A new indie horror movie has been causing a stir near Redditch in Worcestershire. Tales of mutilated corpses, undead fiends, and something far, far worse had come to my attention. What terrors were stalking the lanes at night, or for that matter, Warwickshire warehouses by day? POLLYANNA JONES caught up with the director, Pablo Raybould, to find out just what was going on.
Hello Pablo. Thank you for agreeing to be interviewed, would you mind telling us a little about yourself?
I am an actor and particularly focus more on the comedy side. Originally in the motor trade I was always involved with dramatic societies, and so about 15 years ago I left to give acting a go professionally. I have been involved with lots of theatre, directing and on stage and have always written a bit too. In 2002 I took a play to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival which had a few characters in that have now developed and are in this film. I have been on quite a few TV commercials (in one right now with Liverpool FC players in the blue Reliant Robin for Nivea) and a few TV programmes and films; having even done a scene with Johnny Depp!
Ben Manning is also an actor with whom I have worked for about ten years now. As well as our sketches and the being the face of Crinkle Cut Crisps, Ben has written, directed and produced many short films and is no stranger to being on either side of the camera. He has had the task of producer on this and jumps straight into another feature called ‘Enter The Cage’, whilst sorting out The Snarling’s edit and post-production.
What about the movie? How would you describe The Snarling?
It’s a Comedy-Horror, in the same vein as Shaun or Hot Fuzz, I guess. When you have someone like Ste Johnston involved, it can’t be anything else. Also, I’m not so sure I could write anything serious. I think comedy is pretty a universal language anyway. Of course there are people that are into other genres such as documentary, film noir, psychological horror, slasher movies etc – but nearly everyone (including them) also loves comedy too. I think we cover two genres by doing so.
At no point is the horror side of things ever disrespected or ridiculed, which was important to us as it then becomes more ‘silly’ and loses any maturity. Getting comedy right is a difficult process but it is really all about discipline and… timing. As with, ‘An American Werewolf In London’, the comedy side of things never interfered with the horror side but worked well side by side to compliment each other.
It’s easy to assume that this is another zombie movie, but there is more to it. With the film’s title, might there be werewolves involved?
Ah well, yes you are right in saying that it is not just another zombie movie. I don’t know what it is about the word zombie in the title but there is some sort of stigma attached to it for me. I always think it is an easy concept and it seems that more people dismiss it than get excited about it. Saying that, Zombieland and Cockneys Vs. Zombies were brilliant films. Because of that, I would never really want to make a zombie film so, the first thing I set about writing was… a zombie scene!
But you are right, this isn’t another zombie film. We have kept quiet about what it actually is out there but basically the zombies in the film are actors and extras in the zombie film that is being made in the village in which The Snarling is set. The real horror/killer out there we have kept a secret so there will be a real surprise for the audience. We have even had people knocking the film and saying “Oh no, not another low budget zombie film!” and really slagging it off without even knowing anything about it. We have just kept quiet and read the comments.
How long had The Snarling been an idea before you started making it as a movie?
Not long. I remember talking to Ben from my dressing room in Grimsby where I was in panto (with Julie Peasgood) just going into 2014. I recall talking about the idea of making a film and the genre. After that I set about the write and it was pretty much done by Feb. It was a year ago yesterday that we had our first ‘cold’ read. There have been changes and extra scenes added or rewritten since but within that one year, of course, we have shot the trailer (September), had it shown at a festival, cast it and shot the film. We still have lots to do with Post Production though, which is being worked on at the moment.
Who wrote the script to the film?
I did. Ben and I had been shooting the ‘2@ Comedy Sketch Show’ which are all short sketches and Ben has also been making many short films so we spoke about a more ambitious project which was to make a full length feature. The writing really fell into place. There was already an element of it written in another script that I had written so that helped in the writing of this. It had to be extensively modified and have many additional characters, locations and plotlines added but I think having some lines already there really helped.
You have quite a cast on board. How did they respond when they learned of the parts that they were offered?
It was more of a case of how we responded when we heard that they had accepted. Ben and I pretty much knew that we would be in it and had a few ideas of who could play some parts based on the initial cold read, and people that we knew and worked with locally, but had this idea that through tenuous connections we might be able to get Albert Moses to be in it which would give the film some credibility.
After that we had the idea of asking another couple of names to see if it was possible to further that credibility and so I asked Julie Peasgood (who was in a film with Peter Cushing, John Carradine, Christopher Lee and Vincent Price!). I had worked with Julie and got on really well with her. She said yes. Great!
Ben had worked with Chris Simmons and so we sent him the script. He loved it and told us that he had to be it. It seemed everyone we asked agreed to do it.
Laurence Saunders had already agreed in principle to take on a dual lead role with two very different characters and so with his talent as well it was looking good.
Another friend that I had worked with was Ste Johnston, who is about to hit the screens in the new C4 drama ‘No Offence’. I knew that I wanted him to play the copper in it as he is an incredibly and naturally funny man.
From there we thought, nobody has said no yet, let’s see who else we could get. Ben worked with Chris in a play in Stevenage alongside Joel Beckett, known for playing Jake Moon in ‘Eastenders ‘and Lee, Dawn’s boyfriend in ‘The Office’, so we thought we would ask him to consider a specific role. He read it, liked it and suddenly we were building up a star studded cast.
