Brooklyn is bracing itself for “Killer Unicorn,” the hilarious and grotesque indie horror film where the borough’s most beloved (and reviled!) nightlife performers get killed off in glorious old school gore by the titular character. “KU” is the brainchild of writer Jose Daniel Alvarez, as interpreted through the lens by his judy, director Drew Bolton. Thotyssey is pleased to sit down with both of them to dish about the film’s inception, the cast’s diva factor, and more as we prepare for a sneak peak of the film during Bushwig!
Thotyssey: Hey guys! How’s it going tonight?
Drew Bolton: Good!
Jose Daniel Alvarez: Good, and yourself?
I’m great! So first off, congrats to you both on Killer Unicorn, the independent feature starring the bulk of Brooklyn nightlife’s all-stars!
JDA: Thank you so much!
I am so damn excited to see this. This weekend is gonna be the first time a large audience sees a sizable chunk of your early footage, right?
DB: Yes, this will be our first public screening for the rough cut for the film! We are still in post-production.
JDA: This is sort of the test audience screening for us before we start submitting to festivals. Some edits might change, of course, but we are very excited to show it to our Brooklyn community, and show everyone what we’ve been talking about for so long.
It’s been quite a long journey for you two; buzz about this has been around for at over a year. I wanna get more into the whole process… but first, let’s get some background on you two! First off, Jose… are you a native Brooklynite?
JDA: I’m not. I am born and raised in Colombia; I did go to a lot of boarding schools all over growing up. But I moved to New York seven years ago, and I’ve been in Brooklyn for four years.
Have you always been a writer?
JDA: Absolutely! Ever since I was little, I’ve been telling my mother I would grow up to make horror films and die in them – since she hated them so much. And I’ve always been a prankster! And lo and behold, this is what I do now, and I love it! She still hates it and refuses to watch the movie, though!
What’s the best era of horror movies, in your opinion? The ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, etc?
JDA: Ohmigod, that is such a hard question! The ‘70s for me is [a great era] of horror because slasher films such as Black Christmas, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Alien and Halloween are my all time favorite movies. I love the ‘80s and I love ‘80s horror films, but they were definitely more fantasy-driven – I love that. And I love ‘90s camp. But the ‘70s for me was when horror movies really took risks, and aimed to scare audiences with genuine tactics that didn’t rely on gimmicks… and that’s why I love them so much.
So when did you two meet?
DB: We met at a party. But I swear, a week before we met, I saw Jose on Grindr.
JDA: Our versions differ a little bit, haha! But I say that Drew and I met three years ago at the Pride Ball at the Wythe Hotel. We stayed in touch, and I loved his editing work, so when I created the movie and was shopping for a director I thought of Drew to edit… and subsequently I asked him to direct. And I couldn’t be happier, we are a perfect match!
Drew, where’s your hometown, and how long have you worked in film and editing?
DB: I’m a Tornado Alley baby (Ohio, Texas, Missouri). I’ve worked in film editing since 2006, but I’ve always been making movies.
Every time I saw a movie that I loved, I had to recreate it in some way.
I watched your production reel on your site, Drew, and you’re a dream choice for a slasher film about Brooklyn nightlife… all colors and chaos! But what is it about the BK scene exactly that makes it so perfect for a horror film?
DB: Brooklyn nightlife is kind of scary. It’s holding on by a thread, and the only thing holding it together is the will of some incredible artists and a lot of hard work. I don’t want to say that a killer could infiltrate nightlife as the masked villain in our movie does, but only because people so fiercely look out for one another. We make ourselves vulnerable – or, I make myself vulnerable, to be more accurate.
JDA: I’m such a weirdo that every scenario that I am in, I put it in a horror context. So I could make a horror movie out of anything, but one of the things that I drew from the most was that – we as LGBTQ people, and what comes with nightlife and hookup culture – we tend to put ourselves in more dangerous situations that most people do. So I definitely tapped into that to write it.
