Just selected for the prestigious Chicago Horror Film Festival, the short Let’s Play Dead Girl serves up a heady mixture of the Slenderman legend, teenage power games and online grooming. We tracked down writer/director/producer Christian A Moran to find out more about the film.
‘On the surface Let’s Play Dead Girl is my own interpretation of the events that took place with the Slenderman case in Wisconsin. When the story broke out on the news back in 2014, I was shocked by it and instantly wrote a script in a week about two twelve-year-olds girls wanting to kill because they wanted to be proxies. To make it my own I did research on child killers, serial killers, the increase of violence due to the web and I also looked into my own religious beliefs. Since I grew up in a Roman Catholic household I wanted to show the pressure that I had as a child to sacrifice, to love, to have faith and to worship a God, a savior that I couldn’t see. The first half of the film is about the struggles of having faith and the second half is about the extremes that some would go to prove that faith in a God. I also wanted the film to have this 80’s vibe. With the help of Carmela Lane, who did the wardrobe, gave my characters the retro 80’s look that kids these days wear. Drum and A Tantrum, composed this really cool 80’s inspired original soundtrack and Special Effects Makeup artist, Ashley K. Thomas gave the film that really great blood and gore from slasher films from back in the days.’
With a story that features such convincingly young characters, we wanted to know how christian went about casting the roles?
‘Initially I wanted 12-year-old girls to play the three main roles but a six-day production and child labour laws prevented that, but I was glad I didn’t because I got to meet some very talented actresses. I also wanted my cast to be diverse and I was very happy to have actresses that had Mexican, Dominican and Korean roots. I spent two months rehearsing with Yessenia Rivas (Josephine), Laura Guzman (Consuelo) and Yeena Sung (Juda). I started by giving them tons of character background, which they absorbed like sponges. During those months we spent talking about the psychology and philosophy of the characters. And every time they came in for rehearsal I knew they had done their homework because the performance of their characters would evolve leading them to have even more brilliant and in-depth questions for me to answer.
Laura was a pro, from the get go she understood Consuelo very well. She captured that innocent nerdy girl who just wanted to fit in and because of that she steals certain scenes in the film. Yeena’s performance is great, she takes you on an emotional roller coaster of those teenager year moments, those moments of awkwardness, anger, disappointment, confusion and because of that I felt she gave Juda some empathy. On the other hand, Yessenia made Josephine truly evil. She made you believe that Josephine has no limit to using conniving tactic to manipulate her best friend. Yessenia’s performance is so powerful that it will make you scream, “you evil bitch!” at the screen. During production I didn’t have to worry about directing them on set because they were a hundred percent Josephine, Juda and Consuelo. Directing them was a very nurturing experience that gave me the chance to hone in on my own craft. It was an awesome experience and I would love to work with all of them again. ‘
We can’t say much more about the movie without giving too much away but we were keen to find out a bit more about Christian and he got into filmmaking.
‘Growing up in Queens, New York, I was the kid that watched every VHS from my mom and pops local video store, especially horror movies. I loved slasher films, I had true love for them. Jason, Myers, Freddy, terrified me. My grandfather actually took me to see my very first horror movie, Juan Piquer Simón’s Pieces at five-years-old. In school, a teacher gave me the opportunity to read my stories to the class and they were all horror sequels, like Cujo: Part Two. Then I discovered The Twilight Zone and I wanted to be a writer like Rod Serling. To write stories that had social commentaries. In my teens I got to watch Stanley Kubrick’s, A Clockwork Orange and it inspired me to buy a big body VHS camcorder to make my own films. A lot of those shorts films I made dealt with duality just like movies by Kubrick. This all accumulated to a twelve-year career in post-production. Which gave me the chance to work on some of my heroes films, like Joe Dante, Roger Corman, and Takashi Miike. Now these days all I want is to tell my own stories so I started directing. ‘
So what can we expect from Christian in the future?
‘I have one more short film coming out soon called Flawed God, which deals with corporal punishment and schizophrenia. I’m planning to do the festivals run with both short films this fall and winter. While that is going on I’m excited to start pre-production on my urban horror anthology series geared towards a female audience. Let’s Play Dead Girl is the blue print for the types of stories that the series will consist of. A six episode series which I plan to pitch to streaming sites. Also, my priority is to find an executive producer to be a business partner, someone who loves making films but also has the desire to make a brand grow. A person that would say if we can’t sell it to the states, we’ll sell to the international market. Once I finish the series, I’m going full throttle towards a full-length feature.’
It all sounds pretty exciting to us especially the urban horror anthology if Let’s Play Dead Girl is anything to go by. Christian A Moran thank you for talking to the Horror Hothouse.