31 Days Of Hell: Interviews: Director Ari Kirschenbaum Talks About His Horror Film Live-Evil

Do the ‘monster mash’ this Halloween with the home entertainment premiere of horror-comedy Live-Evil, starring Vladimir Kulich (Vikings), Charlene Amoia (How I Met Your Mother) and horror icon Tony Todd (Candyman, #FromJennifer). 

"Ghostbusters meets Dawn of the Dead caught in the Twilight Zone" (Nerdly) in writer-director Ari Kirschenbaum’s "unique, visually entertaining" (We Live Entertainment) horror romp, arriving on VOD this Halloween from Simian Tales. 

When a small college town police station is besieged by "Evil" on a sleepy Halloween night, Pete, the sheriff, and Hancock, his loyal deputy, are thrown into the middle of holy chess-game that could destroy the town, and possibly the world. 

Vincent M. Ward (The Walking Dead), J. Richey Nash (Bat $#*! Crazy) and Karen Wheeling Reynolds (Logan Lucky) co-star. 

Live-Evil will be available on Amazon this Halloween 10/31 with other platforms to follow. We had a chance to interview director Ari Kirschenbaum, who gave us the 411 on Live-Evil.

TMS: First off, can you provide us with a little bit of background information. Did you always want to be involved in filmmaking? What type of training or schooling did you have? 

AK: I always wanted to be a filmmaker. I went through every phase, claymation, animation, making backyard movies with my friends, special effects, painting laser blasts onto 8mm negative, using early camcorders, editing using VCR's, syncing music live to provide a score while shooting, etc. Later I got into being a musician, but I eventually came back to filmmaking through writing. I also went to Washington University in St Louis, where I got a Bachelor of fine arts in painting, which helps build aesthetics, your eye for composition, etc. I've also taught filmmaking at an arts school here in North Carolina. 

TMS: Did you have a lot of support when you decided to get into filmmaking?

AK: My parents always supported all my creative endeavors, and they were huge film buffs, that's what got me into it, so naturally they supported filmmaking. 

TMS: What’s up with Live-Evil? Where can people see it? And what do you want them to know about the movie? 

AK: After some false starts with distributors, where we really didn't like what they wanted to do with it, Live-Evil is making it's on-demand, streaming debut. So now everyone can see it as it was intended. I think anyone who liked their 80's horror to have a big kick of comedy will love Live-Evil. It's small, it's indie, but I think it's a cut above. I tried to make it worthy of repeat views. 

TMS: What gave you the idea for Live-Evil

AK: It started with just the premise of what if a small town Deputy, on a routine call, stumbles into something that could end the world. 

TMS: Is horror a genre that you've always been into? 

AK: I love most genres of film, but horror always felt the most purely escapist and visceral. Sci-fi as well, but horror is so malleable, it can be anything. 

TMS: Tony Todd appears in the film. How did that come about and what was it like working with him? Are you a fan of Candyman

AK: Tony was cast late. It was a role that had a lot of possibilities depending on how it was cast, but we were hoping to make it something special so that's why we went with Tony. He was great, very professional. I've been caught up in the craziness of shooting a movie before and been worried about how the actor was playing it. It doesn't feel immediate, or showy enough, like a great performance or what you thought you wanted. But then when you cut it together, you see there were way ahead of you. Tony thinks about the cut, the end result. He knew what his performance will be as a whole, even though it's all out of order, missing reversal shots, missing efx, etc, no one to play off of, all the things that can make it impossible for actors. 

I remember not being a huge fan of Candyman at the time it came out, to me it seemed like too, little too late. All the Nightmare on Elm Streets had come out, so I didn't think much of it at the time. I liked him a lot more in Savini's version of Night of the Living Dead. A much better role for Tony, and both him and the film made a much bigger impression on me. That's the film that made me a Tony Todd fan. 

TMS: What about the other main actors, how were they selected? 

AK: All the big roles, except maybe J. Richey Nash were cast late. Richey I had worked with on my first film and I definitely knew I wanted him for this too. But Vladimir Kulich came maybe a week before we started. Vincent Ward maybe a little sooner. It was a mad dash to get things cast. We were still casting a few things as we were shooting, which happened with my first film as well. It's the indie train, you don't want to stop it, once it's built up momentum. The momentum is key indie film. We shot 4-5 days with another actress in the lead, before we had to recast. It wasn't working at all, so we scrambled and luckily we got Charlene, who came in and nailed it. There was a collective sigh of relief once she got there. 

