Here at Dread Central we’ve been covering the UK independent horror movie Patrol Men ever since mid-2009. It’s been a long and arduous road for filmmakers Ben Simpson and David Campion so we knew that with the film’s overseas release happening this week, it was the perfect time to chat with the pair in honor of our month-long Indie Horror Month celebration.
We asked Simpson and Campion about Patrol Men (UK DVD review here), their experiences putting together the micro-budget film and what it is about the horror genre that will always feel like home to them.
Dread Central: Can you talk a little bit about how Patrol Men came about and give us a little insight into the story and characters of the film?
Ben Simpson: Dave and I got the idea for Patrol Men a few months after we finished university. It started as a short film set around a curfew, but as time went on, we kept expanding the story and decided to do a feature film. It’s all we’ve wanted to do since we where kids so once we had an idea that we could stick with, we got what money we had and made it.
David Campion: The plot revolves around this fictitious island, Peyton, where there is a curfew, preventing people from going out at night. The curfew is enforced by the Patrol Men, who are these big militant motherfuckers wearing gas masks and holding large bats. When a proper ‘Rebel without a Cause’-esque [or rebel without a clue as one kind reviewer referred to him] comes over from the mainland, he questions the curfew and disappears. Now it’s up to Alex, the quirky 15-year-old girl he was flirting with, to investigate his disappearance; and this leads her on an adventure into the dark heart of the island.
Dread: I know you guys said you’re both horror fans- what sort of cinematic influences did you use when filming Patrol Men?
David: The Wicker Man was a pretty big influence on the script, as was Romero’s The Crazies. Then, as always, we watched Suspiria just before the shoot. If you look at the scenes in ‘Granddad’s’ room you can definitely see the Argento influence.
Ben: I do remember those three having a big influence on our shoot, but it wasn’t all horror influences though. Mumblecore had an influence on the teenage aspects and their moods, and that definitely influenced us on a filmmaker’s level, too. It showed us if you had enough determination, you could make a feature film with nothing but a DV cam.
Dread: Let’s talk about your experiences during production of Patrol Men. I know you guys went through the ringer getting the movie made so can you discuss what sort of challenges you faced while filming?
David: Well, having no money makes shooting a constant struggle. We couldn’t afford set design so we just used a load of locations, which meant we were driving around a lot. Then, in terms of equipment, everything was super basic. We had a cheap steadi-rig so we could move the camera around without it looking like The Blair Witch Project. For the first week we had a tripod which wouldn’t sit straight. Now that’s indie!
Ben: We were very luckily to get all the locations for free. It’s amazing how helpful people can be when you’re making a film. The people we got in contact with for locations were very supportive and understanding. We learned to always get permission when filming, too; there were a couple of locations we had to shoot off the cuff, and on the last day of filming the police stopped us. Luckily we had finished filming and got to keep all of our footage.
Dread: I know politics definitely play a big part in the themes of Patrol Men, and I was wondering if you could explain that a little more for our readers who may not understand the political (and even filmmaking) climate(s) in the UK.
David: I refer to the politics as ‘Panto Politics’. What I mean by that is that there is a political aspect to the film, but it’s very big, obvious and ‘in your face’. Back in the 60’s and 70’s, horror was the perfect vehicle to make sweeping political statements. I definitely think the contemporary climate is perfect for criticism; we should all be fucking angry at the moment.
The economy is a joke; and the people to blame are all still rich, whereas the ‘working man’ has to work even harder just to get by. Over here at the minute, things are particularly shit. There is a coalition with the Conservative government and the Liberal Democrats. The Lib Dems were once the shinning hope of every young person in this country, as they seemed to reflect what we were feeling. But now all of that has turned, and their values are definitely reflecting the Conservatives.
Dread: Independent filmmaking can be a very trying experience for filmmakers. What sort of sacrifices have you both made in order to get Patrol Men made? Is there anything you would have done differently if you could go back and do it over again?
David: We were 21 and 22 years of age and very naïve. If we were to do things today, I think the script would look a lot different. We would shoot with a better camera, actually have a proper sound guy and people to handle the special effects. These are definitely the weak aspects of the film, but at the time we were turning a blind eye to everything…I guess that’s how we made it; we were stupid!
Ben: I completely agree; we were so naïve back then. We had no clue about anything- we just had a story, and we were determined to get through it no matter what. At the time of making Patrol Men, we set a deadline to shoot by, and we would stick with it no matter what. I think that was really important for us. If we could go back, I think every aspect of Patrol Men would have changed. But it was a great learning experience. It was our film school.
Dread: With Patrol Men finally getting released in the UK this week, you must be looking towards future projects now. Can you talk about what you’re looking to do next?
David: There’s a gypsy revenge flick we’re working on that we now have a name for called Woodfalls, and it’s about a family of travelers/gypsies living in a field next to a small town. The film follows the dramatic tensions between the gypsies and the local townsfolk, as both subcultures have very little understanding of one another. The film will be a genuine potboiler, which will explode into violence at the end.
Thematically, I guess it’s quite similar to Patrol Men, but this’ll definitely be a lot more serious.
Ben: Woodfalls will be a lot harder going, too. We won’t be holding back any punches. Dave got the idea for Woodfalls while he was driving his car. He drove past some gypsies in a caravan, and the idea snowballed from there.
I got the idea for Video Nasty while watching the documentary of the same name. I want it to be in the same vein as Monster Squad and Goonies with a gory twist, and it will be our love letter to the horror genre.
Dread: I know you both said that you’d love to always continue making horror movies throughout your careers. What is it about the genre that keeps you so committed to it?
David: Horror is such a broad canvas for any filmmaker to work in. I don’t think we’ll ever get bored with horror because there are so many ways you can take it. Plus, horror audiences are amazing…they’re passionate and will give anything a go. You just go somewhere like Frightfest or Fantastic Fest and you see these films cross all sorts of boundaries, but the audiences are completely willing to go with it, not even caring about their own personal expectations. If people are willing to be taken by a film, then those kinds of films NEED to continue being made.
Ben: I just love the passion and rawness that comes out of horror films. I’ve always been interested in the macabre. I have no interest in the norm; it doesn’t appeal to me. It’s the dark things in life that drive me creatively, and I can’t ever see it changing.
Big thanks to David and Ben for speaking with us!
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