Something that I really enjoy when I watch a horror movie is tracing the movie’s lineage. Seeing, like, “Oh, ok, I can tell that this is inspired by Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” or “That shot is Night of the Living Dead.” One of the things that impressed me the most about Dementer– I’m sure you’re influenced by a whole body of horror work, but there was nothing that made me go “Oh that’s very obviously this movie.” It seemed unprecedented in that way.
I just hid it.
Ok tell me about that.
We all stand on the shoulders of the movies that have come before us. It’s hard to have- what’s funny is today I just did a podcast with these guys from the UK. We were going over this movie The Unnameable– it’s like this 80’s Lovecraft story, kinda B-movie.
It’s funny, watching that, I had the sensation of- I hadn’t watched it twenty-something years, since the early 90’s, and it had an impact on me and that’s why I wanted to talk about it. But in it they had this POV of the creature, which is exactly what I did in Jugface. And it kinda made me think “Oh man, I know I’ve seen that technique before, but maybe this is what triggered it, for me to use it later on.” Then there was another shot in it where this guy dies and it’s mostly shot in close-up, and it seemed just like a killshot I had in Jugface as well. I was just like “Oh my god this is- crap I forgot and I’m lifting from this movie!” I didn’t even know it.
That’s so funny to hear.
With Jugface and with Dementer, I had scenes that I say “Oh this is like this movie.” It’s not referencing the movie, but it makes me feel the same way. Like in Jugface I had scenes where I was like “Oh this is my David Lynch shot,” because it reminded me of a shot from Lost Highway. With Dementer, there’s a scene where Katie’s welcomed into the group, the skill center, and they’re having a pizza party, and they’re clapping for her and welcoming her. To me that was very much like the “One of us” scene from Freaks.
Gabba gabba hey!
Yeah, so it just felt like- and I’m a huge Freaks fan, and it wasn’t like writing it to make it like that. But it’s funny, when you’re writing you’ll just go “Oh that reminds me of this scene.” So things just happen like that and slip in there.
And as soon as you say it, well of course that’s Todd Browning!
You mentioned earlier how a completed movie is a miracle. I think more people should understand that. Dementer was shot in 18 days?
That’s… That’s a miracle of biblical proportions. Especially such a personal movie. I can’t comprehend 14 days. That blew my mind to read that it was shot so quickly.
Well, I mean the crazy thing is, too, that Jugface was shot in 17 days, and it’s a much bigger film with more people, and more gadgets, and stuff like that. I think just working on the student-scale in school, and the short I made before Jugface, I always shot fast, or tried to move fast. I never had the liberty of time to do a lot. I think it’s The Raid 2– there’s a scene in The Raid 2, and I think it was 80 days, or maybe it was 40 days or something crazy. Or, no, no- there was just a driving scene, and they shot for 17 days, just one driving scene.
Damn, your whole movie-
In the same time! Which was crazy. I wish I had all that time, because you’re always wanting more shots, more opportunities to craft the scene.
I knew this was going to be a very small crew, just like the same size crew I made a short with. I knew that would enable us to move fast, which was important. Normally when you do an independent feature, like low-budget, they say to you “You want few characters, you want few locations, you want to be able to lock down the locations.” And with Dementer, it was totally the opposite. It’s a bunch of people- not just a bunch of people, it’s a bunch of people that have disabilities, and it’s a bunch of non-actors acting in the movie. Then I have a lot of locations. So I did all the wrong things, but since we had such a small crew and I was the cameraman, it really enabled us to go fast. For technical reasons, you can’t really bring a camera crew into the skills center where my sister goes. The other people with disabilities would lock up with a whole camera crew there. So I knew that I would have to shoot it myself, they would become comfortable with me. I would go in weeks before with a camera, so that they’re less interested in it by the time that we would be shooting.
It was fast. I had on this backpack rig that would hold the camera, and I didn’t take it off except for lunch. And we would shoot all day, have these long days, and it was just continually try to shoot the given scene and move on. But it’s not that uncommon to shoot in that many days for these lower-budget features.
Maybe not uncommon, but I don’t think people should overlook that.
