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by Thomas M. Sipos, managing editor [October 26, 2009]





[]  Red Velvet is a slasher film, but not quite a horror film. Yes, there's gore. At one point, a body is sliced in half. But there's nothing enigmatic or superhuman about Red Velvet's slasher. He's psychotic, but he's also vulnerable, literate, and identifiable. He has more in common with the suspense psychos of Psycho and Frenzy than with the superhuman psychos of Halloween and its progeny.

Red Velvet has a curious "indie film/Sundance Channel" sensibility.

Most of the film is a man and woman (the psycho and his love interest/intended victim) conversing, flirting, sniping, or romantically sparring at a laundromat, then at a Thai restaurant, and then in a car. Before Sunrise and Before Sunset come to mind, albeit in a twisted, psycho sort of way.

Red Velvet's nascent lovebirds invent fantasies about a "mythical" slasher who slaughters the girl's friends -- who are camping in the woods without her. Throughout their tête-à-tête, we crosscut to her friends' gory fates.

Alas, because it's only a tale they're inventing, I felt distanced from the killings, disengaged from the victims, and not even nervous, much less terrified. I was more interested in actors Henry Thomas and Kelli Garner's My Dinner with Andre type lunch conversation than in the gore scenes.

Yes, there is a "surprise twist" at the end, but most slasher fans will see it coming.

Co-writer, co-producer, co-production designer Joe Moe explains Red Velvet's origins. "When producer Sean Fernald handed me the script, I saw that it was a straight-ahead slasher film. When I rewrote Anthony Burn's script, my intention was to honor the premise of the morbid storyteller conspiring with his potential victim. Sean and I were aiming for a sort of antidote to the mean-spirited torture porn that was so prevalent at the time."

Michael Nicolo cast Red Velvet. "Director Bruce Dickson and I agreed that just about every professional actor we would see was gonna be polished and beautiful," says Moe. "That's a given in this business. But we wanted to pick our cast on acting ability above all else. Carol Ann Susi who plays the lunatic mother is a good friend of mine. I wrote that part for her. She started her career when Darren McGavin discovered her and put her in his original Night Stalker TV series. My best pal and mentor -- the late great Forrest J. Ackerman -- makes his final cameo in Red Velvet."





Red Velvet was shot in and around Los Angeles, on 35mm film. "This was at the insistence of producer Sean Fernald, who relished the look of film, and director Bruce Dickson, an expert cinematographer along with our DP (Bruce's Dad) Jim Dickson. Bruce is not anti-digital. His assessment was that digital media had not quite risen to the level of film at the time we shot our movie. Sean was in agreement, his major complaint being that we couldn't get enough true black digitally. We did some pick up shots digitally, but they're just brief inserts."

Red Velvet has been praised for its bright colors. Says Moe, "My design partner, John Goss, and I had long talks about the overall look of the film. When we began discussing a primary color palate, we realized we were leaning toward elements reminiscent of Dario Argento. We embraced that idea. Especially as a departure to the blown out grittiness of recent horror movies.

"Goss and I knew that to distinguish the reality scenes from the fantasy scenes we could be very extreme in our contrast.  Other influences were the art photographers Pierre et Gilles. We wanted our beautiful young cast to be visually glamorized like old fashioned movie stars. When director Bruce came in, the first word out of his mouth was, Suspiria. The producer's faces lit up. So while we didn't set out to pay homage to Argento, we naturally arrived there, and are humbly honored to be mentioned in the same breath.



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