MJ Dixon’s no Slaypril Fool – We talk to the Mycho MD
Er Behind You
Laugh? There was nearly a nasty incident with the seat cover and some Vanish when I viewed Mycho Entertainment’s Slaypril Fools Day Part V: the Last Laugh. A razor-sharp rip on the trailers for just about every deranged psycho killer body count franchise, but delivered with deadpan British wit, Slaypril Fools Day Part V: The Last Laugh will be Mycho’s contribution to Troma’s soon to be released portmanteau feature Grindsploitation: the Movie
My attention grabbed by the scruff of its neck I had no choice but to bingewatch every single film clip at Mycho’s website and drag MJ Dixon, the brains behind the company, into the Hothouse interrogation suite.to find out more about what makes Mycho tick
‘Well it all started in 2004, I had previously being producing short films in my spare time under the label ‘Demo Imaging’ with some friends from childhood, nothing really serious, but it was obvious to me that i just wanted to keep doing it. I left my hometown of Sunderland 2004 at the age of 23 and decided I was going to make a go of doing it properly. I moved to Preston and enrolled at the university there (as a way to access better equipment). I wanted a fresh start and so I decided to drop the ‘Demo Imaging’ label and create something fresh for myself. Combining my first name ‘Mike’ and one of my all time favourite movies Psycho I came up with Mycho Pictures, which later evolved in Mycho Entertainment about six years later.
It started off as just me, with the cheapest digital camera I could afford and a basic PC with a capture card and that was it. I’d ask people to help me when they were free and I just tried to make as much crap as possible, I think in the first 3 years I made about 25 short films, just trying to get the basics down, filmmaking was something that never really came naturally to me, so I knew I needed the practice. I figured the best way to learn was just to do it. I drafted in friends whenever I could, every now and then other filmmakers would help out, but for the first few years I did the lion’s share.
I was inspired by the can do attitude of filmmakers like Lloyd Kaufman, Robert Rodriguez and Sam Raimi and idolised those guys and their work ethic as indie filmmakers. My biggest inspirations in terms of style were filmmakers like John Carpenter, Tony Randel, Eric Red and Steve Wang, i took a lot of influence from these guys, these were the filmmakers I loved the most growing up and they were really the reason I wanted to make movies in the first place. But my BIGGEST inspiration came in about 2005 when I discovered Trash House by Pat Higgins and, eventually, by extension the films of Al Ronald & Jim Eaves. These guys lived a few hours down the road from me, and they were out there doing it and I was picking up their films in Blockbuster. That was a huge kick up the arse for me, to actually see someone doing it, someone like me, that turned my the dream of making movies from a fantasy to a reality’.
Mycho’s website features some very distinctive short films so how would MJ describe Mycho’s style?
‘I graduated from University in 2008 and It was a big turning point for me, I had made 25 plus short films in that time and each was as terrible as the last. My final film before I graduated was an adaption of HP Lovecraft’s Herbert West ReAnimator called simply West. I put everything I could into that film and although it was probably the best thing I’d made up until that moment, it still wasn’t where I wanted to be. I took this moment to take a breath and look back at everything I’d made before, where I’d gone wrong and what I’d done right and pulled it all apart, then I decided to go back to basics.
Later that year I shot a 2 minute horror film, with a very simple premise and a limited cast and location which ended up being called EyeSpy.
We sent the film out to various places and competitions and it eventually won ‘Best Film’ at the After Dark/Dread Central Short Film Competition, which got us a lot of exposure, thanks to the involvement of Twisted Sister (yay Twisted fucking Sister) frontman Dee Snider as one of the judges.
This got people asking us about when we planned to branch out into a feature, but I wasn’t sure I was ready just yet. I’d had a feature idea for a few years based on serial killer called ‘Thorn’ that I’d invented when I was about 15 and so I stripped down the essence of the feature idea and turned it into a short 5 page script. We shot it in an evening in a friend’s garage and it came out pretty well. We released it online and it went down very well, eventually winning the Scary or Die short film competition.
I was always really interested in deconstructing the slasher movie and approaching those kinds of stories from a different angle and that was the plan with these new short films, to really just try to do something a little differently. With Thorn I really loved the idea of the killer being the ‘victim’ and what that would do to the characters who’d survived his massacre years earlier.
