The Retreat is a new LGBT-themed horror film about a young lesbian couple who come face to face with true evil in a cabin in the woods. The film is directed by Pat Mills, who has only ever directed comedy films before. His first foray into horror is an impressive one, and I was lucky enough to chat with the innovative filmmaker about how the idea came to be, his love for the horror genre, and representation of queer women in horror.
Wicked Horror: Your film The Retreat is coming out May 21, and as a queer horror fan myself, it’s really exciting to see LGBT stories being told in my favorite genre, so thank you for that!
Pat Mills: Oh, your welcome! It was a lot of fun.
Wicked Horror: This movie is really unsettling, especially for queer people, so my first question for you is, how did this frightening idea originally come to be?
Pat Mills: Well, actually, the original idea came from an experience that our writer, Alyson Richards, had. She had gone on this camping trip, like a cabin in the woods type of deal, with her now-wife, and while they were staying in this cabin they kept on feeling like they were being watched. It turned out people were actually just delivering baskets but they never saw anybody during their entire stay at this cabin. But the film was also tapping into this fear that queer people feel when they leave the city. I think anyone who is queer-identified can definitely relate to the feeling of traveling outside of the city and not being able to be yourself and be comfortable, that feeling of not wanting to display affection once you go into the country. When I first read the screenplay I absolutely related to it because I’ve driven across America by myself, and I know how scary it can be when you feel like you can’t be yourself because you don’t know your environment.
Wicked Horror: Since you read the script before you were officially on board to direct, how and when did you first get involved with the project?
Pat Mills: I got involved pretty early on, when it was just an idea, and that was probably over ten years ago, when the first initial spark happened. Alyson is not only a writer but a producer as well and she produced my first two films, Guidance and Don’t Talk To Irene. Alyson and I are friends on top of collaborative partners, and we have actually been in that experience where you leave the city and are uncomfortable together. I mean we would have situations where we would decide that it would be better to just come off as straight, like us as a straight couple in that environment. So it was a collaborative process in terms of getting the script made.
Wicked Horror: The Retreat is definitely a horror movie, and your first two films are fairly light comedies, so what made you want to change tones and take a much darker route with your latest film?
Pat Mills: Well, I think because I’ve done a couple of features now, I know I’m capable of a certain tone, but I love taking risks, like just doing something completely different. The Retreat was always so opposite of everything I’ve always done and what people expect me to do, so I was just so excited to try a genre piece. I’ve always loved horror movies which some people find surprising considering the work that I usually do, but I watched horror movies from a very young age, and I still watch them. I just find them so entertaining and in my opinion, the simpler the better. The script of The Retreat was really simple, and it was about survival, and that really drew me to it. And another thing I loved about the script was that the women don’t turn on each other. I find that with queer women depicted in film, there’s always this element of betrayal. High Tension is a good example of this. In that film, you’re introduced to this great, awesome butch lesbian character, and she actually turns out to be the bad guy.
Wicked Horror: Oh yeah. And in that film, it’s almost as if she’s bad because of her sexuality at the end.
Pat Mills: Exactly. It’s like her sexuality is something to demonize, and almost makes her a demon. Alyson and I wanted the women in The Retreat to help each other when they fight back, rather than turning on each other. I feel like a lot of people are expecting a betrayal, but no, in this film, the women work together.
Wicked Horror: I see this movie as sort of like a queer Hostel, which in my opinion is a modern horror classic, so what other classic horror film with a queer twist would you either like to see come out or make yourself?
Pat Mills: Oh god, I feel like The Shining would be really interesting. I love that movie. (pause) I feel like the breakdown of a queer relationship where the characters are completely isolated would be really interesting.
Wicked Horror: In regards to The Retreat, I thought the villains and their motivations were very unique for a horror film. What were the inspirations for these villains?
Pat Mills: I mean, in the past three years or so, there seems to have been this rise in the alt-right, and the internet has empowered them and brought them all together. So the killers are really inspired by these right-wing extremist trolls. These are people who feel like if anyone else is getting equality, their place is being threatened, and in their minds, they are fighting back. So we were really just taking a cue from the internet, and just turning on the news and seeing all of the right-wing protests. These people are all empowering each other to fight equality, which really just boggles my mind.
Wicked Horror: Do you have any plans for a sequel, because at least in my mind, the film’s ending seems like things have been left open for a sequel.
Pat Mills: I would totally be up to do a sequel! I mean Valerie and Renee are great characters, and the film had a great cast, so I’d love to explore those two characters in a different scenario! Both Alyson and I have other projects lined up to do, so a sequel isn’t currently in the works, but it definitely could be, never say never!