A Conversation With Gregg Bishop
Some might call Gregg Bishop the genre horror-directing equivalent of Oscar hopeful Kenneth Lonergan, the independent filmmaker who has released just three films in 16 years.
Bishop burst onto the scene in 2006 with his debut, The Other Side, but he gained serious notice in 2008 with Dance of the Dead, the first home video release under Sam Raimi's Ghost House Understand shingle.
Six years later, Bishop helmed the short segment, Dante the Great, for the final installment in the V/H/S franchise, V/H/S: Viral. It was a wildly inventive take on a magician who discovers the secret to performing real magic, but suffers from the power he inherits.
Since then, Bishop has flown under the radar, but that's likely about to change -- and rightfully so -- with his latest film, SiREN, which is a feature-length spin-off from the first segment, Amateur Night, of the first V/H/S film.
SiREN is a fantastic, confident, expertly crafted creature feature that takes the central character from Amateur Night, a young woman named Lily, and dives head-long into her supernatural backstory while introducing a believable cast of protagonists and one seriously creepy bad guy while telling the story of the bachelor party from Hell.
BVB: Blood Violence and Babes was thrilled to have the opportunity to speak with Bishop by phone recently about SiREN, his other films already released and what he has coming up for an encore.
BVB: Thank you so much, and I’m so sorry we had to reschedule, but thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me. I own a website here in Tampa called Blood Violence and Babes, and I’ve been doing kind of independent, horror and cult film reviews for, since 2009. I started with The Tampa Tribune and now I run it on my own independently. I was so thrilled to have the chance to talk to you because – not only about SiREN, but I remember back in 2008 when Dance of the Dead came out and I was absolutely blown away by that film and what a great horror-comedy it was. And also I was thrilled to see that Sam Raimi had picked it up through Ghost House Underground to make sure it got a wide audience, which was wonderful.
GB: Yeah! Yeah, that was a blessing. I grew up on Sam Raimi films my whole life and it was just an honor to have him see it and like it enough to put it out. It doesn’t get any better than that. That was wonderful.
BVB: Absolutely. I think The Evil Dead is probably my favorite horror movie of all time and I remember watching that for the first time as a little kid and just being scared as crap. To see him helping young directors, I think, is fantastic.
GB: Yeah, 100 percent.
BVB: I just got to tell you, I absolutely loved SiREN. I felt like it did so many things so well. Not only did it elevate the most – in my opinion – the most memorable and striking character from the entire V/H/S franchise, no offense to Dante the Great…
BVB: …but Lily was just so…
BVB: …that first segment when you see her, it just burns in your brain. But (SiREN) was just such a good movie. And I just thought your attention to detail was fantastic. I know that this was based on an original character by David Bruckner. And he did the first V/H/S segment. How did you come to be involved?
GB: They’ve been developing this for a couple of years. David Bruckner was developing it with two writers, Luke Piotrowski and Ben Collins. And they had a script, and at that time, you know, they were ready to go and David Bruckner was set to direct Friday the 13th.
GB: That eventually ended up falling through, but he was in the middle of it and really wanted to do that first, which fully makes sense to do that, and so they approached me. Brad Miska, a producer, reached out to see if I would be open to it. First thought is like, you can’t make that into a feature film! (Laughing)
GB: That’s a wonderful short, but how do you expand that? My first question was, yeah, OK, I’ll read it, but is it found footage? He said no, and I was like, OK, send it over, thank God. So they sent it over to me and I thought it was a well-crafted script. I think the writers did a great job of expanding and finding a way into the story that wasn’t just filler. You can’t just watch that short film again. It couldn’t just be the short film again at feature length. I think they found a clever way in. I feel like the movie is inspired by the short. They can co-exist. You know, what happened in that hotel room still can exist in movie-land, and vice versa. But I felt like they did such a good job expanding out. And, mainly for me, the reason I hopped right aboard, is I’m such a huge fan of David Bruckner. He’s super talented and I was excited that he was heavily involved as in developing the story, and heavily involved in making the movie. I even asked him to come and shoot second unit for me because who better…
GB: …second unit for the feature than the guy who directed the original? He’s ruined me for all other second unit directors forever.
