One of the best hands down films of the year is ABATTOIR by Darren Lynn Bousman. We got together at the appropriately eerie and beautiful Roosevelt Hotel and talked about the movie, murder, and Batman…because…Batman. So read this and see the movie ABATTOIR!!!
James: Hey everybody, this is James working for Sinful Celluloid. I’m here with Darren Lynn Bousman, he’s got a new movie coming out called Abattoir. You know what? I’m sure you’ve got interviews all day, you’ve had interviews all week. Has anyone taken the time to ask you about your feelings? How are you doing?
Darren: I’m doing great, thank you very much, and no they haven’t, not even my wife. So you’re the first.
James: Good, hopefully you’re enjoying the Roosevelt Hotel, I’ve never been here before.
Darren: Oh, yeah, it’s crazy. Ironically, I just finished up another project called “The Tension Experience”
James: Tell me about that.
Darren: It’s this weird, crazy immersive experience thing and it’s funny because one of the people that went through the experience is one of the owners of the Roosevelt and I ended up meeting him after the fact and now I’ve become friends with the guy. So I’ve been at the Roosevelt like every day in the last month. So it feels like I’ve just moved in here.
James: So the first thing I did when I came in through the doors is I went to use the restroom and I was like, “This is nicer than my apartment!” Then I got in the elevator and I was like, “…And this is where I die.”
Darren: [laughs] It’s a beautiful hotel, there’s been a lot of premiers here that I’ve been to, I think even some of the Saw stuff they did here back in the day because the Chinese theater’s right across the street. So it’s been a staple of my time in Hollywood, so it’s very fitting that the Abattoir thing is here.
James: So the Saw stuff, you worked on previously, so I’ll ask the first question that comes outta that. This one comes from Chris (Sinful Celluloid) “Abbatoir has some of the darkest murders that have ever been filmed, so how does it compare to your other films like ‘Saw?’”
Darren: I think Abbatoir is different in the fact that it’s NOT a horror film, it’s got horror elements to it, but it’s a weird hybrid of film-noir/crime-thriller with a touch of horror. It’s unique, I think when you watch the movie, the title “Abbatoir” could throw you off because it’s french for “slaughterhouse” but the actual premise of it is a man who basically is going around and buying crime scenes and is taking out the rooms where the crime took place in. Which is horror-based, but I wanted to put it in a hyper-stylized world so I set like a 1940’s hard-nosed detective kinda thing. So even though the movie is modern, they talk like they do in the 40’s. So when you go into it, it might throw you through a loop because it’s a very “talky” movie and they’re talking in this hyper-stylized fashion. And they’re basically trying to solve crimes, what it is is a murder mystery, trying to solve crimes, and the further into the crime they go, the darker it becomes.
James: Right, so I got to see the movie before coming in and asking you these questions and, to be honest, I’m not a horror guy, never been big into horror movies. The things that scare me are like Twilight Zone, so it’s actually very Twilight Zone-ish and it caught my attention especially after my friend Chris told me it was based off of a graphic novel/comic book that you had actually created as well. The second he said comic books, I said, “Great I’ll watch it, I guess.” It had my attention, it was an original idea and that’s something that not a lot of films seem to be doing these days. It’s all kinda reboots, so it was nice to see a movie for the first time where I’m thinking, “Where is this going? What’s gonna happen?” I got the premise when they were ripping the rooms out of the houses, which was nice, and then they step into kind of a supernatural world. That was fun.
Darren: So the comic book started, we did the comic book a few years back and the idea with that was kind of to tell the backstory of Jedediah Crone and set the universe up. There’s a guy who’s a real estate person, he buys houses and rips out the rooms. And it was cool because the comic book allowed me to experiment with the story and figure out what worked and what I wanted to do for the film. And the film, kind of the whole concept of Abattoir was a multi-platform-story-telling idea. Meaning, it would be told partially in comic book, partially in movie, partially in TV show, partially as an alternate reality game…
James: I was gonna ask you about that because I’ve been playing with the VR stuff lately and that’s awesome.
