A Conversation With Darren Lynn Bousman
BVB: Blood Violence and Babes was thrilled to recently have the chance to speak to writer-director Darren Lynn Bousman by phone about his latest film, Abattoir.
While we experienced some technical difficulties, as you will read, where some of Bousman's answers became unintelligible upon playback of the audio recording, what really shines through is his dedication to staying decidedly removed from the mainstream.
Whether you love his work, and BVB is a definite fan, or you have yet to find the proper film in his canon to draw you over to Bousman's singular vision, it is exciting to find a director so laser-focused on the art that he creates and the reaction it receives.
BVB: Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me for my website, Blood Violence and Babes. I really appreciate it. I have been a longtime fan of your work and this is just a great opportunity.
DLB: Thank you very much.
BVB: Oh you’re welcome. We actually met back in 2012 when The Devil’s Carnival road tour stopped here in Tampa.
DLB: Oh, the Tampa Pitcher Show!
BVB: Yes! Yes, which sadly is no longer open.
DLB: Thank you very much. They closed down. I heard that.
BVB: Yeah, it’s so sad. They couldn’t afford to switch to digital, to make the switch from film stock to digital, I guess the equipment was too expensive, so they ended up having to close, which is a true loss for our community. That was just a great venue.
DLB: Oh man, I’m so sorry to hear that.
BVB: I know, I know. We still have Tampa Theater, which is a historic theater in downtown, which has an organ that rises from the stage in front of the screen prior to movies starting. It’s got a balcony. It’s awesome, but Tampa Pitcher Show just held a special place in a lot of our hearts. Well, I know we don’t have a lot of time. I wanted to ask you about Devil’s Carnival, but I’ll get to that. I wanted to start with Abattoir because I actually had a chance to watch it last night, and, you know, I really liked it. It had a slow burn approach, which I thought was really cool, because it kind of allowed you to lay out this very involved, complex story, but then the final 15 minutes, things just went batshit crazy and it was awesome with the reveal of all the ghosts dying their former deaths. I thought visually, it was some of the best work you’ve done. And it actually made me think that this would be a great attraction at something like Halloween Horror Nights where you’d be able to wander each of those rooms after coming out of the forest and finding Jebediah’s house in the middle of nowhere.
DLB: Oh, thank you.
BVB: Visually, it was so detailed. It was fantastic.
DLB: Well, thank you. I think when we started off to make it, my initial intention was I wanted to make an adult fairy tale. I wanted to do something that was different. A slow burn was part of that. What I wanted to do was introduce you to what appears to be a murder mystery and it turns from being a murder mystery to a Wicker Man-esque story about a town harboring a dark secret, and then by the very end, pull back the curtain [inaudible]…So it starts off as crime movie and becomes a horror film in the last 20 minutes. It’s a hard sell trying to do something like that. Usually if you want to make a genre movie, you make a genre movie. If you want it to be a horror film, you make a horror film. It was a film playing in multiple genres instead of just defining itself as one.
BVB: Absolutely. I think that’s what struck me the most. This film, it had a different, a very distinct look, from some of your other films. It was very dark and very dreamlike, which now I understand with your intention of trying to make it like an adult fairy tale. What was your inspiration for that? Were you just wanting to see something different than what most genre films today represent?
DLB: Absolutely…[inaudible]...There are a million other horror films out there that deal with the haunted house genre that you can go watch...[inaudible]...so how was I to stand out from the pack if I was to make that kind of movie? It’s easy to copy, it’s easy to emulate. I wanted to do something that was not something you had seen before and something that was hopefully a little more ballsy in its approach because, again, this movie is not for everyone. I think the one thing I have learned in my career is I am very much a fan of not being in the middle of the road. I’m either far right or far left, but never in the middle. I think that Abattoir was my approach at a haunted house movie and if I was going to make it, I needed to make it wholly and truly unique. And so I wanted to take it in a completely different [inaudible] than people were expecting it to go. For me, that very dreamlike, fairy tale look and the way that they spoke was that kind of approach.
BVB: Sure. I actually, I really loved – you know, it had several anachronisms that you don’t see a lot, from the lead character Julia being an ambitious, won’t-take-no-for-an-answer reporter, kind of cut from the same cloth as His Girl Friday, to the witty, back and forth banter that she has with Detective Grady. It really gave you an opportunity to spotlight characters who aren’t typically at the forefront of most genre films and who are behaving in a way that hearkens back to older Hollywood, to a time when it was more about what they were saying and how they are acting than what’s going on around them.
