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Q&A with Ben Larned, Director of “Payment”

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A: Name a Horror character you relate to on a spiritual level? Who is your Horror spirit animal?
BEN LARNED: Irena Dubrovna from Cat People. All of the major horror films from this period have queer undertones, but none are as sympathetic as Val Lewton’s masterpiece. It’s about someone who fears that her sexuality is aberrant, monstrous – a fear that all queer kids grapple with in one way or another. On top of being a beautiful and frightening film, it’s a sensitive portrait of an outcast, someone whose identity has no place in a pre-established world of light.

A: You’ve gotta go through some bad ideas to get to the good ones. Tell us one of your bad ideas. How do you get past the bad ones to find your spark?
BL: Over this summer, I was obsessed with writing a movie that reflected our current situation in its entirety. The result was a repugnant, angry and violent story that felt cruel for the sake of cruelty. It’s easy, especially in horror, to get lost in disturbing or shocking people – but without a purpose, there’s nothing to it.

A: Do you consider yourself part of a horror community?
BL: The LA horror community is so generous and welcoming to new recruits. You meet people at these retrospectives and festivals who have watched films that you’ve never heard of, and they’re happy to share that knowledge with you. I think horror fans are used to being disregarded and looked down upon, which might inform this openness. There is a small but strong LGBT component within it, too.

A: When you’re building the world of your film, where do you look for inspiration?
BL: I love working from moods – sounds, location, textures, color. Music is a huge source for me. With Payment, there was a lot of folk and blues. Paintings and photographs help as well. Most of all, though, I think fiction is the biggest inspiration – the classic stories and newer, more obscure ones often go further into the genre than film ever can.

A: What would you do if you woke up inside of your film?
BL: Freak out, probably. I usually write horror as an attempt to work through and avoid these dark situations – does anyone really want to find themselves a part of one?

A: Who would be on your ultimate horror villain squad?
BL: All the dispossessed – Frankenstein, Pinhead, Dr. Phibes, Baby Jane Hudson, and of course Irene.

A: Lightning round: Freddy or Jason? Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft? Practical or CGI? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
BL: Freddy. Lovecraft (they’re both problematic politically). Practical. Pre Apocalypse.

A: And finally, Ghostface would like to know ‘What’s your favourite scary movie?’
BL: Depending on the mood – The Shining, Rosemary’s Baby and The Haunting (1963).