Brooklyn nightlife also has an edge to it – is not perfect or pristine, it’s rough around the edges. And this movie definitely explores this community through a different lens that explores drag in ways that make it very special. Being on the edge of mainstream puts you in a position where you get to explore the more dark and macabre sides of life, in a very special and magical way.
That’s definitely true. Even without today’s political and social climate, artists and nightlife performers – and yeah, queer folk cruising for sex in general – live on the razor’s edge.
JDA: I also love the sisterhood in the community, which lends itself to explore the way in which we protect each other in those situations.
So there’s definitely that serious part of it… but also, there’s a lot of comedy to mine from that world, right? I mean, there’s a lot of silliness in nightlife, both deliberately and in people taking themselves too seriously sometimes.
DB: Nightlife is only exciting when there’s someone to call bullshit.
DB: Why isn’t that a GIF yet?
JDA: Brooklyn takes its art seriously, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously… so it allows for a lot of camp and playfulness that translates beautifully into film. And that is very much needed right now.
I understand that the idea of Killer Unicorn came from an Instagram post.
JDA: Haha, it did! It’s so ridiculous. Over two years ago, I bought a unicorn mask on Amazon, and it recommended I buy a fake pink plastic gun as well – so I obviously did. When I got the package, I put it on and took a shirtless (sad) picture and posted it on Instagram as a joke. I always thought it was funny to call Williamsburg “Anusburg,” so I captioned it “Killer Unicorns From Anusburg” and the light bulb light up. I had a few death scenes in mind for future ideas that were included in the script, and then it practically wrote itself.
How quickly were you on board, Drew?
DB: Instantly. I had to figure out a way to make it happen.
And what was the best part about directing this for you?
DB: Bossing people around. Just kidding! Building a team. I got to meet an work with some incredible talent, and I hope I can work with everyone again.
How well acquainted were you two with the queens and other nightlifers who ultimately appeared in the film?
DB: I met Merrie Cherry the first week I moved to New York. We lived together for a short time, and she continues to inspire me all the time.
JDA: I pretty much wrote a lot of the characters based on the queens that made a big impression on me when I first started getting involved in nightlife. Obviously I couldn’t include everyone I love, but we did a couple of table reads before we cast them to make sure they were right… and most of them were. When you watch it, you’ll see a lot of the characters are extensions of their [real] drag personas, which is what I think makes this movie so special.
That’s very much like John Waters! Acting must’ve been an interesting challenge for many of these queens, who have worked so long creating their own stage personas and ad libbing as such.
DB: It was amazing when everyone got together, though. People who felt more insecure saw other people stepping up, and the confidence was infectious.
The film’s hero in the script becomes the first intended target of the Evil Unicorn, I believe. Might it have been easier in a production like this to cast yourself as the lead, Jose?
JDA: Originally I intended to play the part of Danny, who is the lead, because his story is based on my experiences. But after awhile, we realized it was too many hats to wear (writer, producer, star)! So I ended up playing PuppyPup, who is the love interest of the main character. I loved playing him – it was the best decision for us, and for me as an actor. And also: you think you know who the hero is in the movie, but there’s a twist up until the last minute that will have you gagging. So don’t count on anyone being the hero yet!
What more can you tell us about the story?
JDA: We can’t tell you much! But the basic premise parodies films like I Know What You Did Last Summer, Friday the 13th, and Scream. So there’s a masked killer with a backstory who is seeking revenge
That’s good enough! I spoke with Lady Havokk about this several months ago, and she bragged that she has the best death scene. Did you cater the death scenes to fit the persona of the victims?
JDA: A lot of them, we did! Her death scene is definitely one of my favorite ones – but I’m also biased, so I love all of them.
DB: there’s poetry in the way people die in Killer Unicorn.
JDA: A lot of the victims do die in ways in which their drag personas would absolutely do. And a lot of them don’t…because even their drag personas are smarter than to mess with the unicorn.
