Bernard Rose was the director behind the huge horror hit Candyman. He’s just recently released the controversial fright flick Snuff Movie so we thought it was a serendipitous time to chat with this well respected writer/director.
ZH: Is it true you started your career on The Muppet Show?
BR: I worked for Jim Henson in 1980 as a gofer at Jim’s creature shop in Hampstead. This was when he was shooting the last season of “The Muppett Show” at ATV, “The Great Muppett Caper” and prepping “Dark Crystal” - which is what I was mostly involved with. Out at the (now defunct) Elstree Studios where “Dark Crystal” was in prep, they were shooting; “The Shining”, “Raiders of the Lost Ark”, and “Reds”, so you’d go there and there would be Kubrick, Beatty, Spielberg, Jack Nicholson, all just walking around, eating horrendous food in the cafeteria. It was a lot of fun. Looking back that was the last great heyday of seventies cinema – look how well all of those films have aged.
ZH: Are you a big horror movie fan?
BR: I love “The Shining”, “The Tenant”, “The Exorcist”, “Don’t Look Now”, “Freaks”, “Witchfinder General”, “The Devils”, “Rosemary’s Baby” and “The Omen” - which tells you how old I am. Most movies don’t scare me any more, though I loved “Blair Witch Project” – that was really something new.
ZH: Snuff Movie is quite different to your previous horror film work (Paperhouse and Candyman), as it’s very much set in the real world. Have you always wanted to do straight horror?
BR: “Snuff Movie” isn’t really a horror film. It’s a remake of Orson Welles’ “F- For Fake” - I’m only partly joking….
ZH: Where did you get the idea for the script from?
BR: It occurred to me that horror films had become the subject of “media studies” courses. I thought therefore one could address an intellectual audience with an extreme horror film. However this has not been easy to sell to distributors who say it is too ‘Art House” for the horror crowd and too “Horrific” for the art house patrons. I personally made the film for those that remember the seventies cinema of outrage; “Salo”, “Caligula”, “Ai No Corrida”, “The Devils”, these were serious film that pushed the boundaries. Of course all that happens on the net now, but that’s partly what “Snuff Movie” is about.
ZH: The genre of Survival horror is big business at the moment; do you think that because audiences want more raw scares this helped get your movie made?
BR: I think almost any other film would have been easier to get made.
ZH: The movie includes a Manson style murder; do you recall the actual Charles Manson atrocity? Did this influence your film at all?
BR: The film mixes biographical details from many different sources; Welles, Kubrick, Bogdanovich, Polanski, Bunuel, Fassbinder, Pasolini, Hitchcock, Fellini, and Bergman.
ZH: The film is grim in tone, what was the atmosphere like on set?
BR: As always; jolly.
ZH: Do you think the horror movies of today go too far?
BR: When you are faced with Al Qaida videos on the net showing innocent people being decapitated it puts any Grand Guignol fantasy in its place.
ZH: You’ve put together an experienced cast which includes Jeroen Krabbé, how did you choose these players?
BR: In the case of Jeroen, I had worked with him before and he was brave enough to risk being in the movie. Lisa Enos produced the movie and was therefore in charge – This is an important point that is part of the movie. Lisa is not “exploited” she is the employer. It’s a great performance…
ZH: How were the realistic effects created for your movie?
BR: Mostly with some very clever prosthetics and some very simple in camera stuff. There is no CGI in the movie.
ZH: You were given complete creative control of the movie, something rarely heard of in the film industry. Did this add to the pressure to deliver something different or did it have a calming effect?
BR: Control of course is meaningless as we humans can’t control anything for even a short period – say a thousand years. Truth is we don’t know for sure what we’re going to have for dinner. Movies tend to be made up of chance encounters and happy accidents, but what you can protect yourself from is interference – which is something different.
ZH: The voyeuristic tones of the movie have been compared to an evil version of Big Brother; do you watch such “reality” shows?
BR: Sometimes. The show that influenced me most was a US show called “Joe Millionaire” - Did they have that in the UK?
ZH: Does the film contain a hidden message at all?
BR: Yes. You’ll have to find it.
ZH: Bernard, the word Snuff, in terms of cinema, conjures images of gut wrenching exploitation filmed in dingy bed-sits by mad psychos using unwilling victims; do you think such movies really exist?
BR: The term “snuff” was first applied to movies by Ed Sanders in his book about Manson called “The Family” Interviewing an anonymous family member the exchange goes like this:
“A: I,I,I knew, I know, I only know about one snuff movie. I, Uh, you Know –
Q: Which snuff movie do you know about?
A: I just know like a young chick maybe twenty-seven, short hair….yeah…and chopped her head off…..”
So supposedly Manson made Snuff Movies on 8mm film. No such films were ever found. Nor will they be. Think about it; the only way to process 8mm film back then was to mail it off to Kodak in a little yellow envelope with your address on it. The idea that anyone would send off evidence to a capital crime like this is pretty far-fetched – but that didn’t stop Joel Schumacher making “8mm”…However in this age of Mini DV and Phones and happy slapping it is a new ball game. Murderers have definitely started filming their crimes – it’s all part of the new pornography of the visible.
ZH: As a bit of fun, are there any celebrities you’d like to see in a Snuff Movie?
BR: I’d like to see the footage from the CCTV cameras in the underpass where Princess Di had her accident. What happened to that footage?
ZH: What are you working on at the moment?
BR: Finishing this interview.
Bernard Rose, thank you very much.