Welcome readers, and horror-loving fans of Dark Temple Motion Pictures!
You may have noticed we have a new movie trailer released online (if you haven’t seen it you MUST watch it below) and a new movie means a new script! So as I’ve done with Labyrinthia and Escape From Cannibal Farm, I’ve enjoyed taking the time to reflect upon the script to share with you here some influences on the film, so you can anticipate what horrifying delights are in store for you when THE HOUSE OF VIOLENT DESIRE is released later this year!
Let me begin by saying that I really am proud of this screenplay, I think its my best storytelling so far and I can’t wait for people to see the film, yet the whole production really came about in an odd way… I’ll explain!
Before I even had an idea to make this movie I was offered the location, back in July or August of 2016, just after I’d completed filming Escape From Cannibal Farm and wasn’t even thinking of making another movie so soon. The location was a stunning 13th Century castle in France and I most definitely did not have a script lying around that was set in an old castle. But was I going to let this insane location go to waste? Absolutely not!
The vast size of the place reminded me of grand, epic horror movies like The Shining, and the wonderful period furniture, towering fireplaces and intricate chandliers made me recall both the old italian horrors I love so much, like Suspiria or Black Sabbath, and a very old fashioned gothic horror style remenisent of the sets seen in any old Dracula flick. This was a giant mansion sat at the top of a hill along a misty valley, it was epic.
So my brain swiftly got to work and I leapt at the chance to come up with a very gothic horror story I could set here. Of course this place would be haunted, yes indeed there’d be ghosts and a secluded 1940s family living in isolation at the mercy of the supernatural!
As for my influences, lets start with the gothic horror cliches, which I can barely trace back to any one source, they are just the cliches done time and time again. When tackling a certain sub-genre of horror, in this case the gothic haunted-house movie, as both writer and director I take great delight in utlizing all the cliches you’d come to expect. So what was there? My regular actor Barrington De La Roche would of course be coming on board to play the creepy groundskeeper with a sinister hidden agenda...
Another regular, Rowena Bentley, would play the tyrannical mistress of the house. There had to be a ominous attic door, to a locked attic room that is obviously off limits, and would even more obviously be unlocked and harbour some ghostly activity… An old well. An old locked trunk. An old cellar. Anything bloody old and cobwebbed! And so on, these ideas were a must have on my wish-list for the film.
Looking over the gothic genre, in both film and literature, I wanted to include the true essence of a gothic tale, which is a mixture of both romance and horror, an exploration of dark and forbidden themes that are considered taboo in society. Therefore The House Of Violent Desire is as much about love, lust and romance as it is about ghosts and murders. Obviously times have changed since Wuthering Heights or Frankenstein were considered controversial, so I wanted to make a film with more contemporary risqué elements, and this is how the film came to have its sexual undertones, with
themes of forbidden love explored through gay and lesbian characters, and characters with particularly fetishistic tastes in love-making…
To say anymore would ruin the shocks and surprises entirely, but lets just say we all had a great freaky time shooting some of these scenes on location, with a ghostly character wandering the attic that came to be known on set simply as ‘the gimp’… and traumatised some of the cast along the way!
Moving onto influential films, one that was an essential influence on these sexual elements of the script was Kubrick’s EYES WIDE SHUT.
When it comes to modern stories that have surprised me with their foray into dark and taboo territory, Eyes Wide Shut is one of my favourites, with its central orgy scene simply being one of cinema’s all time greatest moments that I found terrifying, beautiful and mesmerising all at once, at risk of sounding like a pervert here. The way the characters in that film experience their troubled and repressed feelings of lust and desire felt like such a potent theme to me that I knew that was what my gothic film should explore, it was a perfect fit.
Now if my film was to steer into that territory I needed to make sure it began somewhere absolutely opposite, which is how a good story works, making my characters the completely wrong people to come up against these types of situations in order to pull off a compelling tale/journey within the script. This was going to be an extremely strict, isolated and repressed family; three very innocent and naive children, a very religious overbearing mother, yet -to put it bluntly- some very horny and seductive supernatural entities. Well, there was the film’s conflict, and the story really came flooding in from there.
Of course, I looked to some great ghost stories and haunted house movies, my number one choice being The Others, which the whole cast watched together the night before we began shooting this film. The religious Mum, the innocent children, the spooky groundskeepers, the isolated house… The Others has so many gothic elements done so well, it was impossible not to take some inspiration from the film. In fact, I mostly watched The Others just so I could go back over my script and try to remove anything that was turning out too similar and forcing myself to come up with more original ideas!
My love for typical gothic fare was at risk of entrapping me in the realm of what has already been so overdone and is now just boring. One thing I knew I wanted, and I’m not sure where exactly this came from, was to follow this story from the perspective of the house maid. In the limited
amount of gothic period dramas I have seen I couldn’t really remember seeing the story told from the maid's point of view, and my story needed this outsider’s view of this slightly deranged and deluded family. Cordetta Crimson Rose became the film’s protagonist, leading us into the threatening Black Rock Manor, and once inside no other inhabitant was to be trusted. So we had our black female lead, played brilliantly by Esme Sears, taking us into the story from an angle that didn't feel overdone in typical gothic horror, and my research into the lives of housemaids from the time period also made for good material I could use in the script.
A period drama is a challenge for a horror fan like me I suppose, I do love my action and violence, plus I had just shot Escape From Cannibal Farm! So The House Of Violent Desire needed to deliver the horror goods after its slow build up of mystery and suspense. I surprised myself while writing the film, that this gothic period drama could descend into such bloody, brutal horror - especially (without spoiling the plot) when sex and violence become intertwined, do darker scenes become very hard to read/shoot/watch… Hehehe, this is going to be so much fun to watch with an audience (also, sorry Mum, sorry Grandparents, and so on…). The film is a decent into madness, a decent into violence, and movies like The Shining are great inspiration for that type of horror.
Now talking of violence and gore, as I mentioned earlier, I love my Italian horror, and film director Mario Bava is really the grandfather of modern gothic. This meant we wouldn’t be taking The Others route of washed-out, almost black and white gothic settings, this would be drenched in vivid colour (and drenched in blood and violence too, of course); reds and blues and even pinks! Pink was our colour for everytime a supernatural
element was introduced to the film, a different approach to introducing scary elements than what you’d see in most of today’s dull horrors.
Blood And Black Lace and Black Sabbath were two films me and cinematographer Michael Lloyd watched together to find the look and style of the film, 60s/70s Italian Giallo above all else was our visual influence. The Italian flare for mixing beauty with graphic violence was something I sought to include, and it certainly found its place within my script. The great architecture of the location was also something we worked into Michael’s camerawork, which is of great importance when shooting a haunted house flick - I refer once again to The Shining, but even modern films like Insidious are highly inventive in this area.
The film is currently in post-production and will likely be completed this summer. We had an incredible 23 days shooting and running riot in the magnificent castle location, the scariest attic I’ve ever stepped foot in, and from it we’ve gained a gothic horror film I can’t wait for everyone to see, so keep your eyes peeled for an unkindly invite to The House Of Violent Desire later on this year.
Thanks for reading,