Interviews: Director Dylan Reynolds Talks About The Stoner Slasher Movie 4/20 Massacre

Dylan Reynolds talks 4/20 Massacre

Suspense, smoke and spine-tingling chills are on the menu when horror icon Jamie Bernadette and Justine Wachsberger, star of the Divergent series, face a 4/20 Massacre.

The first-ever “stoner slasher” movie pits today’s hottest young stars against cinema’s next iconic movie monster in a frightening and funny comedy-thriller released just in time for the “The Official Holiday” for weed enthusiasts.

From writer/director Dylan Reynolds comes the story of five women who go camping in the woods to celebrate a friend’s birthday over the 4/20 weekend. But when they cross the turf of an illegal marijuana growing operation they must struggle to survive the living nightmare.

Jamie Bernadette (I Spit on Your Grave: Déjà Vu, Killing Joan), Vanessa Rose Parker (Samurai Cop 2), Justine Wachsberger (Divergent), Stacey Danger (Jean-Claude Van Johnson), Marissa Pistone (Raze), Jim Storm (Dark Shadows), Mark Schroeder (Pretty Little Liars) Jim Round, Drew Talbert and James Gregory star in a Dylan Reynolds film.

It will be released on VOD and DVD 4/3 from Film Chest. In addition to its DVD and VOD release, Dylan Reynolds’ 4/20 Massacre will also now get a theatrical release in Los Angeles from 4/20. You can read our review here.

The film premieres 4/20 this April at California Institute of Abnormalarts, 11334 Burbank Blvd, North Hollywood, California 91601. The premiere is open to the public and more details can be found here. Following the premiere, the movie will screen at select times over the next week.

Inhale. Exhale. Scream.

We had the opportunity to talk to director Dylan Reynolds about the film.

TMS: I got a chance to see 4/20 Massacre earlier this week, and I absolutely loved it. I worked in a video store and have seen a lot of direct-to-DVD horror and most of it is nearly unwatchable, but I was so pleasantly surprised by your film. It’s a really good movie!

DR: I'm really glad to hear that. We tried to make a good all-around movie, not just a good horror movie, so I'm glad that's shone through for some people. That means a lot.

TMS: Where did the idea for this film come from? Did you set out to make a stoner-slasher?

DR: Well, the original inspiration, aside from the herbal kind, I was sitting around brainstorming, I knew I wanted to make a horror movie for my first feature, I was brainstorming ideas and the title 4/20 Massacre came to me, so first was the title. And it just sounded like a good exploitation kind of thing for a movie title. Then I started doing some research. The first thing I found was some stories about guerrilla weed farms out in national parks and some unlucky hikers had come upon it and gotten shot at or gotten by bear traps, so it was like okay, a weed farmer as a slasher thing. And then I did more research on April 20th, the whole 4/20 thinking, and besides the marijuana holiday thing, there's been different tragedies and, you know, it's Hitler's birthday, and the Columbine massacre that got my imagination going, I guess. So it's like Friday the 13th with weed. So that was kind of the inspiration.

TMS: That's really cool. Has film always been your passion and your desired career track?

DR: To be a filmmaker? Yeah, I went to school for marketing, but I always wanted to do movies. So, when I got out, I started doing a bunch of low budget productions, basically scouring Craig's List and working on Indie movies. I've done, I've been working in movies since 2003-2004, just doing a bunch of crew work, low budget stuff, and yeah, eventually started making my own movies. I make my own movies when I can. The industry I work in now, film distribution, I've basically done every position on set, so it would be a passion, I guess.

TMS: What was the process like taking this film from its inception to its production?

DR: Well, this movie was self-financed, so I knew, I wrote it, when I sat down to write it, I thought what can I do to be as cheap as possible, so I was like "Exterior, forest, day" * laughs* So, it was kind of intended to be something I could do for as little money as possible and do independently. I made a couple other small movies and it's always a struggle to find funding and get money, so I just tried to conceive this as something I could potentially do and just make the best story possible on these limited resources. From writing to producing it, and production and post-production, I think, all in all, was about two years. Definitely went into it knowing I had a limited amount of money so I tried to create a project that I could conceivably do based on what we had in savings.

