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Interview with Adrian Langley, director of Butchers.
By James Whittington, Tuesday 27th October 2020
FrightFest-Halloween-2020

Butchers is a superb piece of horror cinema from Adrian Langley. Here he chats about this grim and gruesome piece and his plans for the future.

HC: Where did the idea for Butchers come from?

AL: Butchers came from two of Daniel Weissenberger's old screenplays - he writes a lot - and I remixed them with some ideas that had been kicking around in my head after having read those scripts a long time ago.

HC: Did it take long to write?

AL: Not at all. Because Dan's scripts were so full already, the initial working draft only took about two weeks to put together and then I did a lot of rewriting during the prep process to streamline it to what we could shoot, and shoot well.

HC: There's some very subtle moments of humour, such as the quick discussion about vegetarians, was it hard balancing that and the darker moments of the movie?

AL: I don't think so. When humour is dry and unintentional, it can fit right into a horror film. I have a dry sense of humour myself and most of it comes through Simon Phillips' Owen character and his sense of humour and timing is perfect.

HC: Was it all shot on location and if so, what challenges did that bring?

AL: It was all shot on location in the middle of a very hot summer, so insects, heat and vegetation were a problem. The vegetation I'm referring to are wild parsnip - the sap inside it is very dangerous - and poison ivy, so it was a constant challenge to have to move around all that and shoot in the forest and fields.

HC: The cast are very natural in their roles; did they have much rehearsal time?

AL: We did a lot of rehearsals. It's one of the things that indie producers can and should do a lot of. All of the character decisions and their arcs were all worked out ahead of time. So, when it came to filming, it was just executing those decisions we made in creative prep.

HC: Simon Phillips is superb as Owen, he brings a real sense of danger to his role, did he stay in character at all or could he just turn this on and off?

AL: Simon can turn it on and off like a switch, but the "on" switch is "action" and the "off" switch is "cut", meaning that once action is called be doesn't break character. No matter what you throw at him during the take - improvisations, changes, whatever - he doesn't lose it.

HC: The movie is filled with detail and atmosphere and the sound mix compliments this perfectly such as the subtle use of fly buzzing. Did that take long to get right?

AL: My sound designer Howard Sonnenburg and I have been working together for many years and he knew to go out and record as much of the sounds as we could during the filming process and during post-production. Then we really dug in and took our time with it. To me, sound is fifty-one percent of the picture and I get very meticulous about it, so you could say it took a while.

HC: The effects are squirmingly good, were they all done in camera?

AL: Everything was done in camera. There were two moments where we had to shoot two sections of the frame in the same set-up - almost like a split screen - but there was no digital blood or any of that stuff.

HC: "A Good Man is Hard to Find" is used quite a lot here, when did you first hear that, and did you consider any other tracks for the film?

AL: That song was so perfect for the film, nothing else could have come close. I originally heard the Bessie Smith version from 1927 and loved it, but then discovered the original 1919 version and it had a more sadistic tone being so phonographic. There's a feel to those old recordings, in both their orchestration and vocal styling, that's very creepy, and it carried with it some sadistic humour in its cheery contrast which I really like.

HC: Will you be nervous when the movie is shown at FrightFest?

AL: Absolutely, but in a good way, and also very excited. Especially that both Simon Phillips and Michael Swatton are British, and my co-producer Doug Phillips (no relation to Simon) is from London.

HC: So, what are you up to at the moment?

AL: At the moment, I'm plotting and scheming my next film. Hopefully, I can get back to FrightFest.

HC: Adrian Langley, thank you very much.

AL: You're very welcome.


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