Interview: Jeremy Lovering, director of ‘In Fear’

in-fear

David Prendeville discovers what exactly is In Fear as he chats to Jeremy Lovering about his new film set in rural Ireland, which recently opened the IFI Hororthon and goes on general release on Friday.

Jeremy Lovering is in buoyant form and so he should be. His terrific, intensely claustrophobic new horror In Fear has just opened this year’s IFI Horrorthon to a rapturous response, an experience which Lovering says he ‘loved’. The film follows a young British couple, Tom and Lucy, who travel to an unspecified area in rural Ireland for a music festival. However, Tom’s decision to bring Lucy for a romantic night in a hotel before the festival, leads to strange, sinister events. Despite following the road signs correctly the couple find themselves lost and unable to find the hotel. As night and darkness hits, the couple encounter even stranger things- visions of a man in a mask, giant trees falling, their possessions disappearing and then reappearing in strange places. Just who or what is the cause of these things? And what is the purpose of this strange game?

 

Despite the film being set in rural Ireland, it was shot in England. Lovering cites a ‘benign version’ of the story that he experienced while visiting Sligo to research a documentary on the famine some years back as the reason for the film’s setting. In the real life incident Lovering ended up driving around in a circle for twenty minutes as the result of a practical joke played on people in search of house with a history of extreme violence. While Lovering laughs at that incident now, he notes the ‘primal fear’ it instilled in him at the time and how that juxtaposition of practical joke and violent threat inspired him with the story for this film. He also acknowledges that he initially wanted the film to be set in a completely nameless area so as to emphasise the universal nature of the film’s themes but ultimately decided that the audience ‘needed context’.

 

Context is something that Lovering deprived his actors of while shooting, in the sense that he refused to tell them the story and instead shot chronologically, feeding them pieces of information bit by bit, or not at all. There are moments in which you can see real fear in the eyes of the actors because they were genuinely afraid and found the events unfolding in front of them every bit as unexpected and shocking as the audience do. How did Lovering come to the decision to shoot the film in this way? ‘I always wanted to do it like that. I wanted to shoot a horror film like a drama. There are certain expectations and provisions in shooting a horror film but I’m scared when I’ve forgotten that something is a film, when it feels real I’m scared.’ The improvisatory nature of the film coupled with the fact that its action is confined largely to a car and a forest at night time would strike one that it must have been a difficult film to shoot. Lovering had no such concerns however: ‘I absolutely loved the shoot. I love being in the forest. It was tough, we had a minimal crew and I had to think constantly, but I loved it. The producers were amazing. There was a lot of trust and faith. Various executives came down and had fun. If an actor improvises, the crew improvises. We have to jump to the next moment and I loved that’.

 

The realistic nature of the film’s aesthetic and approach to performance is not the only subversion of the horror genre that one encounters in In Fear. In contrast to a lot of other recent horror films there is a distinct lack of gore and the film is instead focused on a build up of threat and tension rather than the release of extreme violence or torture. Was this a deliberate tactic deployed by Lovering or was it something that came about organically from the nature of the story? ‘ It was absolutely my intention’ says Lovering; ‘ I told my cast and crew that if at one end you have Saw and at the other end Knife in the Water then we are somewhere in the middle.’ When violence does occur in the film it’s messy and unpleasant – ‘ I wanted to portray violence as pathetic. We can really do without it. That is terribly important to me. I’m interested in the consequences of violence’.

 

In Fear joins a list of edgy, interesting horror films to emerge from Britain in recent years, such as Kill List and Berberian Sound Studio. Does Lovering feel there is something of a renaissance happening in terms of low-budget horror films in the UK? ‘In England audiences look for films with a psychology. They don’t do straight genre in England, they do elevated genre. That’s why there is probably an opportunity for films like Kill List and Berberian Sound Studio, which are elevated horror, to get made there. The same films probably wouldn’t get made in America, for instance.’ Lovering ponders the question once more before chuckling: ‘So yes, I suppose you could say there is a renaissance.’

 

You get the impression that Lovering is a man who really cares about the medium he is working in. He is interested in genre and in subverting it. You also got a strong impression he is a man who is deeply interested in the human condition and likes to work a strong human element into his work. When I ask him what his plans for the future are and whether he plans to remain in the horror genre for his next film he responds by saying, ‘At some point I’d like to do something lighter. I suppose it depends on your personal sense of mortality. Something with more of a happy ending perhaps. At the moment I am writing a psychological thriller. I like the dark side, the human ache. I will always be drawn to that’.

 

Whatever it is that Lovering tackles next, it is something which horror fans and cinema fans alike, would be advised to keep a keen eye on.

