Director and writer Trent Haaga premiered his “punk-rock romantic comedy” film, 68 Kill, at SXSW Conferences and Festivals 2017. As expected, the film was brilliantly insane and didn’t let up until the credits rolled. 68 Kill follows Chip (Matthew Gray Gubler) and his psychotic girlfriend Liza (AnnaLynne McCord) as they set out to steal $68,000.
As you can read in my review, I enjoyed every minute of the film. This week during SXSW, I was honored and excited to talk with Trent Haaga, as well as lead actresses AnnaLynne McCord, Alisha Boe and Sheila Vand.
HorrorGeekLife: AnnaLynne, you have a scene early on where you used a huge knife as a weapon. How did you prepare and get into that mindset?
AnnaLynne McCord: Well, there were a few extras that I was allowed to kill first to just kind of practice. (laughs) Honestly, it’s funny you say that, that whole day was so crazy because we had some difficulty with the blood situation. As in all of the actresses’ time got eaten up by blood things that didn’t work out. So, I wanted to kill that guy, and killed the actor instead. I like to say I am very nice, right up until I’m not. I’ve seen a lot I’ve of darkness in the world, but I’ve also seen a lot of good and a lot of light. I like to be the light when I’m in person, and I like to play into the dark in my roles. That makes me happy, it’s kind of a release for me. I don’t have to dig too deep. It’s all there, not that I’m homicidal or anything. Guys, calm down.
I’ve been blessed in this lifetime to be an actress, and be able to get it out in a safe way. I think that what I try to do with a character like Liza, and the characters that I tend to play, is to bring the soul aspect, bring the human aspect. Sometimes it’s the fact that we get so desensitized as humans that we shut down our humanity. And that’s what Liza had to do to cope. She turned off her humanity. It was too painful, it hurt too much. So, middle fingers to the sky, screw the world. You wanna use me, just watch, just wait. Just wait honey, wait til you’re sitting there jerking off to my sex tape that you didn’t tell me you filmed, and I’m going to come slit your throat. She means well in the most messed up and traumatized world.
HorrorGeekLife: Just so our readers know, that is a reference to the film! (laughs) I loved the practical effects, so at least it turned out great. The brutality definitely surprised me.
AnnaLynne: I think Liza was subjecting herself to rape. I have been sexually assaulted in my life, and I have done that. I’ve subjected myself to sexual abuse. Because I was trying to get my power back in my pain and all that. I think in way for her, that was her “I’m going to stick something in you, honey.” You know what I mean? I like to go deep with the psychology, because I’m obsessed with neuroscience. I’m a like a little nerd when it comes to the way the brain works. And I don’t have any judgement with it, most people will probably freak out about this interview. But I don’t care, because it’s real.
We all have whatever it is that makes us tick and there’s a whole bunch of stuff that none of us would be comfortable saying to each other. I obviously have no problem saying this stuff. But there are some things, like I get really shy when I like a boy. You would never know I am crazy on this one side and I will literally get up and get on a flight and leave the city because I like someone. There’s things about us all that we have, and I think that’s Liza. She shows to the world something that most of the world doesn’t want to show about themselves, the journey from disgustingness and the inside part where she really loves Chip was hard for her to touch.
HorrorGeekLife: You mention that Liza means well, and that does come through with her relationship with Chip. It’s like the love is there, but she doesn’t know how to show it. Do you agree?
AnnaLynne: I think that within Chip’s journey, was Liza’s journey of discovering Chip and her love for him. Because I think that she saw him, and any man, as a way out. That was the way she presented herself. Clearly she has been hurt by some men in her life. Probably daddy for one, and going on from there. And that’s what we do in life, hurting people. But there was that point when she thought she lost it. And also the part where he triggered something fun in her, which I think is an ode to a lot of relationship fails in the world. We lose the thrill.
I know for me, I’m not necessarily going to chase you down in my car, pull a gun on you, and tell you to pull over. But some stuff like that could make it fun. I’m into BDSM personally, and a lot of people are freaked out by that. I fight sex trafficking and I’m into BDSM. They have a problem with this. I don’t because I believe in choice. I believe in real freedom. Actual freedom from slavery and that means I have the freedom to choose something that may not be cool for you or the next person, but it works for me. And it’s in a safe setting between adults. And it’s consenting, and it’s crazy fun. I have a dungeon room in my house. Fifty Shades of Grey has absolutely nothing on me. In fact my friends are like “It’s a little too PG for you, you probably don’t want to watch it.” (laughs) But my point is, we’re so quick to judge without realizing how judgmental we are of ourselves. I don’t judge Liza, I get her. I’m not going to go kill people, but I get her.
