The idea was so simple and yet so logistically complicated. Get 26 different filmmakers (most of whom have a few horror features under their collective belts) each to direct a short film representing a little of the alphabet, and compile them in the blood-soaked anthology THE ABCs OF DEATH. For example, Spanish-born writer-director Adrián García Bogliano (36 STEPS, WATCH'EM DIE, COLD SWEAT and the phenomenal upcoming release HERE COMES THE DEVIL) directed the chapter B FOR BIGFOOT.
I actually conducted this brief interview with Adrián back in July, but was asked to hold onto it until the film's VOD and iTunes (now) and theatrical release, which is happening March 8 (from Magnet Releasing) in some cities. But in September, I actually got to meet Adrián at Fantastic Fest at the premiere of HERE COMES THE DEVIL, which was my favorite work of the fest, and a mutual admiration society was formed.
What follows is an exclusive interview with Adrián, but 25 other sites lined up to interview the other directors featured in THE ABCs OF DEATH. You can sample those interviews at THE ABCs OF DEATH Tumblr page. It's clear from this talk that Adrián is a horror expert, so please enjoy this interview…
Capone: Hi, Adrián. Great to finally chat with you.
Adrián García Bogliano: Thanks a lot for your interest, both me and my brother are big fans of Ain't It Cool News, so it's a pleasure to answer this.
Capone: What can you tell me about your short? What were some of the influences--in horror or otherwise--on the plot of your short?
AGB: I stuck to the premise of the film that is about the way children are taught the alphabet and I tried to make an approach of some sort of creepy bedtime story, with a bit of sex and comedy. It was my first experience shooting in Mexico--I shoot almost all my films in Argentina--and it was fun to add a few elements of the Mexican culture. And actually, because of that, probably one of the biggest influences was Mexican master of horror Carlos Enrique Taboada. He had some sort of naïve approach and yet very effective storytelling. I wasn't thinking of any specific movie but I think it has influences of films of the late '80s like PARENTS.
Capone: Are you a fan of horror anthology films. If so, why and what are your favorite? Do you have a favorite short horror film?
AGB: I think my all-time favorite anthology is CAT'S EYE. I saw it for the first time when I was a kid, and it impressed me a lot. I fell in love with Drew Barrymore with that film, and that's probably the best reason I can give you of why I like it so much. Later I discovered a couple of great anthology films like ASYLUM, which is one of the few examples where I feel that what's between the stories is not some stupid thing that feels totally unnecessary. Another film that I discovered later was the amazing Argentinean adaptations of Edgar Allan Poe, OBRAS MAESTRAS DEL TERROR, which is, I think, the best effort in horror made in Argentina.
I don't get to see short films too often but I can tell you three that I absolutely love, an adaptation of Stephen King, GOTHAM CAFE, directed by Jack Edward Sawyers; the short film that Vincenzo Natali made at film school, ELEVATED, and my favorite, OCULUS: CHAPTER 3–THE MAN WITH THE PLAN, directed by Mike Flanagan. I read that he's developing a feature film of it and can't wait to see it, because that short film is a masterpiece and one of the creepiest things I've ever seen.
Capone: What's the key to making a great short versus a feature?
AGB: To understand that it is completely a different structure. I think this is the first time, after around 15 shorts that I made, that I didn't try to fit the ideas of a whole movie into a short length. Instead I thought of a very simple idea, something that I couldn't possibly think to be any longer than this, but at the same time something that doesn't sound like a joke, like a one-liner; strictly, a short story. When I think about it my short films were what I could do 15-18 years ago. I wanted to make features but I didn't know how, so I used to make those ideas fit into short films. This is new for me, not to think of a movie, but to think of something pretty short. I had a lot of fun with that process.
Capone: What is your favorite movie death? In your estimation, what makes a great movie death?
AGB: Nobody like Argento has shown death scenes. The first one that caught my attention from his filmography, when I was a kid, was John Saxon's death in TENEBRAE, which is not particularly violent, but the fact that it happens in broad daylight and in the middle of the city was pretty disturbing for me. Today, I would say that my favorite is the car crash at the end of FOUR FLIES ON GREY VELVET. There's something very difficult to describe in his approach. Sometimes it is hyperrealistic, sometimes it's like a dream.
I've tried to approach that way to death scenes myself in something that I can't describe otherwise than a vivid, almost tactile way. I think that an amazing thing is being concerned as most of us are about death. Movies allow us to capture that phenomenon in great detail. And I'm not talking about being violent or graphic necessarily, but it gives us a chance of stretching time as much as we want and getting really close to death and taking a good look at it. Maybe it's our fear of it that attracts us; maybe it's because movies give us a chance to experience that in a cathartic way.
