Malacostraca: A Horror Film by Charles Pieper

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The real horror, according to Pieper is humanity itself. The filmmaker’s latest piece is an alarming and unsettling feature in the best kind of way, as it shows the dark side of the human mind and its capabilities.  

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There are certain words that come to mind when watching the creation of Charles Pieper’s: daunting, disturbing, alarming, ominous, and the list goes on. The word “boring” is not on that list. Think of the darkness Tim Burton brings to the screen mixed with the gory, cheesy, over the top slasher movies from the 1980s and you’d have something slightly resembling a film by Charles Pieper. While Pieper’s work is eerie and unsettling, the writer and filmmaker is the exact opposite in his countenance. He’s upbeat with a demeanor similar to a childhood friend you haven’t spoken with in ages. He speaks passionately about his projects and the joy he finds in making people uncomfortable.

Pieper has been in the industry for years, not only doing the film but also working in special effects and sets of productions. He’s attracted to the dark and gory and has been since he was young.

When he’s not working on his own films he lends his talents to music videos and writing scripts for future pieces of work. HIs mind seems to run a mile a minute and at times it’s as if his mouth struggles to catch u and formulate his quick thoughts. He’s got his mind on current projects as well as future work but doesn’t want to delve too deep into anything that isn’t 100% guaranteed, because as anyone in film can tell you, and as Charles agrees, until you’re sitting in the theatre watching the film, it’s never a sure thing. Pieper can attest to this given his past issues when working on his current film Malacostraca, a project nearly 10 years in the making and something Pieper is extremely proud of.

Malacostraca is not only Pieper’s longest piece to date but also possibly his darkest. The film focuses on a writer and his deteriorating home life with his wife and their growing family. The film’s ending holds a twist that sits with the viewer in the most unsettling yet intriguing way. Expect to sit in your chair in silence for a moment after finishing the film simply attempting to digest what you’ve seen. The film is disconcerting and thought-provoking, both intended emotions according to Pieper. The film is set to make the rounds at numerous film festivals this year

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Pieper and Pecoraro behind the scenes of filming

So your new piece Malacostraca, definitely a darker piece than your previous work.

Pieper:  (laughs) yes, it’s meant to be. It’s horrible and meant to seem funny, it’s over the top.

The true horror is, it’s real. The audience is real; they’re someone who’s lost their mind. It’s the film I wanted to make. It shows what I’m capable of making and what I can do. I wanted to create the most uncomfortable thing possible. The true horror is, it’s real.

Well, you succeeded! Where did the idea come to you?

Pieper:   The idea first came up during my time in Boston at Emerson College about 10 years ago. It was this thought of a crawdad crawling on a sleeping woman and the visual disparity between the woman and the tiny creature, that nasty juxtaposition. The concept of a man watching out of morbid curiosity and allowing that to overwhelm his need to do take action [sic]. Then I thought of them as a married couple and him as having all of the worst male concepts: arrogance, anger, over masculinity, etc.

10 years is a long time to be working on a project

Pieper:  Yeah, so the idea came to me about 10 years ago. We started work on the project and everything was good to go maybe 4½ years ago but then I got sick for a while and that stopped production and different things came up so it’s been a long time. You can imagine how working on something for so long can be exhausting. Throughout the entire process, two things remained the same: myself [sic] and the two actors (Amber Bollinger and Charles Pecoraro)

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Charlie Pecoraro Amber Bollinger in Malacostraca

You’ve previously worked with both Bollinger and Pecoraro in past films correct?

Yes. I’ve had extremely good luck in on a few occasions of meeting certain people and clicking with them. I met Amber and Charles a few years back when I was at a party during my time in animation and we hit it off. The great thing was they knew each other and had worked together and had this chemistry and they liked the weird stuff I wrote.

You’re in LA now but you mentioned Boston earlier, how did you make it to LA and get into the film writing?

I graduated in 2009, during the peak of the recession. So there were no jobs and no one was interested in what I was offering.

My college gave me the opportunity to do my final semester in Los Angeles and the idea was that you get an internship and then a job from there. Conceptually it sounded great, however, I graduated in 2009, during the peak of the recession. So there were no jobs and no one was interested in what I was offering. Basically, it led me to swallow my pride and starting over and helping out with painting and building sets and props for other productions. I did some special effects work.

Malacostraca is dark and unsettling, do you see your future work following suit in nature? Where do you see yourself going creatively in the future?

My past work has been very wacky and bizarre. Moving forward with scripts I’ve developed are all in the wide umbrella that is horror. I have a piece that is based off my encounters with a past neighbor who happened to be a drug lord. There was a time I nearly died in college from a prescription overdose that was nearly 3x the amount of medicine recommended for my bodyweight and I mean I almost didn’t graduate or move out here or any of that. So I thought I’d write it down and it’s something of an “embarrassing college moment” meets “The Fly.” The film gives you somewhere to go somewhere. I want to go somewhere that we can’t go in life.

What draws you to creating grotesque and dark stories?

That’s a valid question and I have been getting it a lot. Reality is horrible and it’s only getting worse. Do people ever look out the window? But I’ve always been this way, as a kid, I was more focused on the nightmares. I was a nervous kid, always aware of my surroundings. But day to day, I’m goofy. In school, I was always the goofball. It’s the least I could do to be pleasant, but my work doesn’t have to reflect that, Could you imagine if I was like that in real life, how my movies make me come across? If I was that dark in real life, no one would come near me (laughs).

Anything to say to potential viewers of the Malacostraca?

Expect to feel as uncomfortable as I do. You’re going to leave feeling worse than when you came. (Laughs) Honestly expect a horror film with a sneak attack. Expectations are going to be twisted. There is a guise of exploitation; hopefully, you’ll be hit with something more, either universally or emotionally.

Charles Pieper’s work can be seen on his website: www.charlespieper.com

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