Horror Shorts: We Summoned a Demon (2018)

ATMOSfx! Woo!
Carlos Larotta and Kirk C. Johnson, bumbling summoners in We Summoned a Demon.
Pure horror comedy gold! Delightfully silly, and soaked in blood. One of the highlights of the horror film circuit from 2018.

I’ve seen this short twice through the film circuit, and now that it has shown up on Vimeo, the jokes still make me laugh! The two doofuses here, Kirk and Carlos (Is that the proper plural for doofus?) are so desperate to be cool that they dip into some witchcraft, including a chicken with a whole lot of blood in it, to get chicks. And, well, things didn’t turn out so well for them.

I had the opportunity to briefly talk with Director and Writer Chris McInroy back at the Overlook Film Festival and managed to sucker him into being one of our esteemed jurors for the Scariest Things Top 100. And apparently we didn’t scare him off, as he was willing to answer a few key questions about his enjoyable horror short, and what he has planned in the future. The full short is at the bottom of this post.

Chris McInroy, director of We Summoned a Demon

TST:  Hi Chris! It’s great to have you share some of your craft with us. We Summoned A Demon has such great comic timing.  I’ve seen it several times already, and it always makes me laugh!  Even little lines like “It got all over my shirt!” were terrific table setters.  How much of this was improvised and how much of it was scripted? 

CM: Thanks, Eric! It was scripted. I have to script it all out so I can be as prepared as possible. Especially with limited budget means you have limited time to shoot, so I need to storyboard and shot list everything. That being said I like to use actors who are great at improvisation because I do believe filmmaking is a collaborative process and I want them to bring things to the set when necessary that we can work on together. I definitely start getting the shots as scripted but if we come up with something better I’m all for it. That shirt line was brought to set by Kirk and I loved it so much I had to use it. The John Travolta line was, by Carlos. There was a part we had to cut because of time where Carlos was gonna cut Kirk’s hand open during that part and use that blood on his forehead. That was the comedy of the bit, so it being cut we needed something to punch it up. I loved it so much its what I used in the edit.

TST:  I noticed that you used Carlos and Kirk in your other hysterical piece Death Metal.  Are these guys you’ve known for a long time, and grew up with, or are they actors who you have developed a rapport with?  I loved these doofy characters, are you going to use them again for another short film? 

CM: I’ve known Kirk for a long time. I was actually his TA in a comedy filmmaking class in like 2005. He was funny as hell and I knew I wanted to work with him. Will Elliott was in there too and I work with him a lot too. Carlos, I met through Kirk in 2013 when I went to their improv show here in Austin. Kirk and Carlos improv’d on stage a lot and they have great chemistry. Right now I don’t have any plans for a short film but I want to work with these guys, and a lot of the actors I’ve used in the past, forever. I plan on casting as many as I can in my first feature.

TST: Tell me about the costumes and the props.  I remember at Overlook hearing you describing some of your decision making about the demon’s costume. Can you share your prop effects wizardry “secrets” with us?

CM: The costume was designed the way it was because of 2 things. One, we wanted him to be a cool demon since the guys are trying to be cool. And what is kinda considered a cool look are hoodies, skinny jeans, and sneakers. I also wanted him hidden for a while by his hood so they wouldn’t be sure if he was a demon or not. Emily had to create a hood that would fit over that big head and horns! And two, with a limited budget we wouldn’t have to create a full body demon suit if we put clothes on him.

TST:  Is it just me, or are we in a Dario Argento Renaissance? It seems like magenta and cyan are all the rage in Indie horror cinema right now.  Marc Martinez Jordan (Framed), Panos Cosmatos (Mandy), Can Evernol (Housewife), Leigh Whannell (Upgrade)… and You!  What’s the theory behind magenta and cyan, and what makes it so appropriate for horror movies?

CM: I think maybe what makes it work for horror movies is that it’s unnatural. I don’t walk around in real life with red and blue lighting everywhere. So it makes it feel a while and as if you’re in a world where anything could happen. Not sure why those specific colors are chosen but for me, it has a lot to do with filmmaking nostalgia of movies that have done it before and I liked the feeling and vibe. If you notice in WSAD we don’t, of to the red/blue lighting until the demon shows up. That’s when you know something is not right.

Kirk C. Johnson bathed in magenta and cyan in We Summoned a Demon.

TST:  Describe for us the process of submitting for a horror film festival.  You’ve gotten in to some great ones, and this really is the forum to get horror films seen. Since starting The Scariest Things, I have become a huge horror short film fan, and I know that there are so many up-and-coming directors who use the festivals as a launch platform.  How many film festivals do you submit to?  As many as you can?  Are you selective?

CM:  I do my research to see what I feel like would be a good fit for the type of movie I make. If I’m gonna do a general fest I make sure they have some sort of midnight/horror block that I could get in. I know I’m not gonna play in a drama or light-hearted comedy block so I don’t submit to those fests. Also, I look at previous years selections to see if movies I know of that are horror related played there. Then I know they accept movies of that type. I submit mostly to genre festivals because that’s my audience and that is the type of movies I like to watch. One great and lucky thing that happened to me as I started this journey was my short film Bad Guy #2 got to world premiere at Fantastic Fest, and when you get into a big well-known festival you get contacted to submit to a lot more festivals. That has helped a lot, get into a big fest and the invites to submit usually come.

TST:  Since short films tend to be a labor of love for independent film makers, how do you fund your projects?  I saw that Neill Blomkamp is going the other direction, from big budget feature films and taking his big budgets to the short film scene, but I know that is the rare unicorn of short film directors.  Short films inherently aren’t commercial enterprises, so do you even try to monetize that?  Or is this just something you had done for the pure art of it? 

CM: I’ve crowd-funded the 3 short films and was fortunate enough to meet the goal on all 3. Feels great to have the support of people to help make these movies. I’m not into making short films for any kind of money. It is crazy rare for anyone making short films to make any money off of them.

I put mine online for free because at my level I feel like exposure is more important to any possibility of making money. I do it for the love of making movies and to practice and grow as a filmmaker. I’m also hoping to make some sort of name for myself where it will help me in making my first feature film.

TST:  I know you’ve got a werewolf hidden up your sleeves somewhere.  Can you tell us what you have for your upcoming productions? 

CM: Yes, my next goal is to make a feature and it is in the same vein as the 3 short films, practical effects-driven horror-comedy. This one has werewolves and I’m super excited about it! A few months ago I finished a segment for a horror-comedy anthology film called Scare Package. Look for its release in 2019. I can’t wait for people to see it, it may be the craziest short I’ve made yet.

TST: Can’t wait for that one! Once again, thanks for joining us, Chris. I hope to see you at one of the upcoming festivals in 2019. Best of luck with all your projects! Now… time to watch the whole short film right here:

We Summoned A Demon from Chris McInroy on Vimeo.

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