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Clay von Carlowitz Interview (Actor, Cannibal Mukbang and Blackout)

The Horror Revolution: First off, what’s your favorite horror movie? What movie scared you the most? 


Clay von Carlowitz: My favorite horror movie is probably John Carpenter's Halloween. I grew up in the Midwest, and mixed in with idyllic memories of childhood, I've got a fair share of dark memories. Being introduced to horror movies like this one as a young kid may have initially been traumatizing, but ultimately I found it liberating to be made aware of real danger in even the safest of places. More broadly, a movie like Halloween has a sense of fun to it, and there's genuine joy in rooting for a shy but perceptive young woman who knows she must face her fate. Ignorance may be bliss to Laurie's friends, but in the end, she has the edge. Awareness is power. As far as which movie has scared me the most, it's hard to shake the opening scene of When A Stranger Calls. Sure, we all roll our eyes at the cliché of a killer calling from inside the house, but imagine a time when you watched something like that before massive awareness and dismissive snark. I'll acknowledge both these titles deal with similar themes. 


THR: You play the main character’s brother Maverick in Cannibal Mukbang. I had so much fun with this movie! What drew your interest in this role?

CvC: Glad you enjoyed the film! I was drawn to this character because the director, Aimee Kuge, had seen some of my earlier work and had an instinct about what I could do with the part. When I read the screenplay, I instantly grasped who this guy was and what I would do to bring him to life. In particular, I responded to the element of an older brother (did I mention I'm the second oldest of 9 kids; 8 boys, one girl?), and how he may have assumed a rigid, Teflon archetype that made his younger brother feel safe. I'm also passionate about exposing the darkness, hypocrisy and fractured personality beneath the veneer of a seemingly strong, successful male role model in American society. 


THR: Cannibal Mukbang has a number of twists and turns and they’re all handled incredibly well for an indie film. How much of that comes down to the (excellent) script, and how much was in the delivery from the actors in the film?

CvC: Thank you for saying that. I'll never forget reading the script for the first time and being awestruck by where it went in the third act. This is truly bold, daring, heartbreaking stuff. I have to give credit to Aimee for providing us with an exceptional framework which justified character choices and ultimately provided each of the three principal characters with satisfying arcs. I will say that we couldn't have stuck the landing if April and Nate had not been so invested in their perverted love story. It also helped me immensely to have set aside time to get to know Nate one-on-one, feeling out our dynamic so it translated as authentic onscreen. As a director, Aimee empowered us, encouraged us and treated us with unironic reverence; these characters became real, and we felt deeply responsible to handle them with care.


THR: Your character in the film was so hate-able, yet also seemed to have a heart of gold at times. How complicated was the character of Maverick to play, and did you have any inspirations in how you chose to play the character?

CvC: It's a tremendous compliment that you felt more than one way about Maverick. In my life, I've had plenty of charismatic, effortlessly cool mentors/father figures, and some of them had other elements to their personalities that scared me. I don't condone all of my character's choices, but I did develop an understanding of the things that mattered to him. Some people are broken very early on and they never find a way to fix themselves, so instead they master a kind of mask and facilitate a lifestyle to feed their habits or addictions. That all may seem sad, but I attempted to find the fun, the love and the contradictions in this guy so the audience had a fuller experience and lots more to contemplate once the credits started rolling. As far as inspirations are concerned, I think there's maybe a hint of a certain persona in the name of the character...


THR: You’re also in Blackout, the Larry Fessenden-helmed werewolf flick we covered recently. What was it like working with one of the Kings of Indie Horror?

CvC: It was a thrill, and something I've been gunning to do for a long time now. I studied Larry's movies in college, started corresponding with him upon moving to NYC and got to know him over the years, to the point where myself and my wife/frequent collaborator (also in Blackout) Asta Paredes were invited to all kinds of stuff within that Glass Eye Pix community. It's funny; a few people have said they assumed I'd already worked with Larry, because he's always been in my periphery. Someday I'd love to share the screen with him, too; he's a great actor and a playful, committed artist.


THR: You’ve spent a lot of your career working in indie horror, including with Troma for Return to Nuke ‘Em High and its sequel and with friend-of-the-site Liam Regan for My Bloody Banjo. What draws you to indie horror as a genre?

CvC: I'm drawn to creative agency, provocative work and striking visual styles, all three of which are often at the forefront of this thing we call "Indie Horror." I have not had a traditional path as an actor, but in my efforts to assert myself as a craftsman of worth, I've honed lots of skills and deepened my sense of what I can do to contribute to movies in a meaningful way.


THR: If you could work with anyone in the industry, alive or dead, who would it be and why?


CvC: Time will tell if he's able to keep making movies, but I would love to work with Paul Schrader, because he's able to distill and dissect male archetypes in the most vivid fashion imaginable. He asks big questions in his work and challenges his leads to dig deep, confront difficult truths and yet not ever telegraph the struggle to the audience. 


THR: One of the perspectives I like to get from people in the industry involves one of the more controversial parts of the horror genre. What is your opinion on horror remakes, and are there any films that you would like to be in if they are eventually remade?

CvC: I'm fairly open to remakes within the horror genre, as stories in general are constantly remade over the course of human history; it's part of the whole tradition! That being said, there are many clumsy attempts to cash in on titles that we only remember because of how lovingly, meticulously crafted they were. Now and then, conversely, there are some horror remakes that are actually great. I would be curious to see someone try to remake the Alan Parker supernatural horror film Angel Heart (1987), perhaps with some retooling of the voodoo exploitation elements. I like horror movies that follow deep character journeys. 


THR: What’s next for you? Are there any exciting upcoming projects you can talk about?

CvC: I'm working on getting a couple scripts I wrote produced - one being a thriller, the other straight horror. I'm also attached as a lead in a nihilistic, semi-arthouse, deconstructed slasher film called Eyes on Joanne by my talented filmmaker friend Omar Salas Zamora. Hoping we get to make that soon. 


THR: Finally, if you could be reincarnated as any animal, what animal would it be, and would you eventually want to be eaten?

CvC: I wouldn't mind being a wolf, because I'd find a mate with whom I'd stick with for life, get to travel, hunt and explore while keeping would-be threats at bay. I'm not interested in being eaten, because that would be painful and nightmarish.  

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