Emily DiPrimio has the sort of enviable creative existence most artsy souls yearn for, at the ripe old age of thirteen.
Emily’s been a horror movie devotee since the tender age of four, when she first starred in a film her slasher-enthusiast dad was making. Ever since then, she’s been acting as a script supervisor, helping her dad on set and starring in his films, and now she’s finally writing and directing her own film alongside her dad.
Carver is an old-school, Kickstarter-funded slasher movie that centers on a group of teenagers who “are haunted by a despicable act they committed on Halloween when they were younger. Their actions caused the deaths of three innocent people…on the anniversary of those deaths, an ominous calling card in the form of a carved pumpkin has been placed at each of their homes.”
I caught up with Emily to ask her about Carver and to probe her encyclopedic knowledge of the genre.
Horror movies! Let’s start with the basics. Favorite ever slasher movie?
My favorite slasher film is, without a doubt, Halloween. John Carpenter created a template that has been used thousands of times when it comes to making a slasher film. I love the way the movie is shot, a lot of steadi-cam which was relatively new at the time which gives the viewer a sense of intimacy that wasn’t there before in any other horror film. I also enjoyed the acting, Jamie Lee Curtis set the standard for the final girl and no one has surpassed her…yet.
Amen to that. Favorite ever horror-movie-with-a-gasp-inducing-twist at the end?
Psycho is by far my favorite horror movie ever made. It was a movie that took every convention and turned it upside down, from the shower scene to the killer being a transvestite, Hitchcock set out to make a film that would make people uncomfortable and be borderline repulsed, but, at the same time, no one could look away. Oh, and the fact he kills the main character within the first 30 minutes of the film. No one ever did that before Hitchcock.
Favorite ever tacky-horror-movie-that-you-pretend-to-like-ironically-but-actually-sort-of-adore?
Leprechaun is a great guilty pleasure, it’s so cheesy and goofy I can’t help but like it, though it isn’t scary in the least. It was one of the first horror films I watched because my dad wanted to ease me into horror movies after he failed miserably on his first attempt. That first attempt was Child’s Play. I still have an irrational fear of Chucky.
Hmm, irrational? You and everyone else in the world!
Yeah, that’s true!
The majority of slasher films could be labeled as “dead teenager movies,” so it’s hard to argue with Roger Ebert when it comes to that statement. However, I’m not going to pigeonhole my movie–my movie is a lot more than a bunch of teenagers getting killed. Of course there are death scenes, but my dad challenged me to write a script that had strong characters that the audience would care about.
Being a teenager, I am familiar with the things that people my age and a little older worry about. I think that helped give each character believability.
Your Kickstarter campaign cites ’80s slasher films as a big influence on the movie you’re making, Carver. Why are these films in particular so important to you?
I freely admit I haven’t seen every ’80s slasher film. There are a lot that my dad says are just utter garbage. I have watched Halloween, The Prowler, The Burning, and, of course, Friday the 13th. I’ve watched others but those films are the ones that influenced me the most when I wrote Carver. Halloween and the Friday the 13th films after the first one have a relentless, unstoppable killer who we all KNOW is the killer. The other films I listed are slasher-mysteries, where we have to figure out who’s the killer. I am hopeful my movie is a good combination of the two types of slasher films I adore.
I know you’re a devotee of old school gore (as opposed to the dastardly CGI stuff) so I have to ask: what do you make fake blood out of? It can’t actually be ketchup right?
You want me to divulge our secret blood recipe? That’s a big no-no in the industry, but I like to go against convention so here are the ingredients: corn syrup, red food coloring, green food coloring, and a little Ben Nye stage blood mixed in for good measure. We use chocolate syrup in our mix for mouth blood.
I love the wonderfully inappropriate scores to Argento’s Profondo Rosso and Suspiria – upbeat funk rock, instead of the usual jumpy slasher fare. What’s your take on horror movie music? Should it be lots of jumps and jolts? Or something that contrasts with the terror onscreen?
I don’t think you can answer that question in general terms. It depends on what mood you are trying to create for each scene. I believe the score should be added after the film is completely edited together. I think then and only then can you create the proper mood with music. I plan on going with a more subtle score and let the action on the screen dictate the mood.
I know you’re a huge film buff; did you know that the mask in Halloween is actually William Shatner’s face? The production crew were on a tight budget so bought the cheapest mask they could find at a Halloween store (a William Shatner mask) which they then spray-painted white. What’s the weirdest prop you’ve ever used on set to save money?
I did know that little bit of Halloween lore. I love how creepy it turned out and became an iconic part of horror movie history. Michael’s mask has evolved as has Jason’s mask but the original Michael mask will always be my favorite. On the set of our zombie short, For Love of Zombies, we forgot our slate so we had to fashion one out of a reality sign someone had in their back seat and two pieces of wood. The material the sign was made out of was perfect for a dry erase marker. So we got lucky on that one. The cheapest prop was a mustard bottle we bought at the dollar store to deliver a big wave of green vomit. I know…pretty gross.
Gross…or wonderful? Which segues neatly into my next question: I’m a massive sissy, and tend to cover my eyes at the gruesome bits in horror movies. True factz. What are your coping strategies for watching gory scenes with your eyes open?
I don’t turn away from the gory bits. It’s weird but working on my dad’s sets for years and seeing how the gore is delivered has made me more of a student when watching a film. I always pay attention to the gory scenes so I can try and figure out how they did so if I ever need that technique in a film I will have a frame of reference.
Ok…I’m going to try and use the same strategy next time I’m watching a horror movie alone!
Which of the following statements do you most agree with?
a) Pssh, slasher films aren’t scary. What’s really scary is when the person you watched the film with proceeds to spend the next 24 hours trying to scare the bejesus out of you by creeping about your apartment, jumping out at you when you exit the bathroom, making spooky ghost noises, leaving the front door open so you’ll think a slasher’s in the flat, etc.
b) Pssh, slasher films aren’t scary. What’s really scary is the way women are punished in the genre for being sexually active by meeting gruesome ends.
c) Slasher films are bed-wettingly scary. If you don’t think so, you’re in denial.
I would have to agree with option B with a little bit of C mixed in. Some slasher films are terrifying, the original Nightmare on Elm Street comes to mind right away. I do find option B the most accurate answer and that is why I think it’s time for a female to make a slasher film that goes against a lot of the convention set forth by its predecessors while still being rooted in some of the more appealing traditions of the genre.
Kiss/Marry/Kill: Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, Leatherface?
Wow, you left out my favorite slasher Michael Myers but out of the options you gave me, I would kiss Freddy, marry Jason, and kill Leatherface. There really isn’t any logic behind my answer. Just gut instinct.
Sophie Atkinson writes, freelances and procrastinates in Berlin.