I was lucky enough to catch Topher Hansson’s Dark Roast at a horror film festival last year, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. The comedy-horror short tells the story of two punk-rock musicians trying to make it through Halloween night at the coffee shop where they work. The biggest gig of their lives awaits them at the end of their shift, and they’re more than eager to get it over with so they can rock out.
What should be an ordinary evening soon turns into a nightmare, as the duo begins receiving threatening phone calls from an unseen psychopath. From here, the film totally unravels and becomes a torrent of blood and hilarity. It’s one of the most stylized, original shorts I’ve seen in a long time, and I’ve been dying to spread the word about this amazing, fun film.
Rather than drone on about the many incredible aspects of the short, I thought it would be better to talk to the man behind the madness. Below is the transcript of our conversation:
Connor: Hey Topher, thanks for talking to Couch Bandits. I’m pumped to pick your brain about Dark Roast. Why don’t you start by telling us about the vision behind the film, and how you came about the concept?
Topher Hansson: The idea for Dark Roast came from Kat and myself’s love of horror movies. We bonded over our similar tastes on the set of FakeCharmer’s first feature “Truth Cocktail.” After that production, we wanted to do something in the horror genre. We both loved punk music, and she worked in a coffee shop at the time. Those elements became the basic ingredients baked into Dark Roast. The original script for Dark Roast was a feature, but we didn’t have the funds to make it ourselves, so that’s when I wrote a new condensed script, which we filmed in order to gain interest and raise funds to produce the feature length version. The feature touches on the subject a lot more, but the vision of the film is based on the conflict of responsibility. The characters are faced with the responsibility of working stable jobs they hate versus pursuing the unstable world of music and responsibility to themselves and their own happiness. When death surrounds them, it furthers the schism between the two choices and raises the immediacy forcing them to decide their future.
Connor: The pacing and editing of the film is frantic and charged with energy, much like punk music. How did punk rock influence your style and direction for this short? What are some of your favorite punk artists?
Topher: Punk has been a huge influence on how I approach filmmaking. To me, punk means being independent, taking responsibility for yourself, and doing what you feel is right regardless of naysayers. We may not always have big budgets, but we make movies because we love making movies. There’s nothing more punk than doing what you love, whatever that may be, regardless of the odds.
As far as pacing goes, we needed to cram a lot of story in a short amount of time, so we made sure to cut anything that could be perceived as frivolous. Music always inspires me while writing. I like creating an ideal soundtrack for myself. I’ll make a playlist of songs that sets a tone which suits the film. I was very fortunate to get some amazing music for the movie, including some of my ideal soundtrack, from artists like Zombina and the Skeletones, For the Wolf (now Labadie House), The Big Bad, and The Humanoids. Our composer Anthony Lusk-Simone was able to create the perfect score for everything else. In general, I love horror punk and some influences that aren’t found in the film are Calebrese, The Misfits, Horrorpops, Kill Matilda, and so many more—I wish I could list them all.
Connor: What films or filmmakers influenced the film’s overall aesthetic and tone? What movies were on your mind as you were making it?
Topher: My biggest influence for the look of the film, most specifically in the composition of shots and how we used the camera, was Joe Dante especially “Gremlins.” That movie is a holiday horror-comedy that doesn’t waste a single frame. The tone of the film I find to be fairly close to Adam Green and Joe Lynch’s sitcom “Holliston.” The script was actually completed before I had ever seen the show, but the show and those two directors have influenced and inspired me more than I could possibly explain. I was going through a particularly rough time in my life while making Dark Roast. Being a struggling indie filmmaker in Massachusetts, “Holliston” mirrored so much of my own experience and gave me the motivation I needed.
Connor: You were telling me the short will exclusively be released on VHS, which I think is beyond awesome. Tell us why you chose the retro format, and where/when one might be able to purchase the short once it’s out?
Topher: I love VHS! I’m a huge movie fan and grew up in the heyday of the video rental store. There’s the obvious nostalgia I have for VHS brought on by watching so many of my favorite films on the format for the first time as a kid. There are so many strange and wonderful movies that you can still only find on tape, and I love the idea of Dark Roast joining the roster. We’ll be releasing it on VHS this October, in time for Halloween, and it will be available at www.BrokeHorrorFan.com.
Connor: Do you collect VHS tapes? What are some of the most prized tapes in your collection?
Topher: Hell yeah, I have a ton of VHS tapes! I even host VHS a podcast with two of my childhood friends, who are also collectors, serendipitously called VHS Bandits. My favorite tapes are horror films, cheesy action flicks, and weird kids movies. Some of my holy grail tapes are “Ice Cream Man,” “SnakeEater II: The Drug Buster,” “Where Did I Come From” (an animated sex education video narrated by Howie Mandel), and my favorite tape of all time, “My Pet Monster: A Live Action Videocassette.”
Connor: Finally, what can we expect from you in the future? Any new projects in the works for you presently? What can you tell us about them?
Topher: My producing partner, Chris Goodwin, and I are in the early planning stages for our next feature. We aren’t releasing any details just yet but stay tuned, hopefully we will be soon. As an actor, I also have some exciting films coming up, but again, I’m not at liberty to discuss just quite yet. I promise more cool stuff is on the way, though!
Connor: Awesome, man! We can’t wait! Thanks for taking the time to talk to Couch Bandits.
I just wanted to add that I love everything Topher has to say about independent film. There truly is nothing more punk rock than doing what you love in spite of the odds against you. That’s a mantra I’ve carried with me my whole life, and one we carry at Couch Bandits. Thanks again, Topher!
Check out the trailer for Dark Roast here:
The film will be out exclusively on VHS this October 2018 and will be available at Broke Horror Fan. Please check it out, and buy a copy! Support independent filmmaking!