The Arrow interviews Jon Keeyes
"American Nightmare" is a low budget slasher flick that will be hitting the stores soon on tape and DVD. Having seen and enjoyed the film I decided to slap a couple of questions in director Jon Keeyes way, this is what the dude had to say.
What's your favorite horror movie?
that consistently stay in my mind are "Halloween",
of the Dead" and "American Werewolf in London".
I prefer the
horror movies of the seventies and eighties.
2- I spotted many "Halloween" references throughout "American Nightmare". Was Carpenter's classic an inspiration?
a definite inspiration. Halloween is one of the earliest
horror films I remember and it has stayed with me ever since.
It is also a bit more than just Halloween in that many of
Carpenter's earlier movies really influenced me. "The Fog" is
another particular one.
3- Most of the kills in the film take place off-screen. Was that due to budget constraints or was it a creative decision?
actually both. One of the things I hate seeing in low-budget
films is low-budget effects that end up looking bad. It
destroys a horror film, in my opinion. Second, I'm a huge fan
of psychological horror. I think our own minds can create a
greater amount of horror than anything we can show on a
screen. So it was really a combination of not wanting to show
bad effects but also wanting to really create something in the
audience's mind. It worked since most people believe Jane is
masturbating with a knife and Bruce is being castrated. In the
script, neither is occurring but our minds go to the most
disturbing place possible.
4- Debbie Rochon blew me away as psycho babe Jane Toppan. Did you audition many actresses for the part? Was she your first choice?
Debbie was my
first and only choice. She was onboard around the time the
first draft was completed. I've known Debbie for many years
and she wouldn't leave my mind while I was writing the movie.
I've been unhappy with some of the ways directors have treated
(or diminished) Debbie's talent and felt that she could bring
one of the strongest and most memorable performances to the
role. She spent nearly a year learning about female killers
and finding Jane and Jane's headspace. I don't think anyone
could have brought more to the role than Debbie did.
5- One of the more gruesome scenes in the flick was the knife "masturbation" sequence. Was it an odd scene to shoot? How did that go down?
not a masturbation scene. This goes back to the earlier answer
of psychological horror. If the scene is watched closely, you
can see Jane dragging the knife across her leg - not
elsewhere. But, between the performance and our own minds, the
audience has decided she is masturbating with a knife. As far
as shooting the scene, it's one long shoot. We did eight takes
but mostly because of problems with the dolly and track.
Debbie found "Jane's space" for the scene and was
able to maintain it for the whole time.
Any funny set stories you can share with us?
The goat ass
story. Sometime during the film's production the Texas crew
decided to teach Debbie -
a New Yorker - Texas sayings. The one that got latched onto
was "I'm fixin' to fuck y'all up y'alls goat ass."
For the entire shoot, Debbie was wandering around the set
saying it to people which always brought a big round of
laughs. The funniest thing, however, was that it's not a Texas
saying and no one really knows where the saying got started on
the set. There's going to be a little extras section on the
DVD about the goat-ass story.
7- I've heard that Jane Toppan was based on a real life serial killer. Is that true and may I ask who?
was a serial killer at the end of the 1800's into the early
1900's. She was a nurse who took to killing entire families
primarily through poisoning. She was even known to cross parts
of the country just to be able to kill the entire family off.
She was eventually captured and put into a criminal hospital
for the insane. It is believed that Jane Toppan killed more
people than any other female serial killer.
8- The end of "American Nightmare" leaves its door wide open for a sequel. Can we expect one?
I would like
to do one. I really like Jane and would like to create a
mythology around her. I've worked on a variety of ideas for a
sequel, but haven't found the one that feels right to me. I
generally don't like sequels so I want to be careful how I
treat one. Debbie and I toss around ideas on a regular basis
and I'm sure the script will come together eventually. I think
Jane - along with Caligari and the American Nightmare pirate
radio show - have a lot of potential as a movie mythology and
want to pursue that. Likewise, a lot of people have expressed
an interest in seeing more of Jane and learning more about
9- What's your stand on today's slew of slashers. Are you hip to them?
I watch them
but I'm not real impressed by them. Most of the slasher films
of today are marketing movies and not real horror films.
Slasher films should be all about the terror and the horror,
not about the trendy, hip actors and the cool, top 40 music. I
watch them because I like to see what it is audiences are
watching and how they are responding to them, but I don't find
them particular gratifying as horror films go.
10- What's next on your plate? Another genre film perhaps?
I have several projects on my plate. I have two different scripts that are being shopped around for financing. One is a genre film dealing with a schizophrenic that believes God has commanded him to kill his daughter by Xmas. It pursues his murder spree as he falls into his schizophrenia and explores the horrifying nature of this sickness. The other is a ghost story about a father and daughter who inherit a house only to discover it is haunted. I'm also working on the script for an "American Nightmare" sequel, and I'm in talks with several production houses to possibly direct some movies beyond my own scripts.
I'd like to thank Jon for his time and for the pleasure that was "American Nightmare". Keep 'em coming, bud!