New & Noteworthy

Q&A with Joe Russo, Director of “Midnight Clear”

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ALTER: Name a Horror character you relate to on a spiritual level? Who is your Horror spirit animal?
JOE RUSSO: The horror character I relate to the most on a spiritual level is an easy one – Ashley Williams, baby. Ash has got it all. He’s charming, charismatic, funny, brave, loyal and he’s got an interchangeable chainsaw and shotgun for a hand. A better question is – who wouldn’t want to be Ash? I don’t think I’d want to meet them…

A: You’ve gotta go through some bad ideas to get to the good ones. Tell us one of your bad ideas. How do you get past the bad ones to find your spark?
JR: I believe very much in getting audience feedback to filter out bad ideas. Even at the conceptual level, I love to bounce concepts off people – my writing partner, my representatives, my friends – anyone who will listen, really.  More than anyone, though, my wife’s opinion has proved invaluable time-and-time-again. She’s got a nose for keeping me on the right track. The more I keep talking about the idea, the more likely I am to work out the kinks and find the spark to execute them.

A: Do you consider yourself part of a horror community?
JR: Very much so. I always loved horror and everything about the Halloween season, but ever since I attended The International Horror and Sci-Fi Film Festival in Tempe Arizona in 2006, I formed a strong connection with the horror community. Finally, I found people that were as passionate about the genre as I was.

It’s only grown from there. It’s one of the reasons I decided to start producing a podcast at Blumhouse with the Masters of Horror creator, Mick Garris. We’ve recorded dozens of interviews from genre legends like John Carpenter and Joe Dante to newcomers like Ari Aster and Coralie Fargeat. It’s a way for me to give back to a community I love being a part of, and hopefully create a great resource for horror fans and aspiring horror filmmakers alike.

A: When you’re building the world of your film, where do you look for inspiration?
JR: Usually inspiration comes to me from what’s going on in the world socially, politically and culturally. I want to find stories that will resonate with audiences on a gut level. For Midnight Clear, it was American politics. The power that the American President wields at his fingertips is terrifying. We tried to think – what’s the one night a year our guard is at its lowest? And what if we suffered an attack while we were at our most vulnerable? What if you knew the end was imminent? That’s really where the idea started.

A: What would you do if you woke up inside of your film?
JR: Run to the car and drive as far away from heavily populated areas as possible…

A: Who would be on your ultimate horror villain squad?
JR: The trifecta of 80s slashers – Freddy, Jason and Michael Myers. They could take on anybody and win.

A: Lightning round: Freddy or Jason? Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft? Practical or CGI? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
JR: I love Jason, but… Freddy has the personality. Stephen King. Practical. And there are more stories I like take place before the end of times, so I’ll go with Pre Apocalypse.

A: How do you go about creating the props and sets for your film? How do you create objects that are relatable but unfamiliar?
JR: For Midnight Clear, we wanted to create the visual feeling of a Christmas Card come to life, and my production designer, Lauren Fitzsimmons, did just that. Every choice started from that idea – from the color of the paint on the walls to the Christmas Tree’s white, Christmas lights. Norman Rockwell meets classic, Coca Cola Santa Claus ads. We wanted to disarm you with a visual nostalgia to further juxtapose the intense drama happening with the characters.

A: And finally, Ghostface would like to know ‘What’s your favourite scary movie?’
JR: That’s an easy one, Ghostface – it’s Halloween.