The Inside of actor & director Eoin C. Macken


As disturbing as possible

Eoin C. Macken, probably best known as an actor in television series Merlin & The Night Shift, is also a director of horror movies. Following his Christian Blake & Dreaming for You comes The Inside, a story of five girlfriends who are dropped into a pit of both real-life & supernatural terror.

Eoin (pronounced Owen) is currently on location in Morocco. But HMPod managed to scribble some questions on a pound of old dates, strap those dates to the back of an antiquated dromedary & send them off into the desert. Eoin’s answers arrived this morning.

The Inside releases On Demand & DVD October 21. A seriously scary little movie for Halloween.

HMPod: Congratulations on The Inside, a truly creepy movie. The long scene of brutality with the human maniacs menacing the young women is harrowing. How did your actors fare? How long did it take to shoot that scene, keeping up that high level of terror?

Macken: Thanks, we tried to make it as disturbing as possible by being as potentially realistic as possible so those scenes are hard to watch and were just as hard to shoot and be around. The atmosphere was palpable; that’s what made it extremely unnerving for the actors. I shot in straight 9–10 minute takes, and that sequence is only three shots in its entirety. Because everything was so heightened and we had 10 actors all really engaged without a break we could only do each shot twice — people weren’t able to do it again, they were too drained. There were moments where it was really on the edge because people completely lost themselves in the moment and one actor in particular was afraid afterwards of how he had drifted into a “different head space” and totally believed what he was doing. So it was important we had control because it was on the brink. It meant most of the emotions and reactions were as close to real as possible.

HMPod: How has audience reaction been to that scene? I heard even your sponsors were badly shaken.

Macken: I don’t think people expected what they saw, especially not from an Irish movie. People aren’t used to seeing such raw emotion in continuous fashion, and being from so many actors at the same time meant it took on a new reality — which scared people. The entire point is that the fear/horror of the man-on-man is so extreme that it awakens and draws in the supernatural creature, but by the time the creature arrived a lot of people couldn’t handle what they’d seen and they left. It was too much for them.

The_Inside_(film)HMPod: The fright fairly oozes from the actresses, certainly more palpable than in most horror movies. How did you get such great performances?

Macken: Well, we kept it real. I wanted people to be able to lose themselves on long takes so that they were “in it.” It’s how I would have loved to work as an actor. We also shot at nighttime and it was a genuinely fucked-up place. We had some strange things happen, which sounds stupid if I write them down, but we are all convinced it was haunted. Some buildings have an energy and I think that negative energy fed into the actors and their performances. At times we all believed it may be disrespectful to paint satanic symbols on walls and tempt fate with what we were doing — it felt like it could switch and become about us. Even if that sounds silly, that’s the underlying level of tension we created on set.

HMPod: Where did you find such amazing spaces — specifically, the brick-walled underground tunnels & rooms?

Macken: We discovered the tunnels by mistake at the end of the last store room [where we were shooting]. Franco Noonan, my producer, found a hole in the ground and genuinely opened it up and went down with his phone light. I ended up leaving some lights down there because while shooting down there we heard noises, voices, movements and by the end nobody — not even Franco — wanted to go back down and get them ‘cause we only ever had torches [flashlights] down there and enough was enough by then.

HMPod: Are the actors ever really handling the camera? Is there still a need for a director of photography on found-footage movies?

Macken: I handled the camera always, and I lit everything to look a certain way. I used an LED on top of the camera at times but it was still important to compose the shots. Maybe you can’t tell sometimes because it’s so shaky, but I did compose many frames cinematically and then constantly “shook” the camera. Maybe I overdid that at times, but there was never a moment that the actors actually handled the camera. I was always beside them, even in the big long multi-actor scenes and I was directing with hand movements behind the camera constantly and also “pushing” the camera in a direction to indicate where the actors were to go, when to run, to move, etc.

HMPod: Without being overly facetious, should actors today get themselves trained in basic cinematography?

Macken: As above, I don’t think it would be necessary. I think in general it’s important to understand it, but I was dictating their moments beside them and we rehearsed each take and movements from an A to B to C to D fashion.

HMPod: How much of a script did you have? Are the actors responsible for a certain amount of ad libbing?

Macken: Actually apart from screams and pants, the majority was scripted. I wanted the actors to ad lib a lot, but with so many people it was an overload on sound and we couldn’t follow everybody as there were too many characters so we followed a script quite well. They improvised within the lines and changed them a little, but it’s a testament to how brilliant the acting is that people think it’s all improv. The big homeless men scenes attacking the girls, for example, was all scripted and while some went beyond the script or dialogue — changed as it should with reactions — it followed an A to B to C to D to E to F best point movement pattern where I had it timed and we followed the movements of the scene. That’s why I could direct that pacing when I was holding the camera and wave or push people into place.

