Never heard of The Torment? Or by its other name The Possession Of David 0’Reilly? Well you have now! Its a horror film that is slowly becoming a cult classic among horror fans, a film that will stay under your skin for days and a horror that will have you thinking long after the credits roll. Its one of the most hidden treasures out there at the moment, a film discovered by our Editor Ross Hughes who quickly shared it with our other Editor Matt Wavish, and now both are on the mission to spread the word about how good of an horror this film is.
Thinking of ways to tell our readers about this film, the two managed to track down the very busy director Andrew Cull to talk about his movie and they were stunned that he was willing to take some time out from his latest production Haunted to spend time with our two who were thrilled by the prospect.
Please after reading this splendid interview with such a nice man, check out the film, its one that HCF truly endorses!
THE ANDREW CULL INTERVIEW
First of all can we say how honoured we are at HorrorCultFilms that you have found time to sit with us and answer a few questions. Can we start by telling our loyal readers a bit about yourself, a little history, what inspired you to go into film making and where you feel you fit in with today’s market?
Hi there, it’s great to talk to you. What can I tell you about myself? Well, I‘ve been writing for over ten years now and directing for film for the past few. I started in the theatre when I was at Uni. where I ran my own theatre company for which I wrote and directed. That was a fantastic time! I did three tours around the UK with plays I’d written. We were lucky enough to get some great reviews and we got to work in some amazing theatres.
I always try to find something new in every project I do. I’m a huge Hitchcock fan and he did this throughout his work. He took the thriller genre and repeatedly found ways to challenge and reinvent it. While I may not be able to do that I still aim to move the genre forward and to invent with each film I write and direct. I’m very audience focussed and I try to see everything I do from their perspective. I might now always succeed in defying their expectations but I’ll definitely always try.
I’d always had a very filmic style of writing but by the time I finished my third tour with my theatre company I realised that I was writing film and trying to put it on to the stage. I felt it was time to write my first screenplay. I went out and bought the screenplays for every one of my favourite films. I read the scripts, watched the films, watched more films, read more scripts and from there I taught myself screen writing. Fast forward several years later to 2003 and I sat down to write Inside which later became called The Possession Of David O’Reilly…
We are sitting here today to talk to you about the film The Possession of David O’Reilly or as it’s called over in Britain, The Torment! The film was one of the biggest surprises of last year, gathering massive praise and acclaim from all horror fans, you must be ever so proud?
I certainly am! I’ve been overwhelmed by the response that DOR’s received. Recently I was lucky enough to be invited to the Screaming Athens Film Festival where DOR headlined and the response after the screening was fantastic. I got to meet quite a few members of the audience and hearing their feedback, talking with them about horror movies and discussing the film made for a great weekend. I really encourage people who’ve seen the film to get in touch and tell me what they think. I love to hear their opinions on the movie.
How did you come up with the concept for the film?
Well, I wrote Inside (DOR) back in 2003 as a reaction to the state that I felt horror had found itself in. I’m a long-time horror fan and I was feeling really disillusioned with the movies I was watching coming out of the US at the time. They were all set in places that I had no connection with and were generally populated by 2-D characters who were at best unbelievable, at worst hateful. I wanted to find a way to bring horror back to its audience, to make it relatable again and hopefully all the more frightening for it. It didn’t take me long to realise that I had to somehow set the film in the audience’s home, in the place where you live, the place where you turn the lights out every night and are swallowed into the black.
Your film had some incredibly tense and often very creepy moments. You seemed to rely more on atmosphere than all out shocks, so what was your reason for this since today’s horror market seems to be all about violence and gore?
When I sit down to write a movie I don’t really think about current fashions and trends I’m just focussed on what will scare me and hopefully, the people who watch my movies, so today’s market isn’t really an influence on my work. As someone who watches and loves horror movies I think it’s a shame that some people aren’t prepared to work harder to create really exciting, terrifying work and that often a lazy approach takes the place of invention.
When it comes to atmosphere and suspense versus gore there’s no competition for me. It’s suspense every time. It’s easy for a film to repulse me but it isn’t easy to scare me and that’s what I’m looking for in a good horror movie. I love a slow build, long takes, the knowing but having to wait, the creeping sense of something impending. A gore flick is forgotten a few hours from watching it but a good suspense piece will linger with you, come back to you when you reach to turn the light out at night. Those are the kinds of films I want to watch and those are the kinds of films I want to create.
