Without a shadow of a doubt, one of my personal highlights of Glasgow Frightfest 2012 was American director Padraig Reynolds’ excellent genre mash-up slasher film, Rites Of Spring.
Padraig Reynolds knows his stuff. His enthusiasm is infectious and he was more than willing to chat to us.
Myself and John Milton were lucky enough to be able to grab a few minutes with Padraig to discuss Rites, his plans for the franchise and horror films in general. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank Padraig for taking the time out from his schedule to talk.
Without further ado, check out the interview below.
AndyErupts: Tell me a bit about yourself and how you got into film-making.
Padraig Reynolds: I got into film-making in 2004. I moved to LA in 2001 and I was in a band for ten years. A couple of friends of mine were working in the film industry and I wrote a short film for them which got made and then I just started writing scripts. I went to extension classes at UCLA and got hired by Sean Cunningham, the creator of Friday the 13th, to write a script for him called The Utah Murders. It didn’t go anywhere but I used one of the scenes and went out and filmed a short called The Election. It was my first short film and it won Best Director at the San Francisco Film Festival. Then these people approached me asking about what scripts I had, so i sent them Rites. They said, “We really like this but what do you think its going to look like?”
So I took my buddy and we went out and shot a little teaser trailer for it on Super 16 and we showed it to them and they were like, “Oh we really want to do this”, so thats sort of how it took off. Then we went to Mississippi.
I’d been in Mississippi like 3 times prior to that so we went location hunting, and man, you saw the locations! They are unbelievable! There’s like tons more! There was a whole abandoned college that sat in the middle of the woods and I was like “Holy crap, this place is amazing”. It’s horror central.
AE: Was it always your intention to make a horror for your first feature film?
PR: Oh yeah. When I first moved to LA, I got a bit of advice from someone. They said “Pick a genre that you like”. I grew up with Tobe Hooper’s films, John Carpenter and all those classic 70’s/80’s films. Horror is the best. Its the best. I have a lot of friends in the industry as well, so there’s never been a question about what I really wanted to do but I wanted to add a little spin to it, find my own little niche.
AE: Obviously, we have just seen Rites Of Spring, but for the benefit of those who haven’t, can you give them a little taste of what they can expect?
PR: Yeah! These kidnappers kidnap this billionaires daughter and take her out to this abandoned high school in the middle of the woods but across from this high school is this cornfield and this house where this strange farmer is sacrificing people to something, every first day of spring. So then one of the girls escapes from the farm, and the two worlds collide, but both stories are connected in a unique way. It’s a little bit like From Dusk Til Dawn, in some ways.
AE: What was your personal inspiration while writing the film?
PR: I just wanted to tell a different tale in a horror movie, you know? I love having two stories going on and both stories are really linked. Like, I don’t know if you noticed but theres a horse in the little girls room and a horse in the farmers room. The farmer says hes sorry and AJ says he is sorry, so I kind of wanted to connect the worlds where both people are doing bad things but both regret it and they come together in the middle. Its a little Shakespearean.
John Milton: I read an awful lot of books and I find that when I go to films within the genre, that they are often very formulaic and quite disappointing. I felt a bit like a book, as the stories interweave. Do you find that people within the genre sort of fall back on the tried and tested formulas rather than trying out something a little bit different?
PR: From my perspective it always starts with the story and the characters and I think that if you have interesting characters in the movie, it is going to make the horror even better.
We see so many movies where there is no story, no characters and then we think of all those great movies that we love like Halloween. Donald Pleasance has a great character and the story moves really fast. I wanted to keep Rites moving at a quick pace so that we are always one step ahead of the audience. I’m a big fan of letting the story unravel as it goes.
It’s interesting that you mention novels as i have been thinking of doing a novel of it. You don’t get too many movies made into novels these days, you know what I mean? I’m a big fan of that. I collected the Halloween novels when i was a kid, so I was thinking that I could maybe write a novel of it as it’s a huge story and in the second film, we find out the back story. I dropped a lot of hints in there, as to who the creature was.
AE: When I read the synopsis at first, I expected some kind of beast, an animal, crawling about on all fours. But im a massive slasher fan..
PR: That’s what I wanted to keep him. I wanted to keep human elements to him because he IS human.
AE: Well I was absolutely over the moon to see it become a slasher film with a sort of Jason Voorhees, Leatherface-type character. There has been this recent wave of American slashers like Robert Hall’s Chromeskull, Adam Green’s Victor Crowley and The Orphan Killer‘s Marcus Miller. Do you see your killer, “Wormface”, being franchised off like so many of these characters have been?
PR: I hope so. The stranger is in a lot of the next one and we find out a lot more about him. I’m a big fan like you guys. I like Jason Voorhees. I like Michael Myers. Creatures look like shit! You see some creatures and you think, “Oh My God, that looks fucking awful”.
I wanted a dude in a suit, killing people with a brush axe. Oh and this is the first time that a brush axe has ever been used in a horror movie. I wanted something unique and iconic but I also wanted the stranger to be iconic in himself as he is the sorry, sad soul who has to take these girls to this creature every spring. That’s why i put the little prologue at the beginning, to show that this has been going on for years.