We asked Ian Brooker from ‘Eddie Brewer’ to play a cameo and he came along too but the one person we didn’t know we had secured until the night before was Julia Deakin. This was great news when we knew that she was in. She plays a cameo as a news reporter. Julia is a favourite of ours as we are big fans of ‘Spaced’, ‘Alan Partridge’, ‘Shaun’ and ‘Hot Fuzz’ so this was quite a coup. We couldn’t have asked for better.
Names aside, we have some great cast members and they have given superb performances.
Can you tell me about the production team, have you worked with them before?
The Producer, Ben Manning and I have worked a lot together. Ben is producing this as well as playing Bob, the landlord and one of the main three characters from the ‘The Dirty Hog’ pub. The Director of Photography, Alex Thorn was introduced to us by Andy Ward who directed ‘Evil Bread’ that I was in. He was originally down to direct but had a few problems that meant that he couldn’t, so we still had Alex; although we didn’t really know him but knew of his work. Emma Chilton was on sound and is a legend! She really became First Assistant Director on this. I had done a few small things with her before and would certainly work with her again. Jenny is my partner and does just about everything. From Runner, Clapper, Costumier, Props, Set, Make-up you name it, she does it. In fact, she went out and found us a caravan that we desperately needed for a scene. She went out and came back with one within an hour! She had simply seen one on someone’s drive and knocked on the door explained that we needed one for a film. The bemused owner said ‘Okay’ and handed her the keys!
Lewis Copson, a friend of Ben’s was great. He took over camera duties after Alex had to leave and was there throughout the three week shoot doing lots of other jobs too. The only newcomer really I guess was Myles Woolford, our Script Supervisor who was constantly making sure of continuity, lines and timing, and marking all the takes in his report to save a lot of time later in editing. The crew was small, very small. A proper budget would have had 50 people to do 50 jobs. We had 50 jobs done by just a few, but the jobs still got done. It was tough but we did it, down largely to having a great crew. Small but perfectly formed.
The film has a relatively small budget. What have been the main challenges you’ve faced?
Well, everyone having ten jobs really. We were so lucky having Ianiro UK, Redditch, come to our assistance with lighting as that would have been the main issue with having a small budget. Lighting is all important and with no budget and without their help, the film would not look anywhere near as good as it does. We were lucky that lighting was something that we didn’t have to a compromise on.
The main challenges with low budget is always the compromises made. We didn’t want to make any and so far, I don’t think we have. A larger budget is very often blown on unnecessary things anyway I have found, things that never show in a film anyway. I have seen catering units and dining wagons that would have cost more than our entire budget to rent. I have seen tons of food thrown in bins because it doesn’t matter ‘it’s paid for’. Extra people that don’t really have anything to do. Fragrant toilet facilities brought in by trucks, luxury trailers and wardrobe lorries. All of these do not show in the film and cost a fortune. Anything that is not seen in our film was probably not there! These are things that budgets can be spent on and so without them we concentrated the small budget we had on the important thing – the film.
British Horror has always had a strong reputation. Would you say that this film is more inspired by Hammer, or by later films such as Shaun of the Dead?
Well Shaun and others like it but there are elements of influences from lots of others including Hammer. In fact the one death in it was inspired by characters that were played by Michael Ripper in many Hammer films. The nice thing is that there are loads and loads of ‘Easter eggs’ in this film. Hidden references and nods to other films which the discerning horror fans and film buffs will get. Nods to An American Werewolf in London (we even have an original cast member), Shaun of the Dead, and Hot Fuzz (we also have one of their cast too as well as an original prop from Shaun), there is even the famous line from Night of The Demon (1957) but written in a way that only those that know will pick it up. One reference was written in on the day that Rik Mayall died as a tribute to him.
Where are the main locations chosen that were used in the movie?
The main locations are the woods and the pub. These are next to each other in the same location. We could not use a real pub as the hours would not suit anyone, there would be a constant buzz from refrigerators and continuity would be a nightmare with levels changing in bottles and things being moved around so we built our own pub which you can see in the trailer.
However, that brought a new problem; ducks! Yes, we had to ‘shush’ the ducks in order to record some scenes.
We also built the hospital and police incident room which meant that all we needed from the location was that it gave the viewer the idea that it was such a room (smoke and mirrors!).
The warehouse was a perfect find. This was to become the ‘film set’ within the film. It is in Alcester and had everything we needed in looks.
The one location is the hospital and in fact when the one character leaves the one room to visit the next it will look seamless – however, there is an 80 mile distance between the two! (One was in Oxfordshire).
When will the film be released, and in what formats will it be available?
Well the release will be an odd thing. In a way it won’t really get one straight away. When it is all edited and scored and when we are happy that it is finished, we will have a screening locally for all those that contributed to it as a thank you. From there, it is likely that we will organise a London screening too for the members of cast and crew that were from further South as well as invite some industry professionals and media.
Hopefully we can create some positive publicity and set a few tongues wagging. From there it will do a circuit of the film festivals to see if we can get some good reviews and monitor its reception. By then, hopefully, we will know what direction to take or maybe have even attracted someone that can help us regarding a more general release or distribution.