The LRM Interview with Abattoir Director Darren Lynn Bousman

About 11 years ago, Darren Lynn Bousman first got attention for directing not just Saw II, but it’s two sequels as well, and those being the three most successful movies in the franchise, he was able to go off and do his own thing, which was the horror musical, Repo! The Genetic Opera. In the time since then, Bousman has kept with a number of more personal projects, and one of them that’s finally seeing the light of day is one called Abattoir.

Bousman came up with the idea for Abattoir as a horror comic series published through Radical Publishing before adapting it into a movie starring Jessica Lowndes (90210) as reporter Julia Talben, whose sister is killed in a violent home invasion, which leads to her investigating a strange house buyer who bought the house and removed the murder room, something he’s been doing for other scenes of violent crimes. Along with her detective ex-boyfriend Grady (Joe Anderson), they travel to the town of New English where they encounter the man responsible, one Jebediah Crone, as played by Dayton Callie (Sons of Anarchy).

LRM got on the phone with Bousman earlier this week to talk about his latest film and other things.

LRM: There’s a pretty crazy idea at the center of “Abattoir” so how did this movie come about?

Darren Lynn Bousman: I wanted to make a haunted house film, but I didn’t want to make a traditional haunted house film. I wanted to make something that was more based in crime-drama with noir aspects to it. Kind of what excites me now is not what excited me ten years ago, and I think always doing something left of center, something always a little bit awkward and weird, hence why I make things like The Devil’s Carnival or Repo. I wanted to do my kind of spin and the same type of thing with this. I wanted to make my version of a haunted house film, and again, it’s a little weird, a little off-center and a little noir, and I think that just excited me about trying to do that.

LRM: Is the movie a period piece? There are things about it that makes it seem like it takes place in the ‘60s or ‘70s but it’s not really stated.

Bousman: Well, yes and no. It’s a modern film, but the two main characters are archetypes of the 1940s and ‘50s. It is one of these movies where… again, I respond to what I like, because it feels—when you watch it again–=you start picking up things you didn’t the first time. The thing that I love about it is that they have cellphones, they have iPhones. They have flat-screen TVs. There’s modern computers in there, yet they choose to go more analog than digital. So they choose to use typewriters, they choose to use old-school phones and tape recorders, as opposed to going with the modern things. Kind of, I guess in some respect, it can be closely compared to something like Brick where they talk in that kind of hard noir ‘40s, but it’s a modern family. It also helped me conceive of a fantastical fairy tale-like world, which is a little off-center of being real. It’s based in reality, but it’s a little off, hence the way they dress, the way they wear their hair and the way they speak.

LRM: How did you work with Christopher Monfette on the screenplay? I know you’ve written your own stuff as well, so how did you hook up with him to write this?

Bousman: Chris sent me a spec script years and years and years ago called Down, Satan! Down, Satan! was written by Clive Barker, the original short story in The Books of Blood, so I ended up taking the idea off of reading his script. He had a fantastic knack for dialogue, and I loved it, and I always said to myself if I ever have the ability and the resources to work with Chris I wanted to, so when I had the idea of Abattoir, and needed to find a screenwriter, I was at the time shooting another movie and couldn’t write it. I called Chris up, and gave him the comic books, and he read the comic books and said, “I’m in.” 

LRM: This premise is one of those things that can logistically be a nightmare to build sets, so had you figured that out before you started going down the road to making it into a movie?

Bousman: You know what’s crazy about this movie is that it was done a shoe-string budget, and even less time than I’ve ever done a movie up until this point, so we had no sets or rather, we didn’t shoot on a soundstage. Everything was practical locations, outside of the exterior scene where they’re walking through the graveyard of rooms, and we just put flat stuff in the middle of a forest. Outside of that, our production designer Jen Spence just augmented pre-existing locations, which was pretty awesome. Her ability to walk into a place and then a day later transform it into what it was, including the abattoir. The abattoir was a practical location that we found. It was actually three houses and did a little set design, transformed this pre-existing location into what it was, but ironically, it looked pretty similar to that, being that there’s a scene where she walks in the door and there’s a staircase and there’s a strange piano on one side and ??? on the other. That’s the way it really looked, and she just added some of her magic to it to spruce it up a little bit, but it was one of those ticking clocks we were up against with no time to shoot and no time to build. Jen Spence, she did Insidious, she did Criminal Activity, and Michael Fimognari, who is the DP, really I thought gave the film an amazing aesthetic.  

