The trailer for Dark Temple Motion Picture's third horror feature film "The Barge People" has hit the internet and is hopefully reaching all you bloodthirsty horror fans, so its time to share some of the influences and inspirations behind the movie and discuss how the film came to be! This is the first film Director/Producer Charlie Steeds has made without also writing the screenplay himself, so screenwriter Christopher Lombard also joins us to share all the gory details.
If you haven’t already seen the official trailer you can watch it at the bottom of this page. The Barge People is an indie British horror flick in which a group of unsuspecting holidaymakers go for a quiet weekend away on the canal, soon to be savaged by flesh hungry mutants known as The Barge People...
Chris, where the hell did this wild idea come from?
Christopher Lombard (CL): I first gave birth to the story back in 2011 when I resided in a canal side flat in my home town of Coventry, where I would often go jogging along the canal, sometimes early morning in the dark before sun rise.
Charlie Steeds (CS): And the film starts with a jogger coming upon a gruesome discovery on the canal!
CL: It was during these runs that I started to ponder the notion - you could go missing along some of these remote canal paths and no one would know! The seed now planted, the story and characters began to grow…
CS: Which is interesting because when we got out on the canal to film the movie, many of the events and details within the script actually did happen to the cast and crew! Chris went on a canal holiday himself to further influence his writing, so you can see how these real life experiences fed into the story. Getting shouted at by the locals, struggling to steer the barge and generally being creeped out… The canal at night, when you’re moored up in your barge (or halfway beached in a smelly bog if you’re The Barge People team…) can actually be quite spooky.
Its basically a backwoods horror film, like The Hills Have Eyes, was it easy to find a fresh angle on that subgenre?
CS: Well firstly, the way the script came to me was that whilst I was shooting my film Escape From Cannibal Farm my lead actor Kate Davies-Speak was reminded of The Barge People script, which she’d read some years ago, because Cannibal Farm was also a backwoods horror with similar influences, she thought I might be interested in that style of film again.
CL: One of the hardest parts of writing any story is coming up with a unique idea, something that perhaps sounds a little familiar but also feels fresh and different to what has come before. But a canal/narrow boat setting felt very unique and interesting to me so I knew I could be onto something.
CS: I thought it was unique as soon as Chris passed it on to me via Kate, setting it on the canal, on boats, is such a British take on the genre. Instead of an RV breaking down in a desert (The Hills Have Eyes) you’ve got a narrow boat moored up on this gloomy canal. I’ve not seen the British take on these classic horror stories yet. But Chris is right, espeically as an indie film you don’t want to stray too far from what horror fans know and love. The Hills Have Eyes on a canal is the basic concept for me, and its what led us to decide to have The Barge People mutants be more fish-like (one even has gills!) in the way The Hills Have Eyes’ mutants look well adapted to the deserts/mines.
CL: Having grown up watching horror films, I’ve always had a fascination with the psychology behind serial killers, so a family of evil cannibals - outcasts of society surviving anyway they can by killing and eating innocent tourists, felt like the perfect story to explore for the setting I had chosen.
CS: A setting that, whilst unique, was an absolute pain in the ass to film! So never try to make a movie on a narrow boat, lesson learned.
CL: A friend recommended I look into the true story of Sawney Bean which became a great source of inspiration for the Barge People cannibals/creatures.
CS: And the story of Sawney Bean was also something I read into a lot whilst writing Escape From Cannibal Farm, which I’d first heard about when Wes Craven mentioned it as the source of inspiration for the original The Hills Have Eyes. So that old tale is really the grandfather of all backwoods horror stories it would seem.
CL: I wanted to keep the story fairly simple, so decided to set it over one night with the protagonists being a group of city-dwelling friends who encounter canal side locals who are then all stalked and savagely attacked, making it simply a story about survival. A Deliverance (1972) sort of scenario, mixed with the savage brutality of The Hills Have Eyes (Remake/ 2006) and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) , and you get an idea of what page I was on.
CS: Mainly, what I loved about the script was that its really a pure horror movie that delivers the goods, there’s this suspenseful build up to nightfall, where we get to know our characters, but then as soon as The Barge People show up all hell breaks loose and it doesn’t let up until the end of the film. Its a dark and savage and relentless battle for survival and I wanted to try my hand at taking the viewer on that wild ride.
So Charlie, now that the script was in your hands did you draw inspirations from anywhere else?
CS: Me and Chris were on the same page right away because we both adore The Hill Have Eyes remake, and
everything from its gritty raw style to its brutal bloody violence, those were things we wanted for The Barge People. I don’t think action/revenge horror is often done as well as that film did it, everything’s gloomy modern houses and slow suspense these days, I wanted energy!
But because this is set in England and on the canal, I was far more influenced by films like The Fog when it came to the colours and visuals for the horror scenes. Me and cinematographer Michael Lloyd aimed to focus on aquatic colours, greens and blues, to accomapny The Barge People characters, and we shot in October so it was often wet and miserable and raining (we were caught in a storm for a few nights, which you can really see in the film). Half of the movie is set at night, maybe more. We’d fill the woods with smoke and shafts of deep blue moonlight to get a certain atmosphere that is perhaps more gothic than slasher flick-esque. Long Weekend was another film that I had in my mind when shooting the outdoor stuff, its a great movie.
From where the creatures arrive we shot everything handheld to lend the film that rough, raw edge. The final half of the script is pretty much in real time, following the characters and I need the viewer to feel like they’re there with them, running, being hunted, fighting to stay alive, it was the most phsyical and gruelling shoot for the actors and crew that I’ve done so far.
When it came to the violence and the creatures, I steered it in a slightly more outlandish direction, especially having The Barge People be quite as monstrous as they are, they’re not just feral people (as they were in earlier
drafts) they’re full blown monsters! I knew there would be the chance to use buckets and buckets of blood, and I did lean more to that Evil Dead style of over-the-top use of blood. I wanted The Barge People to have this green slime that would spray out everywhere, instead of red blood (there was already so so much of that) it had to just be carnage! That’s why I added in this stunt where a character is thrown through a wall in the Barge, the whole place had to get entirely destroyed in this mega action set piece where we’re first introduced to the creatures. And so in addition to filming on a real barge on location, we built the interior as a set which we could totally wreck.
Would you say that survival is the theme of this story?
CL: I didn’t want to create a story that’s just about a bunch of people getting killed, I wanted to explore a story about a group that effectively enter a different world, a world that is the opposite to the one that they know, a world free of conformity and rules, a world where only the strongest survive!
CS: The themes that stuck out to me from the script were those of privilaged city folk mixing with people who live on the canal and live a different sort of lifestyle. Then there’s the extreme of that, where we have these mutants simply feeding on tourists to survive, and that’s their own way of life. But throughout the film, and I hope this doesn’t give too much away, its the bond that develops between the city characters and the characters from the canal that is really key to the film’s central theme. The city folk are forced to adapt if they want to stay alive!
CL: When I started writing screenplays, my goal from the outset was to create characters and stories that invoke emotion, intrigue and most importantly, entertain, and under the direction of Charlie Steeds, the talented cast bringing these characters to life, and Michael Lloyd’s stylish cinematography, I am positive The Barge People will do just that!
BELOW IS DIRECTOR CHARLIE STEEDS' MOODBOARD FOR "THE BARGE PEOPLE"
The Barge People has recently completed post-production and will be released direct to DVD and VOD in 2019.