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Marina Antunes [Film Festival 10.06.14]

Shortly before its Vancouver premiere at VIFF, I had a chance to meet up with Bloody Knuckles (review) director Matt O'Mahoney who turned out to be exactly the kind of guy you'd expect to have made the movie: smart, personable and very funny.

Over the course of our conversation, O'Mahoney talked a little about the inspiration for the movie, some of the antics that went into production and his influences, many of which make appearances on screen.

Bloody Knuckles is a heck of a good time so keep an eye for it playing at a film festival near you!

Congrats on the movie. It's so much fun.

Thank you very much.

How did you got into filmmaking.

How did I get into filmmaking? I always loved movies and I always loved horror movies, they were always my favorite. But when I was around 10 years old, Carl Reiner made a movie called Summer School And there were two characters in that movie called Chainsaw and Dave. And they were make-up effects artists. And that was kind of the first time that I'd ever seen, the kind of the behind-the-scenes of all these gore effects that I was always in love with. That was the first time that I saw that it was actually an art form and a craft. Around that same time, I also discovered "Fangoria" magazine and learned about Tom Savini, who is like the real-life Chainsaws and Dave. That was it for me. I was hooked. This is what I was going to do for the rest of my life. I'm going to make the goriest movie. Make-up effects was kind of where I started, and then as I got older, I got more into wanting to be a director and writing and kind of creating these worlds. So I stepped a little bit away from the craft of make-up effects and I went full into directing and writing and that's how I ended up here.

So did you go to film school?

Sure, yeah, absolutely. I did the whole thing. I went to a couple of film schools actually.

Obviously it worked out for you.

I think so. Yeah, I learned a lot. I bounced around a lot too. I went to film school, but again, I think it was Werner Herzog that said something really great about filmmakers. If you really want to be a filmmaker, storyteller, don't just work on film sets, don't do that. Go be an usher in a porn theater or something. Or go work as a security guard on a rail yard. That's where you'll see real life and get some stories and have some real-life experiences. I had a good amount of that, even though I've never been an usher in a porn theater. But I've hung out in enough of them.

You just have to put yourself out there and be open to the experiences.

I think that's what it's all about. I'm always kind of trying to discover that which hasn't been discovered or trying to tell stories that haven't been told, or just seeing other kinds of life. I'm really obsessed with a lot of different kinds of sub-cultures and things like that. And anything that I've ever been told not to do or see, that's exactly what I go for. And that ties into this movie with my feelings towards censorship. You can never tell me that I'm not allowed to see something or can't see something. I'm going straight for it.

So where did the idea for the movie come from?

I wanted to throw in my hat into the disembodied hand arena, you know. But yeah, I was getting more and more frustrated and pissed off with this idea of self-censorship, partly out of the Danish cartoon controversy. Everyone was really kind of frightened and scared and I was really pissed off at that.

People fought really hard. That's something that a lot of people forget, is how hard people fought for the right to say what they want and you shouldn't just buckle because someone threatens you. It's terrible. And it's a terrible precedent being set, so I wanted to vent my frustration about that. But also, I wanted to make a fun horror movie that kicked ass, and threw a lot of blood around, and was fun to watch.

Adam is really great. So how hard was he to cast?

We went through a lot of actors, especially that character, because he says so many things that are offensive and that's what he's all about. We needed someone who was likeable to carry it. So Adam was actually the last person to come in to read. We had a couple of people that I was looking at but no one had really knocked it out of the park. Adam came in and really just kind of wowed me. He was just really good. And there was just one thing, this isn't the reason he got the part, but there was one line that almost everybody came in and read in the worst way ever that I totally hated. And I was like "Anyone that fucking comes in here and reads it that way, they're fucking out the door" and he came in and he didn't read it that way. That wasn't the reason that he got it, but it was pretty close.

I assume you shot locally.

Oh yeah.

I say assuming because I kind of figured it was Vancouver, but it doesn't look like Vancouver.

