Randy Ser has a very long history with the horror genre. He served as the production designer for Sam Raimi’s Darkman (1990), the art director for Howard Avedis’s Mortuary (1983) and is now adding horror director to his resume, with his latest project, Cruiser. In case you aren’t familiar with Cruiser, here is the summary: After murdering a police officer and stealing his patrol car, a mysterious, hulking figure begins a night of carnage and terror in a small Georgia town, pulling over innocent victims until a shocking final confrontation reveals the killer to be even more monstrous than anyone imagined.
In celebration of Darkman’s 30th anniversary and the recent release of Cruiser, we spoke to Ser about these projects and also what he thinks about the new wave of horror being introduced to audiences. Read the exclusive interview below. Cruiser is now available on all VOD platforms.
ScareTissue: You directed a new film, Cruiser, that was recently released. To the people that might not be familiar with Cruiser, can you briefly tell them what it is about?
Randy Ser: Cruiser is a mysterious hulking figure, who after murdering a police officer and stealing his patrol car, begins a night of carnage and terror in a small Georgia town, pulling over innocent victims until a shocking final confrontation reveals the killer to be even more monstrous than anyone imagined.
ScareTissue: Cruiser is in the found footage category, but with a twist that hasn’t been done before. Can you tell viewers what this is and how you came up with the concept?
Randy Ser: The mayhem is recorded in a uniquely cinematic found footage style, all captured through police cruiser car cams, cell phones, and surveillance cameras. The footage was edited together to assist in the capture of the perpetrator of these heinous acts. The film will introduce horror fans to a being that bears a heavenly singing voice used to take himself to a timeless place and to soothe his victims as they are viciously dismembered during their last moments on earth.
ScareTissue: What audience reaction or comment has surprised you most?
Randy Ser: I don’t know that the following reaction surprised me as much as it was gratifying as a filmmaker. After a test screening, an audience member told us that they were afraid to drive home. The film had given them cause to wonder if they might be Cruiser’s next victim. To me, that is the scariest kind of horror movie, when you can see yourself in the predicament of the characters.
ScareTissue: You are credited as the production designer on Sam Rami’s Darkman, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Do you have a favorite “behind the scenes” memory from set?
Randy Ser: At the time that Darkman was produced, CGI had not yet become a tool for creating or enhancing images as a part of the post process. A lot of movie magic had to happen in front of the lens as part of the live action of filming. With that in mind, one of my favorite behind the scene memories involved a simple yet effective solution for incorporating a moving element to add energy and detail to a scene. It is during the nighttime battle atop the City of The Future between Strack and Darkman. This sequence was shot on a built set in the hangar where they built the Spruce Goose. The actual steel girder set was backed by a translite, which was created specifically for the film. During a portion of the sequence, I wanted to add a helicopter flying by in the background. We achieved this by hanging a scale model helicopter, with battery operated rotors, on an angled monofilament fishing line at the appropriate downward angle and distance from the actors and the lens. As the camera rolled, we simply allowed gravity to slide the helicopter on the line to enter one edge of frame and to then exit the other. We added battery-operated miniature flashing lights to the helicopter as would be required for night flight. This minute, but energetic detail heightened the sense of reality of our “fly by.”
ScareTissue: Is there something about the making of Darkman you can share with us, that fans might not already know?
Randy Ser: During post production and the test screening process the studio brought in an editor, made changes to the movie and locked the cut of the picture. It was not the film that Sam Raimi had envisioned. So unbeknownst to Universal a decision was made by Sam, Rob Tapert, and Sam’s then editor to re-edit the movie. The three of them spent 48 hours basically restoring things they thought were important. Nine minutes were added back in. They locked it and didn’t tell anybody. And that is the version of Darkman that audiences have been watching for thirty years.
ScareTissue: Working with Sam 30 years ago, did you ever think he would turn out to be such a prolific filmmaker today?
Randy Ser: Sam’s unique vision, ability to tell a story, and attention to detail lead me to believe that Darkman would be only the beginning of the astounding career we would all come to know.
ScareTissue: You have been part of the horror community for a very long time. Are there any specific trends in the genre that have surprised you?
Randy Ser: I find it interesting that The Blair Witch Project introduced the found footage genre on a grand scale on such a miniscule budget. It has been surprising to me that so many variations of the theme have succeeded. We have seen the genre thrive with the likes of the Paranormal Activity films as well as the big budget studio production of Cloverfield. I am pleased to have been afforded the opportunity to introduce audiences to a different slant on the found footage film that realistically uses multiple cameras and somewhat traditional editing.
ScareTissue: What did you think about the resurgence of horror in 1996 with Scream and all the other teen slasher films, such as I Know What You Did Last Summer and Urban Legend?
Randy Ser: It brought a bit of a delight to an avid horror fan such as myself. Show business found an extraordinary balance of storytelling and marketing in developing a slate of films that proved to be addictive to both new and established horror enthusiasts.
ScareTissue: Tell us something about yourself that we don’t know.
Randy Ser: For the past six years or so I have been an avid Spartan racer. These are obstacle course races that vary in length from 3.5 miles to 13 miles encompassing 20 to 30 or more obstacles throughout the course.
You can find Cruiser on Amazon to buy or rent (as well as several other VOD platforms)