Jeremy Saulnier’s entertaining, shocking, and funny horror comedy, Murder Party (SXSW 2007), is out on DVD this week. Just in time for Halloween. The film is also the inaugural release for new Magnolia division, Magnet. As someone I’ve gotten to know over the 2007 festival circuit, I knew that Jeremy was the kind of guy that wouldn’t be afraid to answer the tough questions about his film. Unfortunately, I couldn’t come up with any really tough questions. But, luckily, he still found time between releasing his film and welcoming his first child, to answer these:
Me: What inspired Murder Party to be your first feature?
Saulnier: I’d been working in advertising directing cheese-ball commercials and selling my soul. I wanted to blow all the money I made on something crass, irreverent and highly scatological. My cohorts and I agreed to drop the “coming of age” script we’d been rewriting since 2001, get back to our gory roots and fast track Murder Party into production. It was a blast, and a way to introduce ourselves (production company The Lab of Madness) to audiences and the industry on our own terms, for better or for worse.
Me: The film satirizes New York art students, to the point of gruesome death. Do you hate New York art students?
Saulnier: No more than any other clique. While Murder Party lampoons the Brooklyn art scene, the bickering dipshits in the film are modeled after the filmmakers themselves. As a creative collective, The Lab of Madness has had its share of tension, rivalry and attempted murders.
Me: Any advice or lessons you learned about making a horror feature for a very low budget?
Saulnier: Pull the trigger. You could wait a lifetime for everything to line up perfectly but you should capitalize on what you’ve got and dive in. And if you don’t have enough money to make it truly terrifying, make it funny as hell. Meanwhile, did you really need THAT much blood? But of course! It’s sort of a quantity vs. quality issue, or rather quantity vs. frequency for us.
Murder Party is primarily a comedy but it passes as a horror film because of the Halloween atmosphere and some genuinely creepy set pieces. We couldn’t afford to showcase kick ass gore FX throughout the entire film. But when shit hits the fan during the finale, we had to go all out- the “wolfmelt” and the chainsaw scenes were our marquee effect sequences. As we filmed the climactic slaughter, blood literally seeped through the set floor and oozed down the walls of the loft space beneath it.
Me: What did you have to do, as a writer and director, to maintain that balance between horror and comedy?
Saulnier: It’s an easy line to ride as long as the actors play it straight. It all hinges upon the cast- and they must never try to be funny, or everything goes to shit.
Me: Okay, it’s Halloween night… people are deciding what to watch… Of the many many options, why should they watch Murder Party?
Saulnier: If it’s Halloween night, I’d suggest vandalism. But if you’re going to watch a movie, watch Murder Party because it has slapstick gags and gory mayhem and celebrates the holiday like no other film. It’s The Breakfast Club – with chainsaws and hard drugs. And, I desperately need the royalties.