Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury are a couple of horror gods to the genre world. They are behind one of the arguably best, most shocking and unforgettably gruesome horror films of the last 20 years, Inside, which frequently tops the list of best horror films from outside the USA. Additionally, they’ve dabbled in the supernatural with their haunting fairytale Livide and are now bringing us something entirely different, again, with Among the Living; a homage to teen films from the 80s – with perhaps a little more horror. Naturally.
SCREAM’s Jessy caught up with the directing duo to chat about all things horror and, in particular, their upcoming UK release of Among The Living. In this interview the pair explain how they started working together (it was love at first sight!), what inspired them to create Among The Living and what film they’d love to remake. They also, give us a tease about their next endeavour Leatherface and what we could expect from the Spanish remake of Inside.
SCREAM: So, why do you hate pregnant women?!
Julien: *laughs* That is an interesting question!
Alexandre: It’s because we have two children. Do you have children?
SCREAM: Me? No, I don’t!
Alexandre: Ah, you will understand when you do.
Julien: Nah, we don’t have anything against pregnant women. Our first movie was about pregnancy and about a pregnant woman stalked by a mad woman. It was the pure subject of the movie, but in Livid there is no pregnant woman. In Among The Living we have Beatrice [Dalle] as a pregnant woman, but it’s an homage to her character from Inside.
SCREAM: I was going to ask if that was intentional nod to Inside; a terrible, but great nod.
Julien: *laughs* It’s always efficient, because pregnancy is something that is universal and as soon as you are abusing a pregnant woman, it’s an easy way for a director to get an immediate reaction from the audience.
SCREAM: I just want to say that Inside scared me to death the first time I watched it. My mum showed it to me.
Alexandre: Your mum is a psycho! How old were you?
SCREAM: I know! 16 or 17 I think.
Alexandre: *laughs* It’s okay, the age was 16+, right?
Julien: Nah, it was an 18 in the UK.
SCREAM: It’s OK, it’s made me a stronger person. So, how did you guys get together to make films?
Julien: Through a mutual friend. Alex was a journalist for a French magazine that specialised in horror movies. I used to direct some shorts and I was in a DVD shop owned by this magazine and I asked the guy who owned it about Alexandre Bustillo; “Hey is he a nice guy?”, because as a reader of his magazine I loved his point-of-view on horror movies. This mutual friend gave me his number and told me that he was writing some scripts, so maybe we could work together. It was an epiphany when we met. A professional love at first sight! We spent the afternoon talking about movies and what we wanted to do. I gave him some shorts that I had directed and he gave me some stories that he had written.
Alexandre: It was the first draft of Inside, remember? It was the perfect timing.
SCREAM: Are you always on the same page? Who comes out on top during arguments?
Julien: We’ve never had any argument in 10 years! We are always looking in the same direction and always on the same page. It’s a very efficient collaboration. We have the same taste and share the same background. We grew up watching horror movies from a very young age, so we are always preparing a lot so that we don’t have to improvise a lot on the set. Being a duo is something that gives us a lot of strength. We gain from a lot of time as well. If one of us is talking to the DP the other can speak to the cast. We trust each other so much.
SCREAM: They do say that two heads are greater than one!
Alexandre: Two bodies, one brain. When we’re not together we only have half a brain. *laughs*
SCREAM: Moving on to Among The Living now. For those who don’t know, could you tell us what it’s about?
Julien: The plot is quite simple. It follows a group of teenagers who decide to skip the last day of school, because they are grounded. They decide to get lost in the countryside and go to a place they used to go when they were younger. It’s an abandoned cinema studio and they discover that someone is living there and they witness something they should have never witnessed. These weird people living in the abandoned studios decide to stalk them and prevent them from calling the police. I suck at doing plots. *laughs*
SCREAM: No, that was perfect. It’s hard to describe the story without giving too much away and it’s best to go in knowing very little I think.
Julien: Yeah, of course. It’s an homage to the movies that we used to watch when we were teenagers.
Alexandre: For Among The Living our first influence was a writer. It’s an homage to Stephen King. Our first idea for the film was to write a fake story for Stephen King’s use, but it was too difficult to get the copyright and use his name, you know?
SCREAM: Did anything or anyone else influence Among The Living?
Julien: Obviously, Stand By Me. This was a movie we loved. It always hard and complicated to talk about influences. We wanted to do a teenage movie, like the ones from the ’80s like the Goonies or Explorers, but we wanted to go away from the homage and try to give our version or vision of what could be a teenager movie made from Bustillo and Maury. We wanted to put the teenagers in to our twisted universe. So yeah, the beginning may be Stand By Me, but the ending is The Hills Have Eyes.
SCREAM: Was it difficult find the right actors to play the 3 main boys; Victor, Tom and Dan?
Julien: Since the beginning we have seen hundreds of kids, but we wanted to find the ones that were closest to the characters. As this was a low-budget movie, we knew that we wouldn’t have very long to work with the kids. I think we succeeded. Theo Fernandez [Victor] was quite shy and fragile. We were very happy with the cast of the kids. They were already actors shooting TV shows in France.