DLB: Well, and again, that’s [inaudible]…I always [inaudible] that I don’t care what people think about me, and the reality is I do. I read every review, I read everything, and it’s hard when people miss the mark completely in what I was going for. I read a review this morning and it talked about – it was kind of really harsh on the dialogue in the movie and the characters, saying no one looks like this, no one talks like this, and that was my entire point. That was the entire point of it, in that I wanted to bring characters from a bygone era and say, what if Bogart and Bacall made this movie today? What would it look like? If those two actors were around right now and they decided to make a horror film, what would it look like? And that is a point that I love. When you go back to the ‘40s and ‘50s, they talk in such an amazing cadence and dialogue, which I love. And I think when I go to movies, I like when I hear [inaudible]. People have different tastes. I like to go and I like to hear the witty things people say. That’s why I love Tarantino so much. When you go see a Tarantino movie, you listen to the dialogue. The dialogue is batshit awesome.
DLB: And when I think of Bogart, I think the same thing. When I hear Bogart talk, I’m like [inaudible]. So I wanted to try to make these characters have some of those things they say. There’s some really cool lines in Abattoir, like when Grady says [inaudible]. No one says that. That’s what makes it cool. That’s what [inaudible].
BVB: Absolutely. It reminded me a lot of the dialogue from Double Indemnity, which is one of my favorite films. You’ve got these great lines with Edward G. Robinson going, ‘What’s her name?’ And he says, ‘Martha? Sounds like a dame who drinks from the bottle.’ It just had that rhythm that has been lost.
DLB: What movie? What movie did you say? Double Identity?
BVB: Double Indemnity.
DLB: Oh, OK! Double Indemnity. I actually watched that movie doing this. All of those types of films, I think, have that style approach, the characters and the way they speak, and I think that I wish more films did that. There was a movie recently in the last 10 years called Brick…
DLB: …that did the same kind of approach to a noir-esque, modern day [inaudible], which I am such a fan of.
BVB: I loved that. That was a great film. You know what I also loved is that you gave just standout opportunities to two older actors, Lyn Shaye and Dayton Callie, who are both so amazing in Abattoir. You hadn’t worked with either of them before, had you?
DLB: So Lyn, I had not worked with Lyn Shaye. I was a friend of Lyn, I’d known her for years but we’d never had a project to work together on. Now Dayton Callie will surprise you because he does not have the makeup on, but Dayton Callie is Ticket Keeper in The Devil’s Carnival.
BVB: Oh! Ok! All right.
DLB: I was a huge fan of Dayton Callie from Deadwood and Sons of Anarchy. When I met Dayton for the very first time, I said to him, I’ve got this movie I want to do with you called Abattoir and I have this amazing villain called Jebediah Crone. So, I met him years ago and pitched him this idea and it took four years to get made and there was never anyone else in my mind, anyone, besides Dayton Callie for this. He was the absolute perfect person for this.
BVB: It’s such a fantastic character. I loved the central conceit, you’ve got this guy, Jebediah, who literally has tasted hell and collects tragedy and ghosts, all the while he’s making these Faustian bargains with people kind of through the guise of, almost like a tent revival preacher. Did you feel like Jebediah Crone was different than most horror movie villains and that he would resonate with people who are kind of tired of the same stalk and slash, supernatural, indestructible killer?
DLB: Yeah, I think one of the ideas I had on Crone from the very beginning was I wanted to make him unique in a way that he was not Freddy Krueger, he was not Pinhead, he was not Jason or Michael Myers. [Inaudible] old man there, even though the guy is a fucking badass. And there’s a wonderful shot, it’s a very small shot, in the movie that I love. Julia Talben is on the floor and she’s going through stuff in Allie’s house and behind her, Jebediah Crone is behind her and [inaudible]. And he’s walking kind of hunched over and using a cane. And this is awesome because it’s this 90-year-old who is about to wreak havoc and open a gateway to Hell and he has to use a cane to walk. You know one of my inspirations came from Poltergeist II and the character of Kane, which was the old preacher in Poltergeist II…
BVB: Yes! It was fantastic. I am so happy for you. I hope that this film gets the attention that it deserves and that you continue to kind of do your own thing because I love, like you said, you’re not down the middle of the road, you’re on either side, and that’s what makes you an exciting filmmaker in my mind and someone who, I always as soon as I see a new title by you, I immediately put it on my radar. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me. I have truly enjoyed this and I hope I get to meet you again in person sometime soon.
DLB: I look forward to it, man. Thank you so much!