Q&A with Navin Ramaswaran & Jeff Gross, Filmmakers of “The Remnant”
Name a Horror character you relate to on a spiritual/personal level?
JG: Father Damien Karras – Because I believe in the supernatural and I’m always trying to be there for other people.
NR: My answer to this question may be a little controversial, but I consider “The Nightmare Before Christmas” to be within the horror genre, to which end I find myself relating a lot to Jack Skellington. He’s a curious being – a romantic who finds the beauty in the unusual and I see these qualities in myself as a filmmaker.
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?
JG: I came up with an idea about a Hasidic Jewish women (“The Gett.”) who abducts her husband with a few other women and proceeds to torture him until she can receive her ‘gett’. A gett is a document that allows for a divorce in a Hasidic marriage and must be presented by a husband to his wife. It’s easy to get past the bad ideas… You simply wake up with an idea, drive around with the idea, go to bed with the idea… and if in several months you’re still passionate about it… Then your on to something! If on month number five, you’re still thinking about it, then you know that you need to go out and make it happen.
NR: I was an RA for 3 out of my 4 years at the University of Windsor, and one of the requirements was to organize social events for the students on the floor I was in charge of. I had what I thought was a genius idea to get everyone together to make a horror film. I decided to expand upon my “brilliant” first student film idea and create a sequel each year. The movie was titled “The Ghost Party” and it involved a bunch of university students being invited to a Halloween party at one of the dorms; the invite wasn’t signed and no one knew who the host was (think Agatha Christie’s “And Then There Were None”). Of course, when these random party people show up, they each meet their untimely demise in various bloody ways. Almost the entirety of our $200 budget went to corn syrup and red food colouring, and any one who said yes to this semi-mandatory social event was put in front of the camera – which lead to some pretty hilarious performances. I ended up making 4 of these “movies” in total – the first two were shot on glorious VHS while the second and third sequels received a Hi-8 upgrade! Oh and did I mention the Ghost Party 2 has a choreographed dance sequence? Yes, it does.
I recently dug up a couple of these flicks and had a blast watching them. I could see the seed of my sensibilities as a filmmaker and what I was going for. These movies will forever be buried in my basement and locked away!
Despite how questionable these films were, there was almost a purity in their creation – the stakes were so low, and it was an incredibly fun and only slightly embarrassing project that I got lead. It also helped me realize how far comradery can go; even when you have a shoestring budget, as long as you have a scrappy, go-getter crew you can get projects done. Now looking back, it’s almost tempting to revisit the “Ghost Party” franchise with all the new skills and tools of the trade that I’ve acquired. It’s great to look back on where I started, and every experience is part of the process of becoming the filmmaker I am today.
Do you consider yourself part of a horror community?
JG: No, not really, I wish that I was…
NR: I certainly do! Toronto has no shortage of hardcore horror fans and filmmakers, and there’s so much support and championing within this group. There are some really great festivals, like Toronto After Dark and Blood in the Snow, where we all show each other support at screenings, but it doesn’t end there. I’ve made some lifelong friends through these events and forums whom I can always count on to develop ideas and offer criticism. I’m constantly being inspired by my peers and am so grateful that I get to be part of such a creative and trail-blazing community.
When you’re building the world of your film, where do you look for inspiration?
JG: The real answer is anywhere, but, keeping a keen eye open while you are travelling is always a good idea!
NR: Of course I find myself being inspired by the movies and books I devoured when I was growing up (Alfred Hitchcock, Agatha Christie and Stephen King deserve a shout out), but I find myself constantly being inspired by what’s happening around me in my day to day life. Everyone has their own unique experiences that if you stop and listen to can burgeon into a story idea. I often find napkins tucked away in my books and pockets where I haphazardly scrawl patchy ideas inspired by wonderfully imperfect characters or particularly gloomy car rides in the middle of no where. There’s an infinite amount of stories to be explored in the world, and I’m constantly searching for the next great tale to spin.
What would you do if you woke up inside of your film?
JG: I would probably enjoy being as tall as Peter Keleghan.
NR: A few four letter words would probably come to mind initially…but I’d definitely try to unpack the horror movie survival guide imbedded in my brain from years of watching these kinds of films. I guess I’d try to keep two steps ahead of myself and make it to the end to see the credits roll.
Who would be on your ultimate horror villain squad?
JG: Freddy Kruger, Michael Myers, Regan, Victor Crowley, PennyWise and Jack Torrance!
NR: The Headless Horseman, Jason Vorhees, and Chucky. These characters can’t really be killed and are hellbent on revenge – the type of people you want on your side when it comes to a horror villain squad!
Lightning round: Freddy or Jason? Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft? Practical or CGI? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
JG: 1) Freddy! 2) Stephen King. 3) Practical!?!! Duh, of COURSE!!! 4) Pre Apocalypse.
NR: Freddy because he can also get you in your dreams!
Stephen King – I grew up reading his work and will always be a fan.
Nothing beats a well-executed practical effect… at the very least, a not so stellar practical effect is charming.
Pre Apocalypse. I can relate better.
What scares you, and does it inspire your storytelling?
JG: 1) Thing’s that move around in the night. 2) Unfamiliar surroundings 3) Not knowing whats coming next is always unsettling. 4) Ultimately the human race can be very scary as well! All of these things inspire my storytelling! That, and less is more…
NR: Objects imitating humans are probably the only thing that scares me! This definitely stems from a childhood viewing of the film “Tourist Trap” and it has certainly stuck with me – mannequins, dolls, etc.; there’s just something about pretending to be human that’s supremely unsettling. This has inspired my storytelling as I’m typically attracted to stories/material that deal with consuming the body or mind.
And finally, Ghostface would like to know ‘What’s your favourite scary movie?’
JG: Hmm, Top 12: “The Exorcist”, “The Shining”, “A Nightmare on Elm Street”, “The Descent”, “The Thing”, “The Others”, “Misery”, “Rosemary’s Baby”, “From Dusk Till Dawn”, “The Orphanage”, “The Fly”, “Chronos”
NR: Not an easy question to answer, so I’ve narrowed it down to two responses: Dario Argento’s “Suspiria” – the first giallo film I watched and it’s stuck with me ever since. The perfect fusion of gorgeous cinematography with extreme violence triggered a special creative spark in me. Like anything effective, there have been imitators and a remake but nothing comes close to the subliminal haunts that the original Suspiria… complemented exceptionally by that eerie, yet melodic score by Goblin.
AND… The brilliant “Psycho” – this movie made me a lifelong fan of Hitchcock. From it’s gorgeous black and white cinematography and pitch perfect performances to the iconic score and notoriously effective ending, this is everything a solid horror movie should be!
SPECIAL MENTIONS – “Re-Animator” + “Evil Dead 2” – These movies blend horror and comedy perfectly to create a whole new world of horror. I adore these low budget gems and constantly rave about the execution and confident editing. Both movies (in their final release/theatrical version) tell an impactful story under 90 mins. Now that’s efficient storytelling!