ARTICLES

LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS

Interview with Chris Smith, director of Triangle, Black Death and Detour.
By James W, Monday 30th January 2017

Chris SmithAhead of the UK premiere of his latest film Detour at Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow, Chris Smith tells us the importance of FrightFest, his love of 'film Noir' and his hatred of reality TV...

HC: FrightFest has premiered all your genre movies Creep, Severance, Triangle, Black Death, except Get Santa obviously. Is this positioning an important part of the roll-out process for you?

CS: Firstly let me apologise for being away for so long and thank you for having me back. I wrote 'Get Santa' because I'd just had a son and was feeling like I wanted to do something that he could watch in the next 15 years. I expected the film to take a year to come together but it ended up taking four years. My son was by that time old enough to come to the premiere with a few of his class mates. Back to the question, FrightFest is extremely important, not just to me personally, because it's always an honour, but it's important to the birth of the film. The FrightFest audiences are the first people to see it, the first to comment on it and it's nice that they're such committed fans. Putting a film out there, freeing it from the confines of the edit suite is exciting, but also scary. FrightFest, because of the audiences passion and knowledge of genre, make the process what it should be, fun.

HC: What was the main inspiration for the Detour script? Many have commented on its multi-narrative Sliding Doors-style vibe. Complicated to write the two sides of one story?

CS: Sliding Doors and Run Lola Run both came out the same year. I must admit I was never inclined to watch Sliding Doors, but I know that, like Run Lola Run, it deals with the concept of different destinies being forged by blind change. Though actually neither of these films were an inspiration for Detour, which came about by chance. It was early 2007 and I had just finished writing Triangle and was in LA trying to finance it. I'd liked the film Disturbia, which had been a big hit and so for about three months Hollywood was trying to make Hitchcockian thrillers. An exec came to me and said she'd like to cook up a modern version of Stranger's on a Train. I think my brain was so wrapped up structurally from writing Triangle, that instead of two characters deciding to murder each other's wives, I cooked up one character, seemingly facing two destinies, based on one moral choice: To kill or not to kill? Was it complicated to write? Certainly not in comparison to Triangle but it offered different challenges. I was really keen for the characters to shine through more than I'd achieved in Triangle, and this is tricky because you're asking the audience to question the narrative, rather than simply immersing them in a classical structure, and then you're also hoping they feel empathy for the characters. That is the main challenge for any film that makes you aware of the film making process.

HC: Detour is full of film-noir references, from the Harper poster on the wall to the clip from the 1945 B movie classic Detour by Edgar G. Ulmer. What is it about the film-noir idiom you like?

I've always loved Film-Noir. I think it is, or rather was, the cornerstone of indie cinema. These are films often made often on the cheap and yet always brimming with colourful characters, taut story lines, and scenarios where a happy ending feels impossible, instead of inevitable. The film that has always had the biggest effect on me is Fritz Langs' The Woman In The Window. My film Detour is arguably more influenced by that, than the Ulmer movie that we reference in the film and borrow the title from. That said, both films contain a character who crosses a line and finds that the forces that drove him there, and the company he now keeps, will never let him free again.

HC: A great cast of new and up-and-coming stars - Tye Sheridan, Bel Powley, Emory Cohen. You certainly know how to pick them, Eddie Redmayne in Black Death for example. Is it a knack?

CS: Liam Hemsworth got his first role in Triangle also. Is it a knack? I don't know. To me if you can't see that those actors are talented you're in the wrong job. When I got the audition tape from Liam Hemsworth I literally walked it around the office with my jaw dropped showing people. It was so glaringly obvious this boy was a movie star. It was the same with Eddie and all three of the leads in Detour. Tye Sheridan's performances in Joe and Mud were electric. Emory Cohen lit up every scene he did in The Place Beyond The Pines. With Bel Powley it was a little different because I met her having seen nothing. The rumour mill was reporting that she was fantastic in the film The Diary of a Teenage Girl but none of us had seen it The casting director loved Bel and the financier was happy to cast her on what he had heard, so I met her blind. We got on immediately; I thought she was so cool, funny and smart that I basically cast her on the spot.

Detour Image 2

HC: Great chemistry between the three leads - was it there from the beginning, or did it evolve gradually?

CS: It was there from the beginning I think but the little choices we made in prep helped it along. We scheduled well so that we did all of the scenes in the house first; just me and Tye and Stephen Moyer. That gave us a real foundation so that when Emory and Bel joined the film, at the end of the first week, we were already working like a well-oiled machine. This gave me more time to concentrate on them, but their instincts were so good that there was very little in the way of notes.

HC: Great solid anchors by Stephen Moyer and John Lynch too, whose maturity contrasts with the young cast on purpose?

CS: Absolutely. They're the grown-ups but they still have their own problems and in some way are more immature than the younger characters. I think they're both great in the film.

HC: Detour was shot in South Africa. How was filming there?

CS: It was shot mainly in South Africa but we also spent a week shooting in LA and Las Vegas. I love South Africa, it's a wonderful country, with great crews and so it was a no brainer to shoot it there to help with the budget. It also looks just like California.

