Chicago native Clare Cooney directed her first feature film, from a script from first-time screenwriter Jose Nateras. It screened at the Music Box Theater in Chicago at 10 p.m., immediately after the Opening Night film of the 59th Chicago International Film Festival, “We Grown Now.” The theater was packed, and most of the cast and producers were present.
Ignacio Diaz-Silverio as Javier:
The comedy/horror mélange involves Javier having the ability to “see” events, past and present, by touching an object, a power known as psychometry. Throughout the film, Javier is trying to prevent more of the “suicides” that actually are murders. Diaz-Silverio reminded me of the then-young Eric Roberts in “King of the Gypsies.” [That is a big compliment.] Diaz-Silverio has appeared in “Suspicion” (TV series, 2022), “The Good Fight” as Andres (2021) and as Quinn in 2023’s “A Good Person.” His delivery of serious lines was believable, but his comic timing was even better. He described his goal as to “work from a personal place. I was definitely trying to make things specific and very personal.”
Ireon Roach as Bianca:
However, the cast member who stole most of the laughs was Ireon Roach as Bianca. Ireon played the best friend of the gay Javier, a strong Black lesbian woman who can knock you out if necessary, but is always there for you. Ireon has appeared in “Candyman” (2021), “Knives & Skin” (2019) and “Chicago P.D.” (2014.) Her comic timing on lines that were arguably straight lines was impeccable, as when she delivered the line, “Angry, you say?” to a character thought to be the murderer of three students, [who is ranting on about his rage.] Calling this character “Murder-Boy” brought laughs from the audience. Between her insouciant vaping and her best friend in-the-trenches attitude, Bianca was a real crowd pleaser.
Jose Nateras, Screenwriter:
Screenwriter Jose Nateras—also a newbie to screenplays—described his influences as “horror movies” and, specifically, Stephen King. He said, “My heart is in this movie, and my heart is in horror.” He intentionally left Easter egg homages to classic horror films like “Scream.” There are at least two references to Billy Loomis, Skeet Ulrich’s character in “Scream.” There is even a drama mask (comedy/tragedy) that figures prominently in the plot. The film is not meant to be taken too seriously, but it did touch on such serious topics as “homo-erotic overtones of male relationships.” Nateras drew on his own personal life and experiences as a gay Mexican in the public schools of Elmhurst. (Elmdale was changed to Springhurst on set, to take advantage of the school used in the location shoot, which had the letter “S” everywhere, when it had originally been an “E” in the script. Jose worked on rewrites on set, and shared that this was his second film as a producer.)
A crew of 35 filmed the movie in August, sharing the interior of the real public school with teachers preparing for fall semester. The interior locations included Sullivan in Rogers Park, the Athenium Theater nearby; the Lamont pool; and, for exterior shots, Morgan Park. The cast shot the film for only 16 days and also had to deal with Covid.
Writer/Director/Actor Clare Cooney:
I first became aware of Clare. Cooney’s talent when I saw her short film “Runner” at the Windy City Film Festival, where I had a script in contention. “Runner” was excellent. I vowed to try to keep up with this promising new-comer. In some ways, her current path reminds of two Quad City natives, (Scott) Beck & (Bryan) Woods, who went on to hit it big with “A Quiet Place.”
The next time I reviewed a Chicago film directed by Michael Smith (“Relative”) , Clare was acting in it. She is tall and lovely. She can do it all, and her expert handling of this film proves it. As she said, “It’s my first feature, and it’s a really ambitious one to do.” She went on to describe the making of the film as being “like making 5 shorts in a row.”
Cooney described screening her film at the iconic Music Box Theater as “overwhelming and surreal.” She said she loved the homage paid to such films as “Heathers,” “Clueless,” and other films with the same vibe. Upon seeing the script, she knew that she and Jose and the excellent Chicago cast should make this movie. And they have. And it’s very enjoyable. As its writer said, “It needed to be a fun screamer.”
(*Favorite throw-away line, spoken by William (Ryan Foreman): “Is this an extension cord?”
You’ll have to see the film to appreciate it; I hope you do!)