If you are looking for a movie to watch, which combines the best of the golden days of exploitation with modern sensibilities, may I suggest Ravage? (review) First time director, Teddy Grennan takes a common horror theme and elevates it to the sublime, with the assistance of a first-class cast and superior photography.
Eric Karell: Hi Teddy. I sincerely thank you for your willingness to answer a few questions. I loved Ravage and congratulate you on the number awards and accolades the film, cast and crew won at various festivals.
Teddy Grennan: Hi Eric and thank you for taking the time to watch our film.
Eric: Would you agree that the casting was near perfect for the type of film you created? Each character created their own little world which comfortably revolved around the others.
Teddy: So kind of you to ask. I think we were wildly fortunate to have landed our cast. Annabelle Dexter-Jones was a Godsend. We were about to cast someone else and my wife intervened and demanded that Annabelle play Harper. That pretty much settled it.
Bruce Dern and I have been friends for years and he has been involved and a big help where I work – the Sun Valley Film Festival. His schedule also worked, he thought the material was fun and it was it a ball having him on set. Other than the work, we spent some time together and if you don’t know anything about Dern, one thing that’s worth looking up are his stories. He’s been everywhere. He’s met everyone. And doesn’t give a shit. Not one.
Robert Longstreet is very good friends with some of mine and I was lucky to be introduced a few years ago. I showed him the story, his calendar worked and he was dying to work with Bruce. It was another stroke of luck.
Eric: I loved how the natural world became more than background scenery. Would care to comment on whether this was a conscious decision to use the beauty of the forest and the river as almost an additional character in the film?
Teddy: When we pitched the story around, we were always asked about tone and it was always: it’s God’s green earth smashed up against man’s ill will.
My DP, Christopher Walters understood that better than me and you’re kind to notice and comment on the results.
Eric: Even though the ending was downbeat for the final girl, would you see the overall film as an affirmation of a woman to defend herself under traumatic circumstances?
Teddy: Some of the reviews of the film have jumped into this, and some have been scathing about using her situation/journey as an opportunity to indulge in violence/etc. There’s probably truth in the criticism but what we were really trying to do, was have some fun and the story’s motto was “Girl, get the gun!”
So many movies where women die due to stupid mistakes – like not getting the gun/knife/sword/axe/chainsaw/whatever – that’s not real. How many women do you know who are going to scream, run, then fall down and scream some more as they’re slowly/quickly eaten/sliced/diced/blendered? Instead of picking up the gun and shooting the nasty motherfucker right in front of her? I don’t know one. Not one and I thought it would be fun to pick a fight with this trope.
Eric: How much value did Bruce Dern’s presence add to the marketing of the film and the film in general? I know it got my attention when I saw his name listed.
Teddy: Having Bruce attached gave a lot of momentum when we started and it certainly made things a lot easier for me, a first time director, to get attention from other actors and crew. The role, as you know, was written for someone who had been at what they’d been doing for a long time and understood why they were doing it. Bruce seemed like the natural fit, right?
Eric: Was there a conscious decision to link the film to some of the early exploitation greats of the past? The title Ravage seems to evoke the style of such movies as The Great Texas Chain Saw Massacre, I Spit on Your Grave and The Hills Have Eyes. All films where a modern, urban intruder appears to threaten the natural world.
Teddy: The title, Ravage, had nothing to do with me. It was all from our very clever distribution team at VMI and Brainstorm Media. I wanted to keep its original title, Swing Low, but they were very patient and spelled out that we were going to get a lot more people to watch a revenge film called Ravage instead confusing them with my title which sounded like it might be about golf.
Eric: Do you have plans to do more “auteur” type projects including producing, writing and directing?
Teddy: We just shot 911 here in Virginia and I lucked out again with our talent. It’s a smaller film and mostly takes place in a single location, but we learned a lot from Ravage and I wanted to take advantage of some of those learned lessons. We took a love story that goes bad, made it loud, it’s very violent, and offers no apology for blending a love theme into the revenge genre. Not that it’s entirely new, but their relationship hangs heavy in the story and it was fun dangling that throughout the film.
Eric: Are you comfortable remaining in the horror genre or are there other film areas you’d be willing to explore?
Teddy: There’s a freedom in the horror genre. I don’t think anyone comes to set thinking they’re going to win an Oscar for the day’s performance, and that’s kind of a license to get ill. I like that a lot but next year I’m changing gears and getting ready to shoot a film in Virginia about a boy who witnesses a murder and requires the help and safety of a widow to get over the event.
It’s very much like Witness (1985), obviously, but it’s a love story between the two different worlds they come from – financially, age, sexes, backgrounds, and how they ultimately connect and give to each other. She provides a safe place and the boy gives her an awakening after years of remorse. There are some bloody and horrific scenes, so maybe I’ll just be stuck in the horror genre for a while. Who knows?
Eric: Thank you so much for your time, once again, Mr. Grannan. Much luck to you in the future and I sincerely appreciate your fantastic contribution to Independent Cinema.
Teddy: Absolute pleasure and thank you for taking the time.
Ravage is available now on Digital HD from Signature Entertainment.