LRM: I don’t know if you worked with Jessica or Joe before, but I feel there’s a lot of new people in your wheelhouse with this movie, so how did you go about casting them?

Bousman: Yeah, so Jessica I’d worked with once before on the first The Devil’s Carnival. Joe I’d met years prior to that—he’d auditioned to Mother’s Day that I did in 2010, and I fell in love with the guy, but he was not right for what I was doing for Mother’s Day, but I always kept him in the back of my mind if I had the ability to do something that I thought he’d be good for. This was that time I was able to pull him out and use him. Dayton Callie, I’ve been a fan of for as long as I can remember. I’m a huge Deadwood fan, huge Sons of Anarchy fan—he was a no-brainer for him. And then Lin Shaye, I’ve known for years. I’ve just never had the ability to put her in anything before, but I’ve been fans with Lin—she’s a G*ddamn national treasure, so that’s pretty fantastic. 

LRM: I saw that you worked with Dayton before, but had he done a lot of horror stuff other than the stuff he did with you?

Bousman: I joke with him about this, because he’s done one horror film before this. He had a small cameo in Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2.  That was it. He has not done a lot of horror before. In fact, he told me he hadn’t done anything before this in the horror space. He’s such a f*cking great actor. It enrages me because he should be in every movie ever. 

LRM: I really have to watch “Sons of Anarchy.” I’m told by so many directors that it’s their favorite show and there’s so much talent on it.

Bousman: Sons of Anarchy, it’s such a cool show. There’s a formula for the shows and if you saw The Sopranos, it’s kind of the same in Sons of Anarchy, where it’s falling the dual life of a biker, the life within the gang and the life at home, and in some respects, the home life is more dangerous than the gang life, which was kind of what The Sopranos was, but it’s pretty awesome and Dayton is just great. Have you ever watched Deadwood He’s fantastic in that, and it was cool to get to work with and dude, I like working with people who I’m friends with. It makes it easier, and I think everyone is more passionate on set. Because I’d worked with Dayton before, and I worked with Jessica before, it was pretty great to reunite with them. 

LRM: You mentioned it was a fast shoot, so how fast can you make a movie like this? It feels very involved…

Bousman: I want to say 21 days. I think we had 21 days to do it. I’m not sure because it’s been a year and a half now and that’s crazy. With a movie that’s this complex, and there was green screens and violence and tons of dialogue, and specifically trying to get the dialogue with, because no one talks like that. This is a very hyper-stylized approach—it’s kind of noir speak—so it was literally they’d do a rehearsal for 20 or 30 minutes, and then we’d start shooting, and it was one-take move on, one-take move on. I’m just getting excited about that, too. You just can’t spend a lot of time discussing it. You just gotta go to set and move on with it, and that’s why I’m so impressed with the overall look. I knew how quickly we shot the thing, and to see it alive on the screen is pretty great.

LRM: Of course, I’m talking fast shoots with the guy who did three “Saw” movies in three years in a row, which is not done that oftento turn around a movie that fast.

Bousman: I’ve been lucky in the fact that I’ve been able to consistently work. I do about a movie a year or project a year and then in the case of what I was doing with the Saw films, I was doing two a year. I did Saw 2 and then I did Saw 3 and 4 back-to-back, and then Repo and 11-11-11 back-to-back. It was crazy but I was fortunate in that respect, and then this year was even crazier, because I finished Abattoir and went directly on the road with Devil’s Carnival 2 and then I got off that and went directly into this Japanese TV show that I was in Japan for three and a half months, and then literally, I went to direct Ascension, which is this immersive theater thing I did this year, which is probably the biggest thing I ever directed, so was that crazy to go from one production into the next. I count my blessings being able to continue to work.

