Exclusive Interview with James Moran, Screenwriter of Severance
By James Whittington, Monday 9th October 2006

ZONE HORROR: Have you always been a big horror fan?

Always, for as long as I can remember. Always been a movie fan, but horror stuck out as something I was particularly fascinated with. I was never allowed to stay up and watch the late, scary movie, so I tried to get my fix elsewhere, at friend's houses or if I was left alone in the house. At school we rented two videos every Saturday night, and we could get what we liked, so most of my horror education happened back then, between the ages of 12 and 17. I loved watching the TV shows that took you behind the scenes too, how they did the makeup effects, I used to tape them and watch them over and over.

Did you always want to be a writer?

Yeah, ever since I could hold a pen. I remember writing a story when I was 4, about a mouse getting the better of a cat, and the class enjoying it, and thought that was cool. I never thought I'd actually be able to make a career of it, but that it would always be a hobby. I was amazed to discover that people might actually pay me for it. I wrote short stories for most of my teens, then tried to write a novel, twice, but got bored with it - I hate having to describe every single thing: He walked into the dank, still room, dust motes dancing in the light from the window, pale ornaments on the mantelpiece etc etc etc. That's why I love scripts: He walks into the room. Bang, get on with the story. So I started writing scripts in my mid twenties.

An earlier script of yours won a competition ran by Sci –Fi, did this help you in getting an agent?

JM: Yes and no - yes, because I was about to give up writing, as I didn't think I'd get anywhere with it. Winning the competition made me realise that I might actually be able to get into the business, that it wasn't just a stupid dream. No, because as I've learned in this world, nobody will do anything for you. If you want an agent, you have to do the work and go and get one yourself. I thought they'd do everything for me, and of course they didn't, why the hell should they? So overall: yes. Sort of. Anyone who isn't totally confused now, please send in a postcard with the correct answer.

Severance is obviously an attack on business yuppie types? Did you have any experience of such people that made you write about them?

I've worked in a lot of offices, with a lot of petty, small minded people. It's a bit like school in a way, in that everyone there, at the time, thinks that what you're doing is THE most important f*****g thing in the world, when of course it isn't. They don't understand people who turn up, do the job, and go home at 5pm, they think you should spend every waking moment thinking about your work. It drove me mad - it's a job, I work there for money so that I can eat and have a place to live, we're not a family, you're not doing me a favour, it's employer/employee. One place I worked, when I left at 5pm, the office brown-noser would say "oh, leaving early are we?" No, I'm not, I'm leaving at 5pm which is the time my contract says I can leave, just because you stay till 8pm every night and pretend to work means nothing, I do my job and get my work done, that's all you pay me for. You can probably tell I'm still angry about those days.

The film has is a comedy/horror that works really well. Was it difficult to balance two very strong genres?

Extremely. There was actually more comedy in the first half originally, it was half and half, but we took a lot of it out during the rewrites, the shooting, and the editing, because it overbalanced things. So there's less comedy than horror. Not sure how that works, but it just did. Some really funny stuff had to be left out because it just tipped the balance too far. It's not a scientific thing, just a case of rewatching every new edit and seeing if it felt right. Our one rule was: no horror in the comedy, and no comedy in the horror. The horror was played totally straight, some of it becomes funny in a dark way (the bear trap scene), but not because we're making jokes, just because you can't believe things have gone so badly for the characters. Same with the comedy, we tried to keep it all realistic, no jokes, just amusing character situations.

Did the script change much from concept to execution?

Not really - it's the same story, same deaths, same plot, just tightened and shortened. The major additions were the framing sequence with the escort girls, and the playing up of the weapons company aspect which was only hinted at in the original draft. Chris spotted that and realised that we could have a lot more fun with it, so we worked it into the plot in a bigger way. I looked at the original draft I sold recently, having just rewatched the movie, and thought wow, this is way, way too talky! Seeing a script whittled down for shooting, and then trimmed in the editing stage, made me realise that it's not what you say, it's what you don't need to say. It's been an education.