Capone: When and how did you first comprehend death?
AGB: I don't know. It wasn't through a traumatic experience that marked my life or anything. I guess it was just by growing up and watching what was going on around me. I think that growing up in a family where several members were tortured and killed for political reasons before I was born probably taught me a lot about it. I can say that it didn't happen by watching horror films. I always saw movies like something completely different from reality. I wasn't the kind of kid that couldn't turn off the light after watching a horror film because he's afraid of the boogeyman. I never had a nightmare because I watched a horror film, so I can't say either that I understood anything about what dying means because I saw someone being brutally killed on a movie.
Capone: What do you think of the state of modern horror today, mainstream of independently produced? Is it getting better or worse? Why do you think that is?
AGB: I think the situation of horror films in the mainstream is a little tricky, because directors seem to find the easiest way to green light a project if it's a sequel or a remake. With sequels, most of them are crap; with remakes, some things that could be interesting are despised by horror fans, and become forgotten very fast. I like a lot Dennis Iliadis, for instance, and I think he did a nice job with LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT. Was it a good way to show his skills to an American audience? I'm not sure. The funny thing is that fans tend to forget that there was a film called THE VIRGIN SPRING [the source material by Ingmar Bergman]. Or they forget that there was another THE THING before the one by John Carpenter. Sometimes people forget that horror films, even the greatest, are pop culture, and you can love them but you can't take them as a religion.
On the independent side, I think a lot of filmmakers try to play with the rules of the mainstream and instead of delivering something fresh they are mostly concerned on making something politically correct--some sort of blueprint to find their way to Hollywood--and they end with something that is not commercial or interesting enough for the horror fans either. The problem is that film schools and technology have created a generation of directors too concerned with looking like pros, and the whole point of the non-Hollywood films we love of the '70s and '80s because they were pushing the limits in terms of content. They looked rough and they were taking risks all the time. And now we get to see B movies that try to recreate that '80s feeling, but everything looks so fake and self aware that it's simply boring, like they are trying to sell nostalgia, and they're trying to wink at the audience constantly, and it's frustrating.
Capone: Who are some of your favorite horror film directors, past and present?
AGB: My first big influence, the figure that made me want to become a director was Richard Stanley. Since I was a teenager, I find his two films, particularly DUST DEVIL, as some of the most inspiring works I've seen. The directors whose careers I admire most are Brian De Palma, Jeff Lieberman, Carlos Enrique Taboada, Nicolas Roeg, Michele Soavi, Peter Medak, Victor Salva, and Dario Argento. And I often hear people talking about the lack of quality of Argento's last works. Even so, Argento can probably beat any other master of horror in number of great horror films made, and I think he earned his right to do whatever the hell he wants now.
Of the present, I prefer to wait a little before calling someone a master, because directors tend to believe the hype and start making crap too fast, but I can say that I have a lot of expectations for the works of Rob Zombie, and after their latest films, Lucky McKee, Jaume Balagueró, and Paco Plaza seem to be at the peak of their careers.
Capone: What was the last film that really scared you?
AGB: I'm not only not easy to scare by movies but I don't even jump in my seat with loud sounds, which seem to be the only resource of horror films lately. In the last few years, the only film I saw that scared me was EL LIBRO DE PIEDRA, a 1968 film by Carlos Enrique Taboada that I was watching alone in my apartment in the middle of the night, and I had to turn on the lights because it gave me the creeps. I do have a bunch of titles that I've seen in the last few years that have taken my breath away. I could name THE WOMAN, the Costa Rican film of Miguel Gomez EL SANATORIO, and not strictly horror but yet mind blowing documentary GRAPHIC SEXUAL HORROR.
Capone: How were you approached to be a part of THE ABCs OF DEATH?
AGB: I showed one of my early films at the Alamo Drafthouse, 36 PASOS, a few years ago. But I didn't get to meet [Drafthouse chief] Tim League until he invited me to participate at SXSW last year. He liked COLD SWEAT and he invited me a month later or so to participate in the project [the movies is a Drafthouse Films production]. I was completely flattered because the project, even if some shorts are better than others, is something amazing. I don't know what the people will think about my short film. Honestly, I'm happy just to be there among such cool directors. Even though I'm one of the directors with a longer career there, I'm a total geek and I have a great time just enjoying the fact that I'm in this project with some of the best horror and most fantastic directors of my generation.