Written by Luke Barnes
Hey Everyone! I recent had a chat with writer/director Terence Elliott about his new horror feature Devil In The Woods, which follows a group of film studies students out in the woods who soon run into something supernatural, in our conversation we talk about, the creepiness of the woods, Ti west, and a shared remembering of our days as film studies students.
Q: How would you describe the film in a word?
TE: That’s a tough one, I guess I’d say tragic. Yeah, tragic. I think that really covers some events that predate the story, along with the path that follows.
Q: Who is your filmmaking inspiration?
TE: Ok this is a 2 fold answer. My first inspiration has to be John Carpenter. I remember as a child seeing Halloween for the very first time on BBC 2. Mark Kemode presented an intro to the film and I was aw struck. Carpenter has such a unique classic look to his films, and he is the master of creating suspense and dread. I’d have to also say Peter Goddard. I met Peter working in retail many years ago, and he asked me to help fill a small role in his debut feature film ‘Season of the Witch’. It was so inspiring to see someone just getting out there and making a film, something I’d wanted to do but didn’t think a real possibility. From there I’ve been fortunate to work with and learn a lot on subsequent films.
Q: Do you have any funny on set stories?
TE: Yes! On the final large shoot, which had been plagued with Delays due to recent lockdowns and Covid restrictions, we were finally able to get going. Nicholas Carter, who plays Officer West, had stepped up to help out with gore fx at the last minute, but first he’d overslept when I’d gone to pick him up, then he got an Uber from 30 miles away, got dropped off but took the wrong turning and was lost in the woods! He found us eventually.
Q: How important is natural horror to you in the film?
TE: Whilst I love all sorts of horror, even cross genres with things like sci fi, I think there’s something instinctively scary when that horror could be close to home, based in reality. Saying that, a big influence on the script for the Harvest of the Dead films was H.P. Lovecraft, and that’s some of the most out there stuff!
Q: Did you focus on atmospheric horror over jump scares? And if so how did you strike the balance between the two?
TE: Atmospheric horror for sure. I find jump scares more often than not just a bit on the nose. Yes, I tend to jump at them myself 9 times out of 10, but when writing I focus more of creating that sense of unnerving, I find that far more interesting
Q: What was your catalyst for making this film?
TE: So I’d co-written and played the killer in Peter Goddard’s Harvest of the Dead and had a greater involvement in the script on its sequel, along with helping more and getting more involved, so really I felt that I needed to challenge myself with writing a feature script myself and trying my hand at directing.
Q: For me this film brought back a lot of memories of shooting short films in the woods, was that the idea to capture a sense of nostalgia within film students?
TE: Yes it was a trip down nostalgia avenue for me as my first media assignment was a short horror filmed in the local woods over a decade before. With zero budget filmmaking you have to be practical with what you can shoot and where, it just so happened that I’d wanted to create this film project within a film and went to my roots with the location.
Q: Sequel ideas or future projects?
TE: I’d deliberately left the ending lingering on a particular item as all the answers for the surviving characters could be found on that (being vague to avoid spoilers!) but I don’t know if I’ll ever be returning to those characters and that world. I like the ambiguity of it and there’s a direct starting point to pick things up from but right now I have no plans for a sequel.
Q: How would you describe the current state of horror?
TE: There’s a lot of interesting projects going on currently. Ari Aster is a big inspiration with his features Hereditary and Midsommar so I’m looking forward to what he makes next. Also I’d heard Ti West is returning to horror which is very exciting. Peter Goddard and I have just finished a script for our next collaboration which we’re both very excited to get started filming. I think horror is in a good place, you just have to keep your ear to the ground and know what to look out for, as there’s some real gems recently.
Q: If you won an award or Oscar for this film who would you thank?
TE: I’d obviously thank the cast and crew, without their tireless effort none of this would be possible. Again, Peter Goddard for helping me really from day one, whether loaning me equipment, offering editing advice or filming a lot of the action scenes, I’m indebted to him. Also my mum. Me and my sister, Cari Payne who operated the boom and played Judy Lench, lost our mum about a month after production started. It was a really tough time but also brought us closer together so if this won an Oscar, it’s for you Mum!
If you would like to watch Devil In The Woods you can find it on DVD or on BD-R via Vipco and as always you can find my review of the film on site now.