This was the first of several interviews that I did with Julian Richards, on this occasion for the theatrical release of Darklands in 1997. Little did either of us know then that this film was to become one of the three cornerstones on which the 21st century British Horror Revival would be founded (along with Andrew Parkinson's I, Zombie and Urban Ghost Story from Genevieve Bujold and Chris Jones). A small extract from this was published at the time in SFX.
"It was really a combination of things, I suppose. Essentially, the Lottery came about. It was the first time that funding came available in Wales through the Lottery for production finance. So when you get a producer like Paul Brooks who has his own private sources of investment, he makes low-budget films and he seeks to make a budget through pursuing 'soft money'. Soft money is anything from an Arts Council grant to a tax break. So he would be looking at tax breaks in Canada through Telecom Canada or Section 35 in Ireland. He'd been looking at subsidies in Germany, but when the Lottery came about, suddenly he could go for a purely British-financed project. Plus by playing the Welsh card, we were a bigger fish in a smaller pond. It was far less competition. In fact, when we applied for the Lottery I think we were the only application at that time for a production in Wales. So it just so happened that Paul put in £250,000, the Lottery put in £250,000, and that's how we got to make the film.
"I'd spent six or seven years in a vacuum beforehand, talking to people who could talk the talk but they couldn't deliver the money in the end. They had their hands tied because it was money from television or from the BFI or from British Screen. They have a certain agenda, certain criteria, and Darklands didn't really fit. I suppose the other thing that attracted Paul to the project was that Craig Fairbrass wanted to do the film. He wanted to do it because it provided an opportunity for him to prove that he is more than an action man, that he can act and that he can show a more vulnerable side to himself. To put himself forward as a Harrison Ford as opposed to a Schwarzenegger. So that's what his angle was. He had a three-picture deal with Paul. He'd already done Beyond Bedlam and Proteus, so he chose Darklands as the third project."
How much has the script changed over those seven years?
"I originally conceived the idea in my final year at Bournemouth Film School, probably '88/'89. It was the story of a guy who works in a one-hour photo-developing shop. I had a friend who worked in one of those shops and it was amazing some of the photographs that would come through. He had his own private collection stashed away at the back of some of the more extreme photographs. I just thought of the idea, almost like Antonioni's blow-up, that this guy comes across a load of photographs which maybe depict some kind of murder or a religious sacrifice or something. He dupes the photographs and he starts investigating what's going on and what's behind them.
Was there a chance of the story slipping into the supernatural and actually raising a demon or something?
"Aha! Well, there was a thought of doing that. I know Paul at one stage did suggest bringing in something that suggested that what these guys believed in actually existed. But I wanted to avoid that because I don't believe in all that stuff myself. I believe it exists in people's minds. What interests me about a religious cult is not that they can invoke demons but that they believe that they can. I think that was more interesting. It's more psychological than fantastic."
Tell me about your early short films that won various awards.
"When I started film-making I was 13. My father had a super-8 camera and he used to film holiday footage of us. I watched the whole process of the super-8 films coming back from Kodak in the post and him projecting them and then editing them. Because I was a big film buff at the time, I thought, 'I've got everything that I need here to make my own film'. So I got my school friends together and on weekends we shot my first film. It was called The Curse of Cormack. I'd never written a screenplay before, so what I did was: I used to collect House of Hammer magazine and there was a comic story in that called The Curse of Cormack, so I basically made that."
Was that one of Van Helsing's Terror Tales?
"Yes it was! So it took me three years to make that. From then on I probably made a horror film in super-8 every year, until I was about 18 and it was time to apply for film school."
They were all horror films?
