Adam Mason & Simon Boyes

Okay, so not to beat around the bush, we all know why we're here: your movie, Broken, showed at FrightFest in London this summer, and I subsequently wrote a review on the IMDB that said it was "just sadistic for the sake of it, without any intelligence or humour to back up the violence", amongst other things. So let's talk about Broken. Why did you set out to make this movie? What was the inspiration behind it?

Adam Mason: Well, it was made out of total frustration at trying to get projects up and running in the UK. I'd spent years and years struggling, getting led down blind alleys by talentless, parasite producer arseholes trying to make careers for themselves. Even trying to raise £50K or something is a total nightmare over here. It's alright if you're Mike Leigh or Ken Loach or part of that wank club. But if you're anyone else, you don't want to be making films over here. We made Broken because I didn't know what else to do. I've made shit loads of music videos (more than 60 I think) and a couple of good shorts, but I needed to prove that I could carry a feature; if only to myself, because I was going out of my mind. I guess you'd argue that I failed, but, like, whatever. (holds up Jeremy Kyle style fingers and pulls ugly face)

Storywise, there was no real inspiration behind it, other than what we had at our disposal, which was a camera, three lights, a wood and two actors. The film is as violent as it is because we had to make something that stuck out, one way or another. We didn't have an FX budget so Bad Taste was out of the window; it had to be brutal, sadistic horror. There was no other route really. Everything we did was dictated by the (lack of) budget.

Simon Boyes: I'd also add that when we set about going down the path of trying to make something out of practically nothing, it just made sense to do something bleak and serious and, whether sadistic or not, I think real, because real life violence is sadistic and cruel anyway, but also simple. I think there's a lot of horror these days that is gimmicky and convoluted and it doesn't need to be.

I read in another interview that there were extensive re-shoots and I know you were editing almost right up until the last minute before the FrightFest; what changed from the original cut? How happy are you with the current version?

Adam: It was just budget stuff; things we tried that we couldn't pull off for the most ridiculous of reasons. Like originally there was a road that was supposed to symbolise hope to the lead character. But we could never find a road in the middle of a forest that also had power for our lights, so we found a road with trees down one side but not the other, and tried to shoot the scenes. With our three lights and the limited angles we could get, it just wasn't convincing. Other examples: in the original ending, Hope got her revenge on the man and ended up walking down the road back to civilisation, holding her daughter's hand, with the sun raising in front of her. She basically did to the man what he did with her, sowing (what was then) a flesh eating bug into his guts and burying him alive....

I'm totally happy with the cut of the film now. I'm the most proud of it of anything I've done because I feel like I bled for it. I put my heart and soul into it under the worst possible circumstances, with no support from anyone. When we made it - I always thought that the film would be like a spike on a graph where 99% of people would totally hate it, but 1% would really love it. And so far people have overwhelmingly loved it. But that's only because we've been playing it to that specific audience; I guess you're the first of the backlash. Which is fine, it's not a film for everyone. I gotta say, though - it makes me feel better that you hated Wolf Creek and The Hills Have Eyes, as I guess we're in the same (smaller) boat as them.

Simon: Personally there isn't anything I'd change from the cut that showed at FrightFest. It is what it is now and to us it's as perfect as it can get.

I thought the beginning, where Hope's on a date, seemed completely incongruous with the rest. Was that just to set up "aww, she's a single mother with a cute kid" or was there more to it? I also found the Man's actions kind of illogical, which was maybe the point, but something about it didn't sit right with me. And I think the subject of Hope's immaculate makeup has been brought up already! Was there anything to the younger girl being in a school uniform, other than just to signify youth?

Adam: For me, it was supposed to prove how indiscriminate and asexual the Man was in his choices. Originally, there was a much older woman he brought into the camp later on, but that got lost. I agree that the schoolgirl thing could feel a bit Britney Spears, but it was never intended that way.

Simon: The beginning is a little concession to back story, but principally it's there to say that this is someone with a life, with friends and a kid. She has something to lose. She's also clearly an independent woman. There is no husband, no father figure to Jennifer. This is an independent single mother who's going to be drawn into a perverted attempt at marital and domestic bliss.

