Spooky Dan Walker is a renowned visual effects artist who has transitioned behind the screens as a director whose latest film, Slay Belles, features a trio of cosplay fanatics who team up with Santa Claus to face off against the Krampus. The film is set for release on December 4 from Dread Central Presents.
World Film Geek had the chance to have a conversation with Spooky Dan about the film along with a few surprises about our favorite Christmas horror films.
Thank you so much guys for talking about Slay Belles. What a film with an excellent concept that was totally unheard of. I really enjoyed it!
That’s awesome to hear! That was the goal! Just to have fun! Let’s make a fun time and run with it!
How did you come up with the idea of bringing Slay Belles to life?
It’s kind of weird how it started. A friend of mine was doing some urban exploring and she found this place an hour and a half from Los Angeles. It was called Santa’s Village and it was an abandoned amusement park. She had done some urban exploring there and I said “holy s**t!” This is where the story starts. We have to use this place.
We went over there and checked it out. Then we talked to the realtor who was trying to sell the place and ended up writing the script, revolving it around the place because it’s such a bizarre thing that an all-year Christmas park happened in the first place. We knew we wanted to do a Christmas movie and use the Krampus. But the question is what do we use with the park and how do we use the Krampus mythology.
We just had fun from there. There are so many Krampus stories because they’ve been around for so long. So we decided to take a little from this mythology, take a little from that mythology and blend it together. I didn’t want a wise-cracking, talking Krampus, because there are lots of those already. I decided to have it have pure animal instinct. Basically, he is on this Earth to destroy better man. (Laughs)
Barry Bostwick is a Hollywood legend. It looked like he was having fun with the role of Santa. What was it like working with him?
When I was 13 years old, I snuck out every week to be Rocky in The Rocky Horror Picture Show. From a little kid, I’ve been a big fan. So when it came time to cast Santa, a lot of names were being considered. I said, for a low budget movie, let me go after the guy I actually want. So I reached out to him and his agent told me, “you don’t make enough money. He’s not going to do it. He can make more money than this doing one day at a convention.” So he never even got the script.
About a week later, we were still looking at names and Barry called me up. He said he read the script and loved what I was doing with it. “Let’s make it work”. So, he was onboard because he liked the script. As a superfan, it was humbly and awesome because he’s one of my idols and is excited to do this and not because he’s getting a paycheck.
He looks like he is having fun with the role because he did. He was having a blast! I swear after each take, we were all laughing. Even on the bad ones. Like throwaway goofy ones. I would encourage other filmmakers to put him in movies.
Well, he did star in FDR: American Badass and I thought if he can play FDR, he could definitely play Santa! (Laughs)
Oh totally! FDR: American Badass is so bats**t crazy! I mean yeah, our movie is weird, but when you see that movie and when there is s**t in the jar, you’re thinking where can we go now? (Laughs)
What was it like working with Kristina Klebe, Susan Slaughter, and Hannah Wagner, who play the titular Slay Belles?
When we decided to write the script, we knew we wanted to make it a girl power movie. Not a final girl and here comes the guy to save the day kind of thing. We knew it was going to be a fun girl power, like Spice Girls fun, girl power movie. And what’s interesting is that, if you think about it, each girl is like each side of one character. They operate as a unit and it works so well that way.
Susan Slaughter came from Ghost Hunters International. She’s a ghost hunter on reality TV. Initially, I didn’t want to cast her because she’s a reality star, not an actress. My casting director said she was an actress with a theater background and she’s so good. And I know I made the movie so I’m a bit biased but I felt each one of them had a stand out moment.
Hannah is so awesome and beautiful and crazy and goofy. Susan is so bitchy and fun. We know that girl from Susan’s Dahlia. Alexi is there to go for the ride, so she’s more grounded. So I wanted to get an actress that had a good amount of experience. So casting Kristina Klebe was a no-brainer. It does help that we have been friends for years.
You mentioned it was three sides of a character. I have to say this, and this is going to sound crazy, but I thought they were like the Powerpuff Girls (Laughs). Alexi was Blossom, Sadie is Bubbles, and Dahlia is Buttercup just from how they brought the attitudes on the screen.
That’s great! (Laughs) Oh that’s so funny! I never heard that before, but that’s so great to hear!
Were there any difficulties you faced and had to endure during shooting?
Of course. Anytime you’re making a low budget movie, things tend to go wrong. Between the times we got the location to begin shooting and the time we actually got there, we had gotten word from the people who owned it that the property was in probate. Now, I didn’t know what that meant. But it meant that the original owner had passed away and his kids all think it’s their so there’s this legal battle about who owned the property.