No, I wanted to create this kind of world that was kind of based on kind of San Francisco a little bit. I say that because San Francisco to me has the greatest Chinatown in the world. It's just phenomenal, you know. And I like that city, but I really wanted to kind of just create this own little world. I think the name that we eventually got cleared by our lawyers was like El Cerrito, or El Claria, I can't even remember the name of the town. I don't even give a shit. It's just this world that I kind of created and it has all these elements from kind of all over, mainly from other films that I love and influences that I brought in to kind of create this, my own little kind of Tromaville thing. But it doesn't have a snappy name like Tromaville.

I like that it kind of looks familiar but also doesn't. I love that sense of something new that you don't know about.

Yeah, well, I think a lot of times when productions come here, they feel almost obliged to exploit the nature, the mountains, the this, the that, and I'm like, I don't give a shit about any of it. I'm an indoor cat, you know what I'm saying? Like, I go through the dirty alleyways, and that's where I like to play. So I'll let everyone else explore the lovely nature. I'm going to hang out in the alleys.

I thought it was lovely to see a different part of Vancouver. And a different kind of subculture.

Yeah. I mention San Francisco's Chinatown, but Vancouver's Chinatown is amazing as well. Like, in North America, San Francisco, Vancouver and New York are the greatest Chinatowns around. They can't be beat. They're awesome. And I was always a big fan of '80s gang movies and stuff. And Asian gangs always look so badass, and that's why I wanted to throw them in there.

I love the guy with the armored –

The chainmail.

That's so awesome.

Everyone loves that, which I did too. My father-in-law actually gave that to me. He was like, "You need some stuff for your little movie?"

That's awesome.

He's just a guy that gets stuff all the time. He always has something for me every time I see him. And he had this chain and he asks if I think I can use it and I'm like, fuck yeah I can use that! And then he had the chain mail glove, like I guess it's for cutting fish or something. He probably could have pulled out a whole medieval suit of armor. And it would've been awesome. Yeah.

Who did the art work.

The comic books?


I did.

Seriously? I hope you're writing comic books on the side.

Honestly, no. I used to draw when I was a kid, when I was a teenager and stuff, I would draw, I didn't really get into making comics, I just kind of drew pictures and stuff. And they were always fucked up.

I wasn't going to do it originally – do you know Robin Bougie at Cinema Sewer? So I approached him, and I was like, hey man, would you be interested in doing this? And he agreed at first, and then he was like, oh wait, no. He was doing a book called "Graphic Thrills" at the time, and he was doing all the illustrations for that. And it was just a scheduling thing, and he's like, I don't think I can do it. And at the time I was only asking for a few images. The whole kind of cover gallery and the opening credits hadn't really been established at that point. So it was kind of better that I did it, because otherwise some, either Robin or someone else, would have to do a lot of work for almost no money, which so many people did that already on the movie. I didn't want to put them through that. So yeah, I was just kind of like, okay, I guess I'm going to do this thing. And I did. And it was weird because I had to just keep coming up with ideas. Who could I piss off now? Who could I include here? I tried to be the equal opportunity offender. So that was fun, but it was a lot of work.

Let's talk about Travis' room. It's awesome. Is that somebody's room or is that a set?

No, we made that. The house is in Burnaby. It's actually the producer's parents' house. They own that building. And I've actually shot two things in there. I've shot a short film called Adjust Tracking, I guess a year before we shot this. And we shot that there too. It's really a beautiful building but everything was brought in there. Courtney Stockstad who was our Production Designer, she's fucking incredible. She's amazing. She brought in a lot of stuff. I had some stuff. There's a lot of stuff, like there's a whole wall of VHS tapes, those are all mine. There's some little things, like there's a gator head that's mine. She really just made that whole room happen.

