Interviewing filmmakers gives you an insight into how much work goes into a single movie. Several years could pass between when the script is written and when the movie is released and a director’s job doesn’t end when the final scene is wrapped. It’s followed by endless months of post-production, then once the product is finished, there’s the promotional tour, from premieres to festivals, from one press junket to another. Such has been the life of Marc Meyers for the past five years, jumping from project to project.
Meyers’ heavy metal horror We Summon The Darkness was recently released to the public, his second film in the past month. I caught up with Meyers to get a better idea of what his schedule has been like.
“[…] when I found We Summon The Darkness, I felt like it was naturally the next thing to explore in that vein of filmmaking—to go faster, wilder, funnier, bloodier than what I had been doing […]”
Chris Aitkens for Nightmare On Film Street: Marc, it’s great to talk to you. I got the chance to see My Friend Dahmer a few years ago when I was working for Fantasia in 2017. I was really excited to see it because I had read the graphic novel. Did you notice a significant change to your career after My Friend Dahmer?
Marc Meyers: One hundred percent! That led to We Summon The Darkness. It led to the opportunity to also make Human Capital which came out two weeks ago. It was meant for a theatrical release, but is now available as a digital release. It changed my career in larger ways, but the biggest thing that did happen was that— before I hadn’t been making anything that was for the genre community and festivals like Fantasia, Sitges and Fantastic Fest. My Friend Dahmer had this crossover curation where it played genre festivals and prestigious festivals; it premiered at Tribeca, it went to Deauville and London, and also it was playing at some of the LGBT film festivals. The audience was very wide-ranging, in different areas and in different groups of people.
One of the biggest things I got out was how much fun I had sharing it with the genre community, and also realizing that, as a filmmaker, that it’s a very fun space to continue to work in. So when I found We Summon The Darkness, I felt like it was naturally the next thing to explore in that vein of filmmaking—to go faster, wilder, funnier, bloodier than what I had been doing with My Friend Dahmer, which was much more eerie and tense. All these opportunities arose out of other people discovering my work through My Friend Dahmer.
NOFS: With We Summon The Darkness, it seems like you’re venturing into uncharted territory when you consider your filmography prior to all that. What’s your relationship to horror? Were there any movies that you took inspiration from?
MM: Making them and enjoying them as a viewer are two different things. So finally getting to also have scripts that I was either developing or had the opportunity to direct, looking back, that might have been ultimately something I was gonna do. But I love genre films of all sorts from the very beginning. At the top, for me, is The Shining, but I recently revisited The Babadook and The Hills Have Eyes. Get Out was fantastic. It’s a long list. When it came to We Summon The Darkness, when we did some of the storyboarding for the action sequences, I remember working with the storyboard artist and some of the ideas in my head of how to compose these actors, I referenced the way in which Stanley Kubrick framed those characters in white in A Clockwork Orange as the way we were going to frame these three girls in the kill room.
We [were] always pulling from various genre films. It’s not a movie that is filled with jump scares. It’s still something that is tense, fast, there’s an eerie underbelly that I’m playing with in the front third of the movie before things start to turn. It’s definitely still connected to a lot of the other filmmaking that I’ve done that might not have been genre-oriented. It’s horrifying in broad daylight, at least at the start.
“We [were] always pulling from various genre films. It’s not a movie that is filled with jump scares. It’s still something that is tense, fast, there’s an eerie underbelly”
NOFS: Prior to this, did you have any interest in heavy metal?
MM: Looking back, yeah. I love Led Zeppelin, still one of my favorite bands. As a kid I would listen to Guns n’ Roses, Ozzy Osbourne, Black Sabbath. I mean, some of the other producers and a lot of other people out there are much more of a metalhead than I am, but I am definitely someone who has enjoyed hard rock over the years. The funny thing about heavy metal that I learned is that the people that really really love metal, they only listen to metal. As a lover of music, I listen to all kinds of music. But I also knew in reading this script that, like in the way My Friend Dahmer was able to uniquely tap into a true crime community and people who obsess over serial killers or people who remember the ‘70s, having We Summon The Darkness set in the late ‘80s was also tapping into and honoring the heavy metal community.
