Fantastic Fest Interview: Applecart
Into the woods with the media satire horror flick
By Richard Whittaker,
4:46PM, Wed. Sep. 27, 2017
Genre mash-ups are in the blood of Fantastic Fest, but Applecart is that rarest of cinematic chimeras: a conspiracy creature feature, with an added dash of true crime critique.
The debut feature by writer/director Brad Baruh reunites AJ Bowen (or, as he introduced himself, "not Brad Baruh") with his You're Next co-star Barbara Crampton, who in turn adds her Beyond the Gates castmate Brea Grant, along with young stars Shauna Case and Sophie Dalah, in a tale of murder, mystery, politics, and the supernatural, all taking place in a remote cabin.
Austin Chronicle: Why would anyone in their right minds volunteer to go into the woods with AJ and Barbara? Because this never ends well. You die in the woods, or do terrible things there.
Barbara Crampton: Yeah, but we're well mentally, because we get to work out our demons.
AJ Bowen: Speak for yourself.
Crampton: I don't need therapy, because I work out all this shit.
AC: What was the genesis of the story, especially weaving what happens with a fake true crime show?
Brad Baruh: Those shows became so popular that there are whole networks dedicated to them. They used to be hard-nosed, they were well done, and then they became overdone, and produced very fast. Just like everybody else, I watched them a lot, and I thought, "These stories don't necessarily make sense, and also they're stringing together ideas of what happened from sound bites of disconnected people, and none of it really connected emotionally." So when you see someone go, "This mom killed her kids," as a parent it became very difficult for me to swallow that.
There has to be more to this, so in thinking about it, I went, "Well, what if it was something that was inexplicable, that they couldn't explain because they would be laughed out of the room? What if there's a supernatural element, and what if the person that was vilified by the show was actually the hero, and was killing their family as a sacrifice to protect us?" It just seemed like a nice fit.
AC: You get to play with the idea with how the look-a-likes are cast. Like, AJ's character's analog is rocking quite a ponytail.
Bowen: There's a story for that one.
Baruh: Look-a-likes, you have to break it down to character iconography. We wanted to find a look-a-like for Shauna that at least has the long blond hair. Brea's actual friend who goes on a lot of casting auditions got the Brea role, because they go up for the same roles, so that makes sense. Sophie was the brunette, and then AJ we found a guy with a beard, and he looked very AJ-esque –
Bowen: White, and he had a black beard.
Baruh: The guy, after we had seen the pictures, he turned up on set, boom, has a ponytail. I was freaking out, and it took me about a half hour to go, "This is totally what they would do. Dude has a black beard, he's available, we'll go. Ponytail, who cares."
Brea Grant: When I first started acting, it was a big deal to be one of those re-enactors. I got cast as one on America's Most Wanted, and I was so excited, and then they found the guy before I got to shoot. They canceled my episode, which was going to be my first acting gig in L.A.
Bowen: It was interesting to notice people's response to the doc stuff. These days I'm either watching Frozen, Moana or ID Discovery. I don't care what it is, Swamp Murders, I just watch that stuff nonstop. I think people were laughing a lot because these guys nailed it so much. I would have been super-critical, going, "This guy isn't right." As an actor, I was having a headtrip. I was sitting next to Sophie last night, leaning over going, "Wait 'til you see this guy who's the lead detective. He's so good." My brain as an actor was broken, because I didn't understand how he did the job he did without indicating. There was no self-awareness to it. It wasn't a caricature, it was just that.
AC: The way it's shot catches the odd way those shows are shot, like there's a second camera at two-thirds profile that no one is supposed to notice is there.
Bowen: The idea is sound-bite augmentation. You have this cutaway, so if they say something that isn't salacious enough, we can augment their sound bites. I used to work in entertainment news, and there'd be a time when we'd have one camera. Maybe we can push in so we can cut, because maybe what they say doesn't give us what we need. They will always have that weird cutaway, because if he's not dramatic enough, we can achieve it through editing.
ApplecartWednesday Sept. 27, 5:40pm
Fantastic Fest runs Sept. 21-28. Follow all the announcements, news, reviews, and interviews at www.austinchronicle.com/fantastic-fest.