Coverage by Nobuhiro Hosoki
Story : An author's (Timothy Gibbs) frequent sightings of the number 11 lead him to believe devilish forces are at work.
Runtime:1 hr 22 min
Interview with Director Darren Lynn Bousman
(Q) : When did you realize that you were the sick ticket to like all these horror films enough to come up with something as crazy as "Repo!" and some of the other movies you've come up with? Was it some early horror film experience that did this to you?
(Darren Lynn Bousman) : I think it was fear of actually getting a real job is what did it to me. I don't think I have the mentality or wherewithal to do a nine to five job so I tried everything in my power to find something that I could do to not have to deal with that. Something fun that allowed me to escape the real world. When the fear of actually having to go to the workforce hit me I just tried really, really hard to get to film school, and luckily it worked out for me.
(Q) : Doing the "Saw" movies, I mean talk about a way to stay out of the workforce. They'd be afraid to hire you if they saw you doing the "Saw" movies. This one's a little safer. You almost convince people that you might believe in religion.
(Darren Lynn Bousman) : This is very much a different kind of film. One thing I try to do is, and sometimes they work and sometimes they don't work, and I'm trying to not be pigeonholed into doing one type of film. I'm trying to experiment with a bunch of other stuff. So I did "Saw," which is very heavily into torture, violence, that kind of thing. But then going on from something like "Repo!" which is completely music based and a musical to something like "Mother's Day," which is very much a crime thriller.
And with this I wanted to try to do something that didn't rely on violence or shock value, and then on top of that to do something that was more audience friendly in the PG-13 kind of gamut. And I've always been fascinated with religion, always been fascinated with people's beliefs, so I think it was a natural progression for me to get off and make something like this where I can delve kind of in the beliefs that people have.
(Q) : When you speak about beliefs are we to believe that you have beliefs or that you are wanting to shake us up about our beliefs?
(Darren Lynn Bousman) : Maybe a little bit of both. I don't know. I flip flop every single day on what my real beliefs are. It goes from believing absolutely nothing to absolutely believing in everything. So I think that changes daily and I think that anyone that claims to have an answer or know the answer are hypocrites and lying because no one knows the answer. When it's called belief you have to believe in something, you have faith.
And so the only faith that I can say that I adhere to 100% is I faithfully believe I don't know everything. And I think that this is kind of me working out my own demons in the script. And then they actually decided to make the script and turn it into a film, and I think when I wrote the script it was me kind of voicing my own opinions and thoughts at t the time.
(Q) : Did you go back in and look at some of the predecessors to a film like this, like "The Omen" and some of those other things?
(Darren Lynn Bousman) : My original edit was much longer. It was a much, much longer, drawn out, very much more "Rosemary's Baby" in a way. "Rosemary's Baby" when you watch it is very slow and deliberate. You might stay on a lingering shot as we're walking down the hallway for 30 seconds. The problem is when I turn that version of the movie in you're in a different marketplace now than you were in the '70s when those types of movies were prevalent. You have much more immediate gratification now, now, now, so the movie was trimmed down considerably to make it more accessible to the masses.
But I think my favorite time of filmmaking came out of the '70s. In the '70s you had things such as "The Exorcist," "The Omen," or "Rosemary's Baby," "The Sentinel." And you also my other favorite types of films, "Tommy," "Jesus Christ Superstar," "Rocky Horror Picture Show." So you kind of had the gamut in the '70s of these out of the box kind of experimental films that were appealing to mass audiences at the time.
(Q) : Did you like Ken Russell? When you said "Tommy" I was also thinking about Ken Russell's "The Devils."
(Darren Lynn Bousman) : I was lucky enough to meet Ken Russell and do a Q&A and introduce "The Devils" last year. But the night before I saw "The Devils" he'd come into town to do the screening I actually got to have dinner with the guy, which was kind of an amazing experience. First off, the guy is a legend; doing "Tommy" and then going to do that. But he was the most awesome, awkward, hilarious, wrong dude I've ever met. His question and answer at "The Devils" made me more uncomfortable than I think anything I've done. An example, someone who raised their hand would ask a question and he would just shake his head and say "That's a dumb question. I'm not answering it," and it would just be silent in the room for like 30 seconds. It was pretty epic.
