Playing With Dolls: Havoc
An Interview With Rene Perez & Stormi Maya Alvarado
by: Stephen Ingves
For those out there who see the non stop reboots and retreads being churned out by Hollywood in obvious attempts at money grabs and are pretty well tired of the lack of originality, independent films can be a nice, welcomed change of pace. Yes you may not have the top billed leading actor or the multi-million dollar budgets, but many Indie films are the few remaining sources for what we are all craving from the movies, original ideas! Imagine that. Seems so long ago that kicking back with a flick that contained an original plot and story was the norm. Now we get prequels to a sequel of a reboot of a movie that we really didn’t care for the first time around! And it seems due to the fact that many big studios are just not willing to take the financial risks like they used to and instead take the safe route, especially in horror. Another reboot, sequel/prequel of an already successful franchise. And without that risk you are generally left with no reward.
However there are many talented filmmakers out there not named Spielberg, Cameron and Lucas who enjoy making movies because it’s their passion and first love despite facing the numerous hurdles of an independent filmmaker. It’s that passion and willingness to take risks that draw many of us at Horror Movie Freaks to enjoy and support independent films.
In this article we not only take a brief, spoiler-free look at the fun and brutally well made Indie horror “Playing With Dolls: Havoc”, but we have the pleasure of sitting and chatting with one of the main stars of the film. Screenwriter, actor, producer, extremely successful model and at one time director of live theater shows Stormi Maya Alvarado.
As well as the writer, director, editor and cinematographer of “Playing w/ Dolls: Havoc” and all around filmmaker extraordinaire Rene Perez. As a very successful filmmaker Rene has directed Danny Trejo in 2015’s “The Burning Dead” and Richard Tyson (who many will recognize from “Kindergarten Cop”, “Black Hawk Down”, “There’s Something About Mary” and “Kingpin”) in 2014’s “The Dead The Damned And The Darkness”
As many fans of horror know it’s difficult to come across a film we have yet to see. We are regularly asking each other for recommendations and I can honestly say if you are looking for a film check out “Playing With Dolls: Havoc. I had an opportunity to view it and I wish as I was taking notes that I kept count at how many times I caught myself placing my hand up to my mouth and uttering the words “Ohhh shhhit!” or a couple times it may have been “Ohhh fuckkk!”. And that was due to the old school slasher feel the film had combined with the new school gore-fest many of the kill scenes had that I and many I know love. As is the case with nearly ALL movies, especially horror, the brutality of some of the scenes may not be for everyone and that’s just fine. Movies are very much a personal thing and I honestly saw comments from people last night that said they hated the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. So to each their own but I for one love gore in my horror and if I could ask for an extra helping I would every time. I also don’t mind a little campiness or cheesiness at times in a line or a scene. It’s easy to pick apart dialogue in a film or acting in a scene but go back and re-watch some of the classics we enjoyed as kids and hold up on pedestals such as Friday the 13th and you will be amazed at what jumps out at you now that you didn’t notice when viewing it years ago.
There were also some good jump scares and a bevy of great practical effects big budget studios can take some lessons from. So there was a good mix of what I enjoy in a horror film as opposed to one of those movies that seems to focus on one of those aspects such as jump scares but has nothing else to offer. I actually have to say that I enjoyed the musical score that accompanied the film which I don’t tend to look for or even usually notice in a horror film. It just fit. And lastly I did enjoy the “killer” that was created. I never got the sense or feeling he was a direct rip-off of past films which was refreshing especially with how difficult it is to come up with fresh ideas with all that has been done in film over the past several decades.
With that I am privileged and thrilled to bring you Horror Movie Freaks interview with Stormi Maya and Rene Perez.
SI: Hi Stormi! Hello Rene! Thank you so much to both of you for taking the time out of your busy schedules to sit and chat about your careers and new film Playing w/ Dolls: Havoc!
RP: Thanks for having us.
SI: Of course I’m very excited to get to your new film but I’m sure fans and members of Horror Movie Freaks would love to learn a little bit about you both. Especially the beginnings of your careers and how you both got to this point. If you don’t mind I’ll start with you Stormi. From what I gathered you started your career by performing in community theater shows and at one time also wrote and directed them. Would you mind sharing a bit about your work on stage and what you enjoyed or possibly even disliked about your experience?
