I have a bad habit of not really knowing who directors are. It’s one of those super important, but also kind of invisible roles. Darren Lynn Bousman is one of the few that just lives in my brain. He’s directed a lot of the movies that have become important parts of my adult movie watching experience. From several of the Saw movies to The Devil’s Carnival, and, coming out October 2nd, The Death of Me. The Death of Me. We caught up with the director to discuss his latest effort, past projects, and why horror matters! Read on for the full exchange!
Wicked Horror: I’m going to tell you the story of how I almost got arrested going to see Repo! The Genetic Opera while I stall and try to get this recording working. We had to drive to Texas. It was the only showing we could get to with my friends. And we got pulled over for having a broken tail light and they brought the drug dogs out because they didn’t believe we were crossing state lines just to see a movie dressed the way we were.
Darren Lynn Bousman: Well, I am sorry to hear that. You know a really quick, fun anecdote to that is in a publication, it might have been Us Weekly or People, Paris Hilton quotes that she was arrested on the way to go to Saw 4 prior to doing Repo. So, I guess Repo‘s gotten a lot of people in trouble with the law.
Wicked Horror: I mean, that tracks. One of the things I always love about horror is that I feel like you can get so many interesting metaphors. I’m curious, what makes horror special to you?
Darren Lynn Bousman: I think that horror is a genre that people can easily dismiss as being, you know, torture, or gore, or no substance and I think it’s the opposite. I think horror deals with so many important issues and tackles so many different emotions and feelings that, to me, horror is cathartic and it’s a release. And it, I think, keeps me sane because you can get out all of this rage, and anger, and fear through movies as opposed to real life. And so, I think that horror, to me, is an escape as viewer, as an audience member, as well as a creator. So, to me, it’s an important genre because it deals with so many emotions
Wicked Horror: Yeah. I totally agree with you on that one. I watched The Death of Me and on the surface, it appears to be a movie about dumb Americans who trespass. Is there an underlying message there?
Darren Lynn Bousman: I mean, yeah. I think it’s people who are in the wrong place at the wrong time and fall victim to this belief system—this religious thing—displayed there. It’s funny, when I set out to make movies, I don’t know if I ever set out with a huge message in them. I think you find that message in the ending. And I think you find it in the release of the movie. It’s funny, I’ve talked to a couple of people that have mentioned global warming. And I didn’t get what they were talking about. But then I started to understand that, you know, a huge storm is coming and it’s going to destroy this island. And just by a simple sacrifice it will save thousands and thousands of people. I think that it’s an interesting idea. Just the idea of “is killing one worth it?” Because it will save thousands. It’s a dilemma. Because if you can save thousands of people with one to die, wouldn’t it be worth it? And so, it deals with a lot of issues which I kind of dig and I kind of like. And I like that I get to go to Thailand and film a movie.
Wicked Horror: The whole setting was just beautiful.
Darren Lynn Bousman: Oh, thank you. Yeah, I’d never been to Thailand and we got to shoot in some amazing places.
Wicked Horror: Yeah. All of it was a joy to look at. How do you feel the addition of these horrific elements adds to this story in particular?
Darren Lynn Bousman: I think that everyone travels. I mean, most everyone travels. I travel a lot. You know, we go on vacations and we go to exotic lands if we can. And I think we’ve all found ourselves out of our comfort zone. But imagine, take it another step further, and say, you’re out of your comfort zone and then you lose your phone. And then your passport. And then you miss the last boat. And how quickly it is to disappear and fall within the cracks. I think that’s something that is absolutely terrifying. Then, when you put with falling through the cracks, you’re caught in this very small island with this kind of scary-ass ceremony going on. It’s not that far-fetched, as ridiculous as it sounds. I go fishing with my dad a lot. And to get to the place where we went fishing, it took three separate planes. You took the big plane, then you took, like, a smaller plane, then you took a puddle jumper—the puddle jumper is a four-seater—and then you land and you take a boat. And I realized, I am now a boat and three plane rides away from civilization. And you realize that you’re out there and any bad, terrible shit could happen and you’re fucked. I mean, I guess you could get away by swimming, but you realize how vulnerable you actually can be. So, I thought that was an interesting spin on how to push that toward horror.
Wicked Horror: It reminds me of the old urban legend about the girl that goes to Paris and her mom gets sick and dies and then everyone is like, “You came alone!”
Darren Lynn Bousman: Yeah, I find I do a lot of films of myself. Sh*t that I’m going through and I’ve been out of the country shooting a lot. I shot in Japan a few years back. I was gone for two-and-half months, Barcelona, and, you know, when you go to these places, I go by myself and I’m there without my wife. I’m just there. And there are moments that I felt frightened. Not because—Japan’s the safest place I’ve ever been. But frightened in the way that—there was one time that I was walking around and my phone died. And I didn’t speak the language and I had no fucking clue how to get back to where I was supposed to go. So, I think there’s just something inherently frightening about that. And I love religion. I love being on the wrong side of someone’s belief system. It can be a scary place to be.
Wicked Horror: Oh, you can definitely see that with The Devil’s Carnival.
Darren Lynn Bousman: Exactly. If you look at my last five or six films, I deal with religion as a backbone. Devil’s Carnival, Alleluia!, Abattoir, St. Agatha and now this. They all kind of have their roots in belief and faith.
Wicked Horror: How do you feel, having had a lot of experience in the splatterpunk kind of torture cinema, about the genre seeming to shift away from that in favor of less visceral fare.
Darren Lynn Bousman: I love that topic. I think that horror goes in a three-sixty. So, what was popular in the seventies fell out in the eighties. And then that turned into the two-thousands and it found its way back with the Saw movies. Meaning that, in the seventies, there were these, what were called video nasties, really intense films from The Last House on the Left to The Hills Have Eyes. Just really intense genre fare. And then those kind of fell away for other films. And by the early two-thousands and late nineties you were dealing with a lot of teenagers in peril. You would deal with things like—I’m completely blanking on the title, but there were, like, five of them. You dealt with a lot, like, high school horror. And it stopped becoming so in your face. But then, a few years later, these torturous movies come back. I think that everything is just a fashion. Things fall out of fashion and then they come back. They were hot around the seventies, they fell out, then they come back. So, I don’t think we’re done seeing those extreme, vicious, violent movies. I think they fall out and I think, once something’s popular, the market becomes saturated with them. And then the audiences become bored of them because they’ve seen so many of them. You know, Saw is popular, and then there’s a thousand other movies like Saw that get made. And people say, “You know, I’ve seen that. I’m done. I’m going to move to something else.” And then it’ll find its way back. I think, for me, another kind of thing with that is, you know, we grow up. When I was twenty-five or twenty-four making Saw, I used violence as a gimmick. Now, I’m forty-one. I’ve got two kids, I’ve got two dogs, I live in a house and I’m affected by violence much more than I was as a twenty-five year old guy. So, my movies still have violence. The new Saw movie has a ton of f*cking violence. But I no longer use it as a gimmick. And I think part of that is just to do with my maturing and new life experiences.