Rising, Horror Director, Marcel Walz, Releases Pretty Boy Showcasing The Ugly Side Of Los Angeles
Like many others in the LGBTQ community, this particular Instinct Magazine contributor is a horror aficionado. Whether it’s a clear, sunny afternoon or a raging thunderstorm, horror is always an easy watch for the wide and devoted fan base on any given day. Many horror fans may be surprised to realize a handful of their favorite films or iconic villains stem from the brilliant minds of gay men. Fans of scary movies can gab endlessly about our favorite underrated final girls, which rebel is the ultimate best friend stereotype, or the best ‘gay’ in a horror film. While LGBTQ persons are slowly getting their screen time in the horror genre, we have people like director and writer Marcel Walz to thank for providing us with solid storylines, especially one like his latest film, Pretty Boy, which is a predecessor to another film on his resume, Blind. Pretty Boy focuses on a gay, Los Angeles socialite hosting a Valentine’s Day party which is home invaded by a hopelessly romantic serial killer intent on ruining the holiday for anyone shacking up.
What’s immediately intriguing about Pretty Boy is that it takes place the same night from the previous film’s setup, almost as an homage to John Carpenter’s original Halloween and its sequel. It’s eerie because you know exactly what is about to happen and get a solid thirty minutes living in the moment with a group of friends celebrating the loveliest holiday to increase the paranoia – the wait is almost another character in the room as you watch. Flamboyant Preston (Jake Red) plays host to a party of lovestruck friends. They bounce banter back and forth, each with their own unique personalities and traits that everyone is entirely different and the scenes flow smoothly from one to the other. In typical fashion, the party gets invaded by a murderer in a terrifying mask of a plastic surgery-addicted-Los Angeles-wannabe influencer, Pretty Boy (Jed Rowen) who carries in a popular, blind actress Faye (Sarah French) after he terrorized and kidnapped her shortly before. The group eventually separate into smaller pairs and they are picked off one by one in bloody delicious and entertaining kill scenes that aren’t for the squeamish. Eventually, two are left to vend for themselves against Pretty Boy – and one gets an outrageous surprise when being discovered by alleged saviors who continue the chaos of obsession and a one-sided romance.
Pretty Boy is an absolute must watch for any indie-loving horror fan. Our leading man (Reed) finally isn’t a stereotypical gay guy, probably because Walz, as the director (and gay in his real life), has experienced being in a room with gay people and didn’t create a gay character based on how people think a gay guy acts or pays an homage to Will & Grace or another sitcom mirrored character. It’s refreshing to see a gay character not playing a victim of tragedy – Reed’s Preston is confident, makes heroic and smart actions, and seemingly would be the final girl archetype if he wasn’t up against a serial killer like Pretty Boy, who is virtually just as imposing, determined, and brutal as Jason Voorhees. In any other movie – I’d be willing to bet Preston makes it out alive. While French’s Faye gives such a phenomenal performance in refusing to give up, despite needing to rely on others for her disability. It’s so unfortunate that if she wasn’t blind, there’s no question she’d be sitting in a police station or safe at a hospital because she survived her horrid overnight ordeal. What separates Pretty Boy from various films in the same subgenre of home invasion is the incredibly outlandish third act. After escaping the bloodshed home, Faye rushes the streets seeking help – but of course, this is a scary movie and you shouldn’t really trust anyone. She’s encountered by an old, creepy couple who turn out to be just as sinister as Pretty Boy and lead Faye down an even scarier misadventure when she is eventually tied to a bed and forced upon by more evil. Seriously, her night absolutely sucks – but the film certainly doesn’t. You feel for Faye the entire time she’s managing her multiple escapes, including one chase scene that is just as impressive as Sarah Michelle Geller’s Helen Shivers in I Know What You Did Last Summer. Pretty Boy is gory, gutsy, and glamourous in delivering new age horror for the modern genre fan who has been bored to death with mainstream, over repetitive storylines. So much so that I had to speak with Walz himself to figure out if he’s just as bonkers as his latest film. Let’s get to know this talented, adorable German-born creative real quick:
Mickey Keating: There’s such a strange connection to gay men and horror. I know a ton of gay horror fans, being myself one since I was a kid, and now here’s you! And you’re creating them! What movie really landed you as a fan?
