LAST GIRL STANDING
AUSTIN-BASED INDIE GIVES A NEW TAKE ON SLASHER FILMS
She survived a brutal massacre, but lost her life. What happens to the final girl after the credits roll?
This year at Texas Frightmare Weekend in Dallas I got to check out Last Girl Standing, an interesting take on the slasher genre by local film making team Ben and Rachel Moody. I was immediately taken by the film and knew that the duo certainly had something on their hands. As first time feature film makers, I wanted to know what it was like getting something like this made, and I wanted to know a little about the two of them as well.
Ben and Rachel are married, and they divide up the film making duties as I am sure they divide up the other married people duties, or whatever it is that married people do. They also divided up the questions I asked of them as well, with Ben handling most of the directorial and writing aspects, while Rachel takes on more of the production elements.
I wanted to know first and foremost, I’d like to get some history about them as filmmakers, so I wondered what was the first thing they remembered watching and saying to yourself “I want to do THIS?” Ben answered, “As far as individual films I’d say seeing Tim Burton’s Batman opening night solidified my obsession with film at a young age. That was my first time in an actual movie theater and it blew my mind.” He started checking out the school’s VHS camcorder for projects, and then after seeing Soderberg’s Out of Sight, Ben was inspired to apply to film school, and follow his obsession.
Where I first became aware of Ben and Rachel was through their De-Pixilated shorts, which were live action video game vignettes. A friend of mine did stunt work on a few of these, and sent me links on YouTube, but it wasn’t until after I watched Last Girl Standing that I knew they were made by the same crew. I didn’t know a whole lot about where those shorts came from, so I asked Rachel to clear it up for me. “Ben had this idea for a video game-based series called BIT Parts that we started working on at the end of 2011.” She told me they had worked on a number of smaller projects in the past, but felt that this was where they started to gain steam. The cast and crew they met filming BIT Parts made such an impression on Ben and Rachel that they wanted to keep it going. “When we finished filming BIT Parts, we didn’t want another year to pass before working on something else and we wanted to keep working with these talented people.” They decided to make one short film a month with the same crew. “All said, we filmed for 15 months straight and really solidified most of the crew and cast that ended up working on Last Girl Standing.”
With the a crew in place, all they needed was an idea to get rolling on their first feature. Having just brought their first born screaming and crying into the world in October, they were mostly home bound to care for their spawn. Being Halloween season, they were doing what any of us would be doing: watching horror movies. They clicked on the television to just catch the end of an old school slasher, with the lone surviving girl escaping the killer, and Ben said to Rachel “I want to see what happens to her next.” Ben started outlining ideas, and had a basic story within about an hour. Rachel said “it felt right and being slasher fans, we also knew it was territory rarely covered, so we felt we could bring something new to the table with this movie.”
One of the overall themes of Last Girl Standing is how one copes with PTSD. I asked Ben if he had any personal experience with PTSD, either his own or with friends and loved ones. “It felt like a natural area to explore with this character,” he said. “I don’t have any direct connections to PTSD itself, but I guess what inspired me to tackle it was how prevalent it is in our society now.” He also expressed frustration at how although it is widespread, we tend to downplay or outright ignore how it affects and continue to affect victims of trauma. “ When the dust settles, we as a culture leave the victims to put their lives back together alone.”
PTSD can affect every aspect of a person’s life, and this is evident in the film’s main character, Camyrn. After she survives the brutal murder of her friends at the hands of a maniac, she is shoved back into the real world and expected to just “get over it” and slide back into everyday life as if it had never happened. “The great tragedy is that Camryn survived a massacre, but she’s barely living,” Rachel explained. Camryn’s job needed to be as solitary and mindless as possible, so she works at a dry cleaners. She works in the back, cleaning and folding, does not deal with customers and speaks very little to her coworkers. She drifts from her spartan, impersonal apartment to her solitary job, existing in the world rather than engaging with it. Her horrifying experience dominates every aspect of her life. Even when she meets new people and starts to just creep out into the world, her trauma shoves itself back into her life.
