Do you ever get the feeling you’re too polite for your own good? That your inability to speak up when you become uncomfortable will land you in a dangerous situation? Such is the case in the dark comedy Homewrecker, starring comedian Precious Chong as Linda, who, in a desperate act of loneliness, lures and traps her new friend Michelle (Alex Essoe) in her house.
I spoke with to Precious Chong about filming in her own house in Toronto, what it’s like being the daughter of comedy legend Tommy Chong, and the bigger implications of Homewrecker when it comes to human interaction.
“When I was kid, I would beg people to take me to Prom Night, and no one would want to see these movies with me. I loved that stuff and it was always so scary, but I thought it was so fun.”
Chris Aitkens for Nightmare On Film Street: What was the writing process like?
Precious Chong: [Director] Zach Gayne and I had done other stuff together; he had edited a short film I had written, and then we had a web series that he would shoot and edit. So we had a creative shorthand. He had been friends with [co-star] Alex Essoe for a long time, and Alex and I had wanted to find something to work together on. Zach had this pitch of a movie that takes place in one house mostly, with two women. Zach, Alex and I were in LA—coincidentally, I was on Celebrity Feud with my family—so we met at my parents’ house, and we did all the story beats, and we talked about the movie. And then when Zach came back to Toronto, he and I would meet and write the script based on those story beats, and then send versions of it to Alex in LA, so she could confer with it.
NOFS: How long did the filming take, since you had a small cast and a singular location? Did it take long?
PC: No. We were shooting at my house, and my partner, he went on vacation, so we had a very exact start and ending date. We shot it in two weeks. We did some locations, like the first day, we did the dance studio and the coffee shop, and then we did a morning at the gym, then most of it was at my house. But it was a pretty tight schedule. We usually shoot really quickly, but this was with a real camera and a real DP, so we realized pretty quickly that this was a way bigger project. It was fast and dirty, pretty much, but it was fun!
NOFS: I saw that you’re credited as the art director. Is that just because you decorated your own house, or is there a bit more to that?
PC: My house is used in the film, and Linda has pretty quirky tastes, but basically we went to Value Village and I was set dressing, because we couldn’t afford anyone else. Zach had someone make Party Hunks the board game, so that was not me, someone else did that. The board game is playable, it’s a real board game. So I did art direct it, and I like quirky things, so it was fun, but it was also exhausting to have all those hats.
NOFS: I liked the injection of ‘80s nostalgia in the film. I also saw that Funny Or Die skit of “80s Moms.” Were you the main injector of the Eighties things?
PC: You would think, but not really. The board game was Zach’s idea, because he has an older sister, who’s younger than me, but she grew up in the late ‘80s/early ‘90s. And “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” was his suggestion. I mean, of course I’m well-versed in the ‘80s, that’s when I grew up as a kid, so I really knew what he was talking about. It was really fun and easy for me to tap into that. Those are his contributions though. Somebody says the movie has the energy of “a crazy Jane Fonda workout tape.” I was really into Jane Fonda’s Workout when I was younger, and I wanted to take all those ‘80s female tropes and satirize it as much as I can. And the video, the Lisa Loeb ”Stay” thing, I think we all came up with that song, but once we figured out that part, it really clicked into the movie. Because I remember that video so well—I mean it’s from the early ‘90s—but it’s such a time, and I can see Linda holding onto that.
“I was really into Jane Fonda’s Workout when I was younger, and I wanted to take all those ‘80s female tropes and satirize it as much as I can.”
NOFS: Do you enjoy horror movies at all, or was Homewrecker supposed to be a comedy but ended up as a horror movie?
PC: The funny thing is, Zach had these certain things like the sledgehammer and the stuff that happens at the end, so we worked backwards. We had to create a story that justified those actions, which was a fun exercise. I didn’t expect to make a horror movie, but when he pitched it to me, I could see how it could become one. I do love horror movies, like The Shining. When I was kid, I would beg people to take me to Prom Night, and no one would want to see these movies with me. I loved that stuff and it was always so scary, but I thought it was so fun. But I also knew it’s a great way to do low-budget and it’s a great genre. And now that I’ve done Homewrecker, I realize it’s such a wonderful subversive genre, because you can really talk about a lot of things in a fun and entertaining way. I have a bigger appreciation for it.
NOFS: I read that you also do a film camp for kids. What exactly do you teach at that camp?
PC: I didn’t teach these past two summers, but I did it for like seven years. It’s called a Film In A Week; on the first day, all the kids decide what they want their movie to be about. For instance, some will say “I wanna do something like Austin Powers” or “I wanna do Hunger Games.” They usually have a movie in mind, like the Minions, or they want to do a gangster, we once did a film noir. So we come up with the themes and we try to combine everyone’s ideas. People will come up with their characters, and I’ll write the script based on that. Then we rehearse on Tuesday and we shoot it on Wednesday and Thursday. They don’t edit it, they don’t do much technical stuff.
Zach worked on the second camp I did. He would edit it, and then on Friday, we watch the movie, and it’s really fun. And my son, he’s 15 now, he didn’t do my first camp because he was too little, but since he was seven, he has done all the camps. For me, it’s so special because I get to see him grow up, and he loved it. Now he’s into filmmaking, he wants to do the camps, and I always hoped this would happen. He got a good camera, and he’s going to edit it—I’ll help him—but it’s a really fun, creative way to make a movie, especially with kids. I mean, it’s totally stressful, and I sleep for 20 hours after I do it. Their movies are like five to seven minutes long and they’re ridiculous.
