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Q&A with Keir Siewert & Alix Austin, Director and Producer of ‘Retch’

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Name a Horror character you relate to on a spiritual level? Who is your Horror spirit animal?
Alix: Annie Wilkes from Misery, because although she can be ridiculously ruthless on the one hand, you’ve got to admire her commitment and determination. She’s also quite caring if she wants to be but ultimately I’d like to stress that I’m not quite as deluded as she is.

Keir: The Thing, but only when/if it turns into Kurt Russell (my true spirit animal). Because I spend my life wanting to be Kurt Russell but the best I will ever achieve is a pale imitation.

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?
Alix: I came up with a horrifying sci fi short called ‘Husk’ that was about the overpopulation of the planet and how this meant that the government was at liberty to chase people down and effectively abort illegal pregnancies.
I definitely knew what I wanted out of the short, but there was so much information to cram in and we couldn’t find a feature film spin on it – not to mention it was going to be tricky to find someone to fund the film, let alone screen it at festivals.
Ultimately what’s great is that every experience is a learning opportunity and rather than hanging on to a project, it’s best to move through ideas and use them as inspiration and sometimes you even find ways to incorporate them into future projects. Therefore, every idea is valid, genuinely. Make a note of it and keep it in your pocket, even if it’s just an image, because you never know when you’re going to make a connection.

Keir: I really wanted to make a horror film in Canada that involved Mounties for no other reason than as a child I watched a lot of Due South and thought Mounties were really cool. I eventually realized I had no story and no reason to make the film other than a fascination with Mounties, plus I didn’t actually know anything about them. But maybe one day my dream will be realized.

Do you consider yourself part of a horror community?
Alix: I am in the sense that I enjoy horror movies and will fiercely defend them to people who say they just point blank don’t like horror. Until I discovered psychological horror, I thought the same thing. I love horror that combines thrills with a clever underlying story or challenging ideas that happen to be wrapped up in a horror package.
I’d say I’m most active in the online horror community, but we’re grateful that RETCH has allowed us to travel and meet much more of the community. There’s really nothing like being in the room when people see your film and being able to chat to other creators.

Keir: Yes, I would say my passion comes more from a cinephile appreciation of great horror films rather than a fan perspective. But there’s no doubt I’ve wanted to make a horror feature ever since I was a child. And I love how celebratory and supportive the horror community is.

When you’re building the world of your film, where do you look for inspiration?
Alix: Personally, I take a lot of inspiration from music and art, which for me includes stills from other films. Research however is even more paramount – for example with RETCH I would look into how illnesses affect bodies, rooting it in reality, before finding a way of combining different elements to make something new. A lot of the inspiration for Sonia’s illness came from Keir’s personal experience from witnessing his alcoholic father experience delirium tremors after going cold turkey.

Keir: A mixture of real-life and art. Retch was inspired by both the life-cycle of the lobster and menstruation. But the style leans on everything from DePalma to Noe to even Michael Bay.

What would you do if you woke up inside of your film?
Alix: I’d try to stay a lot calmer than Rebecca is. Keir’ll laugh at me for saying this, but to be honest, I would know exactly where the medicine is and administer it before Sonia’s illness took her over. But that would be a pretty boring film…so thank goodness I wasn’t in it, hey?

Keir: Find those pills and that eyedropper faster.

Who would be on your ultimate horror villain squad?
Alix: The Thing doesn’t need any allies. Literal destroyer of worlds that thing.

Keir: The Thing, The Xenomorph, Candyman and the Pod-People from Invasion of the Body Snatchers (though I’m not sure how well they’d all work together)

Lightning round: Freddy or Jason? Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft? Practical or CGI? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
Alix: Freddy, Stephen King, Practical, Post Apocalypse.

Keir: Freddy, King, Practical, Pre-Apocalypse

And finally, Ghostface would like to know ‘What’s your favourite scary movie?’
Alix: I Saw the Devil by Kim Jee-woon

Keir: The Thing, not just a favourite horror but genuinely a top 10 all-time favourite