“Red Handed” is a new movie by filmmaker Frank Peluso. It was while sitting around the table one night with friend – and the film’s producer – Nick Cassavetes (director of such films as ‘’The Notebook’’ and ‘’Alpha Dog’’) that actor and filmmaker Frank Peluso crafted the idea for his new film, ‘’Red Handed’’. Featuring a formidable cast – including the director’s own son – the film tells of a group of youngsters that get caught up in the case of a missing child while vacationing in the woods. Frank recently discussed his career and this film via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): There have been a lot of films about cults – but this one features a killer twist. Was it important to you that “Red Handed” be something audiences hadn’t seen before?
Frank Peluso (FP): When you write a movie, you wage an endless war on cliché. Cliché is the great enemy. We must however stick with convention, like the hero at the mercy of the villain, or the hero outsmarts the villain. Convention is good, cliché is not. So, we have to deliver the conventions the audience is expecting, but we have to do it in a way they have never exactly seen before.
MM: I imagine your experience in front of the camera helped you behind the camera. But how so?
FP: How you help an actor find an idea is everything. Actors are not puppets, you can’t say do it like this you have to plant to a seed inside them with subtle suggestions, and then they have to find it. The actors I worked with on this film all really brought it. Incredibly proud of the work they did, especially my son Frank, who plays Louie.
MM: And you have the director of one of your earlier films, Nick Cassavetes, producing. How did you approach him to come aboard?
FP: The idea for this film came about in Nick’s kitchen. I worked as Nick’s director’s assistant on four films. He’s my mentor and dear friend and taught me everything I know about filmmaking.
MM: How important is sound to “Red Handed”?
FP: People don’t appreciate that sound is 50% of the cinematic experience, and it might be a little higher in a horror film. If in a film you see a “girl walking down the hallway in her home at night” there’s no tension whatsoever. But with the right music on the same images, you can create all the tension in the world. I worked with Patrick Giraudi on this. He’s done hundreds of films, he’s a terrific sound designer.
MM: And what about the score?
FP: The best part of the film is the score. Charles Derenne, otherwise known as 1982 Paris is nothing short of a genius. He composed a magnificent score, and I sat there and cried in his studio, listening to the heart wrenching music he created out of thin air and would play us on the piano.
MM: Is it hard to ground horror? Is there a risk of playing things too over-the-top?
FP: You have to establish rules in all stories; boundaries. In this story, the supernatural really only exists in Pete’s mind. He is a victim of great childhood trauma which has stayed with him his whole life. I did extensive research with real life victims of this kind of trauma and tried to make it as authentic as possible.
MM: And, having said that, what kind of direction did you offer Michael Biehn?
FP: He had a very clear idea of what he wanted to do with the character. His impulse was correct in that the nicer he appears, the more he smiles, the creepier what he says will be. It’s so much more interesting than if he was scowling.
MM: Another star of the film is the location. Where did you shoot?
FP: My dear friend Mike Marvin bought the plot of land where we shot with money, he received for selling his first Hollywood screenplay, Hot Dog the movie. He was going to build his dream house there if he ever got the money. It took 35 years, but he completed construction on it a year before we started shooting. It’s in a sleepy little town called Port Orford, on the glorious Oregon Coast.
MM: Did you get to sleep overnight there in the cabin?
FP: Yes! Mike was gracious enough to give my whole crew the house. Myself and some producers and production managers stayed at the house for two months, along with my family.
MM: In between the scares, is there a message to Red Handed?
FP: I prefer meaning, and meaning isn’t a message, it’s the truth. Bukowski said “an intellectual says a simple thing in a hard way. An artist says a hard thing in a simple way.” What I was trying to say simply is that child sacrifice and child abuse when we look at it from a biblical standpoint seems anachronistic. We look at it now like how could we have ever done that? But if you look at one of the biggest news stories of the year, the Jeffrey Epstein story, we see that the abuse of children is alive and well in contemporary America and really throughout the world. That was the simple connection I was trying to make. That this hasn’t changed. And it needs to. “Red Handed” is now available on DVD and VOD from High Octane Pictures.