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Marshall, Neil (The Descent)

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Neil MarshallI’ve seen The Descent four times now in various settings, from being by myself to being in a room full of people, and it still never fails to creep me out. That’s no easy task for any horror film considering how many of them I’ve seen and how used to watching them I am, but Neil Marshall managed to pull it off with is second feature. It’s a beautiful thing.

Our foreign correspondent Axelle recently got the chance to sit down with Marshall and have a one-on-one about his fantastic film, and the results should be enough to get you slavering to see this even more. As you know, Lionsgate will be releasing the film theatrically this summer, but there’s a Region 2 disc already out in the UK that is more than worth getting.

Enjoy the interview and if you haven’t seen it yet beware off SPOILERS! (don’t worry, they’re well marked -Johnny)


Axelle Carolyn: The Descent is your second horror film, yet you don’t want to be known as a horror director…

Neil Marshall: I don’t want to be just a horror director; I love doing horror films but I don’t want to be pigeonholed. I’ve done two horror films back-to-back now, very different to my mind anyway: one, Dog Soldiers, is a sort of black comedy horror film. The Descent is a darker film. Now I want to go and do something totally different; I’m directing a science fiction film next and exploring some other genres, other stories and characters and then come back to doing horror films! I love horror films and I think secretly I love scaring the audience.

AC: Where did the idea of The Descent come from?

NM: I’d read articles and books and seen documentaries about caving. I’d never gone caving myself but it sounded pretty scary so I thought I’d come up with a story set in a cave. It was ideal for a horror film to utilize an environment that is about darkness and shadows.

I remember when I was ten or eleven years old I went on a school trip and we went in a mine. We all gathered together and the guide said, “I want you to turn all your torches off”, and for the first time in my life I experienced pitch black. It’s not like when you’re at home and the lights are off, when you have streetlight coming in or the stars or whatever; it’s pitch black. You can move your hand in front of your face and you can’t see anything. It made me cling to my torch; out in the world it is just a torch but in there it’s your whole life.

As part of research for the film I did go caving and yea, it’s intense, I thoroughly enjoyed it but I don’t think I’d like to do it again… So I was really interested in that idea, and it’s a friend of mine who said, why not make them all women? I thought, that’s inspired, that’s genius, why not?

The DescentAC: Well, maybe because it makes it more difficult for you to write it…

NM: It was certainly more of a challenge for me as a writer, but it’s a contemporary idea and more importantly for me, the story was is no way dependent on the fact that they were women, they just are and you accept that. And nobody ever made an all female ensemble in a horror film.

AC: Going back to the idea of the cave, it is a perfect setting for a horror movie, but at the same time it sounds quite impossible to film…

NM: Totally. And for that reason we made the decision very early on that we wouldn’t be filming in a real cave. The main reason, obviously, was how dangerous and impractical it would be coming into the cave with the material; it’s just far too risky. But also we had very specific action within the script and we had to find a real cave that fit the bill. Finding all of that in one cave would have been impossible, and finding it in a bunch of caves was an unrealistic possibility.

So we built everything, there isn’t a single real cave in the film, everything’s faked. There’s a matte painting, miniatures, and 98% of it are sets we built in Pinewood. Our production designer and my director of photography both did a fantastic job of making these caves look incredibly real. We used the same set, a sort of corridor thing, something like twelve times! We just made it look different every time. Also, we only used the light sources that the girls carry down into the darkness with them. There should be no extraneous sources of light because that’s cheating, that’s how it is in the dark.

The DescentAC: I guess you used all sorts of reflective boards to use the light to its maximum?

NM: Yes, reflective boards hidden in different places. We used every trick in the book. It was kind of fun trying to solve all these problems. And since the actresses were using their own lights, the lighting was never the same twice, which also helped us make the sets look different.

AC: What kind of budget did you have?

