Actor/comedian Grant Lyon makes his feature film debut in Killer Kate!, a low-budget, horror thriller set in southern California. In the movie, estranged sisters – Kate (Alexandra Feld) and Angie (Danielle Burgess) – haven’t spoken since Angie went to college and left Kate to care for their ailing father. In a show of reconciliation, several years after moving out, Angie invites Kate to her bachelorette party held at a remote house booked on a home-sharing app. The women are unaware that by booking this house, they’re walking into a trap set in motion by a disturbed family of amateur killers who are out for blood to right a cosmic wrong. They soon become unwitting participants in a savage and often ridiculous life-or-death struggle.
Grant plays Jimmy, one of the would-be killers, and he’s understandably excited about it. He does correct one point, though:
“This is my first role in a feature project that has been released. I’ve done some other stuff that never came out, so yeah, this is my feature film debut.”
Excited as he is about the upcoming release of Killer Kate!, he has other irons in the fire. Lyon is also a professional stand-up comic, and he explains why he loves both.
“I’m very excited you know. I have worked as a comedian for a long time, but I’ve always loved acting too. With stand-up, there’s one level. It’s a punchline or it’s not. I love that aspect of acting where you can find different levels.”
Debuting in a horror movie puts Lyon in pretty elite company, including Tom Hanks, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Bacon, among others. Does he have a sense of joining a fraternity of really distinguished names?
“Oh yeah, I mean it’s amazing how many genre fans and performers there are, so I feel pretty lucky to be a small part of that club.” He continues. “I didn’t even know how big the horror world was until doing this. How many horror film festivals there are, and how many outlets like that where this is super fun to see how excited people are about the genre as a whole and not just this project individually.”
Lyon is a comedian and the first thing that comes to mind in this context is Robert Englund, who of course immortalized himself as Freddy Kruger, and was also a comedian. If you look at the way he plays Freddy Kruger, Freddy is virtually a stand-up with knives on his hands. Grant’s character Jimmy in Killer Kate! is also a funny guy.
“Yeah, thank you. I appreciate that. He’s a bit neurotic, he’s a bit doofy, he’s got a good heart but he puts it in the wrong place.”
Courtesy Freestyle Digital Media 2018
What is Lyon’s approach to Jimmy in Killer Kate!, the only guy who voices any reservations to this homicidal killing spree plan, but who nonetheless goes along with it?
“Yeah, exactly. And that’s one of the things I actually loved about the character the most is that I think that he’s relatable – this idea of wanting to impress and belong – with your family – but it doesn’t even have to be your blood family, it can be your tribe of friends, your community, whoever that community is that defines us. We all want to belong to a community, right? We all want to impress our peers, and it just so happens that his community is actually going to murder people. He doesn’t really want to do that, but he also fears being kicked out of the community more. I think that that’s really relatable because I’ve done that with my own family. My mom wanted me to be a lawyer and I chose to be a comedian instead. Well that was pretty hard to do, and at the time there were parts of me that thought ‘Well, I’ll just do what she wants me to do, because then she’ll be happy.’ I think Jimmy has some pretty universal motivations even if his actions are not as universal.”
And in fact, in the movie, Jimmy does actually apologize to his would-be victims, like “I have to kill you, but I’m really sorry about it.”
“Yeah,” he says, “because he doesn’t really want to kill them. But if he doesn’t do it, he’ll never get to see his family again. I think wanting to impress your father and all that is a pretty common thing for sons. right? You want the approval of your father and that’s really all Jimmy’s trying to do.”
These are not what we would call a particularly “ept” group of killers.
Grant chuckles at that. “No, they’re not. But you know, I don’t think they see themselves as inept because if they just thought they were going to bungle it they wouldn’t go about it. So I think you don’t try to play the result when you are acting. I don’t think about Jimmy’s going to die, right? I think these are the stakes of killing. Either I kill them or I don’t get to see my father anymore and that puts me in a depression and I end up dying cold and alone together somewhere. That’s what I’m thinking about, so it helps with the times where Jimmy is freaking out, and the times where he is a lot more confident, and actually going along with the plan. He does end up straddling Kate and punching her in the face. This is not a guy who is incapable of doing it, even if he doesn’t want to be doing it.”