(Darren Lynn Bousman) : Question about the main character that Timothy Gibbs plays. Do you find in some sense your character is similar to this Timothy Gibbs character? Because in a sense you're a writer and in a sense you find an isolation by creating this.
(Darren Lynn Bousman) : It's a great question and the answer is 100% yes. I think first off that absolutely was me making the movie. I had basically moved to Barcelona to make this film and I didn't speak the language and I wasn't familiar with the culture. So as I walked into Barcelona, and I think that kind of changed the script a little bit. You see a lot of me in him and things that he says and things that he does and his whole kind of action. You know what's an ironic story, a side story about Timothy Gibbs which is crazy, so we cast the movie in Spain so everyone we brought in went with an EU passport. And I had met with at least 30 to 40 different people for that role and I couldn't find anyone. There was no one that kind of wowed us.
Timothy Gibbs comes in, and Timothy Gibbs used to be a soap opera star in America. And he himself was so a tragedy in his life. He gave up acting and moved to Barcelona, and what's crazy about this character that he's playing is it's a character that befalls a tragedy and ends up moving to Barcelona. So not only was that character kind of based on me, Timothy Gibbs was that character as well. After suffering a tragedy he dropped out of acting and moved to Barcelona in real life. So it's kind of a whole kind of weird thing the way that whole character came about.
(Q) : You know it's funny you picked Spain, because there's been this huge trend of Spanish horror films. I don't know if you've been paying attention to it.
(Darren Lynn Bousman): Yeah of course.
(Q) : Just recently we did interviews for "The Intruders" that's directed by a Spanish director.
(Darren Lynn Bousman) : I've always been a fan of foreign cinema, and it's such a completely different feel over there. I think if I shot the movie in America it would be a much, much different film. But I think that when you watch "11-11," regardless of if you hate it or love it or are kind of indifferent to it, it has a unique look and it definitely has that European kind of film look to it, not only from the sets but the way the movie was actually put together and made.
And it was kind of exciting to be able to go over and shoot that because I've never shot outside of North America, I've shot all my films in Canada, and to be able to go over there, and there was a barrier. I mean I didn't speak the language; I was basically having to talk through translators a lot of the time to get everything that we were trying to get. So it was a whole completely unique experience.
(Q) : So does Kansas have a place in your heart for horror? Isn't that where you're from?
(Darren Lynn Bousman) : It is.
(Q) : I'm thinking of "Children of the Corn" or something, you know?
(Darren Lynn Bousman) : Two answers to that question; yes, my love of horror started in Kansas. In Kansas in October, October's my favorite month in general, but specifically in Kansas they deck the entire downtown area out in haunted houses. I've never since leaving Kansas seen anything like it. Not like houses like you see that are set up and cost $20 to make. These haunted houses, they spend six, seven months getting ready to be up for one month. It was a huge thing that I did every single year with my father. We'd line up, you'd wait two hours to get in a haunted house that last 45 minutes.
And so it started there, but originally the script actually took place in a place called Stull, Kansas. If you're not familiar with Stull, Kansas I recommend looking it up. I love urban legends, I love conspiracy theories and all of that, and there is a supposedly, if you were to believe the saying, Stull, Kansas houses one of the gateways to hell.
(Q) : You seem like somebody that should be directing episodes of "Criminal Minds."
(Darren Lynn Bousman) : It's really funny; if you go to my house and look at my bookshelf it's 90% books on serial killers and forensic evidence and things like that. I love stuff like that.
(Q) : Well not to get off on a tangent, but we always have 666; where did you get 11-11-11?
(Darren Lynn Bousman) : It's a real phenomenon that I didn't know about before this movie. But if you Google that there is a huge cult, huge, huge, huge, huge, huge that believes that the importance of the number 11 is a celestial number. But the real saying comes from a book called "The Urantia Book."
(Q) : Oh I know "The Urantia Book," yeah.
