Shock Interview: A Chat With +1 Director Dennis Iliadis


Dennis Iliadis caught our eye in 2009 when he applied his vision to The Last House on the Left, arguably one of the “good” remakes to come along with the last 10 years.  

In the wake of that film’s release, the director – who showed a lot of promise – was attached to a number of projects and it seemed like something was going to move into production rather quickly.  But the gears of the Hollywood machine turn slowly.  Things went quiet.  We had not heard what Iliadis was up to, that is, until it was revealed +1 – his latest effort – was going to debut at SXSW 2013.  The movie sort of crept up on us, you might say.

In this supernatural thriller starring The Purge‘s Rhys Wakefield, three college friends go to the biggest party of the year, each looking for something different: love, sex and a simple human connection. When a mysterious phenomenon disrupts the party, it lights a fuse on what will become the strangest night anyone has ever seen. As the three friends struggle to find what they’re looking for, the party quickly descends into a chaos that challenges if they can stay friends or if they can even stay alive. spoke with Iliadis about his new film which enters into a limited theatrical release Friday, September 20th from IFC.

Shock Till You Drop:  After Last House on the Left, what were you looking to do next and what was coming your way?

Dennis Iliadis: Well, after that film, a lot of stuff was coming my way.  Some big ones like The Birds and I got attached to quite a few projects.  But things were moving slowly, so I said, let’s try and do something smaller, but as ambitious as possible so we wound up doing this movie first.

Shock:  And why +1?

Iliadis:  I came up with the story.  I’m fascinated by the idea of “what if you could meet yourself?”  What if you could do that, but it happens in a super-charged hedonistic environment where you have no time to think while your other self it thinking the same things you are.  I was throwing this into an extreme emotional battlefield.  And then there are those stages of my love life where I was like, please give me those – maybe – 20 minutes back so I can no fuck up or something like that.  So, it’s about second chances and how much can change in the span of 45 minutes.

Shock:  With this large of a scenario with extras and your main cast, what were the production challenges?

Iliadis:  The biggest challenge, conceptually and production-wise, is that we took this brainy, fantastic idea and crafted it on a crazy, emotionally raw, saturated canvas.  This intellectual idea needed an emotional drive.  These kids are having the time of their life and there are raunchy things happening, but you need to be thinking and very observant, watching the time details and things repeating themselves.  I think that’s fun and interesting, but challenging.  We also had to pay attention to so many technical details and keep an eye on the fact that there needed to be this hedonistic energy.  [laughs]  Keep that energy, keep everyone in a heightened state and maintain the technical end.  It was a bit crazy.

Shock:  Would you say that this film represents more of your vision and tastes over something like Last House on the Left in which you’re re-telling a story we’ve seen before?

Iliadis:  It’s tricky.  I love genre, but I’ve always wanted to take some risks.  And I hate it when your world is conditioned to the genre.  Like, my first movie [Hardcore] was a very dark movie about two underage prostitutes and there were moments of extreme abuse that lapsed into fantasy and they see themselves in an American sitcom.  I like to have this extra room.  I’m doing a genre film, but there are things that can surprise you.  With Last House, an extreme horror movie, we didn’t shoot it like a normal horror movie.  There was a beauty in the image that gave the horrible things that were happening some extra power.  Here, it’s genre, but it’s very fun and goes to places you don’t expect.

Shock:  You landed Rhys Wakefield before audiences saw him in The Purge…

Iliadis:  He’s a phenomenal actor.  Everyone was great.  They had to phase into familiar teen movie stereotypes and then unravel in unexpected ways.  The audience would become familiar with them but then they would transgress those elements of familiarity.  Rhys had to play a very obsessive character.  In the name of love, he does some very terrible things and you believe in the character.  He’s doing the things he does in the end because he wants to get his girl back.

Shock:  Do you have anything lined up now that this film is done with its festival run and getting a release?

Iliadis:  I’m happy to have +1 out in the world.  It’s good to see a young audience latch on to this.  I have a couple of movies in the works.  Two seem to be moving fast.  One is called Home which is a great script and has horror haunted house elements and turns into a psychological thriller and I have a project at Blumhouse that’s now being set up.

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