An OSCAR® qualified “shot-in-one-take” slasher film about a teenage girl who lures a masked killer by committing horror movie sins
While it may seem like a straightforward revenge plot on the surface, Night of the Slasher’s story hides a few deep metaphors with personal significance to its director. After interviewing Shant about his movie — which has won 40+ awards in its visits to 160+ festivals — I learned all about that and more. Read on for the full deets about this killer Slasher film…
Vimeo: What made you think of centering a Slasher film around the stereotypical “horror movie sins”? The mood of Night of the Slasher has a light-heartedness to it – was it meant to be a comedy from the get-go?
Shant Hamassian: Basically, before I made Night of the Slasher, I nearly quit the industry because I just couldn’t take it anymore. I was traumatized from a horrible experience when a project I was working on went south. So, I stopped making movies and watched all of the Friday the 13th movies on Netflix just trying to get over it — to disconnect. And then something hit me, I started thinking about horror movie victims and how the survivors of slasher films are traumatized. And how do they deal with their trauma afterward? Because once the movie ends and the character lives, [supposedly] they’ve survived. So, to me, the story continues because that person is going to be wrecked for the rest of their lives. And so, I decided, well, what if a girl could go back to those horrible memories to deal with it?
So, when somebody is traumatized they do the horror movie thing – they do things such as drinking, drugs, sex in order to hide their demons (in this case literally). Basically, to deal with the trauma. I wanted to subvert the horror movie tropes so someone is doing it willingly because they are in a lot of pain and they want to deal with their demons in that way. So instead of a party girl teenager who is misbehaving and doing drugs and alcohol and having sex — it’s someone who is doing it because they are basically haunted and broken. They’re traumatized, so they self-destruct. The horror sins are her coping mechanism. Even though that is such a serious subject, you’ve gotta make it entertaining and there is always humor to something so you’ve gotta make it digestible to audiences. So it’s a story of self-destruction.
When someone is abused — let’s say a domestic issue with a wife or a girlfriend who has an abusive boyfriend — [in many cases] they keep going back to them. Why do they keep going back to them? So that’s kind of why Jenelle keeps going back to the killer over and over, dealing with this dance.
an you reveal who exactly gave her that scar?
It was from the killer — the scar on her neck is kind of a backstory to the script. I wrote a screenplay for this film — a full-on feature, first. When I couldn’t get it made anywhere I decided to make a short film version. I said, screw it — if I can’t get the feature out, a small piece of this story is gonna get out somehow, somewhere. In the feature film, you see what happens to her in the first act. The first act is like the third act of a slasher movie where the slasher chases her and gets her and cuts her. The rest of the movie is her kind of redoing, replaying what just happened in the first act. She’s revisiting [the situation] over and over, doing this ritual to kind of [attempt to] control the situation. You wonder: can she overcome the situation? The main message [in Night of the Slasher] is dealing with trauma and trying to overcome it.
Physically, she can’t talk because of her throat. If she can, it’s only a little bit. In the feature script, before she gets cut, I made her talk a lot. It’s also metaphorical — when someone is dealing with abuse or being taken advantage of, they have trouble speaking about the event or reporting it — telling someone about it. It’s metaphorical where she can’t tell anyone what happened. Even if she could, no one would believe her.
Basically, this is kind of a war that she’s stuck fighting alone and she’s imploding, falling apart.
Now, we’re living in a culture where we’re having a bully backlash, where people are speaking out against those who harass them, but most people are still having trouble coming out and accusing them. They feel stuck. That translates to a horror movie where a woman has a cutthroat and she literally can’t tell anyone what happened.
Speaking of the killer, in this movie he’s wearing a Leonard Nemoy mask. What led to that decision?
Did you know that in Halloween, Michael Myers wears a William Shatner [Captain Kirk] mask? We’re nodding to Halloween, but [this villain is] a different animal — [he’s] more calculated, more logical even though hilariously [he’s] not logical because [he] can’t die.
On Halloween, that choice was random. It was supposed to be a one-off movie: John Carpenter wanted to make a really good slasher film and they had such a low budget they just grabbed whatever mask they could find and adjusted it by spray painting it. It was spontaneous – no real reason or story behind it. We wanted to layer our story and give reasons for everything. We wanted to have logic and reason for why we made the choices we did. The difference between this character and Michael Myers is that he’s definitely more agile, faster more like an imp. A dark creature that can come after you. Michael Myers to me is like a tank, [while] this killer can run, swing, and be fast.
Red is the color of passion — in a lot of cultures, red is a universally [emotive] color. Most people see red in a similar vein and this is all about sexuality and passion. So Jenelle’s underwear is red and the scarf that covers her neck is red. Love and hate are sort of woven together sometimes.