HorrorGeekLife: I mentioned in my review that you fully owned your character, and this is why! It made for a great role. Alisha, your character got very close to Chip, but in an actual sweet way. Do you think the relationship would have continued?
Alisha Boe: I feel like the characters balanced each other out really well. I think there was some true understanding underneath it all. And that’s why we bonded so quickly in, what, literally 3 hours in film time. I would like to see Violet and Chip making a better life for themselves, since that is what they were striving for. You’re kind of rooting for them because, finally, he has someone who isn’t abusing him. Who actually is taking care of him. Telling him to stand up for himself because that’s what he needs. It’s like he’s been treated like shit, and I’m like “Dude, stand up for yourself, grow some balls, you got this.” It would have been very interesting to see their life and how a stronger Chip would have grown, and how a strong Violet would have grown.
AnnaLynne: I think it’s a really powerful scene when Violet is at the gas station and she’s looking at him and she’s like, “Go in there, you need to kill him!” You were great, Alisha, because you were so believable in what you were portraying. That was important in that moment in the film because you think here he goes again, he’s found another one, but she’s testing him. And I think that speaks to both of their characters. Because with trauma victims, you sometimes have to speak to them the way they recognize, but then smiled and said, “No, you did it right” and she rewarded him, gave him a safe response.
Alisha: Violet was a sex slave living in that house, so she sees Chip as this very kind person and no ones respected her. It was very refreshing for her to be able to be with this guy that she can kind of call the shots and see a better life for herself.
AnnaLynne: But she’s also not portrayed as a victim.
HorrorGeekLife: You have a scene with Chip where you sing “Pop Muzik” together in the car. It is a fantastic moment, probably one of the best in the film, but I can imagine it took forever to perfect. How long did it take?
Alisha: Thank you! That’s such a good question. I still have on my Photo Booth on my MacBook me in my hotel room, just singing it over and over. I’m like, “Pop pop, pop music!” It was fun at first and then I was like “Fuck!” But it took me like two days it was my favorite part of the film. It’s the best song.
Trent Haaga: Yeah, she’s like, “What’s this song? I’ve never heard of it.” I was like, “That’s because you’re a young lady. When I was a kid I knew all the words!”
Alisha: I also love that scene because you see Chip kind of getting worried because she looks at the money the same way Liza looks at money. He’s like, “Fuck, I found another crazy girl who’s just obsessed about money.” And then we connect on that really fun song.
AnnaLynne: And it such a cute moment because we all do that. And we never sound or look that good.
HorrorGeekLife: Okay, now I love the scene even more! Sheila, your character, Monica, was pretty dark, and initiated one of the most violent scenes in the film. What was it like to play such a sadistic role?
Sheila Vand: It was a lot of fun. My very first day, there was this scene where AnnaLynne and I go head to head. I remember just leaving that day and feeling like so empowered and kind of “Fuck yeah!” And right away we were like, “We need more scenes together!”
AnnaLynne: we were really stoked to work together. We didn’t have that much. I was like, you know when you see your likeness in someone else and you’re like “I see you girl, my psycho sees your psycho.”
Sheila: It felt like we actually got to play because we were seeing the crazy in each other. Because it’s a genre movie, you have this opportunity to be more theatrical. I’ve personally gotten sick of playing parts where I’m whispering and not moving my face. So, it’s was just really fun to play a part where I’m really acting.
I went home every day from this set and I was like, “Today I acted, I actually put on a performance.” I could slip into that character and she’s a lot of fun because, like AnnaLynne was saying, you get to exercise these parts of you as an actor that you don’t always get to explore in your real life. And especially as a woman, where you are taught to always be a certain way. It’s nice to explode those preconceptions.
I really didn’t want to be pretty in this movie, actually. I told Trent when he was like, “We’re going to cast these local people to be in your crew.” I was like, “Well I don’t want to look like the one actress in the group. I want to look like I’m one of them.” I wanted to get down and dirty and I hope I did.
