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Icing on the Horror Cake: Interview with Darren Lynn Bousman about ‘Death of Me’



Icing on the Horror Cake: Interview with Darren Lynn Bousman about 'Death of Me'

Death of Me, directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, and written by Ari Margolis, James Morley III, and David Tish, is a thoughtful horror film. It’s a story about a couple who watch a supernatural video of themselves that has dangerous consequences.

I spoke with Darren Lynn Bousman about Death of Me and the highly anticipated Spiral starring Chris Rock and Samuel Jackson. We talked about female-centric films, the intersection of horror and comedy, and why people might enjoy being scared.

Tiffany Aleman: I’m a huge fan of your work, the Saw films, Saw II, Saw III, Saw IV, and St. Agatha, and now Death of Me.

Darren Lynn Bousman: Thank you.

Tiffany Aleman:  Oh, I loved the boat shots, I loved them.

Darren Lynn Bousman: Thank you very much.

Tiffany Aleman: Yeah, so my first question is, what did you love about directing Death of Me?

Darren Lynn Bousman: I think getting to go to Thailand was an incredible experience, not only getting to go there, which is one of the most beautiful places I’ve been, but getting to work with the captain and crew over there. I feel very lucky to be able to travel the world and the globe and get to work with different people and cultures. I think number one for me was getting to Thailand and just…be there. It was pretty awesome.

Death of Me

Tiffany Aleman: Maggie Q did such an incredible job. It was so great to see her in a strong leading role. Your last two films had women in leading roles. And St. Agatha had an almost all woman identifying cast, which I think is awesome and inclusionary, I wanted to ask, is that something that attracts you to projects?

Darren Lynn Bousman: Yeah, you know what’s funny. I was actually talking to someone about this today. So I was looking, so actually, most of my films recently…like even go back to Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day was a primarily female cast; there were a couple of males in it.

But I also went to Japan and shot this tv show called CROW’S BLOOD, which was all-female, entirely female cast. And the next movie I’m doing is an all-female cast. I don’t know if it was being raised by strong women, you know my mother and my sister. To…maybe it’s my wife and having a daughter now. I just feel…more drawn to that. It’s not even something necessarily that I seek out; it’s just movies that I respond to just seem to have females as the central character.

If I go back and watch some of my favorite movies be it Rosemary’s Baby or Suspiria, they’re all kind of around female-centric characters. So I think it is something that is unconscious. But it is something very conscious. Because I look at my favorite films and they are female-centric as well.

Crow's Blood

Tiffany Aleman: I love that. I think you have been ahead of the curve on that.

Darren Lynn Bousman: Oh, thank you.

Tiffany Aleman: Okay, so, I watch a lot of gore, and right now, I’m in a Fulci phase. And I wanted to ask you—what is it about gore that speaks to horror fans? I mean, do we want to be terrified? Is it about our collective fear of death?

Darren Lynn Bousman: No, I think that, well, maybe. I think for me the thing about gore and why I think it fascinates some people—it’s taboo. It’s something that we’re not…it’s supposed to…It’s looked down on in a lot of ways. It’s not something that is part of our everyday life. And for the same reason that pornography is appealing to some people; because it’s taboo. And I think people are drawn to things that are taboo.

I equate about comedies and dramas a lot. I love all kinds of movies. I like comedies, and I like dramas. But the difference between a comedy or drama is there’s nothing about them that imprints themselves on the viewer. However, when I watch something horrific and gory, it stays with me. That idea of being disgusted is such a raw thing that it stays with me…it…scars you, almost. So, while I don’t remember the comedies that I watched as a kid, I can tell you the times I was disgusted as a kid. The first time I saw Cannibal Holocaust

Tiffany Aleman: Ah!

Cannibal Holocaust Rotted Skull

Darren Lynn Bousman: —the first time I saw Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. These are movies that fucked with me because they’re images that I’m not used to seeing. And so, when you see something…I’ll give you one example about my son. And this is one example of my son, and I feel really, really terrible as a parent for this. But I took my kids, I took my son to Universal Studios, and he got to ride all the rides. He was able to do the Minions ride. I think we even did Jurassic Park, all good.

But it wasn’t until we went on a tram ride and I wasn’t thinking about the tram ride being scary. But King Kong happened. He sees King Kong and he fucking loses it. He starts crying and screaming and hyperventilating. And I tell you, every day since that, every day, he asks me about King Kong. And, I think the reason why is—it’s such a visceral reaction you get when you’re scared. And so you want to explore it, you want to understand why it scared you. And so for me, that’s what horror does, that is what the idea of gore does.

Henry Portrait of a Serial Killer Image

Tiffany Aleman: Yeah, it’s kind of like going to the fair—the roller coasters are scary, but we all like them.

