We talk success, exploding heads, and the horror of humanity with Director Ted Geoghegan.
Welcome to the sixth episode of the Shallow Pocket Project, a series where Film School Rejects and the folks at In The Mouth of Dorkness team up to chat with independent filmmakers about working outside the system on a budget. Check out our last chat with Mattie Do (Director of ‘Chanthaly’ and ‘Dearest Sister’). Special thanks on this episode to Darren Smith.
Today, we chat with Ted Geoghegan. In 2015, after more than a dozen years in the business, he directed his first feature length film We Are Still Here. There’s a flick that goes up to 11. Holy hell! Next out for him will be Mohawk, which is a War of 1812 period piece centered on a Mohawk woman and her two lovers forced to do battle with a squad of American soldiers who are bent on revenge.
Geoghegan is full of enthusiasm for genre film. I mean, my man has a Suzanne tattoo from Night of the Demons. That’s permanent. He also turned us on to Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama. I hadn’t heard of it before and wowsa that movie is bonkers. It’s available on Shudder right now and it features initiation spanking sessions, wish granting imps, and demon babes ready to murder. More important than all that? When asked about his excitement levels for Thor: Ragnorak, he said it had better include the horse-headed, Mjölnir-worthy Korbinite hero himself, Beta Ray Bill. Geoghegan is pushing all my buttons. Am I in love? Maybe.
One of the things that stood out to me in my recent chat with the 68 Kill crew was AnnaLynne McCord’s comment that “The truth is, every villain has a heart and every good person has a villain waiting to find themselves.” We all respond to that in practice. It means you’re engaging with something other than a caricature. And that’s something that Geoghegan mirrors in our conversation. Talking about his cast of characters, he shared that “they’re all just people. They’re scared, fucked up weirdos.”
There’s nothing wrong with making movies featuring one dimensional villains with menacing laughs and bone chilling grins seen through bearded faces. If given a choice though, I want characters with understandable, human goals. Nobody gets out of bed thinking they’re the villain of their story. In We Are Still Here, the Dagmars – the ghosts in the house – believe their righteous rage directed at the inhabitants of the town is totally justified. And, as you piece together the history of this town, it’s hard to disagree. The townsfolk, having seen what happens when The House is not satisfied, believe a limited prescription of human sacrifice is just what the doctor ordered to limit the damage being done. And shouldn’t they? Would you sacrifice a few people every thirty years to prevent the probable swallowing of the world into a hellmouth? Yet, those justifiable and flawed human responses prove humanity doesn’t get in the way of a blood soaked catharsis of the third act.
Genre films are art. Being full of wild, gore-filled mayhem doesn’t mean they can’t explore different aspects of humanity. We get into how a realistic person is frequently the scariest thing you can see in a horror film. Authentic characters and honest motivations are essential to creating meaningful, thought provoking films. Geoghegan has created a cast of characters who feel totally relatable in their goals. And we get to see what happens when their various agendas violently overlap.
For all my sincere, high-minded takes on genre as art, the first thing we get into with Geoghegan is the surprise head explosion scene in We Are Still Here. There are practical effects galore in this flick and I love them so. We go way into the details of coordinating ideas as well as the planning and execution of those ideas. The final act of this movie is filled with a dozen practical effects that just bring pure joy to my heart. He shares that he partnered with Oddtopsy FX for this flick. Check out their gore reel, if you dare! There’s a chest explosion that is just wonderful. Plus, their burn effects are part practical make-up, which is always nice to see in a world gone CGI. If you’re as into this sort of thing as I am, just know that Oddtopsy FX partnered with Geoghegan again in the making of Mohawk.
Speaking of Mohawk, holy shit, I’m excited for it. It sounds like he’s working with a variety of different viewpoints to bring to the screen. From Geoghegan’s description, the trio at the center of the movie are not trapped in a complicated love triangle. They are instead a ‘throuple’, which is basically a functioning couple-style relationship between three people instead of two. Hence, ‘throuple’. We talk a lot about representation at the cinema and this is a type which doesn’t come up too often. It would be great to see a working polyamorous relationship onscreen.
When you hear a movie called Mohawk is being made and it’s about a Mohawk woman, her Mohawk boyfriend and her British boyfriend, made by a fellow with the last name of Geoghegan, your first question probably isn’t going to be who’s playing the British boyfriend. Or, maybe that’s just me. Look, representation on screen is a big deal. Kaniehtiio Horn, a Mohawk woman, plays Oak. We dive pretty deep in our conversation with Geoghegan into the extensive creative input from her and her family to ensure the Mohawk people are accurately represented in the story. They provided input on their language, culture, period attire, and more.
All in, Geoghegan is doing many things that just sing for me. I love period pieces. I love that he made a small budget, indie movie about a Mohawk throuple set in 1812. Like, what? Yes, please! I love that his films are filled with playful, practical effects. I mean, a head legit explodes in We Are Still Here. But, more than that, I love that this cat is creating authentic feeling characters in the midst of wildly entertaining genre films. Be sure to stick around to the end of the interview where I ask him what his proudest moment is so far. Spoiler, he winds up naked in the Mediterranean Sea. This dude is living the life! Click the link below (or here for iTunes) and listen to find out just how in the hell swimming naked in the Mediterranean Sea comes to be a proud moment.
Related Topics: Horror