In our latest Deathcember feature we caught up with director Steve De Roover to talk about his segment of the Christmas horror anthology ‘Family Matters’
Tell us how you got involved with Deathcember?
Ivo, one of the three main producers, told me about the project at the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival. He liked previous work I did (like my horror doc “Forgotten Scares”) and I immediately expressed interest. But it was one of these fun nights at the BIFFF with cool like minded people, a few brewski’s, and I was honestly thinking like ‘Yeah, they will probably never call.’ A few weeks later however I received the official call by Ivo, with the outline and setup of the project. Everything moved quite fast from that moment on.
What can you tell us about your segment Family Matters?
When you read the set-up of Deathcember, a lot of people thinking they are going to experience 24 different versions of a killer Santa running around offing people in gloriously bloody ways. So it was important to come-up with something that is in a stark contrast with the happy-happy joy-joy of the holidays. And to me and co-writer Jasper Vrancken, this was pesky parasites. Then it was finding a way to slip these in a Christmassy setting, which became the odd family dinner. I mean, everybody knows how it feels to celebrate the holidays with the in-laws for the first time right? It has already that weirdly awkward dynamic, so we wanted to explore that a bit further and make it extra fucked up 🙂
Were you a fan of body horror before making Family Matters?
Oh yes! Films like “Shivers”, “Videodrome” and especially “The Fly” screwed me up when I was a kid (lol). But also stuff like Ridley Scott’s “Alien”, John Carpenter’s “The Thing” or even “Tetsuo II: The Body Hammer” made such a big impact on me that I knew that body horror was the way to go, and to try to stand out in the bunch.
Was it your intention to turn a family Christmas reunion on its heads?
Yes, most definitely! Jasper Vrancken, my co-writer and horror brother, directed quite a ambitious body horror short called “Maw” (Flemish titel is “Muil”), which I produced a few years ago, and this was such a fantastic experience that I proposed to write “Family Matters” together. We lined up all the typical cliches of Christmas and family diner, and tried to find ways to twist these in uncomfortable ways. Explaining more would spoil too much I am afraid.
What was the casting process like for Family Matters?
This was quite easy actually. After the screenplay was written, and I lined up a few possible actresses and actors that fitted the parts and with who I like to work with or did in the past. I contacted them, proposed the story, underlined the nasty-bits, and the rest is as they say history.
Have you had a chance to see the completed Deathcember yet?
Yes I have watched it quite a few times now and I can almost dream the film with my eyes closed (lol). I attended the crew premiere in Frankfurt in august 2019, and got the meet a whole bunch of the other awesome directors, cast members and of course the three producing amigo’s that are Dominic, Ivo and Frank. I was also lucky enough to be able to introduce the film at various festivals like Fantasty Film Fest and the But Film Festival. But because of the current situation I didn’t had the chance to introduce the film yet in my home country Belgium. The film was normally going to premiere at the always amazing Brussels Fantastic Film Festival, which sadly was cancelled, and the same also happened more recently with the Razor Reel Film fest, where Deathcember normally also was going to screen. Let’s cross our fingers, that 2021 will rectify that omission.
Did you know any of the other filmmakers who are part of Deathcember?
I am a big horror-buff, so I have big admiration for the likes of Lucky McKee and Isaac Ezban – which I both was able to meet at the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival many, many moons ago -, and ofcourse the maestro that is Ruggero Deodato. Cannibal Holocaust was my jam when I was renting horror flicks in my local video store. So it’s quite an honor to share a creditblock with these masters of horror. In fact, it’s a fucking honor to share the poster and credits with all these incredible talented people.
What are you working on next, are you staying in the horror genre?
A few years ago I made a feature horror documentary “Forgotten Scares”, about the history of Flemish horror, including classics like “Daughters of Darkness”. This doc was pretty well-received in the festival rounds, so I always wanted to make a follow-up that dives deep in the other language part we have in Belgium, which is the French speaking part, or the Walloon region. I was already shooting quite some stuff, and I was sure that 2020 was the year that I was going to finish that, but a surgery on my foot, the heavy revalidation after that and of course the whole Covid-19 situation delayed everything to 2021. Beside this follow-up, I am also working on a web series with the work title “Huidhonger” with Jasper Vrancken, which will again be set firmly in the horror genre, but beside these two horror projects I will also be producing a cynical black dramady called “Old Birdie”, about a sassy old lady which goes quite far to get attention from her kids. So it’s not all horror. I like to dabble in a few genres, but nothing stole my heart as much as horror.
Win a Festival Pass for Deathcember’s UK premiere at Grimmfest Xmas Horror Nights.