When director/actor Chris Moore contacted me and said he had made a horror film that could be of interest to the boys and bears and that it was called Perversion, more than just my ears perked up. After watching it, I decided that instead of doing a blog about the movie, I wanted to know more about the man who created the film (and gets naked in it!) and his thoughts on his film.
Perversion is a pretty damn good throwback to the look, tone, and feel of masked killer horror flicks of the late 70s/early 80s, with a bit of a gay twist and even the modern/retro styling of directors like Ti West. If this is Chris’s first flick, I really want to see more from him. Not to mention, he does some pretty intense acting in the film.
AN INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS MOORE, DIRECTOR OF PERVERSION
Boys, Bears & Scares: So, Chris. You star in and directed Perversion. How did you juggle carrying the entire film from in front of and behind the camera? And did you go to school for directing, acting, or both?
Chris: It wasn’t easy. I realized fairly early on that I was going to have to play Ryan, which I didn’t want to. I’d written the role of Chris, Ryan’s brother, for myself, ’cause I felt it would be easy breezy since it’s such a small role. I figured I could work a few days as Chris and then spend the rest of the shoot concentrating on the filmmaking process. I guess the script scared any potential Ryans off. haha. Keep in mind that my casting pool consisted of my classmates from Catholic school, so I’m surprised I got anyone to be in the film at all.
At the time I made Perversion, I wanted to do something radical. I’d made two feature films before that – a cheap slasher that took place in a high school campus called Lock In and a more ambitious American giallo called North Woods, which is still being cut together and due for release sometime next year. I did end up going to film school that next year, but while I was making the film, I really didn’t have any proper training. Still, I’d been making films since I was ten and decided I wanted to “remake” Scream with my friends. I came a long way since then. I really think it’s all about experience. Just being on set and having to work around other people’s schedules will set you straight fairly quickly. You start to learn what works best for you and what you can and can’t do. I really think film schools should force their students to make features their final year of school. You learn so much.
BB&S: When did you make the film and how old were you at the time? Did you have a budget? Did you hire actors and crew, or was this a totally homebrew creation?
Chris: It was made my senior year of high school and I’d just turned eighteen a few months before. I’d say our budget was fifty dollars at the most and that was mostly for the fake blood. While the end credits say there was a big crew, it’s a huge lie. All the actors pretty much helped out as best they could. I think we started filming in late April and continued throughout the summer. Everyone was a friend, so they worked for free. We had pretty short days if I remember correctly. An actor would come in, shoot for three hours, leave, another would come in, shoot three hours, and leave, etc. It was a strange set. I still remember getting in from my graduation night party at 6:30 a.m., going to sleep, and getting a call at 10:30 a.m. from an actor saying he was only available from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. on that day to finish up his material for the film. I shot all of that in a sleep-deprived haze. It was very loose and fun. I definitely remember us having fun. Most of my big scenes were shot with just me and a camera, which was ridiculous. I just didn’t want to waste their time shooting my close-ups and coverage when their time was so limited. Usually, in my close-ups, I’m reacting to nothing.
BB&S: You play the main character, Ryan, who identifies as having agoraphobia. Could you explain the concept of agoraphobia and the role it plays in the plot of the film?
Chris: Sure. Agoraphobia was actually something I, believe it or not, hadn’t heard about until I was a senior in high school. I knew about shut-ins and the “weirdos” that stayed inside all the time, but I didn’t know exactly why they did that. I guess I’d just never thought of it. I remember being in class and hearing it discussed and thinking “Wow! How cool would it be if there was a film like, say, Black Christmas, where there was a killer hanging around someone’s house, but the main character couldn’t leave, because they were too scared of what was outside.” It just seemed like a really scary idea. It’s a great way to keep a character isolated and in danger without having to stick them in the crumbling Gothic mansion in the country. I liked the idea of all this seedy stuff going on right in the middle of bright, happy suburbia.
I was terrified to play Ryan’s agoraphobic meltdowns. I thought I was going to look like an idiot. I tried to make them each a little different. The final one is the more stylized one where we used several different colored lights to emphasize Ryan’s disorientation and fear. That was pretty fun.
