Pervert \ Nerd \ Weirdo\ John Karyus is Your Man by Owen Keehnen

John Karyus has quite a reputation for himself as the pervert/weirdo/nerd of many low budget horror flicks. The man is a character actor par excellence who's stolen scenes in movies like 'Filthy McNasty' , 'Filthy McNasty 3: Apocalypse Fuck!' , 'Last Rites of the Dead' , Tony Urban's 'Kottentail' (as well as his upcoming 'Psycho Cheerleaders'), Lloyd Kaufman's latest 'Poultrygeist' , 'Without Mercy' , 'Lord of the Dead' , 'Daddy', etc. Mr. Karyus has had a wealth of experience in the field and will be having a horror-actor's wet dream playing Ed Gein in Michael DiPaolo's upcoming 'Mother'. Recently I had a chance to catch up with John in this exclusive interview.


Hey John - can you start us off with a visual and describe the room where you are answering these questions?

I am in a storeroom of my house. There is a pile of junk in here that goes to the ceiling. An archaeologist would have a field day in here, and its in layers...the bottom of this pile was laid down sometime in the 70s, while the top is most recent. There is a very narrow trail from the door to a desk where the computer is.

First off tell me about your hilarious turn as Detective Fulci in Tony Urban's 'Kottentail'. What was the most memorable thing you recall from that filming?

Yeah, that was a pretty good one. I played Detective Fulci as a pretty condescending bastard. It was a fun script with lots of gore and a great lead monster. Hopefully it'll be hitting video stores VERY soon! Probably the most memorable thing about that shoot happened fairly early on. When they were molding the KottenTail monster's teeth, actor Nathan Faudree got the fake rabbit teeth stuck over his real teeth! It got pretty scary for a little while...he was stuck like that for a couple of hours! Everything worked out OK though.

I read a quote somewhere that made it sound like you'll be working a lot for Tony Urban from now on. He was VERY happy with your work.

I have been friends with Tony for a few years, and he is a great filmmaker. His shoots are very organized and straightforward. He is a great guy, and very easy to work with. He seems to know what makes a good horror film, while giving things his own touch while still appealing to the fans. I am the lead in his upcoming film "Psycho Cheerleaders," so I guess I will be working with him real soon!

I want to hear all about your work as Matthew in the new movie 'Nancy Ray Smiggen's Family Tree and the Majik Extravagaza!'. Great title. Is it true you pull a Tony Perkins in this one and play your own mother? Give me a teaser that will make it irresistible to readers.

"Nancy Ray Smiggen's Family Tree and the Majik Extravaganza" is a very weird movie. It came about in the days following the wrap of Poultrygeist...and was fueled by the sever overwork and sleep deprivation only a Troma shoot could provide. Fueled by the hyper-caffinated aftermath of Poultrygeist and handful of people who had gotten bit by the moviemaking bug too bad to just go home, met and brainstormed a short film. Using props and effects left behind by Troma, a dark and surreal nightmare was born. It was directed by Doug Markuson, who was set designer on Poultrygeist, and was written by Dave Molloy, who was a key effects artist. Dave also created some brand new creatures and effects for this movie, some of which are incredible. I play the lead Mathew, and it was pretty much free form...a lot of improv. Mathew is a loser who lives with him Mom and wants to\par be nothig but a Magician. He is lousy however, and fails miserably at ever trick he tries to conjure. His mother is no help, and is more concerned with her womanizing lover, played by Molloy. Then, a strange and mysterious tree begins to grow...and gives Mathew hope and purpose. And yes...I play the Mother as well. In some very weird prosthetics. I guess it is pretty Norman Bates like now that I think about it...a somewhat nerdy fellow driven mad by his overbearing mother. Anyway, this movie takes quite a few turns, and always for the weird. It is a bloody, slimy, surreal mess by the end. But it is definitely a fairy tale...even has a moral! Nancy Ray Smiggen is a short, but it is a very good one. It stands on its own very well, but it is of interest to Poultrygeist fans in spotting some of their favorite people and things. Some of the props are taken quite a bit out of context, and used a completely different way, so it should be fun to find them all! You can visit Nancy Ray on Myspace at There is a trailer and information there...and if you add her to your friends you'll get all kinds of crazy bulletins!

I've also got to hear about your work as The Peeper (and that phony phallus) in Troma's new flick 'Poultrygeist'.

