From looking at him, you wouldn't think Marc Boggio was the director of a film about a serial killing ninja who targets street gangs. Boggio is just a normal dude with some extraordinary imagination, energy, and enthusiasm. Boggio stopped into the Underground, where his film Fear the Reaper premieres on Halloween, October 31st, at 7:00pm.
Marc Boggio: Fear the Reaper is an action-horror movie about a vigilante serial killer. It took us about three years to make it on a $15,000 budget, which is $1,000 less than The Blair Witch Project and I like to think its got more entertaining stuff in it than that movie does (laughs), but I want to avoid making a direct comparison. It's just a guerrilla shot horror film, I guess.
Andrew Parker: When you say guerrilla shot, where exactly were you filming?
MB: Anywhere we could go in and get any level of permission that we could get. A lot of the scenes were shot in an hour, maybe two. If sometimes we had a fight scene sometimes we would have better access at different times. I don't think it was ever past twelve. Plus, you are working with actors that are pretty much volunteering their time and they have to go to work before you are finished shooting. That actually lead to us having to think of creative ways to wrap up scenes. You have to have a movie where everything fits together with no glaring logic gaps and I think we got pretty lucky in that respect.
AP: How did the idea for Fear the Reaper come to you? Was it something you had been working on for a while?
MB: I had been, since the end of high school , working on these stories for these characters I had been creating. Since I was about 18 or 17 I had wanted to write comic books and the only problem with that was I can't draw to save my life, but that still didn't stop me from writing scripts and thinking of stories for a comic book and I ended up thinking of a story of someone from my generation. Someone who's grown up on comic books and more modern video games and thought about the psychological implications of having the ability to kill "bad guys" would have on the psychological pillars of stability, like having good friends or a good family and maybe trying to be a "hero." We thought it was kinda cool because it led to a character that had an air of believability to him because he really is just a normal geeky kid, but there is this darkness to him and a complexity because you really do wonder if you should be rooting for him because at the end of the day he really might just be a psychopath. But he is a psychopath you can root for every now and then. It's kinda like a slasher film where you root for the killer and that kind of influenced some of the design choices. The opening (20 minutes) of the movie is very much a slasher film and not much of an action movie. But as the film continues it turns into much more of a video game inspired action film. There are kung-fu girls who come to help him out and there are even zombies. Well, less zombies than drugged up crazies.
AP: It sounds a little like a slasher version of Kick Ass.
MB: Yeah, when I saw Kick Ass I thought it was an incredible movie, but also incredibly similar to what I had been working on for a few years. I hadn't read the comic until after the movie came out, either, but at the same time I think that our movie is different enough to stand on its own, but at the same time people who were really into Kick Ass will probably be able to get into our movie quite easily. But Kick Ass really straddles the line between comedy and action whereas we are more in the action-horror realm. We do have comedy in our movie, though and that is important. That's one of the things I love about independent filmmaking. It's that you can inject humour into anything provided that you don't fall on the wrong side of the fence. To some degree you have to take things seriously at all times. Even the comedy. But sometimes even the most serious things end up being a little silly. You can try to take it to a level of seriousness like The Evil Dead, but sometimes the tense moments just aren't there anymore. Shaun of the Dead did a great job with that balance. You want emotions to be taken seriously, but the situations themselves can be silly. We didn't want to beat people over the head with "this is serious, this is serious" because then you run the risk of no one taking anything seriously.
AP: Getting back to comics, on your website you have a lot of character bios and the thing that blows me away is just how well fleshed out the characters are. Is this something that at one time you wanted to make into a comic or was it always intended as a feature?
MB: The idea we had was actually to do a series of limited animation comics where they don't have speech bubbles; kind of like a YouTube kind of thing with voice acting and a score to kind of bridge the gap. As far as the biggest thing holding us back there it was a simple lack of money and time. If things go well with the screening and the DVD release in the spring, me and my co-writer would love to go back and do them. We have about 5 of these shorts already written. We have a few characters with bios on the site that don't appear in the movie. We kind of went with the old video game concept of having seven bosses, but you only see a few of them die in the movie. We know why it happens, but we don't see it. When you make a comic book style movie you want to be as clear as possible, but you also want to include enough hints to allude to a bigger universe around what is going on on screen. The reaper exists in this world where he isn't just a ninja serial killer. There is rampant gang warfare, crooked politicians and a human trafficking ring and these are the problems he has to deal with. It is a whole world where lots of different things are going on and different people are dealing with different aspects of it.
But as far as lending backstory to lots of characters that might seem minor that's a specific video game influence of mine. My favourite director is Hideo Kojima who directed the Metal Gear Solid games. A lot of people will say, well, how can your favourite director be someone who directs video games and I personally believe that the Metal Gear games are better than 90% of the movies I have ever seen. Every single character, be it a boss that you fight or someone who just pops up, they have their own little stories. We wanted to make a story where everyone except the grunts had their own story. And there are still a lot of grunts with no story and that's another video game thing. That actually began to become a bit of a problem because towards the end of filming the fight scenes I was running out of friends to kill on screen (laughs).
AP: Your marketing campaign for the film seems to try to let the audience make a stance on whether or not The Reaper is a hero or a villain. Where do you fall on the subject and were there any specific influences when writing the film?
MB: There are very few superhero characters that aren't vigilantes. They often aren't even cops and the ones that are usually are retired and holding a grudge like a Punisher type character. One of the first people who did an interview on Reaper said he is like Batman without a conscience, but he is definitely still a vigilante. There is a bit of Batman in there, a bit of Ninja Gaiden, and a bit of any number of ninja movies, but I don't think you can say there is any specific influences. Not to say that the idea of a ninja vigilante character is 100% original, but it is a tricky question. As much as Reaper helps people in trouble and he fights murderous gangs, he still has an enormous amount of evil in him. There are things that he does that are heroic, but he also does some things that are outright villainous. It has elements of Dexter, but again that straddles the line between slasher film and a CSI style procedural.
AP: The premiere is coming up at the Toronto Underground Cinema on Halloween. Are you excited or nervous at all?
MB: There is nothing I have ever been more excited for in my life. Granted it is a project that I worked on with a lot of other people, but to see it on the big screen in a 700 seat auditorium with people I have never met before... I mean, I have seen the movie more than 200 times now in my basement, albeit on a nice projector at times, with about 10 to 15 people. I am more excited to see what people have to say about the movie that have no personal bias towards me. I mean, your friends will be honest with you, and if they weren't Fear the Reaper wouldn't be the movie it is now. The rough cut that I showed to that initial group of friends is entirely different from where we are now. This is almost the final cut. The only thing I really still want to do is tweak the sound a bit for the DVD release.
AP: So what are your plans after this?
MB: I once said I would never again make a movie with no budget, and I think you can only call in all of your favours once. I called in all my favours on this movie. (laughs) But if there is a producer out there who likes what I do and thinks me and my team do a great job I would love to make another film.