It’s fair to say that I’m pretty down on vampire films. Occasionally you get one that actually tries to do something a little bit different such as Stake Land or Chan-Wook Park’s Thirst. In the run-up to Grimm Up North, I had written a little preview piece on Neil Jones’ The Reverend, a film that also tries to dispense with the usual tired vampire cliches.
So while the collected masses were enjoying the madness of Lucky McKee’s The Woman, I was lucky enough to grab a few minutes of face time with the Welshman. Neil Jones is a cool guy. He was open and laid back and was keen to chat to me, something for which I would like to offer him my sincerest thanks.
So in an interview laden with regional accents, we got to talking…
AndyErupts – Ok, so in your own words, tell us a bit about The Reverend.
Neil Jones – Yeah, The Reverend is kind of a vigilante vampire movie, if you like. It’s about a preacher who moves to a small village. It’s the first church that he’s getting to run and kinda sees a lot of bad people around him. He has his faith obviously and wonders how he can move out of his faith to reach out to these people. Then a girl bites him who turn out to be a vampire and from there he uses his vampirism for the good of society, really, in that he only takes out the bad guys. Its like Death Wish with bites, that’s the best way I can describe it.
AE – What was your inspiration for the film?
NJ – I studied theology in the States for a while. Im not religious myself but I find the whole aspect of theology quite interesting. I think they tell very good stories. I sort of based it the script loosely on the Book of Job, but here you have this righteous man who has this affliction but just uses it for good and that kind of interests me. I think the main reason for writing it it was that I had done a boxing movie and it was so difficult to get it made that I thought, “I am going to do something really commercial and fill it with commercial names” but it wasn’t something that just came to me overnight. It was something that I worked at from an idea and developed into a script.
AE – How does directing from your own screenplay differ to directing from someone else’s work? Is there more pressure on you?
NJ – Well, I just made a film in Spain called Deranged. It’s another horror movie and I didn’t write that script. It’s the first film I’ve really done without having any involvement in the screenplay. It’s a different process. You have to work a lot more with the writer to see exactly how they saw it going. I think if you get a screenplay and you’re going to direct it then you have to involve the writer because it’s their vision. So that was interesting.
AE – But obviously you have your vision too. Is there ever a clash?
NJ – Not really. I think the buck stops with the director as if the film is awful you can’t really blame anyone but the director. I do agree with that and I think you have to approach directing with that in your mind. It’s a differenit process because when you write a screenplay you’re sort of visualising it as you write. Sometimes you have to adapt that to the cast that is available. It’s a different process and I think it’s a harder process if you didn’t write the screenplay.
AE – You have some pretty big names involved in The Reverend. Rutger Hauer (Blade Runner, Hobo With A Shotgun), Doug Bradley (Hellraiser‘s Pinhead, Nightbreed) and Shane Richie (Eastenders‘ Alfie Moon) to name a few. How did the casting of these guys come about?
NJ – We were lucky. With Shane, he had been in Risen, the boxing film, where he played a London promoter which he can do with his eyes closed. In The Reverend, Shane plays a pimp. He plays a NASTY guy. I just phoned him up and said “look, I have this really dark part, it’s miles away from what you usually do. What do you think?” and he was up for it. So that was how we got Shane.
(I then babbled on a bit about how much I love Hellraiser and my Pinhead tattoo, leading Jones to move on swiftly)
Doug was someone I had in mind when I wrote the screenplay. He’s Mr. Horror in the UK and he brings a good audience. So i wrote the part that for him. He’s a gentleman and actually a very, very good actor. Rutger was on a list of names that we thought we would love to have involved but would never get. We called his agent…and got him. Because we asked, we managed to get him. We didn’t expect to so that was a really nice surprise in the film.
AE – Obviously, I will be seeing the film later tonight but for people who maybe have to wait a bit longer, what can people expect from The Reverend?
NJ – I made the film so I’m probably way too close to judge it but I think it’s quite original. For instance, our vampires don’t have fangs. We tried to make it as realistic as we possibly could for a vampire film. It’s got a lot of heart. It’s a drama that we filled with a lot of action scenes and gore. It’s not a suspenseful, jumpy horror film. There’s a lot of backstory to it, a lot of elements of mythology and theology and I think it’s just an interesting story, really.
AE – You mentioned Deranged, can you tell me a little bit about that?
NJ – It’s an English language horror film, set in Spain. It’s about four girls who go to have dinner in a secluded house before one of them gets married when suddenly, incidents start happening and they have to work out what’s going on and who’s behind it. It’s sort of like a “whodunnit”, if you like. It’s got the horror element but its very dialogue driven. We have Craig Fairbrass too, which was a great find for us. It’s a nice little film and I think it will surprise a lot of people.
AE – So, to close, what is your favourite horror film?
NJ – The Shining. It’s a master at work. It’s got everything, really. It’s suspenseful, has great character development and I think that’s where the strength is. You really get to know these characters and when it all goes tits up, you feel for them. I’m a fan of Hitchcock too. I love The Birds.
The Reverend gets a limited theatrical release from October 16th.