One of the freshest faces on the scene is John Michael Elfers. But just because he’s fresh, do not underestimate him. His film “Finale” flew under the radar, but is an artistic tour-de-force inspired by his brother’s death and influenced by the films of Dario Argento (and other Italian greats). John was kind enough to field a few questions from me on “Finale” and his work in film… please do us both the favor of checking it out.
GS: For those who haven’t seen “Finale” yet, what is it and why should they give an unknown film and director a chance?
JME: FINALE is a supernatural thriller 4 years in the making. It is genuine old-school horror – if you enjoyed the films in the 70’s that were unselfconscious, hand-crafted and filled with love for the genre – you will enjoy FINALE.
GS: The film is loosely based on events involving your brother. Did any family or friends have negative reactions to you bringing up such a sensitive subject?
JME: It was a challenge for my family doing a film that was inspired by my brother’s death. It forced us to face up to the realities of what happened and how it impacted us. We talked about subjects we’d been silent on for too long, clarifying what we each believe about the circumstances of his death. In the end, it was a positive experience that brought us together – though it did make the film hard to watch for some close friends and extended family, that knew the history.
GS: Who was responsible for Suthi Picotte’s unique wardrobe?
JME: Ha! I wanted a punk-rock school girl, and we didn’t have a costume designer, so it was a collaboration between the actress and myself – we went shopping together a few times, some clothes she supplied.
GS: Your film has been compared to Dario Argento’s work, and I know you’re an Argento fan. What influence, if any, did he have on the creative process?
JME: More than anything, after I discovered Argento, and Bava, and Fulci – I started pouring through old movies, searching for an undiscovered gem, some movie with carnality, and blood, and demons, and writhing cults… and I eventually realized I would never find it. I had to make it.
GS: I heard a rumor you like “Deep Red” more than “Suspiria”. Can you defend this position?
JME: Yikes! Beware what you say on camera! Okay, before I get lynched by hard-core Argento fans, I’ll say this. In Deep Red, there was still a focus on character development, which more or less got abandoned in later works by Argento. The sensitive musician, paired with the strong willed, determined female reporter, coupled with his sympathetic gay best friend who cared for him dearly… I felt much more invested in their story because I cared about the characters. Of course, Suspiria still wins out for dream-like horror-fantasy.
GS: You have told me in a previous conversation, “You are correct that the chant is Dehenia Ni’enen – it is the ceremonial incantation for summoning the Collector. There is a mythology behind the cult and the origins of the demon himself, only hints of which are present in the film.” What does the chant mean, if anything?
JME: An ancient language for “The Greatest Evil” – which is the corruption of Love. Love being the most pure and joyful of human experiences, the perversion of which feeds the Collector. His exchange with the cult is that he will kill for them, but he also gets to kill and collect the souls of all their lovers, dragging them through an eternal purgatory.
GS: And if we are only getting “hints”, does this leave the film open for a sequel? If yes, the name “Finale” may have been a bad choice.
JME: Ha! If anything, I would have loved the opportunity to make a film of the story that ends where Finale begins – of Sean and his friends trying to take down this cult. While the outline for this film exists, I am pursuing other projects right now. Unless a financier loved Finale and wanted to make it a franchise, it will remain locked away in my head.
GS: What other films, not necessarily ones you were involved with, would you like people to be aware of that may have escaped notice?
JME: Wonderful question! Getting out on the film circuit gives me license to watch a ton of film that may or may not ever get distribution. I saw AM1200 at A Night of Horror International Film festival – it is a long short (39 minutes) – but completely enthralling and haunting. I also loved Ian Hunter’s short film Allure – he’s mainly a practical SFX wizard on movies like the Dark Knight, it was his first directing venture and truly awesome. This year at Screamfest I really enjoyed “The Black Death” and an Australian film called “The Clinic” though there were a lot more – Screamfest always has an awesome lineup. Like the short film “Dracula’s Daughters vs. The Space Brains.”
GS: Do you have any dirt on David Hasselhoff?
JME: Not yet…
GS: What is next for John Michael Elfers?
JME: I am in pre-production on “Kiss Before the Slaughter” – a gritty suspense thriller set on the border to Mexico. While we seek financing on that, I’m taking a month off from reality to delve into my next, next script – something so luscious and exciting, I can’t say anything more about it! So, I’m about to step on an airplane – out of the country to an undisclosed location. Thanks for taking the time to interview me, I’ll catch you on the flip side!