I dag er der verdenspremiere på ‘Wake Wood’, en spændende horrorfilm om sorg, død, at overskride grænser og et par genoplivelser, og der er også et ondt barn.
Jeg har interviewet instruktøren David Keating over telefonen om hans fantastiske film, som jeg håber, vi snart kommer til at se i Danmark. Interviewet er på engelsk:
Is there a new wave of British horror films today?
I don’t know about wave, I think there’s always a place for horror. It’s the original genre from the early days of cinema. Perhaps there are more horror films these days.
‘Wake Wood’ is very much in the Brit horror tradition, of ‘The Wicker Man’ (1973) and ‘Village of the Damned’ (1960). Audiences tend to think those are Hammer films, which they’re not. We’re closer to ‘Don’t Look Now’ rather than to Hammer.
Lately, there have been a lot of evil children. What is your evil child about?
Our film explores the nature of grief, as I said, more in the style of ‘Don’t Look Now’ where the parents have also lost a daughter. It is not the child that is evil, my focus is the parent’s grief and how this motivates them later.
It was important to me that what has died is so loved that you’re willing to do anything. It would be different if it was an adult. We feel it’s an injustice when a child dies.
Our idea was, that we wanted the audience to completely go with the story and with the journey that the characters take, and understand why they do all these awful gruesome things and understand they are wrong – but that if they were in the same situation themselves they’d also make the same mistakes.
I noticed that in contrast to films like the French ‘Ils’ (2006) and British ‘Eden Lake’ (2008) and ‘The Children’ (2008), your film, albeit horror, has a positive tone?
Yes, it’s about a family being reunited – they find each other again after the shattering loss of their child. They are brought together by breaking the rules of the game they enter.
It will eventually be paid for, but it is basically a story about how much we love our children. We were deliberately aiming at activating normal sympathetic responses for completely abnormal and inappropriate acts.
In this sense your film has a different tone from many of the horror films today that are either cruel like ‘Eden Lake’ or ironic and cruel such as the ‘Hostel’-films.
Yes, when I read the script, I loved the strong story and the really human emotions of life and death, love and loss, of passion, that the characters make us experience. Good horror films explore the fears surrounding everything in life.
My financiers called ‘Wake Wood’ a ‘genre splice’, a mixture of horror and drama. But to me it is not a genre splice or a drama. It is a simple horror tale and very much a cautionary one.
My concern when working on the script was to work with the characters as much as possible and make us care about them. Personally, I love to care about characters when I watch a film. I want to root for them and feel their pain.
I want to ride around on their shoulders and take their journey with them. If I don’t care about the characters in a film I can hardly bear to watch it. They don’t have to be good, they can be evil and terrible, but I want to understand them as human characters.
Patrick (Aidan Gillen) and Louise (Eva Birthistle), our two main characters, are both protagonists and antagonists. They are both the good guys and the bad guys. You’re not supposed to bring people back and not supposed to tell lies – and they do both.
They know better than to do what they do, and yet they do so out of grief and love. Also, neither are the townspeople ‘bad’. You can’t blame them for what they do in return to stop the catastrophe. They know the rules of the game.
Is it a British horror tradition, in contrast to much American horror, to have a lot of character description?
Yes, perhaps, and maybe even an Irish one, ha, ha. I’m Irish and from Dublin. Did you know that Bram Stoker was Irish?
‘Wake Wood’ is IRISH and you are not given specifics as to where the town of Wake Wood is situated, however, it was filmed in Ireland and people speak with Irish accents. The texture of the film is very Irish, very green with the woods and the color tone of green and warm yellow and orange.
Yes, it struck me that your film was very warm and 70s-like in its color palette in contrast to ‘The Children’ which is very crisp in primary colors blue, red, and white.
I aimed for warm colors with a lot of candle lights and lanterns. My dominant colors are green, brown, oranges, and the rituals we see are kept in a warm, natural light in keeping with the ‘birth’ theme of my film. I like the natural look.
How did you choose to use gore?
I wanted to use gore to engage the audience rather than alienate them. Gore in ‘Wake Wood’ is tied to the themes of death and birth. We made our couple, Patrick and Louise, a vet and a pharmacist, which are extremely central and useful people in a little farm community.
But they come from the city and are also like fish out of water and don’t fit in. Now, because birth and rebirth are important themes in ‘Wake Wood’ it was a natural choice to show the coming back as an animal birth, as bloody and messy.
But it is a natural gore in the way a veterinary surgeon does everyday work. I find the gore in ‘Alien’ (1979) worked this way, they did that very well, using the blood and gore in connection with birth and it was very convincing.
Yes, I agree, the gore in Alien also convinced me!
About the wake, the tradition to keep wake over the dead in your home is something that is still very common today in Ireland. It is a natural thing.
The title ‘wake’ has several meanings: It refers both to what we leave behind, our wake, but also the celebration and gathering around the body in the house. I wanted the wake scene in the film to be realistic.
So when the actor Ruth McCabe playing Peggy, whose husband has died, said that the sheets we had chosen in the scene were wrong, I let her choose the linnen. I wanted it to seem as natural as possible to the actor; that was what was important to me.
I felt the audience would take our word for it, whatever way it looked, and it didn’t matter to me if it was culturally correct or not, but I wanted the set to seem as natural and convincing as possible to Ruth, as she was already quite scared and weirded out shooting the scene.
It was a very creepy set to work on, and anything that got in the way of that, like the bed sheets not seeming right to the actor, whose character would have been responsible for them in the story, I wanted to change.
My aim was to get Ruth as engaged by her surroundings as possible and, to take ownership of them, because that’s the way I like to work with actors. This approach to how a film set operates is much more important to me, especially in this instance, than the colour of the bed linen. I mean I’m sure I have limits here! But basically this is how I work.
The wake scene is one of my favourite scenes in the film because of how real the actor Ruth McCabe was able to make it. Her character, Peggy, starts off being dominant and pretty ballsy, but by the end of the scene, she has been manipulated into giving her consent for something that she knows is absolutely wrong.
We, the audience, go along with the awful pressure that is put on this poor grieving woman by our main characters Patrick, Louise and Arthur, because we want it to happen.
But it’s not right in any sense. It’s not fair. And I think as we watch it we are torn between the two sides – and I really like that kind of stuff! When we pull that off, I really feel we’re winning.
What are your own favorite horror films?
That would be ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ by Roman Polanski, ‘The Exorcist’, and ‘Carrie’.
All with themes of evil children… Where are you going after ‘Wake Wood’?
There are several projects open. I’d like to pursue another horror film and I have one project with a gothic theme. I love the canvas horror gives you. With a very modest budget I get to kill people and bring them back. And these are the things we all dream of, aren’t they?