AE: I like when I watch a slasher film and you have an actor who lives the part, throws people around and makes it all looks like it hurts. Who was the guy in the suit?
PR: This guy was huge. His name was John (Evenden) and he did the stunts. We actually had 4 different guys in the suit, like Michael Myers back in the day. When one guy had to go home, we just got another guy. You might get one guy who walks better than the other ones. There was a huge difference between Nick Castle and Dick Warlock, in the way they walk, and thats what I wanted. Sort of an iconic walk to him and to make him unique in every way, not a lot of guys are doing characters like Myers and Voorhees. We have those classic characters, but i sort of wanted to build a new one.
AE: Let’s talk a bit about AJ Bowen . AJ is…
PR: Fuckin awesome!
AE: He is excellent and he has kind of become the go to guy for American indie horror directors. Did you always have him in mind when you were casting for the film?
PR: Yeah, I’m a big fan of AJ’s. I think that AJ is like the Kurt Russell of horror cinema now. He is a great actor, he has comedy chops and he’s good at the dramatic stuff. What appealed to AJ with this role, was that he was the good guy. He was like, “I wouldn’t have done it if I was the bad guy”. He has been sort of pigeon holed as the bad guy. I don’t see him that way at all. He’s the everyman and that’s sort of what I wanted to go with. I saw Sonny (Marinelli), the guy who plays the bad guy, in a short film where my film was playing, and my wife looked at me and was like “He’s fucking good. You have to put him in your movie”.
AE: As far as this kind of new wave of American indie horror goes, with guys like Ti West, Adam Wingard, Adam Green and Lucky McKee all doing great stuff, is there anything that has really stood out for you?
PR: I love the Ti West movies.
AE: I noticed you thanked him at the end of Rites.
PR: Well he thanked me in House Of The Devil and Trigger Man. I’m friends with Ti. We have known each other for a long time. I think that one of my favourite films of all time now is The Strangers. I just think that’s an amazing movie. I liked Eden Lake, that was great. There’s a lot of really good horror movies now like Adam Wingard’s A Horrible Way To Die…
AE: Again with AJ…
PR: Yeah, with AJ. You’re Next is supposed to be amazing so I can’t wait to see that.
AE: What are your thoughts on the general state of the horror genre right now?
PR: I think its great. A lot of people think it’s dead but I don’t think that at all. I think a lot of people are doing unique movies and I like that people are taking it seriously again. During the 90′s there was some “wink-wink” stuff. Im not a big fan of “wink-wink” horror. I like legitimate stories and scares and I think there are a lot of film-makers who are doing an incredible job. I mean, did you guys see Crawl?
AE: Oh yes.
PR: It was fucking awesome. They were at Screamfest with me and, of course, they won all the awards. I’m good friends with them now but I didn’t really get to meet them at Screamfest but I got in touch and I was like, “I’m coming to Glasgow and I don’t know anyone so you guys have to hang out with me”. It’s such a good movie. Really great.
AE: What about the current remake climate? Has it gone too far? Do you see it burning out?
PR: No. I think there are some good ones and I think there are some crap ones. Last House On The Left is amazing and I liked Fright Night. You guys can beat the hell out of me but I didn’t mind it. I heard it was crap from everybody but I watched it and kinda liked it. The Hills Have Eyes, I thought was really, really good.
There are a couple of movies out there that I would like to see remade. Deadly Blessing. Tobe Hooper’s The Funhouse might be pretty cool. Same with The People Under The Stairs. I also thought that Dawn Of The Dead was really good but I think the well is almost dry when you are remaking Mother’s Day.
AE: Is there anyone that you would really like to work with?
PR: Kurt Russell. Kurt Russell and Kevin Costner. I’d like to work with AJ again, obviously. There’s a lot of great actresses out there. I like Angela Bettis, who was in The Woman. She’s really great in that movie and was great in The Toolbox Murders. I like Kirsten Dunst a lot. I’d like to put her in a horror movie. I thought Melancholia was a really good movie. Oh and Bring It On.
PR: Gotta love Bring It On.
AE: Have you secured distribution in the UK yet for Rites?
PR: No. Not yet. We have the United States through IFC Midnight. They also did Kill List. That was crazy shit. They did A Lonely Place To Die with Melissa George too. I have to say that I was really happy with how many people were here today and everyone has been so nice.
AE: The showing sold out.
PR: Yeah it sold out, which is incredible. I’m so glad that there are so many great horror fans around the world. I mean, here, there was a line at 9 o’clock this morning. I knew the London Frightfest was really huge but this was great. I was really happy.
AE: So what’s next for you? Are you going straight into the sequel?
PR: Either that or I’m going to do this move called Open 24 Hours. It’s a psychological thriller that takes place in a gas station. Actually the gas station at the end of Rites! I wrote a whole movie around this gas station. You guys didn’t get to go inside. It’s incredible inside. There’s all these deer heads hanging up everywhere and like a backroom. The producers approached me about doing a low budget movie and I was told them that I had this idea and they liked it so I went off and I wrote it. Hopefully it will get made.
AE: Thanks very much for taking the time to talk to us. All the best with Rites Of Spring. It’s an excellent film.
PR: Oh, it was my pleasure. Glad you guys enjoyed the film.