If you wish to go to the current Fangoria site, you may click the top logo, "Home" or "News" links. Or click here.
Want a chance to check out everybody’s all-American golden
boy himself, Dennis Quaid, as a psychopathic small-town mortician with a
penchant for murdering minors and burying people alive? You’ll get your chance
in BENEATH THE DARKNESS, a down-home horror flick Image Entertainment sends
into limited theatrical release this Friday, January 6. Fango spoke to director
Martin Guigui about the movie, and touched on his future projects—including
RAGING BULL II!
BENEATH THE DARKNESS is the story of a group of teenagers
(played by Tony Oller, Aimee Teegarden, Stephen Lunsford and Devon Werkheiser)
who decide to sneak into the house of their small town’s mortician, Vaughn Ely
(Quaid), while he’s away—or so they think. What they find sets off a
nightmarish chain of events they may not survive…
FANGORIA: Congratulations on the movie and its theatrical
MARTIN GUIGUI: Thank you so much, man. It has a long
history. We started working on it in 2003. I had a movie at the Austin Film
Festival called SWING, and during the Q&A at the screening, some guy in the
middle of the room raised his hand and said [in thick Texas accent], “My name’s
Bruce and I’ve got a screenplay and I think you should direct it.” [laughs]
That was Bruce Wilkinson, who turned out to be not only the writer but the
angel who helped get the movie made, because he put up the lion’s share of the
funding. But it didn’t shoot until last year becasue we worked on the script
for many years, I was busy, it was tough to get the right actor, the planets
had not aligned…
FANG: BENEATH THE DARKNESS is your first foray into horror.
Was it an adjustment going from comedies like National Lampoon’s CATTLE CALL to
a movie like this?
GUIGUI: Well, I like challenges, and you know, filmmaking
doesn’t change, the process doesn’t change; I just like great stories. And as
you can see in BENEATH THE DARKNESS, I love comedy, I inject it into everything
I do. I can’t help but see the world in a funny way. When Dennis [Quaid] and I
got together to talk about the movie, we agreed we would go in that direction,
find sort of the funny bone for the Vaughn Ely character, and that would be
even creepier than having him play it straight.
FANG: Quaid does a great job as the psychotic mortician.
What led to the decision to cast him against type?
GUIGUI: Well, we had talked to a couple of different people.
We had considered Willem Dafoe, and Ray Liotta was also in the mix. Then
Bruce—he and his wife had talked about it, apparently one of them had dreamed
about Dennis Quaid playing the role. So they brought that idea to me, and I
thought, “Well, Dennis is an all-American guy, that might work in a really cool
way.” We didn’t think he would do it, but we got him the script through a
friend of mine, and he loved the character. I think Dennis loved the idea of
playing against type; he has always wanted to play a sinister character, he’s
just never been asked to [laughs].
FANG: Was Vaughn’s electric cigarette his idea?
GUIGUI: Yes, it was. That’s really funny that you keyed in
on that; not a lot of people ask about it. He smokes that cigarette anyway,
it’s part of his life. He told me he wanted this character to have some sort of
a vice; it was either gonna be athletics because he’s an ex-quarterback, or it
was going to be liquor; it was going to be something. There’s a scene where
he’s lifting weights on the porch, and that was early in the shoot; it may have
been the first day of shooting. And after we shot that, we talked about it, and
I was like, “You know, that works, but there’s something missing about him.
Anybody can be into their physique, like in AMERICAN PSYCHO, the way Christian
Bale played that whole nepotistic thing about being into his body. And then it
just happened organically. He had the electric cigarette on the set, and
accidentally used it in one of the scenes. I ran onto the set and said, “You
actually want to have that out here?” He was like, “Yeah, I like it.” I said,
“Well, OK, let’s try that.” And after that it was only a matter of not
overusing it. It was just a happy mistake.
FANG: The four main kids are very likable—bringing to mind
another film shot in the Austin area, Robert Rodriguez’s THE FACULTY. Was it
difficult to flesh out the high-school characters to where they were
sympathetic and believable?
GUIGUI: When we cast the movie, we went through about 300
teenagers and younger actors to find those four. It was very tough to find not
only what you just described, but also actors who had good chemistry with each
other. I was able to find that in the casting process because I anticipated
that would be the case, and when we got to Smithville and started casting the
extras to play those parts in the high school, we also went through hundreds of
kids until we found the right faces and the right personalities so they would
match in and around our stars.
FANG: In the production notes, you say that the Texas winter
made shooting conditions difficult. That said, better working in central Texas
during the winter rather than the summer, don’t you think?
GUIGUI: [Laughs] Yeah, I’d say that. When we shot in
November and December, we were really fortunate that, for the most part, even
though the temperatures would fluctuate, like when we were shooting the
football sequences and some of the outdoor scenes, some of those days it was 88
degrees. For the most part, it was a magical shoot. We were very blessed that
we never got any rain, we didn’t get any insane heat; it worked for the movie.
We knew—and you could feel it on the set—that magic was going on, that
lightning in a bottle was happening in more ways than one. The crews down there
are great; I’d shoot a movie down there anytime. Actually, I’m up for a
potential film to [shoot] in Texas in the spring with Tommy Lee Jones, a film
called WRECKER, which is another wild, wild ride, a very entertaining
FANG: You’ve said your lights were shot out by some local
yokels while you were doing a night shoot at the cemetery. Other than that,
were the locals accepting of you shooting a horror-thriller in their town? It
is the Bible Belt, after all.
