Q&A: FX Artist Gary J. Tunnicliffe talks Kickstarter feature “JUDGEMENT”
As the bizarre FX brain behind countless genre titles such as the HELLRAISER films, WISHMASTER, CANDYMAN, DRIVE ANGRY and many more, Gary J Tunnicliffe is more than just a horror staple. It’s been years (eleven) since his directorial effort HANSEL & GRETEL however. With plans to step behind the camera once again for the upcoming moral flesh feast JUDGEMENT, the filmmaker/artist is turning to a fundraising campaign to put his latest nightmare on screen. Fango sat down with Tunnicliffe to discuss the film be says he, “has to make.”
FANGORIA: You have been busy! What led to JUDGEMENT?
GARY J. TUNNICLIFFE: I just decided I can’t do another “teens in peril” film. We just did that wonderfully on ANIMAL, which has some great original elements to it, but I am ready for something new and different. I don’t think this film could be made unless it was in Europe, Asia, or in the 70s. That is why I am turning to Kickstarter to fund it.
FANG: What’s the story?
TUNNICLIFFE: It starts with two guys at a slaughterhouse having a discussion about that they did over the weekend. What is happening around them is appalling and would make most people throw up, but to them it is just the everyday, normal process. Ultimately it is all about souls being processed, and whether you are deemed worthy or unworthy. They are having this discussion about heaven and hell, and what it takes to get into either.
FANG: What were the seeds of this story?
TUNNICLIFFE: The initial idea was that you could stumble into a bad situation and not know it. You walk down the street and don’t know what’s happening behind closed doors around you. It could be six people being held captive in a basement for ten years…angry parents…kids plotting against their classmates. My idea wasn’t to deal with it in reality, but to deal with things that are larger. The idea that a processing place like this could exist in derelict buildings where you didn’t know what was going on, intrigues me.
This is also the idea that Hell isn’t firey pits and cenobites. Hell is like a big processing office. Some of this came about when considering the huge machine necessary to process human souls and decide whether they are naughty or nice. I was always fascinated by the fact that the name “Lucifer” means “light bearer,” while Jesus was saying “I am the light…follow me.” Has it all been a trick where we are following the wrong guy and the wrong people?
FANG: So you have gone from telling tales of pulling people into hell, and into the story of what comes before that…
TUNNICLIFFE: It is the idea that you could step into a room and suddenly find yourself being judged. Everybody has dark secrets, and things you’d prefer people not know. Here your blood will literally tell people whether you are guilty or not guilty. What kind of sin is enough to get you admitted or not admitted to either place?
FANG: Can you elaborate on the story here in more specific terms?
TUNNICLIFFE: Early on we happen upon somebody who has stumbled upon this place where he is judged and processed in a spectacular way, and a police man comes looking for him and finds himself thrown into the same process. We then discover the life the policeman is leading, and the case he is working on, might be enough to keep him out of hell. The work he is doing may, or may not be enough to save his soul. The story is about this particular officer who is being judged.
FANG: What is the judgment process like?
TUNNICLIFFE: When you are processed you first meet the character of ‘The Auditor’, who interviews you, along with an intravenous tube running from your arm into a typewriter he is typing on. The pages are pieces of flesh. After he has interviewed you, the pages are left for ‘The Assessor’, who is kind of heavy set guy wearing a too-small suit. He enters the room carrying a suitcase, which contains a knife, a fork, and a vial. He eats the pages, and then vomits the contents into a receptacle inside the room, and there is a tube leading from that receptacle into another room to the jury, who then drink that vomit and make their judgment on whether he is guilty or not guilty. From there it gets bad.
FANG: Wow! That opens a whole array of options for you as a structure for exploring a person’s life.
TUNNICLIFFE: This allows me to have fun with some baroque imagery, while setting up an interesting narrative to explore some theological discussion and ponder the big “what if?”
FANG: You mentioned this would be hard to make via traditional routes. Have you pitched this to anyone?
TUNNICLIFFE: I have pitched it several times, and enjoyed the interviews. Anyone who pitches movies knows when it is going good, and then you feel like a comedian on stage. You can tell when you’ve lost your audience. Every time I pitched this and got to the part where he vomits into the receptacle and it going down the tube and the little girls with no faces drinking it, I see producer faces blinking off. It is already over and done with.
FANG: Your passion is undeniable. Let’s say this doesn’t raise the funds you need on Kickstarter…would you find a way to tell this story somehow?
TUNNICLIFFE: I feel like I have to make this film, no matter what. I have to make something for me. The internet is full of people who condemn you and say you have no ability, and I need to just create something for myself. I’ve tried compromising and doing things for other people and compromise kills creativity.
It is like that scene in Rocky Horror where Tim Curry says to Susan Sarandon, “What do you think of him?” about Rocky in his gold shorts. She says, “I don’t like a man with too many muscles,” and he replies, “I didn’t make him for you.” If people think this is too much for them, then the fact is that I didn’t make it for them.
You can see the first teaser, and pledge to JUDGEMENT’s Kickstarter campaign here.