That’s still phenomenal. Well done, Chad.
I’m assuming that not everybody had the privilege of reading the press release like I did, so would you take us through the inception? I understand you wanted to make a movie with your sister, and then your mom brought it up to you as well?
Yeah. Since back in film school, I’ve always thought about making a story with my sister. But it was always like “What am I gonna do? I don’t wanna do a sappy documentary about her.” Because I don’t want people to feel sorry for her.
It just didn’t make any sense. It was sitting in the back of my brain. Then I saw this movie called The Tribe. It’s shot in this school for the deaf. It’s like a crime drama, but they’re teens in this school. It’s only in sign language, there’s no subtitles. And it’s really immersive in that environment.
As I was watching that- and he’s working with nonactors- I just immediately thought “Oh my god, shooting something in my sister’s world- that would be insane.” Because people just don’t know what that’s like. I mean, I’ve been exposed just because I’d go in there, going to Christmas events or whatever birthdays or what events happen there. It’s always struck me as- it’s this intense environment that people just don’t see. And that immediately sparked my attention. I just thought “What can this be?” Then, of course, I was like “I write horror movies,” so… It’s gonna be a horror movie. And once I thought that I thought “Oh man, that could be really powerful to explore that environment and create a horror movie.
But I didn’t even want to verbalize it to other people. I was just too nervous about it. I would mention it randomly every once in a while and people would just be like “What? Ok whatever Chad.” Then one day, I was getting serious about the idea, and I hadn’t said anything to my mom yet. She says “Oh I had this dream last night, and you were in it, and you had made this movie with Stephanie and everybody loved it.”
After Jugface, I had a bunch of scripts not happen and projects not go anywhere, and I moved out to L.A. for a year, and that didn’t go really well either. So I moved back to Nashville and I wanted to do something that would generate attention, a new project that was cool and something only I could do, and fund myself. So I had this crazy idea to do a movie with my sister. Let’s see what that’s like. Then I said to my mom “I’m thinking about doing this.” The first time, she said “That sounds awesome.” Then, when it got closer and I told her I needed permission to shoot at the skills center, she was nervous. She said “Oh, I’m just worried Stephanie will mess it up and you’ll be mad.” And I was like “No don’t worry about it, we’ll just try it and see what happens.
Well done for following that impulse without sacrificing any story. Instead, the movie has such high stakes. From frame one, we have this very scary, surreal imagery to tell us “We’re not safe.” Even though we’re introduced to this main character applying for a job in a very seemingly safe, neutral location, we have this barrage of imagery we, as the audience, don’t really know how it fits into the narrative. Immediately, I just felt the stakes were very high. Then they only get higher.
The tension starts off in a weird place- with that montage and with the sound. You just know things are not going to be good. And then you’re exposed to these images you may not have ever seen before, all these close ups of people with disabilities. You remember “Oh my gosh this is a horror movie. And where is this thing going?”
The fact that I used mostly nonactors- besides Katie and Larry Fessenden- the fact that she was an actress and everyone else was real, and everything was shot kind of matter-of-fact, it made you feel like she was wrong, like she shouldn’t be there. Even before she does any actions, you’re just thinking “Oh no.” And that’s the person you’re going to be with for the rest of the movie. I just think it sets you up in a perfect way for there to be loads of dread.
It’s rare that you watch a movie and think “Oh please don’t let anybody get hurt.”
You mentioned Larry Fessenden- what’s it like having him involved in two projects? He’s a Kinkle-regular.
I’m gonna force him to be in every project I do for the rest of my life. I love Larry. I was just a big fan of his to begin with. In particular when I got into college, starting watching Habit, just became a really big fan. I moved to New York and I knew someone- a professor that knew him. So I got along great with him. He’s an indie horror legend. And he’s just a down-to-earth, cool person to be around.
