Q&A with Paul Hart-Wilden, Director of ‘For Old Times Sake’
Name a Horror character you relate to on a spiritual level? Who is your Horror spirit animal?
Frankenstein’s Monster. I didn’t ask to be here and I’m kinda stumbling around trying to figure out what it all means.
Failing that, Jason or possibly Michael Myers… some unstoppable force that can’t be reasoned with.
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?
Having recently done a Q&A for one of my early screenplays “Skinner”, I wonder if it’s even possible to tell the ‘good’ from the ‘bad’. Having watched the movie for the first time in many years, as time passes you have a different perspective on what constitutes good and bad. I presumably thought it was good at the time but looking at it now you see so many holes, imperfections, things you’d do differently – but that doesn’t necessarily mean the initial idea was bad.
I guess we work in a business where plenty of ‘bad’ ideas succeed and plenty of ‘good’ ones don’t. I mean… are we talking tornado full of sharks bad? That bad idea not only spawned half a dozen sequels, but an entire cottage industry of improbable shark movies… sand shark, swamp shark, ghost shark… etc.
‘Snakes on a Plane’ was a deliberately ‘bad’ idea… or maybe it was actually a good idea since it seemed destined to be a huge success but turned out to be a not so good movie that didn’t fulfill expectations either commercially or artistically…
I think idea-wise you just keep having them (hopefully) and some resonate more than others… but you never truly discard or move past them. Sometimes it’s a case of timing; the world might not be looking for what you’re doing at that particular time or you might not have the idea completely fleshed out the first time you start toying with it… but there’s no reason why that same idea might not suddenly find a home or land as a fully fleshed out project at a different time.
Do you consider yourself part of a horror community?
Honestly, probably not, and I think there’s a couple of reasons for that.
I’ve always been something of a loner. I’m happy in my own company and so don’t tend to put a lot (or as much as I should) effort into seeking out community. It’s not a great business strategy and something I should try to change but I think I get the origin of it, which leads to the second reason.
When I started out in the UK with a determination to get into the film industry I was met with a lot of similar reactions; a career advisor at school laughed when I told them of my intention, a college teacher told me I’d never get anywhere… and then when I forged out on my own, writing horror movies and trying to sell them, I was met with a stoically British ‘this isn’t what we do here’ response or the similarly unhelpful ‘this is what they do in America’ – so I guess the cumulative result of all those various reactions was to make me feel like there was no community to be a part of and that I was essentuially an unwanted outsider… and that’s kinda where I have been ever since.
When you’re building the world of your film, where do you look for inspiration?
The world we live in and the people who surround us. Once you start looking at humanity you pretty quickly realise that there’s not really anything you can imagine that’s as fucked up as what actual people actually do… or have done.
I wrote the movie “Skinner” where the lead character dresses up in the skin of other people. That had already been done in real life by Ed Gein. I wrote a movie “Living Doll” about a guy who is in love with a girl – except she’s dead. I stumbled across more than a couple of accounts of people doing that very thing… so for ‘inspiration’ you never really have to look too hard.
I’ve always had a hankering to do a movie about cannibalism… but once you start investigating real instances of cannibalism and the people who do it, you kinda realise that there’s hardly a spin on it that you could think up that hasn’t actually already been done in real life by an actual person.
For instance, what could be more insane, weird, fantastical or ‘interesting’ than the notion of just putting out what is essentially a ‘want ad’ for by a cannibal looking fro someone to eat (I guess because wanting to eat someone isn’t quite as strange as wanting to kill someone to eat them)… but you can find that that actually happened in real life… but to elevate the just totally fucked up weirdness of it all… not only did someone in actual fact put out such an ‘ad’ – and his is where humanity is so far ahead of anything you can actually honestly dream up – someone actually responded to the ad… went along, met the person and together they sat down together, started cutting bits off and eating them.
so you can think up all the vampires, werwolves and crazy witches you like… but you’ll struggle to honestly come up with anything more fucked up than the stuff someone else has alreafy decided to go out and do for real.
So as a source of inspiration for ideas that are horrific, humanity is a never-ending supply.
What would you do if you woke up inside of your film?
Well, “For Old Times Sake” is about revisiting your childhood and realizing that monster in your closet who terrified you every night – is actually real. So it’s kind of a chance to do that ‘if I knew then what I know now’ type scenario… so in this movie, you could go back as an adult and deal with all the htings you weren’t sure how to deal with as a kid.
But I guess the interesting way to deal with it would be not as a frightened child but to actually relate to the monster on more equitable terms… you both grew up together, went through the same processes, the same night time struggles… there’s a bond there that you can relate to and perhaps find some commonality.
Too often everyone’s reaction is ‘let’s take off and nuke the site from orbit’ or just destroy or remove the ‘other’ so you don’t have to deal with it… but why not? Why not deal? Maybe fnd some common ground, maybe find a common enemy you can both team up against.
Who would be on your ultimate horror villain squad?
Who says they’re ‘villains’? In some of the best horror movies the monster isn’t the villain. After all, Frankenstein is the real villain… Frankenstein’s Monster is pretty much the victim of his creator’s hubris.
So in my monster squad, I feel we’re really actually the heroes. We might break some stuff… scare a few people… but we’re really actually pretty cool to hang out with.
So who’s in the gang?
I think… myself (naturally), Dr Anton Phibes, Eddie Quist and the mutant bear from ‘Prophecy’.
Lightning round: Freddy or Jason? Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft? Practical or CGI? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
Jason, Freddy’s a little too full of himself.
King, it’s a very close call but you can’t dwell on the past so much.
Practical… is this a trick question?
Post – it means I survived.
How do you go about creating the props and sets for your film? How do you create objects that are relatable but unfamiliar?
Sets – practical whenever possible. There’s an undeniability about having something organic to work with as opposed to a bunch of green covered boxes.
The set or location should become a character in whatever you’re doing, informing the action, dictating mood, positioning, opportunity.
And finally, Ghostface would like to know ‘What’s your favourite scary movie?’
Oh Ghostface… you know that’s unfair, there’s so many ‘favorites’… ‘The VVitch’ was pretty scary… so was the recent TV series ‘The Haunting of Hill House’, the original ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’…