"They were all horror films. Evil Inspirations, The Girl Who Cried Wolf: they were all horror films! Then I went to Bournemouth Film School. I found film school wasn't horror-friendly. In fact, to quote the head of Bournemouth Film School: he said (a) he hates students, and (b) nobody in the film school is going to make a horror film or a film with a car chase. The emphasis was on other things. Film school is an incredibly competitive place and not everybody gets to direct their film, so you have to play the game a little bit in order to get your film made there. I had another tutor there, Derek Warbank, who said, 'Well, I can see what your influences are, but they're all about other films. How about yourself? Who are you? What have you got that's unique to say?' I decided to take him up on that and I thought what I need to do is put the camera a bit on myself and my own experiences.
"I suppose at that time my only experience in life, predominantly, was school. I made a film called Pirates that was about three stereotypical characters that I'd come across during school: a body-builder 'jock' kind of character; a punk, rebel kind of character; and a college boy, A-stream character. In their summer holidays, they all get a job in a DIY warehouse. They're being exploited by their boss for cheap labour. They're all very different to each other, there's a lot of acrimony, but they find a common enemy to unite against, which is this boss that's exploiting them for cheap labour. He's involved with the import and export of pirate videos. They uncover that and decide to sell the videos themselves, in order to make up for the lack of money that they're earning. It's a kind of action-comedy-drama, but essentially focusing on three characters.
"For the first time I was dealing with human issues in a film as opposed to just pyrotechnics. I was dealing with what Derek Warbank at Bournemouth Film School called 'cinema of the heart'. The film was quite successful - it won the Celtic Film Festival - but it was kind of comic-book still though. It still wasn't in the social realist tradition that I think I was heading at that time. I began to discover Ken Loach; films like Kes which is one of my favourite films. And Martin Scorsese: Taxi Driver and Raging Bull and Mean Streets. I began also to discover the French New Wave. It's funny that everybody discovers the American New Wave before they discover the French New Wave when it worked the other way round. And some brilliant Italian films, Vittorio de Sica's films: Bicycle Thieves, A Miracle in Milan.
"All that stuff broadened my horizons. So my next film, Queen's Sacrifice, was even more autobiographical. It was still kind of a comedy. It was the story of a young chess player from the Rhonda valley, who is taken up by his history teacher, who was a chess player in his heyday but never quite made it to win the British Chess Championships. But he believes that he can achieve his ambition now through his young protege.. It's a mentor/protege story. He takes his young charge to Bournemouth for the British Chess Championships, but the kid's about 14 and he's just discovering girls. He falls in love with this girl and he's more interested in her than winning the competition. So it becomes almost this dramatic and comic conflict between the traumas of first love and bringing the trophy back to the moribund coal-mining town which he comes from.
"I used to play chess and chess was a big turning point in my life. At school, to begin with, I was quite slow, I was almost remedial. I was quite good at art and painting, I used to get a lot of attention for that, but in terms of maths and English I was way behind. But I was a good chess player, and I ended up winning the Newport Chess Championships and the Welsh Chess Championships, and I played in the British Chess Championships. I played Nigel Short and lost! But it was a turning point for me because suddenly I was doing something considered to be academic, and shining at it. That gave me the confidence to turn my schooldays around into something a bit more positive than they at that time were. So I wanted to make a film about that, and I also wanted to make a film about the conflict of choosing between a love interest and your career, which also interested me strongly at that time. So that's Queen's Sacrifice and that won the British Short Film Festival.
"When I went to the National Film School, I made the last in that trilogy. It was called Bad Company. Again, it's a portrait of my home town, Newport in South Wales. It's about a guy who at school was very good at art but not that academic. He didn't have much parental support and rather than continue in education after school, he left early and got married early. Basically he's frustrated and getting sucked into a life of crime through his association with a couple of dodgy characters. He ends up beating his wife and he's never recovered from the experience of that marriage breaking down. Until he meets an old friend from school; a girl who is now in art college. She rekindles his talent for art and pushes him in the right direction. At the same time, his flatmate is pushing him towards robbing the DIY store that he works in. There's a final denouement at the end where he decides to leave crime behind and apply to art school, and he gets in. Essentially, I was wanting to say with that film that education is a way out for somebody trapped within a small town existence."
