Horror is, in many ways, a melting pot of some truly sick and twisted minds. Gore and blood reign supreme within our dimly lit alley way of an allegory. To the unsuspecting eye, horror, gore, and slashers are not only synonymous, but are ubiquitous with the genre. By digging a bit deeper, you’ll find that gore is only the surface of the horror iceberg. This weeks Featured FearMaker is making his mark by staying away from the blood and gore, and turning out some unique and methodical horror.
For Michael Matteo Rossi, who was born and raised in Los Angeles, California, horror has always been a one way street. As a child when first introduced to horror, the initial assumption was the genre focused on a boogeyman chasing people around with a knife. It wasn’t until he watched The Exorcist, The Shining, and The Omen that Michael realized the possibilities within horror. “When I saw these three films; although of course there is blood and overt violence, the element of psychological horror is at play in all [three films], which really captivated me.” These psychological driven horror films opened up a world to Michael, giving him the creative space to begin a lifelong love affair with film.
At the age of 19, Michael made his first short film, Our Lost Translation, which screened at LA Shorts Fest. Michael studied film at San Diego State, finishing at the top of his class before returning back to Los Angeles to make begin his career as a filmmaker.
Much like a finger print, each and every filmmaker has their own unique style which define their works, making them distinguishable from any other filmmaker. For example, Rob Zombie uses a lot of color along with heavy camera movements and lots of gore, where on the opposite side of the spectrum Stanley Kubrick works out methodical shot layouts, relying on his characters to supply the terror. Michael Matteo Rossi has his own unique style, which is apparent in all of his works thus far. Shying away from the gore and gratuity we’ve all come to know and love, Michael relies on rich stories with strong characters to show the world his visions. Michael leans towards a dark cerebral horror which toils in the mind long after his films has finished playing. To Michael, this is what horror should be. “There is something intriguing about the human nature of fright: almost desiring to be scared, but a movie makes it so you know you are not in any real danger. We love to be thrilled just like we love to be excited and horror films do just that. They enable every visceral emotion.“
In 2012, Michael Matteo Rossi made his short film The Fallen Prodigy. Starring Melvin Gregg, Matthew Jordan, Michael Klinger, and Ashley Resh, the film tells the story of Aiden (Klinger), a hotshot hustler who gets killed in a deal gone bad. Now in purgatory, with the help of Daniel (Michael Riffle), Aiden must try to save his dying sister who he was responsible for looking after. With The Fallen Prodigy, the story is not given to the audience on a silver platter. The presentation warrants pieces to be put together by the viewer. By giving the audience clues towards the actual story through dialogue and foreshadowing, the audience has to be active while watching the movie. In today’s world of CGI and short attention span, too many films rely on special effects and revealing all their secrets quickly. Although easy can be entertaining, Michael’s style takes a different approach and forces the audience to think by filling his film with symbolism and allegoric dialogue.
2013 saw Michael Matteo Rossi’s first feature film, Misogynist. The film is a psychological deconstruction of quite possibly the easiest character to hate since Anthony Hopkins played Hitler. The film stars Jon Briddell as Trevor, a chauvinist womanizing guru who teaches his prized student the art of controlling women, only to find out he isn’t exactly who he claims to be. Although the first half may be a difficult watch due to the graphic nature of the characters and their chauvinistic ideals, the payoff and destruction of said characters is worth the initial pain. The film turns into a lesson on what the root of misogyny and the cowardliness which amplifies it.
Michael Matteo Rossi is always working on his art. His current project is his sophomore feature film Sable. Sable tells the story of a young woman’s dreams being halted when moving to Wyoming for her unstable boyfriend who accidentally kills a man. With the project currently in post production, we can assume a release in the upcoming year. The trailer for Sable is featured below. Michael believes that the key to being successful in the industry is to keep writing, keep working, and keep networking. People will always say no or pass on your project, but as long as you keep working, someone will notice.
Be sure to keep an eye out for the Menjivar Maniac’s review of Misogynist on Wednesday.