Exclusive: Brett Simmons, Putting the “Scare” Back into Scarecrows

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Director talks about his film Husk

Among the eight films debuting in theaters January 28 from After Dark Originals, one is going to take another stab at the scarecrow sub-genre.

Hear that groan? It’s the sound of horror fans collectively reflecting on dour scarecrow fare like 1995’s Night of the Scarecrow or 2004’s Scarecrow Gone Wild. Granted, fans have had to take the good (Dark Night of the Scarecrow) with the bad (Messengers 2: The Scarecrow), and Brett Simmons, the director of the upcoming Husk, is well aware of this. With his film, he hopes to remove the stigma usually afflicting scarecrow-themed horror stories.

Simmons film began as a short that played to Sundance audiences. When After Dark came a-callin’, he was given a chance to expand the Husk‘s story and attach Wes Chatham, Devon Graye (Dexter), Ben Easter, C.J. Thomason (Harper’s Island) and Tammin Sursok (Pretty Little Liars) to star.

Shock caught up to Simmons to discuss the film and reveal some of its secrets.

Shock Till You Drop: What was it about the conceit of Husk that made you want to tell the story again, furthermore, expand what you had in the short film?

Brett Simmons: The short film was always designed as a pitch for a feature. The shelf life of a short is, well, short, so I thought I conquered that in film school. That’s how Husk came about: How can I make a short that was more than just that? I thought, I should make a short as a pitch film. Regardless of whether the short turned into a feature film, I just wanted to make something that would spur conversation. I’ve always been intrigued by films that are “pie talk,” my favorite expression. The idea of a movie where you could have pie and coffee after and talk about it. Everybody who inevitably saw Husk saw it as a feature. When it screened at Sundance, people were asking about the bigger story. That was exciting and intimidating, because then I had to figure out the bigger story. [laughs] I had ideas marinating that I needed to put on paper.

Shock: The image of a scarecrow elicits a certain tone, an eeriness, that we’ve seen other filmmakers take a crack at before, but have failed. Did your want of a good scarecrow flick come out of the fact that movies about them are few and far between?

Simmons: Yeah, but the approach came first. It came out of a reaction to the horror movies I was seeing. Hitchcock was my introduction to the genre. I started at the top and it was a downward spiral from there. [laughs] When horror movies are good, they’re great. Eighty-percent of them are not so good. Next to Hitchcock, I’m a huge Twilight Zone, Stephen King and Richard Matheson fan. As I set out to tell a story, I wanted to do something like one of those old movies. Where the characters don’t feel the need to spell everything out. But going back to the scarecrow thing, I’m the guy who rents all of those scary scarecrow horror movies because I’m hoping they’ll be good, but all I’ll say is that I haven’t been satisfied. I always thought scarecrows should be like Velociraptors and the corn field is the Raptor pen. That’s how I always saw it. All of these movies had scarecrows with scary faces and I’m like, you don’t have to over do it. Their faces are scary enough as they are. I was always freaked out by the image of a scarecrow. The corn field also makes for a great setting. It’s the sea in Jaws, know what I mean? And a lot of our film is set in the corn field. It’s hard to get a sense of geography, it’s a great place to shoot.

Shock: Serling, King and Matheson were good at telling stories about human nature, would you say Husk does that as well, then?

Simmons: I’m trying to think of what I can say without giving too much of the story away. The thing about Husk is it’s really a two act movie. And I think it fits into a structure like The Descent. One act, you have these characters, then everything goes wrong. Set up these traditional archetypes and then everything spins into another direction. You thought one guy would do this, but he does that. Another guy does this, but then he does something you don’t expect. The back story is mostly implied in this movie. I thought horror movies have become too complicated today, over explanation. I wanted to simplify while engaging a horror story with a supernatural element.

Shock: I’m getting the sense this isn’t a straight-up scarecrow flick…

Simmons: Husk is a zombie movie, but it’s also a ghost story, a slasher movie and a scarecrow movie. That’s always a hard thing to pitch, because on the surface it’s a scarecrow movie – something that’s never really noteworthy. [laughs] I wanted to disarm people in terms of where the story goes. After Dark was cool at getting behind this and their primary motivation was to give horror fans what they want. I wanted to do things in this movie that other production companies wouldn’t approve of, but After Dark let me try it out. I just hope the movie is a rewarding experience for fans.

Husk opens on January 28. For images from the film, follow this link to our photo gallery.

Source: Ryan Turek, Managing Editor