Three years ago, twenty-two-year-old “girl-next door” Rachel barely survived a brutal massacre that left all of her friends murdered. Time has passed, and Rachel has moved on, but unfortunately, her close friends are spending Spring Break in a secluded house in the woods, and they have cordially invited her to join. She would never have accepted the invitation if she realized that another bloodbath would be showing up as a plus one. Once Rachel and her friends arrive at the cabin, the partying, sex, and…terror begins. From girls’ only pillow fights to debauchery in a bedroom, it’s going to be a blast…aside from the stabbing, flesh melting, and castration. Seven friends will go into a secluded house for the best Spring Break of their lives, but only one will be alive to post about it on Facebook the next week, as Rachel’s biggest fears become a reality once again! Can Rachel survive another bloody massacre?
WTF! Is the first feature film by writer/director Peter Herro. It stars a cast of talented fresh faces and sports a very respectable amount of gore, guts, and gals. It is a “love letter to classic horror films” and one of the only indie titles that I’ve seen in a long time that I was actually compelled to watch twice. I’d tell you why but that would totally be giving away half the film’s charm.
The rest of the film’s charm is found in its comically stereotyped cast. The film starts off with a clichÃƒ©d Spring Break pool party scene that I had to watch at least three times to catch all the campy goodness. It was like an edited collection of cringy one-liners and burns that seemed to flow effortlessly into one another. These gems included lines like:
“Bonny! I wanna date you sexually!—
“Dude, that's fucked up! You guys still haven't done anal? That's Jesus' favourite hole…—
“I wanna be transgendred and look like you!—
A handful of the most flirtatious and foul-mouthed of these partygoers actually turn out to be a clique of friends (though you would not have guessed it through their initial interactions) that end up planning their Spring Break trip; A quiet and rustic trip to uncle’s cabin in the woods. What follows is your typical slasher film with plenty of booze, bongs, babes, boobs and banging — with a fair offering of boy bod as well to keep the ladies happy.
The score is pretty good, the editing is great, and the production value is safely above par. The death scenes are sufficiently gory, but not excessively so, and the characters are both lovable and loathsome. Most importantly though, the film doesn’t try to be something it’s not. It’s dry, witty, funny and entertaining, and there’s a lot of very carefully hidden detail if you pay close enough attention.
We were fortunate enough to be able to have director Herro answer a few questions for us about the film:
First off, I'd like to say that I found the film very entertaining. It was a lot of fun from start to finish and I'm very excited to be able to have you answer some questions about the film. It's not often you get a chance to dig around in the head of the artist.
Thank you for the praise! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. It was a labor of love for sure. It will be fun to do this interview and talk more about the making of the film.
The editing and camera work at the motel scene were great and I particularly loved the panning shot that rolls past the rooms. What were your favorite scenes and were there any that didn't quite turn out the way you wanted?
The motel scene was actually one of my favorite days on set. It offered a great transition between heading to the cabin and actually arriving. We shot at a place called Four Aces which has been used in hundreds of films both big and small. I remember it was most of the casts very first day on set. It was a great opportunity to get the group in character for the first time and really begin to direct the film with the ensemble. The gas station and motel are actually the same location. We shot the gas station during the day and the motel at night. It was such an amazing day and the weather was perfect!
The very first day I called action we were shooting the detective scenes with Rachel. We filmed it and made the detectives very intense. I remember calling Adam, my writing partner, the week before shooting and saying the detectives are too soft. Can we do a rewrite and really amp this up! He delivered what I asked for and I regretted it. It was way too over the top and made the film feel a little too comical over all in my opinion. I eventually made the decision to cut the detectives to only the backs of their heads and did ADR over the original detectives to help get a softer message across. Due to timing and it being a last minute change I couldn’t book the original actors who were both amazing may I point out. I just couldn’t wait and we needed to get it done immediately so we used different talent for the voices. It was a failure on my part for having the knee jerk reaction of changing the dialogue last minute. The original detective scenes will be issued as a deleted scene on platforms that support extras like Steam.
Justin Kemper and his team absolutely blew me away with the look and feel of the film. I told him I wanted the film to look commercial. But also hold a classic horror vibe like you have seen in the past with the 90's commercial horror slasher. He really gave me exactly what I asked for and more. He blew me away with his cinematography and I can’t wait to work with him and his team again on my next project.
