The latest indie horror film shaking up festival screens this summer is Red Monkey Film’s Pesona Au Gratin. The suspenseful film, which stars Wendy Charles (The Real Babysitters of New York) and Mel England (Little Big Top), is feeding horror fans’ obsession with the cannibalism sub-genre by serving up a delectable menu featuring twisted bites of black comedy.
In Persona Au Gratin, directed by Rebecca Heck and written by Andy Cannistra, Rowan Vittles is an average American teenager with a problem: his family is hooked on eating people! With the help of best friend Seth, and girlfriend Rellie, Rowan tries to detox off of Mrs. Vittles’ (Wendy Charles), high protein diet and escape the family “business,” but falls prey to the town mortician, Mr. Ghoulden (Mel England), who has other plans for Rowan.
Persona Au Gratin premiered last night (August 17) at Indie Fest in Garden Grove, California (Orange County) with the promise to give horror sub-genre followers heaping portions of thrills and laughs at the same time. We were able to sit down with the film’s stars, Wendy and Mel, and get their take on the film as well as some of their behind-the-scenes experiences of dealing with the process of taking a taboo and repulsive subject like cannibalism and artfully making it laughable.
As children, did you both know you wanted to be actors when you grew up?
Wendy: I knew when I was 11 years old and was cast in my fifth grade play, The Way Out Cinderella, a quasi-fairy tale. I was cast as the fairy godmother, a delicious character part for an 11-year-old. From that moment, I knew I wanted to be an actress.
Mel: Yes. I knew from the age of 5. My mother enrolled her very hyperactive kid in theatre classes, and from the first day, I knew I was home.
What scares each of you and why?
Wendy: Although I consider myself somewhat fearless, little creepy creatures like rats scare me.
Mel: Probably being out of control, which I guess scares everyone really, but it’s sort of like roller coasters or really crazy weather – but when you realize you’re totally powerless it is the most humbling thing…our little human egos don’t like that! Oh, and a life without coffee.
Did you ever dream of being cast in a horror film?
Wendy: I am always dreaming of playing roles that are completely opposite of my own life and experience. Acting for me is ‘living and behaving truthfully and fully under imaginary circumstances.’ Also, in general, the riskier the role, the more exciting it is to play!
Mel: When I was a kid I had two favorites – I always wanted to be Dracula! I loved Bella Lugosi in the old black and whites, and it’s so weird because actually Mr. Ghoulden is kind of like that, but I don’t want to give it away. And Vincent Price was the king of all things oozing horror.
What are your favorite horror films?
Wendy: The Shining with Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duval, and I also love all of Alfred Hitchcock’s thrillers, including North by Northwest and Notorious starring Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman.
Mel: Wow, I guess I’d have to say the Exorcist – it’s so classic. A few years ago I was in Little Big Top with horror star Sid Haig, and while we were filming The Devil’s Rejects came out and we went to the premiere. I have to say, I was surprised and impressed – not only was it horror, but it actually had a very deep metaphor and message. I learned that horror movies aren’t just fluff; there is a “method to the madness.”