NOFS: Has your son seen Homewrecker? What does he think of it?
PC: Yes, he’s seen it. He was living with me, as a 12-year-old, in that room where [Michelle] wakes up, where’s she held hostage. That was his bedroom, so we took all his stuff out. It was hard for him, but he also appreciated it. He’s seen it a couple times, he likes it a lot. He’s been watching a lot of films lately because he’s into filmmaking, and I’m hoping to collaborate with him someday.
NOFS: I’m very curious about your dad. You probably get this question a lot, but were you ever shielded from your dad’s stoner comedy? At what age did you realize that he was getting high in all of his movies?
PC: He’s a counterculture icon. I’ve always been aware of it. I was kind of a precocious kid. It was the Seventies, there’s a type of parenting—and I’m not the only one—because there was a backlash from all these adults who were raised in the 1950s by parents who were very strict. I didn’t have a bedtime, I was always aware that my dad and Cheech [Marín] were different and were hippies, and that they smoked pot. I never didn’t know about it, if that makes any sense. Now, it’s way more normalized, then it was more scandalous. I knew from a young age, they didn’t drink alcohol and they didn’t smoke cigarettes. There’s this funny story; they dropped acid when I was little and took me to see Thumbelina, and I remember that because they wouldn’t stop laughing, and I was like “Guys, I just want to watch this movie. Shhhhh.” So I knew something was up.
It made for a very interesting childhood. So what happens is, then you become straight. I wanted to go to college, I wanted to be normal, because that’s how you rebel. Like David Bowie’s son changed his name. I think at some point, you want the other, whatever’s different. But then again, I ended up having an eccentric life, I fought it as hard as I could, and then I ended up going down the same path, maybe on my own terms. But it’s funny, because my son for a while wanted to be a customs officer, and I thought that was really ironic. Like he was going to bust my dad at the border. But now he’s into filmmaking.
“…I’ve always been kind of curious about crazy people. Not clinically crazy, but people who are a little weird or offbeat, I’m intrigued by them and I want to know who they are…“
NOFS: What did the first cut of Homewrecker look like before your dad financed it?
PC: It was longer, it needed to be cut. It was a cut that Zach did an edit of. The story is that we had done a cut, we needed post-production money. And my mom [Shelby Chong] was the one who saw it—she didn’t watch all of it because she doesn’t like horror movies—and she said “this is good.” She’s actually the true producer, she’s the one who wanted to invest, because she thought there was an audience for it, she thought it was funny and it looked good. And then we had some other producers come on board who got us through the finish line. You know how it is, you get the movie in the can and then you need all this money for post. But it somehow happened.
NOFS: Homewrecker brings up this discussion on how people interact with each other, what’s considered polite, and where someone crosses a line. But first thing I want to ask you is, why do you think it’s so hard to make friends after high school?
PC: Yeah, isn’t it so hard? My older sister Rae Dawn, she’s also an actress, she made a joke when I moved to Canada ten years ago, she said “Oh Precious, it takes ten years to make a friend in Canada.” I think Canadians make it difficult to make friends quickly, it takes time. That’s one element. I made good friends in my acting class in my twenties, and I was in a group called Girls On Stilts, like circus performing, that’s my core of really good friends. It’s hard to find places where you’re all on a level playing field and can related without much difference. I mean, there’s status in high school. I don’t know what it is. Time? I have no idea. There’s something about social media and Facebook, where you have the illusion of friendship, but you’re not really friends. Because you see these people you know on Facebook or Twitter in real life, especially because I know lots of comedians, and you feel like you know them, but you don’t, because you only really know them from this weird place. As an adult, especially after 30, it’s hard to make new friends. It’s an investment.
Hot at the Shop:
NOFS: When it comes to human interaction, why is it so hard for some people to tell someone to fuck off once they’ve crossed a line? In your opinion, why do so many people avoid confrontation?
PC: I think a lot of people feel this way, but I think it’s mainly a female thing. It’s getting better, but we’re so conditioned to caretake and not hurt anyone’s feelings, to the detriment of our safety, as people find out with all these crazy serial killers over the years. I think culturally, in different places, it’s easier to say “get out of my face” than others. And for me, there’s another element, in my life, I’ve always been kind of curious about crazy people. Not clinically crazy, but people who are a little weird or offbeat, I’m intrigued by them and I want to know who they are, but that can lead down a dangerous path of getting yourself in awkward situations.
NOFS: Living in this post-pandemic world, do you think social norms will change? When we go outside, we’re not obliged to shake hands or do the two-cheek kiss thing. Do you think people will respect each other’s boundaries moving forward?
PC: I don’t know. I’ll just speak for myself, personally. I’ve gotten used to being with my boyfriend and my son, and I see a certain amount of people, and that’s enough. Even just doing small talk is hard now. I think it will change. We’re living in a very curious time.
NOFS: Anything else you want our readers to know about Homewrecker?
PC: I feel like it’s a fun movie to watch with your friends, even if you have to do it remotely. It’s not too long, and it’s kind of kooky. It’s the type of movie that I think needs word of mouth, and we would really love it if people watched the movie.
“[…] it’s a fun movie to watch with your friends, even if you have to do it remotely. It’s not too long, and it’s kind of kooky.”
Homewrecker is now playing in select drive-in theaters and will be released on DVD and Digital VOD on July 7th. Read our full review of Homewrecker HERE, and let us know what you thought of the film over on Twitter, in the Nightmare on Film Street Subreddit, and on Facebook in the Horror Movie Fiend Club!