David Prendeville

 

In Fear opens in cinemas on Friday, 15th November 2013.

 

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IFI Horrorthon: The Final Day of Reckoning

big-bad-wolves

This year’s Horrorthon draws its dying breath with Monday’s menu of mania. The day kicks off with a selection of short stabs of horror, including The Gloaming set in Ireland, 1849 during The Great Famine. As a church bell tolls and the gloaming descends, a father and son working the land are forced to confront an ancient evil.

The festival closes with Big, Bad Wolves (pictured), a stylish and complex revenge thriller about a grieving father and a rogue cop who team up to ‘interrogate’ the man they believe responsible for a series of murders.

Don’t look behind you…

Monday’s Menu of Mania:

SHORT FILM SHOWCASE
Monday 28th October 2013
11.00

VIDEODROME
Monday 28th October 2013
13.15

THE STATION
Monday 28th October 2013
15.05

JOHN CARPENTER’S CHRISTINE
Monday 28th October 2013
17.00

ANTISOCIAL
Monday 28th October 2013
19.10

BIG BAD WOLVES (CLOSING FILM)
Monday 28th October 2013
21.00

 

View the fill programme here (PDF)

Tickets for Horrorthon are available now from the IFI Box Office on 01 679 3477 or online at www.ifi.ie

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IFI Horrorthon: Fight the Fear

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IFI Horrorthon 2013 (24 – 28 October)

Shock, after shock, after shock. The Horrorthon bleeds its way into the weekend with a Saturday of shock and suspense.

 

Giallo stalks the IFI today with Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s follow up to Amer. The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears will thrill all those that like their sensory violence served up in style.

 

Plus there’s Irish director Rob Kennedy’s debut feature Midnight Man, which reminds us not to mess with the bogey man. [You can read our Spotlight feature on the film here.]

 

And there’s Army of Darkness – enough said.

 

Embrace the fear…

 

Saturday’s Shocking Schedule:

 

JASON AND THE ARGONAUTS
Saturday 26th October 2013
13.00

HANSEL AND GRETEL GET BAKED
Saturday 26th October 2013
15.05

THE STRANGE COLOUR OF YOUR BODY’S TEARS
Saturday 26th October 2013
16.55
DISCOPATH
Saturday 26th October 2013
19.00

ODD THOMAS
Saturday 26th October 2013
20.45

MIDNIGHT MAN
Saturday 26th October 2013
23.00

DEAD OF NIGHT
Saturday 26th October 2013
22.45

ARMY OF DARKNESS
Saturday 26th October 2013
22.55

 

View the fill programme here (PDF)

Tickets for Horrorthon are available now from the IFI Box Office on 01 679 3477 or online at www.ifi.ie

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IFI Horrorthon: The Nightmares Continue

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IFI Horrorthon 2013 (24 – 28 October)

The nightmares continue at the IFI as they celebrate all things horror with a fearsome Friday feast of films. Among the highlights are Éric Falardeau’s Thanatomorphose (pictured) that’s guaranteed to have you in bits and Chastity Bites, John V Knowles’ horror comedy that brings the infamous “Blood Countess” Elizabeth Bathory up to date.

For fans of classic horror there’s F.W. Murnau’s 1922 silent classic Nosferatu to look forward to plus a double bill of George A. Romero’s landmark Night of the Living Dead and his 1982 horror anthology film, Creepshow.

Sleep well…

 

Friday’s Knife Weilding Programme:

THANATOMORPHOSE

Friday 25th October 2013
13.10

THE BORDERLANDS

Friday 25th October 2013
15.10

CHASTITY BITES

Friday 25th October 2013
17.00

DELIVERY

Friday 25th October 2013
18.55

NOSFERATU

Friday 25th October 2013
20.30

DARK TOUCH

Friday 25th October 2013
20.45

DOUBLE BILL: NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD & CREEPSHOW

Friday 25th October 2013
22.30

GOLDBERG & EISENBERG

Friday 25th October 2013
22.50

THE APPARITION

Friday 25th October 2013
23.00

 

View the fill programme here (PDF)

Tickets for Horrorthon are available now from the IFI Box Office on 01 679 3477 or online at www.ifi.ie

Win tickets to Sunday’s screening of The Battery here

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Spotlight: Midnight Man

 

When a young girl innocently and playfully attempts to summon the mythical Midnight Man, events backfire as she discovers he is instead a terrifying figure bent on tormenting her. Paul O’Sullivan watches Midnight Man alone in the dark and chats to Irish director Rob Kennedy about his horror debut feature, which screens as part of this years IFI Horrorthon.

