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Q&A with Paul Holbrook & Samuel Dawe, Directors of “Hungry Joe”

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Name a Horror character you relate to on a spiritual/personal level?

PH: I’m gonna say Carrie, for no other reason than I detest bullies and she gives them their due.

SD: Jacob from Jacob’s Ladder. Losing my mind is my biggest fear, so I always react really intensely to that movie. Tim Robbins plays it so well. I first saw it when I was really young and it burned into my brain. I’d dream about it all the time and I still think about it every time I’m on the tube or in a hospital. The scariest thing for me about that film is Jacob not being believed by any of the people around him. When you can’t ask for help because you know you’ll just be greeted with skepticism, that’s terrifying. There’s a bit of that influence in Hungry Joe. 

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?

PH: For me concept is never enough, good and bad ideas can both excite me off the bat, but it’s the ideas that find depth both thematically and story-wise through my own personal attachment to and exploration of them, I need something to keep me up at night and I need something to burrow in to my subconscious, my politics, my history, my insecurities, my passions etc to really stand out as a ‘good idea’ and be one I’m gonna commit to developing. I’m not sure there are bad ideas, just underdeveloped ones. But saying that, I’m looking through my notebook and there’s one that reads exactly like this:

GRANNY BASHER – A man is pushed to the limit by the annoyances of doddery old people and decides to cleanse the street of the elderly. Farcical comedy. – I have no idea where this was born from clearly IS a bad idea.

SD: Plenty of my bad ideas have managed to get all the way to post-production before I realised they were bad! You can still find some of them online if you look hard enough. They usually involve some kind of hack-y masturbation punchline. 
I have a very scattergun approach to ideas. I jot hundreds down on my phone, but 9 times out of 10, they’re pretty weak on a second look. You only need a few good ones though. l think if an idea is genuinely good then it has to pass two criteria. 

A. You should be able to voice it out loud to a stranger and have it not fall apart completely.
B. Write it down and try not to think about it. Then look at it again a month later. If you still like it – or better yet, if you haven’t been able to stop thinking about it throughout that time – then you might be onto a winner.

Do you consider yourself part of a horror community?

PH: For sure! Horror audiences have certainly been the most passionate about our film and they come at movies with such verve and enthusiasm that it really does energize me as a filmmaker. I’m not saying I only want to make horror moving forward, but I certainly feel an attachment to the community.

SD: 100%. Hungry Joe is the first straight-up horror I’ve ever made, but now I’ve got the bug. I can’t imagine working in any other genre.

When you’re building the world of your film, where do you look for inspiration?

PH: For Hungry Joe it was looking around us. Both myself and co-director grew up and still live on an impoverished housing estate in the UK and that has often been where we like to build our story-worlds. Familiarity for us, helps breed thematic richness in our ideas. I also love the british social-realist aesthetic, even if I’m not a fan of the majority of films associated with this kind of cinematic language. Our big pitch point is that we want to blend social realism with high-concept, audience pleasing genre.

SD: I grew up in council housing and I think that kind of low-income, urban setting is really under-represented in horror. So I always look to where I grew up. Aesthetically, there’s a weird austere beauty to lots of these places too. But mainly, there can be a sense of hopelessness in poor areas that really lends itself to horror. I always want to tell horror stories about disenfranchised people. Whatever horror you throw at these characters is heightened because they’re already hovering pretty close to ruin. 

What would you do if you woke up inside of your film?

PH: I’d feel gut-wrenchingly sorry for our two lead characters as well as recognise and relate to their struggle. There are many parts to our film that are born from personal experience, so I pretty much wake up inside our film daily.

SD: I’d feel right at home. We shot it in my old neighbourhood and at my old school!

Who would be on your ultimate horror villain squad?

PH: Freddy is a bad-ass. I’ll take a Predator (if that counts) and I’ll throw in Jack Torrance for the crack.

SD: The original Leatherface, Michael Myers and Candyman.

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

PH: Freddy! King! Practical! Post!

SD: Freddie all day. Stephen King defined my teenage reading years. Practical effects piss all over CGI. Post apocalypse is over-done so I’m gonna go pre.

What scares you, and does it inspire your storytelling?

PH: The simple answer is SPIDERS! But the thing that scares me that informs my writing the most is how fragile we are physically, mentally and emotionally paired with a human’s capacity for violence, those two things facing off against each other fill me with dread. I often write in the revenge genre and like to explore real-world people cracking under the pressure of such a dark world.

SD: Everything scares me! But I think the idea that I can’t trust my own mind or body is the most terrifying thing. I love psychological and body horror for those reasons. Hungry Joe is about about two people – one of whom is rotting on the inside and the other who’s rotting on the outside. So we got to tick both those boxes with this film. 

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

PH: Robert Eggers The Lighthouse was one of the most accomplished and effecting horrror films I’ve ever seen, but the horror movie I’ll watch over and over is still The Shining. The one that scares me the most is The Others.

SD: The Thing. It’s a totally perfect film. The characters, mood, music and creature design are all just insanely great.