(This may or may not have been an actual statement by Chris when that picture was taken, but if you’ve seen his work, then you know it’s a safe bet he’s said it many times before)
I’m gonna come right out and say it. Chris McInroy produces the best most consistent short films we’ve ever seen at Thirteenth Floor.
Each one managing the tough task of juggling tones and hopscotching across genres, while still unabashedly being horror films. Whether its the summoning of demons, the misuse of satanic power (can satanic power be misused?), or stabbing your way to the top of the organized crime ladder—humor, violence, and cautionary subtext remain the underlying foundation to his successful trio of shorts. It’s all enough to make us foam at the mouth at just the thought of him being given the chance to shoot a feature.
PLEASE CHRIS. PLEASE SHOOT A FEATURE.
(He’s going to shoot a feature. Read on)
You really seem to be having a good time. Not that other artists aren't enjoying their work, but damn if your short films don't exude a high level of jubilance—even at their meanest. Does this in-film energy exemplify your attitude going into a project, or the atmosphere on the set itself?
I’m really good it shows through in the final product cuz we are having fun on set. I love making these movies and hope that everyone on set can have some fun too. I like working with old friends and new friends on these. And because it’s such a good vibe on set, it’s easy to make friends with the new crew members too. I think a lot of the fun comes from the type of movie, horror-comedy. We have to hold back our laughter often when the great actors are doing their thing. And the practical effects is a good way to keep people having fun on set cuz you can gather around and see them happen in real time. Even if you don't care about a head exploding I feel like it’s fun to watch happen!
How important is humor to your storytelling? What about the horror genre in general?
Humor and horror are very important to me. Especially when hearing the audience react to something that’s funny or scary or gross. For me, right now, its the ultimate payoff hearing something work for an audience that I’ve made. It’s great when it works. I feel like those two genres are the only ones you can really hear a reaction. I guess you could hear people sniffling when something is sad. But I’m not a very serious guy so I don't see myself making something that is sad or too dramatic. And it probably goes back to me wanting to have fun making movies, comedy and horror are fun to make.
Another strength of McInroy short films; the visual fx work. Given the small budget, we are continually impressed by what your team is able to accomplish, and there are so many stand out moments as well (melting face in Bad Guy#2 immediately comes to mind). What's your personal favorite, and what challenges were there in bringing it to life?
Oh yeah the melting guy in Bad Guy #2 is one of my favorites too. With limited budget you don't have a lot of time to make these movies so you really need to plan everything out and hopefully be able to test some things in pre-pro. Things like storyboarding and shot listing and scheduling are key to get the effects done well and on time. Have to know what you can be shooting while another actor is in makeup so you're not just waiting around. And I like to do things in stages. So melting guy had 3 stages I think. We would shoot one stage and then he'd go to makeup while we shot the other actor without him, and then he'd come back in stage 2 and we’d shoot him and then he'd go back to make up and so forth. I remember that last stage where the goo is just spraying from his face, we did it once and it kinda just dripped, but we had enough left that the effects crew wanted to blast it—and of course I'm all for it—so the last take they went full power and that goo just sprayed everywhere. It was glorious, and what made the final cut. I'm always in for more blood, more goo, more whatever. I just shot a segment for a horror anthology that comes out 2019 and the effects team had a running joke cuz Id always want mouth blood to spill out or spit out of every character. Trip, mouth blood, fall, mouth blood, talk, mouth blood!
How do you balance your passion and work as a filmmaker with the duties of being a parent?
Man it was tough for awhile. I basically took a 7 year break from making any short films after she was born. Now that she's older it’s much easier to balance. Plus I need it. She understands it’s my life and wants me to continue and have fun while doing it. She thinks it’s cool and that I want to make feature films. A lot of the work I do on the script or prep is at night when she'd be sleeping anyway. I don't let her watch any of the movies I make. Maybe one day, when she's 18. ha-ha.
Is there ever any trepidation with having your daughter play in your films? She certainly looks like she had a blast on Death Metal.
