Interview by Staci Layne Wilson - All still photos from P5ych
Matthew Currie Holmes kicks ass, plain and simple. I thought so, when I saw him in Wrong Turn 2 as "M" — it's not often one sees much spark in those ensemble sequels cast with mostly unknowns destined only to spill blood and be forgotten. But Holmes has that something indefinable which makes him stand out. Since the premiere of that movie at L.A.'s ScreamFest a couple of years back, Holmes has become a friendly acquaintance and I've been following his career pretty avidly — he's definitely one to watch for in what promises to be a big year for him and for horror. Here's why he kicks ass:
Staci Layne Wilson: How'd you get started with the film biz? Was acting your first love?
Matthew Currie Holmes: I was always into acting, studied it my whole life… I was in all the plays (Grease, Mousetrap etc.) in high school. At around 18 the music bug hit and I stopped acting and started singing and playing guitar in a bunch of bands.
My 20’s were basically spent in a van touring across Canada. At around 26 my band broke up and I suddenly found myself on a movie set as a PA. The film was Shanghai Noon and I was responsible for tailing Jackie Chan around, making sure he drank is milk. On a side note… Jackie Chan is a wonderful human being. And I would gladly get him his milk, to this day.
I worked in film for a year, any job I could get… mostly PA work and then I decided it was time to fuck off to Italy for a couple months. When I came back, I thought I’d try my luck in front of the camera. As if being an Indie musician in Calgary Alberta, Canada wasn’t hard enough... but I was able to book a couple of small parts, a few extra gigs and then a Showtime movie called Sightings: Heartland Ghost (directed by our good friend Brian Trenchard Smith) came to town and I was cast as one of the leads.
After that, I moved to Vancouver BC. Worked steady for the next 5 years.
What prompted the move from comfy Canada to tawdry Tinsel Town? So… just what is "that Canadian thing", anyway?
HAHAHA you’re referring to the “Happy for no reason…” line in my episode of Life.
Back in 2005/2006 I had a great run; I had landed a lead in and won an award for a fantastic, albeit short-lived Canadian series called Godiva’s. I had also filmed three movies (Firewall, The Fog and Wrong Turn 2) but I knew that any success I had in Canada would be fleeting. Canada is great country and a wonderful place to work and build a resume, but everybody knows that it’s in LA that you can take a “little heat” and turn it into a full-fledged career. So, I figured that lightning might not strike twice so I moved.
Unfortunately, when I got here the writer’s strike hit and knocked me right back to where I started. But a funny thing happened during those 100 days, I started writing and learning about producing; I’ve been here in LA ever since.
You have been involved in some very mainstream projects (The L-Word, CSI Miami, and even gone toe to toe onscreen in Firewall with Harrison Ford), but what is it about horror that makes you most proud of those roles and has given you the impetus to write own scripts in the genre?
I am an ardent horror fan first and foremost. I have been my whole life.
As an actor, you don’t often get to choose your roles; you’re lucky enough to get the work. But when a good horror project comes along it’s something special. And whenever I saw one I liked I would make sure my agent was aware and that I would be seen for it. It’s funny because agents and managers generally don’t like when their clients do horror. They feel that it’s pigeonholing them or it won’t go anywhere so they try to book you on a great series or a big budget flick with lots of stars.
I remember when The Fog was casting, I actually had to tell my agent make sure I was seen for the role. I told her I was such a fan of the original and would quote lines from the film etc. That’s when she realized I was one of those ‘horror guys.’ Needless to say, when Wrong Turn 2 was casting she submitted me right away.
I love acting in horror films. The intensity you put into a horror role is totally unmatched. Danielle Harris said it best on Inside Horror when she said (and I’m paraphrasing) “not everyone can do what we do… and maintain the intensity. I’d love to see a sitcom actor do horror, that’s a work out.”
I believe that the best genre in film, when done right, is horror. Being scared is the most amazing feeling! It connects you so deeply to life. No other genre has the emotional potency like horror.
I write the kind of horror movies that I, as a fan, would love to see.
How'd you and your writing partner Tracy Morse meet? What is it that keeps your collaborations vital?
I met Tracy at the Studio City farmers market about 4 years ago. He actually recognized me from Wrong Turn 2. We talked for total of 30 seconds then I knew I had found my new best friend.
Tracy is a prolific screenwriter, in addition to Creature the man has written close to 150 screenplays. He tells a story like no one I’ve ever known.
It’s important to always bounce your ideas off of someone; a fresh perspective is so vital to help a good story become great. Our process is pretty standard, we spend a long time creating the outline and beat sheet, when it’s ready to go either he or I will take a crack at the first pass and then pass it on to the other once we’re done.
It’s important to be able to just write, uninhibited, which is why the first couple passes are solely our own. When we have a pass that we feel we can build off of we get into the nitty gritty and really flesh everything out… together.
What’s great about Tracy’s is that he has the ability to paint a lot of the broad strokes. The big bass notes, if you will. I remember walking to the movies one night and listening to him beat out an entire screenplay from beginning to end. It was incredible. Once he gets on a role there’s no stopping him.
My job is to question the motivations of EVERYTHING and figure out the best way to get from point A to point B. I’m the logic/mythology police. I was a story editor for years so I make sure we aren’t “getting away with anything” or being “lazy”. Writing can be tedious and sometimes we’re tempted to say, “nobody will notice this or that…” We have a rule when we write together, we never say: “Oh, It’s only a movie.”
