Jason Eisener—a proud, self-acknowledged fanboy of all things genre entertainment—has just met his match. The Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, native is seated inside a quiet, uncrowded steakhouse in New York City's Chelsea section, just minutes away from the East Village's AMC theater where his latest film, the horror anthology sequel V/H/S/2, is screening as part of the Tribeca Film Festival. The waiter—an excitable, less muscular Alexander Skarsgard lookalike with glasses—couldn't help but overhear Eisener discussing his favorite movies, and after delivering the filmmaking out-of-towner his lunch (a rare-cooked 9 oz. steak and sweet potato fries), the waiter starts namedropping his top TV shows: Game of Thrones, Mad Men, and Breaking Bad, none of which Eisener has watched yet.
Clearly not familiar with Eisener's 2011 breakthrough indie flick Hobo with a Shotgun, the waiter follows up some vitriol toward ABC's Once Upon a Time with, "I would love to be a filmmaker. How about you, would you love to make movies or TV shows, too?" Eisener, without hesitation, replies, "I would love to do it all!"
"I moved to New York City to be a photographer, but I love film," says Outback's peppiest employee, who's originally from Tennessee. "My roommate is an actor. I read his scripts and I love it all. I'm from If I could do it all over again, I think I would get into film."
With a big you-can-do-it smile on his face, Eisener says, "It's never too late, man. You should give it a shot! You've got to do what you love. Anything else must suck."
Not that Eisener would know from experience. The energetic director, 30, has been wholeheartedly focused on making movies since he was in high school, when he and his lifelong Halifax friends pulled from youth spent devouring VHS tapes of horror, sci-fi, and action films, both of the mainstream and obscure varieties. He's the rare kind of filmmaker who'll cite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as a major influence over a cinephile's usual suspects like, say, Citizen Kane or 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Which shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who's seen his unruly, violent, disturbed, but always unabashedly fun creations. There's the aforementioned feature Hobo with a Shotgun, in which '80s icon Rutger Hauer guns down pimps, murderers, and other deviants in the name of vigilante justice; Treevenge, Eisener's 2008 festival-owning short about killer Christmas trees; and "Y is for Youngbuck," his pulsating, music-video-inspired contribution to this year's nihilistic horror omnibus The ABCs of Death.
"There's just nobody who's making movies like Jason," says Neal Block, head of distribution for Magnolia Pictures, the company behind Hobo with a Shotgun, The ABCs of Death, and V/H/S/2. "You'd be hard-pressed to find anybody who's making movies as individualistic as everything he's done so far. What I like about it is that there's this real handmade, kind of down and dirty style to his movies, and it's really appealing. 'Genuine' is a great attitude to describe Jason's movies, and they feel both loose and meticulous at the same time. Everything he does seems like he and his crew had so much fun making it."
Whereas none of his previous films are necessarily scary (terms like "enjoyably bonkers" and "gleefully sadistic" fit them better), Eisener's segment in V/H/S/2 (available via Video On-Demand today, before its limited theatrical run starting July 12) is a whole other type of beast. And coming after shorts from fellow V/H/S/2 directors Adam Wingard (A Horrible Way to Die), Eduardo Sanchez (The Blair Witch Project), Gareth Evans (The Raid: Redemption), and Timo Tjahjanto (the insanely perverse ABC's of Death segment "L is for Libido"), Eisener's grand finale is a resounding, final death blow. Straightforwardly titled "Alien Abduction Slumber Party," it's short, rapidly paced, and replete with some of the creepiest, most nightmarishly effective E.T. imagery to come around in years. Think a found-footage Fire in the Sky, with just the freaky parts and, most impressive of all, totally shot from a dog's point-of-view.
Technically ballsy and altogether striking, "Alien Abduction Slumber Party" confirms what Hobo with a Shotgun and "Y is for Youngbuck" suggested: Jason Eisener is arguably the indie scene's most exciting young, on-the-rise genre filmmaker. And he's just getting started. "We're all hoping that Jason becomes the next Steven Spielberg," says V/H/S/2 producer Simon Barrett. "In our perfect world, these next Star Wars sequels would be directed by either [Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol director] Brad Bird or Jason Eisener. We get that he's not quite there yet, but he honestly would be the perfect person to do a film like that. He really does understand special effects, and I don't think people understand that yet because he's been working with such a small palette. He should be rebooting Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Star Wars, because that's ultimately what we think he'll be doing. It just might take him ten years or so to get there."
One thing's for sure: There's plenty more cinematic craziness on the horizon for Eisener. Here, the potential-laden auteur vibrantly and candidly details his past, present, and future.
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As told to by Matt Barone (@MBarone)