Wednesday 7 February 2018

Interview with Nicholas Tana - Director of Hell's Kitty

Based on the web series and comic book of the same name, and inspired by writer-director Nicholas Tana’s experiences living with a professedly possessed cat, Hell’s Kitty tells of a covetous feline that acts possessed and possessive of his owner around women. The results are as funny as they are frightening!

Nick (Nicholas Tana), a Hollywood screenwriter, discovers his cat has become murderously possessed, and will stop at nothing to rid him of any women in his life. As his life unravels out of control, Nick must find a way to have his kitty exorcised of the demonic spirit haunting her and creating a body count.

With characters named after classic horror movie characters (Jones plays Father Damien, Berryman is Detective Pluto, Nina Kate is Dr. Laurie Strodes, Barbeau is Mrs. Carrie), and a tone reminiscent of some of the ‘80s greatest horror-comedies, Hell’s Kitty is undoubtedly the horror hiss of March!

Hell's Kitty is written and directed by Nicholas Tana and produced by Denise Acosta.

Hell’s Kitty is available on all VOD platforms March 13, 2018 and on DVD March 27th, 2018 via Wild Eye Releasing.

This is such a delight. What’s been the most surprising bit of feedback you heard about the movie?

Nick: That Angel is so scary. I suppose at this point, I’ve gotten so used to her, and I see this as more of a supernatural comedy and unrequited love story, albeit with an element of horror and suspense. Other folks find it bloody, slightly disgusting, and even scary.

Denise: That people didn’t realize it was mostly shot in a single apartment and on a micro budget. I guess to me having been behind the scenes for so long that it’s obvious. I’m happy we were able to get such great production value out of the shoe string we had to put it together with. I’m very proud of how it came out. I can’t imagine what we could do with a Hollywood budget.

Have you discovered any unlikely fans?

Nick: Yes, there is one particular die hard fan who shares very radically different political views from mine. I think the only thing that we have common is his love for Angel and Hell’s Kitty. I struggle to keep him on my Facebook page, at times, as he tends to make painful comments about other posts, but he’s gone so far as to create an Angel’s Army fan page on Facebook, so I try to keep an open mind. Anyone who can appreciate Angel can’t be too bad.

Denise: I can’t believe how many people like Hell’s Kitty who aren’t horror fans. I suppose cat lovers are just happy knowing there is a cute, furry ball of puff in the film. I suppose that it doesn’t hurt that we go out of our way to try to raise awareness for several non-profits that help cats. Cat lovers are very appreciative and loyal fans. Then there are those fans of both horror and cats. I guess that makes sense, if you really think about it. After all, witches had an affection for cats, too, even if only as four legged minions.

How do cat lovers take to it?

Nick : Cat lovers like it. They get a kick out of anything with a real cat in it, I suppose. I’m sure many of them can appreciate the unique bond people are capable of making with their tiny, furry companions. I’m guilty of loving anything with a cat in it, too. There is something so compelling about felines. They are special, and even have a supernatural allure.

Denise : They love it for the most part. Although some of them get pretty grossed out by the gory aspects of Hell’s Kitty. But I think they love to see a cat in the driver’s seat taking control. Others don’t like seeing a cat portrayed as villainous at all. But I think if they watch the film until the end, they may be pleasantly surprised.

How long had you been working on it for? 

Nick: It’s taken years. I believe around five now in fact. This is because we started as a web-series, then turned it into a few comic books, which we took to the Phoenix Comicon, doing panels. People liked it. Then we edited together all the previous episodes, and released the last twenty minutes, which we never included online, even adding in some interstitials to help make it flow better. So it’s almost like creating a TV show, a comic book, and a movie in the five years or so it’s taken us to get this completed.

Denise : It feels like a very long time, and then again it feels like just yesterday when we had folks like Michael Berryman, Dale Midkiff, Kelli Maroni, even Ashley C. Williams from The Human Centipede, in a threesome gone bad with Barbara Nedeljakova from Hostel, running around the apartment. It’s really surreal, if I think about it. When we started the web-show about four or five years ago, our original title was My Pussy’s Possessed. But when we got adult film legend, Nina Hartley to play a fun part as a dominatrix, nightmare zombie, well we started getting associated with porn, so we changed the name.

Was it tough to entice all those names to do the film? 

Nick: It was and it wasn’t. I got Nina Hartley easily enough because I knew her from having worked with her on my documentary Sticky: A (Self) Love Story. She tweets about something, and you get thousands of views in seconds. Michael Berryman was next, I believe. I had Kevin Smith, Louie Ferrigno, James Hong, and Bill Moseley, all turn down a role, often last minute, after showing serious interest or even agreeing, at least verbally, to do the part.

