When was the first time you watched a horror film, and how did it affect you?
It’s hard to say, but having an older brother meant I began watching horror movies sooner than most people. I actually remember tricking my grandmother into taking me to see Gremlins 2 at the cinema when I was eight or nine years old.
What was it that first attracted you to horror?
I’ve always enjoyed horror movies. When I was a teenager, I enjoyed the adrenaline.
But the more horror you see, from different countries and directors, the more you realise that there’s much more than meets the eye. I would say horror movies, and fantasy movies in a broader sense, have become political, relevant and are often the most audacious form of filmmaking. It’s no longer just about the scares.
I think managing to bring a group of talented people together and make a film is always something to be proud of. It’s easy to give up considering that there is very little money in European independent filmmaking, and even less in the Portuguese movie scene. But, watching your movie with an audience is an incredibly rewarding experience. I saw my last short, O Risco (The Line) – a splatter comedy – at the Bicycle Film Festival where it was a surprise film. It was hilarious people were laughed as I’d never seen before. That was something to be proud of.
What are you working on now?
Anexo 82 (my production company) are working on three short films right now that I’m set to produce (I’m not the director of any of them). One is a long time project based on a script by my long time collaborator Ana Almeida. It is a dreamy nineties drama about the end of the VHS era called Videostore. Then there’s Pacient EV-136, it’s a merciless horror film. I guess I always go back to horror – it’s in me.
Who do you admire in the horror world?
The person I admire the most in the horror world is John Carpenter. Halloween is my dream movie – it inspired a lot my first film A Noiva (The Bride) in 2007. His latest film The Ward was great. Carpenter has a real sense of rhythm, fun and scares.
There are many horror authors that I admire, especially nowadays as the genre has become so rich. Lucky McKee has done two excellent horror films (May and The Woman), I’m really into Rob Zombie’s instant cult films (his Devil’s Rejects duo and take on Halloween), Takeshi Miike (Audition and Ichi The Killer) and James Wan (Insidious was a real thrill ride).
Gore alone with no reason is not very interesting, unless it’s fun like Peter Jackson’s Braindead. Psychological horror can be good, but can also be over-derivative. I guess I prefer a good film than one that’s specifically gory or psychologically chilling.
How important is it to unsettle a viewer?
It’s very important to get a reaction from the viewer. Too often films allow people to watch them passively from start to finish. You have to unsettle the viewer, whether through fear or another emotional reaction. Occasionally I like watching deeply unsettling films such as Secuestrados (Kidnapped) by Miguel Angels Vivas – it will leave you afraid of being in your own house.
How do you evoke fear?
One thing I like in horror films, especially classic horror, is iconography. I think it’s important to have a strong world and a strong set of codes to create a scary story: rules, method and consequences.
What scares you?
I find films like The Road and Children of Men to be way scarier than traditional horror films. I enjoy horror films, and love fantasy, but it’s simple disgusting human behaviour that scares me.
Why should people watch your films?
To enjoy themselves. Hopefully.
How far is too far when it comes to horror cinema?
I’m not one for rules. I guess too far is when there is little point going further – the point has been made! Films such as The Isle by Kim Ki Duk are very hard to watch, yet the violence serves a purpose
Torture horror is of no interest to me. Not because it goes too far, but because it’s lazy filmmaking and lazier storytelling.
How do you think horror cinema will evolve in the next ten years?
Horror films are becoming much more human and socially aware. Take, for example, The Woman, Eden Lake and The Loved Ones. Or for a more amusing take, consider Attack the Block. There are also some incredibly imaginative horror films, such as Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale. The genre is constantly evolving.
I would like to see horror films explore urban apartments and buildings more. Both The Ring and The Grudge tap into this to some extent.
Balada Triste de Trompeta (The Last Circus) by Alex de La Inglesa is one of the most emotional films I have ever seen, it won the Melies D’Or in 2011. It’s a true masterpiece.
I would also recommend Monsters by Gareth Edwards, it’s one of my favourite films this year.