I love that room. Every time the camera goes there, it's like, you can follow and just look at everything…

Well, again, I mentioned Robin Bougie, like his, Travis's room looks a lot like my room when I was a kid or when I was a single dude before my lady is like "get the shit out of here." But yeah, Robin Bougie place, his house, it's like a Technicolor, living, breathing issue of Cinema Sewer. It's phenomenal. I wanted this guy, his house has got to reflect what he's all about. And Courtney got that and ran with it and did a phenomenal job.

I have to ask. The black dildo.

I'll tell you a funny story about that.

Because I laughed so hard. And every time I think about it, I just want to laugh.

You know, here's the thing, I don't think I've told this story to anyone in the press yet. So you're the first.


So I'm doing this and I'm like I got to get this black dildo thing. So I know there's this porno store on Hastings Street near Insight, the safe injection site, that's really great and really seedy and I love it.

So I go in there and I'm kind of perusing the wall of dildos and everything, you know. I'm looking for something that works, but I'm also on a budget. So I'm checking out these things. So I find the one, right? And I'm like, okay, I totally found it, great. I go up to the guy at the counter. And the guy looks at me and he rings me up and he just turns and looks up at me and he just goes "Lube? Do you want some lube?" And I just look at him without missing a beat and I just go "Nah, man I'm straight up." Just that, straight, no chaser. And then after that, I was like, okay, I've got my lube-less black dildo. Now I have to make this swastika arm band. How am I going to bring it from the U.S.? It's not like you can go to the swastika store and pick up a cute little swastika. So I go to Value Village. And I'm like, all right, I can get a sleeve from a little kid's shirt or something, a long sleeve shirt, cut it and then paste the little swastika thing on it. And I go up and I find the shirt and I'm like, oh, this is perfect, and I get the little thing. This is totally going to work out great. And I go up and the girl was checking me out and she goes, oh my God, that's so adorable. And I'm just thinking in my head, it's going to be a swastika that's going on a huge black dildo.

Yeah, let me show you my project when it's done...

There are always lots of challenges on set. Any special challenges with this production?

Oh God, everything was a challenge. We had locations that fell through at the last minute, like once we had already started shooting. We had a huge location that would have covered about 10 locations in the script. Gone. And we had already started shooting. That was huge.

Legal things were weird. At the end of the day, we were really good. We talked to our lawyers maybe a little too much. We were a little too cautious maybe. But yeah, we had a lot of stuff that we were baffled by. Like Larry Flynt wouldn't let us use a "Larry Flynt For President" t-shirt. Yeah, not him personally, but Larry Flynt publications, which was really bizarre. We have a Loretta Lynn song at the end of the movie. So Loretta Lynn is cool, and Larry Flynt is not cool.

That song is so good.

I thought it was a good song to finish things of. It's fitting. It's a nice little joke. And it's also a really nice song to leave the theater.

Special effects. They're pretty great.

Yeah, they're pretty good. There were two guys but Matt Aebig was really the guy that came through and did a really great job. I'm a guy that comes from that background and being obsessed and loving make-up effects so I always want them to be really big and splashy and gory, because that's what I want as an audience member. And I assume that there are a few people like me so the effects are really kind of special to me, so I wanted to try and make them pretty bad ass. Matty especially went above and beyond.

They look amazing. And I love that the movie is back heavy with effects.

I don't know, there's almost like a kind of and onslaught with a lot of effects now. Digital has kind of come in, so it's not even really special at all anymore to see someone just go through a crowd of whatever, zombies and slice them all, as opposed to 20 years ago when Peter Jackson had a guy with a lawnmower going through, it was like, spectacular. You'd never seen anything like that. And all of the effects in that movie are treated like something special, like here is where we're going to have the guy and his face ripped off, and we're going to do a cool swipe and it's going to look like...and I don't think anyone, I can't say anyone, but a lot of people just don't do it like that anymore. I think people lost the special on the special effect because we're trying to cram so much shit into it. Just like an effect every five seconds, and it's like no! Let it take its time, let it breathe, let it be special.


