Chris Kalher does it all --- and if he doesn't it's only a matter of time. This movie-mad Chicago native is primarily known for his wonderful work scoring indepdendent horror with credits that include 'A Spider Beside Her', 'The Shrieking', 'Midnight Snack', 'Slumber Party Murder Mania', and 'Disincarnate'. However Chris' solid talent extends to other sectors of the indie film world as well. He's directed the vampire flick 'To Walk The Night', edited the chapter horror flicks 'After Midnight' and 'Around Midnight, acted in 'Spring Break Massacre', and shot part of the upcoming chiller 'The Chubby Killer'. This guy knows and is respected by most everyone in the independent horror world. He's busier than ever but not to busy to pass up the chance for a racks and razors interview.


  .Chris, start us off with a visual and describe the room where you are answering these questions.

If 'Sanford and Son' and 'Pee Wee's Playhouse' converged in a dungeon with movie posters, props, makeup fx, guitars, set pieces, computers and ashtrays, I would feel right at home LOL Most people are creeped out to even step foot in here. Can't say I blame them.

Looking over your career credits in horror, I see you've directed, been a cinematographer, performed, edited, and composed. Which do you consider your greatest strength, which gives you the greatest personal satisfaction, and which is like pulling teeth?

Hmmmm Greatest strength is probably the composing just because not everyone can do it. They might have ideas about what they'd like to hear when filming a scene, but can't express it. I pretty much have finished music in mind before I even grab the camera. I love directing. Usually I get a lot of blank stares and "what does that have to do with anything ?" questions during shooting, but when finished, there's a collective sigh since everything makes sense finally. At least I hope it does LOL. Getting me to do anything in post production is like pulling teeth, especially if I have no schedule. I'm a pain in the ass about footage since I would've shot it differently or edited a scene differently or a million other things. I'm obsessive over details that nobody in their right mind would likely notice, but I cringe every time I see or hear it. It's even worse if I'm working on someone else's movie that I have no control over since it's "not my department".

Tell me about your latest composing project 'Spring Break Massacre' with Reggie Bannister and Linnea Quigley. How did that job come about?

I had met Mike Hoffman through my buddy, Frank Wales, since I'm in Chicago and it was being filmed just outside of town. I was about to return to North Carolina at the time for another round of shooting on 'The Shrieking', but a last minute schedule change freed me up to work crew locally. Reggie and Linnea ! What horror fan wouldn't jump at the chance to work with them? I had a blast and met some terrific people as well. Unfortunately, I have no idea about composing anything on 'Spring Break Massacre'. I had talked to the producer about it at the time and I'm listed on the IMDB page, but other than that ....

So when it comes to composing, what exactly is the most effective way for you to work? I guess my question is how do you go about scoring a film?

I generally edit scenes I film to music I've already composed. There is a certain rhythm to it that way. I know what I want happening on screen at certain cues and it's pretty simple. Scoring other people's films gets a bit tricky. I know there's a device that will count off the beats per minute or such to get everything perfectly timed to on screen action, but I never get that technical I'm afraid. I'll hum a melody, pick out the notes on a guitar, compose some sheet music, mix and try to sync from there. I'm a hack in that department, but it still sounds good to me.

I am also curious about what it was like to step before the cameras for 'Spring Break Massacre' with your role as the Bailiff?

I had already been bounced from the roles of Stanley, a deputy and an inmate and it was my big scene in the movie. I took off to the bathroom with the uniform, slicked my hair back, grabbed a quick shave and was informed upon my return that only because I was seen going into there, nobody would've known it was me. The director left for the hospital with a fever so I improvised. I was brilliant of course ! I saw about 60% of the finished movie and if my elbow doesn't win an Academy Award, I'll know the voting is fixed LOL. That's all that is seen of me. Makeup covered my tattoos so I am completely unrecognizable. I got to flirt with a girl in 'ROT: Reunion Of Terror', Mike's follow up film, and will play a deaf-mute handyman in 'Demoniac'. Nobody has had this little dialogue on screen since Harpo Marx.

Your composing credits include 'The Shrieking', 'To Walk The Night', 'After Midnight', 'Around Midnight', 'Midnight Snack', 'A Spider Beside Her', and 'Slumber Party Murder Mania'. Which do you think is the best example of your work?

I approached each one differently so it's impossible for me to say. 'Snack' was electronic ambiance, 'Walk' is guitar oriented, 'Shrieking' will be all percussion. I'm pretty exclusive to doing horror films, but I try to reinvent myself on each one so they're always unique. The score for'Spider' was strings only, but I got to do all the radio and jukebox tunes as well which was a fantastic opportunity for me. Horror composers don't usually get to do jazz, rockabilly and blues tunes on the sly as well in a movie. I'll be sure to thank Shawn Hunt if I ever get to play The Grand Ole Opry for that LOL

I want to hear about your directing debut with 'To Walk The Night' did that project come about, what was the greatest challenge about it, and where are you in regards to completing the project?

