Every once in awhile, a film comes along and it’s just so good, that you want more of it. This is the case with Alex Kahuam’s short film, Red Light (read our review HERE). Clocking in at a mere 10 minutes, Red Light has me waiting with bated breath for more of the sad, sorry social influencers who have found themselves locked in the basement by a twisted, sadistic family. I caught up with Alex while he was in Sitges along with star Ted Raimi, and we discussed how they met, what’s next for this fantastic short film, how they kept busy during Covid, and of course, horror movies.
PopHorror: I loved Red Light. I loved it so much that I watched it twice. I’m really excited to hear more about it!
Alex Kahuam: Thank you! That’s awesome.
PopHorror: So you not only wrote it, but you directed it as well. What inspired Red Light?
Alex Kahuam: So, it all came down when I did a feature film almost 10 years ago. Super indie. Called Escondida, which talked about a YouTuber who was getting famous, and he was doing the same things. He was being annoying and all these things, right? A lot of social media influencers do. So my idea was, what if your life changes in a matter of seconds? But what if it changes to this kind of people? You know, like the influencers, but in that film they get in trouble with the wrong people at the wrong place at the traffic light. So we did the film. I was 18, I was super young. I didn’t know much about camera, lighting. I pretty much did everything. So when I moved to Los Angeles, I met Marco De Molina, one of the producers, and I was like, “Hey. I would love to do it Hollywood-style. With good quality and big.” So we talked about it, and started writing the script. I think it was like two years ago that we started, or a year and a half. Somewhere around there. And Red Light was born. We were hoping that Ted would love the script. It would be a dream if he likes the project. And Marco, he was friends with Ted so that’s how we all came together and connected.
PopHorror: And Ted, what was it about the script that made you want to be a part of it? You not only starred in it, but you produced it. So what was it that intrigued you?
Ted Raimi: That’s right. I feel like horror movies are a few different breeds. There’s one kind, which is topical for today. For example, right now it might be a horror movie about a genetically engineered something or other, right? In the 1950s, everything was radiated. Now it’s engineered. But those concepts are, while scary at the time, really lose their steam in a matter of years, at their very best, decades. And the second kind of horror movie is a sort of eternal kind of thing. It could potentially have legs far into the future. The reason, for example, that we still watch House on Haunted Hill, and we do not watch Attack of the Nuclear Spider Creature, is not because both of those movies weren’t B movies. They were. They were made for about the same budget, and they were made not far from one another using similar styles and techniques. But the reason is because House on Haunted Hill is an internal sort of idea of a ghost, and not to necessarily say that only ghosts are scary. In this particular case, what attracted me to the script was it’s got something that I’ve never seen in a horror movie before, which was generational fury towards the next generation. It’s an internal idea. It’s forever and ever and ever, and I felt like if it can be done right, then we’d have a really, really interesting if nothing else, movie on our hands. And then after I saw Alex Kahuam’s short, my buddy Marco De Molina – the producer who put this project together – showed me, I said, “Oh, this is great!” I wanted it. I said, “I gotta be in this movie!” And not only that, but I wanted to produce it too. I think this is a winner.
PopHorror: I love that! I love that connection that you brought you guys together. So this short is a proof of concept, and that you are planning on it being feature length. What can you tell us about what’s next for this story?
Ted Raimi: Alex, why don’t you take this one?
Alex Kahuam: Well, we’re going to explore further Ian’s character, and also the house. There’re other characters that are very interesting in the film. And of course, we have the character arc of the influencer, how he will eventually have to change, right? Because they get in trouble with this man. It’s really fun. The script is amazing. We just grabbed small pieces so we could show where we were capable of doing, and the quality of the story and the film. It’s really exciting because here in Sitges, the critics and the fans… They love it. We have great reviews and comments, and I don’t know. It’s really cool. It’s really nice.
PopHorror: That’s so awesome! How does it feel to have your short playing at these prestigious fests like Sitges, and Telluride, among others. And with such great reception. How does it feel?
