Who doesn’t love some Stephen King? Every horror fan has either read or seen some of his work and can appreciate King as a true superman of the genre. His countless books, short stories and poetry have gone on to influence waves of aspiring horror artists, writers and filmmakers. And because of King’s strong encouragement of film adaptations of his work, filmmakers like Billy Hanson have been able to share their love for King with their own personal twist.
Billy Hanson, writer and director of the upcoming short film “Survivor Type,” has promised a truly horrifying and nasty project based on King’s 1982 short story of the same title. The story is told through the video journal entries of young surgeon trapped on a deserted island. With no food in sight, he must do the unthinkable: eat himself to stay alive.
Sounds like fun, right? Well check out the teaser trailer for Hanson’s new film and find out what he had to say about it to LAHorror.com!
LA Horror: Of all of the short stories by Stephen King, what made “Survivor Type” so appealing to make into a film?
Hanson: “Survivor Type” is a story that really sticks with you for a lot of different reasons. Before I wrote the script, I would tell people what it was about in a very general and vague way and they would cringe and get grossed out at the thought of it. If you have the chance to tell a story where even talking about it makes people uncomfortable, you have to jump on it. It’s rare to find an idea that strong.
As soon as I found out that “Survivor Type” was on the Dollar Baby list, I jumped on it right away and started working on a script, even before we heard back that we were cleared to make it. I also really love the idea of sticking with one character as he goes through this inner turmoil completely alone. As much as I love the gore and the disgusting bits (and I do), it’s a really interesting and intense character study. It deals with very basic conflicts that everybody feels, you know; are you going to Heaven or Hell; do your good or your bad deeds determine who you are; what do you do when facing such a hopeless situation and a slow, agonizing death? It was really fun to explore those ideas in the guise of a bloody and disgusting horror movie.
LA Horror: From the trailer it looks like actor Gideon Emery is going to rock this movie. Tell us a little bit about his performance and his reaction to being a one-man movie.
Hanson: I know people boast about their actors all the time, but Gideon Emery gave a performance that was nothing short of incredible. We were out there for four days on the cliffs in Malibu, shooting about 26 pages of dialogue and very intense make-up and special effects, and he was honestly great in every scene. Even in the smaller, quicker scenes, he’d calculated Richard Pine’s descent into madness so well that I was amazed on set, then amazed again when I saw dailies every night. It’s a really powerful and at times, heartbreaking performance.
We spoke a few times before the shoot, talking about the character and who he is and what he’s going through on the island, so on the day I gave very little direction and just basically let him loose to do his thing. I didn’t give many notes at all.
One thing I was worried about before we cast was that this part could easily go down the hammy, cheesy road with the crazy things he has to do, but on set those worries were gone right away. The funny stuff is funny, the horrible stuff is horrifying, and every second of footage we shot was completely believable thanks to Gideon’s meticulous work.
Another great thing is that Gideon is a voice actor, so he has great control over what his voice sounds like, and as you’ll notice, even in the trailer, his voice changes significantly from beginning to end. That was all him. I loved it, because it adds another layer of horror and realism to what’s happening to him, physically. His voice work helped with the pages and pages of monologues, too. This movie relies so heavily on Richard Pine, but ultimately will be rewarded with a great performance from Gideon.
LA Horror: How about the special effects? Just how gory is this movie?
Hanson: The very first thing we did was look for a make-up guy, even before the script was done. We had to see if it was even possible to achieve what we wanted without spending $100,000. We found Doug Murphy through a couple of friends who’d worked with him on this great short called “Dark Times”. We met with Doug and talked about the movie and what we wanted to do (which was a lot) and we all figured out some creative ways to get what we needed economically. That being said, there are at least a few effects in the film that will really surprise and impress people.
Going back to what I was saying with the video diary, we realized that we didn’t have the convenience of cutting away or framing out any of the big effects. Either way, there was no point in us doing this story if we were going to cheat the audience out of the nasty stuff, so we charged forward and had several very ambitious builds. I think we had a fake leg, a broken ankle application, a fake hand, fake ear, rotting teeth, sunburns, and that’s just what I can remember off the top of my head.
It was a big job for Doug and his team, but they pulled off a great achievement with this project. Whenever Gideon walked onto set with the next stage of make-up, it was cringe-worthy. The teeth and the ear especially creeped me out, but wait until you see the leg amputation. The awesome make-up with Gideon’s performance, it’s unbelievable.