Horror director’s forecast looks grim
Reinvention doesn’t come quickly, as Australian director Jamie Blanks’ career demonstrates. Valentine, his sophomore effort, arrived in 2001 heralding the end of days (temporarily) for teen horror. Little did anyone know it would be the last picture they’d see from Blanks in six years. In the interim his focus turned to soundtrack composition and family after a Canadian project he had been flirting with fell through.
“Valentine was a juicier movie when I finished it,” Blanks discloses. Shock is sitting with him at the Highlands in Hollywood in a spacious booth also accommodating Blanks’ wife and son. He’s in town to seal up casting deals for his next film Long Weekend. “The MPAA gave me a pass with my version, they gave it an ‘R.’ Then Warner Bros. and Village Roadshow came in and edited the movie – they chopped out all of the gore! It became a violent version of ‘Sex & the City’ – so that was a disappointment. If I was going to go back to horror, it was going to be done independently. I’d edit it myself, do my own score and just have more control over it.”
Storm Warning, a savage removal from Blanks’ previous teen tripe output, marks the director’s poised return. The survival-horror film pairs Blanks with screenwriter Everett De Roche for a wicked tale involving a couple (Nadia FarÃ¨s and Robert Taylor) fending off a trio of miscreants (John Brumpton, David Lyons, Mathew Wilkinson) protecting their bountiful crop of Mary Jane. “[My career] started with two studio movies – what are the great studio horror movies out there? The Exorcist, The Omen, Jaws – you can count them on one hand, really. All of the great horror movies are independent and I’ve wanted to do an independent horror film for a long time. I sort had an inverted career by that point so this was my chance to just go nuts, let ‘er rip.”
De Roche’s script came to the director’s attention through Australian production entity Darclight Films. Consistently wearing his affinity for the genre on his sleeve, Blanks exudes a remarkable enthusiasm for De Roche’s oeuvre which often traverses the arid landscapes of the Outback and brings to the fore its wildest terrors, whether it’s the colossal boar of Razorback, man’s negligence of mother nature in the original Long Weekend or, quite simply, Stacy Keach in Roadgames.
And like these films, Storm Warning makes the most of the Australian locales. However, as Blanks is happy to boast, “Everything except the first fifteen minutes of the film was shot on a stage, the rest we’re obviously out on location,” he says noting the film’s set up which finds its leads heading out on a boating excursion and drifting off through the verdant channels of a nearby island. From there, much of the action revolves around a two-story farmhouse and barn where, “I wanted it to feel like a cross between Tim Burton and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre – Tim Burton’s version of that. An over-stylized feel, I didn’t want to play it straight. Once you get to the farmhouse we had a full stage with a lighting grid and walls we had to lose with CGI. I don’t really like CGI, but here we had to deploy some.” Set removal wasn’t the only CGI on order. A drought in Melbourne, where the “Storm” soundstage was located, meant keeping the film’s set wet (as the plot does take place during a vicious storm) through practical means was totally out of the question. “A lot of the rain effects were put in with CG.”
Another force of nature requiring equal care in execution (but required no CG assistance) was finding the right team to embody the malevolent triumvirate that bear down on Storm Warning‘s city slickers. Brothers Jimmy and Brett (played by Lyons and Wilkinson, respectively) are as sleazy as they come and their deviancy is bested only by “Poppy” (Brumpton). “John was in my student film and I’ve known him for years. Poppy is a perfect character for him. A lot of actors in Australia just didn’t want to play it, they said, ‘I couldn’t play somebody this vile.’ As it was written it was a lot worse than what we actually filmed. I toned it down a little bit with the incest and really icky things. I drew the line at bestiality porn as far as where I was prepared to go,” Blanks chuckles alluding to one of “Storm’s more alarming moments of familial bonding.
“The two boys I found through the audition process. They just blew me away,” Blanks adds. “David, who plays Jimmy the older brother, from the minute he walked into the room and owned it. So he was a no-brainer for me just an amazing little performer. Matthew was from Ghost Rider and had done a couple of other things, he had a great look. Plus, I wanted to give the impression they were brothers from another mother – I wanted to show that for Poppy women were disposable. There were other brothers who didn’t make it that far or Poppy beat the shit out of them.”
Blanks is pleased to say the slaughter on display in “Storm” will remain intact and then some when Dimension Extreme releases the film on DVD February 5th. “All of the murders are much more violent, all of the bits where they told me I’ve gone much too far are going to be there. We were hoping for an R-rating, we got an NC-17. I’m much happier than getting a PG-13. We really went nuts, it’s much more vicious, and every death has a bit more.” Indeed, Storm Warning is Blanks’ most violent film yet with a scene that lends new meaning to the term “safe sex.” “I was afraid the condom scene wasn’t going to be clear enough but obviously it still comes across rather brutal. Unrated there will be more close-ups, the dog attack will be much more juicy. I went full Romero on that one. Bolt the camera down Fulci-style and give it to you in your face!”
“I’m back now, I’m going to keep working,” he says with mischievous warning. Following his update of Long Weekend, Blanks is eyeing a number of projects including one that is, “a little bit like The Fog and Renny Harlin’s Prison, it’ll be really fun.” He is visibly energized by his return to the trenches sans Hollywood’s participation. In the wake of Storm Warning‘s release fans of the genre may find themselves feeling a similar thrill about the “new” Jamie Blanks.
Source: Ryan Rotten