It’s been something we did together a lot on weekends when she was younger. She’d come up with an idea and wed write a loose script together and then film it. I’d hold the camera on her and shed hold the camera on me. Very simple stuff but we had a blast together. So she knew some basics of making a movie. Getting her on set for Death Metal was so cool cuz she could see how many people it takes to make one and see everyone working together as a team and having fun while doing it. I was a little nervous for her doing it but man she was so ready. I described what shed be doing and made sure she’d be down. Oh she was down. She got to go and get her arms molded by a guy she knew from watching Syfy's Face-Off (Eric Zapata). She was so excited, and on set she basically had one take to do it cuz we were in the middle of nowhere, and had no way for people to wash off and reset. She nailed it and everyone was blown away. She's seen her part in Death Metal but not the rest of the movie. She wanted to be in We Summoned a Demon and in the anthology segment, but I didn't have a part for a kid this time. I’m sure she'll be in another one.
Two of your three biggest short films involve Satan, hell, demons, and occult sorta stuff, mostly in a tongue-in-cheek cautionary manner. Are these elements and themes allegorical, come from some kind of experience, or do you just like watching the forces of hell run amok?
I think as a kid that evil satanic type of thing scared me the most because it seemed like there was no real way of stopping it, or knowing when it would show up. Plus growing up in the 80's, satanic happenings were always in the news. Silly things, like metal was the music of the devil and any and all crimes were caused by Satan worshipers. I don’t know, I tend to gravitate towards demon stories. Maybe cuz a lot of my faves growing up had to do with them. Like The Gate or Evil Dead 2, even paranormal ghost ones that are demonic entities these days, like Paranormal Activity movies, scare the crap out of me. Could also be how I was forced to go to church every Sunday growing up. And if God stuff is real then demon stuff had to be real too. And that shit is scary to think about as a kid.
Ok, so now you're in one of your flicks, and it too is something of a cautionary tale. What would your "monkey's paw" be? How would the story end?
I would probably want something that gives more than one desire, like give me a career as a filmmaker, let me go invisible when I want, and let me stay young. But since its a cautionary tale it would all go wrong and Id have to fail and die. Well since I’m writing it, it will be a "tie" like end of Rocky where the demon technically wins but I still get to keep all my things. Maybe I need a consequence of some sort so I lose one of the things but not all 3!
If you had to place your short film trifecta in personal order from best to worst, how would it go?
Oh man I can't do that. I love the question though. Its probably like a kid, you love them all equally. I do know that a lot of amazing people worked very hard on these 3 movies and I'm so grateful they've gone on this journey with me.
Is the work you've completed thus far a limbering-up towards an eventual attempt at a feature film?
Yes definitely. I’m hoping to take what I’ve learned from these 3 movies and continue more of the same into a feature. I feel like each one led to the next and they collectively lead to the next, a feature horror-comedy with werewolves.
Outside Bad Guy #2, Death Metal, and We Summoned a Demon, what else has Chris Mcinroy been up to? Any collaborations?
Me and a great team shot a segment for a horror-comedy anthology called Scare Package. Mine's called' One Time In The Woods, and the movie will be out in 2019. I’m excited for people to see it. We had a surprise early screening of my segment at Telluride Horror Show and it went over so well. I was very happy. Other than that I'm writing the feature. It’s been in my head for like 10 years. Seriously. I bought the domain of the title 11 years ago and renew every year.
Interested in working outside the horror and dark comedy genres? Will we see a romcom directed by you any time soon?
I’m not really interested in working outside of those genres. Horror and horror-comedy forever! I’d love to make straight horror films though too, something super scary. And I have an idea for a gritty horror revenge movie that is too big to be a short film. I have an idea stewing for another short film but I’m putting it in the vault so I can focus on the werewolf feature. I have a hard time focusing on more that 1 thing at a time.
Hell, just for fun, what WOULD a romcom made by you even look like?
Ha! Man that is tough. Something like Natural Born Killers or Wild At Heart maybe. Or something where a demon and a human fall in love.