Jason Riesgraf is an American film and television producer, cinematographer and filmmaker who is making his feature directorial debut with “Lake Runs Red”. Since seeing his first horror movie ( “A Nightmare On Elm Street” ) at age 9, Jason has gone on to get his degree at Minnesota School Of Business. He now has a a formidable reputation as a visionary in the Independent horror community within the Twin Cities. Jason Riesgraf is best known for his camera work on 2012’s “Monday Morning” and 2014’s “Emma’s Revenge”.
Now Jason Riesgraf is about to take his place among today’s burgeoning crop of new horror talent with his feature film debut. “Lake Runs Red” draws from the intense, visceral terrors that permeate modern horror stories-the home invasion nightmare. The film blends crime-noir with more experimental areas of horror like torture-porn and ultra-violence. Here is what Jason Riesgraf had to say about his feature directorial debut in our recent interview.
A Southern Life: You are currently filming your horror feature "Lake Runs Red", how is production going so far?
Jason Riesgraf: I’ve worked on film and television sets previously in various camera and post production roles, but this is my directorial debut where I’m responsible for the entire story and production. It’s been a humbling, but amazing experience. I’m very fortunate to have such a talented and passionate cast and crew. Production has gone remarkably well. We’ve developed a real close knit family on this production. We are currently about to conclude principal photography, where we are one crucial scene away from wrap. The cast and crew could not be more excited to see the finished product as we begin the extremely long grind into post-production and phase two marketing.
A Southern Life: The film is a home invasion horror about two college friends who go to a cabin to study for finals, where did you get the idea for the story?
Jason Riesgraf: The weekend cabin culture is prevalent up here in Minnesota. It’s a relatable pastime that many Minnesotans, Wisconsinites, and Midwesterners in flyover country can relate to. There’s something inherently spooky about the seclusion of northern Minnesota, which makes it a perfect setting for a horror film. As for the characters, dialogue and relationships, those are actually semi-autobiographical. There are key elements to the plot and characterization that apply directly to my personal life, which I unfortunately can’t reveal because I don’t want to spoil the movie for the fans. But let’s just say, there were quite a few members of our cast and crew that could relate to my original story. And that means a lot to me. It’s not just your standard run of the mill horror plot.
Lake Runs Red actually has an emotional gravitas to it. I think the audience will be pleasantly surprised, that while the violence may be shocking, the story isn’t necessarily gratuitous. At its core, the film is about rejection and vulnerability, as it relates to family, friendship, and choices. It’s no surprise to my friends and family that I chose horror as the genre for my first film. I love the giddy thrills and chills you get when you watch horror, in particular extreme horror and practical effects. Personally, home invasion films scare me the most. Home is where you should feel the safest. Having someone invade your place of safety is an incredibly frightening concept to me.
A Southern Life: The film is described as ultraviolent with torture-porn influence, what can fans expect?
Jason Riesgraf: The film will be visceral, with a clear influence of noir cinema. It will make you feel excited, with a tinge of disgust. Visually, it will be gritty, dirty, and gross but with a contemporary, bleached out aesthetic. The photography and production value will be exceptional. As a director, I want the audience to sit on the edge of their seats in anticipation, but also feel uncomfortable as the story unfolds. When the film ends, I want the audience to leave speechless and slightly disturbed. If the audience exits the movie and asks themselves how someone could even think about creating such filth, then I’ve done my job. But as I mentioned before, while the violence and torture depicted in the film is over the top and extreme, it’s not necessarily gratuitous. There’s a reason for its existence and it all correlates back to the the core story we’re telling about rejection as it relates to the cut off seclusion of a rural existence.
A Southern Life: Torture-porn still holds a bit of old taboo in the horror community, do you think it is a misunderstood subgenre?
Jason Riesgraf: I do think it’s a misunderstood subgenre. While there’s certainly the philosophical argument against providing more and more disgusting perversions for the sake of shock value, it’s important to remember that the core tenets of torture porn films still hold true to the horror genre as a whole. The instinctual feelings that run through your body when you watch torture-pornography, like “Human Centipede” (2009), “Saw” (2004), or “Hostel” (2008) are authentic. Really, it’s an evolution of the horror genre more than it is a deviation. I feel that it is still possible to provide that extreme, hardcore torture porn experience, and yet stay true to the genre through appropriate suspense and careful direction.
A Southern Life: What films influenced you or sparked your interest in horror that fans may recognize in the film? Any particular films that get a nod in "Lake Runs Red"?
Jason Riesgraf: Well, my love affair with horror began when I was 9 years old with the film “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (1984). I’ve also really enjoyed other classics like “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (1974) and the original “Halloween” (1978).
In terms of biggest influence for “Lake Runs Red, Bryan Bertino’s “The Strangers” (2008) and Alexandre Aja’s “High Tension” (2003) were the two films that truly inspired me to become a horror filmmaker. “Lake Runs Red” is also influenced by the new wave of extreme horror directors like Rob Zombie, James Wan, and Eli Roth. “The Devil’s Rejects” (2005) is actually my favorite horror film.
A Southern Life: Have you always been a fan of horror? And has it always been your choice to make horror films?
Jason Riesgraf: I love the rush of not knowing what’s going to happen, when your body tenses up before having the best scare ever. But the first film that actually inspired me to explore a film and television career was actually Ridley Scott’s “Gladiator” (2000). Watching the behind the scenes documentaries for that film really inspired me. As for making my own films… there was never a choice. It has always been and always will be, horror. Horror is where my heart is. As a fan, I know that there is a special relationship that we have with the genre. As a horror filmmaker, I understand the high expectations that come along with the territory. I won’t let the fans down. My filmmaking approach to modern horror is very contemporary, fresh, and perfunctory.
A Southern Life: When can fans expect “Lake Runs Red” to be released?
Jason Riesgraf: Lake Runs Red is targeting an October 2015 release, which is very appropriate due to the spooky horror related content of the film.