HMPod: Could the current found-footage craze in horror movies ever migrate to other genres? Could there be a handheld romantic movie, for example?

Macken: I don’t know if I’d watch a handheld romantic movie. I think it works for horror because you’re never sure what’s behind the camera or to the side or what’s going to appear and then the movements of the camera bring a viscerality to it.

HMPod: There have not been a lot of Irish horror movies. Any thoughts on why that is? Is the future bright for the Irish horror movie industry?

Macken: I’m not sure. But recently there is The Canal and Citadel and others which are doing brilliantly. We don’t have a huge history of horror, but there is a wealth of stories here so hopefully that will change. Horror films don’t traditionally do that well in Ireland though, and Irish cinema isn’t renowned for that.

HMPod: So far, your best-known roles — as Gwaine in BBC’s Merlin and Dr. TC Callahan on NBC’s The Night Shift — are a far cry from your own projects. How do you find the juggling act, being in front of the camera as an actor or being behind it as a director? Do you prefer one to the other?

Macken: I love making stories, creating a project, being on set. That’s my favourite thing in the world. And making my own projects allows me to be on set with people I like, my friends are crew I like and want to work with and have a beer with, and all the actors are people I’ve worked with generally and I like. It’s fun and that’s very important; why else would you make movies? It’s too much hard work otherwise! Directing has taught me a lot about acting, as I get to work with actors and see how they are, and I have also been able to create roles for myself which allows me to explore. Doing both has encouraged my writing by comparison and letting the different crafts inform each other.

HMPod: You’ve worked as a model for GQ, Abercrombie & Fitch and Ralph Lauren — as well as being the face of the 2008 Braun campaign. Do you ever get tired of being called a pretty-boy?

Macken: Very much so. But modeling allowed me to pursue acting as I earned the money to go to acting class or make my movies or go to London to audition. Modeling financed my first few movies and got me my initial America visas. So without it I probably wouldn’t be where I am. I was broke and was going to have to stop auditioning in London and move home until I got the Braun advert, which meant I could go to New York, train in Meisner and also make Dreaming for You. It was also fun, and you meet some very pretty girls doing modeling!

HMPod: Sometimes you use your middle initial & sometimes not. Do you only use the C. when you are wearing your filmmaker hat?

Macken: I like my full name, but with acting it wasn’t important, and then to try and draw some distinction I use it for writing and directing. Not sure it makes a difference, but I feel that’s there’s a distinction!

HMPod: Got to ask: what’s next from you, horror-wise?

Macken: I have a dark, dark vampire script that really flips the genre back to its origins a lot and it’s incredibly real and psychological. I’m actually terrible at watching horror, it scares the crap out of me and the vampire script I’ve written is incredibly freaky and messed up and I think it’s given me a few nightmares, so I needed to let it lie for a while, but hopefully get my teeth into that one soon — after I make a romantic comedy!

The Houses October Built: Bobby Roe & Zack Andrews

porcelainThe actual & the imagined

A very entertaining found-footage film, The Houses October Built is about a Halloween trek by five friends to find the ultimate scary attraction. As the group travels from haunt to haunt, they begin to encounter stranger & scarier elements of the whole haunted attraction biz.

Needless to say, the five should have stayed home, watched a couple of videos & gorged on fun-size candybars.

HMPod was lucky enough to run into filmmakers & actors Bobby Roe & Zack Andrews before they were gutted & hung upside-down as a display. The Houses October Built opens in theatres, is on VOD & iTunes October 10.

HMPod: What was the genesis of The Houses October Built? How did the team come about? Where did the idea come from?

Bobby: Everyone loves to watch scary movies in the month of October, but not too many are actually about the holiday of Halloween. And the list goes to zero if we are talking about nonsupernatural, actual Halloween haunted houses.

Zack: So we wanted to set a film in this world. Bobby went to film school with Jeff [Larson], and he looked at horror movies in a similar way that we did, so he joined in creating the story.

HMPod: Was it ever going to be an actual documentary?

Zack: Not for an entire movie. We are narrative filmmakers first. The “documentary style” that we chose to use allowed us an authenticity that we felt served the story. But we always knew we wanted it to be feature.

HOB_DVD_HICBobby: The original movie is even more documentary-style. More interviews of haunt workers and spending a little more time in their world. It’s a slower burn, so we made the version that is being released more commercial. I think both films work and have an audience.

HMPod: So why are haunted house attractions so popular, particularly in the U.S.? Why do people want to be frightened?

