Our friends at ALTER continuously deliver with the best short form horror, curated and showcased on their platform. We first told you about Cameron Holly Dexter's short film "The Recipe" ahead of its Screamfest premiere last October. The '70s set body horror is now streaming on ALTER for your enjoyment, and Dexter joined us to walk us through a bit of the process. Read on for some behind-the-scenes insight, and watch the completed short film below.
In the nightmare, you twirl pasta at the end of your fork and place it in your mouth. You start to chew, but you realize something's wrong with each bite. It's the texture. You reach deep down into the back of your throat and pull. Frantic, you choke on gobs of partially chewed food and thick clusters of long blonde hair. You wake up in bed, out of breath, wondering whose hair was in your mouth.
That was the dream that inspired "The Recipe." Not mine, but my Co-Writer/Producer, Leslie O'Neill's. Plucking the imagery from her subconscious, she wrote an initial draft, and we began collaborating on the script.
We wanted to tell a story about a woman trapped in the traditional marital conventions of the past. Despite fulfilling her husband's expectations, The Wife discovers he plans to leave her for a younger woman. No one reacts to betrayal well, and we took the opportunity to push the boundaries with The Wife's reaction. Using her character, we explored a woman teetering on the edge, about to lose herself to the abyss.
I can't say enough about Ashlynn Yennie's performance. She's precise and fearless. The choreography she'd already worked out for our "kill scene" with The Mistress (Leah Grosjean), was epic. I had rough storyboards for the scene, but Ashlynn brought something better. We worked through the blocking with our DP, Robert Dyck. We slowly ramped up the stunts' intensity to ensure Leah and Ashlynn felt safe. Once we were ready to go for a take, we were floored by the speed and accuracy of Ashlynn's movements. It looked incredibly real, and she surprised us all when she threw the pink princess phone out of frame. Camera perfect! It was amazing to witness in person, and it felt like we were witnessing a real crime.
We were on our last day and behind on schedule when we got to the hair scene. Luke Barnett, The Husband, asked how the hair should come out of his mouth. The DP and I looked at each other — good question. This is the narrative's inflection point, and none of us had considered how this would work. After some quick thinking, Luke decided to wind the strand of hair around his tongue in order for it to emerge as a horrible stringy monstrosity. We rolled the camera, and he tugged the hair from his mouth, which seemed to last forever. Several crew members excused themselves because it was so stomach-churning to watch. Luke brought the body horror to another level.
The surrealism of the film was important to me. Leah brought a wonderful mystery to the role. Her background in dance gave us a dynamic and powerful performance for the fever dream sequence, which was a blast to work with in the edit. I also wanted the moment The Wife confronts The Mistress to be about more than just jealousy. She gave us a range of complexity to a role that could have otherwise been flat. In the end, it's not important if The Wife gets away with the crime. There's freedom in her derangement. Unhinged, finally close to someone, even if the moment is ephemeral.
Special thanks go out to our other Producer, Darius Frye, our Executive Producer, Jason Bunn, and the incredible Original Score composed by Alexander Taylor.