Interview: Director Chris Peckover for the Ithaca Fantastik Film Festival

This past weekend was the Ithaca Fantastik premiere of SAFE NEIGHBORHOOD, the latest film from director Chris Peckover, and we had the chance to speak with him about the film and what horror fans can expect from his latest work. 

Shannon McGrew: Hi Chris!  Thanks so much for chatting with me today.  I'm very excited about your film SAFE NEIGHBORHOOD as I have heard nothing but amazing things about it. For those not familiar, can you tell us a little bit about the film? 

Chris Peckover: SAFE NEIGHBORHOOD is a love letter to John Hughes and all the dark undertones of his movies.  The story follows Luke, a 12 year old in the middle of trying to win over the heart of Ashley, his 18 year old babysitter, when a home invasion interrupts them.  It's scary and hilarious and definitely a movie to see with an audience. 

SM: You and Zack (Kahn) wrote this story, what was your inspiration behind SAFE NEIGHBORHOOD?  Were you tired of the same old cat-and-mouse chase that usually accompanies a home invasion film?

CP: There's a lot of "been there, done that" in the home invasion genre, and I think that stems from filmmakers focusing on the invasion itself.  Oooooh, look at those scary masked bad guys, look at how clever the victims are, look at how bravely they fight back.  It's monotonous.  And among HALLOWEEN, WAIT UNTIL DARK and PANIC ROOM, we've seen it done better.  My favorite home invasion movies of the past decade have focused more on the effect of the invasion, the consequences, the unique people involved.  DON'T BREATHE flipped just about everything on its head, including who the real victims are and we found our own way to do that too in SAFE NEIGHBORHOOD.  

SM: What was the casting process like?  Did you have anyone specifically in mind when the roles were created? 

CP: I try not to write with anybody in mind because for me personally that leads to writing a "type" and not a unique living breathing person.  Olivia DeJonge, who plays Ashley, signed on first.  She's a legend, just a great nice person that the industry knows is a rising star, so after that everybody started taking our movie seriously.  We read over 200 boys for the role of Luke and his best friend Garrett, and the competition was pretty stiff there, but then Levi Miller walked in and just blew us away.  He keeps getting cast in these giant roles (Peter Pan in PAN last year, Calvin O'Keefe in Ava DuVernay's A WRINKLE IN TIME) for his charm and ability to play childlike wonder, but there's this whole other side of him that I can't wait to show the world.  Dude's got range.  Ed Oxenbould immediately followed for the role of Garrett, and between the three of them I truly believe SAFE NEIGHBORHOOD has the three best teenage Australian actors today. 

SM: Most people interested in this film, including myself, know very little about it outside of it's synopsis.  What can us horror fans expect from this film? 

CP: What can someone expect from SAFE NEIGHBORHOOD?  Scares, thrills, absurdly dark humor, a really fun crowd experience, but above all else - the unexpected, of course. 

SM: Your other film, UNDOCUMENTED, is within the horror genre as well.  What is it about this genre that keeps you coming back time and time again? 

CP: Writing horror is a big part of how I process and deal with all the bad stuff in my life.  I try to conquer it and make light of it.  I wonder if it's the same draw for audiences.  We escape into somebody else's nightmare and make it our own, keeping it with us after.  It's a very empathetic genre. 

SM: From all the press that I have seen about SAFE NEIGHBORHOOD, it indicates that this is a film not to be missed.  Other than this film, what else can we expect from you in the future?

CP: You can definitely expect something supernatural from me next, and not sharing the stage with comedy as much.  I just finished a script involving a doppelganger, and I'm having a hard time going to sleep right now... 

SM: I am so on board with that!  Well, thank you so much for taking time to answer some of my questions today and I can't wait to see SAFE NEIGHBORHOOD when it makes it rounds here in LA.  

For more information on SAFE NEIGHBORHOOD visit them on social media on Facebook at www.facebook.com/safeneighborhood.