BB&S: In Perversion, Ryan is being stalked by a masked killer who is also horny for him. You don’t make an issue out of the fact that it’s a gay desire, and neither does Ryan. In fact, Ryan’s sexuality is never officially addressed. Actually, neither is the killer’s. At times, the killer’s voice sounds distinctly female. What made you decide to take this approach? Do you consider Perversion a “gay horror film”?
Chris: The pervy nature of the film actually came from the original Black Christmas. Those phone calls, man. Jeez! They’re terrifying. It sounds like the devil or something. I knew I wanted the killer’s voice to be as strange and schizo as that. You’re never really sure what this person is or what gender they are. I thought “Well, why not take the calls from Black Christmas and make them even more perverted and really freak people out?” That was my goal – to make people really uncomfortable and freaked out. It’s strange that, especially in this county, you can be as violent as you want and no one bats an eyelash, but as soon as you start talking about sex, everyone flips out. It amuses me how people are still so prudish about sex. As for Ryan, I played him very asexual. In fact, I think he actually develops sexually throughout the story as he begins to find power in his sexuality. I figured that, since he was abused when he was young, he’d be stunted sexually and incredibly awkward. I thought of Catherine Deneuve in Repulsion the entire time. I never set out to make a gay film. I don’t think anyone in the film was written to be gay. After all, while Mr. Tierson clearly likes young boys, he’s more of a pedophile than a typical gay man. There are certainly very intentional homoerotic moments in the film, which I knew would make people uncomfortable, but I never set out to tell a gay story.
BB&S: How did you feel about filming the explicit sexual content? Because it’s pretty perverse! Were you at all uncomfortable getting naked? Were you hesitant to show the movie to family and friends?
Chris: It wasn’t that bad, actually. I usually don’t mind nudity if it makes sense for the story. I’m sure people say that all the time, but I’m serious. I don’t think the film would have worked if I’d decided to play coy and hide everything. Ryan needed to be emotionally and physically vulnerable at all times, so it just made sense. It was a nice incentive to stay in shape, too. I don’t think I’d ever been so skinny in my entire life. I remember eating a lot of Lean Cuisines. After the film was cut together and I started screening it, my friends were pretty cool with it. I’d get an occasional “oh, Chris” when a butt shot came up or something, but that was about it. My parents were different. They were kinda into it for about 45 minutes, but it started escalating and I could see them shuffling in their seats. By the time the “phone rape” scene came on, my Dad – who has now since passed away – left the room. He just couldn’t take it. He did return, though. I don’t think they were big fans, but it went better than expected. They didn’t disown me or anything.
BB&S: The movie takes place almost entirely in Ryan’s home. The scenes of the killer talking to him through his front door sent chills up my spine because you really deliver that feeling of dread, that the door isn’t enough to keep the threat out. There’s a feeling of intrusion and violation even before the killer gets inside. What were your concerns about sustaining that for an entire feature length movie—and do you feel you succeeded?
Chris: I sure hope I did. haha. I guess that’s for the audience to decide. That’s one of my favorite scenes, too. I knew it was going to be claustrophobic and realized it worked better that way. In the original script, there were a few scenes that were designed specifically to break up the claustrophobia and go show Brad with his mom or Chris with his girlfriend, but they never worked. It just took away from the main story. I wanted to build the audience’s anxieties up and it’s hard to do that when you start cutting to these little side stories.
BB&S: When watching the film, it’s hard not to wonder “why doesn’t Ryan just ask someone to stay with him because he’s scared?” Why doesn’t he?
Chris: Well, interestingly enough, there was a subplot involving Chris’s girlfriend, Adair, that was cut from the film. She comes by to stay with Ryan after Chris goes on his trip and she’s murdered. It was cut for time and because I didn’t think it was terribly effective. Plus, Brad did come over after no one came to his party, so he wouldn’t have been totally alone if everything had gone right. We were very rushed with that section and it just didn’t work.
BB&S: As afraid as Ryan seems to be of his stalker, at times it seems like he either wants to give up, feels he deserves to be punished, or gets off on being submissive. The scene in which the killer is giving him graphic instructions as to what to do is one of those moments. It walks a fine line between being perversely terrifying and perversely erotic. What was your intention with this scene?
