[Interview] Writers/Directors Courtney and Hillary Andujar for SCARE PACKAGE

[Interview] Writers/Directors Courtney and Hillary Andujar for SCARE PACKAGE
Courtesy of Shudder
One of my favorite parts of watching anthology films is that it serves as a treasure trove of finding new directors and writers to add to my must-watch list. After watching the recently released SCARE PACKAGE, one of the most fun discoveries was being able to be introduced to the work of Courtney and Hillary Andujar aka the Andujar Twins. Looking at their CV, it’s become clear that they are visual aesthetic tackling queens, with a lot of their work being in production design. You may not know it, but you have probably seen their production design prowess in such horror genre films like The Wind, Girl on The Third Floor, and more. Seriously, take a gander because their work is great. Now they are back with their segment ‘Girls’ Night Out Of Body’ for the horror-comedy anthology film, SCARE PACKAGE, which they both wrote and directed.

Prior to the release of the film on Shudder, I had the opportunity to chat with writers and directors Courtney and Hillary Andujar. During the interview, we discussed everything from how they came about developing the story around tropes they wanted to tackle in their segment ‘Girls’ Night Out Of Body’, how they came about the skull visuals in the story, and what they would expand upon if they could give the segment the feature film treatment.

Thank you so much for speaking with me. This film is beautifully designed and full of fun. It makes me want to embrace more girls’ nights (sans the murder and possession and the chaos) once the health situation we’re in dies down. To start things off, can you discuss how you came to be involved with this project?

Courtney Andujar: Thanks so much for having us! We wanted to start off by saying Black lives matter. White supremacy is a gnarly disease, and it’s on all of us white folks to show up, listen to people of color, and to invest time into becoming anti-racist. And, obviously, horror is such a great outlet for social commentary, which naturally leads us back to your question.

Exactly! Using horror as an outlet, especially right now, is paramount in how we use film and our creative skills to explore what’s happening socially.

Hillary Andujar: We met Noah Segan after the 2016 Shudder Labs, karaoke-ing at Duet 35 in Midtown, where Noah sang Semi-Charmed Life, and the three of us plus Sam Zimmerman bonded over our love of tropical horror. Many months later, Noah kindly threw our names into the hat to direct a segment for SCARE PACKAGE, and we’re so grateful that he got us involved.

Courtney Andujar: When we first talked to Aaron Koontz about the project, we thought the concept was so smart — a horror/comedy anthology with each segment highlighting and subverting different tropes. We were also excited to work with an Austin-based production company, bringing it back to our Texas roots!

[Interview] Writers/Directors Courtney and Hillary Andujar for SCARE PACKAGE
Gabrielle Maiden in ‘Girls’ Night Out Of Body’ as seen in SCARE PACKAGE
Your short ‘Girls’ Night Out Of Body’ focuses on, I think, a couple of tropes. But the most apparent is the one of the slasher killer stalking a group of women who just want to cut loose. What gave you the idea to focus on this particular trope over all others in the horror genre?

Courtney Andujar: We immediately knew we wanted to tackle the slumber party trope. All of our favorite horror movies are told through a femme or queer lens, and slumber parties are sort of this sacred, terrifying space for girls, where they might either open a portal to hell, get killed by a maniac, or come into power as a coven.

Hillary Andujar: We went with a grown-up version of a slumber party—a girls’ road trip—and operated under the assumption that if girls are hanging out in a horror movie, a killer would automatically be watching them. We purposefully didn’t give much information about the killer, so that he felt like a stock character instead of the girls.

Courtney Andujar: We modeled our stalker from a few different killers in Giallos and proto-slashers, especially Blood and Black Lace, where the killer wears a beige eyeless mask, possibly pantyhose?. Giallos are our favorite, so that genre influenced the design of our segment as well.

Hillary Andujar: Our main references were Slumber Party Massacre (written by lesbian novelist Rita Mae Brown), and the Syzygy episode of “The X-Files”, where some girls are having a sleepover and playing with a ouija board. One of them asks the spirit realm who she’s going to marry, and the board spells out S-A-T-A-N.

Courtney Andujar: Aside from the slumber party, the Giallo killer, and the haunted object, we tried to pack in more elements from our favorite subgenres, like monstrous female transformations like in Ginger Snaps or Jennifer’s Body and creature FX and melting flesh like Street Trash, Wax Mask, or anything Cronenberg.

