Horror movies &stuff Interviews "Tormented" Director Jon Wright|
We talked recently with "Tormented" (Review), Director Jon Wright about his supernatural revenge tale which made it's debut on Video On Demand back on October 21st. The movie is set in the tempestuous atmosphere of a suburban grammar school, and described as the witty and shocking tale, of a bullied teenager who comes back from the dead to take his revenge on his tormentors. If you've yet to catch it on Video On Demand, look for "Tormented" to hit DVD sometime in early 2010.
MR. H:Tormented" was your first feature horror film that you've ever directed. How did you approach the gig as a filmmaker, and what specifically did you want to bring to the table with this film?
Jon:Not the first in fact, don't know if this counts but the first short film I ever made, aged 13, was called "Insane" and involved my arm being hacked off in the bath. It gave my mum nightmares! I wanted to make a fun film, not a dark, disturbing, serious horror. Although the film is played with a straight face it's not serious at all, the only serious moments are the bullying sequences. There was a lot of laughter on set. Some people get the joke and some people don't...Darren Mullet, the central villain in the film, isn't a REAL monster like Kruger or Jason or Myers...He's a geek who's watched too many eighties horror movies! Tormented was a very low budget film - because it doesn't look especially cheap I don't think people realise quite how limited our resources were. Go gentle on us!
MR. H:As an Irish filmmaker, what do you think you can bring to the table when directing a horror film that other filmmakers might not bring?
Jon:It's pretty hard to tell I'm Irish if you met me, I was born in Belfast but my family moved to Scotland before I was one year old. We've lived all over the UK but for most of my teenage life about an hour away from London, in the suburbs. Tormented is set in a suburban English grammar school like the one I went to. It's a love letter to my old school! I guess having Irish parents made me feel like a bit of an outsider at times, my parents were very different to my friends' parents. Being an outsider makes you look at life differently and that's useful as a filmmaker, when a film feels like it has a definite, distinct point of view it gets interesting, I think.
MR. H:"Tormented" follows a young student at a grammar school who is tormented by his peers into eventually commiting suicide. He then returns from the grave for revenge against them. Although this particular plot log has been done before plenty of times in our genre, what do you think separates "Tormented" from other films that have used the same premise such as "Tamara" or "Candyman"?
Jon:I don't think it's much like either of those films - maybe if you hear the description, but not if you watch.
MR. H:You managed to gather up a pretty top-tier cast for this movie with Alex Pettyfer, and Mary Nighy among others. Were they who you had in mind to fill the roles initially, or did you guys just catch a really good break in acquiring two talented young actors?
Jon:We auditioned a lot of young actors. Several of the cast are from a UK TV series called "Skins" which is popular here, several are from the movie "Wild Child". Dimitri Leonidas, who plays the lead boy Alexis, was in a popular TV show called "Grange Hill" for quite a few years. I didn't pay much attention to people's previous work, I just went with whoever did the best audition. We had several people from "Harry Potter" who would have brought lots of attention from the press but they didn't quite fit the roles on offer.
I felt Alex Pettyfer was spot on for Bradley, the lead bully - he's got a wild, spontaneous energy about him. He was keen to play something different, not the usual lover boy/good guy role he gets offered. I think a lot of his fans have been disappointed by how much of an asshole he is in the film. Personally I think Tuppence Middleton, who plays Justine, is going to be a big star if she catches a few breaks...Watch this space!
MR. H:This film is pretty gory for a supernatural tale. Which makes it very different from most American supernatural tales which pretty much go out of their way to be watered down for that PG-13 rating. Do you think as a filmmaker, that the graphic kills, blood, gore, etc, are the other half of a perfect sphere when it comes to supernatural horror films?
Jon:We aimed for a 15 certificate in the UK because in the tests we did the film scored REALLY highly with under 18s - I think it's set in a world that schoolkids can relate to. But in the US the certificates are pretty different and there was just no way we could make a PG-13. As it was we had to cut a lot of violence to make the 15 certificate, the ending originally was much more gruesome with lots of blood pumping out of Alexis's neck and Justine trying to staunch the wound. We also see Bradley's severed cock in
focus, and it's pretty disgusting! It was a shame to cut those bits but I wanted the people who loved the film best to see it, I don't think the cuts spoiled the film really. I hate violence in real life but enjoy it in the movies, if it's done in a certain way where you show the consequences. Tormented is a very moral movie, in a way.