The first person POV worked tremendously well to both confuse the viewer and give the film a whole new edge. It was a breath of fresh air in today’s saturated horror market, and an idea I would very much welcome in any horror. What was your reasoning for using this camera trickery?
I’m really glad you liked the POV shots in the film. When I wrote DOR I wanted to draw the audience into the movie. I knew that most people would be watching it at home on DVD so I set it in a home that would hopefully feel like the audience’s. Somewhere that they’d relate to and feel comfortable in. At least before they’d seen the film! I wanted to take this immersion further though and to get as close as I could to actually having the audience in the film. POV was the natural choice to do this. I wanted the audience to feel what it would be like to explore a room in the near pitch black, to feel your heart pounding as you wait for your eyes to adjust to the darkness, to follow a dark corridor towards the strange sounds that David has been hearing. I wanted the audience to be the one experiencing the horror first hand. It’s definitely a style that I’ll use again. In fact I’ve got a movie idea that’s entirely in POV but that’s something we can hopefully talk about in the future.
For some strange reason the film was compared to be another Paranormal Activity which baffled many of us at HCF and besides we thought The Torment was a much better film. Did this annoy you when you heard the link, because those going to watch The Torment would have been in for a surprise at how different the two films are?
Marketing people will always look for ways to sell movies. They always want to say It’s like Jaws in Space or it’s the Medieval Terminator! Sometimes they can be spot on. Other times not so hot. Would I like to have had more say about the way that DOR was marketed? Definitely yes! When I write a film its poster, its trailer and even its tag lines are all part of my vision for the project. I’ve already got several poster designs for Haunted!
I can understand why people labelled DOR The British Paranormal Activity but it’s never been a comparison I’ve embraced. Aside from surface similarities they’re two very different films. I’d never want people to feel they’d been duped into watching my film because of inaccurate advertising. I’m really glad now that people are finding DOR and watching it for what it is. In time hopefully people will pick up one of my movies because it’s an Andrew Cull film. It’s thanks to guys like you getting the word out there that I can see that happening.
The films look, feel and atmosphere became very dark and frightening with moments of strange, and beautiful weirdness. It is fair to say some moments reminded me (Matt) of David Lynch, would you regard him as an influence on your style of filmmaking?
David Lynch is one of the few truly ground-breaking directors of our time. I love and admire his work and he’s definitely an influence on my writing and direction.
The performances in the film considering you relied on three actors throughout was fantastic, how did you manage to draw such powerful performances from these trio?
Whatever I write is very character focussed. I’m really interested in people and how they experience the situations they find themselves in. I like my films to feel personal to the audience, relatable, so casting is very, very important. I spent a long time auditioning the actors for DOR. I saw A LOT of actors before I settled on the three leads.
When I first auditioned Giles I wasn’t sure he was going to be able to bring everything I wanted to the role of David. Between his first and second audition he did a tremendous amount of work and when I saw him again he was fantastic. I knew that day I’d found David O’Reilly.
The way I shoot asks quite a lot of my actors. I like long takes without cutting away. It feels more real and really ramps up the intensity. We shot the scenes between David and Alex, when David arrives and again when he confesses what has been happening to him, all in one take. These are probably my favourite scenes in the film. It was electric working on them and I think that really comes across.
I always have rehearsal time before a shoot. During that time I wanted to have the actors live in the house we shot in, get to know each other and the landscape that they’d be filming in. I wanted their interactions with the house (a key character in the film itself) and each other to feel completely natural. We spent a lot of time preparing for the shoot together. It was an intense time but very worth it.
I think the DOR shoot was the hardest Giles had been on, completely different to the kind of work he’d done before, but what he brought to his performance, in my opinion, marks him out as an actor to watch out for. I think he’ll go a long way and it was a pleasure to work with him.
The Torment relies on genuine fear and brilliant use of lighting and disturbing imagery to conjure up its shocks. Very little music is used, and whereas many horrors these days rely on sudden jolts of loud music to increase a scare, you have chosen a more subtle, quiet approach which becomes far more unsettling. What were your reasons for using this more stripped down approach which ultimately felt more real?
I’m about to use a phrase that my friends rightly tease me for using. They keep me from sounding too much like ‘a director’ which I’m grateful for. Anyway here goes… Reality doesn’t have a soundtrack. In my life, like everyone else, I’ve experienced great highs and lows and none of these events have had music behind them to add tension or excitement. In DOR I really wanted to make the experience as real as possible for the audience and I wanted to do this with great performances and atmosphere. There’s an over reliance on music and cheap tricks to fill the gaps in bad acting and or badly directed sequences. The way I set out to do DOR is harder and sometimes I may have failed but when it works, I think what you get, is far more impacting and memorable.