SMA: I love performing on stage, It gives me a rush that is incomparable to anything else. I started in theater so that I would gain more respect from the acting community. I also enjoyed spending time with the cast. You build great friendships….It’s like being in summer camp. I dislike not having proof of all our hard work.
SI: I can understand that. How did you transition over to film? And what were the differences you noticed in the two avenues of entertainment in coming from a theater background?
SMA: I began training in film acting with mentor Shiek Mahmudbey, where I gained the confidence to audition and try film. With cuts, editing and different angles…It’s nothing like theater. Theater you get in the moment and keep going. Film breaks that moment…over and over again. “Butterfly Chasers” was my first featured film with producer Princeton Holt. Rene found me not long after on Facebook. Rene and I met in a film group on Facebook and immediately hit it off. He coincidentally was filming “Playing With Dolls” and was looking for an actress.
SI: Fantastic. Seems it was meant to be. Hi Rene! I appreciate your patience. You really do have quite an extensive filmography that our members and fans really shouls check out. How old were you when you realized “this is what I want to do”?
RP: I was born this way. I used to draw and write comic book stories as a child and I’d make little dramas with my G.I. Joe action figures. I honestly can’t remember a time when I wasn’t making stories. Those were just in my head of course. Not on actual movies.
SI: Were you attracted to and a fan of horror at a young age?
RP: I was a bigger fan of sci-fi and Star Wars and Star Trek were doing those genres better than ever in the 80’s when I was a kid. Although I wasn’t the biggest fan, horror was just the right playing field for me. There were (and still are) so many possibilities. I was intensely attracted to horror from a very young age.
SI: Who were your favorite filmmakers & influences growing up? And what type of horror movies were you drawn to?
RP: Growing up my favorite filmmakers were people like Lucas, Spielberg, Carpenter, Leone. Those guys are kings but I can’t say that any of them are influences on what I do. I’m just a fan of theirs. I’m probably wrong in my approach, but I don’t study film or filmmakers. I happen to be a musician and I usually get my inspiration from music. Other peoples films have no influence on me for the most part. I’m just an audience member. I’m just a fan. I would watch the original Halloween every year when I was a kid. I even liked those bad sequels. Then I got into Phantasm 2 later when I was around 11 or 12. That one was a big deal for me. Then Nightbreed. When I was a teenager I worked at haunted houses. I had no idea then that the horror genre would be the focus of my career. I’m glad it is.
SI: Well that makes two of us after seeing your film and I love the perspective of your influence coming from music. I feel that’s somewhat unique. One of my favorite aspects of “Playing w/ Dolls: Havoc” was your use of practical effects. Do you feel we are seeing somewhat of a transition back to the use of practical effects by some filmmakers after it appeared films were relying too heavily on CGI?
RP: Most big budget movies are made by marketing and research committees now. They search the internet for trends and complaints. So if they hear enough people complaining about CGI, they take note. The Force Awakens had an entire marketing campaign specifically on that topic. I on the other hand can’t afford CGI FX nor do I care to use them. Besides, the “Playing With Dolls” movies are slasher movies. I would never use anything other than practical effects in a slasher movie or any horror movie for that matter. Even if I had a big budget, I would choose to spend that money on an actual gore FX make up artists like our team from Havoc.
SI: Love it! So who was in charge of and handled the set up & execution of the practical effects? And without giving away any scenes can you share any of the materials used that helped make everything look so real?
RP: I had the easy job of dreaming up the gags and then I left it up to Oliver Muller and Marcus Koch to make it a reality so that I could film it. They’re great make up FX guys. I’m not sure what materials they used exactly but I do agree with you, it does look real.
SI: So Stormi you interned for a distribution company and have produced films yourself so you definitely seem to have a love for working in the film industry. Were you drawn to horror and do you have a love for the genre in particular?
SMA: Yes I purposefully started working on the business side of film to understand my industry better. I love horror because it makes people feel vulnerable, helps them escape reality and has them expressing one of the strongest emotions just by sitting in their seat…fear. Plus I love the loyalty of the horror community. The cult following…
SI: I couldn’t agree more when it comes to the loyalty and family like feel amongst the fans of the horror genre. It’s extremely evident at conventions as you see thousands of strangers come together and be friendly and get to know each other. Then have have those bonds continue through avenues such as social media. Do you have any favorite or “go to” horror films when you’re in the mood for a good scare?
