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What’s that coming over the hill? An interview with Luke Hyams

21 August 2014 Charlie Kenber

We spoke to writer and director Luke Hyams about his latest project, X Moor…

Ahead of the premiere of a new horror film, X Moor at FrightFest next month, we caught up with the movie’s writer and director Luke Hyams…

London Calling: It must be really exciting to be premiering the film at FrightFest.

Luke Hyams: Yeah! Lots of people who like horrible, grisly things are going to see what we’ve been up to for the last couple of years.

LC: Where did the idea for the film first come from?

LH: I wanted to tell a story about a group of people who go looking for big cats on the moors of Devon, and I thought what would be really interesting is if they found something else. Not the cats, something much worse. That is really where the inspiration came from – me figuring out what that ‘what else’ will be, and how that would launch them into much greater danger.

We are all living a very sheltered life, without natural predators around every corner. The idea that some of them have been living out in Devon that we don’t know about and aren’t controlling is something that really terrifies people.

LC: Did you always plan it as a horror film?

LH: Yeah I did. I wanted to do something that was scary and shocking and pretty dark. I’ve been to FrightFest before and was really inspired by the reaction that films there got from the audience. I thought it’d be a really great place to bring a movie like this.

LC: What can people expect from the movie?

LH: They stumble across a serial killer’s dumping ground, and they start to suspect that there’s a good chance that he comes back regularly to interfere with the bodies. So they have the idea: what if we stake this place out and try to catch him? Which is a much bigger prize than an imaginary cat. Through a series of crazy things that happen to them they actually end up staying in the woods to do that.

The moors are incredibly unforgiving. They try to set out, but end up falling in a bog. Did you know bogs are the most likely thing to kill you on the moor? There’s a staggeringly high number of people that die: death by bog. When I found that out I just had to put it in the movie.

So falling in the bog, getting freezing cold, needing to go back to the camp in the woods where the dry clothes were means that the characters don’t try and make their way off the moor in the middle of the night and end up staying in the woods where said serial killer might return…

LC: What is it that makes horror so popular? It seems slightly illogical to seek entertainment through being scared…

LH: In the sheltered lives that we lead we’re so rarely scared by anything real (touchwood that remains the status quo!), so to actually go and have this quite cathartic group experience of being terrified is I think one of the few legal experiences we can have that really makes us feel alive.

LC: Did you always know you’d direct it? Did you have to keep that in mind as you were writing?

LH: I definitely knew I would be directing, and I tried to make life as difficult as possible for myself! Apart from one scene the whole movie is nighttime exteriors. So it’s a lot of night shoots and keeping people in food and lots of waterproof socks.

But it’s very hard to differentiate between the two jobs, because when you’re writing you’re thinking about every element. You’re visualising the scene in your mind, so it’s quite natural to take that forward and actually try to realise it as a director.

LC: Is it easier to do both jobs yourself?

LH: I think directing comes quite naturally when you’ve written it. But then you’d be surprised how many times you can find yourself standing on set, looking at a scene and thinking ‘what the bloody hell was I thinking! What does this actually mean? I think we’re going to have to rewrite it on set…’

I think working both ways has its benefits, because film is so much about collaboration. Working with someone who is really smart and getting their ideas pulled into the project is a good way to go as well. So I’m happy to work either way.

LC: What was the biggest challenge of the project?

LC: Ah man, I’m telling you the toughest thing is it was just so cold where we were filming! The wind…it’s got moor in the title, the whole movie’s about people who go out and get further, deeper on the moor than they should and then have trouble trying to figure out how they were going to get out of it. So that meant lots of rain, lots of ankle-deep water…lots of discomfort along the way, so that was quite tough.

I think you can definitely see in the movie when you watch it that people are freezing cold and miserable! It definitely helped me go mad!

LC: How difficult is it to get films funded these days?

LH: Oh gosh. Definitely that was a real challenge. The upshot is that horror movies are very popular at the moment, and they have more of a potential to sell internationally than a lot of other genre films. The feelings of fear that we feel are similar all around the world, so the movies tend to be able to be exported more easily.

I think with this film people were quite excited by some of the twists and turns and the setting of the film and that meant that there was enough energy behind it to help it find its financing. It’s very tough normally.

LC: You’ve talked before about using the internet as an outlet for cinema. Is that something you’re interested in working in?

LH: Absolutely. Netflix has proved the culture of boxsets: to be able to sit down and enjoy a massive amount of story in one sitting. That’s the thing about the internet, you can have much more interesting and immersive story.

There is a lot to explore in that region, but I don’t think it takes away from the fact that people like to go out on a date to the cinema, or just with friends, and enjoy that big screen experience and then talking about it afterwards. That’s something we’ve been doing for near-on a hundred years and I hope that’s a behaviour that continues.

X Moor premieres at FrightFest Festival on 25th August. Further details available here.

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