Regular readers of this site now know that we are in a habit at HCF of asking the talented directors who kindly give their time for these interviews to answer three certain questions, so Mr Andrew Cull, If you had the chance to spend an evening in a pub talking movi
es with any director, alive or dead, who would it be and why?
I think you’ve probably already guessed the answer to that but it’d definitely be Alfred Hitchcock.
He was a real innovator in film. He was a master filmmaker who invented many of the techniques we use today when writing and shooting movies. It’s fantastic that we can learn and refine our trade from watching the films he’s left us but it would be an honour to actually spend an hour learning from him.
Can you please tell us one interesting fact about yourself?
I recently walked 50 miles in 24 hours to raise money for Save The Children. I’m hoping to take my Black Belt in Taekwondo next April. Are they interesting facts?
Who are your influences?
I’m influenced day to day by the people around me. I have great friends who inspire the work I do and the way I live my life. In fact The Long Walk (my latest UK project) was directly inspired by an event that recently took place in my life.
In terms of film makers there’s obviously Hitchcock but I’m inspired by great movies from many genres. I love David Lynch. Blue Velvet is still probably my favourite of his films. I recently re-watched The Straight Story. I love that movie! It’s a wonderful film. See I’m not as dark as you might think! I love the work of directors like Kim Ji Woon (A Tale Of Two Sisters/I Saw The Devil), Joon-ho Bong (Memories Of Murder/Mother). Hideo Nakata’s Ringu and Dark Water are still two of my favourite horrors of the recent past.
Some more? Sam Raimi’s early work, Bruce Campbell, Lance Henriksen, Chris Carter, early Scorcese, early Spielberg, Frank Capra, Chuck Palanhiuk, James Ellroy, the list goes on and it’s always growing!
The fact that The Torment was shot in Britain compared to American and Europe is great credit to yourself especially in how difficult it is for a filmmaker in England to get to do a horror! It seems like all we see in this country are gangster films and more gangster films. Was it a huge battle to get the film made?
Well, it was written in 2003 and I found myself on set in 2009 so that gives an idea of what a long road it can be. On its way to getting made Inside (DOR) passed through the hands of Hammer Films and two other production companies who couldn’t get it made.
Eventually, in 2007, I got fed up with relying on other people to try and get my work made and I wrote and shot my YouTube project In The Dark. It was In The Dark that really got people interested in DOR. That was an amazing experience! The original timeline for the story of In The Dark was two weeks but we had such a great response that it ended up lasting for three months! I really enjoyed creating something so interactive. People would leave comments saying things like “Louise do an EVP.”, so I’d write an episode where Louise Paxton did an EVP. That’s actually one of my favourite scenes too.
Not long after In The Dark I met composer Stephen Isles. He really wanted to produce his first movie and was impressed with what I’d achieved with Louise Paxton. I gave him a copy of DOR to read and he loved it. We teamed up to raise the finance to get it made. Steve did a great job of producing the film in what was a very difficult climate at the time.
It took six years for me to get DOR made and I’d say to anyone who has a great idea that you need to persevere. You’re going to get knocked back a thousand times but eventually, if your work’s good enough, someone will take notice. Stay true to your ideas and don’t give in to people who are more interested in making money than films. Also, there are so many great ways to get your work out there now that weren’t around when I started writing. I used YouTube for In The Dark and I’d really recommend that to any first time filmmaker. Get a camera, shoot something and get it out there!
Why the title change?
When I first wrote DOR it was called Reason. Later I changed the title to Inside which referred to the nature of the film being in one location, the claustrophobia of it and its exploration of madness. That’s still my favourite title but it was dropped due to potential confusion with À l’intérieur.
The Torment is a horror that requires some level of input from the viewer, and we are left to make our own minds up come the end rather than have the film spelled out for us. Personally I love movies that don’t treat the viewer like a fool and spell out every last detail. A brave move, so what were your reasons for this?
Audiences can think for themselves and I think they, like me, get frustrated with having their hand held all the way to a tidy resolution. We like ambiguity. We like to talk about the films that we watch. To discuss them. I wanted that to be the case with DOR. I wanted to make a multi layered movie that you could watch more than once and get more from on a second viewing. It’s an approach that I look to take on all my writing.
