Michael Aguiar is a Brazilian native and was born in Sao Paulo. He along-with his family came to live in Florida, US in 1993. When Michael moved to US, he didn’t know English language. He learnt the language by watching Hollywood movies and never took a formal class. He got so good at English that soon he started to write and edit for the local newspapers of Orlando area.
He was always interested in writing stories and was able to publish his first Arthurian novel “The Chronicles of Percyval” successfully. Apart from making stories, comic books are another childhood passion of Michael. He started freelancing for Advent Comics and working on comic books. He self-released his action/horror comic book “The Elite”. His comic book was praised by general public after which he again shifted his focus towards writing. He started his own production house “Pendragon Productions” so that he could focus on writing, producing, and developing feature movies.
His indie slasher “The Laughing Mask” was released only last month, November, and has gotten quite a good response from people. Let us take a look at what Michael had to say about the movie which made a stir AFM in November.
What makes a horror movie, you think?
For me it all boils down to the story. The most memorable horror films like Exorcist for example hinged a lot of its power in the story, also more modern storytellers like Jennifer Kent and the Babadook is another great example of horror through story. In the end there are a lot of ways to scare the audience, but the old classics had it right
Which horror icon did you prefer growing up – Freddy, Michael, Jason, Leatherface, Pinhead, or Chucky?
I always loved Freddy. I had a huge Nightmare on Elm Street poster on my wall, and is still one of my favorites. Jason (the first few movies) comes second and Pinhead a third.
Who would you say your villain is more like?
From the mentioned above I’d say none. Pinhead killed for the joy of inflicting pain, Freddy to avenge his own death in the hands of the parents of the children he haunts, Jason and Michael mostly killed anything in sight because “reasons” and Chucky just wanted to get into the kid’s body while Leatherface needed a new face and meat. The Laughing Mask kills others to cause them the same amount of pain they caused others; he wants people, who hurt others, to feel what their victims felt.
How did you come up with the mask?
Lots and lots of sketching. I always had the notion of a killer with a purpose. He would still be crazy but something happened that triggered his insatiable appetite for vengeance, and while he is there torturing you, he is smiling, laughing and taunting. After drawing for a long time, I took it to my sister who made the original out of leather and the rest is history!
And you’re selling the mask online, right?
Oh yes, we sold out of them on EBay on Halloween, I have ordered more and have set up a PayPal store for them.
Why do you think The Laughing Mask works as well as it does? Is it because it’s different to the usual horror/slasher movie?
This is because it’s a thriller with horror tendencies. These days, a lot of filmmakers are told to stay within their “cookie cutter” mould of what people’s idea of horror should or shouldn’t be. We didn’t want that, I wanted to make a thriller which would also scare and have gore. That was done intentionally, we aimed to challenge the status quo and make it as different from the usual slasher type as possible.
In the evolution of the script, did you change much?
Yes. Mostly due to budgetary constraints though. We only had 29 days to shoot, so unfortunately some of the scenes and a few of the subplots were removed or shortened in order to fit in our budget.
What about in the editing room? Were you forced to let anything go?
No, we were very sure of what we shot, the edit process took a little longer because we decided to shoot in 4k and dealing with the footage with a small budget is tricky to say the least, but we didn’t have any unused footage.
What did you film the movie on?
The Laughing Mask was shot in 4k Red Epic Dragon.
Did you rely much on visual effects or tried to keep most things practical?
We “wanted” to do be practical, so the CG blood kept in the film is very minimal.
When was the first public screening? What kind of feedback did you get?
The first public screening was at Wolf’s Museum of Mysteries in St. Augustine and it was a blast. We had a packed house for both showings, VERY positive response from the crowd. Everyone will like it, and I’m ok with that. For some people it wasn’t gory enough, for others it was too gory, but I’d say we left with over 85% approval from about 170 people in 2 showings so we were pretty happy. Not only that but just looking at our IMDB and Rotten Tomato rating you’ll see that people are really digging the look, story and The Laughing Mask itself. It is what it is, a low budget independent feature and most people really appreciate it for that.
If you get to do a sequel, where could you see it going?
With funds for the sequel, we would make it about the origin of the Mask, where it came from and how it affects the people wearing it. It’s nothing like “the Mask” but we have a story planned explaining everything and tying it into how our character came in contact with it. It would also explain The Laughing Mask’s 1930’s flair and why it is so fond of that era.