PopHorror Interviews Troy Escamilla, Director of Party Night and Fright Meter Awards President

There are so many great indie directors in the horror industry right now – you can just feel their passion for the genre shining through in their work. They live it, breathe it, and believe in it. This can certainly be said about Troy Escamilla, the director of the goretastic slasher, Party NightHe’s one director that everyone should keep their eye on and, lucky for PopHorror, we got to pick his brain about why he wanted to work in the film industry, details about Party Night, upcoming projects, and more. 

Troy Escamilla
Troy Escamilla and the ‘Party Night’ family.

PopHorror – Troy, thanks for taking the time to talk with PopHorror! You’re from a small town in Iowa. What inspired you to work in the film industry?

Troy Escamilla – Correct! I grew up in Davenport, Iowa, which certainly is not a bustling environment for filmmakers. I never imagined I would actually make a film and Party Night was actually the first film set I ever stepped foot on. I guess growing up, it never seemed in the realm of possibility that I would ever be able to actually make a film. What truly inspired me, though, were the several contacts with indie filmmakers that I have made over the years via social media. Seeing individuals from backgrounds who were simply armed with their passion for the horror genre doing whatever it took to make their films motivated me to do the same. At some point, if you truly possess the drive and fervor, you need to jump in and take the risk, whether it’s in regards to filmmaking or another passion. What I have also discovered is that indie filmmakers are very supportive of each other, which I have certainly been very appreciative of through learning process.

PopHorror – This is very true! Can you tell us the path that led you to creating your first horror film, Party Night?

Troy Escamilla – Party Night was actually the third feature-length slasher screenplay I wrote. While I still have a deep fondness for the first two I wrote, when I finally made the decision that I was going to quit simply talking about how I’d love to film one of my screenplays and actual do it, Party Night was the obvious choice. Logistically, it made sense from a budgetary perspective, as most of the film takes place at one location and there are a very limited number of characters. The script is also full of nods to other slasher films that I felt fans would appreciate.

PopHorror – I loved the special nods to other slasher films, it was definitely appreciated. Where’d you get the idea for the story and how much did ’80s slashers influence it?

Troy Escamilla – The screenplay for Party Night was 100% inspired by the ’80s slasher era. I grew up in the ’80s watching these films and to this day, I have such a deep admiration for them. I wanted to create something that was a true throwback to these films; it truly is my love letter to the genre, and it was so important to me to create something that other fans of ’80s slashers would appreciate and feel some nostalgia while watching it. I’d say several films influenced Party Night, such as Prom Night, Hell Night, and of course, Halloween. However, the film that I had in mind while writing Party Night was The Mutilator.

If you haven’t seen it, it’s a gloriously gory little ’80s slasher with a very dark and disturbing tone. The premise is very simple: six college kids travel to a beach house owned by one of their fathers to close it up for the winter. Unfortunately, a brutal killer armed with some seriously sharp weapons awaits them. While it certainly doesn’t possess as high of production values or quality acting as some other films from this era, this film has a very endearing quality about it, and it’s definitely one of my favorite slasher films. With Party Night, I wanted to create the same sinister atmosphere and sense of dread, as well as have the death scenes pack the same gory punches. I’ll leave it up to viewers to determine whether I succeeded or not!

PopHorrorAs a viewer and huge fan of the film myself, I can say you absolutely succeeded. How did the casting come about for the film?

party night
The cast of ‘Party Night’

Troy Escamilla – I basically posted an open casting call for the film in various Facebook casting groups and on IMDBPro. The response exceeded my expectations and I ended up with over 125 video submissions. From there, time was spent watching and evaluating each audition. I’d share the ones I liked with my co-Producer and we’d discuss. Some parts were very easy to cast simply because the actor auditioning nailed the character and my vision for the character. A few were more challenging because there were several great auditions. However, in the end, I can 100% say that we selected the perfect cast. Not only are each of them extremely talented and willing to pitch in whenever necessary on set, the chemistry between them all was palpable. Everyone got along marvelously and for sure lifelong friendships and bonds were formed.

PopHorror – The cast is amazing: Tommie Vegas, Billy Brannigan, Destinie Orndoff, Ryan Poole, Laurel Toupal, and Drew Shotwell are truly talented actors. Have audiences responded in a way you had hoped they would?

Troy Escamilla – Since it has not been officially released yet or has had any sort of festival premiere (please keep your fingers crossed that this will happen SOON!), there have only been a very limited number of people who have seen Party Night. Our Kickstarter backers were the first to get a sneak peek at the finished film because, without their support, it would not have been made. The feedback I received was overwhelmingly positive, which definitely thrilled me. Additionally, a screener of the film was sent out to several blogs and sites to obtain some early reviews. It’s very nerve wracking to send something off that you spent so much time, energy, and passion on to be potentially criticized (not that I can’t handle criticism, as I will be the first to tell you a few issues that I have with the film).

With that said, I have been so overwhelmed by the positive reviews we have received so far. Virtually every reviewer has praised the film, including reviews from Dread Central, iHorror, Cinema Slasher, PopHorror, and The Horror Syndicate. I cannot put into words how proud this has made me – not only for myself, but for everyone involved in making the film. It was a true passion project, and while I know the film has issues, I honestly feel with the extreme micro-budget we were working with, the film does stand out among the numerous other low budget slasher films out there simply because of our love and respect of the genre. I truly cannot wait to get the film out there for fans to see.

PopHorror – You have an upcoming film coming out called Stirring. Can you tell us about that and where you got the idea for it?