Darren: Well, and I think what’s so crazy, what I love about Abbatoir is how do you find a new take on haunted houses? There’s been so many haunted house movies. So I didn’t want to make it about the haunted house, I wanted to make it about the creation, about the building of the haunted house, which is the ultimate origin story i think, on why it came to be. And so I wanted to not make it gruesome and violent and gratuitous, like some of my other films, and make it more based in character and mythology. This is dense. It’s a huge mythology to bite off in a 90 minute movie and hopefully, this is just the first of many ones of these that come out. There’s a sequel to be written called “The Dwelling,” which the hope is we’re making that next year. And we have the graphic novel and we’re pitching TV shows, stuff like that. So hopefully this is the beginning of a new film noir franchise.
James: It’s perfect that you actually said all that because now I don’t have to ask one of the questions, but I’ll let you know what it was anyway. Now that you’ve created the ultimate haunted house are there plans to explore it in a sequel? And the comic books tie in with this, and it’s not just an adaptation, the comic books are part of this.
Darren: That’s the idea. People have to respond to the first one and the others, but the idea of The Dwelling is so vastly different from the first one, it’s almost a smaller and more personal story. It’s not a sequel, it’s another story existing in the universe. That’s what I think is really cool, the idea behind Abbatoir is the universe. And the universe has a guy who buys crime scenes and again, it has that 1940’s feel to it. But the sequel is 1980’s and so it’s kind of very pretty in the 80’s.
James: So this Jedediah Crone character, he’s the one carrying this universe.
Darren: yes, he is. And there is a Chinese version as well that’s being done, that again, furthers the story along. I think it’s fascinating, because from a production design standpoint, he’s ripping rooms out of different styles of houses and different continents and different eras. So we can get a room from the 20’s, a room from the 50’s, a room from the 80’s, a room from the 2000’s. And it allows you to get different types of ghosts, different types of scares, different types of visual things. So that’s the hope with this.
James: Yeah, like I said, as soon as I heard it was about a comic book, I went and watched the movie. Now that I know it’s not an adaptation of the comics, it’s going to make it that much better, in my opinion, as a comic book reader. That’s why I like the Marvel movies so much because even though I don’t know where it’s going, it’s different. So to know that you’re creating a universe with this same concept, it will draw a lot of attention. You’ve got my attention for sure and I’m not even a horror guy.
Darren: I think the comic book are there to serve as a different avenue into the universe. Meaning there’s nothing similar between the comic books and the movies at all. The comic books deal with a different character named Richard Ashwalt which is it’s own story. This is another journey of Jedediah Crone, who’s trying to create this gateway to hell. So that’s just one of the numerous stories.
James: That’s perfect because the next question I had was “how much does the comic book influence the film?” So you’re saying not really at all, it’s just the premise of Jedediah Crone dragging it along.
Darren: I think the comic book allowed us to experiment and figure out the stories we wanted to tell, and the kind of visual flair to it, but the actual content of the comic book, not much. I would love to do another series of comic books based on this as well, because there are so many stories that I wanted to tell that I had to condense to make it in the movie. With the movie, 90 minutes is what you have, and we have hundreds of ideas that we weren’t able to put in the movie. Since the mythology is so dense, I would love to do another series of Abbatoir comic books that deal with another side we haven’t seen yet.
James: So when you say you have a million different ideas for the comic books, do you mean the murders specifically or are you talking about characters dealing with Jebediah Crone?
Darren: So we know this is kinda spoilery, but not really, so the idea is that Jebediah Crone went to Hell and he was brought back and he’s constructing this Abbatoir to bring his family out of hell. One of the stories I talk about is the religious connotations of how he figured out the Abbatoir, how to construct something like this. Where did this come from? Where did the architecture come from? We have a character called The Architect who is someone who is designing these rooms and how to put them together.
James: The Architect, has he been introduced already?
Darren: In the Chinese script, he is. So I want to follow the architect, I want to follow the story of the town and why they sacrificed their kids and what that brought them. There’s all these other stories that we want to go in to about the mythology. It’s keeping with the idea that if you put evil together, it can create this thing. So they would all deal in Jedediah Crone, but they would each be different.
