One of the most original and acclaimed horror films of recent years, I Didnít Come Here To Die makes its debut on DVD courtesy of Second Sight Films and our very own splatter aficionado Marc Lissenburg caught up with writer/director Bradley Scott Sullivan to discuss his directorial debutÖ
Marc: Hi Bradley! Firstly thank you so much for taking the time out to talk to us. And secondly, congratulations on I DIDNíT COME HERE TO DIE. I watched it the other day, it really is deserving of all the positive attention it is receivingÖ
Bradley: Hey no problem and thanks so much.
Marc: OK so starting with IDCHTD, you are credited as Writer, Director, Editor AND Cinematographer which is quite an undertaking. Each task had notable merits which I want to explore in a while but generally speaking what were the good and bad points about taking on quadruple responsibilities?
Bradley: Well the positive was it was out of necessity really. And just the fact we had such a low budget and so little time that I felt comfortable on a technical level knowing I could deliver those things within that timetable.
But the negative is that I am probably not as good at those individual things as someone who is dedicated to each endeavour. For example in the future I would love to have a separate DP so we could really work with light and everything but that just didnít work out on this film because we simply didnít have time for any of that stuff. So yeah, it was just knowing I could do it, and do it proficiently enough. I mean there are always ways you wish you could work better, but with IDCHTD it was literally a one shot method of how this was going to work and me taking on so much myself was the only way it could happen.
Marc: Well talking of the cinematography I was impressed with the start of the movie which was completely disorientating for the viewer. But even the slower scenes like the initial Ďromanticí scenes were shot innovatively. The picture just looked interesting all the way through.
Bradley: Well you know itís kind of funny I talked about this the other day because my original idea, my original intention I guess, was that this movie was going to be a very slick looking film. I originally imagined it to be almost my take on 90ís horror films like I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER, SCREAM, URBAN LEGEND that kind of thing. Obviously I would like to add a more entertaining slant but as the film progressed we realised just how little time we had; and how little money we had to work with meaning there wasnít going to be any dollies, no special lighting or anything. So it kind of developed into more of a low budget aesthetic in working with what we had. Luckily for years and years from the time I was in High School up until a few years ago, the way that I made a living was by shooting wedding videos. It meant I was used to being out, shooting documentary style for 12 hours a dayÖ I mean itís funny you bring up the romantic scene as itís probably, you know, something I am used to capturing, like the couple having THAT big kiss and stuff! Whatís funny about wedding videos is you are on the go constantly. Itís just me and the camera doing my own focus and all that type of stuff and you only have one chance! So you are used to getting it on the fly and I am sure a lot of my style has come from that.
Marc: Ok so focusing on the Ďwritingí of the movie for a just a minute, I loved the character Steveís sheer panic stricken dilemma which REALLY topped off my favourite sequence - the chainsaw through the head scene. Two things really struck me: firstly we are so used to implements or a weapon going INTO a victim but that scene was concerned with getting something OUT which I thought was very unique. Was that scene conceived especially for the movie or is that a concept you have had in your mind for a while?
Bradley: Well it comes from two places. Firstly, me growing up I think. I have always been interested in film and in movies and technology so I have kind of tried my upmost to avoid Ďmanual labourí (laughs) and power tools and things like that because, quite frankly, they scare me! Whereas my Dad, heís a plumber and he has a very handyman thing going on. He is someone who does things on his own and would pull out a chainsaw even though he is not an expert at it and would do these crazy like almost circus act type things in front of me! In my head, my overactive imagination would scream "oh my goodness this is terrible! He is not only going to kill himself he is going to kill me as well!" So my brain is kind of tuned to dream stuff like that up.