Given the strong word of mouth and the ever expanding fan club, would you consider a second story to the original tale?
I actually have a story that I’ve considered writing as a sequel to The Possession Of David O’Reilly. Right now I’m very focussed on my new films Haunted and The Long Walk but after I’m done with those who knows?
Two features now in the horror genre, your first was internet sensation “In The Dark”. Is this a going to be your trait in the movie world, a renowned Horror Director, up there with the likes of Carpenter and co, or are you going to branch out into different genres?
If I’m able to make movies of the standard of directors like John Carpenter then I’ll be a very happy man. I love horror movies and as long as I feel I can bring something interesting to the genre I’ll continue to write and direct for it.
At the same time I have lots of interests and that’s something that’s reflected in my writing. I write a lot! Ideas are something I’m never short of. In time I’ll definitely make movies in other genres too. I have a thriller that I’m writing and my new UK project The Long Walk is the story of a man who, after the death of his wife, leaves his life behind to find a reason to live again. It’s a story of hope and redemption. You weren’t expecting that were you?
Tell us about your next feature “HAUNTED!”, even the title makes us excited?
I’m glad! Haunted is a supernatural thriller which tells the story of Lucy Campbell; a grieving mother who tries to contact her recently murdered son in the afterlife. It’s a very dark tale in the vein of Don’t Look Now and Dark Water. Again, like DOR, it’s a really character driven story. A real performance piece for the lead actress. It’s a very personal film which I hope will really draw the audience in. It’s about personal tragedy and real life horror as well as the supernatural. It’s also a film that I hope will give the audience plenty to talk about after they’ve seen it. It’s definitely the best thing I’ve written yet.
And after that?
Well, there’s The Long Walk but also I’ve got an idea I’d love to shoot in Korea. I love Korean cinema and would relish the chance to work with great actors like Kang-Ho Song, Byung-hun Lee or Min-sik Choi.
Finally, what is your favourite movie of all time, and why?
That’s an easy question for me. It’s been the same film since I first saw it when I was seventeen. My all-time favourite movie is the Hitchcock film Rope.
Why? Because I can’t think of a movie more tense, more brilliantly constructed, directed and performed. It’s the kind of film that I strive to make. I’ve a long way to go yet but it’s something to aim for.
Thank you for the interview, we at HorrorCultFlilms wish you the best and we hope to meet up with you again in the near future!
I’d love to! Thanks again!
HorrorCultFilms, Matt Wavish and Ross Hughes are grateful for Andrew Cull for giving up his busy time and answering our questions and we wish the talented director all the best for the future. Before we end this interview, Ross Hughes is going to tell the readers of HCF why they should rush out and get the the film simply because for everyone who has seen it, they totally loves it, here is why you are missing out……
THE HUGHES VERDICT!
The Torment met my eyes one dark gloomy morning when I was on the look out for the usual new releases that hit the Monday shelves. The face of a man screaming and the tagline “They are Waiting” made me curious, but what sold it to me was the Based On True Events quote that always intrigues my horror heart. Maybe it is the Texas Chainsaw that makes me want to watch all horror films that carry this line, I mean the fact I thought that was true when I was a child and that a man like Leatherface is out there, somewhere in the wilderness made me more scared than the film itself. Looking back I should have asked Andrew Cull why he put that notion into his film? Did the events that happen to Alex and Kate really happen? Or was it a clever marketing ploy? But saying that, its best not to know, to even have the idea in your brain that all this happened is freaky enough and by knowing the truth will probably diminish the power that this British horror film has and believe me, it has an incredible amount of power. Looking back at the film for this review and I suppose I was not supposed to like this film has much as I did, the lack of press release and word of mouth, the at times, illogical actions of the cast that had me screaming at the TV in disgust. But for some strange reason, I woke up the morning after with this horror still in my mind. Its final image engraved in the back of my brain that I just could not shift!. Like its title the film had tormented me all day, and the only reason I can think why is because its so darn good!Borrowing some key elements from films like Them, Rec, and to a lesser extent Darkness Falls, to even Doctor Who (the flat itself and upstairs eerily looks like the one that the Doc shared with James Corden), The Torment is a delicious horror that leaves you thinking throughout. I have never seen an horror in which the wife and I debated so much through out the running time. Remarks like “It must be!” or “It can’t be!” rang through the four walls of my living room, for such a simple premise, the intrigue it builds up is quite frightening, and with mostly only a cast of three to carry the film, it saddens me that The Torment gets released with hardly a whimper but films like The Crazies gets money thrown at them and makes a bucket full when its not even that good!
