Carson Mell knows how to make us laugh, but his secrets may surprise you.
Carson Mell had a strict rule on the set of his horror comedy “Another Evil.” Don’t be funny.
Mell, a “Silicon Valley” writer directing his first feature film, wanted his stars to avoid the sort of “wink-wink” stylings that can bog down the tricky genre.
“[Comedy] always feels funniest to me if it feels real,” Mell says. So he asked his actors to treat the material as straight as possible. And he stayed on that message throughout the indie film project.
The results speak for themselves.
“Another Evil” follows a flustered Everyman named Dan (“Togetherness” star Steve Zissis) trying to chase some spirits out of his house. He hires Os (Mark Proksch) to do the honors, but it’s not initially clear if the psychic is as good as his reputation suggests.
A quasi-bromance ensues, along with some tropes that will be familiar to horror movie fans. Only it’s crafted in a way that makes “Another Evil” wholly original. And, of course, rather funny.
Part of the humor flows from Zissis, playing a married man grown soft in some important ways.
“To me the character of Dan felt fairly passive aggressive. Let’s skirt around this issue,” Mell says. “The way he resolves conflict isn’t necessarily head on.” It’s understandable Dan would be charitable toward Os’s eccentricities.
“When you hire someone to work for you and need their help, you want to charm them, to make them think they’re your friend,” he explains.
“Another Evil” faces the usual obstacles in today’s Hollywood. It’s got a small budget, two talented but less recognizable stars and it hits theaters the same day a certain sequel stuffed with retro rock arrives.
Thank goodness the movie worked the film festival circuit prior to its theatrical and VOD release, Mell says.
“To get a movie seen and get it out there [today] It needs the festivals,” he says, adding it’s discouraging so many festivals favor celebrity-backed projects now.
He calls that trend “short sighted,” especially since the Hollywood studios often rely on indie filmmaking as a farm system of sorts for the industry.
Mell is no stranger to making his way in Hollywood on his own terms. He self-published a novel featuring a character, Bobby Bird, he nurtured over several animated shorts. That book caught the attention of someone at HBO.
That helped him land what he calls his “first real paycheck in Hollywood.” The partnership didn’t immediately pay dividends, but Mell did end up on the writing team of the network’s most beloved comedy.
Being on the “Silicon Valley” team meant rubbing elbows with show creator Mike Judge of “Idiocracy” fame. The two discussed the show and why it hooks both critics and audiences alike.
“This is like crack cocaine … it’s overt comedy with cliffhangers,” he says.
With “Another Evil” Mell tackled a genre he truly loves — horror. Yet he’s not exactly a fan of some standard horror themes.
“Thematically I disagree with almost everything it’s saying, but I find the aesthetic so appealing,” he says. Case in point: how the genre uses devilish themes as a metaphor.
“Satanism is often a stand in for a religion that is not yours. They’re putting the scary pentagram up there … it’s our fear of the Other,” he says. He sounds like he wouldn’t mind revisiting the genre again all the same. He has the perfect role model in mind for any supernatural stories he might spin.
“David Lynch does it super well. Take ‘Twin Peaks.’ It’s what I aspire to,” Mell says.