Alex Kahuam: Oh, amazing! Watching Red Light in a theater was like, Wow! Because we’re in a time and a place where right now, that doesn’t happen. So I was so, so excited we had a full house. Fans were screaming and quiet when Ted was speaking. They were really into it. So for me, these places like Sitges and Telluride Horror Show are amazing because the fans and the horror critics appreciate this so much. I’m really, really excited and looking forward to more. We want more and more.
Ted Raimi: We have our North American premiere… I believe it’s tomorrow night if I’m not mistaken. In Telluride, Colorado at the Telluride Horror Show so we’re very excited about that. Because nobody can be there since it’s strictly a virtual festival, I’m having a Q&A after the film. It’s actually drinks with me. It’s called Deathly Spirits with Ted Raimi so you can ask me questions about this short while we all get drunk and talk about horror movies, which I can’t imagine anything more entertaining for me.
PopHorror: That’s so cool! I think these virtual festivals have given fans more interaction with people that they admire and watch, and with the filmmakers. I think that’s a great idea.
Ted Raimi: Oh, yeah! The festival and us came up with it together so I can’t take all the credit, but I ran with it. I was like, “This is great!” It’ll be fun. A bit weird because you’re projected… It’s pretty strange because when they’re all at home, you’re talking to them and they’re talking to you but not really. Not really.
PopHorror: What is it that draws you to the horror genre?
Ted Raimi: Well, two reasons. One, for me, horror is an important thing you have to feel. I believe that psychologically, though I don’t have a medical degree or studied medicine. It’s as vital to the human experience as love or hunger. And so, the safer the world we live in… The more we understand that we’re probably not going to die when we leave our house, the less the horror we feel, and the more we need to have it somehow whether through a book or movie or TV show. That’s number one. But number two, I sort of feel on the most basic level that besides it being an enjoyable genre, it’s all a big rehearsal for the inevitable moment that none of us want.
Alex Kahuam: Oh, damn. That was so… I like it.
Ted Raimi: That’s what I think. We push death to the back of our minds all day, all the time. It approaches our minds more and more as we get older, and there’s a cathartic thing with watching horror and watching people die because you go, “Well, I guess if I went that way, it wouldn’t be so bad.” Because it’s a choice that must be made. Might not be your choice, but I feel like horror takes care of that. Tickles that part of our brain.
PopHorror: It does! And what about you, Alex?
Alex Kahuam: I have loved horror since I was a kid and a teenager. I love the reaction because you’re really tense, and then you laugh. I love it when you go to the theater or when you’re in your living room with friends, and everybody is reacting differently. They’re screaming, and then they’re laughing, and then they’re screaming. You’re giving them a lot of emotions but they’re fun emotions. They’re really happy, you know? So that’s what attracts me to the genre.
Ted Raimi: And I also think there’s a big difference between scary and disturbing. I think that I’ve done a lot of movies that are just scary. Scary though, is typically not as hard to come to that exclamation point in the film. It’s not too hard to scare people. You can have the music quiet, and then you crank it up, crank up colors, have a scare. It’s fun. It’s like an amusement park ride. But disturbing is something that stays with you for a long, long time. And I feel like what I loved about this script is that I would say is 20% scary, 80% deeply disturbing. The kind of stuff that remains with you long after you’re done watching it.
PopHorror: I completely agree. Horror stays with me more, and I remember it more than I do watching any other type of genre, really.
Ted Raimi: Me too.
PopHorror: I can go see a comedy, and enjoy it and laugh, but it’s not going to stay with me, and I probably won’t tell all my friends that they have to see it. It’s the horror that I watch that stays with me and that I will recommend to everyone.
Ted Raimi: Me too. I feel the same. And I’m sure Alex probably does too.
Alex Kahuam: Yes. I love when there’s tension, like a lot. This is also the reason why I want to do long takes because it creates more in the atmosphere. The tension.
Ted Raimi: Being in the business a long time, sometimes you’re a little skeptical of directors who want to try these types of things because of course, they typically don’t work very well, and the older you get, the more precious your time becomes. After I saw Alex’s short using that very same technique, a technique which is used by some other directors but almost exclusively failing in their case, Alex did it beautifully. So I knew this was going to work great. And I think it really did.
