It is not everyone who remakes a black-and-white silent movie as…a black-and-white silent movie. But Ian Allen and his wacky comedy Trapped by the Mormons are in a class unto themselves.
Based on the 1922 which is sort of Utah’s answer to “Reefer Madness,” “Trapped by the Mormons” finds an innocent secretary lured by a Mormon missionary into a den of vampirism, zombie henchmen, and polygamist hijinks. Starring drag king Johnny Kat in a hilarious gender bending performance as the crazed missionary, “Trapped by the Mormons” skewers intolerance against the Latter-Day Saints with heaping portions of campy shenanigans.
Allen who makes his filmmaking debut here, is the artistic director of Cherry Red Productions, a theater company in Washington, DC. He is also a journalist with aritcles in the Washington Post and Capital Style. Film Threat caught up with Ian Allen as he was preparing for his New York premiere.
Why, of all films, did you choose to remake “Trapped by the Mormons”? ^ Well, I was raised Mormon in Salt Lake City and had always known about the movie as an anti-Mormon classic. But, when I finally saw it a few years back, I instantly fell in love with it. The campiness of the original comes from a very silly place — it’s so serious and deliberate in its warning that Mormons are evil lurking perverts who are looking to steal away young beauties. And in today’s climate, I think the film’s general themes are still pretty relevant — fear of sexual deviation, fear of “the other,” fear of religious people.
Why did you opt to shoot the film as a black-and-white silent rather than remake it in color and with sound? ^ I really can’t imagine having done it any other way. I love silent films and it just seemed like a fun challenge to make a modern silent flick. Fun to see gratuitous nudity and violence juxtaposed against Ye Olden sweetness and antiquated film techniques like never moving the camera.
Has it been easy to get commercial bookings for this type of film? To date, where has it played and where will it be playing in the near future? ^ We did a four-week trial run in Washington, DC in April. The movie was also included in the 2005 Boston Fantastic Film Festival in October. But, we are just now beginning to distribute the film. So, we’ll have to wait and see how it goes. It’s a bit of a weird pitch, though, I’ll admit. I’m not sure what “type” of film it is! Sort of an oddly-innocent silent horror homage/satire – or something.
How has the Mormon community reacted to the film? ^ So far, PR reps for the Church have made two comments: “Considering how inaccurate the last one was, we can’t imagine this one’s going to be any better.” (Salt Lake Tribune 4/21/05) –and–“With something like this, it is over the top and we don’t take it seriously. Nobody can possibly take this seriously.” (Washington Post 4/14/05)
To me, it sounds like they’re laughing while they’re talking. Which I think is great. I’m glad the Church is in on the joke. They seem to realize that, in the same way that “Reefer Madness” now plays as a spoof of anti-drug paranoia, Trapped by the Mormons now plays as a spoof of anti-Mormon sentiment. Which is a big part of what attracted me to remaking it in the first place. My family is Mormon and came across the plains in the 1850’s and I’m very proud of that part of my history. But, then I’ll be at a party and a total stranger will find out that I’m from Utah and say, “Eww, are you Mormon?!” It’s amazing to me. Would someone do that to a Jew? And these folks – like most people, really – tend to know next-to-nothing about Mormons. Often, the extent of their knowledge is that Mormons don’t drink or smoke, that they live in Salt Lake City, and that they’re polygamists – which has been forbidden by Church leaders for over 100 years. Anyway, the movie is a parody of this mentality – one that allows people to be openly contemptuous of a group of people they know very little about. Truthfully, though, I’m not all that interested in what the Mormons think of the movie. It’s not really for them. Oh and it’s funny. And features a beheading. And bare boobies.