Icons of Fright SXSW Interview: Director Mickey Keating Talks POD, RITUAL, DARLING and CARNAGE PARK!!

POD-posterOne of the most anticipated “midnight” movies at this year’s SXSW (South by Southwest) festival, is director Mickey Keating’s POD, the follow-up to Keating’s VERY entertaining 2013 low-budget yet high on thrills film RITUAL. While RITUAL was a scary and tense film about two people being stalked by a cult, POD deals with very different subjects and shows Keating’s trend of never making the same kind of films twice. A true cinephile, Keating is a director to look out for, and we were lucky enough to have a chat with the talented filmmaker regarding POD, RITUAL and his next two films, DARLING and CARNAGE PARK. Read on!



How’s it going, Mickey?

Hey, how’s it going, man?

I am doing fine, just reading about Harrison Ford crashing his plane into a golf course, what’s up with that?

I know dude, how weird is that? He’s still tickin though, the dude’s indestructible.

Seriously. Well enough about Harrison Ford, let’s talk about you! You have a real knack for creating very suspenseful and tense films, I mean RITUAL was one of my favorite films that I saw last year..

Thanks man, thank you for saying that, I really appreciate it.

It was great man. While a lot of filmmakers working within the genre tend to focus more on style than substance, the priority in your films seems to be on the story itself and the characters that inhabit those stories. What inspires that approach for you?

I don’t know, I mean, I think it just comes down to the fact that I like to watch characters interact in those breaths between the horror. Obviously I love the POD_directorhorror genre, and it’s important, but I feel like within the genre, you’re backed into a corner and expected to follow a certain beat and path. I think what’s interesting and fascinating to me, is watching real people exist in a world where bad things are happening. What I tired to do with RITUAL was tell the story of bad things happening to bad people. POD is in the similar vein, it’s people having to deal with a circumstance that’s far bigger than themselves, before having to face anything that’s necessarily genre. I think that just comes with my love of the films of Altman, Cassavetes, and showing that to the audience and letting the audience get to know the characters before we just kill them off.

That’s so awesome that you mentioned liking Cassavetes. When I showed a friend RITUAL last year, we both said afterwards that it felt like John Cassavetes had made a horror film. That’s so interesting, so cool. 

Oh man, thank you so much for thinking that, and saying it. That’s the highest compliment I’ve ever received (laughs).

Yeah, Cassavetes is a huge deal to me too, I adore his films. From what I’ve seen of POD so far, what impressed me was how different it felt than RITUAL. I love it when filmmakers don’t allow themselves to be put into those boxes that so many are put in. Is that “all across the board” approach something that is important to you as a storyteller and filmmaker?

Absolutely, and I think that just comes from the fact that I love to watch EVERY kind of movie. Whenever I’m not making films, I’m just watching and DEVOURING everything from every genre, I don’t limit myself to anything in particular.

That’s great.

I think what that does, is allow me to try new things and get excited by new subgenres. If RITUAL was kind of my ode to pulpy, kind of Texas-crime thrillers, then this one (POD) is definitely a love letter to my adamant adoration for the paranoid conspiracy thrillers of the ’60s and ’70s, like THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE or even THE NINTH CONFIGURATION by William Peter Blatty. Of course, the TWILIGHT ZONE was big too, “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street” of course being the best short-form version of that around, even “Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?“, they’re just masterpieces. That tremendously influenced me, and I didn’t get a chance to do that with RITUAL, so I wanted to do it with POD, but I also love SILENT HILL and BUG and THE MIST, where people turn on people and people are each other’s most immediate threats. That’s what I wanted to try to delve into.

Was the experience of filming POD much different than it was with filming RITUAL?

Oh yeah, definitely. When we sold RITUAL, it allowed me to get more money for this one. RITUAL was so small, we shot it for $25,000 on weekends, and on this one, we were actually able to fly out the crew and be able to stay where we were shooting, which helped give it an incredible change of pace. On the flipside though, we were in the middle of nowhere Maine, and it was the coldest winter they had experienced in a LONG time. I’m from Florida, so I don’t deal well with the cold (laughs), so in that regard, it was a lot more taxing, but I was able to use the tools I had this time to really push myself within those boundaries.

So many directors take years in between films, I mean a Spielberg movie is an EVENT, but what impresses me about your work is how now after RITUAL, you’ve already shot two films (POD and DARLING) and are about to go shoot CARNAGE PARK. Is that “never stop” work ethic something that’s very important to you, or do you just hate downtime?

I think it’s a combination of everything, I mean, my favorite filmmakers are predominately pretty prolific. I just started to recently become fascinated with Fassbinder, and that dude made like 43 movies in 13 years! It really kind of just comes down to the fact that there isn’t anything else I really want to do with my life besides make films and kind of just be obliterated by watching films, so even when I was just starting out when I was younger, I’d make a movie, and then I’d make another movie and another movie. That trend is kind of just continuing, because I don’t think I know HOW to do it differently. For the films that I’m on prep on, I still have a ton of others that I’m DYING to make, so I think it’s a combination of that whirlwind energy and the desire to keep on creating.

I know it’s a bit early on, but is there anything you can tell us about your next two films, DARLING and CARNAGE PARK?

Yeah! The intention for DARLING was to do something completely different than POD. By that, I mean I just wanted to make something that felt like a really bad drug trip, where people would sit down and feel like they’re watching this descent into madness. If POD is an homage to those films I mentioned earlier, DARLING is like the same, but to films like REPULSION, ERASERHEAD, AUDITION and TROUBLE EVERY DAY. So that’s definitely like a drug trip, and CARNAGE PARK is, to continuously try to go about things differently, kind of my nod to Peckinpah films. It’s kind of like a heist movie gone completely awry, but it’s set in 1978 and is going to be VERY VERY VERY violent and VERY mean. It’s going to be a pretty vicious movie, so I hope audiences are kind of primed for that return to real people doing bad things and that kind of intense violence that we all saw in the French extremism and more predominately in the early 2000’s.

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