Variety named filmmakers and co-directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead to its top 10 directors to watch for 2015.
According to Variety, Benson and Moorhead “break the mold” in their previous genre bending feature Resolution and Spring, an iconoclastic horror drama that brings infuses new life into a tired old saw.
It is a revelation and absolutely fresh in concept and execution. It steers clear of conventional themes of horror by exploring themes of Biblical religion and psychology in new ways.
Lou Taylor Pucci is the formidable young actor who plays Evan. He’s mourning the death of his mother and relocates to Italy to reinvent himself. In Pompeii he meets an intriguing woman and falls for her. Thing is, she has a dark and ancient secret that threatens his existence. We spoke with Benson and Moorhead.
Spring has such originality and imagination and I’ll bet it’s the first time Mount Vesuvius has figured in a horror film.
Justin – We were constructing the mythology for Louise. Originally the story was based in Italy because of the visual juxtaposition of the bodies and the beautiful coastline. In creating this mythology we looked at that region and wondered what it had in its history. People know about Pompeii to a certain extent, most people and so it doesn’t require quite as much tricky exposition.
The volcano is just frigging interesting! Lava comes out from the top of the mountains. It’s like “Why are you interested in dragons?” The big thing to us was that Louise had a much more unique mythology than you see in fan fiction. Vampires like Lestat are great characters, interesting but his impressions and the way he remembers things have a similar spirituality we all know. But God, a Biblical God was interesting. We put it in ancient Rome, Holy Theism. It was a small story but interesting as someone as modern as Louise talks about the changing of gods.
That’s just one way Spring dispenses with the conventions of horror.
Aaron – We weren’t consciously thinking about rule breaking, we like it that way but genuinely we aren’t interested in creating a movie that isn’t our own myth, where our interest lies. We didn’t understand why there is so much repetition and the same story in horror. We wanted to do something a little bit new and profound. Most myths in horror or sci fi fantasy have a social resonance. We wanted to deconstruct the opening beat of a romantic relationship in a way every human can relate to.
The monster design was so good, so scary that I couldn’t look at it
Aaron – We talked a lot about making it actually scary. When you’re leaning on older myths it’s hard. We all know what a vampire looks like. We toyed with that but went deeper. What in nature could actually convince me to be frightened? I am much, much more afraid of a rabid raccoon than a vampire, one can change my life for the worse and one doesn’t exist. So we built a monster based on nature trying to make sure everything attributed to our monster could be found there. It wasn’t makeup based on motion picture references; it was based on natural phenomena. It was incredible. Imagine a Google search to find this.
Lou Taylor Pucci is an incredible actor who is underused. And you’ve given him this incredible original character to play.
Aaron – We saw him in Thumbsucker and that was a decade ago and here he is 18 years old doesn’t even look 18 and he’s the emotional core, you can’t take your eyes off him, even against Vincent D’Onofrio and Keanu Reeves. He is the magnetic centre. He doesn’t say a word but we empathise, he says so much with his face and then opens his mouth … and it’s also his earnestness. It’s not just his chiselled jaw. He’s a beautiful dude. He dove in 100 percent and wanted to fully understand Evan. He was just a guy and we realised after the fact that he was playing a role. Lou is not Evan, but he found something about him. He built the character. He said something one time, a little story that reflects on Spring. He and Nadia got along famously but said that one time Vincent D’Onofrio was a romantic lead with someone he despised. Lou asked him how do you do that and Vincent said “You wouldn’t know it because intense hatred and love look the same on camera”.
The opening scene in which he is caring for his dying mother tells us Evan is a kind person. In a story like this if he were not, his fate wouldn’t matter.
Aaron – He has a sympathetic face and it mattered to us. Being sympathetic is just having the demeanour; it’s one of the tools he has as an actor. You care for him. But he also has to do the work and so do the writers and directors and the casting directors.
How did you find each other?
Justin – We were both interns at a commercial production company. Aaron had just come to Los Angeles from Florida and I was one year from staring medical school. I had a year that I did everything. We worked together on low budget commercials and short films and slowly we started working holistically and five or six months before I started med school. I spent all the money in my bank account and we made a short film called Resolution. It got into film festivals and became a full length film and then we had directing careers.
What’s next? Will you stay awhile in the horror world?
Justin – We have a few projects coming up. Most likely the first we will shoot is Beasts about the infamous British occultist Aliester Crowley. There is a lot to be said about him. In brief, in our story, he’s not a hero or a villain. It’s an interesting story that we haven’t been told about a human being, about weaknesses and disgusting things and being admirable and fun and it seems kind of hokey. But we are earnest about him.
Sinister Cinema Cineplex May 15 and VOD May 22 and DVD June 2.