MR. H:How long was the shoot for "Tormented" and what were the UK
Jon:It was a five week shoot and we filmed in two grammar schools near Birmingham, a big city in the centre of England. Pretty much all of the extras in the film are local kids - they were brilliant, they put loads of effort into it. The party scenes were great fun, like a real party.
MR. H:The films antagonist, or protagonist depending on your point of view, "Mullet", returns from the dead for payback on those who made his life miserable. But what would you describe Mullet as, a zombie, an angry spirit, or a mix of both? What did you want him to be exactly?
Jon:The actual description we used on set for Darren Mullet was...a zombie ghost thing! He's a ghost who can manifest himself physically. In his mind he still needs his inhaler, and he's still in love with Justine. We weren't taking it too seriously - I liked the fact that a ghost can grab hold of somebody and knee him in the balls. It takes you by surprise, a ghost shouldn't be able to do that.
MR. H:Why do some Irish filmmakers choose to shoot their films in the UK as opposed to Ireland? Is it a choice thing, or a necessity thing in order to make the film actually happen?
Jon:In the original script the film was set somewhere in the UK. When it came to casting I narrowed it down to a school in a leafy suburb in a town near London. Just like my old school.
MR. H:How has "Tormented" been received by genre fans in Europe thus far?
Jon:Truthfully I think it's divided genre fans. Some were expecting a hardcore slasher movie and it's really not that, they get a bit annoyed by the film's refusal to take itself seriously. Other people who know horror well, particularly eighties horror like Carrie and the original Halloween and A Nightmare On Elm Street, really like the way we've mixed it up. It definitely has its fans. Especially teenage girls! If Twilight is "my first horror movie" maybe Tormented is "my second horror movie".
MR. H:With it's American debut set for this month on Video On Demand, how do you think/hope, it will be received by American horror fans?
Jon:It's really impossible, I think, to second guess what people will make of it. I've looked on Twitter and found Americans who love Tormented and think it's really cool, and Americans who hate it. So I guess it's dividing audiences, just like it did in the UK! One thing I like about the American reviews I've read is that they don't get hung up on the fact it has actors from the Brit TV show "Skins" in it. A lot of UK reviewers pigeonholed it as "Skins meets Scream" which isn't quite right, I don't think. I cast those actors because they were the best for the roles, hand on heart I've never really watched "Skins", maybe a couple of episodes. Likewise Stephen
Prentice, the writer.
MR. H:How's the process going for securing DVD distribution stateside for "Tormented"?
Jon:I'm so busy working on my next movies I haven't had time to catch up on that...I don't know.
MR. H:Who were some of your influences as a director growing up?
Jon:In terms of horror I loved John Carpenter, Wes Craven, John Landis, maybe Tobe Hooper. As a younger teen I used to watch horror movies every Saturday night with a gang of friends. We didn't care if they were good or bad. Later we got into booze and girls and the horror movies got left behind a little bit. But that fanboy thing stayed with me. In a more general way, as a filmmaker, I loved the usual suspects...Kubrick, Spielberg, Scorcese, Coppola, Altman...John Boorman's Excalibur was a big influence on me, I watched it on a cross channel ferry to Ireland before I was old enough, maybe 14. The mix of sex and violence and magic just blew me away. I'd never seen anything like it.
MR. H:Do you see a sequel to "Tormented" coming down the pike anytime soon?
Jon:Don't think so...I've seen a story outline but I didn't like it. I want to do different things. I have a couple of horror movies in the pipeline, different films, bigger budgets, fantastic scripts.
MR. H:What's next for you as far as horror projects are concerned?
Jon:I don't want to say exactly, not yet...One horror comedy, a monster movie, a love letter to Tremors and Gremlins and Jaws, a brilliant script set in Ireland...One hard edged horror, a very clever idea, extremely violent. And a sci-fi horror, too, set on the world's first orbital space hotel.