Wednesday 20 December 2017

FrightFest & Glasgow Film Festival send out challenge to aspiring Scottish filmmakers

FrightFest, in association with Glasgow Film Festival, are delighted to announce an exciting new initiative to discover the next wave of emerging Scottish talent.

FrightFest has always championed new film-makers since its inception in 2000. Now, for the very first time they are encouraging talent to rise to the challenge of creating an entertaining film within just 90 seconds.

The winning shorts will be screened both at the Horror Channel FrightFest Glasgow Film Festival event, held at the Glasgow Film Theatre on the 2nd/3rd March 2018 and FrightFest’s London event in August 2018.

The rules for submission are that films should be no longer than 90 seconds and be in the Horror, Thriller, Science Fiction or Fantasy genres. Films must be shot in Scotland by Scottish residents and entries must not currently be available online. All submissions are free and must be received by Tuesday 13th February 2018.  Filmmakers of entries selected to be screened will be notified by 23rd February 2018.

Can you make a short film scary or surprising in 90 seconds? The challenge is ON!

FrightFest Co-Director Paul McEvoy said today: "The FrightFest event at the Glasgow Film Festival is always one of the highlights of the FrightFest cinematic year. For our 2018 event we are thrilled to announce our 90 SECOND CHALLENGE. We hope to discover new and vivid film talent from Scotland and to give the winning creators significant exposure to our international audience.”

Allison Gardner, Programme Director / GFF Co-Director added: “FrightFest is always a major part of the Glasgow Film Festival and we’re delighted to be able to work with them to support the Scottish horror maestros of the future. We’re looking forward to seeing what spine-tingling mini-masterpieces our talented local filmmakers come up with and screening them on the big screen at GFT as part of the 2018 festival”.

To enter please visit

Sunday 17 December 2017

Interview with Matt Mitchell - Writer/Director The Rizen

Laura Swift (The Snowman), Sally Phillips (the Bridget Jones series), Bruce Payne (Warlock III, Passenger 57), Julian Rhind-Tutt (Lucy), Tom Goodman Hill (Everest) and The Young Ones’ Adrian Edmondson star in writer-director Matt Mitchell’s “fast-paced and thoroughly entertaining”* action-horror The Rizen, invading VOD this January from Uncork’d Entertainment.

The year is 1955. NATO and the Allied Forces have been conducting secret, occult experiments in a bid to win the Arms Race. They have finally succeeded, but what they have unleashed could tear our world apart. Now one woman must lead the only other two survivors past faceless horrors that threaten to kill or capture them at every turn. They are the only ones left who can fight to close a door that should never have been opened.

The Rizen available on VOD January 2 from Uncork’d Entertainment.

Where did the idea for the film come from?

Hi, what a great question!

Well the story of The Rizen actually grew out of a much smaller script which was simply called ‘The Tunnel’. In this - as far as I can remember, we not only never left the escape tunnel, but also never saw the wheels that turned behind the horror elements,

As this first story was redrafted, the story expanded into the nuttier-than-a-fruitcake Lovecraft meets MKUltra in the 50s sci-fi/horror movie that it is today.

What about the script? How did it change, if it all, in the time between that initial draft and the shoot?

So the initial story has changed massively, it’s vast now compared to what it was to start with! But as well as that - quite obvious change - there are some slightly subtler ones that have had a truly great impact to the film. Mostly coming from casting if I’m honest.

Did you have your actors onboard first or did financing fall into place first? I guess it’s a bit of a chicken or the egg scenario, that one?

You’re not wrong! While we where already shooting, Clare (the films utter champion of a producer), somehow managed to get Ade Edmondson and Sally Philips to look at the script…


…but the only parts they were looking at were tiny?!

This meant that before sending them sides to read and character breakdowns, I would edit the script and re-write their potential roles in between takes (yes, that’s just as much fun as it sounds!), expanding on their roles, making their dialogue and the impact their characters had on the plot much more important.
It was a nightmare but we were very lucky that they liked the characters - you must remember, we’re a low budget indie film. Clare has worked miracles getting such incredible talent on board.

