For Preston DeFrancis, the road to creating a fantastic horror film has been anything but conventional. Oh sure, he was in the grad program at USC studying direction when his co-writer Trysta A. Bissett was studying screenwriting. They wrote his thesis film together. They wrote two feature films and a TV pilot together. It just so happens that all four of those films were comedies or romantic comedies, however. With that kind of background, audiences might be surprised that their first filmed feature, Ruin Me, is not only a horror film, but also one of the best of its kind I’ve seen in years.
“The thing is, with romantic comedies, unless you have huge stars in them no one cares,” DeFrancis explains. “Trysta and I were both, independently, horror fans, and all of our friends kept telling us we should make a horror film. We never had an idea that clicked and really worked for us, though.”
Then, they visited one of the most famous extreme haunts in the country. I won’t name the event here, but needless to say, they were…underwhelmed.
“We had a cookout before we went and we were totally psyching ourselves out about it, coming up with scenarios,” he says. “Don’t get me wrong, the production values were great, the sets were great, but the ideas we were pitching beforehand were much scarier. It suddenly occurred to me that the reason was because there was always a sense of safety no matter how wild things were inside there.”
And with that, they were off to the races.
Ruin Me is a horror film with a classic feel. DeFrancis and Bissett took some of their favorite tropes and turned them on their head creating a film that is familiar but still able to catch its audience off guard. Not only is that a good thing, but necessary if you want your first film to stand apart and if we are to avoid the atrophy we’ve seen in our genre before.
Alex, played beautifully by the talented Marcienne Dwyer, reluctantly tags along with her boyfriend Nathan (Matt Dellapina) to a combo extreme haunt, escape room, and camping trip called “Slasher Sleep-Out”. She doesn’t want to be there. She doesn’t like her fellow campers, and she’s currently recovering from a serious drug problem.
Dwyer and Dellapina are surrounded by an impressive supporting cast of players including a stellar turn by John Odom as the living, breathing personification of every internet horror troll that you’ve ever seen comment online. His name is Pitch and he walks a razor wire between eager contestant and dangerous wildcard. Likewise, Chris Hill offers much needed comic relief as the bumbling Larry with brilliant comic timing.
And the ending?
Well, anyone who has read my work knows that I don’t do spoilers, but in DeFrancis’ own words, “We wanted to make sure our ending was 100% organic and necessary. We wanted to craft an ending that when you see it, you realize this movie couldn’t end any other way. We were collision course from the first moment of the film.”
Ruin Me has deservedly been picking up awards all over the country and was even the recipient of the iHorror Award for Excellence in Horror at the recent Nightmares Film Festival. The film also picked up the Nightmare Award for Best Horror feature at that same festival.
The film is currently winding up its festival tour and seeking the right distributor to bring Ruin Me to an even broader audience. Meanwhile DeFrancis and Bissett are already preparing to begin filming their next film which will take them back to Muskegon, MI which provided the beautiful settings for this film.