TMS: Obviously, any kind of lower budget horror movie is going to face challenges, but I was super impressed with the practical effects, they were spot on, really well done, believable.

DR: Yeah, it was awesome. I tried to come up with some ideas, like memorable kills, like Friday the 13th movies, to kind of stand out a little bit. Our special effects guy is named Brennan Jones and since we were on a budget, I went around to some special effect makeup schools and was like "Hey, who do you have that's good and wants to work." So, I interviewed a few people, and then I talked to Brennan and he got the whole, he's a younger guy, but he got the references and loved all that stuff, and he was crazy enough to work with the small amount of money we had and that's what we did.

TMS: It all played amazingly.

DR: Yeah, it all came together really well. The thing with special effects is they're homemade, so nothing really works like it's supposed to, you have to kind of like, fudge things, it's always a challenge, but overall, he came up with some creative and cool looking stuff.

TMS: Absolutely. I talked to Stacey (Danger, who plays Donna in the film) yesterday, about the vibe on set and how everyone was super professional and how it was this great group of women, kind of working together and building each other up and creating these great performances that felt real. What inspired you to make this a female driven ensemble?

DR: Well, actually, ironically, it was Stacey's character that gender switched. Originally when I was writing the script, I was doing the standard male-female kind of relationships, when I was doing the outline. I then, with Stacey's character, who's the stoner character, that character was male but I figured we'd seen the stoner guy thing a million times over, so maybe try to switch it up a little, I mean, I know girls who like smoking weed, too, so let's make it a stoner chick. I really liked how that went, so at some point I was just like "why don't we make them all female" and it added new layers and dynamics. I didn't really change the slasher tropes or relationships that much from how they were originally conceived, but we did it with all females, it added layers, or a different kind of flavor to the whole thing.

TMS: I thought it was great. Donna's character specifically, such a perfect combination of all these stoner stereotypes and you're totally right, you usually see those as male characters, but the stoner chick spoke to me, personally, and I totally loved her character.

DR: Yeah, yeah, Stacey did a really good job with it and she came in and was helping us with an original script reading I did and I think she was reading a couple other characters, but her take on that was really cool and I really liked it. I also liked the stoner character as comic relief element, but I like that we approached it as a not a loser, burnout which is usually what that stereotype involves. So, I like that we kind of did it a little differently.

TMS: Yeah! She was a smart, productive, functioning member of society, not just some loser. I mean, all of the characters were great, but Donna was special. Speaking of the other females, your wife (Vanessa Rose Parker) was in this film as well, right?

DR: Right! She played the Aubrey character, the forlorn one who was in love with the final girl.

TMS: So, what was it like directing your wife?

DR: We've been together eight years now and we've been married for five so, you know. She also produced the movie too, and really helped with the casting, she was basically there every step of the way and she, you know, she's a great person to collaborate with, she's a really good actor, she's really good with understanding relationships and storytelling, so it was cool. It was a great experience. This was the first movie that we collaborated on as husband and wife couple, it was a good experience overall. And I really liked what she brought to the Aubrey character. All she wanted was love, you know.

TMS: Right, absolutely. Like I said, everyone, all the actors, did such a great job.

DR: Yeah, everyone did a good job. It was also interesting because they were all different types of actors. Like, one would be a little more method, or a little more inside their head, and another was more in the moment, so it's interesting to see all the dynamics those differences added and allowed everyone to have fun and just act, basically, and I think it helped to create that chemistry.

TMS: It's so visible and really shows through in the final product. Are you a horror movie fan, is that what led you to make a horror film for your first feature?

