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:: Spotlight :: Julian Richards talks about The Last Horror Movie

By: Gabrielle Phillips

Awarded the 2003 Best UK Feature Film at the Raindance Film Festival in London, the 2004 Critics Award at Fantasporto Film Festival in Portugal and the 2003 Best Feature Film at the Festival of Fantastic Film, The Last Horror Movie is an American Psycho style film, with its own original flavour.

Our reporter, Gabby Phillips, spoke to Julian Richards, the director of ‘The Last Horror Movie.’

Hi Julian, thanks for taking the time to speak to me, I am a big fan of your recent work ‘The Last Horror Movie'.

No problem, thank you.

This is a fairly generic question, but who were, and are your inspirations, both as a young filmmaker, and now as an adult professional?

As a kid, I suppose, I grew up watching horror movies on television, when I was allowed to stay awake. I used to watch the double bills on BBC and they were often universal classics, such as Frankenstein and Dracula, or Hammer Horrors. It was really actually the Hammer films; it was Terrance Fisher that really drew me into the genre. That was at an early age. I was about eight or nine when my fascination for horror came about.

When I started to pick up a camera and make my own films I think it was Spielberg and George Lucas that made me decide that this was what I wanted to do with my life. At film school it was John Carpenter and George Romero, but more recently I would say David Cronenberg.

What draws you to them?

Cronenberg has a very adult approach to the genre. His films are much more ‘creature features.’ It is not ‘what’s out there in the dark…’ its more ‘the monster within,’ if you like. It’s an exercise in embracing the mutant. If there is something in society that you don’t understand, rather then rejecting it, try and study it and understand it before you reject it. I think the horror genre is very good at doing that.

So it’s the study of people which draws you towards the genre. I have noticed that you have been leaning towards the horror/thriller genre with your last few films, ‘The Last Horror Movie (2003), Silent Cry (2002) and Darklands (1996). Do you think this is also what draws viewers to the horror genre?

Yes. I think that we are all mortal beings and we have to deal with things in life that we don’t like to deal with and in an odd kind of way the horror genre allows you to do that.

It works on that level but it also works on a much simpler level, it’s the thrill of the spill, it’s putting yourself into a dangerous situation – and surviving. The thing about The Last Horror Movie is that it presents itself as being first hand, and that makes the difference; and then, the twist at the end reveals that it could well be more then first hand, it could be inside your own front door. It is the ultimate in home invasion. So I was trying to push the envelope with the home invasion, trying to catch my audience by surprise.

The hairs on my arms defiantly rose in that last scene. So how did you come about directing the movie?

I work as a writer and a producer. With this film I had had the idea in my head for quite a while and I had always wanted to make a low budget, independent horror film that I could control. I wanted to be more then just the film director where I walked in for three months and then out again. So I took the idea to a writer friend of mine, who is a doctor in philosophy. I felt that he was probably the closest person that I knew to the physiological fieldwork. I even had the idea that he would act in it, but it turned out that he was camera shy so it wasn’t the best idea. But he is certainly good at writing characters, and I thought that he would do a good job at that. So I produced and directed the film, and used my own money to make it. I had made a wage out of my movie, silent cry, the year before, and used that to create, ‘The Last Horror Movie,’ so we made the film for $80,000 pounds.

So are you doing it mainly to get a message out to the public, or are you working towards the dream of making a huge blockbuster one day?

Well, each film has its own way of performing and it is always difficult to know how a movie is going to perform. I guess with this film I wanted to make a Blair Witch of sorts, a movie that blows in on the east wind and shakes every body up. I wanted to do it via word of mouth, rather then having a huge marketing and advertising budget. But I did know that it was, sort of an art house horror, but as a director I do have ambitions to direct a film that is a blockbuster.

You chose and shaped Kevin Howarth to play the leading character, ‘Max Parry’. Max was a middle class, artistic and arrogant intellectual. Had you shaped the character differently and chosen someone else to play the role, the whole film would have had a completely different feel. Did how the film turned out in the end surprise you?

Yes, it always does. You have an idea about how the film is going to turn out, and the people that you work with have their idea about how the film is going to turn out, and in the end it becomes a composite of all the different ideas, and it takes on its own life. I believe that a good film maker has to stand back and let the film become its own ‘being,’ rather then trying to impress themselves on it too much, and trying to force it in a direction that it may be uncomfortable going in.

This film could have gone in many different directions had we cast a different actor. My original idea was to have a blue collar guy that wasn’t that articulate, and who was even more of a social miss fit, even more physically dominating, but James (Handel) who I got to write the script suggested that we had seen that before, but what we hadn’t seen was the good-looking guy next door, middle class, educated, public school boy – everything you would expect a serial killer not to be. He had an actor in mind who was a Hugh Grant of sorts, but when I interviewed his actor I thought that there was no way anyone was going to find his actor remotely scary, they would laugh at it. When James interviewed my actor he suggested that there was no way that he could have played the intense, articulate and intellectual role that was required. We settled on Kevin Howarth as a type of compromise.

Where will you head to from here?

I am quite excited by this digital film that I have made on a low budget, and I experienced a degree of freedom and creativity and control that I haven’t experienced with my other larger budget films. Now that I am moving more towards producing now as well as directing films, I have managed to get a budget together to shoot another low budget digital film next Easter called ‘Summer Stars,’ which is a psycho drama about a bunch of children held hostage in the forest by a psychopath. It will be a low budget but very well written and character driven story. It will be on a budget of about $200, 000 pounds. I also have a variety of scripts that are in development, all in the bigger budget range.

It sounds intriguing and although I haven’t seen all of your films yet I would love to get hold of them.

Silent Cry was distributed on DVD about a year ago so that one is definitely available.

Thank you very much for your time.

"The Last Horror Movie" is available to rent now on DVD through MRA Entertainment.