I met Daisy Turvey amid the strange and heady mind-traffic of my Twitter Timeline. An adorable young lady from the UK with hair the color of cotton candy.
“I make horror films.” She explained, well within the 140 word limitation.
“Show me!” I replied.
She sent me the link to a film called My Name is Stacy Algavara. At barely 13 minutes in length, the visually arresting and haunting film made a huge impression on me.
Daisy describes herself thusly, “new wave, extremist, B Movie horror writer/director. A short, blonde Goth with big dreams of visceral storytelling, through the medium & genre of the fundamentally undervalued: Horror Film.”
Inspired by her love of Koontz and King, Daisy originally wanted to be an author, but while at film school she became inspired to become a director of horror films.
“I discovered that the horror genre was where the bad ass women lived! (Whedon’s “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” was also a huge influence on me, the early years – by far the best idol for a young girl to have!)
Comparing the women in horror to the women in… say generic & badly mass produced Rom Coms, I decided early in my career as a female filmmaker that horror is where I wanted to be!”
So when Chraisy Productions (run by Turvey and her partner, Christopher Allen) released a slew of short films during the month of October, I was excited to see more.
Dead Sexy is just shy of 20 minutes long, cost just under a thousand bucks, and two months to make. Daisy made the film while she was a student at the Cambridge School of Art, where it was quickly banned from being shown by the faculty.
Dead Sexy tells the story of a girl named Elaina who is obsessed with death. While in med school, she fantasizes about touching the cadavers, feeling the organs, the blood. With her lovers, she ponders violent death. Finally, she convinces her two partners to murder a young man and drag the body back to Elaina’s dorm room. The bulk of the middle takes the viewer on a frenetic, candy-colored, orgy of drugs and necrophilia. Elaina’s own school notes pop up during this sequence, describing each stage of decay and decomposition. By the end, the viewer is drained.
Dead Sexy, along with other Chraisy Productions; Sloth, Stacy Algavara, and The Red Pill immediately made me think of the Transgressive Cinema of 1980s New York art scene. Photographer Richard Kern, along with Performance Artists and Musicians like Nick Zedd, Lydia Lunch, David Wojnarowicz, and others, made these wonderfully perverse short films that portrayed knuckle-dragging gore, sexual violence, and sadomasochism. They were brief, impactful, and drew a huge cult following to this day. The Chraisy films definitely have more narrative structure, but the approach feels similar. With a modest budget and an eye for the visceral, Daisy paints a world of horror that is uniquely her own.
However, when I sat down to speak with Daisy and Izzy Cosgrave, the featured actress in Dead Sexy and the follow-up, The Red Pill, I was surprised to learn that Dead Sexy was based on a true story of murder and necrophilia that happened here in the good ol’ United States. A web search for Alisa Massaro will tell you all you want to know.
“The controlling idea of the film is that someone in this world actually committed these unspeakable and horrendous acts,” Daisy explains, “It’s my take on what might have been going through their minds; as well as wanting to portray the true horror of necrophilia so the audience are even more aghast when confronted with the grisly truth; with the underlying theme of manipulation and naivety, and how one will always win out against the other.”
“The desired response hoped for is the realization that this sick and twisted little tale is one based in solid truth, the realization that the most horrendous and arcane horror stories happen everyday in real life. The hoped for emotional response is a little similar; disgust, repulsion and the morbid curiosity when questioning ‘how can someone physically enjoy and carry out such heinous acts against humanity?’”
“That’s terrifying.” I said.
“That’s film inspiring!” Daisy replied.
To portray the character if Elaina Delicata, Daisy chose model and actress Izzy Cosgrave. “I never went to drama school or event studied it GSCEA level.” Izzy explained in a brief bio, “I did however run away to London when I was 15 to try and be an actor, but after a week of no jobs and no money, I had to go home.”
Despite her lack of formal training, Izzy Cosgrave’s performance in Dead Sexy drives the narrative. Tall, leggy, dark of hair and eyes, Cosgrave’s Elaina Delicata is not about to be spurned or refused by the young men who do her unnatural bidding.
Daisy: “We had a few girls audition for the role of ‘Elaina’ but all of them subsequently dropped out upon discovering the nature of the film and what would be required from them; then we auditioned Izzy Cosgrave and she was absolutely perfect for the role, not only was she comfortable with the required nudity and obscenity involved with the role, but she was also extremely professional to work with and one of the most talented actresses of her age.”
Izzy: “Well I first heard of dead sexy on the set of Daisy’s friend Paul’s film Paranoid, and I knew from that point that I’d definitely want to audition for it, and like don’t get me wrong when I read the script I had some hitters about doing it, but then I kind of just thought fuck it and I gave it everything I had but looking back I wish I’d done somethings different. But everything on set was so friendly and professional, it couldn’t have gone any better really. I’m not going to sit here though and pretend like it wasn’t one of the most mentally exhausting roles I’ve had, especially that last scene.”
Daisy: “The final scene was extremely difficult for Izzy to go through (especially wearing that gross and very bloody vagina prosthetic), but not only did she endure like a professional, she gave all of the crew there goosebumps with that blood-curdling scream of hers and the most realistic performance I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing!”
DiaG: How did you prepare yourself for getting into the character of Elaina Delicata?
Izzy: “First of all, I established empathy with the character, I think Elaina thought she was evil and rotten in the inside and I can relate to that (everyone has a bit on self loathing) but for her the having sex with a dead person is like “physicalizing” the feeling of rot and self hate. I watched loads of films and documentaries on sociopaths as well, and from that I made the decision to occasionally break the 4th wall to communicate and seduce the audience.”
