Pat’s Labyrinth III: The future of Horror

Fearful face off

In the final part of his exclusive interview with British horror film auteur, Pat Higgins, Dean Newman discusses the rise of low budget horror and what Higgins’ horrors await to be unleashed…

DN: Obviously low budget horror has been making the headlines this year with Paranormal Activity, Colin and even Mega Shark Vs Giant Octopus…

PH: That last movie really breaks my heart as I have a deep love of giant octopus movies (there’s something you don’t hear everyday – Dean) since seeing Warlords of Atlantis when I was a little kid. For me though Mega Shark was real missed opportunity.

DN: What do you think is the audience appeal? Obviously the genre itself ebbs and flows but why do you think low budget horror has reared its head so triumphantly again this year?

PH: I know Marc Price, Director of the £45 budget zombie horror, Colin, and was lucky enough to see the film at the cast and crew screening prior to the media buzz. I always thought Colin was a remarkable movie as it was something that just hadn’t really been seen before and was a fresh, original take on a subject that people really liked.

Low budget movies can have a unique voice and I can’t imagine that a Studio would have got it. I could see them liking the idea of following a zombie but wanting some human characters in the mix as well.

The purpose of Colin is that it is just about a zombie and Marc really ran with that concept. You could also say the same for Paranormal Activity; I can’t imagine that that would have made it through an awful lot of focus groups where we end up watching a lot of static shots of two people sleeping. They’d probably look at it and think of ways of pepping things up. But of course the normality of it all is what helps suck people in.

I think that quite often when the Studios process such films they kill such choices as those, they like the idea of it but haven’t got the balls to follow through on it. Fair play to the audiences wanting to go on that journey with them and not have everything be spoon-fed or explained to them.

DN: It reminded me very much of the BBC’s Ghostwatch.

PH: I think that was just a wonderful piece of TV and that just came so far out of left field and it really seemed to upset people. I remember seeing that in a jittery room full of people who really bought into the whole experience.

Certainly that, Paranormal Activity and Blair Witch have really blurred the boundaries between what is implied as real and what isn’t.

 

Trilogy of terror

DN: What horrors is 2010 set to bring for you?

PH: We’ve got Bordello Death Tales, which is an anthology movie, which I contributed one story to. There are also stories directed by James Eaves who did Bane and The Witches Hammer, and Alan Ronald, who is regularly my Director of Photography but also made a wonderful little movie called Jesus Vs The Messiah.

I liked Trick ‘R’ Treat quite a lot but there hasn’t really been a good anthology movie since the likes of Creepshow. There have been quite a few separate short films knocking around that have been lumped together and called themselves an anthology but nothing really that was designed and written to be three stories with common threads but with their own unique voice. We’ve shared some locations and some actors, so it does have its own thread.

It’s a very old school interwoven anthology that really is a cool little movie and I’m sure it will do very well at lots of festivals.

In terms of development I’ve been working on a script for a movie called House on a Witch Pit that I keep coming back to and have been doing since about 2002. It’s just designed to scare people, that’s all it wants to do. I love that script so I don’t want to get it wrong and want to make sure that we get the right kind of budget to really do it justice.

 

Directors of Death: l-r Alan Ronald, Pat Higgins and James Eaves

DN: What advice would you give to any budding filmmakers or writers?

PH: The first thing I would say is don’t record important scenes onto a head-cleaning cassette, which is the voice of bitter experience (laughs). Other than that I’d say learning to shoot with what you’ve got rather than with what you’d like to have.

It’s solid advice from Robert Rodriquez and I wished I’d listened to it more on my first film where I thought I’m going to do this and that and in the end don’t think I took the full advantage of all the good things that I did have for free and was trying to overreach on other stuff.

In terms of writing though it is still the one place where we can really beat Hollywood and really can do stuff that they can’t do. They are always going to kick our arse in terms of special effects but in a way that can make it all the more creative.

The low budget gift and the ones who have really made the most of the medium are the ones who have made sure the script is perfect, we care about it and it comes from the heart before it goes in front of the camera. They’ve really taken that to heart and been a success as a result.

DN: As well as low budget horror being popular this year, so has 3D, is that something you are looking at getting involved in?

PH: I’ve started doing some poking around to see how feasible it would be on a low budget. I remember the 80s surge of 3D affectionately and it’s something I’d certainly like to dabble in. Never say never.

Pat might not be poised to make Avatar quite yet but even Cameron started off small with Piranha 2: Flying Killers and just look at where the newly Knighted Peter Jackson started out.

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