Who of the cast do you think are closet to their characters? 

This is a tough one. I think the only real answer to this is… The Blinds.

The bad guys with bandages around their heads running around and fighting and trying to echo-locate everything from a swinging crowbar to a wall in a tunnel painted black… in the dark.

I think those heroes were, for the duration of the time they were in costume, the closest to their characters.

That and Sally Philips (by her own admission) is the apotheosis of pure evil.

Is there a particular moment in the film you really, really enjoyed shooting?

Through the PTSD haze of making a low budget extravaganza like this, it’s hard to narrow it down to just one moment. Sometimes you feel like every day you’re shooting it’s just a blessing if you manage to get anything to work, let alone ‘good’ - but we had some truly great days.

I could say the obvious highlights of the bigger stars we got to work with, the blood sweat and tears that the action and fight sequences took, the mountains of outtakes we got from corpsing with laughter, but something else sticks with me.
Every morning we’d open this grey, dusty, damp warehouse on an industrial estate in the middle of nowhere. The kettle would go on and the lights would flicker… and then hold.

Then slowly, person by person as the crew would arrive, that grey, dusty and damp little warehouse would be transformed into a Film Set.

Laughter, swearing and hustle would fill the space. The next thing you know, you’re shooting a movie. Those are the times I remember warmly.

There’s honestly nothing else like it and I feel so lucky to be a part of it. Every time.

George Lucas was likely offered science-fiction movie after science-fiction movie after the first Star Wars, have you been approached to direct similar projects to yours since? 

I’m afraid that from a legal standpoint, I’m not at liberty to say.

What I can reveal, I’m sure the big studios involved won’t mind me saying this - my inbox has quite literally been blowing up with spam for both Viagra and Life Insurance.

Make of that what you will.

Any chance of a sequel?

Funny you should mention it… Rizen 2 is currently in the throws of post-production!

We - insanely - shot two films (The Rizen and The Rizen 2) at the same time.
This was because of a few reasons, not just because we’re gluttons for punishment, but because by the time the script for The Rizen was finished, it was clear we were only halfway through a story that spanned over 60 or 70 years.
So yes, Rizen 2 is very much a reality, and although both films stand satisfyingly on their own, they also work back-to-back expanding the universe and different characters stories in both films.

What’s next for you?

Time for a nice long holiday…. in my dreams!
I’m already writing the next bat-shit crazy film for us - so stay tuned, it’s gonna get pretty weird and wonderful up in here!

The Rizen available on VOD January 2 from Uncork’d Entertainment.

Friday 15 December 2017

Horror Channel brings in New Year with Wes Craven season

Throughout January, Saturday nights at 9pm will be devoted to a WES CRAVEN SEASON as Horror Channel presents a retrospective of the late great genre director’s career. Four of his supernatural shockers and scream-filled slashers wlll be broadcast, including the network premieres of serial killer chiller MY SOUL TO TAKE, his macabre masterpiece THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW, his diabolically electrifying SHOCKER and the goofy, gory satire THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS.

There are also network premieres for Franck Khalfoun‘s superior psychological horror MANIAC, starring Elijah Wood as a scalp-loving serial killer, David S. Goyer’s pulsating possession thriller THE UNBORN, starring Gary Oldman and Hammer Films’ powerfully eerie Vampire tale THE KISS OF THE VAMPIRE.


Sat 6 Jan @ 21:00 – THE SERPENT AND THE RAINBOW (1988) *Network Premiere

Horror master Wes Craven directs this chilling supernatural thriller, based on the best-selling book by Wade Davis, about a Harvard researcher (Bill Pullman) who travels to Haiti to procure a secret voodoo powder that places people into a state of simulated death. His investigation into the hidden world of black magic grows increasingly dangerous until he is caught in a living nightmare.

