As you’re probably more than aware, and more than a little sick of me telling you, I’m a bit of a horror film fan. Blood, guts, gore, monsters, devils, demons, the undead and more, are a staple diet of my celluloid diet, and I love to feast on a regular basis, but truth be told, my heart lies with the old chillers, the masters of fear and terror, Universal and Hammer.
As much as I love to see the rivers of crimson flow, there’s nothing better than a film that scares the living daylights out of you, and having sat there, trembling, eyes bulging and sphincter twitching while ‘Sinister’ unfolded and played on the big screen, I can assure you boys and girls, that ‘Sinister’ is one of the most terrifying films I’ve seen. Ever. Having recovered my composure, and changed my underwear, I caught up with the films writer C. Robert Cargill, via cyberspace, for a chat about all things ‘Sinister’…
Interview by Tim Mass Movement
MM: For the benefit of those who came in late, would you like to both introduce, and tell us a little about, yourself?
CRC: I’m C. Robert Cargill, co-writer of SINISTER, longtime film critic and author of the upcoming book DREAMS AND SHADOWS.
MM: You used to be a film critic / reviewer (Carlyle) for Spill.com right? How did you make the transition from critiquing film to working in the film industry? Did your career as a critic hinder or help you as far as getting ‘Sinister’ made, that is, the whole process from, idea to page to screen? How did it hinder or help?
CRC: Yeah, as well as Ain’t it Cool, Film.com and Hollywood.com. The transition was pretty easy, just a matter of taking an offer for one career and slowly transitioning out of the other. Being a critic seemed more like a novelty to most in the industry who wondered more about the inner workings of blogging culture than it had any bearing on how they viewed me. Where it paid off was in how I approached storytelling. Scott approaches it with a mind toward the audience, I look at it from the view of how critics and the critically minded view things. We used those different perspectives to find common ground wherever we could.
MM: Did, and do, you feel any obligation as a horror writer, to your audience? By that I mean, did you set out to want to frighten and terrify them, or drown them in a sea of gore? What do you think, if indeed there are any, are the unwritten and unseen obligations that exist between writer and fan?
CRC: All writers owe everything to their audience. Anyone who only makes movies ‘for themselves’ has no right playing with other people’s money. We wanted to make something that would scare people, something that played with ideas. We set out promising the audience to scare them and we tried our damndest to do just that. The only obligation an artist in a commercial medium really has is to try to deliver on their promise. That’s the unspoken bargain that is struck when someone lays down their cash and offers two hours of their time. We gave it our all. All the audience owes us is that they try to enjoy it and do their best to understand what we’re trying to do.
MM: Okay, ’Sinister’ time… Without giving away any spoilers, how would you describe the film to the movie and cinema going folks out there? Time to entice all the boys and girls to the theatres showing ‘Sinister’…?
CRC: You know those found footage’ movies out there? Blair Witch Project, Paranormal Activity? This is the movie about the guy who finds the found footage.
MM: Did you have any casting control? The film has a pretty heavyweight cast, Ethan Hawke, Vincent D’Onofrio, James Ransone, and I wondered if the actors I’ve already mentioned, were how you initially saw, or visualised, the characters as you were writing them? How did, and does, the cast compare to your original vision of ‘Sinister’?
CRC: Scott involved me pretty heavily in casting. The cast far exceeded our meagre ambitions. We had no idea we could get a cast this good. Sure, we hoped, but it seemed out of reach. Even Fred Thompson, who we wrote into the script (as a Fred Thompson type) we knew was a stretch. The version you see is better than the script we wrote. I’ll argue that to my grave with anyone who wants to fight me. I doubt anyone will.
MM: Did you spend much time on the set? If so, what was the mood and atmosphere like? Was it deadly serious, all work and no play, or was it a fun film to make? What’s your favourite memory of making ‘Sinister’?
CRC: I was there the entire time of filming. It was a lively, fun but rugged shoot. Very short schedule, very long days. But we rode out a lot of hardships and everyone felt as if they were making something special, something that wouldn’t end up in a bin or on a shelf forgotten somewhere. That, regardless of what happens with the release, was something that carried us through.
MM: Have you been, or are you surprised by the so far, overwhelmingly positive reception that ‘Sinister’ has received? How does it make you feel?
CRC: Nervous. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. At times I feel like Carrie White, and any moment everyone is going to point and laugh as pigs blood covers me. Then I’ll have to kill you all with my thoughts. And no one wants that to happen. So, you know, keep saying nice things about SINISTER. Please.
MM: Your debut novel, ‘Dreams & Shadows’ is due out early next year isn’t it? What can you tell us about it?
CRC: I’m really proud of it. It’s the story of two young boys who are brought together by supernatural means, become best friends and then have their lives torn apart by the supernatural creatures they’ve become involved with. People have said lots of nice things about it. You should too. (See above)
MM: If you had to offer one piece of advice to all the budding writers out there, what would it be?
CRC: Frank McCourt published his first book at the age of 66 after over 30 years of teaching high school, a book for which he received the Pulitzer prize. When he died 12 years later, papers the world over didn’t ignore the death of a humble teacher; they mourned the death of a great writer. Writing isn’t a race; it is a journey on which youth offers no advantage. There is no ticking clock on your career. Just keep plugging away until you find your story that people want to hear.
MM: If there’s anything that you’d like to add, speak now or forever hold your peace…?
CRC: Seriously. Keep saying nice things. Because…mind bullets.
Sinister is on general release and showing at a cinema near you now…