HC: You've said the lighting owes a lot to Edward Hopper's paintings? Can you elaborate?

CS: Me and my designer joke that all feature films are either Edward Hopper or Carravagio. Film-makers use either artist as their inspiration, either consciously or unconsciously. With Hopper the emphasis is on framing and production design. With Carravagio the emphasis is on using practical lighting and contrast. This film is a Hopper.

HC: It's a film you want to watch again the moment its finished to see if you can catch all the clues and mis-directs you didn't see the first time? Do you consciously like to manipulate your audience?

CS: I'm a huge fan of Kiarostami. I'm drawn to film-makers that make you question the film-making process. Lars Von Trier is another I greatly admire. Everything about film-making is fake and the film-makers' job is to make you forget this, but there's pleasure in being reminded too because it makes you engage in an entirely different way. I can't watch reality TV. It's ridiculous. The one thing it's not is reality. You see survival programs where someone is walking across the Sahara desert. Is he going to make or die of thirst? Give me a break! Behind the camera there's 20 camels packed full of water for him, the camera crew, the sound man, the medic, the fixer, the camel shepherd and the camels. There's probably a helicopter standing by. I like stories where we acknowledge this deceit and try to make a feature. If you still feel tension when you are simultaneously acknowledging the artifice of the process, then I think you're doing something good.

HC: And finally, what's next for you?

CS: I'm working on a horror movie about a serial killer called The Judas Goat and a thriller called The Undertaker. Hoping to shoot either of them by the end of the year.

Detour is showing at the Glasgow Film Theatre on Saturday 25th February, 4.30pm as part of Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow 2017.


Related show tags: BLACK DEATH, TRIANGLE
MORE INTERVIEWS
Interview with Ezequiel Endelman and Leandro Montejano, the creative forces behind Crystal Eyes
Posted on Saturday 15th September 2018
Ezequiel Endelman and Leandro Montejano

FrightFest 2018 exposed attendees to horror from all over the world and one that made an incredibly stylish and retro impact was the superb giallo inspired shocker, Crystal Eyes. Here the co-writers and co-directors Ezequiel Endelman and Leandro Montejano tell us all about this affectionate love letter to the classics of the 80s.

Where did the idea for Crystal Eyes come from?

Crystal Eyes was supposed to be the third episode of our web-series called No Podras Dormir Esta Noche (You Won't Sleep Tonight) which paid homage to different horror sub genres in each episode, and eventually it turned into a feature film. We love Giallo si...

SHARE: READ MORE
Exclusive interview with Adam Green, director of Hatchet.
Posted on Thursday 13th September 2018
Adam Green director of Hatchet

Ahead of Horror Channel's UK TV Premiere of Hatchet on Friday 14th Sept, director Adam Green gives an exclusive interview about his beloved franchise and what the future holds for Victor Crowley...

Hatchet is finally getting its first showing on UK TV, courtesy of Horror Channel. We're excited, are you?

I couldn't be more excited! I've always said that even though Hatchet may have world premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in NYC, it was at FrightFest in London where "Victor Crowley" was truly born. FrightFest was "the screening heard around the world" and the UK audience was so enthusiastic over Hatchet that every genre festival on t...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Tom de Ville, director of Corvidae
Posted on Wednesday 5th September 2018
Tom de Ville director of Corvidae

HC: This is your first short as a director, what inspired you to write this script?

TdV: I read a really interesting article about how smart crows are, in particular how they can hold grudges. Apparently a group of scientists had gone out and harassed a murder of crows whilst wearing masks. If they went back wearing the masks, the crows would remember them and fight back. If they didn't wear the masks, the crows would leave them alone. This made me start thinking about what would happen if someone tried to save a crow from a bunch of kids who were trying to kill it. Would the other crows from its murder remember this? And what would they do to help her?...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Stewart Sparke, director of Book of Monsters
Posted on Wednesday 5th September 2018
Director Stewart Sparke watches a scene

HC: Your last movie, The Creature Below was two years ago, what's life been back since then?

SS: Since The Creature Below premiered at Frightfest in 2016 things haven't really stopped for myself and my collaborator Paul Butler. We were lucky enough to have the film released on DVD and VOD in over eight countries under various names. I think my favourite has to be Japan's Leviathan X: From the Deep! The film even had a theatrical release in Taiwan which was quite surreal as it was playing opposite Thor Ragnarok over there so overall, we've been completely blown away by everything that's happened. Paul and I are always coming up wit...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Ferdinando D'Urbano actor, writer, producer of The Laplace's Demon
Posted on Tuesday 28th August 2018
Ferdinando D'Urbano - Director of Photography Producer COL

A stand-out movie from FrightFest 2018 tested the brain power of those who saw it. The Laplace's Demon is an incredibly powerful piece so we chatted to one of the creatives behind it, Ferdinando D'Urbano.

HC: I'd never heard of Laplace's Demon theory before, can you give us a quick explanation of what it is?

