Chatting with the directors of the latest installment of the found footage franchise that arrives just in time for Halloween.
I really dug V/H/S/99 (Check out my review here), which screened at Fantastic Fest and just debuted on Shudder. When the opportunity came up to do another roundtable to chat with the class of 99, I literally jumped at the chance to chat with two directors whose work I already admire, and one who is definitely on her way up there. I also have to admit theirs were also my favorite segments.
Included in my virtual roundtable was: Johannes Roberts (“Suicide Bid”) the architect of not only the very fun 47 Meters series, but also the director of the very faithful and underrated take on Resident Evil that just hit theaters. Flying Lotus (“Ozzy’s Dungeon”) who is not only a rapper/producer, but is also a director responsible for the transgressive masterwork Kuso and last but not least Maggie Levin (“Shredding”). She most recently did second unit on one of the best horror films of 2021, The Black Phone and here shows she’s easily got the chops for a solo outing with a very assured entry that digs into the reality tv trend of the late 90s.
We steer clear of spoilers, while digging into not only a possible Bitch Cat release, but the longer 30 minute cut of Ozzy’s Dungeon that will hopefully see the light of day.(fingers crossed!) Enjoy!
So first off, were you fans of the series and how did you come into the V/H/S fold?
Maggie Levin: Yes, big fan, and I was in talks with the producers when they were making 94, but because I was shooting second unit on Black Phone, I wasn’t able to be part of that one. I’m very lucky that they kept me in mind, and so when they knew they were gonna make 99, they came to me and asked if I would pitch some concepts and then it was off to the races. But, it was a real honor to be asked to join the legacy of this series.
Johannes Roberts: Yeah. I mean I knew and loved the series and I know Brad (Miska) and Josh (Goldbloom). I knew Brad very well from many years of reviewing and so we just ended up chatting and he said, ‘You fancy doing one?’ I was like, ‘yeah, let’s do it’.
Flying Lotus: I think I’m the one furthest from the orbit, you know. I don’t really know many folks in the horror world and I worked with Shutter on Kuso and Sam Zimmerman hit me up and asked me if I wanted to do one. I was like, ’Hell yeah!’ It’s been so cool and so nice to meet all these crazy motherfuckers doing this stuff. It’s been a great time. But yeah, I’ve been a fan of the series since the beginning. You know, I think the first one came out in theaters.
Flying Lotus: I caught it in the theaters. Yeah.
Maggie Levin: I mean, it was also incredible to get to chat creatively with some of the original directors, David Bruckner and Radio Silence are attached as producers and are actively involved.
So you get the call that you’re gonna do a V/H/S. What is that pitch like to you as a director? What is the assignment, if you will?
Johannes Roberts: Nothing. They’re just like,
Flying Lotus: (Laughs) They didn’t give you no assignment? They gave me like this sheet, just kind of like vibes. It was like a vibe sheet, you know, just like they were talking about like how there was anxiety around Y2K and, you know.
Johannes Roberts: You read the Sheet though? Did you?
Flying Lotus: (Laughs) I did. I mean, honestly, I did care because I didn’t wanna be so far out of orbit that I didn’t make sense. Plus I think that I was attracted to the nineties side of things. All right, well, spoilers there’s another V/H/S coming out, V/H/S/85 and the producers were like we’re trying to make ’em back to back and they’re like, are you more attracted to the eighties or the nineties? I was like, oh man, totally, the nineties. I’m so there. You know? So it was, kind of easy for me to conjure that stuff up. But, it was so much fun dealing with all these weirdos. I love it. (Laughs)
Maggie Levin: I’ve said this earlier today, but, I do think that you find out what kind of sicko you are when you step into a V/H/S segment. Because that kind of take it to the max mentality is not just encouraged, it’s important. You’re here to push boundaries. I think if you’re joining this series, you’re here to do the weirdest and wildest and most shocking and most frightening, and really take whatever your concept is to the absolute hilt. That is a top down mandate. They want all the blood and guts in mayhem, which is great.
