Interview With James Watts (Death Trip)

Hey guys, just a bit of a lead in before the main event. This is my first interview and my first foray into that side of being a film reviewer! I recently had the chance to ask the director of Death Trip James Watts a few questions, about filmmaking, horror, and what it means to make a slasher film in the 2020s. Here is the interview verbatim.

Q: Who is your biggest inspiration?

 A: The films I am the biggest fan of have all managed to incorporate comedy (in one way or another) into their respective genres. Mary Harron’s American Psycho is a perfect example of this. There is nothing funnier to me than the scene in that movie where Patrick Bateman has peak-level stress over Paul Allen’s business cards. 

Alfred Hitchcock is obviously the best at this but so are the Coen Brothers, Robert Altman and Lina Wertmüller. 

And of course, the argument I always get into with friends is whether or not all of Stanley Kubrick’s movies are secretly comedies (I think that they are).

Q: What is your earliest memory of the horror genre?

A: Like a lot of people my age, my first experience with the horror genre was seeing excerpts from The Shining in the background during a memorable scene in the “Helen Hunt banger” Twister.

Bill Paxton is hightailing it to the weather van, the tornado is in full effect, but all I could focus on was the psycho with the axe being projected on the drive-in screen in the background. 

I was scared to watch The Shining for years because of that movie.

Q: How would you define the modern slasher film?

A: I feel like the slasher genre will always be modern. As far as I’m concerned, as long as there are a group of victims, a mysterious stalker and violence – anything goes. It’s really all about what the filmmakers do with those elements. 

Vera Dika has a good book about 70s and 80s slashers called Games of Terror and in it, she describes the appeal of the slasher movie: “catharsis”, “recreation” and “displacement”. That statement was about the 80s specifically, but modern slasher films are still appealing to audiences for these same reasons…and critics still hate them.

Q: Do you have any funny on-set stories?

A: Garrett jumped in the lake.

A freezing cold lake. 

We drilled a hole in it and he got in. In the movie, there’s never a clear angle of this actually happening, but I want it to be on record that Garrett Johnson went into a frozen lake, of his own volition, for the sake of this dumb movie.

Q: What was the message behind this film? And What does that message mean to you?

A: I’m going to repeat verbatim what my co-writer, Kelly Kay Hurcomb says (and she’s the real genius behind this movie): Over the course of the last decade, it has become more and more evident that women’s worst enemies are often hiding right under their noses.

Without giving too much away, the movie’s really about the rising trend of performative ‘feminist allyship’ amongst male millennials and how that has spawned a new brand of ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’. 

It’s also about how class informs our fears. It’s like if you went to the country and there was an old man living in a cabin next door and you just kind of saw a glimpse or two of him, then later you went to a party with a bunch of “sensitive seeming dudes”…who do you really think is going to kill you? Who’s the actual threat? The old guy is probably just stressing about his retirement fund or how the city’s new zoning laws are going to take away his business.

Q: If you had to describe the production in a word what would it be?

A: Cold!

Q: What is your favourite horror film?

This is, like, the hardest question I’ve ever been asked, so I’ll give some qualifiers:

Christmas Evil is my favourite Holiday horror

The Brood is my favourite Canadian Horror

The Blair Witch Project is my favourite found footage horror

Nosferatu the Vampyre is my favourite horror remake

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 is my favourite horror sequel

Possession has my favourite scene in a horror film

The Mist has my favourite ending

The Descent scared me the most

Ms. 45 has my favourite premise

Angst has my favourite structure 

But if I’m being really honest with myself, I’ve seen The Shining more times than I can count so, by that metric, it wins.

You can watch Death Trip On-Demand right now!

I hope you enjoyed this interview

Luke

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