So part of it comes from that but I was actually in a volunteer organisation very similar to the one featured in the movie and we were really thrust in these types of situations where we DID live out in the woods for three months, sleeping in tents, working with power tools and building a summer camp. I think Iím generally a pretty careful person so a lot of that scene was based on seeing other people who were, shall we say NOT so careful and sort of playing out the worst possible scenario. Luckily nothing like this REALLY happened, a few minor cuts and scrapes but the potential was always there! But part of the inspiration for that scene actually came from HOSTEL part II. Thereís a scene where Bijou Phillips gets a like handsaw caught in her hair and sticks in her face. That scene just really affected my because youíre so used to violence being played out as this very quick thing and, you know, usually you would just see that happen and you would just hear that "MAAH" sound and simply cut to the next scene. You donít have time to deal with that fact that hey we just killed somebody. So when I saw that scene I realised wow she actually wasnít dead! It was just so much more horrifying thought of all these awful terrible feelings of having to see someone deal with the pain and so I put myself into the character having to think about what he had done and it just really stuck with me. I guess I always just thought it could be just played a little bit further and done with real human emotions rather than just the nightmare stuff that is over in the blink of an eye.
And of course the other thing is the human body is so resilient. You only need to look online and people posting these photos of injuries etc, it seemed that that scene was more realistic because actually people can take a lot. It would be much more horrifying as itís almost easier to deal with a quick death on screen, but I thought it would be terrifying and awful and yeah I think it works for people. Everyone mentions that scene as the stand out sequence which to be fair was always intended to be kind of the centre piece of the film and itís great that it seems to have worked that way.
Marc: Great stuff. Ok moving onto the characters themselves: I love slasher movies but sometimes the characters are almost reduced to mere passengers. I felt there were some really well fleshed out characters in IDCHTD and I particularly loved Miranda. I think we ALL have met one of those Ďwannabe leadersí in our time! It seems some real attention was paid to develop them. Where did these wonderful characters come from?
Bradley: Well you know they are no one in particular but they are all just kind of bits and pieces of people I know. I would say thatís the only way I would know how to write anyway! I would love to be able to come up with some great specific character in my head like you know Daniel Day Lewis in THERE WILL BE BLOOD but really all the characters are just kind of me taking little bits and pieces of people that I know in real life and little bits of myself and put them altogether and you come up with kind of a mix. I guess you are trying to appeal to everybody and you hope that everyone can feel they can relate to certain characters or like you said, you feel you know some of those people. But in a way they are kind of broad because they are mixtures of a bunch of people. But itís more of a way of when you are thinking like that you are able to have these characters connect a little bit more to the audience and that was all I was trying to do. Some of them might be more of the ideas as oppose to actual people I know but hopefully they connect with people and people they can recognise bits and pieces and relate them to people they know or even transfer themselves onto one of the characters like ĎI am like this guyí or ĎI can relate to that guyí.
Marc: Ok so with the Ďediting aspectí in mind, the movie is a 77 minute run time which works wonderfully. It flows nicely and never has a dull moment. Was that sharp and punchy element in your mind from the outset and how aware are you of a final runtime before you actually get to the post production stage?
Bradley: Well it was a little bit longer beforehand. There are a few scenes that we shot that were never used, and a few scenes that were written that were never even shot. But I always wanted it to be tight and even going back on it now after having 3 years to look at the movie and study it you know if I was to re-cut it now it would probably only be 35 minutes (laughs). I mean when its your own movie you get so close to it and you watch it over and over, constantly asking what is the Ďfatí on it and what can be trimmed . But yeah it was always intended to be really quick punchy I think, I mean I have to be honest here, I donít know whether itís to do with all the technology today and how much you get distracted but I if I look at show times and I am going to go to the cinema if I see that a movie is over 2 hours long I have to question whether I have time for it! And thatís something I never did before. But especially for this type of movie, we are not telling anything on any epic grand scale so it was always meant to be pretty economic I think.
Marc: Cool. So there is a notable yet respectful nod of the cap to vintage movies in the style of the movies logo, the Ďcelluloidí effects etc. I as fans we all have treasured favourite movies and look back on the older era with great fondness but was there a pivotal movie that was so strong and struck such a chord it was the reason you got into film making?