Marcel Walz: Scream! It’s totally a ‘90s thing – like I Know What You Did Last Summer and Urban Legends, ‘90s horror still sticks with me. It’s the style I do my films in because it’s the movies I grew up with. Pretty Boy is a mashup of classic ‘80s and ‘90s horror movies. Scream’s opening kill scene with Drew Barrymore, the final girl Neve Campbell, and Ghostface are all iconic to me. I even think the fourth Scream movie is my favorite. They did everything right, the cast was perfect, everyone returned. I was so excited to find out about the fifth film that got finished wrapping, but I’ve been reading a lot of spoilers for the fifth film and I’m not liking what I’m reading – I won’t spoil it for you, but you can Google! I hope we don’t have another Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween: Resurrection [where Laurie Strode meets her end in the first ten minutes of the film]. But, it’s the fifth movie – some main characters can’t make it through to the end. I hope Courtney Cox’s Gail Weathers stays around!
MK: Ugh, I wish Rose McGowan’s Tatum would’ve stuck around longer than Gail Weathers! Courtney appears to be the one who never wants to come back and perform! Who doesn’t love a returning character? On topic, I interviewed who I deem the princess of horror, Danielle Harris, around Halloween last year and we got to beat the dead horse again on her not being invited back to Blumhouse’s rebooted Halloween trilogy despite her character being so prominent in three films in the original timeline. And now the sequel to the 2018 film keeps getting pushed back because of the pandemic. What do you think of Halloween 2018?
MW: As an actor or actress in the horror genre… you need to come back to the sequels for the movie that made you famous. Do it for the fans! As far as Blumhouse’s Halloween…well…they tried! I hate that they are ignoring the original sequel. That’s the whole franchise! The brother and sister storyline! I know Carpenter hated his own idea for making Michael Myers and Laurie related…but the big problem for me is that okay, he kills four people in the original film. But, after forty years… Michael is not going to be memorialized as this horrible serial killer. If they incorporated the second film, that would make him so much more of a fierce and scary villain that is still being talked about in modern day. Now Michael just has an obsession with this random babysitter. I loved Halloween: H20, it’s so much better than the 2018 reboot.
MK: You have to have a favorite scream queen.
MW: Oh, of course! We already mentioned Jamie Lee Curtis, Neve Campbell, Danielle Harris…would Sarah Paulson be considered a scream queen at this point? She does a lot of horror films, too! But, I’d have to say Brittany Murphy in Cherry Falls. That movie is perfect. I’m confused why there wasn’t a sequel to that film.
MK: Are you more a fan of demon/ghost type of horror films or do you love the ‘monsters walk among us’ type of slasher films?
MW: I’m more of a slasher person. They are more, and always, iconic. I have to bring up the ‘90s again. The high school or teenage characters always make those films. Like Rebecca Gayheart in Urban Legend, wow, what a perfect film. I’m looking forward to seeing more slasher movies coming out, but it’s becoming rare to find them nowadays. We can say everyone Halloween or Friday the 13th movies are the same, but think of The Conjuring or The Nun. Those are jump scare after jump scare, those are always the same! I’m a big fan of American Horror Story right now. I’m a huge fan of them and Ryan Murphy, but there’s always a big problem with his season finales. There’s so much, because they build so many side stories, that it becomes a mess at the end. But, don’t let that fool you – I’m still a huge fan and entertained by each season.
MK: Is that why you may prefer to do films more than television series? In a film we have a point A to point Z and there’s a conclusion usually with no cliffhanger. It doesn’t get dragged out and there’s not much filler – a prime example is Pretty Boy.
MW: Oh, I’d love to do a television show like American Horror Story. But, I’m more for the movies. When you have character development in television, it’s important, but in film it’s more about the visuals. But, I definitely prefer films to television shows.
MK: Robert Rusler appears in the third act of Pretty Boy. He’s been in an unrelated horror film you’ve directed, a remake of Bloodfeast, and he’s known in the horror genre for being a scream king and also ‘80s and ‘90s eye candy with films like the ever-so-gay sequel to Nightmare on Elm Street and Vamp. You must love working with him!
