AICN HORROR: Ambush Bug Interviews RED, WHITE & BLUE Director Simon Rumley about the new sex and death anthology LITTLE DEATHS!
Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here with another special segment of AICN HORROR. This time around we look at the unforgettable and jaw-droppingly shocking anthology LITTLE DEATHS. This Friday I will give my glowing review of the film, but to tease and tempt, scroll south to check out an interview I did with Simon Rumley (director of last year’s hard-hitting horror film RED, WHITE, & BLUE) who directed one of the more powerful segments of the film, “Bitch.” I don’t want to give away too much of “Bitch” but let’s just say it deals with emotional and physical discomfort in ways I have never seen on screen and as you will read below, it wasn’t easy for Rumley to make it. I can’t recommend LITTLE DEATHS more. It’s one of those hidden gems that gets under your skin and squirms. Here’s what Simon Rumley had to say!
Now here’s my interview with Simon Rumley about his contribution “Bitch” to the LITTLE DEATHS anthology.
AMBUSH BUG (BUG): Hi Simon.
SIMON RUMLEY (SR): Hi Mark, how’s it going?
BUG: Great. Thanks a lot for taking the time to talk today. I saw LITTLE DEATHS a couple of days ago and it was a really fantastic movie. I think I had heard a little about it before, but after hearing about it it’s one of those films that I want to really tell a lot of people about and tell them that they really need to check it out. How did you become involved in the project?
SR: Well, it goes back to Ausin actually and Harry Knowles at Fantastic Fest and I was showing them one of my favorite films, THE LIVING AND THE DEAD. This was in 2006 and like that, I met one of the journalists from Austin and I wrote back to him a few times back in London and at some point they pitched me to be involved. I thought it sounded like a pretty cool idea and I also had this story I’ve held on to for about 20 years and it seemed to be a perfect opportunity to tell the story, basically.
BUG: So you said the story “Bitch” is something that you have kind of had in the back of your mind for quite a while. Were you thinking of making that into a feature or was it always planned to be a short story?
SR: Basically what happened was it came back to when I was at university and I had a girlfriend at the time and she saw this spider and she really freaked out and I thought “Hey, that’s the wrong fucking reaction” and then I started writing a short story about that I guess, about the perfect couple who are in an abusive relationship and I never actually finished the story, but it was always supposed to be a short story and then yeah when the opportunity came up I thought “Hey, that would be perfect for this film.” I think so often with films you’ve got to stretch to 80, 90 and more, so having something like 30 minutes is kind of a weird time to work with for film and you don’t often get an opportunity to tell a story of that length and that sort of talked to me. Coming back from Austin and going forth I thought maybe I should have turned it into a feature film, but I think the story in itself is a little too light for a feature film. I think if I had turned it into a feature film, I probably would have given it more of a third act, going into what happened to the girl after what happens in the end of the story. That also told the story of the guy and how they sort of come back together.
BUG: Wow, that’s definitely a different take. I definitely loved the film as it is.
SR: Thank you.
BUG: I love that I haven’t seen anything like this before. It’s like I almost don’t want to say anything about it to ruin it for viewers. What have the reactions been like to the film?
SR: I think some people love it and some people hate it. I think people either love it much like you or they are disturbed by it. God, it’s kind of crazy. I think horror is a funny genre in a way, because there’s something very safe and accommodating about your average typical horror film. You know, there are rules which the filmmakers adhere to and audiences wants to see those rules obeyed, whether it’s a slasher film or a kids in a cabin film or whatever. I think for me I’ve never really been interested in those kinds of horror films. You’ve seen HALLOWEEN, there’s not going to be a better film with a HALLOWEEN feel, so for me I don’t want to make that type of film. I think this film is a bit too different. “Is it horror?” We’ve played at a few horror festivals. We’ve played at SXSW last year, which was really exciting to be there again. We played at Frightfest, which was fun. We’ve done all of the major horror kind of festivals, so I mean generally it seems to have gone down pretty well I think.
BUG: Good, good. Well I’ve seen two of your films, I’ve seen this and RED, WHITE, AND BLUE and that film blew me away as well. Would you consider yourself a horror director or is that term too restricting for you?
SR: Yeah, I mean it’s kind of funny, because my films aren’t really easy to qualify in terms of audience and especially the drama aspects, which are quite extreme dramas. Because of the extremities of them, they go into a world where there is death and where there is punishment and retribution where disturbing things happen. So I think that’s why I’m embraced so much by the horror community. Horror really is about extremes, I guess. You can’t be much more extreme than about death and that’s what horror is all about, so am I a horror director? It would be hard to say “yes,” but if people want to say that I am, I’m very happy to be called that. I kind of feel like I have one foot in the horror camp and one in the drama camp really.