SCREAM: There’s a bit of humour in this film. Did you intend to steer way from straight horror with Among the Living?
Alexandre: There is humour because they are young characters I think.
Julien: Yes, they are teenagers so they are always making fun of the others and telling jokes, using bad language. It wasn’t a way for us to get away from straight horror, but it was just a way to have it as a more realistic vision of teenagers. When you have teenagers, in American cinema for example, they always have 25 year-olds who are supposed to play a 15 or 12-year old, you know? They never use bad language or swear words, but in real life it’s not like that.
SCREAM: How did you come up with the idea and design of you man-monster guy?
Julien: Our first idea was something much closer to a monster, like a physical disease and we wanted him to be much closer to that villain in a Tobe Hooper film…
Alexandre: Fun House!
Julien: Yes, the villain in Fun House! We wanted him to have deformities in the face, but very soon we thought it was a bad idea. We thought it would be much more disturbing to have a creature that is really close to a normal human being with some tiny details that make him a monster. We wanted to have some strangeness in the way he walks. We thought that having the guy naked in the kid’s room was disturbing enough to not have to put some horns or clothes on him. Of course, his absence of sexuality and strange tiny penis adds to that. *laughs* We didn’t want this character to be frightening in a way that as soon as you see him you hate him, because he’s a monster but we wanted empathy towards his character, like he’s a lost kid.
SCREAM: As you mentioned Tobe Hooper. Can you tell us anything about Leatherface…?
SCREAM: Nothing?! Is it going well or..?
Julien: We cannot say much about it, but the shooting is finished and the movie is now in post-production. Shooting was great and a fantastic experience. It was really exciting for Alex and me, because it is our first movie in English.
SCREAM: How did that compare to working on something French?
Alexandre: It was really amazing. It was really cool, because we had a fantastic cast and we were impressed. They were all really careful with us and we were all on the same page with what we wanted on-screen. There were a lot of young actors and they wanted to give their best. It was really exciting. They were always proposing ideas and had a vision to offer. It was one of our best shooting experiences.
SCREAM: The question we’re all wondering is how gory it’s going to be…
Julien: The movie is actually quite violent. In terms of gore… there is some in the movie, but you know how it is. We have to be aware of the restrictions. We aren’t sure what the rating is going to be yet. If the movie is cut, then maybe one day there will be an ‘R’ rated version.
SCREAM: I hope so! Do you know much about the remake of Inside?
Alexandre: We’ve known Jaume Balaguero for a long time and we saw the script 3 or 4 years ago. It was very cool and very different.
SCREAM: Different in what way?
Alexandre: Ah, you will see! It was the same plot, but it had another way of thinking about the violence. It was a very smart way of remaking a movie. But now, Jaume is just a producer and we aren’t sure if the new director [Miguel Angel Vivas] will take the same way to shooting the movie. But, we are very excited.
SCREAM: Why did you two turn down directing the remake?
Julien: When we received the offer it was in 2008 and we didn’t find any interest in remaking our own movie. We have so many sub genres that we want to explore. We would love to do a monster movie or a ghost story, you know? We couldn’t see what we could bring to a story that we already told. We thought it would be strange to tell this story again and not repeat ourselves. For us it was like a joke! We were like, “What!?” It had never crossed our minds and we had never discussed it. We thought it would be obvious to say that we want to tell other stories; we don’t want to tell this one again.
SCREAM: If you could remake a film what would it be?
Alexandre: Wow! Maybe a classic from Tobe Hooper I think. Probably Fun House, because we love this movie. It is our dream to make a new version of it by mixing Tobe Hooper’s movie with the original book.
Julien: Yeah, because the book explored the universe of the fun fair much more than Tobe Hooper did. We definitely think we could bring something new to the story.
Alexandre: A remake of Jaws, too! *laughs* Because we think that this is not a perfect, so we should make a remake of it.
SCREAM: Wow, yes. That would be something!
Alexandre: *laughs* It’s a joke obviously, because this is our favourite movie. For us, it’s perfect.
SCREAM: I don’t think anyone would ever attempt to remake it.
Julien: It would be crazy!
SCREAM: I guess this has to be my final question. What are you going to do next?
Alexandre: Another movie!
Julien: We don’t know yet, but we have some projects and we have a wish list. We are always writing and we have a lot of scripts in our drawers. We are trying to have one of these come to life for the next movie. Otherwise, we have a lot of great opportunities in France and also in the USA. Honestly, we don’t know yet. We do know that it’s not going to be a comedy or a drama, but it will be another pure 100% genre movie.
SCREAM: That’s what we want to hear! Thanks for your time, guys.
Julien: Thank you!
Alexandre: Thanks, take care.
Be sure to grab a copy of Among The Living when it hits DVD on 7th March 2016. We will leave you with the trailer.
Words: Jessy Williams (@jessycritical)