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Exclusive: Simon Rumley on the Challenging Nature of Little Deaths, Music in Cinema and More

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Exclusive: Simon Rumley on the Challenging Nature of Little Deaths, Music in Cinema and MoreGet set, Dreadheads; Image Entertainment is about to release the critically acclaimed horror anthology Little Deaths (review here) on unrated DVD. Directed by the UK filmmaking trio of Andrew Parkinson, Sean Hogan and Simon Rumley, the flick features three titillating and depraved tales of sex, power and retribution, all exploring just what can happen when these universal themes are violated in unspeakable ways.

Dread Central recently chatted with writer/director Rumley regarding his contribution to Little Deaths, the sado-masochistic love story “Bitch,” which is centered around the relationship of strong-willed receptionist Claire (Kate Braithwaite) and her docile and obedient boyfriend Pete (Tom Sawyer), whom she literally treats like a dog. Eventually Claire’s sexual games become more than Pete can bear, and the tormented boyfriend sets in motion a series of events meant to give Claire the ultimate taste of her own medicine. During our interview with the filmmaker, Rumley discussed how Little Deaths came about, the challenges of casting his controversial segment and what’s up next on his project slate.

Rumley, who has made a name for himself on the independent genre scene over the last few years with previous films like The Living and the Dead and Red, White & Blue, discussed how the horror anthology Little Deaths came about initially.

“It was a few years back at Fantastic Fest when Sean and Andrew asked me to be a part of an anthology they wanted to make, and I agreed immediately since I really liked both of their work,” explained Rumley. “We never talked about an overlying theme or anything so we separated for a few months and wrote our own scripts, and strangely enough, they all involved sex in some manner. Not sure what that says about us exactly, but I guess you could say it was definitely a reflection of our own filmmaking sensibilities and how we all love working on very non-typical horror stories.”

Even though Rumley is no stranger to bringing challenging stories to life, the director discussed how his casting process this time around on his contribution to Little Deaths proved to be a lot harder than any of his previous filmmaking experiences. “It was incredibly hard casting Bitch. We had like five or six different casting sessions; there were seven different people we offered work to that came back and turned us down once they read through the entire script before we locked our cast. I couldn’t believe it- finding actors for this film wasn’t an easy process at all. It’s not exactly an easy story to work with so we really had to look hard for the right performers who could come at this fearlessly.”

“But we ended up finding Tom and Kate during one of the very last casting sessions together in fact – and I really think they both did an amazing job in the film. Tom was up for anything from the very beginning, but Kate took a bit more convincing. In fact, I know she didn’t even want to do the movie at first, but her agent finally convinced her. I know she was pretty nervous about everything, but once we had our first rehearsal, you could tell that helped her open to up to everyone,” added Rumley.

Even though his tastes may lean toward the more shocking and atypical side of the genre, Rumley discussed how it was the human drama between his characters that was really front and center in “Bitch.” “I wanted to make the most disturbing love story ever, but rather than just shock people, there has to be something emotionally at stake going on. The final act of “Bitch” was definitely just that- it showed that in spite of it all, Pete really does care about Claire, and the tragedy to the story is the fact that deep down they love each other enough to be in this kind of relationship to begin with. But theirs is so volatile so you just see the relationship between them spiraling down rapidly, and neither one of them can stop what’s happening. I know a lot of real-life relationships may not be like what you see in my story, but the kind of pain both Pete and Claire experience is something I think that everyone can relate to.”

Depraved sex and torturous death aside, “Bitch” also boasts an incredible music-fueled montage during the film’s final act which can only be described as truly haunting. We asked Rumley about his choice to end his segment with over nine minutes of music and not a single piece of dialogue to be found.

“I’m a big fan of music in films,” said Rumley. “Unfortunately, I feel like there aren’t a lot of directors out there that really know how to work with music very well, except for directors like Scorsese, Tarantino and Aronofsky. But music should always highlight the emotion you see in the film, not act as a disconnect, so it was a really interesting challenge for me to incorporate what feels like an uplifting theme at the end of “Bitch.” The twist is that what you’re seeing happening in the movie is anything but a feel-good kind of moment, and it was important to me to find the balance, where the ballad really messes with audiences heads. I didn’t want to take them out of the story they were watching either so that’s why we didn’t use any sort of audio for a good nine minutes or so. It’s all music, and hopefully it pulls you into this sequence of events in a way that maybe you’re not sure you want to be pulled in, but you just can’t help but watch the horror of what is happening in front of you.”

“I had always wanted to end my story with a music montage to give it this sort of contrarian kind of punch at the end. It had been in since my very first draft, and I’m incredibly proud of it. I think it was a great note to end both the anthology and my story with,” added Rumley.

With Little Deaths finally making its way to DVD this week, we asked Rumley what’s next on his proverbial project slate.

The filmmaker said, “I’m currently finishing up my ABCs of Death segment right now- the picture is locked so we’re doing sound now. After that I’ve got two movies I’m currently working on right now. The first one is what I like to describe as Steven Spielberg’s Duel but set in China, which is shaping up. That one is financed on paper, and we’re starting to cast that project right now.”

Rumley added, “The other one is a movie called Skin that I’m working on with writer Adam Alleca (The Last House on the Left remake) involving a young girl who gets into a devastating car crash and the plastic surgeon who keeps giving her more and more plastic surgeries, with one of them eventually going very wrong. I’m pretty excited about that one as well.”

Exclusive: Simon Rumley on the Challenging Nature of Little Deaths, Music in Cinema and More

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