Coming out on Digital and VOD today from Dark Sky Films is Applesauce, the new movie from Onur Tukel (Summer of Blood, House of Pancakes). For our latest Q&A feature, we caught up with the writer/director/star to discuss grounding his noir nightmare in reality, working with Dylan Baker, and much more.

Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us, Onur. How and when did you come up with the story for Applesauce?

Onur Tukel: In 2014, I decided to make a few genre films. They're more profitable and it's easier to find an audience. Plus, I happen to love trash, so it wasn't hard to convince myself. So I made a vampire film called Summer of Blood. A company bought it and said they'd give me money for another genre movie. So I got to work on Applesauce in the summer of 2014. The catalyst of the movie was a true story that happened to a friend of mine. He cut someone's finger off at a party.

I spent the summer reading noir. I had a script by the fall. We were shooting and wrapped by the end of the year and then we premiered at Tribeca 2015. Sometimes you can make something quickly and everything falls into place. It forces you to draw from the unconscious without questioning what the hell any of it means. Down in that murky swamp of fear and insecurity, there's diluted gold. When you dredge it up and compress it, it becomes valuable.

Where did filming take place and what did that environment add aesthetically and atmospherically to the movie?

Onur Tukel: We shot around the East Village and parts of Brooklyn. The reason we chose the East Village is because the DP lives there and it was easier bringing all the equipment from his apartment to the locations.

I'm lousy at establishing environment where I'm shooting. I'm usually confined to indoor spaces, apartments, restaurants, etc. It was so cold last winter that I didn't want to shoot outside. Applesauce, aesthetically, is pretty shallow. It's mostly close-ups and medium shots, in an attempt to mask that there's no real production design. But the movie still has atmosphere. There's still a feeling of portent and uneasiness. The color palette of New York does that. Everything is gray and kind of lifeless.

This is a movie about paranoia and the imagined sense that the world is falling apart. Shooting in New York amplifies that theme. The tragedy of 9/11 haunts the city. It lingers inside of everyone who remembers watching it. As terrorism continues, that trauma resurfaces. The recent tragedy in Paris has us on edge again and we have to learn to live with that.

Some politicians just make things worse when they say, "Be afraid! 9/11 is going to happen again!" Well, this is what the terrorists want: fear! And Applesauce is about that fear and how it results in really bad decisions.

Applesauce features a great cast, including the wonderful Dylan Baker. How did you get Baker involved as radio host Stevie Bricks, and what was it like working with Baker?

Onur Tukel: Our casting agent, Stephanie Holbrook, thought he would be great and she was right. She's right about a lot of things. I love her. And I love Baker. We sent him the script. He read it. He liked it. We did all that stuff you do involving contracts and lawyers, etc. etc. Then we shot all of his scenes in a small studio in Brooklyn and Baker knocked it out of the park. It's very easy being a director when you're surrounded by great actors. This entire cast was a breeze to work with.

In Applesauce, you meld several genres together. Was it difficult to maintain that balance between comedy, tragedy and horror?

Onur Tukel: Most everything I've ever written has melded those three genres. House of Pancakes features a character obsessed with horror films. By the end of the movie, he tries to murder someone. Drawing Blood is about a vampire who paints nude models in blood.

Ding-a-ling-LESS is a dark sex comedy, and there's a strange out-of-place scene in the middle that harkens back to Hitchcock, or tries to at least. The Pigs is a movie about a community of men who hire a mercenary to murder their wives. Summer of Blood speaks for itself.

Most of my work is dark and fucked up as I try to blend together genres. I have a problem with tone consistency and am criticized for being all over the place. So, sticking to one genre and making something that isn't so schizophrenic is always difficult for me. This is the story of life, though. One minute, you're laughing. The next, you're crying. You're optimistic. You're pessimistic. You read a book that makes you feel like the world is filled with possibility. Then you learn hundreds of people have been killed in a terrorist attack. A plane goes down. A celebrity has a baby. Your friend has a baby. Someone's house burns down. What is life but a big tragicomedy horror show? We manufactured atomic bombs. Thousands of atomic bombs exist on this earth. Think about that. We have every right to be terrified and paranoid. We also have every right to shrug and say, "Fuck everything."

Many horror comedy fans know you from last year’s Summer of Blood. How similar is your character in Applesauce, Ron, to Erik Sparrow from S.O.B.? Can fans expect a similar type of tone between the two films?

Onur Tukel: I don't think the two movies are similar. Erik Sparrow from S.O.B. is aware of his selfishness. He's aware that he doesn't have it in him to change. He can't get married. He can't imagine growing up. He's resigned to his own immaturity.

By having four lead characters in Applesauce—all of them married—I already upped the stakes. This is no longer a story about selfishness, it's about the challenges of commitment. To be married is to love someone else more than yourself. They're grown-ups, to some extent. And while there is a great deal of absurdity in Applesauce, it's never far-fetched or supernatural, so I get to stay grounded in reality. It's not as imaginative as Summer of Blood, but it's much more mature. Still, as a writer, I'm always desperate for the laugh, so the dialogue is filled with many attempts at humor.

What was the most challenging scene to shoot in Applesauce?

Onur Tukel: I can't reveal it... it'll give away the biggest laugh of the movie. But it involved a pair of chopsticks and a very, very greasy body part. It was very difficult getting that chunk of meat locked between those wooden sticks. On the DVD and Blu-ray, there are outtakes of this. It was maddening.

Was there a lot of improv on the set during shooting, or did you stick mostly to what was on the page?

Onur Tukel: When I'm directing actors and something feels off, like the acting doesn't feel real, it's usually due to bad writing. So while directing and shooting a scene, I tend to cut lots of dialogue or replace it with something else. I always let actors change up the dialogue any way they want, as long as it sounds natural. I rewrite the script as we shoot. I learn more about the characters and the movie as production evolves, so the movie morphs into something quite different than it was on the page. It's more of an exciting way to shoot. It feels alive and fresh—not stiff, like it is on the page.

With Applesauce now out, what projects do you have on deck that you can tease for our readers, and where can they find you on social media?

Onur Tukel: I'm easy to find. My website hasn't been updated in a very, very long time. But that's the best way to email me. I'm on Facebook. I have a Twitter account. I'm not very active. I usually only post when I have something to promote. Isn't that kind of assholish?

I start shooting a new movie in late November. It's about women and fistfights. Another dark comedy. Like every movie, I'm excited about it. But with excitement comes a whole slew of neurosis and expectations. I tell myself, "Well, it's just a movie. If it ends up being a disaster, who cares?" But I'm sure the investors aren't looking at it that way.

  • Derek Anderson
    About the Author - Derek Anderson

    Raised on a steady diet of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books and Are You Afraid of the Dark?, Derek has been fascinated with fear since he first saw ForeverWare being used on an episode of Eerie, Indiana.

    When he’s not writing about horror as the Senior News Reporter for Daily Dead, Derek can be found daydreaming about the Santa Carla Boardwalk from The Lost Boys or reading Stephen King and Brian Keene novels.