Born between the two worlds of wealthy upper class and blue collar life, Chris von Hoffmann began his career with the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and performed in several Broadway plays. However, after moving to Los Angeles, Chris began exploring his passion for film. Writing, producing and directing several award-winning short films, Chis went on to create his own full feature driven by his love for horror. His latest film, Monster Party starring Julian McMahon (Fantastic Four 2005, Charmed TV series, Nip/Tuck TV series) and Robin Tunney (The Craft 1996, Empire Records 1995), throws two worlds together for a horrific bloody outcome. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Chris about his latest feature, the film’s inspiration and an upcoming anthology we likely won’t want to miss!
PopHorror: Hi, Chris! Thank you for taking the time to speak with me. I screened Monster Party last night, and I thought it was very entertaining. I loved it!
Chris von Hoffmann: Cool! Thank you.
PopHorror: Have you always been a fan of horror?
Chris von Hoffmann: Yeah! It definitely is my favorite genre. It’s what introduced me to films at a very young age when I was about 7 or 8 years-old. And I was definitely a hardcore fan of all the slasher franchises. I think the ’80s and ’90s were my sweet spots for horror, or at least the type of horror I really responded to. The kind of balls out, going all the way type of horror. I definitely want to explore other genres, because I love all sorts of films. I don’t want to do horror for the rest of my life. But right now, I’m having fun doing it. My first feature films, Drifter and Monster Party, are the only horror films I’ve only done thus far. So, I’m kind of getting that out of my system right now.
PopHorror: The ’80s and ’90s were the heyday of horror, especially when it came to slasher films. And I think Monster Party definitely had a strong slasher element to it. What inspired this film?
Chris von Hoffmann: I think while I was developing Monster Party, I had a very specific viewpoint of the world, which I still have today. The whole point of the film was to take quite a bit of observations and statements about the society and generation we’re living in, shake them up in a blender and shoot them onto the screen. Maybe shock the audience or wake them up a little by showing them certain things from two different perspectives. I grew up between these two worlds. My father’s side of the family was more upper class while my mother’s side of the family was more blue collar middle class. There’s quite a bit more personality in this film than I had put in anything I’ve done prior. So, I just wanted to see what would happen when both of these two worlds converge under some very horrific circumstances.
PopHorror: Very cool! It seems like the film has a combination of the home intrusion films such as The Purge (2013) and The Strangers (2008), with the victim roles reversed like we saw in Don’t Breathe (2016). Did you have any of those films in mind when you wrote the script for Monster Party?
Chris von Hoffmann: It’s actually kind of funny. I started developing and pitching Monster Party months before Don’t Breathe came out. This was around early 2016, and then Don’t Breathe released the summer of that year. So, that was a hilarious coincidence. But I guess that’s how it sometimes happens. As for The Purge, I wasn’t a big fan. I wasn’t a very big fan of Don’t Breathe, either. And I haven’t seen The Strangers in a very long time. When I wrote the script for Monster Party, I was thinking more of films like I Know What You Did Last Summer, Scream and Urban Legend, that era of glossy teen slasher films. But there is also a film called Society from 1989 directed by Brian Yuzna. It’s a really obscure film that did very well in the UK, and now it’s a cult classic from that time. I was thinking of that film quite a bit while developing Monster Party. The two films are very different in tone, but Society was the key film that influenced Monster Party, as well as a little bit of The Goonies.
PopHorror: I could see all of that! It seemed like it likely had quite a bit of influences all meshed together. Also, you had quite the cast lineup! From Julian McMahon to Robin Tunney to Sam Strike (Leatherface) to Virginia Gardner, who appeared in the latest horror blockbuster, Halloween. How did you manage to cast all of these people in one film?
Chris von Hoffmann: Well, I wish I had more of an elaborate answer. It was mostly just luck. We just happened to get them at the right time. A lot of the younger actors were still coming up, and they hadn’t done bigger stuff at the time. Sam had shot his scenes in Leatherface, but the film hadn’t been released yet. Virginia Gardner had just shot some of the first season of Runaways, but she didn’t do Halloween until much later. Whether they were skeptical or signed on right away, I still wanted to meet with them as soon as possible to really explain that I wasn’t trying to make some sort of one dimensional gore fest. I really wanted to make sure that they knew where I was coming from, what I wanted represented and the type of acting I was looking for. So, I think they all responded with what I wanted to do with the story and material. There wasn’t a single ego from anyone. Everyone was totally game and came full force! And we all just went for it.
PopHorror: Honestly, I had no complaints with anyone’s performances. They all did phenomenal jobs! What was it like working with this mixture of older, more established actors like Julian and Robin, and younger, up-and-coming actors like Sam and Virginia?
Chris von Hoffmann: There wasn’t that big of a difference, really. They all were there just to do the work. Especially Robin and Julian, who both came on last minute. They were just great! They understood that this was a very big movie for me at the time. It’s not a huge movie, but it was a big movie for me. And they knew we didn’t have a lot of time to shoot. But they had so much experience from the past working on much bigger stuff. So, they were just there to support me and to support the story.
They also genuinely cared! Julian and Lance Reddick both had wonderful ideas. This whole thing just had a very old fashioned feel to it, with no egos from anyone while we all just got together to make this film. (laughs) I always thought it was kind of funny that these actors who have done more mainstream work all got together with me to make this weird little fucked up movie. I also let them know that I really, truly cared about what they are doing. I think some directors neglect the actors quite a bit. They just focus on everything but the actors, and I’m just not that kind of person. I didn’t go to film school, but I was an actor for about 6 years. I know that you need to make your film look as good as possible, but that isn’t what the audience connects with. The audience connects with the performances. So that’s always number one in my eyes.
PopHorror: That’s very cool! It sounds like it was an all around great experience. Are there any upcoming projects you would like to mention?
Chris von Hoffmann: Yeah, actually! I just wrote and directed a segment of an anthology feature called Phobias, which is executive produced by Radio Silence, who produced V/H/S and Southbound. We shot that a few weeks ago, and it’s currently in post-production. I’m also in hardcore development of four different feature films. One has a producer attached, and it’s moving forward pretty well. Another one is almost done with script revisions, and another project has a very detailed outline, while the fourth is just starting development. So, we’re currently in the middle of so many things. It’s just a matter of seeing which one gets made first!
PopHorror: That’s great! I love V/H/S and Southbound, so Phobias is one I will definitely watch out for. Monster Party was very good, and I look forward to seeing the next film you put out! Thank you, again, for taking the time to speak with me.
Chris von Hoffmann: Thank you for the opportunity!
With a theatrical release set for November 2nd of this year, horror fans are in for a treat with this unique home invasion of a slasher. Busy with one project after another, Chris is sure to have many films to follow Monster Party. We cannot wait to bring you more news, reviews and interviews on this up and coming director right here on PopHorror!