So I tried to do that, you know, and again, budget's always a factor.

That's just the way it goes.

And yeah, sometimes that blood just doesn't do what you want it to do.

Sometimes going practical is way better than anything digital could give you.

I always like to go practical. We had a little bit of help with visual effects, but they're subtle, and some people don't even know that they're there, like unless they have a really, really keen eye. But visual effects are like the good little tool to kind of give a little bit more "umph" to practicals when they fall short. If they fall short. And you know, they can, like I said, blood… sometimes there's just not enough of it, sometimes there's too much. It goes this way, it goes that way. But yeah, if you have someone who's really good and can make a splatter against here where you want it, then yeah, why not use it.

Going behind the curtain a little more… in some of the scenes I assume the hand is actually attached to somebody and you shot around the body?

Absolutely. I come from the old school, Tom Savini school of make-up effects or illusions or whatever you want to call them. So I was like: we're going to do a lot of holes in couches. We're going to do the one glove that has an actual stump coming out of it, so you can kind of crawl up things. So yeah, it was a lot of kind of trickery really. Very easy to do, simple. Scooter [Scooter Corkle, director of photography] and I planned out our shots considering which were going to be this glove and where we'd just crop it out with the frame. There were a lot of holes in things and Krista Magnusson who played the hand, she was in a lot of weird positions a lot of the time.

Wait. That was a lady's hand?

Yeah, we had to have someone with a smaller hand because of the make-up and big glove on top of it. So yeah, she came aboard and she was under beds, under couches, under this, under that.

What a trouper.

Yeah, she was amazing. She's a local actor, and she really worked with it. I think she got really attached to it. No pun intended, but yeah. She really has made it her own little character, which was great.

It does. It totally has its own attitude.

Yeah, absolutely.

So what are you working on now? What's next for you?

I'm working on a couple of things. I'm working on a couple of pictures that are in just the script phase and need some rewriting. One is about a rag tag group of Satanists on a college campus, who want to hold a black mass but because of campus speech codes they're not allowed to.

Then there's another one that I've been working on for a long time, which is similarly themed, but it takes place in the '80s. And it's about a guy who's a heavy metal musician who kind of just succumbed to drug addiction. He dies of a drug overdose but he is not allowed to progress to the after-life because he's kind of squandered his mission and his gift. And so he has to kind of prove himself in order to come back. So he gets reincarnated as his heavy metal mascot, kind of like Eddie, Iron Maiden's "Eddie." So he comes back as that and he is kind of assigned a kid who is in trouble with the authorities and church people and parents' groups. And there's this kind of heavy metal de-programming center where they send all the heavy metal kids to brainwash them. And he gets sent to that, and that's when he realizes that's what his mission is: to end this Satanic panic and save all his heavy metal disciples.

I'm sensing a theme here.


You obviously have real passion for the underbelly of '80s horror movies.


f you could recommend three titles that you think are little seen and that deserve some recognition, what would you recommend?

I don't know so much about little seen is tough because you don't know exactly who you're talking to –

Well, underappreciated. How's that?

I'll throw out just some of my favorites.

So I would definitely say Lamberto Bava's Demons from 1985. Easily one of my top 3 favorite movies of all time. Jim Muro's Street Trash is hilarious, really vulgar, awesome good time about winos that melt. And if you want to talk about the underbelly of society … this whole movie is just about homeless people and their little microcosm in New York. And yeah, it's a wild movie. It's a fantastic film.

Re-Animator is one of my favorites as well. All those really, just kind of bizarre – Re-Animator, Street Trash Peter Jackson's Bad Taste - just these movies that were very kind of charming because even though they were super violent and gory and were designed to make people kind of sick, there's a humor in them and a light-heartedness that I find very very charming. And I love those movies for that. And it's so anarchic and just so bizarre. So yeah, those movies are some of my faves. I just watch them and enjoy them because they're fucking amazing.

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