Prolific filmmaker Natasha Kermani (Imitation Girl, Shattered) found the ideal collaborator in genre favorite Brea Grant for her latest project, Lucky, a subversive, satirical slasher for which Grant also wrote the script. Lucky plays with women’s deepest-held and most universal fears about being gaslit by the men in their lives, putting self-help author May, played by Grant, in the firing line of a maniacal killer.
Lucky subverts typical horror conventions in increasingly fascinating ways, forcing viewers to question their own approach to women in need and societal issues with believing victims. It’s also just a fun, funny and scary horror movie all around, with Grant’s tongue always lodged firmly in her cheek. I caught up with Kermani ahead of Lucky’s home video release to discuss women in horror, the difficulty of balancing horror/comedy and why it’s important not to be too preachy.
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Joey Keogh: How did this project originally cross your desk? How did you get involved in the first place?
Natasha Kermani: A producer I really loved, and whose taste I trust completely, sent it to me because he was interested in making it, and then I knew Brea [Grant] socially but we had never worked together, so I was excited to read it, and then I just really responded to the script. I thought it was a really unique challenge and there was a lot in there that was very different from anything else I was reading. So, I gave Brea a call, we had an initial conversation, and we got excited about all the ideas we were throwing around, and so then we went back to the producers and said “Hey, here’s what we’re thinking,” and it all sort of took off from there.
JK: Was Brea always going to play the lead role, or was there ever anybody else in the running? Because that’s quite an unusual position to be in, as both the writer and the star.
NK: Not once was I involved in the process. Brea wrote the initial version of the script a few years ago, and she hadn’t written the role for herself, with the intention of her playing it, but the project was introduced to me with the idea of her playing the role of May, and I loved that — I could really see the whole film coming together with her as the centerpiece. She took a little bit of persuading, but eventually she understood the vision, and she was excited to give it a go. I explained to her how I saw her fitting into the role, and I think once we had a few conversations about it, Brea was excited about it, and she came on board. But we never auditioned anyone else for the role, or anything like that. It was always Brea, for me!
JK: It’s an odd kind of situation to be in, playing both of those roles. I’m sure it was difficult for her at times, too.
NK: I think once we were up and shooting, she really inhabited the role of actor and performer, and took off her writer’s hat. We were very conscious of taking care of all the script issues and working everything out in prep so that by the time we were rolling, she could just focus on the part and what she needed to do as an actor. Hopefully she didn’t feel like she was stretched too thin! That was really our approach, and I think she appreciated being able to step back and let the team work on all that other stuff, because it’s a very demanding role, even physically. She’s in every scene, and so for her to be able to just focus on the acting side of it was very important.
JK: You mentioned before that you guys worked on it together and then went back to the producers with your vision for the movie. Was there anything that you had to fight for, or anything that they didn’t get about what you intended for the project?
NK: We really didn’t make that many changes. I think the producers’ initial read got them really excited for the project. There were a few little things, a few logic cues basically that they wanted to address, but — for the most part — the first version of the script that I read is more or less what you see onscreen, which is great. It’s very rare that things work out that way. It was a pretty smooth experience overall.
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JK: You guys must have had a lot of support then?
NK: We did, we really did. We were very, very lucky in that way. What we didn’t have was time and money. But then one of the benefits of making a very small movie is that you have a lot more freedom. There is something liberating about not having the pressure of a huge budget and a high-profile cast and producers breathing down your neck. Because it’s smaller, they want to make sure that you’re doing exactly what everybody agreed we were doing, but they’re also open to more risky, extreme ideas and exploring certain things that maybe you can’t explore on bigger movies. Everybody was really on the same page about what kind of movie we were making and what the goals were. And in that way, it was a pretty streamlined process.
JK: On that note, what would you say was the biggest challenge of bringing Lucky from the page to the screen?
NK: Just time, probably. We shot the movie very, very quickly. So really it was about just making sure everybody was as prepared as they possibly could be because you know things happen. So, we talked to everybody, all the department heads, just to make sure we were clear on what we were doing. Moving at such a breakneck speed is always difficult when making a film, so that was probably our biggest challenge, but we really rose to it, and our team is just truly amazing, and we all worked very efficiently together.
JK: Would you consider that your biggest achievement, getting it done on time, on budget, just finishing it under these constraints?
