The Butcher Brothers part two: "Are these guys real?"

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Francis 2.jpg
Francis (Cory Knauf) documents his home life -- which happens to involve quite a bit of bloody murder -- in The Hamiltons.

Yesterday, I posted my interview with Mitchell Altieri, one half of the filmmaking team known as the Butcher Brothers -- the Bay Area not-really-brothers (though they are tight-bros-from-way-back-when) responsible for The Hamiltons, described by Altieri as "a horror coming-of-age story." (More on the film in my entry below). Here, I chew the fat with the other Butcher Brother, inner Sunset resident Phil Flores, who spilled on casting, the true genesis of the Butcher Brothers, and the film's ending -- though any potential spoilers were strictly off the record, of course.

San Francisco Bay Guardian: How did the casting process work? The teenage protagonist, Cory Knauf, is particularly good in the film.
Phil Flores: He’s 21 now. When we shot it, he was about 19. We’d done two films previous to this one, including Lurking in Suburbia -- and on those films, we found a few of the actors, which led to more actors, and their friends. We brought one of the actors, the guy who plays David [Samuel Child], from Lurking in Suburbia. Mackenzie Firgens, who plays the sister, is kind of a known actress in San Francisco. We met Cory through her, because they both worked on a film called Sweet Insanity. We saw him, and thought he fulfilled the role immediately. He’s got such a great wisdom for being a 19-year-old kid. He’s ahead of his time. He’s actually been getting a lot of work down in Los Angeles too. We’d like to work with him again.

SFBG: When I talked to Mitchell, he said that you guys met early in high school -- probably around the same age as Francis in The Hamiltons.
PF: We were both storytellers and story lovers. We both seemed to influence one another. We had these characters in our heads that needed to get out, and I think we found, by working with each other, that they had a release. We started working on stories together which we thought were even stronger than our own. We were both only kids growing up, and by having someone you can work with, became kind of like a brother.

SFBG: A butcher brother, if you will. I asked Mitchell this, but I'm interested in your take. How did you come up with that nickname?
PF: The genesis of it, really, was that we don’t have a horror background at all. We have a dramatic and comedic background. And we had the opportunity to make this horror film, so we said, “If the horror film does horribly, we can call ourselves the Butcher Brothers, and that way we don’t get stuck in the niche. If it does really well, it could be iconic.” And so, it’s been doing really well. It did just what we thought it might do -- it’s got a huge buzz. Every time we go to Los Angeles, it’s like, “Oh, the Butcher Brothers!” It’s catchy. But the true genesis is that we were watching a Pang Brothers movie, The Eye. In the DVD extras it showed people talking about the Pang Brothers for like 20 minutes, but you never saw them. So we were like, “Are these guys real?” And so we thought, what a great idea. Let’s make up a couple of guys who could not possibly be real, but who people think are real. And that’s where the original idea came from.

SFBG:
Are you worried that people won’t actually know who you are, or is that part of the mystique?
PF: The thing is, with a lot of films, most people don’t recognize the directors. They recognize the actors. Most horror films are so cookie-cutter that you don’t know who directed it. You just know what it’s about, like a monster or whatever. But it seems like the Butcher Brothers is just as popular as The Hamiltons. The idea behind the Butcher Brothers is to create some dark content that we wouldn’t normally do as filmmakers, and to be able to put our quality of storytelling into horror films -- I think that’s why The Hamiltons has done so well.

SFBG: Would you rather be known for your storytelling or your visual style? Or both?
PF: I'd say at this point, the Butcher Brothers are known for their storytelling. I think the next film we’ll be working on, we’re gonna be covering a lot more stylization because we’ll have probably a larger budget. But it always boils down to characters for us. The first thing you do when you see a film -- if you don’t relate to the characters, if you don’t believe in them, then you turn off. That’s what’s carried in The Hamiltons, is that you can really relate to these characters who are these normal people who live in suburbia, except for they have to kill people and you’re not sure why.

SFBG:
I know you can't say too much about it yet, but what can you tell me about what the Butcher Brothers are working on next?
PF: There's been a huge snowball effect since The Hamiltons came out. We've had a lot of interest in what we're working on next. We've had something in mind that's gonna have really strong characters, and it's going to be about West Coast, California culture. Kind of dealing with things that haven't been seen before, is all I can really say.

SFBG: And it's a horror film?
PF: It's a horror film. It's gonna be something that people from California can relate to, as well as the rest of the world. It's gonna be drawn into something that a very small amount of people know about, but once everyone sees it, they'll be like, "Oh yeah. This makes sense to me." We're going to start working on it next year -- shooting it in 35mm -- and it will come out probably late 2007 or early 2008. We can't talk about it only because we don't want the idea to get stolen.

SFBG: What do you think of the current state of horror films?
PF: The thing is, they're all such cookie-cutter films. We know what's going to happen to the characters ahead of time. We're not attached to the characters. In The Hamiltons, we introduce you to the characters ahead of time. Make you know them, make you almost root for them, which is rooting for the villains -- so you're kind of trying to figure out why you like to root for the villains. You really just want to be able to put great characters into great films, and most horror films don't explore that.

There's a new "splat pack" -- kind of up-and-coming [filmmakers] like Eli Roth. I think Alexandre Aja, he's got something going on, and Guillermo Del Toro. These guys are kind of changing the face of horror as well. I think that it's actually a great way for horror to have its reset button pushed.

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The Hamiltons plays as part of the After Dark Horrorfest, with complete theater and ticket information at www.horrorfestonline.com.
www.sffilms.tv/thehamiltons

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