Wilkins, Toby (Splinter)
Believe me when I say this -- the world needs more monster movies! Thankfully there's a group of young talented filmmakers out there who agree. Just one such person is Toby Wilkins, and his creature feature Splinter is garnering quite the buzz and with good reason -- it kicks ass!
Recently I sat down with Toby to find out what the deal is with all these pricks!
Wanna see for yourself just how good Splinter is? Then make sure you check it out October 10 - 19 at Grauman's Mann Chinese 6 Theatres in Hollywood, California as part of this year's Screamfest LA horror film festival! Hit that link for information, tickets, and showtimes!
Dig the interview below! And don't forget to VOTE FOR US ON PODCAST ALLEY!
**NEW!! Not in the mood to download? Then check out the entire transcribed interview below!**
Steve "Uncle Creepy" Barton: Hey, everybody. Uncle Creepy here for Dread Central. Joining us today is director Toby Wilkins. And we’re talking about his new movie, Splinter. Toby, how are you, buddy?
Toby: I’m great! How are things?
Steve: Dude, you know, things are really good. Now I’ll tell you why they’re really good because nothing makes me happier than when I get to sit down and see a good old-fashioned monster movie.
Toby: Well, assuming you’re referring to Splinter, thank you very much.
Steve: Yeah. I am totally referring to Splinter. Here’s a movie that I really haven’t heard that much about. And we sit through hundreds of movies here at Dread Central so when some sneak in and end up knocking us on our asses, we’re really happy to find them.
Toby: Well, I’m very relieved to hear that.
Steve: So let’s talk about the movie a little bit. Where did the concept come from?
Toby: There are two different angles to it really, the creature concepts and the script itself. The script itself which is this, I think, amazing classic siege movie with great, really strong characters, and a great location of a gas station which was the framework of the script that first came to me that was originally called “Tooth & Nail” written by Ian Shorr, which is what first hooked me on getting involved in the project. And the creature concept is something that had been in my head for a couple of years. A friend of mine, George Cawood, and I have been toying with this idea of this creature that's kind of like a parasite that infects its victims without the intention necessarily of killing them, to absorb the nutrients and things that it needs from our body and to utilize our skeletons as its own skeleton for its means of mobility, which is a concept that, for me, is much scary than being killed by a creature and just being infected by one and being left to fight against something that is attacking you from the inside.
Steve: Now, what I dug most about the creature is that it actually kind of gives us something that we’ve never seen before. I mean, we’ve all seen movies like Body Snatchers where the parasite or bacteria, what have you, will infect the human and take it over, but in this movie, it’s not just that simple. It’s like these parasites would take over humans and completely disregard how the human body is supposed to move and function.
Toby: Absolutely. I mean, I think there’s a long history with movies like The Thing or really zombie movies too like 28 Days Later for example that while you’re still alive, they’ll infect you; unlike the traditional zombie where you die and then you will be reborn as a zombie. Movies like 28 Days Later introduce the concept of you being still alive, but it infects you and takes you over with what really isn’t a zombie in the traditional sense at all. But all of those things, with The Thing, obviously it takes over your body from the inside but also psychologically, you’ll become this “thing.” And it changes not just your physicality once it splits you open at the end of the movie, but it also takes over your mind and then you start consciously becoming this creature. But with 28 Days Later obviously it has a very short window where you are fighting against it, but the infection is so spontaneous and complete. You’ve become one of these creatures spontaneously. With Splinter, it’s exactly what you just described where you are conscious and get to fight against it and it does whatever it needs to do regardless of what pain you’re going through, regardless of how your skeleton should normally move or without any regard for the pain that is causing you or any sense of the pain itself. It doesn’t matter what it’s going to do. It’s just going to use pieces of your skeleton in any way it sees fit. It’s a pretty horrific concept.
Steve: Yeah, and it was really unexpected too, you know what I mean. But you know what, in some really odd fashion, it made sense because how would this organism know how the human body is supposed to function once it takes it over?
Toby: Right. The method that it uses for mobility is based purely on muscle memory of the creatures or the life forms that it has taken over before. In our movie set in the woods in Oklahoma, that is the habitat of where this particular strain has come from. It may have infected anything from a squirrel to a raccoon to a deer to anything that lives in the forest, and it has the muscle memory that’s sort of innate in its DNA if you want of how that species moved, which has nothing to do with the human skeleton moves or behaves.
Steve: Another thing I found really kind of refreshing is a lot of times, you know, movies when they come out have a tendency to over-explain things and the pitfall that that presents is you’ll become too familiar with what you’re dealing with once you know every single thing about it. Now, here’s a movie where it starts off and this thing is here and we just have to accept that it’s wreaking a lot of fucking havoc. You know what I’m saying?
Toby: Apparently. And I think my favorite movies like Alien and The Thing don’t explain anything. I mean by the end of Alien all you know is that it basks in its blood and that it lays an egg inside you and creates a new creature, but even those two states of the creature aren’t explained. You know there are two totally distinct entities involved in the life cycle of that creature and it’s never explained. And that’s also great about the movie. So yeah, I didn’t want to over-explain any of that stuff; the origin and what’s in my head as a back story of this creature is really irrelevant to the situation where our characters find themselves in.
Steve: Yeah totally.
Toby: For the audience to react in kind of the same way that our character does, like you know, “What the fuck is that?”
