RT’s "White Noise 2" set coverage, Part Three: producer Shawn Williamson, whose 50+ credits include "Slither," "White Noise," and many of Uwe Boll‘s thrillers, talks about the popularity of the horror remake, movie-hoppers, and "Dungeon Siege."
Shawn Williamson says was looking for the next hot Canuck horror director when Patrick Lussier came on board to "White Noise 2," and strangely, the term "Canadian horror" indeed seems to be increasingly relevant as more and more fright fests come from our friends to the north. Read on to hear what the Vancouver native thinks of the remake subgenre, shooting for a PG-13 audience, and working with Uwe Boll.
Shawn Williamson: Nathan we knew because we were all fans of "Serenity," but we also worked with him on "Slither," and found him to be an incredible actor, so it just seemed a natural fit for him in this role. Katee has a good following in "Battlestar" and we’ve loved her in the series. Her role is a quirky, cool, hip nurse and she seemed just perfect for it, so we were lucky to get both.
RT: Was there a conscious decision to get two actors from big sci-fi series with large followings?
SW: That was a bonus. The first priority was to get good actors. Secondarily, the fact that they both happen to work in the genre that our audience hopefully will respond to, that’s a big benefit.
RT: "Slither" was extremely well reviewed. What kind of reception are you expecting for "White Noise 2?"
SW: We hope we get reviewed in a similar manner to "Slither." We have a great script, a great cast, and a great director, but now we have to create something that the audience and the critics like, and frankly primarily what the audience likes. We need something that captures the audience and intrigues them, and does two things: makes something that a distributor can market well, but secondly that pleases the audience and makes them want to return or tell their friends to come see it.
It’s not a set formula; it’s a magical thing that happens. It’s an unquantifiable element that hopefully comes together in post, which combines the music with what we do in editing, with what Patrick does to it later. Hopefully that combination is successful commercially and critically.
RT: There has been a recent trend in horror films to show a lot of blood and gore, yet with "White Noise 2" you seem to be staying away from that and going a more realistic route.
SW: Personally, I find those films difficult to handle. The psychological horror we have here is done for a combination of reasons. That graphic element isn’t necessarily in this kind of film, and so there are some graphic moments. There’s a very brutal opening to the film, and some amazing prosthetics that are going to be shocking and graphic. But we aren’t relying on blood and guts to draw an audience; we’re relying on old-fashioned traditional "scare" moments. So we’re putting our energy primarily into scaring the audience when they’re not expecting it, and we’re going to do it without massive amounts of gore.
You can get a hard R-rating and limit your audience to a degree. When I went to the opening weekend of "White Noise," half of the audience was filled with teenage girls who went out looking to get scared, and if you make this an R-rated film, you can’t capture that audience.
They’ll probably go see the film, but they’ll buy a ticket for another film and sneak in to this one, so that doesn’t help our box-office, and that’s a lot of who our market is.
RT: So you guys are definitely shooting for a PG-13?
SW: We’re shooting multiple takes of different scenes, so we have an ability to test it different ways, but more than likely we’ll end up without an R-rating.
RT: A lot of horror remakes have been successful. What do you think of the current state of horror films?
SW: I think the remakes now are spectacular. "The Hills Have Eyes" and these films are recapturing why a lot of us grew up petrified of those sorts of films. They were made on a very tiny budget, but were classic horror. And now they’re being remade with a larger budget and perhaps a bit slicker. "Texas Chainsaw" is a perfect example, or "Dawn of the Dead" — great remakes of original classics, but they put a new spin on them that works well. I think it’s an opportunity to recognize a new class of horror fans that are kids that weren’t around when these films originally opened, but the concepts of the original films were so strong that it translates to a good film now.
RT: How do you think the Japanese horror films influence the horror films in the U.S.?
SW: Japanese and Korean films, they have such great visuals. And they’ve got a totally different style in how they shoot films. "Ringu" and the remake, "The Ring," are very different in some ways but very similar in style to a degree, but they also break tradition. They don’t follow standard mechanisms that we might use to create a horror film.
There are no rules in a lot of them. They create their own rules. The preconceptions of horror changed a lot with the Asian films coming in and really gained an audience in North America.
RT: How did you guys come across Patrick [Lussier] to direct?
SW: It was a combination of Universal and us looking for the next hot Canadian feature director in this genre. Patrick we’d probably want in any genre, but because this is a horror piece it’s something that we think with his background…as we did our searches for the right person to direct Canadian horror, he was the guy.
RT: Is it hard to adapt video games to films?
SW: It depends on the package. I think some films are done very well, and others are a challenge. The ones that are done haven’t met with huge critical success, but they have all met with financial success. I think "Silent Hill" is going to be a marvelous adaptation, because it’s a video game that lends itself well to adapt.
"House of the Dead" was a challenging one, because it’s a first-person shooting game, similar to "Doom." It didn’t get great reviews but it’s a good, solid first-person shooting game with a cast, a good video game adaptation that worked.
The problem with a lot of video games is that they are video games first, purely interactive for the gamer. Taking that process and adapting it to the screen is a very difficult transition.
"Mortal Kombat" I don’t think met with great critical success, but I think it was the first large one. Most haven’t met with huge critical success.
And the gaming community is incredibly critical, and they should be, because they’re coming from games that they love and are passionate about. Translating that from their passion and their vision of the game to what you can actually create on film is a very difficult process.
Sometimes it can end very well, and sometimes not as well.
RT: Given that you’ve done these video game adaptations, do you play video games yourself?
SW: Yes. It’s so busy that I don’t get to play as often as I can. I have a nine-year-old, so I play with him quite a bit. When I need to zone out, I’ll sit and lose myself in Halo like anyone might.
The video game adaptations that I’ve worked on typically are not horror films at all. They’re pretty much all action films, and they were never contrived as horror. Creating horror is very specific. It’s like comedy. They’re two of the hardest things to do.
It’s very much about shock composition and timing, and music combined. It’s very difficult to make a good horror film, a good classic horror. So the adaptations in the video game world that I’ve done were not horror at all, but pretty much straight action, and all Uwe Boll creations.
RT: How did you come to work with Uwe Boll?
SW: I met Uwe years ago when he was making smaller budget thrillers, and Uwe runs his own German financing fund. He is the only director I’ve ever worked with who finds the product he wants to adapt and pays for it from beginning to end. He self-finances his own movies. So Uwe is the ultimate creative decision maker on all of these films, and our job is to try to make the best film we can given all those parameters.
RT: Speaking of Uwe Boll, can you tell us about his latest movie that you’re producing, "Dungeon Siege?"
SW: There were two elements that were great. We had a great cast: Jason Statham, Ray Liotta, Leelee Sobieski, Claire Forlani, and Burt Reynolds. It was an amazing cast we managed to put together, combined with Tony Ching doing our action — Tony did "Hero" and "House of Flying Daggers," so the action in the film is absolutely amazing.
It’s a "Lord of the Rings" genre in essence, a medieval style mythical genre, but with some spectacular action. Tony brought a stunt team with him from China, and they coordinated an amazing action unit that shot here for three or four months, so the action in the battles is quite spectacular. Jason Statham is a natural acrobat and martial artist, so he wanted to do all of his own stunts and all of his own fighting and it works very, very well in the film. The action in that film is just marvelous.