Interview: Jay Kay Talks CHAOS A.D. and more With Filmmaker Chris Woods!
Underground filmmaking has many infected and twisted roots. Whether we look at exploitation films from the mind of Herschell Gordon Lewis or Jack Hill, strong female characters like Camille Keaton, Giallo-styled color with Dario Argento, modern day indie filmmaking like TOE TAG‘s Fred Vogel or the slasher sub-genre with pillars like HALLOWEEN or FRIDAY THE 13TH, filmmakers from all walks of life have deep and dark corners to explore in their visions of the very fluid film genre of horror. Having its World Premiere screening at the underground film festival, Slaughter in Syracuse, and with less than a month on its Indiegogo fan funding, Chris Woods has brought the love of so much horror before his time into one dirty, visceral and truly underground piece of filmmaking with CHAOS A.D.
CHAOS A.D. is a throwback to the old school underground horror blending all sorts of exploitation including Italian gore, slasher and more! Can you talk about the influences that feed and inspired this beast of film?
Well I have always been a big fan of 70’s and 80’s horror both American and European films. I grew up in the late 70’s and 80’s and have fond memories of going to the local video store to rent all these great horror films that came out around that time. And I fell in love with that genre. I have always liked the style of Dario Argento on how he blended great music with a wide variety in colors with the lighting. Those elements there helped to tell his story in his films. I’m also a huge Herschell Gordon Lewis fan and rented a lot of his films that he made in the 60’s. The stuff that he made was outrageous and his films were the first ones to show gore on screen. So in my films I like to incorporate those styles with also creating my own. That was a time (70’s and 80’s) that horror was at its best and I think after that it lost its steam. I like to bring back that old school style to this generation.
CHAOS A.D. had its premiere at this year Slaughter in Syracuse. What was that experience like and how did it feel to screen the film in the same state it was filmed in? What was your feelings seeing it first illuminate on the screen?
It was an awesome feeling. I was born and raised in Utica, NY not too far from Syracuse and wanted to premiere this film in my home state. This area made me who I am today. This is where I discovered all the horror films I became a fan of. But it is always great to see your work on the big screen and I enjoyed seeing CHAOS A.D. on there. I like to sit back and watch the audience and see how they react to the film. I was very happy with the reaction it got.
As dark, disturbing and unsettling the whole film is, you do write empowering and evolving female characters whether heel or face. Can you talk about writing female characters that kick ass and why go with such a female heavy story?
I wanted to do something different in a horror film and have the female characters dominate the screen. I think it’s very fresh to see strong female characters in movies whether their good or evil. It’s a good change from seeing women just running scared and seem weak to making them stronger than some of the male characters. I also wanted to create new horror villains in the tradition of Michael Myers, Leatherface, Jason and Freddy Kruger, but make them women. With the character of Misery, I wanted her to be a female version of Leatherface or Jason. Someone you would be terrified of and someone that would have the strength and skills to take on any comers and hold their own.
As visually stunning the film is, you have a story to tell also. Can you talk about the aspect of the themes of CHAOS A.D. and the idea of voyeurism that plays into it?
The original script for the film I wrote back in 1995 before I even ever shot any films. I was just writing a bunch of stories to hope one-day film them. I rewrote the film two more times in the late 90’s and early 2000’s and then let it sit. In 2014 I felt it was time to make this movie and I had the means to do it. So, I took some things from the original scripts and then added new material to fit our current time. The story almost takes place in an alternate world or in the not so distant future. There is chaos all around the world. Everyone in the film is jaded to some extent. No one has a perfect life. So, when some of the characters get abducted by the villains they are thrown into an even much worse situation. And with the element of voyeurism is a sign of times. Everywhere you go now someone is recording it. With cell phones and social media everything is captured and broadcast for the whole world to see in a matter of minutes and even live as it is happening. That’s the world we are living in now and I wanted the film to reflect that.
What was some of the techniques used to create such lush, invoking and emotionally driven color and light within the film?
It was actually very simple. We just used basic shop lights we got at Walmart and placed colored gels on them and just positioned them in the right spots. I wanted there to be a variety of color, with using blues, reds, greens and yellows. Most of these colors come in once we get to the villain’s lair where before I just used room lighting for the other scenes. We also had an amazing art director and set designer, Bishop J. Stark, who created the sets that were used in the film. The look and colors on them also set the tone for the film and gave it a gritty rough but larger than life look.
One thing you do that could be a definite death nail for some films is destroy the lead female characters (Sarah Russo & Janet Loomis) by taking Sarah’s innocence and bravery through rape as well as invoking the killer within Janet. Yet in CHAOS A.D. , similar to I SPIT ON YOUR GRAVE, they survive and become more calloused characters. Can you speak about your decision to put them through these trials as well as their journey? How many drafts did it take to finally mold them?
