The FrightFest Discovery Screen contained some real gems this year.
One of the stand- out pieces was Errors Of The Human Body written and directed by Eron Sheean.
Eron had co-wrote another FrightFest favourite The Divide so we decided to have a quick chat to him about his latest work.
HC: Have you always been a fan of horror cinema?
ES: Yes, as far back as I can remember I was drawn to it. I used to ride my BMX into town where there was a great deal, ten weekly VHS tapes for five dollars, so I used to load up on them. Mum was very worried about meâ€¦ I was fascinated how Horror Films could confront taboos in our society.
HC: I first became aware of your work a couple of years back when I saw The Divide at FrightFest. Thatâ€™s an incredibly powerful piece; did it take long to write?
ES: The concept comes from an original script called Shelter by Karl Muller. I then worked with Xavier (Gens) on adapting the concept into a new screenplay. It was our antidote at the time to 2012 – that Disney version of the end of the world. There was a lot of development through the shooting of the film because of improvisation and the luxury of shooting in continuity. Often we would shoot all day, then go to the hotel bar and start working on altering scenes for the next day, knowing that ideas had popped up during that day that could be built on. This is a wonderfully collaborative way to make a film, making the actors part of the writing process and greater commitment to their characters. In the end the development and writing process did take a long time because it was an ever-evolving beast.
HC: What did you think of the film, did it stick rigidly to your script?
ES: In so far as the plot and character motivations and twists it stuck close to the script. The characters changed here and there because on the chance to shoot in continuity and improvise. There was a whole sci-fi back-story with the children and the Hazmat’s but it was watered down over time and some stuff was cut from the film. For me it was more interesting concentrating on the character ensemble than the sci-fi plot in the end.
HC: Let’s come up to date with Errors Of The Human Body which is your first feature, what can you tell us about the plot?
ES: I had a short film in Berlinale in 2006 and I met a scientist who was one of the directors of a preeminent genetics lab in Dresden. He was the brother of my cinematographer Anna Howard. I was always interested in science as subject matter so the institute invited me as an artist for 3 months to learn what they were doing – three months turned into 6 years – I was back and forth to the institute over this time trying to settle on an idea for a feature film that could be set in this real world location. There were so many interesting directions you could go and the more I learnt about their research the more I realized that trying to write the film was like trying to adapt an epic novel. The film is about a molecular biologist that moves to Dresden to set up a new lab after getting into some trouble at his old lab in Boston. There he’s reunited with an old flame and she reveals a revolutionary discovery she has made involving axolotls and the ability to regenerate damaged tissue. Then everything turns weird!
HC: How did you go about casting the movie as it’s interesting to see Rik Mayall back in the horror genre?
ES: Well the lead was Michael Eklund who played Bobby in The Divide. He plays a very different character in Errors – a rather conservative internal scientist where as The Divide he plays a reckless immature sociopath – however, both characters go through an extreme transformation. In The Divide he brought sympathy to Bobby even though the character becomes pretty despicable, that made me realise he could also do the same for Geoff Burton, who also does some pretty extreme things in the story of EOTHB. It was important for me that he brought an underlying sympathy and humanity to the role. As for Rik, he had worked with the producer on a previous film and thought he could make an interesting, unexpected Samuel – more politician than scientist. He also brings some humour to the role and a sense of fun and unpredictability.
HC: It seems to have a very washed out, subtle palette of colour, was this to give it an unusual slightly surreal touch?
ES: I’m not sure it’s washed out, it’s more austere in the beginning which is in keeping with the style and locations, story and Geoff’s state, but as the film goes on all these things evolve and so too does the style and look of the film. In other words, it becomes more surreal as Geoff losses grip on one reality and has to face another, himself.
HC: The film contains a very serious tone, what was the atmosphere like on set?
ES: It is serious in tone, yes, but it’s also not without a warped humour, well at least I find some of it funny. That’s mostly to do with other characters and some of the absurdity of situations. It was a difficult shoot because it was low budget, and we were shooting in the middle of winter in Dresden and it could get brutally could, and that’s hard on a crew and cast. But in the end everyone worked their ass off and I made a lot of friends!
HC: It’s being compared to the early work of David Cronenberg, that’s quite a compliment, wouldn’t you agree?
ES: Yes, it is. I suppose it’s unavoidable the film would be compared because it deals with science and scientists and the body as a lot of his early films did. I was aware that some comparisons would be drawn simply based on that fact, but in Errors I’m really concerned with the human story ultimately and the sci-fi/horror is the capsule around the pill.
HC: What advice would you give to someone who wants to make their first horror film?
ES: I think you have to develop something that is achievable on a low budget and use the resources around you to maximise the quality of the film. For instance, Errors was developed with the location in mind so I knew where I would be shooting and how to maximise the production value. I would also say that make sure you idea is really about something and not just an excuse to explode some headsâ€¦
HC: So what else are you working on at the moment?
ES: Too many things! Little scattered to be honest, but there are a few scripts that are starting to come to life.
HC: Eron Sheean, thank you very much.