Q&A with Lorian Gish & Justin Knoepfel, Directors of “The Howling Wind”
Name a Horror character you relate to on a spiritual/personal level?
LG: Normally, I’d say Jennifer Check. But during COVID, I feel more of a personal attachment to the Blob.
JK: Mentally I’d say I’ve been relating more and more to Jack Torrance. At this point, I understand his plight.
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?
LG: I have a lot of nightmares, and I make a point to write down all of them that I remember. I had this one horror/comedy short idea from a nightmare where a couple of friends rented an airbnb in an isolated area and encountered a “friendly neighbor lady” who joins them for dinner, only to make them her and her husband’s dinner. Playing on some tropes with a satirical gaze. I actually wrote it while staying with a friend in an airbnb, but I quickly realized that simply writing it down to play out in my head was more satisfying of a film than actually making it.
JK: I had this idea written in my Notes app a while back that followed a tenant of an apartment building that was later revealed to be owned by a secret society of sacrificial murderers who call dibs on new residents who they’ll later kill. Kind of a reverse home-invasion where the prey enters the domain of the predator rather than the predator invading the prey. It was later dropped. If I don’t expand on stories in the days following the initial idea I tend to take that as a sign that it’s not one to continue.
Do you consider yourself part of a horror community?
LG: I think the horror community includes such a broad spectrum of all different types of people, stories, and interests. It’s hard not to find someone else with my love for apocalyptic ‘what-ifs,’ female body horror, dark fantasy, or anything else that sets me off into deep research rabbit holes late at night. It’s a rare type of congregation where artists genuinely celebrate and hype up their colleagues’ successes, and I’m so proud to be part of that world.
JK: Absolutely, and more and more every day. The horror community is a melting pot for all different kinds of people and it welcomes that! It welcomes uniqueness and eccentricities. We’ve met people through the community that have gone on to become some of our closest friends! It’s wonderful how something so ripe in terror and fear can bring about such companionships.
When you’re building the world of your film, where do you look for inspiration?
LG: All around me. One of my favorite authors, Haruki Murakami, inspired me to say yes to all of the images and actions that arise from the deep parts within myself because they inherently have meaning. What that meaning is for someone else is for them to decide. I cultivate all of these separate ideas that come to me, and when I feel like I have a handful of them that gravitate towards one another, I start piecing them together like a puzzle. The world and the “why” to how it operates comes from the randomness I pay attention to and put down on paper.
JK: For me, it all depends on the project or story. For something like “The Howling Wind”, a story and style that is very tied to the period of the 1960s, I conducted a ton of research into the real world of that era! Especially rural areas of the United States and their culture, there is a keen sense of warmth but also emptiness to it, so I dive head first into documentaries of the decade, local articles from small towns, tons of photos and home videos, archived radio spots — essentially anything that puts me in the place of someone from that bygone time, it allows me to feel more like an expert on the time period we are telling our story in. On top of that, the film was heavily influenced by The Dust Bowl, and the same conceit applies!
What would you do if you woke up inside of your film?
LG: That’s funny because essentially we’re in a different version of our film right now in the modern age. However, if I woke up in our film as a woman living alone in a lonely farmhouse during 1963 with a plague transported by the winds, I’d probably become a mix of Laurie Strode in “Halloween” (2018) and Kevin McCalister in “Home Alone” (1990). I’d board up my house with gadgets I’d spend hours into the night crafting, suit up in weapons and a make-shift hazmat suit, and not trust anyone or anything.
JK: We essentially lived a version of our film for over 6 months in quarantine, minus the murderous violence — but I would likely eat a lot, gain the Quarantine-15, watch the latest Netflix documentary 4 times, and watch the news in despair or rather listen to The Radio in despair.
Who would be on your ultimate horror villain squad?
LG: I’d choose Pamela Voorhees from “Friday the 13th” (1980), Margret White from “Carrie” (1976), Annie Wilkes from “Misery” (1990), and Grace Stewart from “The Others” (2001). Because, let’s face it, their only true crime was loving too much, and I would absolutely love to see me and my gal pack getting up to murderous hyjinx that no one would suspect us of by looking at us.
JK: Pinhead from Hellraiser is the Nick Fury gathering the intellect of Hannibal Lector, the dream-bending skills of Freddy Krueger, the telekinetic skills of Carrie White, maybe David from The Guest, and Cujo (as a pet) for the Horror Avengers.
Lightning round: Freddy or Jason? Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft? Practical or CGI? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
LG: Freddy, Stephen King, Practical, and Post-Apocalypse JK: Freddy, H.P. Lovecraft, Practical, 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?
LG: Because this was a period piece, we did so much research and hunting in off-the-beaten-track places and then manipulated them aesthetically to fit our characters. Usually, I always try to define the highest tech thing in this world and then find the most run-down version of it. I think it’s fascinating to dive into that part of production design, and I usually implement that idea into all of my stories.
JK: It all depends on the project! For something that is period based, we do a lot of research into the types of objects of the time, and hunt at thrift stores, consignment shops, yard sales and honestly pick up junk! Many objects from a bygone period are still relatable to us today, but we add a lot of worn textures and aging to make sure that they feel old and vintage but still connected to the modern day.
What scares you, and does it inspire your storytelling?
LG: Real-world situations are the scariest, and all horror films inevitably dive into them within their imaginary circumstances. Personally, my fears surround being a woman, sexual abuse, loss and grief, betrayal, domestic violence, gas-lighting, home & the absence/threatening of it, what you’ve been taught vs. the truth, and the unknown. With every film I am part of, I like to explore these fears through that specific, unique story.
JK: What I’m scared of are things that everyone is scared of — that you are scared of. My deep fears stem from failure, or a loss of identity, being left to face circumstances unknowing of the impending end etc. Those feelings definitely inspire the stories I write and tell, with every project incorporating a certain level of exploration into those fears.
And finally, Ghostface would like to know ‘What’s your favourite scary movie?’
LG: At the moment, I’m a big fan of “Carrie” (1976). I feel like that film is saying a whole lot more than people initially realize.
JK: Such a hard question, but I have a very soft spot for John Carpenter’s Halloween. Quintessential.