Of course the Man's actions are in some ways illogical. He is an illogical, irrational sociopath. There is a definite method to his madness to the point that it becomes a ritual with him (razor in stomach, will you continue, etc). The early torture is about filtering out the weak and isolating the strong. The strong get to go back to his camp where the indoctrination begins. Of course it's illogical, it's a perversion of human nature to fit the ideals of a maniac.

In terms of the make-up, you'll remember a great line in Garth Marenghi's Darkplace where Dean Lerner is talking about the special effects in the “Hell Hath Fury” episode. He says something like, 'if you're watching this show and you're looking at the strings, you're a freak'. I'm not calling you a freak but you get the point! If the makeup was that big a deal for you then I guess we failed to hold your attention and so we failed you. But it's a bit pedantic don't you think? Sure, we were striving for realism and if we fucked up there and let you down then I'm sorry, but in the grand scheme of things, I don't think it affects the resonance and point of the movie. Is there ever any doubt that she's having a terrible time?

Hmmm, I'm not convinced; Dean Lerner's a spoof character, after all! Hope's constant screaming would seem to back you up, but you did mention something about maintaining the realism all the way through… Anyway, how do you feel about the comparisons (primarily on the IMDB) with Saw? The method used by the Man to test his victims is pretty Saw-like, but, I mean, Saw has been slammed for its overuse of the MTV-edit, and in tone Broken is far more similar to Wolf Creek, in my opinion. I'm guessing we share a disdain for the current watered-down 12A horror movie rubbish like The Fog (and also for the insane amount of remakes floating about) but you're fans of Wolf Creek, aren't you? Why is that?

Adam: Well, me and Simon despised Saw. We added all that stuff to make sure it got released. I personally don't like that kind of gore for the sake of gore. I think it's silly. Saw annoyed me to the point where I felt like taking it to an extreme and seeing how people felt about it then.

Also, I can't stand diet-horror or horror-lite or whatever you want to call it. My idea of horror is to be totally terrified. That's what I want when I walk into the cinema or whatever. I loved Wolf Creek. If I'm being quite honest – it's because I've seen some really awful, violent things in my life, and I know what it feels like to be put in a situation where your life is in jeperday. (sic) I know what violence feels like when you're on the receiving end of it. And it's fucking horrible. It's not Saw or Cabin Fever; Wolf Creek or Chainsaw Massacre or Straw Dogs -- those films are made by people who understand violence. Horror is so popular because being afraid is a core component to us as humans. It's ingrained within us. Everyone responds to fear in one way or another. But House of Wax or any of those god-awful films isn't going to touch that. Consequently I find them utterly redundant.

Simon: Like Adam said, I didn't like Saw at all. It's a laughable mess of a movie that's trying so hard to be shocking that it kind of misses the point. Having someone pull a knife is scary, not some dumb metal box strapped to your head that's going to rip your jaw apart or whatever. Who does that? It's retarded because it's like theme park ride horror, it's not real. Be afraid of the guy walking ten steps behind you at night when you get off the tube, don't be afraid of a clown on a unicycle locking you in a bathroom with a hacksaw and a bad puzzle game because it isn't going to happen. Hope not anyway!

It's interesting that you don't like Wolf Creek or our movie because we both loved Wolf Creek. I think again it's that sense for me that this could happen, maybe not so dramatically but that there are people out there with the will to do that to someone. What Wolf Creek did so well was set up the scenario and then punctuate it with a few key moments of shock. In terms of screen time there's hardly any violence in it and, for me anyway, it left a lasting impression of terror and how dangerous the world can be. I feel Broken does a similar thing because the violence is such a small part of it. It's small violent beats that create an atmosphere of fear that Hope then has to work within if she's going to survive. If she pushes the boundaries too far she gets punished, if she stays too far within them she loses her independence and becomes a slave, an automaton.

I don't like this crazy 12A horror cycle that seems to be happening right now any more than you and that's I think why Adam and I were aiming for something a little smarter, and a little more adult. For you, we missed the mark, but hey, at least we tried, and for a lot of people we got somewhere close.

So, Adam, you mentioned “understanding” violence -- was this cathartic to you? Making the film or watching similar movies? I'm not sure what there is to be gained from a film that echoes the unpleasantness and violence of "real life".