So, Johannes, I’m a big fan of your 47 Meters series, and like those films your segment while dealing with a monster is more focused on these character dynapes and relationships withing that sitation. What draws to you those sorts of stories as a director?
Johannes Roberts: I don’t know. I grew up on movies like Cujo, and I just keep remaking that. So 47 Meters Down is Cujo with Sharks and, this is Cujo with spiders, you know, it’s…
Flying Lotus: (Laughs) I don’t know if I could call it Cujo. Man, that seems like kind of far off, but I’m trying to figure that one out.
Johannes Roberts: But yeah, I just like confined one location stuff. I always think it’s super cool, fun.
So Flying Lotus, Kuso, blew my mind. (Laughs) So what was it about the idea of child endangerment in Kids TV game shows that attracted you to your story?
Flying Lotus: I think something that I’ve always wondered was has have any of these ever gone horribly wrong? We never heard about it, you know? Because it’s so ripe for a slip, and a break and a something and at that time they probably easily sweep it under the rug and not have a big old thing about it. So that was definitely in my mind a bit. The older I get too, the more I’m like, ooh, that would hurt if I slipped and fell and hurt my tailbone. You know, I feel that shit.
So you know when you’re a kid, you see all those shows and those kids running around and do all that stuff, yeah it’s fun, you think, they’llhurt themselves, they’ll bounce back, you know? But as an adult I was just like, ooh, we’re fragile, too fragile for that.
Now I heard that your segment was actually 30 minutes long when you turned it in. Are we gonna get to see that director’s cut?
Flying Lotus: I don’t know if you want to (Laughs). I think in the end I even forgot about all the stuff we cut out. I don’t know if there’s like a cool director’s cut or anything. I think we did right. I think I’d probably cut more now (Laughs), actually.
Dan: I’d personally still like to see like your original cut.
Flying Lotus: There’s one cool scene that got chopped that I’m probably gonna just throw on Instagram after the drop. So, you’ll see that hopefully.
So Maggie, you had kind of like the hardest job, because your piece really sets the pace. It starts out sort of fun, the audience lets their guard down and shit gets real — really quick. What was sort of like in the scripting process for you to set that pace, because everyone else kind of fell into line with that?
Maggie Levin: The final order of the films was decided pretty late in the game. But I do think that the flow of it all works really beautifully.
Also for the festival run that we just did, it was really nice personally, for my anxiety to be like mine goes first and then I can relax. Yeah, and it’s interesting also seeing the wrap piece that Tyler (MacIntyre) made, because mine begins with this sort of strange tape over, it begins with the video journal of neurosurgery clip. So you kind of don’t know when you’re really entering the Shredding Universe. It sneaks up on you a little bit.
But yeah, I think watching it now for me now, I’m like, is the horror part when the bodies start dropping? Or is it how many awful things these children say to each other(Laughs)? It could be more horrifying than any of the blood and guts.
I really dug the music in your short, is there a chance we might see a Bitch Cat album or some kind of MP3 drops?
I think so.
I mean, it seems like we’re cool to maybe do something with that. Dresage wrote both of those songs and I’ve said many times, and it bears repeating I think she’s a genius. She created that lost Blink 182 song We Hate the Same Things and that Bitch Cat’s song Diamonds Turn Black. She also created a very sneaky score that represents the sound of the Bitch Cats when their ghostly forms start becoming corporeal. So yeah, I’m hoping that we can drop that cuz like it’s a banger, right?
Finally, would you guys do this again? Would you guys do another V/H/S?
Johannes Roberts: Sure.
Maggie Levin: Yeah, I mean, there is no creative freedom like it out there in the development world, they’re trying to make you play by a lot of rules and there are no rules in this world.
Flying Lotus: I’ll go as far as to say, if you were to ask me in post, I’d have said no(Laughs). But today I’m like, Hell yeah! (Laughs) Sign me up! I think it’s funny how quickly we forget we were all in the trenches, like fuck it going crazy, you know, a minute ago and then now we’re like, all right, let’s go!