SMA: I love the Saw franchise. It’s not so much “scary” but it makes you think, and I love horror that makes you think.
SI: For you Rene, obviously as hard working and dedicated as Stormi is, she definitely began to make her own inroads in film. But what was it that caught your attention and made you realize you wanted to work with her?
RP: She stood out visually. She has a unique look and she also has a leading lady kind of look. I see beautiful women all the time in my line of work, but women who have that specific combination are hard to find. Stormi had those two qualities and when she told me she was also a stage actor, I was in. I knew I wanted to work with her.
SI: That’s awesome and some pretty high praise for you Stormi from a successful filmmaker! What was the experience like for you when you were first contacted by Rene?
SMA: I am wary of anyone I meet online but Rene seemed so legit so I allowed him to speak with me. After seeing his past work and credibility, I was thrilled to connect with him.
SI: Rene could you share a little about where the idea for the series “Playing With Dolls” came from such as where the name originated from and just in general a little bit of the background of “Playing w/ Dolls”?
RP: My boss at the time just told me that my next assignment was a slasher movie. I was so happy. I took it as an opportunity of a lifetime. I knew I had to create a unique killer and story but place it into the established Slasher genre. And the title came from the fact that Havoc plays with his victims which are dolls/hot chicks. And when I realized there was also a song by my favorite metal band – SLAYER!!!! I said wow. This is perfect. “Playing With Dolls” it is.
SI: That is beyond perfect! Especially with being a Slayer fan myself for about 20 years. So how many films are in the series to date and what are your plans or thoughts for the franchise overall?
RP: There are 3 so far. Havoc is the 3rd, the newest and it stands alone. This way new viewers don’t have to know anything of the other two movies as they watch this new one. And yes I want to make more but it all depends on how things work out on Havoc. We’ve had a lot of piracy on the other two older movies in this series and that destroys us. If that happens again on Havoc, that would be the end of the series. Sadly. So to all who want to support Indie horror, please rent or purchase our movie. It’s currently available right now at Amazon.com or YouTube or go to www.pwdhavoc.com. It can also be found at Vimeo.com just search “Playing With Dolls: Havoc. And I think Stormi shares my hope for no piracy, Stormi?
SMA: I can’t stand piracy, it’s a few bucks! We spend months and days & nights for these movies and people can’t spare $5 to see our hard work. It’s a slap in the face. We are Indie movie makers, not millionaires. This is to pay our bills and eat not for trips to Dubai. Please respect and support art.
SI: I agree with you both 1000% and I’m not trying to sound holier than thou but I can honestly say I have never been on those sites to stream free movies. Years ago it was more out of fear of viruses but after being a part of film groups and becoming friends with and speaking to so many Indie filmmakers, I’m aware of the immense hurdles many have to face. I know of a few that I speak to regularly and due to the difficulties many face with distribution they are literally lucky if they make a cple hundred dollars. I swear I’m not exaggerating and they are by no means hacks. they do good work but unfortunately it’s the nature of independent filmmaking. That’s why it takes all of our support and I refuse to make a difficult job even more difficult for someone just to save $4-$5 while still enjoying the fruits of their labor. And some will say if it’s that bad then they wouldn’t continue. But these are the individuals I mentioned earlier in this piece that make films because it’s their passion. And it’s that passion and persistence that is the reason I and so many at Horror Movie Freaks stand shoulder to shoulder in support of Independent filmmakers. And it’s also the reason why HMF will not allow our members to post or share free movie streaming sites within our group. I wish people would imagine themselves trying to start a company, pour their time, heart & soul into it only to find out there’s some out there creating fakes of what they sell or somehow otherwise taking money out of their pocket that they use to feed their family with when they are just barely getting by. These filmmakers can’t absorb that type of a loss the way a large corporation may be able to. Not that stealing from a lg corp. is ok either.
SI: Sorry for the rant but let me stay with you here on this one Stormi…You are involved in the television series “Changelings” which has a supernatural “horror” flare to it as well as the horror short “Hell Of A New Year”. So I was wondering what kind of differences are there when working on a horror film compared to some of the other projects that you have been a part of?
SMA: Horror requires a lot of reaction acting, showing pure emotion in your face and body and true authentic fear in your eyes. Horror you must be completely in that moment as if it were true. Horror acting applies more pressure because your face, body and voice will all be checked for authenticity by the viewers.
