LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS
Interview with Chris Smith, director of Triangle, Black Death and Detour.
By James Whittington, Monday 30th January 2017
Ahead 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.
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 FRIGHTFEST Interview with Julien Seri, director of Anderson Falls
Posted on Tuesday 18th February 2020
Ahead of the UK premiere of serial killer thriller Anderson Falls at Arrow Video FrightFest Glasgow 2020, director Julien Seri reflects on this, his first 'American' experience, challenging fight scenes and the importance of personal vision.
It has been five years since we premiered Night Fare at FrightFest London, what have you been up to since then?
JS: I worked on two, very singular, projects as a producer and/or director. I signed for both with Wild Bunch, but we've failed to produce them yet. So I keep fighting. And I did a lot of commercials, TV series and music videos.
When did you first hear about the Anderson Falls script and why did you think it was perfect for yo...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Adam Stovall, director of A Ghost Waits
Posted on Sunday 9th February 2020
Ahead of the World premiere of A Ghost Waits at Arrow Video FrightFest Glasgow 2020, director Adam Stovall reflects on getting through depression, creating paranormal romance and the influence of Tom Waits...
You have an interesting CV - from comedy theatre and film journalism to writing for The Hollywood Reporter and second assistant directing. Was all this a game plan to becoming a fully-fledged director?
AS: I've known since I was a little kid sitting in the basement watching the network TV premiere of Back To The Future while holding my Back To The Future storybook and waiting for them to premiere the first footage from Back To The Future 2 during a commercial br...SHARE: READ MORE Arrow Video FrightFest announces Glasgow Film Festival 2020 line-up
Posted on Thursday 16th January 2020
Welcome the transgressive, the traumatic and the terrifying as Arrow Video FrightFest, the UK's favourite horror fantasy event, returns to Glasgow Film Festival for a 15th fantastic year, from Thursday 5 March to Saturday 7 March, 2020.
Thirteen is lucky for some as that's the number of new films being presented at the iconic Glasgow Film Theatre, embracing the latest genre discoveries from around the globe, spanning four continents, including one world, two European and seven UK premieres.
Alan Jones, FrightFest co-director, commented: "Welcome to another banner FrightFest and another invitation to explore the horror fantasy genre's fertile harvest bursting with creativity, ...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Cameron Macgowan, director of Red Letter Day
Posted on Friday 1st November 2019
FrightFest 2019 exposed a lot of new talent in the movie industry and one of the stand-out pieces was Red Letter Day from Cameron Macgowan.
HC: Where did the idea for Red Letter Day come from and did it take long to write?
CM: I have long been a fan of the 'Humans Hunting Humans' subgenre of film (Battle Royale, The Running Man, Hard Target, etc.) and was inspired to set one of these films in what many people consider the 'safe' location of the suburbs. Suburban communities feel like the perfect setting for a horror film as you can walk for miles without seeing a single soul all while knowing that you are surrounded by many people. This mixed with a desire to satirise the current socio-political climate ...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Carlo Mirabella-Davis, director of Swallow
Posted on Wednesday 30th October 2019
Ahead of the UK premiere of Swallow at Arrow Video FrightFest Halloween, director Carlo Mirabella-Davis reflects on the personal inspiration behind his feature debut, healing psychological wounds and his empathy for the genre.
HC: Swallow is your directorial debut. How difficult was it to get the project off the ground?
CMD: Getting a film made is a fascinating process. My late, great teacher at NYU, Bill Reilly, would always say "script is coin of the realm". The early stages involved perfecting the screenplay as much as I could, writing and rewriting until I felt confident sending it out. The sacred bond between the producer and the director is the catalyst that brings a film into being. I ...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Paul Davis, director of Uncanny Annie
Posted on Wednesday 16th October 2019
Ahead of the International premiere of Uncanny Annie at Arrow Video FrightFest Halloween 2019, director Paul Davis reflects on working for Blumhouse, bemoans attitudes to British genre film funding and reveals the movies that inspire him the most...
HC: Tell us how Uncanny Annie came about?
