CITIZEN LA: The Horrors of Downtown – An Interview with Jeremy Kasten

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by Dana R. Davidson

Originally from Baltimore, Maryland the talented horror movie director Jeremy Kasten, of such titles as “The Attic Expeditions” and “The Wizard of Gore”, derives much inspiration for his movies from downtown Los Angeles. “Wizard”, he says, “Is about a guy who lives in a loft downtown surrounded by his art deco fetish antiques, vintage clothes, and he turns out to be the most evil misogynistic man in the world. The first part is me. ‘The Wizard of Gore’ is completely a love letter film to Downtown, it’s a love letter to Film Noir, which to me is very much rooted in downtown LA.”

Talking with Jeremy feels like a breath of fresh air for the future of both downtown and horror movies. Jeremy’s emotions, his ideas, his beliefs are raw and real. I asked to be taken on a fabulous adventure to bars, restaurants, walks, architecture, and tales of secret passages hidden just beyond the streets. He did without hesitation.

Jeremy states, “I don’t think we put nearly enough energy into making the kind of horror movies we made back in the 70’s, everyone talks about the movies but no one wants to look at what made them good movies. Characters were serious, the stories were serious, people tried. Nothing in the ‘Texas Chain Saw Massacre’ was like ‘Want some head?’ that shit’s dumb, and if that’s all you expect then you fucking deserve that. Everybody asks me about Wizard, is it funny? Is it funny? And I wanna be like, well if it is, if it’s funny, it’s not because we stood around the set cracking up at how silly the movie we are making was, it’s funny because it’s intelligent and interesting and weird. I don’t think David Lynch stands around on his set going, let’s do something wacky, that just seems lame…”

Jeremy is a resident of the Eastern Columbia building, a world traveler and a loving advocate of Downtown Los Angeles. His enthusiasm for the beauty, mystery, and mystic of the area is immediately contagious.

“Downtown has a real sense of community, wackiness, where anything can happen. You can go out to get a taco before bed, run into someone, and the next thing you know you’ve been out till 5am on a school night. That’s just the way it happens down here, it always feels like adventure is right around the corner, and also it kinda mirrors a very urban post apocalyptic thing that I connect deeply to because Baltimore has that in spades. There is a very really real sense of ‘Night of the Living Dead’ in certain neighborhoods of Baltimore that feel like home to me, Downtown has lots of zombie looking things wandering around.”

On the future of downtown, Jeremy says, “I think that is a really important question. Until you start expecting more, you are never gonna get more. It’s especially true downtown… Those of us who are a part of it get to define it. Moving into this building specifically, there have been a lot of divergent voices about what should happen. I’ve heard people ring their hands in fear that Broadway will become the eastside’s Third Street Promenade. I’ve also heard people adamantly saying that we shouldn’t stop until it is. I think probably, like anything else that’s reasonable, the truth is in between…”

“The Bukowski connection…” Jeremy tells me of the casualties of revitalizing downtown. He continues, “One of the saddest things is that Craby Joes is gone. When I moved here in 1991 there were still bars (that Bukowski went to) and Bukowski was still alive, I thought I might run into him. I certainly felt like I had drinks with people who had drunk with him. People have been able to run rampant down here for a long time. To do what ever they want… It is lawless like the wild west out here and definitely has that spirit of like, we are frontier people, we’re just making it up as we go along, but at the same time it’s defiantly like, if you don’t respect the sheriff around here you’re screwed…” Many of Bukowski’s old haunts are now gone. No doubt others are probably in the crosshairs.

Many who invest in Downtown believe that the so called “filth” is an undesirable nuisance, but others believe that even the bum piss filled streets bring life to this complex metropolis. Hopefully, revitalization will not usher in a corporatized conformist mass of sameness; a loss of soul. Hopefully, we can continue to marvel at Downtown’s distinctly wonderful character.

Jeremy puts it best, “I love living in downtown Los Angeles because of the soul of the city, cause it’s got a really weird broken special soul and I love that.”

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