RLJE Films and Shudder’s horror film Happy is now available in VOD, digital and DVD. Directed by Natasha Kermani, the film plays Brea Grant, who also wrote the script, as a self-help writer tortured by a murderer.
“Life May (Grant), a popular self-help book writer, takes a sudden turn when she is targeted by a mysterious man with murderous intent, ”the official synopsis reads. “He follows her every night without exception, and every day the people around her hardly seem to notice. Without someone to turn to, May is pushed to her limits and has to take matters into her own hands in order to survive and regain control of her life. “
ComingSoon’s Sabina Graves spoke to director Natasha Kermani about the themes of the film, the use of sound and much more.
Sabina Graves: I thought it was really great that this film is a collaboration between you and Brea. Can you tell me something about how this collaboration started?
Natasha Kermani: So Brea and I already knew each other socially from the scene. But we had never worked together before. So I got their script sent to me and I was really excited to read it because I had a sense of their ethos and their sense of humor and all that stuff. So I read the script and, as you can imagine, was really intrigued by the things she put together. It was this really interesting mix of some genres and it was very funny and very dark. So I called her after I finished the script and said, “Hey, I really think there’s something really interesting here,” and we just connected about the broader subjects, the bigger metaphors, their intentions, and then what I thought I could somehow bring to the project.
Even after that first conversation, I think because we were kind of friendly and our interactions were casual, I think this was really a great way to have a working relationship because it just removes any kind of ego or weird vibes. It was just very honest and down to earth. I think we’re both pretty straightforward people. So I think it was really important to establish that basic kind of honesty, trust and mutual respect. Then we can just take care of the business of making the film. It was really great. She’s incredibly cooperative and I think we’re fans of each other. So I think that really helps when you’re throwing ideas around and at some point she was really happy to take off her writer’s hat and put on her actor’s hat and just jump into the role and just focus on that aspect. That’s how things went
It’s incredible that she was able to fill in the role that she created. I want to know more about how you wanted to use May’s emotions and her psychological state to create that feeling of fear and discomfort. How did you take that out of the written word to just visually create that feeling of fear?
It is written as very uptight, but I really liked that. Brea wrote this type of imperfect person who felt very grounded and real at the center of this horror movie, especially since we usually see this type of virgin perfect last girl. It just felt very grown and very real to me. In the original script I read, the character of May actually had a child, she had a young son, and through our conversations we decided to get rid of that character. Just let her fight for herself and not feel like we need this kid somehow or make her mom make her more compassionate or some rubbish. So there was a lot of talk about how to just bring out the grounded and realistic aspects of her, especially since the world is so crazy and we were going to a bizarre country. It was like we were just making sure we really ground them. We really knew where she was on her journey, even down, we really liked certain things like, okay, now she hasn’t slept in 30 hours and her hair is starting to wear it, she wore the same socks for some Days. So it was really important to just deal with these really realistic aspects of her whereabouts, and then everything else around her could explode into weirdness and madness.
I just loved the details, even in the sound design, which kind of amplified the horror you created. How did you decide to make certain uses like the score and the sounds it contains to enhance that?
I’ve always been very focused on scoring. It’s always a really, really important element. So we worked with an amazing composer named Jeremy Zuckerman. We were actually lucky enough to get him on board very early. So he and I had conversations before we even started filming or even finished casting. We’ve already talked about it, okay, that’s May’s theme. Here’s the instrumentation we like for her, as opposed to the man on the other side. So building those two sounds and how they interact and talk about how the music maybe helps to emphasize the humor right? Like that satirical satire side of it. So not just to hit the horror beat, but actually to be a bit cheeky and admit that this is really a satire in the skin of a slasher film and uses these horror tropes, but subverts them a bit. All of these conversations took place very early in the process. I think that especially with an indie where you have little time and money, you bring people with you who are creatively excited and have something interesting to play with, eager to get involved and really make sure we do something cool.
I especially like the kind of rhythmic sounds that came into play in many places. It’s so disturbing, but fantastic.
Yes. We wanted the villain’s sound to be very percussive and not feel organic at all while May’s character be a bit more associated with feminine sounds and breath work and just with things that feel very much like the human body. A kind of interplay between these two opposing dynamics. A lot of the films are opposing things, aren’t they? So May’s color is blue and the man’s color is red. So it’s a lot of these left and right brain dynamics that play together throughout the song.
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I just love these little details. This is going into spoiler territory, but there are plenty of social media podcasts, self-help books on mental health benefits, and positive content about things we endure on a daily basis. What is important on Facebook, for example, to give her this space to express her sensitivity for her like battles, and how does this species come into play later?
Brea was really intrigued by the idea of having one of those types of self-help people whose job it is to know life. She was really interested in putting this person in such a crazy situation. I was just interested in exploring this type of person who would do that for a career. I think there was so much to play for me too, because basically it’s someone whose job it is to find answers, who is in an aggregate like impossible, no solution Twilight zone Scenario. From the filmmaker’s perspective, this is a great place where you can keep throwing obstacles in your way and she can try to solve it the way she was told in the past, right?
So is a person who always had a solution, always had a way to overcome a problem through muscle strength. Now all of a sudden she can’t solve that problem, you know? I think for us too, it’s a little statement about what Brea Business Lady calls feminism, that kind of overemphasis on independence and the departure from the idea of community, friendliness and connectedness. Like an overemphasis, like the crunch, go it alone. You are self-employed, you can do whatever you need to do. You don’t need anyone anymore. The tension in this approach and philosophy is exactly what it doesn’t need in this scenario. So part of the tragedy is that she can’t connect with the other women in the story.
She’s kind of alone, trapped by it, but even so she survived. In this way, our society is tearing us apart by teaching this false gospel of self-reliance. So these are the deeper things, but we didn’t mean to hit it over the head, but that’s why she does this. We thought it was fun too. It’s also just very funny that she’s a self-help book author.