A fight among bandmates isn't the only thing that can kill a Bushwick party.
"Psychotic!" — a feature-length slasher premiering at the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival Oct. 15 — tells the story of roommates Tim Springer and Stuart Green, whose creative social life is upended when a masked homicidal maniac begins murdering their friends and fellow musicians.
But auteurs and former roommates Max Frey, 33, and Derek Gibbons, 34, don't actually wish all Bushwick hipsters dead, we learned. The two Rochester Institute of Technology graduates once shared an apartment in the neighborhood; Gibbons now lives in nearby Ridgewood.
(Photo courtesy of Max Frey and Derek Gibbons)
They drew inspiration for their 90-minute flick from not only an artist enclave some outsiders love to hate, but the gruesome thrillers of 1960s Italian cinema known as gialli; the films of Brian de Palma; and the slasher franchise Sleepaway Camp.
The filmmakers raised $50,100 on Kickstarter last fall for a project that took 15 days to shoot and several months to edit. Frey stars as Tim, Gibbons as Stuart, alongside such cast members as Broadway actress Kristen Martin, and Bridge and Tunnel sketch group comedians Adam Maid and Danielle Grace.
The masters of gore spoke to us about everything from the process of filming in Bushwick to the challenges of finding a roommate anywhere in New York.
The film is obviously set in Bushwick, with the final scene taking place at the performance venue Silent Barn. Where'd you film it?
Frey: We shot at Silent Barn and mainly all over Bushwick — people's apartments, streets, local businesses, and I think one of the first opening scenes we shot a couple of years ago in Sunset Park.
Gibbons: We used Molasses Books in Bushwick for one scene. We used Stateside Coffee — I think they're out of business now, unfortunately. For several scenes, we used Max's apartment, for a couple scenes we used my apartment, and then we just used the apartments of friends ...
Frey: ...who let us take them over for 20 hours. We were literally at one friend's apartment until 5 or 6 in the morning. But they were cool about it. They got free pizza. We bought them a bottle of whiskey.
One of the plot lines in "Psychotic!" involves drama among squabbling band members, and you two play in a real-life band called Phantomize. What's been your personal experience with the Bushwick music scene?
Gibbons: Max plays bass, I play keyboard. We write songs together.
We just quickly realized that we didn't care about it as much as everybody else [in Brooklyn]. We wanted to make movies and we wanted to make music. And I think if you want to succeed ... you have to want to just do one or the other.
Frey: The Bushwick scene has a lot of basement-style shows where they're basically in the basement of someone's apartment. You can do anything you want there, it's not like a bar. Some people are doing drugs in the corner, so there's a little bit more of an edge to it. It's sweatier, dirtier, and a little bit creepier, sometimes, if you look at it through the lens of a slasher film.
There's a scene in the film where Tim, still fuming over a fight he's had with Stuart, rants about how any roommate he finds on Craiglist will probably be a murderer. Even before the tragic news last week of a 25-year-old woman was fatally stabbed by her roommate in Ridgewood, why do you think the task of finding a new roommate has always unsettled New Yorkers so much?
Frey: The idea of sharing your precious space with someone you know nothing about is just generally scary, especially in a big city. It's just one extra anxiety that you can add to the list of many that hopefully you don't have to deal with.
Gibbons: The funny thing about Bushwick — which is very different from somewhere like Upstate New York, where my family lives — is you're in your late 30s, even 40s, with several roommates.
Frey: Finding an apartment is hard enough, but to find someone you're willing to live with — that's just as hard. When you find someone who is decent, you have to keep that roommate as long as you can.
A victim in your film tries to use her Instagram account as a form of identity verification, bragging that she has over 2,000 followers. Should we take this to mean you hate social media?
Frey: I don't like the pressure of feeling like I have to post things all the time, not to my personal site, but to our movie site.
But without any social media, I don't know how we would have gotten [our Kickstarter] done. It is really an awesome way to reach out to people and show them what you're doing.... We've been artists for a while, but we've been really bad about self-promoting.
What are some of the best outtakes you left on the cutting room floor?
Frey: My mother was the catering person, so a lot of the times she would stop by the set. She was really grossed out by murders and stuff like that, but we had her stand in at one point and stab my friend Clint with a prop knife. I think she enjoyed it.
As far as other bloopers go ... we definitely had some interesting murders, one of them being the bong murder. [In one grisly scene, the murderer stabs a stoner named Bill with his own glass water pipe.] There's a lot of funny behind-the-scenes footage of us trying to inhale the smoke and blow it out at the right moment, but also get the blood in the bong to bubble up.
Tell us about the craziest Bushwick parties you've attended.
Gibbons: There was one party we had — this informed the movie — where one of our friends just got too drunk and started calling each of us out for our shit... He gave everybody hell and then he crawled behind a couch and fell asleep.
A party scene in "Psychotic!" (Photo courtesy of Maxwell Frey and Derek Gibbons)
Frey: When Tim kicks through the door [in the movie], that's based on this time we were at a party and this person who has having the party had the coats room in his bedroom ... This drunk girl went in there and she passed out and locked the door, so no one could get their stuff ... Someone starts kicking the door and everyone expects the door to fly open, but instead of flying open, the door was cheap, so his leg goes right through the door.
Gibbons: We'll have more stories in a couple months when we get out and party again, when the movie's done. We've just been putting our heads in the sand, getting this done.
The "Psychotic!" screening at the Brooklyn Horror Film Festival may be sold out, but it will also be playing at Footlight Bar on Sunday, Oct. 23, accompanied by live music.