"And then Darklands, because I always knew that I would come back to the genre. It was the genre that got me into film-making and I suppose I had a long-term plan. And the long-term plan was: I knew that most of the horror films I'd seen were weak in characterisation and plot. I wanted to go on a big learning curve, then bring all I'd learnt back to the genre and uplift it."
Is Darklands a melding between the earlier horror stuff and the later realistic stuff?
"Very much so, yes."
What about your script for Celtic Warriors?
"Celtic Warriors was how I met Craig Fairbrass, because originally I didn't go to him with Darklands, I went to him with another script. What happened was that I'd given up on Darklands, I'd put it in the bottom drawer, because it was quite an ambitious project: lots of locations, lots of characters. I needed about 1.5 million to make it. So I thought, 'What I need to do is write something that can be done cheaply - maybe for about 200,000 - and do it the same way that they did Leon the Pig Farmer: get tax incentives and money and just do it.
"One of my favourite genres is the siege film: Assault on Precinct 13, Zulu, The Thing. I just love characters that are caught in a claustrophobic location and they're being attacked by something from the outside: Night of the Living Dead, Maniac. So I came up with a little twist on that. It's set on an island off the west coast of Ireland, and this island is famous historically because it was the last stand of the Celts against the Romans, where a famous Irish warlord was killed. There was also a massacre of the Druids there by the Romans. During the First and Second World Wars, the island was used as a place for experimenting with biological weapons. And there's a crop of magic mushrooms that grow on the island, the fly agaric mushrooms that the Celtic warriors used to take before going into battle so that they would become berserkers.
"So the whole thing was based around that. What we have is an illegal archaeological dig on the island, and we also have drug manufacturers on the island who are using the mushrooms to create a new smart drug. A SWAT team is sent in to arrest the drug dealers. Meanwhile, the archaeological dig unleashes the curse of the warlord, the wrath of warlord, which basically means you get reincarnated Celtic warriors; berserkers covered in tattoos who go on the rampage. Eventually the SWAT team, the drug manufacturers and he archaeologists find themselves in the derelict farmhouse that the guys are using to manufacture the drugs in, being attacked by a reincarnated Celtic warrior army. It's kind of like Assault on Precinct 13 meets The Evil Dead. So maybe I'll still make that somewhere along the line.
"When Craig read it, he liked some of the themes I was dealing with, but he said, 'It's too horror, it's too B-movie. But there's themes in here that could be a lot bigger, and Paul's looking for a $20 million/$30 million action movie. Maybe you could set it in LA and maybe you could make it more like Highlander.' I took it to Paul and Paul said, 'Yes, I'm looking to make something like Highlander. I like some of the Celtic themes that you're dealing with. Is there anything you can do to provide me with something as a big action vehicle for Craig in LA?' So I though,t 'What are my two favourite films in that genre? It's got to be Terminator and Highlander.' So I thought I'd combine the two and came up with Warlord, which I'm writing now for Metrodome.
"That's about reincarnation and time travel. It's about a Celtic prince and a Viking princess who want to marry, but when they try and marry the wedding is interrupted by the king, the princess' father, who is against the marriage. He challenges the prince to a duel and kills him. The princess decides to enlist the support of a wizard to create a poison that she can drink with her dying fiancee, whereby they both die but they're reincarnated 2,000 years later. So the story's told from the point of view of this young couple in LA who don't realise what their heritage is, what their past is. They only realise it when a Viking warrior appears in downtown Los Angeles with a quest to prevent them from getting married the second time."
What were your feeling about teaming up with Metrodome, given their record of Proteus and so on? Any worries that you might end up with another rubber monster?