Darren Lynn Bousman: Exactly. Because you know you’re safe.

Tiffany Aleman: Right.

Darren Lynn Bousman: And I think with the roller coasters, you wait in line for ninety minutes to go on a sixty-second ride to feel out of control in a safe environment. And I think that is what horror is. Horror is a way you can sit in the comfort of your home or in a movie theater, and you know the images that you are looking at are fake. It’s prosthetics, it’s fake blood, it’s corn syrup. But it allows you to feel that in the time that you’re in there, and know that you can go home safe, and be safe.

Tiffany Aleman: I’ve heard Stephen King say that for him the origin of horror is a group, a community of safe people, sitting around a fire telling scary stories, but that pulls them together as a community because they feel safe.

Darren Lynn Bousman: It is, and I think that’s why I’ve always loved going to haunted houses as a kid. I grew up…and my Dad took me to a haunted house every October. You walk through this small, claustrophobic thing to be scared together, as a group, and you bond about it after the fact. And you laugh, and I think you laugh harder—the more scared you are, because it’s a cathartic thing.

Haunted House

Tiffany Aleman: Speaking about comedy, I want to tell you that everyone is super excited about Spiral because you’re working with Chris Rock and Samuel Jackson. Chris Rock, who is one of the greatest comedians of his generation. Samuel Jackson, who I’d argue, is one of the greatest actors of his generation. A lot of comedians are attracted to the horror genre. Can you speak a bit on the intersection and overlap of horror and comedy?

Darren Lynn Bousman: I mean, I wish I could say something that was even quasi-smart on this. And whatever I say, it is just going to sound stupid. But if you look at someone like Chris Rock, who is one of the funniest people I’ve ever met in my life.

Tiffany Aleman: Oh yeah.

Darren Lynn Bousman: And yet, when he steps into Spiral, he is able to play dramatic almost in an instant. And it was crazy because there are laughs in Spiral, I’m not going to lie to you—there are scenes that are fucking hilarious. But he is a dramatic actor in this movie. And I think this is what makes this work so well.

Is that…it was funny, I asked him, why do this movie, why come do Spiral? I was watching Saw II, and he said, I was watching Donnie Wahlberg, and he said he kept saying to myself, if Donnie just had one joke, one or two jokes in the entire movie, it would feel that much better because you’re going through a range of emotions. Fear, paranoia, laughter, scares. And he goes, I’ve always said to people if I were doing a horror movie, I would always do one or two jokes, just one or two. And he’s right. Because there is something awesome about Spiral and I think it is Chris’ take on it.

Because the humor is there, but it’s never on the forefront. It’s always one of those things—it’s the icing on the cake, it’s the icing on the horror cake. So Spiral is scary, it’s tense, it’s rough. And you get one or two lines from Chris that’ll bring people down.

Spiral Book of Saw

Tiffany Aleman: I want to say that I love your work. I want to say I love the Saw films because of the mind games and the gore, which I think are so imaginative and scary. And I was personally moved by St. Agatha. For some reason, it really touched me because it was a woman’s story, and it was about how women can be cruel to each other, and I don’t often see that depicted onscreen. I just wanted to thank you for that, and I’m very excited for your two films coming out.

Darren Lynn Bousman: St. Agatha was one of my favorite films for numerous reasons, but one of them is, all of the women in that movie I have worked with for a long time, very closely, in this thing called: The Tension Experience, which was an immersive theater thing I was doing. And Sabrina was the lead (who played St. Agatha) and the lead of The Tension Experience. Trin, who was the red-haired, kind of evil nun in it. And then Carolyn Hennesy, who was the main Mother Superior, I had been talking to for the last year about this movie. So I think getting to go there, we were all friends. It wasn’t a movie where I didn’t know them and I think it shows on screen.

Tiffany Aleman: The acting is fabulous. I was genuinely scared by the oldest nun, who was in charge of everything. So thank you again, thank you again for scaring me with that!

Don’t miss Death of Me, Maggie Q is amazing in it. The film explores the bizarre world of the supernatural from the perspective of a woman. Like Death of Me, St. Agatha is about a person in an impossible situation. It’s important because it told the story of a young woman trapped in an abusive system, but her tormentors were women. It’s troubling, but it’s important to see internal misogyny depicted so that society can become aware of the issue and amend it. St. Agatha and Death of Me both shed light on social ills and universal fears for the benefit of society—by scaring us.

Bousman is an exciting filmmaker, and the horror community is lucky to have him creating. Death of Me is available On Demand, Digital, and in Theaters on October 2ndSpiral opens on May 21st, 2021.

Death of Me Poster