The home invasion sub-genre of horror is ripe territory for tension and Rafael de Leon Jr.’s latest short film Momma, Don’t Go is a terrific exercise in suspense. As a filmmaker de Leon drops us into the action to a situation we’re all familiar. A family are under threat by a group of thugs who are on the hunt for some precious cargo but neither the thugs nor the family have any idea about any clue about what’s going to happen next. Twelve Cabins caught up with the Director to discuss his relationship with the horror genre, the practical lessons he learnt in making Momma, Don’t Go, and the difficult process of learning when to kill your darlings.
What inspired the idea for Momma, Don’t Go?
The ball started rolling after my mother went through a near-death experience in the summer of 2018. She almost drowned and after already losing one parent, I started thinking about the extent one would go through to save a loved one from the brink of death. Being a big fan of the home invasion film sub-genre of horror, I decided to combine the two and Momma, Don’t Go was the result.
How did you find structuring the script in a way to not reveal too much information to your audience?
Right off the bat, I wanted the film to start in the middle of the action with no room for backstory or any sort of character development. I gave information to the actors for their own knowledge, but I wanted the audience to be in the dark so that it was harder to figure out where the story was going exactly.
What was the most challenging part of shooting a production in that style?
We shot the film in tight indoor spaces in June so it was hot. Fortunately, we had an air conditioner to cool off between setups. Aside from that, there was also the usual enemy on a production: time. Things always take longer than you think and I ended up having to cut down the shot list, but that stuff didn’t end up being necessary anyway so it all worked out.
Who did you work with in creating the practical effects? What discussions did you have with them about how the effects would look visually?
Anthony DiFolco, who I’ve worked with on almost all of my short films, did the makeup FX on Momma, Don’t Go. I knew from the beginning that I wanted this film to culminate with a gory effect that would elicit a big reaction from the audience, so once I decided on what that was, I communicated it to Anthony. Anthony is very detail-oriented, so once we were on the same page about everything, he went ahead to do his magic and did a fantastic job.
Were there any practical filmmaking lessons you learnt in making the short?
If you’re shooting in a small space with very few characters and the location’s already been established, don’t get bogged down with worrying about the 180-degree rule when you’re short on time. The audience knows where everyone is. Just keep pushing forward and get all the shots you need.
From what I can gather Momma, Don’t Go marks your third horror short to play festivals, what attracts you to keep returning to the horror genre?
Momma, Don’t Go is actually my eighth horror short to screen at festivals. Horror has been my favourite genre since I was a kid and since I’m very visual, I’m always fascinated by all the different ways one can approach and tackle a horror story visually. I also have a habit of taking something from my personal life and putting a horror twist on it, so the idea of doing that and figuring out how to put an audience member on the edge of their seat in the process is exciting to me.
What will you be working on next?
After so many years of making shorts, I’m working towards getting my first feature film off the ground. I just finished writing a feature script based off my previous horror short Goodbye Old Friend and I’m currently working on another one based off Momma, Don’t Go. I still have the itch to make another horror short so I’m writing one right now with the intent of filming in 2022.
Momma, Don’t Go was programmed by the Twelve Cabins team. If you’d like to see your film on our pages, submit here.