With After Dark Horrorfest 4 and its 8 Films to Die For slowly creeping up on us, we thought it would be a great time to sit down with Director Joey Stewart to talk about his entry into this year's After Dark fest, the high school thriller The Final. We chat everything from the film's hard R rating to the deliciousness of Frito Pie.
In theaters January 29nd–February 5th The Final will be joined by The Graves, Hidden, Dread, Lake Mungo, ZMD: Zombies of Mass Destruction, Kill Theory and The Reeds. Hit the jump for our exclusive interview with Director Joey Stewart below.
FEARnet: How would you describe The Final?
Joey Stewart: The Final is a psychological horror film, also a drama, also a thriller, it's about a group of high school kids who have gone through their whole lives being picked on and screwed with and tormented and they've taken it about as far as they can take it. They decide to take control of their lives and turn things around with the popular kids who have messed with them over the years. They make a plan to throw an invitation only costume party out in a house in the middle of the woods somewhere and once they get them there they proceed to teach them some lessons and show them the error in their ways so to speak.
Does the film tread into slasher territory?
To get an audiences attention these days that's really a big part of the marketing but it's much more than a slasher film. When I first took on this project with [writer] Jason Kabolati, he showed me the script and we both sat down and talked through it and decided this is not your giddy happy fun slasher film. When something happens to the bad guy it's not just a really cool effect and everybody leaves the movie theater with a smile on their face thinking they just saw a bunch of great effects, 'That tendon looked great when the knife slashed it off!'. It's really not the slasher film that everyone thinks it is, it's really more of a lesson film, it’s got more of the tone of a Se7en or an Elephant than a Friday the 13th or Halloween. And I shot it in more of the style of The Shining than a Hostel or a Saw. The way I shot this, everything is visible to the audience, they know what is coming and it just increases that sense of dread.
Is that what attracted you to the script, taking the idea of a traditional slasher film to the next level?
Yeah, I think, that's what's missing from a lot of horror films today, it forced me to redefine what I had grown up with as a horror film, this [film] tackled some serious issues, and they are worldly and timeless issues. We've all grown up through the school system dealing with being on one side or the other. I grew up as each one of these kids, I was the popular kid playing sports, then I started moving into an artistic realm and people's opinion of me started to change and I became the outcast, so everyone can relate to this. The subject matter needs to be treated correctly for it to work. It won't work if someone comes in and treats it like a fun schlocky slasher film. You start to wonder who are the protagonists and the antagonists, halfway through the movie and by the end it really makes you think about the ramifications of the actions of all these people and what it means in real life.
Other than The Shining, were there other films you drew inspiration from for tone?
Yeah, a film we really watched quite a few times was (Takashi Miike's) Audition, the fact that it had a lot of long lingering shots. Also Battle Royale and Gus Van Sant's Elephant because of the way it was subjective.
You shot The Final in Texas?
Yeah, I've lived here for 20 years and done 80% of my work in Texas. I love the crew here, everybody treats the project like a family, and I like that family style shooting. We always focus our energies on the first part of casting in Texas, and we got 80% of our cast from Texas for The Final.
Is The Final a hard R?
We don't slack at all on the gore. Plenty of blood, guts, scares and frights. In the same way that Se7en was a horrific scary thriller, that's more the tone of The Final. It's very disturbing.
Did you run into any trouble with the MPAA?
We got our list back, 16 pages of why it's an R, but it is an R. We don't have any gratuitous sex or nudity, the things that happen in the film happen because these kids are trying to teach these kids lessons. The one thing that's caused controversy is that people think it's like Columbine where kids are just coming in to kill these kids that tormented them and that's it [but] killing isn't a theme in our film. It's about these kids teaching them the errors of their ways and the lessons they can learn in taking away the things that they loved over the years, taking away their power, elitism and beauty.
How did The Final wind up in Horrorfest 4?
We thought we'd submit and get the thank you we like your film, but we don't know we can fit it in, but they loved it. It was a great surprise. We didn't think it would happen so fast, we shot this thing last March. We shot edited and delivered in 10 months which was an amazing thing for us.
We figured it was only fair if we could ask you a few questions about what it was like for you in high school.
Favorite after school activity?
Favorite school lunch?
Oh man, I had Frito pie for the first time a few years ago, served in a Frito bag, it was delicious.
That's how they do it!
More at http://www.horrorfestonline.com/