GORE IN THE STORE
Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews - By Fans For Fans
IN CONVERSATION WITH AIRELL ANTHONY HAYLES
Director Airell Anthony Hayles’ WEREWOLF SANTA offers an amusing and demented twist on the myth of Santa Claus – a hidden bonus may be that it offsets Coca-Cola’s annoyingly saccharine commercial image of the goody two-shoes. In keeping with the spirit of Christmas unity, however, a family band together to save the day when Werewolf Santa goes on a rampage through town.
Speaking with FrightFest, Hayles discussed getting away with “double marzipan”, compromising his original vision and embracing those surprising moments.
FRIGHTFEST: I know Christmas can go a bit awry, but one would hope the seed of the idea is only your imagination.
AIRELL ANTHONY HAYLES: [Laughs]. I love Christmas horror films and there's actually a book called YULETIDE HORROR that I'd say lists every single one, but I certainly haven't seen them all.
There seemed to be a gap for me – the idea of what would happen to Santa on Christmas Eve if he was taking a bathroom break with his reindeer, got bit by a werewolf, and there happened to be a full moon. Then with half his Santa brain still in operation, he thinks he has to deliver toys. But he goes on this rampage around town destroying Christmas, and the family band together to save the day. I really wanted to see that film. It's a fun thing to experience a world where Santa Claus and werewolves exist.
On one level we're trying to make a Christmas movie and at the end it plays like a made for TV Christmas film. A very early incarnation of this idea was to mix SANTA CLAUS THE MOVIE with CLOVERFIELD, and that was what we wanted to achieve in some way. It's hard with limited budgets to get everything you want, but that was the thinking behind it.
FF: In what ways did the budget impede your vision for the film?
AAH: There are things you realise you can, and you can't do. Initially we wanted someone sneaking down to look at Santa, and even recording it for their mates to prove Santa exists. Santa transforms into the wolf and it's this horrific moment where the parents come down, and Santa eats them.
Those things are harder to achieve in terms of budget. So, we catered to a sleigh in a forest where he's taking a bathroom break. It works well in that respect, but it's interesting how you have a shopping list of ideas, and you have to look at your budget and see what you can do and where you can meet in the middle. You have to keep the meat of the idea but put it into a different context. Compromise is everything, and you have to manage it to achieve the story beats that will emotionally tell the character arc and events etc, because you need that emotional journey.
FF: To pick up on your point about compromise, is improvisation in comedy something you need to embrace?
AAH: […] One of the things we did was hot seating the actors’ characters - asking them things or writing essays about where they come from. I like discovering that [backstory] with the actors, and we may have done a little bit of improvisation where characters were in different scenarios to those of the events in the film. That always opens up some interesting points that you carry into the film and can make scenes a little bit more charged. With this film, there are times where lines come organically in the moment and improve the scene. We never feared that; we embraced it.
FF: Is the challenge of the classic movie monster, re-energising the familiar?
AAH: The werewolf is great as a beast. I've called it a “pub fight” because it's a terrifying breakout of violence. I don't find zombies very scary. I find cannibals, werewolves and vengeful spirits scary, but not vampires - they're kind of like a night out with someone cool, and they’re erotic.
The Santa werewolf is a new thing and I love the concept of mixing them together, along with all the Christmas staples of going down chimneys and the whole Coca-Cola image of Christmas, then ripping through that with claws and fangs. I've always loved films like GREMLINS that seem to be doing something where the anarchy and pressure cooker that is Christmas, of the last-minute Christmas shopping and family occasions, makes it a charged-up time of the year. To send a werewolf running through town seems to be a fun sub-textual look into that.
FF: The werewolf juxtaposes the civilised and animalistic nature of man; some might say good and evil. Here, you create an amusing juxtaposition between the kindness of Santa, with the violent rage of the werewolf.
AAH: Well, that’s the fun and you're not supposed to do it. There's a book on screen writing called SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder. It's a great book and he says you've got to be careful of something called, “double marzipan.” What that means is you can have Santa in a movie, but then you maybe can't have werewolves. Obviously, the high concept here, it's so weird that it turns that universe inside out and you get away with it. Everything bows to that weirdness.
Snyder draws a parallel to a film called WHAT WOMEN WANT, where Mel Gibson can hear the thoughts of women and he says that's fine, but suddenly he can hear what dogs are saying and thinking, and now it's too much. But with WEREWOLF SANTA, because it's all in the title, we have to go with it or not.
Werewolf Santa is available NOW on digital courtesy of Miracle Media.
Film, DVD, Blu-Ray & Streaming Reviews
By Fans For Fans