Zack: There’s something about that adrenaline. Sex and violence just gets us going as a species. One is pleasurable (hopefully) and in the other one… well, you are purposely making yourself vulnerable to having a negative feeling. Maybe that’s it. Opening yourself up in both those situations is being vulnerable.

Bobby: They are actually becoming international now as well.

HMPod: When questions are being asked of haunted house employees, were those real employees?

Zack: Yes, everyone was real. We shot at real places and used real haunt workers. That was important to us to separate us from other films in this genre.

HMPod: Was there any confusion between haunt employees & the actors (i.e. Porcelain)?

Bobby: No, because those actors were real haunt workers. Why hire an actor when these scare actors have perfected their characters for years.

HMPod: Did you really travel to different attractions?

Bobby: We put some miles on that RV. We covered all of Texas and Louisiana hopping from haunt to haunt.

HMPod: On a found-footage movie such as this, how much of a script have you got? How much of the dialogue is ad-libbed?

Zack: Bobby, Jeff and I mapped out a story and had significant plot points that we needed to get to and then had the different characters’ personalities and motivations. We wrote out a script and the beginning and end were the parts that didn’t change a whole lot.

Bobby: But for the middle of the movie, we would call audibles and create new scenes as we went along. Brandy [Schaefer] and Mikey [Roe] were great actors in staying in character and going with the flow.

HMPod: Looks like you’ve got a good way of working together. What’s next for you guys?

Bobby: Thanks, I feel we have a yin and yang relationship. We are actually very different and I think that’s important with a business partner. Have the same goals, but add different values to a project. We would love to expand the haunt world. There is a lot of mythology in the movie and we feel there are still more stories to tell.

Zack: It’s also fun looking at other people’s scripts and thinking about what Bobby and I as a filmmaking team can bring to the table.

Dead Snow 2: Director Tommy Wirkola interview

Dead-Snow-3-e1388361429264Don’t eat the Dead Snow 2

Norwegian filmmaker Tommy Wirkola had a hit a few years ago with 2009’s Dead Snow, about a group of partying friends who awaken a battalion of undead Nazi zombies. In that first movie, the group of friends is slaughtered — with one exception.

Survivor Martin (Vegar Hoel) manages to escape at the end of Dead Snow and that is just where we rejoin him at the start of Dead Snow 2: Red Vs. Dead.

In this fast-paced sequel, Martin continues to battle archvillain Oberst Herzog (Ørjan Gamst) and his insane posse of right-wing monsters. Along the way he is aided by a trio of American zombie hunters — led by the surprisingly confident Daniel (Martin Starr).

Dead Snow 2 is funnier, scarier and more entertaining in every way than the first. That doesn’t make Dead Snow 2 unique among sequels, but it does make it worth watching.

HMPod caught up with director Tommy Wirkola recently to ask a few questions about this frantic Fascist frightfest. Dead Snow 2 opens theatrically in the U.S. October 10.

HMPod: There has been such a surge in zombie entertainment in recent years. Has this helped or hurt your own efforts to tell a zombie story?

Wirkola: I guess it has helped us. The trick, however, is to make yourself unique in all this zombie mayhem, and I do feel like we have done that with our Nazi zombies. They are organized, can talk, have a mission and can even drive a tank, so we do feel that our zombies are pretty special.

deadSnowPosterHMPod: If a scene could be either really scary or really funny, which would you choose? Why?

Wirkola: Well, if you can combine it with being intense, I would always go for funny. For me it is such a great feeling, as an audience member, if I get to laugh one moment and be horrified or disgusted in the next. As a kid, seeing Evil Dead and Braindead for the first time was such a seminal experience for me, being scared and laughing at the same time.

HMPod: Why such a delay between the first & second Dead Snow movies? Will we have to wait years for #3?

Wirkola: One reason is Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. Had to finish that one first and release it. But it is nice to have a little break between sequels. Gives you time to come up with A LOT of crazy stuff that you can put in it. And I do think this could be a trilogy, and we have ideas for what to put in a potential number 3, but we just gotta see how this one does first.

HMPod: Should viewers take your villains as political commentary regarding Nazis & the ever-present fear of a resurgence in fascistic political partying?

Wirkola: No :)

HMPod: There is a good amount of humour in Dead Snow 2 regarding the different types of zombies. Was this a fun aspect of making the movie?

Wirkola: It was, yeah. We especially had fun with the character called Sidekick Zombie. Don’t want to spoil anything for people who haven’t seen it yet, but he goes through a lot, to say the least.

HMPod: Could anyone, even a zombie, survive having their head shot off by a tank?

Wirkola: If somebody could, it would be Herzog.

HMPod: The sex scene between human & zombie was a funny surprise. How are audiences reacting to it?