PD: Uncanny Annie is my second movie for Blumhouse as part of Hulu's Into The Dark movie series. I had the opportunity to actually kick off last October with a feature adaptation of my short film The Body (which had its world premiere at FF in 2013). The concept was to release a movie a month, for twelve months, with each revolving around a holiday or particular day for the month of its released. With The Bod...SHARE: READ MORE Arrow Video FrightFest announces line-up for Halloween 2019 event
Posted on Thursday 3rd October 2019 Arrow Video FrightFest continues on its highly acclaimed and hugely successful Twenty Bloody Year rampage with a fear-packed journey through Halloween traditions, religious deviance, unstoppable maniacs, warped fairy tales, terrifying board games and the very rules of horror themselves.
The popular Halloween all-day event returns to the Cineworld Leicester Square on Saturday 3 November and the 12-hour monstrous marathon embraces four UK premieres, one European and one International premiere.
The day kicks off with the European Premiere of Josh Hasty's Candy Corn. With an impressive all-star genre cast (including Tony Todd, who exec-produces), an innovative iconic killer...SHARE: READ MORE FrightFest favourite A Good Woman is Hard to Find coming to cinemas and HD
Posted on Thursday 26th September 2019
Directed by Abner Pastoll and starring Sarah Bolger, Edward Hogg, Andrew Simpson and Jane Brennan the superb thriller A Good Woman is Hard to Find will be released in Cinemas and Digital HD on 25th October.
Written by Academy Award nominee and BAFTA winner Ronan Blaney, the movie closed FrightFest 2019 to much acclaim this crowd-pleasing and violent kitchen-sink revenge thriller is a dark and daring journey through Northern Ireland's criminal underbelly.
Recently widowed mother of two Sarah (a tour-de-force Sarah Bolger) is desperate to know who m...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Evan Daves star of Porno
Posted on Friday 30th August 2019
In the bizarre and gruesome comedy/horror Porno, Abe, played by Evan Daves is a burgeoning pervert with a guilty conscience who works in a cinema and ends up battling a demon! Here, Evan tells all about this gory story. (Headshot - Matthew Murphy)
HC: How did the role of Abe in Porno come about?
ED: I had the audition come in through my agent. Adrienne Stern, the casting director, is great; she actually cast me in my first movie when I was 13, a comedy called "Harold" starring Cuba Gooding Jr. Since then she's always been kind enough to bring me in for projects that I'm right for. When I saw her name in the breakdown I knew it would be a wacky, cool project - she has a great eye for that stuff...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Sara Garcia, star of True Fiction
Posted on Friday 30th August 2019
FrightFest 2019 was contained some of the best psychological thrillers we've seen in a long time. One of the finest was Braden Croft's True Fiction which boasts incredible performances from John Cassini and Sara Garcia. We chatted to Sara about her role of lonely librarian, Avery Malone.
HC: Did you always want to be an actress when you were growing up?
SG: I've always been a performer. As a child my parents encouraged my artistic side through dance classes, singing lessons and after school performing arts programs. When I was very young, I dreamed of being a singer and as a grew older I gravitated more towards the dramatic arts. I didn't seek acting out as a profession until later in life. I fel...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Fernando Alle, writer and director of Mutant Blast
Posted on Thursday 29th August 2019
One of the wildest and most bizarre movies of FrightFest 2019 was Fernando Alle's gore-splattered sci-fi inspired feature, Mutant Blast. Here, he tells us the story about making this crazy piece of celluloid.
HC: Regular FrightFest goers will know you from your pieces Banana Motherf**ker and Papa Wrestling, why has it been so long for Mutant Blast to come along?
FA: I started making this film in 2012, and it has indeed been far too long. I figured that making a feature film would be 10 times harder than making a short film, but in fact it is at least 100 times harder. I am glad I was naive, because otherwise I would have cut a lot of stuff from the script and the film would not have turned out ...SHARE: READ MORE Interview with Chad Archibald director of I'll Take Your Dead
Posted on Wednesday 28th August 2019
Chad Archibald has been behind a number of FrightFest favourites in the past including Bite which is showing on Horror in September. With is latest movie, I'll Take Your Dead wowing audiences at FrightFest we chatted to Chad.
HC: We last spoke a few years back about your fabulous movie, Bite, I loved it, and would you consider a Bite 2?
CA: I would love to do a Bite 2 if there was enough demand for it. Bite was the most fun I've had making a movie and I think if we made a second, we would just amp it all up. More goo, more gore, more laughs. I've got tons of ideas already so it's never off the table.
HC: Where did the story of I'll Take Your Dead come from?
...SHARE: READ MORE Frightfest Archive: 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 PICK OF THE WEEK
Thursday 27th February
Sunday 1st March
Monday 2nd March