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March 23, 2014

Fright Nights: Horrorant Film Festival, 2014 – Part 4: Melissa Mira interview!

Horrorant International Film Festival, in its 1st year is holding screenings both in Athens (13th to 19th of March) and Thessaloniki (20th to 26th of March). The screenings are superb when it comes to image and sound quality. Each feature is accompanied by a short. We are talking about 19 features and 18 shorts. All of the films are Greek premieres and four of them are European premieres as well. Horrorant is the only European Film Festival happening in two major cities. I tried to watch as many films as possible from Horrorant’s program and reviewed them exclusively for Cinema Head Cheese.
One of my favorite films was Pinup Dolls on Ice (2013) and I think many will agree with me that its balance of violence and humor was excellent. I had the opportunity to exchange e-mails with director Melissa Mira. Here’s what she had to say. Enjoy!

1. First things first: Pinup Dolls on Ice (2013) is my favorite film from Horrorant's program. I know this was the European premiere, but can you tell me where else it has played and if you have any more screenings scheduled?

            PINUP DOLLS ON ICE had its sold-out World Premiere at the Fantasia International Film Festival in Montreal in the summer of 2013. We followed that up with our US premiere at the Spooky Movie International Film Festival in Washington. After that, we made our way across North America for screenings at the Telluride Horrorshow, Dedfest, Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival (Nominated for Best Horror/Thriller), Another Hole in the Head, and even won BEST SOUND DESIGN at the New York City Horror Film Festival. Once 2014 came around, we hopped over to LA for Shockfest Hollywood, where we won BEST EDITOR and were nominated for 4 other awards (Best Directors, Best FX, Best Cinematography and the Shocker Award). And then in April, we'll be crossing the pond for the 32nd Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival, followed by Nocturna Madrid International Fantastic Film Festival at the end of May where we're up for another award in the Madness category. We're basically in the middle of our festival run and we're very excited about all the festivals coming up! We do our best to attend each and every screening. We love meeting our "on Ice" supporters and shooting the shit with the horror community! We're very honoured that PINUP DOLLS ON ICE was your favourite film of the festival! The lineup was fucking solid and we would have loved to attend some of those screenings!

2. Geoff Klein and you co-directed Pinup Dolls on Ice (2013). How did it work having two directors on set?

            It took us a few days to figure out how we were going to work together, then everything just kind of fell into place. Geoff is more the technical "geek" on set and I'm more of the "more blood" girl on set! It was a healthy balance between Geoff and I; he basically took care of the camera and overall technical "look" of the film, while I focused more on the actors, makeup, set decor and what was actually going to happen in the scene. It's the best way to work for us, because we were really working to our strengths. Some days, I had to be an actress and Geoff would become my director. I would be doing my own special effects makeup as Geoff was standing next to me explaining what Moe was going to do to me. Then I had to run to set, make sure Moe’s hair was greasy enough, had one quick look at the monitor and the next thing you know, Geoff calls “action” and Moe is running toward me! Geoff and I wear a lot of hats on set, enough for some people to tell us that we do too much and that we should learn how to delegate, but we actually enjoy and love doing everything ourselves. It’s extremely gratifying not to mention that you have complete control of your own project. If you have ever worked with us, you know that Geoff and I don’t like titles and positions. We don’t care that we are the Producers/Directors or that this person is a Grip or Caterer, everybody has a creative input and say and we all work together, as a team. If somebody has an awesome idea for a scene that would make the film better, we would be horrible filmmakers not to take it. Everybody is equal and as important as the next person and the egos are left at the door.

3. How did you balance the humor with the violence?

            That's a really good question because at one point in the editing process, there was far less humour than in the final version! We really weren't sure how the character of Clay was going to come across on screen, and early on in the editing we felt that his character may have been a
little out of place. But then we had a private screening with the Writer, Michael Penning, and he felt that the one thing missing was the humour. So we went back and revisited the “Clay” scenes and decided to throw him back in the film. Ended up being a really good decision because the comedy lets the audience breathe and put their guard down; and when Moe shows up and starts having sex with frozen, dead girls, you think to yourself "man, this shit got real!". All this to say, in most horror films you need that balance between humour and horror, and when done properly, it can be very effective. I actually wanted Clay’s character to be something like Jason Stackhouse from Trueblood, but when we saw Matt Popoff’s audition tape, I changed my mind immediately. When it comes to the humour between the Pinup Dolls, we basically decided to add-lib all of their dialogue and let the girls naturally react to one another. You can always tell when a guy writes “girl dialogue” – there’s just something off. I think we made an excellent decision for that particular aspect because when you watch the film, you really believe these girls are actually friends. Too often we’ll see “stereotype characters” in horror film (especially in slasher films) and you just don’t believe that they would actually be friends. It becomes unbelievable and it makes you want all of them to die, especially the annoying dumb blond.

4. Although your film is a love letter to the good old Slasher films of the '80s it doesn't fall in the faux-Grindhouse trap so many homages do today. How did you pulled that off?

            Although we were influenced by the old school slasher films of the 80's, we didn't try and mimic any film or director in particular. We had our own unique vision in mind of how we wanted the film to look and feel, and that's what we set out to do. We knew that some scenes would offend people, but we didn't care, we simply did what we wanted to do without trying to pay homage to anyone in particular. At the end of the day, all people really want to see from a slasher is a good, fast paced film with hot chicks getting killed in brutal ways by an iconic killer. It
should be simple, but effective. We kept that in mind and made it our primary focus. We also wanted to keep an essential element of slasher films, the “I can’t believe she just did that” element! I made it a point for the girls to keep their high heels during the entire film; I wanted the audience to yell at them “take those god damn heels off!” It was our take on the usual “let’s go check out what that noise was” in every
other slasher film. I love that people are confused when it comes to PINUP DOLLS ON ICE! They can’t judge it like all the other slashers, but they also can’t say it’s not a slasher. From the beginning, we had agreed that Moe was not going to be this force of nature with supernatural powers. He’s just a dude that just snapped in his head and is now on a murderous rampage. A “human” maniac killer is far scarier than a “supernatural” serial killer, in my opinion. Monsters use to scare me when I was younger, but now the Ted Bundy’s in real life scare the shit out of me because it could be anybody; your next door neighbor, your colleague, your mom’s new boyfriend and when they come at you the way Moe lunges at the Pinup Dolls, I don’t care how much you can bench at the gym or how awesome your cardio is, you’re not going to make it.

5. Are we going to see a sequel or you are preparing something different? What are your plans?

            PINUP DOLLS ON ICE is actually the sequel to BIKINI GIRLS ON ICE (2009). Geoff directed and produced that film on his own; but he always knew that the "on Ice" films would at least be a trilogy. So to answer your question, YES, there will be a third film!! We are only scratching the surface with PINUP DOLLS ON ICE and we have a few surprises coming your way! We need to get this trilogy out of our heads before moving on to other things! We really would love to try other genres of horror films, something a little slower in pace and atmospheric. Taking a step back from slashers can only be good; it will allow us to come back with a vengeance!

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