Wirkola: They are equally entertained as disgusted, which is exactly how I wanted it to be. I knew, from when we wrote the script, that I wanted to use the song “Total Eclipse of My Heart” to this scene, and it turned out very nice in the end. The scene in the film is actually a lot milder than what we shot. We originally wanted to show A LOT of details when it came to the sex itself, containing, among other things, white corpse maggots, but it was just too much in the end. I decided I wanted it to be slightly romantic, instead of just being disgusting.

HMPod: How did you create both Norwegian & English versions of the movie? Did all your actors speak English? What about the American actors speaking Norwegian?

Wirkola: Because of the zombie squad, half of the film would be in English anyway, meaning that we only did the Norwegian scenes in both languages. This was simply done from a business point of view. We would be able to have a higher budget as we would get a better release over here (and in the UK), as a film in full English is a lot easier to sell than a Norwegian one. I guess it all comes from the American’s disdain for reading subtitles.

 As for the Americans speaking Norwegian… yeah. We thought about that, actually. But we didn’t want to waste a year of preproduction on linguistics. Podcast 157 — Children of Sorrow, Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies, Scary or Die, Coyote, Deadly Revisions, Black Water Vampire

billOberstJrLincolnA Bill Oberst Jr. retrospective

Good day to you, poor put-upon listener. Welcome to another edition of The Horror Movie Show, hosted by scary guys Jerry & Mark. This particular show is entirely about one of our fave-raves & an ultra-busy horror actor: Bill Oberst Jr.

The man has made a lot of movies & will undoubtedly make a lot more — including some that are not horror. But the dudes will just be concentrating on a half-dozen frighteners, along with a preview of the then-unavailable Circus of the Dead.

All the movies discussed are from 2012 (Children of Sorrow, Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies, Scary or Die) or 2013 (Coyote, Deadly Revisions, The Black Water Vampire). While Bill’s earlier work is also good, it is only in the last couple of years that the subject of this episode has really blossomed in the horror field.

Hope you enjoy this brief retrospective of a career we look forward to following for many years to come. Cheers!

An interview with Re-Animator director Stuart Gordon

Re-Animator Head

Re-Animator: The Musical
lives again in Hollywood!

The first theatrical movie Stuart Gordon directed, he also co-wrote. That movie was Re-Animator in 1985, followed the next year with From Beyond. Those two movies would be enough to make Gordon a permanent horror luminary, but he’s continued to make some dynamite movies as a director — Dolls, The Pit & the Pendulum, Dagon.

The latter marked a return to the source material for Re-Animator & From Beyond, legendary horror author H.P. Lovecraft.

It is unlikely old H.P. ever thought one of his stories would wind up as a stage musical, but that is just what has happened. Theatre & horror fans can see this restaging of the successful show when it starts previews October 10 at the Steve Allen Theater in Hollywood, running till November 2.

Graham Skipper reprises his role as Herbert West and Jesse Merlin is again playing Dr. Carl Hill. There are several new cast members and even some new songs.

Jerry Eberts had a chance to speak with director Stuart Gordon recently.

HMPod: How did Re-Animator ever become a musical?

Gordon: It took about three years to write it. I worked with the very talented composer Mark Nutter. It’s almost an operetta, practically the entire show is sung. And the music is really funny.

HMPod: What was your process for making a musical from a distinctly unmusical movie?

Gordon: We used the screenplay to start and I think fans of the movie will find most of their favourite scenes are there. The idea was to tell the story of the movie on stage, but of course it had to be changed a bit.


HMPod: How has the show been received?

Gordon: It’s been well received. The play was originally staged in 2011. It toured a bit, went to New York in July 2012 and we also took it to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August 2012.

HMPod: Any chance of seeing Jeffrey Combs as Herbert West?

Gordon: I talked to Jeffrey about it, but he’s in his 50s now and we needed a young kid to do it. Luckily, we found Graham Skipper, who is great as Herbert West.

HMPod: Do you have plans to do anything beyond the upcoming run at the Steve Allen Theater?

Gordon: We’re doing four weeks over Halloween. People outside of Los Angeles might get a chance to see it — but there are no plans right now to tour again as we did in 2012.

HMPod: Though your movie Robot Jox (1989) was not well-received, it was a lot of fun. You worked with science-fiction writer Joe Haldeman on that.

Gordon: I did. We became friends working on that movie. We based the idea on the Transformer toys, but Robot Jox continues to influence other movies. I think Pacific Rim owes a little to our movie.

HMPod: Can your fans expect another horror movie in the near future?

Gordon: Nothing specific. At the moment I’m looking for financing for various projects. That’s what I spend a lot of my time doing — looking for financing.