|Written by Sharon Knolle
Photo via @edgarwright
It’s nice to have a BFF like Shaun of the Dead director Edgar Wright: First-time director Corin Hardy got a nice intro at the Los Angeles screening of his horror movie, The Hallow, from his director pal, who revealed they bonded as lads over their shared love of Evil Dead 2.
Edgar Wright said, “We met back in 1991, maybe when we were both 15 and this is his first movie and as far as I’m concerned, it’s been a long time coming. Corin has been making these amazing music videos or short films over the years. So I’ve always been rooting for him to make his first horror film.” [Wright talked more about how they met and he asked Hardy about when he realized it might not have been such a bright idea to cast a 5-month old infant as one of his main characters, but my audio cut out, alas. What’s clear is that they are great friends and huge geeks united by their genuine love for horror movies.]
The Hallow stars Joseph Mawle (Game of Thrones, The Awakening) as “tree doctor” Adam from London who’s been sent to survey the rural Irish area for future construction.
He, his wife Clare (Bojana Novakovic), infant son, and dog move into an abandoned home where the locals are downright hostile. Or are they just trying to warn them about what dreadful things they might be disturbing in the forest?
What follows is a slow-building horror as Adam and Clare realize “The Hallow” is real and they’re in very real danger.
It was a full house at the Cinefamily for the free showing and a great evening was made that much better by the free Guinness beer, especially appropriate since the movie is set in Ireland.
After the screening, Hardy talked about the filmmakers that influenced him, his love of practical effects and why his film is “Straw Dogs meets Pan’s Labyrinth.”
Post-screening Q&A with Corin Hardy (some small spoilers):
Q: This won some awards last night at Screamfest.
A: Yes, two nights ago it was screened at Screamfest and then last night I was overwhelmed with jet lag and I couldn’t move and I heard it was winning five awards.
Thank you Screamfest and anyone who was there. I can’t wait to hold those awards in my hands.
Q: This is your debut film, but you have been filmmaking for a while?
A: Well, yeah, when I was 12, I started trying to make horror movies with my friends. I met Edgar along the way and he was doing the same thing, but he got there quicker than I. I’ve been doing music videos for 10 years and this is one I wanted to do for ages.
Q: Why horror?
A: It just blew my mind. Evil Dead 2, you know? That said, I think I just fell in love with the idea of horror and genre movies. I loved to escape in the cinema.
Q: This is an Irish horror film and it has a lot of Irish mythology. What brought you to these characters and these weird, crazy creatures?
A: Fairy tales. That’s another thing, as a child, as I’m sure we all did, I just loved looking at these illustrated books and wondering, ‘What are these things?’ This was the idea of fairy tales that are grounded in reality instead of just fantasy. Something that could be really scary.
Q: Conservationism is big part of the film. Are you a conservationist as well?
A: Well, looking at the Irish mythology I was looking at, it originates from this sort of organic place in the forest. It provided a setting. I wanted the woods to be a terrifying place and a sacred place. You got right back into the Book of Invasions, the early history and mythology of Ireland. There’s this idea that this sacred race was driven out the land, so there’s this idea of nature’s revenge on mind.
And I wanted to mix that idea of mythology and science.
Q: You’re also clearly a huge fan of monster movies and “creature features.”
A: You guessed it. [Audience laughs] I saw King Kong when I was five, but I was also quite moved and in tears by the end and I didn’t know why. And as I grew up… once in a while you get a monster movie and a director who takes it seriously and it’s actually quite affecting.
Like Alien, it’s just so perfect. The biology and the design of the film. You believe in that world. I just fell in love with the idea of other things existing in our world.
Q: The design of the monsters in this film is excellent and so cool in detail. Who’s responsible for that?
A: Thanks. Ever since I was a kid, I wanted to be a monster maker. I was inspired by guys like Stan Winston and Rick Baker and Dick Smith. I was trying to find in England the equivalent of those masters of special effects, which is harder to come by now.
I met John Nolan, he’s very talented, who has a very small, tight crew in London. He took on the whole thing. He’d worked on things like Hellboy and Where the Wild Things Are, but as part of a team. [For this] he just went all out. I really wanted to make everything practically, as much as possible. Base it all practical, do as much in camera, and then tweak what we needed to tweak, using a mixture of techniques to create an illusion. That was the plan.
Q: Is the fairy tale book an homage to the Book of the Dead?
A: I think all books in horror movies are. There’s always good, old books in horror movies, but I wanted it to ultimately be a fairy tale and the book to sort of represent the first-ever fairy tale. So, although, of course, I’ve got the Necronomicon firmly lodged in my mind, I also wanted there to be a good reason for that. And it was this idea of being a rule book and also being The Book of Invasions or a version of that.
