By Brady Jansen
LOS ANGELES—As a younger kid and through adolescence, Steve Cruz was obsessed with horror films—his first film genre passion.
“I was ruined by The Exorcist and Rosemary's Baby. The Amityville Horror made it so I couldn't go into attics or basements, and I slept with the light on for a better half of a year thanks to Karen Black in Trilogy of Terror, campy as it seems now,” he recalls. “But Carrie is the masterpiece of all horror for me. It really holds up. You can probably see nods to most of these somewhere in It's Coming.”
Releasing mid-September for Raging Stallion, It’s Coming is the director’s Halloween trick and treat for fans of fright—and despite the name conjuring up thoughts of the 2014 horror hit It Follows, Cruz insists it isn’t related: “I love that movie, it truly scared me. Not many current horror flicks spark my interest because I’m not huge on gore. But that one was effectively chilling! No nods to it though…I mean, it’s practically a porn idea in itself.”
In fact, the film initially had a different title: “Actually, I felt lucky. Four years ago when I worked out this plot, it was going to be called They Come at Night. Then Trey Edward Shults released his It Comes at Night and, well, I had to rethink it. I haven't seen his work yet, and there are no intentional crossover elements. In the end, I think It's Coming is a better title and more true to my film.”
The action centers on a house in which violent unsolved crimes have taken place over the years. The house is put back on the market at a bargain price, and the mayhem unfolds (“Oh, and in between there's lots of unholy hot sex”). The director says it was inspired by frequent nightmares over the years, and the idea that shadow people stalk some of us, influence us knowingly or unknowingly and feed off our energy.
“I don't want to give it all away, but we use home security footage mixed with cinematic camera work. There's a dream sequence as our star Adam Ramzi, the home buyer, starts to unravel. This is one of the more cinematic projects I've put out,” he says. “I think an effective horror writer also blends moments of humor to relax you just before they drop you off the edge. I think this movie will really get your dick hard and at the same time creep you out where you can't look away.”
Ramzi hadn’t worked with the Falcon Studio Group family in a while as he was busy with other projects. That made the prospect even sweeter.
“I kind of made the decision that I didn’t really want to work as much this year unless there seemed to be some kind of creative aspect to the project, so it was really nice when Steve reached out to me and said, ‘We have this new project in mind, and we want somebody who we know can actually act.’ I found that really flattering,” says the performer.
“He told me there was a horror element to it, and that he wanted to kind of direct me in a way that I would have to show a lot of range emotionally. I always love working with Steve, so it was a nice chance to do something creative with him again.”
Ramzi had worked on a horror series on YouTube with a friend years ago—one a little more comedic—that gave him some experience to draw on.
“I got to play a murder victim,” he laughs of that experience. “You can’t help but go there in your mind a little bit when somebody is imposing themselves physically on you, whether it’s fake or not…but I’d never done a porn horror, so that kind of shifted things in a whole different direction. It’s not the easiest thing to play terrified and turned on at the same time—without giving too much away—but that did happen at one point.”
Ramzi says he’s always been intrigued by horror films—especially ones with strong scripts: “As long as it’s well done, I’m on board. The last horror movie that I saw that really knocked my socks off was The Witch, which came out last year. It’s unsettling and beautiful, and I’ll never forget it. Around the same time, I watched a movie called Green Room. Two completely different movies, but they were both so well done.”
He even indulges in some of the more mainstream horror hits as long as they embrace an element of joy.
“Even as a kid I had nightmares about Freddy Krueger that stuck with me. And Child’s Play is definitely in my realm of awareness from that time. It’s kind of funny because I remember seeing both of them as a kid, and I was probably way too young to watch them. With Child’s Play, the first one was actually kind of scary, but the second on was really goofy—and I feel like the A Nightmare on Elm Street movies had a similar trajectory. It was kind of nice to be around 10 years old and see the sixth A Nightmare on Elm Street movie and be like, ‘Oh, I can actually kind of enjoy this rather than just be terrified.’”
But pulling out those emotions from an audience isn’t easy. Cruz, who is one of his own editors, notes how vital that process—and many others behind the scenes—is to achieving the desired outcome.
“It's a huge part. Building tension, separating time jumps with filter effects. There's a supernatural element that I achieved in post that's super freaky,” he says. “My lighting genius Scott helped me on set create eerie nighttime lighting when the house is abandoned, morning light to show the house revitalized. We hired a makeup artist for one of the main characters for an over-the-top effect. I hope people are left a little shaken.”
Adds Ramzi: “I could tell just by some of the things Steve was doing with the camera that he was going way experimental on this. He told me a little about how he was going to play with some of the effects. He’s got great ideas. There are some makeup effects that happen, so from a technical standpoint, there’s definitely a lot more going on than I’ve seen in a porn film.”
But for Ramzi, what was most challenging was hitting the right character notes from an acting perspective.
“Let’s just put it this way: For me to have to spend an entire day’s worth of a shoot not only hitting a lot of emotional points within a span of just a couple hours, but then also to get into the porn side and film a sex scene, was really scary for me.”
While Ramzi came prepared—knowing his lines and what the Cruz and the crew were setting out to do—he was a little nervous.
“Steve usually prefers to get all the B-roll and the dialogue out of the way first, and then work on the sex scenes, so when the sex is done we can all just go home,” the performer says. “But I asked him this time, ‘Do you think it’s a good idea for me to go through this range, to go from happiness to fear to jealousy to grief to becoming unhinged?’ All of these things happen on camera for me, and I was really worried that we were going to do all of that—and all of a sudden it would be time to film the sex scenes and my pipes were just not going to cooperate, if you know what I mean.”
But Ramzi trusted his director, and he credits everyone around him for creating a welcoming and creative atmosphere that helped him reach such heights as a performer.
“I really credit Steve for that, as well as Beaux Banks, who was my scene partner, and everyone who was on set. People were really on board, nobody made me feel weird about what I had to do, so it was really nice. Everyone seemed to be really supportive throughout the entire process, because I certainly had never done anything like that on a porn set before. It was really cool to feel like I could trust everybody there, and they trusted me.”
Cruz was excited about how everything came together, especially given the constraints and the unique challenges the project presented.
“Everyone was amazing—cast and crew. These were long days because our budget required the acting and sex scenes be completed on the days. Somehow Adam was able to have a complete emotional crying breakdown, then go into an amazing connected sex scene 20 minutes later. I was blown away. He’s a total actor, but he shares a real part of himself on set in both sex and dramatic work. Noah Donovan fully committed to his role as the haunting force. He commanded that role and made it his own. I attribute any success in disturbing the public to him; I was lucky to capture it.”
In addition to Ramzi, Banks and Donovan, It’s Coming also features Wesley Woods, Jason Vario, Jack Hunter, Damien Stone, Phoenix Fellington, Lorenzo Flexx and Paul Charles (The Gay Comic Geek).