A risky move, or pure genius- many studios have begun hiring new feature film directors over your typical candidates, so far it seams to be paying off. This is becoming a common practice with Platinum Dunes’ company as they’ve done it before with Marcus Nispel on New Line Cinema’s ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ remake. This time they’ve done it again with their remake of the classic 1979 horror flick, ‘The Amityville Horror’ and have given another commercial director the chance to prove himself in the “big boys” world.
But how was the jump from commercials to feature films for director Andrew Douglas? Could he handle the pressure? Here he talks about his new experience, “Two weeks is a long time for a commercial, god bless it,” he continues, “it takes four months, six months to shoot 28 days (referring to ‘Amityville’), I’m glad they didn’t stay in the house longer! (laugh)” Andrew also talked a little bit about how satisfying it was to direct a movie over commercials, “It’s much much more satisfying to tell stories, but commercials are (only) 30 seconds- at the end of the day they’re just selling a product,” he continues, “(at the end of the day) you feel a little bit unsatisfied and want to do something else, because you never get the chance to work with really good stories. You never get the chance to tell a long story, you never get a chance to hang on to what an actor can really delivered. There’s a scene (in Amityville) where Ryan Reynolds is so conflicted in his character that you can hang on the shot for more than the length of a commercial with nothing- I never get a chance to do that.”
Based on a true story, ‘The Amityville Horror’ follows the Lutz family, who moves into their dream home in Amityville with Kathy Lutz (Melissa George), her new husband George Lutz (Ryan Reynolds) and her three children. It’s the American dream turned American nightmare as her husband slowly becomes possessed by a demonic force and puts the entire family in danger.
When we hit the set of ‘Amityville Horror’ in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, one of the first things that caught everyone’s eye was Andrew Douglas’ directing style. He was doing something quit peculiar but we weren’t sure exactly what he was up to. After a little good listening we figured out that he was trying to make it look like the house was watching the Lutz family. After being questioned about this approach he talked a little bit about his goal on the film and his directing style, “The things that I’m interested in are the things that aren’t there or the things that are hinted at,” he continues by talking about how he has no specific style, “I’m not sure that there is (a style), in commercials what you survive on is your ability to change styles. To some extent a single style is almost a way (to get stuck in) a long career… by next year you better be something else.”
Ultimately ‘Amityville’ isn’t his vision, since it’s based on a book, but Andrew makes the best of it, “I’m much more of an interpreter of someone else’s story. What I found in this story that worked for me was that the story was now completely wrapped up. I worked very hard to leave certain things, like the force of evil- open ended. It satisfies I think, or at least I hope it satisfies. It certainly leaves you crossing the [parking lot] to your car still rather unsettled- and I love that. The film now kind of wrap themselves up and close at the end and you say “that was cool!” He wants to tap a vain a little bit lower than the simple “BOO” scare.
Next he talked about how he think the ideas in horror films are running thin and how he looked for inspiration from other films, “It was interesting to me to see how the spoofs were actually so good, but for awhile there it felt like there was no place else to go and just when you’re desperate with your own film, you look at what Shyamalan did with ‘The Sixth Sense’ or look at ‘The Ring’ and all of a sudden you feel that there is another place to go.”
Probably the most interesting thing Andrew had to talk about was why he thinks horror films are popular again, “Just when you think the horror genre has been tapped out, like a vein, something else comes in from Thailand or China or Japan and you just go “I never thought about that really.” One thing that interested me, really once I signed on, and it really only occurred to me as I was thinking and reading the papers and living here in America, was that when all these great films came out in the 70’s like ‘The Exorcist,’ Vietnam was going on. It shocked me that it’s possibly not a coincidence that we are remaking a lot of these films. There is a great kind of upswing in very successful horror film because we are a culture that is actually conflicted.” He continues, “I feel as though to some extent if you look at what films that are a success at the multiplexes, it’s a mirror of culture. If we’re are looking at horror or fantasy films, we are looking at some sort of conflict in our culture.”
All the election pains will be over by the time ‘Amityville’ hits theaters and maybe a lot of this conflict Andrew speaks of will be gone- but hopefully the horror genre has laid its egg in society for good this time. Check out Andrew Douglas’ first feature film, ‘The Amityville Horror’ on April 15th 2005 from Dimension and MGM Films.