 

“Why do you like to be scared?” In the opening scene of Rob Kennedy’s Midnight Man, Alex explains to her friend Lauren the pleasures of a good scare: “Your heart races; your hair stands on end; your palms get sweaty. Like a rollercoaster. Or a bungee jump: the chord is there to protect you while you taste the fear, and when you bounce back to safety you get this tingly rush of relief.” Alex is obviously talking about the pleasure of a good scary movie, and I find the metaphor apt, because ten minutes in and my legs are tied, the rope is fastened, and I feel confident that my guide is in control. I dive in.

The plot of Midnight Man, like any good horror film, remains simple throughout, and never interrupts the carefully crafted tension and suspense. Alex (played by Philippa Carson) is a college graduate who at the bequest of her mother must spend Halloween night taking care of her feeble granny (Dorothy Clements) who suffers from Alzheimer’s. However, Alex has a penchant for giving herself a scare, and when she discovers a mysterious old box in a hidden corner of the house, her excitement clouds her sense of caution and she unleashes something that is more than she bargained for.

The film is based on an urban legend – not unlike the Bogeyman – that involves a game whereby the participant must spend the hours after midnight alone in the dark, armed with nothing more than a candle and some salt. The object of the game is to avoid the Midnight Man – only after you yourself invite him into the house.

One of the pleasures of Midnight Man is that it provides one with the opportunity to re-embrace the childhood fears that have long since been replaced by the banal, real-world fears of adulthood. I was reminded of my very own childhood torment, an invention of my grandmother’s, the ominously named ‘funny man.’ This malevolent figure with a disturbing double entendre in his name, kept me from straying upstairs while I was in my granny’s care. But every once in a while curiosity got the better of me and I would climb a step or two only to cautiously retreat again before the funny man sensed my presence. In Midnight Man, Alex not only climbs the stairs, but does so backwards and with the lights out.  However, and to my glee, her grown-up confidence and boldness are soon shattered when all manners of hallucinatory horrors befall her.

This return to childhood fears corresponds with the film’s more prevalent theme: the fear of growing old. As director Rob Kennedy explains, “one of the reasons I always felt that the old crone or witch in fairy-tales and horror movies was so scary was because she was a reminder of the decay of old age – particularly from the point of view of a child – and we’re afraid we’re going to turn into that monster. I also thought The Midnight Game was, in many ways, a good metaphor for dementia or Alzheimer’s. It traps you in a fixed period of time where the people you love and trust the most become strangers and your mind conjures your deepest, darkest fears, and Alex actually says something along those lines in the film.”

The action of Midnight Man takes place in a single location. It’s a set-up that works well in the horror genre, and in this case it gave Kennedy the chance to add more body to the fear and isolation of the old age trappings. “I think the single location is a double bonus for horror films. On one hand, it’s just a lot easier from a low budget, restricted schedule perspective, and on the other hand, it works in the film’s favour because it traps the characters and, hopefully, the viewers. And the best horror films make you feel trapped.”

With influences such as William Castle, Wes Craven, and John Carpenter, Kennedy aligns himself with the old-school horror directors, and was vehement in his disapproval of CGI. “I don’t think I’m alone in saying I absolutely hate CGI in horror films  – unless it’s absolutely necessary for something fantastic and far removed from our everyday experience, like a spaceship. When I see CGI for a monster, or blood, or fire, or even weather EFX in movies it pulls me right out of the experience and I think, “Oh, CGI.” Obviously CGI has its uses, but for me, when watching horror films, the only CGI I want to see is CGI titles; preferably at the end.”

“I think Midnight Man is a true audience movie and I want fans to be able to sit back and enjoy an old school horror film that doesn’t lean on gore for scares and has some humour too.”

I asked the director if he had any more projects in the works. “I like to keep moving so I have written another feature since Midnight Man wrapped, and I’m in the fortunate position of trying to choose between moving forward on that or going back to a screenplay from 2011, which was a quarterfinalist in the Academy Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting.”

“Also, I’m excited to announce we’re actually developing a US remake with Cassian [Elwes] and our American executive producers now.” But in the meantime, Rob will be heading out to Los Angeles to oversee the printing of Midnight Man in preparation for its premiere at IFI’s Hororthon on the 26th of October.

 

Midnight Man screens at the IFI on Saturday, 26th October 2013 at 23.00 as as part of IFI Horrorthon 2013 (24 – 28 October).

http://www.ifi.ie/film/ifi-horrorthon-midnight-man/

 

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Triskaidekaphobia

Let Me In

Well that was… nice. Something of a strange reaction to have at the end of a festival that delights in inflicting gross acts of inhumanity within and without the fourth wall, but such was the creature that was Horrorthon 2010. Was it a lucky 13th year for the festival that dripped blood? In retrospect, the answer would be in the affirmative.