Sat 13 Jan @ 21:00 – SHOCKER (1989) *Network Premiere

Horace Pinker (Mitch Pileggi), a psychotic TV repairman sentenced to death for a series of sick and brutal murders, is executed by the electric chair. However, having made a deal with the devil before his death, he has now transformed into an evil energy source capable of travelling through electrical currents and creeping out of TV sets to hack small town America into tiny, little pieces.

Sat 20 Jan @ 21:00 – THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS (1991) *Network TV Premiere

With the hopes of stealing a stash of gold, 13-year-old Fool (Brandon Adams) breaks into his landlords’ creepy house with two friends. Things soon go horribly wrong as the trio finds they can’t get out! Soon the landlords (Everett McGill and Wendy Robie) return, and Fool and his friends uncover a horrible secret: cages of deformed children kept in captivity under the stairs!

Sat 27 Jan @ 21:00 – MY SOUL TO TAKE (2010) *Network Premiere

In the small town of Riverton, a local legend tells of a serial killer's oath to come back and kill the seven children who were born on the night he supposedly died. Now, sixteen years later, Riverton residents are disappearing again, and some wonder if the legend is true. Bug (Max Thieriot), plagued by nightmares all his life, is one of the so-called ‘Riverton Seven’, and it's up to him to save his friends from an evil that will not rest.


Fri 12 Jan @ 21:00 – THE UNBORN (2009) *Network Premiere

Sometimes the soul of a dead person has been so tainted with evil that it is denied entrance to heaven. It must endlessly wander the borderlands between worlds, desperately searching for a new body to inhabit. And sometimes it actually succeeds. Writer/director David S. Goyer and producer Michael Bay give a terrifying glimpse into the life of the undead in this supernatural thriller starring Meagan Good, Cam Gigandet, Odette Yustman, Gary Oldman and Idris Elba.

Fri 19 Jan @ 23:05 – MANIAC (2012) *Network Premiere

Just when the downtown Los Angeles streets seemed safe, a serial killer with a fetish for scalps is back on the hunt. Frank (Elijah Wood) is the withdrawn owner of a mannequin store, but his life changes when young artist Anna (Nora Arnezeder) appears asking for his help with her new photo exhibition. As their friendship develops and Frank’s obsession escalates, it becomes clear she has unleashed a long-repressed compulsion to stalk and kill.

Fri 19 Jan @ 22:50 – THE KISS OF THE VAMPIRE (1963) *Network Premiere

Honeymooning in Bavaria, Gerald (Edward de Souza) and Marianne Harcourt (Jennifer Daniel) experience car trouble and are forced to seek refuge in a remote village. Doctor Ravna (Noel Willman), owner of an impressive chateau that sits imposingly above the village, invites them to dinner and the couple are persuaded to go. Their association with Ravna and his charming beautiful family is to prove disastrous as they become unwittingly embroiled with a company of vampires who seek to initiate them into their diabolical creed.


Thursday 14 December 2017

Hex Media announces launch of new UK Horror Studio

Hex Media, the outfit behind Lord of Tears, The Unkindness of Ravens and The Black Gloves, today announced they are to establish Hex Studios, the UK’s only dedicated genre studio, committed to developing, producing and distributing horror and fantasy content, with a focus on bold, original storytelling, and nurturing diverse voices in the genre.

Having acquired a historic Gothic revival church in Fife, Scotland as their base, Hex plan to develop both a studio company and production space which will house a green screen studio, sound recording facilities and special effects workshop, as well as serving as a hub for the genre with regular events and screenings.

First on the Hex Studios slate is horror anthology For We Are Many, featuring segments from up-and-coming filmmakers from around the world. The feature-length film is to star horror legends Eileen Dietz (The Exorcist) and Laurence Harvey (The Human Centipede II) with many more to be announced.

