Icons of Fright Interview With V/H/S: VIRAL’s “Bonestorm” directors, Benson/Moorhead

vhs-viral-blu-ray-cover-05Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead have done an excellent job making a name for themselves with not only releasing one of the most unique genre films in years, RESOLUTION, but have made waves with their upcoming romantic horror story, SPRING. The up and coming directorial duo have a knack for giving interesting stories to viewers and the performances  in their films are always very realistic, even in supernatural or various other horror-filled situations. In between RESOLUTION and SPRING, the duo were tapped to contribute a segment to V/H/S:VIRAL (out today on DVD/Bluray), the third film in the V/H/S series. Seeing it as a good opportunity to have a great time, the duo helmed “Bonestorm” a tale of your average skateboarders having to fight a group of skeletal figures, all while having GoPro cameras attached to their heads/boards. Benson & Moorhead spoke with us recently about the project, and as always, had interesting things to say. Read on!


 

Moorhead: Good to hear from ya.

Icons: Our pleasure. So yeah, I just had a few questions for you guys. First off, when the synopsis was released for each segment of V/H/S: VIRAL, I read of “skateboarders fighting off the undead” and what’s funny is that I knew it had to be the segment you guys were doing. 

Moorhead: That’s great! (laughs).

I’m curious though, how in the hell did you two come up with that idea?

Benson: We pitched maybe six or seven different ideas for a short film with the parameters of the camera being on. You want something visually interesting, so we went down the road with action sports stuff, surfing/skydiving, which would have a point to have the camera on. Skateboarding jumped right into our head, and I think why that is, is because of Bones Brigade. It has such a wide amount of imagery in skateboard culture and skateboard marketing, with the skeleton in it, so I think that kind of just jumps into your brain when you go down that road. When you think about it, they’re rolling around and doing air, they’re on wheels, and when you think about it, there’s just something cool about using your skateboard as a sword and hitting bones.

(Laughs). Seriously!

Benson: ..and also, Aaron and I were like, “Oh my God!” and one of the first shots he came up with was like, “He has a fucking GoPro on his skateboard and his board is being used as a sword, it’ll be bashing in skulls, from the point of view of the camera.” That sounds really cool, you know?

Yeah, definitely. 

Benson: Another thing, is the accurate portrayal of a skateboarder, not the typical “cast an actor as a skateboarder” of having them just say “Gnarly dude!”. I think the closest you get to an accurate portrayal in cinema is Larry Clark’s KIDS. We thought that the fact that (in Bonestorm) you have these kids as protagonists and they have no fear, and even though it’s horror, they won’t be the victims. What’s that line from THE WATCHMEN?, “I’m not locked in here with you, you’re locked in here with me!“. I feel like I just butchered that line (laughs).

No, that’s 100% right.

Moorhead: I just watched the trailer for the new HITMAN movie and they stole that line from it. It’s so odd that the line would come up again.

It’s funny that you mentioned Larry Clark’s KIDS, he shot a film in my hometown actually, and there was some skating in that one too, but I’m unsure if it was ever released in the states. 

Moorhead: Not WASSUP ROCKERS, right?

I think it was called KEN PARK. It was neat to have someone like that film something in a smaller city like Visalia (CA). 

Benson: That’s cool.

One of the things I really liked about your guys’ segment in V/H/S:VIRAL was how real it felt, as far as the skaters. Did you guys just stumble across those kids? I’m curious how the casting went. 

Moorhead: I guess in a way it was like we just found them, but it wasn’t like “Hey you!, we’re going to go film right now”, there was an auditioning process. On two Saturdays, Justin and I split up and went to different skate parks in L.A., we just sat there looking around and noting which ones had personality and some kind of skill. If they did have personality and skill, we did this thing where we’d just go up and say, “Hey, I know this is weird, and I’m not a cop”, (both laugh) “but we’re doing a movie that is going to have skateboarders in it, and if you’re willing, I’d like to take your picture and your phone number if you’d like to come and audition”. For the most part, everyone was extraordinarily willing. The creepy thing we had to ask was “Are you eighteen?”, because most skaters aren’t. It was like, “Let me take your picture, are you eighteen? and let me get your number”, it felt really creepy.

I bet. That’s REALLY funny. 

Moorhead: We also went to skate shops or called them up and asked “Who are your best skaters, send them our way” and we had an audition day. Those two boys were almost immediately cast during the audition day. They just had SO much personality when they walked through the door. The auditioning process was basically just us asking them to skate around while we ask them questions and have them tell us stories. We just wanted to see if they could skate and if they could maybe make us laugh. Even though the film is probably partially improv, I think we were going more for naturalism over improvisation.

How was the experience of shooting Bonestorm? Was it very different than say RESOLUTION or SPRING?

Benson: Yeah. Something that gets lost sometimes is that you know how when something has a trilogy or a franchise?

Yeah. 

Benson: When something is like that, you think that there’s a substantial budget. It’s still a scrappy little movie, and we told our collaborators that it’s like Mortal Kombat meets Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and Call of Duty. And we did that, with a scrappy low budget movie. It was definitely a hard shoot for everybody. Very hard, but thank god it paid off. There were point where we were like, “Can we even do this?, Is this possible?”, and finally your movie comes together. When you watch your first cut, you’re like, “Well this is a disaster”, then you watch your second cut and you’re like, “Maybe we can save this disaster”. Then you watch your third cut and you’re like, “THIS IS AWESOME!” (laughs). Of course, when it’s finally together and feels like something, that was big for us. Also, while making it, it was right between making RESOLUTION and SPRING, and though we love all of our films, those two are both extremely cerebral and extremely emotional, so it was fun to go do something almost from a kid’s point of view. To care about just the visceral action and it kind of was like just being a kid, you know?

Yeah, it feels that way. What I love about your films so far, is how easy it is to relate to the characters. I’ve definitely made it no secret how much I loved RESOLUTION..

Moorhead: Thanks for that.

No problem. Your characters always feel like people I’ve known in my life. ESPECIALLY with Bonestorm, it feels like I’ve hung out with those kids growing up. I’m curious if it’s in the casting or if you really try to write that ability to relate into the scripts?

Benson: I think it’s every step of the way.

Moorhead: It’s something we double check ourselves on, constantly.

Benson: Every step of the way, we’re trying to get real people. It’s during the script phase, during casting, rehearsal, it’s in the edit. It’s in which take feels more like they’re real people and not characters. It’s almost a separate thing, the difference between a natural performance and a dramatic one. Sometimes there is a GREAT dramatic delivery, but we’re trying to make real people, it’s just the wrong way of doing it. We try in the casting process to cast someone who is as close to actual character as possible, because no matter how much research someone has done, those people have researched their whole life for that role.

It shows. Well, thanks so much for taking the time to talk today guys, I really appreciate it. 

Benson: Thank you.

Moorhead: Thank you man.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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