One of the strongest films at this year’s Screamfest horror film festival was STORM WARNING, written by Everett DeRoche and directed by Jamie Blanks. It’s about a married couple out boating off the coast of Australia who get caught in a storm and end up on an isolated island with some rather unfriendly inhabitants. Mixing elements of DELIVERANCE and STRAW DOGS, the film doens’t flinch from showing gruesome violence, but even viewers who normally shy away from this kind of thing may find STOPM WARNING watchable. It strikes the perfect balance between set-up and payback: instead of eighty minutes of atrocities perpetrated on our lead charactes in exchange for a final-reel comeuppance for the villains, it’s more of a half-and-half formula, which works perfectly – including a truly sick and twisted surprise the wife prepares for the would-be rapists.
In the video below, director Jamie Blanks answers questions from the audience after the Screamfest screening.
Read a slightly edited transcript of the Q&A session below the fold.
THE PSYCHOTIC OUTBACK WACKOS WHO MENACE THE VACATIONING COUPLE SEEM LIKE SOMETHING OUT OF DELIVERANCE.
When I read the script, the deaths were so over-the-top and awful, I really felt we had to demonize these guys sufficiently – to make them so irredeemably vile that we could do anything to them after that point – to justify the deaths she inflicts upon them.
DO YOU THINK STORM WARNING WILL PROMOTE TOURISM IN AUSTRALIA?
I think Gregg MacLean, who made WOLF CREEK, started this whole new genre – the anti-tourism genre. I’m just following in his footsteps. It’s like, ‘Just don’t come to Australia!’
UNLIKE WOLF CREEK, STORM WARNING HAS A MUCH SHORTER INTRODUCTORY SECTION BEFORE THE HORROR STARTS.
I tried to streamline as much as I could. I thought WOLF CREEK worked; the exposition was good. I sort of get bored with that kind of stuff. Just start the carnage now, you know; kill them now. It’s an 82-minute movie; it’s supposed to be 90 minutes, but I took a whole lot of stuff out, because it was boring.
WHAT WAS CUT OUT?
We actually set her [the wife, played by Nadia Fares] as a sheet metal artist. There’s a whole sequence that I shot – and I threw away, because I hated the scene – with her in her workshop, building this stuff, to establish how handy she was. I just thought it was a little bit lame because we were setting it up so much, and it was kind of obvious where we gonna go with it from that point. So I threw it away. I don’t think it’s even going to end up on the DVD. I think I erased those scenes!
HOW DID YOU FIND LEAD ACTRESS NADIA FARES?
She’s a French actress. She’d never done an English-speaking movie before. She sort of sought me out. We approached her manager about a couple of other actresses. I had originally planned on casting an Asian actress in that role. She just really wanted to do it. I flew to Paris and met with her and looked at her films, and she convinced me she was up for it. She was great. She added that whole French thing, which was kind of fun. Ironically, the film is set on a real place in Australia called French Island, so it was an ironic kind of twist. I like the idea that she’s French and exotic and these hillbilly freaks have got her in their sights; rape is on the agenda. It worked on that level, and she did great.
BESIDES DELIVERANCE, THERE IS ALSO AN ELEMENT OF STRAW DOGS, WITH THE SOPHISTICATED CITY COUPLE TURNING THE TABLES ON THEIR BACKWOODS TORMENTORS.
Everett De Roche wrote the screenplay twenty-five years ago, and it was very much influenced by STRAW DOGS. They were the two magic words when I first met Everett and I was trying to pitch him my take on the movie. It was definitely what he was thinking of when he wrote that up.
You know where he got the idea for that Penis Flytrap? You know those little baby wipes, where you stick your finger in it? That’s where the idea came from! He’s a sick puppy, but I love him! I must confess I almost turned the movie down, based on that scene, because I just didn’t know how to film it. My wife talked me into doing that – you can thank her for that sequence.
SO THE VIOLENCE WAS IN THE SCRIPT; IT WAS NOT SOMETHING YOU ADDED?
