Bloody Flicks recently caught up with director B. Harrison Smith, to discuss his latest feature the genre-splicing ‘The Special’, which has its UK premiere at Grimmfest 2020 Online Edition.
How Did You First Get Involved with ‘The Special’?
It was a real collaboration with the writers, as I had spoken to one of the writers Mark (Steensland) when I was making ‘Zombie Killers’. I told him at the time that I didn’t feel like there was enough there for a feature film on first draft and that it would make a better chapter in an anthology. So Mark took the criticism well, and he went back and a couple of years later he re-approached me when he had teamed up with James Newman and I found on the second approach there was much more there to work with.
The real catch of course is, once you realise what’s in the box you gotta keep people hooked. Mark was real excited because in the script you find this out much sooner in the film. Instead I chose to reveal what is in the box much later on. What I was worried about, was that once the audience finds out that they would tune out of the film.
Tell us why you decided to use practical effects instead of CGI for some sequences?
What I loved was when I approached Roy Kinnear of Soda Effects, I was able to have conversations about having all practical effects instead of computer generated ones. I want it to be the old-fashioned makeup effects and puppetry.
This film is 99.9% practical effects. I think our eyes have become so accustomed to CGI that we are quite shocked when we see practical effects-heavy films. I call it film dysmorphia, where we have come to accept CGI with the big blockbusters, that we accept that as normal now. So, when we see practical effects there is a part of the brain that is quite shocked.
Were there any other inspirations for the film?
I wanted with the effects in some sequences to evoke ‘The Beast Within’ because of its amazing practical work.
The theme of addiction comes up in ‘The Special’, was this something you were looking to tackle?
The main thing that appealed to me was the whole new spin on addiction. I was also looking to add in some noir-ish themes to some scenes, with the use of music and, especially saxophones. We wanted that off-kilter feel to the film to throw audiences off and keep them guessing where this is going.
With an addict it becomes all about them, and we really hit this home with Jerry’s selfishness, especially around his wife.
How was the experience working on ‘The Special’ compare to your previous work?
I loved working with Doug Henderson and Matt Nease, as this was the first time we had collaborated together on ‘The Special’. It was such a pleasure to make. We had the luxury of having a bit more fun on this compared to my other work.
Dave Raphaely was the first person I thought of when casting Jerry, as he the boyish good looks about him but he also has this Anthony Perkins quality about him.
Dave Sheridan also bought a nice gravitas as the shitty best friend, who sets a few things in motion during the film.
Was there any improvisations on set by the actors for any scenes?
Davey is one for adding things onto scenes and he always asked, which was great for me. David Sheridan also collaborated well with Davey with some great ad-libbing which really cemented their on-screen chemistry as friends.
There are some directors who just want what is on the page, but it is great to have something fresh and if it works then great.
Do you think there is a scope for ‘The Special II’?
We never fully explain ‘The Special’, but I feel this is more interesting. To do a sequel, I don’t think it warrants a sequel without doing the same thing all over again.
What are the plans for a DVD or Blu Ray release?
I think that physical media releases are very important, especially for genre films. I have already had plenty of requests for DVDs and Blu Rays from my social media network.
People are still buying physical media and I think ‘The Special’ is perfect, because of the way it is shot it would look great on Blu Ray.
Can you share any great behind the scenes?
I think the main thing was Davey being a trooper for effectively having to have sex with a box. We kept things quite tasteful, given the subject area. He felt that was more comfortable than his actual sex scene with Sarah French.
We did tiptoe around the theme of necrophilia but we felt like this would not have enhanced the film and quickly moved away from this.
Was there anything that hit the cutting room floor that you would have liked to have kept in the film?
I think it would have been good to show slightly more of the wild sex that Davey to really hit home how ‘The Special’ has affected him.
It would also have been interesting to explore the degeneration of the marriage between Jerry and Lisa too.
What can you tell us about your latest production Where The Scary Things Are?
The film has recently wrapped post-production, it is more of a social media age urban legend story.
Don’t miss The Special screening at Grimmfest 2020 Online Edition.