"Not really. Paul, I found, was useful in many ways because he was very realistic as a producer. He knows what the problem is with the industry here, especially as far as making low-budget, independent genre films goes. And he just says, 'Well look, get on with it.' Sometimes you'll go into a situation where you know you're not ready, but the thing is that you never will be ready. You have to make compromises and you have to learn to make compromises work, and that's one thing I learned from Paul. You've just got to get the job done. At the same time, he would come along with some quite creative contributions to the movies, too. Some ideas he came up with were really terrible and I'd tell him so and he'd say fine. He wasn't dictatorial in any way; it was very much a creative and collaborative process.
"I'd heard things about Paul, I'd heard things about Metrodome, but in the end I have to say: for me it was a very good experience. Apart from the fact that sometimes we had to compromise too much. because they didn't have that much money, we didn't have that much money to make the film. So things like: we needed to do some pick-ups at the end of the film, and Paul didn't have the money to fund it, so I had to fund it myself. But I was determined to make the best film that I possibly could. It wasn't a jobbing film for me. I know, for instance, with Beyond Bedlam, Vadim Jean was brought on four weeks before they started shooting. For him it was a jobbing film. The script was a mess; it didn't really tell its story well. Proteus: well, I suppose that's another story, I don't know much about Proteus. But I'd been with this project for seven years, the script was good, and I think that if you've got a good script, then that's all that matters. A good script and a good cast are 70% of the job done. I think the problem with Proteus and Beyond Bedlam is that the scripts weren't that good, and sometimes the cast weren't that good either. So that's 70% of the job not done."
What's the distribution deal like?
"I'm about to find out this afternoon how many cinemas it's going to go out in. But the release is October 24th. I know there's already a couple of cinemas in Wales that have called me up, that want me to go and introduce the first night. The NFT in London, there will probably be another two or three cinemas there. I imagine about 20 prints are going to go out on the UK theatrical circuit. The film's sold to every country in the world, bar the US. We've had some offers from some US distributors. but they've not been good enough yet for us to go with them. So the film, financially has done well. At this stage, a year after completion, it's returned its investment. And so the next five years or so will be profitable."
Will overseas versions be dubbed or subtitled?
"Probably a mixture of both."
Do you have any control over translations? It could end up as a Carry On film in Korea...
"I saw The Black Mask recently in Germany. That's been dubbed into English and the actress they've chosen just seems... I think when you go and watch a dubbed film, you know that it's dubbed and you try and take that into consideration."
Are you finding that people from whatever relating country are relating to the film's themes?
"I think the themes that the films deals with are global in the sense that nationalism is beginning to re-emerge as a problem - if it's a problem at all. But iy is beginning to re-emerge and we've seen what happened in Yugoslavia, and we're seeing what's happening in Russia. I suppose in Korea they have the North and South divide, so at some point it's going to happen there. I think it definitely does translate. I'm quite surprised sometimes how aware people are about what's going on in the film. For instance, two French critics came up to me in Valenciers and said, 'If they're trying to preserve their race, how come they choose a black prostitute to conceive the child? And why does the girl who eventually conceives Fraser's child have a Jewish name?' I had to say, 'Well, yes, I never thought of that.' Essentially my answer to that is that there are black people and Jewish people in contemporary Wales, and it's a contemporary story. It's not about fascism as such; it's about racism, it's about nationalism."
It's about being Welsh as opposed to Celtic.
"Yes, I suppose so. But the flipside of that is: one of the first werewolf films was set in Cardiff, with Lon Chaney Jr - The Wolf Man. I suppose at that stage Universal were picking places on the map that people knew nothing about: 'Oh well, nobody knows about Cardiff. We can just reinvent the place.' And that's what I like about people's ignorance, internationally, of Wales. Often I've met people who'll say, 'Where's Wales? We've never heard of it before.' I quite like that because it's a mystery. I can reinvent it and I can deal with mythology in a way that is far more open. That's essentially what America has done with its film culture. I was talking to a guy from American Cinematographer, Dave Williams, a few months back. He was saying that he's never seen anybody pull a gun - and he lives in Los Angeles. We watch American films, then we go over there and expect them to be dodging bullets. We don't have a tradition in this country for creating myths out of the world that we live in. We're not that imaginative, we're too affected by realism and documentary."