Was any material taken out that you or any of the team deemed too much in the gore stakes?

JM: No, it's all up there on screen. Some scenes were trimmed down because they looked more realistic if you only got glimpses of the gore, and we wanted to keep it feeling as real as possible. Ironically, that made it feel much more gory and disturbing, as some of the full on gore shots felt too over the top and unreal. The longer a gore effect is on screen, the more you realise that you're watching a special effect - but if you just catch glimpses, you're thinking, oh shit, what was that, something terrible has happened. Having said that, it's pretty full on with the splatter when necessary. I'm surprised we got a 15 with no cuts, the BBFC are a lot more lenient and intelligent these days.

Did you have any input into any of the casting or the director? Were you happy with who was chosen?

They kept me informed of everything, but I didn't have any say really, which is fine, because I wouldn't have known where the hell to start. They showed me all the casting tapes, I gave my opinion, but that's ultimately down to the director and producers, which is as it should be in these situations. I think the cast is perfect, they took a long time finding the right blend of people, and it shows. I keep calling them by their character names, they're so good. Chris, the director, is an inspired choice, he brought so much to the movie. He loves his horror, knows the genre, respects it, and refuses to compromise on anything. I was worried in case they got someone who wanted to tone the violence down, but when I saw the "operation" scene in Creep, my worries disappeared. He's a sick, twisted man, thank God, and he did an amazing job, I couldn't be happier with it.

Danny Dyer is such a character in the movie and anyone who went to the Zone Horror FrightFest will know he’s a born entertainer. What was he like on set?

He's a total charmer, he really is, you think he can't be that entertaining 24 hours a day, but he is. He's always cracking jokes, swearing, telling outrageous stories, but when he's on the job he's a total professional. I really rate him as an actor, and think he's done amazing work in the movie. People always say "oh he just plays himself", but he doesn't, it's unfair to say that if you've seen what he pulls off in Severance. He's got a really light comic touch, and I reckon he should do more comedies and straight drama roles now he's shown what he can do given the chance.

Severance is you first major picture, what did it feel like to see your name on the credits and have you been able to leave your normal day job?

Honestly? I got tears in my eyes, and couldn't believe it was really happening. My first couple of days on set were surreal, and I actually cried one of the days, I was so happy - and partly because Laura Harris actually sounded like she was screaming for her life in the scene, so I got slightly freaked out. It's the best feeling in the world, seeing people creating something you wrote on paper. As a first time screenwriter, I'm not quite yet a millionaire, so I'm still 2 days a week in my dayjob, to pay the bills. The movie money let me go down to 2 days so that I'd have time to write, so hopefully soon I'll be able to do it full time. I've just sold my next script, and am working on that at the moment, but I need to get another writing gig before I can quite the dayjob. So if anyone wants to buy my next movie for 100 million, send in a postcard to the usual address.

What did you think of the whole Zone Horror FrightFest experience? Did many people ask for your autograph?

Fantastic. I've been going to FrightFest for a few years now, and never thought I'd be going with a movie to show. When I was doing the rewrites, before it sold, when I was nobody, before anyone knew about it, I always imagined how cool it would be to show the finished thing at FF - but never believed it would really happen. So it was a dream come true, especially the moment when I transformed from an audience member to a film maker, merely by stepping out of my seat and jumping on stage when my name was called. Between five and ten people asked for my autograph, it was my first time ever. It was bizarre, I didn't know what the first guy wanted at first, then I thought "oh my God, he wants me to sign the brochure, who the hell am I, I'm nobody, but here he is and he's a bit nervous, of me, but I'm nobody" over and over, ad nauseam. Because ultimately, I am nobody, I'm just a bloke, no better or worse than anybody else. It was a total buzz, I felt like a movie star or something. I love the FrightFest, and it's really cool of Zone Horror to get behind a home grown horror festival like that.

Do audiences from other countries react differently to British audiences when watching the movie?

