Jon Keeyes [Interview]

 

Welcome to Day 18 of Trainwreck’d Society’s Annual Month of Horror Showcase! We have a fully loaded month of all things horror for you fine folks! October is our favorite month for this very reason, and we are so excited to share 31 full days of film showcases and interviews with some of the finest folks from the world of horror, just as we have been doing for the last 6 years. What started as a simple 5 day showcase, has now blossomed into a full blown month long event. You’re going to love this! Enjoy!

 

Hello Folks! We have an absolutely wonderful interview to share with you all today! During the time in between last year’s Month of Horror and this one, I have become aware of and become a big fan of this man’s work. It’s Jon Keeyes, Everyone! Over the last year we have been fortunate enough to cover two of his latest films that we absolutely loved! These two specific projects are in fact, The Harrowing and Doom Room. Which both happen to feature our dear friend from last year’s MoH, the great Debbie Rochon. It always comes around full circle, doesn’t it Folks?

Jon has had an incredible career and has put out some of the finest work in the world of horror and beyond. And with that, we are so excited to have him as a part of our beloved series here at Trainwreck’d Society. He’s a lovely human being, and you are definitely going to love! So please enjoy some wonderful words from the brilliant Jon Keeyes!

 

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What inspired you to get into the world of entertainment? Was it an early aspiration you can always remember having since your youth, or did you just find yourself in this world one day?

It was almost an accident in how I got into filmmaking. I grew up near Hollywood in a family of movie fanatics. My grandfather had been a bit player in the early 40’s so we grew up loving movies but writing is what I always wanted to do. I had become an entertainment journalist and thought I might take a crack at writing a screenplay, which I eventually directed called American Nightmare. I had always been a huge fan of horror. Alfred Hitchcock’s ability to tell a story and build suspense always left me in awe. I was also a big fan of early slasher flicks like Halloween and Friday the 13th. I loved these movies and always found it fascinating how they could manipulate your emotions with something like a movie. When I wrote American Nightmare, I was inspired by suspense and horror and wanted to go down that road. 

What was your first paid gig in the world of entertainment? And were there any kind of lessons learned from this project that still affect your work today?

It depends on how you look at it. I did freelance entertainment journalism for years so that was how I saw my first paid gig, but in terms of filmmaking, it would have been my third movie Hallow’s End when I got paid for the first time. My first two movies were so low budget that I didn’t want to take money. I wanted it to go on the screen. But with that third one, I finally paid myself. I guess this isn’t the usual answer in this regard, but I think learning to pay yourself is actually a very important lesson for filmmakers. Yes, we love making movies and I’d do anything to keep making them over and over. But I found that there is a mental and emotional component to getting paid or paying yourself. It first solidifies you as a professional. Rewarding yourself for the work you do is important. And in paying yourself, there is another level of responsibility that you didn’t realize was there. It takes on a whole new level of responsibility to the make a great and successful movie for the people that have entrusted you with their money. 

I absolutely LOVED your film Doom Room, which features our dear friend Debbie Rochon. It was a delightfully bizarre experience to watch. I am curious to know where the idea for this film came from? What made you want to tell this tale?

Anytime I get to work with Debbie, it’s a dream come true. In a way, Debbie is my screenwriting muse. She and I have a bond where I think I give her characters that really bring out the best in her as an actress, and she gives me the trust to let herself go and fully immerse herself into fully bringing my whacked characters to life in a grounded and real way, which makes them even scarier. The Doom Room script goes all the way back to when I first started making movies. Somewhere in the first two or three years, I had the idea of making an experimental movie in which the lead actor didn’t know the script and the story would be unveiled to them as the movie as filmed. Without giving away the truth of Doom Room, I had been inspired by some true life stories that become the inspiration for our story. Over many years, that script evolved and grew until we shot it in England as a straight forward filmmaking experience. I love psychological horror, and I particularly love movies that keep you guessing and trying to figure out what is actually going on, and more than any of my others movies, Doom Room is exactly that so it was always a dream to make a movie about Alice falling down the rabbit hole.

 

 

Another film of yours, which I remember seeing around the same time, was The Harrowing. This one was really bizarre as well, in all the best ways. So same question basically? Where do these crazy ideas come from within your mind? 

Kind of like Doom Room, I keep exploring tales of psychological horror. The darkness within in, and what drives people to do violent things, has always fascinated me. And then I heard this metaphor about demons being a manifestation of our own inner darkness and I wanted to explore that. I a big fan of movies like Jacob’s Ladder, Angel Heart, and Shutter Island where you’re never quite sure what is the truth, and you’re asking yourself if the lead character is insane or not. Those become inspirations for what ultimately became this story. 

In your own personal opinion, what do you believe it is that makes the horror genre special? What sets it apart from other genres you have worked in?

For me, it’s a strange combination of things. There’s definitely the adage that horror is a way for us to confront our personal fears in a safe environment. I think that’s absolutely true. But there’s also the fantasy component. We love to watch things that we’re likely never going to experience and horror is one of the few genres that gives us that completely immerse fantasy world. For some fans, like myself, it’s also that rush of seeing something that really gets under your skin and screws with your mind. It’s almost like a drug and I’m constantly chasing the high that a really good horror movie can do to you. And last but not least, for a lot of hardcore fans, they’re just fun… special effects make-up is something so many of the fans love so it’s always partly about going in to see what wild and crazy thing someone else has come up with. 

What is your favorite scary movie? 

It’s funny what scares me. The things that truly scare are things that are so very real. There’s a scene in the movie Training Day when Ethan Hawke is left in a room with some gang bangers and he slowly realizes he’s been set up and they’re going to kill him. Because of things in my past, it really struck close to home and is one of the most terrifying movie moments ever, for me… because it’s real to me. But, when it comes to straight up horror movies, John Carpenter’s Halloween is my all time favorite. It’s the daddy of slasher films, it’s a simple story that is hugely effective, and in a strange way, it’s really nostalgic for the way Halloween used to be when you thought it was safe to go out unaware that the boogeyman was truly lurking in the shadows.

Do you have any plans for this coming Halloween? And fun traditions that you try to stick to every year?

My wife and I’s anniversary is on Halloween so we always try to come up with something festive and fun to do as long as I’m home and not away working. I grew up in a family of Halloween nuts so anything we can do that is festive, we’re game. 

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

We’ve got lots and lots of stuff coming up. I’m a co-producer on William Brent Bell’s Separation, which should be hitting theaters early next year. I’ve been producing a lot more recently so lots of movies that will be rolling out. Right now I’m co-producing Becky, a really great and violent horror movie starring Kevin James, Lulu Wilson and Joel McHale – from the directors of the indie hit Bushwick. And I have about half a dozen scripts I’m focused on to be directing again this coming year. 

What was the last thing that scared the hell out of you?

I’m working in Toronto and there was a shooting last night at a restaurant that left the manager dead. I ended up at a dinner nowhere near it at 3 a.m. and found myself particularly on edge as the night’s drifters came in and out. It’s real life that scares me. 

What was the last thing that made you smile?

Standing on set last night making a movie. 

 

 

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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