Talking with ‘Janitor’ Director John Clisham

Online film creator John Clisham absolutely loves 80’s slasher films. Want to know how you can tell? Check out his short film, Janitor on Xbox Live. This short film embraces all the standard cliches of the slasher-horror genre.  Twenty-something hot chick pretending to be an innocent high school student… check. Creepy teacher who you just know is going to meet a horrible death… present. Uber-powerful, impossible to stop, supernatural bad guy… definitely. Last second save by good guy cop… you betcha.

Bottom line, if you dig old-school slasher flick action, you are definitely going to want to watch Janitor. For those of you that think the current plague of “torture porn” is real horror, find out how it used to be done much more effectively. Check out Janitor, playing now via free download on an Xbox near you.

We caught up with John Clisham, creator and director of Janitor and asked him a few questions about his influences, what it was like working on a project for Xbox and what it is like working in the horror genre.

PCZ: How did you get involved in doing a horror film for Xbox Live?

JC: Back in 2005, I worked at a small production company in Santa Monica. On nights and weekends I’d make short horror movies for my website – usually with a DVX100 or anything I could get my hands on. Microsoft did a lot of business in the same building and noticed me. They asked me to pitch – I did – and somehow they said yes.

PCZ: Janitor was originally announced as part of an anthology series, Assorted Nightmares. What can we expect for future installments in this series?

JC: You’ll see a wide variety of horror – the next episode is modeled after the 70’s horror films (Exorcist, Shining) whereas the third episode takes a tone that’s a little more in tune with the horror flicks of today (Saw, Hostel). The idea is that each episode, in its own way, is an homage to a certain style in the genre.

PCZ: Your background is in filming online content. Was the Xbox Live film familiar territory or were there new things you needed to take into consideration?

JC: There were a number of things I had to consider. Most importantly, Xbox Live is an HD medium – and a really good one at that. So my camera work, the visual effects, the prosthetics – all had to be on a level of which I’ve never worked before. The entire team had to up their game, because when the content is viewed in 720p, you see everything. We approached Janitor as if it were a feature film.

PCZ: Janitor draws inspiration from 80’s slasher films. Will you be doing further films that will pay tribute to other eras of horror?

JC: Absolutely. The Assorted Nightmares series is about honoring the genre. Janitor had many elements from the 80’s (comedy, monster, style) and my team is really excited about the second episode, where we see a more internal horror, a more restrained fear. I think The Shining is a good example of where we’d all like to see episode two go.

PCZ: In your opinion, what are the essential elements of a good horror flick?

JC: Everyone always says story, story, story… and they’re right. I also think great sound is a very integral part of a horror movie. Without the texture, without the sound effects, without the music – it’s just an image. The sound takes the story and makes it real. On Janitor, when I was cutting the first version, no one was scared. Microsoft looked at it – and I think they were starting to wonder where I was taking this. But once they watched the final cut – the screening room, with the sound blasted – they were scared senseless.

PCZ: Which horror film scared you the most?

JC: This is a tie – Exorcist for a long time scared me in ways that I can barely understand. But Fire in the Sky, even though it’s not a horror movie, scared the living crap out of me. I saw it when I was home from school, alone, it was dark and rainy out – and somehow, it felt real. aliens were in the sky, waiting…. it messed me up for a long time.

PCZ: Outside horror, what film genres are you most interested in exploring?

JC: I’m interested in comedy – but that’s a tough genre.

PCZ: What types of themes would you be most interested incorporating in to a feature length horror film?

JC: The idea of aging has been a recurring theme in my stories. Whether it’s the idea of the inevitability of it all, I’m not sure – but time passing by and the aging process are elements I’m sure you’ll see throughout Assorted Nightmares.

We’d like to thank Mr. Clisham for taking the time to give us a bit of background into his horror influences. You can catch Janitor now via the Xbox Live Marketplace.