Struggling to find your rightful place in the world, where you’re unquestionably accepted and embraced by the people around you, can be a daunting prospect for many people. Not only does Raymond, the quirky protagonist in the new independent horror comedy, ‘Suburban Gothic,’ which was directed by Richard Bates Jr., struggle to find a job he enjoys and excels at, but also discover the real meaning of having true friends and family. Actor Matthew Gray Gubler, who previously worked with the director on his first film, the 2012 horror drama, ‘Excision,’ also found his rightful amongst his colleagues on the movie; the performer effortlessly showcased his comedic roots in ‘Suburban Gothic,’ which will be released on Friday in theaters and on VOD.
‘Suburban Gothic,’ which Bates also co-wrote with Mark Bruner, follows the slightly immature Raymond (Gubler), who recently graduated from college with an MBA and has a strong desire to launch his career. However, he hasn’t yet reached his potential to work in his goal of upper management. After not being able to find a job, he’s forced to move back in with his ever-happy mom, Eve (Barbara Niven), who’s excited to have her son return home, and his high-school-coach dad, Donald (Ray Wise), who’s not as tolerant as his wife.
When the family’s landscaper Hector (Mel Rodriguez) and his crew accidentally discover the skeleton of a young girl who was buried in their backyard, they unleash a vengeful spirit. The girl’s spirit soon begins making her presence known, through visions and nightmares, to Raymond, who used to be able to interact with the paranormal as a child. While he lost the ability as he grew older, he’s reminded of his true calling as he begins interacting with the girl’s spirit. So he recruits the help of a fellow misfit, the sarcastic local bartender, Becca (Kat Dennings), in order to appease the vengeful spirit and return his house and family to normal.
Gubler generously took the time recently to talk about filming ‘Southern Gothic’ during an exclusive interview over the phone. Among other things, the actor discussed how he was drawn to play the role of Raymond in the horror comedy, as the film’s unique protagonist and story not only reminded him of the 1970s cult genre films he enjoys, but how he also appreciates acting in the low-budget indie world, as it gives him creative freedom to approach his characters the way he likes; and how he enjoys working with Bates on his films, as they’re not only friends, but he’s also one of the most dedicated filmmakers he knows, and allowed him to infuse his own sense of comedy into his portrayal of Raymond.
ShockYa (SY): You play Raymond in the new horror comedy, ‘Southern Gothic.’ What was it about the character, as well as the script overall, that convinced you to take on the role?
Matthew Gray Gubler (MGG): I’m a real big fan of 1970s cult cinema, as well as John Waters and genre films that still play at midnight in theaters. The script and director of this film jumped out at me as being in that category. I also like working in the low-budget indie world, because I feel like it’s a great space to do things in that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to do. (laughs) So it sounded like a really fun adventure.
I was also really close friends with the film’s director, Richard, prior to working on the movie. So we thought we can make a nice, heartfelt, unique movie for unique people, under very unique circumstances. So it was a very fun time.
SY: Speaking of Richard, who also co-wrote the script with Mark Bruner, what was the process of reuniting with him on ‘Suburban Gothic,’ after you starred in his first movie, the 2012 horror drama, ‘Excision?’
MGG: I had met him a few years prior (to making ‘Excision’ together). Someone had described him by saying, “I met a guy who’s a lot like you. He’s a crazy director, so you have to meet him.” So I was a little hesitant about it. Whenever someone tells you that you remind them of someone else, it’s normally an insult.
But then I met him, and I was immediately taken with his absolute dedication to making movies. He’s an absolute true crazy man, but the best of every director out there, wrapped up into one guy. So I knew I wanted to work with him.
When he was making ‘Excision,’ I told him if he needed any help in the future, I would be more than happy to assist him. So then he cast me in this funny role as the sex-ed teacher in that film. On the day we were working, he let me improv a lot, and let me make up all these crazy things. He loved it, and it went really well. So he said, “I want to make a feature film that’s written for you to star in.”
My true love is comedy, but I haven’t really had the opportunity to do a lot of that. I’ve done a really dark TV show (‘Criminal Minds’) for the last 10 years. So Richard saw that in me, so he wrote the role in ‘Suburban Gothic’ for me, and I was really honored about that.
SY: Speaking of making the horror comedy independently, what was that experience like overall? Did it influence the creativity and authenticity you brought to your role?
MGG: Not really; I approach every single thing, whether it’s playing a character, or doing chores around my house, like washing the dishes, with my absolute highest passion at all times. So the film’s budget didn’t really affect anything while we were filming. When I say low budget, I mean like zero budget. (laughs)
I love working on these types of indie films, as the people working on them really want to be there. To work in those circumstances, you have to be a true cinefile. That process creates an impassioned crew and a fun working environment.
SY: Raymond recruits Kat Dennings’ character, Becca, a local bartender in his home town, to help him fight the paranormal spirits. What was the process of building your working relationship with Kat on the film?
MGG: I love Kat, as she’s actually one of my closest friends, and we actually dated many years ago. It’s very rare to find weirdos who are like yourself, (laughs) so when you find them, you keep them close. Kat’s one of them, as is Ricky, John Waters, Ray Wise and the whole cast. I couldn’t be more proud of the unique people I was surrounded by in the film; we all speak the same language.
SY: Speaking of improvising, which you mentioned earlier, since ‘Suburban Gothic’ is a horror comedy, were you able to adlib at all with Kat and the rest of the cast while you were filming? If so, did that element help bring an authenticity and laughs to the characters?
MGG: It really did. Ricky’s a great director in the sense that he also writes wonderful scripts, and he wrote this great film with Mark. He then casts the parts in a way that he finds the best actors for each role, so he feels comfortable letting them improvise. So there was some improvising on the set.
But the odd thing about ‘Suburban Gothic’ for me was that in many ways, my character’s the straight man. There are a lot of wacky characters who surround me and have most of the funny, strange lines. So there wasn’t as much room for me to improv, as I needed to anchor the weirdness, so that the movie wouldn’t spin out of control. (laughs) So I did improvise, but not quite as much as I normally would.
Written by: Karen Benardello