I tell people all the time, one of my favorite parts of making Jugface was just Larry. He was that cool. On the last day- you generally shoot people out. So you’ll only have them the first week and then they’re gone. And we had him for maybe two weeks, and then he was leaving. And it happened perfectly where we had an off day on the day when he was going to be leaving, so he spent the whole day with me. And we just talked about horror movies, ate, and spent a bunch of time together, it was really special. So after that, we’ve kept in touch. I’ve always wanted him to be in everything that I’ve done. So when I was writing this, the character’s name was always Larry, the cult-leader.
So I had to have him, the whole time.
So it was written with him in mind.
Of course. And I knew he would know what I was going for, he could pull off this creepy cult leader. Because he has a cult personality, anyway.
The funny thing is, in the movie he’s wearing these rings that are really kind of creepy. That’s his normal wardrobe.
Oh hell yeah, he just showed up like that?
He just showed up like that. I think we put him in a different shirt.
I would love to learn about what lessons you learned this time around.
It’s a different pressure, this movie vs. Jugface. Because Jugface had a little bit of money behind it. The budget was bigger, the egos were bigger, and the schedule was just as tight. But they were professional actors, so working with them was kinda fast. We could get through scenes, I didn’t have to do extra stuff. In this movie, we’re working with my sister, who has Downs, and all the nonactors-
AT THIS POINT, DEAR READERS, THE ZOOM CALL GOT KINDA HARD TO HEAR
I know at one point, Katie helped quite a bit, particularly with the clients, like my sister (they call them clients at the center where she goes). There’s a scene where Katie comes in and Stephanie’s not there, and she says to this guy named Charles Lee “Charles, where’s Stephanie?” And he’s supposed to say “I don’t know.”
But instead what happened was hilarious?
Yes. What happened was, we did the scene, and she goes “Charles Lee, where’s Stephanie?” And he goes “She’s right over there!” Because she was just sitting right over there. So Katie’s like “No, no, no… We’re just pretending. Don’t say she’s over there.” And we run it again and she goes “Charles Lee, where’s Stephanie at?” And he goes “I don’t know, we’re just pretending!” Then we’re all like “No, don’t say you’re just pretending, you don’t know.” And then he got it right.
Dude- even his final line read as it is in the movie, very funny. He nailed it. Dude’s got chops. Well done, Charles Lee.
Chad, I wanted to ask you about the “Horned God” symbol. This recurring moon with the crescent on top. Is that what that symbol is?
Yeah. It’s a Horned God symbol. I wish I had a good explanation as to why I used it, other than, I think when I looked it up it seemed demonic or some sort of pagan. I wish it was something cool like “It means all these things that are intertwined with the story.” It just kinda seemed right. I just decided to use it.
You got me, I saw it and said “I’m gonna ask him about this and I’ll learn about it.”
I wish I had a cool story.
I prefer this! It’s a cool symbol.
It’s a cool symbol. I wanted something real, too. Like a cool symbol that wasn’t used a lot, but it was still a real thing, not something I came up with.
But then, happy things happen. With “Dementer,” the name of it, I was like “Demented…” because my mom would say things about me when I was a kid. She’d say “Well you know Chad, he’s just a little demented,” just joking or whatever. So that was in my head and I was like “A person who does demented things… a dementer?” And I just happened to look it up. It’s someone who influences others, badly, like an evil omen or something. It worked out perfectly to mean what the story is about.
You laid some breadcrumbs!
That’s cool. The symbol is great because- I’m always interested in iconography in horror. What’s the piece of this movie that people will find when they close their eyes and think of Dementer? And you have this perfect poster image with that symbol.
That’s exactly one of the reasons I wanted it. With Jugface, the jugs were the imagery you could associate with the movie. So with Dementer, I knew I needed something like- some sort of imagery. And the symbol was perfect. I don’t know if you saw the poster I did for the festival run. But it’s just the symbol, dripping blood on white. And people remember that.
It’s very evocative.
Like, someone- Jugface has just been released on Arrow Player out in the UK. I remember talking to someone, I said “I have this new movie Dementer,” and the girl said “Oh that poster’s beautiful!”
It really stuck out in people’s minds. So I’m always trying to come up with those elements. Those are kind of the marketable or sellable elements that you kinda need. I don’t mind it in this sense, because-
It’s cool. And it’s just part of the movie, it’s not something exterior that they’re using that’s cheesy. It’s part of it.
