The road to filmmaking started early for writer, director, and sometime actor Dutch Marich, and oddly enough, it all began in a barber shop.
He was quite young and his dad had taken him in for a haircut. As they were waiting for their turn, he picked up a book called How It’s Made. The book went alphabetically with different things telling how they were made. Not much interested in “A is for Ambulance,” Marich flipped through the book until he found “M is for Movie.”
“It had a behind the scenes picture of American Werewolf,” the filmmaker said. “It showed the lights and just the drama and theatrics behind it. After my haircut, I asked if I could could come back and read it again and she told me I could take it with me. I reread that page over and over again.”
That single page ignited a fire in him, not only for movies but specifically horror movies, and in many ways, he never looked back. A little later on, he found himself banished from the living room when his mom and sister were watching Copycat starring Sigourney Weaver. He managed to sneak back into the room and watch the film over the back of the couch after which he admits having terrifying nightmares.
The bad dreams eventually fell away and the burgeoning horror fan fell in love with films like Scream and Poltergeist the latter of which also played an important role in another discovery in his life.
Marich says he does not remember a time in his life when he didn’t know he was different. Long before he had the vocabulary to express that he was gay, he remembers having very little interest in girls. He recalls playing t-ball as a kid and a little girl on his team had a crush on him and would sit and play with his hair while they were in the dugout.
“I remember thinking ‘ew’ like this is not my jam,” Marich explained laughing. “I was just never, at all, even in the slightest questioning my identity. When I was also super young I remember watching Poltergeist. When you see the dad with his shirt off! I was like ‘Damn!’ I was too young to be thinking like that but like it really hit me that he is a fine man.”
Later on, when he eventually came out to his family, he was surprised by how well they took it. Coming from the small mining town of Ruth, Nevada, it wasn’t something that people talked about and he was honestly afraid what their reaction might be.
“My dad was born in the town; he was a Vietnam vet. He was like Captain America,” he pointed out. “He was so cool. I came out to my mom first and she was like, ‘Yeah, I knew that.’ She told my dad for me because I was afraid to do it myself. Afterward she told my dad, he was like wanting me to come hang out with him. And he’s like, ‘So you’re mom tells me you’re gay.’ And I said yes. And he said, ‘Awesome.’ It was the only time in my life that I had ever seen my dad nervous.”
He fully admits that his own experience is not indicative to what a lot of people go through in their coming out process, and he adds that this is why inclusion and visibility is so important in film and television.
“No matter how well represented the gay community is in the arts, there are still young people growing up in families where like they’re not being accepted. These kids need that visibility that a lot of us didn’t have.”
With his family firmly in his corner, Marich set out to make his Hollywood dreams come true, enrolling in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts at the age of 17.
He did some acting while working odd jobs here and there to support himself.
Then, in his early 20s, he had an experience that would ultimately alter his path slightly. After being discriminated against for being gay, he decided to take the person to court. It wasn’t about money or anything like that, he says. It was more about holding that person accountable.
While everything was in turmoil, as so many of us do, he lost himself in horror movies, and one specific horror film, The Strangers, over and over again. It was during one of those viewings that it suddenly occurred to him that he could make a movie like this.
“It was a small cast with one or two locations, and just two talented actors and it scares the shit out of me. It’s so simple!”
Marich came out on top in his court case and was well on his way to writing his first script in no time at all.
“[The film] was a total disaster,” he recalled laughing, “but I actually consider that movie film school for me. The amount that I learned about what not to do and what I needed to pay attention to before going to camera. So, that first movie will never see the light of day.”
The filmmaker took those lessons to heart, and since then has written and directed six films, all of which have played various festivals and some you can see on Amazon.
“There’s two things that I love in horror,” Marich said. “One is the fear of the unknown which to me is just the best. It’s hard to top that sort of unsolved mysteries thing. I love the things that push your brain to work. The second would have to be a straight up, visceral human monster, slasher, or serial killer.”
He’s worked with both of these themes in his films.
Infernum dug into the phenomena knows as “The Hum,” a mysterious sound heard by groups of people around the world at various times that has been the subject of everything from episodes of The X-Files to features on Unsolved Mysteries. In Marich’s film, he uses “The Hum” as a jumping off place for a story about a woman trying to find out exactly what happened to her parents when she was a child.
Then there’s Hunting, which centers on a young woman–played by Marich’s sister–who starts using an app to find “treasures” around Los Angeles only to find herself drawn closer and closer to mysterious events and a bloodthirsty killer.
More recently, his film Reaptown tells the story of a young woman in a work-release program who stumbles upon supernatural horrors while working at the Reaptown Railway Museum and searching for her lost sister.
The film premiered in his hometown at the first ever Ely Nevada Film Festival.
Looking into the future, Marich says, he has lots of ideas and projects in the works including a script for his first full-on gay horror film.
As we concluded our interview, I could not help reflect on Dutch Marich’s story. He’s an out and proud gay filmmaker from a supportive background who loves to scare people, but he’s also a gentle soul, easy to laugh, and passionate about representation and visibility in the genre.
Honestly, I just can’t help but look forward to what he makes next.