I added a little bit more to them. Everett and I had a competition going to see if we could gross each other out. Neither of his gave up, so it all ended up on the screen.
IT SEEMS SURPRISING BECAUSE EVERETT DE ROCHE’S PREVIOUS THRILLERS (LIKE ROAD GAMES) ARE NOT EXPLICIT.
Yeah, they just haven’t let him film those ones yet!
IS THERE MORE VIOLENCE IN THE DIRECTOR’S CUT?
There is so much more violence! Instead of hitting him six times with the hammer, she hits him eleven times, twice in the teeth; a couple times, strips of his face come off. There’s a couple of really gross close-ups of the surprise [the “Penis Flytrap”). Every scene just has a little bit extra; it’s a little bit more juicy!
HOW DOES WORKING IN AUSTRALIA ON STORM WARNING COMPARE TO WORKING IN AMERICA ON URBAN LEGENDS?
It’s very different. I actually made my first two films in Canada, with a much bigger budget and a lot more time. In that respect it was easier, but I had a lot more autonomy on this movie. I edited and scored it myself; I didn’t have that kind of freedom on my first two movies. I certainly wasn’t allowed to let rip with the violence in my first two, because they were studio movies. I felt I was very blessed to have a studio film as my first feature experience, but it was a little bit limiting, because I couldn’t go nuts with the violence. The horror fans expect that, and I always want to deliver that. In that respect, it was liberating. I wouldn’t say it was easier. This is the hardest film I’ve ever done just because of the time constraints and the amount of stuff we were trying to achieve: the mechanical effects and digital effects we were trying to squeeze out of that tiny little budget. It was different. I love making films in Australia, and I love making films over here, too.
WHAT WAS THE BUDGET?
The total budget was about $4-million Australian, which is about 3-point-something in the U.S., but what I actually had to spend on the movie was about $2.6-million, because a lot of that movie was spent on insurance and things. The movie was shot in twenty-four days, which is less than half the time I had to shoot my first film.
WHY WAS THE RAIN ADDED IN POST-PRODUCTION?
The rain was done completely in post-production because in Australia right now there’s in an extreme drought, and we’re not allowed to use… we don’t like to water our gardens; we don’t like to do anything. So shooting a film like this is pretty much impossible in Australia. So pretty much all the rain was put in, in post-production. I hope nobody noticed. It’s not bad. A couple of shots at the beginning look a little bit two-dimensional, but the rest of the movie looks fine. You put the sound effects in and you get by.
HOW WAS THE BABY KANGAROO CREATED?
The kangaroo was a funny story. We actually built a fake kangaroo, because it’s very hard to native animal for use in a sequence like that in a movie. It was all animatronic, but it was on the same frequency as our headsets, so as soon as they fired up the sound cart, the whole thing started spazzing out. So we had to CGI the top of the prosthetic kangaroo. We should have added some hair to it. I think that’s the only complaint I have: it’s a little bit weird-looking.
WHY DID YOU SCORE THIS FILM YOURSELF?
I was very lucky; I got to work with two great composers on my first two films, but it’s very hard to impart what you want musically to somebody else, even someone as great as Don Davis or Christopher Young. They do fantastic work, but I had a very specific idea about how I wanted this to sound musically. I’ve got a background in music, so I was the cheapest and the fastest guy I could find to do it.
WILL STORM WARNING BE RELEASED THEATRICALLY IN THE U.S.?
I wish it was going to get a theatrical release. I don’t know. They feel that the bottom has fallen out of the extreme horror market, after HOSTEL 2 bombed and GRINDHOUSE bombed. So I’m paying the price for all that. Fuckin’ Eli Roth!
WHAT WERE YOUR FIRST TWO FILMS, AND WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU?
My first two films were URBAN LEGENDS and VALENTINE. Forgive me for the second film. A lot of people give me grief for that, but we did our best. My new film is LONG WEEKEND. I’m remaking an Australian classic written by Everett De Roche; it was made thirty years ago.