Interviews: Chris von Hoffmann - Director of Drifter Talks His New Movie, Horror and Remakes

TMS: So, is Drifter out now? Can people see it yet?

CVH: It's actually out in Australia. It's gonna come out here soon. It has a brief theatrical run in L.A. starting on February 24th then it goes iTunes and On Demand on February 28th. After that it goes to Germany, then the U.K. and the Middle East. 

TMS: It's pretty cool that you released it to Australia first cause I tell you what, some of these horror movies from down under lately are great. They're putting out great stuff in general. Great indie flicks, And really good indie horror. 

CVH: I love Australian horror films. I love Australia period. They just go all the way with it. 

TMS: They're really supportive with their arts there like how Canada is with their music. They really get behind it. Did you ever see The Loved Ones?

CVH: The Loved Ones, oh my god, I love that film. That film is actually a huge inspiration on me just the way Sean Byrne handled all those tonal shifts. There was a hybrid nature to that film. I love that film so much. I love that director and I can't wait for The Devil's Candy which is his next film.

I liked the music in The Loved Ones. I've always considered horror to be the heavy metal of cinema. It had a very heavy metal angle to it which I thought was a great combination. 

TMS: What was your initial inspiration to make Drifter?

CVH: It's kinda funny. I had the initial idea when I was like 16 and I had the title and the basic structure. It was a different kind of angle to it. It still had the brothers but the town they entered was supernatural. It was a literal ghost town. Ten years later when I developed it to be my first time feature, I thought cannibals would be much more fun. It was also a budget thing as well. When I started the idea when I was like 16, U-Turn had a big influence on me. Two years ago when we started to develop it, The Proposition became a bigger influence on the movie. There's just something very visceral about that movie, like surreal, vibrant, a nasty movie. It felt more like a horror film than it did a Western actually. 

TMS: So, how would you explain Drifter to the uninitiated?

CVH: It's a hybrid exploitation thriller that is basically a love letter, a deconstruction of genre movies in general. It's a culmination of everything we love about genre films smashed into this one movie. It's an ultimate experience for people that love these kinds of movies. 

For my first movie, I just wanted it to be very personal. I wanted to get this nostalgia out of my system. I wanted to pile it all into this one thing. 

TMS: Were the brothers from the movie any influence from From Dusk Til Dawn?

CVH: Even though I don't consider the film to be anything like From Dusk Til Dawn, a lot of people have been brought that up. I was certainly thinking about that for a little bit but not too detailed. Richard Gecko was a sick disturbed maniac and neither of these brothers are like that. As we were rehearsing we were getting further and further away from that and getting closer to something like The Rover honestly. The dynamic became closer to The Rover than it did From Dusk Til Dawn. 

TMS:  What directors do you look up to? Being that this is your first full length project, who would you say has influenced you the most?

CVH: I'm not kidding at all but I tell people a lot but my favorite director right now is Abel Ferrara. 
He had a time from 1981 with Ms.45 all the way to 1996. He made a lot of studio films and a lot of grungy independent films...a mix of both....There's just something about his tone and his no bullshit approach of storytelling. He had a very raw style to him. I love the way he approached violence.  I liked the cynicism that he applied to his storytelling. 

Paul Verhoeven is a giant influence on me. I just love his spectacle type filmmaking. His movies are fucked up. But they're like spectacle films at the same time. Showgirls is genuinely a terrific film. I've seen it like twelve times. I find it so entertaining. It's so well made. I feel like people that make fun of it haven't even seen it. 

Dennis Villeneuve, I'm an enormous fan of. I think he's the most exciting director making multiplex movies today. 

Nicolas Winding Refn. I haven't watched all his movies. I really liked Neon Demon even though it got really mixed reviews. 

Adam Wingard as a recent director. I'm really into what he's doing.

TMS: How do you get funding for a project like Drifter? What means did you have to go through to get the project made? 

CVH: It was a tedious, frustrating process. We started out with an IndieGoGo campaign. We had a little teaser as well. We had a five minute pitch and this big presentation. The first day we were able to raise a thousand dollars then it just plummeted after that. We were pushing it everyday and nothing happened. It was so embarrassingly unsuccessful. Nobody wanted to invest in a strange little hybrid cannibal thriller. It didn't have that hook that investors needed. 

I just starting using some of my own money to get things going and to set the stage. I had no idea how this was going to work out. We moved along as if we had all the money.  It was actually quite dicey and a little scary for a bit. There were a lot more people getting involved. They all expected this project to see all the way through. I had a friend of mine who's a selfless, just genuine, incredible human being who decide to put in a chunk of the budget. It was just a rolling budget at a point. It was a very traumatizing experience financially. The film was made for a micro budget. 

TMS: If you had a chance to remake a horror flick, what would it be?

CVH: I would probably want to remake Sleepaway Camp. I feel like it's in development somewhere. Either that or Pet Sematary. I'm an enormous fan of the original Pet Sematary but I'm not a huge fan of the original Sleepaway Camp. I'm a bigger fan of Sleepaway Camp II with Pamela Springsteen. The first Sleepaway Camp, you really gotta chew on a lot of charcoal before you get that dessert in the final five minutes. I would love to remake it and go nuts with it and make it all fun and exciting. 

TMS: I know we're all tired of them but what is your favorite horror remake?

CVH: I'm actually a big fan of horror remakes! Probably, The Hills Have Eyes is my favorite. I love the Dawn of the Dead remake. I thought The Crazies remake was mainstream but it was solid. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake with Jessica Biel. I understand why they make them. It makes a lot of sense from a business standpoint. 

TMS: One thing I can't stand is PG-13 horror. 

CVH: I'm just not a fan of that rating. That rating is silly. It's kind of a blue balls rating. It's like The Stepfather remake with Dylan Walsh. That drove me crazy. I think that's the same guy from the Prom Night remake. They're identical movies. With horror you gotta go all the way or don't do it at all. 

TMS: You filmed this entirely on digital? Film or digital. Make a choice. 

CVH: I definitely want to shoot one feature on 35mm just to have that experience because I do understand the argument but it's getting a little harder to argue that 35mm is better. I think it comes down to what the story is. A film like Drive was beautiful on digital. That was shot on the Alexa. I think that enhanced the story. But then you see a film like Whiplash and that made sense to be filmed on 35mm. It had an old school feel to it. It's funny that we even call them 'films' anymore. 

TMS: Practical or CGI?

CVH: It's really a budget thing. We tried to do as much practical as we could afford with Drifter. Practical has such an organic feel to it. Especially with films like Carpenter's The Thing. The stakes are so much higher when the actors are being involved with something that's in camera with them. Overall, definitely practical. 

TMS: Has social media made it much easier for you to market Drifter?

CVH: Yeah, it's definitely made it a lot more simple. The distributors and the marketing agents have done a great job helping me get it on dozens and dozens of websites. They've done a really good job just getting it out there. I'm not a huge fan of social media. I think people take advantage of it and are so obsessed with it. 

TMS: What project are you going to work on next?

CVH: We're in pre-production on this feature film that we're going to start shooting later in the spring. It's definitely a much bigger project and my first project with a couple production companies.  It's my first project where all I have to do is write and direct. It's a horror thriller. 

TMS thanks Chris for talking to us. Check out his latest film Drifter!