I like to know not only about the film itself, but about the filming as well. Especially when it comes to making movies on a small budget right here in Austin, I like to hear different experiences directors and actors have navigating a film shoot. “We love filming in Austin,” Rachel said. “Doing the shorts was really helpful because we had one month to do everything: script, location-scouting, cast, film, edit, etc. Every month, we’d have to find a new location to film and through that, I discovered just how helpful and open people in Austin are.” She went on to express how much she appreciated the network of friends and acquaintances that were willing to help even on little more than a few hours notice. Austin has always been a haven for artists and creators, and even business owners they had never met were willing to help out.
It’s not all hugs and high fives, film shoots always have their share of hardships, big and small. Ben told me they had to content with a tornado, dealt with being eaten alive by chiggers, but what made the biggest impression on him was an incident that involved another cuddle creature. “One actress on set was attacked by an opossum when going to the bathroom in the woods,” he said. “They tried to keep it from me that night so I wouldn’t freak out but I quickly found out what the commotion was and sent her to the hospital.” It all ended up okay, though. “She was fine and thankfully she is the most bad-ass person on the set. If that had happened to me I would have died on the spot.”
I am always so impressed when I see an aspiring filmmaker get something written, shot, edited, scored and finally put out there in the world, I like to know how they get it done. This question is asked mostly of veteran filmmakers, but I am of the opinion that there are lessons to be learned from someone who has just gotten it done. Ben was of course modest when I asked. “There’s so many more qualified people to get film making advice from,” he said. “The most tiresome advice, but still most valid for today’s generation, is just fucking do it. I personally know how annoying that is to hear, but it’s the truth.” However the ease with which a film can be made also comes with its drawbacks. If anybody can make movies, how do you get yours to stand out? “You do what you love and you do something original. You need to find your voice. That can take years, I know it did for me,” Ben told me. “But finding your voice is what will make you standout from the crowd.”
A horror filmmaker is a horror fan first, and Ben and Rachel are no exceptions. So I wanted to know, what were a few of their favorites. Ben answered, “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Descent, The Thing, Friday the 13th Part 6, American Werewolf in London, Q, Sleepaway Camp… How many do you want? I just saw and loved The Autopsy of Jane Doe!” I also wanted to know what is his sub genre? ie. Slasher, vampire, werewolf, haunting, etc. “If I had to pick a favorite I’d probably say creature features. I like monsters,” he said. And for no reason, I asked him who would win in a fight between a Bigfoot and a Yeti? “Yeti? For some reason they seem wilder to me in my head.” And while I was in no-reason land, I also asked them what was their favorite Halloween costume was, and Rachel answered that they usually do tandem costumes. “One year, we decided to do Sin City costumes where I was Miho and Ben was Elijah Wood’s character,” she said. “We painted our skin gray and did the whole black-and-white character thing. It was great, but the funniest thing was the no one recognized me… friends who had known me for years kept going up to Ben at the party and asking where I was. I’d call that a true success!”
I personally really enjoyed Last Girl Standing, so I am excited to see what Ben and Rachel have in store for down the line. Ben told me “I just finished a martial arts horror script I’m really jazzed about but I don’t know who the hell will fund that!” He also has another horror film with some tonal similarities to Last Girl Standing, but with more of a body horror aspect. Ben isn’t exclusively a horror filmmaker, though. “I also have a sci-fi horror chase movie that’s been in the pipeline for a few years now.”
Ben and Rachel have created something that I think is worth your while, and they are doing their part to continue the Texas horror tradition. So here you go. Right here. Click one of these links and check out Last Girl Standing! I couldn’t have possibly made this easier!
Check out the trailer below and LIKE ’em on Facebook.
— Eric Harrelson (Contributor, Blood Over Texas)