We first met Paul Davis last year when his acclaimed documentary Beware The Moon: Remembering An American Werewolf In London was shown at FrightFest. This month he’s introducing three movies as part of Horror Channel’s Directors Night strand. We caught up with this very busy guy to talk about his perfect documentary and his plans for the future.
HC: Were you surprised by the incredibly positive reaction from the crowd when your documentary played at FrightFest?
PD: Absolutely. It being my first film I really had no comprehension as to what to expect. I knew we at the right place for it to be unveiled and thankfully everyone seemed to really dig it and more importantly got that we were genuine in our intentions to make a heartfelt piece that celebrated the making of a wonderful movie. I think I read a total of two negative reviews for Beware The Moon to date – one was a Tweet and the other on a blog. All the big boys loved it. Totally mind blowing seeing reviews from the likes of IGN and Empire urging people to buy another copy of An American Werewolf In London JUST for the documentary.
HC: You’ve been around the world with it, has the response been positive everywhere it’s played?
PD: We were very fortunate that Universal let us have a premier in Los Angeles – even more fortunate was that they let me pick the cinema. I got in touch with The New Beverly (the cinema owned by Mr. Quentin Tarantino) and they were more than happy to host our premier in a double bill with An American Werewolf In London. We did it the night before the Blu-Ray came out and were joined by none other than Make-Up Effects legend Rick Baker, producer George Folsey and another three members of the original crew for a Q&A between features. Again, the experience was so overwhelming. When I turned up there was a line almost wrapping round the block. I haven’t seen a line to get IN to a cinema since the early 90s so that was pretty cool to see. People have been so nice and complimentary regarding the documentary. I’m really happy that people like it. It’s not my movie anymore. It’s theirs.
HC: So have you been tempted to give the same treatment to another classic horror title?
PD: This is the question I’m most frequently asked. Recently in LA I got talking with another documentary filmmaker who asked me the same thing. Honestly, Beware The Moon came out of a ten-year mission to chronicle a movie I adored just as Mark Kermode did with The Exorcist in 1998. Now that I’ve done it, that fire has been put out and now I want to move to story telling. I want to make feature films, and that’s now what I’m about to do. If I did do another doc though… Pulp Fiction or Teen Wolf.
HC: There is a remake of AWIL underway; would you have liked the chance to re-imagine it back to the big screen?
PD: I did think about how I’d approach it if given the opportunity, but it’s certainly nothing I’d ever expect at all. I’ve got a lot of work to do first. Would I do it though if asked? Sure
HC: If so what would you change or add to the story and would you be tempted to use CGI?
PD: Well ultimately the only way to successfully remake a movie like An American Werewolf In London is to not try to imitate the original while at the same time borrow from its simplistic approach. A lot of remakes try to be clever and only end up over complicating things – be it within the fabric of the story or the production as a whole. With regard to the special effects, I’d totally employ CGI to enhance prosthetics – but that would be up to the effects guy involved. I think it’s terrible that Rick Baker didn’t get to go all out on The Wolf Man, and I truly believe that if the script is right, Rick should be brought in for the remake. As much as we love the original transformation (it’s still amazing!), I know he’d love to take another stab at it with the technology he’d have at his disposal now. The remake can be really good and I honestly wish the filmmakers all the best with it. Regardless of what happens, Landis’ movie still exists.
HC: Your next project is Habeas Corpus; can you tell us what it’s all about?
PD: Habeas Corpus is an anthology piece that harkens back to the classic multi-tale horror flicks such as Dead of Night and Creepshow. The basic concept is that of a lonely, old caretaker, who helps a zombie out of his grave and promises him some raw flesh in exchange for some brief company. Over the course of their time together the caretaker tells four stories that all revolve around the exploitation of the dead. It’s a unique culmination of stories in which the dead (or monsters) are the victim and the segment I’m directing, called S.C.U.M. features a female art student who uses dead bodies to aid her latest art project.
HC: How did it come about?
PD: I actually came on to the project very late. I believe the film had been in development for nearly two-years before I was contacted to direct one of the stories. The overall idea came about via fellow directors on the project, Simon Aitken and Brendan Lonergan. They had both written short screenplays and figured it would be ideal to find out if anyone else in their circle had any shorts to put in to a horror anthology feature. Enter Clive Ashenden, Rob Wickings and the writer of my story Ben Woodiwiss. Originally Ben was set to direct S.C.U.M. but pulled out for personal reasons. I was approached last May and things have been steam rolling forward. I did my own draft of the script to really bring out the sense of humour in the piece. If I’m honest that’s what really attracted me to the story. It’s a ridiculous concept and I want to exploit that fact with a lot of over the top, pop-arty, set pieces. Out of everyone I’ve spoken to about S.C.U.M. so far, it’s incredibly popular with women. You’ll just have to trust me on that one. There are a few moments that will have guys squirming in their seats. In addition, I have some UK genre favourites popping up in the film - one of which is the Horror Channel's own, Ms. Emily Booth.
HC: Have you all the funding in place or are you still getting that together?
PD: We are currently in the process of funding. It’s not an insanely large budget, but we are treating and preparing each segment not as shorts, but as features. The beauty with independent filmmaking is that we have the luxury not to rush. However, if all goes to plan we should be shooting early next year.
PD: And do you have any other projects in the pipeline?
HC: There are a couple of scripts I’m toying with, one is another horror romp and the other is a comedy. I’ve also done a bit of acting in between working on Habeas Corpus. I played a Michael Myers-esq serial killer in a short directed by Jen Moss. Only the concept is not quite what you’d think it is. You’ll have to see it though when it goes online. I don’t want to ruin it. And I also pop up in John Landis’ anticipated return to the big screen, Burke & Hare. Again, I can’t say what I did on the picture but I got to share a scene with an absolute legend of the genre. Was a wonderful experience and a real thrill to be directed by Mr. Landis.
HC: Paul Davis, thank you very much
Paul Davis will present Director’s Night on 30th September on the Horror Channel.