I didn’t watch a lot of John Carpenter films in order to prepare for this one — I wanted to do something unique. You can’t make something that is just an homage to one director, you have to have your own voice.
I was definitely inspired by Steven Spielberg because of his one shot-take. You guys have actually Staff Picked a lot of videos by Tony Zhou —I watch a ton of his films. Actually, if it wasn’t for Vimeo promoting Tony Zhou I wouldn’t have seen his videos and analyses of directors and what their thinking is. [The film Zhou made about Spielberg] is about one-takes, which was really helpful for me in my thinking. The scene where Jenelle is drinking all of those beers — is actually a straight rip from Raiders of the Lost Ark where Marion is doing the drinking contest with a guy in the bar in Nepal.
The fun fact mentioned by Shant later: The scene where Lily is drinking the beers – she actually drank 22 bottles of water in a row. She was chugging down water like crazy. She would have to go to the bathroom in between cuts but because we kept doing more and more takes. [At a certain point] it wasn’t going to go through her system fast enough so she had to go to the bathroom and throw it up. And then she had to make out with our actor right after that.
I wanted to bring a level of sophistication and taste to the genre so it didn’t feel like a schlocky horror film. I didn’t want anyone to call this movie a parody. Satire — that’s fine, but the parody is not what we’re going for. Thankfully, no one has said that it’s campy or schlocky.
In reference to the one-shot take, the entire short occurs in one room whereas most horror chases go through entire houses, neighborhoods, or forests. Can you talk about the choreography of this short and why you chose to limit the space to just a kitchen?
Originally, I was going to shoot this in the traditional conventional sense — which is cutting. Shooting our scenes with wide-medium and close. We went through three different cinematographers. One of them had a Ronin [so] I started thinking: what can I do with that device? I realized that I can connect a lot of my shots together and we can get a lot of smooth takes without using a dolly. I hate dollies! They’re heavy! And when you’ve got a tiny crew everyone has to pitch in and move the dolly and it takes forever to set up the tracks and stuff. We made this for less than $5,000, [so that wouldn’t work].
I started thinking — ‘Wow, this story is just one scene, so what if we tried to do this in one take?’ Eventually, the cinematographer with the Ronin dropped out — he thought we were too ambitious to do this in one take, he didn’t believe we could do it. When it came time to shoot we rehearsed it three times with a 5D before shooting with a Red. I would post the private link on Vimeo to make sure that our actors were hitting their marks — Lily Berlina [the actress who played Jenelle] had a very difficult job to do.
The kitchen scene took 16 one-shot takes. Even though this movie is entirely one fluid shot – like the movie Birdman or Hitchcock’s Rope, there are very small hidden cuts. We wanted to segment in areas where it made sense to do a longer take or a short take and stitch them together in editing. There are no special effects. It’s all clever editing, basically.
I feel flattered that you asked that because that means it seems very organic but no — it was acting. It was written dialogue. The only thing that he did add in rehearsal was: “I guess I’m just gonna put these beers away” [after Jenelle chugs all four of them].
The song that plays during Night of the Slasher’s ending credits is perfect – was it written before or after the film was made?
The movie came first — originally we had Lily dance to AC/DC’s “Touch Too Much” and I knew there was no way that AC/DC was going to let us use that song for a background in a short film so it was kind of a placeholder. I asked the music supervisor for advice and said ‘What if we just got a band to do a cover of it — wouldn’t that be OK?” The answer was: ‘Nope. AC/DC is very tight on their songs and they have to approve the covers as well.’ Gaining right to use an AC/DC song is this whole horrible process. By the way — hats off to Jim Cummings for getting “Thunder Road” (Note: Check out Vimeo’s blog post on this film here!) — he had to take a chance and write an open letter to Bruce Springsteen before eventually, they said yes.
Eventually, my producer said: why don’t we hire our friend Jeff Phillips to do the song? He and his writing partner Matt Cheadle knocked writing this song in the style of cheesy 80s metal out of the park on the first try. My only note was asking to combine AC/DC’s “Touch Too Much” and [‘80s pop-rock duo] Heart with synthesizers. What do you get when you combine AC/DC with Heart? You get “Dying For Love.”
Although Night of the Slasher is my main priority, I have several very fleshed out projects that are also ready to go. One of them is a re-invented vampire horror film that went on the 2011 Bloodlust. The other is an 80’s throwback time travel comedy that got a special endorsement from a major former UTA agent. I just set up my company “Fantastik Beyond” which specializes in genre films, Horror/Sci-Fi/Fantasy. The website is under construction, but you can follow it on Facebook and Twitter. Those pages will start becoming very active in the near future!
