Sean Haitz (producer and director) and Chris Potter (director of photography) are set to release their horror thriller, Big Top Evil, through their company, Faced Productions, late this year. They shot the entire film in famous circus town, Sarasota with volunteer actors on a budget of $20,000.
When was the first time you watched a horror film, and how did it affect you?
SH: The first time I watched a horror film I was ten years old. It was Creepshow 2: The Raft (1987). I thought it was totally awesome and really scary. It was about these older teens stuck out on an old raft in the middle of a lake while this black, sludge-like blob-creature basically pulls them into the water and devours them. It’s funny ’cause, when I look back at it, I thought I was being bad sneaking around with my buddy watching horror movies.
CP: My introduction to horror films came when I was around seven years old. My Dad must have been on some ‘scare the hell out of my kid’ kick because he showed me Alien (1979) and The Exorcist (1973) around the same time. I made it through the chest-burster scene in Alien but it was when Linda Blair came down the stairs upside-down in The Exorcist that I ran out of the room. In fact, when I think about it, that’s probably what started my fascination with all things morbid and scary.
What was it that first attracted you to horror?
SH: Halloween! I was obsessed with Halloween. I started making my own haunted houses and graveyards with my friends and family when I was ten or eleven. Everyone in the neighbourhood was a bit hesitant to come up to my house to trick-or-treat!
CP: For as long as I can remember I’ve had a fascination with the morbid and scary. When I was young I would create scenes of horror with my action figures, using a character like Spawn as the killer. I was also into creating haunted-house type scenes in my parents’ backyard with my friends. Scaring people is really redeeming!
What achievement are you most proud of?
SH & CP: Having finished our first film with less than $1,000. That and we’ve almost finished a full feature with only $20k. The fact that we made this happen and the people we’ve brought together.
What are you working on now?
SH & CP: The feature film Big Top Evil. The first trailer for the film was released a couple of weeks ago.
Who do you admire in the horror world?
SH &CP: Anyone who keeps it alive and true to its roots. People, like Rob Zombie and Eli Roth, who are passionate about the genre. We hate the commercialised horror crap that has been flooding theatres in recent years. We love zombies and exorcisms and all, but enough is enough! Try to keep it as original as possible. It’s so disappointing that so many low budget indie directors are playing it ‘safe’ with zombie films . Film is an extension of the director, so why try to do what’s already been done?
Do you prefer gore or psychological horror?
SH & CP: We like both as long as they don’t get too psychological. Things that involve too many twists get tiresome. It’s good when there’s some sort of glue that holds the story together and there aren’t just a bunch of random things changing the story. It feels forced.
One of the biggest disappointments to me in horror history was M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village (2004). Watch the trailer again. It looked really good and the creatures he created were genuinely scary – which is a difficult thing to do. The biggest let-down was when the creatures were revealed to be a trick. You mean to tell me you took a great idea for an original monster, at a time when horror movies were fewer and further between, and just threw it away? Blasphemy.
How important is it to unsettle a viewer?
SH & CP: Somewhat. You don’t want the viewer to be unsurprised or unaffected by everything. Film is about supernatural circumstances which, by sheer definition, is unsettling.
How do you evoke fear?
SH & CP: Create scenes which the audience can relate to, and then have those scenes turn terribly and uncontrollably wrong. That they can relate draws them in, so when it gets bad, they can understand or even feel the fear. Gruesome or unsettling imagery is important, but lighting and the score are key.
What scares you?
CP: Spiders, I’m a genuine arachnophobe. And not being able to save the lives of people I care about.
SH: Spiders, drowning and being buried alive.
Why should people watch your films?
SH & CP: We truly feel we are bringing something new and different to the horror genre, and we respect it as well. Not to mention we do it with almost no budget and have a blast because we love the art and genre. We’re just having fun. We’ve had fans tell us that they love our work, but it’s weird hearing it because we don’t feel that we are anything yet.
How far is too far when it comes to horror cinema?
SH & CP: We feel that movies like Hostel: Part III (2011) and the later Saw series are going too far. The originals were great – they showed just enough and the idea was fresh so it really hit home. But the later sequels and copycats almost feel like they are trying to one-up the originals by having more gore and elaborate deaths. The audience is getting desensitised to that level of gore because they’ve seen too much. Less is more, or rather less is gore! Sometimes not showing the gore and leaving something to the imagination makes it scarier. Everything is scarier in your mind. When you don’t see the monster or demon or whatever until the end of the movie and are then like, “oh… ok I guess that’s scary,” or if you see the killer rush someone with a chainsaw and you don’t see the victim being sawed to death for several seconds, it leaves you wondering – and fearing – the worst.
How do you think horror cinema will evolve in the next ten years?
SH & CP: That’s hard to say. The horror genre has had three or four golden eras : the monster age back in the 50s and 60s, the slasher age with Freddy, Jason, Mike Myers and Leatherface, the 90s with the human killers which you see in Scream (1996) and I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997) then to the 2000s which liked the shock-gore flicks such as Saw (2004), Hostel (2005) and Final Destination (2000). And now we are in the final stages of new-age biological horror with the new zombies. We are due for a new era in horror, but the important thing is to lay off all of the CGI in films and get back to basics: good ideas, well executed. CGI is a crutch and a shortcut.
Recommend a film.
SH & CP: Everything has been seen so we recommend going back and watching the slasher classics, it was such a fun time in horror cinema.