It had it's origins as a Phil Herman short story titled 'Bat Bite'. Model Gashley Darcane wanted to be the hostess of the 'Always Midnight' anthology movie, but since she is local, I asked if she'd be interested in doing a short with me instead. She agreed so I rewrote 'Bat Bite' as 'To Walk The Night'. The only resemblance, of course, was the heroine getting bitten by a bat. The lecherous husband was replaced by a sympathetic friend and the whole story took on a new meaning. Another model was to play the friend and ended up being replaced when it became obvious that working with her would be impossible. Gashley had her replacement, Michaele Green, already and since they really are friends, the chemistry worked even better between them. I still need some key scenes, basically the gory stuff, and some ADR, but it's done for the most part. Scheduling, as usual, is the hold up. It's wonderful to get everyone together, but always a task to do so. Gashley has agreed to play 'Resurrection Mary' for me in a feature I've been putting together for what feels like forever. She will absolutely steal the show and I couldn't be happier that she's willing to put up with me again. Michaele will be doing double duty in a bizarre thriller that was nearly abandoned by me, but after working with her, I knew right away she was perfect for it. She has such a sweet and personable demeanor, the movie will feel even more shocking than anticipated in it's original incarnation. Basically, every screenplay I now write has one or both of them in mind. I have to give a shout out to my right hand man, Thom Oswald, as well. No matter how weird my ideas get, he's always the first one ready to help me set them up.

So is it tough to go from work that is primarily solitary (composing, editing) to work that is highly social and interactive like directing?

Are you kiddng ? It's like recess to schoolkids ! I love to be on the set. There's a certain camraderie there and it's always a good time. Editing and composing are mind numbing in that respect since they are done alone in the longest, most tedious way. I'll send bits and pieces out for opinions, but once I realize I'm talking to myself, I need to take a break from them.

Who are your greatest influences in horror cinema as a director/cinematographer/composer/editor?

I always find it ironic when indie directors talk about their influences, but are clueless as to why the greats are considered great. There's nothing worse than watching a medium shot of a stripper getting fake blood splattered on her boobs in one, long dragged out take after hearing about what an influence John Carpenter is to the guy who filmed that. Pointless really. Anyways, nobody did it better than Hitchcock. I've been reading and watching everything and anything I can get my hands on recently from him. He explained so much of the 'how' and 'why' he did things that made his work so memorable, it's like a goldmine to me. Although technically not a cinematographer, Sam Raimi's inventiveness stands out the most. I don't really think I have any particular infuence by a composer. It just comes to me and if it reminds the viewer of someone else, great. I don't try to sound like anyone but me. I'm going to have to cheat on the editor question since he wasn't horror related, but Russ Meyer was a God to me in that department. People will always just associate him with big breasted Amazons, but the guy could probably edit a feature of paint drying and keep it interesting. I think the influence of these 3 show the most in a murder scene I did for Ruben Rox's 'The Chubby Killer'. At least I hope so or I'll sound like a pompous jerk LOL

Somewhat going along with that what are a few of your favorite all time film scores?

Goblin's 'Suspiria', Manfredini's 'Friday the 13th', Carlos's 'A Clockwork Orange', Hermann's 'Psycho' and Badalamenti's 'Twin Peaks' scores all have some heavy rotation with me for different reasons, but if I had to choose one,'The Omen' from Goldsmith is my all time favorite. Seriously, the music during the opening credits still gives me goosebumps to this day. It's that effective.

What projects do you have lined up for the future?

I'm directing a western believe it or not ! 'Purgatory Junction' is slated to begin filming in September and is my current main concern. Frank Wales nailed the script perfectly and my producer will kill me for mentioning names of the people we've discussed, but there will be some familiar faces from the horror genre. I don't think John Wayne would approve, but Sam Peckinpah would probably get a kick out of it. Of course there will be a few horror elements in it, but I don't want to give anything away. A web site is up now, but I'm still deciding on content for it. Trying to keep fantastic secrets secretive is difficult for me LOL After that, I'll likely go back to doing more horror productions and see what happens.

We're pulling the car into the Christopher Kahler Drive In...what three horror flicks are on the triple bill for the night and what goodies are they going to be serving up at the concession stand?

'Night of The Living Dead', 'The Haunting' and 'Psycho', but only the original versions of course. Cheetos, Snickers, and Mountain Dew. I'm on a diet and can't even think about them presently, but I've always been a junk food junkie.

What makes you go psycho in real life?

Indifference. We're living in some of the most troubling times and it often seems like nobody gives a shit any more. A few people walk on the rights of many, commit a crime and get a book deal, endless remakes, old tv sitcoms and 'Saturday Night Live' sketches keep going to the big screen, mindless reality tv, Tyra Banks having a talk show... When do people finally draw the line and say "enough is enough already !" ? It's infuriating how complacent we've become. I'm mad as hell and ... you get the picture LOL

What scares you in real life?

Losing a child. That's only natural as a parent and it's a nagging fear that never goes away. Me personally ? Heights. I was on the verge of an anxiety attack at The Grand Canyon because other people were sitting along the edge. I'd joke that it was "natural selection" if they toppled over of course, but the thought that somebody might then was unbearable to me. I did manage to hike down eventually. Next time I'll try skydiving.

Thanks for taking the time to chat Chris.

Thanks for having me, Owen. I know there's nothing more horrifying than listening to someone talk about himself.