There’s been a resurgence of NYC grime lately – with gutter auteurs the Safdie Bros. bringing the city’s dirt-caked streets into the art house, and Bill Lustig throwbacks like The Transfiguration sneaking high rise horror into film festivals across the world. Now comes Andres Torres’ Bag Boy Lover Boy, a truly skeevy slice of sleaze that harkens back to Abel Ferrara’s Driller Killer, as a mad artiste (Jon Wachter) is driven to murder by his own need to create. Feeling like a product of a pre-gentrification New York, Torres brings an authentic feel to the way he shoots the hot dog vendor-cum-smut splatter painter’s environments, and sketches the pervs (like Theodore Bouloukos’ softcore photographer) who attempt to exploit his foreign naiveite. It’s a truly gnarly work Severin Films is helping to get out into the world, and Torres’ picture owns a unique outsider’s perspective.
We had the chance to speak to the first-time feature filmmaker about his nasty creation, and what transpired was a rather honest conversation about making movies with no money, and how the best horror films are uncontainable beasts…
BMD: Where did the seed for Bag Boy Lover Boy come from? It doesn’t feel like the type of horror film we really make anymore.
Andres Torres: I was studying filmmaking in New York, and shortly thereafter had started a production equipment rental company, and I met some really bizarre characters and uncomfortable individuals. There are some terrible people who want to make films and art, and I tried to take traits from a bunch of them and create these terrible characters – just a poisonous web of people who use each other and affect each other in horrible ways. After working on crews for certain directors and seeing how some approach making their art, I saw that many were treated very poorly and created these very aggressive situations. So, we tried to put that feeling into [Bag Boy, Lover Boy], and it came out quite well, I think.
You know me and Jon [Wachter, who plays the titular art student maniac, Albert] made a couple short films together and became really good friends, and he had a bunch of the same experiences trying to make these smaller films, and I couldn’t be happier with how his performance came out.
BMD: Talk to me about your approach to portraying New York City – the movie’s got a real dirty, pre-gentrification NYC feel to it.
AT: New York is very strange – full of very snobbish people who turn their nose up at a lot of things. For example, when I would tell people that I wanted to make a horror film, they’d say “oh, that’s trash.” They’d put it down without even hearing what I wanted to do. It was all very cutthroat, and that’s what shaped a lot of [Bag Boy, Lover Boy]. You have this city that used to be kind of scummy, and now people walk around in it thinking they’re better than everyone else.
I’ll tell you – we were not trying to make a film that resembled something from another age. We keep getting compared to Abel Ferrara, and that’s very nice, but we did not intentionally do that. It was merely because we were in contact with people and situations that are awful. Just the New York mentality that makes you want to be Top Dog and walk all over everybody, and that you can do anything. We had so many people trying to tell us what art is while we were making this movie that we just got angrier, I think, and that came out in [Bag Boy Lover Boy]. There was a scene that was actually cut out of the film where we go to an art gallery, and all of Albert’s pictures get laughed at. We had fun poking holes in this sort of pretentious NYC art crowd.
BMD: And how did you originally come to New York itself?
AT: I was in Mexico City, and really just got fed up with the whole nine-to-five grind, and just wanted to get out of that environment and lived five or six years in New York, which became one of the best experiences of my life. On top of meeting all of these horrible people, I met a whole lot of others who are incredibly creative, and who I’m lucky to call friends now.
I studied Communications while in NYC and then switched over to Film, and now that’s all I want to do. That’s where I’m at.
BMD: You mention folks comparing your movie to Abel Ferrara, but while I was watching it, I was even thinking of Bill Lustig and Larry Cohen’s work – that whole New York grime generation. If you weren’t trying to make something in that mold, who did you look to when making this movie?
AT: I like stuff like Basket Case and old Troma Films. Stuff like Luther the Geek – most people can’t even sit through it, but I just enjoy it. [laughs] I’ve always loved horror as a genre, because they’re weird, and entertaining, and they sometimes teach you things, but these characters are obviously not people you want to emulate. When we went to a bunch of festivals, [Bag Boy, Lover Boy] got called “misogynist” and a whole bunch of other really awful things. But it’s a horror film, I’m not making a fucking period drama here.
We weren’t trying to put out a film that teaches you how to treat women. Quite the contrary, actually. These people are awful. Who the hell wants to be like them? Too many people watch genre movies anymore and think that, because you make a movie about terrible people, that you somehow condone that. I don’t get that at all.
BMD: What about the film’s road to distribution? Severin is putting it out now, but how was the journey of getting it into festivals and then onto this deluxe Blu-ray? I gotta admit, the movie’s harsh, and I have to imagine it elicited some interesting reactions.
AT: To be honest, nobody ever expected this movie to ever be shown. The crew, the talent, even myself – we made it for ourselves. We never really treated it like this serious project. We thought it would end up on a hard drive somewhere. But my producer never stopped pushing the film, and then we got into Fantasia, and had people who took it seriously, it was a really amazing experience. Then there was a domino effect, as it just started getting into a bunch of other festivals. For me, it was a little piece of the American Dream. I’m just this guy from Mexico, and here I am putting a movie out and talking to you, and we never thought this was going to happen.
You know, everybody thinks that you need all these contacts, or that you have to know people in the industry in order to get a movie made and put it out. But we found out that if you just make the movie and keep pushing it, eventually you’re going to find the audience if you just stick to your vision, however gross it may be. [laughs]
BMD: How is working with Severin?
AT: They’re just fantastic. It’s been a really, really great experience. Again, we never thought this movie was going to come out, so to see this crazy Blu-ray with artwork, and the features on it – I’m blown away. They really committed to us, and I couldn’t be happier.
BMD: Have you watched the movie with an audience yet?
AT: I saw it with an audience at Fantasia, plus Severin has put it out in a few theaters, so I watched it with people. And it was great to watch people laugh with it, but then the audience gets really quiet, too. Because I’ll admit, this movie is really fucked up. But that’s the way we wanted it.
BMD: It gets legitimately uncomfortable. When I watched it, I was super glad my girlfriend wasn’t home, as she would not have been pleased.
AT: I tried to show the trailer to my mom and she just walked away. [laughs] But that’s the movie we made. It’s gonna gross people out.
Bag Boy, Lover Boy is out now on Blu-ray from Severin Films, and available on iTunes.