Whilst there are some filmmakers (you know who you are) who do like to lean too heavily on the crutches of boobs and blood, there are plenty of others who have chosen to take these elements and twist them into something new, interesting and challenging for the audience. Love it or hate it, you simply cannot ignore it.
One filmmaker who is making himself difficult to ignore is Toronto’s Darryl Shaw. His entry into the ABC’s of Death contest, titled “T is for Testosterone Replacement Therapy” takes sexual dysfunction and body horror to new troubling, yet hilarious heights. check it out here: vimeo.com/29356248
I interviewed him to find out more about the man behind the muck:
Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Darryl Shaw, and I’m an indie filmmaker; I write, direct, edit, and sometimes produce.
For those not in the know, what is the “ABC’s of Death”, and how and why did you get involved?
The ABC’s of Death is now a feature film — where they had 25 established horror directors collaborate on a letter each in the form of a short film depicting a horrible death. The 26th director was a contest I entered with my team, where we had to create a death for the letter T. Steve Walsh (my co-producer) and I jumped at the chance, and though we didn’t win, we don’t regret the experience as we had a lot of fun, and the response has been great to our entry.
Your contribution, “T is for Testosterone Replacement Therapy” is an unusual method of death indeed…how did you come up with this particular form of demise?
A combination of a few things. I’m a big fan of MMA, but a lot of fighters were getting busted for using TRT, so on some level, I was mad that they were cheating (and beating some of my favourite fighters), and wanted to make a cautionary tale (based on no science at all!) and the other thing was just to have fun being gross, and put a character in a situation where he has a very humiliating death.
The film requires the extensive usage of SFX, how were the effects achieved?
We had a great FX team — Jacob Murphy, Kat Crisp, Elena Seepe, and Steve Walsh all came together and contributed different elements. Everyone did many jobs, and there was a lot of cross over. Kat keyed, Jacob made our “magic liquids”, Steve and Kat produced the pump powered hero prosthetic, Elena did some body puppeteering — and I won’t deny it, I got to aim the hero to hit where I wanted it to in the “shot”.
Are there unique challenges in shooting a film that has a lot of SFX?
Not for this one, this one went really smoothly! Sure, there were a couple moments where we had to figure out certain trajectories etc, but for the most part, it went as planned. Usually the problem with FX is scheduling in enough time to get the proper coverage, and making sure there is extra time for troubleshooting.
The subject matter is pretty adult…did this present any challenges in directing your actors , and if so, how did you overcome those obstacles?
Haha believe it or not, Jeff actually requested his involvement with this one! I had written it for someone else, but Jeff (Sinasac) was much more into it; which really surprised me because I had pegged him as a pretty conservative guy in working with him before on “Android Re-Enactment”. I think Jeff wanted to prove he could go outside of his safety zone, and he sure did! At least, I hope he did! Maybe by now he’s got something even crazier in production. We debated a bit about subtext, but I don’t think that really meant much in the final product. Lindsay Lyon was a pleasure to work with, and really from her audition to final performance she had laser precision.
Did you pretty much destroy the bathroom you shot in?
Well, we put up a lot of fake wallpaper so that saved us, and the tub scrubbed clean. Most it was water soluble stuff. The plumbing needed to be tripled draino’d though!
What has been people’s reaction to it? (did you show this to you parents, btw?)
The reactions have been really rewarding. From eye rolls, to laughter, to sickness. Seeing it with a big audience has always been the best. I guess the people that wouldn’t like it have early exit point the first our “hero prop” shows up, before things get too crazy. My mom laughed in disapproval, but seems to have successfully blocked it out of memory now.
Are you interested in body horror in general, or was this a new horror frontier for you?
I love body horror. I’d done a few unreleased body horror shorts, and have several un-produced scripts dealing with different aspects of it; but yeah, it’s been a go-to thing for me.
Someone once explained horror to me by saying it really is just about change, and changing the familiar. What are you more familiar with than your own body?
