You might not realize it, but women are taking over the world of horror. There are more women making scary movies than ever before, and Darla Enlow is at the head of the pack. As an actress, director, writer and co-founder of Next Monkey Horror Films, Darla is a busy woman. She sat down for a chat with me in 2007 about her film, The Stitcher, and the politics of horror.
Hi, Darla. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me. Can you tell us a little about yourself? Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Sapulpa, Oklahoma. The small town life gave me the flavor for writing The Stitcher. The characters that live in small towns are larger than life—so much more than city folks.
Have you always been in love with horror?
Horror has always been my love ever since I was old enough to change the channels on the TV. My mother was a huge horror fan, and she got me started. When my father would go to work overnight at the fire station, we would fire up the horror movies.
You are quite a busy lady: actress, director, producer, studio executive. What don’t you do?
I think if you are going to be a filmmaker, you need to know every aspect of filmmaking. The camera, sound, editing, foley work and music score all go together. You have to have a working knowledge of every facet. What don’t I do? Artwork. Artwork is very important, so I want someone who can really create a great poster to do so.
What’s your favorite part of the filmmaking experience?
It would be working with the actors and editing. The actors we work with are extremely professional and fun to work with. They enjoy the filmmaking process as much as I do, and that makes for a great movie. You can see it on the screen. Editing comes second because that is where the magic happens. Editing is more of a creative process than people would think.
Yeah, it all comes down to editing. It can totally change a film. Tell us a little about the formation of Next Monkey Horror Films.
I created Next Monkey because I had worked with so many local movie makers that never finished their projects. A low-budget production is probably more difficult than a large budget, and when the going would get rough, they would quit. I had enough of that, so I decided to produce movies myself.
Where did you meet your lovely partner, Dana Pike? How did you decide to go into business together?
[Laughs] I met Dana on a set of a movie that never got finished. We worked our butts off as actors, and she ran crew work…and I ran camera for this director. After that experience, we decided that the girl power could complete what most of the guys we had worked with couldn’t!
It’s funny. Most people start with a short film and progress to features. Y’all did it backwards. Was there any reason for that?
We did, for grins, do a short movie first. It was titled The Mansion. It is not listed on our website, as it was a test pilot. The main reason for going straight into features is— Features get marketed, short movies really don’t. We wanted full-length movies like the big guys. In a low-budget production, we thought distribution companies would take more notice of a feature-length movie.
I was so impressed with all the actors in The Stitcher. There are some beautiful, talented women in Oklahoma—more than in Hollywood, it would seem. Can you tell us how you found them?
Tulsa has a strong Music and Performing Arts pool of talent. Almost every actor in Stitcher has a college degree in the performing arts. Scott Gaffen, our casting director, did an incredible job of finding the perfect actor for the select roles. We were able to cast very talented women, and the fact they are beautiful is bonus!
Yes, it definitely is! I really like the fact that the characters in The Stitcher aren’t stupid teenagers. It’s so rare these days to finds a horror movie with stupid adults! Was that part of the movie’s conception?
[Laughs] Yes, that was the plan from the beginning. There are so many horror movies out there where every role in the movie is a teenager. We wanted something different. We wanted to use dialogue and situations that could occur to the working professional. We try and do our homework before writing [or] creating any movie. Research showed us that our viewer profile age range is from 14 to 49.
Your first film, Toe Tags, was a lot of fun, Darla. One of my favorite parts was your performance. It’s nice to hear a real Southern accent in a movie. Since Toe Tags, your performances have been whittled down to cameos, basically. Do you plan on keeping it that way? Is it hard to direct yourself?
No, it isn’t hard to direct myself. I should have the best feel for how the character should be. And, yes, I do plan on doing cameos. The reason for me doing cameos in future projects is [that] the person playing the character in a movie has really got to bring it. As I mentioned in one of the [previous] questions, almost every actor in The Stitcher has a degree in acting, I don’t. It’s always all about what is best for the movie project. I think when the viewer watches Stitcher, they won’t be bored. Our actors bring it! Our motto on the set was “Don’t be boring.” Making a low budget movie is a monstrous task. Lighting has to be good, camera angles need to move the story—and the acting can’t be bad. I’m not that good of an actor, so [on] this project, we hired the people that can act.
Next Monkey Horror Films seems to be a family affair. Who do you rope into helping you, and what do they do?
Yes, Dana and I “rope” our families into helping us. Although she and I do most of the crew work, sometimes you have to have a little help. Our families and good friends love our movie making, so they are always about helping us out. Thank goodness! Generally, we like to have some help when we go on a location that is someone’s place of business. The more help we can get to load and unload the equipment, the faster we can turn their business back over to them. We had a lady close her bar for us, and the marina let us rope a section off for shooting, which was awesome.
I had a hard time catching up with you for this interview. Where have you been lately?
Dana and I do a lot of traveling after a project is finished. We generally screen our movies in film festivals, and we travel to horror conventions. I was in Orlando, Florida, at the Screamfest when you contacted me. We attended the Texas Frightmare in Dallas a few months ago. I was going to try and make it to the NYC Horror Film festival this year, and I ran out of month! We went last year, and that was one of the best horror film festivals we have ever attended.
Where are you going next?
I’m not sure where our next stop will be, we are going to enter The Stitcher in the SXSW film festival in Austin for 2008. Dana and I need to slow down long enough to take a look and see where and what is going on in 2008.
Wow, you guys are busy! So, what’s next for Next Monkey Horror Films? You wrote The Stitcher. Are you planning on writing your next flick too? Do have any ideas yet?
Right now we are busy marketing The Stitcher; however, we do have some ideas for the next story idea. We want to enter Stitcher into a few festivals and just go have fun with it for awhile.
Darla, you’re a woman working in what is traditionally a male genre: horror. Do you think of yourself as representing a needed female voice or point of view in horror today? Or do you just want to make good scary movies, screw the politics?
[Laughs] I say “screw the politics!” The only thing I want to do is make horror movies, it is my passion. The guy film makers that I have met through traveling to conventions and film festivals have been awesome. We sit down and chat about our favorite films, changes in the horror world, and what our next projects are.
I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you about your favorite horror films and your favorite horror filmmakers.
Oh my, do we have all day? I admire Tobe Hooper for his Texas Chain Saw Massacre. That movie scared the shit out of me when I was young. They did an incredible job on the remake a few years back. I got to meet and sit and visit with Eli Roth of Cabin Fever. He is incredibly passionate about horror movie making. I love horror for the rush of being scared. I think when most people watch a horror movie, they always think, “What would I do if that was me in that horrific situation?” To this day, I hate the sound of a chainsaw!