Legendary filmmaker Roger Corman, a supporter of the new venture, said today: “Hex Studios is an ambitious new project which aims to rekindle the spirit of classic horror cinema, and gives me hope for the future of original, independent filmmaking."

Hex Studios is the brainchild of Hex Media founder and producer/director Lawrie Brewster who will head the project along with partner Sarah Daly and co-founders Richard Pate, Nick Ford and Bill Eikost.

According to Lawrie Brewster, “Hex Studios is inspired by the glory days of Hammer Horror at Bray Studios. It’s more than just a physical production space or a studio company, it's a grass-roots movement that seeks to pursue a revolutionary approach to the art and business of filmmaking.”

Hex Media partner, writer/producer Sarah Daly added: “We want to foster a resurgence in the great British tradition of horror filmmaking, as well as providing opportunities for aspiring writers, actors and filmmakers in Scotland and all over the world.”

Saturday 9 December 2017

Interview with Al Sirois - By David Kempf

Picture by Bill Stank

When did you first become interested in writing?

That question takes me back a long way. When I was a boy, not yet ten years old, I started messing around with an old typewriter I found in the attic. It was one of those big old back jobs, with a two-color ribbon (red and black). I was already a big reader, and although there was a dedicated children’s library in my home town of Fairfield, CT, I loved to go to the main library with my mother, who was a big reader.

These trips were almost weekly. I wasn’t old enough to get a library card from the adult library, so I would load my mother up with things like SCIENCE NEWS and James Thurber’s books, and Robert Benchley, and books of Al Hirschfeld’s theatrical caricatures. (The library didn’t have any Charles Addams cartoon books, but a family friend had some, and I loved them.)

The Hirschfeld stuff led me off into books about Broadway and plays, so I read things like Moss Hart’s autobiography, Act One, and so on. All this while I was reading stuff for kids, too; I discovered Heinlein juveniles in the children’s library, believe it or not, along with The Spaceship Under the Apple Tree and the Zip-Zip books, and on and on. Once I found that old typewriter it was almost inevitable that I would start teaching myself how to type, and to start writing little things. All this really took off once I discovered sf magazines on the local newsstands. I started thinking, I would love to do this to write stories!

No one told me I couldn’t do it, so I started writing. My folks got me a decent Smith-Corona portable typewriter when I was 12, but I think I had already started submitting stories to Amazing. They were terrible, of course; I had no idea what proper manuscript format was, and I typed ‘em on onion-skin paper... I made every mistake a newbie could make. Once I started reading Edgar Rice Burroughs and Ian Fleming a couple of years later, I was hooked on that sort of adventure stuff.

How did you get involved in fantasy/horror?

That came about as a direct result of the Adult Fantasy series edited by Lin Carter for Ballantine

Books. I probably picked up on Lovecraft first, but quickly fell under the spell of Lord Dunsany and Clark Ashton Smith. Then I discovered Titus Groan when I was about 17. My own writing became florid and kind of overwrought, but I think there was a strength to it nonetheless. I write assiduously through all of high school and college, though I wasn’t submitting much at that time. I guess I had finally figured out that I was too green. But I kept reading, and kept writing for myself.

Then I got a job in a bookstore in New Haven when I was 22. I was in charge of the sf and fantasy section. A dream job! One of the guys who had worked there before me still dropped in every so often. This was Grant Carrington, who had had a few things published, including a novel, and was reading slush at Amazing / Fantastic for Ted White. I showed some of my stuff to Grant, who showed it to Ted and that resulted in my first couple of professional sales. This was in 1973 and 1974.

Tell us about your music. 

Boy, you must want a book from me. J My first instrument was the accordion (don’t laugh), which I played to little effect for two or three years beginning when I was about 8. I had no aptitude for it. I tried the trumpet when I was in what is now called middle school, but had no aptitude for that, either.