I found that the banter was turned up a notch in this film and that the burns, jokes, and insults between the casts were pretty heavy at times. It reminded me a lot of how my friends and I interacted in my uni days. Between yourself, Christopher Lawrence Centanni, and Adam Buchalter, who was responsible for the steady stream of zesty one-liners and comebacks?
It was a mix of all three of us. Adam was responsible for coming in and pumping up the one-liners and he did an amazing job! I would say the majority of them are his. Some were mine and Chris's. Some ADR was improvised by our producer Kyle Zingler, who is also one of the funniest talented people I know. His one-liners have always had me on the floor cracking up. So I was pleased that he helped out with this! He crushed it with his pool party ADR add ins!
Jacob (Benjamin Norris) was by far my favourite character in the film. He was amazing and completely stole the show when on screen (Which was hard to do because Bonnie is fit AF). Comparatively, I thought the cast did a pretty stand up job. What was it like working with a set of relatively fresh faces?
Yes! Ben was fantastic! It was a funny story with him. He came in originally for the role of Bevan, the video gamer. I remember thinking how talented he was and how I wanted him to have more screen time. So during auditions, I had him read for Jacob and Sam. The moment he read for Jacob I fell in love and I knew he was perfect!
Also, another great story was with Callie Ott who played Rachel. I was helping a friend film a reel and she was the lady opposite of him. I remember walking in the room and the moment I met her I said, “I know this sounds weird but you are perfect for the role of Rachel. The lead in my movie.— I think she probably thought I was just being nice and full of Sh*t. But I wasn't! She is the lead in WTF!. Her chemistry with Nicholas Reilly was electric. Both of them played so well together and made for an amazing performance. They were both outstanding!
Andrea Hunt brought her “A— game and delivered a killer performance. I loved her chemistry with Ben Norris. Her deliveries were always on point and she really sold the character. It's not really a spoiler since its in the trailer. In one scene Bonnie gets her faced burned off and I remember Andrea being in the makeup chair. She was in the zone and didn’t want to see what she looked like. The first time she ever saw her face mangled was when I called, “Action.” So when she looks in the mirror and screams that is, in fact, the first time Andrea saw what her makeup looked like! It is one of my favorite scenes for sure.
Sarah Agor and Johnny Fiore both played the bad egg roles. Characters that had no remorse and would eventually both get what they wanted. I think the chemistry between the two worked out wonderfully and we really got a great climax! Sarah could hurl a scream like no other. I also need to call out that her spitting out the gum in the scandalous sex scene was all her idea. Props to her improve on set! She really made the character her own!
Adam Foster was fantastic! This was also his first feature. He did such a good job making Bevan corky and awkward. He made the character fun and lovable. He is actually going to be on an upcoming episode of Room 104. I am very excited to see him in it! He has come so far!
The casting process, in general, was intense. We did three months of casting. Trying to get good actors is hard. Trying to get good actors that have chemistry with one another is even harder. I spent a lot of time with Kyle Zingler in casting. We spent days upon days with our Casting Director Derek Stusynski to make sure we got the right people for the job. Not only did I want talent. I wanted a group of people that wanted to do something big. And feel like they were apart of something big. That was my key to hiring. It wasn’t entirely performance based. Because of Derek, we were able to get some amazing talent and I couldn’t be happier.
A slasher film with spring breakers in a secluded cabin far from civilization; a tried and tested recipe for sure. What motivated you to create WTF! in this particular genre and style? Are you paying homage to the genre or are slashers a passion of yours?
The intention of this film was to pay homage to the stereotype of this genre. I wanted to amplify that stereotype and really make it feel like the movies of the past with a lot more foul humor and over the top cattiness. I wanted “Scream meets Mean Girls— humor. Something that made you say “WTF! how can these people be friends!—. Funny enough, growing up, I saw groups of friends that were not very far off from this and they were completely functional friendships. At least in their eyes.
The special effects, blood, and gore were on point. I was really happy that you didn't skimp out that, which is often the case with some indie titles. Also, whilst still pretty heavy on the kill scenes, it wasn't so over the top that it became comical—which is a hard thing to balance. What did you take away from WTF! In terms of special effects in horror and how would you use that in future films?
The idea was to shoot this entire film practically. During the production of the film, I had no intention of hiring a VFX artist in a large capacity. We were only slated to have the VFX artist for one death that involved fire. So because of that, I wanted to be realistic with the deaths. I was also constrained with what I could do. We were shooting in a beautiful home and the floors were a very old beautiful wood finish. This presented a huge problem when it came to making it an all out gore fest. That was the original direction. The floors there would have sucked up a drop of blood and left a permanent stain. Due to budget constraints, we had to be smart about the kills and make them less intense yet still memorable and fun. I have to thank Sabrina Castro for the amazing job she did on makeup and effects. Later in post, I was thrilled to be able to connect with my friend Daniel who would eventually come on board and deliver some amazing VFX shots for the film! He worked every day for two years and I couldn't be happier!
