Focus Creeps: #1. Knife/Tape/Rope

Satan, teen outcasts and ritual killings in this true-life story from LA directors Focus Creeps and renegade author Dennis Cooper

Focus Creeps couldn't have met a better match than Dennis Cooper: the LA directors are behind anarchic, teens-gone-wild videos for Cass McCombs, King Krule and Girls, while the transgressive lit icon specialises in adolescent ennui, gay sex and rimjobs. For this week's takeover, the filmmaking duo took on some of Cooper's most deranged material, adapting everything from Knife/Tape/Rope, the writer's take on a real-life Satanic teen murder, to Graduate Seminar, where a brutal truckstop killing is reconceptualised as modern art. The resulting films are grisly, gruesome and confrontational – but true to Cooper, they've got style and a certain deadpan Californian charisma. Click below for our Q&A with Focus Creeps

Dazed Digital: You actually met Dennis to talk to him about adapting these stories, right?

Aaron Brown: Yeah, he lives in Paris right now and he was back for Halloween; we met briefly to talk about inspirations and stuff. He was like, “Don’t be precious about it. Just have fun with it. Just don’t make it stupid.”

DD: What do you like about his work?

Aaron Brown: I connect with it because it has that element of drama – his stories are so classically dramatic, but the writing is so real. I’ve never felt like I could pull that off, so I was really excited to connect with him and these characters. You try to read novels to get inspired, and they’re all really gimmicky and academic these ways, they seem so grad school. But he’s not that. He gets excited by things, he experiences things, and you can tell he gets his hands dirty. He goes out and does weird stuff, and goes back and writes about them.

DD: How did you first come across Dennis Cooper, anyway?

Aaron Brown: I was at a party in college and I was talking to this cool musician who was like, “Oh my god, you haven’t read this guy?!” So I bought a couple of books. It hits you really hard; it’s brutal and disgusting but then you can’t stop thinking about it. It’s like a weird addiction; you keep going back to it. There’s nothing like it. Some people are like, “I can’t get these images out of my head, I wish I could erase it.” But for me, there’s nothing really like that feeling. I’ve read a lot of books that haven’t had that impact. 

DD: Is that visceral reaction what you go for in your own work?

Aaron Brown: I try to create things that are unique, like a unique feeling. But I adapted Dennis Cooper because I couldn’t feel I could write like that – he’s so good at it! In a dumb way, I compare it to food. It’s insanely spicy, almost painful, but exhilarating. You feel the endorphins pumping.

DD: Any good stories from filming the shorts?

Aaron Brown: We got chased by the cops for Knife/Tape/Rope in the scene where we’re standing in the middle of a freeway. Police cars came and said, “Stop!” We had to run up above the freeway with the camera crew, everybody – I’m used to doing that from when I was a teenager and skateboarded, but I’m 30 now. It was weird – like, when you’re 30, do you still run from the cops? Do you stop and talk to them? The instinct was to just run. Because, you know, cops tend to be assholes.