Courtesy Freestyle Digital Media 2018
There is some very graphic violence in the movie and some of it is directed against women. Does he see this film as having any relevance to the Me-Too Movement? Grant does not back away from the issue.
“I think it does. But I think that the movie is a lot about Kate and Angie specifically taking their power back. It is them saying ‘We’re not going to lay down and take it. We’re going to fight back.’ The movie is called Killer Kate!. She’s the one who actually does the most killing, but it wasn’t her idea – it was thrust upon her. So this is her saying ‘No I’ve had enough, I’m not going to go quietly into the night. I’m going to fight back here.’ So I think that we are in a cultural moment where women are recognizing their power, and rightfully so, and I think I like that aspect of the movie. It’s saying ‘We are agents of our own destiny, and we are not going to let some assholes stop us.”
Nobody writes movies in a vacuum because we’ve all grown up on movies and TV. The music that accompanies the opening credits in Killer Kate! has a very distinct John Carpenter vibe. When we first see actor Brandon Bales in the movie, he is carrying a familiar-looking baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire with “Killer Kate” painted on it. So who’s the Walking Dead fan on the movie?
“I’m a Walking Dead fan,” he admits. “I get your reference to Lucille, but I don’t know where that came from. By the time I joined the project that was already in the script and I never asked that question. That’s a good question. You’re right. There must be somebody.”
So how did he get involved in this project?
“Well, I actually have written as a comedian, as both a writer and an actor – we wear many hats in this business and a number of years ago, in 2012, I wrote and acted in a short film that did very well in film festivals. It won a bunch of awards and screened at twenty-five film festivals. Elliot Feld, who is the director of this film, had his first feature in film festivals at the same time. We ended up screening at multiple film festivals together and became friends. He was a guy I respected creatively and he respected me creatively. We hadn’t worked on anything together for awhile, and he came to me and said I’m working on this new feature, and I have this kind of neurotic, funny guy role, and I think you’d be really good for it. So I came in and I read for it, and he liked me in the part so that’s how I got on board.”
So how long did it take to shoot the movie?
“It was pretty quick. I think we shot over a total of fourteen days. It was definitely fast. Doing long days, and everybody had to be on their game.”
Fast, but not a record, I mention. The great Roger Corman shot the original Little Shop of Horrors in two days.
“No way, that’s crazy,” Grant says.
Corman was always really proud of that, shooting Little Shop of Horrors in two days and helping launch Jack Nicholson. As to Killer Kate!, not only was it shot quickly, it is a short movie, running an hour and twenty minutes. Horror movies and comedies often tend to skew a little shorter, but does he see a trend of movies generally getting shorter?
“I think so, yes, especially when you look at stuff on screening platforms. We live in a day in age of the YouTube culture, Instagram and things like that, and people just don’t have an attention span. I don’t know about you, but I do that thing where I feel like watching a movie and I look at it and see the run time is two hours and twenty-six minutes and I’m like nope, not today I’ll save it for another time and often that time never comes. I want a movie that’s like ninety minutes or something and I’ll say perfect, all right. I also think that a movie shouldn’t be longer than the story that needs to be told, right? I don’t need it to be three hours. If the story really requires three hours then I would be okay with it, but I don’t think you know, that if Killer Kate! was a hundred minutes it would be as good of a movie as it is. They told the story they needed to tell in eighty minutes.”
What’s next for Grant Lyon?
“I am actually recording my debut comedy album in the first quarter of 2019. I’m doing it with a company called 800 Pound Gorilla, which is a very well respected label in the world of comedy, so I’m excited to do that.”
Killer Kate! Is opening in theaters and will be available on VOD and HD digital on Friday, October 26th, 2018.