Director Darren Lynn Bousman’s latest project, Abattoir, is in theaters now, and we got a chance to have a quick chat with him about the movie; it’s stylistic and design choices, and rediscovering the fascination with ghosts…
Slice of SciFi: My guest today is a renowned horror director, a fan and presenter of the mysterious and the macabre, Darren Lynn Bousman… how are you today, sir?
Darren Lynn Bousman: I’m doing very well, thank you for having me on.
Your latest project is called Abattoir, it’s in theaters this week. Without getting into any spoilers, the thumbnail sketch is: a young reporter and a hard-boiled cop discover a real estate mystery, where someone has been removing murder rooms from the scenes of gruesome crimes. What they discover is both terrifying and horrifying, and of course, as in all horror movies, hijinks ensue.
Darren Lynn Bousman: (laughs) That is a very good job summing it up.
What drew you to this project? Because that is a fascinating premise to me.
Darren Lynn Bousman: Well, it was an idea I had years ago. I wanted to do a unique spin on horror, a unique spin on a haunted house movie. I think what drew me to this idea, this premise, was is that it’s not your traditional haunted house movie. It’s a cross between a crime drama, a thriller, a film noir and a haunted house movie. I think that’s what was cool… it didn’t have a standard approach into the story. you have the two lead characters are of a bygone era, they’re talking in this weird kind of vernacular and I think to me that was exciting, to be able to approach horror in that kind of way.
So, have you always been a fan of noir, and were looking for something to do in that vein?
Darren Lynn Bousman: I love film noir, and I was just curious: what would Humphrey Bogart do in today’s era? How would he interact? how would these types of characters, from Bogart to Bacall, be in a horror movie then? Now, the movie is modern, it takes place in modern times, however it is definitely a stylized thing. I was curious, be fun to see if you put it in modern but you had characters that were not modern, and so that was kind of the idea going into this.
Did you have any specific vision for how you wanted the atmosphere, the environment these characters are in to look like?
Darren Lynn Bousman: Yes, they needed to exist… if you actually look at the production design, you have Julia Talben writing on a typewriter with a computer sitting right next to her. She has a tube TV, yet there’s also a flat screen tv on the wall, She has an mp3 player but next to that is a cheap radio. So I wanted it to have this duality of that 30s-40s feel even though it seems modern day.
Now, the overall description is that this is a haunted house story. You have a very particular style, with, well, the ghosts. What went into designing and developing those?
Darren Lynn Bousman: I was trying to present the ghosts in a way that we haven’t seen a million times before, to try to do it in a way that was probably a bit more unique than standard ghosts. Trying to find that balance of what would work in a movie and what would work for audiences, still be something that would make sense in the world, the universe I was creating.
And did you have any specific instructions for the actors to behave with these ghosts?
Darren Lynn Bousman: We actually presented the actors with a set of rules, here are the rules of the Abattoir: meaning that the ghosts can’t hurt you, the ghosts can’t harm you, the ghosts can materialize when x-y-z happens, so there’s a logic that we as filmmakers presented to the cast prior to shooting.
Now, with you going into such a mix of noir past and modern present, how does that inform what you might be looking forward to doing next?
Darren Lynn Bousman: Part of the aesthetic comes down to what I find to be cool and what I like and think is cool, and that mix of modern and arcane… in my house, my house is filled with typewriters and […], and old style telephones. I live in a modern world yet I still harken back to that archaic way of living, it’s manual. I think I’m an analog person living in a digital world. And I think that’s the […] for all the characters in Abattoir.
To you think that sort of visceral fear of the digital unknown is making it easier for people to mix and meld present and past, or future and past?
Darren Lynn Bousman: Absolutely. In my last couple of films it shares the same kind of style … in both Devil’s Carnival and Repo! in that they all kind of do that, mixing modern and old. I think it’s like steampunk. That whole lifestyle is so cool, which is a futuristic approach to old technology.
(laughs) So are there any plans for a steampunk horror on your plate?
Darren Lynn Bousman: I’m actually leaving in a few weeks to start another horror film, and after that, we’ll see… maybe you’ll see another Abattoir.
Darren Lynn Bousman: Yeah, we actually have a script already called “The Dwelling”, so fingers crossed that this does well enough to …
So you realize you may singlehandedly cause the prices of historic haunted crime scenes to skyrocket, right?
Darren Lynn Bousman: Well, I’m going to be buying them all, so I hope not! (laughs)
(laughs) Well folks, the movie is Abattoir, and ghost stories are rare these days, so thank you for bringing us another one…
Darren Lynn Bousman: Thank you so much for talking to me and having me on and giving some love to Abattoir!