That great short documentary Heavy Metal Parking Lot was a wonderful inspiration for us. Not only did it probably inspire the screenwriter on how to set the story and keeping that party mentality in mind, it was a great reference for us during filming for setting up the scene and the set pieces, and using that as an example for what the fashion, the hairdos and the characters were like in the ‘80s.
NOFS: Growing up, did you hear any stories of the Satanic Panic?
MM: Yeah, I remember. I was in high school. I remember heavy metal being evil, made me a little scared of the rougher kids in school that were true metalheads with Metallica shirts on and the mullet hairdos, one guy would walk through the campus with this huge ghetto blaster. I also remember the created fear around the Satanic Panic, being scared of the cyanide in your Halloween candy, and the devil’s music. I didn’t keep me inside the way the pandemic did. I definitely went on with my life.
NOFS: When it came to casting Johnny Knoxville, did you originally have him in mind for the role of the pastor, or were you looking at some other actors as well?
MM: I think with any movie, with any role, you have to do your due diligence to create a list that you have personally and in collaboration with the producers. To the producers’ credit, while we were already in pre-production, up in Winnipeg where we were filming, interest came that Johnny Knoxville could be a good fit for this. And it was a unanimous yes for all of us once we learned that that was potentially something that could happen. But I had already been attached to the project for many months so I don’t remember what those long lists of actors are, because it’s always a balancing act between who would be great for this role, who could be a surprising actor in this role, and who could be available for the budget too? There’s lots of concerns, but once things had grown and we got closer to filming, which is when we knew we could be serious about casting that role, his name came up, we were quickly all focus on hoping Johnny would come up and do this movie with us.
“I remember heavy metal being evil, made me a little scared of the rougher kids in school that were true metalheads […]”
NOFS: And you were pretty busy at that time. I understand you shot this back-to-back with Human Capital?
MM: I did. We went up there in August, shot it in September of 2018, came back to New York, and then in November and December, I shot Human Capital. So immediately returning from filming We Summon The Darkness, I rested, and less than a week later, I was in a location van, scouting for Human Capital. We had to shoot that before the end of the year once Liev Schreiber was available, after he filmed that season of Ray Donovan and after he finished hosting Saturday Night Live. On Monday morning, he was on set for the first day of filming. These were just things I had to do. I think I benefitted from being fortunate enough to do We Summon The Darkness pretty soon after I had just gone through the entire journey of doing the theatrical release with My Friend Dahmer. And Human Capital, I think it benefitted from the fact that I almost immediately walked off another set and was going to go on a totally different style of film within a month of wrapping the other one.
Then both of them were in post production and they alternated their edit schedules a little bit. So the edit for We Summon The Darkness was paused for me to shoot Human Capital. And then in the new year, at a certain point, Human Capital’s edit paused and allowed me to resume and lock the picture on We Summon The Darkness. Then I returned to Human Capital to prepare for Toronto, and while I was in Toronto, before and after the festival, I was doing the color grade and the mix for We Summon The Darkness, which then premiered at Fantastic Fest a week and a half after the Toronto International Film Festival in 2019. Then immediately after that, I was in New Orleans, prepping and shooting a movie for Universal, that we wrapped before Christmas, and I’m editing that right now.
“I think with all the craziness in this world right now—and I hope that everyone is safe and healthy—that this is a fun distraction from everything.”
NOFS: Oh my god. Was that movie All My Life?
MM: Yes, and that’s a tragic love story with Jessica Rothe, who people know from Happy Death Day.
NOFS: Anything you want our readers to know about We Summon The Darkness?
MM: I think people should turn on We Summon The Darkness on April 10th, and over that first weekend. They can watch it sober, or not, and they should play that movie loud, and have a good time. I think with all the craziness in this world right now—and I hope that everyone is safe and healthy—that this is a fun distraction from everything.
We Summon The Darkness is available on VOD right now!. Let us know what you thought of the film, and share your heavy metal concert stories with us over on Twitter, in the Nightmare on Film Street Subreddit, and in the Horror Movie Fiend Club on Facebook!