In the spring of 1984, a group of teen friends decide to skip their high school dance in favor of a journey of hormone-fueled obsession. But what begins as a bus trip to nirvana quickly becomes a night a sheer terror when the bus they are traveling in breaks down in front of the home a cannibalistic killer.
Co-written by Bo Ransdell and Ian Kessner and directed by Kessner, “Lost After Dark” is the new horror film that pays homage to the slashers of the 1980’s. Along for the ride is a stellar cast that includes Robert Patrick (Terminator 2), Eve Harlow (“The 100” “Heroes Reborn”), Stephan James (Selma), Jesse Camacho (Kick-Ass 2) and Sarah Fisher (“Degrassi: The Next Generation”).
I recently spoke with Ian Kessner and Bo Ransdell about Lost After Dark in this exclusive interview.
James Wood: How did the “Lost After Dark” story come about?
Bo Ransdell (writer): Originally, it was a response to all the slashers that came out on the heels of “Scream”. In the wake of that, every slasher seemed to ape that self-awareness and what made slashers great in the first place was their purity. You can have a modern sensibility and be playful with the tropes but still be a true slasher as well. The original script came from a place of wanting to see a movie like the ones I loved.
Ian Kessner (writer/director): When I read Bo’s first draft I was instantly hooked. I loved the way it brought me back to my childhood and all the great slashers I grew up with. I felt like it was a really smart, heartfelt love letter to the genre, and knew I wanted to make it.
JW: Are you both fans of 80’s horror or the genre in particular? What are some of your favorite films from this era?
IK: 80s horror films hold a special place in my heart because I saw them when I was a kid. Some of the slashers that had the biggest impact were “Friday the 13th”, “My Bloody Valentine”, Sleepaway Camp and the Halloween and Nightmare on Elm Street franchises.
BR: I’ve devoured horror films all my life and the 80s were a particularly amazing time for the genre. I think in this film you can see my love for (Luchio) Fulci and (John) Carpenter. But another film that I think informed some of the work was the under seen “Hell Night”.
JW: In your opinion, what makes for a great horror film?
BR: It depends on the film. I think above all a good horror film has to be true to itself. A slasher like ours has a different needs set than say, “Rosemary’s Baby”, which is all about sociopolitical change. It’s about knowing the genre and the genres within the genres that makes a good horror film tick.
IK: I’d also add great acting. If the actor can portray real fear then the audience will feel it. Even in instances where “the monster” is not seen a great actor can make the audience believe they have every reason to be scared. I also think you can’t underestimate the importance of the human psyche and the fears we all have. If you can tap into those you have a good chance at making a scary film.
JW: How would you describe the story of “Lost After Dark”?
IK: I like to think of it as a John Hughes movie gone very wrong! [laughs]. It has a classic teen coming-of-age story feel with fun characters you want to get to know but just when you do, things go down hill fast.
BR: It’s about kids isolated by geography who stumble across the hunting grounds of a cannibalistic killer. Sometimes you don’t have to re-invent the wheel. You can just take the toys in that sandbox and use them differently, which I think we have.
JW: What was it like having someone like Robert Patrick involved in the film?
IK: I happened to know Robert’s manager, so when we decided he was the man for the job I knew exactly where to go. We got incredibly lucky that Robert had a small hole in his schedule and was able to do the part. He’s not a guy that likes to sit on his laurels. He also really dug the script and was genuinely excited to sink his teeth in the role of Mr. C. I couldn’t be happier with his performance. He really nailed the tone and anchors the film.
JW: What were some of the thing you did to give it that 80s “look”?
IK: That was a combination of great production design and camerawork. In prep, I revisited a lot of the low budget 80’s slashers I grew up loving for inspiration. Then on set a lot of detail was spent on the hair, make-up, wardrobe, props and shot selection to make it look authentic to the period. Using special effects instead of visual effects was also a big part in making it feel legit. In post, I worked with a fantastic color timer to create the final 80’s look.
JW: What other projects are you currently working on?
BR: We’ve talked about a sequel to “Lost After Dark” but like the first film, we want to do something unexpected and not just a retread of the film that’s already been done. The best part of seeing your film is the rush of creativity that follows and the optimism behind it.
JW: Now that this film is complete, what are you looking forward to?
BR: The reaction is the most satisfying thing. It’s terrifically rewarding. At this point, I’m looking forward to the next thing, whatever that may be. If enough people respond to the movie I’d love to see what we could do with a sequel. I think it would be nuts!
IK: I agree. The reaction to the film has been super satisfying. Sitting with an audience and seeing them laugh and scream in all the right spots is an incredible feeling. Then to read all of the great reviews and comments from fans on social media – it just makes you so incredibly happy that people understood what you were going for and had fun. As for what’s next, I hope it’s another feature. I’m itching to get back behind the camera!
Lost After Dark is available on Blu-Ray and DVD September 1 by Anchor Bay Entertainment