Cocaine and 30 dollar blowjobs – sounds like a recipe for rape and torture. Director Adam Rehmeier's film The Bunny Game, which was just banned in the United Kingdom for graphic depictions of forcible rape, is a harrowing tale, shot in satiny black & white, of a prostitute named Bunny (Rodleen Getsic) who is abducted by a deranged truck driver called Hog (Jeff Renfro) and held against her will in the desert for several days. Shot without a crew and without a script, and according to Rehmeier everything in the film is real, except for the depictions of drug use, making The Bunny Game a bunny hop and skip from a snuff film. Alas though, The Bunny Game is a film, offering a real cinematic experience, using decadent filmic devices that twist, in a good sort of Peckinpahesque fashion, our primordial nerves of survival and flight or flight mechanisms. Which is what any good horror film should offer – not the gratuitous bloodletting seen by most products offered by major studios. We caught up with director Adam Rehmeier – he is currently in Europe showing his film in a few festivals – to have a few pressing questions answered.
When did the idea for The Bunny Game come to you? The genesis of what became The Bunny Game spanned several years of collaboration with my dear friend Rodleen Getsic, who plays "Bunny" in the film. I had been working on some ideas for a horror film, and Rodleen shared a harrowing story with me about her own abduction years prior. It was a starting point. We spent several years shooting photographs together and recording music. The film emerged through a organic, natural process. Nothing was forced. We tried to shoot it in early 2006, but we had some problems with one of the actors, so it was postponed until late 2008. We wanted to make an experience for the audience that was quite different than the norm, so we were very patient until everything fell into place in the right manner.
Your film was just recently banned in the UK - thats pretty big – can you offer any thoughts on that? I think the banning of The Bunny Game by the BBFC is quite unfair. The very thought of censorship in this day and age makes me shiver, especially when I see the types of films that they deem acceptable for the public. From what I understand, the English have a problem with the idea of women in peril, but in our film, it is quite justified. The character is a prostitute, and she herself, through her actions, has caused her own demise. Rodleen handles the character in a very realistic way. She fasted for forty days before the production to get in the desperate headspace of this prostitute and to transform her body into the honey creature you see I the film. I think chalking our film up as simply torture porn or a rape film is very offensive, as the film is something much more personal and unique. It isn't entertainment, it has been designed to give the viewer and experience.
I just learned that everything in the film is real – even the knife play and the burning with the branding iron – what was the darkest or most dangerous thing that happened whilst shooting? What was most dangerous was our dabbling in negative energy. We surrounded ourselves in negativity during production, and when you do this, you constantly put yourself at risk for demonic attacks. Disembodied spirits and other entities can be quite attracted to violence, anger, and intense emotion, whether real or simulated. I think the damage to our psyches from the film was minor in comparison to the damage done to electronic equipment from the experience. Anomalies with the camera during production were common, as well as with the editing equipment in post production. Rodleen and I call the film a monster, and we have been acting merely as caretakers. It has a mind of it's own, so you must be patient with it. It has destroyed hard drives and websites, it has made computer batteries explode and damaged DVD players. Electronic devices seem to be the most affected by the intense energy of the film.
What was it like working without a crew or a screenplay? It was very freeing to work without a crew. On many of my projects I work without help, so I am used to minimalism. I knew from the beginning of this project that I wasn't going to have a crew because I thought it would spoil the intimacy of what we were setting out to achieve. Also, since much of the film was shot on the streets of downtown Los Angeles, it was imperative that we didn't stick out. I would hide for much of the acquisition, allowing Rodleen to move freely in space without restrictions. There was no blocking, the action was completely free-form improvisation. We didn't work with a traditional screenplay, but I did have a list of bullet points that I wanted to shoot each day. I was constantly changing ideas, throwing out scenes that didn't work and adding new ones. The spontaneity of the production kept it fresh for the actors, who never knew what was going on.
What are some of the most extreme reactions thus far after screenings? I've had people walk out of he theater within thirty seconds of the beginning, if that tells you anything! At one screening, a man left his date alone in the theater because he couldn't handle the experience. He came back afterwards for the Q&A because he was curious, but the film itself was too intense for him. At the last screening, someone in the audience vomited apparently!
Whats the ultimate plan for this film? Currently the film is playing quite a few film festivals around the world. Europeans have been a bit more receptive to the film than audiences in the States. We have distribution in Austria and Germany for a release early next year and we are currently working with other territories for distribution. I do not know if Trinity X will be submitting a cut version of the film to the BBFC, but I was very excited when they picked up the film at Cannes. I have much respect for them and think they are distributing some wonderful films in the UK. I was impressed with what they have said in regards to the BBFC decision about the film.
Whats next? My next project is JONAS, a companion piece for The Bunny Game. The film follows a minor character in The Bunny Game 18 months down the road. Jonas has a powerful religious experience and intuitively goes door-to-door in Los Angeles delivering a powerful message to the people he encounters. As the companion piece to The Bunny Game, it is a polar opposite experience, much like day is to night!
Text by Oliver Maxwell Kupper for Pas Un Autre