Q: Is The Book of Invasions a real book?
A: Yeah. There’s actually quite an ambiguous mythology about the book itself. Apparently, there’s two books, one is sort of the history of Ireland and the other is the mythology of it. But yeah, it was great to find something that really existed. If you Google it, you can read about it. It’s got Gaelic text and there’s a lot of different ideas about it.
Q: I thought the script was really good because it was quite spare.
A: Thank you. It was very important to tell a story like this – which is ultimately going to be a “survive the night” story – in a visually, visceral way that remained intense, so I had to eschew a lot of mythological rules because they were too complicated. It was a case of trying to keep things moving. I didn’t want to over-explain everything. I always liked films to suggest enough for you to get what’s going on but not overtalk everything out. I wanted it to add up in the right way and be a complete story and not fuck itself up with a twist that didn’t make any sense. Felipe [the cowriter] is actually here. We spent quite a few years on it. It weirdly was difficult to write, because if you veered too much off into fantasy, it took you out of it and if it was too straight, you wouldn’t have room for the fantastical elements. So it was quite a fine balance in the end.
Q: Was it difficult working with the baby or the dog?
A: The dog was wonderful. It was one of my favorite memories of making the movie. Everyone says don’t work with dogs and children and night shoots and rain and we did it all at the same time. But the dog was the least of my concern. It was so well behaved. I felt quite bad because when we had to make it start to look kind of ragged, it was such a well-kept dog and really polite and when we swabbed it down with some water, it just looked really embarrassed.
That shot in the beginning where it’s barking [at the bushes] and then it just kind of goes [whimpers], that’s so, it doesn’t know what to do, so we had a little moment. I love to have things that are real, like dogs and babies, that can’t actually act, they have to just be. I don’t want to keep talking about Alien, but the cat in Alien is a great example of when you have an animal, it actually makes it much more scary, you just see the truth in its eyes. You can’t fake it. Same with the dog and the baby.
Q: Did you use twins for the baby? And did that lead to any changeling jokes on-set?
A: We had a pair of babies. The babies had to be five months old in the film, so we had to cast two months earlier in order to create full-scale animatronic replicas, so that meant casting babies who were three months old and finding a pair of twins in the West of Ireland with a mother who’d let us cast her babies. So it was a very difficult task in the beginning. I had to convince a mum who was really against horror movies in general. [Audience laughs] I took photos of the babies, James and Joe, and the special effects guys had to anticipate what they’d look like in two months’ time.
We also had a full-scale animatronic baby and a weighted stunt baby and a changeling baby. And I actually had a baby of my own two weeks before the shoot. [Audience “awws” and claps] So I became a dad and she was a girl. But when we finished the shoot, then I wanted to do a pickup shoot, but the twins had grown up too much, but my daughter was five months old at that point, so I put her in the same costume. So that’s six babies in total.
Q: How many people did you have in the creature suits? It looked like you had about a dozen.
A: Cool. It was five creature performers, but I auditioned about 100. I looked for people who were good at particular kind of movement, so I looked at people who could hold pose like mountain climbers, contortionists, a guy who did parkour and specialized in animal movements.
We were able to take them for a series of creature workshops and develop some movements with a guy called Peter Elliott, who’s very much like Andy Serkis. So it’s human-based movement, but they’re going to puppeteer their own limbs and have animatronic sections.
I have nothing against CGI, but for something really organic like this, I think it would just really take you out if you’re watching computer-generated stuff.
Q: Besides the Dick Smith and Ray Harryhausen influences, were there any influence from Straw Dogs?
A: Yeah, definitely. Straw Dogs and Deliverance – John Boorman’s cinematography and that organic connection to nature. Those are good ’70s-era filmmaking. I kind of wanted to go, “Let’s pretend we’re making this in the ’70s without any extra CG.
Certainly, when I was pitching the idea, in terms of grounding the fairy tale in reality, I was pitching it as “Straw Dogs meets Pan’s Labyrinth.” I love both these films and it’s not one or the other, but somewhere in the middle.
Q: There has been some internet rumor mill about your next movie.
A: Yeah. I’m making The Crow next. [Audience whoops]. Thanks, that’s nice. Not everyone feels that way. I’ve actually been working on it since last December. If you flipped online, you’ll see the Relativity situation. We’re on hiatus at the moment, waiting to restart pre-production. It’s a dream project and I’m a huge, obsessed Crow fan, who was dressing up as The Crow when I was 17. I might dress as The Crow this Halloween. We shall see. It’s a real honor.
After the Q&A, Hardy took a selfie with the audience in the background where he asked us to do the famous Donald Sutherland pose from Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Still waiting for him to post it online!
and on VOD starting November 5th