People often find excitement in pushing boundaries and testing how far they can shock people, until their innocent fun and games puts their lives in danger. The main characters in the new action horror comedy ‘Butcher Boys,’ which was directed by Justin Meeks and Duane Graves, seek such thrills by taunting strangers, until they violently turn on them. The two helmers reunited to disturb viewers with their latest effort, which is now available on VOD, to show how much influence the most extreme tormenters can have on modern society.
‘Butcher Boys,’ follows a group of friends-Sissy (Ali Faulkner), Mickey (Phillip Wolfe), Barbie (Tory Tomkins), and Kenny (Matt Henserling)-who celebrate Kenny’s birthday at a nice restaurant. On their way home, the group ends up getting into trouble after stopping at a convenience store, where Barbie recklessly antagonizes several other patrons. The young locals end up chasing the four friends in a dangerous car chase, leading them into a deserted part of town. As a result of the chase, the friends end up stranded in the abandoned, run-town part of town.
The cannibalistic gang chasing Sissy and her friends unforgivingly targets each member of the group. When Sissy repeatedly seeks protection from the few police officers and neighbors sporadically roaming the streets, they all rebuff her pleas, fearing for their own lives and knowing the gang runs the area. She soon realizes the gang has more than a taste for blood, and they unforgivingly make a killing off of human flesh.
Meeks generously took the time recently to talk about filming ‘Butcher Boys’ over the phone. Among other things, the director and actor, who also portrayed cannibalistic gang member Caesar in the film, discussed how scribe and producer Kim Henkel approached him and Graves with the script after he finished writing it, as he previously worked with the two helmers on several of their short films; how he and Graves routinely spoke to Henkel, who’s most well-known for penning and producing several of the films in the ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ series, about his thoughts on the characters, while he also allowed them creative freedom in telling the story they wanted to; and how he cast Faulkner, who he’s been friends with for five years, after seeing her ability in their acting class.
ShockYa (SY): You co-directed the new action horror comedy, ‘Butcher Boys,’ with Duane Graves. How did you become involved in the film, and why did you want to helm the movie together?
Justin Meeks (JM): Well, Duane and I went to film school together. After that, I started writing a series of horror shorts, and we started to co-direct them. Duane would be the cinematographer on the shorts, which started about 12 years ago. From there, we did a series of shorts, including comedy.
Then we said, “We’re ready (to do a feature).” We did our first feature, ‘The Wild Man of the Navidad,’ and it went to (the) Tribeca (Film Festival). Variety wrote a great review about it. IFC bought it, and released it both in the States and internationally.
At the same time, Kim (Henkel) sent us a script he had been working on, which was the next installment of ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre.’ But he wanted to bring it into the future. When Twister Pictures ended up going with their script of ‘Texas Chainsaw 3D,’ Kim went back to the drawing board and changed some things. So now we have ‘Butcher Boys.’
Kim has always been a producer on our horror short films. After we did our first feature, he thought we were the guys to do this film. He wanted a modern view and vision on this script.
Q: Speaking of Kim, who is known for writing and producing several of the ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ films, penned and produced ‘Butcher Boys.’ What was the process of working with him on the set, as both a writer and producer?
JM: Kim was there all the way, and it was interesting. He stayed in the background, and let us do what we do. He let us put our vision on his script. But, like anything, there are always battles, but we would always have a good meeting in the mornings and afternoons.
We sat down with Kim so many numerous times, talking about his thoughts, even before he wrote the script. We would talk about things that weren’t even in the script, such as details about the characters. We tried to stay as true to his words as we could, while at the same time putting our own vision on it.
SY: Like you mentioned, ‘Butcher Boys’ is the second horror film you co-directed together, after ‘The Wild Man of the Navidad.’ Why did you decide to co-helm ‘Butcher Boys’ together, and why do you enjoy working together?
JM: Well, I was in L.A. at the time, and Kim had sent us the script. When they decided to move on it, we both agreed. We had a great experience on ‘The Wild Man,’ and we work well together. That’s when we really started talking to Kim in the pre-production stages of the movie.
We’ve been co-directing films for the past 12 years, and it works for us. We always say, “Two heads are better than one.” We also write well together. It’s a filmmaking marriage that has worked for us. So Kim was all for us to work together again, and we were all for it. That was always the plan.
SY: Besides directing ‘Butcher Boys,’ you also starred as Caesar in the film. Why did you also decide to act in the movie? How did helming the film influence the way you portrayed your character?
JM: Well,Kim approached me and wanted me to play Caesar. I didn’t say no, because I was extremely appreciative and happy to play Caesar. It was a very interesting role, and I looked forward to embodying that character.
Again, I had experience co-directing ‘The Wild Man of the Navidad’ with Duane and a limited, five-person crew. On this shoot, we had 40 people, so it was very different working with a large crew. It was different telling them all what you needed, and about your vision. But having that crew really relieve a burden for us.
SY: ‘The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn-Part I’ star Ali Faulkner played the lead character, Sissy, in ‘Butcher Boys.’ Why did you decide to cast her in the role?
JM: Well, I have known Ali for about five years. I was in L.A. at the time we decided to direct ‘Butcher Boys,’ so I had been taking acting classes with her. We also had the same manager at the time, so I had seen her work for years.
The first time I read the script, her name and Sissy were almost one. That’s how I saw Ali, in a way. (laughs) She’s a really excellent actress. When she came down, she said, “I can play fear well.” I’ve seen her play romantic and everything managers push on young actresses.
But she really brought another factor and level to our movie. She plays the character very well. So basically I cast her from our friendship and having the same manager, and working together as actors. We had taken the same classes, so I had seen her as an actress. I had a jump on her as an actress, just knowing a lot of the local talent from around here. But I had also seen some other talent that I hadn’t seen, because I had been here in L.A. here.
SY: ‘Butcher Boys’ is set in San Antonio, Texas, and was shot independently in Austin. What was the experience filming the horror comedy in Texas on a small budget?
JM: Well, it wasn’t easy, especially with this script. We were shooting in many locations, from Taylor, Texas, to the bottom of the Sears building over on 38th Street. We also shot off of I-35 to the top of a prison downtown. So we were all over the place.
You’ll see one scene in the movie, and maybe it was shot in the Sears building. Then you’ll see the outside of that shot, and maybe it was just shot in a warehouse. There were constantly different pieces being put together. We were constantly moving in this movie, not only with the locations, but also because it’s a high-level script.
Written by: Karen Benardello