Director ····· Ricky Lam
Medium ···· Digital
Published ···· January 2020
Makeup ···· Ariana, Yassmin
Production ···· Parisa
Models ···· Calvin, Fatima, Osé, Ariana

Pure darkness overshadows your field of vision as only the fast beating of your heart and sighs of relief the only indicators that you’re far from dreaming. A faint light approaches slowly, illuminating the trees around you, built like towers scattered into the endless depths. There was no sign of rain, but the blood streaming down your skin feels like a storm had just gone past in misery. You hear murmurs from a familiar voice – it’s a woman signaling her two men to check the perimeter. The footsteps inch closer to you – it’s getting harder to mask your breathing. The blood drips to the ground, leaving a pool that creates soundwaves across the forest. The men find you hiding behind a tree trunk and grab you by the hair. Your scream alerts a flock of birds as they sail away – there was no help coming any time soon. You manage to escape their clutches, avoiding any obstructions in your way. The engine roars behind you, brightening the path along the way. It feels like you can’t escape your demons, as the same cycle of violence begins again.

The idea behind “ULTRAVIOLENCE” manifested near the beginning of 2020. It was the start of a new decade and it was time to put the “A Fantasy Based on Reality” series to rest – no longer did I want to wallow in art reflected by my own misery. An opportunity for a fresh start was imminent and I reflected if I had any other dream projects left in me. What remained was the desire to create absolute fucking carnage.

The early concept didn’t necessarily come out of nowhere – the music industry was going through a retro synth resurgence where melodies from Dua Lipa, The Weeknd, Jessie Ware, and Lady Gaga leaned back on the gleaming 80s and 90s. Music is my favorite place to feel inspired and develop moodboards. When a song gets me hooked, I immediately visualize what a potential music video would be like, gathering its themes and symbolism together to make something that could be a strong companion to the track. “ULTRAVIOLENCE” was my take on a campy slasher. No longer did I want it to be inspired by the adversity in life. I wanted something fun to create and I very much wanted to work with so much blood. 

For this project, I wanted to try something new by including rough sketches on various images I wanted to take. Inspired by the media’s depiction of the 80s, including “Friday the 13th,” “American Horror Story,” and “Uncut Gems,” the framework was set to include a posse of villains and one final girl. After pitching to my friends, I managed to gather four of them to participate in a make-believe venture down the rabbit hole.

An early storyboard draft. (Please refrain from judging my doodles).

I’ll be upfront about it – working with fake blood is the fucking worst. Never in my mind did I expect how easily it could stain on your clothing and at times skin. This was the first time I decided to have a photoshoot at my house (mainly because I was too lazy to figure out locations elsewhere and my house already somewhat fit the “AHS: Coven” aesthetic) and my anxiety over having the fake blood splash somewhere it shouldn’t be escalated far too often. At one point, I asked Yassmin to drench Ariana more in blood outside and the driveway looked like someone was straight-up murdered. The things you do for art.

Fatima, Osé, and Calvin assumed the role as the villain. I wanted to make them look extremely menacing with little or no blood on them. These were cold and merciless killers – a speck of blood on their cheek wouldn’t make them flinch. Osé and Calvin were respectfully modeled after Adam Sandler in “Uncut Gems” and Spike from “Cowboy Bebop,” whereas Fatima was partially inspired by Gaga’s “Old Hollywood” look from “AHS: Hotel.” Ariana was inspired by every final girl – oddly always wearing the worst outfit for a situation like this. I feel so bad for how much I put her through the wringer in terms of blood make-up and having the fake wound on her chest, but this woman likes to bathe in fake blood from time to time so she wasn’t mad at all. Sometimes I question her self-care days.

“ULTRAVIOLENCE” is also the first time I gave more emphasis to darkness, sacrificing bright elements in images in lieu of extreme contrast and shadows. I wanted there to be dread and unease, but enough slickness to make the photo pop.

It’s probably one of the most fun day shoots I’ve ever had and it really made me incredibly excited for what my eventual next project would be. There are so many other horror elements to play with and left untapped. Maybe the one day I’m okay with dealing with fake blood again, “ULTRAVIOLENCE: Part II” will be born. Until then, the photo of Calvin ripping off a bloodied face mask will haunt me til the end of time.