Exclusive: Scott Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill Get Sinister with Dread Central
On Friday, October 12th, Summit Entertainment is set to kick the Halloween season into high gear with director Scott Derrickson's latest, Sinister (review), and we got a chance to talk to two of the men responsible for the horrors to come.
The film tells the terrifying tale of a writer (Ethan Hawke) who unleashes a malevolent supernatural force on his unsuspecting family when he moves them into the very same neighborhood as the latest infamous "murder house" he's investigating for his upcoming crime novella.
From a script written by Derrickson and C. Robert Cargill, Sinister also stars Juliet Rylance, James Ransone and Vincent D'Onofrio. Recently Dread Central had the opportunity to catch up with the duo behind this disturbing tale to hear more about their experiences collaborating on Sinister, the controversy surrounding some of the film's subject matter and much more.
Check out the highlights of our interview with Derrickson and Cargill below, and look for more on Sinister coming soon!
MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD: If you've never seen a trailer for Sinister (and good on you if you haven't- the flick is better the less you know going into it), then the following interview will have minor spoilers in it. For the rest of you fiends, read on!
Dread Central: Robert, I'd like to start with you since you're the guy behind the story; can you talk about what influenced you while crafting the story of Sinister? I thought the home movies were particularly terrifying- they felt like you were watching someone's worst nightmare come to life.
C. Robert Cargill: That was the idea, like if this movie was someone's nightmare being brought to life by this supernatural force; I thought that idea would make for a really great movie. For the last ten years I've been watching horror movies and have been so immersed in the genre that I knew this movie needed to feel familiar and accessible so that it could also scare the crap out of people. I wanted to make something that played to horror fans, too, but still had that accessibility and could be a story that could haunt you for years. That’s essentially where we went with the story for Sinister.
Dread Central: Scott, what was it about this story idea that convinced you to come on board to direct Sinister?
Scott Derrickson: Well, it had been about seven years since I directed [The Exorcism of] Emily Rose, and since then I've seen tons of horror films that just didn't feel original or have good characters or character development to them at all so I didn't necessarily want to do a horror film because of what's been happening in the genre lately. But I knew I wanted to do something smaller after The Day The Earth Stood Still, and I also knew I wanted to work with Jason [Blum], too.
Then Robert pitched me this story and I really loved it; it was right around the time that found footage movies were everywhere - Cloverfield, [REC], Paranormal Activity - so it was something we had seen done in a lot of different ways already. But then we realized this isn't a found footage movie; it's a movie about a guy who finds footage so we used that as our basis and treated this like a regular horror movie. The Super 8 films are the only aspects of our movie that have that found footage feel, and that's what I really loved- how we could tap into both sides of the story in Sinister with traditional and found footage, which ends up being the bones of the story.
Those are the really disturbing images of Sinister, and their grittiness is supposed to contrast against the look and feel of the rest of the movie- like you're watching something you're not supposed to be watching. We wanted to crawl right up under your skin - much like we get under Ellison's (Hawke) in the movie - and tap into something terrifying and primal. In the end I think that's what truly effective horror should be.
Dread Central: Primal is a great word- visceral is probably another one I'd use considering the subject matter (kids in jeopardy). Because Sinister really doesn't draw a line when it comes to the violence, especially when it comes to the kids in this flick. Did that raise any eyebrows at Summit? Did they ask you guys to change anything?
C. Robert Cargill: You know, there was a lot of discussion very early on about seeing kids dying and acts of violence against children for Sinister, what you could and couldn't show. In the opening scene [which is in the trailer], you see the family being hung on the tree, which was okay. Audiences seem to be indiscriminate if you kill an entire family, but had we killed only a child, that would have been deemed too disturbing I guess. When everyone dies, it's "acceptable." So we never show a child alone in harm's way in the movie; we didn't really have to concede anything in our story, though. We made it work in our favor, and I think it definitely did.
Scott Derrickson: I think horror HAS to be dangerous; it has to push buttons for it to be effective so we just went for it on Sinister. Before we had distribution, we had a lot of studios who wanted the film, but they wanted us to change the ending; luckily Summit got the movie and didn't want to change a thing. They've been really great with their support for the film.
Dread Central: Another huge component of what made Sinister so effectively creepy for me was the sound design of the film; Scott, can you discuss your sound design approach on this?
Scott Derrickson: Sound in a movie is 50 percent of the film-going experience to me so I approached the sound of Sinister pretty methodically. We used a handful of pre-recorded tracks for under the Super 8 footage, which I thought worked really well. I actually played that music while we were shooting the scenes just to get that creepy, unsettling vibe onset.
When I was editing the film, I had been using a temp score for the rest of the movie because I couldn't find anything that was just right for what I wanted to do in Sinister. Then I thought of Chris [Young], who worked on The Grudge and also did The Exorcism of Emily Rose, too. But The Grudge was a score that I absolutely remember loving, and that's kind of the feel I wanted for Sinister so we hired him to work on the film, and the results are fantastic. Sound was so integral to the atmosphere of Sinister so it was always something I had to pay very close attention to.
Related Story: Lots of Sinister Scares - New Clips and Motion Images!
Sinister is a frightening new thriller from the producer of the Paranormal Activity films and the writer-director of The Exorcism of Emily Rose. Ethan Hawke plays a true crime novelist who discovers a box of mysterious, disturbing home movies that plunge his family into a nightmarish experience of supernatural horror.
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