FASHION IS FATAL IN NEW HORROR FILM STAY
STAY is the directorial debut for Emmy Award-winning writer Brandon Walker. A cautionary tale of ambition gone wrong, STAY blends the allure of America’s Next Top Model with the terror of Paranormal Activity. The film stars Ashley Park (Rosewood) as Olivia, a fashion model with lofty ambitions. As her stardom rises, Olivia shoots for big clients and takes her YouTube audience along for the ride. With newly earned cash, Olivia pays for her boyfriend Julian (Jesse LeNoir) to join her in NYC with the hope of starting a life together. Eventually, they settle into a fashionable loft apartment. Its glossy facade, however, conceals a sinister secret born years before. Suddenly overwrought, her tenuous grip on reality begins to slip away. Beautiful, yet increasingly unstable, Olivia is forced to make a shocking choice that leads to a battle for her soul.
In a movie that combines horror and fashion, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. When that eye belongs to someone like writer/director Brandon Walker, it just might be something to fear. We recently spoke with the first-time director about his micro-budget, no-excuses approach to filmmaking.
HF: What inspired the concept for STAY?
BW: The attraction/repulsion potential of beauty itself seemed like a good foundation for a low-budget horror movie. I also worked as a fashion photographer for several years in NYC. The memories of moving there and starting a new career definitely influenced STAY.
HF: Do you prefer horror films made in the “found footage” style?
BW: Not necessarily. It was important to tell a good story with the resources at hand. I ended up using a mobile phone to shoot the film in a vlogger/video diary style. There is something unnatural about the obsession with beauty in this phone obsessed era. I wanted to use narcissism and ambition gone awry as a gateway to the supernatural.
HF: What are your favorite kinds of cinematic scares?
BW: I like the unstoppable nature of a paranormal antagonist. Whether it be a curse, a demonic possession, or a poltergeist, I just enjoy that flavor of fear. I’ve been watching a lot of Korean horror lately, and the storylines are strangely primitive and personal. I also love a good gothic horror… there’s no resisting a creaky old mansion!
HF: What can audiences expect from STAY?
BW: By tweaking the “found footage” style, we’ve presented a video diary gone shockingly wrong. The ability to “go live” with the characters during the movie escalates the tension and provides for some serious bumps and jumps along the way. Ultimately, it’s a slippery and terrifying slope for the characters in this film.
HF: I’ve heard you describe this film as “nano-budget.” How low-tech was the approach?
BW: Very. When I decided to make a movie with my partner Ashley Park, we wrote a story that utilized the things we owned and the places we had access to. Instead of waiting for more money or better timing, we took a no-excuses approach to filmmaking. We figured that if we waited for the perfect time to make a movie, we would never make one.
HF: How would you describe the process of making a nano-budget film?
BW: We expected to do most of the work ourselves… we didn’t realize that meant doing ALL of the work ourselves. I didn’t plan to direct, but I did. Ashley didn’t plan on playing the lead, but she did. We didn’t think we would edit the picture, but we learned. It was a siege mentality. We found ways to fix most of our problems on the fly.
HF: Did this experience change your perception of filmmaking?
BW: It made me appreciate progress over perfection. It opened my eyes to a form of filmmaking that inspired us to launch Ghost Machine Pictures, a nano-budget film studio focusing on projects with a supernatural component. Most of all, it made me want to keep learning about film-craft so that we can deliver big scares on small budgets.
HF: Where can horror fans watch STAY?
BW: STAY will debut on Amazon Prime on March 26, 2021, with a DVD release to follow later in the year.