NM: It was 3.5 million pounds… like 6 or 7 million dollars. The TV company who made “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire?” made a fortune. Paul Smith, the guy who runs it, wanted to get into filmmaking and a couple of years ago he created Salvador Films; their first production was Dirty Pretty Things and The Descent was their second film. They were the sole source of financing; it’s a really unique thing in the UK because I only had the producer and the executive producer to deal with, it was ideal.

AC: How did you cast the actresses?

NM: Some were easy, like Holly; but for Sarah, we looked at so many people for that part. Shauna came back again and again and again. Every time we had an audition we’d bring Shauna back. We were doing all sorts of things, we were lining chairs in a row, because one of the scenes we auditioned with was the bit where she gets stuck in the tunnel and collapses, and you can’t do that just sitting in a room. So we had them crawl underneath the chairs and I filmed them with a camcorder. It really helped with the whole audition process.

AC: Did you also make them audition together?

NM: If we passed somebody, we’d ask her to come back in and play with the others. I wanted everybody to be visually and physically different. I wanted them to sound different because they would be filmed in the dark; I wanted them to be very accomplished actors; that was the most important thing. They had to be physically capable of what we were gonna put them through; everybody was warned very early on that it was gonna be an incredibly difficult shoot and they all said yes. They were great, they were true to their word, none of them complained that we made them suffer. They all went to climbing training, rafting training, caving training before the shoot, and the shoot itself was physical. The guys in Dog Soldiers, it was a walk in the park for them; they just had to sit in the house. These girls had to lie in freezing cold water all day… They all had cuts and bruises by the end of the shoot.

The DescentAC: Did any of them know anything about caving before?

NM: No. Shauna [MacDonald] had gone climbing before, but she’d never gone caving and we discovered that she was really claustrophobic. But that helped her play the character.

AC: Why did you decide to shoot the film in sequence?

NM: It was the only way we could do it. They never revisit the same cave twice and we only had a certain amount of sets, so what we had to do was use the set then pull it apart and rebuild something else. That’s the way we had to do it; the characters make a physical and mental journey through the cave, and it’s better for them to film it in story order and it’s better for us. The only thing that we didn’t shoot in sequence was the bit of the film where she comes back out of the ground.

AC: But you did start with the rafting sequence? It looks like one of the most difficult scenes to shoot though…

NM: Yes, it was the first day of shooting and the most difficult part for me. We were filming in Scotland in December when it gets light at 10 am and dark at 4pm, we had six hours to do the entire sequence! Luckily we had five cameras to cover it and the girls were so adapted to rafting the stunt guys said they could go on their own, they would be fine.

AC: The opening sequence is a great introduction to the characters and to the atmosphere of the movie. Where did the idea come from?

NM: It was two things. First it was an homage to Deliverance, which is one of my favorite films of all time and a huge inspiration for this film. Also, just to show that these girls are strong and independent, they like to do adventurous sports. Someone suggested skydiving at first but I thought it was a bit too nice, with blue skies… I wanted something a bit messier and I thought rafting would be good for that.

The DescentAC: How did you design the creatures?

NM: I did some ideas on my computer, initial concepts, but then when we got the actors and the designers came in we came up with different ideas and it evolved from one thing to the other. I always wanted them to be as human as possible and to have evolved in that environment logically; their eyes are blind and have gone bigger, they use their senses in a different kind of way to us, but they are essentially human. It was a lot of fun designing that one.

AC: There have been rumors about another ending for the US version…

**SPOILERS**
NM: Yes, the American distributor decided to change it. There won’t be anything new; the only difference is that when she climbs out of the cave and she gets in the car and she drives along, it cuts back to her being in the cave: that’s what they’ve cut. So she’s in the car, Juno sits next to her and she screams and that’s it. All it really does is it suggests that she does make it out of the cave. She’s still bad, but she’s out. They tested both endings and it played a lot better without the last bit. For whatever reason they preferred the idea that she made it out of the cave. Fair enough, she’s killed all her friends but she’s out of the cave, so it’s ok! (Laughs.) My original ending has been seen in the UK, has been seen worldwide, everybody else is going to get to see that, but well. It’s a totally different mindset; I can’t get my head around it, but whatever. They’re going to get to see the complete ending on DVD anyway.
**END SPOILERS**

AC: What are you working on now?