Since we’ve been working together we started a small company called The Blood Bros. We have a slate of five projects in various stages of development. Two of which, P5YCH and our Shaun Of The Dead meets Lost Boys vampire flick: Self Storage are ready to go. [Check out their slate HERE]
You have a couple of projects on the horizon, both with the acting and behind the camera — first, you must explain how you got talked into Stay At Home Dad…
With the short film Stay At Home Dad, co-director Andrew Kasch approached me and said he had a supercool, super secret project that he thought I’d be perfect for. Well who doesn’t love a super secret, supercool project? He said he was just waiting to hear if funding would come through… About a week and a half went by and I had kind of forgotten about it… Then Andrew called me up, said he had the money and gave me the script to read.
Holy shit. It was the most delightfully demented script I’d ever read. I don’t want to give too much away; suffice it to say, I play the title character that grows a giant pair of lactating breasts. Andrew, his co-director, the brilliant John Skipp and writer Cody Goodfellow are a couple of twisted, twisted people.
I have to say, Stay At Home Dad was one of my favorite film experiences to date. It’s just so bizarre and I loved that everybody was in on the joke! We had a blast making it and the crew was exceptional. DP Buz Walick is someone to watch, I can tell you that right now; I would easily work for Andrew and Skipp again in heartbeat!
OK. So now we know your bra size. Tell us about the movie you're in process of making even as we speak, P5YCH. This one's been a long time coming, right?
HAHAHA. My movie P5YCH is a throwback to the good old-fashioned American slasher flick. The year is 1984. The five survivors, whose experiences inspired five terrifying horror films, are undergoing experimental, psychokinetic treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. When their visions turn real and the body count rises, the five must band together and fight.
P5YCH is essentially Inception meets Friday The 13th.
We’ve been working on P5YCH for almost 4 years. It was the first script Tracy and I wrote together. It’s been a battle trying to bring this movie to light. But I’m as close as I’ve ever been. We’ve offered some roles to some pretty big names. The plan is to shoot P5YCH late summer.
What sets it apart from other meta slasher films (it seems heavily influenced by the work of Wes Craven… is it?)?
What sets us apart from other meta slasher films, is that we take it a step further… In Scream, for example, the killers became killers because horror films, specifically slasher films, influenced them. In P5YCH we’re saying that the horror films were influenced by what happened to OUR heroes, thus enabling us to create entirely new mythologies. It’s kind of like the deconstruction of Scream if you will.
Keep in mind, we’re not suggesting that Sean S. Cunningham or Wes Craven took what happened to our characters and made their respective movies, we’re suggesting that there were elements of our hero’s trauma that may have influenced certain films. It’s more fun to try and catch the homages rather than throw them out there plain as day.
Of course P5YCH is influenced by Wes Craven… he’s the MAN. It’s because of him that I started writing horror films. I remember meeting him once at the Apple Store. I pointed him out to my then 4 year-old daughter and said: “you see that man right there? He’s a brilliant filmmaker and the reason Daddy writes scary movies.” When I went up to him to shake his hand (yeah, I’m ‘that guy’) He asked my daughter what I did and, as if on cue, she said: “He writes scary movies, like you,” It was all kinds of awesome.
What are some of your thoughts on self-generating funds (via Kickstarter) rather than using traditional routes (via studios) — is there any stigma attached to this method?
Getting financing for a film, especially a horror film, is a MASSIVE uphill battle. Studios won’t touch it unless it’s a remake or a sequel so that route is near impossible. Independent financing is the only real viable option for original horror.
We’ve put together a package for our investors that we think really sells the project as more than just a run of the mill slasher flick. To entice investors, I took a cue from Mr. James Wan and I directed a short film/extended trailer [which you can view HERE]. So far the response has been overwhelmingly positive.
I think crowd funding websites like Kickstarter are amazing, it’s a brilliant way to connect to people with similar interests and to fund projects you want to see get off the ground. I started a 45-day Kickstarter campaign for P5YCH with my producing partner Tiffany J. Shuttleworth [which you can check out HERE].
We want to get the fans aware of the project at the pre production phase. There are so many costs associated with making an independent film; especially in the development stage… our goal is to both raise funds for development costs (like creating budgets, clearances, Insurance etc.) and to create massive awareness within the horror community. We’ve got a ways to go and a short amount of time to get it done…Which is why I’m saying I want 1000 kick ass horror fans wearing 1000 kick ass P5YCH shirts.
I'm sure you did a lot of research — whether organically through the years, or cramming during the script-writing process — on iconic slashers in cinema. So, I've gotta ask: which one is your personal favorite, and why?
I have two: A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors and Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter. Nightmare because it was so well thought out, so scary and so fun. There was a real sense of adventure to that film. Something I think, unfortunately, is lacking in a lot of modern-day horror.
As for Final Chapter, I saw it when I was 10 years old. My neighbor took his son and I to the Drive-In. I was way too young and should not have seen it but I did and it stuck with me, but not in a scary way, in a “holy shit that was so cool” way. When it came out on video the following year, I swear I watched that movie at least 30 times. Then I went back and saw 1-3 and everyone after. I was hooked.
If you could choose any famous horror movie death for yourself — but for real — what would it be?
What a horrible, twisted question… I love it!
Well, I’m terrified of pain so it would have to be quick. It would either be the shotgun blast to the head in Maniac or David from Lost Boys could bite me… but then I wouldn’t be dead, would I? I wouldn’t be a cry baby like Michael either, I can tell you that much… I’d own that Vampire shit!