That unicorn mask looks hard to see through and breathe in!
DB: Dennis didn’t complain about breathing in the mask at all, did he?
JBA: Haha! No, he didn’t complain at all, he had a blast! Dennis Buddesheim, who played the Unicorn, had to be in booty shorts and the mask outside in the middle of February! So he was always wrapped in blankets, freezing his cute ass off. It was so hard to shoot. But funny enough, the mask is pretty comfortable.
He certainly looks quite healthy from the neck down!
JBA: You can catch him bartending at Phoenix on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays!
Goddess of door goddesses Markus Kelle is in it, too! She’s a pretty funny comedienne in her own right, did she try to improvise everything?
JDA: Markus made it so much fun! I went to college with Markus, so I’ve known her forever. She definitely talks a lot between scenes, but she has duh best ad lib lines in the movie.
DB: All I have to say is that she ended up saying “Scooby Doo-doo,” and it’s making it into the final cut.
JDA: She embraced the character in a great way – a character who is also based on my husband, Lady Simon. So it was special to have such an awesome actor embody this character in a very unique and funny way.
I love Lady Simon from afar! Markus as Lady Simon is basically perfect on so many levels.
JDA: Yeah! It’s so perfect. They’re so opposite but so similar, so seeing Markus portray someone that I know and cherish so much in a way that I didn’t intend it when I wrote it was absolutely spectacular. Markus definitely had his imprint in this character, and added another layer that we didn’t anticipate, but absolutely loved.
Did I hear correctly that Aja was gonna be in this, too?
JDA: We love Aja! Drew and I have been Team Aja since the beginning. I’ve known her forever, so Aja actually signed up to be in the movie a long time ago, and she was scheduled to shoot her scenes. Then Drag Race happened, and she wasn’t able to do it. But we are still fans of her, and she is still a big supporter of the film!
Werk. Well everybody else is in it, and it’s gonna be so exciting for Queer BK when it’s finally released. Until then, we’re gonna be treated to a test screening of sorts during Bushwig Weekend (3pm on Saturday, 4pm on Sunday) at the Knockdown Center! How much gagging should we be doing about this?
DB: No amount of dick will prepare you.
JDA: OMG, you’re gonna be so gagged! It’s gonna be a sick screening. The score by Tyler Stone is insane, and we have such an amazing team behind it! We couldn’t be happier with what we are going to show, or more thankful to the entire cast and crew: especially our co-producers AJ Mattioli, Evan Zampella, and our right hand Sarah Brigman.
And afterwards you’ll be submitting Killer Unicorn to film festivals.
JDA: Yes! We will be selling merch and collecting donations at the screening so that we can submit – because there are so many festivals, and they are so expensive. All funds will go towards us putting the movie out there to the public.
Middle America may not know what to make of this at first!
DB: When I lived in Middle America, I lived for the obscene… but I guess there’s only one way to find out.
Okay, so beyond Killer Unicorn, is there anything else happening down the road for you two?
JDA: We definitely have some projects in the future which we are both very excited to develop, but can’t talk about them quite yet. We have more stories we want to tell, and the Unicorn story is still something we want to develop further – and which we’ve been drunkenly talking about at Macri Park.
But in the meantime, I am doing a fabulous new web series with Crystal Mesh called Tibi Honest, written by both of us, and which will be soon available to watch – as well as some theater, so I’ll definitely keep you posted!
DB: And I’m preparing for a quick live editing session in Portugal in October.
And finally: what will you two be for Halloween this year?
JDA: I’m debating between Dora the Explorer, and JonBenet Ramsey after she crawled out of the mud. Depends on how much time and effort I put into it.
DB: Catwoman. Or Jesus. Or both?
You two should be at the head of the parade! Thanks, guys!
An early edit of “Killer Unicorn” will screen during Bushwig at the Knockdown Center on Saturday, September 23rd (3pm) and Sunday, September 24th (4pm). Check out the film’s official website and Facebook page for more info.