(Darren Lynn Bousman) : It's a fascinating idea and it's this book that was basically no known authors, it was supposedly written by celestial beings. In it there is a thing that talks about the 1,111 Midwayers. They're basically angles that are on our plane to bring us to a higher level of awareness. And looking through this book and reading this book it just became a really fascinating idea because you realize how many people actually believe in "The Urantia Book." So that is how that whole thing came together. But there are entire groups and sects of religion that believe it's 11-11-11 and a holy day.
(Q) : There is a quote in the film that Joseph Crone says that "I found it much easier to believe in the devil than a god," because he lost his family. So you think that if anybody lost a family member or friend that finds it more accessible to believe in the devil than god?
(Darren Lynn Bousman): Yeah, well, a little, I think that we deal with tragedy, we deal with sorrow and pain and suffering, and we deal with not being able to pay our mortgage or getting our car scratched and not having the insurance to fix it. We deal with anywhere from small travesties to gargantuan things. How much happiness do we really have, how much light hearted happiness is our entire lives? I think as that it's easier to believe in something that's nefarious or bad than it is to believe there's someone out there that's watching over us and protecting us.
And to me that's kind of what that statement was about, is that if there was a god up there you would think there would be happiness and world peace and there would be dogs loving cats and cats loving dogs and there'd be no issues in the world, but there's not. There's disease, there's famine, there are rapes, there are murders, and I think that in that kind of rationale that's where that statement came from. It's easier to believe in something bad than it is to believe there is something wholly good out there.
(Q) : It's interesting; I was looking at some of the user reviews. You got slagged on a few points and I'm wondering whether today's horror fans are not able to deal with the kind of great horror that we love, the great sense of dread that we got out of the Japanese horror films, and earlier on things that Polanski did. I think that what I like about this film is that you show you've got another way to approach the subject.
(Darren Lynn Bousman) : I was raked across the coals on "11-11-11" for numerous reasons. The movie's not for everyone, I get it. I think that it started off with a terrible trailer that was released for the movie that immediately set expectations way over what this movie was going to be. I don't know if you guys ever saw the first trailer, but the first trailer of the film, it was a very cheesy voiceover, it kept saying "You are fucked." And it would show demons and "From the director of 'Saw' 2, 3, and 4," and demons and people screaming and all this other shit. I know what the movie is; the movie is a very, very slow burn, very, very slow burn, methodical, religious film.
(Q) : Psychological. It's all about psychology.
(Darren Lynn Bousman) : Exactly. If you're a teenager and you come in to watch the movie and you're expecting to be being fucked and demons and people screaming and that's not what it is you're immediately going to rebel and say this movie's shit. The other thing is I think, which is unfortunate, is the movie got leaked online a week before its release, and the version that leaked online was not the version that was the theatrical version. What leaked online was an output of my first cut. Now, anyone that's ever worked in the movie business or filmmaking knows that 99% of the population can never see past a rough edit. They can't; it's really impossible.
The equivalent would be if a child was sick and the mother and father bring him to the hospital to get care and the doctor says "Hey, his appendix burst; we're going to do surgery on him," and then the doctor calling the parents in in the middle of the surgery with his guts hanging out and saying "What do you think?" No, you can't look at that. You have to look at the final product; did the kid survive, how did the kid look after the surgery? So the movie was put online and it was immediately downloaded from torrent sites. It was there about a week, the movie was being downloaded by every torrent site, every Pirate Bay, everything like that, on an Avid output of the movie.
And then all of a sudden reviews started popping up everywhere, everywhere, everywhere. And the movie was only released in 10 cities, but there were thousands of reviews popping up where people had not seen the movie. They'd seen an Avid output from the three weeks in the edit. So it was really unfortunate, then you couple that with when the movie was released the bad trailer that basically set it out to be something it wasn't. So I think that the expectations were skewed by a lot of people.
(Q) : Well we're going to rescue that because I think you've done kind of a classic psychological, I wouldn't even call it a horror film. You're confronting these issues. It's like those movies, like "The Omen" and all, where you confront in a serious way using the horror tropes some profound issues about god, about the reality, does god exist, does the devil exist, who is the devil, how do we tell? And of course you have to deliver the goods of the twist and the scary part.
