Today we are very pleased to welcome director and producer Ben and Rachel Moody to the site in order to have a chat about their new movie Last Girl Standing. We really like the way their film took the slasher genre and set out to twist into something else; a quasi-drama focused on how the surviving victim deals with the psychological aftermath of such a horrifying experience. Read on to find out what inspired the film, how they set out to make the trauma treatment authentic and much more…
Could you first introduce the film to our readers?
BM: Sure, Last Girl Standing is about the archetypal girl, the final girl who survives your average horror movie. Our film is set five years on and asks how the traumatic events of a slasher affect the life of those who survive the experience. It’s a sort of mix between a PTSD drama and a slasher movie.
How did you both first come up with the idea?
BM: It actually came about right after our son was born. We had another project on but we were having problems finding funding. So we were stuck at home with the TV on and came into the middle of a slasher marathon, right at the end of a film as the girl was carried off screaming. By starting there my mind instantly started racing, asking ‘well what the hell happens now? What if this was the start of the movie rather than the end?’
When the two of you worked out the film, how early on did you decide exactly when to start the film? You could have started earlier into the slasher finale or simply started your film five years after. Instead you start in the final few minutes of a murder spree before jumping years ahead…
RM: I think we wanted to replicate our experience really. Plus everyone who watches the film will know the format and how slasher movies go. They’ll know that all of her friends have been killed and so we didn’t think it was asking too much as they’ve all seen that idea before.
BW: But there was one practicality to it too; I wanted people to see the horror so they knew it was real. To see some small fraction of the horror she went through and so they could be confident that she did go through it, it isn’t just her imagination years on, and then they can take all the baggage of the horror genre along with her.
You play the concept pretty straight, not going into meta-narratives really, you’re not doing a Scream here. Was that something you were very consciously avoiding when writing the script?
RM: Definitely, we knew from the beginning that we didn’t want to go meta. Lots of people try to replicate Scream…
BM: We love them but…
RM: Yeah we love them but that’s all very tongue in cheek whereas we wanted to make a drama which just so happens to be wrapped up in the slasher genre. The middle section of the film, a few scary moments aside, is really not your typical horror movie but is much more of a solid drama.
BM: It’s interesting seeing the impact Scream has had twenty years on. I see a lot of filmmakers now using meta-knowingness to excuse their film’s flaws. Like the fact that the film is self-aware means it doesn’t really matter if it isn’t really any good. That scares me because I want the movie to be good and work on its own. Not to rely on that crutch.
It feels so grounded and is populated with such normal people…
BM: Oh yeah, keeping it grounded and relatable was a real focus… well relatable is a bit extreme, but you know what I mean! The opening allowed me to do my homage to genre films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre but then the rest of the movie was about getting away from those tropes.
RM: Although we do embrace them too. We have a group of friends as the core dynamic, they’re not over the top like most slashers. Slashers should be fun whereas ours isn’t fun necessarily! We still have nods to the different friend types in a group like that though.
Having said that, our actors still play it really true to life and they’re relatable because I think most people do have friends like them. I guess we were just trying to make it realistic, that this could be your life.
Did you look to other films and genres when writing the film and trying to represent trauma?
BM: One of the main movies outside of the horror genre was Short Term 12 with Brie Larson, we are both in love with that movie. It feels so grounded, honest and real. That was one we made sure most of the actors watched alongside a few horrors.
RM: We definitely wanted to be honest in showing how a trauma survivor could be living. We do the extremes of that experience because it’s horror, but I think in the middle part of the movie we are doing that fairly and not disrespecting the experience which she is going through.
How did you find the balance between shooting the drama piece and the psychological horror?
BM: It seemed natural and organic to me to keep the opening and close be super horror and then go into the psychological trauma narrative for the bulk of the movie. I didn’t struggle with it, or at least I don’t think I did.
RM: Somehow as soon as Ben started talking about it he already knew exactly what balance he wanted to strike there.
One thing which came up early on is the theme of repetition; with horror movies you know what to expect going in and playing with that and doing it a little different was really helpful for the structure too. A fans of both drama and horror we (hopefully) knew where to play with it and where to keep things the same.
BM: I think it has been working for most people. Reviews are funny, for the most part they have been great but we have got the occasional review where they don’t like horror part or the drama part, I guess they want them separate. But I like those genre bending movies myself.
Do you think you’re both going to stick with genre bending films in the future or go down a very different path?
BM: I’m not sure… how much we bend will vary but I like the idea of smashing genres together. Again that’s been done for decades but we think our voice within that is somewhat unique.
RM: I think something which Ben always thinks about is that you want the theme of a movie to be more than just a straight horror or a straight slasher. That’s what makes it interesting, bringing something new into it.
BM: We are trying to just focus on what speaks to us and hoping that that is unique. Not trying to do a straight home invasion movie or a straight horror. For years we would get hung up on projects like those and they would get stuck in development because we were never able to find that which speak to us within the project.
RM: When we finished Last Girl Standing Ben said to me that he wants the next film to be simple and straightforward but I just said back to him that firstly he’ll never be happy with that and secondly we haven’t got an idea like that which is invigorating for us.
You have to make something you want to be involved with two years on down the line. Yes we want it to sell, but is about making something which represents us as well. At the end of the day it’s about making something that we would want to watch.
Last Girl Standing has been released on VOD in the UK from February 29th through FrightfestPresents. Will you be checking it out? Let us know in the comment box below!