Interview With Director Judson Vaughn And Screen Writer Chris Barnes: Burn

Written by Luke Barnes

I recently had the chance to interview director Judson Vaughn and screen writer Chris Barnes  about their new film Burn, which sees a young boy born into a world of societal panic and hidden truths. We discuss media representations, nature vs nurture and classic horror. As always I hope you enjoy.

Q: What was the message you wanted this film to send?

A: Chris: In the original story, the setting, in my mind, was a lot more working class and no frills; not the grand, rural landscape it ended up becoming – the idea being psychopathic serial killers didn’t have to be these completely cut-off and detached characters. They could be living right next door, only a thin layer of bricks away. The story evolved as myself and Judson worked on my initial idea and script to something much more grand but that’s how it began.   

Judson: That how everything can seem so normal beneath a veneer, whilst trying to convey a subtle sense of former glory (the house and family) of a bygone era as well as crumbling murderous ways – the end of a murderous bloodline… or is it?? 🙂

Q: The film often comments on the nature of worry and panic what inspired this choice?

A: Chris: I guess it came from how the media (and whom they’re driven by), in the main, thrives on fear to keep control. While an active serial killer is an extreme example, I feel that awful events and ‘stories’ are almost welcomed by certain parties to keep people scared and compliant.

Q: The child in the film is essentially born from the sins of the parents in what way do you think this is reflective of early childhood?

A: Chris: I suppose it’s the old ‘nature versus nurture’ debate. Does Charlie learn this behaviour purely from DVDs? It’s doubtful. External influences and a million other things play their part too, and not knowing exactly what they are is why such dark stories and characters are so fun, I guess. 

Judson: I think it can and does happen, but we have to remind ourselves and remain respectful, mindful of the fact that a child is its own person essentially, certainly even more once grown up of course… and separate of their parents afflictions – they deserve that separatist thought, they can’t’ be blamed for their parents wrong doings. However… I think there’s always the debate that rages on, about being a product of your environment or not, or rather, how much of an influence it might have been. It was fascinating to explore these themes within BURN.

Q: What inspired you to make this film?

A: Chris: Judson did! I had a story and a rough script and was in contact with Judson for something completely different. I happened to mention to him I had these things and being the boundless, creative crackpot he is, he said “Let’s make it!” I didn’t have a clue. So it’s down to him. What a bastard.
Judson: Hahaha! Chris’s story made me do it. I’m glad we turned it into a red hot multi-award winning shock fest!

Q: Do you have any funny on-set stories?

A: Judson: Yeah, some of the actors got to torcher the director in a memorable scene. I think they really enjoyed that part. I’m in that scene obviously, say no more.

Q: Future plans and projects?

A: Judson: As BURN continues to cinder- its last couple of film fests are approaching (probably Frostbiter next in Iceland) I’m putting together a short dark drama that laughs loudly in the dark called ‘Little Terrors’ we’ll be fundraising this one and also currently raising money for a new feature crime-drama/action called TRIGGER.

Q: What is your favourite horror film?
A: Judson: The Shining – all time fave. Class. I’m always up for a re-watch, just brilliant.

Q: Are any of your own experiences influencing the creation and style of the film?
A: Judson: I guess it’s inevitable, along the way somewhere it will happen, whatever type of film I might make, everything around us can be an inspiration of sorts or subtle influence… I mean if… if you let it… if you want it to be. Let it flow.

Q: Do you have any words for future filmmakers who may be influenced by your work?

A: Judson: Get inspired. Find that inspiration. Seek it out, be compelled. Go tell your story. Just go and make it, no matter the budget. We made BURN for ÂŁ5,390 and it came out pretty cool. Similarly, I’m not afraid to make films with ÂŁ150!

If you would like to check Burn out for yourselves then you can catch it the above mentioned festivals or as it hits digital.

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Burn: There Is No Need To Panic

4/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

The film follows a child, played by Matti Kolirin,  born into an unkind world with themes of national panic and personal tragedy.

