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This Saturday, New Yorkers have the chance to catch an early
peek at one of this year’s most anticipated fright films as part of the annual,
and annually excellent, BAMCinemafest. V/H/S, featuring the collected work of
Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett, Ti West, Joe Swanberg, David Bruckner, Radio
Silence and I SELL THE DEAD’s Glenn McQuaid marries the beloved and time honored
anthology with horror’s current star aesthetic, found footage. Fango spoke to
filmmaker/contributor McQuaid about his segment, “Tuesday the 17th” and
crafting a cinema scarité slasher, his initial concept and the experimentation
the short afforded him.
FANGORIA: One of the things V/H/S does is kind of show the adaptability of found footage, as yours is very much a slasher with an odd
conceit. Where did its story come from?
GLENN MCQUAID: Truthfully,
I was asked by Brad [Miska, producer] and Roxanne [Benjamin, producer] to submit a slasher treatment, so there was
that mandate. I originally submitted a different idea. My first treatment was a fake 1970s television show that never aired because it’s got weird
kids with ESP who basically killed the presenters. They were like “this is
clever! But we really need a slasher.” So, for me, I’m not terribly up on any of
the modern slasher stuff. I’ve seen SCREAM, but I haven’t seen the rest of
them. I just went back to the slasher flicks I love. One of my favorites is
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI: JASON LIVES. It was before things got so ironic and so self-referential. It was good-humored, it was also gothic. The reference
at the start is basically a Frankenstein movie, and it was supernatural. So, I
looked back to that movie—I’ve seen it many times—and tried to inject
that kind of style, that little bit of goofiness into the found footage style,
or mandate. That’s how I approached it.
FANG: Something that’s really prevalent in the entire film
is the idea of everyone’s predatory nature and how that intensifies holding the
power of a camera. In yours, there’s an idea of we’re both victim and
perpetrator with the camera.
MCQUAID: Yea, as the project developed, things started to
emerge without even seeing the other guys’ work, I began to question what’s
really going on here. Are these kids seeing this figure in real life, or are
they only seeing him through the monitor on the camera? As it was coming
together in the edit, a lot things started to emerge and I suppose with the
endgame situation, for me that was a
throwback to a lot of classic horror tropes I’m a fan of. I can’t say I went
into it with an envisioned sight of what it was going to be, because for me, it
was also a great opportunity to work in a new way. I SELL THE DEAD was a very,
very structured, old school way of making a movie. The script was followed,
everything was storyboarded; I had a comic book made before I even went on set.
Of course, when I got on set, I did fuck
around with it and mix it up a little bit, but this was the opposite of all of
that. This, just by virtue of what it is, it had to be improv and super loose.
There’s scenes in this I wasn’t even around for. The scene in the car, I gave
the actors the camera and they just drove off for two hours and I didn’t even see
that footage until I was in the edit room. We had workshopped it, I had a
rough idea, but it was so cool. It was such a new way of working. It felt really
fresh to be sitting in the edit room, looking at this footage. For me, it was a
great way of working because it was so new to my eyes, I found a lot of
different options in the edit.
FANG: With I SELL THE DEAD, you seem to have these very
classical tastes and interests, what was it like porting those into a very
MCQUAID: I was a little bit worried about it before I saw
the other segments. I wasn’t sure how po-faced or realistic and somber everyone
else was going to go, so I worried I was stretching it with the supernatural
element and the believability of what you’re seeing. It definitely manhandles that
found footage requirement that it be questionable whether it was real or not,
but as soon as I saw [David] Bruckner’s piece (“Amateur Night”), which tackles that pretty
head-on, I was really relieved
that was another common motif. Really, when we were offered the gig, there were
not too many guidelines, we could really get in there and do what we wanted.
So, it was fun to see, apart from some of the other motifs, that fantasy was a
big part of what we were all doing.
FANG: Something that keeps coming up, relevant to the
current generation of YouTube users and such, is the idea, or need, to validate
your existence, or what you’re seeing through the lens.
MCQUAID: It’s wild, I think one of the more interesting
things as a filmmaker, with found footage, is in a way you have to leave things
ambiguous, you can’t tell the entire story, so the audience has to fill in a
lot and it can become a lot more of an interactive experience. In Ti’s piece, I
think it’s very interesting that you have to read between the lines and the
relationship of Joe [Swanberg] and Sophia [Takal]. Already, that’s cool. Already, you’re feeling
like you’re involved and you’re invested that not everything can be taken at
face value. Regarding the idea of filming our existence to feel validated, it’s
very interesting to me, I’ve recently just got a GoPro camera and I’m
attaching it to my bike helmet and cycling around Brooklyn and into Prospect
Park and all around. It’s a pretty wild experience to go back and watch that.
It can be a pretty sensory experience, certainly being the guy who filmed it,
to go back and relive it. That’s becoming more interesting to me. I’m pretty
intrigued where that might go in the future. I think it’s possible that people
can have the camera on for weeks at a time and have everything be filmed.
FANG: Do you know where you’re going from here?
MCQUAID: I’ve written a script with a pal, Ted Geoghegan (SWEATSHOP). It’s
very broad, it definitely takes off from where I SELL THE DEAD left off. It’s
set in the 1930s in America. It’s stars of the silver screen get lured up to
the countryside where they’re hunted by celebrity-obsessed vampires. It’s bold
and it’s a big thing that requires a lot of money, so in the meantime, I’m just
taking some time. I'm going to head back to
Ireland and just walk the moors for awhile and get inspired. I want to start
getting into things I can do a lot cheaper. I really need to be on set more. I’m
spending so much time writing. I’m a filmmaker, I need to be on set. And that’s
why people like Joe Swanberg are such a big inspiration. He’s activel, that’s
what he does. He’s determined to make sure he’s on set more often than not.
FANG: Do you think we might still see the 70s television
piece you spoke of?
MCQUAID: Yea, I would. I love it! I love that idea. It would
be very authentic, kind of weird. Leonard Nimoy had a show in the 70s called IN
SEARCH OF..., it’s really strange and has a dated, pulpy vibe to it. The idea
was to riff on something like that and do something strange and cool about ESP
kids in the 70s. Such a weird thing that was going on. I grew up then and was
always trying to bend forks with my mind, and so on.
V/H/S plays BAMCinemafest (BAM Rose Cinemas at 30 Lafayette Ave, Brooklyn) this Saturday, June 30 at 10 p.m. For more info and tickets, head right here.
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