I often take it for granted that I won’t wake up with cancer or have an aneurysm, but that’s what I’m really afraid of. It’s not just the loss of control, but buying into the daily illusion of control that’s scary to me. Anyhow, this specific short didn’t come from any kind of intellectual place! More of a juvenile place! So yeah, making body horror is fun too! I love Cronenberg, Vincenzo Natali, and my friend Chris Nash’s “Skinfection Trilogy” (also an ABCs of Death contestant).
You have also released a feature length film “ Android Re-Enactment”-what is that film about?
It stars the lead from “T is for TRT” (Jeff Sinasac) — and follows Ermus, an obsessed scientist, whom had been humiliated in front of the girl he loves; ten years later he has this robotics company’s resources at his disposal, and creates android replicas of everyone surrounding the heart break, to re-enact that fateful dinner where he had been embarrassed. He tries to replay the situation different ways with these genetically identical robots, in order to understand why things happened the way they did. But of course there is a huge malfunction and by the end of it, and his true reality is compromised.
Aside from money, what are the biggest differences in shooting a feature vs a short?
Other than the money, it’s almost identical! Okay, so my experience is entirely on no-to-low budgets, so I’m sure it’s not the same when making commercial projects. For a feature, the cliche is true; it’s really like a marathon, and there is more time for entropy to set in and start destroying things. For a short, you can almost already see the finish line when you begin, so people tend to be more confident, considerate, and forgiving. Then again, after completing the feature, those of us left standing at the end of it have worked together since and we’re almost telepathic now!
Do you have any new projects on the horizon-are you writing, in pre-production, etc?
The main one I can talk about: I have a new project in post, a half-hour neo-noir… body horror! It’s called “Greater Than”, and stars Adam Buller (co-producer and Antagonist of “Android Re-Enactment”) and Dana Tartau (Talented actress I’ve worked with on a few shorts, and did the main frame voice in Android). It’s a doomed romance, where their affections themselves become the horror. I can’t mention this without plugging the great team who helped it into existence! And I mean everybody! Everyone did a great job. Here are SOME of them! Steve Walsh and Adam co-produce, and for this one we’ve brought in a new guy: Marc-Andre Miron — who really helped to streamline our efforts. Anyhow, I’m really excited about it, because we had better toys to play with, and we’re always eager to
show our new tricks.
Shaun Hunter did some excellent FX, our DP Chris Green created some magic combined with Art Director Katie Webb’s sets to really nailed the look I was going for– and again we have Dave Coleman, (who’s composed the music for all my visible work) doing the score. Once again, we shot in Niagara Falls, through Adam Buller’s Work House — and for this one, we couldn’t have done it with our actor Todd Rowland’s associate producing; we got some really great locations! Also, Adam Buller and I have a video game adaptation from “Android Re-Enactment”, which has been under construction for over a year — It’s a 16 bit style arcade shooter. I can’t wait to unveil it when it’s ready. And yes, always brainstorming and writing new ideas. I hope to up the ante with “Greater Than” and get funding for a new feature!
What are your must see horror flicks?
Off the top of my head: The Thing (Carpenter), Battle Royale, The Fly (Cronenberg), Dawn of the Dead (Romero), The Exorcist, Eraserhead, Funny Games (I only saw the US remake by the same director, still loved it), Audition (Miike)… and tons more, but that’s a general sampling of what I dig.
Where can we check out your films?
Well, the only one watchable online right now is T for TRT…
Android Re-Enactment just played at Vegas Cine Fest, so looking for the next screening now. Our new short film “Garlic Bread Man vs Superbo Lasagna Man” is premiering this Friday Oct 19th at Toronto After Dark Film Fest, in front of the movie “Inbred”! Come and check it out! It’s a pasta-based super power showdown of moderately standard proportions!
Abcs of death: 26th.theabcsofdeath.com/
android re-enactmnet facebook:
android re-enactment trailer:
Interview: Darryl Shaw (Android Re-Enactment, ABC’s of Death)