James: I like that idea. Personally, I’ve always said that I’ve always wanted to see a movie that is in a way the same movie, but you see all the different perspectives of everybody. Like in horror movies, like what is the killer doing while he’s waiting to find somebody? What’s the jock doing the whole time? What’s the queen doing the whole time? So it’s explaining what I’ve been wanting to see forever, fortunately it’s in a horror movie so I will have to see the horror movie, but
Darren: That’s awesome. That’s exactly it and I think it’s so great, in everyone’s story they’re always the hero. In Jebediah’s story, he’s the hero. So as you see the different angles, your perception of the events begin to change. The more information you’re giving an audience member, the more their perception of what’s actually happening changes. And the Dwelling does that, without giving anything away, it shows you events that will change your interpretation of what the first movie you saw was.
James: God damn, you have my attention. I think it’s so cool because I’ve been waiting for a movie like that for so long. So last question I have for Sinful Celluloid, What kind of mental preparations went into making this sort of movie? Do you put yourself in a dark place when you think of the murders or at some point was it just a concept and you were like “okay, I’ll turn this into a murder thing?” What was your mental state with this?
Darren: You know, at the time I was in a weird place because the movie had been shut down a few times. This was a movie I tried to make for years and a series of unfortunate events stopped it from happening. When we finally got the movie up and running, my wife had just gotten pregnant and so she couldn’t travel because she had to be near her doctor. I think she was about 6 months pregnant. I was weird because every time the phone rang I was like, “Is that my wife? Is everything okay with the kid?” And it was also the longest I’d been away from home that she couldn’t come and visit, so I was in a weird place already. This was the first time I did not work with my crew, I usually have a crew that I work with that I’ve done my Devil’s Carnivals and Repo movies, so I was a fish out of water this time. It was a weird experience because it forced me out of my comfort zone. Usually, I’m a person of habit and I like my creature comforts and in this I did not have my friends with me, I didn’t have the same group of actors with me, I didn’t have my cinematographer, my production designer.
James: You didn’t have any chemistry with the crew
Darren: No, and that’s great though because it took me out of making the decisions I would normally fall into. And I think that’s very important because if I would have had my crew with me it would’ve been a very similar thing to films I’ve already made. And I think the choices I made in this film was kind of dictated by not having those people, I didn’t have yes-men around me, they forced me to be like, “Are you sure that’s what you wanna do?”
James: So this is all recent stuff when you’re talking about not being near your wife. So you’re talking not even the comic books, but the movie itself.
Darren: Yeah, you know I’ve changed a lot in the last few years since having a kid. Anytime you deal with religion, and it’s dealt with a lot of religion, specifically in the mythologies and going to hell.. It’s always a weird subject. But I think it’s because I’m a well-adjusted person and I get to expel my demons on a page. It’s just fun. There’s no drama at that point, I’m getting to create cool and awesome visuals. People always wonder because I made the Saw movies, is it crazy? Is it sad on set? No, it’s not, it’s hilarious. It’s fun and it’s just people having a good time.
James: You have to deal with the special effects, the makeup, the blood, the reactions people think are fear. So with that being said, I got engulfed in everything you have to say. I have a couple questions I’d like to ask – Batman or Superman? Who wins in a fight? These are the important questions.
Darren: I would say Superman because superman has an otherworldly power and Batman does not. Batman can be killed because he’s a person, but –
James: – This interview is done here.
Darren: BUT of those two who is my favorite? Batman, absolutely. I think Batman’s a badass because he’s human. I’ve never been a Superman fan, to be honest with you.
James: I can’t stand him.
Darren: I just tried to watch the Superman vs. Batman and I made it through like 12 minutes. I love Ben Affleck as Batman, I just couldn’t do it.
James: The only reason Ben Affleck isn’t my favorite Batman now is because Batman doesn’t come in with an intent to kill and for some reason he did. To me, Batman in comic books, would always find another way. I didn’t like that he was mercilessly killing people with his batmobile. So to me that wasn’t necessarily Batman.