Thorn was later spun into a full length movie of his own, but preceding his debut feature, The Legacy of Thorn, he took part in Slasher House the film that introduced an unsuspecting world to the Mycho Universe.
‘In 2009, I was in the process of trying to get my first feature Creepsville off the ground, what had been planned to be a 14 day shoot had turned into five months and editing was looking to take another six months at least. I started rewriting a script I’d written in 2005 for a film called Slasher House, after finding out that two films that have a similar theme had been announced in the media. I knew if I didn’t do it then, the chance would be lost and Slasher House was probably my favourite film idea that I’d ever had. The idea had been to make it a team up movie after a series of features, but it worked out that I actually had to make Slasher House first and fill in the blanks after the fact.
I had planned to tackle Thorn as feature, but Slasher House now ended up taking priority and we rushed that into production, even though it would be two years before it would finally see the light of day. The idea behind the film was to reverse the slasher formula, rather than having a bunch of young girls trapped in a house by a serial killer, I thought it would be more interesting to reverse the ratio and have a one girl trapped in a house with whole host of serial killers. Each one was based on a slasher archetype, Cleaver was based on the more comedic killers like Freddy Krueger, Corben was based on a Hannibal Lecter type, Thorn was based on the Michael Myers/Jason type killers and Nathan was the most complex one being possessed by an evil entity of some kind. I’d originally planned for at least three of these guys to have their own movies before I got to Slasher House, but instead I figured that it would make a great springboard for these characters for future movies.
Thorn, eventually renamed Legacy of Thorn began development, along with two other films (Hollower and The Violent Dark) whilst we were in post on Slasher House, I dug out the old script and began revising it and my partner, Anna, came on board to produce. We started shooting Legacy of Thorn in 2013 in Oldham, England and this was my first step in creating the shared universe that I had planned since 2005.’
There is a very strong element of parody in Mycho’s work we wondered how important MJ thought humour was in horror.
‘I think, in modern cinema, if you’re going to do slasher movies, you have no choice but to parody them to a degree. There are so many cliches involved in the genre that it’s just irresistible to play with them. I think with Mycho movies it comes as both a blessing and a curse. Everything is written with a very tongue in cheek attitude, but I think sometimes people don’t get the joke and write them off as just another cliché filled slasher movie. Our intention is always to poke fun at those clichés rather than use them in any serious way. With Cleaver : Rise of the Killer Clown, I think I referenced themes and clichés so much that it became hard for a lot of critics to set it apart from just another Killer Clown movie, but the intention was always for its tongue to be firmly stuck in its cheek throughout.
Humour is extremely important to what we do, sometimes it’s fairly obvious, like in our faux trailer Slaypril Fools Day Part V, where it’s evident that it’s full of comedy, whilst in other films there is an overall serious tone, but with comedic relief throughout. Even in our most depressing series film, Hollower, there is a large dose of humour sprinkled throughout it. I actually find it very difficult to write straight up horror, as it feels very unrealistic to me. I think learning to lift that feeling of suspense, even for a moment, helps make the scares that little bit more effective and, of course, you really just want people to have a good time watching your movies and humour really helps.’
So what’s next for Mycho?
‘Well, we’ve been busy. This August Cleaver : Rise of the Killer Clown and Hollower (featuring Hothouse pal Nicholas Burman-Vince) are both coming to DVD and VOD at the same time, outside of that we’ve been in production non-stop since 2014 and we’re currently finishing up production on Slasher House 2, which expands on Red’s story from the first movie and introduces a whole new roster of killers, some of which will be getting the feature treatment in the future. Straight from there, Thorn is getting a Prequel in Mask of Thorn, which is an 80’s set homage to the VHS slashers that I grew up with, which should land next year sometime.
We’re also continuing to produce short films to expand the Mychoverse and next on our features list is the Girls Boarding School VS Demons splatter film The Violent Dark which we’re finally getting into production. There is a big overall plan which, being low-budget filmmakers, is hard to implement with any great speed, but it’s all leading to something big and I can’t wait to show you what we’ve got planned.’
On the basis of what we have seen so far, neither can we, MJ Dixon thank you for taking the time to talk to The Horror Hothouse