I just got back from the Fantastic Fest in Texas, where we had two screenings. The UK audiences loved the movie, but the US audiences loved it ten times more, they really went for it. They got all the British-centric jokes, loved Danny, and their favourite bit was the plane gag (don't want to spoilt it if you haven't seen it). They seemed to embrace it even more for some reason, probably because they've been force-fed a lot of lame, PG-13 horrors lately, and appreciated an intelligent horror that didn't tone down the shocks.

Have you had many people all of a sudden want to be you friend now you’re a successful writer?

Not yet, but as a writer I don't get the same level of fame as actors or directors. Professionally it's done me a huge favour, I can get meetings in places I couldn't before, I have a certain respect because I have a screen credit, I'm a proven source of decent writing. But outside of the business, I'm completely anonymous, which I like just fine. I can still go to the pub without people coming up to me. The only people that do recognise me are the die-hard horror fans, and I'm totally cool with them coming up to me and chatting, because they're all about the horror rather than wanting anything. I've got lots of emails from people asking about the movie and writing, but none of them have tried to be my new best mate.

What top 3 tips would you give to budding writers?

JM: 1) Read lots of scripts, (early and late drafts if you can, for comparison), watch lots of movies, listen to writer and director commentaries, don't bother with books about writing that are written by anyone who hasn't sold a screenplay. Talent only gets you so far, you need to keep pushing yourself, fighting for it, you have to really really want it more than anything else in the world.

2) Write a lot, tear it apart, get friends to tear it apart, find people who will be BRUTALLY honest with you, and keep writing. You have several shit scripts you need to get out the way first, so you can get good. Rewrite and rewrite until you can't possibly do one more - then do two more. If it can't be seen on screen, don't put it on the page - don't describe how they feel, show it.
3) It can ALWAYS be shorter, faster, and less talky. Trim it.

I realise I've crammed more than three tips in there, but I'm a big cheat and I don't care.

What’s next for you?

Curfew, which is with Tiger Aspect and FilmFour - a London-set horror, gritty, nasty, and shocking. Two other things at the outline stage with other directors, one a horror, one a mystery/adventure/horror. One thriller that is nearly a completed outline. And a comedy spec script I've nearly finished, set in an office, surprise surprise. I'll need to do at least one more office-based thing to get it out of my system. I'd love to do some adaptations, my dream project is to adapt the Preacher graphic novel - if whoever has the rights is reading this, I'm cheap, fast, and bring my own packed lunches.

Also, I think you should have a monthly feature on Zone Horror where special guests come on and pick the evening's movies from your catalogue, introducing them and explaining why they influenced them, and so on. The guests could be anyone well known, or perhaps up and coming people in the horror movie business, perhaps new writers, maybe one who has recently had a horror movie released in the UK, just picking a random example off the top of my head…

James Moran, thank you very much

Arrow Video FrightFest cancels October Cineworld event midst growing COVID restrictions
Posted in Frightfest, Wednesday 23rd September 2020
FrightFest Digital Banner

Arrow Video FrightFest will go virtual for the second time in 2020, having taken the difficult decision to cancel its planned physical event at the Cineworld, Leicester Square. due to continuing COVID restrictions making the event socially, practically and commercially untenable. The digital edition will run over the same days, from October 22-25 October, and will combine the in-cinema and proposed Halloween digital event into one online festival experience.

Ian Rattray, co-director, said today: "It's with a heavy heart that we announce the cancellation of the Cineworld event. Although cinemas are not affected by the new hospitality rules, it was the tipping point in...

Horror Channel to present a Halloween double-bill of Corin Hardy's The Hallow and Ante Novakovic's Fright Fest.
Posted in Features, Tuesday 15th September 2020
Horror Channel Halloween social

October boasts eleven premieres on Horror Channel, including a hellish Halloween night double-bill of Corin Hardy's impressive Irish monster movie debut The Hallow and Ante Novakovic's rampant Halloween slasher Fright Fest. Both channel premieres will be broadcast on Saturday 31 October, at 9pm and 10.55pm respectively.

