The Hothouse got to see two of Filmmaker David Chaudoir’s short films, Bad Acid and Adonis and Aphrodite at the London Horror Society’s film evening over the weekend and very entertaining they were too. We got chatting to David and asked him how he got started making movies
‘I started when I was a child shooting Super 8 shorts. I always wanted to make films. For twenty five years I’ve worked in media, doing motion design for TV channels, music videos, advertising and corporate work. So I’ve done graphics for television shows like Moving Pictures (BBC 2), designed TV channels like ITV 2, made promos for bands like Athlete, Starsailor and Ladytron. I was head of design at Fox TV and National Geographic and created promos for The Walking Dead and American Horror Story. So after twenty five years making stuff for other people, I finally figured out that nobody is going to present you with a script and a pile of cash on a silver platter, you have to do it yourself.
I’ve loved horror since I was a teenager, especially British horror. I grew up in the 1970’s and for some reason it was mainstream entertainment. Tales of the Unexpected and Hammer House of Horror were on TV, along with the Horror double bill on BBC 2 on Friday night, where you could see the likes of Arthur Lowe, having his head being sawn off (Theatre of Blood 1973) .Children of the Stones was a children’s television programme and it was terrifying. I think CBBC would be sued if they put a programme like that out now.
I’m also influenced by people like Ken Loach, Mike Leigh, Nic Roeg and of course Alan Bennett. I love American film but I don’t want to emulate it in what I’m writing. As a writer and director I want to create something quintessentially British, at least for now.’
Bad Acid is an unusual story and features a stage hypnotist by the name of Maskelyn, which should be a familiar to anyone who knows a bit about the history of magical theatre, David continued: ‘Bad Acid is a hallucinogenic horror short whose inspiration was the performance of a hypnotist and magician called Anthony Jacquin. He hypnotised a subject and suggested that there was a genie with teeth in the room and the young chap who was under hypnosis looked very worried. I’ve always loved magic and thought that to the person experiencing the hallucination would be a truly magical experience, albeit terrifying.
Jacquin is a very successful hypnotist but I wanted my protagonist to have lost his fame and desperately want it back. He’s in a self-destructive pattern of drinking, smoking and drug taking so after a run of disastrous performances he acquires some LSD inside a genie lamp. I didn’t want to make a film called “The Lamp” or “The Genie” which would be too obvious. The LSD is the gateway for the genie to get into Marvin Maskelyn’s conscious and infect somebody who he has hypnotised. The film also explores numerology and the number three. There are three disastrous performances, three images of success, the LSD is inside a lamp that is inside box, there are three victims in the film and so on. Within the film there are various references to this culminating with the Arabic numeral 3 daubed in blood on the wall at the crime scene. Three is a very powerful number in story telling, think of film making and the three act structure.
It’s an unconventional horror short. It’s not a ghost story or populated by vampires or zombies, I suppose it’s more of a dark fantasy film than a horror film. It’s about a monstrous desire for fame that consumes those in its path, the quintessential “be careful what you wish for” idea. It does have a couple of hairs on the back of the neck moments, I hope, but no gore or jump scares. It also has a dry sense of humour and is set in Yorkshire.
The protagonist Marvin Maskelyn, played by the wonderful actor Tristan Beint is a self obsessed narcissist who has had his fifteen minutes but wants some more. The name Marvin Maskelyn came from the children’s magic company Marvin’s Magic, which is sold in Hamleys toy shop and Jasper Maskelyn, a magician who was famous in the 1930’s and 1940’s. My father saw him perform during the war at a theatre in Regent Street when he was a small child.’
Adonis and Aphrodite is a completely different kind of horror film, essentially a monologue with only one actor, How difficult was it making it work?
‘It was very easy making it work. I met Madeleine Bowyer, who plays Amanda, Marvin’s manager in Bad Acid. During the shoot, I said I would write something for her since I was so impressed by her talent. I had this idea for satanic swingers in a wealthy neighbourhood and was going to write it as a standard film script but I knew I couldn’t afford to shoot it. I also thought about writing it as a short story but when I met Madeleine I knew I wanted her to do it as a monologue.
Madeleine rehearsed Adonis and Aphrodite for about three months around her other commitments and came to the location at 8am I think we were finished shooting at 12.30 noon.
The location was originally going to be an art therapy room but that fell through a couple of days before the shoot. I live down the road from a monastery and we know some of the monks so I wondered if there was a location there. I thought maybe in the monk’s library but it was too new so I saw the greenhouse and asked to have a look. The groundsman’s shed was Madeleine’s dressing room. The budget on this film was five hundred pounds whilst the budget on Bad Acid was twelve thousand.
Adonis and Aphrodite is a long slow burn and it’s the actress’s extraordinary performance that keeps you interested. Because it’s played completely straight and direct to camera the audience becomes friends with the woman in the greenhouse before the more salacious revelations start popping up.
There is a wonderful scene at the beginning of John Carpenter’s film The Fog with the British actor John Houseman telling the children a spooky story around a campfire that I have always loved and I saw as a teenager a couple of Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads. Both were influences. I held back from watching any of Bennett’s Talking Heads until I finished Adonis and Aphrodite and found out that they were in some instances surprisingly dark.’
There’s a strong element of dark humour in your work how important do you feel this is to a horror movie?
‘To me it’s very important. I do like horror played straight, like the Japanese Ringu or The Gift by Joel Edgerton, those kind of stories demand it. If done correctly comedy horror can be the perfect combination. It’s a release valve. Some horror is so preposterous and po-faced that it would benefit from a bit of humour. New Zealand seems to be having a comedy horror renaissance with Housebound, Deathgasm and What we Did in the Shadows. At the moment Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton are continuing this fine tradition in the UK with their TV show Number 9.’
And finally what can we expect next from David Chaudoir?
I’m putting the two films up for various festivals. Ideally I’d like them to play as a double bill. Bad Acid is a rich film with many layers that I hope people will discover when they watch or think about afterwards, whilst Adonis and Aphrodite is a simpler more direct idea. I’m hoping they will both get seen and people can appreciate what I can do as a director and as a writer.
I have a number of completed short film scripts in my back pocket. I have written and directed a professionally recorded comedy/horror, audio novella called Freddy Valentine and the Soho Ghoul, which is out on iTunes in super brain crunching stereo, available on itunes folks. I also have two horror features scripts written, one is set in eighteenth century England, called Montague and Bullingdon: Demon Hunters.
The Older Woman, is a short I wrote that feeds into a horror anthology called Horror Cells, which I’m also developing presently. Horror Cells is conceived of as five short stories that are confessions to a duty solicitor at a Police station. This is what I’d like to put my energy into this year.
As you can see I’m not short of projects. What I need is the money and support to continue writing and making films in the hope that they can reach a wider audience. Perhaps that silver platter will eventually show up.’
More about Bad Acid
More about David Chaudoir
David’s Twitter: @TheChaudoir
Big thanks to David for taking the time out to talk to us and also to
Chris and the gang at the London Horror Society for showing both movies.