Because people have to find it. They need some way to identify it.
I’d like to ask- and I understand everything is always changing and moving. But I’d like to ask you what is your “blue-sky” project. Somebody says “Here’s the green light on as many millions of dollars as you want to spend on your next thing.” What is it?
I’ve been writing for a while, and I do have some different scripts that I really love. I don’t even know which one exactly. I have one, one of my very first screenplays, it’s set in a carnival. It’s a story about a girl who is transforming into this erotic creature. She wants to get out of this carnival because she knows the carnival will use her later as a sex slave. So she’s trying to find her mother and have a real-life… That’s called “The Wilders,” and I’d really like to make that. That’s always stuck with me.
Tale as old as time, really.
It’s actually a little bit of a love story as well.
Like I said, I have a million other scripts that would be equally as good and different.
You gotta stay locked and loaded, you never know who’s gonna say “Yeah, let me read something from you.”
Ok, similar question, someone says “As many million dollars as you want, go for it, we’re greenlighting it,” but you’re taking of the reigns of a franchise, or even one movie you get to remake it or make a sequel- what are you doing with IPs?
Easy. So easy. The Beyond.
Oh yeah! The Fulci movie?
Yeah. I feel like I would be perfect to do that. Southern setting, kinda trippy. I love that movie so much and at one time I was trying to find out who owned the rights to it. I was getting kinda close and people were saying “That movie doesn’t need to be remade, QUIT!” Not that I had any money to do it, but I was trying to find the rights to it.
I would be so onboard to see that.
Sometimes I get put off by people when they do remakes. Because it’s just trying to rehash it for money. They’re just trying to put it back out there. That’s not really my motivation for it. I would just try to put a little bit of a different spin on it- I don’t know if “modernize” would be the right word for it. But just do my version of it. It’s not that it wouldn’t have anything to do with the original, it would just be my version of it. It would still stand as its own thing, and people could still love it for what it is. I wouldn’t be taking anything away from [the original The Beyond] at all. I just wanna do my version of it. Almost out of respect for it. Not that I could do it better, or that something’s wrong with it. I just love it so much that I just want to work with those elements.
I would, again, I would love to see that. If I was Mr. Executive Producer over here with big bucks, we’d be cakin’, Chad.
Just put it out into the world, who knows?
The Beyond: 2025. That’d be cool. I don’t know why that has sat.
It’s a rights thing. Whoever owns the rights to it, or they’re trying to protect it- that’s kinda what I think. Some of these movies it would be hard to even get the rights. Just who owns it, and maybe there’s some legal things behind it. So who knows.
Well, Chad, I don’t have any other Dementer-related questions I have to ask you. Is there anything- ok, so boom, today’s the release date, somebody’s listening to this because we figured out how to upload it automatically, so they’re listening to it in real-time: What’s your message to anybody that’s about to sit down to watch Dementer?
Well I would say that it’s probably unlike anything you’ve seen before. As I was editing it, I was saying “I’ve never seen this movie before.” If you just sit back and let this movie show you what it has to show you, it will take you on a really crazy ride, that you probably haven’t experienced before, in that it’s like… conceptually, you’re in the mind of someone who has a fractured mind. So you’re only going to know what she knows and sees. And you’re going to have to be ok with that. Because it ties into the story. So I think that would be the best way to go into it.
I agree wholeheartedly with what you’ve said. It is a helluva ride, this movie.
I wouldn’t drink. Don’t drink while you watch this.
No, you’ll be lost.
This isn’t a movie to drink to. Not a party horror.
If I was going to be cliched and tell people that it’s like a rollercoaster, I’d be careful to tell them that it’s not a Universal Studios rollercoaster, it’s a coaster on the boardwalk where you cant see the track coming in front of you, and you kinda hurt your neck whipping around. And you’re kinda like “Is this thing gonna break?”
“Is this thing gonna break?” Yeah, that’s fairly accurate.
Read part 1 of our 2 part interview with Dementer director Chad Crawford Kinkle.
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