Here at Horror Cult Films I am extremley proud to present an exclusive interview with horror director Gerrard Lough. For those who have not seen his brilliant short films, I have attached two trailers for Lough’s critically acclaimed short The Boogeyman, and also his previous short film the dark and unsettling Deviant. I was lucky enough to get an interview with Gerrard and find out a few interesting facts about the man, and also find out what makes him tick. As a director, Lough has a unique style that is rarely seen in todays CGI friendly horror, and Lough likes to create atmosphere and engaging storylines that both draw the viewer in and haunt in equal measure. Ready to now move on to bigger and better things after the success of the Stephen King adaptation The Boogeyman, expect to hear a lot more from Gerrard Lough in the near future. For now, sit back, have a drink and enjoy the interview as it makes for some fascinating reading.
Please tell us a little about yourself, a little history, what inspired you to go into film making and where you feel you fit in with today’s horror market’
I am a 32 year old writer / director from Ireland. I got my start when I directed a music video while doing an internship at an American advertising agency. Since then I have directed several music videos for independent artists as well as critically acclaimed short films such as The Scanner, Deviant and The Stolen Wings. My latest and most high profile work is The Boogeyman, an ambitious 27 minute film adaptation of a short story by Stephen King. It is currently doing the rounds on the film festival circuit while I start work on the script for my first feature film.
1- Please tell me one interesting fact about yourself.
I have the same birthday as George Lucas, the same initials and the same number of letters in my first and last name. However these coincidences have not given me the ability to use ‘the force’.
2– Your film Deviant is a sinister and quite dark short film, is the story based on anything true to life?
I do remember around the time I hit upon the idea for Deviant, that I heard a story from my flat mate that a man had once gotten into the house in the middle of the night. Off course he didn’t do anything quite as disturbing or strange as the prowler in my film – instead he locked himself in the living room, had a kip, and then jumped out the window once his presence was detected. And there was also a story in a local paper about a guy who climbed up a drainpipe into a woman’s bedroom with the intention of assaulting her but instead he lost his nerve when she woke up, apologised and went back out the way he came. So I’m sure these stories got my brain thinking along the lines of what if there was a guy out there who was a serial prowler and made skilled break-ins but not to steal anything. It just happened to be what this individual did for kicks.
3- The actors in your films are often given quite difficult tasks with the intense roles they have to play. How do you prepare them for their roles?
Well as I have discovered, all actors are different in the way they approach a role. Some like to do research and discuss the character in great detail while others just read the script and all they want to know after that is where you want them to stand when you roll the camera. Michael Parle falls into the latter category. Deviant was our first film together and wouldn’t you know it, the most explicit scene in it was one of the first things on the shooting schedule. Pretending to masturbate on the first night of shooting would faze some actors but already the trust was there between us so he was fearless when it came to going into dark and weird territory.
On the other hand, someone like Simon Fogarty, who played the lead character of Billings in The Boogeyman did all kinds of research and we had many conversations about where someone like that character comes from, the kind of guy who is very angry at the world, resents the responsibilities of having a wife and child and then goes home and takes his frustration out on them. As I would tell Simon many times, there is a Billings in every town and every bar in the world.
4- The settings for both Deviant and The Boogeyman are very dark, urban settings that create a cold and quite distant feel to the stories. How do you decide on the settings, and who has the final say?
I financed those two films out of my own pocket and I am also the kind of director who always knows what he wants, so I do indeed have the final say on everything… apart from the weather or other acts of God. The dark and distant feel is mostly created by using specific styles of photography and using odd locations such as the waste ground that Deviant starts and ends at. The look of The Boogeyman was achieved by under exposing the footage and having an incorrect white balance setting which creates a cold, blue colour. The other tricks I like to do is shoot at magic hour (dusk or dawn) or back light in a smoky room, a habit of any director who has seen Blade Runner more than a few times.
5- If you had the chance to spend an evening in a pub talking movies with any director, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
I would like to have a word with Bryan Bertino, the director of The Strangers, and give him a telling off for making such a nasty, stupid film that is not based on a true story whatsoever and just gives Horror movies a bad name. I would then like to hit said director over the head with a shovel so I can take away his viewfinder and get my money back for renting said piece of crap. I would then like to meet the director of I Spit On Your Grave afterwards… armed with a nail gun!
6- The Boogeyman is based on a story by Stephen King, are you a regular reader of his books? And if so do you have a favourite?
If you are in anyway interested in the Horror genre, I think King is just impossible to ignore given he is not only so prolific but as popular now as he ever was. I think I’ll always have a soft spot for Night Shift which was his first short story antholog
y to be published and The Boogeyman is one of the many great stories in it. I’m gonna start reading Apt Pupil when I get a chance. I saw the film again recently and I think it was badly misunderstood and underrated when it was first released.