Adam: I have a strong urge to make people feel that way. Maybe it is cathartic? I never really thought about it like that. I have a general contempt for mankind, although I deeply love people as individuals. You're probably right.

But if I were to express myself through painting, then the painting would be an angry blood splat on a canvas of black. So I guess my films are like that. Actually, you are right. I do feel better when I make something that expresses how I feel about life. I guess taking it to such extremes is not such a healthy thing.

Have you seen Switchblade Romance/Haute Tension/High Tension/whichever title it's going by this week, then? Were you fans of that?

Simon: I loved it until the twist ending was revealed which has to be one of the worst endings ever. Adam disagrees with me but the ending for me was the ultimate sell-out. It's like saying, don't worry, we're not gonna make another Saw, and then convincing you that they're smarter than that for 80 minutes before pissing all over your dreams by sticking the stupid ending in. I thought it was insulting for real horror fans and a concession to the Saw fans. Still think Aja is a genius though, and the first 80 minutes are awesome.

Adam: I thought it was incredible; I'm guessing you didn't! Even the ending didn't bother me. It stuck to its guns, and it didn't compromise. Aja knows what he's doing.

Do you worry that films like Broken just kind of glamorise violence? I'm not blaming you for the downfall of Western civilisation or anything, and that's an accusation that gets levelled at pretty much every horror movie since the beginning of time, but with Broken, it seemed as though there was just a tendency to enjoy the graphic, drawn-out and very realistic violence a little too much. I'm all for horror movies being gory and fun, but I felt like Broken had a mean-spirit beneath it all.

Adam: Well, all the beginning stuff is total exploitation. It's freak show stuff. But from the moment Hope wakes up in the camp the film becomes a very different thing. And I don't think anything from there on in glamorises violence whatsoever. It just shows it as it is. The camp becomes an example of the way the world plays out. I don't think the film is sexist - although the man is as misogynistic as I can possibly imagine. But because the film plays out through the victim's eyes the film itself isn't remotely sexist. To me she is everyone in life who has been fucked over. The world is a cruel place, Sarah. Life doesn't have a happy ending. You will end up alone and blind and screaming out in the dark.

Simon: I in no way think this film glamorises violence. Violence is mean-spirited. It snatches the life away from innocent people everyday, it's cruel and vindictive. If people find it amusing or enthralling then that perhaps says more about them than it does us. Sounds like a cop out but to evaluate everything in life whether it's movies or something else you can't just consider the thing itself, but the people who are reacting to it as well. They bring something to the movie too. What is a movie without an audience?

Sure, it's a two way process between the filmmakers and their audience, but that doesn't just mean you can throw anything at people and let them make the best of it; it came from you, and not from the audience, in the first place. If you're making a film you'd want to watch, too, then you're sort of playing director and audience at once, aren't you? And okay, that's the Man's perception, but aren't you endorsing it in a way by portraying it like this?

Simon: That implies that any director is endorsing anything that any character in his movie says or believes. Watch a movie about Hitler. Does the director endorse Hitler by putting him in the movie? Of course not. Some bigoted woman hater might well side with the man, but any normal, rounded human being would not. For me, sympathy always remains with Hope overall, but that's not to say we can't pity the man at times, because he is misguided, and he is pathetic; he's attempting to create his ideal of domestic perfection. Ultimately his efforts utterly fail and for me, even considering the cruelness of the ending, the message is pretty clear that despite his best efforts at breaking Hope's sense of human spirit and independence, he was never going to get the better of her because through her experiences and her love for her child (dead or not) she would always believe in a better way of life. It's a microcosm for society if you like. People try to put other people down and you have to decide whether or not you have the strength of human spirit to stand up and escape that kind of persecution. That's a simplistic view but it's the basis for all civil rights action isn't it? It's about not tolerating an oppressive force and then that kind of revolution gaining momentum through actions and words.

The ending isn't about unravelling that sense of a positive message but it is about giving out a warning because with the best of intentions, and with all the human spirit in the world, you can still get shot in the face tomorrow and end up on your knees and crying and back to square one. Whether or not you think Hope will still fight on despite being blinded is up to you.

