GORE IN THE STORE
INTERVIEWS FILM BLU-RAY DVD & BOOK REVIEWS
With his first feature complete with its own accompanying graphic novel and his second outing set to arrive in tandem with a video game adaptation, Tim Murray gets into conversation with director Iain Ross-McNamee about CRUCIBLE OF THE VAMPIRE and his fledgling production outfit Ghost Dog Films.
The other media show the scope of the plans that Ross-McNamee and cohorts have, even more, surprising given that CRUCIBLE OF THE VAMPIRE is his debut feature-length offering. It comes with a companion publication, a graphic novel illustrated in a unique photo-realistic style, expanding on the tale of vampires (as its title suggests) and the world in which it is set.
“I’m interested in telling stories in different ways and making a photo-graphical novel is part of that,” says the director. “Presenting it in that form means you can expand on the story, and also make it a more three- dimensional experience for the viewer by having something physical to hold onto. One of my favourite elements of that was the tourist map of the area that came with the book. I like geeky touches like that.” The involvement of artist Charlie Adlard spilled over into the look of the film and cover design too.
The film might be relatively low budget, but its scope and its subject help to set it apart. Eschewing buckets of blood and gore, Ross-McNamee has gone for a more rural feel, with influences stretching back to a bygone era for the genre, offering up a uniquely British vision. “Well, I watch all kinds of films, but I find that a certain amount of low budget horror is quite nihilistic and a bit pointless,” he explains. “I wanted to make something that had a different atmosphere and point of view, retro but with a modern edge to it.”
His – and the film’s – influences are both easy to spot (the very British feel includes the likes of MR James and genre fare from the late 1960s and early 70s) as well as less obvious (he cites Korean horror and Argento).“[The British thing] was quite intentional,” he notes. “I wanted a very British, rural atmosphere to it. The Hammer/Tigon vibe is easy to spot.” It’s also an excellent way to work with other artists. Charlie Adlard helped us out with some of the artwork and the cover design.
CRUCIBLE OF THE VAMPIRE is given a commercial boost thanks to the presence of longtime Brit star Neil Morrissey, on board as a wizened gardener and help who knows the secrets of the evil family at the heart of the goings-on in a country mansion. As Ross-McNamee notes: “It does help if you have a name in your film. It opens a lot of doors during production as the film is taken a lot more seriously. I think even in horror.”
He’ll readily admit that getting a British independent film involves a tremendous amount of graft, but getting the funds was not necessarily the problem. “Getting an independent film made is a massive amount of work, and I have respect for anyone who’s done it,” he explains. "From what I’ve seen, the film industry is one of its own biggest enemies, and most of our obstacles came from the production side of things rather than raising finance. “If you want to raise money for a movie you have to understand what your investors are looking for and deliver on what you promise them.”
Now the film is finished, he’s relishing the responses, both positive and negative. It’s the old adage of wanting to get an extreme reaction and, he argues, horror fans are often forceful in their opinions because they care so deeply. “I like that it’s getting either a love or hate reaction,” he says. “The worst thing for creative work is to get a middling response to it. I made it for people who are looking for something a bit different in horror and are maybe getting a bit bored with what’s going on in the mainstream at the moment; people who want to riff on a different atmosphere and mood. “Horror fans are the most passionate audience, so the responses are the most heartfelt.”
Now the completed film is set to screen at the Prince Charles Cinema from February 1-3, ahead of its home entertainment release, an honour for Ross-McNamee for, as he explains: “It’s very important for me personally [to screen at the PCC]. I’ve watched all sorts of movies there over the years so to see my own film up on their screens means a lot. It feels a bit like coming home with it.”
Meanwhile, Ross-McNamee and Ghost Dog Films are on to their next production, I Saw Black Clouds. “It’s a ghost story with a certain amount of ambiguity. It’s about guilt and our reactions to trauma. There are different types of horror and quite different moods to the story throughout.” And, like CRUCIBLE OF THE VAMPIRE, the team are equally ambitious when it comes to accompanying material. “It’s being released as a full motion video game (FMV) as well a feature-length film at a later date. As an interactive story, it was incredibly hard to write. Overlapping scenarios and characters that change their behaviour has made filming an interesting experience, to put it mildly! As a director, you have to think in a more three dimensional way about your story as you shoot it. It’s been driving the actors and crew a bit crazy, and as we talk we’re a week away from wrapping.”
But, as he concludes, the interactive element allows him to take a wider view and tell a broader story. “I’ve always been very interested in interactive stories and branching narratives. I love the idea that two people can enter the world of my story and have completely different experiences inside it. I’m really looking forward to seeing people’s reaction to it. Games impose fewer limitations on the narrative which allows you to step outside the three-act structure and tell a longer, more multi-faceted story. I also like the way that you can connect so quickly and directly with your audience through a game release.”
CRUCIBLE OF THE VAMPIRE is in cinemas 1st Feb and Dual Format DVD & Blu-ray on 4th Feb from Screenbound Pictures
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