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Our James Mudge recently sat down with director Steven C. Miller, the director of “The Aggression Scale” and “Automaton Transfusion”, along with the upcoming remake of the slasher classic “Silent Night” (the “most violent film” he’s ever made, according to Miller). His latest, “Under The Bed” is currently playing London’s Frightfest 2012, while “The Aggression Scale” was just released on Region 2 DVD/Blu-ray in the UK and Europe.
JAMES MUDGE: Congratulations on The Aggression Scale, definitely one of the most intense and violently fun horror thrillers of the last year. The film is being described as a sort of violent genre take on “Home Alone” – was this your main aim and inspiration in making it?
STEVEN C. MILLER: Thanks, so stoked you enjoyed it! Definitely. I loved films like “Home Alone” but also love “Rambo”. I wanted to take all of the fun elements of Home Alone and twist them for a more genre audience.
JM: The film has an amazing cast, with veterans like Dana Ashbrook and Ray Wise from “Twin Peaks”, and the equally impressive younger stars Ryan Hartwig and Fabianne Therese – how was it working with such a combination of experienced and upcoming performers, especially given the intensity of the material?
SM: Everyone was fantastic. We shot the film in 12 days, so working with actors who could keep up with the pace was crucial. Bringing in Ray and Dana was a real treat. Big fan of Twin Peaks, so it was fun to see them in the same scenes together. The younger cast really were troopers. Very mature beyond their years. They got the material and understood I was trying to create a film that people would react to. It was a very fun experience.
JM: Mixing children and violence has always been a very controversial subject – have you received much negative press as a result?
SM: Yes, but that was always expected. I know it’s not the norm and that’s what really drew me to the project. I want to make films that take simple ideas and throw severe wrenches into them. And honestly, I did hold back on some of the violence because I didn’t want the film to tread into the “Saw” territory. I wanted the audience to still have a sense of fun.
JM: Your other 2012 film “Under the Bed” is another involving younger characters. I haven’t seen it yet myself, but have heard that it’s a throwback to the much-loved horrors and Amblin type creature features of the 1980s?
SM: It’s a huge homage to films like “Goonies” and “Poltergeist”. Films I grew up on that happens to get super violent. That section of the film harkens back to my days sneaking over to friends houses to watch “Evil Dead” or whatever other hyper violent film we could find. I love kids taking on adult problems. There’s something about that concept that 80s films did so well and I’m trying to bring it back.
JM: Next up you’ve got a remake of “Silent Night” coming out – how close are you playing things to the original and what do you think you’ll be able to offer fans of such a fondly regarded bad taste classic?
SM: It’s a very loose remake. There are some great thowbacks to the original that I think fans will be stoked on. But ultimately I wanted to make the film about Santa and his AXE. It’s the most violent film I’ve made and I’m super excited to show it.
JM: The film also sees you working with a big name cast, including the likes of Malcolm McDowell and Jaime King, and I’d guess it has been your biggest budgeted film to date – how different has your experience been as director?
SM: It was a huge jump for me budget wise. It allowed me to flex my muscles a bit that I have been hindered on in the past. Working with Malcolm and Jaime was a real treat. Total pros that love the genre. Hopefully it’s a natural progression and the next will be bigger.
JM: Your career has seen you rising up the horror ranks very quickly since your debut, “Automaton Transfusion” back in 2008, which was an incredible achievement given its $30,000 budget and 9 day shooting schedule – do you still think of yourself as an independent film maker?
SM: Thanks!! Definitely. I think I’m an indie filmmaker with a studio mentality. I love making films down and dirty, but I also go into each film trying to create a world that feels like it was made at a studio. It’s important for me to make films that have commercial appeal even if they are slightly more violent.
JM: What or who have been your main influences in making your films, and do you have any particular genre or non-genre favourites which have inspired you?
SM: Late 70s and early 80s films definitely influenced me the most. It was a time that felt the most inventive and creative to me. Couldn’t rely on CGI to cover mistakes. They just had to get it right on screen. Stanley Kubrick was a huge inspiration to me. The way his camera moved through scenes always mesmerized me.
JM: Although brutal and wonderfully gory in an old school grindhouse fashion, you seem to have steered away from the kind of “Hostel” style torture porn which is still very popular. How do you see yourself fitting into the current horror scene?
SM: I enjoy those films but they aren’t films I would enjoy making. If I was to stay in the horror genre, I think I fit into a more classic sense. I want my films to be scary, visceral, and still have a overall sense of fun. I’m of the mindset of entertaining.
JM: Do you see yourself branching out from horror more in the future?
SM: Definitely. I love action films and thrillers. I’ve always thought of myself as an action director whose enjoyed horror films his whole life. I love the marriage of the two but would love to get into straight action one day.
JM: What are you working on at the moment, and any plans for upcoming films? I believe that you might be working on a “Motel Hell” remake amongst other things?
SM: I have a couple things in the works and can’t wait to talk about them. I was attached to reboot Motel Hell, but it’s in development hell over at MGM. I’m still hoping they can figure a way to make the film.
JM: Many thanks for your time and best of luck with all your future projects – looking forward to seeing “Under the Bed” at Frightfest!
SM: EXCELLENT!! Thanks the support!