LATEST | FEATURES | INTERVIEWS | NEWS | FRIGHTFEST | REVIEWS

Interview with Chris Smith, director of Triangle, Black Death and Detour.
By James Whittington, 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 FRIGHTFEST
Interview with Adrian Langley, director of Butchers.
Posted on 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...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Andrew Thomas Hunt, director of Spare Parts.
Posted on Tuesday 27th October 2020
Spare Parts

FrightFest is all about the diversity of movies, none more so than Spare Parts from director Andrew Thomas Hunt. This superb mash-up of gladiator-style fighting and a scorching soundtrack is desitined to become a cult classic so we chatted to Andrew about this movie.

HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to work in the film industry?

AH: I did - from the age of 16. I was a huge fan of David Cronenberg's films, and when I discovered that he was not only from Toronto, but made his films here, it made me realize you didn't have to be from Hollywood to make movies.

HC: How did you become attached to this wild project?

AH: It was pitched to me at TIFF (Toronto Int'l ...

SHARE: READ MORE
And the winner is... Benny Loves You!
Posted on Monday 26th October 2020

The winner of the FrightFest Horror Channel First Blood Award 2020 is... Benny Loves You!

Here, Channel Manager Stewart Bridle chats to its very talented director, Karl Holt.

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Liam O'Donnell director of SKYLIN3S
Posted on Sunday 25th October 2020
skylin3s-poster

FrightFest Digital Edition 2 concludes tonight with an out-of-this-world premiere, SKYLIN3S. Here its writer and director Liam O'Donnell talks about this and the other entries in this sci-fi series.

HC: You've been involved with the Skyline series of movies from the start, where did the initial idea come from?

LD: Initially the idea just came from, we were sort of do it ourselves film makers and I had been living in the building we ended up shooting in. We had already been illegally shooting on the rooftop helipad for a pitch that we were developing and when Greg's (Greg Strause, director of Skyline) unit on the top floor and he walked in and saw this big, expansive view of LA...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Paul Tanter director and co-writer of The Nights Before Christmas
Posted on Sunday 25th October 2020
The Nights Before Christmas-poster

Prolific creative Paul Tanter has delivered a real treat for FrightFest pass holders today, the blood-splattered shocker, The Nights Before Christmas. Here he chats about this cracker of a movie.

HC: Have you always been a fan of the horror genre?

PT: Absolutely. One of my first cinema memories is my dad taking me to see Fright Night in 1985 and there being a promotional pack of vampire teeth on every seat. I was five at the time so I'm not sure how he snuck me in there, considering it's rated 18. I grew up watching The Omen films, in parts enthralled and terrified by them. I still can't pass that church in Fulham without keeping an eye on ...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Simon Phillips, star and co-writer of The Nights Before Christmas
Posted on Sunday 25th October 2020
The Nights Before Christmas-poster

Seasonal slashers are once again coming into vogue but none as brutal as The Nights Before Christmas. Here, its star and co-writer Simon Phillips tells all about this movie.

HC: Did you know from a young age that you wanted to work in the film industry?

SP: I don't know if I ever was sure I was going to be in the film industry but as a child I sure liked talking a lot and my teacher once shouted at me "They'd better pay you to talk when you grow up, because you sure like the sound of your own voice"... So perhaps it was always on the cards!

HC: Are you a fan of horror movies?

SP: To be honest they terrify me... not the o...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Elza Kephart, director and co-writer of Slaxx
Posted on Sunday 25th October 2020
SLAXX_Elza_(C)photoB-Calmeau_0125FrightFest is all about originality and new talent and 2020 has been a belter of a year for such things. Slaxx from Elza Kephart is a prime example of the new and exciting creative talent that's out there at the moment. We chatted to Elza about this superb shocker.

HC: Are you a big horror movie fan?

EK: Yes, huge! I started my horror adventure when I was a pre-teen, reading Agatha Christie, R.L. Stine, Christopher Pike, Anne Rice. If there wasn't a death I wasn't interested. From that, I migrated to horror films; when I was about ten, I watched Aliens, the Fearless Vampire Hunters, Exorcist 2. I might have been a little too young, I remember being re...

