Tim Cowles has spent the last seven years shooting short films for the games industry and directing live TV broadcasts. Backslasher is his first directed horror feature.
When was the first time you watched a horror film, and how did it affect you?
I saw Alien when I was nine, and I was scared. It was easy to turn away during the on-screen evisceration, but it scared me much more just waiting for whatever was coming next.
Probably that I wasn’t allowed to watch it. My parents were worried that it would scar me for life, but I think filming Backslasher did that.
What achievement are you most proud of?
Avoiding the dreaded nine to five by running my own companies for the last fourteen years.
What are you working on now?
A noir horror called House of a 1000 Murders and a romantic comedy about a guy who body swaps with his online fantasy gaming character.
Who do you admire in the horror world?
The person I admire most is Stanley Kubrick – The Shining, A Clockwork Orange, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Lolita and Full Metal Jacket. Not prolific by any means, but what a resume of brilliant films. Kevin Williamson and Wes Craven for Scream. I also admire my close friend and fellow filmmaker Jason Impey. He’s one of the most prolific and tenacious guys I know and he has a real passion for making indie horror. He deserves a lot more attention than he’s currently getting.
Do you prefer gore or psychological horror?
Honestly, I’m not a big gore fan, but ultimately if the film is original I don’t care either way. I enjoyed watching Saw and Hostel, but lost interest in the sequels. The Human Centipede was very disturbing; not very gory, but you won’t forget the visuals for a while!
How important is it to unsettle a viewer?
I think the most important thing is to entertain the viewer with a great story. If the story calls for something that’s going to unsettle them, then it’s important. Arguably films like Irreversible would not be as effective without the graphic drawn-out scenes of rape and violence, whereas most other films can avoid tackling similar scenes in such depth.
How do you evoke fear?
Wake up next to me in bed; that should do it. For a horror film though, people either need to be afraid for the characters, or afraid that what’s happening to the characters might happen to them. That’s proper fear, not loud bangs and peekaboos.
What scares you?
Genuinely thinking I might look back at my life once I’ve retired and wonder what I’ve done with it. In horror films? Normal, everyday people. I find it tough watching home-invasion stuff, or anything with kids or teens murdering people. Bit too close to reality for me!
People should watch Backslasher if they want some old school Scream style entertainment. And guys, bring your girls: the marketing may look like it’s all lovely ladies running around in their underwear, but it’s full of strong female characters. That must be my Joss Whedon influence (I’m a big Buffy and Angel fan – The Cabin in the Woods hasn’t hurt either).
How far is too far when it comes to horror cinema?
It’s not a question of going too far; it’s more having a reason for going there. If you’re just sewing people’s faces onto people’s backsides to get attention then you’ve gone too far. That’s not a dig at The Human Centipede either, more a warning shot at the army of clones that will follow, as an excuse to do the same thing.
How do you think horror cinema will evolve in the next ten years?
So far it seems pretty cyclical, so I guess zombies will have their day, and we’ll see some more extreme cinema pushing the boundaries of what’s considered tasteful. That will be followed by parodies like Scary Movie and eventually we’ll get back to teen-slasher again.
Recommend a film.
May by Lucky McKee. A fine example of a ‘normal’ person who gets a little bit creepy and an early outing for one of my favourite spoof horror actresses, Anna Faris.