In the interest of getting “hard” copies of my work under one roof, I plan to spend the next few weeks posting the entire archive of my film journalism here on ScullyVision. With due respect to the many publications I’ve written for, the internet remains quite temporary, and I’d hate to see any of my work disappear for digital reasons. As such, this gargantuan project must begin! I don’t want to do it. I hate doing it. But it needs to be done. Please note that my opinions, like everyone’s, have changed a LOT since I started, so many of these reviews will only represent a snapshot in time. Objectivity has absolutely no place in film criticism, at least not how I do it.
Originally posted on Cinema76.
This week marks the start of the third annual Philadelphia Unnamed Film Festival! For those not in the know, PUFF is a showcase for the best in oddball cinema from all around the globe. With over 40 films on display over the course of four days, there’s something for everybody to enjoy (just so long as you enjoy truly weird stuff). Last year, filmmaker Chris McInroy gave us Death Metal, the most bonkers short film featured on the PUFF’s short film block. This year, he’s back with We Summoned a Demon. Trust me when I say that you don’t want to miss it.
Cinedelphia had a chance to sit down with McInroy to discuss his filmmaking process, his inspirations, and to figure out just why violence is so essential to his work.
Cinedelphia: Thank you for sharing your time with us to talk about your work. Last year, you blew my mind (and the minds of an entire theater) with Death Metal, so needless to say, PUFF regulars are pretty excited for We Summoned A Demon. Can you talk a bit about the inspiration behind the new film?
Chris McInroy: I’m so happy to hear you and that audience were fans of Death Metal! This new one comes from similar inspirations as Death Metal, I’m a big fan of horror films from the 1980’s and it seems like specifically ones that have to do with demonic stuff, like The Gate and Night of the Demons. I think as a kid that evil satanic type of thing scared me the most because it seemed like there was no real way of stopping it or knowing when it would show up. Plus growing up in the 80’s, satanic happenings were always in the news. Silly things, like metal was the music of the devil and any and all crimes were caused by satan worshipers. There were also a lot of films in the 80’s about nerdy friends, like Weird Science or Revenge of the Nerds. So I wanted to make an 80’s style movie combining those 2 elements: nerdy friends and demons.
Cinedelphia: What is it that draws you to work within the horror genre?
Chris McInroy: It probably goes back to me growing up in the 80s and 90s and watching any and all horror films. Im one of those guys that would get a movie based on the VHS box art. I grew up in a small town that had VHS rentals at the one and only gas station. They would swap out each week. The unusual art work drew me in and that was usually horror genre. Although I remember getting Kentucky Fried Movie based on the cover and that is as comedy genre as it comes. But maybe thats why I’m so into horror comedy. I would also rent comedies like Airplane, Caddyshack, Porky’s etc. Mix up the genres. Its a genre where, me as a filmmaker, can hear an actual reaction from audiences. I love hearing something we made cause laughter or cringes. Drama doesn’t give that immediate reaction during a screening. I’m kinda hooked on hearing those reactions.
Cinedelphia: In all of your films, comical hyper violence is a staple. Can you speak a bit on your usage of violence (and why you seem to love having blood sprayed upon shocked faces)?
Chris McInroy: Man, I love practical effects. Especially over the top ones. Something like when Ash shoots his severed hand in the wall in Evil Dead 2 and a firehose spray of blood shoots him in the face, and you know a hand doesn’t hold nearly that much blood! So one reason is I just love shooting gory effects. And usually the way to get a gory effect is in a violent way. There’s something awesome about shooting effects that gives the set a real fun vibe. You can see it happen right in front of you, its not something that you have to imagine being done in VFX later. People can gather around and watch a head explode. Its fun. So some of it comes just from me wanting to have fun and make people laugh and cringe, but I also kind of use the violence as the punchline. For example in Death Metal I show a little girl hanging on the monkey bars, after the satanic axe has been flying around killing people, the set up is her there enjoying the day but you know whats coming and the punchline is how it happens, violently slicing her hands off. Thats’s my daughter by the way. No I have not shown her any of my films. But she has seen her part. In We Summoned A Demon, the guys try to guess the demons name, so it has a set up of the plan, the execution of them guessing it, the guessing not working which causes the big violent bloody demon swipe. If I can catch the audience off guard, it’s even better. Like another part where one of the guys is talking to the demon giving him demands and I quickly try change catch you off guard with a demon punch to the face. That part gets the best reaction from audiences. I love it. And you have to show where all that blood goes! It shoots offscreen and lands on peoples faces of course. And you have to aim those blood hoses at the actors mouth!
Cinedelphia: Horror and comedy seem to go hand in hand, can you provide insight as to why that is, and how you utilize it?
Chris McInroy: I may have answered this a bit with my violence punchline explanation but when people get scared in the theater from a movie they usually laugh right after. Like everything is ok. Laughing it off. They are already laughing so why not put some things in the movie that are meant specifically to make them laugh. Maybe thats where horror-comedy comes from. My favorite movie of all time is An American Werewolf in London and it’s a damn masterpiece in horror-comedy filmmaking. It’s both scary and funny. Thats not easy, I think my shorts are mostly comedy with horror elements. But thats probably because they are like 5 minutes long. I’d love the opportunity to make a 90 minute movie.
Cinedelphia: Mini-commentary track time: Is there anything of note we should specifically look for in We Summoned A Demon that isn’t apparent on the surface?
Chris McInroy: I haven’t yet made a movie that has a deeper meaning than what you see on screen. Right now I purely want to entertain and have fun. But I will say that I’ve noticed a trend in my last 3 shorts. I get super emotional when I see someone achieve their dreams or accomplishing steps to get to their dreams. In movies or tv shows or in real life. I’m always very happy for them. I can see that theme in my last 3 shorts. People trying to achieve higher goals. Whether it be a bad guy trying to climb the ladder by getting a promotion in Bad Guy #2, or a metalhead trying to become the best guitar player he can be in Death Metal, or a guy who just wants to be cool so he can get a date with Brenda in We Summoned A Demon. They try, it’s not always a happy ending but they tried. OK how bout this: in We Summoned A Demon we were doing that head punch effect and it wasn’t quite working how we wanted it to and we had lasagna for lunch that day, there was some left over and we shoved it in that skull and that’s what made the cut. So lasagna is under the surface.
Cinedelphia: What can we expect from you in the future (besides gallons upon gallons of wonderfully practical blood)? Perhaps a feature?
Chris McInroy: I just picture locked my segment I wrote and directed for a horror anthology called Scare Package. Im super happy with it. I think they will be done with the rest of the shooting soon for a 2019 release. Once I have post wrapped on on my segment I will go after my first feature. I’ve been writing it for a while. Its a horror-comedy about a janitor’s night of survival in a hospital over run by werewolves. I cant wait to get going on it! And we will probably release We Summoned A Demon online in December or January. And you can see Bad Guy #2 and Death Metal on my Vimeo page.
You can check out Chris McInroy’s vimeo page here.
And you don’t have to wait until December to see We Summoned A Demon. Just come to PUFF!! Tickets are available at http://www.unnamedfilmfestival.com!