An exclusive interview with THE HALLOW and THE CROW remake director Corin Hardy!
“This is where ‘The Hallow’ originates from when I was conceiving doing a fairy tale movie… I used to sit and sketch all the time.”
Filmmaker Corin Hardy greets us with his personal sketchbook splayed out on an office table. He wants us to see how much of his debut feature, THE HALLOW, came straight from his very unique mind. The film, which follows an Englishman named Adam (Joseph Mawle) who moves his wife Clare (Bojana Novakovic) and their infant child into a rustic house in Ireland to survey the surrounding forest, delves deeply into fairie folklore… but it’s no fairy tale. It’s a brutal, savage horror show that’s equal parts STRAW DOGS and PAN’S LABYRINTH.
Hardy, who made his name with short films and music videos, was already hard at work in recent months on his next project, the big budget reboot of THE CROW, before Relativity’s bankruptcy threw the future of that film into uncertainty. In our in-depth conversation he discussed where THE CROW is at now (it’s still alive), as well as the practical filmmaking methodology that brought THE HALLOW to vivid life in what may become a future creature feature cult classic.
You will also see images we took directly from his sketchbooks throughout the interview, as well as an original sketch of “The Crow” made for Hardy by creator James O’Barr.
SHOCK: The creatures in this film felt like they were at least 90% practical. Is that accurate?
CORIN HARDY: I’d say the intention was to do everything practically, but we planned it through intense storyboarding to augment the practical effects in post. There was a sufficient amount of post. In terms of what you see on screen it is 90% practical but a lot of effects afterwards.
SHOCK: To sweeten it.
HARDY: Yeah. There is some CG, but it’s always extending or reducing rather than basing it all in the computer.
SHOCK: That’s the ideal situation for any movie, a healthy marriage to the point where you can’t tell what’s in-camera or digital.
HARDY: That was the plan. To me it’s great that we’ve got to this point where we can use CGI, but that doesn’t mean you say, “Oh, well that obliterates practical effects.” Anything that’s in-camera in the first place is far more convincing. Technically it costs a lot less ’cause it’s there, you shot it, you’ve done it. Provided you do that right it’s a bonus, then you just tweak. It’s a mixture of techniques to achieve an illusion.
SHOCK: Even a lot of big budget movies run out of money at a certain point, usually in post, and then all the things they thought they could fix wind up looking like garbage.
HARDY: It’s tough enough raising money to make a movie, and it was hard because it obviously pushed our pre-production because you had to get a helluva lot done in a few months before production, but at least you’ve got it there. If we run out of money and it’s just practical effects it still looks real because they’re real!
SHOCK: This is something that’s very symptomatic of indie films these days, but “The Hallow” has at least half-a-dozen company logos before the main credits. When you assemble financing from that many sources does that mean there’s that many more voices you have to listen to or are you able to relatively remove yourself from the financial elements?
HARDY: Thankfully I was working with two experienced independent film producers, Joe Neurauter and Felipe Marino of Occupant Films (All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, The Wackness) who are familiar with creating finance. Although it looks like there are a ton of producers, in a sense we were completely left to our own devices to make the movie we wanted to make with a bit of consultation for casting and all that. We were in control which was great.
SHOCK: So the Occupant guys were the head honchos and everyone else was sort of along for the ride?
HARDY: Yeah, and very thankfully because we couldnt have done it without them. We needed the money, but they were supportive of the film we wanted to make.
SHOCK: This movie has a very grounded, handheld, shot-on-location feeling. Does that style suit you or if you had your druthers would you prefer a more controlled, studio-bound approach?
HARDY: Not in a studio so much. I specifically wanted this film to have a 70’s aesthetic like John Boorman’s films like “Deliverance” or like “Straw Dogs” or “Alien.” Films that have a “real” quality to them. So I intentionally wanted to do as much on location and at the house itself. We did build a couple of sets. Equally I wanted it to feel cinematic and stylized which is my preferred look. It was a marriage of not having enough time schedule-wise but I didn’t want it to be the kind of hand-held that you’re aware of or that gets in the way. I particularly don’t like a lot of horror movies that rely on shaky handheld to pretend you can’t see what you’re looking at. I didn’t want the cuts to be too quick, I wanted the cuts to be as bold as possible so some of the scares happen in your face and you’re like, “Shit, it’s really there!” Not cut away all the time. It was a combination of working with Martijn van Broekhuizen, who is the Dutch DOP, fantastic, talented, painterly quality to his work I’ve seen in his Dutch films, and he has a great gaffer and focus puller and these three Dutchmen were not only the most decent, honorable human beings everything was a challenge we could overcome- but he also has a beautiful style. I wanted to non-pretentiously make the most beautiful horror movie I could with what we had. As atmospheric as possible, as cinematically as we could do but with creatures who come to life and you would have a certain satisfaction of being able to see. I didn’t want it to ultimately be a disappointment because you got to feel like they never had anything there. Because it wasn’t a possession movie or a ghost movie or torture movie where you can just get away with just showing some gore, I wanted to eek in this idea that what you’re watching is going to become a fairy tale, very gradually. The movie undergoes a kind of transformation.
SHOCK: I was describing it to someone as “‘Straw Dogs’ with fairies.”
HARDY: That was my pitch, “‘Straw Dogs’ meets ‘Pan’s Labyrinth'”. A 70’s-esque family drama rooted in reality with fairy mythology at its core but never becomes totally fantastic.
SHOCK: Some of the best directors can draw and paint and are very fluent visually and storyboard everything. Obviously you’re one of those people as well. Does that give you an upper hand in terms of going to a producer and saying, “Look, I know what I want, it’s not gonna take eighteen concept artists to figure out what’s in my head. It’s on the page. I’m not gonna shoot a million miles of film.”
