Darren Geare (Writer, The Retaliators)
The Horror Revolution: First off, what’s your favorite horror movie? What movie scared you the most?
Darren Geare: My favorite movie of all time is The Lost Boys. Admittedly, it’s hard for me to separate the nostalgia vs. un-biased critique. All I know is I can watch it endlessly. I love everything about it … Halloween is perfect. It’s the only movie I’ve ever seen where virtually every second of of the film is filled with tension and suspense. The Thing. Evil Dead. Jaws. The Hills Have Eyes. Nightmare on Elm Street … From the more modern era, Hostel and I Saw The Devil … As far as what scared me the most - I saw Halloween at a young age as a young age. It scared me out of my mind. I thought Michael Myers was stalking me anytime I walked down the street. It’s hilarious how much it traumatized me, yet I love it so much.
THR: I got a chance to watch The Retaliators, and it’s awesome. Lots of fun, and disturbing as all hell. How did you come up with the idea for the film?
DG: THE RETALIATORS idea was actually inspired by real-life, tragic events. My younger sister, a teenager at the time, survived a vicious rape assault while walking home alone at night. She narrowly survived by fighting off her attacker and crawling out of a 20-foot ravine. Years later, her attacker was eventually caught, found guilty and sentenced to 23 years in prison. Throughout the ordeal of the trial, we came up with an idea that explored the concept of an underground revenge-fantasy service for family members of crime victims. The title: THE RETALIATORS, just popped in my brain and I jotted it down. Our sister gave my brother and I the blessing to use her story as an inspiration. She asked, “If it’s ever made into a film, please use my name. I want my story to be an inspiration to victims. For people suffering traumatic PTSD. I want people to see that you can get survive and get through it.” Her name is Jody Geare. Today, she is healthy and thriving as one of the few female Fire Captains in the United States. THE RETALIATORS doesn’t tell her story, per se, but her story was our jumping-off point and is the human heartbeat underneath all the insanity.
THR: The Retaliators has a crazy cast, and I was super impressed with how well the musicians in the film did as actors. This is your first film that you’ve written, did you intend for the parts to be played by these legends in the world of rock?
DG: Originally, no. What’s funny is, the spirit was always there though. Early on when our script was reviewed, the term “rock and roll” and “metal” were actually mentioned affectionately multiple times. My favorite example was a review of the script that said “The insanity of the third act feels like the birth of metal.” When Michael Lombardi connected the script with Allen Kovac (Producer of “THE DIRT”), Allen had the immediate vision to connect rock bands to the project - both through bringing back the tradition of epic rock soundtracks and by incorporating the rock artists into the right acting roles. Lombardi met with every band member. My brother and I joined in with Michael and met with some of the artists as well. We meticulously looked at the artist and the script to find the right match. Lombardi would then spend a lot of time with each artist, talking about the character, discussing acting. Our goal was to have a movie that did not feel in any way like a vanity project. We wanted to make a movie where, if you didn’t know who any of the artists were, you would only see them as actors like any other in the film. Your compliment about their performances means a lot. We are so proud of how well they did. They all put in 100% and really went for it.
THR: What inspires you as a writer in general?
DG: I think because I love writing so much, I always feel inspired to write. I take inspiration from anything. My brain is constantly scanning for ideas. My brother and I jot down ideas all the time. We have a process where we pile them up, forget about them and then go back through with fresh eyes to see what’s good and what’s not. The most frequent inspiration probably comes from my brother and I’s ravenous appetite for genre cinema. We are constantly digging through the filmographies of writers, directors or actors that we love or that we may discover. All-time classics like Jaws and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly are as much an inspiration to us as are the exploitation cinema of the 70’s and 80’s. From grindhouse to the Cannon Films catalogue, we love to thread in that kind of subversive spirit into whatever we write.
THR: Most of the roles in your filmography are acting roles. Now that you have a screenplay that’s been made into a feature film, which is your favorite, writing or acting?