I found this to be a surprisingly affecting horror film for a number of reasons, firstly the film does a good job in making us care about the child, their experiences, and how they are growing up, so therefore as things begin to happen you care about the fate of the character. Secondly there is more than enough of our modern times reflected in the film, even though it was made a number of years ago, maybe I am reading into it but I saw a lot of home truths reflective of our current hyper panicked world.

I thought the performances across the board were all strong, I believed the family bond and thought each of the actors played off each other well. I was thoroughly convinced.

My only real criticism of the film would be that there were some pacing issues especially towards the start that really slowed the film down, if it weren’t for them this film could be sweeping full marks

Overall, I related to this film quite a lot and found myself moved by it as well as a little disconcerted.

Pros.

The performances

The ending

The emotion

The relatability

Cons.

Pacing issues  

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Scream 2022: Death Brings New Life

3.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Ghostface is back this time playing by the rules of legacy sequels.

Spoilers

In many respects this film is the best in the Scream series, it nails the tone between scares and laughs and manages to do both fairly well, it has interesting new characters that you end up caring about, and it does something meaningful with the legacy characters.

However, then you get to the third act and the film loses its way and loses several points from me. My first issue with the final was that it is incredibly obvious from the jump who the killers are, the film does little to subvert that and it all plays out exactly how you imagined it would. Secondly, the motivation for why the killer kills, that of them being basically an incel fan who can’t cope with changes to the franchise and so has to try and make his own film, the series of murders, in order to set it right felt insulting to me. I understand it may have been tongue in cheek but to me it came across as the film flashing the fans the finger, which shouldn’t be something the new franchise reviver film sets out to do.

If you put the third act in a box and ignore it then the film is much better. I enjoyed how the film developed Dewey, played by David Arquette, and gave him a fitting heroes’ death, though I think Gale, played by Courtney Cox, would have been a better fit for that plot beat. Speaking off this was the first time in the series I really bought the emotional connection between Gale and Dewey and I thought both actors brought a lot to their respective performances.

Overall, I would say a nice end for the franchise but we all know it won’t be the last film.  

Pros.

Bringing back Skeet Ulrich

Dewey

The new characters

Managing to be both funny and scary

Cons.

The incel fan motivation

It is too obvious

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Scream 4: A Reboot To Mock Reboots

3.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Sidney Prescott, played by Neve Campbell, is now on a book tour trying to help other victims of violence when of course there is yet another Ghostface copycat, this time one obsessed with reboots.

I think of the four films so far this one is my favourite. I thought much like the last film in the series this one manages to nail both the comedy/spoof elements and the slasher horror well. I found myself laughing at the comedy for the first time in the series which was nice as to this point it either left me indifferent or annoyed.

I thought this film finally redeemed Gale, played by Courtney Cox, and finished the character work the last film set up. For so long in the series Cox had the short end of the stick as she was cast as a character who was annoying at best trite at worst, and here she finally becomes the star of the show and probably the best character in the film. Though that honour is contested as there are a number of young stars that give Cox a run for her money, mainly Hayden Panettiere’s Kirby who stole the show in nearly every scene she was in.

In terms of negatives I didn’t like that the film continued the annoying random first kill trope, but not only continued it expanded it out, made it last longer and was even more smug with it. I don’t find this bit funny, rather I find it tedious and it makes me want to skip through until it is over.

Furthermore, Emma Roberts is really quite uninspired here, she plays the same character she always plays the sassy outsider, who normally turns out to have a heart of gold but here turns out to be the killer. She doesn’t seem like she is trying and honestly her character gets way too much screen time for how poor of a job she is doing.

Overall, again the franchise continues to get better.

Pros.

Some good jokes

I liked the ending

Gale is finally fully redeemed

Panettiere

Cons.

The opening stab montage

Roberts

Pacing issues

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Scream 3: Leave Sidney’s Mum Alone

3/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A new Ghostface emerges on the set of a film about the Woodsboro murders, and of course the gang has come back together to deal with it.