(Darren Lynn Bousman) : I really appreciate that. I think more so than anything what I'm trying to do with myself as a filmmaker and a career is to do different types of films to show my versatility as a director from going to "Saw" to "Repo!" to "11-11-11." And now I'm doing another movie right now, I'm actually on the road with it, called "The Devil's Carnival," which is another kind of rock opera, a "Rocky Horror Picture Show" kind of thing. It's to continually do new and interesting things.
(Q) : Now which is the film that you're supposedly drawing on Lloyd Troma?
(Darren Lynn Bousman) : Kaufman? I finished the film, it actually is released next week believe it or not, called "Mother's Day," which is a remake of the 1982 "Mother's Day," one of Troma's original and finest. I took a very different spin on it than Troma did. And actually Lloyd and Charles Kaufman were actually out on the set when we filmed it, and it's a very, very serious, dark look at the bond that children and mothers have with one another called Mother's Day. It stars Rebecca De Mornay and it's called "Mother's Day" and it comes out in about a week and a half I think.
(Q) : So how would we get a chance to see that?
(Darren Lynn Bousman) : I'll tell you what, when we get off this call get my email address from the publicist and send me your address and I'll send you a copy of the movie.
(Q) : This one you actually wrote a screenplay for. Is it much easier for you when you're writing a screenplay and directing at the same time together? Because all of the "Saw" movies are done by other writers.
(Darren Lynn Bousman) : It's actually harder. I thought it would be easier, I always thought it would, it's actually much harder. Because I'm so tied to what I wrote, and I don't mean I don't want to change it, that's not it. For "11-11-11," for example, I wrote the movie in a month and then two days later I was on a plan to Barcelona and there was no time that I could separate myself from what I wrote. In retrospect, with the movies I didn't write I have no ties to it when I walk in, and so I walk in and I read it and I'm like "Okay this works, this works, this doesn't work, I'm not going to shoot that, I'll shoot this."
When I write something at that point in my mind everything worked or I wouldn't put it on paper, I wouldn't have written it. And so in retrospect I wish I would have had at least a month off. If I was going to do this again, and it's actually funny that after "11-11-11" I've actually written the last three movies that I've done and actually sold them, which is kind of exciting for me. But I would always do something different from this point on; I would take a break, I would walk away from it for a month, two months, and them come back and approach it and approach it as a director. In this I was directing approaching it as a writer, and so I think in moving forward I would probably take a break after I write something before I try to film it.
(Q) : One last thing; have your beliefs changed? Are you going to become a priest?
(Darren Lynn Bousman): Well they have, and I'll tell you how. There's a behind the scenes on the disc, it's a making of "11-11-11," and when I came out there and went to Barcelona I didn't really believe in anything. I grew up Christian but nothing that I could walk around and say I was a bible thumper or a holy roller or anything like that. But going into this house, the house had a horrible, negative energy in it, and there's no way to describe it outside of saying it was evil. The house felt evil. None of the crew members wanted to shoot there. And again, I don't speak Spanish, so I had a hard time understanding what was going on at the time, but a lot of crew members started quitting and there was something about this house.
Well I demanded to find information about the house and they went and researched on and helped me uncover that the house actually had been used for cult séances and rituals, and there were all sorts of weird, cult-like symbols all over the house. And the further we traced it back the more horrible things we found out took place in this house. This is not an exaggeration; I'm not joking about this. This is not a ploy for publicity for the movie; it was real. And what happened through the course of filming was there was a presence, and I didn't see anything, I didn't see ghosts, there were no aberrations I saw, but there was a presence of just a weight on your chest, something that drew you down and just made you anxious at all times.
And I think that knowing what people will do in the name of their belief system, whether they murder, kill, sacrifice, whatever, it's a crazy thing for me, it's a crazy thing to realize. But more importantly than that, being in the middle of this horrible feeling, realizing that the energy that was very much real, and again, unless you were there you can't really describe it, but it was very, very real, it made me question things, to see things differently instead of just writing it off and saying it's a joke. I was there and I saw it, I felt it, and it opened my eyes to a lot of things I've got to say.