David Teixeira’s updated take on the slasher is a cleverly executed play on what we’ve come to expect from one of horror’s most beloved subgenres. Play. Pause. Kill. tracks a writer who begins to receive some overly keen messages from a new man she’s matched with on a dating app. Seduced by his charm, she decides to invite him over. Teixeira’s short is a fun ride with some genuinely surprising twists along the way. It’s also fairly explicit in places – so this is your warning ahead of watching! Twelve Cabins spoke with Teixeira about what motivated him to subvert the traditional slasher, how he created his John Carpenter-esque score, and the visual decisions he took to maximise on screen tension.
How did you come up with the idea for Play. Pause. Kill.?
A few years ago I was searching about paraphilias and their different types and there was one that sparked my interest and made me think of Jennifer’s Body meets Basic Instinct. Basically it was about a person killing someone else for their own pleasure. With that in mind I wanted to create a complex, strong yet broken female character that would make an impact.
The last short films I directed were very dark, emotional and heavy, visually and story-wise, and I really wanted to create something fun, modern with a twist that would shock the audience but still enjoy the film as a whole… With that in mind I wrote Inspiration which later was retitled Play. Pause. Kill.
What inspired you to subvert the traditional slasher narrative?
I love Slasher films, they are my go-to films for inspiration or simply entertainment. I love watching those films and root for the final girl and, as a gay man, I can related to them quite a lot, I see a bit of myself in them. As a filmmaker my number one goal is to bring a female role to the screen that women can relate to. We need to see all shapes, sizes and types of women for them to feel connected as well, instead of reducing female roles into stereotypes and cis-male fantasy.
With Play. Pause. Kill. my mainly focus was to create a shocker, entertain the audience and let them see what Julie sees, and not the other way around. It was still important that Julie was likeable and that you would root for her until the end. I just thought it would’ve been nice to have a protagonist and an antagonist at the same time… it keeps things exciting. So, I decided to do that.
The conversations between Julie and Henry have this strong underlying tension, how did you look to create that with the camera?
Thank you, I’m glad you noticed the tension. It was important to keep the audience on their toes, wondering what was going to happen even though they might have an idea already while watching it. It was mainly rehearsals with the cast, as a director I trust my actors and let them unfold the dialogues as they think it’s best so we tried a few times, especially the scene where they’re drinking wine, so that the conversation would be fluid and intense. Then I decided to shoot some of the dialogues with POV like they’re talking to each other but looking directly into the camera, creating even more intimacy and letting the audience see what they’re seeing.
You shot this in your own house too, how did you approach set design to make it feel like it was Julie’s home?
Yes I did, and that was very important since day one, because of two reasons: one, the character of Julie is loosely based on myself and how I see the world and two, I wanted to be in control of the environment and be able to put the actors at ease and comfortable, especially because I would be directing my first ever sex scene.
The set design was a huge part of the pre-production and it was imperative that her place wouldn’t feel like mine and I’m actually very proud of the result. I was inspired by Jennifer’s bedroom in Jennifer’s Body. I did it all by myself, I contacted Anasthasia, who plays Julie, for some photos of herself with friends and family so that I could integrate that into the background. The posters on the wall are a mixture of my personal gatherings and some others I bought for the film, the lamp, the lights were super important. Even the clothes for the characters were chosen by me. Fun fact, the jacket of Henry with the tiger was meant to be a metaphor of him being the predator… so yeah, a labor of love.
Loved the synthesised score, very John Carpenter-esque! What made you want to have an electronic score and how did you set about creating it?
John Carpenter was definitely an inspiration for it. Although the concept of the film and its climax are intense, I like the fact that a movie can be strong and still be beautiful visually. I wanted Play. Pause. Kill. to be fun, pop and electric, just like its score. I contacted Devlmaker who worked with me on my short film compilation In Utero and he was more than excited to go back to work and create some songs for me! He’s very talented. One of my inspirations was the score of the remake of Maniac. I just trusted him and everything went down very easily… After that I contacted Bruno Vincent, a sweetheart, he let me use some of his songs in my films and there was one perfect for the first scene with the vinyl and he just said yes. I was very excited for him to be on board and very grateful to have people around me looking forward to be in my film.
What’re you working on now?
My most recent projects are Visiteur and Stream, both Daily Picks at Film Shortage and already out online. I’ve been working on a pitch for a feature film adaptation of Play. Pause. Kill. too and I have some ideas for other short films on the way… Right now, I’m just taking care of me and my mental health during these difficult times and hoping that everything will be back to how it was very soon.