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Interview with Adam MacDonald, writer and director of Pyewacket.
By James Whittington, Wednesday 28th February 2018
There have been a number of occult and demonic movies over the last few years but none have come close to the tension and terror of Adam MacDonald's Pyewacket. The superb piece of cinema is showing at Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow this week so I had a quick chat with Adam about this superior shocker.
HC: Have you always been a horror fan?
AM: It really started when I was about 7 years old when my older brother showed me Evil Dead. I couldn't believe what I was watching, it truly rocked me. The card scene in the film did not leave my mind for days. That film is stained on my brain. I was terrified. But then I had a realisation that I loved that feeling. It was primal. Then I watched The Shining and The Exorcist and was hooked. A friend of mine that lived down the street showed me Fangoria. You could say that it was my "comic book" I stared at those images for hours.
HC: What inspired you to become an actor?
AM: It was something that I always wanted to do. I loved movies so much that I wanted to be in them. It took a while for me to realize that it was something I could truly pursue. I finally did when I was about 20 years old in Montreal. My passion ignited.
HC: Where did the idea for Pyewacket come from and did it take long to write?
AM: I was searching for an idea after Backcountry. I was reading William Friedkin's biography and was reminded of his film The Guardian. I saw that film in the theatre!! I then watched it a few times in the early nineties on VHS. I loved it. I hadn't seen it since then. So I watched it. There is a great scene where the nanny gives the baby stuffed animals. She names one of them Pyewacket. It just hit me how great that name was. Everything stemmed from that name, It was such a moment of inspiration. I've been wanting to do something with the occult and it all just fit. I took some elements from my own and saw the whole movie like a lightening bolt. It took a month to write, I was a man possessed!! I first wrote an outline and showed some friends including Vitoria Sanchez(the producer of the film) to get some feedback. The feedback was great so I went for it.
HC: Was it written with a cast in mind (who, by the way, are really superb)?
AM: They are aren't they!!! I'm so grateful for all the actors. Nicole and Laurie are incredible, they just put their heart and soul in it, a director could not ask for more. When I was writing the script I kept seeing Laurie as the mother! But I didn't think we would get her for the movie, but fate stepped in and a chance meeting at TIFF in 2016 made it happen. It was absolutely incredible.
HC: The effects are very subtle and yet so effective, were they difficult to realise?
AM: I was fortunate to have David Scott (who also did Backcountry with me). He and his team were great. I really wanted to NOT CUT away when she cuts herself during the ritual. David and his team worked their magic and made it happen. I personally believe it's more effective when its subtle, maybe for some it feels more realistic and not over the top. You nearly always see a bone sticking out of a leg when someone breaks it. I feel it's much more effective when the skin is stretched in an unnatural way from the bone break but the bone itself hasn't broken the surface of the skin.
HC: This is only your second feature, what directorial errors did you learn from your first movie that you made sure you didn't make with this one?
AM: That's a great question. To be honest I learned so much from my short films and made some mistakes there so when I did Backcountry I wasn't gong to repeat them. So essentially I wanted to carry that mentality into my second film. Which is, no matter what, to not let MYSELF comprise my own vision for the film.
HC: It's a slow-burner of a movie that really does get under your skin, was this feeling hard to achieve?
AM: I use what scares me. Lying in bed at night in the dark and imagining something/someone "sitting" in the corner of the room by the wall and ceiling sends goosebumps down my spine. It's tricky because you hear "do you have enough time to create mood?" I think so. It's like a roller coaster. It's so exciting when you climb up in anticipation to the big release, climbing is the tension. Our mantra was ambiguity, we know something bad is going to happen but not HOW or exactly WHEN - that's scary or how much is this "thing" a threat, what is it going to do? Like being in the ocean and you know that there is a Great White shark the water with you but you don't know where. Plus I'm a huge fan of J-Horror, those films are a huge influence in me for sure. They use silence in such a powerful way.
HC: Did the cast have much rehearsal time as you feel a real connection with them?
AM: No not that much. Nicole and Laurie formed a bond by spending a lot of time together before shooting, which I encouraged. They developed a relationship, which is priceless when they are playing a mother and daughter. I trust them, they built their characters, and they gave them the foundation that they needed to play. (ha ha! Well I did ask Nicole to listen to Death Metal and Black Metal and she did one better by going to a concert!!)
HC: How nervous do you get when your work shows at festivals?
AM: I'm always a little nervous. You work so hard and put your heart and soul into a film and you hope it resonates with people. So many talented people worked on it and you want it to connect. I truly respect the audience and want them to come away with something. I want to give them how I felt when I first saw The Ring. That's the dream.
HC: Which do you prefer; writing, directing or acting?
AM: Directing is what I prefer most. I feel completely in my element. It definitely lends itself well to how I think. Writing is the hardest of the three; writing can be very lonely but extremely gratifying when you finish a script. Nothing happens without that script. I spent night after night writing Pyewacket in the dark on my couch listening to Smashing Pumpkins, HIM and Lords of the New Church etc.
HC: So, what are you working on at the moment?
AM: I have few things on the go. An announcement will be made soon. I'm sorry, I wish I could say more. All I can say is I couldn't be happier. Very exciting.
HC: Adam MacDonald, thank you very much.
AM: Thank you.
Pyewacket will be released via digital HD April 16th and DVD April 23rd.
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