Having shrugged off a case of mid-decade malaise, Horrorthon 2010 stuck to its formula of new releases + revival screenings + offbeat gems + b-movies = win. This year, festival organiser Ed King built on the success of last year’s varied bill, but you might be forgiven for thinking the genre as a whole was losing its lust for undeath. For the first time it seemed as if ghosts, vampires, ghouls and other familiar creatures of the night making only the most cursory of appearances. For the second year running you might be forgiven for thinking that Asian horror was a passing fad as France continues its domination of nihilistic extreme cinema.

Also conspicuous by their absence were revival screenings celebrating the likes of Tobe Hooper, George A. Romero, John Carpenter (whose new movie The Ward was hotly tipped to be the surprise film) and Wes Craven – although Dario Argento’s Phenomena, Ed Wood’s Plan 9 from Outer Space and Tim Burton’s biopic of same covered that territory nicely. Then again there may have been external factors at play, with the Screen putting together its own, somewhat more predictable, programme running concurrently. Oh and the IFI were good enough to let people in with their drinks through the miracle of plastic cups.

So what of this year’s movies themselves? Maybe it’s the desensitisation writing but there wasn’t an awful lot you could actually consider scary. Such are the tropes of the horror genre that it’s the way they are played with, rather than originated, that is the hallmark of the picaresque. Bearing this in mind, it could be said there was very little one could consider very ‘new’ and hence genuinely ’scary’. If one film was conspicuous for its absence, perhaps for reasons not unrelated, was Srdjan Spasojevic’s A Serbian Film – perhaps the only title this year guaranteed to shock, enrage and push IFCO to draw a further line in the sand following its decision to uphold the ban on the original I Spit on Your Grave.

Of the opening double-bill on the Thursday night, Paranormal Activity 2 proved ample, but it was French zombie flick The Pack that proved a more interesting, if hardly shocking, alternative. Featuring a cast of regulars including Emilie Dequenne (Brotherhood of the Wolf), Philippe Nahon (Seul Contre Tout) and Benjamin Biolay (more known for his Hollywood soundtrack work than his acting) – this pseudo-gothic Western has undead miners, deviant bikers and a one-horse town setting that thinks it’s more Deep South than Loire Valley. For the latter element alone it’s worth a look.

While the Friday delivered sureshot revivals of Carrie and Night of the Hunter, an unlikely highlight was Nico Mastorakis’ infamous Island of Death. A victim of the video nasty scare, that the action elicited more chuckles than screams says a lot about how effects work and social mores have moved on. Working to some kind of gameplan to cleanse the Mikanos of perverts, English crazies Christopher and Celia go on a kind of serial killer busman’s holiday, making the most of local hospitality (and livestock) before tearing into a local cast of seedy painters, unashamedly camp shop keepers, hippies and a policeman sent to track them down. The mini-twist at the end falls just on the right side of ridiculous to engender it with some amount of charm amidst the grisly shenanigans.

On hand for a brief post-screening Q&A, Mastorakis described his writing process: trying to come up with the worst kind of violence and sexual perversion, then making a script out of them in a weekend. An unashamed piece of schlock made for money over any interest in genre, Mastorakis struggled to explain to the audience that he saw no redeeming worth in the movie and was influenced by Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre only as a benchmark for how far he could go. There were a few serious questions but they fell flat with Mastorakis, clearly taken aback by how seriously some elements in the audience took his film. One audience member asked which character he should be identifying with. On such moments are great anecdotes made.
Aside a short film competition, there were few features of Irish interest this year. The ever-enigmatic October Eleven Productions’ Blood got a late screening on Sunday night, but it was a UK/Ireland co-production that attracted an almost full house on Saturday.

Made for a paltry €300,000, Spiderhole was the first feature shot in Ireland to use the RED camera (beating Savage by a full three months). As torture porn goes it’s not a terrible film, either. Shot between London and South Kerry, the production values are good and the plot zips along. The kills (or rather the order they happen in) may be telegraphed, and their manner a little contrived, but it’s an efficient little number.

The primetime 9pm Saturday night slot was reserved for the ‘brutal in a good way’ remake of I Spit on your Grave – widely regarded as being an effective remake with extra gloss. The more adventurous did well, however, to give German survival horror Siege of the Dead (aka Rambock) a go. Without giving too much away, it’s about how to handle the end of a relationship and the end of the world at the same time.
Sunday’s main talking points were surprise movie, Let Me In (in a good way) and the Giallo homage Amer (in a really, really bad way) – the latter scoring a record number of walkouts.

