Richard Bates Jr. Talks ‘Tone-Deaf’ And People Who Are Full Of Sh*t

August 18, 2019

Written by Kelli Marchman McNeely

Kelli Marchman McNeely is the owner of She is an Executive Producer of "13 Slays Till Christmas" which is out on Digital and DVD and now streaming on Tubi. She has several other films in the works. Kelli is an animal lover and a true horror addict since the age of 9 when she saw Friday the 13th. Email:

Award-winning filmmaker Richard Bates Jr., the director behind Suburban Gothic and Excision, sat down with me to talk about his most recent film, Tone-Deaf, starring Amanda Crew and Robert Patrick.




Not your average horror film, Tone-Deaf follows a woman (Crew) who goes to the countryside to spend a quiet weekend after losing her job and having her complicated relationship implode on the same day. She rents a country house from an old-fashioned widower (Patrick), who struggles to hide his psychopathic tendencies.






Horror Fuel: “I enjoyed Tone-Deaf. How did the story come to be?”




Richard Bates Jr.: “Well, I’ll tell ya, I was watching the news with my wife. And I asked her what scares her the most in the world right now and she turned to me blankly and said ‘Old men.’ So, I went to my little corner and started thinking about it. John Waters always told me that if you want anyone to think about anything and seriously consider it, a good way to do it is to make them laugh. So, I started with this framework of a slasher-horror.



I find myself in meeting after meeting and there’s more content being made now than ever before. If you want to sell something you’ve really got to work within the confines of five or six structures. It’s sort of absurd what’s going on at the moment, with all that’s getting made, the rules are getting more rigid. I find myself listening to music more than anything else. No one complains about experimentation in music, you don’t hear someone ask why there’s a rainstick in the background of an indie rock song.



The idea was to make a movie by sampling, like a dance track or a hip hop song. and we have this script but we’d cut between a slasher-horror and an urban comedy in equal measure throughout to make this something different. And to be reflective of all the media and hype that you go through in just a day. Within 24 hours I can feel like I’ve been through 16 different movies. That’s sort of the idea behind that. The fun of it is to take a character like Harvey, he’s at an age where he is done growing and he’s open to nothing else and pit him against someone that is still figuring herself out. She’s open to everything. In front of that is this sort of collision. The way it’s structured, she doesn’t even know that she’s in a horror movie until the third act. And then she becomes a real participant in her life. Once she realizes what is going on, then she breaks the law. She realizes.’Oh, this is his movie. This should be my movie.’ The movie ends with her sort of beginning her life as her true self and as a participant in it.”





Horror Fuel: “That makes a lot of sense. I have to say, I loved both characters, but especially the character of Harvey. Robert Patrick was perfect for the role.”





Richard Bates Jr.: “He’s so good isn’t he! He’s wonderful.






I grew up in the south and my family’s from the south and they’re a lot more conservative than me. I’m the liberal-leaning guy that left for New York after high school and the idea of making fun of the conservative without making fun of the liberals. I don’t want one side to walk out of the movie furious because of the idea that we’re all full of shit. We are all full of shit, we’re all hypocrites,  and that’s the common ground, every single one of us, myself included, are all full of shit. It’s just the truth. And if we use it to meet in the middle we can start talking about what differentiates us as humans. Some are motivated completely by self-interest while others, no matter how ill-conceived the way they’re going about it, they are trying to create good in the world, they are trying to make things better. I think that’s the real difference.”





Horror Fuel: “I think you are correct, [chuckle] we are all full of shit. I wish more people understood that.





I like that Harvey doesn’t have some huge motivation to kill, it’s just part of his bucket list so to speak. It’s something he’s just wanted to do. He’s done everything else, had a family, led a good life, now he just wants to kill someone. There’s’ no desire for revenge, he’s not crazy, no one killed his kid, he just wants to check it off his list.”





Richard Bates Jr.: “That was the most important thing, right. Once there’s a practical reason for doing something like that you can wrap your head around and maybe identify with, it’s not scary. When a random act of violence comes from a seemingly normal person, it’s fucking terrifying. A lot of these serial killers you read about their motivation was simply that they wanted to because they felt like it. That’s scary.”





Horror Fuel: “Murder without reason is a lot more disturbing. The thought that your neighbor, the postman, the little old lady down the street could be killers is a lot scarier in my opinion than some monster or killer doll. Someone lived next door to Ed Kemper and Ted Bundy. Think about that. It’s enough to make you want to sleep with a gun under your pillow.”





Richard Bates Jr.: “When there’s a reason you can explain it away. Like, if this didn’t happen…once you can justify it in your brain that’s that. But if you can’t and you have to admit that there is madness in the world, then things start getting icky.”





Horror Fuel: “What you are saying makes a lot of sense. They say the average person comes in contact with at least seven serial killers in their life and don’t know it or who they are. That’s scary as hell.”





Richard Bates Jr.: “Yes. What we do for our selves and the media does for us, is to try to explain why someone would do that, and we need to know why in order to cope. But when there’s not a real explanation, we start just pulling things out of our ass. It’s a terrifying thought.”





Horror Fuel: “It is terrifying.
What do you hope the audience takes away from Tone-Deaf?”





Richard Bates Jr.: “Quite frankly, it’s this idea that A: I hope they enjoy seeing a film made differently than most from a tonal and structural standpoint. It is supposed to be a cultural artifact, something that will be interesting to watch in five or ten years and think back on this time and the way people talk. I’ve been going through all these Facebook posts and Twitter and talking with people. It’s sort of the death of subtlety. And I tried to reflect that in the dialogue, the way the characters talk. Everyone says how they feel regardless of anything else. It’s just remarkable. What I hope they take away is they walk away saying, ‘You know what, I’m full of shit, this person’s full of shit.’ And there is a common ground. You can’t start having a conversation going into it thinking you’re right about everything.”





Horror Fuel: “I’m sure our readers and viewers will enjoy Tone-Deaf. I think it’s witty, fun, and intense.”







Richard Bates Jr.: Thank you.”



Richard has made some seriously great films and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next. The good news is you won’t have to wait long to see Tone-Deaf for yourself, the movie, which we gave 4/5 skulls in our review, opens in theaters and arrives On Demand on August 23, 2019, from Saban Films.




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