SXSW Interview: Director Kourtney Roy and actress Chloe Pirrie on their Kryptic collaboration; “You can never lean into the obvious.”

A psycho-thriller about a woman’s search for a missing monster hunter and her growing realisation that she is inescapably linked to the creature being pursued, Kryptic is sure to be one of SXSW’s most talked about projects.

And it’s why Peter Gray had to speak to the film’s director, Kourtney Roy, and lead actress, Chloe Pirrie, about it all.

As the film premiered in the Midnighter Section to confuse and confront genre fans alike (you can read our review here), the duo touched on the origins of the bizarre story, the inspiration behind it, and what they’re expecting the reaction to be like.

I love horror.  I love body horror and weird, ambiguous stories.  I had none of Kryptic pegged! So, thank you.  I love watching movies like this and having no idea where they’re going.  I wanted to ask you first, Kourtney, how did this story come to life?

Kourtney Roy:  I mean, I loved that, like you said, you just have no idea where they’re going to go.  You don’t know what that ride is going to be like.  If there was any specific intent here, I would say it would be to confound people.  To unsettle them.  With that general kind of tone in the room, Paul (Bromley, writer) and I constructed this strange story based on disparate elements that we wanted to see in a film.  He’d ask me what I would want to see.  I’d say “Monsters.”  I like time morphing and supernatural elements, and I wanted to shoot in Canada.  He loved doppelgangers and female-based point of views.  So all of these things, all of these bucket list items, came together and it’s what you see in the film.

Chloe, when you’re reading the script for this, are you just thinking, “What the fuck?! I have to do this immediately!”

Chloe Pirrie: Yeah, basically.  It was such a cool concept to read, and there’s so much humour in it as well.  And this very vivid world, even though it was a very ambiguous world.  When somebody says to you, “Oh, you’re kind of playing two different people, but it also might be the same person…”, you already know it’s going to be challenging.  I looked at Kourtney’s photography and the other films she’s made, and it just became this exciting package of opportunity.  It was really enjoyable to audition for it (too).  I just had to throw myself all the way in.

I love a film that challenges me.  Kourtney, were there any ideas that were getting battered around in the early stages of writing that didn’t make the final cut? 

Kourtney Roy: Yeah, there are definitely some things that didn’t make it.  Some were just insurmountable to do, relating to the terms of budget and time, and we had to adapt and change for certain ideas.  In a good way, there was a lot of compromise.  I know a compromise can sound bad, but I feel that creativity comes out best when you are actually sort of limited and we have to adapt, right?  Because you’re just not exactly getting what you want, but sometimes what’s in your head is some kind of stereotype or cliché, right?  So, what you end up is often more original than what you actually imagined.  This is my first feature, so what I understand is not everything you think of is going to make it into the film, but a lot of what I wanted is in there.

One of the things I really loved was how unexpected certain scenes are.  That domestic scene and how you flipped the idea that the safest place can often be the most sinister…

Kourtney Roy: Yes, you nailed it! I don’t have to say anything else.  You got it.

And the other aspect I appreciated were the visuals of the film.  There’s this pale neon colour that’s adopted for the monster sequences.  Was there any inspiration behind the colour palette and the creation of the monster itself?

Kourtney Roy:  Oh, definitely.  For the “supernatural world” I had a specific colour in mind.  It was this dirty, soft pastel green.  It probably has a proper name (laughs).  I was inspired by two films, which were Vertigo, when Judy changes into Madeline, and she’s in the hotel room and there’s this green light from the hotel coming behind her.  There’s a lot of smoke in the room and there’s this soft glow.  And then the other is The Entity.  The entity is obviously this giant green nebulous mass, so I thought, “Well, my supernatural world is green.”  I didn’t assign any sort of symbolism to it, it was just more of an instinctive feeling.  I wanted that to be the colour.  I didn’t overthink it.

And how was it for you, Chloe, to perform those sort of scenes?

Chloe Pirrie: Yeah, that was one of the great things about being on a set (like this) is that there’s usually all these departments in charge of the elements that are the most scary.  There’s a person whose job it is to render that.  So all I had to do was just surrender to the experience.  Just explore the experiential aspect and the emotional, and root for that emotional truth so that all the extreme elements were supported by a character you care about.  There was no one scene that was ever written so extreme that it frightened me.  Everything was just built on such strong foundations.  I think the scariest thing you can read on a page is something that’s not fully formed, or is full of odd projections.  That’s a lot scarier to encounter.  It was just such a thrill to be full of questions and trying to (answer) them.

Ultimately, what I got from this is that your character is in so much control, and looking at it through a queer lens, I’m glad that she’s owning what’s happening and she’s taking back that power over men.  To both of you, are you prepared for what the reaction to the film could potentially be? Do you know what to expect?

Kourtney Ray: I have no idea.  I’m just going to go with the flow.

Chloe Pirrie: Doing interviews like this is really valuable too, because I receive a lot of information.  I haven’t seen the film yet, so I’m going to be watching it for the first time at the festival.  It’s cool.  I think there are just so many different things the movie plays with, and what’s great is when an audience receives a film and they’ll read into it in a way that’s an experience for them.  That’s always something I find so moving and brilliant about (film).  As an actor there were scenes in (Kryptic) that kind of felt like (my character) was experiencing something horrific, but that doesn’t mean I have to portray it like that.  You can never lean into the obvious, and I liked that challenge of finding the grey parts of that.  And Kourtney was amazing at guiding me through that.

Kryptic is screening as part of this year’s SXSW Film & TV Festival, running between March 8th and 16th, 2024.  For more information on this year’s festival, head to the official SXSW website.

Peter Gray

Film critic with a penchant for Dwayne Johnson, Jason Momoa, Michelle Pfeiffer and horror movies, harbouring the desire to be a face of entertainment news.