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Q&A with Callum Smith, Director of “East Hell

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Name a Horror character you relate to on a spiritual level? Who is your Horror spirit animal?
Dracula as depicted in the Castlevania Netflix series, because he has great hair, just like me.

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?
I once planned to write a YA supernatural heist movie about people with anime cat ears crossing from another dimension to rob houses. Solid gold, right? I was going to have a gag in that where they crossed to our dimension and found some confused goth kids at the other end, who had been trying to summon a demon and not got what they expected. I, thankfully, figured out that a story about those goth kids was a more promising one.
I usually eliminate bad ideas by a process of deduction. Think of a bunch of stuff that could happen in a story/scene/whatever, and pick the least bad idea and go with that. It’ll always seem like a case of ‘least bad’ not ‘good’ at the time, but maybe you can work it into something better.

Do you consider yourself part of a horror community?
We premiered East Hell at The Buried Alive Film Festival in Atlanta, which was a really fantastic experience of a homegrown horror festival, a community of people who cared about the full spectrum of what horror movies could be, and about helping others make them. It’s really punk rock, everyone should submit and go.

When you’re building the world of your film, where do you look for inspiration?
I try and bring in as much personal experience into the world as possible, just as I do with the core story and the emotional arcs. Just because the story isn’t realistic doesn’t mean you can’t do this, even with the details; One of the things people have commented to me most about the movie is that Becca and Stacey eat Pizza Bagels, because it’s exactly the kind of garbage food teenagers eat. A little background gag like that got so much love because it rang true. So it’s about combining that real-life grounding with demons, metal, stealing shots from trash anime I like, etc.

What would you do if you woke up inside of your film?
I’m ashamed to admit that Stacey and Becca are basically extreme versions of the two different kinds of annoying I could be as a teenager, so probably not far off their response to everything that’s going on.

Who would be on your ultimate horror villain squad?
The Xenomorph from Alien, The dogs from Resident Evil 1, Aro aka the vampire Micheal Sheen plays in Twilight (yeah, come at me).

Lightning round: Freddy or Jason? Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft? Practical or CGI? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
Freddy, Stephen King, Both as long as it’s shlocky, Pre Apocalypse.

How do you go about creating the props and sets for your film? How do you create objects that are relatable but unfamiliar?
Collaborate with great people. Inger Dietrichs did our costumes, except for the Demon’s horns which were made by Martina Crivella, and Helga Joakimsdottir was our production designer. The conversations I had with them were all about rooting the movie in the idea of not just goth kids in a horror movie, but goth kids who weren’t cool, lived a long way from a big city and were desperate for something else. This key idea informed all the design choices.

And finally, Ghostface would like to know ‘What’s your favourite scary movie?’
Alien.