Film is a dance between the writer, the director, the participants, and of course the audience. The goal of course is to create something that you are going to put out there into the world and which is going to be independent of you. It needs to create its own identity, but as you have spoken about in previous interviews you need to make it to be a good watch, but you need to give it an identity and personality.
Yeah, I think so, and to use your analogy of the dance that is the thing you cannot try and guess; you cannot work it out. I do generally believe that you just do it, and if you put yourself into it, if it is a successful dance then great, but if it’s not then you couldn’t have done it any other way. Again going back to that question, but half the problem is everyone tries to second guess whether it is going to be a good “dance”, is it going to work? Sorry to keep using you analogy, but everyone tries to second guess, and the more you try to do that, the less personality you are putting into it, because it becomes a combined sort of committee or marketing decision.
It was John Huston who claimed that he would make a film for love followed by a film for money. Whilst we like to think every film has been made with artistic merit, sometimes filmmaking is just a job; it’s a living.
Yeah, it is. It’s not for everybody in the industry, because some people aren’t in the position where they have to do that. Many of us are, and that’s why some people do commercials, and some people do television work, whilst some people have a completely different life that allows them to then go and do it. So that’s definitely true.
Whether it affects the quality of what you do I don’t know. I subscribe to the fact that as a director you are a craftsman rather than an artist. I do genuinely believe that. There are obviously exceptions to that, as there are great artists in the film world. I think for the majority of directors it is a craft that A) you can learn, and each time you do something you learn it as you would with any craft. B) You’ve got other people around you who have more skill and talent in certain areas, and that’s all fine because it’s closer to being an architect or a furniture maker in my mind. Even if you do something for the money rather than love, it is still a craft that you cherish and you want to get right.
There are a number of psychological thrillers which are defined as horrors, thinking of most recently American Mary. The inclusion of a small slice of horror seems to result in them being pigeon-holed as all out horror, rather than as horror films in the shell of a psychological thriller. In Fear suggests that your interest lies in the psychological side of horror.
That’s definitely true. All of the films I have mentioned as influences are all without psychological horrors. I think the naming has changed. To me this is not a psychological thriller because the plotting is so simple. It would need a plot worthy of a thriller to become a psychological thriller, and it’s not a horror film that’s pure and simple. So therefore in marketing it or in putting it on a shelf, what name would you give it? You would give it the name of a psychological horror I guess.
Certain films which were horror films in their day like Rosemary’s Baby is actually a psychological horror. The Omen was probably a horror but again slightly more psychological horror. Straw Dogs was… Well I don’t know what you would call that for example. The Vanishing… I don’t know what you’d call that; certainly not horror.
What I would look at is the catalyst for events and the consequence of events. Is it psychologically determined or is it plot determined? Arachnophobia is a family film, but in a sense it is a horror film, as it’s just people who are scared of spiders running around being chased and having to deal with it. That’s probably closer to a horror template. Obviously I’m not being ridiculous. It’s not a horror film, but you know what I’m saying?
These terms we use to identify a film are of course not timeless. Pertaining to the point you were remarking about with regards to In Fear, when we refer to the terms “Horror” or “Psychological thriller” now, they don’t mean what they used to mean back in the Golden Age of Hollywood. The terms played a big part in defining how the films were perceived.
I think that’s right. To me a film about suspense is always going to have the word psychological as a prefix, whereas something that is about a visceral type of revolted response is pure horror.
I read something the other day about some Swedish research being done about horror films over the last ten years. What they found is it’s genetically determined. When you watch a horror film you release certain chemicals, and that causes certain hormonal reactions. Some people release that chemical and others don’t, and that’s why you can go and see a horror film and find some people who will say, “Oh it’s boring.” I thought how fab that you can reduce it to a chemical level.
I remember watching Man Bites Dog which is a genius film, but it is beyond genre. You kind of think this is extraordinary, it’s pushing it, and then suddenly there is that scene where they rape the woman, and pull her stomach out, and I hadn’t really perceived the film as a black comedy. I hadn’t got the blackness of it; I’d only got the psychological insight/horror of it. At that point I was like, “Man this is just too much. I’m feeling physically revolted” – pure horror. But I watched it again with two friends who were laughing during that scene because they got the blackness of it. It confused me and I watched it again and I was, “Fine, I’ll watch it as a black comedy rather than as a horror and see what happens”, and I got it; I did get it. What’s interesting is it was just a pure physical response, and personally I’m not interested in that. I think that’s quite an easy thing to do and that film is not… I mean it is a genius film, but I think if you show something that is utterly revolting, and it causes a physical reaction, that is in itself quite easy.
So that’s why with In Fear your approach is to try and create and exploit a sense of unease. There’s a subtlety to it which requires a deft hand.
Yeah, I think so. I’m perfectly mindful of the fact that because of that it won’t appeal to everybody, and that’s fine. It is exactly the kind of film that I wanted to make, one that relies on suspense, or rather it builds suspense and relies on tension. If you were invested in the characters you would have felt the suspense all the more, and more importantly, if you put yourself in their position because of the authenticity of their performance, then the tension will be higher, and the suspense would be greater.
In Fear is out on DVD and Blu-ray now. Read our review of the film here.