One morning in April, I went to take my dog outside before I had to leave for work. I stepped onto our porch on Iowa Avenue and saw a young skinny man standing still on the sidewalk across the street. A woman with a video camera stood at a distance from him. Moments later, the man began running and, with the appearance of fright on his face, looked behind his left shoulder. A car came (at a speed I imagined was intended to seem fast but was relatively safe in a 25-mph zone) and stopped abruptly by the entrance to an apartment complex’s parking lot. Two other young men got out—dressed in what might have already been in their closets, plus a couple of purchased accessories—and split in different directions following him. The chase was on. And then it stopped. And then it was on again. And then it stopped.
It’s spring in Iowa City, and film projects are in bloom. That was my explanation for the what I was witnessing, anyway. In this city of creatives, it’s the kind of thing that sparks if two ambitious folk just happen to work in the same video store, have the same love of B-horror movies, and have the same hair-brained scheme and enough friends to help them pull it off.
That’s the hyper-abbreviated history behind Dropping Evil, the first installment in the duo’s Resist Evil trilogy. Adam Protextor and Louis Doerge met each other while working at That’s Rentertainment, they told Little Village via email. The pair started working together in the creative capacity in 2007, pulled together some Hollywood pros and some downtown Iowa City recognizables, and by Spring 2009, they had themselves their first full-length feature.
Dropping Evil portrays three creature-babies turned high school seniors who are unaware of their power within. There’s a fourth with another sort of inner power, which comes out when he morphs from a devout Christian to a Christian terrorist. Was it simply because he was slipped a little bit of LSD? The filmmakers shared their thoughts about the production with us at Little Village…but to find out the answer to that previous question, you’ll have to check out the free screening of the film on May 16 at the Englert Theatre.
Little Village: Question for Louis, what was the inspiration for the script? How long have you both been in love with the horror genre and what was your introduction to it?
Louis: Dropping Evil was an idea I had been toying with since my freshman year of college. The idea was to play with different perspectives and pay homage to anti-drug propaganda films. Stereotypically bad kids would give a stereotypically good kid drugs. The drugs would cause the stereotypically good kid to hallucinate and see the bad kids as monsters. So we have a movie where one point of view is a hero killing evil creatures, and the other is a group of teenagers running from their crazy friend. While writing the script I became very invested in these stereotypical characters and wanted to flesh them out and expand their universe. Essentially I wanted to take them out of the horror movie and put them in a different movie. A more serious movie. That movie became three movies.
Adam: I’ve been in love with horror since I first saw the Gmork the wolf scene in The Neverending Story. Some of my fondest memories from grade-school are going to the video store with my mom, perusing the horror selection to find a movie that was rated PG-13 or less. Back then nobody knew what “unrated” meant, so my friends and I got to see a lot of cool stuff under the parental radar. By the time I got to junior high I could handle it. One day I stayed home sick from school in 10th grade and my mom rented me every single entry in the Freddy canon. Soon after came Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson, and I was done.
LV: Many of your actors look like they have a lot of acting work under their belt. How did you land them?
Louis: I’m a huge fan of both Armin Shimerman and Edwin Neal. I think they are both incredible actors with incredible range. Despite that range, though, they have had an unfortunate history of getting pigeon-holed into roles. Due to Armin having played both Quark on Star Trek, and Principal Snyder on Buffy, people seem to want to cast him as a jerk. And because of Edwin’s notorious role as the hitch-hiker in Texas Chainsaw Massacre… many still insist on casting him as a psycho pervert. I think offering Armin the part of our charming lead villain, and Edwin the part of the noble United States President, helped us in getting them more interested in our little project.
Adam: Louis approached me one day and said “I think we might be able to get Felissa Rose, the main character in Sleepaway Camp, in our movies.” This was crazy to me–I simply hadn’t thought that it was possible to get name actors in the cast. Sure enough, Felissa was interested, and after that we were able to get Tiffany interested too. With both of those experienced horror actresses in the cast, we had a bit more credibility, and Louis next emailed Fred Williamson’s agent, who I talked to on the phone, and Fred signed on. All of this was really a time of “oh my god we can actually do this?” We felt like huge outsiders being given amazing chances to work with all these people.
LV: What was your favorite place to shoot in Iowa City? Did you have pictures in your head years in advance of what Iowa City settings would be great to film it?
Louis: My mom’s house. She’s a nice lady.
Adam: I was once told by a teacher in a 16mm class to drive to Cedar Rapids to shoot my project, so that the movie didn’t look like Iowa City, as everyone would recognize it. I took that to heart. So I made a very conscious effort to try and avoid locations that looked too familiar to an Iowa City crowd. Hickory Hill park is always a goldmine for outdoor scenes, and we used that a lot. But I guess the overall goal was to make the Resist Evil world look like its own distinct place, something familiar but not recognizable.
LV: Finally, tell me about what you loved most and least about putting all this together. Was it having a makeup artist create the effect of a gun bursting from your hand, or attending to the minute and essential details of casting and editing? Any joy in raising the funds to produce it or seeing it from start to finish and reliving all the hard work? (I can never look at an issue after pouring over the editing and production of it.)
Louis: A few days ago, Adam and I watched a work print of the movie at our friend’s place so that they could see it. It had been weeks since I had actually sat down and attempted to watch Dropping Evil in its entirety. When it was finished, I was relieved that I actually enjoyed myself. Dropping Evil is the first movie that I’ve worked on that I actually like.
Adam: Raising the funds was probably the most stressful aspect of the movie, in that you’re going to people and asking them to give you money for something you can’t guarantee a return on. I’d say that with the exception of the craziness of scheduling conflicts, etc., my favorite aspect to making these movies was really the entire production process. When you’re working with these really talented and giving actors, and with a make-up man like Corbin Booth who can literally turn a Coke bottle into a severed arm, you kind of just sit back and let everyone do their thing. From a directorial standpoint, if everyone’s on their game, you just watch it all come together. Even then though, we have Ian McKinney providing us a killer soundtrack and Steven Degenarro completely transforming the movie with his sound design. Editing’s been very fun too, but way more stressful in the sense that Louis and I sat down and said, “Okay, it’s all on us now. Hope we don’t screw everyone!” That said, I can’t believe that some of our actors stuck with us so long, especially after seeing that short. We got really lucky to meet such cool people who were willing to share trust and really prove the auteur theory dead wrong.