Bradley: Well yeah there is obviously a lot of stuff like the EVIL DEAD series and bits of the TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE that I was heavily influenced by. Growing up with the FRIDAY THE 13th movies and NIGHTMARE ON ELM ST they were movies I was sneaking down and turning on when my parents went to bed. Even movies like PREDATOR, really those 1980ís films but while we went with that aesthetic, kind of out of necessity in truth, the fact is a lot of those films kind of directly influenced. Because back then I didnít feel that were many independent films. So really when I was putting this together I was heavily influenced by some more modern films like CABIN FEVER, HIGH TENSION, ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE and films that were done on a low budget. But even with those movies, everything was influenced by things that came before it so even if there was something that I didnít necessarily pick up on first time round, like a homage or a reference to a 70ís film that probably influenced Eli Roth, in possibly in turn influenced me which surfaced in this. I guess itís a cycle that keeps on going.
Marc. So this is your first feature length project but you have a couple of short movies to your name in KEVIN VEROSA and STACHE. Tell us a little about those and how can our readers access them?
Bradley: (laughs) Oh well they are really rough! They are not anything to hold up any kind of standard. They are just really rough fun projects that we did. KEVIN VEROSA I donít think is available anywhere I will have to look into that. I mean I am not opposed to people checking it out but I would have to dig up DVD and try and put it up on YouTube. But thatís just something from the early days when me and my buddy were first starting to get into filmmaking. I would say itís very much a rip off of David Fincher type stuff as we made it not too long after FIGHT CLUB had just come out and itís horrible, itís awful! But it was our first time playing with film elements you know playing with colour correction and editing and certain things.
I do think as a filmmaker I love watching other filmmakerís short films as well. STACHE is available to watch on YouTube and thatís just a short I did in film making school. I think itís a lot of fun; in fact I just re-watched it not long ago and thought it had similar zany elements that make it more of an action movie but there are also horror elements to it. Itís just fun and zany but in a way back then I never took short films seriously because they were so experimental to me. When we decided to do IDCHTD it was like Ďok this is a whole different ball gameí because it was a real venue. I donít really watch short movies all that much on my own but so I never took it as seriously as jumping into a feature film. I think IDCHTD looks quite polished, I would say my short movies are very, shall we say, unpolished!
Marc: Ok well time for one last question which is a rather obvious one. What plans do you have for the future and will you be looking to take on quadruple roles for any future projects?
Bradley: Well I donít know if I would take on the quadruple role. I definitely love horror films and Sci-Fi so those genre films are what I love. All the other scripts that I have in mind definitely fall into that realm. And some of them are a combination of those two because really my favourite film of all time is ALIEN and if you can combine horror and Sci-Fi together itís just terrific, I love it. So yeah I definitely have more horror films I would like to do.
I feel I would always continue to edit. I think editing is a super important part of putting the pieces together, but as far as shooting my own movie I think there are probably people that are much more skilled and talented in that department and I would love to find DP that I could work, ideally one who has a style that I love and all that.
And as far as writing, I have lots of other ideas, but I wouldnít be opposed to direction a script written by somebody else. I mean this was out of necessity kind of knowing what we could do on this type of budget. I really donít know what type of budget we can move up to next, but what is essential is that, as a director, you got to do a movie that speaks to you. I mean if I read a script that did that appealed to me, I would be more than happy to do that. But so far I have gotten scripts thrown at me so I guess I will be continuing to do some writing.
Marc: Thatís great Bradley thank you so much for talking to us.
Bradley: Hey thatís no problem at all, thank you so much for your kind words.
Even though our formal interview time was up, I can certainly testify to Bradleyís passion for Sci-Fi Horror as we continued chatting about CRAWLSPACE and a couple other extra terrestrial based, terror fuelled movies. His enthusiasm for the merged genres was obvious and itís a truly tantalising prospect to see what he can unleash onto our screens in the future!
Special thanks to Bradley Scott Sullivan, Second Sight and Debbie at Aim.