I Am a Ghost: HP Mendoza’s Existential Horror Film

One of my favorite films (and interviewees) of the year!

My article here:
Not Darkness, Not Night: Interview with I Am a Ghost’s H.P. Mendoza

Asia Pacific Arts talks to director H.P. Mendoza about coming to terms with his reputation as “the music guy,” turning a cheerful hotel into a haunted Japanese Victorian house, and frightening audiences with the terror of nothing.

by Ada Tseng

Those who loved H.P. Mendoza’s previous movies (he was the writer/star of Colma: The Musical and the writer/director of Fruit Fly) should know that I Am a Ghost is not a musical. It’s natural for viewers to want filmmakers to keep doing what we already know they’re really good at; in Mendoza’s case: performing a musical number on top of a car as the alarm is going off; writing catchy music that can be drunkenly karaoke-d and/or used to coax tears out of a cynical movie audience; and simultaneously critiquing and celebrating gay culture through ’80s synth pop. But Mendoza wanted to show that he could do more.

More, in the case of Mendoza’s second feature film I Am a Ghost, would be achieved with less. Less actors (Anna Ishida is the main lead, only joined by Jeannie Barroga’s voiceover, Rick Burkhardt as a naked grey demon, and a couple of body doubles), less crew (Mendoza shot the entire film with the help of his work and life partner Mark Del Lima), less production time (seven days for production, because Ishida’s busy schedule would only allow for that), less running time (75 minutes was all he needed to effectively scare the crap out of his audience), less comedy (ghosts perhaps aren’t as snarky as recent high school grads or fag hags), and, last but not least, less oversight (“With a camera on my shoulder and no one to tell me that I couldn’t do what I wanted to do, we embarked on my smallest film ever,” Mendoza writes in his Director’s Statement. “And my most ambitious yet.”).

The result is a visually mesmerizing, psychologically terrorizing work of art, a ghost story that toys with eerie memories and the common person’s existentialist doubts. Since its world premiere in March 2012, I Am a Ghost has earned lead actress Anna Ishida the Special Jury Award for Best Actress at Mix Mexico, and H.P. Mendoza was named Best Horror Director of 2012 by San Francisco Weekly.

Asia Pacific Arts chats with H.P. Mendoza about making I Am a Ghost.

For more of the interview, go to Asia Pacific Arts.

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