Alex Kahuam: Thank you, man.
PopHorror: It really did. I know that Covid has cancelled a lot of things, and paused a lot of projects, but is there anything that you guys are currently working on, or anything that you have coming out?
Ted Raimi: I can’t speak for Alex, but this has pretty much taken up every second of my life, this movie. Getting it out and promoting it as we are here. This is most of it. But I’m also working on and off—because of Covid—on a new horror video game that I am a playable character in. I can’t tell you any more than that because of an NDA disclosure where people from Sony PlayStation will come over to my house in the middle of the night and you just won’t see me anymore. I don’t know, that’s just what I imagine. That’s a fun thing to do, too. I’ve never done a game. I’ve done voices for games as an actor, but I have never been a character in a game, so that’s pretty cool. Except because half of the production team is in England and half in America, so it’s hard to coordinate because of Covid and getting these passports approved. It’s a lot of moving parts and very challenging for the team to do that. But they seem to be succeeding, so we’ll see.
PopHorror: That’s super cool. What about you, Alex?
Alex Kahuam: I do have a project coming next month, well luckily we’re going to finish it. It’s called 165 Days in Quarantine. And that was triggered because we’ve been stuck so much time inside. I was writing and writing and I wrote four feature screenplays. New ones.
Ted Raimi: Woah!
Alex Kahuam: It was so much time. So I did another proof of concept for a script I have about a veteran who is stalked inside an apartment. It’s really cool. It’s really nice. We shot it in August, but it was like Ted was saying, it was really complicated because of Covid reasons, and I have to be my cinematographer and camera operator. It was really, really difficult, but I’m really, really happy because the result… Again, I’m in love with long takes so it’s a 13 minute long take. This is the longest one I’ve done. So it’s really cool. I’ll show it to you guys when it’s done. It’s old school… 4:3, black and white.
Ted Raimi: How cool man! You did 4:3?
Alex Kahuam: We shot it digital, but we shot it 4:3, yes. So I’m like… I’m going old school for this. Hell, yeah! I love old school. I like 70s, 60s Hollywood from those times. I love it.
Ted Raimi: We both share that. We both love that period of thrillers and horror movies. We love that stuff.
PopHorror: That sounds amazing. If you think about all of the buzz and positive reception, you’re getting for a 10-minute short, just imagine how much it’s going to be when you have a feature length.
Ted Raimi: We can’t even imagine. We’re hoping. Look, one thing that we all share as a philosophy of filmmaking above and behind the hype is that we’re all entertainers. If the audience isn’t enjoying it, we’re not either. That’s the number one deal. You can have all the artistic integrity when it comes to you know, a lot of hype, and we’re very excited about the hype of course. But in the end, that’s what we do. We’re entertainers, and I think some filmmakers and actors and directors can forget that. They get lost in their own deal frequently, as time goes on. We hope to stay on the good path, not the bad path.
PopHorror: One last question for you today. What is your favorite scary movie?
Ted Raimi: Oh, boy. Alex, you can go first.
Alex Kahuam: Well, I have a couple. I would say Texas Chain Saw Massacre. I love it. This film is so influenced by that film. The screenplay, everything. For me when I watched it, it stuck to me forever and ever. As you were saying, I never forgot with Chain Saw… I got really scared of it, but really fascinated about it because it’s so interesting, this character. I was fascinated with what he’s doing, with the motivations, so yeah. Texas Chain Saw Massacre would be for me, and I love Psycho as well. Hitchcock.
Ted Raimi: I go through, I don’t know. It depends on which day of the week it is to answer that question. Right now, what I’m watching and what I’m sort of obsessed with is David Cronenberg’s remake of The Fly. It’s such a powerful horror movie because again, it’s one of those ones that I love the most because of the theme… On one level, you have science and teleportation, all kinds of stuff that’s clearly the hallmark of a 1950s horror movie from which it’s based, but it winds up being something more powerful which is, if the person you love no longer is the person you love, are they still someone you can be with? It’s a terrifying thought.
Thank you so much to Alex and Ted for taking the time to speak with us. Keep an eye out for Red Light as it continues its festival run.