The Monday represented probably the strongest day of the event, yielding four must-see movies in the shape of documentary Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and Video Nasties, Killer Klowns from Outer Space, Red Hill and grand finale, Monsters.

One of the better documentaries about that period in the 1980s when video libraries were controlled by wide boy traders, Video Nasties… examined the culture of the time and the hysterical reaction of evangelical groups in their attempts to control the kinds of material on the market based on their own personal tastes and mores. Director Jake West balances interviews with academics, filmmakers and the political players to paint a portrait of a time when an unregulated market led reactionary moralists and print media on a crusade against material they found distasteful, and therefore evil. West’s achievement is to nail down exactly what made the nasties so compelling, but best of all, he gets interviews with the establishment players responsible for passing legislation banning the ‘nasties’. What’s most interesting is the degree to which those involved consider their stance to have been vindicated over the course of time. As an objective examination of a revolutionary time in the history of home entertainment it makes for fascinating viewing. One wonders if we’ll be seeing similar material about the spectre of piracy apparently threatening to eradicate the entertainment industry as a whole.

Back to narrative cinema and Australian revenge thriller Red Hill merged the traditional High Noon-esque idea of the killer coming to town, with the relentless brutality of Dead Man’s Shoes. Ryan Kwanten plays the part of a new cop in a small town with a secret. It’s hardly new but a series of set pieces and a villain who’s a lot more complicated than initially given credit for give the film more than passable.

The final film of the weekend was, arguably, it’s strongest. Not due to hit Irish cinema until December, Monsters is a genre film unlikely any other of recent years. Taking its cue from District 9, Monsters is another take on intolerance, where aliens are ghetto-ised and ‘civilised’ society shuts up shop lest it get tainted by forces beyond its control. Where D9 went for documentary realism, however, Monsters takes its cue from National Geographic, with some truly stunning photography of its Mexican settings. Genre fans will likely be blindsided by the narrative arc, whose walking and talking approach owes more to indie romances like Before Sunrise than Independence Day. The characters may have been slightly stock and the ending a little too neat, but it’s definitely a film to put a smile on your face on a rainy evening.

So what can we learn from Horrorthon 2010 about the state of the genre? Horror may not have completely shrugged off the burden of stolid torture porn, but there are signs that the mainstream is getting back into story – or at least set pieces that move story forward instead of coming up with new and exciting ways to perform surgery on conscious patients – by the way, there are none.

It’s also worth noting the films that scored highest in the jumps-per-minute ratio were the token Hollywood entries in Paranormal Activity 2, I Spit on Your Grave and Let Me In – a sequel and two remakes respectively. That all three were well received gives lie to this writer’s criticism that remakes reflected nothing more than a narrative dead end, doing the genre a disservice in the long run. It’s good to see that Hollywood can still manufacture a good set piece when it has to. What with the Saw franchise coming to an end in ignominious 3D, the mainstream will need a cadre of new monsters to populate the multiplexes, and hopefully some new ideas to go with them. Fingers, toes and tentacles crossed.

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IFI Horrorthon

The IFI Horrorthon is upon us once more…

The Horrorthon (21–25 October) is upon us once again as the IFI prepares to host its annual four-day festival glorifying all things that go bump in the night. Among its highlights this year is the opening film Paranormal 2, the much-anticipated sequel to last year’s reality-style take on the haunted house genre.

Friday provides a frightening mix of high-school teens, psychotic preachers, sick butchers and disco-dancing maniacs – and that’s just the Horrorthon audience…Saturday continues the screams with a batch of brutal films

This year’s surprise film is on Sunday at 7.15pm. Of course if we revealed what that film is we’d have to kill, kill, kill you! And Bank Holiday Monday brings the terror to a close with a selection of shocking shorts, diabolical documentaries, killer klowns and gruesome gremlins.

There’s a strong Irish content this year. In the short film showcase 4 Irish shorts
In the Night,In The Dark, At Night, Fallback and Wheels Of Death compete for shrieks alongside Gerard Lough’s 30-minute adaptation of the Stephen King short story The Boogeyman.

Meanwhile, the debut feature by writer-director Bernadette Manton, screens on Saturday night at 11.30pm and promises to unveil some dark secrets and put the sin back in sinister.

Children of the night – the IFI awaits…

Please click here for gorier information.

Film Ireland will bring you an exclusive blood-stained report from the IFI Horrorthon 2010.

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