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THE FURRED MAN deals with the so-far little-discussed aspect of lycanthropy: namely, how to explain to the authorities what has actually happened when a shapeshifter creates circumstances that make an innocent person look like a psychotic killer. In the case of THE FURRED MAN, the hero’s case looks particularly bad, because he’s made a living by dressing up as a werewolf to lure thrill-seekers to his campsite—a good strategy until a real werewolf shows up.
Written and directed by Paul Williams (no, not the songwriter who starred in PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE), who provided a couple of exclusive behind-the-scenes photos seen below, and produced and scored by Paul Terry, THE FURRED MAN has won Best Short and/or Best Horror awards at five film festivals, including the International Horror and Sci-Fi Film Festival in Phoenix, Arizona. The short premiered in February on Britain’s Channel Four and is now available on 4oD, Channel Four’s on-demand video service.
Speaking by phone from his native England, Williams explains how he and Terry, who have been filmmaking partners since college, came to make their hairy winner. “We were influenced by THE HOWLING and AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON, definitely, but it was more the consequence of horror films that interested us the most, say, when at the end of a horror film, when the creature gets turned back into a human, there’s a dead human lying on the floor and the hero of the film says, ‘This is fantastic, I’ve killed the beast.’ But then the police come into the house and they see a dead human and you can’t really explain it. ‘Oh, it was a werewolf five minutes ago.’ So I started with that idea and worked backward from that.”
The two Pauls, Terry and Williams, had partnered on less technically ambitious projects earlier on. “Evil Hypnotist Productions is me and Paul Terry, who’s my producer and composer,” Williams says. “This is our fifth short and we did a low-budget feature about four years ago called THE WAKE, [which] is comedy/drama. We thought, ‘We want to do features,’ shot for three weeks, edited for about a year and got a really good 90-minute film at the end of it. It was a bit of a crazy project to do for no money, but I think it proved that we could tell a story over that 90-minute time frame, which is obviously a whole big leap from doing short films.”
There are a variety of archetypes for the look of cinematic werewolves. In THE FURRED MAN, the inspiration seems to be Rob Bottin’s work in THE HOWLING. Williams explains the choice. “I’ve always liked the bipedal werewolf over the AMERICAN WEREWOLF or actually being more wolflike, and also because of us being a low-budget production, we had to stick with what we could do, and the great thing is that, because Jon Moore [2nd photo above], our special effects guy, came in, we managed to get away with a lot more than we thought we would at first. I know when I originally storyboarded it, it was going to be a lot more just close-ups of fangs and eyes and claws—that’s how far I thought we’d be able to push it, purely because I thought, ‘We’re never going to get away with doing the beast properly.’ And then because of the amazing work Jon did, we could pull the camera back and get away with a couple of almost full-body shots of the beast.”
While there is some spurting blood in THE FURRED MAN—a head gets ripped off—the gore is relatively contained. “I don’t recall making a decision beforehand or after-hand,” Williams says. “It’s just the way it’s all played out. The head rip that happens in the middle of it is the goriest moment. For the head rip, [effects artist] Jon Moore came to me with this humongous fountain of blood idea that he had, and he had this pressurized canister and we did it in the garden beforehand, and it shot an enormous amount of blood into the air, which would have looked great onscreen, but I thought, ‘I probably can’t shoot this. We haven’t got the budget or the money or the time to basically watch the whole tent down, everybody else down, the camera down,’ so we went for more of a subtle blood-spurting effect, which I think works really well, and plus it doesn’t distract from the main thing, which is [main character] Max’s face that the audience is going to be focusing on. If it was a big gorefest, it would take away from Max’s story, which is what the short’s really about.”
The FURRED MAN cast consists largely of actors who had already worked with Evil Hypnotist Productions, Williams relates. “Daniel Carter-Hope, who plays Max, is somebody we’ve worked with on quite a few projects and on the feature THE WAKE and he was brought in and I really wrote this part for him. Chris [Courtenay], who played Chaney, we’d worked with on a couple of projects before as well. We try and reuse as many people per project as possible, so it was great to have Dan and Chris back for this project. Chris brought in Martin [Durrant], who’s bad cop to his good cop, and then Bronya [Deutsch] was a great happenstance. Dan was doing a stand-up gig at a pub in London and afterward we were congratulating him and bought him a drink and this girl just ran up behind him and gave him a big hug, this little girl who turned out to be Bronya. As soon as we saw them together, the juxtaposition of this really little girl and tall Dan, I thought, ‘That’s perfect.’ I asked her if she was an actress and luckily she was and we met up a couple of days after that and she was really pleased to be picked for the part. Chris and Dan were the two lead people for the family.“
The credits note that FURRED MAN was shot at Pinner Studios, which turns out to be an unusual facility. According to Williams, “Pinner Studios is basically an underground cinema in a back garden. [A friend of the producer is] an electrical engineer and he’s built himself a little workshop in his back garden. He wanted to do a bigger thing, and the neighbors said, ‘You can’t build up,’ so he built down. He dug a humungous hole in his back garden and built an underground cinema. As soon as we went down there, we thought this was a perfect space to shoot films. As we learned over a shoot of six days, it’s very small and very hot and smelly, but it was just custom-made and available for the film. He lent us not only his underground cinema, but his house for six days. He was amazingly supportive as the crew and the cast traipsed through his home. So we’ve dubbed it Pinner Studios.”
Response to THE FURRED MAN has been encouraging to say the least. “It’s been amazing,” Williams says. “We finished it in July . We had quite a good rough cut to send to festivals as screeners and we forgot about it for awhile while we set up the premiere, which was in October, so we were really more concentrating on that and then before we knew it, the festivals just started to pick it up, which was great. So far, we’ve been in 15 festivals. We’re just trying to keep up now and get other projects off the back of the success of the short, which has been great just to get it out there and around the world. It’s been a great experience to have the success. We’ve met a lot of filmmakers on the circuit in the past few months. There are actually so many filmmakers out there who have just got their shorts and they’re trying to get their projects up and running and get their short films out, so this is definitely an amazing starting point.”
At present, THE FURRED MAN is only showing in England, but Williams assures Americans that it will become available worldwide. “We’ve got a plan to put the film online after it’s done the [festival] circuit for a year, and then hopefully we’ll get more people interested in us and future projects by putting it online. It’s been great to be able to show THE FURRED MAN in America and in Europe and at home as well. You make these films for people to see, and so it’s been great that it’s been getting out there. There were 24 people working on this really hard for a year.”
As for the future, Williams says, “We’ve got a few projects in mind. I write and direct and Paul [Terry] composes and produces, so it’s a great marriage of the two of us together, especially with Paul’s scores, because he also does his own projects with Cellarscape, which is his band. It’s great to see him develop as a composer, while I develop as a writer and director. The great thing that we’ve always had as a company is just to try and keep developing ideas, rather than having one thing that we’re trying desperately to get made, but I think because of the success of THE FURRED MAN and because we do have another project that’s the same sort of horror/comedy tone, we’re focusing on that at the moment. It would obviously be an easier sell off the back of THE FURRED MAN and being that horror lends itself better to low-budget projects, we’re [working on] FALSE TEETH AND FANGS. We’re switching from werewolves to vampires.”
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