Corin Hardy is an award winning filmmaker and music video director, whose dark visual style is rooted in teenage years spent watching horror films and then practising making his own. Corin’s debut feature The Hallow is out now on DVD (see our review here) and he sat down with Starburst to discuss his version of an Irish fairy-tale.
Starburst: So, your fairies are a little bit different to Disney’s?
Corin Hardy: (laughs) Yes!
That said then, how much of the mythology is real and how much have you invented?
It was very much inspired by real Irish mythology and it was a case of when writing the script, trying to find what would work cinematically. If things become too strange you have to spend time setting it all up and before you know it half the film has gone by. Originally I was looking at the daoine sidhe and the unseelie court, which are the more dark-minded of fairies. I was looking at the origins of fairy folklore in Ireland and this led me to The Book Of Invasions. I guess I was looking at a hell of a lot and just working it down, to such things, as fairies can’t take cold iron – it’s like garlic to a vampire with them. And this idea, that being touched by fairies can take a human being out of their mind, and if these ideas could translate then it would be like being infected. I guess I wanted to suggest ideas that weren’t just the gothic fantasy idea that we have of fairies.
Did you have to then temper what you were coming up with to give some basis in reality?
The original aim was to make a fairy-tale grounded in reality and this made it a difficult and time-consuming script to write. The minute you step over into the fantasy side it feels more like a gothic movie, or something designed for children. If you get stuck in the real world, then anything fantastical sticks out and just pulls you out of the film. A lot of fairy mythology comes from the forest and being at one with nature, which then lent itself to the idea of science. I’d come across this parasitic fungus as well, and it felt like there could be parallels and I wanted to tell a story in which there were two sides, and therefore some interpretation.
You’ve previously described the The Hallow as Straw Dogs meets Pan’s Labyrinth, which is a perfect way of summing up. We wondered which part came first for you?
I love both those films. Straw Dogs is the original home invasion movie and I love the way Guillermo Del Toro handles mythology in his films. In that sense Pan’s Labyrinth is most similar to what I wanted to do but whereas that film is 70% fantasy and 30% gritty reality, I wanted to do the reverse. In terms of balancing the story, initially it was much more fantastical, so it took a while to find that medium. It had to remain scary and tense but also remain grounded, and you only feel fear for a character when you believe in them.
How much do you think the atmosphere of the film is generated by the practical creature effects and the real locations?
It was always important but the more we went down that route; the more I was convinced it was right. I wanted it to be a cinematic and immersive experience and if you see a bit of CGI, no matter how good it is, you can quite quickly not be affected by it. I wanted everything to have a hyper-real feel but trying to shoot in the bogs and forests of Ireland was difficult. Somewhere along the line though it pays off. That said, my favourite effects are a mix though, with creature and prosthetic effects with some CGI to finish them.
The Hallow has been such a major part of your life now for so long. How does it feel with the film coming out on DVD, and effectively signalling the final stage?
It’s like the last part of the closure I suppose. I’m still a fan of the DVD process, as you get the extras and I was keen to include the making of which captures a moment in time. It’s been a dream come true really in getting The Hallow into Sundance Film Festival to launch it, and then 35 more around the world. Just absorbing an audience’s response is both amazing and uplifting.
Horror festival audiences can be tough crowds though…
(laughs) That’s when it can become unexpectedly scary. I’m a horror fan at heart, and one of them! You really want to please the horror audience, but you also know how critical they are. We seem to have gotten a good response so far though.
You put your lead actors through a lot. Will Joseph and Bojana ever work with you again?
(laughs) You’d have to ask them! I think actors love it though if they trust you. We discussed the ambition of the movie, in making a horror film that was also beautiful to look at. Both were heroes though and put up with a lot of night shoots in cold, wet weather. It was tough!
There really seems to be a sense that horror is a strong proving ground, with directors such as Gareth Edwards and James Wan emerging from the genre. Why do you think that might be?
I think it’s because horror is limitless. There’s so much potentially out there in the dark and in what you can imagine. It’s the most primal genre, based on fear and survival. I grew up watching King Kong and Ray Harryhausen movies and loved the idea that those things could be real. I also think that to do horror right is really, really difficult. You have to constantly sustain that tension and suspension of disbelief and the moment that goes away you lose the audience. There’s an awful lot of fine-tuning that goes into a horror film.
As a horror fan then, how do you feel about the genre today? Do you think perhaps the genre is becoming diluted with so many middle of the road films and ones that aren’t actually scary?
I can’t be cynical about it. When a James Wan film blows up it’s a boost to the industry but then you also get a run of all these matching ones. There are only so many great horror films though that tap into something and that you’ll watch forever.
Remakes are now staples of a studio’s planning and I wondered if there was a horror film you’d remake if you had to, The Crow aside?
I have lists of those! I do want to make as many fresh and original movies as possible though. When The Crow came along it was different, as I was such an obsessed fan and it would have been wrong for me not to have gotten involved. There’s also the graphic novel, which is a work of art and has a lot of depth and personal story. It would be worth retelling that original story.