Naveen A. Chathapuram

October 2022 View more

Making a movie doesn’t happen overnight. Or sometimes even over a few years. About a decade and a half ago, Naperville resident Naveen A. Chathapuram and his friend Neal Justin penned a screenplay. After a year of preproduction, the project, however, went up in smoke, literally, when the story’s central location (Mount Lemmon in Arizona) burned in a forest fire. The film was shelved indefinitely, and Chathapuram moved on to other projects, like producing 2010’s Ca$h, starring Sean Bean and a promising young Australian actor named Chris Hemsworth.

Fast-forward to 2017 when Chathapuram was looking to direct his first film. He picked up the script he wrote years ago and still loved the Southwestern small-town setting and the fact that most of the story took place in the desert wilderness with only a handful of characters. So he hired an up-and-coming writer, Ashley James Louis, to pen a new adaptation. The film was shot during 19 chilly-and-challenging days in the fall and winter of 2019 in the Canadian wilderness (which stood in for the film’s desert setting).

Of course, finishing the film during the pandemic took some juggling, with the postproduction team scattered across the country. Chathapuram edited the film far from Hollywood, in his office in Lisle. The Last Victim, which finally hit theaters this May, stars Ron Perlman, Ali Larter, and Ralph Ineson. It’s now streaming on Hulu and available for rent or purchase on several other platforms. 

Chathapuram shared some of his thoughts on the project with us.

Q: How do you describe the movie? 

A: It’s is a stylized, slow-burn thriller in the neo-noir/neo-western genre where three stories converge violently after the leader of a modern-day outlaw gang commits a horrific crime in an isolated Southwest town. The film is infused with wry humor. One of the main themes we explored was isolation. What happens when you’re isolated from the rules of society where morality becomes ambiguous, and survival is the only priority? Does violence lurk beneath each one of us? How far can one be pushed before one strikes back? 

Q: What was your favorite thing about this project?

A: Growing up, I loved movies in this genre from master filmmakers, and now to be playing in the same field, making this my debut feature is a dream. Every aspect of bringing the vision to life and having the opportunity to collaborate with such a fantastic cast and crew was incredible. 

Q: What do you hope viewers experience with The Last Victim?

A: I want the audience to be entertained, to come away feeling the film’s presence—the characters, the isolation, the atmosphere, the dread, the intermittent bursts of violence, and ponder the ambiguous morality. For fans of the genre and film enthusiasts, I’d love them to enjoy the subtle nuances and nods that have been carefully woven into the storytelling.

Q: So, why haven’t you moved to Hollywood?

A: I grew up in the western suburbs and have family in and around Naperville. It’s great to see my toddler grow up with her cousins, uncles, aunts, and grandparents, who all live nearby. 

Secondly, as much as I love the energy in Hollywood, it could sometimes become a bubble for artists. Here, as a storyteller, I find it easier to keep up with what’s happening in the rest of the country. Don’t get me wrong—I plan to spend a lot of time on the West Coast in the coming years. 

Q: What’s next for you?

A: My next project is Ruthless, a smartly written, stylish vengeance thriller set in Louisiana. I’m also developing two projects with Ashley James Louis for production in 2023. 

Photos courtesy of Jeff Topham