Ahead of Vicious Fun‘s FrightFest UK premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival, we interviewed director Cody Calahan on his entertaining serial killer horror comedy.
Directed by Canadian filmmaker Cody Calahan (Antisocial, The Oak Room) and soon to have its FrightFest UK Premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival, Vicious Fun delivers exactly what its title promises: a horror-comedy that’s as bloody and violent as it is wonderfully wacky and fun. Set in the Eighties and filled with nostalgic references and homages, the film revolves around the genius premise of a twenty-something journalist who one day finds himself trapped in a self-help group for serial killers. Since the journalist in question is actually a know-it-all film critic who specialises in horror films, and the self-help group is “more like a business retreat”, Vicious Fun becomes all the more clever and absurd, as our talkative (but also likeable) protagonist finds himself having to deal with the very same horror tropes he usually writes about. Propelled by a well-crafted screenplay, gorgeous visuals, and incredible performances by the entire cast, Vicious Fun is bound to entertain with its humour and heart.
We interviewed Vicious Fun‘s director Cody Calahan, who also co-owns production house Black Fawn Films. Here’s what he told us on Vicious Fun‘s intriguing premise and compelling characters, the challenges faced in bringing this ambitious project to life, the atmosphere on the set and more.
Vicious Fun: “It All Started With The Title”
Congratulations for Vicious Fun‘s FrightFest UK premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival! What does it feel like to (virtually) present the film to a UK audience?
Cody Calahan: Thanks! I’m starting to get used to the idea now, so the virtual component feels a little less foreign than it did last year. We’d still rather be there in person of course, but still pumped to be a part of the festival.
Vicious Fun is so much fun! How did this project come to life?
CC: It all started with the title. I wrote it down a few years ago without a plot or anything in mind. From there it evolved over the years. It was around 2018 when I started to work with James Villeneuve and Chris Smets on the script. As soon as we pitched it to Breakthrough Entertainment, they instantly got behind it. Then we started shopping the script around and Particular Crowd picked it up for their slate, which was pretty exciting.
What do you think about the combination of serial killers and self-help groups, two topics that would seem to be on everyone’s lips these days?
CC: I think the combination is a pretty absurd idea, so it felt right to be the premise of a horror movie. Both seemed topical, even at the time of conception, so mashing them together felt right.
Bringing Vicious Fun‘s Characters To Life
I love that the film’s protagonist, Joel, is described in the press notes as an “entitled, angry nerd”! He definitely seems to embody a very specific kind of film critic, and Evan Marsh’s performance is incredible. He makes Joel so likeable and believable! How was Marsh cast for the role?
CC: We did an open casting for the role. There was a massive amount of tapes to watch. I think that character alone took a day to get through all the tapes. Evan Marsh stuck out right away to both casting and myself. He embodied everything I pictured. His audition was also hilarious, and he really threw himself into the role. For such a young actor who is really just getting started – he’s quite skilled.
All the serial killers in the film are very distinctive: their voices, looks, personalities, unusual approaches to their victims… How did you work on crafting the characters’ unique identities and on bringing humour to the equation?
CC: Lots of conversations about the influences for each character. Each of the killers were compiled from something rooted in reality, combined with a character inspired from an 80’s horror film. The humour I think comes from the fact that all of the characters had to believe the world that they find themselves in was real, that they were real, and therefore made the absurdity of the situation even more…absurd. Each character needed to feel like they could have their own film.
Filming Vicious Fun
What was the atmosphere like on the set?
CC: So much fun. Everyone really embraced the heart of the film and every day we added more and more adlibs. It felt like an exercise of who could toss out the next funny gag the fastest. It was very collaborative, and I credit a lot of the film’s success to the talent on screen. It was just such an amazing cast to work with.
So much happens in Vicious Fun! How long did it take to film and edit the movie, and what were the main challenges of bringing such an ambitious film to life?
CC: I think we shot for 22 days or so. Don’t quote me on that as it’s all a bit of a blur. We shot in November and had the final cut completed by mid-March, so the editing went pretty quickly. Mind you, we were working night and day to achieve that goal and then Covid hit unfortunately. That caused a bit of a delay but, luckily our post-production partners at Redlab here in Toronto quickly found a way for us to finish the film remotely. That was a first for me and, although that was the biggest challenge we faced, it wasn’t that bad. A lot of people wanted to see this film cross the finish line so we had a ton of support.
The Look of the Film
Can you talk about the look of the film? I loved the desaturated colours, the neon lights, the old posters and the magazines, and the hues used to make every location recognisable and unique.
CC: Neon lights were a key element from the beginning. Besides having an obsession with them in general, they always look so good on film. Jeff Maher (our Director of Photography) and I decided pretty early on that we’d try to get as many neon lights as we could find into the main location. We spent a lot of time sending each other stills from other films that used neon in certain scenes. Jeff is an incredible DOP and he became so invested in the project. Most of the old retro posters that you see in the film are all old Black Fawn flicks that we styled as 80’s B-horror movies. We thought that was the best way to give the film that authentic feel. Same goes for the magazine that Joel writes for: that was our take on a fictional horror mag, influenced by Fangoria of course.
What’s Next for Cody Calahan
Finally, what’s next for you?
CC: We’ve got some really cool projects coming down the pipe. Hopefully we’ll be announcing some exciting stuff soon.
Vicious Fun will have its FrightFest UK Premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival on 6th March, 2021