Director Charlie Steeds is fast-becoming one of the most well-known creators of the independent horror scene in the UK.
From cannibals to killer fish mutants to vampires and werewolves, Steeds has a slew of projects either recently wrapped or in post-production.
We caught up with the talented filmmaker to discuss his latest release An English Haunting (due out on DVD later this month) and his upcoming films including Death Ranch and sexy vampire flick After Dark.
An English Haunting is now in post-production, how enjoyable was this shoot?
An English Haunting was great fun! I’d been wanting to make an old-school haunted house film, like the sort you’d get back in the 70s/early 80s, Burnt Offerings, The Changeling etc, and I had the perfect location to do it! We spent a month last Winter in this stunning (and very creepy) country mansion, and it was perfect conditions for a very smooth shoot. We’ve created a 1960s-set ghost story, far more subtle and eerie compared to my previous work, and with a much higher budget than usual. I’m extremely pleased with the results! The film is now fully completed, its coming to DVD early next year and has already been picked up by distributors.
You’ve recently finished filming a vampire film, After Dark, what can you tell us about that?
After Dark is a super sexy, neon-lit vampire thriller, set in an American city, and we’ve just wrapped production this Summer. I was hired to make the film by a company called Ace Entertainment, based on their own original story. They came to me and wanted vampires, so I co-wrote a script with writer Sam Ashurst. Its the first time I’ve worked on a project that wasn’t my own idea/creation, which was interesting.
Have you always been a vampire fan?
I love a lot of vampire films, From Dusk Till Dawn, The Lost Boys, Near Dark and especially Salem’s Lot, but somehow vampires don’t do much for me… That was a difficulty when writing the script, I had to figure out what I found most interesting about vampires so that I could fall in love with the script and the project!
Much like The House of Violent Desire, this has a psychosexual edge, was this always the intention?
That’s where I found my angle, its vampire’s sexuality that I thought was the most intriguing aspect. So After Dark (which is a working title, let’s see if it sticks…) became a vampire film about sexuality, and has gay and lesbian themes at the heart of it. Its perhaps more on the nose than vampire films of the past, so that’s what I found interesting!
But where The House of Violent Desire was intended to explore the horror of sexual repression, After Dark is a very fun and vibrant movie (with a couple of campy dance sequences thrown in for good measure!) that is intended to celebrate sexual freedom and fluidity… being a vampire is very sexy and very fun! Sadly my vampire orgy scenes were cut from the script by the producers in charge, but still, its not a film I’d show my Grandparents…
For After Dark you also got to work with prolific horror actor Derek Nelson, what was that like?
I’d known Derek for a year or so and had been intending to work with him, so we finally got around to it! He’s great, people will love his character Freddie in the film, you’ll see Derek as you’ve never seen him before…
There’s 25 characters in this film (I’m used to less than 10) so I got to work with a lot of new people, and bring back a lot of my favourites and regulars. Natalie Martins, Jessica Alonso, Peter Lofsgard, Mark McKirdy, Jonathan Hansler… these guys made the shoot an enjoyable experience, despite how challenging it was, they worked their asses off!
You write a lot of your films but for After Dark there are multiple writers, does this help you to focus more on the directing side of things?
In this case, no (but for my film The Barge People, absolutely). If I can write a project 100% myself then I can write something that I know I can accomplish within the limitations of our budget (despite this being my highest budget movie). I think everyone involved in After Dark saw the script and thought how the hell will he pull this off?! I still didn’t have the answer even whilst we were filming, I just dived in and decided we’d find out the hard way.
Low budget filmmaking is a pain in the ass! However, it does force me, as a director, to explore different styles, and After Dark has a very different vibe to my other movies. For example, its set in present day (I usually choose a period setting). I looked to films like The Neon Demon for inspiration with the visuals, where I’d usually look to the films of Lucio Fulci and Mario Bava etc…
Death Ranch sounds like something different than your previous films, what can you tell us about that?
Death Ranch was an idea I’d wanted to do for a long time and thought I might never get the opportunity, it had become a dream project. Its set in the 1970s and is about an African American family having a run-in with a cannibalistic KKK cult… its a revenge thriller. I knew it had to be shot in America. Its also violent and gory as hell, so no company had ever agreed to back it (it has always been a difficulty getting distribution for my more violent films) until Empire Studios stepped in to find the funding.
My co-producer, fellow filmmaker Aaron Mirtes (director of Curse of the Nun), is the man who made it happen, and invited me out to Tennessee to shoot it. Never has a shoot gone so smoothly and never have I been so thrilled with the results! The actors did a sensational job, I love what we shot, had a wonderful month in Tennessee, still miss the taste of Chick-Fil-A, and I’m excited to show people the film, which is currently in post-production. I think it’ll be my best!
The Barge People went down a storm at Frightfest 2019, when can we expect this on DVD?
We were incredibly pleased to be selected for Frightfest London and we had an amazing reaction to the film. Raven Banner is managing world sales for the film and I can’t give out release info just yet, but expect to see the film make its way to DVD/VOD etc fairly soon.
An English Haunting is released on DVD on 27th April 2020.