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Director Luke Boyce and actor Caito Aase on the ’80s-inspired End Times Fun of “REVEALER”

Monday, July 4, 2022 | Interviews


Truths are revealed in a battle against inner and outer demons in Luke Boyce‘s REVEALER. Written by Michael Moreci and Tim Seeley, this end-of-days horror-thriller is set in Chicago in the late 1980s where a stripper, Angie Pitarelli (Caito Aase), and a fanatical religious protestor, Sally Mewbourne (Shaina Schrooten), don’t exactly see eye to eye. However, after a cataclysmic event changes the landscape, the two find themselves trapped in the Revealer adult bookstore and must break down some walls to help one another survive. Angie and Sally reckon with their inner turmoil (and each other) as they navigate the apocalypse in search of some kind of sanctuary. Ultimately, finding and confronting their inner truths proves more dangerous than battling demons. And the deeper they journey, the more intense their revelations become.

REVEALER’s director, Luke Boyce, and star Caito Aase recently sat down with Rue Morgue to discuss the genesis of the film, crafting the story and characterizations, working through the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it had upon the story and the making of the film.

What initially drew you to the project?

Luke Boyce: Tim Seeley and I had been working together for a bit, and we’d been working on a much bigger project that’s taken a bit more time to get off the ground. We basically were stuck in quarantine – this is early 2020. We were talking to my producer, Sarah, and Bret Hayes, seeing if we could do a film during COVID. A lot of our crew that we work with often hadn’t been working, so we wondered, “What can we accomplish here?” The cool thing about working with comic book writers is that they are given a parameter and they basically have to write around that parameter, multiple parameters, in about a week. So they are given a story from say, Marvel or DC, and they have to work around that, which is kind of their skillset. So we gave them parameters here and said, “Let’s write just sort of a stuck in a room movie, but what if we do it and, it’s a peep-show booth? Which might work out because these two characters are talking through a wall, and they don’t necessarily have to interact.” Obviously, that changed through the process of writing the script, as we had to create bigger stakes and move the story forward, but that was the initial idea.

[Time and I] both grew up during the Satanic panic [of the 1980s]. [The concept is] what if they were right? What if all these people screaming all the time about the end of the world were actually right about it? So we were just sort of narratively intrigued as to how that might play out in sort of an alternate universe type situation. So it’s kind of a perfect storm of ideas that sort of happened, and we got to do this, and I think we’re people who enjoy the prospect of having these limitations and have them spur on creativity. We had the storytelling limitations, we had the limitations of COVID, and we started shooting in July of 2020, so we’re still pretty well into quarantine. It created a really strict scenario on set. There were no rules quite yet on how to do that, so the entire crew was quarantined together; Nobody left, and we had meals provided for us, so we were either in a hotel, or we were on set – the warehouse where we shot the film. We had a skeleton crew of about twenty-five-ish people, so it was working around all of these limitations. We were trying to create something that was still fully formed, we had been hearing about people sort of making pandemic films that were about the pandemic … we didn’t want to do that. We wanted to do a film that worked around those limitations but that wasn’t specifically about a quarantine or a pandemic or anything like that.

Caito Aase looking totally ’80s in REVEALER.

Caito Aase: It was kind of an actor’s dream, really [Laughs], and it being written by comic book writers, I mean, be still my nerd heart! So I’m friends with Sarah Casey, who is the casting director on this. She sent me a text and she said, “So a script just landed on my desk.  Would you like to audition to be a stripper in the ’80ss who fights demons?” I was like, “Yes! Yes! A resounding Yes!” [Laughs] I mean, who wouldn’t love to be a part of that? And I was deeply within my obsession of “G.L.O.W.” and re-watching “G.L.O.W.” and wishing I was Zoya the Destroya the whole nine! So it landed in my lap, and the other part that drew me in, aside from the fun, campy ’80s magic that this is … is that there’s so much heart, and there’s so much love and so much conflict! It has so much meat to it! I come from a theater background, so when you’re handed a script for a play, oftentimes, there is the case that you have this rich picture of a character, and sometimes, on camera, that doesn’t necessarily happen. I’ve been very fortunate with the on-camera experience that I’ve had that characters have been very meaty but looking at this script it did, to me, almost read like a play. There is this gorgeous arc of a character in Angie and in Sally and 90 percent of the film is our faces in various degrees of dirt and blood. So it had a lot of shine and glimmer and neon lights but also so much robust character development that was so exciting!

