The UK premiere of Christmas horror anthology Deathcember is just two days away at Grimmfest Xmas Horror Nights. Bloody Flicks is keeping the season of giving going with another exclusive interview with director Bob Pipe, who spills the beans on his segment The Hunchback of Burg Hayn.
Was it always your intention to have The Hunchback of Burg Hayn as a silent film?
Yes and no. I wrote the script with dialogue but when myself and Frank (Dow, the director of photography) began planning the film we started looking for films to reference and we were drawn to silent movies like The Cabinet of Dr Caligari and Nosferatu. Then when we went to recce the film in Germany, Ivo and Dominic suggested making the film a silent movie homage so that the anthology covers the whole history of horror movies… and that sealed the deal!
I take it you are a fan of the silent era of cinema?
Absolutely. I studied film… way way back in the 1990s… and I’ve read a lot of film history books… but I guess I’m fan of ALL cinema. Obviously I’m more a fan of films WITH sound but it’s important to look back and discover the films that inspired my favourite directors. I highly recommend A Personal Journey with Martin Scorsese Through American Movies by the way. It’s a documentary I go back and watch every few years, I still haven’t watched even half of the film Scorsese talks about. I have it on DVD if you’d like to borrow it?
Tell us about the thinking about putting a disabled man in your story, as this is quite rare in horror?
Erm… it was inspired by the Hunchback of Notre Dame, La Belle Et La Bete and other classic monster movies. I can’t pretend it was ever my intention to write a story focussing on a disabled character. Maybe the next film… I’m available.
Where was the segment filmed?
Hesse, Germany which is basically near Frankfurt. Part of the production had to be filmed in Hesse, Germany for funding reasons… I’m sure the producers, Dom or Ivo could tell you more about that. The interior scenes were filmed in a castle called Burg Hayn where the film takes its title from and the opening shot is of Castle Frankenstein where apparently Mary Shelly was inspired to write the novel. True story. I have to give a big shout out to Axel Loh who played the Priest, was our first AD and did multiple other roles on the film including securing the locations, props, costumes and extras through his contacts in a medieval reactant society. He also got us a horse!
What was the casting process like?
I wrote the part of the Hunchback for Richard Glover – I like to think of him as my De Niro! He played the monster in my ahem multi-award winning short film The Monster and we’ve worked on tons of stuff together over the years, including my web series The Day They Came To Suck Out Our Brains! He’s an amazing actor and we’re good friends so directing him is a breeze.
I also had Stephen Evans and Louie Bayliss in mind for the Judge and the Messenger roles – they are great comedy performers whom I’ve worked with countless times over the years and are also great mates. I wanted big performances like in the silent movie era films, something they can do very easily from their background in live performance. Louie does great eye acting! In fact they all do.
I really enjoyed directing the supporting actors who came through the medieval reactant society and mostly didn’t speak English… but we somehow got by without words – I directed mostly with sound effects! It was a lot of fun, everyone was excited to be involved and there was no complaints, even though we were filming outdoors in winter – it was bloody freezing! Without getting overly sentimental it really was one of the best directing experiences I’ve ever had.
How does your story incorporate Christmas themes?
Well it takes place at Christmas… without giving too much away; the Hunchback is freed due to a Christmas pardon… which is sort of the crux of the film. I’ve said too much!
What was the initial feedback like once you submitted it to the Deathcember team?
The producers loved it! Ivo, Dom and Frank have been extremely supportive throughout the production. I don’t want to blow too much smoke up the arses but they are amongst the best producers I’ve ever worked with – they should do more of it! If you look careful you can spot them amongst the angry mob. I’m pretty sure they were acting.
Have you had chance to see the finished anthology yet?
Yes! Myself, Richard, Stephen, Louie and the two Johns (Vivash and Cook Lynch, star and director of Cracker) went to the cast and crew premiere in Germany last year – we got very drunk.
How would you describe The Hunchback of Burg Hayn in a sentence?
It’s a love letter to silent movies with a sprinkling of Ambrose Bierce and Jacob’s Ladder and deals with themes I’ve mined before – the misunderstood monster and who are the real monsters?? Spoiler alert – we are! Haha. Actually I don’t want to give too much away. Scrap that.
Catch Deathcember at the Grimmfest Xmas Horror Nights which starts tomorrow.