That's more interesting to me; I don't generally think a movie needs, or even necessarily should have, a message or a moral, but there's always going to be a way of interpreting things, or analysing them to find something else going on there.

Simon: For sure. I hate message movies, but the truth is, every movie has a message. It may not be the message we thought, but it's a message. You can deliver it with a sledgehammer or you can leave it for your audience to decide. Audiences are smart, they don't need to be lead. Everything is open to independent interpretation, hence the reason you don't like the movie and someone else maybe does!!

Honestly, the "based on true events" tag didn't help; that's one of the things that instantly wrong-foots me with horror movies – I'm not looking for real events, particularly, just an interesting story. Since you've said that it wasn't based on any specific story, why did you include that line?

Adam: I found Fargo really funny. People love thinking that horror movies are real. Chainsaw, Wolf Creek; the serial killer fascination. It's based on a true story in the sense that every day men torture and rape women and children and fuck people over.

Alright. What got you interested in horror in the first place? What are your all-time favourite horror movies, and what is it that appeals to you about them?

Adam: Well, I love Texas Chainsaw (the original), Angel Heart, Jacobs Ladder, Seven, Straw Dogs, that kind of stuff. But then I also love stuff like Vamp, Re-animator, Day Of The Dead, Opera... I love horror, I like it even when it's bad. I just can't stand it when it's boring, like the current crop of American bullshit.

That's definitely something I can identify with; the worst thing a movie can be is boring.

Adam: Totally true. The same for any kind of entertainment. I mean – look at the fucking charts! It's led by mediocrity. But people just consume. I don't think that market culture is purely dictated by taste, it's dictated by availability. Most forms of entertainment are average. They're bland, and they're crafted that way on purpose. It's like in music – I don't care if you love DJ Shadow or Tool or The Streets, but there's no doubt that all of those bands are better than Westlife or the fucking Crazy Frog. But both of those latter embarrassments sell way more.

Simon: I hate Crazy Frog but it's better than The Streets. Man, I hate The Streets! I'm mot a massive horror fan if I'm totally honest. For me, it's a genre where good movies are seriously heavily outnumbered by bad ones. I love Halloween and Texas Chainsaw and more recently Devil's Rejects (now that really is a mean-spirited movie) and Wolf Creek, and I hate a lot of the bullshit in between.

I hate that I feel like, in criticising Broken, I sound like the voice of the Daily Mail, all "ban this filth!" Would that sort of condemnation, like the anti-Hostel brigade, be hurtful to you, or is it par for the course? Personally, I think their uptight outrage makes for good poster-quotes, but I guess directors don't always see it that way.

Adam: It doesn't bother me, I made it to get a reaction. It was made out of rage anyway. I enjoy seeing people squirm because it means they are noticing us. As long as people are offended and don't just think it's bad. I wouldn't like that. I don't know what I feel about people hysterically slating violent films. I can see their point. I'd feel differently if I had kids I guess. But violence is a part of our culture. People seem to deny that there is a primeval beast inside them. Deal with it. Listen to the news. Pull your head out of the sand.

I don't see how a film like Wolf Creek causes any problems whatsoever. I'm more offended by Pirates of the Caribbean 2 or Superman. Films like that send out mixed messages to young people about violence and sex in a way that decent horror doesn't. Eastenders is way more damaging to our society than The Beyond ever will be. Horror fans don't really strike me as dangerous. They're usually lovely sensitive people. Where as most geezers lads in a London boozer on a Friday night would quite likely do some damage. I have more faith in horror fans than I do in most people, put it that way.

Simon: I couldn't care less what the Daily Mail thinks. I hate it when it sells a movie that's undeserving, like Hostel. That rode in on this wave of controversy and turned out to be a limp dick of a movie. That's a big disappointment. It's better not to disappoint. In truth I think it would be a shame if Broken got labelled exploitative and sold on that basis because although I'm biased I think it's better than that. The reality is that there is very little violence in it. There's maybe four or five key moments in a 90 minute movie. That's a pretty small screen time devoted to violence and a pretty large one devoted to drama and atmosphere. Whether you like it or not is a different matter, but I think it's unfair to say it's all about the violence. To me that's the least interesting part of the movie.

