Interview with Paul Tanter director and co-writer of The Nights Before Christmas
By James Whittington, 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 the spire, be near people carrying a pane of glass, or go skating on iced-over lakes.

HC: Where did the idea for The Nights Before Christmas come from?

PT: Largely as a follow on from another Christmas horror we did called Once Upon a Time at Christmas. This continues the story of some of the same characters but it's not strictly a sequel as you can watch it without needing to have seen the first one at all. We hinted at the origins of Mr and Mrs Claus in Once Upon a Time at Christmas, how they met and took on these personas. The Nights Before Christmas grew out of that - it's a exploration of their past while continuing the story in a bigger and more exciting way with more blood, more kills, more elaborate deaths. They are such fun characters to create and write that I'd happily to an entire series of films with them.

HC: Did you and co-writer Simon Phillips have a set routine when writing, for example, did you work together in the same room or on separate scenes in your own homes etc?

PT: We forensically detailed the story on index cards on a wall for every single scene. Once we nailed that then we divided the scenes between us and wrote separately at home, then passed them over for the other to feedback/edit. It goes back and forth several times with edits being discussed, argued for/against and eventually the shooting script it ready. I've been writing for over ten years with Simon as my producer so we have a good system for notes. I think this is the first time we've properly co-written one together though.

HC: How did you go about casting the movie?

PT: Well the casting of Santa and Mrs Claus was a no brainer after their antics in Once Upon a Time at Christmas. Sayle De Goede is six foot tall in bare feet and combines a wonderful manic energy with a sweet innocence. Simon Phillips as Santa is an absolute hoot - a classic movie psychopath of viciously sadistic killer with a keen mind. Many of the other roles we cast with talented actors we had worked with before and a couple of the smaller ones went out to casting websites and we looked at audition videos.

HC: This isn't just a slasher movie as it's a very tense thriller and revenge drama, did you find it hard to balance each theme?

PT: Thank you, yes as we're essentially merging the slasher genre with a police/FBI procedural then you have to delicately balance the two. One of my favourite films is Silence of The Lambs which continually has you tense on the edge of your seat and that was an influence on the thriller side of things. Hopefully these serious elements balance out with the more outlandish aspects of the story.

HC: Do you have a favourite "kill" in the movie?

PT: I'm very partial to Mrs Claus being inventive with a stiletto in a particularly bloody and vicious kill. There's also one where Santa goes at a lawyer in a bathroom with a pruning shears that men will be squirming at. But my favourite is probably when Santa decapitates a slimy corporate boss. I love those 80's movie douchebag type characters - Walter Peck in Ghostbusters, Carter Burke in Aliens, Harry Ellis in Die Hard. When we were casting this I told Simon that people need to really hate this guy, he needs to be believable as an utter sh*t. He said to me; "Paul, I know exactly who should play this role." I think we cast that character perfectly and I love seeing his head taken off.

HC: You seemed to have shot the movie under difficult conditions, was it a tough shoot?

PT: The outdoor stuff was, for sure. Our first day was the ambulance convoy scene which was a logistical nightmare with six vehicles driving on snowy roads, aerial photography, several scenes with a lot of elaborate kills and Santa bring a tree down on one of the cars. We'd been praying for snow all week as it was yet to land but we were booked in to shoot in anticipation of a big flurry. Thankfully we woke to two feet of pristine snow, but driving and filming in it was challenging. Also standing in snow up to your knees tends to make your shoes and trousers very wet, so that added to the fun. But ultimately your discomfort is temporary and what you shoot is permanent so you crack on and get it. Operating a drone in sub zero temperatures is certainly challenging.

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

PT: Nervous and excited! I've been a fan of FrightFest for years now and I know there's a reason it's the UK's number one horror festival. It's an honour to be selected and we appreciate people choosing to watch our film when there's so many fantastic ones to choose from.

HC: There's a whole sub-genre of seasonal chillers, which is the best one?

PT: Hmm, if we're talking winter/snow bound then The Thing, Misery and The Shining would all be up there but if it's specifically Christmas then I'd definitely recommend people watch Rare Exports from Finland. It has a great spin on Santa.

HC: You're a prolific worker, has the pandemic allowed you to sit back and relax for once?

PT: It curtailed filming but not post-production, so I've stayed busy. We were shooting the second series of our vampire TV show Age of The Living Dead up to when the lockdown kicked in and just managed to wrap in time. Since then we spent the lockdown period finishing post on that and also on Stealing Chaplin, a Vegas-set black comedy inspired by a true story about two con men who dig up and ransom the corpse of Charlie Chaplin. Stealing Chaplin just got a UK theatrical release and Age of The Living Dead series 2 should be out early next year. The pandemic meant that all postproduction was being done remotely so actors were having to improvise makeshift recording studios for ADR in their closets. I also fitted in as much writing as possible - some scripts but also some writing for various film magazines. I'm looking forward to getting back to shooting things as soon as possible though.

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

PT: I can't say too much yet but there's talk of Santa and Mrs Claus returning to paint the town blood-red in a third Christmas instalment. Right now we're busy on a project called The United States of Horror where we are curating an anthology of short horror stories from each and every State in the USA. Each State's tale is linked to the State or intrinsically references it in some way. It's a celebration of horror filmmaking and we'll be launching a similar United Kingdom of Horror anthology very soon.

HC: Paul Tanter, thank you very much.

PT: Thank you too!

Interview with Adrian Langley, director of Butchers.
Posted on Tuesday 27th October 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...

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 ...

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.

Interview with Liam O'Donnell director of SKYLIN3S
Posted on Sunday 25th October 2020

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...

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...

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...

Hair scares, killer jeans, Santa slays and an invasion from above. Day 5 of FrightFest Digital Edition 2
Posted on Sunday 25th October 2020

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...

Interview with Adam Leader and Richard Oakes, co-directors of Hosts
Posted on Saturday 24th October 2020

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...

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...

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 ...

Interview with Lucy Harvey and Danielle Kummer, directors of Alien on Stage
Posted on Saturday 24th October 2020

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...

Interview with Marc Price, director of Dune Drifter
Posted on Saturday 24th October 2020
Marc Price

Marc Price, the guy who once made a movie for £50 (remember Colin?) is back and this time he's delivered a far-out sumptuous sci-fi flick, Dune Drifter. Here he chats about this amazing movie.

HC: Where did the idea for Dune Drifter come from as its very different to what you've done before?

MP: I'm a big sci-fi fan. It's a genre I've always felt quite close to. The storytelling tropes appeal to the way I enjoy structuring films. World building and character all in one explosion of information and behaviour is something I tried to do in Colin and it's something I've always found myself flirting with. Even in Nightshooters there was a degree of world building when getting across the ...

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