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Howl – Interview with Paul Hyett & Rosie Day

Howl – Interview with Paul Hyett & Rosie Day

One of my most anticipated films for day three of Grimmfest was Howl. I’ve been disappointed by many a werewolf film in the past, and have longed for someone to do the genre justice since Dog Soldiers.

Before watching the film, I had the pleasure of chatting to director Paul Hyett and actress Rosie Day.

Paul tells us that Howl is about a group of passengers on the last train out, who break down in the middle of the forest. The central character, every man Joe, is stuck on the train with these passengers from hell, and then the worst thing that could happen, happens. Quickly the film becomes one of survival, and with a tag line of “Werewolves on a Train”, we were exited to see how the film would play out.

For Paul, this wasn’t about making a werewolf film. Instead, it was more about the characters, and how they would react differently when trying to survive. He also stripped away all existing werewolf mythology, instead opting to treat the condition as more of a disease in which the full transformation would take up to 30 years. There werewolves in the film are a good few years into their transformation, so have a number of wolf like features, while still being in an overall human-esque form. This was Paul’s way of making a retro movie, with a contemporary twist.

Aided by his special effects background, Paul was very aware of what could and couldn’t be achieved on set in terms of the werewolves, and we hoped that this would result in a better looking monster than we have seen in the past. We’re confident that Paul’s background will allow him to make the werewolf look good, and we love that he mentions how they’re not all CGI, as a pet hate of ours is an over reliance on digital special effects!

Actress Rosie Day tells us how when working on set, they would be there with these full sized werewolves looming over them, and it was quite fun to shoot.

We also learn how Paul built up tension, by hinting at the werewolves for much of the first half of the film, without jumping straight in, showing first a leg, or shadow in the dark, working up to seeing the monster up close. We also love that Paul highlights how this was done in part to allow the characters on the train to develop, because they wanted the audience to identify with them, and care when they start to picked off, one by one. A conscious decision was to build up to a werewolf moment, and then change to a moment of calm, to keep the story line moving, and show us how the characters are reacting and developing.

Paul tells us how some of his favourite moments in horror films are when nothing much is happening, such as the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Nightmare on Elm Street, and he wanted to create a film where it was more tense waiting for something to happen, that relying only on the scary moments themselves.

The biggest challenge on the film was making it look visually interesting, especially as the majority of the film was shot inside the train, which was quite difficult to do. The film has a large cast, and lots of special effects, yet they managed to shoot the whole thing in just under 5 weeks. All this made the move more technically and logistically difficult.

Rosie tells us how filming was sometimes difficult due to the large number of cast members in such a confined space for the majority of the time. Her most difficult scene to film was the death scene, in which she was harnessed and suspended for period of time long enough to have all the blood rush to her head. Rosie tells us how it was overall a really fun film to shoot, with her favourite moments being when the whole cast was hysterical and running around the train screaming as they know the werewolves are coming, as this allows them to feed off of each other’s energy.

It seems that Paul enjoys taking Rosie and putting her through her paces, although he didn’t kill her in his first movie…. It turns out that Rosie will only shoot a horror film if it’s one of Paul’s, because his films are so much fun to shoot, and they’re hoping to start filming the next one soon. I guess we’ll have to wait and see if she manages to survive this one!

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