Interview: Kelly Smith, Director of DON'T LET HIM IN

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What if you invited a serial killer on holiday? That's the tagline and premise of new British indie horror film Don't Let Him In. Two couples spend a weekend in the country, only to become potential victims of a vicious serial killer dubbed The Tree Surgeon, but is everyone who they seem to be?

The film premièred last month at a special screening at BAFTA in London, to great reviews from both critics and invited public alike. First time director Kelly Smith found time amongst his busy post screening schedule to give Starburst a small insight into the making of this soon to be cult classic.

Starburst: How did you make the jump (cut) from negative cutter to writer/producer/director? Did you find it hard to raise the money?

Kelly Smith: I was a negative cutter on such films as In Bruges and The Queen, during which time I made a number of short films, which became increasingly ambitious. When the neg' cutting dried up due to the advent of digital scanning, I decided to bite the bullet and finally make a feature film. Raising the budget from investors proved a bit tricky with no track record, so I decided to just shoot the movie using funding from my family. When additional financing was needed for post production, an old friend named Mike Mindel came on board as co-producer to raise it... which he accomplished much more successfully than me!

S: And did you face any major obstacles along the way that made you think it would never see the light of day?

KS: Making the film was the most insane, chaotic, nerve wracking experience of my life. I feel lucky I survived it, let alone completed the film! There were many dark nights of the soul before we got to the finish line.

S: You mention (on the website blog) growing up watching the BBC horror double bills, did you take a "classic" horror approach to making the film, or go for a more visceral, gore driven approach?

KS: I'm a huge horror fan and Don't Let Him In is inspired by a lot of the movies I grew up loving, from the classic Hammer, Amicus and Tigon films to the more intense slashers and survival horrors from the late '70s and early '80s. I think of the film as an episode of Hammer House Of Horror on steroids!

S: The poster for the movie is fantastic, a real attention grabber with lots of atmosphere, did you have that image (to promote the film) in your mind during filming?

KS: Our US sales agent devised the poster concept with their design studio. I think it's pretty cool, though we're toying with the idea of a more retro design with painted artwork. Maybe that should accompany a VHS release!

S: Is it true you shot on Super 16mm rather than digital? Was that a conscious artistic decision?

KS: I was overjoyed we were able to shoot on Super 16mm because it gave us the grainy, retro, '70s grind-house look that this movie needed to have. Our DoP Vincent De Paula did a beautiful job achieving this.

S: The last shot in the trailer with the maggot wiggling from an eye socket freaked me out and made the film an instant must see, how did you manage to bring the effects to life on a limited budget?

KS: The gory FX were a combination of prosthetics and digital vfx. The prosthetic make-up FX were created by newcomer Paul Ewen and Aaron Sherman, whose genre credits stretch back to Brazil. On the vfx side, we found a phenomenal studio in Budapest headed by Andor Zahonyi, who recently worked on Stone with Robert De Niro and Death Race 2. Where the prosthetics end and the vfx take over I won't say... but suffice to say that wasn't a stunt maggot!

S: The film has finally been screened at BAFTA in London, any more screenings planned? Is there likely to be a cinema release or would it be more profitable nowadays to go straight to DVD?

KS: We'll definitely be screening the film at festivals, and are currently in talks with various distributors, so where it will be first released I'm not sure, but I'd love to see it get some cinema exposure.

S: Any ideas for your next film? Will you be sticking with the horror genre or branching out?

KS: We'll definitely be making more horror films! It's a genre I truly love, and we have a bunch of projects in the pipeline I'm very excited about. Watch this space!

Many thanks to Kelly for taking time to answer my questions. Please check out the films website,, for more information and announcements of more showings.

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+1 #1 pierre de frenaula 2011-08-15 08:18
An excellent interview by Starburst, which gives an insight into the passion and drive of the Director. He has made, what in time is certain to become, a CULT film.
Added to the fact that the budget was somewhat limited then the result is all the more remarkable.

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