Troy Escamilla – My favorite horror film of all time is 1974’s Black Christmas. I also love the holiday slasher sub-genre overall. Films like To All a Goodnight, Silent Night, Deadly Night, Christmas Evil and more recently Dismembering Christmas, All Through the House and Good Tidings are ones I truly enjoy. There is definitely something alarming seeing the colorful, festive and joyous holiday of Christmas paired with blood, murder, and mayhem. So while Party Night is my love letter to the ’80s slasher genre, Stirring is my love letter to Black Christmas and Christmas-themed horror flicks.

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One of the posters for ‘Stirring’

It focuses on a group of students attending a Christmas party in a sorority house with a sinister past who are being stalked by a blood- thirsty killer disguised as Mrs. Clause. I feel the script is much stronger than Party Night and has a different tone. It’s also definitely more elaborate, with more characters and definitely more bloody, brutal – and Christmas-themed – deaths. And though it was inspired by Black Christmas, it definitely is not a rip-off of that film or any other; it definitely has its own identity that holiday slasher fans will appreciate. Like with Party Night, I’m utilizing Kickstarter to try to raise a majority of the funds needed to make the film. The campaign launches February 1st and there are some great perks, so definitely support us by pledging any amount you can or by simply sharing the campaign page on social media!

PopHorror – We will definitely help spread the word! Do you have any actors lined up for it?

Troy Escamilla – I do, and I couldn’t be more excited about the cast I have assembled so far! I have a great mix of some very familiar faces and young, fresh up and coming talent! Horror icon and Scream Queen Brinke Stevens is on board along with original My Bloody Valentine alum Helene Udy. Kaylee Williams (Model Hunger, Porkchop 3D, The Lashman) is also set to star. All three of my Party Night actors, Drew Shotwell, Billy Brannigan, and Ryan Poole, are also back, with each playing characters completely different than their Party Night roles. I’ve also cast Atlanta-based young actor Jace Greenwood, who impressed me greatly when he audition for Party Night last year and Houston-based actresses Jantel Fontenot and Hailey Strader, who both submitted amazing auditions. It’s an outstanding cast that I am truly honored agreed to be part of this project. I absolutely cannot wait to work with them.

PopHorror – I can’t wait! When will you begin filming?

Troy Escamilla – If all goes as planned, and our Kickstarter campaign is successful, we will begin filming Stirring on June 8th here in the Houston area. I’m currently in the process of scouting for the perfect location that will serve as the ominous sorority house.

PopHorror – Fingers crossed that everything goes smoothly! Beyond these two films, do you have any other upcoming projects?

Troy Escamilla – Doing two feature films in two years is definitely enough to keep me busy. In the midst of trying to get Party Night submitted and accepted into festivals, promoting it, and hopefully finding a distributor, I am also deep in pre-production for Stirring—not to mention I am working a full-time job! I feel like I need to slow down here and really focus on these two babies. I do have an idea I think I’d like to pursue at some point down the line that is a complete departure from the slasher genre: a true crime documentary. Until then, I’ll also be working on transitioning the Fright Meter Awards into a live event.

PopHorror – You’re a very busy man, but it’ll all be worth it. If you could work with anyone in the industry who would it be and why?

Troy Escamilla – Oh, wow! What a tough questio.! So many possibilities and people I want to say because I am such a huge ’80s slasher fan and have a special place in my heart for kick ass final girls and Scream Queens. I’d say it would be amazing to work with Danielle Harris. She’s a true icon in the genre and her performances in both Halloween 4 and Halloween 5 rank among the best in the genre, in my opinion. She genuinely has a true respect and passion for the genre, so I think it’d be awesome to create a role for her and watch her do her thing.

PopHorror – I would love to see her in one of your films. You mentioned previously about working on the Fright Meter Awards, which is a new awesome event in the horror community. Since you are the President of the Fright Meter Awards, can you tell us what that all entails?

Fright Meter Awards

Troy Escamilla – In addition to being a horror fan, I am also a huge film awards buff. I am an Oscar trivia machine and diligently follow awards seasons. It has always bothered me massively that the horror genre is virtually ignored by mainstream awards. There have been some truly great performances in horror films—performances that rival, or are often times better than those that won Oscars their perspective years. Several years ago, I started a personal blog called Fright Meter, where I posted reviews of horror films, etc. I decided to combine my love of horror and awards by giving out my personal awards on an annual basis. After getting to know some other horror bloggers, I got the idea to put a committee of horror lovers together to help with the awards. The result is what you see currently; we have a committee of over fifty members involved in various aspects of the industry who are responsible for determining the Fright Meter Award nominations and winners each year. The awards are gaining notice and attention within the horror community and we have been able to actually award our custom trophy to several winners including Lin Shaye, Traci Lords, Tom Savini, The Soska Sisters and Leigh Whannell. The goal is to become the premier award given to the genre.

PopHorror – That’s such a huge deal and I can’t wait to see it grown year by year. Thanks again, Troy, for talking with us and we look forward to all your upcoming projects!

About Tori Danielle

Tori has had a passion for Horror and music ever since she was a little girl. She got bit by the writing bug in high school where she was involved in both the school newspaper and the yearbook. While getting her Bachelors degree, she took Journalism and Creative Writing classes where her passion grew even stronger. Now, in between work and family, she spends all of her spare time indulging in music, Horror movies, and nerdy fandoms, all while running/assisting one of the biggest Horror groups on Facebook and writing for various websites.

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