SHARE: READ MORE
Hair scares, killer jeans, Santa slays and an invasion from above. Day 5 of FrightFest Digital Edition 2
Posted on Sunday 25th October 2020
slaxx-poster

We reach the final day of FrightFest but what awaits us will ensure that the event ends not with a bang but with an alien invasion!

It's always exciting when new creatives release work and The Stylist from Jill Gervargizian is no exception. Everyone dreams of being someone else... but for Claire that dream goes from an obsession to a living nightmare. Her job as a hairstylist allows her to move through other people's worlds, but when the right target sits in her chair, she does more than observe the client's life - she ends it, and keeps a permanent souvenir. Her lonely life, meticulous method and shocking secrets are suddenly thrown into turmoil when her regular client, Olivia, asks her to s...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Adam Leader and Richard Oakes, co-directors of Hosts
Posted on Saturday 24th October 2020
hosts-poster

Hosts is a dark, brooding and sinister movie from two very talented creatives, Adam Leader and Richard Oakes. Here they chat about this outstanding movie.

HC: Have you always been fans of this genre?

AL: Yes, the first film I ever watched was the original Nightmare on Elm Street when I was eight years old. That turned me on to the horror genre, and since then I became absolutely horror obsessed. Every weekend, my dad would take me to the video store, and I'd choose the most messed up movie I could find for him to rent for me.

RO: Yes, coming from a family with a sister 7 years older than me, I was always fascinated by the films her and her friends used to watch. I walked in...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Barry Keating, writer of Embryo
Posted on Saturday 24th October 2020
Barry Keating at NIGHTWORLD on 25/08/2017Barry Keating is a scriptwriter who has had quite a number of movies at FrightFest over the years. He's back with another shocker for 2020, this time the truth might be out there in Embryo. We chatted to him about this sci-fi chiller.

HC: We show another of your movies on Horror, Nightworld, what's it like writing a script, which has horror legend Robert Englund in it?

BK: When I found out they'd cast Robert in the role that was a very surreal day. At first I didn't quite believe it, but when the producer forwarded a message from Robert to me saying that he really dug the script I completely geeked out. I'm a hug...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Patricio Valladares, director of Embryo
Posted on Saturday 24th October 2020
Embryo image 1

Chilean director Patricio Valladares is back at FrightFest and this time he's taking us into the science fiction zone with Embryo. Here he chats about working with Robert Englund on Nightworld and this sci-fi shocker.

HC: Have you always been a fan of horror and sci-fi movies?

PV: Yes, from my childhood, my old brother watched Jason Voorhees and A Nightmare on Elm Street film series at home with a couple friends in the 80s. So, I always went from the bathroom to the living room at night to watch from behind the sofa with them. I Loved it! I liked the ultraviolence and gore from Robocop. When I was 14 or 15 I was a metalhead, so I had lots of tapes of death metal and a lot of low ...

SHARE: READ MORE
Interview with Lucy Harvey and Danielle Kummer, directors of Alien on Stage
Posted on Saturday 24th October 2020
alien-on-stage-poster

FrightFest always has a fine selection of documentaries showing, but none have touched hearts like Alien on Stage. This warm and loving look at an amateur stage production of the classic movie Alien has been placed in the running for the Horror Channel sponsored First Blood award so we chatted to directors Lucy Harvey and Danielle Kummer about this wonderful project.

HC: How long have you worked together and are you fans of the film, Alien?

We met working on a no budget British indie film in 2006 (I think) both working for free. Danielle was a camera trainee, I was the costume stylist. It was like going through a war together, it cemented our friendship and Danille...

SHARE: READ MORE
Frightfest Archive: 2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 | 2014 | 2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007
PICK OF THE WEEK
The Devil's Candy
THE DEVIL'S CANDY
Thursday 20th May
9.00 PM
Resident Evil: Retribution
RESIDENT EVIL: RETRIBUTION
Tuesday 11th May
10.50 PM
Flatliners
FLATLINERS
Tuesday 18th May
9.00 PM