DG: No question, writing is my favorite. I know of a lot of writers dread the writing process. Writing to me is a total high. When my brother and I were on the set of THE RETALIATORS, watching incredible actors perform the scenes and dialogue we wrote, I experienced another level of high that I had never experienced as a performer …That being said, I believe my experience and education as an actor is a crucial and fundamental element that has helped shape me as a screenwriter. I have a deep appreciation and admiration for acting and how difficult it is. It has been helpful with everything from writing dialogue to being able to communicate really easily with actors.
THR: I was really impressed with the cast aside from the rock stars as well. Did you have any input into who fit into what role?
DG: Yes. Michael Lombardi and I were heavily involved in casting. It was so important to find actors with real chops. Marc Menchaca was a big one for us. Michael went after Marc knowing how perfect he would be in the pivotal role of Jed. When my brother and I first heard Marc’s voice, we had goosebumps. He had the voice we had been hearing for that character from the day we created it. It all started with Michael Lombardi playing John Bishop. From the beginning, my brother and myself knew that Michael was born to play the lead role. The insane arc that this character goes through could only be executed by an actor that can go all the way and really put the blood and sweat into it. It was as physically demanding as it was emotionally draining. Michael was the first person we sent the script to. He read it and immediately knew he had to play the part. He was on a plane from NY to LA three days after reading the script. He met with my brother and I and said he was born to play the role of John Bishop and he will get THE RETALIATORS made.
THR: If you had the opportunity to work with anyone in the industry, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
DG: Alive, my dream would be to work with John Carpenter, Steven Spielberg, Gene Hackman and Clint Eastwood … Passed away, it would have to be on a film that stars Charles Bronson, is directed by John Hughes and scored by Tangerine Dream.
THR: Stories of revenge are pretty common in film, especially in the horror genre. What do you think makes The Retaliators stand out from the rest?
DG: Our intent was to put a subversive twist on the classic revenge story. I feel like “I Saw The Devil” amped the revenge sub-genre to a new level of intensity. Our aim, on one hand, was to take a revenge tale to even crazier heights, while simultaneously taking the audience through the reality of the moral dilemma that the character experiences. We also wanted to take the these two elements and build to an absolutely bat shit third act. For people who love a revenge story, the familiar elements are there … but for people looking for a new take, I promise this film will go to some unexpected and insane directions.
THR: What is one fact about you that you would want everyone watching the film to know?
DG: That there is no message in our film. We purposefully didn’t want to judge which path was right or wrong and then telegraph it to the audience. We ideally wanted to stretch the audience’s own internal moral struggle to its furthest limit for the sake of entertainment. Our aim was to write a movie where the audience could discuss afterward. Argue sides. Walk in a few of our characters’ shoes and fight out what they would do or not do. Our preferred cinema aesthetic is pure escape. Pure entertainment. A place to let your imagination go wild. A place to stretch limits. Jaws, Heat, Once Upon a Time in the West, Pulp Fiction don’t have messages to telegraph anywhere. They are just enjoyable rollercoaster rides that are always a pleasure to go on. Whether a film is all time great or a fun B-movie, that is the experience we are attracted to and it’s what we tried to craft with THE RETALIATORS.
THR: If you had access to unlimited funding and every actor in Hollywood, what kind of film would you make?
DG: What we got to do with THE RETALIATORS was such a dream. I would want to keep doing exactly what we just did. Make an exciting movie with incredible actors. Have fun with genre and create another rollercoaster.
THR: I know that The Retaliators definitely has some shades of horror, though I don’t know if it would be classified as strictly horror. Is horror your preferred genre to work in?
DG: Horror/thriller is what we prefer. But every script we write and every story we come up also always has the connecting thread of crime thriller mixed in. We are very influenced by the grimier crime thrillers of Don Siegel, William Friedkin, J. Lee Thompson to the neon-noir aesthetic of Michael Mann’s early work.
THR: It’s so exciting to see new screenwriters make a genuinely good film. What’s coming up next for you?
DG: Thank you so much for the kind words. We have several scripts that we have written that we are super excited about. We have been polishing drafts and are excited to get them out there and get them made.
THR: Finally, how many friendships have you ruined because you refused to be merciful in games of Monopoly?
DG: At least a few. Especially when I play a themed Monopoly - of which I proudly own two. I have the Garbage Pail Kids edition and the AC/DC edition of Monopoly. Don’t fuck with me if I pull out one of those.