NM: I’m doing a project called Doomsday. It’s a break from horror; but it’s still gonna be pretty dark, full of action and violence, but it’s more of a tribute to films like Mad Max and Escape From New York. I’m not just a horror fan, I love all sorts of films and I’ve always wanted to make a sort of science fiction, post-apocalyptic adventure. It’s all set in the UK and we should be shooting that this summer. I’m going to try to get the same team from The Descent back.

AC: So you have no intention to leave the UK?

NM: No, I have no interest in doing anything in L.A. I don’t want to be making films with happy endings!


Big thanks to Axelle for allowing us access to the interview and of course to Neil for making it happen in the first place! Lionsgate has big plans for The Descent this August, likely giving it a huge promotional push, and I hope that you’ll head out and see if when it’s here, you won’t be sorry. Keep it here for more on the film!

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Buy Stuff From Eibon Press, Get More Stuff For Free

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Eibon Press have announced that they’re starting Black Friday a day early and will be running their specials for almost a week, through November 28th. This year, they’re doing something a little different, a little more interesting. Rather than reduce prices on their inventory, they’re doing a deal where depending on how much you buy from their store, you’ll get a certain amount of free swag in addition to your order.

The first tier sees anyone who makes a purchase getting two double-sided mini-posters featuring art from their upcoming Bottomfeeder and Maniac and The New York Ripper series. The second tier sees anyone who spends at least $30 getting a free copy of their VHS Comics titles Laserblast plus the mini-posters. The final tier is for those who spend $50 and more and that will net the mini-posters, the #1 issue of Laserblast, and a free copy of Lucio Fulci’s Gates of Hell #2.

Lastly, five random people will receive an extra bonus gift, which they won’t reveal but promise that, “…you’ll love it!

All order cans be placed via Eibon Press.

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KISS Meets Army of Darkness in New Comic Miniseries!

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Dynamite Entertainment just announced that they are planning to bring two of their bestselling brands together in “KISS/Army of Darkness #1”. The new comic book series will unite the rock band with none other than Ash for some Deadite ass kicking.

The series will be written by Chad Bowers and Chris Sims and illustrated by Ruairi Coleman. And the debut issue of “KISS/Army of Darkness” features three art covers from Kyle Strahm, Goni Montes, and Ken Haeser.

You can find all three covers below along with quotes from the creative team. After looking through all of that make sure to hit us up and let us know how excited you are about this new hybrid comic series in the comments below or on social media!

With Ash vs. The Army of Darkness, Chris and I were given kind of carte blanche to do whatever we wanted to the world of AOD, and we went for broke,” Co-writer Chad Bowers says. “We introduced some new characters and concepts, and built a legacy for Ash’s comics adventures that I’m immensely proud of, but not in a million years could I have guessed we’d get to continue that momentum with the added bonus of tossing the world’s greatest rock n’ roll band into the mix! I’ve been in the tank for KISS since I was in middle school. I remember buying the KISS tribute album, KISS My Ass for the Lemonheads (they covered Plaster Caster), which lead to me picking up Greatest Hits, and so on. But when I found out there was a KISS comic with blood in it, I signed up for life! Of course, I adore the songs (literally listening to Do You Love Me right now), but I’m just as obsessed with the way KISS transcends the music to become something of a genre themselves. It’s something I think about a lot, honestly, so no surprise, it’s a big part of our story too!”