There are also four prime-time UK premieres: Demon chiller Firstborn, with Misfits star Antonia Laura Thomas, hashtag horror Selfie From Hell, the haunting, award-winning Echoes Of Fear and the pint-sized gold-digger is back in the sequel, Leprechaun Returns.

There are five further channel premieres: Pet, a twisted tale of obsession and ...

Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula to open Arrow Video FrightFest October 2020
Posted in Frightfest, Thursday 10th September 2020
FrightFest - October 2020 event - banner

Four years after Train to Busan was voted the most popular FrightFest Closing Night film ever, comes the hotly anticipated stand-alone sequel, Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula, which will open this year's Arrow Video FrightFest October event, courtesy of Studiocanal. The film will play on Thursday October 22, 6pm, across three screens at the Cineworld, Leicester Square.

FrightFest co-director Alan Jones commented: "Ask any die-hard FrightFester what their favourite ever Closing Night film was and they will say the fabulous Train to Busan. The continuous standing ovations, cheers and applause engendered by our sell-out screenings of that ins...

Interview with the legendary actress Lin Shaye about being part of The Horror Crowd
Posted in Frightfest, Interviews, Wednesday 9th September 2020
Lin Shaye and Ruben PlaLin Shaye is an actress that need no introduction. Her screen work over the last few decades has seen her appear in countless movies such as Nightmare on Elm Street, Critters or more recently the Insidious series of movies. Here she chats about her career and her why she appeared in Ruben Pla's superb doc, The Horror Crowd.

HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be an actress?

LS: No, I never had the dream. Ever. I had the need to tell stories and from a very young age and my dad, when he tucked me in a night we would tell what we would call "Candyland Stories" and they were stories about a little girl named Linda, and they would start when she was just falling to sleep...

The Walking Dead Delux gets six Charlie Adlard connecting covers
Posted in News, Wednesday 9th September 2020
The Walking Dead connected covers

Image/Skybound Entertainment is pleased to reveal a series of six highly collectible, connecting variant covers by Charlie Adlard, which will be unleashed over the course of the first story arc of The Walking Dead Deluxe full color editions. The iconic independent series that took the entertainment world by storm 17 years ago, The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman (Fire Power, Oblivion Song) and Charlie Adlard (Vampire State Building) will be reissued starting in October as The Walking Dead Deluxe and fully colored by Dave McCaig.

Deluxe editions of the series will also feature a variety of other variants including covers by David Finch, Tony Moore, Jul...

Dawn of the Dead "the zombie movie to end 'em all" rises again in Limited Edition 4K UHD and Limited Edition Blu-ray
Posted in News, Wednesday 9th September 2020

This Autumn, Second Sight Films presents the horror release to end all horror releases. Fans, aficionados and collectors are in for a treat as horror maestro George A. Romero's long-awaited, highly anticipated Dawn of the Dead, finally gets the home entertainment release it deserves.

Widely acknowledged to be one of the greatest horror films of all time, this seminal work has been painstakingly restored and arrives in two separate format releases: Dawn Of The Dead Limited Edition 4K UHD and Dawn Of The Dead Limited Edition Blu-ray on 16 November.

Both Box Sets arrive in stunning packaging featuring the original iconic poster art...

Look to the skies... in November for Mothra on Blu-ray
Posted in News, Monday 7th September 2020
Mothra cover

Eureka Entertainment to release Mothra, Ishiro Honda's stunningly inventive monster adventure-fantasy, on home video for the first time in the UK. Available on Blu-ray from 16 November as part of The Masters of Cinema Series in a Limited Edition set of only 3000 copies, featuring a Hardbound Case, 60-page Perfect Bound Collector's Book & Reversible Poster.

One of the most iconic Japanese kaiju, Mothra has appeared in over a dozen feature films. Presented here is her debut, a gloriously vibrant piece of filmmaking that forever changed how kaiju eiga would be produced in Japan.