This brings us up to about 1962. I had begun paying a lot of attention to music, which in those days wasn’t really “product.” I listened to Motown, surf music, whatever was coming out of the NYC stations like WINS (not news in those days) and WMCA. Two years later the Beatles exploded on to the scene, and a lot of people who, like me, had previously been avid listeners to music, decided they wanted to play it, too.

It took me another four years, but I began playing drums in 1966. I had found my axe! A couple of years later I picked up the guitar, as well, and became fairly proficient I could even accompany other musicians, and I wrote a whole bunch of songs, some of which other bands performed. I eventually stopped playing guitar (though I still own one), but my love in the drums has persisted for over 50 years. I’m still laying, and performing when I can. I am also (ineffectually) playing keyboard.

Tell us about your artwork and illustration. 

Another long story. I started scribbling and doodling when I was quite young. I suppose it never occurred to me that I couldn’t draw, though I didn’t start to become more skilled at it until I was in my teens. Then I discovered that I was actually pretty good. I majored in Graphic Design in college, but dropped out after two years and went to work. I started doing art for fanzines in the early 1970s, and gradually improved.

Then I was hired by comic book artist Wally Wood as his assistant in 1975 or so, while I was living in New Haven. (He had joined an sf fan group I belonged to because he was interested in one of the women there; that’s how I met him.) I was a huge admirer of his work, but I didn’t gush or make a fool of myself when he introduced himself to me. My art at that time had a certain crude energy, and I guess he thought I could be helpful to him because he took me on.

That was the beginning of my career in comics. I worked hard to improve, and he was a patient teacher. Later I branched off more into illustration and painting primarily Impressionist landscape painting. I still do some fan art, and I try to take any illustration work I can get. I have lots of other influences besides Wood, of course, but it would take me too long to get into all of that. I could go on for hours! (Just ask my drawing students.) At age 67, I still feel that I have a long way to go until I am the artist I wish to be. There is always more to learn!

How would you classify the genre you write?

Well, I have always loved sf and the first things I tried to write were in that genre. I later branched out a bit to fantasy, then I tried to do some mainstream stories. Meanwhile I started selling some science fiction, so I stuck with that for a long time. Even today, most of what I write is sf, but I have also developed some young adult works, and I recently had a fantasy novel published by a small press. Next year, 2018, I will have a horror novel published by another small press. I have also done a lot of ghostwriting, mostly sf and fantasy, so there are several books in those genres as well even though my name isn’t on them. I also write mysteries. So whatever sells, you know.

Why do you think horror and fantasy books remain so popular?

They tap into deep veins in our psyches: fear of the unknown coupled with a desire to somehow conquer it; and escapism. As long as human nature remains what it is, fantasy and horror will be with us.

What inspires your stories?

Jeez, what doesn’t? An event; a news item; a character; a situation; an image—it could be anything. Sometimes I am simply cheesed off about something (or someone) and want to get “paper revenge.”

What do you think the difference between American horror and British horror is?

I am probably not the one to answer this. I could talk about British vs. American science fiction, but I can’t discuss horror with any degree of expertise. I simply don’t read enough of it.

What are your favorite horror books?

This is another tough one. I don’t care for overly-violent material, preferring to feel the psychological screws tighten rather than being bathed in blood. I’d have to say that Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness tops the list. Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House is another. I have read it several times and it never fails to creep me out. Probably my favorite horror writer is Stephen King.

The Shining is among my favorites of his work. I’d include Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes as one of the best horror novels I’ve read. I’d also classify Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon and The Silence of the Lambs as horror. And let’s hear it for Max Brooks’s brilliant World War Z, which I have read three times and ill certainly read again.

What are some of your favorite horror movies?

John Carpenter’s The Thing, and his Halloween. The original Godzilla was, to me, more of a horror film, as was an obscure Japanese movie, The H-Man, about a Blob-like thing that absorbed people. I don’t care for slasher stuff. The Blair Witch Project was scary and satisfying for me. The Haunting of Hill House is a great film (see favorite books, above). So is The Birds. Also, the film adaptation of The Silence of the Lambs totally creeped me out (again, see favorite books, above).