SI: Those are all excellent points Stormi! Besides starring in “Playing w/ Dolls: Havoc”, would you like to share a little about your upcoming horror film “It Hungers” along with any information you’re able to share regarding “Cattle”…your other horror film in the works?
SMA: Rene has mentored me to produce my own feature film. So I hired him to write me a movie and direct it. “It Hungers” is set in 1978 following a beautiful outlaw named Rachel. Rachel is lured into the lair of a creature that feeds on Cortisol. When people become frightened their bodies become flooded with a stress hormone called Cortisol. There is a creature that feeds on humans, but only when our bodies are ripe with fear and flooded with Cortisol. Only then does it like the taste of human flesh. Only then will it feed. Like a chef preparing his meal, the creature unleashes a phantom to terrify her. A macabre clown. Once she is terrified to be consumed, the creature will move in for the kill. But Rachel is no ordinary girl and she is ready to fight to survive.
“Cattle” is a short Sci-Fi horror film. I wanted to display my acting and producing skills in shorts as well, another challenge. “Cattle” is set in 2060. The Boras, a divine species, has been discretely ruling over humanity for centuries. With humanity coming to an end, the Bora race has given up on their experiment but their absence means no hope for earth.
SI: Wow!!! With the lack of original ideas I was speaking of in Hollywood earlier, there are two that sound pretty fascinating right there! And Rene while understanding that our goal is to bring attention to your film “Havoc” that was just released, is there anything you would like to share regarding your upcoming horror “It Hungers”?
RP: It’s a Killer Clown movie. It’ll be extreme horror like “Havoc”. It’s more of a haunted house type of a movie as opposed to real world Slasher. The Clown looks amazing and so does Stormi. We’ve got a unique story and we’re trying our hardest to make the scariest Clown movie for the horror movie community.
SI: Well with it in yours and Stormi”s hands and after just viewing “Havoc” I’m pretty excited and I’m positive the finished product will be absolutely badass! One last question if you don”t mind Rene and then you will both be free and allowed to leave! lol You are also known as the music composer “The Darkest Machine”? What style of music is it? Do you strictly write or play instrument as well? And can this be found easily by fans if interested because I would love to hear your work if you can point us in the direction to find it!
RP: Yeah, that’s me. I’m a music composer. I play instruments and I sing. I do almost all the music scores to my movies. I did the score to “Havoc”. I score movies the old fashioned way. I sit in front of my piano and play while I watch the movie on a monitor. Then I go and make that into a full orchestra on my electronic keyboard. I have to play each track separately. It’s very time consuming and my fingers get sore but I love it. And you can find “The Darkest Machines” on iTunes. Thanks for asking about that. I rarely get to talk about music.
SI: Wait a minute, I happened to see the film before we spoke and wrote the opening to this interview about enjoying the score before I ever knew you were responsible for it! That makes perfect sense why it fit throughout the film. To have the writer and director also be the one to write the musical score as you’re watching the action on screen would understandably explain why it felt like a complete work of art that flowed and fit together! Fantastic work by both of you! Well I feel I have held you both hostage long enough! lol I know our members and horror fans will be in for a treat and be pleasantly surprised when they see the latest installment in the series “Playing w/ Dolls: Havoc”. And if you haven’t seen the previous films…2015’s “Playing With Dolls” and 2016’s “Playing With Dolls: Bloodlust”…What are you waiting for?! lol Almost daily I see posts in our group from members asking for recommendations of horror films they haven’t seen before and many asking for the gore factor. Well here it is and you have 3 films if you’re looking for something new you haven’t seen yet.
We’re also looking forward to both of your upcoming horror films “It Hungers” and “Cattle”. Thank you so much Stormi and Rene once again for taking the time to talk to us at Horror Movie Freaks! You are both part of the family and you both will forever have our support! Thank you everybody and just below check out the trailer to the extreme horror film “Playing w/ Dolls: Havoc”. And please, remember to always #SupportIndieFilm….#SupportIndieHorror and as a family we stand #HorrorUnited!
RP: Thank you for supporting Indie Horror and thank you Stephen and Horror Movie Freaks!
SI: Our pleasure and to our members and horror fans please enjoy the trailer to “Playing With Dolls: Havoc” here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4n7MffgJP8 and rent or purchase the film here www.pwdhavoc.com