Matthew Reel is composer and filmmaker whose films are a blend of art and horror with a strong social commentary. His Troma-released JESSICKA RABID (2010), staring Elske McCain and Trent Haaga, influenced a multitude of filmmakers and gained him a cult following. While he holds a degree in film and broadcast, he has a general disdain for film school theory and rhetoric, siding with originality and even obscurity for his unique portrayal of politics and values.
Matthew Reel on his cinematic influences:
Growing up, movies and TV saturated every waking minute of spare time I had. I remember practically every movie, show and commercial I’ve seen when I was little. I used to be obsessed with JAWS (1975) and it almost inspired me to be a marine biologist until the moment I witnessed a whale autopsy on a beach as a kid and nearly threw up.
But fact is, when I was young we didn’t have a VCR. I would get out my little red cassette recorder and record the audio from the TV. The night JAWS played on HBO, I recorded the whole thing and practically listened to it every night.
Around the same time, I was enamored with the movie posters and trailers that would eventually stick in my head for the years to come. 1982 was a good year. I made crayon drawings of movie posters I saw like DRAGONSLAYER (1981) and TRON (1982). I even made a crayon depiction of the HBO logo they did with the miniature houses.
A few years later we got a VCR. The first two movies we rented were JAWS 3 (1983) and CLAN OF THE CAVE BEAR (1986) giving me my first childhood crush, Darryl Hannah. Every time we’d go to the video store, I became obsessed with video covers. I loved the horror section because of those great big-boxes with lots of blood and memorable taglines.
I began to pick apart movies and TV shows. My mother used to watch DAYS OF OUR LIVES (1965). I remember the lighting, the acting and specifically the reactions seemed so unnatural compared to most other things on TV. I remember it being a huge puzzle for me. It wasn’t until I was eight that I realized everything was done on a sound stage.
These things would always be going on in my head. By the age of nine I was being prepped to be an opera singer, and the training continued for the next nine years, but my interest would always go back to movies. By then I had discovered specific styles from certain directors, and my favorite was John Carpenter. I loved any movie with blood in it. I was also amused by quirky local commercials and television programs.
By the time I was in high school, I ended up absorbing the University library movie catalog and by the age of 16 I knew I wanted to be a film director after seeing the films of Kenneth Anger. Films that influenced me were NAKED LUNCH (1991), A CLOCKWORK ORANGE (1971) and HENRY: PORTRAIT OF A SERIAL KILLER (1986). I just wanted to make movies, simple as that.
My biggest rush came from silent movies and experimental / avant-garde films. I loved how things were shot, even if I didn’t understand that much at the time. And despite the complexity, I resolved I was going to make a movie.
Matthew Reel on his filmmaking style:
Back in 1999 with no formal training or any idea how to go from point A to point B, I decided I was going to experiment on my own. My first short, OUBLIETTE (2002) was the result of that. I decided to go forward with a silent movie, full of grandiose ideas and plans. For example, the main protagonist was to be placed on the screen directionally on either the left side or right side depending on which side of his personality was dominant at that time.
From there, I discovered the more complex rules of editing and with my later films developed into probably a better editor than photographer or even director.
Basically the end result was that my characters tend to not say very much unless it’s important. I tend to direct keeping in mind which shots will follow or what footage I would use to maintain the mood, rather than any real emotion. So the photography / video is a single shot springboard to how the next shot should be and how it will be edited in.
With that in mind, a screenplay is not something that is set in stone. There’s nothing more annoying than going into a movie theater and having to read without needing subtitles. This is typical all across the board. Usually if I hate a film, it’s because it is flowing word for word from the script instead of the actors utilizing the elements of it that work to emote and find their voices.
Just as a fan of movie watching, I’ve learned that any idea or story can work if you learn what to keep from the script and what can go in the trash. I go in understanding that ideas will change as filming progresses. The script doesn’t make the movie. You create your own universe following your own rules. Make what’s important work.
I use obscure angles, unusual lighting, and juxtaposition to pull a certain emotion from the viewer. That became all important, and it’s been working for me as a language since. Mood is all important in my work and I will add in any unrelated or absurd image to maintain that mood, even if plot and plausibility have to go out the window.
Matthew Reel states that as a director you have to realize that not only are you playing boss, you’re also playing daddy and shrink, not to mention friend and advocate and, at times, enemy. You need to realize you will be wearing multiple hats every day, sometimes even the dunce-cap. You just have to accept you’re human, but you always more forward, become better each day. Follow Matthew Reel on IMDb.