Icons of Fright Chat With LOST AFTER DARK Writer Bo Ransdell and Director Ian Kessner

lafAnchor Bay’s LOST AFTER DARK, an homage to the slasher films of the ’80s is now on DVD/Bluray (review soon), and we thought it would be nice to chat with the film’s writer, Bo Ransdell, along with Director Ian Kessner. We talk about the challenges of paying homage to the films they grew up loving while trying to make something fresh and original at the same time. Read on!

Spring Ball, 1984. Adrienne (Kendra Leigh Timmins, Midnight Sun,Wingin’ It“), a straight-A student, joins her quarterback crush Sean (Justin Kelly, Maps To The Stars, Big Muddy) and some friends in sneaking out of their high school dance for some unsupervised mayhem. The teens’ party plans hit a snag when they run out of gas on a deserted road. They head out on foot and discover a rundown farmhouse where they hope to find help. Instead they find themselves at the mercy of Junior Joad (Mark Wiebe, Sweet Karma), a cannibal killer from an urban legend. After the brutal murder of one of their friends, the group’s quest for help becomes one of survival. Will anyone survive the night?


 

It’s apparent that you have an affinity for the slasher films of the ’80s. What inspired you to tell a story that took viewers back to that era? 

Ian: I grew up on 80’s horror films, but I wasn’t looking specifically to do a retro 80’s slasher until I read Bo’s first draft of the film.  It was like putting on a favorite old T-shirt.  All the familiar genre tropes were there, but they were subverted in a really exciting way.  So making it was a chance to simultaneously revisit my youth, while paying homage to the low budget slashers I loved like the Friday The 13th, Halloween, and A Nightmare on Elm Street franchises.

Bo: No surprise, that’s the era I grew up on.  I still think horror from that period was some of the finest ever made.  And modern slashers felt so humorless to me, too focused on being clever to be entertaining.  When I wrote the initial script, it really came from a place of  “I want to see this movie.  No one else is doing exactly what I want to see done,” which meant not being afraid to be silly and fun and still remain brutal and aggressive.

Did you run into any troubles trying to tell a fresh story that at the same time, paid homage to the films you loved? 

Bo: That’s always a strain, because the film we were doing required elements that people are familiar with, but to just do the stereotypes isn’t as interesting.  There’s always a push in filmmaking from above to do the things that are tried and true, the things that have been successful before because it’s less risk.  Ian fought hard for the elements in the script that subverted those ideas, while still making the movie recognizable and, most importantly, fun.

Ian:  In order to do something fresh you need to take risks.  The moments in the script I had to fight hardest for were the one’s that veered from the formula people were used to.  I can’t say more with out spoiling the film for anyone who hasn’t seen it yet.  Another key was making sure that the elements that felt stereotypical were still original and not straight rip-offs.

Are there any films in particular that inspired this one, or just films in the slasher genre that you feel were crucial to what you were trying to do?

Ian: I mentioned a few of the big ones earlier, with the original Friday The 13th being at the top of the list.  I would add to that slashers like Happy Birthday to Me, My Bloody Valentine, April Fool’s Day, and Sleepaway Camp.  I also spent time in prep revisiting the John Hughes teen comedy cannon, as well as classics like The Last American Virgin and Valley Girl.

Bo: So many.  People have already found the Zombi 2 nod, and obviously The Texas Chainsaw Massacre shares some DNA.  Hell Night is one that influenced me, for sure, and the usual suspects in the F13 series and Halloween is the Rosetta Stone for so many slashers.  The names are a tip of the hat to Fred Dekker’s Night of the Creeps, which is one of the truly great horror films of the ‘80s and is too-often overlooked.

The casting of Robert Patrick was a very inspired choice, I’m curious, how did his involvement in the film come about?

Bo: Ian can speak to the specifics, but we knew the kind of actor we needed for Mr. C.  We started tossing names to one another, and Robert’s was always on the list.  He’s totally underrated as a comedic actor, which this part calls for.  And he nailed it.  My favorite line in the movie is a bit of improv he tossed in.  I can’t say enough nice things about him.  If you’re making a movie, hire Robert Patrick.  He will make it better.

Ian: Robert Patrick has a very authoritative quality that we were looking for, because we needed an ex-military man.  At the same time he’s just really likable and cool.  So casting him was a no-brainer.  Luckily the stars aligned because when we went out to him it turned out I knew his manager, so I had that in my favor.  He was a big fan of the script and passed it to Robert who really got the tone and thought it was a lot of fun.  He also had a small hole in his schedule so the timing was serendipitous.  So I’d say it was a combination of great material and dumb luck.

What’s next on your plate? 

Bo: We have a script for a remake of Waxwork I’m very excited about, and obviously we’ve talked about a sequel, because that’s part of this kind of a movie, too, but it would be a very different film than the first.  A lot of things, really, but we’re at the place of seeing which generates the most enthusiasm and we’ll take it from there.

Ian:  The overwhelmingly positive reaction we’ve been getting by both critics and horror fans is incredibly satisfying.  Watching it with audiences and seeing them laugh and scream in all the right places is such an incredible rush.  I’m really grateful.  Now I just hope Lost After Dark is a financial success so that Bo and I can keep making movies.  So if you’re reading this and you liked the film please spread the word!

LOST AFTER DARK is now available on DVD/BLURAY, via Anchor Bay.

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