How did you choose your cast and crew? The cinematographer in particular seems to be getting a lot of credit - and rightly so.
"It was a funny story with the cinematographer because originally we were going to shoot the film on 35mm and I approached Bernard Leyton, who shot Young Americans, to shoot Darklands, and he was very interested in doing it. When we dropped to 16mm for budget reasons, he was no longer interested because it was too much of a compromise for him. So that meant that I couldn't waste any more time seeking a really well-grounded cameraman. I had to go with somebody for whom this was going to be their first feature. So I went for Zoran Djordjevic because I knew him, I'd been at film school with him. But since film school he'd done a lot of second unit work for Andre Seculas - Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction - and I just figured that he must be well aware of the process now and eager to get in there and do it himself. So I gave him the first break. But it was really difficult for Zoran because he had to come up with a look for the film that would translate in blow-up from 16mm to 35mm. It involves putting up a lot of lights, and that takes time, it takes money, which we didn't have. So often myself and the cameraman were at war during the making of the film, because we both needed time which we didn't have. Zoran would often steal my time, and sometimes I would try and steal his. It was difficult and very fraught, but sometimes it takes that to get a result."
The visuals, especially the steel works and industrial architecture, are very nice.
"What I did with those is: we didn't have much time to shoot those during the making of the film. I had a friend who lived in Bristol who had his own super-16mm camera, a documentary film-maker. So I said while we're shooting, can you just go out and get as many shots of the steelworks as you can. We ended up with about 30 or 40 compositions of the steelworks at various times during the day, and we just staggered them throughout the film. It's amazing how they embellish the film, creating the atmosphere and the world that it takes place in. Otherwise it would all have been anonymous interiors."
What problems did you have with Welsh nationalists and so on?
"One of the reasons, I suspect, why I didn't get anywhere with the film in the first six years of trying in Wales is because people were aware of some of the issues I was dealing with, and they didn't particularly go for it. In the end, when the Lottery made their decision, there was no Head of Film in the Welsh Arts Council, so they sent it up to Scotland, and Eddie Dake in Scotland made a decision. Which is kind of nice because sometimes I think that the whole system in Wales can get so anal - dealing with issues that are so small and parochial and taking them so seriously - that they'll just make films that will only work in Wales. If that at all. So it was good to get objective support for the film.
"The film screened in the Aberystwyth Film Festival and I had a couple of people outside the cinema came up to me and said, 'That's the worst film I've ever seen. How dare the Welsh Lottery support such a venture. It's racist. It's full of primeval fear.' - which it is. Primeval fear: that's one of the essential fear factors I was dealing with. In terms of the racism, I've experienced racism from Welsh language people, being a non-Welsh language speaker, and this is me biting back. But at the same time, I would say the film's a fantasy. We're dealing with extremism and it's not meant to be a true representation of what goes on in Wales. Even more, the Head of Aberystwyth Film Festival, who is now the Head of the Arts Council in Wales and who's a nationalist himself, said, 'It's a sign of confidence in your culture when you can make a film that's dealing with things negative and derogatory but in a fantastical or comical way.' I agree with him."
What did Channel Four say when you tried to get funding?
"Channel Four said it was too down-the-line horror, too genre. What they meant by that was that they couldn't believe 100% in the world that it was based in. It wasn't realistic enough for them, basically."
Who was it who said it had 'no contemporary resonance'?
"BBC Wales said it had 'no contemporary resonance'. They completely missed the point. I sometimes wonder who these people are that get employed in film companies and TV companies to read scripts and decide what gets made and what doesn't. Because they're not film-makers; I don't know what they are. I think that things should be more driven by film-makers. Rather than me having an anonymous relationship with these people in Channel Four and the BBC... I don't know them, they don't know me. I send a script in, and they pass. They don't know my work, and if they did then they would understand the whole thing a bit more. It's kind of quango-ish in the end. I think they make films with who they know."