NK: That’s really important. But I do think that it is a very unexpected film and that was something I really wanted to maintain from the script, something I really loved about the script as I was reading it, because it was so different — it’s this kind of strange bird that you’ve never seen before. I’m glad we kept that sense of difference, of the unexpected… we were able to keep it going — that unusual satirical tone that was in the script, we were able to keep it into the final product. I’m really glad that the tone of it arrived.
JK: It’s a tough one to describe. I would almost categorize it as a subversive slasher, but even that doesn’t really capture the true nature of the film, which is great and certainly works to its advantage. It’s a tough one to get your head around.
NK: I thought of it as a satire wearing the skin of a slasher. We play around with a lot of horror tropes, using the toolbox of horror stuff, but the movie itself is a little bit more like an episode of The Twilight Zone — it occupies this very dark satire space. I think the combination of all those things ties into the uniqueness of the film.
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JK: How would you say it fits into the current horror landscape, if at all?
NK: Ooh, that’s an interesting question! I think it is different, I think it certainly fits in with the heavy- metaphor-but-still-fun movies. I guess socially conscious films that have this deeper conversation that you’re hoping will unfold out of it… I’d say Lucky is in that tradition, the slightly funny. But it’s not a slapstick horror comedy — which we’ve seen a lot of it — but instead it’s this more dry, socially conscious, metaphor heavy subgenre of horror. A very specific niche!
JK: Which is great, particularly in horror right now it’s great to be specific and to make a salient point, rather than just blending into the background.
NK: Yeah, and there’s so much diversity in horror. Horror is such a hugely broad umbrella, there’s just everything underneath it that you could possibly imagine. I think this idea of it being outside of any specific subgenre is also fun for me. The movie doesn’t easily slot into any category, which is really fun.
JK: Horror is great because it allows for that kind of experimentation. There are less parameters to stick to, which you guys definitely exploit here.
NK: Right, exactly.
JK: On the other hand, what do you think the movie is saying about women and about feminism, more broadly?
NK: The experience that May goes through in the film is a universal experience that all women have at some point in their lives, to varying degrees and in various contexts, and I think that it’s really the root of the concept. It’s based on an experience that Brea had, but of course every woman who came to work on the film had her own version of that experience — of when and if women are believed and listened to and truly heard — and so that baseline, very grounded message and frankly problem that underlies the entire film was omnipresent for everybody. It was very clear that that is the purpose of the film and everything else splinters out from that, including the horror, including the satire, including the dark moments, including the comedy and including the horror-comedy. Always going back to that experience being the grounding of the movie was very, very important to us. And again, we’re not interested in prescriptive feminism, or anything like that, as much as we’re just looking to tell this story and share this experience in a unique way and then letting the conversations come from that. We’re not telling anybody “Here’s the solution to this huge problem.” We don’t know what the solution is — we’re just telling the story and then hopefully people will have these conversations afterwards that can be interesting and nuanced and build into something bigger. That’s our intention.
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JK: Totally, because you can’t be preachy or else people — and by people, I mean men — will just turn away from it completely.
NK: Yeah, 100%. I think also, we’re not necessarily interested in telling people what the answer is, because it’s such a nuanced issue. It’s much more interesting to posit a question and then just let people have a conversation out of that question.
JK: It’s funny, that scene where May is standing there surrounded by people and they’re all sort of firing questions at her exemplifies the film’s thesis, especially because it still retains that dark, satirical lens. There’s a sharpness to it.
NK: Definitely. I like that scene a lot. It’s also when the world of the movie gets very crazy and absurd so it’s kind of a great jump off point for the movie.
JK: That fantastical element.
NK: Exactly, yeah.
JK: This seems like kind of a stupid question, because we’re still in the middle of a pandemic, but have you got anything else coming out? Are you working on anything at the moment?
NK: Actually, Brea and I are developing some projects together, which we’re really excited about. We really enjoyed our working relationship on Lucky, so we wanted to find something else to come together on. We’re developing two projects now that I’m very excited about. And then also, right now, I’m adapting a short story by the novelist Joe Hill. We’re adapting one of his for a feature film. That’s what we’ve got cooking right now.
Lucky is now available on VOD, Digital HD and DVD.
Joey Keogh (@JoeyLDG) is a writer from Dublin, Ireland with an unhealthy appetite for horror movies and Judge Judy. In stark contrast with every other Irish person ever, she’s straight edge. Hello to Jason Isaacs.