A QUICK CHAT WITH THE SHRINE DIRECTOR JON KNAUTZ
When Ross Hughes sat down last year to watch a little film called “The Shrine” he did not know what to expect! He knew that it was directed by the talented Jon Knautz who gave the world the quite wonderful 80’s throwback Jack Brooks Monster Slayer but that is all he knew. No trailer or info to go into, he sat there and wondered what kind of horror film he was about to see. Torture Porn? Another 80’s style horror or something else? What he saw was something totally different, a film that had him screaming from the rooftops telling people how good this film was. When we asked Mr Knautz could he spare five minutes for a quick chat and he agreed there was only one man we could send. With Ross packed and all set to go we only had one advice of give him….
“Beware of the mist in the woods and any freaky looking statues!”….
Hi Mr Jon Knautz, thanks for speaking to HorrorCultFilms we know that you are extremely busy and we like to express our thanks to you for making this happen. First thing we would like to say is WOW! The second thing is “The Shrine”, you must be mightily impressed and proud at the critical acclaim and love this little beauty has found?
JK: Thanks for the kind words, much appreciated. I’m very happy with the film and its turn out. It was an ambitious project and I’m glad to see it out on the market now.
What was the inspiration for the The Shine?
I really responded to the cultural miscommunication between the American back-packers and the Mayans. The language barrier created such an exciting and mysterious sense of horror. Visually I was inspired by the works of Mario Bava and other films from the 70’s.
The film is virtually a horror of three parts….first we have what seems like we are heading towards a Hostel kind of Horror with a trio entering a foreign land, then it all goes Clive Barker on us with that mist and creepy imagery and then….well that final half……was something no one expected! The film has so many layers, was it hard to write and then put on screen because it seems such a complicated plot but it’s told with such ease?
JK: I worked backwards when developing the story, so I knew exactly how the ending would be right from the start. The challenge then was to mislead the audience into thinking the film would turn out to be something else. It was definitely tricky to write in terms of hiding the “truth” of the storyline, but that’s what made it fun. It’s great to be challenged when writing something because it forces you to stay sharp while crafting the story. To be honest, I would actually love to write “The Shrine” storyline as a novel someday because there is so much more to the story that I had no time to show in the film.
One of the delights of the movie is the lack of subtitles in some scenes so when the residents of the town are talking the trio have no idea what is being said! It’s an ingenious move by your part because it means we the viewer are confused and frustrated and we are like the fourth member of the gang in that we are uncomfortable with them. This actually scared me more than anything else in the film because my Imagination was going overdrive! Was this ploy hard to convince the studio because I can imagine some one saying to you “Look….we need subtitles for this part!”?
JK: Yes, funny you mention that. I definitely ran into a few moments (more after the film was made) where people were stressing that we use subtitles. But thankfully my team supported me and we kept those subtitles out. And that is exactly what I wanted from the very start. The whole idea was to make the audience just as confused as the main characters and to push the audience’s imagination into overdrive, just like you said. It’s so great to hear someone like yourself appreciate that
I mentioned that The Shrine came in three parts and I sighed when I sat down and watched it originally because I really thought that I was heading for torture porn horror again. Was the opening half deliberately set up this way, it’s like you giving the modern audience brought up on the likes of Saw and Hostel what they want and then you just pull the rug from under them?
JK: That was exactly the plan. I honestly couldn’t explain it better than you just did. I just wanted to take something that everyone was familiar with and then turn it on its head.
Who created that freaky statue and again what was your inspiration?
JK: Our brilliant effects artist David Scott created the statue.
Him and his team did a fantastic job. Both Dave and I referenced a lot of ancient gargoyle statues. I wanted the statue to feel like it could have been around for ages, something way before our time, to give it that sort of mystery.
It’s such a departure from Jack Brooks that it showed you have wonderful talent behind the camera. Brooks was more black comic horror while The Shrine was a full blown assault to your senses, proving to the masses you have what it takes to do horror of any kind. Is this a genre that you would like to stay in and really male a name for yourself or are you going to branch out into the likes of thriller or even a comedy?
JK: Thanks so much for the compliments. I will always love horror. And I never really plan on leaving it, however, at this time I’m very interested in exploring new genres. I would love to tackle a drama; something more character based and performance driven. We shall see.
And what about Jack Brooks 2….any news because its one of our most eagerly awaited films?
JK: Ah yes, Jack Brooks 2…we’ve had many questions about the sequel. We have developed one but it’s still in the early stages. It may be some time before that moves into production, but hopefully sooner rather than later.
We ask all the talented directors the same question which is If you had a chance to spend the evening in a pub talking movies with any director, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
JK: Alive, it would be David Fincher. Dead, it would be Billy Wilder. Both filmmakers have inspired me greatly since I started making films. And it would be amazing to pick their brains for an evening…I have so many questions.
And in the voice of Ghostface “What is your Favourite Scary Movie?”
JK: The Exorcist.
Mr Knautz its been a pleasure I hope we did not take too much of your time and we wish you all the best for your future….
My pleasure. Any time!
We would like to thank Mr Knautz once again for letting us do this interview. Read the review of The Shrine from Hughesy himself…