GUIGUI: Yeah, we visited 12 different cities and townships
in Texas, and it was hard finding a community that would be embracing of this
story, a local high-school football-star hero who’s a mortician and turns into
a serial killer. It wasn’t easy, and here’s the kicker: When we looked around
in Smithville, the police chief himself, his name is Rudy, when he heard we
wanted to do this movie there, he loved the script and said, “Yeah, absolutely!
In fact, if y’all need to shoot at the [police] station, [you can film]
wherever you need.’ When he opened up like that, City Hall did also, the mayor,
the school superintendent and everybody else. I mean, Smithville really opened
their arms to us. That made a big, big difference, and made it easier to get
all the things we needed. And we threw a big party at the end of the shoot, a
benefit that Dennis Quaid and his band played, and they raised thousands of
dollars for something called Blue Santa, which gives all the kids in that
county toys they otherwise wouldn’t get for Christmas.
FANG: BENEATH THE DARKNESS is by no means a gorefest, but
the violence you do have is very effective. Do you think the power of
suggestion is more frightening, or did the script simply call for it?
GUIGUI: The script called for it, but the answer is that
it’s both. It was written in a way that you just feel it, especially [in one
key murder]. Bruce did a great job of setting up the audience to really not
want that to happen, and then when it does, it makes you realize, “Holy shit,
now we’re in for a ride.” In my opinion, the movie really starts there. Even
though we know this guy is a psychopath, we don’t know how vicious he is. In my
opinion, the minute that scene happens, that’s when the audience is engaged and
we just want to know what’s going to happen. I wanted to shoot it in a way that
would give you the uncomfortable feeling of anticipation and create a tone of
suspense. I do believe that what you don’t know is going to happen, and what
you can’t see, is much scarier than what you do know and you can see.
FANG: The movie has not only a classic feel, but kind of a
’70s/’80s vibe, with the neighborhood kids knowing something’s going on, but no
one believing them. The original FRIGHT NIGHT, for instance, springs to mind.
GUIGUI: Right, right on. The writer always wanted to give it
a timeless feel, [to use] an old-school world, small-town values so that it
could be believable, rather than totally contemporary. It’s funny, I never
intended for it to be like DISTURBIA or I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER; those
weren’t movies I was even looking at to model this film after, but people
always make references. I was really looking to make a movie about a guy who
really could be your neighbor. And the focus is the teenagers, that little love
story going on, the ghost, redemption, coming to terms with who you are, his
guilt… But what I really wanted to do was make a movie about a unique
psycopath, and I knew that what would ultimately drive the film was a memorable
FANG: The film juxtaposes the supernatural with real-life
horror. Did you find those aspects difficult to balance?
GUIGUI: That was the hardest part for me. I wanted to just
make a straight psychological horror-thriller. The writer was pushing for that
ghost aspect, and I was never crazy about the concept. But it’s funny, you
know; people like it. In my opinion, the only reason it might work is that we
can all identify with something that can happen to you when you’re a kid and
you’re first exposed to death. It’s a pretty cloudy world, and it’s through the
eyes of a kid that we see that ghost. So I understand the writer wanting it in
there; he had lost his brother when he was younger, and for him it was a personal
story, so it was important to leave that in there for him. It was a cathartic
experience for him.
FANG: One of your next projects is RIVERSIDE, another horror
film, though one with a much bigger budget than BENEATH THE DARK. What can you
tell us about that?
GUIGUI: It’s a real wild ride. You’ll see people getting
killed in ways you could have never conjured up in your wildest imagination.
It’s a bit of a franchise like FINAL DESTINATION in that way—I think they’re
going to make more than one—and it’s also teenage-driven. It’s a really good
script, which is what always drives me to making movies—finding great stories
or something unique, something I haven’t seen before. Kind of like the
audience; we’re always looking for something different and original, and
RIVERSIDE is definitely something new.
FANG: Another of your future projects is RAGING BULL II. Why
take on such a high-profile project that would seem like a fool’s errand?
GUIGUI: Well, I’ve got nothing to lose. I’m the other Marty
[laughs]. Actually, it’s one, to really know more about it, when that was first
offered to me, I said no because of my respect and the sacredness of the first
one. But it got continually pushed and pushed on me by Joe Allegro, who held
the rights and had originally packaged the first one. He said, “You’re the guy
to do this, it’s a great story…” He convinced me to read the [Jake LaMotta]
book, and after I did, I realized it was an important story, a great story
about where the rage comes from. It’s about Jake being chained to his bed when
he’s 11 years old and his father beats the shit out of him, and then his father
lets him loose in an alley at midnight so he can make money off Jake’s fury.
And as an 11-year-old, Jake could beat the crap out of anybody. It’s the most
violent bare-knuckle fistfighting you’ll ever see, in the 1930s Bronx.
So it’s kind of like THE GODFATHER PART II that way. Would
we want Scorsese to direct it? Of course. Will he? No. I’ve stepped up only
because I really believe in the story, and after meeting Jake LaMotta, I
realized, you know, Jake’s 90 and he feels he wants to set the record straight
and answer questions that weren’t answered in the first one. So we’ll make a
really good movie, but we don’t feel we’re competing with the first one. We
feel like we’re sort of just setting the record straight.
JOIN OUR COMMUNITY AND BE THE FIRST TO KNOW ABOUT NEWS, CONTESTS, EVENTS AND MORE!
All contents © 2011 Fangoria Entertainment