Ok, rant over there, the film starts with memories of Them, a young couple Alex (Nicholas Shaw) and Kate (Zoe Richards) are having food and then sitting down to watch telly together. Half falling asleep on the couch, their plans to go to bed are ruined when at the the stroke of midnight there is a knock on their front door! Feeling at first an unease to answer, Alex finds his best friend David (Giles Anderson) on the outside in total disarray. It seems his long time girlfriend have has been cheating on him and would it be ok if he stayed the night! Kate goes to bed, the boys chatter, but when Alex decides to join his girlfriend in the land of sleep, its here that we witness something is not quite right in the head of David. His anxiety and looking out of the windows brings a sense of WTF, and when he starts to put salt on floor by the entry of the back door ( anyone who watches Supernatural will know what this signifies), you begin to wonder that maybe his visit is not as straight forward as he is saying. As day breaks and David asks to stay again for another night, it is soon apparent to the young couple that their best friend is suffering from some sort of breakdown. When the sun goes down and David starts screaming of something in the shadows, a haunting that has followed him from his own house to theirs, but why is it only David can see these things, the creatures that hide in the dark but scared of the light! With fear spreading through the bodies of all three, the anxiety brings chaos as the three friends begin to suspect their lives are in danger, but is it from the monsters that lay await, or from David himself, a man increasingly unstable and holding a knife in the middle of the dark!….
The “is it happening?!” appeal will keep you glued throughout. Its quite fantastic how director Andrew Cull managed to build an incredible sense of impending doom especially out of very little to work with. Cull who also wrote the screenplay, manages to create so much tension out of what is really a three They also riff on the camcorder phase that seems to be the selling point of horror these days. There are many occasions when it looks like what we are seeing is from the perceptive of someone holding a camera, but what the two directors have done, is put us in a POV shot of one the characters. So we have the jerky moments that made REC stand out, and we have other characters talk directly at us. In fact this way of filming brings an edge to the movie. When David first arrives and Alex invites him, the camera fails to follow them into the flat, it stays like a lurker and then slowly shows us the upstairs of the property, Its at this moment that the film was sold to me, I half expected a shadow or something, but the camera lingers on nothing, but the eerily music makes you know that something is not quite right!Of course with a plot of this nature, you can not help but find fault. My main criticism of the film is that it does one night too much. After what happens on the second night, which clearly shows that the mental state of David is not right at all, most people with any common sense would be phoning an ambulance on they very break of daylight. The fact that Alex and Kate just let him stay for what would no doubt be another night of fear, stretches the plausibility of the viewer, but then if you could swallow the fact that Micah stayed with Katie doing all the ghostly going on’s in Paranormal Activity then you can just manage to swallow the believability of Alex and Kate staying with David. It would have been better if all the events happened on the second night. We saw a glimpse of the madness of David on his first stay, and because so much happens on the second nightfall, it kind of wrecks the build up, but again to the credit of all involved they manage to put it back on track for the climatic reveal.
The introduction of a new upstairs tenant in the shape of Anna (Francesca Fowler) threatens to derail the plot, at the time it brings the intrigue overflow that is required but looking back, it seemed just an add on for the sake of it, but with some outstanding jump scenes, the Kate waking up in bed is great and the monster at the door made me jump out of my seat, The Torment delivers on all counts. What I loved as well that despite the flaws, when it came down to the last quarter, Kate does everything right. Her common sense makes you shout out “go girl go!” but then the film shows that sometimes doing what you think is right, comes at a price, with a final shot that really took my breath away!
So is the film about one mans breakdown in the light of his girlfriends cheating, or is there really something out there, in the shadows. You have to sit and watch and that is the fun of it all. A creditable British horror that deserves a look in for all fans of horror. The trouble is, I went in not knowing what to expect and I came away thrilled. Those reading this will hopefully go in expecting a fright fest and come away thinking “Hughesy is wrong on this one!” but I hope you find the love that Matt and I did, because this joins the ranks with the likes of Session 9, Cradle Will Fall, House Of The Devil and The Objective as one of the best offerings ever of straight to DVD horror, A quite wonderful trip into madness you would be mad to miss, a true modern classic in every word!