MW: Robert is amazing. He’s perfect. He puts so much love and work into his characters, especially when he did Bloodfeast. He’s fun to work with and we always have such a great time. We worked on Bloodfeast together in Germany and France. I had to bring him back for Pretty Boy. He always invests time in the characters and brings all of them to life. There’s a ton of actors out there who just read the lines and he’s definitely not one of those. I’d done so many love budget films before doing my first big budget, Bloodfeast, which is a remake. Everyone always hates a remake immediately based on principle. The only reason I did Bloodfeast is because the original is from the ‘60s and didn’t age well. Those are the best movies for remakes, [not something made twenty years ago]. It was fun to make that film very gory and bloody, because it’s in the title, and they didn’t have any in the original film by Herschell Gordon Lewis. Bloodfeast was my first premiere and Josh Brolin AKA Marvel’s Thanos showed up and we went to a bar afterwards. I was so happy when a ton of people showed up, it was crazy.
MK: Okay so Pretty Boy is your third big budget feature film, but it’s still considered an indie movie. Do you like having more control and freedom going the indie route in film, especially horror, so that you can be as manic as necessary for the audience without having to rely on the big studios to tear a part your work?
MW: Hmm, that’s a really good question. The difference between them is that I have my own projects but then I also work for hire. Like, the next film I’m doing I’m working for hire and it’s already different than my last three. The low budget ones I can do whatever I want, but then it becomes a problem because it then becomes my vision and I’m able to do what I want…and that’s not always good! There’s no other opinion and I may not have an idea of what will sell. If I want to do a torture porn horror movie like The Hills Have Eyes, I’ll do it. It’s nice to have studios work with you as far as marketing, but I do want my freedom creatively. [It’s important to know you can’t do it on your own because it may blow up in your face.]
MK: I loved reading that you wanted to create a new big bad monster in the vein of someone like Jason Voorhees or Freddy Krueger. That’s where Pretty Boy comes in. You focus a lot on him, which we’ve only really seen done with the big bad icons that we all know and love. You don’t really get to know the villain in horror anymore, but in your universe, you do.
MW: Making a new horror monster is my goal! Horror fans reacted well to Pretty Boy’s appearance and how vile he is. With that reaction to the first film in Blind, we decided to focus more on him. Yes, we have the side characters at the party, but my screenwriter, Joe Knetter, and I wanted to spend a lot of time with Pretty Boy throughout the film to make it more of his story. It’s his love story. Blind was inspired by ‘70s horror, it’s a slow burn like the original Black Christmas. Pretty Boy was heavily ‘80s inspired. And, if given the chance, the next film in line would be especially dedicated to ‘90s horror. We even have ideas for a fourth and fifth movie, but it all depends on if the fanbase likes it. There’s gay characters in my films, too. As you’ve mentioned, the characters don’t need an arch of them being gay – they just simply are gay. [It’s not what you see in many other films where it’s a plot point.] It’s important to have gay people in these or any films, because the world has changed. It’s more normal now then it was before to have a gay friend in your life now, so it’s great to have Generation Z seeing themselves in these films. I see there’s often a challenge though, because it’s always an over-the-top gay character, and not all gay people are as stereotypical as we’re mostly portrayed. We don’t need a huge backstory on these gay characters for being bullied and etcetera, we’re people, too.
You can catch Pretty Boy in Fall 2021, but in the meantime you can catch the first film in the series, Blind, on Amazon Prime. To keep up to date on Pretty Boy’s official release date, feel free to follow Walz on Instagram for any and all updates. Walz’s delivers such a dashing film that boasts young, booming talent as aforementioned, including Devanny Pinn, Andrew Rohrbach, Fritzi Marth, and Sarah Nicklin. When you’re watching, try not to cover your eyes, because every moment of Pretty Boy is worth watching!
Writer’s Note A: This is the opinion of one Instinct Magazine contributor and does not reflect the views of Instinct Magazine itself or fellow contributors.
Writer’s Note B: Quotes have been edited for clarity.