I was like I don’t care who owns it, here’s the money, let’s get in. It was a stressful couple of days, because we were literally up in Big Bear, getting ready to shoot and we didn’t know if we could even get the location because of all the legal stuff. Thankfully, it eventually worked out and it was funny because the producers knew about it and didn’t want to tell me because they didn’t want me to worry about it. Of course, I worried about it. I was like what you do mean we can’t shoot it over here. Things like that? It is crazy when it comes to independent filmmaker.
I sat down with probably a dozen of my filmmaking friends before we started shooting because this was my first film. I sat down with Adam Green, Joe Lynch, Peter Block, and a whole bunch of others. They gave me the same advice and that’s to come up with plan A, B, C, D, and E. I was thinking this is terrible advice. Every self-help book always tell you, aim where you want to be go there. After the fourth person said that, I said I better listen.
And sure enough, it is the weirdest thing that happens. One of the days, and it’s in the movie. The scene where the ranger shows up before he shows up to shoot Santa and gets tasered. There was this thick fog in the air that you couldn’t see 15 feet in front of you. I mean, it’s cool production value, but it doesn’t match anything. It’s weird things from weather to legal issues that 100 percent out of your control and you’re thinking the challenge next is going to be that they don’t like the food enough. (Laughs) That’s something that can be controlled but not like some of the other things.
There were many challenges and one of the biggest was also post-production. We ran out of money. It took a long time to finish because I had to work other jobs to pay for the things that needed to be paid for. We had a modest budget but we got through it.
Do you have a favorite Christmas film, whether it is a X-Mas horror film or any other genre film?
Ahhh you threw me a curveball there! (Laughs) As far as Christmas horror films, I would say Gremlins is my favorite film, even though technically it’s not really a Christmas horror film. It just happens to take place around Christmas. However, as far as real Christmas horror films go, I have to say, Rare Exports (Jalmari Helander, 2010) is really good. I’ve seen that one at least a dozen times. Black Christmas is good and there are others, but Rare Exports, you’re thinking, man. It gets surprising every time and it holds up. It’s that good. What are your favorites?
Well, I definitely have to check out Rare Exports. I do like Silent Night, Deadly Night being a slasher type fan. But, I will say, I think I have a new favorite one. All the Creatures Are Stirring, which I call The Creepshow of Christmas because of its anthology of stories. I just saw it last week and I was like wow!
Holy cow! That’s funny because I’m actually on my way to a screening of the film.
You are going to enjoy it!
Well, I will say this and if you want to let everyone know I’m cool with. Everyone in the horror film community know each other quite well in the L.A. area. We all live within a ten-mile radius of each other.
We learned that the premiere of my film, which was this past Tuesday night was going to be the same night Rebekah McKendry had the premiere of All the Creatures Were Stirring. We had the same times, but in different theaters. Within a minute of finding out, we were texting each other apologizing for what had happened. We’re so supportive of each other, not just Rebekah, I mean the whole horror film community. We just want each other to succeed.
That’s probably the most awesome thing I heard because all you usually hear these days are actors and filmmakers not getting along for one reason or another. And to hear that, the horror film community, getting so well together, that just brings a respect for the genre to a whole new level.
The hardest part was we both are friends with the family where the kids were in my movie and the dad was in her movie and they were going, “what movie do we go to?” It’s like a horror Sophie’s Choice (laughs). That was the worst of it but we all do get along, and that’s the coolest thing about living out here, we all just want each other to succeed. You don’t hear this in comedy circles or acting circles because they are so cutthroat. But we’re like one big extended dysfunctional family. (Laughs)
You all should get together to do an anthology.
That would be awesome. Well, Tales of Halloween was that. It was our group of friends making the film and what’s great is that if you see the film, if we didn’t direct the film, we actually were in the film. There was a scene and they needed extras in the background so we all showed up, the horror film community, and there I was standing next to Caroline Williams (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 and the recent Bloody Ballet), Clayton Keller (who co-stars in Slay Belles), and Felissa Rose (Sleepaway Camp). We’re all just there to be supportive.
Finally, what’s next for you?
I am planning a kids movie, a spooky kids movie. I’m really excited about it. It’s a different set of challenges when you can’t instantly go for blood and guts. Plus, if you look at Slay Belles, you can kind of tell that a kids movie next wouldn’t be surprising (laughs).
Yeah, especially when I mentioned The Powerpuff Girls, it doesn’t seem like much of a surprise.
(Laughs) Oh please put that in this interview! That kinda made my day! Thank you so much!
Slay Belles arrives on Blu-Ray and VOD on December 4. It’s time to spread some holiday “fear” and kick-butt action with this group! Thank you again Spooky Dan and Kristina for talking about the film.
Thank you so much! I had a great time talking to you!
A Special Thank You goes to Epic Pictures and Spooky Dan Walker for making this interview possible. You can follow Spooky Dan on Twitter