On Friday night I headed to the Downtown Independent theater here in Los Angeles to catch a special screening of Alyce Kills and chat a bit with its writer/director Jay Lee (Zombie Strippers) and Alyce herself Jade Dornfeld.
In the film, “After accidentally knocking her best friend off a roof, Alyce is haunted by guilt and delves into a brutal nightmare wonderland of sex, drugs and violence, her mind tearing itself apart…along with anyone else who gets in her way.” Alyce Kills also stars Tamara Feldman (Hatchet), James Duval (Donnie Darko, Doom Generation), Eddie Rouse (Pandorum), Larry Cedar (The Crazies), Yorgo Constantine (Fast Five), Megan Gallagher (“Millenium”) Rena Owen (Once We Were Warriors), Tracey Walter (Repo Man, Batman) and Bret Roberts (May, Nighstalker).
While this is a BD Selects title, I wouldn’t recommend it if I didn’t like it. But I happened to like it a lot and suggest you seek it out on iTunes (or your VOD provider of choice) ASAP. Check out the report below!
It’s hard to fill theaters for independent horror films, especially in downtown LA on a Friday night, so I was pleasantly surprised when horror fans of all ages and sizes began to trickle through the door. Soon the trickle turned into a flood and the entire theater was packed. While we waited for everything to get rolling, I spoke with director Jay Lee about the film.
“I actually don’t think it’s that much of a break tonally from ‘Zombie Strippers’, both of them are social satires and allegories of the time. I personally find ‘Alyce’ to be more of a comedy than a lot of people do, I think that’s pretty evident at the end.”
One thing a lot of indie horror filmmakers can agree on is that the road from script to screen is often pretty arduous. Did it feel that way here? “The script sat for a while. I didn’t really show it to anybody. But after I started [getting it out there], it happened within 6 months. The biggest obstacle was getting it seen after we had made it, getting it in front of the right people.”
How was it working with Jade? She’s in at least 95% of the movie, right? “100%, really. She’s in every scene. I think there’s a couple of shots she’s not in, a few inserts. But she’s really in all of it. And because we shot this thing in 13 days there were times when we had 24 different scenes to do and she was able to zen into all of those.”
By the end of my chat with Lee, the place had become so crowded and loud that I had to find a way to get upstairs with Jade just so my recorder could pick up our interview away from the cacophony downstairs. We talked about the weight she experienced carrying an entire film on her shoulders. “It was challenging, but I had an absolute blast because Jay is such a pleasure to work with and the whole crew was a pleasure to work with. We would shoot out every location and be jumping around different parts of the film out of sequence, so Jay would have to quickly give me an indication of where we were on time. ‘It’s before this murder, but after you’ve done these drugs.’”
I asked about any reservations she may have had when she read the script, “I definitely had my reservations about doing a horror film. Just because I’m really easily scared. But this was before I actually read it. When I did it was so well written, everything you see in the movie was on the page and he’s such a trustworthy and gentle guy that once I met with him I was like, ‘bring it on.’ As an actress I want to push myself, in acting class I would shy away from the cute girl roles. Roles with more meat on them are more inspiring to me.”
Dornfeld elaborated on the scenes that proved to be the most challenging to film. “There wasn’t just one, there were many. The physical stuff was fun and hard, shooting that gun. There’s a sex scene where we’re hitting each other that was crazy and fun. But we had people helping us with the choreography. As an actress, the most difficult stuff is also the most fun. And it was difficult going down the dark path of this person’s life in general.”
And that path is indeed dark. When I finally see Alyce Kills just minutes later I’m surprised not only by the nature of the material, but also by the intimate and compassionate lens through which it views its protagonist. Both Lee and Dornfeld really know this character and it’s a pleasure to see a living, breathing three dimensional representation of a young woman in crisis rather than a purely exploitive one.
That’s not to say that the film doesn’t have its gruesome moments. There’s some truly intensely gory and squeamish stuff towards the end, so much so that the friend I sat next to was surprised by my reaction. But it wasn’t just me, one sequence in particular had the entire audience so wonderfully grossed out and uncomfortable I had to laugh. And I suspect this is what Lee meant when he said he viewed the film as something of a comedy. Either way, the crowd ate it up.
You can kvetch all you want about the corporate synergy of this being a BD Selects title and this article appearing on Bloody-Disgusting all you want. While I won’t be writing a review, the fact of the matter is I honestly dug the film. I don’t write about every BD Selects title that comes along, and I’m certainly not required to blankly recommend them. But, from horror fan to horror fan, I doubt you’d be disappointed by Alyce Kills.