With new horror film Howl making its debut at this year’s Monster Fest I decided to chat to director Paul Hyett about this werewolf film with a difference.
- The idea of a full moon and passengers getting attacked that night on a train is very, very unique… can you tell us how the writers first came up with the concept?
The story came from the writers having actually been on a train, travelling late at night on the last train out of London, also being packed out with a whole bunch of annoying passengers, the teen obnoxious teen, the drunk football fan etc, and they thought, what could happen now to the journey even worse? An attack from werewolves!! So they went with that concept of passengers trapped on a train, and it developed from there.
- What were your thoughts when you first read the script and what drew you to the project?
Funnily enough it wasn’t the creature stuff, but more the characters being trapped on a train and how they all react and deal with the extremely tense situation. I saw it as a throwback to the old 70’s disaster movies (which I’m a big fan of), like Earthquake, the Posiedon adventure, The Towering Inferno. The werewolf aspect was actually secondary to that, but a fun thing nevertheless.
- Tell us about the amazing cast you were able to put together for Howl? You’d also previously worked with Rosie, why did you feel she was perfect for Howl and what is it like working with an actress a second time around
I was very lucky to get such a great cast, Sean Pertwee, Rosie Day, Shauna Macdonald I knew and had worked with before. And they genuinely liked the script. Sean was about to go off Gotham so was just able to squeeze us in. Rosie is great to work with, as soon as I read the script I called Rosie and said I had a part for her and her first question was ‘do I get to speak this time?’ And I said ‘yes, a lot’, and the idea of an annoying teenager appealed to her. And working with her a second time was even better as we know each other so well, and she’s a lovely energy to have on set and at the sand time very professional.
- There’s a very big change to the werewolf mythology in Howl, can you tell us about how you have re-created it and why you made that decision.
I felt I wanted to bring Howl as a werewolf movie, to a more contemporary feel. Rather then the romanticised fantasy elements, I wanted to strip that out, no silver bullets and instant transformations, just feral hybrid human werewolves, that love in the woods and infect people with a bite, that they slowly transform into werewolves over years via a virus in the blood that will take years to transform.
- Some horror directors we have spoken to previously have said they have been a little scared off by making a werewolf film since the ‘tame’ werewolves in Twilight, was that something that worried you with Howl?
I think that wasn’t a worry as there was no studio pressure to make it a certain way, the producers certainly didn’t want a tame twilight style werewolf movie, and especially in my head it was just to make a cool retro style 70’s disaster movie with werewolves, I suppose it didn’t occur to me as I didn’t see Howl as a werewolf movie per se.
- Paul, you have a background in special effects how did that help with your role as director on Howl? Also what sparked your change from special effects and make-up to wanting to direct? Was directing something you had always wanted to do?
When I got into make up effects I had an absolute love for horror movies and creatures and I had been painting and sculpting since I was young so at first it was the love of the craft of make up effects that appealed, it was later on that the urge to direct came into play, I had learned over 70+ films, hod to direct, and it came from a frustration on not only wanting to tell my own stories with my own vision but also with seeing a lot of bad directors getting these big breaks and not really having a vision and I spent a lot of time supplementing their vision, so there was a point where I just had to direct!
- Tell us a little about the shoot for Howl… what was it like? I believe it was mainly filmed in one warehouse?
It was a 5 week shoot in a huge warehouse, mostly on a train set with a greenscreen and we digitally created the sky and background. We originally thought about shooting on a real train, but it quicker turned that it wasn’t logistically possibly so as opted for the green screen, actually ended up giving us a lot of control rather then restriction, and building the interior of the train meant we could design it in a way that have us the space inside the train to have a cast of 9 people and 7 foot werewolves and a camera crew!
- Your last movie The Seasoning House was also a horror can you tell us why you love directing horror so much and when did you first fall in love with horror as a genre?
I love horror as you really get to take people into emotional and physical emotional places that don’t (thankfully) happen to most of us in real life. We get to see and experience truely terrifying and exciting experiences, and we get to create movies and can thrill people and for me, it’s the buzz of creating a story that hopefully people can really enjoy. There’s nothing better then watching your movie get a good audience reaction.
- What are some of your favourite horror films of all time.
Oh god, where do I start, I love John Carpenters The Thing, anything by Carpenter, all the 80’s horror movies and anything by Guilkermo del toro, especially Pans Labyrinth. And Martyrs, Frontiers, Inside, all great French horror movies.
- Howl is about to screen at Monster Fest, Australia’s premiere horror film festival, how does that make you feel and what would you like to say to all the Aussies out there before they head in to see your film?
I am soo happy for Howl to be playing at Monster Fest, and wish I could be there to greet all the Aussies and hang out and chat with them, and a big thank you for coming to watch Howl.
Paul thank you so much for your time.
Thank you for the fun questions and a pleasure to be playing at Monster Fest.