Another short that received universal acclaim at Arrow Video Frightfest last month was Writer/Director David Malcolm’s Mannequins.
We got the chance to quiz him all about the film below –
Tell us where the concept for Mannequins came from?
It started as a title scribbled down on a notepad after the announcement of the ABCs of Death competition where they were looking for entries beginning with the letter M. I had M is Molestation, M is for Malformed, M is for Metempsychosis… M is for Mannequins ticked my fancy the most.
From there the concept popped into my head, to visit a bunch of genre tropes and familiar scenes with a different slant. It took a while for the ending to come to me but once the subtext grabbed me by the collar, shook me and screamed at me (that happens to all writers right?) it all came together.
Is the hospital name a tribute to John Carpenter and Debra Hill?
It is. The fictional town of Carpenter Hill is what I like to think of as my Castle Rock. Many of my scripts, not all, feature the town or a relationship with the town or names. It’s a nod to two of the greatest names in the genre.
Did you think you’d missed the boat after not submitting it to ABC’s of Death 2?
I was nowhere near production ready, the competition triggered the idea but there was never a real push to enter. I doubt it would have troubled the entries that made it into ABCs of Death 2.5 anyway.
Tell us about the cast for the film?
I wanted North American accents as the film is primarily about those sorts of films, the ones I watch the most. I was surprised to find a plethora of Americans reside in and around the Glasgow area, my home base.
Austin Hayden, who plays Mark, had already worked with my producer Andy Stewart on his icky melting man movie Split and was the first actor we asked onboard.
I reached out to an acting colleague who put me in touch with EmmaClaire Brightlyn (who also did some fight choreography on Anna and the Apocalypse which is not the only cross over between their production and ours) and another actress who passed on the project put me onto Alyssa Wininger who was a student at a The Royal Conservatoire Of Scotland. Alyssa was the first person I heard speak the words of my script aloud and she nailed it from the off.
Oliver Timpson was a total outlier. He’s Scottish but his accent was faultless. It was between Oliver and another guy who was authentically from the States. Something about being a first time director where people where taking a chance on me made me offer Oliver the same chance. No one ever guesses he’s the Scot. Guess that’s out there now though!
EmmaClaire was originally pegged to play another part in the film, the character known as The Fifth, but production schedules changed and it wasn’t going to work out so we went to Nicolette McKeown. Originally Nicolette was to undergo a transformation makeup effect that we ran out of money and time to complete. I promise Nicolette I’ll use you more next time!
What films did you take inspiration from for Mannequins?
Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead is the most obvious, I’ve been trying to work that Steadicam style shot out of my systems since I was 13. I love kinetic camera styles and Anthony Hickox’s early work, Waxwork, Waxwork II, Sundown and Hellraiser III, have influenced my camera set up choices. And Terrence Mallick and Gaspar Noé have enthused my love of the Steadicam.
Teen horror of the post-Scream era, in fact Scream’s poster is what influenced the Mannequins one sheet, and all those kids go into the woods/cabin/abandoned asylum movies that I watch too much of. Originally I was writing the film as a cabin in the woods but not only can you not find that style of cabin in Scotland there’s already a little genre rule bending movie called Cabin In The Woods…
The Cabin Fever remake is an influence on me that surprises people. I loved the idea they would remake this film from the same original script, like re-staging a theatre production , and I’m fascinated by the results. That led me to think about remakes and recycling genre tropes which is what Mannequins story toys with.
What was the reaction to the film at Frightfest?
Everyone laughed in the right places, there was a big cheer and applause at the end and a nominal amount of people didn’t get it, which was always the films intention, so I’m really pleased with the reaction. It’s had some cracking reviews and even broke into one festival goers top five shorts at Frightfest.
Where can horror fans see the film next?
I hope to be able to announce more festival appearances soon and if any programmers are reading this and fancy having a look at Mannequins please feel free to reach out.