"Um, I don't know the full ramifications of that, actually. I don't know whether that's a tax break for investing in films, or whether you don't have to pay tax on your production. Which I suppose is a saving of 17.5% on every budget. I don't know."
Do you have a lot of contemporaries. Did you just luck out in getting this made?
"There are a lot of people. At the same time, a lot of people I went to film school with who wanted to make feature films, they find themselves ten years on making corporate videos, maybe pop videos, maybe commercials, but not features. Because there isn't really an industry that exists. It's very hard to make a living out of being a feature film director in the UK, it's almost impossible. I'm still not doing it. I don't have the cash-flow at the moment to take me from one day to the next, because with Darklands all my wages went into the film, I didn't get paid. If it wasn't for the social security system and me keeping my overheads to a minimum, I wouldn't have been able to afford to do it. They've decided to get themselves into a situation where they have much bigger overheads than I have which they have to pay for, so therefore they need to work to live. It's unfortunate because they're trapped. They don't have the time to sit down for two years writing a script and not earning a penny."
How did your stint on Brookside come about?
"When I finished film school, I sent out my showreel. A year later I got a phone call from Mersey TV. They called me up and said, 'Come along for an interview'; I went for the interview and got the job. So I was there for six months doing twelve episodes. That was an invaluable experience, because at film school I made these three short films. We shot for half an hour; maybe two or three weeks. That's two and a half minutes a day. At Brookside, suddenly we had to do a half-hour episode in two and a half days: 15 minutes a day. So it was a huge learning curve for me to make that work. I think without it I probably wouldn't have been able to get through the Darklands schedule. So it was invaluable."
Is there much room for creativity in directing a soap opera?
"Every now and then you can be a little creative, but on the whole no. It's a situation where you've got so little time that anybody who goes in there to do the job will come up with the same answer to the problems. So there's nothing to distinguish you from the next guy; there's only one answer to how to shoot this scene, and you've only got half an hour to shoot it. So yes, it is dissatisfactory and six months was certainly enough for me. I think I would have got pretty depressed if I'd have carried on."
"It's a six-week cycle. What you do is you get the script, which you prepare for two weeks; on the third week you shoot; then on the fourth and the fifth week you edit and put the sound on; and it goes out in the sixth week. You've got other directors doing other episodes, so it's a continuous cycle. There are about three or four directors working on it at the same time."
Are you going to do more of that?
"I need to earn some money right now, so if somebody came to me with an offer to work in TV, I'd take it up. I particularly like This Life. That's revolutionised soaps, it's left all the others behind. I think it would be very difficult for me to work on anything other than something in the vein of This Life. Because for me the rest is history now."
What about the corporate/pop video side of it?
"Pop videos and commercials I'd like to do, actually. One or two a year, just as a little side thing. But I haven't had the reel to get me that kind of work. Now I've done Darklands, the Pagan sequences and action scenes will help me get commercial and pop video work. That's how a lot of feature film directors survive. People like the Scott brothers; they essentially do two, three or four commercials a year. And commercials pay big money. You can get two grand for a week's work at least, and that's enough to tide you over while you're focussing on the features. Again, it's a danger. There's so much money in commercials.
"I have a very talented producer friend who I was at college with, who went to LA and is living the life of Riley. He's got a big Beverly Hills house and the whole lot. He still hasn't done his first feature; he's doing commercials. He's enjoying himself, but I still got the sense when I was there talking to him in April that he was a bit jealous that I'd done my first feature. He's got ideas in the pipeline, but his whole lifestyle now is dictated by commercials. As soon as he stops doing them he's in trouble, I suppose, because he's living a bit of a hire-purchase life as well."
In researching Darklands, what sort of research did you do into Pagan rituals?