FDU: The Laplace's Demon is a philosophical theory of the early 1800s. Pierre Simon Laplace was a French mathematician who in his work "Essai philosophique sur les probabilites" (A philosophical essay on probabilities), theorized that if there were an intellect capable of knowing al...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Andre Gower director of Wolfman's Got Nards
Posted on Monday 27th August 2018
Wolfman's Got Nards

HC: You had already starred in a lot of stuff before The Monster Squad came along, did you think that this was just "another" acting job?

AG: At the time, it was just that. The next audition, the next project. However, once on set and seeing what you were a part of, we realized quickly that this was something bigger and more unique than anything we had done before or may even get to do in the future.

HC: Were you a fan of the Universal monsters at that time?

AG: I always had an appreciation for the classics even as a kid. As you mature, you keep that appreciation and learn more about it and how it affects the present and realize these were very important...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with John Rocco and Abiel Bruhn the writers and directors of The Night Sitter
Posted on Sunday 26th August 2018

HC: Where did the idea for The Night Sitter come from?

JR: From the beginning of this story, I had my childhood home in Nashville in mind as the perfect location. After several months of convincing, my parents allowed us to film in their house. It's a pretty amazing feeling to have grown up in the same location that we'd eventually film our first feature in! We were able to incorporate all the parts of my house that used to scare me as a child and weave them into a story about witches, which was extremely fun and nostalgic at times. While developing the story, I tried to recall the scary thoughts I had when I was Kevin's age.

AB: Finding an inspiring location (the house has this stran...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Joanne Mitchell, director of Sybil
Posted on Sunday 26th August 2018
Joanne Mitchel Image 4

One of the best things about FrightFest is the Showcases of Shorts which is the way to catch undiscovered talent and unique ideas. Joanne Mitchell has been in the entertainment industry for a few years but has just directed her first piece, Sybil which is showing at FrightFest today.

We decided to chat to her about this amazing and disturbing piece as well as he plans for feature films.

HC: Have you wanted to direct for a while?

JM: To be honest I hadn't really thought of directing until Tracey (Sheals) sent me an email with her idea for Sybil. And I really liked the story and thought this would make a great short film and possibly a feature in the fut...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Michael Mort creator and director of Chuck Steel Night of the Trampires
Posted on Saturday 25th August 2018
mike Mort Director of Chuck Steel

HC: Where did the character of Chuck Steel come from?

MM: I came up with the character of Chuck Steel in 1985 when still at school. I used to doodle this square jawed action hero in my English book when I should have been concentrating on the lesson. Over the years he developed a bit as I drew him in various adventure scenarios, usually involving monsters of some kind. I made a Super8 short film with the character when I was experimenting with animation and I also made a college film featuring Chuck a few years later. These were basically just Chuck fighting monsters for 10 minutes or so but I was learning about how to construct scenes and action as I went. Later in my animati...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Sam Ashurst director of Frankenstein's Creature
Posted on Saturday 25th August 2018

HC: Why did you choose to film James Swanton's acclaimed play, Frankenstein's Creature?

SA: I made a music video for Channel 4, and they gave me a small budget to shoot it in a day. The budget was small enough to raise independently, and I looked around me and realised I had all the crew I needed to shoot an actual feature film, not just a music video - if only I could shoot a film in a day! Then my friend Dan Martin, who did the effects for films like Human Centipede II and Freefire, said that he'd been given advice that if you want to shoot a film in a short space of time, you should option a play. I'd worked with James on another, much smaller thing, and was blown away by his talent....

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Chris Collier, director of FrightFest: Beneath the Dark Heart of Cinema
Posted on Saturday 25th August 2018
Chris Collier director of FrightFest doc

FrightFest is one of the most famous festivals in the world. The team of Alan Jones, Ian Rattray, Paul McEvoy and Greg Day ensure that everyone who attends, from guests to punters get the best experience they can from it.

But what do they really think of each other and what really goes on behind the scenes? A new documentary from Chris Collier has given the team the chance to talk candidly about the festival and each other. Here he tells us how FrightFest: Beneath the Dark Heart of Cinema came together.

HC: Can you recall what it was like at your first FrightFest and what attracted you to attend in the first place?

CC: Back in 2009 I recorded a...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Jon Knautz director of The Cleaning Lady
Posted on Friday 24th August 2018
Jon Knautz director of The Cleaning Lady

HC: What made you decide that your short film The Cleaning Lady would work as a feature?

JK: Actually we had already written the feature before we made the short. We wanted to make a proof of concept to see how people reacted and to try and raise some awareness of our feature script. It was also a great way to experiment with the tone of the film, so we would be ready to tackle the feature.

HC: How did you and co-writer Alexis Kendra work on the script?

JK: Alexis and I had written several scripts together already so we had our system down pretty good at that point. We start by smoking cigars and just brainstorming for a while... then even...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interviews Archive: 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006
PICK OF THE WEEK
Bed Of The Dead
BED OF THE DEAD
Tuesday 25th September
9.00 PM
AE: Apocalypse Earth
AE: APOCALYPSE EARTH
Saturday 29th September
6.40 PM
Miami Magma
MIAMI MAGMA
Saturday 22nd September
6.45 PM