By ROCCO T. THOMPSON
The killer with the perfect face and crystal blue eyes is back in PRETTY BOY, the sequel to Marcel Walz’s 2019 slasher drama, Blind. The film picks up directly where the first left off, with actress Faye Dayne (Sarah French) in the clutches of the eponymous maniac (Jed Rowen) as he crashes a singles Valentines Day party packed with fresh meat (including Devanny Pinn, Heather Grace Hancock, and Jake Red, among others) ripe for the slaughter. Wilder, weirder, and bloodier than the first, “Pretty Boy” comes into his own as a memorable, maniacal slasher villain in this follow-up. We caught up with German-born director Marcel Walz (2016’s Blood Feast) to discuss his love of slashers and how PRETTY BOY one-ups his previous effort.
Joe Knetter wrote both Blind and PRETTY BOY. What drew you to his work?
Well Joe Knetter and I started in the same genre and we both like the weird and crazy stuff and BLIND was our first time working together! That’s probably the weirdest thing right? Our first project together is more a horror drama than a hardcore splatter movie! But hey, you only grow when you step out of your comfort zone – and that’s exactly what we did! We’re like yin and yang, and he knows exactly what I want and like and I know what he can bring to the table as well! He’s unbelievable good in creating great characters, you feel for those characters he creates, especially when they die… so I would call us a dream team.
PRETTY BOY picks up directly where BLIND ends. Was there any doubt as to whether this sequel was going to get made?
We knew from the very beginning, that we do need this sequel to tell our whole story and show the audience which way we wanna go with our villain, Pretty Boy! Thats why the sequel is also named after him, he is a slasher, but still people also feel for him and that’s because how we established him in BLIND. Thank god most of the responses for the first movie were pretty amazing, so we got a green light right after our great festival run with a lot of nominations and wins! So here is my big hug and thanks to all the fans of BLIND… I promise you, that you will love PRETTY BOY, and you’ll find out more about him!
While BLIND was more of a slow-burning, character drama, PRETTY BOY is structured more like a traditional slasher. Was this intentional
Yes it was 100%. [On the first film], budget-wise we knew, we can’t have all [this] crazy shit going on without looking cheap. So, we decided to start with a ’70s slow burn, [and] after that we can move on to the sequel which will be an ’80s style slasher. Guess what part three will be: a ’90s high school slasher like Scream or Urban Legend! That’s the way we wanted to go from very beginning, but we also knew we needed [a sequel] immediately, so the horror fan base is not disappointed and also to create a franchise in which every sequel is different. [We hope to] play more with that and give the fans something special from every horror era!
The more traditional slasher setup also calls for a fresh young cast. What were you looking for when you were casting?
More actors, more victims! A sequel needs more blood, guts and gore! And that was the point when we had our casting and see all those super talented people who wanna be a part of the PRETTY BOY universe. We got very lucky to work with this amazing group of people, everyone put so much time and work into the characters to create something special.
Jake Red plays “Preston,” who’s refreshingly gay, especially in a subgenre that’s so famously hetero. Is it important for you to bring a gay sensibility to horror?
Yes he could be the new final girl…if he survives the movie! But yes you are right, the genre is pretty hetero, but it’s changed over the years, like the rest of the world [has]. It started in the ’80s with A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge with Jesse [Mark Patton’s character] but today, it shouldn’t be a problem anymore! Just look at American Horror Story, you know what I’m saying…it would have been more weird for me not to have a gay character in a movie.I think fans of the genre are ready for more LGBTQ [content].
Jed Rowen seems to really have grown into the role since the last film, and feels even more menacing and unsettling this time around. How did you come up with his instantly iconic look?
I don’t even really know how it came into my head. I just knew I wanted a Ken doll face mask and a baby blue suit, and that was what we mentioned to Ken Hall, who created Pretty Boy’s look.For the first test sample, they showed us the mask without the eyes, to give him more darkness in his face. But Joe and I realized right away that we need those glowing blue eyes. It gives him so much more life, sometimes, you even forget he’s wearing a mask! All the rest is Jed Rowen and his perfect movements.
Who are your biggest horror influences? You’re obviously a big slasher fan, what are your favorites?
I would say that Ryan Murphy’s work is my biggest influence! I’m a huge fan of American Horror Story, especially Hotel – it was perfect in every single way! Also the movies from the ’80s and ’90s that I grew up with. Scream is probably the biggest influence of all on me, I could watch it over and over again without getting sick of it. Same thing with Halloween and some other classics from the ’80s, but I don’t wanna call Scream a “classic” already, that makes me feel super old! [Laughs]
There’s a big turn late in the film that feels like we’re in a different horror subgenre altogether. Can you tell us a bit about the thought process behind that? Without spoiling anything, of course.
Joe created an unbelievable and amazing tone shift after the first hour, it was a challenge for me to bring that to life without killing the audience’s mood. It was a [balancing act] to bring them to a whole different level of craziness! The first part of PRETTY BOY is a fun, ’80s-style horror slasher with some nice twists and turns, the second part has this super dark Texas Chain Saw Massacre vibe that brings us a little bit back to the Blind universe with some super creepy and moody scenes!
Did COVID-19 have any effect on the film and its rollout?
The biggest effect on the film was, we had to reschedule the whole shoot from May to October! But we saw the positive, and I said “There is a reason for everything.” We might have gotten a total different movie out of it if we had shot it in may, who knows? It wasn’t a big deal shooting PRETTY BOY with all the new COVID rules we had to follow on set, it was probably more work in pre-production, but after the first day of shooting we realized that it would be fine. Also, we needed a CCO [Covid Compliance Officer] on set, Sean Decker. He did an amazing job and he took good care of everything!
What do you hope viewers take away from PRETTY BOY?
You like ’80s Horror? PRETTY BOY will be 100% your thing! You think you know which direction the movie will go? You really don’t!
Catch PRETTY BOY when it debuts later this year.