Eric Pennycoff has made his directorial debut with the upcoming Sadistic Intentions, an anticipated heavy metal horror feature that has received lots of love from its initial screenings out of last fall’s Knoxville Horror Film Festival and last month’s Chattanooga Film Fest– and from myself included. In this Q & A, he talks about heavy metal in the horror genre, what differentiates his film from others in this particular subgenre, his Halloween haunt performer days, his notable cast, and last year’s favorite Mandy, amongst other topics.
Sadistic Intentions quick synopsis: When a psychotic metal musician looking for some sinister creative inspiration lures his bandmate and a woman to a secluded mansion, violence and tensions arise.
Q: You mentioned to me that this has been a long process for Sadistic Intentions to get made/shown to audiences. Could you discuss that process? When/how did you get the initial idea for the film?
A: I’ve been living/obsessing with the thought of Jeremy Gardner, Taylor Zaudtke and Michael Patrick Nicholson acting opposite one another for close to five years now. My producer Jason and I had been trying to put together a different film originally with those three in the same shooting location as Sadistic Intentions. That film was a bit more ambitious in scope for what we could do at the time. But we still had Jeremy, Taylor, and Michael Patrick. And we had an incredible house. That transition is really where Sadistic Intentions began. As for the story, I knew it had to be simple, but fiercely character driven. I think I was watching a lot of Dead Calm and Cape Fear at the time.
Q: Jeremy Gardner and Michael Patrick Nicholson have become indie genre standouts in recent years. How did they become a part of the film?
A: With Michael Patrick, I had been a fan of all these short films that he and Xander Robin made together in film school and after. Years later I directed Michael Patrick in a commercial and later pitchedour original script to him. Jeremy Gardner I had actually seen him in a short film (of which I was an assistant editor on) long before I ever saw The Battery. Taylor Zaudtke was in it as well. It’s called The Egg & The Hatchet. That’s really where I fell in love with the idea of those two in this film I had kicking around my head.
Q: The horror genre and the metal music community often pair well together, as they are both part of respective misfit subcultures. What first drew you to a) the horror genre and b) the metal music community?
A: Subculture is everything to me– so much so, that I contextualize nearly all life through that lens. Halloween was always the highlight of the year as a kid. I just landed on that wavelength somehow. I would later work at a haunted house on Friday and Saturday nights in October. They paid me in pizza to jump out and scare people. To this day, it’s the best job I’ve ever had. Movies were always a part of my life, but not until I was 19 did I take an interest in wanting to make them. The practicality of wanting to make horror movies did not come along until discovering the filmography of Glass Eye Pix.
Metal was one of those natural progressions from punk. Some people are just wired to want to “up” the intensity on everything around them. Grindcore, death metal, and black metal quickly became all I cared about for a long period of time, and by way of playing in bands.
Q: I’m pretty excited that we’ve had a recent revival of the metal-horror film subgenre. Why do you think they’re so few and far between? Do you have any personal favorites?
A: I’m not sure why there are so few metal themed horror films. In large part, they share a common fan base. Maybe it’s because not every filmmaker has what it takes to tackle such a sacred and powerful subculture. I’m kidding, of course. But a metalhead can dream, right? However, I do think Mandy (2018) laid down the final verdict in terms of how metal a movie can be. Panos Cosmatos may have just inadvertently ended a short-lived genre run for everyone because that movie has it all.
Eric Pennycoff (IMDb)
Q: Without giving anything away, a difference between your film and other recent metal-horror films like Deathgasm and The Devil’s Candy is that the metalhead is the antagonist, instead of the hero. How did you come to that decision?
A: It’s a bit unconventional because the antagonist role shifts around. As much as I love metal and every musically disfigured variation that comes with it, I do think there are draw backs to closing oneself off entirely from the outside world or outside influence. Humans are antagonists and metalheads are human. It’s a film where you could easily swap out the obsessed metal musician with an alcoholic novelist or a struggling filmmaker. There are plenty of narrative details that work to the metal head sensibility but I don’t believe those types are all that different from anyone else.
Q: More than anything, Sadistic Intentions seems to be overwhelmingly a fable about how far creative types will go for inspiration. Have you ever felt that sense of desperation and “writer’s block” of sorts with your projects?
A: I’ve never felt the need to go to the lengths that Kevin does for inspiration, but I’ve certainly faced writer’s block. I recently started to write out everything with pencil on paper before I go anywhere near a computer. I’d rather be stuck while looking at paper rather than another lit-up screen.
Q: The film takes a feministic standpoint that I was relieved to see. (Again, without spoiling too much) How important was it to you that the film contained a final girl? Did you always have that ending in mind?
A: The notion that I had written a final girl revealed itself after the story was conceived. I often describe the film as “a love triangle for psychopaths.” But once the final girl theme became apparent then I really began exploring what that meant through the lens of this story. The trajectory of the story never changed, but certainly Taylor and my conversations surrounding her character took on a new shape. She has such a profound love of horror, and her insights into the history of the “final girl” always wowed me.
Q: While we wait for an official release date for Sadistic Intentions, are you currently working on any other projects? Do you have other scripts in the works?
A: I’m always writing something. And I cherish the quiet time that a writer has to themselves. I usually shift between scripts. That helps me to not get locked in on one idea too hard. I might tell myself one day that a script is ready to go, and then a week later I’m deep into another draft. I have a melodramatic revenge comedy that I’d love to shoot somewhere in the south. If Sadistic Intentions was my heavy metal album, then this next one would be my sentimental country record. Music has always been a guiding factor in determining what’s next.
Sadistic Intentions should expect an official release later this year.~