The Peeper is a fairly small role, but a good one. It fits well into my long line of pervert characters, so much so I think I was born to play it. Its one of the more grizzly deaths in the movie. I won't say what does me in - but But it will definitely be a fan favorite and well in the Troma spirit. Anyway, during my death scene, my acting was so intense that I turned a horrific shade of purple. Gargling and spewing fake blood and whatnot... with Lloyd Kaufman yelling, "MORE, MORE, MORE!!!" the whole time...really caused a very over the top performance. The crew was shocked I think...and while I didn't notice it at the time, I blew a blood vessel out in my eye!! was that intense...the next day my eye was bright red! In fact, all through Nancy Ray... Mathew's eye is a nasty shade of red...its pretty sick looking actually. Enhanced the character a lot. In addition to acting on Poultrygeist, I was also a crewmember. I was a location scout, PA and grip, and also lent a hand in pretty much every aspect of the production. I was the first PA hired...a full two weeks before everyone else started showing up...and the last to leave. I saw EVERYTHING...and it was an experience of a lifetime. Lloyd Kaufman has a pretty harsh reputation, but he is actually a really good guy. Intimidating, yes, but he is a true visionary as a filmmaker. He's not really making horror films; splatter films, comedies...whatever. He created his own genre, the Troma film...which is his and his alone. And he really knows how to direct visually and get the most out of a scene. He would take one look through the lens, and tell that a shot needed just a little more. Another dead body over there, or something moving around in the background. Its this attention to detail and craft that makes him more than a b-movie maker...he's a true legend. So I put a lot of work into that thing. Dirty, grubby, filthy disease ridden work. But it's well worth it. I think it might be one of Lloyd's best movies. Oh, as for that fake phallus...I'm not sure where that came from! Not sure who made it, or where they found it. One of the effects team probably. Sometimes weird props and stuff would just show up in the maybe it was one of those. Who knows? Who cares? All I know is that my scene in Poultrygeist is so raunchy, that if you get the movie at Blockbuster it probably won't be there. It's against their censorship policies.'s a pretty risque scene!

Tell me about your work as Chutney in Chris Seaver's 'Filthy McNasty' (2002) and 'Filthy McNastiest: Apocalpyse Fuck!' (2005). As an actor is it tougher to reprise a character and keep them interesting or is it much easier to build from the characterization that has already been created?

"Filthy McNasty" was my introduction to this weird world of DIY features. I was looking up Debbie Rochon on IMDB, and a couple titles caught my eye. "Anal Paprika 2" was one. I looked it up, and was surprised to see that the director lived near me! So I wrote Seaver and the rest is history...Chris Seaver is a pretty amazing filmmaker. He makes movies faster than most people can think of them. In fact, every time I talk to him, he's made like 6 new movies!! And, while they are very cheap, he is an astounding editor who really knows how to make a lot out of very little. And somehow he really knows how to get his stuff out there and seen. I am recognized for "Filthy McNasty" more than anything else! In fact Filthy McNasty is now on one of those Brentwood 4-packs called "Ghoul School." It can be found EVERYWHERE. Which it fulfilled yet another goal of mine...not only did Chris give me my first chance to be in a direct to video horror flick, but also be in one of those Brentwood packs. My Golden Path is right on schedule. As For Filthy 3, I am pretty much just a cameo. Have a couple lines in a couple scenes. But I'm funny in it, and I'm definitely Chutney. And, to tell you the truth, I honestly think Filthy 3 is a much better movie overall than Filthy 1. The story moves a light speed with tons of crazy characters and some of the most off-color gore and humor Chris has ever done. He really learned a lot about making movies in the couple of years in between Part 1 and 3 of this series. And above all, Chris Seaver really knows how to title his movies. Every movie he has made has had a classic title. "Apocalypse Fuck" definitely gets my attention anyway! I would say it's easier to reprise a character that you have played than to create a new one from scratch. You build off what has gone before...what worked. When you take a new role, you try something different, something they haven't seen before. Especially if you are offered a character similar to one you have gotta figure out what to do to make this one a little different and still surprise people.

You mentioned it earlier, but I also have got to hear about your work as Dicky in the upcoming 'Psycho Cheerleaders'?

Tony Urban is making "Psycho Cheerleaders", and it is his most ambitious movie to date. The script is great, and it\rquote s filled with special effects, monsters and gore!! I was surprised when I read the script...the scope is well out of the range of his previous efforts. I can't wait to do it! As for the character of Dicky, he is a loser who tries to impress some girls, and you guessed goes wrong. Horribly. Before you know it, the whole school is a bloodbath of horror from the bowels of Hell!! This movie should be very fun to make. Tony has assembled a great cast and crew for this one. A lot of loonies make an appearance in this...

Are these sets as much fun to work on as they sound? What's the funniest you've ever witnessed or been a part of on a movie set?

