Q&A: Director Peter Grendle on Southwestern Neo-Nazi horror “BLOOD SOAKED”
New Mexico-based low-budget indie filmmaker Peter Grendle has finished his latest feature, BLOOD SOAKED, a gritty tale set in the sun-bleached desert of the American Southwest about what occurs when coed lesbians encounter Neo-Nazis, and the subsequent chaos that unfolds. FANGO chatted with Grendle about his inspiration and the production process behind this freaky flick.
FANGORIA: Where did you shoot the film? What was your shooting schedule like?
PETER GRENDLE: We shot just outside Santa Fe, NM. You drive five miles away from the last gas station before the highway and you’re literally in the middle of nowhere. Our film needed a lot of isolation and expansive desert sets; shooting on location in what felt like the loneliest place in America really helped everyone get in the mood. That, and we shot it in one week. Grueling and brutal, just the way it should be.
FANG: Can you talk about how the culture and aesthetic of New Mexico has influenced your filmmaking?
GRENDLE: New Mexico is wonderful because horror is still underground—a naughty “fringe” thing. The culture in Santa Fe especially is that of high art; lots of seniors retire there. When you make a horror film in a big city, you have a younger, built-in following with people who understand and know the genre. In a small town like Santa Fe, the old folks still look at you like you’re Jeffrey Dahmer and move to the other side of the sidewalk. It really helps to fuel a better, more shocking movie.
FANG: Can you talk a bit about the short the feature originated from?
GRENDLE: THIS SIDE OF NIGHTMARE was really a ten-minute scene from the full-length film. We hadn’t planned a feature version of the story until [the short] became so popular. We have six separate non-exclusive VOD deals on it, which led us to thinking that we might be on to something. Granted, the short was a film school thesis shot in ten hours for $500, so we knew we would have to invest a bit more if we were to make this simple little film into something bigger.
So we literally fleshed out what came before and after. The plot of the short was about two redneck sisters with a homophobic taste for blood who find a lesbian couple making out on the highway, and then try to kill them. When writing the feature, I didn’t think that storyline would carry an hour and a half, so we threw in some Nazis, sex, zombies, nudity, graphic-as-hell violence, a bigger budget, and professional actors. BLOOD SOAKED was the result.
GRENDLE: I was reading the sequel to THE LARAMIE PROJECT, a play based on the true story of Matthew Shepard, a college student who was murdered by homophobes. In this play, his aggressors are interviewed ten years after the crime and don’t regret it in the slightest; they still said he deserved it and that they’d do it again. How damn scary is that? Straight up intolerance can lead to murder that even after years in prison, one can still feel good about. A ruthless killer is one thing, but a ruthless killer who lives across the street from you is a true-to-life nightmare.
FANG: What inspired you to choose the stylistic elements of the film, such as a large portion of it being shot in black and white?
GRENDLE: This started with the short – it was shot in full color, completed and playing at festivals. Then I had an epiphany in the shower: Why the hell not? So we planned the feature to have a chunk shot in black and white. The pure blacks and heavy grain of a good black and white shot are something I love about old mono monster movies, something we tried to riff on here.
FANG: How much of the effects in your film were practical versus CGI?
GRENDLE: I’m proud to say that I’m part of the ever-growing resistance to CGI. We’ve lost some of the heart and soul of special effects when filmmakers start throwing in CGI birds and lizards as part of the background. The best parts of the best films are always created by happy accident. An independent film should embrace its means and be defined by them. CGI can never be an accident. So we have no CGI in the film; it’s 100% latex, tubing, and red caro syrup.
FANG: The music in BLOOD SOAKED adds a unique element to the movie; can you talk a bit about the soundtrack?
GRENDLE: There’s a lot of great underground acts we got involved with for the soundtrack, from the Albuquerque deathcore outfit Eat a Helicopter to California hip-hop, with Eternal of the Wu-Tang West Coast Killa Beez. All of them loved the idea and got involved pretty quickly, contributing previously recorded material and at times specifically writing music for the film.
FANG: We can safely assume you’re a genre fan yourself; can you talk about the horror films that have been most influential on your filmmaking?
GRENDLE: At times, horror is all that I’ve got; it’s the one true constant in my life. The movies that I point as saviors of the genre are THEY CALL HER ONE EYE, DAWN OF THE DEAD, EATEN ALIVE, TENEBRE, FUNNY GAMES, HAUSU, NEAR DARK, MARTYR(S), BRIDE OF FRANKENSTEIN, etc. The best scary movies ruin your day and haunt your dreams. They remind you that you’re mortal and lucky to be here.
FANG: Do you have any memorable anecdotes from being on set that you would like to share?
GRENDLE: The best actually came from auditions in our casting call. We were looking for nudity, but prudence dictates that we not ask the actress to strip in the call. First, wanted a girl who could act; we’d figure out the risqué details later. This worked for about five seconds, as girl after girl would, even before starting their read, ask when we wanted their shirt off, or just start [undressing] without warning. For the first time in my life I actually had to stop people from getting naked in front of me and tell them to just act!
FANG: What projects are you currently working on? Do you foresee yourself working in the genre again in the future?
GRENDLE: Of course! It’s in my soul. Scary movies are the best catharsis there is. We’re working on a new one–keep your eyes peeled. Give BLOOD SOAKED a “like” on Facebook for updates on this film, including a DVD release from Wild Eye (aiming for fall/winter 2013) and future ones!