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Q&A with Curtis Matzke, Director of “Splinter”

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Name a Horror character you relate to on a spiritual level? Who is your Horror spirit animal?
Is there a good answer to this question that doesn’t delve deep into my psyche? I think I’ll go with Bruce the shark from Jaws. Rarely seen but deadly.

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?
Luckily, I tend to forget about my bad ideas (or block them from my memory perhaps) because I have too many different ones. There just isn’t enough room in my brain for the bad ones. Part of my process (which I don’t recommend), is that when I do have a good idea it festers in my brain long before I even write anything down. After a month or so, if it’s still there, I figure it must be a pretty good idea. I’m easily distracted by different genres or filmmaking styles so I think my worst ideas are based purely on me saying “I want to do something like THAT” and it’s really just imitation without anything new. That said, I’m often inspired by other film work as the genesis of some of my better ideas. It just depends.

Do you consider yourself part of a horror community?
Not specifically, unless you count the entire filmmaking community, which can be pretty horrific. I’ve only recently branched out into genre and going to horror festivals, which seem way more fun than typical film festivals which often take themselves too seriously. The audiences at horror festivals are so passionate. It’s a blast and I’m happy to be a part of that community.

When you’re building the world of your film, where do you look for inspiration?
I think it’s pretty important for horror films to be grounded in reality in order to be effective. I find inspiration in the world around me, social issues, relationships, and even history. The horror genre in particular goes through various cycles and trends centering around what scares us culturally, whether it’s commercialism (Dawn of the Dead) , racism (Get Out), familial relationships (Hereditary), etc. If you can tap into a moment in time to find your message, the film will have a much stronger impact.

What would you do if you woke up inside of your film?
I’d probably be pretty confused and frightened at first. This is a world where humans and vampires coexist, so I’d definitely want to know how it all happened. I’d like to think I’d ultimately be cool with the fact that, despite our differences, this society has evolved to accept this particular form of otherness. For a “horror film,” Splinter is rather optimistic IMO.

Who would be on your ultimate horror villain squad?
Freddy, Hannibal Lector, the Xenomorph, the Babadook, and Bruce from Jaws…just because the idea of a shark trying to keep up with the rest of the gang if pretty funny.

Lightning round: Freddy or Jason? Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft? Practical or CGI? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
Freddy: obviously – he’s an actual character
Stephen King: his influence is just insane
Practical: the more tangible the effect the better, but I’m not a luddite so if you can do CGI effectively, go for it
Pre Apocalypse: post is overdone and we’re kinda living in pre as we speak

How do you go about creating the props and sets for your film? How do you create objects that are relatable but unfamiliar?
With this one there weren’t a ton of props that needed to be constructed from scratch, but we did use a lot of things already available to us in the hospital location. I love using found materials and incorporating them as much as possible to make it feel natural. Some other supplies we bought online and modified (i.e. the blood bag feeding tube). I also like going to surplus stores or flea market-like places to look for materials from a different era – it creates a distinct mise-en-scène that feels both very real and tangible but is still slightly off, particularly if the time period of your film is ambiguous.

And finally, Ghostface would like to know ‘What’s your favourite scary movie?’
There are many but Let The Right One In still stands out as a big influence, particularly for Splinter. The themes and simplicity of the storytelling are so rich. It kept me invested the entire time from the gorgeous cinematography to the grounded performances. A lot of others genre-bending horror films in recent years such as Get Out, The Babadook, Hush, Hereditary, Cabin in the Woods, and It Follows are close behind. It’s a great time for horror because you can say so much with it.