Q&A with Dylan Ashton, Director of “A Shot In The Dark”

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

I would have to say Bill Denbrough (IT) and his desperate determination, albeit futile, to find his younger brother.

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?

At one point, in the very, very beginning when I was first tossing around ideas, A SHOT IN THE DARK was this relentlessly paced vampire movie set along a string of highway truck stops throughout one night; almost like a midnight madness version of Spielberg’s DUEL meets Bigelow’s NEAR DARK… And now we’re here! But I feel like where an idea begins and where a project ends ends are inevitably polar opposites. There are usually a set of core themes, either ones that have always been very personal to me or ones I would like to explore, so any idea I start to develop generally comes back to this place of trusting my own compass and allowing concepts — good or bad — to evolve through that. At the same time, I’ve pushed myself to embrace the “what if…” scenarios. Developing ideas can be addicting in the best way, and sometimes, you find yourself going in many different directions — so much that you can’t keep up with yourself — but it’s what keeps me going, and I love it.

Do you consider yourself part of a horror community?

While I think any community built on the shared love of movies is one to be cherished, the horror community has been especially loyal and welcoming, and I’ve enjoyed getting to work with and learn from those who are equally passionate about the genre.

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

For A SHOT IN THE DARK, in particular, a lot of the world-building came from my experiences taking trips on the highway. I live in Los Angeles, but my family lives in Northern California so I’ve spent a lot of time “on the road,” especially during late hours of the night when the highway feels like a wasteland. At times, it feels like a world of its own out there, with its own unique visuals and textures. Of course, I’m always drawing inspiration from other movies as well. For this one, I was coming back to BLOOD SIMPLE, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN, THE TERMINATOR, and A QUIET PLACE.

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

I would hop in the truck and drive as far away as I could.

Who would be on your ultimate horror villain squad?

Pennywise, Annie Wilkes, Pumpkinhead, and the Xenomorph. I feel like Chucky would also make for a great wild card in this twisted family.

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

Freddy. Stephen King. Without a doubt — PRACTICAL! Pre-Apocalypse.

What scares you, and does it inspire your storytelling?

When you’re a child, it’s easy to identify those very literal fears — clowns, ghosts, monsters, — but as you grow older, what you once found found frightening doesn’t always leave that same impression anymore. On the other hand, things you didn’t pay attention to when you were younger can become your greatest fears as an adult, and I think that’s what’s so special and ultimately cathartic about horror. Nonetheless, monster movies have always been my favorite within the horror genre, and even though some fears have evolved, I love finding fresh and exciting ways to still embed those childhood terrors into whatever I’m working on.

Horror also has that innate ability to tap into the collective conscience in profound ways. You realize those individual fears you keep trapped may actually reflect a collective fear you and your audience weren’t initially conscious of. Especially now, I think horror not only has that unique ability, but also a responsibility to tap into those collective anxieties.

And finally, Ghostface would like to know ‘What’s your favourite scary movie?’
It was between JAWS and PSYCHO, but I would probably have to go with

PSYCHO. Its very existence was so radical and violent, yet it set the framework for what horror films could do and what they would soon become. It marked that innovative disruption in the timeline the same way movies like CITIZEN KANE and 2001 had. Throughout college, I watched hundreds of films in a classroom, but none of them evoked the same reactions as PSYCHO — and after sixty years, I think that’s all you could wish for from your movie.