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Interview with 'HazMat' writer and director Lou Simon

One of the most popular sub-genres in horror is that of the slasher film. There have been so many variations over the years it is hard to deliver anything all that new, but instead filmmakers look to put their own spin on it. The latest, HazMat comes from writer / director Lou Simon who is looking to leave her mark on the horror genre like only she can. I had the chance to sit down and speak with her about Hazmat as well as the evolution of females in the horror industry both in front and behind the camera.

HazMat
Lou Simon
Official Image
Lou Simon

Bobby: With your latest film Hazmat, that you both wrote and directed, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of female horror filmmakers have you always been into horror?

Lou: There are actually more than people think. They are more in the Indy world and harder to fine in the studio system. Most woman I know love horror and it’s very popular with woman. Most recently people are starting to see that it is not as male gendered as everyone thought. The last few years, 50% of the audience members were women.

Bobby: It’s kind of the same thing with the geek culture; it had always been considered male dominated. Women have always been accepted as the victims and heroines, but not so much as the filmmakers. What makes you think makes that acceptable on one side and not as much on the other?

Lou: You know there is always that last girl in the films that beats the bad guy, but it never showed the other women very flatteringly. Usually they were just another bimbo who gets hacked up after sex or something. Then of course there would be the one that would run who would be the unattractive nerdy type virgin which is was historically that way. I think around the 90s with films like Scream it was the first time a female character had sex and lived. It started to change a little bit having us depicted more as real people and less like caricatures of women has made it more pleasant for us to watch it.

Bobby: Where did the idea for Hazmat come from?

Lou: I had a major surgery and was bed ridden for two weeks straight and there was only so much TV you can watch and I was trying to watch as many horror films as I could. I caught a marathon of the show “Scare Tactics” on SyFy and watched one after the other and was laughing hysterically. At the same time I was feeling a little guilty at laughing at these peoples pain and then it occurred to me, how do they know they aren’t going to react in a bad way? You don’t know how people are going to react when they are scared. They could hurt one of the actors; have a heart attack or something, so it just started with that premise. I just thought I hadn’t seen that done so that’s what the idea came from.

Bobby: Did you always plan for it to be the found footage style filmmaking for this film or did it kind come about later in the process?

Lou: I wasn’t sure how much money I was going to be able to raise to make it. I wrote it completely found footage so that from beginning to end everything was going to be some kind of POV shot so it was written to cover every which way. Once we raised enough money that we didn’t have to keep it 100% found footage I kept the parts that I thought worked well as a POV shot and then did the rest normal so that it kind of blends between the two.

Bobby: Without spoiling it for anyone that hasn’t seen it yet, there is a little back story for the killer, but also left kind of open. Was that on purpose to explain why he went crazy, but never gave too much information?

Lou: Yeah, I don’t know if we will have an opportunity to do a sequel, but I would love to have the chance to talk more about the history of the place because there was a supernatural aspect to it so it’s not just a straight up slasher and whether this place they are hiding out in is actually haunted or not. With a bigger budget I would love to be able to explore it, I like that back story a lot.

Bobby: I am a huge horror fan and love gore and while there is some here you used more of the back drop to create the tone of the kills that worked well. Was that always the plan or was the budget restraints keeping you from being able to go as far as you wanted?

Lou: It was definitely the budget restraints. You could do five scenes, but once you got to those scenes the biggest enemy was time. You try to do the best you can with the limited time you have and then some things you do there when you get to the end of the film just don’t work well, because they are too cheesy and just don’t come out right. So once in editing you have to decide do I want to go for the under sell and make it look nicer or go crazy, but have it look cheesy. I really didn’t want cheesy so.

Bobby: You did a great job using the environment and tone to get the same point across that created the same effect without having to see every little thing.

Lou: Oh thank you.

Bobby: You mentioned wanting to possibly do a sequel and the ending leaves it a bit open ended, was it always set up that way or was it something you changed as production moved forward?

Lou: I definitely wanted to leave it open for something more. It’s fun leaving things hanging and leaves you wanting more; it just makes it more exciting. You can’t just end a horror movie with someone just walking away, there has to be something there that makes you say “Uh Oh!” this is going to continue, even if you never do it again.

Bobby: You don’t have a traditional ending here. Did you have any issues from the studio or finance people about the direction it went?

Lou: We actually shot it two different ways. Then we decided to go the direction that we used because we just thought that was a more powerful end because it wasn’t like the usual ending, so I liked that. I had one or two when we were trying to find a distributor that didn’t want that end, but of those that were a part of it none of them ever told me no.

Bobby: One of the most important aspects to a slasher film is the killer themselves. Did you always have the look in mind or was that something that developed after the script?

Lou: To be honest as I mentioned I was laid up from the surgery and was on a lot of Percocet (laughs) so to be honest I do not have a great memory on when the decision was made to what the killer was going to look like, why he was wearing the Hazmat suit, or why the weapon was the axe. To be honest, it just kind of happened, which happens with me on most of my scripts even when I’m not on Percocet, that I write and they just come out so I can’t really say I was going for that it was just a case of the story just kind of writes itself and then happy that it worked out really well.

Bobby: So now that this film is wrapped and out, do you have anything else you are working on and are you planning on sticking with horror?

Lou: For a while I am definitely going to be doing horror. I’m not going to say never, but you know like every job things sometimes get old, but so far it hasn’t so I am sticking with it. I’m working on another film called “Agoraphobia” that we are shooting in a few months that is more of a haunted house story. We are very excited because we got Tony Todd to play the psychiatrist to our main character. We are still casting for the last couple of roles and negotiating with some people but can’t announce any names yet.

Bobby: Well now that you have Hazmat out and working on this other one, do you have people coming to you yet like Tony Todd or do you still have to go after them?

Lou: No, we had to go after him. I think my biggest talent is finding people that are talented. I teamed up with an actress and director Tara Cardinal, who did “Legend of the Red Reaper” and “Scarlet Samurai” and she has good contacts being an actress herself. She is the one that reached out to him about the project, but until you make it really big no one comes to you.

Bobby: I really enjoyed the film and think it’s one that fans of the slasher film will really enjoy and hope you get a chance to do a sequel, I would love to see where it goes.

Lou: Thank you so much and thank you for doing this. This is the only chance that Indy filmmakers have to get the word out on their films. We don’t have the millions of dollars to advertise our films so all the things you guys do to help us promote it is amazing.

Bobby: It was my pleasure and I appreciate you taking the time to do this with me and look forward to seeing “Agoraphobia” and whatever else you have coming up in the future.

Lou: Thanks so much.

Be sure to grab your copy of HazMat available now. For more information head over to http://www.hazmatmovie.com/