BUG: Definitely, especially with “Bitch”. I mean it’s extreme in what happens at the end of the story, but really I wrote in my review that I’m posting with this interview that it’s basically about the worst girlfriend ever. To me that was the most horrific part of it, just all of the horrors that she was putting her boyfriend through and that was much more difficult for me to watch than the final scene to me.
SR: I think that’s a very good point and actually again I think with THE LIVING AND THE DEAD as well you know they didn’t follow traditional rules in what horror is, but there are situations in which the characters find themselves in that are horrific. I think it’s about real people and finding real characters and seeing what they do in these situations and yeah I think if the girl is really layered doing these horrible things to her boyfriend but at the same time she has a sweetness about her as well. I just think that they’ve ended up being with each other and having this relationship which very often leaves neither of them happy. It’s that whole thing when you’re young and you’re with a girl and the reality of these things like having your girlfriend sleep with your best friend is quite horrific.
BUG: I also wanted to talk about the use of color in this film. You have these extreme blues and these extreme reds and sometimes it switches back and forth in the same scene. What was the reasoning behind that?
SR: Well it’s kind of weird, color is just as important as the way the camera moves and that’s kind of what makes your film. Filmmaking is part absolute planning and part instinctual kind of elements really and the whole thing with blue is I just felt that it kind of made sense. When I did the first draft I was thinking about shooting the film in black and white. We fooled around with that and the company didn’t really like that and I guess because I had a little bit of time in between writing the film and actually shooting the film I kind of thought about it more and more and felt that actually black and white wasn’t quite right, but there’s something quite beautiful about it and especially when some of the colors more than the rest sometimes bleed through. There’s something kind of quite somber about that as well, so I guess I kind of felt that instinctively to do it in blue. The whole film is set in an urban environment and it’s very important that it felt trapped and sad. I really just wanted to make the point that this was a completely different world.
BUG: So how did you find the actors for this film? What were their reactions when they first read the film of what they were going to have to do?
SR: Well all of my films have been really hard to cast, but other than that we managed to get the lead actress literally I think three days before we started filming to the point that we even thought of changing the schedule, because we weren’t going to get an actress in time. RED, WHITE, AND BLUE and getting the persons as extremely difficult and we went through a lot of big name actresses who refused to do it with all of the sex and the violence and the low budget. Finally, we got Amanda [Fuller] who was brilliant. I think we cast Amanda in the end after we started shooting and I think we started filming and we found the contact for her on the third day. “Bitch” was actually more problematic than that film. I made a list of who to cast in the UK who I felt I wanted in the film from UK horror films that had been released recently. We asked actresses from EDEN LAKE, DONKEY PUNCH was another, I believe we asked someone from the film DREAD. I kind of listed those actors and went after them and none of them wanted to do it, so I thought that was a bit of a shame and then the first day of casting I think we had like 15 people to schedule, which actually I think six or seven people showed up and then it kind of progressively got worse.
We ended up offering the role to people, and then even though they came to the auditions, they would then actually turn us down which was weird, because we’re not talking the next Tom Cruise or top box office actors and actresses. It was actors who had done work, but were still struggling actors and we ended up with seven different actors who we offered the role to and each of them turned it down, which was crazy. During auditions I would ask, “You read the script? Are you comfortable with this subject matter?” “Yep, absolutely.” Then they would cancel or not show up. It was kind of crazy and yeah we were literally three days before filming was when we cast Kate [Braithwaite] and again Kate was reassured the graphic elements of the film weren’t as graphic as they could have been. I had to reassure her of that, that that would be the case and yeah then Tom [Sawyer], he had done a little bit of theater where he had been nude, so he was happy to do that.
BUG: It’s funny, because I was describing the film to a friend of mine who doesn’t really like horror that much and I told her the story and she was so horrified by it, but I told her that the way it was filmed there’s no blood, you don’t see any blood or anything like that, everything is pretty much suggested, and it’s funny that you had a hard time casting that basically just because of the subject matter, not because it was so gory, but just because of what was suggested.
SR: Yeah and at the script reading and the actors still weren’t sure. So I was like, “Can we get them both in so they can meet each other and we can discuss any issues that they may have?” So they both came in and I thought the best thing to do would be to show them RED, WHITE, AND BLUE and that’s a pretty graphic film, but we tried to be really cool about it. They watched it and saw that it was going to be and agreed to do it.
BUG: So I know you have a busy schedule and everything and I don’t want to go too much over time, but what do you have coming up next? What’s next for you?