"The Paganism that exists in Darklands is a bit of a fusion. When Keller appears at the end in his red robe, that's really more of a Satanic image than it is a Pagan image. But the Green Man and the Red Man are all based around a real life Pagan ceremony that takes place in Edinburgh on April 30th called the Beltane Fire. It's an annual event. Four thousand spectators turn up and watch these guys go through their performance. I went along and witnessed it and I was so impressed by it that I basically lifted it and put it in Darklands. I wanted to get the original guys involved, and they were helping me out to begin with, but when they read the script and realised that it was a horror film, they pulled out."
"It was the evolution of the idea, actually. Because I'd lived with it for seven years, it was always in the back of my mind and I found that every year would pass and I'd see something or I'd come across something that worked in the world I was trying to create. I remember going to see a performance of Arkaos in Battersea Power Station, where they had the metal sounds and the whole post-industrial side of things mixed with Brazilian tribal dances. What I loved was this mix of the tribal and the ancient with the contemporary post-industrial. I thought, 'That's what I'm trying to get at with Darklands.' So it worked for me. I wanted to avoid some of the stereotypical images that you have of religious cults and of people walking round in robes chanting and stuff. I thought, 'Maybe this is a good way to do it. Maybe this is how these people live. They'd probably be a circus act or a bunch of performers.'
"I remember going to see Arkaos with a friend who knew somebody who was in the show, so at the end of the show we went back to the caravans that they live in and spent the evening there. It was like being in Tod Browning's Freaks. It was intimidating, but a lot of fun at the same time. It was such an unusual world. So I just felt that it worked. Also, a friend of mine had made a documentary about Test Dept called Notes from the Underground. I'd seen that, and I saw images in it of guys banging bits of metal and stuff. I thought, 'Well yes, instead of chanting, maybe this is what they're doing because of the steelworks thing.' I thought that really works too. And I listened to an album that Test Dept did with a Welsh performance group. I listened to it, and it was a mixture of Celtic folk singing with hardcore industrial percussion - an extraordinary mix of the old and the new, and it had a religious feel to it too. Then Test Dept did a brilliant show up in Glasgow called The Second Coming. It seemed that whatever angles Test Dept were coming up with, I was linking with because I was thinking the same way, just thinking, 'Yes, I can use all of that.' So the Beltane Fire, Test Dept, Arkaos and others were really inspirational to how I was going to depict the Pagans."
Where di the music for the Pagan scenes come from?
"The track at the end of the film, over the credits, of that Celtic singing: when you hear that singing you immediately think of Ireland and Irish singing, and people don't associate Wales with the same kind of singing. But that kind of singing exists in Wales. The Welsh language, when it's sung, is very beautiful. So that was good for me. It think it's one of the unique parts of the film. We basically took that sort of music and we said, 'Okay, we'll run it along the same lines as this, and then we'll mix it a bit with Terminator.' We wanted that hero music for Craig, especially towards the end when he's going to fight his way out. That sound from Terminator is very metallic sounding, so we took a little bit from that.
"The only sequence that doesn't quite fit that palette is the Halloween homage, if you like, of Rachel being chased around the house by Carver. The guys who composed the music came up with an industrial score for that which just didn't work because that sequence is about suspense. The music, although it was dramatic, wasn't suspenseful. I said, 'Look, we've got to come up with something a little more Bernard Herrmann for this. It's got to be violins and chase music.' So they went for that. But I think if they'd have had more time, they'd have liked to have made that more industrial as well. I feel it's a bit of a pastiche."
When she backs towards the window, it's obvious what's going to happen, but it still makes you jump.
"There are two ways to do a jump scene - it's the old Hitchcock thing. Do you show the bomb underneath the table, and wait for the audience to go, 'My God! It's going to go off! Do something!' so that they know it's going to happen but the problem is when is it going to happen? Or do you just have two people talking at the table and suddenly: Bang! There are two jump scenes in Darklands. One is the one that you mention which is where I've shown the bomb underneath the table. You know what's going to happen. The fact that you know it's going to happen creates suspense. The other jump scene is in the train, when he look out the window and he backs away and the guy jumps him from behind. That's a big surprise, that's a bomb going off without any warning."