These sets are very fun, but they are work. A lot of people just starting out forget that. Some of these guys are the hardest working guys in show business at any budget level. It's pretty crazy actually. But yeah, its fun...but you really got to be willing to do this crap to stand even a second of it! I have seen so many funny things on sets that its real tough to pick just one. In fact, the Poultrygeist set had moments that I still have laughing fits a year later. But, the one moment that I will never forget came very early in my career. While I was still a film student actually. I was acting in my friend's student film. It was not a very good movie at all, but I was helping him out. Someone on the crew had rounded up a bunch of extras from a Rocky Horror screening or they were all a bunch of nut jobs. Pretty obnoxious and talking when they weren't supposed to, etc. Anyway, it was like 4 in the morning and everybody had been working like 18 hours straight. All these weird extras had finally calmed down and quit bothering the crew, just so they could get the damn thing done and go home. We were down to the end of the movie, and my character had a long monologue to read. Like a page and half...two pages. Pretty long. And it had to be straight faced. The whole joke of the scene was the speech was ridiculous, but the reading had to come from the heart. Well, it took a few times to get right. Either I would screw the lines up (I was just handed the script right before we shot) or I would lose it and laugh or something. After a few takes...we finally got it right. The right amount of emotion in the reading, all the lines remembered, etc. I almost got through two pages of speech...and then it happened. One of these extras blew a fart. Not a big fart, but definitely a fart. It sounded like they had tried to muffle it, but failed. Well I lost it. Fell on the floor laughing. It took at least half an hour before I could even say a sentence, let alone two pages of dialog. I could not believe it. Shooting was done. No more. We could no longer work under such conditions. The film screened once in my friend's class. It got miserable reviews, but at least he passed the gas... I mean class. It has not seen the light of day since. But that fart lives on in infamy!

And the most frightening?

Again, I have seen so much scary shit go down, its almost impossible to narrow it down. I have seen professional grips brought to tears at some of this stuff...and for people like me it was just "business as usual" Probably the scariest thing I have gone through was withdrawal from the Troma shoot. After it was all over...three months of 80 hours a day work in the absolute weirdest environment... I suddenly had to return to the real world. That stuff seeped into my subconscious in a way nothing had before. I had dreams about Poultrygeist people, places and things for months. I no longer knew how to deal with society. And if I was weird before Troma...I was waaaaayyyyy out there at this point. It was that period that Nancy Ray was born. Came from three veterans of the Troma experience, all going through this weird, "What CAN we do with ourselves now?" Kind of feeling. We poured this bizarre energy into that little movie...and it shows.

You're well known in the indie horror scene for your weirdo, pervert, and nerd roles" -- why do you think those parts come so easily to you and what's the best part about playing them?

I think that all started in college. I went to film school wanting to be a filmmaker, not really too interested in acting. But all my friends kept putting me in their movies. It started because I looked a little older than the rest of the kids, so I would be cast as the father, or teacher or boss or whatever. Then word got out I was very dependable and more or less good, so I got cast in everything. Then, word got out that I was...eccentric. Suddenly every role was peeping in the bathroom or masturbating or talking about porn... It just spiraled out of control until I was in like 300 of these types of student films. To the faculty I was both a bane to their existence and a godsend...I created a lot of filth, but I was doing it well. And then when I graduated...I went out and took whatever job I could get. Usually grip or PA work. I worked here and there on some flicks, and 9 out of 10 times the director came over to me and asked if I was interested in a small role in the film. I just sort of went with it, realizing this pervert stuff was my true I might as well go with it. All of this led me to write Chris Seaver...which started it in the b-movie arena. So I guess the old advice is true...act what you know. I definitely have a perverse aura around me. So I'll use it in movies to craft the strangest characters.

Do you have any other upcoming projects you would like to tell the racks and razors readers about?

About a year ago I was the lead in Michael DiPaolo's "Mother," in which I play Ed Gein. Unlike most of my work...this is not comedic. This is an actual creepy movie. A very dark and disturbing character study. Its in Black and White with no dialog. So it's definitely avant-guarde and very weird. But it's a very good film, and I am very happy with my performance in it. Since it's nowhere near the mainstream, it is very difficult to find. But it is available at I also spent the last year or so doing a lot of little one and two day roles. I am in Marc Fratto's "Last Rites of the Dead," Don Fetcher's "Barnacle," and Tosca Miserendo's "My Wife and My Dead Wife," all of which are small but very memorable roles. I seem to be following Timothy Carey's footsteps of having one very small scene in a ton of weird movies...and occasionally starring in the weirdest of the weird.

Okay - we're pulling the car into the John Karyus Drive In. What three horror movies are you going to be showing on the triple bill and what goodies are they going to be serving up at the concession stand?

I would say the original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre," "Hellraiser" and "Phantasm" have always been my favorites. It's fairly clich'e to like those ones I guess... but they are classics for a reason. Those three movies made me who I am today...and changed the way I look at movies. I don't care what's at the concession stand, but just check it before you eat it. Somebody might have jizzed in your popcorn.

What makes you go psycho in real life?

Not too much. I am fairly easy going. People messing around with schedules and changing dates all the time drives me nuts... but that's about it.

What scares you in real life?

I am scarred of possums. I hate them. I hate their creepy eyes and their creepy hands. I live in a fairly rural area, and I see them all the time. Whenever I see one, it feels like they are controlling my mind. Whales too. I am afraid of whales...but rarely have to deal with them.