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comedy has often been tempered with a strain of melancholy, but sometimes also
a little of the grotesque. In fact, the darker aspects of —often exaggerated to
surreal extremes—are an essential part of the landscape of British humor, so it’s
no accident that the blending of horror and comedy should have become such a
British pre-occupation. Horror and comedy have always been “bed fellows,” but a
successful union requires a rare understanding of the anatomies of each. For
every riotous coupling, there’s a dozen feeble fumblings.
when you thought horror was no laughing matter, enter writer/director Paul
Davis, the London based filmmaker behind BEWARE THE MOON (dare I say the definitive
retrospective on John Landis’ classic AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON). Teamed
with hot young producer/director James Pears (THE OTHER SIDE) and a number of
seasoned industry professionals, notably Reece Shearsmith (THE COTTAGE and cult
Brit comedies THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN and PSYCHOVILLE) the team are about to
craft a bloody black hilarious tale of an agoraphobic serial killer, HIM
Shaun of the Dead himself (Simon Pegg) starts tweeting with excitement at the
project’s announcement, you know you’re in for “a slice of fried gold.” Fango caught
up with Davis and Shearsmith to learn more about making the audience laugh so
hard... it hurts.
HIM INDOORS has a great central concept: a haphazard serial killer with
agoraphobia. Can you discuss the genesis of the idea?
DAVIS: HIM INDOORS was first born as a concept in the mid-90s when I watched a
BBC sitcom called GAME ON with Samantha Janus and Ben Chapman (later replaced
by Neil Stuke). One of the characters suffered from agoraphobia and was constantly
doing ridiculous things in his flat—such as build an army assault course in his
living room—just to keep himself from boredom. So I thought “Wow, wouldn't it suck
if he was a serial killer!?” The fact that someone who's necessity to leave
their home to fulfill such a desire as killing people, couldn't go outside,
really tickled me. That idea stuck with me, and then while I was at University
ten years ago, I was very close to actually writing something similar, but for
some reason it never happened. Fast forward many years later, a week ago in
fact, and I'm presented with the idea to direct a short as a warm up. Out of
the depths of my memory bank comes our agoraphobic serial killer. I wrote the
script in a few hours and the rest is history, really.
What are your genre influences?
I've been watching horror movies pretty much religiously since I was three
years old. On the whole, I find inspiration in all areas of the genre—be it THE
EVIL DEAD or ONIBABA. CARRIE is one of my favorite movies of all time, and
every time I watch it I can't help but sit there and visually dissect it; wonder
how long particular shots took to set up and how they were achieved etc. If I
could make something that looks anywhere as great as that, I'd be a very happy
man. Of course, you can't mention De Palma as an influence without going
further back with Hitchcock. I think that's where the dark humor in my work comes
from. I don't think people give Hitchcock enough credit for how wickedly funny a
lot of his horror/thrillers are. And of course, John Landis is a huge influence
on my career. Not just with AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON but also THE BLUES
BROTHERS, TRADIING PLACES and even THRILLER. I love comedies as much as I
love horror films, so I think for me to write something that incorporates both
was a natural occurrence.
Reece Shearsmith has a reputation for these wonderful 'grotesques' in comedy,
did you write the part with Reece in mind, or was his casting a sudden flash of
This whole thing literally started up within days. I started work on this with
a producer friend of mine, James Pears (who's first production THE OTHER SIDE
is about to hit the festival circuit) literally a week ago. I approached
Reece on the day it was decided we were going to do this, so, before there was
even a script. I've been a fan of Reece since TTHE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN's first
run on the BBC, and PSYCHOVILLE, again, is just brilliant. We both appeared in
John Landis' BURKE & HARE and while we didn't meet on that, I was fortunate
enough to meet with him last year and it turns out we have a very similar taste
in horror movies. I mentioned to him pretty early in the development of SILENT
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD that I'd like him to be involved as one of the
principal characters, so James Moran was able to write his character especially
for Reece. Same thing here, I told Reece the idea, I knew that he had an
interest in the psychology of serial killers etc, and so once he stated his
interest, I was able to write the script with his likeness and voice in my head
the whole time; which I must say, made the whole process a lot easier than it
could have been. He's a remarkable talent and I cannot wait for him to bring
this “interesting” character to life.
THE MOON revealed not only a sincere love for horror but horror laced with
lashings of black humor. Are you hoping to recapture something in a similar
vein with HIM INDOORS?
Yeah. As I mentioned earlier, although I absolutely adore horror movies and love
being scared, I enjoy a good comedy just as much. I've always been a bit of an
entertainer at heart and love to make people laugh, so despite my desire to
scare people through my work, I can't help but to include a bit of comical
respite in there. The same thing happened with SILENT NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD.
It initially started out as a serious horror movie, but when James Moran and I
sat down to talk about the story, we kept adding these ideas that were just too
hilarious for us to take it seriously. It's still very scary and graphic and
violent, but the sense of humor couldn't be ignored. With HIM INDOORS, it had
to be a comical. The very concept is funny: a serial killer who can't leave his
home. so his victims have to somehow come to him. I littered the script with a
lot of little comical moments that really intensify the insane situation the
character manages to bury himself in. At the same time, there are a few moments
in there that I purposely made *very* shocking. In fact, I knew I'd achieved
what I set out to do when Reece commented on how shocking one particular scene
was. Comedy and horror is very hard to get right, and I'm very much aware of
that. I just hope I've got something here that will both make people laugh and
And you announced today that Pollyanna McIntosh (THE WOMAN) will be playing
opposite Reece Shearsmith in HIM INDOORS....