Was the train an old BR carriage?
"It was too expensive to get any Railtrack line. The way they've gone with privatisation, it's impossible to get any sense out of them in terms of having to get a carriage on a certain track. So we found a private line in Lidney. It was a bit of risk because they only had steam trains, and they only had a mile-long track, so we had to run a train back and forth all night. But in the end, they were very supportive. They gave us three days' use of the whole station that they had.
"That train sequence is actually based on a real life experience that I had - although not quite that bad. I can remember whilst I was at Bournemouth Film School, having to catch the train from Bournemouth to Newport. At that time, they were really old, dusty, beaten trains. I got onto a carriage that had no lights. I sat there and just thought, 'Maybe the bulb's gone.' The train departed and went through all these tunnels. What amazed me was that when there are no lights in the carriage, the lights in the tunnel produce all these danse macabre shadows and images all around the train. I just found it so frightening, I thought, 'Wow! I've got to put this into a film some time.' Then finally when the train pulled into the station at Newport I tried to get off and I couldn't because all the doors were locked. I realised that I'd actually got into a closed carriage, so I had to call for an attendant to come and open a door for me. I was determined to find a way to put that into the film."
What about the pig and the goat. Presumably 'no animals were harmed in the making of this motion picture.'
"That's right. We had three pigs. One was real and alive and is now called Darklands, living happily ever after on Cardiff City Farm. Another one was a dead pig that we got from a slaughterhouse. And the third one was a rubber pig that we used for the throat-cutting scene. It was quite distressing filming the pig being hauled out of the carriage. The farmers that brought the pig along - that's how they move pigs. They grab them by the ears and they just haul them. And when you do that to a pig it squeals. The whole crew were really uncomfortable. I was loving it because I knew that what they were experiencing, the audience would experience and that's part of the whole thing. It's really quite distressing.
"The goat we got from a taxidermist. I think the idea, for me, is something that's not Paganism. It's a Satanic image, the goat with the horns; it's Dennis Wheatley. I wanted that shot in Silence of the Lambs where the cops are running through the room after Lecter's escaped from his cage, and there's an almost cruficied guard, transfigured by light. I was going for that, really. Obviously I couldn't have a metal wicker man, a big statue of a wicker man, so I just thought: 'What can I come up with? Well, with the crucifixion there were two criminals either side of Jesus, so maybe I can have the pig and the goat either side of Craig.' Hang them upside-down, which is Satanic, which is a fusion of all these things."
What about the scene in the church? Was that tricky?
"It was, yes: 'We'd just like to put a dead pig in your church, please.' We used a real church for the shots of the vicar arriving and coming in. But for the reverses, his point of view, we used a deconsecrated church that we found. But even so, it took weeks to get that church and go through all the wrangling. It was in a tiny Welsh valley town, and all the houses were built around the church. We had to sneak the pig inside because we really didn't want to let people know what we were doing in there. Even though it was closed and deconsecrated, it still did feel like it was sacrilegious.
"I can remember the line producer saying to me, 'Are you sure that you want to go ahead with this? Are you sure that there isn't a God? Are you sure that you won't get punished for what you're doing?' I said, 'I'm an agnostic. I don't believe in that kind of stuff. It doesn't worry me.' He said, 'Well, it worries me!' We were in the church, the pig was hoisted up over the altar, it was bleeding down onto the altar. I was watching all the blood seeping into the carvings on the altar and I just suddenly got a really bad feeling. It was about four or five o'clock in the morning when I was driving home and I drove through a roundabout without realising. the roundabout had left and right but no straight ahead, so I went straight through a fence into a field, wrote off my car and was concussed for a day."