Night of the Slasher is a wild 10 minutes of super fun terror – thanks for sharing with us, Shant!
Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival – WORLD PREMIERE
Fantasmagorical Film Festival – WINNER: BEST OF THE FEST HORROR THROWBACK
Here Be Dragons: The Int. New Genre Film Festival
Cyprus Comic Con
Motor City Nightmares Haunted Halloween Horror Show – WINNER: BEST HORROR SHORT FILM
Diabolique Int. Film Festival – WINNER: AUDIENCE AWARD FOR BEST SHORT, BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – NOMINATED: BEST SHORT, BEST DIRECTOR, BEST SCREENPLAY, BEST EDITING
Arizona Underground – WINNER: BEST HORROR SHORT
Wasteland Film Festival – HONORABLE MENTION: BEST ALTERNATIVE FILM
Mile High Horror Film Festival
Rue Morgue and Unstable Ground presents Little Terrors
Salty Horror Int. Film Festival – NOMINATED: BEST EDITING
Freak Show Horror
Sunrise Film Festival
Spooky Movie International Horror Film Festival
Ottawa Int. Film Festival
Scream in the Dark Film Festival
Buffalo Int. Film Festival
Maverick Movie Awards – NOMINATED: BEST DIRECTOR, BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY, BEST EDITING
Telluride Horror Picture Show
La Femme Int. Film Festival
Montelupo Fiorentino Int. Independent Film Festival
Fear Fete Horror Film Festival – WINNER: BEST HORROR COMEDY, NOMINATED: BEST SHORT, BEST ACTOR
Tulsa American Film Festival
Dark Frame Film Festival
Fright Night Film Fest
Mad Town Horror Film Festival
FLICKERS: Rhode Island Int. Film Festival (Vortex Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror Film Festival)
Laguna Film Festival – WINNER: BEST HORROR SHORT FILM
Orlando Film Festival
Puerto Rico Horror
San Jose Int. Short Film Festival
FirstGlance Film Festival (Philedephia)
Celluloid Screams Sheffield Horror Film Festival
Knoxville Horror Fest
Rugged Phoenix Underground Film Festival – WINNER: BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY NOMINATED: BEST HORROR SHORT, BEST ACTRESS, BEST ACTION
Yellow Fever Int. Film Festival
European Film Festival
Baton Rouge Horror
Halloween Horror Picture Show
Lund International Fantastic Film Festival – IN COMPETITION
Samain du cinema fantastique
Colorado Horror Con and Halloween
Twisted Horror Picture Show
La Mano Film Festival
Cornwall Horror Fest
Crystal Palace Int. Film Festival – FINALIST
Upstate NY Horror Film Festival
Fantastic Film Festival (Poland)
San Sebastian Horror and Fantasy Film Festival
Razor Reel Flanders
New York City Horror
Buffalo Dreams Fantastic
Another Hole in the Head
St. Louis International Film Festival – IN COMP: FOR BEST NARRATIVE SHORT, OSCAR® CONSIDERATION
Terror de Molins
Ithaca Int. Fantastic Film Festival – IN COMPETITION: BEST SHORT
30 Dies Festival
Arpa Int. Film Festival
Martinsville Horror Fest
Paris Int. Fantastic Film Festival – IN COMP: BEST SHORT
Foyle Film Festival – IN COMP: OSCAR® CONSIDERATION
South Carolina Underground Film Festival
MAC Horror Film Festival
A Night of Horror
Buenos Aires Rojo Sangre Horror Film Festival – NOMINATED: BEST INTERNATIONAL SHORT FILM, BEST DIRECTOR
South Texas Underground
Shivers Genre Film Festival Constance
PDXtreme – Portland Underground
I Filmmaker Int. Film Festival
Flatlake Int. Cinemafest
Meme Pas Peur
Dam Short Film Festival
SoCal Film Festival
Landshut film festival
Las Palmas De Gran Canaria INT.
Phoenix film festival/int. horror Sci-fi WINNER
First Glance Los Angeles
Days of the Dead
fright night theater
Brussels Int. Fantastic
Cinema and Craft Beer Film Festival
Sarasota film festival
Maryland int. film festival
Action on Film
Hot Springs Horror
Las Vegas Film Festival
Northwest Horror Show
Calgary Horror Con
Stuff Film Festival
The Final Girls
Hot Springs Horror
Rome International Film Festival
Bruce Campbell’s Horror Fest
South Dakota Film Fest
Way Down Film Fest
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