7- Has King seen your film of his story The Boogeyman? What are his thoughts?
At the moment I don’t know but I was told by his people that he will look at it when he gets the time and when he does he will usually keep his views to himself. It was a faithful adaptation and we all took the themes of the story very seriously so I’d like to think he will appreciate our version.
8- What made you choose a good old fashioned latex monster in Boogeyman over the more commonly used CGI effects?
Because CGI is not the right tool for everything and sometimes doing it for real, in camera, works best for the film. The kind of full prosthetic make-up effects seen in my film have kind of been made obsolete in some film-makers minds by the performance capture technology in Avatar… but not mine. There is an art and a craft to make-up effects and there is something magic about being able to film a creature that doesn’t exist right there on the set. It’s a tradition I would fight tooth and nail to keep if I did another effects heavy film.
9- Your films make great use of simple settings and minimal characters, they are engaging, thrilling and at times quite unsettling. What’s your secret?
It’s all about having a good script that’s not just a good story but a story that can be told on a small budget. I don’t think its any secret; it’s just that my films are, at the risk of sounding pretentious, very personal visions. The upside of making a film with your own money is that you can be free to express yourself and don’t have to go to a committee every time you make a major creative decision. You also don’t have to worry about demographics, target audiences and box office; instead you try to make a film that’s different, doesn’t compromise itself and does not insult an audiences’ intelligence.
10- I have mentioned in reviews of your strong use of colours in your films, is this intentional? If so, how do you plan to get the effect produced so well on your budget?
I think it just comes down to having a good eye and not being afraid to light things differently to how other directors would do it. On the last three films I have done, I have lit a room with just half a dozen small LED lights, the kind you buy in a discount store. Not only practical for a low budget film where you do not have the luxury of taking hours to light a scene but the end result will look different to what you contemporaries are doing. There have been times when we were shooting when we have nothing more than one light, a dimmer, some blue gel and a smoke machine. But if you are both imaginative and a good camera operator, that is all you need to create a strong visual moment for your film.
11- In your films there would appear to be a strong influence from the good old Italian horror films. Are you a fan of the Giallo horror?
I would have to say no. I saw Suspiria once and it wasn’t my cup of tea. That’s about as far as my experience of Italian cinema went! Maybe it’s because I’m from a country (Ireland) so close to yours but I would probably be more influenced by British horror, in particular the original Hellraiser film. It’s impact has been diluted a little by countless sequels but at the time is was just such an imaginative, original and uncompromising vision that it makes you wish Clive Barker would get back behind the camera again some day. It’s also a great model for a low budget, independent horror film. Its $1.5 million budget was one hell of a good investment. That said, a great film can come from anywhere. Country of origin doesn’t really matter in the end.
12- Which director most influences you and why?
I wouldn’t name just one director as I think that’s a dangerously narrow view but… while other teens had a poster of a pop or sports star on their bedroom wall, I had a picture of James Cameron sitting behind a camera looking stern. Each of his films always seemed like an event when they were released and you never felt short changed when you came out of the cinema. From reading about him, you start to get the idea quickly that if you are passionate about your work it will come across on the screen. But you’d be hard pressed to find a connection between his work and mine so go figure. Also I would say that since I’m someone who has a good eye, I’m attracted to work by directors who have a talent for striking visuals such as Ridley Scott, David Fincher, Mark Romanek and Michael Mann.
13- Have you ever been truly scared watching a movie, and if so which movie was it and why?
It’s rare now since I’m an adult and a film-maker who knows how the tricks are done but it still happens when it’s a film made by a director who really knows how to push your buttons. The last time I experienced real dread when watching a film was Splice; the scene where the creature has to endure a rather severe brand of parental punishment. I also vividly remember pausing Wolf Creek halfway through so I could go and make damn sure all the doors and window were locked!
14- Tell us about your plans for the future, what film is up next and are there any future movies in the pipeline?
Well I’m at a stage where I feel I have gone as far as I can go with the short film format as The Boogeyman is very ambitious for a short. I now feel ready to helm a feature which is why I have started writing a feature film screenplay of Deviant which picks up the story where the short film left off and involves the prowler character meeting his match and using his unusual skills to get him out of an elaborate property scam. But I’m also open to working on someone else’s material as long as it’s different, intelligent and doesn’t short change its audience. The thing about Horror is that it is a much abused genre but when it’s done right the possibilities are infinite.
15- Finally, what is your favourite movie of all time, and why?
It’s got to be Blade Runner but to keep on the theme of horror… The Shining. Why? Because not only is it beautifully crafted but it is filled with riddles and ambiguities. Was Jack the caretaker? Or did he get absorbed into the hotel at the end? We’ll never know… yet we keep coming back to the Overlook hotel.
Matt Wavish and Horror Cult Films would very much like to thank Gerrard Lough for taking the time to do this interview.