Director Giles Alderson opens up about making bloody new horror The Dare...
Many of the best horror movies thrive in enclosed spaces. Unwilling participants, cut off from the outside world, away from everything they know, forced to face the consequences for something they've long forgotten. It's a tried and tested formula, but still one where there's plenty of scares to be had.
In Giles Alderson's new horror, The Dare, we follow Jay, a workaholic who is enjoying a rare evening with his family. Sadly for him, the evening takes an awful turn and he awakens in a basement with three other prisoners.
Why are they there? And why is their captor set on making their lives into a living nightmare? It all plays out from there...
Richard Brake, best known for his turn as The Night King in Game Of Thrones, leads the way, with Bart Edwards, Richard Short, Alexandra Evans, Robert Maasser and Harry Jarvis also in the cast.
Alderson directs and has co-written the script with Jonny Grant. With the film now on DVD shelves at hmv stores, we spoke to him about the origins and the intense making of this bloody new horror...
It’s a strange time to be releasing a film, have you managed to enjoy the process?
"It’s funny, It’s not what you expect when you start out filming your debut feature that’s for sure! A nice premiere would have wonderful for all the cast and crew’s hard work but on the flip side, more people are watching movies at home because of the pandemic so there will be more eyeballs on The Dare. But releasing a film is pure joy. It’s a wonderful feeling regardless of the situation. It’s been a hell of a journey to get here so I’m just grateful people can see it."
You shot the movie a while ago, can you talk us through its journey from script to screen to finally coming out?
"With any movie shot in a studio it can take time. You can be on a conveyor belt of films and you have to fit into windows of release with the distributors too. But as we shot the film in 18 days and being snowed in for a few of those we needed to do some pickups on the film, shoot a few scenes differently. And due to studio availability and my actors' schedules, it was very difficult to get all the elements together at the same time."
"When we did, Bart Edwards, had shorter hair and Alexandra Evans was ginger! It meant we had some fun colouring and ‘wigging’ them up and trying to match the images. We also re-built the full basement so we could shoot 360. It all fits in pretty seamlessly in the edit. You can’t tell one year from the next. The magic of movie making right there. Finally, after doing the festival circuit and fitting in the distributors' cycle The Dare gets it’s UK release. Perfectly in time for Halloween. Funny that!"
When did you come up with the idea for this film?
"I had the idea for The Dare years ago. Actually, it was two ideas that were percolating in my head, one day it just dawned on me to join them together. Suddenly I had the story. So I spoke to Jonny Grant and asked him to write it with me. Within months we had a solid draft so myself and Julian Kostov formed Jupiter Lights film company and started sending it out to possible execs and investors to make the film."
"The Dare is a psychological horror so we felt we knew our audience and it’s an interesting take on the genre which should appeal to fans. It was picked up by quite quickly by the clever exec producer Yariv Lerner from B2Y at Nu Boyana studios, It wasn’t a walk in the park though. I had to work my little tush off pitching it and creating mood reels and a 20-page pack with my notes on style, how I would make it, shoot it, the look of the film with many images and why it would do well. Eventually, we got a deal at the remarkable film studio in Bulgaria. They have an amazing set up over there, so many studios and facilities, amazing crew and equipment. It was a no brainer for me to shoot The Dare there."
"I also managed to bring my fantastic cinematographer Andrew Rodger along with me too which meant I had a well-established shorthand, vital for helping each other and inspiring each other during the shoot. I was surrounded by talent and before we knew it we were in the studio on mainly built sets making it. But I couldn’t have made it without all the amazing people around me."
Were there any other films that served as key inspiration?
"So many. It’s been a ten-year wait to make my first feature film so I had plenty of time to be inspired by so many incredible filmmakers. Danny Boyle being one of them. What he did with Shallow Grave was outstanding."
"Other favourites of mine include Danny Draven, Wes Craven (who gets a name check Easter Egg in The Dare, see if you can spot it...) Beck and Woods and Paul Thomas Anderson who always creates a sense of dread, menace and horror in all his films. And who doesn’t like that! But The Shining, Martyrs, The Mothman Prophesies and Sleepers would be key ones for The Dare."
How did you find casting the film? Was it a long process?
"Casting is one of the best bits. I love casting. Coming from an acting background I understand what the actors are going through in auditions so I try really hard to put them at ease. When they are relaxed we can then have fun with the characters and I can see what they are like as actors, what they are like at taking direction and how we can work together."
"But because I really wanted to create the feeling of fear from the outset it was important to me to let the audience know what kind of film they are watching from the beginning. Meaning I needed my actors to be able to create fear very quickly. It’s not easy to do and you can tell in an audition set up if it will work."
"I also love shooting scenes as one long take. Letting my actors sit in the characters and not keep cutting all the time. It can be challenging and difficult but I know I can really work performances this way and actors love it. Doing long takes is a great way to keep that atmosphere, the focus and the sense of dread."
When did Richard Brake come into the picture?
"He was suggested to us by his agent. I couldn't believe it! I knew of Richard’s work before so when his name was on my desk there were no other actors for me to play Credence. We met for a coffee and got on very well. He such a charming intelligent man as well as being an excellent and interesting actor. We chatted about character and making Credence come from the page as a dark, brooding, but highly motivated individual, giving him the reasons to do what he does and not make him an obvious horror film type."
"It was a joy to work together. So much so that he came and played Merlin for me in my Arthur & Merlin feature."
By the film’s very nature, it’s an intense watch, was it an intense shoot?
"Even though it was mentally and physically exhausting, I have never felt more alive than when I was on set with my actors and crew, working through the scenes and tweaking moments before turning over on the camera and calling action. It’s like magic. The feeling of capturing something so special from an idea you had and are now burning it onto film and to see it come alive is electrifying!"
"It was intense but the good kind. We all wanted to make the best film possible and when you are working with blood and effects the concentration levels must be high but during all the working hard, we did have fun inbetween those blood-soaked walls!"
You shot largely in a studio setting, was that a choice or just the way to get things done?
"I love that most people think they are real locations. Apart from the woods exterior and the front of the farmhouse, the rest was built inside a giant, very cold studio on the studio lot at Nu Boyena Studios. We worked really hard to get the look and feel of a real location. It was my choice because I wanted to shoot further back than the walls of a real basement or house would allow, so by building them in a studio I could remove walls and shoot from above giving more of an immersive experience."
"The outside of the farmhouse, is, in reality, a wooden flat held up by a couple of planks that actually and miraculously stayed up for three years in the snowy windy woods, until Rambo V production tore it down and rebuilt it. But I always wanted the farmhouse look of horror films of old."
"We all know what a scary horrific farmhouse should look like, it’s in our dreams and we can picture it easily so I knew I didn’t have to look too far in my imagination to create this. But I wanted my own slant on it and came up with the design so we could create some extra little effects in the VFX room to really enhance the scary-looking farmhouse and the fence around it to make it even more for-boding."
Do you have your next project lined up? What can you tell us about it?
"Sadly, I can’t tell you too much but I’m working on a cool psychological thriller. Hopefully shooting later this year if all goes well. Then I have a version of Hamlet I am making down in New Mexico and then, of course, there is talk of The Dare sequel. Now that will be a quicker turn around than the first one. That I can tell you!"