Frightfest 2014 Interview: The Last Showing director Phil Hawkins Simon Fitzjohn August 6, 2014 Film4 Frightfest 1946 We’ve already tabbed Brit flick The Last Showing as one of the film’s we are most looking forward to at this year’s Frightfest. Starring Robert Englund as a vengeful cinema projectionist on the trail of a pair of loved-up moviegoers, the film looks set to provide a welcome change of pace from regular horror fare. For that reason we were pretty excited to get the chance to chat to the film’s director, Phil Hawkins, ahead of the festival and get his thoughts on the movie, which is already picking up some more-than healthy buzz. MR: Can you tell us a bit about how The Last Showing came into being? The idea for THE LAST SHOWING came to me when I went to a late show of a film, headed to the car park and realised I forgot to get my parking validated. On returning up the lift into the main lobby I realised that the cinema was now closed. The lights were off and nobody was around… it was a creepy experience. I’ve always found public places without people very eerie – we’ve all seen the opening to 28 DAYS LATER – and couldn’t think of a horror film that’s solely set in a cinema. The ideas flowed! I set out wanting to write a solid conventional horror but the more I thought about it, the more the character of Stuart formed, who Robert Englund plays. The film became more about him than the young ones. I loved the idea of doing a more ‘meta’ horror (I loved CABIN IN THE WOODS, for example) and the film became more of a psychological thriller that comments on horror. Both the genre and the way in which we experience movies has changed so much in recent years and THE LAST SHOWING was a fun way to air a few frustrations of mine through Stuart! For quite a while Stuart was a cinema manager but the story wasn’t quite working as well. It needed an extra layer. I then thought about the plight of the film projectionists. It’s pretty tragic that there are so many people that have devoted their lives to projection of physical film in cinemas and pretty much overnight the job was made redundant due the fact we now project films digitally at the touch of a button. Then the character and story really made sense. We had the ‘old generation’ of cinema being pushed out by the new. It created some great conflict and some real motivation for the events of the film. MR: Obviously getting a genre icon like Robert Englund on board must have been a big boost – how easy/difficult was it to attract him to the role? We were very lucky that Robert responded so well to the script. I thought it would be amazing to cast him as I was writing considering we’re making a comment about the horror genre – what better than a legend of the genre to speak those words! I thought he was out of our league and tried to think of a British actor to play the role but I just couldn’t think of anyone more perfect. We basically thought the worst that could happen by asking was him saying no so decided to just send the script and worry about how we were going to afford flying him over on our little budget later. He read the script pretty much overnight and before I knew it I was on the phone to the man that gave me nightmares (no pun intended!) as a kid. He loved the character and, being a director in his own right, saw what I was trying to do visually with the film. He had many brilliant ideas about Stuart and was a pleasure to work with him. I know every director says that about his cast but it’s true. He’s an amazing actor and great to see him leading a movie again. MR: I noticed in the film the young couple are attending a midnight screening of Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes 2, which has a ‘mixed’ reputation among horror fans to say the least – was there any specific thinking behind that choice? Originally I wanted to shoot sequences for a really cheesy American glossy-style slasher and open the film with it. The camera then craned out from the screen to reveal our characters watching it. Although it was fun to write I don’t think prospective distributors/investors would have read past the first three pages thinking it’s probably the worst horror they’ve ever read! It also didn’t quite work structurally as we open the film with a sequence of shots that explains some important moments in the character’s lives leading up to the beginning of the film and, hopefully, sets the stage for some sympathy for Robert Englund’s character before he snaps. In this new structure I really wanted to find the most over-the-top horror movie our characters could be watching to contest the “real” horror that’s about to happen. We’re a low budget film so couldn’t have our pick of any movie but noticed HILLS HAVE EYES II was available. It’s perfect because it’s so awful… I think I’m allowed to say that as even Mr. Craven I think disowned it! I also love that we can refer to him in a movie starring Freddy Krueger. MR: Despite the appearance of Englund, this is very much a British film – where do you see the state of British horror at the moment? To be honest I’m not a massive fan of modern horror. My favourites are the oldies like CARRIE, THE EXORCIST, ROSEMARY’S BABY and, of course, ELM ST. I find a lot of horror at the moment a little stale and formulaic, not just in Britain, especially when it comes to the torture porn franchises. I really liked the first SAW and FINAL DESTINATION but I haven’t bothered seeing the final films in those franchises. I like to be excited, thrilled and scared by original horror and not by-the-numbers horror. I’m probably speaking to soon when I end up making THE LAST SHOWING 4! Anything with teens/a couple going into a woods/staying at a cabin/in a scary house I find stale although I did enjoy IN FEAR. Actually, THE ORPHANAGE was also excellent. We’re a British horror film but I didn’t want to shoot it like one. There are hardly any handheld shots in this movie – we shot most of it off a crane! I really wanted to give it a ‘studio’ glossy look so it didn’t look like a low budget horror. MR: How much of a thrill is it for your film to be screening at Frightfest? It’s amazing! FrightFest is such an important festival and gives your film a real worldwide platform to launch your film. I’m very thankful that the organisers selected our movie. I’m also thrilled that Robert Englund, Finn Jones and Emily Berrington will be at the screenings. I can’t wait to show the film to the festival audience… I just hope they like it! The Last Showing screen at London’s Frightfest on Friday, August 22.