TMS: A bulk of the film is shot in black-and-white, was that a creative or financial decision? 

AK: Purely creative, because distributors hate black and white. Black and White - Strike one. Weird title - strike two. And to be fair, a lot of viewers don't want to watch black and white and I can understand why. In the days of 3D and Imax, black and white feels like homework, oh "I have to pay attention?" But once you start watching black and white, you'll find it easier to get into it. I love black and white. There is a subconscious thing happening in your brain with black and white. It's easier to process, yet it's more visually formal. That up-front artifice, makes your brain find another way in. It's a reminder of the medium. Like a stage play. You know it's a theater, you know they will have to stand up on stage, which isn't the most immediate immersion in a world, so you have focus on the story or the characters or language; the little things and it just engages your imagination more. It takes a different door to your imagination, I think it's a more direct path. 

TMS: Shawn Lee's score is excellent. Can you tell us how he was chosen to compose the score? How much involvement or direction did you have in the score? 

AK: Initially, I had planned to do the score, but the editing and the efx were taking too long, this was never going to be finished. There are 300+ efx shots and I was doing those too, so we decided to get someone else to score. I was using temp music from a lot of different genres as I was cutting, Tangerine Dream, Nina Simone, etc. I've always been a fan of Shawn's music and his ability to imitate and incorporate so many genre sounds into his music, so we approached him. There was a lot of back and forth with Shawn, he would send stuff and I would ask for changes and then when once his music was in there I wanted to take it further, really go nuts. He only had so long, so it got to the point, where I had to ask him to imitate himself - give me cues like songs from his albums. He would also send me stuff that he never released to see if it would fit. And putting those in was a blast. Scoring, adding music, is one of the best parts of filmmaking, because it is so powerful in it's ability to fix things and bring things to life. A scene can just feel like an absolute waste of time, and then you add music and now it has purpose. Or a scene was already good and now it's even better. It's fairy dust. 

TMS: In terms of directing choices, anyone that you try to emulate? Or ones that have influenced you? 

AK: If it isn't already obvious after watching Live-Evil, I love John Carpenter, he is probably my favorite filmmaker, so he is always a big influence. There is a lot of other influences, a lot of nods. There's Romero, Gordon, Rod Serling and Stephen King are also a big influence on the story and characters. Of course there is a lot of Mel Brooks influence. People forget how subversive and sly Mel Brooks could be and only think of him as a spoofer. 

TMS: Low budget film productions have been historically known for being difficult and demanding. How was this production on the cast and crew? Any challenges or funny stories? 

AK: The entire shoot was brutal AND it didn't stop in post. We had constant problems - We lost most of our locations at least once. It was down to the wire to find a many of them, the day before sometimes. We had 21 days scheduled. We lost 4 days because of recasting the lead. We lost another 1-2 because of a power outage at our main location. We had to fire our production designer half-way through, because he hadn't started building our jail set yet. We lost another day or two because of actors schedules. And all of it was winter and freezing. At one point our actors had to jump back into the police car between takes or teeth would start chattering. So 17 day shoot is nothing for what we were trying to do and our budget. Two and a half weeks - it's not like you can work longer hours to make up for it. You gotta move faster, be more creative. A master, but no closeups, etc. So I don't know if there are a lot of funny stories, but we still had a lot of fun, we had to, because of all the pressure and stress. 

TMS: If you had a choice to remake a genre movie, what movie would you like to remake? 

AK: I'm not a supporter of remakes unless the potential was missed in a big way with the first film. I'd love to be the one who remakes Stephen King's The Stand. The book was my intro to King and it blew me away. The mini-series just didn't do it for me in so many ways. I assume with the success of the It remake we will see The Stand a lot sooner. I've been reading about it's development hell, forever. Needful Things is another film that just felt like it missed in a lot of areas, but got many things right - Max Von Sydow was the perfect Leland Gaunt. Either of those I've wished to tackle, although The Stand would obviously be so challenging. Such a big story. And I don't think huge budgets are the answers to either of those, because with big-budgets comes bigger stars and less willingness to be risky. 

TMS: Can you tell us anything about the other projects that you are working on or planning on working on? Or, anything else that you would like to plug? 

AK: I've got a series pitch, I'm finishing up, it's a total genre mashup. Hopefully that'll get off the ground, because I think TV is where most of the exciting things are happening now.