SR: Well I’ve got the ABC’S OF DEATH of course which is a really exciting project. I shot my film and we just locked picture on that and it’ll be done by next week. I’m writing this spec script at the moment and then at the moment we are casting for a film called STRANGER, which is kind of KILL meets LOST IN TRANSLATION.
BUG: Oh cool!
SR: We have an offer out to a few actors at the moment in LA. Then the other thing that I’ve got is called SKIN which is about a girl who gets plastic surgery and who goes on about how she takes revenge on the surgeon after the doctor who operated on her who she actually married. I’m doing that with a writer who did the remake of THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT.
BUG: Okay, well great, I can’t wait to see those films. Thanks a lot. I’ve loved every one of your films that I’ve seen so far. I want to check out THE LIVING AND THE DEAD, because I haven’t seen that one and I’ve heard good things.
SR: Yeah, please do.
BUG: Thanks so much and best of luck to you.
SR: Fantastic. Yeah, excellent. Thanks a lot.
BUG: LITTLE DEATHS which includes Simon Rumley’s excellent “Bitch” short segment is available today on DVD & BluRay. Look for my review of the film this Friday in my regular weekly AICN HORROR Column. I don’t think I’m giving too much away when I say that the review is very positive and you won’t be disappointed if you check out LITTLE DEATHS!
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole / wordslinger / reviewer / co-editor of AICN Comics for over nine years. Mark is also a regular writer for FAMOUS MONSTERS OF FILMLAND and has just released FAMOUS MONSTERS first ever comic book miniseries LUNA (co-written by Martin Fisher with art by Tim Rees) You can pre-order it here! Support a Bug by checking out his comics (click on the covers to purchase)!
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Dec. 13, 2011, 9:24 a.m. CST
by Killdozers Evil Twin Brother
Awful movie in the best sense possible. Literally no one to root for. Everyone is a monster in their own way. You can tell Simon despises the "horror" genre just like he says because of how ugly he's willing to let his characters get. They're not written as archetypes, it's like they grew organically out of a waste pile. Can't wait for his new one.
Dec. 13, 2011, 10 a.m. CST
Why are they talking about it now? Well, it was a bootleg, but still..I saw it in June or July.
Dec. 13, 2011, 1:56 p.m. CST
the most promising horror director out there. His two full length horror films, The Living and The Dead, and Red White and Blue are so different, intelligent and genuinely horrific. I'm surprised he is not getting more attention since horror fans, myself included, are always bemoaning the lack of those exact qualities in the majority of modern films in this genre. Bitch is different and shocking too. He'll make a classic one day IMO.
Dec. 13, 2011, 5:36 p.m. CST
Man, I was wondering where it all was going. So slow and sort of (not boring) bland. But give it time. That thing kicked into high gear and made me literally cringe at the last LOOOOOOONG scene. I mean I was almost in pain watching that damn thing. I'll give Rumleys stuff a view from now on. If you haven't seen RWandB, check it out. Give it time and stick with it.
Dec. 13, 2011, 7:40 p.m. CST
I thought there were more horror fans on this sight. Meanwhile, them fuckin anime articles get more attention. Sucks Ambush Bug. But keep it up. We like it!
Dec. 13, 2011, 7:44 p.m. CST
I haven't been this excited about a new horror director since Lucky McGee. Rumley knows how to build up some fuckin' tension and let a story brew before blowing you out of the water!
Dec. 13, 2011, 9:29 p.m. CST
by Ambush Bug
I loved his answer to the question I asked about whether or not he's a horror director. It doesn't sound like he's doing these films for the easy in so that he can get to that romantic comedy or big budget snorefest he's been dreaming about. He goes for the juglar with his stories and is very unapologetic about what he does. There are few directors out there like this. And thanks for the support maxjohnson!
Dec. 14, 2011, 12:17 a.m. CST
Seriously, the end of that film is absolutely BRUTAL. Not in a silly "wow, this is really sick isn't it?" Hostel way but a more "i can't believe that a human being can have enough rage to do that to another human being and I can't believe I think he is at least partially justified for it" way. And keep up the good work Ambush Bug.
Dec. 14, 2011, 3:01 p.m. CST
by Killdozers Evil Twin Brother
When considering a director like Rumley, one wonders if the biggest deterrent of Horror isn't actually "Story," but "Genre Film Making." As he said, there are expectations that Genre buffs demand, but where does that get us? The Horror genre is so close to conservative Comedy, that the line is usually obliterated during the writing/filming process. Genre conventions more often just ruin everything in a movie that could make it great. Directors like Rumley get noticed because they work around Genre conventions. Unfortunately, they also get marginalized because they're willing to make films that are truly "horrific" which don't fit into the studio profit plan. Genre is a trap, not a discipline.
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