Chad Ferrin makes horror films, but beyond the occasional body count or otherworldly creature, there’s little similarity between his c.v. and the majority of studio and VOD releases that align themselves with that genre. Ferrin’s film output – which includes “The Ghouls” (2003), “Someone’s Knocking At the Door” (2009), and the wonderfully titled, completely insane “Easter Bunny, Kill! Kill” (2006) – offer uncompromising violence and unsettling situations framed within a perspective on story and dialogue that hews closer to the grit and intimacy of Samuel Fuller or John Cassevetes.
His latest feature, “Parasites,” draws on a harrowing film from another iconoclastic director – the actor Cornel Wilde and his 1966 film “The Naked Prey,” about a white guide who is forced to flee across the African savannah with armed tribesmen in pursuit. Ferrin relocates the premise to the wild sprawl of downtown Los Angeles, and in reversing the race of prey and pursuers, draws uncomfortable parallels to recent clashes between the public and police. LA Beat spoke to Chad Ferrin via phone on the eve of the U.S. premiere of “Parasites” at the 16th Annual Shriekfest Horror Film Festival on October 7.
LA Beat: So start at the beginning with “Parasites.”
Chad Ferrin: I’m a huge fan of Cornel Wilde’s “The Naked Prey.” That movie has stuck in my mind since I was a kid. There was something so powerful about the story, which is based on a real incident – John Colter’s flight from the Blackfeet Indians in 1808. So about ten years ago, I was driving to a party in downtown L.A., and there was all this roadwork going on, so I had to detour here and and I got lost, ending up underneath this bridge, which was black as pitch except for a small fire from an empty drum at the end of it. As I drove further and further, my headlights hit this horde of homeless people, and they all looked up at me like deer caught in the headlights.
My mind raced with thoughts of my car stalling there or if they might be pissed off at my intrusion of their territory – what could happen? That was how a modernized version of “The Naked Prey” clicked for me. So I sat down and wrote the script and then spent a couple of years trying to raise the money, which is, of course, an endless pain in the ass. Then early last year, word hit that the city was going to demolish the 6th street bridge in August. Being our main location and probably the most filmed bridge in cinematic history, I couldn’t wait for some angel investor to throw us 500 grand to make this thing, I had to do it now for whatever budget I could scrape together. Luckily, I got an amazing cast and crew that not only worked for a nickel but threw that nickel back into the production.
It was the smoothest, most fun experience imaginable, and that’s hard to believe, considering it was all night shoots on sketchy streets, with no security, bathrooms or trailers. But everyone was so excited about the project, they just rolled up their sleeves and got to work.
LA Beat: Where did you shoot the film?
Chad Ferrin: Aside from the 6th Street Bridge/viaduct, we shot all around downtown including skid row, fashion district and Boyle Heights. The audience will see a side of Los Angeles rarely seen.
There’s a stillness down there in the twilight hours that’s just amazing – you’re in the heart of downtown, but it’s so still, except for occasional helicopter or train going by. So it was kind of an amazing thing to have this naked black guy running down the street, chased by homeless people, and not have one concerned citizen or police officer stop and say a damn thing.
LA Beat: That brings me to a question that might be raised by certain members of the audience or online community. Your film concerns a black man being pursued by a multi-racial group of homeless men, and there’s a chance that some may perceive it as racist. What are your thoughts?
Chad Ferrin: Unfortunately, some might see it that way. Society has become so sensitive and politically correct that I’m sure the film will offend someone.
I never set out to make something that could be perceived as racist. The script wasn’t written for a black lead, it was colorblind casting, and (actor) Sean Samuels was the best actor for the role of Marshal. At no point did I say, “We need to find a black actor…” But that’s the thing – someone will say it’s racist, someone will say it’s a great statement against racism, and someone will think it’s a fun little action flick. Opinions are like assholes – everyone has one.
LA Beat: What can audiences at Shriekfest expect from tomorrow night’s screening?
Chad Ferrin: It’s exciting to have a film shot in L.A. embraced by an L.A. festival like Shriekfest, and it’s especially exciting to have it screened at Raleigh Studios in the heart of Hollywood. I haven’t seen it with an audience yet, so it should be interesting. All the things I love – “The Naked Prey,” “Sorcerer,” The Warriors,” John Carpenter’s films – are all injected into it so I hope the people that dig those films will pack the theatre and enjoy it as much as we all did making it.
LA Beat: And what’s next for “Parasites?” Where can viewers catch it aside from the festival circuit?
Chad Ferrin: When it played FantAsia Film Festival in Montreal, it got great buzz and a lot of distributors took a look at it, and was quickly snapped up for worldwide distribution by 108 Media. I believe they’re going to release it at the end of November or December.
All photos courtesy of Chad Ferrin.