There’s something pretty creepy about a ventriloquist’s dummy, and little Hugo (voiced by horror legend Bill Moseley) has to be one of the most malevolent ones we have had the pleasure of getting acquainted with. Hugo’s unusual relationship with his owner Lucette (Sophie Tergeist) and her boyfriend Jace (Byron Fernandes) is the subject of Silently Within Your Shadow, the third professional short by director Scott Lyus and is definitely one to check out on the horror circuit right now (2016).
We caught up with Scott between shows and asked him how he got into filmmaking:
‘I first got into filmmaking, or the idea of filmmaking, when I saw Jurassic Park. At the time I had no idea of what a director, producer or any other role really consisted of, but I knew I wanted to create these amazing images and put them up on the big screen. I wanted to create the emotion that Spielberg created for me within that film. From there the passion grew and cinema become my life. I would watch everything, a movie on TV, my Dad’s VHS films (where my love of horror began), anything and everything, I couldn’t get enough. This then developed into the amazing idea of trying to make my own films, the first of which was a very short film involving my Chucky and Tiffany Macfarlane toys shot using my Dad’s old camera while everyone else in the house was asleep.
Years of making terrible home movies with my friends and family and three years at college studying film, photography and media, all finally came to a head in 2012 when I decided against uni and made my first short film with a real cast and crew, with that picture being Supernova.
Throughout the years I’ve been constantly inspired by different filmmakers, from Spielberg, Hitchcock and Ford to James Whale, Michael Curtiz and Sergio Leone. In fact I would say that I’m more inspired by the classic movie directors than I am of modern filmmakers. But there are a few modern filmmakers that really stand out to me as big inspirations, David Fincher, Richard Linklater and Paul Thomas Anderson. However I’m finding I’m more and more inspired by filmmakers on the indie scene rather than Hollywood, two of which are Paddy Murphy and Katie Bonham. Both those guys are making incredible shorts that are different and have their own voice. And that’s what is really important to me, filmmakers that have their own voice and don’t just make what’s popular or what everyone else is doing. I see so many films that are highly rated by critics or play all the big festivals, and for the most part they’re all pictures we’ve seen a million times. Both Paddy and Katie are pushing those boundaries. They make me push myself and believe in my art.’
Some excellent people to be influenced by, we are rather partial to Hitch, Whale and Leone in particular, here at the Hothouse and have to agree that Katie Bonham in particular is making some very exciting pictures right now.
Now the grandaddy of all possessed ventriloquist dummy movies has to be Ealing’s 1945 classic portmanteau horror Dead of Night, where Michael Redgrave finds himself dealing with another nasty little critter by the name of Hugo, we wondered how much an influence Dead of Night was on Silently Within Your Shadow?
‘Oddly enough no, although I can see why people would believe so. One or two people have mentioned the connection between our ventriloquist dummies being named Hugo, and while I’m fully aware of it and like the little nod to Dead of Night, our dummy is in fact named after a Southern Gothic musician named Hugo. As are Lucette and Jace. I’m a big fan of the genre and Southern Gothic was my soundtrack when writing the screenplay and played on my mind heavily when trying to create the atmosphere for the film. I also used examples of the genre to send to my composer, Ed Harris, as a rough jumping off point for his score.
With that said I am a fan of Dead of Night and would say Silently Within Your Shadow plays a lot closer to that type of Doll Horror than more recent examples such as Annabelle or The Boy.
The two pictures that Scott made before Silently Within Your Shadow; Supernova and Order of the Ram are quite different from both Silently and each other, we asked Scott what inspired the stories that he wanted to tell?
‘I always try to tell a story with a slightly different theme or subtext then what I’ve previously told. I’m never going to be a filmmaker that explores one idea multiple times, as once I’ve told my version of that story and said what I needed to say, I move onto the next thing.
Supernova was my jumping off point, it was my attempt to throw my hat in the ring and offer my brand of storytelling and see if it worked. As previously mentioned I had been making films with my friends and family for years, Supernova was my attempt at doing that on a much larger scale, with a real cast and crew and seeing if I could handle the pressure. The inspiration for the story came from the constant stream of brand news the media puts out and how it would look if we took solving those issues into our own hands. The line between how we define good and bad people is more blurred now then ever and its an idea I needed to explore. How thin is the line between order of chaos?
All in all, Supernova is a film I’m very proud of, sure it has it’s problems, but given what we had to make the picture, I couldn’t be happier with the way it turned out. If it works as a film, I’ll let others decide.
Order of the Ram was a different beast. Having made Supernova, I wanted to push myself, do something on a larger scale with budget, cast and crew. Being a huge fan of early horror films through to 70’s horror, I again wanted to throw my hat in that ring and see if I could pull off that old school horror vibe.
The story for Order was inspired by horror stories of blind belief in faith and how that drove normal people to commit insane acts. I really wanted to base Order of the Ram in reality, what does it look like if a small group of people who blindly believe were to form a cult and try to bring forth their savior? How does that play on a very real scale? More so than Supernova it’s the film people started to take notice of and certainly the film that allowed me to make Silently Within Your Shadow, so for that I’m extremely proud of what we accomplished.’
So what’s next for Scott Lyus filmmaker?
If everything goes smoothly I hope to have a few projects coming out later this year/early next year. The one project that you’ll 100% see very soon, is the extended cut of a short we made for a 60 hour challenge titled Holding Back. We’ve given the film an extended edit, brand new grade and sound design, with the trailer dropping in the next few weeks. The picture lies in the drama genre, and is a single character piece starring the amazing Sophie Tergeist from Silently Within Your Shadow. I really like the new cut and can’t wait to get people’s reaction and feedback.
Me and Sophie are also currently working on a short for a classic cinema challenge. The idea is to create a short that pays tribute to a scene from the golden age of cinema. We’re currently running a few ideas past each other and hope to shoot that within a month or so. The piece will be ultra low-budget but super fun to create and will hopefully bring most of our usual crew back together.
I’m then directing a short film written by Tony Sands of UK Horror Scene. Tony approached me with the screenplay after my interview with him and his crew and I fell in love with it. It will be my first film by another writer and is back in the horror/thriller genre, so again I’m super excited to get that one underway.
Then there is the big one, the debut feature. I’m turning in my second draft of the screenplay to my producer very soon, with our goal to shoot at the end of the year if we lock in the funding. It’s an idea I’ve been working on for a while and is my take on the zombie genre. There’s not too much I can say at this point, all I can say is it’s a two character story and is titled, Walking Against the Rain.’
Something to look forward to indeed, Scott thanks very much for talking to the Horror Hothouse.
Connect with Scott on Twitter