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment as an author?

Selling my first short story! That happened when I was 23. It boosted my confidence in myself very important for a new writer. Everything else has gradually flowed from there.

Do you have any advice for new writers?

Don’t throw anything out! Save everything. I cannot emphasize that enough. No matter what you may think of those old stories and clunky first drafts, do not toss them in the trash or delete them from your computer. I speak from bitter experience. Also, learn how to take (and give) constructive criticism. Tell your ego to STFU and listen to what is being said to you. Yes, some of it will be bullshit, but don’t get defensive; you may learn something to your benefit. Also, join a workshop. You may have to try a couple before you find a good one, but persevere. You really need other people to read your work and comment intelligently thereon.

What is your opinion of the new self-publishing trend?

I’m of two minds about it. I have dabbled in it, but to no great extent. (This assumes that you call POD self-publishing.) I am a traditionalist in that I want to be paid for what I do. I also appreciate the guidance of a good editor; I think that authors need editors. Too many self-published writers really aren’t helping themselves by shoveling their unedited books out into the world. I’d read several that are just... oh, my god, how could you? On the other hand, even self-publishing gives a writer a taste of the process. But there is self-publishing, and then there is marketing and that’s harder by far than writing a book and formatting it through CreateSpace or whatever.

What are your current projects?

I’m involved in a work-for-hire ghostwriting gig that keeps me pretty busy. My name won’t go on the finished product, but I admit that I’m having fun with it—and, even more important, I’m making some money on an ongoing basis. Otherwise, there are short stories that need work, and a few novels in the planning stages. If my fantasy book The Bohemian Magician does well enough, there will be a sequel.

I also have a horror novel, Jersey Ghouls, due out in June of 2018, for which I will be doing the cover art. In addition, there are a couple of YA projects that are simmering. I have enough story and book ideas socked away to keep me busy for 10 years. And new ones keep occurring to me. As long as my mind holds out, I’ll keep working.

Please in your own words, write a paragraph about yourself & your work.

What I have always tried to do in my writing is to tell a good story, and to entertain. As I get older, I’ve taken to slipping a few political and social observations in as well. These reflect my concern with society at large. I am still as self-centered as most creative people are, but not as much as I used to be. If I had one wish it would be for another lifetime in which to perfect my crafts insofar as writing, art, and music go. I’ll never be as good as I strive to be, but I think the striving itself is perhaps just as important if not more so.

Amazon - The Bohemian Magician Kindle Edition by A.L. Sirois

Tuesday 5 December 2017

Interview with Ruth Platt - Director of The Lesson

The Lesson received its World Premiere at FrightFest. How did you react when it was chosen? And what was the experience like?

I was really excited when I found out we'd been picked – we got a call from the team, and they were passionate about the film, and they are such a knowledgable and experienced small team, Greg, Paul, Alan and Ian, and it meant so much. Especially when the making of it had been such an arduous and difficult process! I had no idea how people would react to the film – it was such a tiny budget, and put together on sheer determination rather than any actual means. But the whole FrightFest festival was amazing – the fans were so supportive and friendly, and the reception to the film was so generous, it was a really brilliant experience.

How did you develop the idea for the film? Did your own experiences at school influence the story?

So my love of the horror genre stems from the satirical, metaphorical nature of the genre – how you can make a comment or observation about society, or about human nature, through the lens of horror – it is quite an expressionistic and stylised way of looking at the world, but quite a cathartic one, exorcising your deepest concerns, fears, and anger, I think! I have done a bit of teaching, though only peripatetic. I wasn't trying to exorcise my real desires to torture students, as some people might think! It was more an observation on the educational system and its failures, and also a psychological study of class dynamics, stemming also from my experiences at school.