DR: Well, yeah, I love horror movies, I love cult movies, exploitation movies from the 70's and 80's and that whole, especially the whole late 70's aesthetic with horror. I always loved the slasher sub-genre because I feel most of the time people kind of dismiss slasher movies, they're always kind of the underlings of the whole horror genre, I feel like. I kind of saw potential with it, especially the way they used to do it in the initial ones, where they had more characters and more interesting dynamics and dialogue instead of just people that you're waiting to die. I guess to answer your question, I love horror and I saw the slasher sub-genre as something that I could utilize to fulfill my dream of making not only a good horror film, but a good all-around film. I describe it as an Indie drama, then a killer shows up and all hell breaks loose.

TMS: Right! In past years there's been a trend of torture-porn masquerading as horror. And there's so much more when the horror is based on emotion, when you create a character that the audience cares about rather than some random person just getting gutted, if you're afraid for the character, not just grossed out, that's what I look for in this genre and you guys nailed it.

DR: I'm really glad it worked for you, you know part of the writing and execution was a slasher movie where you care about the characters before they die, so we tried to make characters, both in casting and dialogue, someone that people can relate to and care about. I'm really glad it worked for you.

TMS: My husband, who is not a horror fan and usually rolls his eyes when I want to watch horror movies, watched with me and about halfway through he was just like "This is a ...good movie. Not just a horror movie, but just a good movie."

DR: That's so cool man. I knew one of the challenges would probably be that the audience that's more inclined to watch this movie may be bored or not interested in the characters, and then the other part of the audience that might really like it wouldn't be inclined to watch a movie called 4/20 Massacre. So, I know we're going to have that challenge with it. But, hopefully people find it and you know the "it's a lot better than you think" thing kind of catches on.

TMS: If you had unlimited budget and could remake any genre film, what would your pick be?

DR: I feel like I do have an answer to this question, like a lot, but I was thinking today about Scanners, it's both a classic and really good, it's almost like a horror tinged X-Men, you know? So, I think that's one you could remake and expand that world. Race with the Devil, it's very cool. It's so great and of its time, it's about two couples going around in a Winnebago and they get chased around by Satanists, it's great. It's like a car chase flick meets a satanic panic horror film of the late 70s. It's just like that concept of being out in the middle of nowhere, like a paranoid thriller with car chases, I really like that one and think it could be remade in a really cool way too. I'm sure there are others, I know it's usually better to say "Oh, they shouldn't remake anything, it should be all original stuff." But there's some stuff you can see where it would be cool if they could do it and just expand upon it, or even make a prequel/sequel kind of thing.

TMS: Definitely!

DR: Which movie would you like to see remade?

TMS: Oh! I actually got my biggest wish. I'm a huge Stephen King fan, IT is my favorite book, ever, so.

DR: Yeah! They did that first half really good. You know, I never read the book, I've read other Stephen King books, but I understand the second half can be tricky, so we have to see what they do with the second half, a lot will have to do with if they nail the adaptation of the second part.

TMS: My hopes are high, but I'm trying to keep them tempered. I was so happy with the first movie and that has been my dream adaptation for years. So, what do you have coming up with 4/20 MassacreWhere can people see it?

DR: It comes out April 3rd on DVD, it's going to be on some broadcast VOD outlets and Amazon Video is probably the easiest thing for people to find. It'll roll out on to some other platforms in the coming months, like iTunes, it'll be on most of the digital stuff. Then, it's going to be available for rental at Family Video, which is a rental chain that, we don’t have any of them on the West Coast, but it's one of the last remaining DVD chains, have you ever heard of it?

TMS: That's actually the video store I worked at. I worked at a Family Video for a little while.

DR: *laughs* That's cool! Family Video is still keeping it real, buying some Indie movies to put on the shelves, so people can see it there, I believe starting on the 17th, I think there's going to be one copy at every store. I grew up in the '80s, so it's still my dream to have my movie in a Blockbuster. So, it was great to get to do that. We're going to have a screening out here in LA on April 20th, a premier and we're going to have a couple of the bands that contributed music to the movie play, there's going to be an open bar, so it should be a really cool party.

TMS: It was super awesome talking to you! Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me!

DR: Thanks for everything, thanks for taking the time to do this with both me and Stacey, we appreciate it.