Bypassing the flash and quick cuts of a lot of today’s horror films, director Jeremy Berg, along with this production company, The October People, have done a great job putting out very story-driven genre films. Having directed THE INVOKING and now THE DEVICE (out today!), Berg’s films are closer to the slow-burn approach that horror films used to take, and though the films’ DVD art might not give that appearance, the less is more approach works tremendously well for them.
Berg was nice enough to chat with us for a bit, regarding THE DEVICE, its DVD commentary featuring FIRE IN THE SKY writer Tracy Tormé, as well as various other topics. Enjoy!
With THE INVOKING and now with THE DEVICE, you seem to be crafting what some might call “slow burn” horror, as opposed to the gory films that populate the genre a lot these days, your films are very character-driven, with the emphasis on storytelling. What inspires that approach?
A lot of it just comes from the types of horror films that I like to watch. I like all kinds of horror films, but the ones that really get me invested and kind of get under my skin, are the ones that tend to have that slow-burn approach. Like you said, it’s not really slow-burn, but making it more about the atmosphere, and about the characters. Those are the films that always affected me growing up, like THE SHINING or ROSEMARY’S BABY. It’s about the atmosphere and how that affects you while you’re sitting on the couch.
Can you tell me about how THE DEVICE came to be, the whole genesis of the project? It’s a really interesting film.
Thank you. We were given the opportunity by the distributor that we had worked on with THE INVOKING, they wanted to see if we had anything else that we would be willing to make with them. I had this kind of kernel of an idea, which was basically just the very simplest part of the synopsis, with people finding something in the woods and it may not be of Earthly origin and how that affects their relationship. That was what we pitched them and they really liked it, and we sort of went from there, to making the film. The thing that I loved about that idea, is how there was so much room to play with that kernel of an idea, with the characters’ relationships and how they all feel differently about this object. It gave us a lot of room to be creative.
It reminded me of films like FIRE IN THE SKY, where there might be genre tones here and there, but serve as more of a drama than typical genre films. I’m curious, what inspired the choice to do a commentary with the writer of that film on your DVD?
Yeah, that was a really cool opportunity that we were able to be a part of. Basically the writer, Tracy Tormé, had never been on a commentary for any of his films, FIRE IN THE SKY and he also did the miniseries, INTRUDERS, which is truly great. He’s always had that interest in these alien abduction stories, so the crowd that’s very interested in those stories are also very interested in him. People have been wanting to hear from him, and FIRE IN THE SKY is one of, if not the most famous of the alien abductions films. We were able to reach out to him and see if he’d be interested in doing a commentary for our film. He was really into the idea, which was great because like I said, he had never done one for any of his films. I don’t even know if INTRUDERS is out on DVD. Getting him to do it and having input on our film was very invaluable and I think people are really going to like what he had to say.
You mentioned being a big fan of the genre yourself, have there been any recent horror films that have really stood out to you, as a fan?
That’s a good question. Nothing that’s come out in the last couple of years, there’s probably stuff I’m missing, but THE ORPHANAGE is one that I loved from the past few years. It’s very story-driven, the scares are organic, it has great atmosphere. That one is especially great because you think you’re watching a horror film, but it turns into a tragedy.
Yeah, I’m a huge fan of that film as well.
Another one that I loved was THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL.
Yeah, it’s wonderful.
It was really great, especially since right now, in the terrain of horror, most people are making these jump-scare horror films and Ti West did something really different. He focused on the atmosphere and I really think it worked.
One thing that I’m curious about, is the artwork for THE DEVICE. While I understand a distributor’s need to sell a film, the idea of having exploding cities and stuff like that on the DVD, all of which aren’t in the film, seems somewhat odd to me. Do you think that might in some ways, hinder the film from being seen by the right kind of audience?
Absolutely. I don’t try to talk about it too much, because unfortunately, the artwork and the way the film is sold isn’t my choice. I would prefer something that is more indicative of the film. and I do worry about that because I do think that both THE INVOKING and THE DEVICE are good films and are enjoyable to that kind of audience, but they’re definitely not for everyone. There are going to be those people who just don’t jive with that more atmospheric way of telling the story. Those are the things that I do worry about, like you said, these films finding the RIGHT audiences and maybe pulling in the wrong audiences, who were expecting those exploding cities. I think expectations can really hurt or help a film. It’s interesting to see how these films get marketed, because it’s definitely different than I expected. Like you said, they need to sell it, and unless you get to the place where you have a lot of power in the industry, you really don’t have the say about how your film gets marketed.
Regardless of the artwork, the film is great, it’s very enjoyable. Thanks so much for taking the time to talk to us today Jeremy.
Thank you for supporting it, it means a lot.