Interview with Director Matt O’Mahoney
Recently, I had a chance to sit down and talk to Matt at The Blood in the Snow Film Festival about the Toronto Premiere of his film, Bloody Knuckles.
So I have to ask, where did the idea come from for this movie?
Where did the idea come from? [laughs] Well, I was working on another project actually it was a script that I had been working on for a couple of months and it wasn’t really clicking with me, and I wanted to make a feature and we were all kind of gearing up and I was working on this thing and like I said, it really wasn’t clicking.
I was really upset with the censorship, the self censorship questions that were coming up and at the time there was a film called The Innocents of Muslims that was kind of being blamed for the Benghazi attacks at the time, so there was a lot of talk of self censorship you know, and how far is too far and should we be allowing things like this and the question of self censorship really bothered me a lot. I grew up at a time where there was a lot of censorship going on but there was a huge fight against it and I was part of that fight! (Laughs) I was always opposed to censorship.
So I made this movie as a reminder that we need to protect offensive speech and how destructive it can be to strip someone of their way to express themselves even if they do it in a way that we don’t like, so that’s where it started from and then took on a life of it’s own.
How tricky was it for you to combine horror and comedy?
Well, it’s tricky if no one laughs! If there are no laughs then I guess I’m not doing it right. So far, people seem to get it and they find it funny. You know, I always think that horror/comedy holds a special place in my heart, I’ve always loved films like Re-Animator and The Toxic Avenger and these are the films that have a heavy influence on Bloody Knuckles. I’m also a clown, I love to make people laugh, I love to crack jokes so it’s something that comes naturally to me. I always try to see humor and infuse humor into the darkest of things.
When you were filming the movie, were you ever worried that certain parts might be too dark while others too light?
Not at the time! [Laughs] When I looked at it, there were certain parts or pockets where I thought this might be too heavy or this part may be too dramatic when I really could have ramped up the funny here, but that really happened mostly after the fact when there wasn’t really much I could do, but I could remember for next time. Remember to bring more funny!
You mentioned movies like The Toxic Avenger and Re-Animator. Do you think those kind of movies are becoming a lost art and that there should be more movies like yours?
[Laughs] I don’t know if there should be more movies like mine! Yeah, with movies like Re-Animator I loved it, and I want to kind of bring that back. In the 80’s there was such a sense of anarchy in those films, they were just so wild and off the mark and I would like to see that, especially back then, those films got pretty decent budgets, Evil Dead 2 had a two million dollar budget, Re-Animator I think had around a million, those are 1985 and 1987 dollars you know, so I would like to see that. I think in this day and age everything is so compartmentalized right, you have the found footage stuff here, and then you have the ghost, kind of Oculus/Insidious/Sinister movies here, and the real kind of wacky stuff is relegated to the ultra low budget level. So yeah, I think there’s a spot for it, I’d like to see it get a little bit bigger but who knows, I’m not in control of that. I can just keep making movies that way I do and hope people dig them.
What’s the biggest challenge for you as a director?
Oh god, there’s a lot! [Laughs] Pick a card, any card! There are always challenges and with this one we had a lot of challenges with locations and stuff, trying to find that perfect spot. Money is always the biggest one, how are we going to do all of this crazy stuff that’s just on a page, how are we going to bring this to life, how are we going to make this hand move, how are we going to shoot at night. There was a lot of stuff but the thing that makes all of that easier is having a great crew, they are on board, they understand it, they are good at their jobs and know how to execute it and that makes it so much easier.
You mentioned the hand, was that a difficult effect to pull off?
Yeah, well the way I envisioned it was I keep bringing up Re-Animator and all of these kind of films, I’m a big fan of practical effects, I grew up in that sort of era so I wanted to do everything practically. I knew there were some things that we were going to have to do some CGI effects for but yeah, I wanted to do it all practically so I went back to where we started storyboarding, my DP and I, we were really meticulous about ok, we need this kind of glove made, just a straight glove and one with a little stump and ok, we can drill a hole through this table and stick it through a couch and do all of these kind of things so yeah, so it really kind of came down to having good storyboards and just a good plan of execution that we stuck to, like we need a glove on this day and on and on, and it was really just preparation that helped us a lot. If we just kind of threw caution to the wind it would have been very hard!
How important are festivals like this one, Blood in the Snow, to movies like yours?
You can’t really put a value on it, they’re invaluable. I mean, these kind of festivals help tremendously with, hopefully down the line, with things like distribution but also building a fan base, press like yourself in there seeing and hopefully writing favorably about it and getting the response. You know, these kind of films get shut out of so many festivals and have been for so long, and I think that’s where festivals like this kind of spring up because they understand there is a market for this, a fan base for this and their kind of getting left out in the cold so it’s great you have festivals like Blood in the Snow to say, come in from the cold, come in and enjoy these movies because we know you’re into it.