‘Double Blind’ Director Was Influenced By This Classic John Carpenter Film


What happens when sleep becomes a death sentence? Epic Pictures Group explores this topic in their latest sci-fi/horror film, Double Blind.

Directed by Ian Hunt-Duffy, the Double Blind synopsis reads:

When an experimental drug trial goes horribly wrong, seven young test subjects must face the terrifying side effect of the drug –if you fall asleep you die. Trapped in an isolated medical facility, they must find a way to escape, and somehow manage to stay awake.

When discussing his approach to the film, Ian says “The best horrors always held a mirror up to society at the time, and we tried to do that with Double Blind, too, dealing with the young generations’ fear and anxiety about the future. All the characters in the film are young and directionless, they have no secure income, they are not on the property ladder, which speaks to a lot of young people’s experiences in Ireland today unfortunately. By filtering it through the horror genre lens, it just makes any message or subtext more entertaining and digestible.”

He talks about this and much more in the below interview.

Dread Central: What is it about the horror genre that attracted you to it?

Ian Hunt-Duffy: I love films full of suspense and terror, and the horror genre allows you to experiment with tension and atmosphere as a director and really create stories that grip an audience. I’m a big fan of high-concept horror films, in particular, stories that have a clearly defined rule the characters cannot break. In The Ring it was: “Don’t Watch The Video Tape”; Tremors: “Don’t Touch The Ground”; It Follows: “Don’t Have Sex”; A Quiet Place: “Don’t Make A Sound”. Rules like these are a strong hook for an audience, so I wanted to create my own version of that with Double Blind and the rule of “Don’t Fall Asleep”.

I was excited to take something innocent and every day like sleep and make it sinister. I knew if we could make someone closing their eyes scary, we could have a lot of fun with it. Horror is also the best genre for dealing with a certain theme or topic in a visceral way, and a more accessible way for an audience. 

DC: You have collaborated with the film’s writer, Darach McGarrigle, on a few projects before this one. How was working on Double Blind different than those previous projects?

IHD: Double Blind was a much more ambitious script than our short films, so it was definitely more challenging and stressful as a result! Even though we didn’t have a huge budget it was still a big step up for us in terms of scale and the size of the crew involved, so that was exciting. Obviously, since it’s feature length, the shoot itself is longer than a short film, so you’re trying to maintain your energy and focus for a much longer period of time.

That being said, we only had 23 days for the shoot, so it was an incredibly tight schedule. As a result, we were constantly adapting and changing the script throughout production to make our days. I would spend most evenings on the phone with Darach and our editor Colin, figuring out the best way to shorten or cut scenes for time without sacrificing the story.

DC: Were there any horror films in particular that inspired you to make Double Blind?

IHD: John Carpenter’s The Thing is one of my all-time favorite films and was a big influence on Double Blind. I love self-contained horrors, where a group of mismatched characters are trapped together in one location. Like The Thing or Alien. Other touchpoints for me then were films like Event Horizon, Cube, Green Room, and The Shining. And since we were dealing with sleep and hallucinations, you have to pay tribute to the master Wes Craven and A Nightmare On Elm Street.

DC: What made Millie Brady the right actress to play Claire? The same for Pollyanna McIntosh playing Dr. Burke?

IHD: Because Millie is such an incredible actor. Claire is a complicated character, acting hard and jaded on the surface, but deep down she’s really vulnerable. It’s a demanding role both emotionally and physically, as Claire is put through the wringer as the film progresses. So I knew we needed an actor who would be excited about both the emotional journey of Claire, and the physicality that the performance required. So when I met Millie for the role I knew she would be the perfect fit. She really connected with Claire’s backstory, her relationship with her mother, and her fatalistic outlook towards life, but was also eager to sink her teeth into all the stunt work and fight choreography, and portraying the different stages of sleep deprivation and exhaustion and how that affects the body. 

As for Pollyanna, for the role of Dr. Burke, I wanted an actor who would excite genre fans. Pollyanna is a horror icon, so we offered her the role and then crossed our fingers! Luckily, she said yes, and to have her star in my first feature film was amazing. Pollyanna was so professional and supportive, and just put everyone at ease. With only a 23-day shoot, we were constantly under pressure and up against the clock, but Pollyanna was always so relaxed and prepared, and that energy permeated throughout the rest of the cast. With Pollyanna, I would typically only ever need two takes before we had it, so having an actor with that level of talent and experience was really inspiring.

DC: Without giving too much away, there is a very cool shot in which Claire levitates off the ground. Can you talk about the optics of that shot? How long did it take to shoot?

IHD: Yeah, that was one of my favorite days of the shoot. I had never done any wirework before, and given our modest budget, I honestly didn’t know if we could achieve the scene as it was written. In the script, Claire levitates all the way up to the ceiling, but I remember trying to temper Darach’s expectations, that she might only be a few feet off the ground! So it was really exciting to see what our stunt supervisor, Lauterio Zamparelli, and his team were able to accomplish. It took a whole morning to rehearse and shoot the sequence, with Millie’s stunt double practicing the moves first for camera, before Millie then got strapped into the harness herself and raised up. 

DC: Double Blind has been referred to as a Squid Game-style thriller. Can you talk about this comparison?

IHD: Like Squid Game, Double Blind also features a group of characters trapped in a remote facility, who must desperately fight to stay alive. All the participants in the trial are lost souls, struggling to get by, doing it all for the money. The villain of the film comes in the form of an evil pharmaceutical company that views their lives as cheap and expendable. So like in Squid Game, our characters need to rally against this faceless villain, and fight back to survive and escape.

DC: Were there any happy accidents on set? Meaning, did any of the shots/sequences not quite work so you had to pivot, and you ended up liking the outcome better?

IHD: The scene after the group attempt to break through the wall, was originally planned to be shot in a much more measured way. But when it came time to film the sequence we were really behind schedule. It was a 4-page scene with lots of different set-ups and coverage on our shotlist, but we only had about 40 minutes left in the day to attempt to pull it off.

So we decided to change our style and go for handheld roaming coverage, running the scene all the way through as many times as we could in that timeframe, with our cinematographer Narayan pivoting and following different characters each time, a real ‘smash and grab’ approach. As a result, the whole scene has a kind of frenetic energy, there’s an immediacy to it that simply would not have been there otherwise, and some of my favorite moments of performance came out of this scene. The pressure made diamonds!

DC: What is your opinion on the horror genre right now and where it’s going?

IHD: I think the horror genre is stronger than ever right now. There are so many exciting new voices and films in the genre coming out every month, so as a fan, it’s really encouraging. Horror also continues to be a big success at the box office, with recent hits like Talk To Me, Smile, and Evil Dead Rise all showing that there is still a large appetite to experience horror films together in a cinema, which is exciting.

Double Blind is available now on VOD.



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