He's best known to genre fans as co-writer of the Feast series and SAW films with his writing partner Patrick Melton. But this Friday Marcus Dunstan will see his directorial debut - The Collector - hit theaters across the country. We chatted with Melton and Dunstan about writing horror for themselves and others. Hit the jump for the full interview.
FEARnet - Tell us about The Collector.
Patrick Melton - The Collector is about our lead character, Arkin, he's from the wrong side of the tracks. He gets to know these city slickers when they come out to buy these homes and earn their trust as a handyman, he'll wait for them to go out of town and then he'll rob them. That's where the movie starts, Arkin has a new family, gets to know them real well. That night they're going out of town, he's going to break into the house and steal something from the safe and that's when he realizes the family is still there. They're tied up in the basement and they're being tortured and murdered one by one. There's a man in the house - a home invader- and this person doesn't know that our lead character is in the house. So our lead character has to either leave and get out of the house or he's gotta become the hero and save this family.
FEARnet - We were talking about your influences earlier, like Tenebre and other Italian horror films?
Marcus Dunstan - What I found stunning growing up was that you would see a lot of slasher films from the 70's and 80's that were resorting to kind of a cheaper shock. Horror films today use a lot of volume and whiz-bang editing. It's so quick they're almost trying to trick you into being scared. Those Italian slasher films would allow the camera to glide up to a threat and only use music sporadically. If anything they were trying to make something lurid and grotesque beautiful. If only for a second, if only in the moment of death for these characters, you were seeing something that had a bit of poetry to it. So what we wanted to do was to take that feeling and turn it into a 90 minute thrill ride.
FEARnet - Was there a sense of freedom knowing (as a writer) that you were also going to direct?
Marcus Dunstan - The great thing about this experience was that you have three storytellers across the path. You have the writer, director and editor. Being able to wear a few of those hats was absolutely liberating. We were also able to learn what a director has to go through and the sacrifices along the way. But also, as writers we were able to protect those pages, sometimes ferociously to make sure the story and every nook and cranny was covered.
FEARnet - So the film is Rated R and if you go to the MPAA site it says it was rated R for 'pervasive, sadistic and bloody violence' - would you care to comment?
Marcus Dunstan - The MPAA graciously awarded us an R after 4 trips. Rightfully so. We went too far (laughs), we went way too far. I think they got sick of us after a while. It's a credit to our actors that when the hurt comes they really sell it. So anytime we had a bit of violence it was just registering off the charts. If we were to take all of the notes about where we were supposed to cut we would have had to have lopped off about 20 minutes. Fortunately we got out of there losing only about 7 seconds.
Patrick Melton - The thing is, we're involved with the SAW movies and those are pretty bloody, pervasive and sadistic, so we were a little confused as to why we were being hit so hard by the MPAA on this one, but what it came down to is that they said it was too real and intense. It's a pretty hard R, and probably one of the most intense theatrical horror movies this year. It's an original modern horror movie that isn't a sequel or a remake. This is not Prom Night; this is a serious horror movie.
FEARnet - Any plans to put the full version on DVD?
Marcus Dunstan - The nice irony of going through that process was that the edits made it hit even harder so then impact has been preserved. I think it would be a bit of a rouse if we were like 'Uncut The Collector - Blood Edition!' and it was like 7 seconds [longer]. This is exactly what we wanted to show you. There are some things we intentionally shot for extras, but we'll save that...
Patrick Melton - Actually we have a really good extra, in any kind of horror movie or thriller, there's always this moment, heroes always save the day but we had this alternative moment in the movie where the hero is at his moral dilemma around page 30, when he's either gonna save the family or get out of there. For the DVD extra we have a moment where he's like 'Fuck you, I'm out of here!' (laughs) It would've been a short film if that was his characters decision but it was what about 90% of people would do.
FEARnet - How was the screening last night?
Marcus Dunstan - We left them shaken and stirred. It was nice to see. This is our third stop, we started in Detroit where it was great. 4 rounds of applause. Then we went to Austin where we had a packed house. The reviews have been amazing. We're here to get the word out so we can hopefully leave a foot print at the box office when the film comes out this Friday.