Steve: And you know what? I got to tell you, there were at least several times in the movie where I went, “What the fuck is that? What is it doing?” And that excites me, man. Because I just hate seeing the same old thing all the time. So the movie is really refreshing and the cast really went above and beyond the call of their acting duties for a little independent horror movie, man.
Toby: Yes, the cast did an amazing job. I don’t think they went over what should be called for on film. I think the excuse of "it’s just an independent horror film" or, you know "it’s a low-budget horror film, let’s not pull in the best actors we can find." I think that’s a wrong way of looking at a movie. I wanted to get the absolute best actors I can get.
Steve: And you’re absolutely right because, unfortunately, some people when they make these movies, they’re just presented as a quick cash-in to making money. And my point is, with your film, you seemed to really concentrate more on making a really good movie. And that was just a really cool thing to see. It’s like you weren’t catering to any specific demographic or anything. You were just concentrating on making a really good movie.
Toby: I want to make movies that I would want to watch. I mean that’s the key to everything. I think, as a director, you can only trust your own instinct and your own taste. I mean that’s why … after all, being a director, what it comes down to it is answering a series of questions all day long every day during production, and all you have to rely on is your own taste and your own instinct as to what the right answers to those questions are. And so what you end up with, ideally, is a movie that answers all of those questions in the way you would want to see them answered on the screen. So when it comes to the casting and choices of acting and choices of character development and back story that I discussed with those actors, these are all things that result, I hope, in a movie that I would want to see, and what was absolutely a key for me as a director was character. [And so what we’ll do] is go back in a gas station watching a small group of characters that undergo this intense situation, and I want to be able to identify with these characters. I want to know who those characters are. I want them to be quirky and flawed, and interesting and interact with each other in interesting ways and challenge each other and challenge the audience to go on this journey with them. And I don’t think you can do that by just phoning it in. I think that’s ridiculous. I think that’s what’s wrong with a lot of low-budget independent movies and not just in the genre either.
Steve: You’re absolutely right. Now, you’ve been working within this genre for a while. You did The Devil’s Trade. You worked on that. You did the "Tales from the Grudge" also if I’m not mistaken. They’re for the Internet, right?
Toby: And before that I did a little tiny short called "Mouse Trap" for Ghost House as well. It’s the first project I did for them which is a two-minute long quirky little horror movie which was a lot of fun to do. It was on a miniscule budget and a very short amount of time, and the challenge of telling a story in that little time was a lot of fun. I first got involved with Ghost House through my short film "Staring at the Sun," which was played in ScreamFest in 2005, and Ghost House was on the judging panel and I ended up winning the best horror short at that festival and that’s what brought me to Ghost House’s attention. So yeah, I’ve been making certainly dark content. I mean, even my comedy work is dark comedy and it’s certainly where my taste goes. I mean with my favorite movies you know there is a horror movie short or dark movies like Blade Runner and The Game and movies like that that have that darker angle to them.
Steve: Now your next film I see is The Grudge 3?
Steve: Now, how was it? What was it like taking the reins up for that? Because that’s a really celebrated series of films both in Japan and here in the States.
Toby: Sure. I mean with the shorts, too, you know that being in those shoes is a great experience. Obviously, there’s a long pedigree not just within Grudge, but also within that genre as a whole. I think all of us can look at those movies, The Ring and The Grudge and the original versions of those and all of those films, and see how they have influenced this genre as a whole. But what I find, and not just with Grudge but also with any type of storytelling, is the difference in storytelling that those other countries and cultures give birth to. I’ve always found that to be fascinating. You know, you go to the Middle East and they have a completely different way of telling stories than we do. You go to Japan and they have a completely different understanding and basis in storytelling and thought as far as how things need to be explained and what does and doesn’t need to be explained than Western stories. And so it’s a great opportunity to branch out into all those different ways of telling stories.
Steve: Now, with The Grudge are you going to pick up right where the second one left off, like the first one did?
Toby: I've got to start to get us off this topic. I’m actually not supposed to speak about that.
Steve: No problem. I've got to try though, man, you know. [laughs]
Toby: And the time will come I promise.
Steve: All right then, so what’s next for Splinter? You’re going to get a limited theatrical run, correct?
Toby: Yes, it’s correct.
Steve: And when does that start?
Toby: October 31st is our official launch.
Steve: Oh, Halloween!
Steve: You've got to dig on that appropriate time. And I’m guessing there’ll be a DVD release to follow from Magnolia Magnet soon after?
Toby: Yeah, I would guess so. I have no idea what the roll-out is.
Steve: Now, you left the movie a little bit open-ended. Could we possibly see a return of the "Splinter" some time in the future? Would you step back into it?
Toby: I think the great thing about the Splinter creature is its versatility. There are certainly masses of opportunities for other things to do with this creature and I think it will be a shame not to explore those for sure.
Steve: Well, buddy, you keep making them, and we’ll keep watching them. So, Toby, we’re just about out of time. I really want to thank you for coming by and talking about this for a little bit.
Toby: You’re actually welcome. It’s a pleasure.
Steve: Yeah, and keep us in the loop. Let us know what you’re doing. Anything we can do to help, it’s done.
Toby: I appreciate that. I appreciate all the fans' attention.
Steve: Alright man. Take care.
Steve: This is Steve “Uncle Creepy” Barton for Dread Central signing off.