LB: In a comic book, you’re not afforded a lot of subtlety, you know. That medium doesn’t lend itself to a lot of subtlety, let’s just say. We were sort of trying to homage a lot of the films from that time period as well. There’s a trend in modern art-horror to be much more subtle, which is fine, we knew that that’s not what this was. And we talked a lot about earnestness, how important earnestness is. I remember when I was first talking to [Caito] and [Shaina] about this, and they were like, “How are we playing this? What are we doing?” I said, “I know that from a concept perspective this is an absolutely insane concept. I understand that.” I said, “We’re playing it straight; We’re playing it earnest.” That’s very important to me because I think that, especially in horror, especially where everything is really kind of subtext, you’re trying to say something. I think that’s really something important about the genre itself. 

So that was very important for us to have that earnestness, to have that sincerity, to be able to make something that was about something, and not in the sense of this big social commentary but about characters, about two people who are literally having to face their own prejudices. In the case of both of them for sure but even in the case of Angie who has to discover her prejudice – something you hadn’t really thought about before or hadn’t really had to be faced with. That’s one of the things I love about the film. As we go through it, these are two characters are forced to have to deal with each other, to meet each other on their own terms. While they both do have an arc, and they both change, one of them has required the other to change, and I thought that was a neat approach to characterization.

Caito Aase and Shaina Schrooten share an intense moment in REVEALER.

Caito, what was it like portraying a character that has to look inward, discover and confront her own prejudice?

CA: I think that one of the things that Angie has is a ton of conviction as well as a ton of loyalty! She truly, at the end of the day, is in service of others and is there to support and love others and does what she does out of deep compassion and love for others. I think she has to realize that having her hackles up all the time at this woman who just won’t leave her alone as things get more and more dire that her defense starts coming down. All of that love and compassion that she pours into everyone else, in the defensiveness that she has for everyone else, she starts bringing into her relationship with Sally. We see, certainly, that line of how they come together … There’s a beautiful camp element to it; It’s so fun. She’s a stripper in the ’80s! Come on, who doesn’t love it? But she does it for a reason. She does it because she has all the love in her heart and wants desperately to do the right thing. And I think that Sally wants desperately to do the right thing, and both of them don’t necessarily know where the right thing is until they realize, “Oh wow, I’ve actually been an asshole! These are things I wouldn’t have come around on had I not been in these circumstances.” So I think it is about really stripping down to the base level of humanity of just caring and supporting. It’s really all about radical empathy, which I think we really all need a lot more of these days.

Touching again on the COVID-19 pandemic, suddenly everything changed, which is a huge part of this film. Some of us found ourselves trapped inside with someone else. Can you touch on this theme a bit more?

LB: To go off of that a little bit, I think what’s interesting about these two characters, how this is relevant to today, is that these are two people who are fighting all the time. They’re always fighting interior demons as well as fighting exterior demons, and what does that fight do to our perspective and how we relate to other human beings? It’s hard. I’m not blaming anybody for that. I think we’re all doing that to a certain degree, but sometimes, we forget to experience other humans in that fight. Whether we know it or not, we build up walls, and we build up defenses, and that creates things we don’t intend to do. I think radical empathy is a really good thing because it requires us to break down walls. There’s a lot of that symbolism in the film – breaking down walls, I mean, they literally break down a wall! [Laughs] 

Sometimes, I have to step back and look at this social media world we live in. You know, the idea is that we’re supposed to be coming together and building community, and yet it feels like the opposite happens. It feels like what social media does is force us to build more walls. It forces us to build these fortresses, whether that’s ourselves, our individual communities or our niches or, in some cases, our tribes that we sort of create. I think it’s interesting how you can go back and utilize a period like the ’80s that doesn’t have a lot of the technological hang-ups that we have or a lot of the current social stuff that we have now and still have it be just as relevant! It’s really interesting to explore that, and that’s one thing we definitely wanted to try and do with this film.

Hell comes to collect in REVEALER.

Now I love monsters, what was your inspiration in terms of creating the creatures for this film?