You mentioned that you've encountered problems with the UK film industry, which is something I've heard from other UK filmmakers too; do you think the industry's just not into giving newcomers a chance? What's going on there?

Adam: The people who run the industry here are all interbred and they don't understand that this is a business, not a little art house club. The Lottery has crippled the industry over here, but the tide is changing. Anyone can make a film now thanks to technology. There really is no excuse. If I can make a film for fuck all that gets distributed in more than 40 countries then anyone can.

Simon: I just think there's a total lack of vision with these people. They've blinkered themselves to the possibility that someone young and relatively untested can make something with a tiny budget that might actually be interesting. They'd rather spend however many millions of pounds on the next Hugh Grant/Richard Curtis wank-off than give some kid with a cool idea 50 grand. That's sad, because that's peanuts to these people and they won't even take a gamble that small. They should learn to be a little bolder, and a little more trusting. Sure, they might get a few shit movies back but they only cost them 50 grand, and maybe, just maybe, they'll get the next Blair Witch Project and laugh their arses all the way to the bank.

Are we just talking the "industry", or do you think audiences differ on each side of the pond too? Did you catch Jordan Barker's interview at FrightFest? That seemed, er, a little harsh on the part of several audience members; what's been your experience at FrightFest in the past?

Simon: FrightFest's kind of new to me but the people I met were amazing. They were interested and seemed to like it and so many of them were just pleased to see something new and something a bit different. I think audiences all over the world are getting sick to death of the same old shit, especially when it comes to these remakes. Remaking The Wicker Man is fucking sacrilege. Surely no true horror fan is going to go see it, but I bet somehow it'll make its money and they'll keep coming.

Adam: I love the FrightFest. I've been with it since day one. All of the fans I've ever met have been fantastic, passionate people. But then there's consistently a backlash towards people like me and Jake West, kind of like your review. Which I just think is a bit unfair as we try so hard with nothing at our disposal. But it's in the British mentality to criticise especially home grown talent. I didn't catch Barker's interview. What did he say?

That's a bit unfair; I've been a massive supporter of other indie movies, both British and American, I just happened not to like Broken. When I wrote my review of Wolf Creek, I got abusive emails telling me I was clearly prejudged against Australians, so I don't think that nationality has anything to do with it at all. But back to the point, regarding Jordan Barker, the FrightFest audience asked a lot of awkward questions that boiled down to "why did your movie suck?" (to be fair, it was a slick little soggy dead girl story, so I could see their point) and he essentially stood there and apologised for his movie.

Adam: Oh - okay. I thought you meant he was antagonistic. Well, I made a film that was shit (Dust) and the FrightFest audience responded fairly!! But I've publicly apologised for that. It's hard making films; you need to learn this shit. You're not just born with it. I don't think Broken is a bad movie by any means and I'll fight for it like it's my first born child.

But Ian and Paul and Alan [FrightFest organisers] have stuck with me since day 1, and have taken a lot of criticism for it. And you know, that means more to me than anything. It made me really proud last weekend that Broken went down well in the eyes of a lot of people, just because Paul and the others gave me another chance. That kind of loyalty is uncommon in the film business.

Back up a bit: why do you think Dust is shit? Surely you (and presumably the FrightFest organisers) didn't think so at the time? Did the audience's reaction change your own perception of the movie?

Adam: I don't know what I thought of it at the time, I was way too close to it back then. But in hindsight, it was a massive mistake. The audience spoke their mind and five years later I totally agree with them.

Since it's become easier now for everyone to make a movie if they fancy it, doesn't that mean that the standard of indie movies is necessarily going to drop? It's not necessary to really have any training or anything any more; while it's obviously a huge accomplishment to make and finish a film, particularly a feature-length one, from my perspective as a film critic I don't feel like I'm therefore obliged to like everything everyone makes!

Simon: But so what if most of them are crap. There's enough space in the world. It's your bad luck that as a critic you'll have to sit through the shit to get to the good stuff but that makes finding a gem even better! I'd rather a million kids go out and make a movie, ten of which are good, than five people get given money and one of them's good. We've already agreed it's subjective to say what's good and what's not, so why not let everyone have a go? Separate the good from the bad by letting people try and then judge, rather than not giving anyone a shot. Anyone who wants to should try and make a movie. If you fail you fail, but maybe, just maybe you'll make something great. Hey, at least you tried.

