It’s ‘All Fun and Games’ For Horror Directors Ari Costa and Eren Celeboglu

Debuting in theaters and on digital today is the latest production from The Russo Bros’ Gozie AGBO! You may know that as the studio who helped produce the masterpiece Everything Everywhere All At Once. But their latest, All Fun and Games, is a wickedly chaotic horror film from directors Ari Costa and Eren Celeboglu.

And to celebrate its release, The Nerds of Color was invited to a screening and panel for the film, with the up-and-coming directors themselves.

Hosted at AGBO Studios in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles, the movie screened to a room full of creatives who helped bring the horror to life. The film centers on a family, who, after finding a knife made of human bone, are tormented by a demonic presence that possesses its members, and forces them to play sadistic versions of innocent children’s games out of the ghostly vengeance of a persecuted Salem witch. It stars Stranger Things‘ Natalia Dyer and Hugo‘s Asa Butterfield, along with Haunting of Bly Manor‘s Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, as siblings.

Following the screening Costa and Celeboglu sat down to discuss the film. Here’s what they had to say:

Why Salem?

Celeboglu: Joe Russo is who to thank for Salem. Because we had in our backstory the character of Daniel being a child of a witch… And Joe was like, “make the specificity of the backstory the world of your movie.” It was a wonderful note that just encouraged us to lean into our idea.

Why was this your dream cast?

Costa: We got super lucky… Early on, Asa and Natalia came to us because they responded to the script… we had an amazing meeting with Natalia and a few meetings with Asa. But the true, true find was… Ben Ainsworth… his tape did all the speaking that you needed. It was truly amazing. And I’ll say this… we had 21 days to shoot this movie. We had an additional day. And that breakneck pace, you don’t have a huge margin of error. You have two to threee takes with your actors and then you move on. But we had a week of rehearsals with our actors where they were on the ground with us in Winnipeg. We had family dinner night. We had family game night. The three siblings got to talk to each other and hang out with each other, which is what real siblings do. And we also found Laurel Marsden, Kolton Stewart, and Annabeth Gish, who plays our mom. So we were super lucky in that we got an assassin’s row of really talented actors.

Is it harder to scare audiences these days?

Celeboglu: Yes. It’s hard to film jump scares. Anyone who says jump scares are cheap have never tried to do it. It’s tough for our schedule but also it’s tough in general to get it right. We found the more patient you are, the scarier it is… We were trying to smuggle a coming of age story into a possession and slasher movie… We want you to love this family… and if you love the family, then you’ll be scared.

Are you both believers? Do you believe in these types of things?

Costa: I’m not necessarily a believer. My wife is an she likes to say I’m just not sensitive enough… I have yet to see a ghost though I’m open to it. I was told not to bring anything home with me.

Where did the idea for the specific games in the film come from?

Costa: Some of the games existedfrom the original [spec] script. We did a lot of work re-writing the script, mainly focusing on the characters and families and the mythology. But if you think about it, if you have every single game you can possibly play, to put a dangerous spin on that… it’s kind of difficult. We were limited in the games we could figure out had truly tragic and dangerous endgames to them. That was the challenge of this movie.

Celeboglu: We also wanted them to be simple… Hide and Seek is so iconic. Red Rover is one of those children’s games where you go, ‘why does anyone let their children play this?’ You’re running at high speed with one another… A journalist we talked to said games are how children learn, but they’re this huge metaphor for life which is painful and tragic… The games have to resonate with why are kids left alone to do these stuff?

Costa: There were two games that were at one point scripted that we were unable to shoot… one of them was Red Light, Green Light, and the other was Simon Says. Which would have been pretty vicious.

What is unique about working with AGBO?

Costa: I mean I’m parial because I’ve worked with Joe and Anthony since 2010… It’s a family environment for everyone who works here. I truly believe collaboration is first and foremost. Joe and Anthony’s philosophy is that the best idea wins, which inspires people to tell you their great ideas. So that being one of the mandates of the company is really great. From Day One it was a real collaboration. They support us really amazingly.

Celeboglu: We totally stand on the shoulders of all of our collaborators… With AGBO the kind of amazing thing was this team of collaborators and filmmakers… they make the biggest movies in the world. And our little tiny movie was something they put their time, expertise, and love to. And we’re very lucky, so thank you!

All Fun and Games hits theaters and digital today, September 1!

*This press conference recap was written during the WGA and SAG/AFTRA strike. To support the strike, please donate to the Entertainment Community Fund.*