I actually think of the trilogy this is the best. Mainly this is because the film finally seems able to manage its meta commentary and genre stand ups, with good tension and even frightening moments. No longer does the film feel like a parody film.

I also like the character progression here. Neve Campbell’s Sidney finally seems to have learnt something from her previous run ins with killers and is now a deadly force in her own right, I particularly like the scene where it looked like she died but it was a fake out and for a moment she became the slasher. I thought the second film really let Sidney down as it did not advance her character very much at all, however this film does a good job of it. In addition Gale, played by Courtney Cox, has finally seemed to learn the consequences of using people and is humbled here. Again I think this film does a nice job of showing her character growth and her ending feels earned.

Despite the good character work the film also did a number of things I didn’t like. Firstly it continues the trend of featuring a meaningless first kill that is always really drawn out and features a deeply forgettable character trying to mimic Drew Barrymore in the first film. Secondly it introduces these strange trippy elements regarding who Sidney’s mum was and, because of course, her secret life, to me this just felt like desperate padding to find something new they could do with the franchise.

Overall, better but it still has a ways to go.

Pros.

The character work

A fitting end

Sidney the Slasher

Cons.

Everything to do with Sidney’s mum

The drawn out opening kill

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Scream 2: Gale Weathers The Original Gotcha Journalist

2.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A new Ghost Face immerges and forces the Woodsboro gang back together again to stop the killer.

I thought this one was slightly better than the first as it was less annoyingly meta, although it still seems to be undecided on whether it wants to be a serious slasher series or a spoof series, this is an issue as the two tones don’t go well together. The later dramatic scenes jar horribly with the scenes of Dewey, played by David Arquette, being dumb for laughs.

I think the characters are treated a little better here, as though for the most part Gale, played by Courtney Cox, is still written as the shrew architype by the end of the film she has learnt the error of her ways so has maybe grown as a character? I would still say the characters need improving however, they are by no means rounded here.

I think this film will always get more appreciation from me for staring Timothy Olyphant, the man can do no wrong and he is a great Ghost Face here along with Billy Loomis’ mother, played by Laurie Metcalf. The killers are far better this time around and they actually seem to have a believable motive for doing it.

I am not a fan of each Scream film needing to start with some random murder, this film does it and I didn’t like it but I know it gets worse later on.

Overall, an improvement which makes the film at least watchable.

Pros.

The killers

Better character work

Less annoying meta commentary

Cons.

The random opening kill

The characters are still by no means developed

Pacing issues  

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Scream: Meta Comedy At It’s Most Obnoxious

1.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

Clearly Wes Craven wasn’t done with meta comedy after New Nightmare and so takes it to the nth degree here much to the detriment of the film.

As a teen I really enjoyed the Scream series the first film was probably one of my favourite if not my favourite slasher films, however times have changed and I regret to inform you it does not hold up at all. So much so that I actually prefer Scary Movie a film that was designed to parody this film more than the film itself.

I understand the film wants to be knowing and mock the genre but it does it in such an obnoxious way. Rather than point out tropes and go against them the film just turns them up to eleven, tell me is that parody or continuation? A good example of this is Sidney Prescott’s, played by Neve Campbell, aversion to sex. Yes, the final girl is supposed to be pure and viriginistic, grossly sexist I know, but the film is aware of this trope and rather than subvert it, it just features it more prominently does that constitute parody?

Most of the characters are written as incredibly one note and have one stereotypical narrative role to play, yes again I know this is probably done knowingly but it doesn’t excuse the shabby job done here, they could have flipped it or done something different but no. This type of character is perfectly encapsulated in Gale, played by Courtney Cox, a reporter who will do anything for a story and who doesn’t really care about anyone but herself, for most of the film she is written in the shrew architype then they try to shove in a love plot to make her less hateable and honestly it is insultingly poor writing and character construction.

Also I question whether this film is even a slasher film as barely anyone is killed herein, once again in a further aspect the film is surpassed by the spoof version of itself.

Overall, entirely a rose tinted glasses affair, that which upon further inspection in the cold light of day falls apart easily.

Pros.

