Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the upcoming release of Beast Mode! For those who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about the film’s premise, and what inspired you to bring this story to the big screen?
Chris W. Freeman: It’s a been a long time coming, so we are certainly ready to share it with the world. At the core, Beast Mode is a story about a struggling filmmaker (C. Thomas Howell) and a special cream that can hide blemishes and heal scars in his actors. Unfortunately, at midnight, anyone who uses the cream becomes what they truly are inside. If they are a bad person, they turn into a monster and what is inside becomes outside. It’s ultimately a tale of morality and asks the viewer to consider the consequences of doing the wrong thing, especially when it is the easy way out.
Spain Willingham: Thank you so much! It’s been the most fun project I’ve ever been a part of, and we are so excited how the reception is going so far. We had a blast watching it with crowds during the film festival run last year. I think Hollywood and what it does to people, you know living with fame and all that, it’s been an obsession of mine, and in the much smaller movie I did before Beast Mode I touched on that, but wanted to do a much bigger version of those themes in Beast Mode and that’s exactly what we did! It’s a total parody on the lifestyle of a Hollywood producer; we satirize everything in the whole production process.
BD: You have quite a star-studded cast and crew involved with the production. What can you tell us about your shared creative process in bringing the film to life?
CWF: You said it. Our cast was star-studded and the actors beyond gracious as they collaborated with us on all fronts of the narrative. Our DP Matt Ryan seized the vision immediately, adding the vibrant colors needed to sell our fantastic '80s world. We knew we wanted our monsters to have unique looks and enlisted Brian Wade to sculpt the molds for the masks. There was so much collaboration on the film and plenty of improv from the talent. Somehow, the beautiful chaos all came together. This film, unlike others I directed in the past, had a sense of its own destiny as corny as that sounds. We knew walking the tightrope between horror and comedy was going to be difficult but also knew keeping our focus on the heart of the story throughout the process would keep it on the rails.
SW: Getting a cast together like that took a lot of time and energy, because we wanted to make sure we had the right flow on screen, but also wanted a slew of cameos - and we wanna push that much further next time around, but you mentioned crew too, which is just as important as a solid cast! Our DP was so unbelievable; he makes it look like a studio big-budget film, and that’s because he trusts the people he brought to the table. That’s a nice balance, because I’m more of an actor's director, but I’m learning more and more about lighting and experimenting with many different lens for different takes..
BD: Horror comedies are such a unique and fun film genre to work in, often becoming cult classics that fans return to again and again. What appeals to you as creators about working in this genre, and why do you feel that Beast Mode stands out as a stellar, new film that will excite viewers?
CWF: I love horror comedies! Horror alone is a little easier for me than comedy, but nothing is easy in feature filmmaking, so the balancing act was tricky and that challenge appealed to me. Beast Mode will excite viewers because it is exactly what we need right now… a little fun. It also has a ton of heart. We love this movie. We’ve been told at festivals and screenings that the heart of the film shines through and that everyone seemed to be having fun during the making of the film as it comes across on screen. I think viewers will thoroughly enjoy lampooning the Hollywood lifestyle and elite. They can take it, right? We pile it on. In fact, it was a bit surreal to pull inspiration from the absurdity and decadence of my past studio experiences; working on the Sony, WB, or Disney lot, etc. while parading a cast of caricatured Hollywood-types (Yes, these characters are loosely based on a variety of real people, but I’ll never tell.) across the screen until we rip them apart, literally! It’s pretty satisfying to watch those deaths.
SW: I haven’t seen many good horror comedies lately. Not to say there haven’t been ANY, but just not as many as I’d like there to be. It is definitely not the easiest to do marketing for, because some wanna pencil it into the comedy genre while others might say it’s a horror movie with comedy elements. Growing up on these types of movies made it so it’s the easiest genre for me currently to write. I’ve almost got it out of my system, but then I watch old '80s movies like Re-Animator, Basket Case 3, and Videodrome and it makes me wanna bring that kind of energy back again. Just absolutely weird for the sake of being weird. We’ve lost that edge in cinema, and we wanna bring that vibe back!
BD: At Fanbase Press this year, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Beast Mode’s story will connect with and impact viewers?
CWF: The message and philosophy of the story is you either help people in this life or your harm them. It’s stated as such by our shadow character brilliantly played by Douglas Bennett. I think this theme and message will resonate with people at a time when civility seems to be lost and it’s quite dangerous to even approach a stranger to help them due to the pandemic. This story is for anyone who loves movies, the '80s, comedy, horror, and a little bit of commentary on why Hollywood and other mogul-type industries have failed society as a whole. There is, of course, always a road to redemption, and we are glass-half-full type of guys, so that should resonate, as well.
SW: I honestly think people are going to watch this movie and not just get a laugh or a few scares out of it, but it’s such a commentary on the whole industry I think it’s going to make people really think about what the Hollywood machine does to people!
BD: Are there any other upcoming films or projects that you would care to share with our readers?
CWF: Well, I just released my supernatural horror film, Evil Takes Root, in mid-September. The tone is in stark contract to Beast Mode, but it is a fun ride for a detective-horror fan, and I am really proud of the fact that I was able to cast deaf and hard-of-hearing actors for a slew of characters. I am most excited about our sequel, Beast Mode Too. We will give our colleagues in LA a break and will be lampooning Washington D.C. instead of Hollywood this time around. Think Mr. Smith Goes to Washington meets American Werewolf in London, but with a lot more blood!
SW: Beast Mode Too is going to be absolutely bonkers, but I don’t wanna share TOO much, no pun intended! BTW, there hasn’t been a “Too” in ages. Again, we are bringing thing back!!
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about Beast Mode and your other projects?
CWF: First, we’d like to thank them for giving our film a look and for keeping the horror genre relevant and thriving. We would also say to fans… contact us! We’re friendly and usually pretty nice, and we love to discuss horror movies. I would also say to keep giving indie films a chance. We don’t have funds like the studios; we can’t do one million takes like other directors I’ve worked for in the past, so we have to make every second and penny count and we need your support if we are to keep this train on the tracks.