Fantastic Fest: 'A Horrible Way to Die'

Scriptwriter Simon Barrett talks art house serial killers

The surprise smash of Fantastic Fest may have been art house serial killer flick A Horrible Way to Die. Shot like early Chris Nolan or mid-period Steven Soderbergh, a stunning performance by FF veteran AJ Bowen (House of the Devil, Hatchet 2) brings out the nuances of Simon Barrett's script.

The movie has already been picked up by Anchor Bay Films for release through their new Celluloid Nightmares theatrical distribution wing for theatrical release after striking a deal with Celluloid Nightmares after its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival. Not surprising: Both Bowen and Barrett snagged awards in Fantastic Fest's horror category. After the film's second screening, Barrett talked to the Chronicle about working with Pop Skull director Adam Wingard and the luck of getting Bowen on board.

Austin Chronicle: It's a pretty unique take on serial killers: Where did the story come from?

Simon Barrett: We got a couple of false starts of trying get projects financed that [Adam] would direct and I would write and produce, and he was getting kinda frustrated. He'd say, 'Serial killer movies always get made,' and I was like, 'I don't want to write a serial killer movie.' I don't like most of them, and between Se7en and Zodiac, David Fincher's said all there is to say on that subject. They're all either procedurals or 'inside the mind of a psychopath,' which I don't enjoy and I don't think it's possible to do effectively. But he started talking about Ted Bundy, and how he escaped from prison and was thought to be hunting for his ex-girlfriend. That got me thinking about something that excited me, which is the idea of addictive love, and that serial killers are real people with parents and ex-girlfriends. If your kid grows up to be a serial killer, how do you trust a decision you're going to make ever again? And if your ex-boyfriend turns out to be a serial killer, what's it going to be like if you ever start dating again? Can you trust another human being?

AC: That aspect of the serial and spree killer phenomenon has been dealt with in books and autobiographies before, but not film.

SB: To put it very succinctly, what excited me about making a movie that features a serial killer as a character is the personal aftermath. When you have an addiction like killing people, it's going to end badly, and the aftermath of that discovery and how it would affect a person's self-view. I was trying to imagine to imagine what that's like and trying to humanize those moments.

AC: How important was it to get AJ Bowen in place as Garrick Turrell, the killer with a conflicted conscience?

SB: AJ will tell you, he was the final piece of the cast to fall in place. He had been someone we were talking about that we'd assumed we couldn't get because of the budget of the film and his schedule. It was our friend Evan, who lives around here and went out drinking with AJ and happened to talk up what we were doing. He called us up and said, 'I think AJ Bowen would be in your movie.' So we sent up and some of Adam's short films and the script, and he said yes.

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Fantastic Fest, Fantastic Fest 2010, AJ Bowen, Simon Barrett, Adam Wingard, A Horrible Way to Die, Anchor Bay, Celluloid Nightmares

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