Those who’ve been paying attention will know Joel Morgan as the eminent and esteemed head writer on the Bloody Cuts series. The man who put terrifying quill to dreadful parchment and summoned forth scripts for Stitches, Prey and Dead Man’s Lake. He’s scripted Death Scenes, the brand new Bloody Cut too, but the difference this time is that he was also calling the shots behind the camera. Here’s what he has to say about the experience.
Oh, and with Death Scenes not going public till 8 December, Joel has taken a cue from the police procedural vibe of his directorial debut and redacted his answers whenever he comes close to spilling any crucial story details. So those fearing SPOILERS, fret not!
Question: Pitch Death Scenes in a line.
Joel Morgan: A detective has a suspected serial killer in custody – but there may be more to these crimes than he imagines.
It’s a crime film with [REDACTED].
Q: Where did the concept originate from?
JM: Ben Franklin, Anthony Melton and I had talked about where the anthology would go after we released Suckablood. We’ve always been keen to try out different horror genres, themes and concepts and knocked up a list of things we hadn’t covered or felt would be fun ideas for future episodes. It’s very hard to answer this without mentioning [REDACTED] !
Doing something involving [REDACTED] came top of the list. The core idea was something classic and with a lot of potential, but had me a bit stumped as despite coming up with potential ideas for Bloody Cuts episodes, it was something I’d never really worked on.
But I had the inkling of an idea for a feature script for a long time and boiled down the essence of it into something that would be a tight, complete and punchy horror short.
I’ve written a lot of potential episodes for Bloody Cuts, some with a view to possibly directing myself if the dark gods permitted it. Death Scenes (or Interview as it was known) was written in a couple of hours and got a great reception from Ben F and Anthony. It was great fun to write and I really wanted to take it a step further.
So one Thursday I enlisted my housemate Ben Ridgeon and photographer friend Daniel Berry to shoot a photo-storyboard for it based on a shot-list I did the night before. It was highly professional – we had a few beers, I stripped off in the bath and we used a Buffy cardboard stand-up as a stand-in actress.
I ambushed Ben F with the storyboard, begged him (blackmailed him) to have a crack at it and it all kicked off.
Q: What were the biggest influences, cinematic or otherwise, when you were writing the script?
JM: Along with a love of horror, I share a real love of Crime cinema and fiction. The idea for Death Scenes was always rooted in both camps so it felt like a real fit for my tastes.
To be honest this was a mix of all the stuff I dig and has influenced me – H.P. Lovecraft, James Ellroy, Alan Moore, Warren Ellis, David Fincher, Brian De Palma, Dario Argento, John Carpenter and the rest of a very long list…
It’s rooted in the archetypal (you say clichéd, I say archetypal) convention of the crime film – a detective interviewing a suspect who won’t talk. I wanted to use that the basis to have some fun and then drop in the twist and turn the audiences’ expectations on their head.
The main thing was though I wanted loads of absolutely cool stuff involving [VERY REDACTED].
Q: It’s your first Bloody Cut as director – how was the experience? Any surprises?
JM: I came into directing from the position as a writer and it’s been awesome to take a concept from the blank page through pre-production and into a finished project. It’s been great to have worked with the Bloody Cuts team over the last six films and to have gained so much in experience the practical aspects of filmmaking.
I did a lot of planning, a lot of brainstorming, a stupid amount of emailing and quite a few phone calls and it all came together thanks to the usual brilliance of the Bloody Cuts team.
It all came down to a weekend shooting in Lynnsmouth – sorry, King’s Lynn – where to be honest everything went pretty much to plan. Apart from my inability to puncture a blood bag…
I had great time and it was fairly stress-free. Thanks to the fact it was shot entirely within interior locations everyone remained dry which was a bonus after Dead Man’s Lake!
Q: The film revolves around the characters of ‘John’ and D.I. Collins, played by Robin Berry and Ayden Callaghan – what did they each bring to their roles?
JM: The film is essentially two men at opposite sides of a table and the conflict between them. I hoped to incorporate what I like most about cinema, which is character, dialogue and plot, and I wanted two lead actors who could have roles they could really sink their teeth into.
I’d met Robin Berry (‘John’) when he played the eponymous Suckablood and we had a good chat. I don’t usually write roles with specific actors in mind but as the idea progressed to a script I had Robin in mind as the actor I’d tap up to play him first.
I was looking for someone who could say a great deal without saying anything at all, with a distinctive look but also had the chops to deliver some killer lines too. That is what I required of Robin Berry. That is what he delivered.
Ayden’s a mate of Ben Tillet and Jake Cuddihy (Suckablood meisters) and we’d had some banter on Twitter. I assumed talented and cool guys knew cool and talented guys and felt he’d be a fit for the role of D.I. Collins.
Ayden nailed playing Collins, a role that really changes throughout the film. It was great to see the chemistry between the two lead actors come alive on the monitor. That was one of the most enjoyable parts of the process for me – seeing two actors creating the characters from the lines on the page.
Q: How has Death Scenes developed in the edit room? Any deviations from how you planned it?
JM: Death Scenes has a three-part structure to it and the pacing and flow of the script was important. Anthony did a brilliant job on the edit and in supervising the post-production. We did a lot of trimming and re-arranging so the story developed properly and built up to the conclusion in an impactful and hopefully shocking way!
Q: With Death Scenes almost ready for release, what about it are you most proud of?
JM: It’s been a great experience and involved a lot of work, so it’s very cool to see the film coming together in its final stages. The Bloody Cuts team and Millennium FX did a brilliant job as always so it was an honour to write and direct this episode.
I’m very proud of the whole thing and the hard work people put into it – but my favourite bit is probably [REDACTED].