HeyUGuys had the chance to speak to him; turns out he’s a super-cool guy, and has a real eye for the horror genre. We talked about devil worship, scoring music for movies, and why he thinks Kubrick’s The Shining isn’t all that good.
So, I’ve heard you’re a big horror fan. So was Slasher Films something you’d been planning for a long time?
No, it was not something that was planned. It totally came out of the blue. I was minding my own business and then I was given the opportunity to produce along with another production company. So I jumped at the chance to do it, and it started suddenly – just like that.
The director of Nothing Left to Fear, Anthony [Leonardi III] – how did you first meet him and get working with him?
Basically, we had the script of Nothing Left to Fear and we were out looking for directors, and he was one of the guys that my partner actually heard about, and had him come down for a meeting. He had a short that was really, really good, so we actually met him and the script was covered page to page with his notes and sketches and storyboard ideas, and he was just someone that was really, really passionate and someone who really ingested the story and knew exactly what he wanted it to look like. I mean, he was really, really inspired. And you know, of all of the dozens of directors [we met]– some of them were well-known directors – but he was the most passionate about it, and that’s really what inspired me when it comes to art; it was something his heart was invested in. So that’s how that decision was made.
It’s definitely a good way to start, isn’t it? So going onto the film itself, the town the movie is set in – Stull – it has a lot of folklore surrounding it. Could you tell us a bit about it?
It’s basically said to be one of the Seven Gateways to Hell, and has this crypt there that a lot of people seem to… be drawn to [laughs]. Saying that is the actual gateway, and there’s an ancient church which recently has been pulled down but the church had been standing since the 1700s, where they had a lot of reportings, a lot of whispering back in the 1700s, and there’s just a lot of brouhaha about this particular place. Now, the residents of Stull deny any of it, and are actually pretty sensitive by the amount of attention that it gets having to do with this particular subject. It’s one of those things where you know all that sort of folklore, mythology is rooted in some sort of truth, so it makes it very intriguing. And the cemetery at Stull they’ve actually fenced off to keep the Devil worshippers out, party mongerers and all that stuff – which apparently was pretty rampant. But hidden in the woods, just out of town, is another crypt that is centuries older, and it’s very foreboding-looking; all the headstones are very creepy, and it’s all covered in weeds and so on and so forth – and that really has the bigger history. So all in all, when I first heard about this and I actually read the story, I thought it was pretty exciting.
It sounds like it was always meant to be in a horror film. Going onto the music for the movie, it was obviously written by you and Alter Bridge’s frontman, Myles Kennedy. What’s your favourite part of scoring for movies?
Well, the thing about scoring is that you’re writing to a visual, and writing to a sort of tone, to evoke a really emotional type of response from the audience. Unlike writing rock n’ roll, it doesn’t have a sort of structure – there’s absolutely no structure here, you can do anything that you want. And it evokes a certain creativity out of me that I don’t necessarily get in my regular day job. So it’s actually very interesting to me because I didn’t know that side existed until I started working within the realm of film.
And with films, The Omen and The Exorcist have been big influences on you. What was it exactly about those two that you liked so much?
You know, I named those two because I think that they were such epic stories, and they were so well-directed and the stories were so well told, and they were like major feature movies of the seventies alongside all the other different movies that were coming out at the time. And with The Exorcist, when I first saw it, it was hugely popular, and when I saw it it was far and away a bigger movie than all the sort of horror stuff that I remember up to that point. And the acting was great, the writing was great, the cinematography was great, the special effects were great, the music was great, and it was just like, ‘wow’, you know. And The Omen was exactly the same kind of experience, however many years later for me. So it’s not that there’s a ‘best’ horror movie ever made, but they were the first really big sort of feature film production movies I saw in the theatre. And I was really astounded at how well they were made. And Gregory Peck was in The Omen who I love, so.
Do you see a lot of those two films perhaps in Nothing Left to Fear? Or do you think it’s a more small-scale feature?
You know what, Nothing Left to Fear was more influenced by Rosemary’s Baby. Especially as we didn’t have a lot of budget, or have a lot of room to play around. We wanted to go for a more old-school stylistic, raw, slow-burn in developing before it actually gets scary. And I’d say that movies like The Wicker Man and Rosemary’s Baby and maybe a little bit of Texas Chainsaw… I can see similarities in some of it. So that’s more what we were going for. But I think that The Exorcist and The Omen and a handful of others movies are what I’m aspiring to. At some point, I would like to feel like I pulled off a movie that worked as well as them.
Going onto film festivals, I actually spoke to someone just yesterday who said that they saw Nothing Left to Fear at Fright Fest in the UK, and they saw it in the early hours of the morning – like 3:00am, 4:00am, and they really liked it. So I want to ask you; is there a particular time of day that you like watching horror films?
That’s a great question. No one’s ever presented that to me before… I mean, I think ideally night-time, late at night, is the best time to watch horror movies. I love that a horror movie can be effective during the day, and still be just as jarring, especially with horror books; you’d be in the midst of a busy day and you’d be reading a scary book and you’d be sucked into that world; everything else around you becomes null and void. I think that’s a great accomplishment for the writer. But yeah, I still think that horror movies should be viewed in the twilight hours, for sure.
So with curtains drawn, maybe?
Yeah. To me, the mornings may be pushing it a little bit.
It’s interesting that you mention horror books. Who are your favourite horror authors?
When I was a little kid, I was raised on a lot of H.P. Lovecraft, and Kurt Vonnegut, which is not really horror, but definitely surreal science fiction and ominous kind of stuff, and Edgar Allan Poe is still probably one of my all-time favourites. But I loved Stephen King when I was growing up, when I was a bit older, and some of his early stuff is just phenomenal – some of the best horror stories I’ve ever read. The Shining is probably one of the best horror stories I’ve ever read.
What did you think of the film?
I didn’t like the movie. Unfortunately, I read the story and it made a huge impression on me, and then I saw the trailers for the movie, and I was really, really excited about it – and in its own way, it’s a great movie. It’s a Stanley Kubrick movie, it looks great, but as far as the original book is concerned it’s so far from what I was hoping for. So it was sort of a disappointment. And a lot of people get really upset when I say that [laughs].
Don’t worry – at the end of the day, you’re one of the few people who actually read the book first, so good on you. On the theme of directors, are there any directors out there that you’d like to work with in the future?
I think Sam Raimi… Wes Craven is still one of the greats… one of the guys that I’m into who’s been around for a while, there’s always great young guys that you don’t really know about just yet. I had a great meeting with the Soska sisters last night who did American Mary. I would love to work with them at some point. There’s definitely a handful of them that are really inspired, have really great, original ideas and great vision. So I’m working on that!
Do you think your film producing will ever take over from your music?
No. I mean, the great thing about film for me is that it’s something I’m very passionate about, but I don’t necessarily have anything to lose with it because it’s just something fun for me to do. But it’s not my next big career move; it’s something that I can do without feeling a certain pressure of being told it has to be done this way, it has to be done that way – I don’t have to follow a model. It can take as long as it has to, because I have something that I’ve been doing obviously longer and will always be doing… I think that’s one of the nice things about doing it, is that I don’t feel I’ve got my entire stake upon it. I do it purely for the artform. Fortunately with music, I said that too because I had fuck-all when I started either [laughs], so it’s just sort of my MO.
Nothing Left to Fear is out now on DVD, Blu-Ray and VOD, click here to purchase your copy.