By JOSHUA “PROMETHEUS” SCAFIDI
Recently, we had the chance to chat with Ry Barrett (The Heretics, Still the Water) about his new film OPEN YOUR EYES, a psychological thriller written and directed by Greg A. Sager (Devil Seed) in which a screenwriter haunted by a traumatic experience finds himself coming apart as he settles into a marathon writing session. Barrett took the time to chat with us about playing a frustrated writer and how that reflects his own experiences in the film industry.
What can you tell us about OPEN YOUR EYES without spoiling too much?
[It’s a] film about a screenwriter, Jason, who is a bit of a recluse. He’s just experienced a very traumatic event, and we as the audience don’t know what that is. He’s offered a new job writing a script, and he basically dives into that and tries to pour himself into it but ends up experiencing some writer’s block and strange distractions and events that are happening all around him, and you don’t really know if these are supernatural events or if there are other tenants fucking around with him, or if it’s him. It hints at a bunch of different areas that it could go. Then we start going on the trip down the road with him.
It’s written and directed by Greg A. Sager. What was it like working with him?
I worked with Greg once before, about seven or eight years ago. He’s great! We did a very different project before, it was much larger in scale, bigger cast and crew. It was a film called Kingdom Come. It was great to work with him again because we stayed in touch and have been friends. We’d always aim to work on a new project, but it just never happened. So, this actually happened in the middle of lockdown. He sent me a text and was like, “Hey, you got anything going on right now?” I had absolutely nothing, and he said he was putting together a project and sent me the script. I really dug it because it’s extremely relatable and sort of a meta script idea. It was June last year when we shot it. Things were still new and fresh and scary. We had to be extra careful while we were shooting it, bubbled and isolated. It kind of got me through that first stretch of the lockdown.
What would you say attracted you most to the role?
Well, I’m a fan of the type of film that it is, off the bat. I love psychological thrillers. If you’re one of those people that digs characters – what the characters are going through drives the story one hundred percent. That immediately drew me in. The role itself is crazy fun, a ton of range I got to play. It was a challenge and actually kind of scary because there are a ton of scenes where it’s just me and I had to struggle to keep it interesting, but realistic.
For anyone who is a writer, I hope we kind of captured the real feel of what it’s like to be frustrated, and those moments when you’re inspired, and the other ones when you’re exhausted and trying to get something done. It was really fun and interesting to try and capture that element of it, and then going into the actual emotional state that the character’s in and where he goes when he meets Lisa, played Joanna Saul. The big draw was the tone of the film, and the character, and where he ends up.
Being a writer yourself, was that aspect easy to relate to?
Yeah, it really was. It was a meta experience. It was very relatable. Greg is a writer, I’m a writer as well. The situation that we were in, the isolation…it felt almost too real because I was actually working on a script myself at the time. I was experiencing writer’s block from the isolation and everything that was happening. It was very relatable, and I hope we portrayed it in a way that other writers will see it and be like, “Yup, I know that feeling.”
If you had to sell the film in one sentence, what would you say?
I would say, if you’re looking for a slow-burn, psychological thriller that definitely will reward you with something unexpected in where it goes, this is a film for you.
What got you into acting?
I’ve always been a huge film geek, and film lover growing up. Me and my brother would be the ones spending hours down at the video store picking out which films we wanted to watch. We’d watch them multiple times, then bring them back. We were huge on horror, so we used to sneak horror movies that we weren’t allowed to watch. The second my parents would fall asleep we’d be putting on the horror movie and putting the volume down as low as possible to watch them. Which was a whole experience itself. The first film that I did, I got bit by the bug, the whole process of it, behind the scenes, the making of it, all that stuff. Getting to grow as an actor as I went along, and the films I worked on got better and better, it became sort of an addiction. I’m stuck on it now, and I’ve gone so far that I can’t see myself doing anything else, really.
What were your favorite horror films as a kid?
That’s tough because I liked a lot. I love special effects and anything with crazy amounts of special effects. One of the first ones I latched onto was – at a very young age I got to see Jonh Carpenter’s The Thing. It’s still one of my favorites of all time. The A Nightmare on Elm Street series, Friday the 13th, Halloween. We loved going through an entire series. We’d rent three at a time and watch them back-to-back, really studying what the films were, and the kills for the special effects and how they did them. All the gateway horror stuff, too. Monster Squad, and the Gate. I loved all that stuff.
For one of your roles, in Never Lost, you dropped what, fifty pounds?
Yeah, it was right around forty to fifty pounds. I had done a film right before that where I had to bulk up a little bit. I probably put on about ten pounds in just protein and muscle. Then right after that, I started cutting that off. I was a little obsessed with Christian Bale at the time and his transformation for The Machinist. It was the first film that was very serious that I wanted to pour myself into. It was something I wanted to do that would make people take me seriously as an actor.
That’s some serious dedication right there.
I would not recommend it to anybody, especially if you don’t have a professional dietician.
Would you do it again?
If the role was right and it called for it. Yeah, I’d do something like that again, if it was for the right reasons.
What’s next for you?
I just worked on a film with Mike Pereira. He made a bunch of short films for a company called Panic Button Films. He’s recently put them all up on YouTube, so you can watch them. He’s got this really cool knack for really snappy comedy, mixed with really gory horror. He’s a big fan of Italian cinema and he knows a ton about films.
We just shot a film where I play sort of a henchmen side character who comes into it in a bigger way midway through the film. It’s got an ensemble cast and it’s absolutely going to be insane. We were laughing out loud so many times on set, there was so much blood. I was talking to the Director of Photography the other day who shot it, and he’s still got blood all over his tripod that he’s still trying to clean off. It’s a horror-comedy called Chamber of Terror. It’s being cut now.
I’ll definitely keep an eye out for that! I appreciate your time, Ry!
For sure, man!
OPEN YOUR EYES is available now on VOD, DVD, and Blu-ray from Gravitas Ventures. Read our review here.