What was assumedly an easy score turns into a fight for survival for a trio of robbers who crash an elegant dinner gathering in Monster Party, the latest film from Chris von Hoffmann (Drifter). With Monster Party now in theaters and on VOD and Digital HD from RLJE Films, we caught up with Hoffmann for our latest Q&A feature to discuss working with a talented cast that includes Lance Reddick and Robin Tunney, instilling his horror movie with societal critiques, and the influence of popular party horror movies such as April Fool's Day and Society.
Hi Chris, it’s great to catch up again! Congratulations on your latest film, Monster Party. How did you come up with the idea for this movie?
Chris von Hoffmann: Thank you, great to catch up with you, too! Well, this story was actually probably the most personal story I’ve put on screen thus far. I grew up slightly in between the two worlds that are portrayed in the story. My father’s side of the family was somewhat upper class and my mother’s side was much more blue-collar middle class. I always thought it’d be interesting to smash those two worlds together under horrifically bizarre circumstances and see how it plays for an audience. Juggling multiple statements and critiques about the society and generation we currently live in was also very attractive to me. Wanting to shake everything up in a blender and machine gun it onto screen. I think especially when you’re making genre films, you NEED to have something underneath it, cause if it’s just a one-dimensional gore fest, it might be fun to watch drunk with your friends, but good luck having anyone care about it 5–10 years from then.
What was your shooting schedule for Monster Party, and where did filming take place?
Chris von Hoffmann: The shooting schedule was incredibly intense. We shot the entire film in 17 days with a 45–50 person crew and a large ensemble of principle actors. A little over two weeks took place in and around the mansion in Malibu, and the rest was shot all over North Hollywood and a little in Gardena.
You worked with a talented cast on this film, including Robin Tunney (whom many horror fans know as Sarah Bailey in The Craft) and Lance Reddick. What was it like collaborating with them to bring this story to life?
Chris von Hoffmann: I can honestly say Robin, Lance, and everyone else in the cast were an absolute dream to work with—no egos whatsoever. Everyone just showed up to set on time, ready to work. They all fully believed in the story we were telling and were there to support it as well as me, considering it was my first professional movie. I had been a huge fan of Robin and Lance’s for the longest time, so getting to work with them was wonderful. It’s funny, Robin actually ended up coming on around 5–6 days before cameras started to roll, whereas Lance was literally the first actor to sign on.
How important was it for you to take a unique approach to the home invasion subgenre and deliver an experience that viewers might not be expecting?
Chris von Hoffmann: Extremely important. Audiences truly feel like they’ve seen everything when it comes to the horror/thriller genre, so I make it my due diligence to change that. We’re also living in such an oversaturated televisual generation and short attention spans, so I like to approach my stories with a televisual structure to keep their attention. As if they’re watching three episodes of TV where the story just keeps escalating on top of itself like a video game. It might be somewhat of a slow burn in the first half, but I feel the second half over-delivers with its payoff. However, movies, even horror movies, are more than just blood and guts. If it’s just violence from beginning to end, you’d be surprised how boring that ends up being. You have to organically build up to it, which always makes for a more satisfying experience because it’s earned.
Do you have any favorite home invasion movies or books that inspired you while making Monster Party?
Chris von Hoffmann: I actually wasn’t really inspired by many home invasion stories considering I never really looked at this film as a home invasion story. The films I was looking back on were very much the "party" horror films like Waxwork, April Fool’s Day, Curtains, Society, and even a little bit of The Goonies. I describe the film to people that it’s like The Goonies chock-full of Bret Easton Ellis thematics. So as far as books, I was definitely referring to Bret Easton Ellis. Less Than Zero, American Psycho, and The Rules of Attraction were the main ones.
Looking back at your time on set, is there a favorite or funny moment that stands out?
Chris von Hoffmann: This might seem like a cop out answer, but all of it was my favorite moment. I was just pinching myself every day feeling unbelievably blessed that I’ve been given this incredible opportunity getting my script made into a movie that I’m also directing, with a terrifically supportive producing team as well as a miraculous ensemble cast whom I had been admiring for years prior to even meeting them.
What was the most challenging (or rewarding) scene to shoot?
Chris von Hoffmann: The most challenging sequence to shoot was easily the chaotic foyer scene that propels us into the third act. We literally had three hours to shoot that scene and it was only our third day of filming, as well as being scheduled for the end of the day. It also had nearly ALL of the principle actors in the scene, plus prosthetics, stunts, fighting, weaponry, etc. It was an extremely important scene to get right, so the pressure was on hugely. However, it ended up being one of my favorite scenes in the movie, and I’m honestly very proud of it.
What do you hope viewers take away from Monster Party?
Chris von Hoffmann: I truly hope they feel like they got their money’s worth, experienced something they’ve never experienced before, as well as hopefully find the subtext within the story. I hope they’re able to look past just the blood and gore, because in my opinion, there’s an enormous amount being said in the film about the world we live in. The genre aspects are simply just the umbrella.
With Monster Party now in theaters and VOD and Digital HD from RLJE Films, what other projects do you have coming up that you can talk about, and where can our readers keep up with your work online?
Chris von Hoffmann: I recently wrapped writing/directing a segment of an anthology feature which is executive produced by Radio Silence (V/H/S, Southbound) revolving around phobias. Oddly enough, THAT is much more of a traditional home invasion story. We’re currently in post on that and it should hit the festival circuit quarter 1 of next year, I’m sure. I’m also deep in development of three new features. One has a producer and financing already attached, the second is almost done with revisions, and the third has a very thorough treatment. As far as my work, you can check out my short films on my Vimeo channel, and also follow me on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.