It doesn’t take long for Heartless to get intense quickly. As a short film, things happen quickly and Shelby finds herself in situations where at her best efforts she is ridiculed, teased, and harassed. In this modern twist, Heartless is Poe’s "The Tell-Tale Heart" meets American Psycho. Heartless is a greatly inspired short filled with scenes have the right amount of gore, great depictions, and satisfying moments. The mixture of humor, tense moments, and drama create an incredibly well balanced composition.
It begins with the scene of the prep talk in the bathroom, immediately making that familiar uncertainty before she makes her way to her presentation. I want to commend the creators for their music choice, as Stacy’s emotional journey is coupled with Dillinger Escape Plan, a personal favorite, and a simple score.
Heartless does a great job bouncing between the scenes of each hostile environment and her escape from both the presentation and preparation. Each scene is crafted with great details and contrast, combining the focused and clean-cut corporate life and the chaos and rage it inspires, an impossible feat if not for the great character design and fantastic actors involved. As a film based on "The Tell-Tale Heart," the elements shine through in a tale where the woman takes the lead.
1) Stacy Snyder is fantastic in the role, when did you realize she was the perfect fit for the film?
I had worked with Stacy on a short film before this one called Feeding Time and I was really impressed with her talent and preparation. She's a true pro. As we toured with the film I got to know her better and, when I thought up the short, she was always Shelby. She's just so likeable on screen and I thought that would be a cool contrast with the darkness of her actions. Plus, I felt there was this extra level she could go to if given the chance, so I gave her the chance. I knew she was going to be great in the role but she still dug in a little deeper a couple times and surprised me. I'm really proud of her.
2) The story of the Tell-tale heart could have been adapted into many modern environments. What made the corporate environment the right fit?
I started with the cutthroat idea of "you have to rip the heart out of your opponent to get ahead" and went from there. There was something about the contrast of the immaculate office and the bloody actions of the night before that I thought was interesting visually. The first visual I had was the first scene in the film -- Shelby staring into the mirror the morning after she did some really bad things. Everything sprung from that image. Plus, I was looking for a relateable environment for the audience and just about everyone has either had to sit through or deliver a power point presentation. I just made this one particularly awkward.
3) If you were to do another feature, perhaps a full-length film, would there be another Poe story you would choose?
"The Tell-Tale Heart" or an expansion of Heartless would be the one I would stick to, most likely. It's my favorite. There's something about "The Pit and the Pendulum" that is just so dark and scary. Taking it from the Inquisition to modern times might be cool. I’ve always thought that would make a cool film if it were expanded into a larger world somehow. Maybe “Hop Frog” as this crazy, slasher/revenge tale.
4) Was there anything that had to be cut, or didn't turn out the way you intended? What were the successes of the film?
We actually used a version of virtually everything we filmed. There was a blood sequence I cut on the third (final) day of shooting because it turned out it wasn't necessary. There's one bloody part involving a mug that turned out better than it was written. I had changed the script a few days before shooting to keep from having anything breaking near an actor's face. Well, the fake mug broke anyway, the actor sold the moment, and it ended up being filmed exactly as I had originally written it. That was definitely a happy accident.
I feel like the blood work from Josh and Sierra Russell was definitely one of the huge successes of the film. It was a treat working with them. They're absolute super stars. I think the cinematography is quite good in the film and was truly fortunate to have Mike Testin on camera for the film. Then, the performances I thought were top notch all the way around. Especially Stacy and Joanna. It was my first directing effort so having all these pros around made it a super cool ride.
5) The Dillinger Escape Plan's “Farewell, Mona Lisa” was the music choice for the film. Any particular reason this was the right choice?
I was searching for something really startling for that bridge between the opening scene and Stacy walking down the hallway. I tried a Bad Brains song, some hip-hop, nothing fit. Then Jose Gonzalez, one of the producers on the film, sent over the Dillinger song and I instantly fell in love with it. The contrast between the classical music in the first scene and the hardcore metal song, to me, was a perfect reflection of the difference between the facade Shelby is wearing and the darkness of her mind. Plus, it's a nice homage to the film Funny Games. AND it says in the song, "Wash your smile down the drain", which has special meaning if you've seen the film.
6) In reference to one of my favorite scenes, what's your personal favorite eyeball gore scene?
Oh wow. There's something about eye trauma that is especially horrific. The ones that stick out to me aren't necessarily from horror films but they were horrific when I saw them. There was a scene in an episode of the TV show "Deadwood", where a guy ripped a guy's eye out of its socket at the end of a bar fight. It was just so sudden and gnarly. Then, there's A Clockwork Orange. It's not gory but it gives me the creeps. The worst gore moment and the one that I won't ever watch again was actually in a 1929 black and white film called Un Chien Andolou. Thinking about it still sends chills down my spine.
I'm glad that scene was one of your favorites. It's always fun being in a theater when that moment happens:)