It took a few drafts to get the characters where I wanted them to be. Like I mentioned before I written the original script over twenty years ago and the Sarah and Janet characters were in some of those original drafts. I wanted the two of those characters to be pushed to the limit and have them stripped of almost everything. It makes the audience want to root for them more and want to see them rise back up and get their vengeance. It also helps the villains in the story as well. The eviler they do to the characters you feel for the victims more and the more you hate the villains and want to see them get punished by our heroines.
The crew of CHAOS A.D. including Bytch, Vixen, Uncle Lester, Misery and Lilith is quite charismatic, disturbing and the different sides of the human monster. Talk about your influences the help to cultivate them? Why five members? Give insight also into the puppet masters?
I just wanted to make some badass villains in the tradition of the ones I grew up on. As I mentioned earlier I wanted to create horror villains like Leatherface and Freddy Kruger, which I think we don’t really have any more in newer horror films. I also liked the crazy family or crazy group of characters like in THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE and THE HILLS HAVE EYES and even THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT. I wanted to present evil characters that when you watched them on screen you couldn’t believe how far they would go. And as far as the members I thought five would be a good number. You want to have a good number of people especially when there holding others as hostage. It’s best to have strength in numbers. Bytch is the leader of the group while Vixen is her right hand women and lover. Uncle Lester and Lilith are the wild savages, which are almost like their wild dogs that they have sick on people. And then you have Misery who is the monster and their secret weapon that does all the damage and torture for the most part. And not to give too much away, there are some puppet masters pulling the strings from behind the curtain with these five, but you’ll have to watch the movie to see who they are and what there all about.
How much does pro wrestling reflect the costumes, characters, makeup and dialogue?
I have been a wrestling fan almost as long as I have been a horror movie fan. I love wrestling. There’s great drama in the storytelling. Just like horror movies you have good vs. evil with your heels and baby faces. A lot of the characters in the film are based on or influenced by wrestlers. The character that Joel D. Wynkoop plays, Mr. Friedman, is based on Dusty Rhodes. I wanted him to talk like Dusty so I sent Joel links on YouTube of Dusty’s promos. Misery is not only influenced by Leatherface and Jason but also Kane from WWE in her mannerisms and the way she walks. I got the name Bytch way back from the ECW days when Dawn Marie first came on the scene as Tammy Lynn Bytch. And also the make-up style for Bytch came from Kane’s original mask minus the color of it just the look of it. The glasses that Vixen wears in the beginning of the film I got from current WWE wrestler Sasha Banks and I even named the character Jack Foley after Mick Foley. There are also a few wrestling catch phrases and lines I threw in there as well throughout the film. I think wrestling and horror sometimes go hand and hand with the larger than life characters and the good vs. evil in both of their respected worlds. Also women’s wrestling is hot right now and I’m a big fan of them. The women in WWE and NXT are telling great stories in the ring and are becoming huge characters. I wanted the women in CHAOS A.D. to kind of embody the same attitude that the women wrestlers do in their roles.
CHAOS A.D. offers fans lots of exploitative gore, skin and practical FX. What was that planning behind this and what was the impact of people like Marcus Koch and James Bell on the project?
Originally we were going to have Marcus involved with the film more, but he was unavailable, so Picardo Limbo did the effects and did an awesome job. He came up with great practical effects like having a woman’s leg get sawed off or a face peeling off or breasts exploding and even intestines getting devoured.
Again, Picardo did an amazing job. We did get some advice and used some of Marcus’ body part props that he used on other films. Also, James Bell made a nut sack and finger for the film. I saw a video he did on YouTube of him showing a nut sack prop that he made and asked if he would make one for the film and he said he would. The prop worked out nicely in a very gruesome scene in the film.
Can you talk about the Indiegogo campaign going on for CHAOS A.D.? Why did you take this route to finish the film? What have the fans meant to this project as well as what does it mean to have them a part with the fan funding?
Well we did an Indiegogo campaign for a movie a co-wrote and co-produced with Sean Donohue called DEATH-SCORT SERVICE and we did pretty good on it and I wanted to do it again for CHAOS A.D. Even though the film is complete, the money will help go towards DVDs made and merchandise and advertising. The fans mean a great deal to me. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the fans. When I made my film AMERIKAN HOLOKAUST it was promoting it on Facebook that got that film to the fans and a lot of them spread the word about that film. So I am very grateful to all the fans and all their support. We have the Indiegogo campaign still up and I am thankful for all the fans that contributed to it. The fans will get something special when they donate like limited edition DVDs, VHS, trading cards, plus props and costumes from the film. So they can own a piece of the movie by getting some memorable from the film. But I can’t thank the fans enough.
Lastly, Where can the fans find out more about CHAOS A.D. and THE SLEAZE BOX?
You can go to www.THESLEAZEBOX.com, that’s our main web site. You can also find us on Facebook: facebook.com/sleazeboxfilms and facebook.com/chaosadmovie. On Twitter: @sleazebox. On YouTube: youtube.com/thesleazebox. And check out our Indiegogo page: indigogo.com/projects/chaos-a-d or just search “Chaos A.D.” on their site.
Thank you so much for taking the time! I look forward to this beast of a nightmare destroying audiences soon!