Excl: Sean Hogan talks WWI-set horror, “NO MAN’S LAND”
With the annual American Film Market and its endless stream of potential projects comes a serious step in the development of NO MAN’S LAND. A new film from Sean Hogan, the UK genre filmmaker whose promise begs to be met with more output, NO MAN’S LAND finds itself in the trenches of World War I where an English troop must fend off their mortal enemies, as well as something beyond understanding.
“The script is basically ready to go, so we’re just trying to lock the financing now,” the director (pictured, above with producer Jennifer Handorf. Photo: Fantastic Fest) tells Fango. “There’s been a lot of interest already, and the hope is to secure everything we need at AFM so that we can shoot early next year. We have some of the supporting cast in place (some familiar faces we’ve worked with before), and hope to finalize our leads post-AFM as well.”
While envisioned as Hogan’s biggest project yet—following the largely contained, literary and sadly unreleased in the U.S. THE DEVIL’S BUSINESS, a biting E.C. Comics-like entry in UK anthology LITTLE DEATHS and his first feature LIE STILL (a.k.a THE HAUNTING OF 24)—the filmmaker is still looking to coat the period horror film in overwhelming, perhaps confining dread. He explains, “I hope it’ll have a definite mood, yeah – if you’re dealing with a bunch of people trapped in a cramped trench system continually staring death in the face, I’d probably be doing something wrong if there wasn’t a foreboding atmosphere! But like DEVIL’S BUSINESS, there’s still some character-based humor along the way, no matter how dark things get (and they certainly do get dark). Part of the appeal of NO MAN’S LAND is doing something that’s less contained – obviously the primary trench setting is still pretty claustrophobic, but we do have a wider cast of characters, who venture out onto the battlefield and behind the lines and to other locations besides, so it is a more expansive film for sure. There are a lot more action/suspense scenes in this script, just by virtue of the wartime setting.”
Speaking to the period setting itself, he add, “Obviously there are a lot of visual possibilities inherent in a WWI trench setting—there’s no sense in trying to pretend war isn’t cinematic! —and it’s appealing to try and play on a wider canvas. Plus I’m always interested in trying to place horror elements in different settings and scenarios; DEVIL’S BUSINESS was a crime movie that turned into a genre film, and I suppose this similarly moves from being a war film into something else. There seemed to be something interesting in taking characters who are already in a life and death situation and upping the stakes considerably beyond that. And I also get to deal with a classic case study of the sort of class issues and subtexts that I normally like to write about.”
Further enticing things, producer Jennifer Handorf (THE DEVIL’S BUSINESS, this year’s THE BORDERLANDS) reveals, “The film features a fantastic new monster, and we’re really looking forward to scaring the hell out of people with it!”
Of course, NO MAN’S LAND will follow in the line of many military-based horrors, so we couldn’t let Hogan go before asking about his favorites. He says, “It’s funny, I wrote a book chapter on supernatural war movies a few years back, well before this idea ever came along. So I watched everything I could whilst researching that, and have a pretty good grounding in this particular sub-genre. Nazi zombie movies are the obvious ones to cite, but they’re all actually pretty terrible! del Toro’s Spanish Civil War movies are probably the high points for me, even though they both focus more on the consequences of the war rather than the actual conflict itself. And as flawed as it is, Michael Mann’s THE KEEP is still a pretty stunning piece of work in many ways – the opening of that film is an incredible piece of visual filmmaking.”
Keep an eye on Fango for more on NO MAN’S LAND as it develops!