If you’re a lover of indie horror, then you should already know the name of our next featured horror artist. His films have a knack for shocking audiences, turning stomachs and transforming the people and places that should always feel safe into your worst nightmares. Director / writer / producer James Cullen Bressack is leading a new wave of brutality in indie horror that is rarely matched. If you haven’t seen his work, then what the hell are you reading this for – go get one of his movies, goddamn it!
Bressack broke into the scene with “My Pure Joy,” a nasty little flick that he directed at the tender age of 18 years old, and his films have only gotten more intense and grisly. In 2013, Bressack had a breakout year with three feature length horror films, including “Hate Crime,” which details the tragic events of a really twisted home invasion, “To Jennifer,” a super dark horror comedy with a shocking climax and “13/13/13,” an ultra gory interpretation of a modern apocalypse. And while each one of his films has an engaging story and nasty murders, the thing that really stands out with Bressack’s work is the passion for the genre that oozes off the screen…which can be seen by the quality of his films all around.
The actors in his films buy into this passion, as there is never a poor performance in a genre that is often hard to do right. The cinematography is always intense, be it shot on a traditional camera or even an iPhone (i.e. “To Jennifer”), and to be a set decorator or make-up artist in a Bressack film would be a designer’s horror dream, as this is someone who not only understands what works in this genre, but someone who takes those concepts and amps them up 100%. If you’re a fan of the extreme, brutal and super freaky horror, then you can’t do wrong with any Bressack film.
Bressack’s next film, “Pernicious” is already creating a lot of buzz and seemingly for good reason. The spirit of a murdered child is unleashed with one thing on her mind: revenge. And if the publicity stills from the movie are any indication (see right), this movie will be no joke. I’m in.
We had a chance to catch up with Bressack to talk about his films, horror in general and what has influenced this madman! Check out our interview…enjoy horror lovers!
LAHorror: What is your earliest “horror” memory? In real life or in art? Where did it all begin?
James Cullen Bressack: It was for sure obsessing over the VHS cover art for “Hellraiser” that really helped my love for horror. Pinhead looked so fuckin’ cool. I would look at that cover every day and draw pictures of it at the age of four. That and watching the TV show “Are You Afraid of the Dark.”
LAHorror: What really scares you?
JCB: Midgets… Little people… Political correctness.
LAHorror: The trio of horror that you were behind in 2013 (“Hate Crime,” “To Jennifer” & “13/13/13”) all had excellent acting, Jody Barton in particular. As a director, how do you engage with your actors to get these intense and memorable performances?
JCB: I love working with Jody. I am a strong believer that film is a collaborative medium. It is a living breathing thing. When working with actors on their character, it’s not just about my ideas, but theirs as well. I like to ground things in reality.
Let’s say we were making a movie and you were the actor and you played the killer in the film. The important thing is to humanize the character so the audience connects to them and don’t understand why. That’s why “Psycho” was so brilliant. We start to feel for Norman. A killer is a human; they have wants, needs, emotions. And every action is done for a reason. We would dissect everything about the character, past what is written on the page and imagine them as a blank canvas. Then we would both throw our ideas about the character at the canvas and whatever stuck for both of us would paint the picture of who this person is. Always important to tap into what the character’s thought process is and what their moment before is. They are so loaded with intent, darkness and meat that they are unbelievably interesting to dig into. I would have you keep a journal as if you were that person. And would probably want to spend a week or two before shooting going through the script together over and over again and observing your natural behaviors.
As a director, it’s important to play therapist with the actor as well and have them open up to you about real things from their own life in order to tie them into the actual character. I would have to develop a mutual trust and understand your triggers…Needless to say I’m obsessive about character work with my actors. I make them work hard.
LAHorror: What’s your “dream” project? Any topics that you’d really like to explore?
JCB: I want to make a movie like “Goodfellas.” NUFF said.
LAHorror: How do you approach violence in the writing and production of your films?
JCB: I have fun with it! I have a very strong stomach, so I spend time trying to gross myself out. If I chuckle while doing it, I know the audience will squirm.
LAHorror: A film like “Hate Crime” has some really strong social messages and also some pretty extreme violence. Are you ever worried that a film like this could be misinterpreted in a negative way? In the 21st century, are you someone who believes that life imitates art, or that art imitates life?
JCB: I don’t control how people interpret things; some people always see things as negatives. Like “Catcher in the Rye” for instance–in no way should that book have caused what it did. But that’s just crazy people. There are some in this world. They attach crazy to anything. But life doesn’t imitate art. If it did then answer this, more comedies come out per year then any other movie and I don’t see people getting any funnier, why is that?
LAHorror: Tell us something about “Pernicious”!!! What are you most excited for audiences to see??
JCB: “Pernicious” is going to blow you the fuck away! I’m not joking here. It makes all my other films look bad. Haha. I guarantee you will have an amazing time with it. Can’t wait to drop a trailer.
LAHorror: Lastly, and maybe most importantly, who is going to win the Superbowl next year?
JCB: My penis?
Check out the LAHorror.com reviews of “To Jennifer” and “Hate Crime.” Stay up to date with James Cullen Bressack’s new film “Pernicious” on Facebook! You can also follow Bressack on Twitter. Be sure to rent or buy a copy of your favorite Bressack film on Amazon!