Famed horror filmmaker Dave Parker (The Dead Hate The Living, The Hills Run Red, Tales of Halloween ) is back with a new genre entry this month, It Watches.
In the film, Andre, while recovering from a recent accident, agrees to help his friend Robert by taking over a house sitting job at a creepy home nestled in the hills above Los Angeles. As night comes, the house reveals its insidious nature, as Andre begins hearing ominous sounds and experiencing strange occurrences throughout the house…these lead him to believe he is not alone, and that someone, or some thing, is in the house with him.
We had the chance to talk with Dave, and asked him about his upcoming feature.
LEGLESSCORPSE: So glad to speak with you, Dave! Tell us, where did the idea for It Watches come from?
DAVE PARKER: Initially the idea was partially spawned by the first Paranormal Activity. Ivan Djurovic and I had already worked together on a television series that I directed, and we had started hanging out. We started talking about doing some kind of project together, and talked about doing a short film. Then we went and saw Paranormal Activity with a sold out crowd, and saw how something small, and low tech, and contained really worked on the audience. They really were freaking out at moments, and there’s nothing like feeling that collective energy. So as we left, we were – like I’m sure many struggling filmmakers – inspired. We thought we could do something like that. And I remember saying that night that I would do it IF 1.) It could be just one person in the movie and 2.) It couldn’t be supernatural. As soon as we actually sat down and started to talk about it we realized just how hard that would be. Then we decided we would just try and come up with the best kind of mind-fuck scenario we could. It took a while to come up with the story, and pulled elements that were personal fears of ours. We also knew we had access to a location and that also help shaped the story as well — the house would, in essence, become a kind of character as well.
DP: For me, personally, I wasn’t basing this on any particular film, but I know I looked at movies like Wait Until Dark, Repulsion, the films produced by Val Lewton, and Carnival of Souls. Movies that have some essence and/or look that I was trying to do. I went in very open and adaptable to what was happen on the moment, on set. Working with my director of photography Will Barrett was really important as well, and he embraced finding the scenes organically. But the films that I mentioned were mainly the ones that I talked about as far as feel. Movies with limited casts, limited locations, and a mood and atmosphere that I wanted to go after. It was conscious decision to go totally in a different direction and style from The Hills Run Red. That one was more trying to shock and horrify, while It Watches is really trying to unnerve the viewer and make them unsure of what’s going to happen next.
LC: Is it hard to ground a horror film?
DP: I’m not sure that horror has to be grounded. I think for the audience to empathize with the characters they need to be grounded and relatable. If the audience is interested or cares about a character then you can, in theory, make them fear for the character, because they, the audience, is in their shoes. I think if you don’t care about the characters you are watching, then that will never really work. You can do jump scares and get people that way, but to really get under their skin, to make them afraid, they have to relate – and that is something that we’ve learned making this movie that’s really subjective.
LC: Was it intentional to do something rather different from your previous films here?
DP: Yeah totally. I mean being an independent director, which has its blessings and curses really, I have been lucky that of the films I’ve done, while being horror, are different. I’m still learning the craft of filmmaking; I don’t think you ever do stop learning, so I’m fortunate that each thing I’ve directed has been different. I want to keep trying new things within the genre. There are so many different things you can do, and I haven’t had a film that has been so successful that it has garnered a sequel or typecast me in a particular kind of horror. Maybe that would change if that happened, but I hope not. I like trying new things.
LC: Why do you gravitate towards this genre you think?
DP: I’ve always been attracted to the dark side of things, which sound like poetic bullshit, but it’s true. I’ve always been interested in fear and that feeling that it gives me, in a safe environment. I’ve experienced some real fear and terror, and it’s much more fun to create it. That’s probably why the horror I do is in ways more fantastical. Even as bloody and violent as The Hills Run Red is, it’s still a hulking guy in a mask running around. To me that’s not reality. I’m sure it could be, but I sure hope not.
LC: How long of a journey has this been for you? When was the film completed?
DP: It Watches has been rolling around for a good while now. It has taken years since Ivan and I first started to talk about it to right now. This is an independent film and really a different kind of experience than I’ve ever tried before. Sure I’ve been used to low budgets and tight schedules before, but not how this one was made. It was Ivan and I doing a lot of this ourselves, and that takes time. We both agree that we would give it the best we could. That started with us and continued to all the cast and crew. From pre-production to post production, and we had great people on our side. We had Sanny Van Heteren, Rick Irwin and James Duval graciously supporting Ivan’s performance. We had Will Barrett and his crew during the shoot. We had our composer Frederik Wiedmann in our corner to do the score. Justin Cruse and Scott Jennings doing our sound design and mixing, which was so integral to the movie. But because we are low budget and independent all that stuff, to get it as good as we could, takes time. I think it was totally worth it, and I’m really grateful for this experience.
Thanks again to Dave for taking the time to talk with l’il ol’ us — and you Fellow Fans out there, be sure to check out IT WATCHES when it releases December 6th from Uncork’d Entertainment!