Alex Goyette grew up on a small island in the Pacific Northwest where storytelling with his camera was the only way to stave off boredom. He is the writer/director behind Close Before Midnight, a horror-noir centered around a Halloween store that comes to life. Most recently he directed Tomahawk, an experimental film starring Academy award nominee John Hawkes. His extensive filmography includes over 100 shorts and 2 feature films.
Q & A
Name a horror character you relate to on a spiritual/personal level?
Seth Brundle from David Cronenberg’s The Fly because I know what it’s like to manically obsess over a project as it gradually kills me.
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?
When I’m in the ideation phase, I usually pound a 5-hour energy and go on a long drive down the PCH to mull over concepts. The first iteration of “Deep Breaths” was called “The Narrator” and it was about a voice that commands a man to endlessly make bootleg Prince merchandise. Admittedly, I’m still drawn to this silly concept, but tonally it just didn’t work as a horror film, so I scrapped the pages and started over. Good ideas are just as fragile as bad ones, so I try not to let other people’s criticism determine the fate of a concept. If I’m excited about something, that’s what counts -- so I try my best to hold on to that feeling and ride it to the finish line.
Do you consider yourself part of a horror community?
I do! My close friends are obsessed with creating and consuming all things horror. Some of the most fascinating people I’ve met have been a part of the horror community, so I’m hoping to bore further into the center to meet more of them.
When you’re building the world of your film, where do you look for inspiration?
Like many folks, I listen to film scores while I write. Some of my favorites are “It Follows” “Arrival” and “The Sixth Sense.” This helps get the creative juices flowing, and sometimes if I’m lucky, it syncs up perfectly with what I’m translating to the page.
What would you do if you woke up inside of your film?
Since the antagonistic forces are inside Harper’s head, I would immediately call a therapist and set up an appointment.
Who would be on your ultimate horror villain squad?
Mrs. White from Carrie , Annie Wilkes from Misery and Missy Armitage from Get Out . Put them all in a room and see who can out-crazy who.
Lightning round: Freddy or Jason? Stephen King or H.P. Lovecraft? Practical or CGI? Post Apocalypse or Pre Apocalypse?
I’d go with Freddy, Stephen King, CGI, and 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?
I wanted everything to have a timeless feel, so instead of Harper listening to an iPhone, I gave her a tape recorder. Instead of a plastic Bic, I gave her a zippo. Normally I’d call my creature gal Amanda Dempsey to design the monster practically, but since we’re all quarantined, I opted to create it myself. I heard an interview with Gareth Edwards where he talked about creating and compositing all of the creature effects in Monsters himself, so several years ago I became determined to train myself to do likewise. For this film I used Cinema 4D to Frankenstein together a collection of free models, then used the Octane render engine to texture, light, animate and composite it into the final film. This painstaking process took more time than I’d like to admit, but I’m happy with the way it turned out. In the past, I’ve always preferred practical creature effects over CGI, but goddamn is it fun to be able to design and animate them myself. I never thought I’d say this, but CGI is growing on me as a storytelling tool.
What scares you, and does it inspire your storytelling?
“Deep Breaths” was inspired by a mental break I had during the post production of another horror film which I will not name. I was quite literally driven to insanity as I tried to fix a series of unfixable problems. My inner critic continuously tore me down, which sent me into an “ego death” spiral where I didn’t sleep for several days. It was the scariest thing I have ever experienced, so naturally, I attempted to bring it to the screen here.
And Finally, Ghostface would like to know ‘What’s your favourite scary movie?’
It Follows . A vast majority of horror films are just different perspectives on the same familiar tropes. That may sound like a dig, but it’s one of the reasons I love the genre. No matter how many thousands of zombie films are made, you can still have a movie like Train to Busan come out and make me beg for more. That’s a rarity -- but what’s even more rare is when you have a horror film that creates an entirely new set of conventions. A story that creates the trope that will be emulated by everyone else. It Follows is undeniably one of those films. The logline is irresistibly fresh -- “a sexually transmitted supernatural force.” It had that instantly recognizable experimental synth score and those slow camera pans that explore the rooms, perpetually building tension. Not to mention, those anachronistic props that logically made no sense, but stylistically performed a slam dunk. The movie broke conventions, yet still managed to have all the elements snap perfectly together to tell a character driven story. On my third watch, I realized that Yara and Paul are playing “Old Maid,” a card game with rules that mimic the film’s -- you have to keep passing the old maid card or you lose the game. It’s those beautiful unmentioned details that take this movie from being excellent, to being a modern horror masterpiece. Now I want to go watch it again.