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Q&A with Ashton Herrild, Director of “Carnivore”

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Name a Horror character you relate to on a spiritual/personal level?

I have recently begun to identify with James Caan’s character in Misery. Kathy Bates’ character is played by a global pandemic.

Every production has things go wrong. What went wrong with your film and how did it effect the final product?
We shot this project in late February and early March of 2020. Two days after we wrapped, the whole world shut down. The entirety of the post process was done remotely. I have always been very hands-on with editing, but the pandemic forced me to adapt to a completely different workflow than what I was used to. My editor, sound designer, colorist and composer were all in a different state than I was. Luckily enough, we had gotten the footage we needed, and our team worked extremely hard to communicate and collaborate from afar. Each one of them have made such a large impact on the outcome of the film and I couldn’t be prouder.

Do you consider yourself part of a horror community?

I think CARNIVORE fits nicely in the horror genre, but I was drawn to the humor of the story over anything else. Initially, I had written a drama about a man who is exonerated for the murder of his mother after spending the majority of his life behind bars. I had wanted to explore the idea of social assassination, and the external influence a community can have on an individual. I thought, “what is the worst reputation an innocent person could have?” When my friend Jacob Vaus (Levi) and I were brainstorming on how to turn that dramatic story into a dark comedy, I had thought to change Levi’s crime from only a brutal matricide to also the cannibalistic consumption of his mother’s brains. Imagining how an innocent person would realistically react to their entire community believing them to have perpetrated such a despicable and unforgivable atrocity made me laugh. When writing the script, I followed the absurdity of the world that would rebuke Levi while also pushing him to become the monster they insisted he was. If everyone you know thought you were a monster, how long would it take before you believed them? To me, violence and tension are complementary to comedy. My favorite comedies are those that walk the line between the horrifying and humorous. With this film I feel included into the genre, but more specifically I think this film falls into the niche of horror comedy, which is a genre I love and would like to explore further.

When you’re building the world of your film, where do you look for inspiration?

I’ve had nightmares where the whole world is angry at me for something I did and is out to get me for it. I looked to that feeling of waking up, frenzied, in a cold sweat, worried sick about my family or the police being convinced that I had committed some grave atrocity. Some of the greatest relief I have ever experienced is with that realization, looking around my dark room, that my life isn’t ruined, my character is intact, and the cops aren’t on their way to get me. I wanted to examine the life of a man who couldn’t wake up from that nightmare. A man stuck in a life forever tarnished by the false accusation of an unforgivable crime. Imagine your mother was

brutally murdered, and everyone was fully convinced that you were a deranged psychopath that had killed her and consumed her brains. What would you do? I wanted to follow a sane character through an insane world and examine what it would take to push a good man over the edge.

What would you do if you woke up inside of your film?

I think that just might be enough to make me vegan. Just a salad for me, please.

Who would be on your ultimate horror villain squad?

I want to roll up to a party, fully decked out in leather with my squad of Cenobites from Hellraiser. You’re gonna tell me I wouldn’t look fly as hell showing up with my boys Pistonhead and Butterball?

Lightning round: Freddy or Jason? Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft? Practical or CGI? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
Burnt nightmare scissor man over hockey mask camp cook.

The sheer amount of original content Stephen King is responsible for blows my mind. PRACTICAL. EFFECTS. EVERY. DAMN. TIME. SAM. RAIMI. IS. OUR. KING.
I turn to post-apocalyptic movies to distract me from my pre-apocalyptic life.

What scares you, and does it inspire your storytelling?

The scariest thing I can comprehend is losing my mind. Losing my grip on reality is a fate I believe to be worse than death. Or, in the case of the film, if the world around me went insane. Maybe that’d be worse. Going insane would feel as if everyone else were wrong and I was the only one seeing things clearly. I thought, if the whole world were insane, except for you, wouldn’t you be the crazy one?

And finally, Ghostface would like to know ‘What’s your favourite scary movie?’
Picking favorites is tough. I really love “horror” movies that aren’t traditionally “scary.” Some of my favorites are Shaun of the Dead, Hereditary, The Killing of a Sacred Deer, and even Jennifer’s Body. I can’t get enough of stories about gruesome things that are delivered with a bit of brevity. I’m not so much a geek for “scary movies” as much as I am a geek for “movies that haunt me.”