Following reports of human life on Infant Island, the supposedly deserted site of at...

New label, Danse Macabre is coming soon
Posted in News, Saturday 5th September 2020
Danse Macabre

Jinga Films have announced the launch of their new distribution arm, Danse Macabre. Under the Jinga umbrella, Danse Macabre will be focused on the distribution of horror films in the English speaking territories, UK, Ireland, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Danse Macabre will also act as a horror sales sub-label within Jinga Films whilst Jinga itself expands to include a wider range of genres, including arthouse.

Much like Jinga Films, Danse Macabre is co-owned by Julian Richards and Rosana Coutinho. Julian was thrilled to confirm the news. "Danse Macabre will be the home for horror, run by horror fans for horror fans. We travel the world, select the best films and will br...

The Circus of Horrors is coming to town
Posted in News, Saturday 5th September 2020
Circus of Horrors

A gem of classic 60s horror and an early example of British exploitation cinema, Circus of Horrors will be released on Blu-ray for the first time, fully restored with new bonus content, courtesy of Studiocanal's Vintage Classics Collection on 12th October.

Starring Anton Diffring (Beast Must Die, The Man Who Could Cheat Death), Erika Remberg (Mord in Rio), Yvonne Monlaur (The Brides of Dracula), Donald Pleasence (Halloween) and directed by Sidney Hayers (Night of the Eagle) from a screenplay by George Baxt, Circus of Horrors, with its depiction of voluptuous scantily-clad women meeting violent and sadistic ends amidst the lurid backdrop of the circus, is considered to be the third f...

The Moorcock Library: Elric The Eternal Champion Collection
Posted in News, Saturday 5th September 2020
Elric book cover

Seminal sword and sorcery author Michael Moorcock weaves stunning blend of magic, heroism, and wonder as his legendary Eternal Champion Elric features in two rarely seen adventures, featuring artwork from legendary French artist Phillippe Druillet.

Based on Michael Moorcock's beloved original stories, through the brilliant artistry of James Cawthorne this book revisits and reimagines his iconic hero, Elric of Melnibone, nearly fifty years after his inception. Elric has been continuously in print since the 1970's, and has been a staple character in pop culture, having appeared in comics, album covers, song lyrics, and even role-playing games.

Essential reading for all fans o...

Interview with Steve Villeneuve, director of Hail to the Deadites
Posted in Frightfest, Interviews, Thursday 3rd September 2020
HailToTheDeadites-1FrightFest 2020 delivered some incredibly entertaining and informative documentaries. Hail to the Deadites from Steve Villeneuve is a celebration of the the Evil Dead series of movies and truly gets under the skin of what the franchise means to those who created it and those who are mega fans! Here Steve talks about this amazing doc.

HC: Can you recall the first time you saw an Evil Dead movie and what it was that grabbed your attention?

SV: I guess I was 13. I actually saw Army of Darkness first on television. Years later, spot the cover of Evil Dead 2 in a video store. Then, rent Evil Dead one without knowing it was the first film because here in Quebec, The Evil Dead is ca...
Interview with our very own Emily Booth who stars in UK TV premiere of Shed of the Dead this Friday on Horror
Posted in Interviews, Wednesday 2nd September 2020

The UK TV premiere of outlandish Brit Zom Com Shed of the Dead takes place Friday 4th September at 9pm. The movie stars Ewen MacIntosh, Lauren Socha, Kane Hodder, Bill Moseley, Michael Berryman, Brian Blessed and our very own Emily Booth. Here, Emily chats about this movie and what it was like to work with the legendary Michael Berryman.

HC: Are you a big zombie movie fan?

EB: If I'm completely honest it's not my favourite sub-genre within horror only because the genre has been so massively mined for all it's worth and I've never been particularly scared of them! However, there are certain stand out zombie films or even certain scenes that make me lo...

Articles Archive: 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006
Night Of The Big Heat
Saturday 26th September
6.35 PM
Thursday 1st October
9.00 PM
Friday 25th September
9.00 PM