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Dennis Perkins

Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Auburn with his lovely wife, the writer Emily L. Stephens, and their cat, Cooper. When not watching all the movies ever made or digging up stories about the Maine film scene, he can be found writing for the AV Club and elsewhere. The rest of the time, he's worrying about the Red Sox.

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Posted: January 15, 2018

Back in Maine, filmmaker brings famous faces to ‘Lady Psycho Killer’

Written by: Dennis Perkins

Nathan Oliver on the set of “Lady Psycho Killer.”
Photos courtesy of Nathan Oliver

Sometimes, making it as a Maine filmmaker means leaving Maine – and coming back.

That’s part of Nathan Oliver’s journey, anyway. The Caribou native, who has contributed to the 2015 iteration of Maine’s own annual horror anthology, Damnationland, chased his filmmaking dreams out of the state – and the country – spending 10 years working in Montreal. But Maine is hard to break away from for good, and now Oliver, living in South Portland, is preparing for the national DVD release of his latest horror film, “Lady Psycho Killer.”

Daniel Baldwin is one of the recognizable faces in the film.

Filmed in 2015 in Atlanta, Montreal and Ontario, the film is about a young woman (played by Kate Daly) who embarks on the titular psycho killing spree against the various sleazy and otherwise disappointing men in her life and boasts an impressive roster of “name” actors as the anti-heroine’s roster of deserving victims. The bloody dark comedy will be in stores – including Maine’s own Bull Moose Music locations – next month, so I talked to Oliver about his experiences and advice as a hard-working Maine filmmaker whose hard work has started to pay off.

Watch the trailer:

So where did “Lady Psycho Killer” come from?

In a way, it’s very much a tribute to ’90s teen drama, like “Dawson’s Creek,” just with more blood and more sort of “off” scenarios.” (Co-writer) Albert Melamed and I found out we were both individually bingeing these things and not telling each other. (Laughs.) Also, the heroine was inspired by a friend of mine from college who’s the sort of short, frail-looking woman who, if you have a disagreement, you’re going to lose. She also used to threaten to chop you up and bury you out in the woods. (Laughs.) I’m really influenced by the Italian horror filmmakers like Dario Argento and (Lucio) Fulci and found some of that style and mentality creeping in. Basically, it looks like something that could air on the WB, and no one would notice the difference – until the blood and guts started.

For a low-budget indie film, having well-known faces, like Malcolm McDowell, Daniel Baldwin, Michael Madsen and even (adult film star) Ron Jeremy, is impressive. How did you secure their involvement?

My casting guy knew we’d need a star to be able to sell the film, and he was instrumental. Michael Madsen (who also co-starred in Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight” the same year) was with us from the beginning. We got the script to him and he said yeah. While we were prepping, we kept sending word to other guys the casting agent knew. He thought it would be funny to just have them die, so he asked them. Malcolm McDowell loved the idea of playing another villain, but he’s not the main villain. He’s just a lech. (Laughs.) He happened to be at ComiCon in Montreal when we were filming and could just kind of swing over. He loves working with first-timers, and when I apologized that part of his day would just be playing a corpse, he said he’d be happy to be able to take a nap! Daniel Baldwin seemed happy that I told him how great he was in John Carpenter’s “Vampires.” And Ron Jeremy just thought it was great he got to get killed – he’s compiling a reel of movies where he dies.

As a Maine filmmaker “breaking out,” so to speak, what has your experience taught you about making movies here?

Leaving is important, but if you want to come back, it’s OK, too. The indie scene means you can do this anywhere in the world, so it’s important to see things outside of your own bubble. Portland is a bubble. People who don’t leave think that’s how it’s done, and it’s not. Get on a film set, which isn’t very hard to do, and then return to set up shop. I wanted very much to shoot “Lady Psycho Killer” in Maine, but the fact that Maine doesn’t provide tax incentives meant financiers just laughed at me. That’s something that’s not really understood outside of the industry – raising money is like pulling teeth. Every penny in incentives we got (from Atlanta and Canada) went into our budget. It matters.

Other than that, my advice to young filmmakers is that the road map for where you go is built on failure. Expect to fail, often and every time. That’s not about setting expectations low, it’s more about not being crushed, because if you get crushed in any part of the process, that’s it. Everything from PR to marketing to pushing to get noticed after your festival run – each one of those steps is a mountain. Every step of the way, we were crushed, but it’s the yeses that matter.

Look for Nathan Oliver’s darkly comic horror film “Lady Psycho Killer” under its DVD release title “Psycho Killer” in February at your local DVD retailers, including all Bull Moose Music locations. For more info on the film, including news on other ways to see it, check out the film’s distributor, Portland, Oregon’s Parade Deck Films at paradedeckfilms.com.

 

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