Looking for a scary movie to watch this Halloween? Dread’s latest title, The Jester, is available on VOD now. The official The Jester description, “After the recent death of their father, two estranged sisters find themselves being stalked by a malevolent being known as The Jester. Revealing himself to be more than just a man in a mask, the evil entity begins to further torment the inhabitants of this small town on Halloween night. The path to defeating this unholy monster lies with the two sisters who realize that the only way to survive is to figure out how to right the wrongs of their dark past.”
Colin Krawchuk wrote and directed The Jester from a story by him and Michael Sheffield. Eduardo Sánchez, co-creator of the original horror blockbuster, The Blair Witch Project, Patrick Ewald and Mary Beth McAndrews served as the films executive producers. The Jester is based on a popular short film trilogy by Krawchuk that was first released in 2016 and has garnered over 30 million YouTube views. The Jester stars Lelia Symington (Brut Force), Matt Servitto (The Sopranos), Ken Arnold (Swagger), Sam Lukowski (Satanic Hispanics) and Delaney White (Pooling Evidence). Flickering Myth spoke with Krawchuk about the making of The Jester below…
What made you first want to become a filmmaker?
When I was a kid, I was fascinated with behind-the-scenes footage. Learning about the artifice behind movies never diminished the effect they had on me, it only made them more captivating. To see the talent the various artists, craftspeople, and technicians brought to each project was inspiring. That’s when I learned that, when making a movie, “You can make the inside of a building look like outside??” Movies are so cool.
Was there a specific film when growing up that had a large impact on you?
I’d be lying if I said it was anything other than Jurassic Park. I wore that VHS tape out, as well at The Making of Jurassic Park VHS, hosted by freaking James Earl Jones. That’s where I learned about artists like Stan Winston, Dean Cundey, Phil Tippett, Dennis Muren, and Michael Lantieri. They became my superstars, the people I would get excited about when seeing their names in the credits. It might be a common answer, but it had a huge influence on me.
How did you come up with the story of The Jester?
Originally, we had tried coming up with a story that addressed the “mechanics” of The Jester; how he worked, what he was, where he came from, etc. Then, at a certain point, we realized we don’t actually want to know those answers. We wanted to instead focus on the characters in the story, which were 2D horror-movie archetypes at that time. So we worked to flesh them out instead, and give the audience a reason to care about them. Leaving The Jester a mystery, I feel, is more compelling.
The Jester is based on a series of short films by the same name that you wrote and directed. What was the catalyst for you making a feature film out of the story?
The funny thing is that we never thought The Jester would work as a feature! The question was asked often, “What would a Jester feature be like?” And our answer was always the same: It would never work. This character was made for small, isolated scenes in a short film format, and films like Michael Dougherty’s Trick or Treat already exist. Then we got the offer to make a Jester feature, and we finally accepted the challenge. We wanted to capture the essence of the shorts, but at much more depth, and make something that felt different from typical slasher-movie fare.
Were there any obstacles you had to overcome during the making of The Jester?
Was there anything else? We had our fair share of obstacles, absolutely! Making a feature film is always an incredibly challenging task, and it’s honestly a miracle anything gets made, ever. But especially at this budget level in this time frame. There’s never enough time and never enough money, and from the moment you start, it feels like you’re behind. But just like with any film, it gets made through the passion and hard work from everyone involved. I was so lucky that I had a crew that felt like they dedicated themselves to the material, and it was a humbling experience to see them work so hard to bring that material to life. This movie would not exist without them.
Do you have a favorite scene in the film?
Why? I do! I think my favorite scene overall is the bar scene, where Emma and JC meet and have a conversation. It’s the only time we get to see these two characters interact, and that scene shifts through several different tones before it ends up somewhere hopefully very uncomfortable. I also loved shooting that scene, because I got to watch Lelia Symington and Delaney White run through that entire scene take after take. I was excited to finally get these two great actors together in a scene, and watching them run through it was a validating experience. When writing these longer dialogue scenes, I start to get nervous about if the scene is going to stay engaging and how well it’s going to flow. But watching them perform it in real time, I just got to be an audience member. The scene worked for me because of them, and it became one of my favorites. My favorite Jester scene, though, would have to be Emma talking on the phone to her mom while the Jester approaches her up the steps. I think it’s a creepy and especially cruel scene (my favorite!). A lot of the brutality in this movie comes from vicious dialogue, and that really ramps up here. The combination of Emma having to hear her mother’s voice say those words while seeing the Jester gesticulate to them is so nasty. It’s also a new “trick” we’ve never seen the Jester do before, which will hopefully be something fresh for viewers of the short films to appreciate. I think it’s some of Michael Sheffield’s best work as the character.
What other types of films would you like to work on in the future?
Horror has been something I’ve gravitated towards because it can be the most malleable. It can be mixed with almost any genre, at any budget level. I really like being able to mix grounded, dramatic material with genre elements. If I can make someone scared while their heart breaks, I want to do that!
On the flip side, I’ve always wanted to do an absurdist, slapstick comedy, because they’re not made anymore and they’re great. I’m a big fan of Mel Brooks and Zucker Brothers films, and getting to play in those kinds of heightened realities would be a dream. -What advice would you give other directors first starting off in the business? Think really hard about everything. Picture the film in your head as much as possible. Make sure what you’re working on is something you’re incredibly passionate about, because that passion needs to sustain your engrossment in the material for a very long process. Don’t be afraid to compromise, but don’t lose sight of what you want. Maintain the big picture. Stay excited. Movies are cool.
Many thanks to Colin Krawchuk for taking the time for this interview.
The Jester is out now.