HorrorGeekLife: I love that you ended up being the new female villain, picking up where Liza left off. The women really did dominate 68 Kill.
Sheila: Again, it’s like Trent is so amazing at writing these female roles. You think it’s going to be one way because these women are also not afraid of their sexuality. But then he kind of flips the script on it and it’s not where you think it’s going when you see the boobs or the butt or the sex. It’s like, she has the power.
AnnaLynne: Basically, you are about to get screwed if you are a guy. And not in the way you thought or wanted.
HorrorGeekLife: Trent, I have to agree that the script was great and went in an unexpected direction. With your work, you always have a lot of big ideas, but they were well executed so it doesn’t come off as cheesy or trashy. Also, I’m a huge fan of Deadgirl, I have to say. With that, what do you have coming next?
Trent: You know, that’s the thing that I’ve been attracted to obviously. I’ve been working for years, making a lot more standard low budget movies to pay the rent, but now I’ve finally gotten to the point where I can kind of do things that are more particular to my obsessions. And I think Deadgirl was sort of the thing that kicked that off and, if you look at some of my subsequent work in the years, Cheap Thrills, 68 Kill, even my directorial debut Chop and some of the other movies that I’ve written. I’m trying to get more comfortable in my skin, which can be uncomfortable for other people to watch me getting comfortable in my skin. And I understand that.
I take this seriously, and I have stories that I want to tell and I want to entertain primarily, but without subtext then you’re just kind of making a flashy picture show. You have to do this by yourself, you have to sit down in a room by yourself where nobody is giving you money and you don’t have actors that want to participate, and you don’t have any of this stuff. You have to find the ember inside of your charred husk of your soul. And blow on it and stoke it up into a fire, because you need that fire to push something like this all the way through. It’s not easy to go, “Here’s the project I want to make.” People do not line up around the block to give you money for this kind of a thing. So, if it doesn’t speak to me somewhere deep inside then it’s difficult to push it this far.
When you poke at the edges or the boundaries of what is polite thought in society, then people are maybe going to misinterpret it. I mean, Deadgirl. I like the fact that you love Deadgirl. I think of lot of people, and women in particular, understand what I was trying to say about toxic masculinity before that was even a hot button topic. But there were a lot of people that weren’t able to glean that. And they were like “You’re just a misogynist pig piece of shit.” But there’s discourse and it’s making you think. The worst thing in the world you want to do is make a movie and people just go “Hmmm, that was okay. Did I see that? I can’t remember.”
AnnaLynne: Well, you keep attracting strong women as actresses. And I would have an adverse reaction to you being a misogynist pig and something unfortunate might happen to you. I know I didn’t make his process easy. I was a dick to him in the beginning I was like, “The script is great, what are you going to do to it?”
Trent: Aww man, that first audition was like a job interview for me, quite frankly.
Sheila: I am really protective of this topic and, more so than I am as a woman, Trent is as a man. We need more men like that. Not women’s rights, human rights. Men and women speaking on behalf of equality, everything being across the board. Thank you, Trent. Thanks for having me.
Trent: No, thank you guys. You know, it’s interesting. I write movies for the Lifetime Network. Quite a lot, I’ve written six films for this company and my first meeting with the very first development executive. She sat me down and she said, “So, tell me about writing women.” And I said, “Well, women are people right? I’m just writing about people. Some of them are good, some of them are bad. Some of them are good and bad! Women are human beings. Is that the answer you’re looking for? Because that’s the one I’m giving you.” And now I’ve done six movies for them. I’ve been with my wife for 25 years, she’s an incredibly strong woman and I take a lot of strength and inspiration from her, and women are people. And some of them are dicks, I’m not going to lie.
Sheila: You chose really strong, fierce women. You cast in a way where it walks the line in the way you want to.
AnnaLynne: But we wouldn’t come on board if we thought our beliefs would be threatened. So that answers the question of someone trying to call it misogynistic. That’s a person that has a problem with themself, not strong women who are okay with the material and choices.
Sheila: That’s what I loved about this script, is how strong the women were. That’s why I loved it so much. That was the first thing I said to him, because we don’t see women in these types of roles. So it was really interesting.
Trent: I agree, just look at these three ladies here. They agreed to be in this movie, they understand it. And they’re smart and capable, so I get it. I expect some push back or some gut reaction. None of them make it through the movie alive. I understand that.