Chris Gorak tells us what "not" to do in case of an emergency
After multiple dirty bombs are detonated, spreading deadly toxic ash across Los Angeles, Brad (Rory Cochrane) inadvertently quarantines his wife, Lexi (Mary McCormack) outside their new home in Silver Lake, Califonria, by safely sealing himself inside. With the city under siege and Martial Law in affect, Brad and Lexi struggle to survive with little supply, limited time and no information-all the while separated by thin doors and thinner sheets of plastic. When "help" finally does arrive, it appears to be anything but.
The film is Right at Your Door!
Chris Gorak's latest thriller is ripped straight from the headlines of today. While it might seem like a horror movie on the surface, it only takes an instant to realize that what you are watching could literally happen at any time, anywhere in America. It's a very scary film that will leave you with an upset stomach.
While attending Comic Con, I got the chance to sit down with both Chris Gorak and the star of Right at Your Door Mary McCormack.
This is the very informative conversation I had with the affable director Chris Gorak:
Chris Gorak: Hi, Paulington.
Great to meet you. There are obviously a lot of things to talk about after watching this movie. It was a great conversation piece, especially driving home after the screening. The conversation that came up is, essential, the guy is right for locking his wife out of the house.
Chris Gorak: Yeah. Well, Rory (Cochrane) was a little concerned about that. He was worried about not opening the door. But for me, that has always been that character trying to buy time. In that moment, she s kicking down the door. Which, if the camera was on the other side, coming from her perspective, it would feel more offensive. I think the debate can go on, because she is trying to kill him at that point. Right? So, its either he commits suicide, or she kills him at that moment. We really don't know what is going on. That is said throughout the film, "What? Are you trying to kill me?" It's a back and forth. And the question was always, "What would you do?" That is for sure the question on the table.
Where did the genesis for this script come from. From what I understand, you were in New Orleans when Katrina hit?
Chris Gorak: I wasn't in Katrina. This was made before that. I did used to live there.
I'm sorry to stop you, but the whole movie was made before that, or just the idea for the movie?
Chris Gorak: We were at Sundance 2006, in January. Lionsgate had purchased it, and they were in negotiations to buy Roadside Attractions. So, we were waiting for that distribution deal to be done. So, we are the first film to come out of Roadside Attractions under the Lionsgate umbrella. There was this whole business thing going on.
I didn't realize that.
Chris Gorak: So, the genesis for me, on this script? Well, the picture was locked and I was doing a sound mix on this film when Katrina hit. That was spooky for me, because things that were unfolding for real were fiction in my movie. At the time, I thought my movie was going to be shelved forever because of Katrina. But it's poignant now to get it out there. It relates to some of those topics. It covers, "Who's your enemy?" These people start with a fear of the disaster. But when these people show up to help, its not really help. That's kind of what happened with Katrina, which was horrifying. I think the original idea came, back when I wrote the original draft in 2003. Right when the country went into the Iraq war. I think the skirmish line of post-9/11 was moved from the homeland to somewhere else. The focus was taken off the real skirmish line, which is to secure our boarders, I think. I started thinking with that. Then I decided on an event. I wanted to put myself in their shoes. That kind of thing.
I remember there was a big Duct Tape scare. Did you already have your hardware scene written before that whole thing happened?
Chris Gorak: Yeah, it was happening at the time. I was, in my own head, trying to tap into this world of fear. With everyone buying gasmasks, and everything like that. I wanted to be comfortable living life. I had to exercise this sort of fear and get rid of it. So I released my fears in 2003 and went back to living my life. Writing this movie helped me do that.
Do you think this film is going to prepare people for a disaster of this kind? Or do you consider it more of a visceral experience?
Chris Gorak: I think it's more of a visceral experience. I definitely consider it a piece of entertainment first. It is not an infomercial for disaster by any stretch. It does have a touch of science fiction. Its not completely locked within the lines of reality.
It's almost a lot like a zombie movie.
Chris Gorak: Yeah, exactly. Its not rigidly locked in science. There is that horror kind of feeling to it. I don't feel like it's an informational document.
For me, the weird thing about watching it is, I thought, "This is pretty spooky." Then a light went off in my head, like, "Wow, this could actually happen to us at any moment."
Chris Gorak: Yeah, it has elements of realism and elements of fictional horror. But that's what makes it scarier. One of the big influences for me on this film was Jaws. The toxic ash represents the shark fin circling the boat. It truly is like two people marooned at sea. But, that shark works. Maybe it's not a thirty-foot shark. But there are sharks in the water. Maybe its not the dirty bomb that you see in my movie, but you know that it is out there. It could happen. There would be gridlock, the cell phones wouldn't work, and all of this shit would occur. That's the scary part.
I was amazed that the film literally doesn't stop for a good thirty minutes. Its just "Go, go, go!" How did you capture that sort of breathless pacing while editing the film?
Chris Gorak: I just wanted to tell the story in real time, so I ran with it. I unhinged the camera. Most of it was handheld. There were multiple cameras, so that I had a lot of footage to cut to. There were a lot of cuts, and that handheld camera work kind of gets you that anxious feeling. It captures that sort of anxiety. That, coupled with the storyline of racing through the streets of Los Angeles trying to find your wife, all comes together. Than you have things like the radio. There is no television. That creates an atmosphere of paranoia. And anxiety, as well.
Do you think it might be a little too intense for some people?
Chris Gorak: I think so.
My girlfriend didn't like it. Not because it wasn't a good film, but because its so hard to sit and watch it, and think about these things actually happening.
Chris Gorak: Right. That can happen. We had to balance the entertainment level with the fact that this could occur. But this is the world we live in. To have a commentary on that is healthy. If your girlfriend still thinks about it today, then you know it worked.
That's the thing, you know it's a good movie when you talk about it on the drive home...
Chris Gorak: Or keep discussing it the next day. Yeah. I think if it creates this dialogue, then we did the right thing. It's defiantly a tough ride.
Well, they're indicating that my time is up. Thank you for talking with me today.
Chris Gorak: Thanks. It was nice meeting you.
Right at Your Door opens August 24th in Los Angeles and New York.