The 2015 Mile High Horror Film Festival kicked off yesterday with a real treat (including a few tricks) for fans—the world theatrical premiere of Even Lambs Have Teeth, a modestly budgeted joint US/Canadian production that follows the adventures of two young women who become entangled with a corrupt town and its evil pastimes. Stars Kirsten Prout, Tiera Skovbye, Garrett Black and Jameson Parker were in attendance, along with producers Adrian Salpeter and Elizabeth Levine. The actors themselves had not seen the finished product and in fact had only viewed snippets here and there since the quick shoot completed last November outside of Vancouver, BC, so it was a first viewing for practically everyone in the packed crowd at the Alamo Drafthouse Littleton.
The story is a simple, dark tale, with a pair of fun loving friends preparing to go work on a Community Supported Agriculture farm in rural Washington State to earn enough money for a blowout shopping weekend in New York City. Not surprisingly, the plan goes awry almost immediately as the sexually adventurous Sloane (Prout) convinces the more conservative Katie (Skovbye) to catch a ride to the farm with a couple of handsome young strangers who promptly take them on a nightmarish detour. The following horrors and the road to revenge/redemption the women find themselves on will bring to mind many touchstones of the genre that horror fans will be familiar with: I Spit On Your Grave, Last House On The Left, and even Deliverance were mentioned by the post-screening panel, as well as The Deer Hunter and Kill Bill. While this all sounds familiar—and make no mistake, many elements of the film are—the material is consistently elevated by strong performances across the board, both by the female leads and their antagonists. Sloane and Katy are instantly likeable and relatable, which puts you firmly next to them whether they’re locked in a storage crate or piloting a pickup on a lengthy parade of revenge around the countryside. The autumnal menace of the Pacific Northwest that’s been used to such great effect in everything from Twin Peaks to The X-Files is on full display throughout, and writer/director Terry Miles always has a creepy villain, a trope-flipping jolt, a dash of humor or a gonzo explosion of violence waiting around the corner—often all in the same scene.
During the Q&A session following the screening, we learned that this is Miles’ first horror film, he’s usually been associated with more straightforward drama productions. It shows in his handling of the characters, who always feel genuine no matter what their particular motivations are. It was a tight three week shoot in drizzly, cold weather with few Hollywood perks on hand, but the cast bonded quickly (perhaps despite themselves; Prout and Skovbye initially hated each other but that faded fast and they now appear to be the best of friends) and supported each other through some difficult scenes. It was roughly shot backwards chronologically so the women were allowed to develop a sense of empowerment before undergoing the damaging sequences in the first half of the film, although to the filmmakers’ credit those scenes are often underplayed and left to the imagination. There is a distinct sense that there was no desire to do too deep of a dive into the violent onscreen character humiliation seen in the likes of Hostel and several other previously mentioned films. Producers Adrian Salpeter and Elizabeth Levine shared some insight into independent movie production, stating that horror is a great genre to work in because it translates around the world much better than others such as comedy, hence an easier sell to investors and distributors. As final advice to any filmmakers impressed by the results of this small production, Levine said “start with $20,000 and a great group of loyal people, and go to work!” All in all, a promising work from a young group of talented people.
Follow Even Lambs Have Teeth on Twitter at @lambshaveteeth