The teacher role was inspired by two things - there was a teacher I had at school, and the class just knew, subconsciously and collectively, that we could push him further than we could push the average teacher. There was an innate vulnerability to him, a fear of us, if you like, that allowed the class to behave in a much more difficult way. My film was a bit of a 'what if' scenario – what if that teacher we locked in the cupboard snapped? There was an article I read a few years back about a teacher who did just that, without any history of violence or bad conduct – and who harmed a teenage boy at school badly. That was my second inspiration. The two ideas together created Mr Gale.

The violence in the film is mostly inflicted by a school teacher on two 16 year-old schoolboys. Do you think this makes it even more controversial and difficult to watch?

I think, and I did worry beforehand, that people would take it literally, It is meant to be a deliberate satire on the torture porn genre. It has moral ambiguity and complexity, certainly, I mean hopefully, and those that like the film seem to get this, your sympathies keep changing to and fro, from the teacher to the kids. Mr Gale gets his comeuppance!. I think The Lesson is pretty measured violence-wise – you look at 15 films like The Babysitter and Deadpool and my god, the violence, and it is so slick, so easy. That makes me uncomfortable. The violence in The Lesson is hopefully earned, and deliberately difficult to watch. There is no easy, shiny violence.

What lessons do you want people to take from the film?

Ha! Well, I guess I want people to think about the education system, where its failings lie, how a school is a microcosm of society, and without an all encompassing and deep rooted culture of mutual respect, responsibility and kindness, it can go badly wrong. But I didn't want to do that in a straightforward way, but rather through the horror lens. Some people seem to find it really cathartic to see these difficult kids tortured which is a bit disconcerting! I guess films like Fritz Lang's M are pertinent and influential – that moral ambiguity certainly – the scene where all the criminals in the area capture this mentally ill, but hideous child murderer, and they are relishing the power they have in their kangaroo court – the hypocrisy and the savagery of all of them. Reminds me of Social Media!

The film has been described many ways, ranging from “Kitchen-sink torture porn” to “bravura art-house horror”. How would you describe it?

Satirical anti-torture porn? Though I love the kitchen-sink bit and the art house bit obviously!

The casting is particularly brave, allowing young unknowns to flourish and excel. How difficult was the audition process?

Well – I had the tiniest budget so there was no casting director involved. All the kids were local, untrained kids. They were brilliant actually. They started with loads of stagey acting, and then I had to strip it down – they got it so quickly though and loved the process. I knew Evan already [who plays Fin] as I had already cast him in a music video – he was so hardworking and conscientious. I was lucky enough to go into a local college and have an audition with the young people studying Drama there.

Rory [who plays Joel] shone immediately – he took my direction, and his truth of thought and quickness of mind was evident straight away in improvisations. I was lucky to find him – about a week before shooting! Mischa I cast very last minute too, I auditioned her on skype after we had started shooting! She was a drama student at the Prague conservatoire.  She was very natural and very lovely – and just astonishingly beautiful, I thought. Her separateness and her measured silence to me was indicative of what it is to be a woman in a man's society. She of course, is Fin's knight in shining armour, at the end of the day, but she is vulnerable, she has to compromise to survive. I thought Mischa had a beautiful stillness that was very watchable.

You’ve been a successful actor yourself, having won a scholarship to train at RADA. But is it true you left in your second year to start up a theatre company? And will we see you tread the boards again?

Well I wasn't that successful! I adored acting, but I was a very insecure person as an actor. I remember being called to an audition, by my agent, for a music video, and asked by 3 men to lap dance on a chair. I wished I had just told them to fuck off. But I didn't – I needed to pay the rent, and didn't want to annoy my agent. So I did it. That happened a lot. As an actress you have to have an innate confidence that I really didn't have. I absolutely adored RADA, and as soon as I left, I realised what an idiot I had been to leave in my second year.  I fell into a deep depression – I was utterly broke, I had given up a scholarship, my mother was very ill, it all went wrong. I rang them and begged them to take me back but they had given my scholarship to someone else, and I couldn't afford to go back. But it was during my experiences forming a theatre company that I started to realise that I loved writing and later, when I found my confidence, directing.

