David O’Donoghue broke into director Gerard Lough’s house, to carry out an interview ahead of Night People‘s world premiere at the IFI Horrorthon Film Festival.
What particular sci-fi or horror films, styles and directors influenced Night People?
The film has a lot of influences. It’s kind of a strange mix really! Anthology series like The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents were definitely a big part of it. For anyone like me who grew up in the ’70s or ’80s they definitely had a big impact. Also, the New Romantic music scene was a big influence. If anyone one film influenced Night People though it has to be Tony Scott’s The Hunger (1983).
What was it that prompted your use of the anthology-like story-within-a-story style?
Definitely those anthology series. But also I was interested in the idea of tall tales and urban legends. We’ve all known urban myths we associate with out towns and with our people. I even remember on the playground when I would hear urban myths about films- like everyone involved in The Exorcist died or maybe it was Poltergeist or The Omen, they could never quite get it right. But I think urban legends are very interesting and so I tried to use these hyperlinked stories in the film
The film has a number of topics that are very important in public debate at the moment: the economy, property and sexuality. Do you intentionally draw on these themes to create powerful cinema?
The recession is all around us; we’re particularly badly affected here in the northwest. In some ways you can’t avoid it. But also there was an element of convenience to it. A lot of the story is set in a vacant house and there are plenty of those around here in Donegal. I’m not a political filmmaker but I do think I was saying something about my country in my own way. Still ambiguity is useful and more interesting to me, even if it can be tricky.
Do you feel making sci-fi or horror films makes it more difficult to produce a film due to prejudices against genre films?
Initially, I didn’t think so. But as I’ve gotten more involved in filmmaking I definitely have noticed something I might call ‘genre snobbery’. You’ll go to a production company and as soon as you say your film is a sci-fi/ horror they say “no, it’s not for us”. There is definitely a certain snobbery because Irish films can be so focused on social realism and historical films. In my case though, I just don’t care about genre, I want to make a good film. I’ve heard some people talk about an ‘Irish New Wave’ shedding new light on genre films – I don’t know about that but wouldn’t it be great!
A large portion of the film was filmed around your native Donegal. Did you enjoy capturing your own area on film?
I think there are definitely a lot of places in Donegal that are really unusual and isolated and that there are places so great you could shoot a Michael Mann film or even Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings. For example, the beach that is used in one of the stories in the film. We only discovered the place, just a while up the road, shortly before filming and we found all these wonderful caves which ended up in the film. I love to shoot the real thing. It’s sitting there on your doorstep so why not shoot it right there. I really enjoyed giving the area a sense of perpetual twilight, misty and dark almost like a noir film.
What’s next for Gerard Lough?
Really I’m just focusing on this film now, taking care of it. I’m anticipating the premiere and how the audience will react. They say a premiere is almost like giving birth in public. In the future though, I would love to do something based around the New Romantic music scene. It was such a brief thing, it really only lasted from 1980 to ’81, but it was so interesting. I love the style and the sound of it.