Chris Moore delivers both a message and a scare in his new movie “Blessed are the Children,” out on DVD October 23.
-PH: How did the film come about, sir?
-Chris: I had graduated from film school and, honestly, it had kinda drained me. I was sorta wondering if I even wanted to make movies anymore. I just wasn’t feeling very creatively inspired. It was getting close to that awful 2016 election and I kept seeing all these idiots on the news going on and on about abortion and I remembered an idea I got back in high school about a killer targeting women who’d gotten abortions and it seemed even scarier and more relevant at this point in time and I thought it would be a great film to get back into the game with.
-PH: Tell us about the script – when and how did you decide this was the story you wanted to tell?
-Chris: Once I decided that this was a story worthy of telling, I started designing the characters. I’m very character driven and I always get the story first and then work on the characters. I think having great characters is so important to a film like this and I worked hard to make sure there’d be a character for everyone in the audience. Some people might not like Traci or Mandy, but they love Erin. They might hate Erin and Traci, but love Mandy. That was all very intentional. If you don’t have anyone to root for, why are you going to care when they’re in danger?
I remember writing the script fairly quickly. It maybe took a month or two. There was originally a subplot involving Ben’s redneck mother who supports his abusive, drunken ways because he’s her baby and they were sort of the main red herrings in the film. It just got too complicated and so I streamlined it a bit, but most of the script stayed the same for the most part.
-PH: The movie has a very controversial topic. What kind of feedback have you had to that?
-Chris: Y’know, it’s funny – it’s been pretty silent until now. I always knew this would be a touchy subject, so I prepared myself for any potential backlash, but any controversy has been fairly new. I remember there was one crazy person on our Twitter page a year or so ago who kept saying we were exploiting real women’s pain and we should be ashamed of ourselves. Of course, this person hadn’t seen the film. Most controversy has come from people who haven’t seen the film.
There were a few critics who said “look, from the description and trailer this sounds like it could be some sort of Christian scare movie or propaganda movie or something, so I want you to know that, if it is, I’m giving it one star if you’re lucky.” And I always said “no, I promise you it’s nothing like that.” Sure enough, they saw the film, realized the intentions, and we never had an issue. I can definitely see where people are coming from. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of nuance you can get from a synopsis, trailer, or poster.
-PH: And did you do a lot of research into the topic?
-Chris: I did. I felt like that was really important so that I could treat this issue with heart and empathy. I’ve always been pro-choice. I’m not a woman, it’s not my body, why should I have a say in what they’re doing with them, right? Because of that, I think I was already approaching the issue with an open heart, but I didn’t know a lot about the procedure and the protocol itself, so research really helped me with that. I talked to people who worked in those clinics and women who have actually gotten abortions themselves. They were so helpful and lovely to me and understood I was approach the topic with a lot of empathy.
-PH: How tough is it for not only you as a filmmaker, but for your cast, to shoot those more gruelling scenes?
-Chris: Honestly, on a film set, you have the most fun when you’re shooting the most intense or violent scenes. It’s so ridiculous with all the screaming and fake blood and stuff that you just have to laugh. Once you cut it together and add sound effects and music, it gets more gruesome, but at the time, it’s a hoot. There was one scene that involved a tongue getting sliced in half and we couldn’t stop laughing, because the killer would rip it out of the character’s mouth and, because the tongue was made with this stretchy material, it would sometimes look like a long string of bubble gum. We’d crack up.
-PH: How would you describe the tone of the film?
-Chris: It’s a pretty serious movie, but I can’t really do anything without adding a little bit of humor. All the humor comes from the characters and their interactions. It’s like having girl’s night with your friends, but a killer just happens to crash it. I think it’s so important to add humor to horror films, because, if you think about them, these stories can be so ridiculous that, if you don’t give the audience something to laugh at, they’ll start laughing at stuff that’s not supposed to be funny.
I think it makes the horror scenes far more grim, too, because you’ve been lulled into a false sense of security.
-PH: And the look of the film, based on the trailer, suggests a colour palette and even similar tone to a classic ‘70s film. Was that intentional?
-Chris: That’s most definitely intentional. We shot this on the BlackMagic Cinema camera and I love the way it looks. It really does have a gritty, 70’s film look to it that I haven’t seen with any other cameras like it. I love movies like Alice, Sweet Alice and The Redeemer. They played a big influence here. What I love about the 70’s was that the rules had been thrown out the window with the demise of the studio system in the 60’s and it was a free for all. There were no rules and no formulas and you saw a lot of really bonkers movies being made then, because they were constantly experimenting. None of them ever felt safe and I love that about them.
-PH: When did you watch your first cut?
-Chris: The first cut, if you can believe it was, 2 1/2 hours long and I still don’t know how that happened. The script was 104 pages long and the general rule is – one page of script=one minute of screen time. I cut out a good chunk and I think it was down to maybe 110 minutes. I test screened that cut and proceeded from there.
-PH: When did you have your first showing? Did it play in festivals?
-Chris: The first official showing was the Rails to Reels Film Festival in Meridian, MS which was held in this beautiful old movie palace. It seemed perfect for the movie. We had the premiere a few weeks later in Jackson, MS at another old movie house called The Alamo. After that, it started playing a lot of great festivals and we got a lot of terrific feedback from all of them. It’s been a real blast.
-PH: In terms of distribution, how did you get it?
-Chris: Someone had seen the film as a screener for a film festival and contacted me asking if it would be cool if he sent the screener to the guys at Wild Eye, because he thought they’d really dig it. Sure enough, they did and the rest is history. They’ve been so awesome, because they really believe in the movie and wanted what was best for it. So many distributors just toss the movie out there, willy nilly, and don’t really care much, but not Wild Eye. They have a great eye for the little indie movies that stand out from the pack.
-PH: Who are the villains in the movie – do we dare ask?
-Chris: Definitely the killers. You’re not supposed to be on their side at all. You’re supposed to find them disturbed and scary and root for the victims 100%. And in their own ways, the characters of Ben and John are villains, too. They’re both such assholes and they make Traci’s life a living hell way before the killers even enter the picture, so I guess they count, too.