Q&A with Harry Baker, Director of “Gutterwitch”
Name a Horror character you relate to on a spiritual/personal level?
Jack in An American Werewolf in London – I admire and aspire to his cheerfulness in the face of decomposition.
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?
Gutterwitch wasn’t originally about a witch at all – my initial idea was about drug dealers operating out of the same location (I started with the flat, as I knew I’d have the place to myself for a few days). That film would have been lousy – fortunately, I pretty quickly realised that I wasn’t bringing anything to the idea except cliches.
What stuck was that I wanted to tell a story about someone on the fringes of society, focussed on the mundane day-in-a-life of someone making their way in a slightly dangerous world. I started thinking about who that person could be and what they would do. When it came, the idea of a putting a witch in the context of a modern council estate immediately felt fresh and interesting. I didn’t think I’d seen that film, and thought I could do something interesting with it.
Do you consider yourself part of a horror community?
I love a lot of horror, but before making this film I wouldn’t have done. I’d actually been on the fence about whether to submit Gutterwitch to genre festivals at all, as I wasn’t sure it could fly as a full-fledged ‘horror film’. But I was blown away by the reception it had at the Brookyn Horror Film Festival and the number of people who embraced it.
When you’re building the world of your film, where do you look for inspiration?
Brisk nighttime walks around the block. Wikipedia rabbit holes. Listening to old songs in new places.
What would you do if you woke up inside of your film?
I’d be very careful about who had access to my hair.
Who would be on your ultimate horror villain squad?
The Alien from Alien, the Thing from The Thing, Jack Torrance from The Shining, the STDemon from It Follows. Teamwork might be an issue…
Lightning round: Freddy or Jason? Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft? Practical or CGI? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
Freddy. Lovecraft (by a whisker). Does anyone ever say CGI?* Mid-Apocalypse.
*(ok, we used both on Gutterwitch…)
How do you go about creating the props and sets for your film? How do you create objects that are relatable but unfamiliar?
Our location was the flat I was living in at the time, so much of the fun of the film was taking a very average space which I knew intimately and trying to make it stranger. I tried to think about what the characters would look at and what they would notice or find interesting, and how that might differ from my own perspective.
Huge credit also has to go to Production Designer Lousie Cooke, who on very short notice made a few pounds’ worth of arts-and-craft supplies go a long way!
What scares you, and does it inspire your storytelling?
I think the Big Scares – death, loneliness, cosmic indifference – are probably the motivators lurking behind all art. All things I’ve been thinking about a lot this year, for some reason…
And finally, Ghostface would like to know ‘What’s your favourite scary movie?’
I think Alien was the first ‘grown-up’ horror film I saw as a kid, and it still sticks with me. Every time I rewatch I’m struck by how well-written it is – the characters absolutely feel like real people, working a real job that just happens to be in space, and then that realism is perfectly balanced with the surreal gothic nightmare that it becomes. It’s all the more powerful for not being over-explained. I could write an essay!
Honourable mentions to Elim Klimov’s Come and See, Carl Dreyer’s Vampyr, Dario Argento’s Suspiria – all of which I love for very different reasons.