We’re dying to date ‘You’re Killing Me’ star McKayley Miller

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We’re dying to date ‘You’re Killing Me’ star McKayley Miller

Writer/Director To Peter Hengel acting debut, Family dinnerundermines the discomfort and constriction of awkward family dynamics at the dinner table to deliver unforgettable holiday terror. In this case, Easter is a holiday, a rarity in the genre space.

Just in time for Easter, SCREAMBOX Exceptional Family dinner will be served on April 7. The Austrian horror film follows an overweight teenager on his aunt’s farm before the Easter holidays, hoping to lose weight, only to discover something is deeply wrong.

Ahead of the release, Bloody Disgusting spoke with Hengl about Family dinner. The director discussed his background, the importance of food and food style for his feature debut, and finding inspiration from his love of folkloric horror.

“I remember childhood nightmares that I can’t bring up because it would be a huge spoiler for the rest of the movie,” teases Hengel about the personal background behind Family dinner. “I remember these nightmares, which are funny because I come from a very, very happy, very loving family. I have very, very, very loving parents, very supportive parents. But in a way, there was this idea that probably came at an age when I first realized as a child, let’s call it, the imperfection of my parents, realizing that your parents aren’t always perfect. I guess my subconscious made me aware of the potential that parents could be evil. That’s basically where it comes from, combined with a lot of different things.

“For example, my producer/wife studied food science at university before choosing a career in film. And so many different pieces of the puzzle came together. My wife has absolutely nothing to do with Aunt Claudia [played by Pia Hierzegger] and would be very angry at any comparisons. But somehow it became this weird coming-of-age story, and I think all good horror movies are coming-of-age stories.”

From there, Hengel tells us how his childhood nightmares developed Family dinner.

He explains, “Another thing that has a huge influence on me is movies. There are a lot of horror movies that I love, and I love folk horror. I knew from the beginning that I wanted to incorporate folk horror elements. It also made a lot of sense with the whole spiritual side of Aunt Claudia, and many religious holidays have a lot to do with food, which most of the time we all love, especially Easter, at least in the Catholic faith I was raised in. There are a lot of connections with food there, as well as in the pagan background of Easter, which is already a religious tradition that has a lot to do with food and of course with fasting and withholding food and then ultimately spending on a big feast. So that fits the story pretty well and works well with the rest of the story and where I wanted to go.”

Food scene for family dinner

Food is essential for Family dinner in the eponymous Easter holiday and the constant temptations for the main character Simi (Nina Kathleen). While Hengl’s film is fearless in deploying the horror, and it does, it takes great care to ensure that the food looks appealing.

I knew from the beginning that the food and the way the food looked had to be perfect,” he tells us. “My producer and I got together very early on and basically created a menu for the film. We created a menu of food we wanted to serve and then hired a food styling company that usually works in advertising. They created, I would say, 80% of the beautiful food you see in the film for us. Interestingly, and this was very surprising to me, when you think about the styling of food in commercials or movies, the cliché you always hear is that they use a lot of things that are inedible like hairspray to make, I don’t know, the lettuce leaves glisten or whatever. The guys we had didn’t at all. They were aware of these techniques, but they said, “No, we only create food that is edible.” So everything you see on the screen is completely edible. Sometimes it didn’t taste very good because it had been sitting for a while or cold for extended periods, but it was all edible and most were quite tasty.

Beyond the food, Hengl shared his cinematic influences for Family dinnerrevealing a deep love of folkloric horror in the process.

Family dinner 2023

“I did this mostly with the team and department heads. There are a few movies that I recommend everyone to watch. One of my favorite movies of all time is from 1973 The Wicker Man”, reveals Hengl. “One of the more recent films that I enjoyed and that left an impression on me in terms of my own filmmaking was Ari Astaire’s Hereditarywhich is not only an amazing film but an incredibly well made film. Every single shot he has in this movie is perfectly crafted and meticulous in terms of camera movements and everything else. That’s something we’re really trying to work towards.

“Of course, we probably didn’t manage to do such a great example, but tonally I felt like it was a good inspiration. Although, of course, we tried to do our own thing. Also during filming as we were filming during Covid and had to stay in a hotel for the entire production. Most people even chose to stay at the hotel on the weekends because it was the safest way to do it apart from tests etc. I’ve been doing weekend movie nights to showcase some of my favorites. Some things like The Wicker Man and The glow were movies that I watched and that they, especially our two young actors, really enjoyed watching. I hope.”

Family dinner it also introduces an old Easter tradition that never made its way to the States, but perhaps should: the Easter bonfire.

Hengel explains, “This is a local tradition. It is common in rural Austria to have bonfires around Easter, usually on Easter Sunday or the night before Easter. So it’s actually part of the local folklore and I felt it fit the whole motif of the film very well.”

Get ready for a horrifying feast this Easter with Family dinneravailable exclusively to stream on SCREAMBOX from Good Friday 7 April 2023.

Family dinner poster

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