Directed by Natasha Kermani and written by Brea Grant (who also stars), Lucky is a commentary on the repeated abuse and violence to which women are subjected on a daily basis, while also being a whip-smart, darkly comic horror film. It’s unapologetically direct in looking at the anonymous attacks which occur over and over again, as if every day is the same as the last.
“In LUCKY, life takes a sudden turn for May (Grant), a popular self-help book author, when she finds herself the target of a mysterious man with murderous intentions. Every night without fail, he comes after her, and every day the people around her barely seem to notice. With no one to turn to, May is pushed to her limits and must take matters into her own hands to survive and to regain control of her life.”
I spoke by phone with director Kermani about the film, her collaboration with Grant, and how Lucky found its balance.
Cinepunx: I saw Lucky last year as part of the Nightstream festival, and when I rewatched it again today, I was just struck by how many things I noticed on the second viewing, which I think is really interesting considering the cyclical sort of nature of the movie.
Natasha Kermani: Very true. Well, I love to hear that. We did intentionally design the movie to be a repeat viewing movie. There’s a lot of little details in there that I think you can grab the second time around
The thing I noticed, right off the bat was the Michelle Vezilj track, “Can’t Go Back to Yesterday,” playing in the car as May (Brea Grant) pulls up to her house. I didn’t get that the first go around, but I certainly get it now.
Yeah, that was our Jefferson Airplane “White Rabbit” knockoff that we recreated. [laughs] We had a lot of fun with that.
The whole film just seems very absurdist. The way Ted (Dhruv Uday Singh) is saying things like, “We have to fight for our lives now. This is just how things are.” Was that deadpan acceptance of everyone around May in the original script?
Oh, yeah. A hundred percent, a hundred percent. The dryness of the humor is absolutely part of everything that Brea writes, I think, but especially for this, I think the absurdity of it really was super key. The fact that the world is distorting around her: we really looked at it as though it were a long episode of The Twilight Zone, you know, where the world just suddenly is distorted and different and you, as the main character, are just trying to figure out, “How do I get around? How do I get out of here?” That was really the ethos.
One thing that we had a lot of fun doing was actually casting comedians. A lot of the supporting cast are actually comedy actors. I really wanted to do that because I think that they would they would play it with a lightness and a creative sense of timing that would be more interesting maybe than a dramatic actor, who I think would just really try and drag it down and make it very serious.
We’re talking about such important issues, so I really wanted to go in the opposite direction of that and I was really thrilled to find it. We were able to find it because they have dramatic background, as well. It’s not like they don’t know how to act in a scene, but I think their intuition and their instincts as actors allow them to go a different direction than just the typical sort of heavy content characterization of these crazy situations. That dead-pan timing, we were aware of that from day one.
Now that ties really in nicely with a thing I was really curious about. There are a lot of character actors in Lucky and specifically genre character actors, like Chase Williamson and Larry Cedar and Jesse Merlin. Is using these familiar faces a way of commenting on the repetitive, cyclical nature of violence, especially given that the character actors are men and you recognize them, but you might not know from what?
Yeah, I would say that, absolutely, we do think of the film as being a satire of a slasher. It’s wearing the skin of a horror movie and we’re playing with all of these tropes, but it is a little bit left of center of a traditional horror/slasher movie, obviously. I think playing and bringing those people in who inhabit that world of indie horror was fun, but I will say every single one of those actors are very funny people and they have this multitude of skills that is beyond the running and getting attacked by a killer skillset.
Chase [Williamson] is hilarious. Chase is one of the funniest people I know. Jesse Merlin is amazing and he sings, so we have him sing in the movie. Larry [Cedar] one of my most favorite actors–he plays the police officer–and he’s just a wonderful character actor.
Being able to call people who you really love to work with and you trust, and you can say, “Hey, do you want to do this crazy thing and come out and play with us for a day or two?”–that was absolutely part of the horror family, but I think more so than that, it was just part of our community–Brea’s and my community–and so being able to call them these people and have them come out and play these roles was really important to the whole ethos of the film.
It was a very relaxed set. There was a lot of trust and comfort because, also we’re dealing with these big issues, so I think having people who we know would come and be thoughtful about it was really important. But yeah, there’s a lot of Easter eggs there for people.
How did you come to work with Brea Grant?
Brea and I knew each other socially, but the script was actually sent to me by a producer who was interested in making the film and thought that I might respond to it. When I got it, I was excited ’cause I was like, “Oh, great! Awesome! Dope! I would love to see what she–what she’s got going on in her crazy brain.”
So, it did come through a producer, but I read the script, really responded to it, thought it was a really interesting challenge, and basically gave her a call. We had some initial conversations and we were just very much on the same page, I think, creatively. From there it was, it was a smooth process to get it up on its feet and rolling.
It seems like your work and hers dovetails so nicely. When I found out that a writer/actor of whom I am a fan and director of whom I am a fan were making this movie together, I was just like, “That just sounds like something that would naturally evolve.”
It did. It felt very natural. It felt very natural and casual. The nice thing about working with a friend, as well, is there’s already that baseline of communication. That also was really cool, the project coming together.
When when a film has played the festival circuit as Lucky has, does it feel like it gets a new life when it gets a physical release?
Oh, yeah, absolutely. I think also, especially for horror movies, there’s something there’s just a fun thing about getting the actual physical release. I think people really enjoy it in a way that maybe other fans of different genres aren’t–as in collections and stuff. I think that’s fun and I think it reaches a lot more people. Also, Shudder is not in every country. Being able to get it out is is a lot of fun.
I mean, I think Shudder was a really great home for us. I think it was where we always thought we would wind up. Their curation–we just fit in really well with with what they’re trying to do with their platform. They have a great reach within the horror community.
On the DVD release, there is a filmmaker commentary. What was it like, getting to go back and rewatch it with the purpose of trying to remember everything?
Oh man. I remember it so well. I’ve seen this movie so many fucking times. [laughs] But it was fun. It was actually one of the first post-lockdown things that we did. Brea and I were able to actually be in the room together, which was awesome. After 15 months of not seeing anybody, to be able to sit with my friend and go through this cool thing that we did together was a really fun experience. If you listen to the commentary, you’ll really get a sense of what it’s like to work with Brea and I, because it’s just very casual. We say a lot of stupid stuff. Hopefully a few insightful things, and mostly stupid stuff.
Lucky is out this week on DVD, digital, and VOD from RLJE Films.