HARDY: I’ve never really gone, “Yes, I’ve got the upper hand folks!” (laughs) I definitely love it, though, it’s what I do. “What would it be like to render a fairy?” “What would it be like to tell a story about a couple who have to deal with something they don’t understand and it’s fairy-related?” I went looking through fairy tales, researching, wondering how I was going to do this visually. You have to work with limitations and push them to the extreme you can get away with. You have to be conscious of things holding up. In this case I had these sketchbooks. Looking at the old irish mythologies of the Daoine Sìth or the Unseelie Court, this idea of very manipulative, deceptive fairies or banshees and bringing them into the reality of the movie so you don’t get pulled out of the movie if it’s too outlandish. It was combining it with science and nature. I love storyboarding, I’ve always storyboarded all my films and music videos. I think it’s a process of almost pre-visualizing or pre-editing a whole movie in terms of the timing and cuts. Looking at the lighting and blocking so when you do go into production or finance meetings to convince people that you know what you’re talking about you can get away with it more than just saying, “I’m gonna make this” and them saying, “How’s it gonna look?”
SHOCK: I just talked to Michael Dougherty for “Krampus”
HARDY: I can’t wait for that film!
SHOCK: Yeah! And he was telling me that when he’s writing and he gets board then he can go into his sketchbook and start drawing it out and it re-engages him.
HARDY: I also co-write my stuff and when doing that I want to make sure the person co-writing is also part of the world in my head. It just tunes everyone in.
SHOCK: When you read about these folk legends in books or hear Neil Gaiman talking about them there’s always this whimsical picture in your head, but your movie is not whimsical AT ALL. It brings the proper insidious tone to these creatures.
HARDY: “Insidious” in the sense of the word.
SHOCK: Right, not the movies! (laughs)
HARDY: Of course. Well thanks. Visceral was what we were going for. If a fairy tale movie is going to be scary and urgent and intense and ultimately a rollercoaster ride I have a lot of love for “Jaws” and “The Thing” and “Evil Dead 2,” movies where you get engulfed by them. You get scared but you have a great time. You allow yourself to be part o another world. If it gets too complicated with rules or exposition or whimsy for this kind of movie it won’t be engaging enough. There’s a lot of great fairy mythology I had to leave by the wayside because it was almost too pernickety. There’s an idea that if you want to expose a changeling you have to boil beer, pour it into some cracked eggshells and put it on your front doorstep. Wow, that’s cool but it would stop the movie, whereas the idea that iron is a repellent the same way garlic or a cross is for vampires you look for some kind of instantly recognizable, iconic images.
HARDY: Yeah. Streamline a fairy tale movie but bring it into our reality.
SHOCK: Speaking of bringing things into reality, my friends attended the Halloween screening and I saw a picture of you dressed as Eric Draven. Is that your way of saying “The Crow” reboot is still alive with you?
HARDY: It is, yeah. I was a particularly haggard-looking Crow, by the way. (laughs) It’s not how intend him to look. I was a bit jet lagged. I always dress up for Halloween. I used to dress up like The Crow, these are pictures from when I was younger [shows printed photos of him as a teen dressed in full Crow regalia].
SHOCK: When you were talking to Ed Pressman trying to get the job or did you keep that a secret?
HARDY: (Laughs) No, I did actually, funnily enough because I’m a huge fan of “The Crow,” the movie and the graphic novel particularly. I think it’s different when someone feels a massive connection, which I know lots of people do. So I’m honored to be someone who gets a chance to do it. When I talked about it with him I wanted to make sure he understood how it affected me.
SHOCK: It’s interesting, in terms of where Alex Proyas was in his career when he did that movie and where you are is very similar. You both come from music videos, you both have an animation background. You both had just done a little indie previously. In terms of your vision, what are you planning to do different from what he did?
HARDY: First of all, I loved Alex Proyas’s film, which really connected with me when I was 17, but also the graphic novel exists. I probably wouldn’t take this on if there wasn’t a graphic novel of that potency. The idea of remaking a film isn’t that appealing, ’cause I love the film. I don’t want to change that, like another movie that exists that’s iconic, like “Robocop” for instance. James O’Barr’s graphic novel of “The Crow” I’ve read a million times. There’s a lot of depth and details. The level of emotion, poetry, violence, revenge. Now it’s twenty years later from that first film so I felt with all the remakes that are happening I’ll go and revisit that graphic novel and give it my best shot.
SHOCK: When the movie came out I remember feeling it was very true to the tone and look of the graphic novel.
HARDY: It was based on it, of course. It was a super special, and the look of the film bizarrely the production designer was my uncle’s cousin
SHOCK: Alex McDowell! Who I saw was thanked in the end credits of “The Hallow.
HARDY: Yeah yeah! It had no bearing on me getting the job, he didn’t even know about it, but he was responsible for that iconic look.
SHOCK: He’s a genius. (*Note: Production designer of “Watchmen,” “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” “Man of Steel”)
HARDY: Yes, and that was one of his first films.
SHOCK: The first two!
HARDY: Yeah, his work’s incredible. I don’t necessarily want to go into all the differences.
SHOCK: But it’s definitely still a “go” for you?
HARDY: Yeah. We were in full pre-production, we had a whole crew of people working, sets being built, and then this thing happened at Relativity that everyone knows about so we’re just waiting for that to level out. There’s plenty of people excited about it.
SHOCK: Are the sets in storage?
HARDY: In flames, I think. (laughs) Unfortunately you can’t keep things like that. We’re basically ready to resume as soon as they get things together. Keep watching.
THE HALLOW opens in VOD and select New York theaters on November 6, followed by select Los Angeles theaters on November 13.
(Photo Credit: Max Evry)