written by David Ian McKendry, Joshua Hull and Todd Rigney, Glorious invites the audience to join in on some interesting (if not nihilistic) lines of thought. Is altruism secretly offered as a selfish act? What would you do to save the universe? What do you deserve? For a film about a Lovecraftian bathroom break, it’s surprisingly thoughtful.

While there are some meandering parts that suffer the pacing of a single-location extended dialogue, Glorious offers pockets of humor and goopy gore (and bisexual lighting) to keep the audience going. 

Of all the horror films that have come out this year, Glorious has one of the most inventive concepts. It’s the well made and eccentrically clever kind of film that catches your attention. So why not step up to the ol’ glory hole and see what all the fuss is about. 

4 eyes out of 5

Glorious is part of Fantasia International Film Festival’s 2022 lineup. You can check out the trailer and poster below. For more Fantasia 2022 content, click here to read our review of Megalomaniac

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