“When it comes to Army of Darkness, I guess you could say that Ash is a bit of a gambler, but he’s nobody’s fool,” Co-writer Chris Sims says. “And since our first story was set back at Alan Shepard High, we’re looking forward to showing him some things that you can’t learn in school. Okay, okay, I’ll stop with the deep-cut lyrics now, but for real — if you thought Deadites at Homecoming and the Supernatural Military-Adjacent Response Team were taking Ash in a new direction, just wait until you see how we team him up with the Starchild, Space Ace, the Demon, and the Catman. In the grand tradition of the film, we’re tearing up the entire space-time continuum and if you think you know how weird this is gonna get… well, you sure know somethin’!”

“Having done some work for Dynamite in the past, I’ve really been wanting to get my foot in the door here for a long time so I can play in the sandbox of the amazing licenses they have,” Artist Ruairi Coleman says. “Chief among those, and high up on my bucket list, is Army of Darkness: Hail to the king, baby! So, when I was offered the job of drawing the KISS/Army of Darkness crossover, I couldn’t believe my luck! The concept is totally bonkers, but in a way, that would make complete sense in the world of Army of Darkness. Thinking about it, I’m surprised it hasn’t been done already and I’m honored (and more than a little intimidated) to be the guy who draws it.”

“After a more than 40-year career, KISS continues to be one of rock’s most celebrated bands, while Army of Darkness continues to be a staple in the comic book industry. We’re both honored to have the opportunity to work so closely with Gene and Paul to bring their world-renowned alter-egos to comics alongside our very own Ashy Slashy,” says Nick Barrucci, CEO and Publisher of Dynamite Entertainment. “The raging guitar chords and pyrotechnic spectacle of their stage shows could have come straight from the pages of the Necronomicon, and this epic battle between The Demon and Deadites will appeal to the hellions in all of us!”

Issue #1 will be available on digital platforms courtesy of Comixology, Kindle, iBooks, Google Play, Dynamite Digital, iVerse, Madefire, and Dark Horse Digital.

The KISS/Army of Darkness miniseries event hits February 2018.

Synopsis:

KISS is on top of the world and rocking faces until the night disciples of The Destroyer show up and the band disappears. With the tour canceled, a young Ash misses one of the most important events of his life that will change his destiny. Now the Chosen One has to get back on the right path and join the KISS ARMY OF DARKNESS!

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Jason Lives Director Pitched Follow-Up: Jason Vs Cheech and Chong

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One of my favorite entries in the Friday the 13th series is director ‘s Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. The mixture of old-school gothic horror and comedy is always a welcome treat around these parts.

But why wasn’t McLoughlin asked to write and direct the follow-up?

Actually, it turns out he was asked to follow up Jason Lives, McLoughlin recently told Mick Garris on the Post Mortem podcast.

But his pitch – Jason vs Cheech and Chong – didn’t go over so well…

“[Frank Mancuso Jr.] wanted me to do another film after we did Jason,” McLoughlin says. “And I said, ‘What are you thinking? I don’t know what it could be now.’ And he said, ‘Well, what do you think about Freddy (Krueger) and Jason?’ And I go, ‘But Freddy’s at New Line and the guys at Paramount have [Jason].’ And it’s like, ‘Well, we’re going to try and see if we can work something out.’ So, I started thinking about that, going, It doesn’t make sense. I mean he lives in one realm and — you know, I take this stuff very seriously, what realm a monster’s supposed to stay in. And he came back, he goes, ‘Eh, forget it, it’s not going to work anyway.’ And I said, ‘You know what? You guys own Cheech and Chong. What if we do Cheech and Chong-meets-Jason? They’re like camp counselors or something. It’s like, ‘Hey, man, I saw Jason out there.’ ‘No, man, that’s a myth.’ But he said, ‘You know what? No.’”

Too bad. While I don’t know how well a Cheech and Chong/Friday the 13th flick would go, with McLoughlin at the helm, the film would have at least been funny as hell.

Plus we already got these two knuckleheads in Part III.

Are you upset we never got Tom McLoughlin’s Jason vs Cheech and Chong? Make sure to let us know in the comments below or on social media!

You can buy Friday the 13th: Part VI – Jason Lives on Blu-ray HERE.

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