LB: We were looking at that from a Christian perspective, especially from a historical perspective – a lot of Christian symbolism – especially of snakes, for instance, because a lot of that has to do with those were things that were lowest to the ground, so they were considered dirty. We really wanted to pull that out of it, especially since they were going underground. It was interesting because snakes are not easy to do. Almost all of our effects started out practical because we didn’t know we were going to have a post budget for any kind of CG. We got extremely lucky. We had a few artists come on and help us out incredibly on some of those effects, so we were able to augment some of the practical stuff with CG, but we tried to do everything we could in practical. We had snake puppets on set. Our demon is a full costume demon, so that was interesting to play with. You know, ask Caito about having a demon snake in her mouth. [Laughs]

CA: Uh-huh. [Laughs]

I wasn’t going to go there, but … okay!

CA: It was gross!

Caito, here you are in a situation where it’s two women fighting for their lives, and you have snakes. We all know what snakes tend to represent. How was that dynamic for you?

CA: You know, it was like [Laughs] a vehement stabbing of the male gaze! We had a wide variety of genders on this set, which was really cool. And also, Luke afforded Shaina and I so much agency and so much power in the film, both before we would walk in to shoot, during filming … all of that, like the dance scene! Luke placed that in my hands and asked, “What do You want to do with this?” And the end result of that was that this dance was very much for her, and it’s not for the clientele. It was this opportunity to be this badass femme and shirk any of that sexuality or sexual oppression that can come up, which felt kind of cool!

Caito Aase is a dancer at the end of time in REVEALER.

Funny you should mention that about the dance scene. That did not come off as seductive at all to me. It was a very different energy that really carries throughout the rest of the film. I found that really interesting.

CA: Yeah, thank you!

How did you land on the decision to have Gunship’s music in the film? I did notice Tim Cappello is on one of the songs, which is wonderful because he was the oily greased-up sax player from The Lost Boys!

LB: It’s funny. So Tim and I are huge Gunship fans! I reached out to them initially out of curiosity to see if they’d be interested in scoring the film. Unfortunately, at the time, they were really busy on their third album, so they weren’t sure how much time they’d have. But they were very interested in the project, and they wanted to support it, so they allowed us to use some of their music, I said 100 percent! Caito and I were looking at songs we could use for the dance and landed on “Dark All Day,” which is probably one of their best tracks. The funny thing about the Lost Boys thing is that’s Tim Seeley’s favorite horror film … There’s a lot of kismet on this film! A lot of things worked out really well, and it’s kind of amazing to see. It was huge for me to have Gunship be a part of this.

CA: When Luke came to me and said, “By the way, we are going to have Gunship!” It was the second week of filming, and I was like, “What?!?! Oh my gosh!!” [Laughs]

LB: That was a big thing for me because this is an alternate reality ’80s. A lot of ’80s projects have these needle drops … It’s the Stranger Things world, right? It’s like, oh you have the ’80s, so you’ve got to have all these needle drop songs to tell you it’s the ’80s. I really wanted to do a thing where the world [and] the music evoked the ’80s, but it wasn’t the ’80s. We have Gunship [and] there’s a song we have which was written for the film by a modern hair metal band out of Norway, and they’re incredible! And of course, the score, the amazing score by Alex Cuervo! It’s there to evoke that sense, but we didn’t want it to be so bold as “Hey! Look at us! *wink, wink, wink* This is the ’80s!” So that was an important choice.

It’s definitely subtle. It’s there, and you either pick up on it or you don’t, but you don’t beat anyone over the head with it.

LB: I think that’s one of the fun things about Gunship …  You know, that synthwave genre is getting more and more popular. I think that one of the cool things about that genre, about Gunship, is that their influence isn’t ’80s music, I mean – it is – it’s the music of John Carpenter, [the] music of movies and videogames. That’s what they’re inspired by. The other track we have in there, “Cyber City”, is heavily influenced by Blade Runner. We’re kind of doing this handshake thing with that kind of music, which I thought would be fun, just sort of like movies inspiring their music and their music inspiring us to create an ’80s movie vibe. That was a fun thing to play with.

What are some thoughts or feelings that you come away from this project with?

CA: I’ve been asked several times, “What is the takeaway on this film?”  I would say, for me, what I hope people will walk away with is that sex work is work! It is a job, and it is something that should be supported and decriminalized, and also that queer rights are human rights. It is so imperative that we take care of each other right now.

LB: I don’t know if I can add much to that. That’s kind of the perfect sign-off really! I would just mimic that. I love that this is a film about treating other people with respect – finding other people and who they are, and that’s not to just absolve anything bad that people intend and do. I think there is a level where we’re losing that ability to understand the complexity of a human being and how to actually relate to people.

REVEALER is available now, only on Shudder.