Each time, I had to go back and tweak the script to fit whoever was going to play the part because I wanted the character be a parody and tribute to the original characters or roles that made these actors famous in the horror world. Finally, I managed to convince Michael Berryman, a serious animal lover, a super nice man, and a seriously talent actor, to do the role. It was like destiny because Mr. Berryman was meant for it. Once I got Michael Berryman to do it, his manager, Judy Fox, loved his performance because it highlighted his skill in comedy, and even for TV sitcom acting, and so she talked it up, and after that it got easier. I even managed to have talent come to me saying that they wanted to be in Hell’s Kitty, and so I started writing roles for them that weren’t originally in the film because I wanted them in it, too. My intent is to turn Hell’s Kitty into a TV series. I hope to work with all the talent again on that project in the near future.

Denise: Nick did most of the enticing when it came to talent. I focused on gathering the crew and getting them on board. I know he had to revise and tailor the script depending on the actor, so that couldn’t have been easy, although he writes at lightening speed. I remember he would rewrite the scene, based on the characters they were famous for, each time he submitted the script to a prospective actor.

I think for every actor we got, he probably got about five to six rejections, either because they wanted too much money, or their schedule didn’t permit it, or they just weren’t into it. It was a challenge because he’d write these awesome parts that we’d get attached to seeing on the screen, and then if the actor refused, he’d have to go back to the drawing board and write it again. We talked about having those scripts animated as short scenes for some behind-the-scenes DVD footage, but now I don’t even know if anyone watches DVDs anymore. In fact the Chainsaw Kitty song that appears in the film, was written for a scene that was cut with Louie Ferrigno, in which Angel’s claws transform into actual chainsaws. We kept the song, because it still works as her claws are like chainsaws, even if we don’t literally see them transform as such.

All the characters are named after popular horror characters, I believe? Do you both have a personal favorite character or moment in the film?

Nick: I love Michael Berryman’s character as Detective Pluto. The idea that this former mutant is misunderstood, dog loving private detective, who is mistaken as a monster because of a medical skin condition is both sad and comical to me. The way Michael Berryman played the role of a bumbling detective, had elements of Kojak, Inspector Clouseau, and even General Patton; it was hilarious and adds an element of comedy and suspense to the film. I can definitely see his character being a part of a recurring Hell’s Kitty TV series for Netflix or Amazon (hint, hint development execs).

Denise: I loved Courtney Gain’s character we called Mordicia, who was a parody of Stephen King’s Malachai from The Children of the Corn. Imagine, Malachai as a door-to-door bible pusher from hell, and that’s pretty much what you get. Only what he doesn’t realize is that he’s facing a feline fury that makes the demon in Children of the Corn seem like a Sunday picnic. When Angel turns the hallway into a corn field with supernatural delight, and we see him turn tail (he literally has a tail in that scene thanks to Angel), running down the hallway past Isaiah (a parody of Isaac played by John Franklin as well), it’s absolutely priceless. Especially, with the Carmina Burana type score Nick insisted upon, courtesy of Wolfgang Lackner.

What do you hope audiences get from the film?

Nick : I hope they appreciate the myriad of references made to iconic horror films, and cult characters we’ve seen before. From The Children of the Corn, to the Exorcist, to Drag Me To Hell, to The Human Centipede, to Hostel, to Paranormal Activity, to even films like Pulp Fiction, and Killer Klowns From Outer Space (although that one is pretty darn obvious, as we used the only Killer Klown costume that didn’t make it into the film), to even the Rocky Horror Picture Show (which becomes more obvious near the end). It’s both a loving tribute to an amazing genre, as well as to my beloved cat Angel, who unfortunately passed away to cancer shortly after completing production.

Denise : I hope filmmakers will be inspired by what can be done with a cat, a camera, and an apartment. We literally did this for less than many student filmmakers will shoot a short film. From that we built a franchise that includes a web-series, a movie, and some comic books. We even trademarked the name Hell’s Kitty and hope to use this as a TV pitch pilot piece. It’s amazing what one can do, if they put their mind to it these days.

Is there a genre you haven't tackled that you'd like to next?

Nick : I haven’t done musicals, per say. I think that would be amazing. I’d love to turn Hell’s Kitty into a musical in fact. It’s been described as Twin Peaks meets Rocky Horror picture show. I know we have a great music soundtrack and score thanks to Richard Albert, who wrote and composed most of the music for the project. I even co-wrote a few songs together with him, too, and we’ve talked about doing the Hell’s Kitty rock tour. I’ve also written a psychological thriller, which in a way Hell’s Kitty has elements of that genre, too. It would be great to get into westerns and gangster movies. I have two TV pilots and bibles that take a very original, genre busting approach to those type of films and TV shows as well, which Denise and I have talked about developing soon.

Denise : Nick and I talked about doing a period gangster piece that is something akin to Boardwalk Empire meets Orange Is The New Black. He wrote this sensational script that I hope we can turn into an Off Broadway play, and even a TV pilot soon. It deals with some real Harlem Renaissance history, and we’d love to integrate famous actors from well known gangster movies into this as well, much like what we did with Hell’s Kitty and the horror genre.