What I adore about directing is being able to guide an actor through each thought process, each moment of subtext, each emotional beat and each character trait, and I can do that because of my actor training. That is a really rewarding experience, and it is why I also enjoy working with new, untrained actors. Being an actor I think is terrifying – you are so vulnerable, and especially as an actress, I mean I know it is getting better but sexism and harrassment is rife, absolutely endemic, though it has now suddenly exploded into the public consciousness and will probably now improve. But you really need to have balls of steel.

Who are your strongest influences in the horror genre and what’s been your favourite horror film this year?

‘Haneke's ‘Funny Games’ [the original German language one] is my favourite horror film of all time. I guess that is what inspired my anti-torture porn premise. The violence in that film could not be more uncomfortable and less gratuitous to watch – Haneke is a genius. A close second, though not usually classified as a genre film, is Yorgos Lanthimos' ‘Dogtooth’. One of the most brilliant, piercing satires I have ever seen. I adore ‘Nosferatu’, and Fritz Lang's ‘M’.

This year, I loved ‘Raw’, which I  I think it is one of the greatest female horror films of all time - the central metaphor of an impossibly high-achieving girl, with the absolute rigid self discipline, that starts to discover her emerging sexuality and rage – so bloody, sharply funny. And the cinematography – I’m in awe of it!

Finally, what can you tell us about your next project?

I have been in development with the BFI for a year now, so hoping to shoot something next year! It is a horror, but one that has a very detailed, socio-realistic world. And the whole thing is through the eyes of a child. It is also a largely female cast. Looking forward to making it so much, so wish me luck!

The Lesson is broadcast on Sat 9 Dec 2017, 10.45pm, Horror Channel.

Interview with Patrick O’Bell - Director of The Blessed Ones

An isolated cult prepare for the prophesied apocalypse in Patrick O’Bell’s frightening The Blessed Ones, now available on Amazon Prime from Wild Eye Releasing.

An isolated cult hiding in a desert enclave prepare for an prophesied apocalypse, led by a charismatic Jim Jones-like leader. As the end of the world allegedly approaches, he binds them all to a suicide pact, in hopes of transcending earth for a new life in paradise. Two dissenters flee through the vast desert wasteland on the eve of the ceremony, hunted by the cult’s enforcer – who will stop at nothing to insure that they keep their part of the bargain.

Where did the idea for the film come from?

 I was watching a documentary on the Heaven's Gate cult and found it terrifying.  That's when I decided I had to make a film on the subject of cults.

What about the script? How did it change, if it all, in the time between that initial draft and the shoot?

When you shoot on location, it often changes .  That was always the biggest challenge and it forces you to rethink the scene.   If you don't have a large auditorium that was written in the script, then you have to rewrite for a different location.   Once,  I did the initial edit, I decided to wite in additional footage to clarify the action a bit more and  cut the scenes that didn't play well on the screen.

Did you have your actors onboard first or did financing fall into place first? I guess it’s a bit of a chicken or the egg scenario, that one?

We got the main leads to agree to do it first and the financing followed.

Who of the cast do you think are closet to their characters? 

Well as the director, I would say the cult leader, Elyon.  Haha.  I believed in most of the things he was saying except for all the crazy shit, of course.

Is there a particular moment in the film you really, really enjoyed shooting?

I loved shooting all the action scenes with Draco and Spencer.  Shooting outdoors is my favorite.

George Lucas was likely offered science-fiction movie after science-fiction movie after the first Star Wars, have you been approached to direct similar projects to yours since? 

Not yet, but I would love to.  I wouldn't mind exploring this world more in a television series.

Any chance of a sequel?

I thought about it.  Someone asked me at the screening, but I have to be realistic and see how well this film does.

I'm working on a new horror slasher film, “Departer”.  It should be finished in 2018.