We're so thrilled to have Pollyanna involved in this. She was phenomenal in
Lucky McKee's THE WOMAN and I can't wait to see her and Reece on screen
together. She has an amazing presence. You can't help but look at her when
she's on screen, so when you put her up there with Reece Shearsmith, I have
goosebumps just thinking about it. It's funny because the three of us all
worked together on John Landis' BURKE & HARE but I never met either of them
on set. It's like we have a little reunion going on.'
With the days of the B-pictures sadly long since dead, short films are
something of an anomaly in the mainstream cinema going experience, although
their presence seems to be growing at genre festivals. What do you hope to
achieve with your short and what do you think are the challenges faced by
independent short film makers?
Short films have essentially become a necessity for filmmakers to get their
talents seen by an audience, and these days it's incredibly difficult to get
feature projects off the ground without a short to show what you can do. The
biggest challenge with making a good looking short, again, is the same challenge
with making a feature, the cost. Sure, it's nowhere near as much as a feature
film, but it's still *very* expensive to make something that looks and sounds
great. This is a particular area where I am an advocate for crowd-funding. If
you're making a non-profit piece that is being created purely to be seen, then
I'm all for that. I think that crowd-funding a feature is a different kettle of
fish that I wouldn't touch with a 60ft pole. If you're going to be making money
off of other people's generosity, no way. I'm a human being before I'm a
filmmaker. It's unethical. HIM INDOORS, however, is being made to be seen.
We're not selling it, we're showing it. That way, people will get something
back for their kind donations. In addition, we're giving a ton of really cool
stuff to people who make contributions. One person, for example, has purchased
one of the murder weapons that will be used on screen, signed by Reece Shearsmith.
There's still lots of great things up for grabs too, such as personal tweets
from Reece (@RealReeceShears), signed scripts, DVDs and a pair of screen used
gloves—which I guarantee people will *kick* themselves if they miss out on
these—once they see the scene and context in which they're used.
What can you tell me about the much anticipated “yule ghoul” feature SILENT
NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD?
Can't say too much about it at the moment. We're still funding the project, but
we're in very good shape on it, and are looking to shoot early next year. We're
talking to a lot of wonderful people to join Reece Shearsmith, AJ Bowen and Tom
Savini on our cast. Then, of course, you've got the script by James Moran (SEVERANCE),
special make-up FX by Oscar Winner Dave Elsey (THE WOLFMAN), special effects supervisor
Dan Martin (SIGHTSEERS), make-up designer Jenna Wrage (STORAGE 24) and cinematographer
Eben Bolter (CONFINE). I wish I could tell you more but we're really keeping as
much under wraps as possible at the moment.
You've carved a niche for yourself in comedy playing these wonderful
grotesques that seem culled from something like HAMMER HOUSE OF HORROR. Were
there any seminal influences upon you, horror or comedy?
SHEARSMITH: I have always been a horror fan, and a lot of our “comedy” (I use
the word cautiously!) has pillaged many of our most cherished scares. But
famously THE WICKER MAN, DONT LOOK NOW and THEATRE OF BLOOD have always been
particular favorites. I have always loved being surprised by horror. The
unexpected is a rare thing these days. It’s very difficult to really feel
frightened by something on screen. On the rare occasions that it happens,
ironically, you never feel more alive.
It's interesting looking at some of your horror/comedy characters in LEAGUE and
PSYCHOVILLE as they're often quite make-up heavy, mask-like, similar to the
classic movie monsters. There's something of Roy Ashton in there...
As a huge make up and special FX fan (I worked with Chris Tucker before I
decided I wanted to be an actor), it was a dream come true to be able to try
out lots of grotesque make up. It was never actually as much as you think
(which is an unfortunate thing to admit, when you think of how monstrous I
look as some of these people!), but we enjoyed creating characters that were
still this side of believable, however strange their situations.
What were your first impressions of HIM INDOORS' concept/script? How do you think
it falls into the canon of your previous work, and how does it deviate?
I loved the idea of a serial killer that can't go outside. It immediately
throws up so many questions. Paul has thought of a very funny conceit, and it
will be fascinating depicting a murderer in such a difficult situation. It
is a blackly comic scenario and that, done well, always appeals to me.
The horror/comedy cocktail is a delicate balance, what do you think is
the secret of a successful marriage?
It's the hardest thing in the world to get right. You can be accused of failing
for three different things; it is either not funny enough, not scary enough, or
both! The trick is to be really scary when you are trying to be, and then the
comedy comes in the release you give the audience when you surprise them with
something funny. We loved doing the scary stuff in our comedies; pulling it
back round to being funny was always the harder part.
After years as part of the LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN ensemble, with HIM INDOORS and
the newly announced role in SILENT NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD, do you think
you've found another kindred spirit?
Absolutely. Paul is a man after my own heart, and with those zombies looming at
Christmas, he just might well get it!
more info, visit the film’s Sponsume and follow Davis on Twitter.
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