Chris: It’s a very uncomfortable sequence. I certainly wanted people to feel as uncomfortable as humanly possible and I knew this would be the scene to get everyone talking. I think it’s that victim mentality. Ryan just wants to please this crazy person so he would end up dead like his parents. It also goes back to the abuse he suffered. I think that’s why he’s so submissive. I think that after he’s raped again, his mind kind of switches and he begins to use his trauma in a different, more productive way.
BB&S: Whenever a low-budget horror film has absolutely no atmosphere or frightening moments, I wonder how a devoted fan of horror could make something so void of anything that awakens our fright meter and not realize it. There are so many fantastic and effective horror conventions used in Perversion, including lighting, camera angles, musical cues, brutal kills, and jump scares.
It feels like you learned to make a horror movie that delivers simply by observing what worked in some of the best horror movies ever made—something I would think every aspiring horror director would be able to do. What movies, directors, horror subgenres, and horror eras influenced you most?
Chris: That’s the truth! Honestly, I felt I learned more just by watching films than by going to film school. Film school damn near drained the creativity out of me. Everyone’s trying to make the pretentious short film about abortion or incest that’ll win them acclaim and awards. There’s no fun or passion. I’m actually trying to re-gain some of that passion that I used to have before film school. I loved all kinds of horror films, but Dario Argento, Brian De Palma, Wes Craven, and John Carpenter are my favorite masters of the genre. I’d kill for their careers. I love their style, their wit, everything. Carrie, Halloween, Suspiria, Dressed to Kill, Black Christmas, The Fog…all favorites of mine. I got my education from my neighborhood video store called Video Library in Jackson, MS. They had pretty much every film ever made. I saw a lot of really great, obscure films that way. I’d send them a muffin basket and a “thank you” card if they were still open, but sadly, like most video stores, they’re gone now. I feel bad for filmmakers growing up without video stores these days.
BB&S: If you were given the chance to “remake” Perversion with a bigger budget, what would you do differently?
Chris: Absolutely. I’d use a camera that didn’t eat light. I know it seems hard to believe, but we had every damn light on in the set, but you’d never know it thanks to that camera. We cranked the exposure and f-stop all the way up and it still looked so damn dark. I think it works in a way. It kinda makes the house feel like a dank, dark cave. I’d add in a few things I felt we couldn’t do at the time. I’ve learned so much in the past few years since I made Perversion. I’m not sure if it would be a better film or not, but it’d be glossier, which might defeat the purpose come to think of it.
BB&S: Perversion was left so open-ended. Were you imagining a sequel when you made it?
Chris: God, no! Actually, the original ending in the script ended about a minute before it does now. The final ending we chose was just a little fun thing we shot, but I liked it so much that I used it. I’m not sure how a sequel would work. I guess I could always ape Halloween II and send Ryan to a hospital where the staff are as creepy and pervy as the ones in Hospital Massacre with Barbi Benton. I dunno. Any ideas?
BB&S: Any other horror projects in the works? Are you hoping to make a career out of horror films?
Chris: I have a few horror scripts on the back burner at the moment. There’s a pro-choice, female driven horror film that could be super fun and I’m writing a novel that’s sorta like a transgendered Carrie meets Pet Sematary with a dash of Flowers in the Attic. I just completed a hilarious dark comedy web series called The American Dream, which has a few horror elements in there. You can watch that here. I’m also currently editing a feature film called A Star is Stillborn, which is a spin off of a character from The American Dream. It’s like a gender reversed Gypsy. I play the Mama Rose type stage dad from Australia who’s pushing his untalented kids into the spotlight. It’s really irreverent and fun. Hopefully, I can get that on the festival circuit after I complete it.
I love horror more than anything and I’d love to do more – acting, writing, directing, anything.
BB&S: Chris, thanks so much for letting me screen your movie. It’s a perfect piece for the Boys, Bears & Scares crowd.
Chris: Thanks for interviewing me. Hope your readers enjoy the film. 🙂
You can watch Chris Moore’s full-length horror film Perversion on-demand on Amazon instant video.
And you can buy a copy of the DVD on the Scream Kings website.