Where there any major setbacks you had while directing the film and how did you manage to overcome those setbacks?
Time and money were the major setbacks. The 12 days in production were brutal. But I haven’t really touched on post production. We were in post for about two years. A lot of the issues revolved around time and money. Trying to make something as good as it can possibly be while still working full-time jobs on the side. I remember I was working full time in preproduction and only took two weeks off to film. I went back to work after that. I worked on nights and weekends during post. Most of the post team had full time jobs so it made it very difficult to rush out a final product and still make it something memorable. It was a balancing act for sure. It was a first-time feature for almost the entire post team so this was a labor of love. It was a rough couple of years and I pushed people for their best work. I'm sure I became very frustrating at times. But I knew what I wanted. In the end, the goal of the director is to do everything in their power to maintain their vision and make the best product possible. That's exactly what I did.
I should note that the music was done my Adrian Sealy. This was his first feature and he really knocked it out of the park. Hi gave me exactly what I asked for. Something fun, original, and catchy. I found myself humming his music a lot over the past two years in post.
Jesse Herrera also is the master behind the mix. He was able to take my under $100k film and make it sound like a professional movie. He made the dialogue pristine and the stereo and 5.1 mixes sound amazing. I had to mention both of them because with out them I would have nothing.
What's your favourite horror film and who is your favourite horror writer? Do you think they play a large roll in terms of your style as a director and film writer?
I have favorite franchise. Nightmare on Elm Street! I had my fun homage to the movie when Rachel was in the classroom screaming. As for writing, I would say Wes Craven. I hope one day I can make a movie on par with his. He was a true inspiration. Someone I will always admire and look up too.
It seems to me that, for whatever reason, Horror is the go-to for younger, independent film makers. You don't get B-Romance movies unless you count soft-porn, or B-action flicks unless you look to Bollywood. What do you think is the attraction to horror films for so many when it's clearly not the mainstream? Is there any advice you like to impart on aspiring horror and indie film-makers out there?
I love horror movies. I also love Action and Adventure films! I want to make a Star Wars or Lord of the Rings Trilogy someday when I am more seasoned. But for now. I will keep to what I know and make more horror films!
To aspiring filmmakers, I would say find a script or write it. Make sure you’re attached. Make sure you believe in the film. Then make sure you can make it for as little as possible. Your first film is your calling card. It is not the film you or your actors make money on. It is the passion project that shows you can! The majority of the people on the cast and crew never made a feature before. This was my first anything. I never called action before this movie. So I was a baby to all of this. I grew so much from the experience.
I would also say investors are a tricky thing. It will be hard to find. There is no magical investor land you can visit and pitch. I would say do your research. Find investors that have invested in low budget features. Reach out to them with not only a script, but a plan of execution and all the possible ways for them to make a return on investment. Don’t lie either. Investors can tell. Most are wise and do this for a living. Be honest. Be you. There is magic in that. Find something unique about yourself. Past jobs or talents. Anything. Make that the unique thing that makes you different from the rest of them and run with it. Be confident, not cocky. Treat people like family and you will always be treated the same.
Watching the film the second time around is a completely different experience from the first viewing., primarily because of the revelation at the end of the film. There are tons of minute details with subtle, clever misdirection that you can only really appreciate the second time around. What inspired your twist ending?
I wanted to create something fun and “predictable—. The idea was that by the way the film plays dumb with the audience it may trick them into thinking they figured it out by the end. Every filmmaker’s hope is to surprise the audience. Though it wasn't a bulletproof approach and I took some risk by letting Rachel be a little crazy in the middle of the film. It was a gamble I was willing to take and hopefully gets the audience drawn in for a second viewing!
There is a lot of subtle things to look out for the second time around. The way Bonnie reacts to Rachel in the car scene to the cast always cutting off Toby when he speaks. It was always planned that way and it was fun to try and navigate around him and make him the “loner— more than anything else.
Thanks for the interview!
Catch the trailer below and give “WTF!” a chance if the campy slasher is your thing. Leave us a comment and tell us what you think of the film. Available now on VOD, Hulu, Amazon, iTunes and Steam!
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