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INT: Jon Keeyes

09.15.2001by: The Arrow

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.

1- What's your favorite horror movie?

The ones that consistently stay in my mind are "Halloween", "Psycho", "Dawn 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?

Carpenter was 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?

It was 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?

It's actually 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.

6- 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?

Jane Toppan 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 her.

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.



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