A few funny moments, some intentional some unintentional

The killer reveal

Cons.

One note characters

Not in any way subverting the tropes

The weird sexual focus on Sidney and her virginity

It is too meta for its own good

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The Devil Rides Out: Christopher Lee Becomes A Magical Warrior Of The Lord

4.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

A satanic secret society infiltrates British high society and Christopher Lee is all that stands between them and their dastardly ends.

Yes, yes I know this film has some racial undertones and is in many respect problematic, but it was from over fifty years ago so I am not hugely surprised. I have acknowledged these elements but for the purpose of my review I am going to try and look past them as little more than a product of their time.

Without further ado on with the review. Christopher Lee was a fantastic actor; he commands the screen here as Duc de Richleau. He brings such gravitas to the performance it is hard to look away, you really buy his performance consistently throughout.

Moreover, the film handles its stakes very well. Though only small in scale the film makes its stakes feel far grander and it is hard not to get caught up in this battle between good and evil. The tension coursing through the film is often palpable especially when it comes to scenes of mental sparing.

The film is beautiful to look at, even though a few of the scenes look quite poor by today’s standards, especially the car chase. However despite this there is longing towards this style of film making within me wherein whole films are not just massive dumps of CGI that underpaid visual effects people were forced to make during one long weekend wherein they couldn’t go home and were paid below minimum wage most likely.

Overall, there is a charm to this film that we don’t seem to see anymore.

Pros.

Lee

The stakes

The tension

The Angel Of Death scenes

The ending

Cons.

The rather blatant racism

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Antlers: Beware The Call Of The Wendigo

2/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

An investigation is undertaken after his school begins to suspect that a young boy may be being abused at home, however, the reality is actually even darker and altogether more supernatural.

I had been looking forward to this film for a long time and had heard good buzz about it, however, upon watching it I was sorely disappointed with it. Firstly it is needlessly bleak and dark for the sake of it, yes I understand the subject matter is unpleasant but that doesn’t mean the film can’t have any fun at all, honestly rather than scare me this film just depressed me. Moreover, the incredibly muted colour pallet done to fit with this aesthetic makes the film look generic and ugly.

I will give the film praise for its creature effects; the wendigo does look good when it appears on screen and is very distinctive. However, in a film so tied to First Nation beliefs it is noticeable that they only have one person of that background on the cast sheet and only use them to fulfil a mystic role, which frankly feels a little insulting.

Overall, this was executed so poorly that any promise it did have quickly dissipates. The wendigo is neat but sadly not much else about it is.

Pros.

The wendigo effects

The actors are trying

Cons.

It is depressing

It is visually uninteresting for the most part

The lack of First Nation representation

Pacing issues

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The Cleanse: Wellness Is A Troubling Industry

2.5/5

Written by Luke Barnes

Summary

After his life falls apart Paul, played by Johnny Galecki, decides to go away on a cleansing retreat to unexpected results.

This whole same plot line was done far better in a twenty minute episode of Rick and Morty. Basically, during Paul’s stay at the retreat he sicks up some form of parasite that is supposed to represent all of his bad qualities, and as part of the retreat he has to kill it so he can become the person he wants to be. The difference between this and the very similar plot line on Rick and Morty is in the latter it only lasts for twenty minutes and the resolution is infinitely better. I thought from the beginning it was incredibly obvious where the film was heading.

The acting is fine Galecki is serviceable enough, no one really stands out. The thing I would give the film props for is the design of the creatures especially as they aged and became more monstrous, I thought they were well designed and made the appropriate impact.

Tonally this film is a mess as it doesn’t seem able to decide what it wants to be, there are serious moments ruined by a poorly written joke for example. It should really either be a straight horror or a darker comedy and not try for both as the writing just isn’t there.

Overall, some good ideas and strong creature design is balanced by a contrived and easy to guess story with a poorly thought through tone.

Pros.

Galecki

The creature design

Some interesting ideas

Cons.

Rick and Morty did it better

The tone is all over the places and clashes frequently

It is incredibly predictable  

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