GB: You don’t get to work with filmmakers. I don’t – you don’t get to work with other directors and this was a great opportunity and a wonderful collaboration. And I learned a lot from him.
BVB: Oh I’m sure. I can’t even imagine. I think that – I was actually going to ask if that was a difficult or awkward conversation when you asked him to serve as second unit director, but it doesn’t sound like it was.
GB: No, he was very open, and he’s so giving. He said at the outset, I want this to be your thing. It was a great collaboration in that I was also like, yes, but it originated from you, so…he was the best person to [inaudible]. I wouldn’t make any rash decisions. He was just very involved in the making of the movie and a lot of those big, sweeping decisions. Siren song. The tail. Any of the new stuff, I really wanted to get him to sign off on in some way before.
BVB: Sure! And I was going to ask about that because, obviously, in Amateur Night, there’s very little backstory given to Lily. But in SiREN, there’s a lot you learn about the type of creature she is and you see a lot of new elements of her creature design. Obviously you saw the wings in Amateur Night when she goes off at the end, but the tail, the song, the whole mating ritual, that type of thing, was that something that was already in the script or was that something you came to the table with? How did you kind of refine her appearance when she was in full-on creature mode?
GB: That’s a – you know, I asked David Bruckner that question when I was brought aboard. I was like, OK, what in your mind, what is she? That’s always been questionable. Some people don’t know is she a vampire, a succubus? And he was like, to him, she’s always been her own thing. None of those things really exist so you can (Laughing) kind of make up anything you want…
GB: …in a way, as long as the rules work. It was the writer’s idea, the siren’s song. They felt that spoke a little more clear what she is and what she can do, and really propel the feature story in a way that wouldn’t if that element wasn’t in there. And my rules were basically, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. So I didn’t recast Hannah Fierman (Lily). You’ve got to bring Hannah Fierman back.
GB: A no-brainer. You know, keep the design very similar. All those carry overs. A lot of stuff, you know, it’s not found footage, but I wanted it to be from our hero’s point of view versus doing it as a [inaudible]. So when she’s looking at our hero, I would do the point of view so it echoed the short in that way. Hannah Fierman, you know, looking off camera is a different thing than Hannah Fierman looking directly at camera, through the camera, out of the camera, through the screen and into your soul, you know? Her eyes, just straight on, are…
BVB: Oh yeah…
GB: …really effective, like they were in the short.
BVB: She has – her face is amazing, especially in the makeup. It’s just like, oh my gosh, it’s very striking and also…
(Note: At this point in our conversation, Bishop’s publicist comes on to remind BVB that it’s time for the last question.)
BVB: I’m looking at my list, because I had a bunch more.
BVB: I was curious about this – so SiREN is only your second feature in eight years. Has that just been due to trying to find the right material or are you – because I want to see more work from you. I love your style. Do you have more stuff coming up now?
GB: Thank you! Yeah, I have – I do a lot of writing, a lot of commercial spots, that kind of thing. I have several things in development now. I have an original science-fiction thriller that I’m writing that I’m planning on directing. I’m actually developing an original horror film with the guy who wrote SiREN…
BVB: Oh, awesome!
GB: …which is going to be really cool. And I also have a script that got sold with the writer of Dance of the Dead, Joe Ballarini. We sold a spec script to Sony with Michael Bay producing, which is basically like a monster movie set in high school.
BVB: Is that Lockdown?
GB: Yeah, Lockdown, yeah.
BVB: OK, I had seen…
GB: So several movies on the horizon threatening to get made so (Laughing)…
BVB: Good! Well I think that is awesome news, man. I got to tell you, Gregg, I really – I want as many people possible to see SiREN and for your name to become household because I think your style is just awesome and I can’t wait to see what you do next! Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me and best of luck with the release coming up of SiREN and your future projects. I’ll definitely be on the lookout.
GB: Thank you, thank you. Very nice to talk to you.
BVB: So nice! Take care, man, talk to you soon.
GB: All right! Later.
SiREN began playing a limited theatrical engagement on December 2 and it is available now on DVD and most Video-on-Demand streaming platforms.