[Interview] Writers/Directors Courtney and Hillary Andujar for SCARE PACKAGE
Still from ‘Girls’ Night Out Of Body’ as seen in SCARE PACKAGE
The bulk of the shenanigans in the short surrounds a Skull lollipop with nefarious powers. What inspired the design for the skull lollipop? And what difficulties, if any, did you have in adapting the FX design for the actors later on in the short?

Hillary Andujar: We’ve always loved bizarre haunted or mystical objects in film like the Jumanji board game, Death Bed, and the Book of the Dead from Evil Dead. We wanted our haunted object to be cute and girly, like the perfume from the Devil Bat, but also look sort of terrifying on its own, so we opted for a haunted piece of candy. We assumed we’d have to make something custom for the film, but we found these giant skull mask lollipops by Melville Candy. They were so perfect, and the candy company allowed us to use them!

Courtney Andujar: I love that we ended up with something sort of reminiscent of the metal mask that turns people in the movie Demons. Our film is similar in that some people setting out to have a fun night end up undergoing slimy transformations.

Hillary Andujar: The amazing Josh & Sierra Russell designed the creature FX, and they made it seem easy. They’re pretty much unfazed by any ask. So we showed them the lollipop, and they invented these awesome face prosthetics for our actors. They had to work so quickly because of our schedule—I think they had like 20 minutes to turn Gabby into a demon.

Ben Fee as the Cableknit Killer in ‘Girls’ Night Out Of Body’ as seen in SCARE PACKAGE

‘Girls’ Night Out Of Body’ left me wondering what could happen if the short got expanded to a full-length feature because there is so much to explore. What would you like to explore in the world of the short if you were able to expand?

Hillary Andujar: If we were to expand it, maybe the group of girls who turn initially could recruit other girls to their gang—like Demons meets The Lost Boys. We like the idea that if a bunch of girls got turned into monsters they’d be cool with it and would even enjoy their new strength. Women are so good at adapting, and I know that I personally would love to become a flesh-eating mermaid or a werewolf or whatever else.

Courtney Andujar: Or we could introduce the candy as more of a mass-produced item, and people around the world could transform into skull-creatures (sort of like Halloween III). But maybe in the feature version, the haunted object would be some stupid product marketed specifically to women, so it would only affect a certain demographic.

[Interview] Writers/Directors Courtney and Hillary Andujar for SCARE PACKAGE
Atsuko Okatsuka in ‘Girls’ Night Out Of Body’ as seen in SCARE PACKAGE
Lastly, SCARE PACKAGE deals with many of the tropes found in the horror genre. When it comes to the horror genre, what sort of subject matter or themes do you find yourself being drawn to? What would you like to see explored more?

Hillary Andujar: I love a lot of genre movies on the outskirts of horror, like Westerns, sci-fi, and erotic thrillers. I thrive on disastrous, psychedelic meltdowns and bad trips—like Climax and In the Mouth of Madness—and surreal visuals and sets, like The Lair of the White Worm or basically anything by Ken Russell. I also enjoy female villains and femme utopias, and somehow always love movies with decadent feasts, snakes, and ooze.

As far as themes, it’s fun to see women just be themselves without a male agenda projected onto them. 3 Women is an incredible example of this — we get to watch a fever dream of these women circling in each others’ orbits before they wind up as an unlikely unit (living above Edgar’s dead body).

I’d love to see more feminist sci-fi, especially babes in space or underwater worlds.

Courtney Andujar: My go-to’s are lesbian vampires, girl gangs, women in prison, and queer creature-y coming of age films. But, ultimately, I’m into films that are transgressive or subversive and that challenge the status quo.

It’s great that producers and studios are now seeking out female horror writers and directors; I’d love to hear more BIPOC and queer/trans/nonbinary voices in the genre. It feels critical that we shift away from the white cis-male gaze and allow people with other backgrounds and lived experiences to write and direct.

SCARE PACKAGE is now available for streaming on Shudder. To check out more of the Andujar Twins’ work, you can go to their website here. Want to learn more about the film? Check out our review here. To learn more about the segment ‘Cold Open’, check out our interview with writer/director Emily Hagins here.

Sarah Musnicky
Follow Me

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *