Q&A with Connor O. McIntyre & Ethan Walden, Filmmakers of “The Itch”
Name a Horror character you relate to on a spiritual/personal level?
Ethan: This is probably such an annoying answer, but I’m going to say Randy from Scream. I love horror movies and I love the rules and the myths behind our favorite films. If a crazed killer was on the loose, I would probably take the same steps…not trust anyone, lay out the rules, but still make it to the party.
Connor: Weirdly, Shelley Duval from The Shining. She tries her best to stay positive in the light of so much negativity. We spend the film empathizing with her as we see she is doing all she can to keep her son happy; to keep her husband happy. Her release of that dedication to her husband and breaking that cycle of fear he instilled in her at the end is always a powerful moment. Plus, Kubrick put her through hell during that shoot and I think she’s wonderful in the movie.
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?
Ethan: I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad idea, but The Itch actually started out as a very shlocky, horror-comedy where the gore took forefront with a lot of blood and peeled away skin. However, after spending some time with the idea and story, I started to feel more for a character who was going through what our protagonist was going through (I was also very itchy at the time). I went back to the drawing board and focused more on the psychological effects of having an undiagnosed ailment and the mental exhaustion one goes through by trying to convince other people that something is wrong.
Connor: My first script I wrote when I was 14 or so was called The Fleshman, it was a beat by beat rip-off of The Evil Dead about a group of kids that go to a cabin and are terrorized by this monster that drips flesh. Turns out the monster was a kid that drowned in the lake and his goopy skin was the result of water decay. Then some witches show up. Why? I do not know. But our character battles the witches to release the fleshman from his curse. It is… not good.
Do you consider yourself part of a horror community?
Ethan: Yes! I have been so lucky to find and collaborate with fellow horror fanatics. After meeting Adam Stilwell of The Triangle years ago playing music, we soon bonded over horror films and eventually started a weekly horror meetup. With members including Kevin Kolsch of Starry Eyes and Pet Sematary, our meetings are typically spent discussing our favorite films we’ve seen recently, or on more productive occasions work towards a new idea.
Connor: Definitely! Through my friendship and creative partnership with Ethan, he’s introduced me to this deep rooted community of horror hounds and gore geeks. It’s massively supportive, and has introduced me to the potential of horror beyond bubble-gum, roller coaster scares.
When you’re building the world of your film, where do you look for inspiration?
Ethan: For this short in particular, I watched a lot of body horror films (Cabin Fever, Starry Eyes) and for character inspiration I watched films that dealt with abusive relationships (Rosemary’s Baby, The Shining).
Connor: I think in terms of the changes Ethan and I made once we linked up on this film, was looking at certain relationships I’ve had in the past. I think we both wanted to look at gaslighting and how that can occur without much effort. We also watched and talked about a lot of movies, as Ethan mentioned, that worked within the same realm.
What would you do if you woke up inside of your film?
Ethan: Minus a few of the gory details, I have lived with “the itch,” so I suppose I would feel right at home.
Connor: Eat some of those eggs!
Who would be on your ultimate horror villain squad?
Ethan: Freddy, Jack Torrance, Jennifer from Jennifer’s Body, and Pinhead
Connor: Michael Meyers, Annie Wilkes, The Thing, and Leatherface.
Lightning round: Freddy or Jason? Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft? Practical or CGI? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
Ethan: Freddy, Stephen King, Practical, Pre Apocalypse
Connor: Freddy, H.P., Practical, Post-Apocalypse
How do you go about creating the props and sets for your film? How do you create objects that are relatable but unfamiliar?
Ethan: During our weekly horror nights, Nathaniel Peterson, who did the SFX for our short, would take us through tutorials on how to make props and gore. Months before we shot the film, he created samples of what we would be using. We were (and are) very interested in practical effects and how to bring them to life on screen. So in short…a lot of crafting and a lot of trial and error.
What scares you, and does it inspire your storytelling?
Ethan: In most of my storytelling, I tend to incorporate the idea of losing oneself. Losing your mind or losing grip of reality is absolutely terrifying to me, so my characters will, on occasion, be unreliable or unwound.
Connor: Double down on Ethan’s response here. My constant fear is that I’ve already lost my mind but just don’t know it. The thin-ice of our mind scares the hell out of me, easily shatterable and irreparable without a moment’s notice.
And finally, Ghostface would like to know ‘What’s your favourite scary movie?’
Ethan: The Exorcist…hands down. Close seconds would be Halloween, The Shining, Rosemary’s Baby.
Connor: The Thing. Rosemary’s Baby. Carrie.