SXSW 2015: Director Mickey Keating Previews the Misleading Pod



Mickey Keating’s got something going on. It was clear in his debut, the almost overwhelmingly stylish Ritual. That film, released through Lionsgate and After Dark, but far more idiosyncratic than that would lead you to believe, took a simple plot and injected heavy, strange choices around it. It was droning and surreal, like a shoegaze David Lynch or something. It’s unsurprising then, when talking of his latest feature and upcoming SXSW Midnighter Premiere, Pod, to hear him say, “I really, really enjoy when films are a celebration of the fact that they’re films.” Keating wants to make movies. Pod is after all, something of an obviously referential title and Ritual engaged the viewer in the act of watching movies, what it feels like to be in a movie moment, and what it feels like when that moment engulfs you. Perhaps even more unsurprising, Keating says, “I dial that up almost to 11 with Pod.” 

Pod makes its World Premiere on Monday, March 16 at Austin’s annual SXSW. In the film, “After receiving a cryptic message from their war veteran brother, Martin, estranged siblings Ed and Lyla travel up to their isolated family lake house to hold an intervention. But the terror that they encounter within the snowy confines of the ransacked retreat is far beyond anything that they could have possibly anticipated.”

Shock Till You Drop spoke with Keating in advance of the festival…

Shock Till You Drop: I get the sense this is a hard film to discuss when no one’s seen it

Mickey Keating: Yeah, it’s funny. People are going to have their expectations, even the fact that the movie’s called Pod. People’s minds go right towards Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which is kind of the intention, because I think that when people actually sit down and watch it, they’re going to be completely thrown for a loop. I think it’s the goal of effective horror.

Shock: So the title is a bit of a diversion?

Keating: The title is a bit of a point and nod, kind of tipping. Obviously, I’m a huge fan of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, to the insane degree that the characters in Pod are dressed very similarly to Donald Sutherland in the entire scene when they find the pod. There’s a tremendous love there, it’s not ironic or sarcastic, but it’s not quite as far down that road.

Shock: We’re getting the sense with Pod that it’s a certain type of horror movie, which is a similar feeling about your upcoming Darling and the recently announced Carnage Park. Your first film Ritual heavily engaged with style too, with being a type of horror film and with watching films as a viewer, and what it means for characters who find themselves in a movie and movie scenario. What are you doing personally in playing with all of these styles?

Keating: I think it just comes down to the fact that horror is so much fun. Because of all genres, there’s a sense of experimentation. It allows you to be different and combine a whole bunch of things and in that kind of style, I think Pod, especially Darling and what I intend to do with Carnage Park as well, is just lovingly pay tribute to all these different subgenres that have inspired me. But not necessarily contain just the horror. As much of the kind of overwhelming sense or presence of sci-fi in Pod, there’s also a tremendous paranoid conspiracy idea that comes just from my love of movies like The Manchurian Candidate or William Peter Blatty’s The Ninth Configuration. At the same time, Horror is so contained and there’s a lot of expectations—particularly now with indie cinema. It seems like so much of independent horror is trying to create something that’s going to become the next franchise. That’s not particularly very interesting to me. What I like to be able to do with my films is just throw all these nods to all these movies that I just watch all the time. The result is a film that you’re not necessarily able to pin down and really be able to just say, “That movie’s about this.”

Shock: Part of the point seems to be how effective movies can be. In Ritual, you so deliberately push in on the television, for instance.

Keating: Pod is a step even further in that kind of direction. I really like being able to experiment with the fluidity of editing. I take those ideas, like the push in on the television, drawing the audience into the film and I dial that up almost to 11 with Pod. Anything that I can do, just to kind of almost challenge the audience. To say, “you think that you have an idea of the film, but I’m actually one step ahead of you.” I really, really enjoy when films are a celebration of the fact that they’re films, and a celebration of the magic of editing. If you have an idea and you want to try something different, that’s the beauty and magic of cinema.

For more on SXSW, see our exclusive preview of The Invitation with director Karyn Kusama here. See our preview of the entire Midnighters slate with programmer Jarod Neece here.