RIFF (Reykjavik International Film Festival) is over this year but the career of upcoming Icelandic director Erlingur Óttar Thoroddsen is just taking off. His new film Child Eater got a special mention at the festival where it was hailed as “a first class, refreshing horror film that got the audience jumping and screaming in their seats”. The GayIceland team met Erlingur to find out more about the gruesome movie and why he thinks gays and lesbians are so fascinated by horror.
“It’s a short horror film about Helen, a babysitter who wants to have a quiet and easy night, but little Lucas (who she’s babysitting) keeps saying someone is hiding in his closet. Soon, weird things start to happen.” That’s how Erlingur describes Child Eater, which is actually one of his two thesis short films at Columbia University in New York. He’s has attended the school for the last three years.
According to Erlingur Child Eater is inspired by early classic slasher movies such as Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm street. So it falls into the slasher category, with some surreal elements thrown into the mix. “The idea was born out of the fact that I’m a huge horror movie fan and always have been, but I had never done a straight up horror film, just some horror comedy and dark dramas. So I wanted to see if I could pull it off and from that the ideas started coming and eventually Child Eater became a script.”
Erlingur says that even though people often look down on horror it’s actually one of the few genres that is consistently working on several thematic and metaphorical levels, even when the filmmakers aren’t aware of it themselves. “And apart from that, it’s usually the most fun, exhilarating and visually interesting genre, so I can’t see what’s not to like,” he explains adding that in general gay film fans and filmmakers often seem to gravitate towards horror. “Because there’s something about the genre’s love of repressed sexuality, “monsters in the closet” and spunky final girls that speaks to us!”
One of the film’s leads, Cameron Ocasio, 12 years old, has been praised for his performance. The director admits being a little stressed about having a child on set in the beginning due to the subject of the film. “Because of some of the makeup effects and also because the film gets quite violent. So once we had found our actor I talked to his mother and very nervously and carefully explained to her what he was going to be exposed to. She was like: “Oh that’s no big deal. He loves that kind of stuff. Last film he did he played a corpse!” Apparently, that film was “Sinister”, where bad things happen to him too, so they knew all about horror and makeup. Cameron really loved all that stuff.”
Working with the actors, child and grown ups alike, was a dream in Erlingur’s mind. “We did some extensive auditioning to find the right cast, and the actors that we chose were all totally into the project and instinctively knew the tone and feel of it. I didn’t really find any difference between working with grown ups and kids – they were all very professional and knew their craft well. It’s always great when you find a good cast – they bring so much life to the film.”
Asked about his passion for directing films Erlingur says: “I have all these stories and ideas floating around in my head and writing and directing is the only way to get them out. If I didn’t direct, I’d just go crazy, I think! ”
Erlingur admits he’s working on a feature-length script based on the short. “Both me and my producer, Perri Nemiroff, are super excited about turning this into a feature film. So I’m doing the finishing touches on the script and we’ll take it from there. It would be great, though, to see a long Child Eater on the big screen in the near future!”
Child Eater is currently getting into festivals around the world. Apart from that the young director has his handful at the moment. “I’m currently in pre-production for my next short film, which is also a horror movie, about two sisters dealing with an evil supernatural entity. We shoot that in November, so that is exciting. I’m also writing and last but not least planning my graduation,” he says with a big smile. “So there’s plenty to do!”