DiaG: That is really effective because it brings the viewer into complicity with the characters. It brings us into this room…
Izzy: “Yeah that was definitely the aim as well.”
DiaG: One of the things that I find so striking about Dead Sexy (and also in The Red Pill) is the use of vivid colors. It really helps add to the intensity, as well as the hallucinatory feel to the film. Is that something that you’re conscious of during the writing/conceptualizing of the films, or does that happen during the production?
Daisy: Oh absolutely it was intentional! Most films nowadays have such boring and drab colour schemes, I wanted it to look like those cool, old B movie films that really went all out! In terms of mise-en-scene, I worked very closely with both the cinematographer and gaffer to create a distinctive colour scheme for the film, which was; deep red, dark blue, green and yellow (the general colours of decay). I both admired and envied the excruciatingly close attention to detail in the style and colour schemes of Wes Anderson’s films especially such examples as The Royal Tenenbaums & Moonrise Kingdom. However the colour schemes I had in mind for ‘Dead Sexy’ were vastly different and were more similar to the B Movie classics.
The film is heavily stylized, which was achieved through the use of camera filters to set a gritty and textured tone. – I couldn’t have done this without my amazing cinematographers; Agatha Stern & Christopher Ramsden. They are truly talented people!
I also explored the idea of changing/adapting the lighting during the scene in order to visually differentiate the real world from Elaina’s daydreams; as well as experimenting with sound levels/distortion in the same way.
Everything in the film is geared towards making the audience feel extreme revulsion, including the colour scheme; which was made to resemble decay.
Izzy: The level of detail in Elaina’s room in the set design was incredible!
DiaG: I LOVED the Corpse Grinders poster on the wall.
Daisy: Thank you! I wanted to honor those classic films.
DiaG: To me, a short film seems sometimes way more intense and impactful than a feature. It can stay with the viewer a lot longer. I think the idea of a “feature length” film is almost an antiquated concept. Just because a film is90 minutes long, doesn’t necessarily mean that it should be 90 minutes long. I have seen so many films that suffer from terrible pacing, terrible story, just because it feels as though the film makers are trying to fill out time. Let’s say you were given the money and resources to turn Dead Sexy into a 90 minute / plus film. How different would it be? Do you think you would be able to add that much more to the story?
Izzy: Good question! I think that we could focus more on Damien and Ross, and get deeper into Elaina’s character.
Daisy: “One of my biggest influences for Dead Sexy is Richard Bates Jr’s Excision, I really admire how he excels at fully capturing the inner workings of both a teenager’s and sociopath’s mind.
Thus, I would like to focus more on Elaina’s mental state and the depravity that is so clearly plaguing her; as well as fully explaining the relationship between Elaina, Ross and Damien; and between Ross and Damien. (As they are actually two friends both sleeping with the same girl, which I think would be very interesting to explore further in an almost soap-esque way.)
On top of that I would love to extend the “montage” scene into a few, more dialogue heavy and scientifically accurate scenes displaying necrophilia in the most visceral, yet true to life way possible. (i.e. explaining how a woman can actually have penetrative sex with a dead penis…)
There’s also room to further explore Elaina’s background and what could have caused her fascination with death other than her clear mental illness. A few drafts back in the script I even considered bringing an abusive mother into the story, but quickly decided against that, as for me it’s just a bit too cliche…
I do think there is potential for Dead Sexy to be a feature length film, but if it were to happen it wouldn’t be for a long time; I can say with certainty that if it were to happen, Izzy would definitely be coming back as our lovely Elaina!”
Izzy: “Also, we could really draw out the end sequence”
Daisy: “Totally agree with that!”
DiaG: What kind of reaction have you gotten so far from your films?
Daisy: “So far the reaction to most of our films have been very positive, which as a young horror filmmaker just starting out is insanely encouraging! (Not that I’d let bad reviews stop me anyway!) Only today someone on twitter tweeted me saying: “whatever goes on in your pretty little head of yours DONT STOP! Amazing!” – Which was again encouraging as well as flattering. I believe that due to the way I am currently marketing my films – as in to the wide selection of horror centric blogs on twitter and independent film making blogs on Tumblr, most of the feedback will be positive; however I’m pretty sure that people who aren’t typically fans of horror will probably just see my films as grotesque extremism or torture porn. Luckily I have yet to experience that sort of negativity, but I am always prepared for it! (Being in horror, I think you have to be!)”
“However, family members of the crew who came out for the screening of Dead Sexy, were quite lost for words, some only saying, “It was different!” But then again, they probably shouldn’t have brought their grandmother to see the show!”
Izzy: “I remember walking into the screening and being greeted with fear by the audience. Bearing in mind that these people had only ever seen me as Elaina Delicata, and some people were like ‘I can’t believe you agreed to do all that’ But mostly the film got a positive response and it’s nice to be convincing enough to scare people shitless.”
Daisy: “That was so awesome!”
Izzy: “Ha ha! I was like, ohhhhh you guys think I’m her!”
Our chat went on for several more hours and I will post the remainder in a follow-up post, where I shall explore the rest of the current Chraisy releases.
To see them for yourself, turn down the lights and go to – https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmxPOnpTU-I7OWjtQI7wHKA
or search for Chraisy
Find The Dali Trauma spreading the good word at @thedalitrauma