I first saw YOU’RE KILLING ME at aGLIFF (the Austin Gay and Lesbian International Film Festival) and the late night comedy proved to be one of the highlights of the whole festival for me. The film manages to draw in audiences from many directions and keep them all entertained and satisfied. It’s witty and built around a really interesting lead character, who adds a new wrinkle to the audience’s perceptions of serial killers. Quite a few horror-fans showed up for the screening, people who would not normally go to a screening at aGLIFF, and that’s the best sort of film, a film the broadens audiences and brings us all together, even if it is in the name of murder.
Directed by Jim Hansen, creator of the viral video smash series “The Chloe Videos,” and co-written and starring Jeffrey Self (Logo’s “Jeffery & Cole Casserole” Liz Lemon’s cousin Randy on “30 Rock”) as George, the film is a fantastically funny mash-up of “Dexter” and “Gilmore Girls.” With an ensemble cast including Matthew McKelligon (Interior. Leather. Bar., Eastsiders, and My Sweet Suicide), Drew Droege (The Chloe Videos), and Mindy Cohn (“The Secret Life of the American Teenager”), YOU’RE KILLING ME delivers biting social satire, camp, wit, and blood. I had a chance to talk with Hansen and Self just days before the film’s release.
Hansen: For Jeffrey and I it was getting together and merging both of the things that we love, my love of horror movies and his love of romantic comedies, and including all these actors in the movie who are all our really close friends. We all do all these projects together – Jeffrey and Bryan [Safi] have a web series, Me and Drew [Droege] have a web series… so we all intermix and mingle and do each other’s projects, it was fun to mix that element into the screenplay where we’re playing with that world and our reality and our complicitness in being so overwhelmed and enveloped in social media.
Self: And also just all people who are very on, they’re more interested in being the biggest laugh in the room than actually telling the truth.
Bears: Yes, they feel like they always have to perform for each other.
Self: Which is not far from reality.
Hansen: How true.
Self: Yeah we’re all monsters. We wrote this movie for these people, no one is playing a direct version of themselves but people are playing exaggerated versions of facets of their personality. I’m playing such a narcissist who is obsessed with going viral with anything really and that’s closer to myself than anything I’ve ever played before. We’re mixing the reality of our lives in with the movie.
Bears: Was that part of the film from the inception?
Self: We go on vacation together, this group of friends every year for New Years, and we were driving back from Palm Springs where we spent the week with everybody, Bryan and Drew and Sam [Pancake] and all these people who are actually in the movie, we were talking about ‘can you imagine if those people had to actually deal with a serial killer? Imagine those personalities dealing with something that real.’
Bears: And you had no qualms about exploiting yourself and your own narcissim?
Self: I have my name tattooed on my arm for gods sake. The fact that my last name is Self is some sort wink from the gods.
Hansen: You came out branded.
Hansen: We said ‘hey do you want to be in this movie, because we are writing a part for you?’ and if somebody said — we had maybe like one person who was going to do it and then didn’t and we rewrote the part completely.
Bears: One of the things I enjoyed the most about the film is the witty social commentary, like the opening has one of the best jokes I remember opening a film. [An answering machine message suggests the caller not leave a message but instead ‘text me like a normal person.’
Self: if someone leaves me a voice mail I am assuming that someone has died. I either owe someone money or someone has died
Hansen: And see I’m the person that does leave people voicemails. Part of this movie plays between social media being evil and social media being king, a bit of that is the difference between Jeffery and myself.
Bears: Are these some of the things you’re group of friends says to each other, or conversations or voices?
Self: We knew the kind of things that make each other laugh, and we definitely integrated that into the script, to try to create those casual conversations that you have with your friends. That kind of inside speak that you can only have with your best friends
Hansen: And the thing was it was kind of a shortcut for us to do that to be able to have the actors say the dialogue and for it to just feel really authentic without even having to rehearse it. Everybody was just who they were supposed to be from the first time we read through it.
Bears: So I assume that meant you could work a lot quicker on set?
Hansen: I think everybody knew what their character would do in any situation so it was a pretty easy shoot.
Bears: Did anyone give you any push back because they realized there character was very similar to themselves and yet there was something that THEY the real person would not say or do?
Hansen: No, because they’re aware they’re playing a character. It helped when we changed the names of the characters from the real names. At first we had their real names and I think that was a little weird, and then we changed all their names to fake names and it became easier.
Self: It also allows them to flush out the characters to who they actually were.
Hansen: I just wanted to get into the mind of the guy — he’s literally thinking about spaghetti and food and mixing up all these images in his mind that are like playful and child stuff mixed with blood and mixed with food. Inside his mind all these things are sort of muddled together. To peek inside his mind and see that it is a child like world that’s covered in blood.
Bears: And the killing is handled very differently than a typical slasher film, there is music and lighting, and the film almost enters a sort of magic realism there.
Hansen: A lot of times when you’re watching a horror movie, they happened at nighttime, and it’s dark and they are running around. I wanted it to be that it gets brighter and clearer and prettier and more romantic because this is the way Joe is perceiving these intimate moments. This is his sexuality and his passions all rolled up into one. To be with Joe during these moments is like a beautiful thing to him even though we’re seeing awful things happening.
Bears: The film is also, for both a horror film and an LGBT film, surprisingly non-sexual. In fact, Joe’s prudeness becomes a major plot point.
Hansen: In all the 80’s movies, they have sex and then they die. In this one, for me the sex is the murder. That’s kind of the conceit, when he sticks his finger into Andy’s stomach, that’s his sort of penetration, that’s his way of expressing himself. He’s like a childlike person so the idea of actually having sex is disturbing to him. But he’s coming into his own, and coming out of the closet so to speak – as a serial killer – so he finally gets to express himself. And he becomes more of a real person the more he murders. And unfortunately there’s a body count associated with that.
Bears: George is helping him find himself.
Hansen: I don’t know if he would be doing all the stuff without George. George helps him find himself and guides him in becoming that perfect serial killer – actually he’s a pretty bad serial killer, he leaves a mess everywhere.
Bears: So is this the first gay horror comedy slasher film?
Self: I’m sure there must be another one. There’s so many gay movies out there and horror movies.
Hansen: I can’t think of any though and I watch them all.
Self: Maybe not, maybe we’ve invented something new. I am feeling that is the only one that also features Mindy Cohn. I think we’ve got that.
Hansen: Or any member of facts of hey life
YOU’RE KILLING ME is available now on DVD and VOD from Wolfe Video, now celebrating 30 years as the largest exclusive distributor of LGBT films.