Director Paul Hyett Chats About Howl

Paul Hyett

Close-Up Film’s Mark Bartlett caught up with practical effects guru turned director Paul Hyett (The Seasoning House) ahead of the release of his second feature Howl, which sees a disparate group of stranded train passengers besieged by Werewolves. It’s enormously entertaining, gory fun and Paul was kind enough to share some info to whet our appetites. Howl stars Ed Speelers, Sean Pertwee, Rosie Day, Shauna MacDonald and Duncan Preston. Contains mild spoilers.

Close-Up:

Howl was an absolute blast and couldn’t be more different from The Seasoning House. Was there a specific vibe you were going for or did you have any really prominent influences?

Hyett:

Yes it is very different to The Seasoning House. I wanted to do something totally different and the thought of going from a dark, bleak film to a fun, popcorn creature really appealed to me. Influences wise, films like John Carpenter’s The Thing, the 70’s disaster movies, The Towering Inferno, Earthquake etc. I loved the whole premise of interesting characters and how they react in a confined space to a threat outside. I really wanted to have a colourful retro-type movie; I kind of miss those movies, so when Howl came along I was finally able to do a fun traditional retro- ‘creature feature’.

Close-Up:

The Werewolf movie is having a bit of a resurgence at the moment. Along with the writers did you have deliberate intentions to contribute something new to their lore?

Hyett:

Well, it was always in the discussion to try not to over think and do something innovative for the sake of it. I thought the script worked because of its traditional aspects, and the main contemporary twists we bring are the mix of visual effects and prosthetics and taking away the mythology of full moons and silver bullets.

I think wanting to ground it in a more modern world for me felt like the traditional romanticised notion of a man instantly turning into beast from a full moon would feel out of place in our movie.

Firstly, I wanted to get away from big old furry werewolves, so my thoughts were to have the transformations take years to fully develop, that it comes from a bite, like a virus that gradually turns a person into a werewolf, that it would take years for the bones to continually breaking, reforming, the muscles to rip and re-heal, gradually turning them into a gnarly old werewolf.

Close-Up:

It certainly made me feel a lot more empathy towards the plight of ticket inspectors and the nonsense they have to suffer. Ed Speelers is really enjoyable as an unlikely hero and leader of sorts. Did Ed carry over any of his characters leadership abilities in between takes?

Hyett:

I suppose there’s always a certain amount of the character that can or may be left between takes. But to be honest what was nice about Howl, and I was lucky to have such a lovely and talented cast, that it was such an ensemble cast, they really worked well together and everyone came prepared with a lot of ideas so it was a very collaborative process when we were blocking scenes and between takes.

Close-Up:

It was great to see Sean Pertwee again, you’ve worked with him several times, at this point is he a lucky charm of sorts?

Hyett:

Sean Pertwee is always a lucky charm. He’s always just so great to have on the set, such a professional, always comes prepared, great at what he does and such a lovely guy to work with. And it was another opportunity for me to kill him!

Close-Up:

I loved the eclectic cast, it was almost like ‘The Breakfast Club‘ of train passengers! Who on the carriage did you personally identify with the most?

Hyett:

I love The Breakfast Club reference! First time I’ve heard that. Who did I identify with most? I’d like to think Ed’s character Joe, someone that doesn’t really know his own potential and in the time of an emergency steps up and shows his true grit. In reality, probably more towards Paul, who makes stupid decisions and is useless in an emergency.

Let’s agree somewhere between the two.

Close-Up:

My wife insists that I ask about any stories you may have about Duncan Preston? (as she was a huge ‘Surgical Spirit‘ fan as a kid!)

Hyett:

Let’s just say I think the world of werewolves and having your neck ripped out was certainly a new experience for him.

Close-Up:

What was the most complicated/difficult shot to achieve in Howl?

Hyett:

I think anything with stunts and creatures and actors in harnesses.

The shot of the creature smashing through the window and grabbing Rosie was pretty tough, just as we had to shoot lots of separate plates to put together in post to accomplish the shot safely, lots of wire rigs, stunt doubles, took a lot of planning.

Using a SteadiCam on a set that [was] essentially a long metal sausage – that was a challenge.

Close-Up:

Have you explored everything you want to within the horror genre at this point?

Hyett:

Oh god, I’ve not even started yet. So many horror stories I want to bring to the screen.

Close-Up:

What is your personal favourite horror film of the last few years?

Hyett:

Most recently, I think I was most blown away by the remake of Maniac. A phenomenal movie, totally blew me away.

 

Howl is released via Metrodome on DVD and Blu-Ray on October 26th.

Author: Mark Bartlett

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