Adam: Yeah – well, without your opinion as a critic you'd be nothing. People like Paul Ross appal me. They are in the pockets of the studios. To be honest, this has been refreshing. I enjoy talking about this with you. I can't pretend I wasn't offended by your review, but I'm pragmatic enough, I think, to see your point of view. And I actually appreciate it.

Adam, you also mentioned that you're a very opinionated person, and horror fans do tend to like a good moan. Which movies do you really hate? (I'm preparing myself for an anti-Eli Roth rant here, which is a pity since I really love both Hostel and Cabin Fever, but I'm also prepared to be in a minority!)

Adam: Eli Roth is basically a frustrated actor, which was evident from the first time I heard him doing his lame David Lynch impression. Tarantino is also a frustrated actor, but he's also a genius writer and director, which Roth clearly isn't. He's just a showman in the most annoying American sense of the word. If he wasn't such an utter cock, I wouldn't mind his movies so much. David Fincher lets his movies do the talking. Eli Roth should take some lessons from him and stop showing off.

Simon: I hate too many movies to list them all. I quite liked Cabin Fever but Hostel was, for me, complete garbage.

So what happened when you met Eli Roth? Did you already dislike his work before you met him, or was there a personal aspect to it, or, I guess, some of both?

Adam: I was asked to film Roth's intro for when Cabin Fever played at FrightFest a few years ago, then I met him a couple of times since. He's a fan, you know; his intentions are pure. He just wound me up, and to me he symbolises everything I hate about this industry. He's made it on his own terms, and I actually respect his films for what he's achieved, but he never lets his films speak for themselves. He's a total showman. Deep down, I can't deny that I'm jealous of what he's achieved. He's got his head screwed on. It's not like I think he's a fool. I just haven't seen a filmmaker who has antagonised me like that since... well, Tarantino. But with Tarantino, there's no doubting his genius. I think filmmakers should stay in the shadows. It's like when Cameron (who I love as a filmmaker) stood up with his 'I'm king of the world' shit; it's like when you get Robbie Williams or Fred Durst or whoever doing that 'I'm the best' kind of shit. It really winds me up. Directors should just shut the fuck up and let their work do the talking...

Which is ironic, considering what I'm doing now.

Simon: Eli Roth got lucky 'cause for some reason David Lynch thought it would be ironic to actually hire the guy. He says himself, he only got “Cabin Fever” going because Lynch's name was on it. He's average, and that's almost worse than being bad.

To end things on a more positive note – your next movie, The Devil's Chair, stars Matt Berry, who is one of my personal heroes; he's awesome. And Adam, your AIM screenname suggests you're a fan of Garth Marenghi's Darkplace (and that I am a massive nerd for noticing) so maybe we can find some common ground there! What's The Devil's Chair about? Is that going to be another indie movie?

Adam: We all love Garth. Garth helped us to get Broken made, because after each nightmarish night shoot in the middle of December we would come back and watch an episode off my bootleg eBay DVD. It really helped us have a sense of humour about what we were doing, and I always thought that if I had a chance I'd like to pay them back. Sanchez was my favourite character so we cast him in The Devil's Chair (which was a bit of a fight) and Matt is a total genius.

Devil's Chair is way more commercial than Broken. It's set in an abandoned asylum, it's got a Hellraiser style chair, a demon... But then the end is more violent than anything in Broken. I'm sure there's lots of stuff in there for you to hate!

Well, I guess we'll see. Also, I have to ask – your IMDB profile says you were fired from Marks and Spencer for "being unprofessional". What happened there?

Adam: I used to work in their Customer Complaints department. And one summer, when I was really hungover, I opened a package that contained someone's vomit that they'd sent in for analysis. I just couldn't handle it and I walked out. Twenty minutes later they phoned me to say I was fired for 'being unprofessional'. Which I thought was pretty lame. In my mind I'd quit anyway, I just didn't have time to tell them.

Alright, well, cheers for being such good sports, guys.

IMDB link

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