LRM: Since leaving the “Saw” movies, you’ve definitely been working more outside the studio system as far as horror movies, starting and developing your own projects. Has it been easier to make the movies you want to make and keep the original vision?

Bousman: Well, it’s f*cking hard in the way… here’s what it is. I would love to be able to go back and have the support system that I had when I did the Saw movies. There’s no denying that. I had an amazing support system behind me, but I like to be able to make the movie that I want to make. I wanted to make a weird rock opera, I wanted to make immersive theater, I wanted to go to Japan. I’ve been able to dictate the career that I desire to have, for good or bad. It’s live by the sword, die by the sword. There’s been moments where I’ve made mistakes in my career, and there have been successes I never would have had unless I had the b*lls to go out and do sh*t myself, and so, I do think I like it, more on what I’m doing now, because again, I control my own destiny. Again, failures are my fault. Successes are because I believed in something, and so, it’s kind of a double-edged sword, but that being said, at some point, I’d love to go back and do a movie that (unfortunately, we lost Darren here, but we think he basically said “had a budget.”) 

LRM: Do you think we’ll see that Japanese show here in some form?

Bousman: Maybe. I think so. I hope people see it here. It’s completely in Japanese so there’s no English in it, so it’s weird, because when you got to a different culture like that, you’re making something for their sensibilities, so it’s very much a Japanese horror show. There’s talks about releasing it here and there’s also a prospect of doing an American version of it, so we’ll see. It was such an amazing experience. I do hope people will see it. It’s vicious and violent as hell. 

LRM: I see you’re producing Spooky Dan Walker’s movie. Is that already filmed and ready to go?

Bousman: Yeah, you know what’s crazy. I don’t know what Spooky’s doing with it right now. I think Spooky is a perfectionist, and he has been tooling and retooling, tooling and retooling, and also, he did that on a nickel. He made that movie literally on a dime, so I think when you do something like that, there’s a tremendous time lapse between when you finish a project to when it gets released, and he has to rely on a lot of favors, but I know that he has a lot of visual FX in the movie that he’s working on… he, Spooky Dan, is working on it, so it’s a fun Christmas horror comedy movie about Krampus, and it’s funny because he had his before Krampus came out, but I hope people get to see it very soon. I think he’s going to start bringing it to festivals next year.

LRM: Do you know what you’re off to next and what you have lined up for your 2017 project?

Bousman: I’m leaving to go do another movie in about three weeks, to go do something in Atlanta. I can’t say exactly what it is yet, but it’s pretty neat, pretty fun, so I’m doing a movie in Atlanta, and then I’m coming right back and starting my next experience. If you get out to L.A. you have to come out to this next one I’m doing. Have you got Sleep No More out there? It’s sort of a Sleep No More-esque thing—you should experience it. I’m doing the next one called The Lust Experience, which is a tension-based experience based on lust, so it’s a theater-based sexual encounter that you go to for three hours and for three hours, you’re the center of your own story. It’s a bit like the David Fincher movie The Game, but it’s all happening to you in real time, so that’s what I spent the last year doing, these tension experiences and then when I get back from this movie in Atlanta, I start The Lust Experience, which is very exciting.

LRM: Working outside the studio system like you did with “Abattoir,” did you still have to worry about the MPAA rating or are you really able to go full out on the gore? It’s definitely very gory but you’ve done gore but keeping within an R-rating before.

Bousman: We were lucky that we didn’t really have to worry about it, because again, it is a violent movie but it’s nowhere near as… stuff on TV is gorier than Abattoir, so with this, I got to make the movie that we all wanted to make and then turned it over to the producers and they handled the rest. But I think as I’ve gotten older and since I’ve had a kid, my taste in violence has changed a little bit, and I’m more a fan of implied violence then I am in-your-face violence, but I think Abattoir is definitely a lot more toned down than the past films that I’ve done. That being said, this new movie might not be. The one I’m doing might be vicious.

LRM: Now that you have a kid, you might have to get into doing something animated.

Bousman: Absolutely, I’m doing a kid’s movie. I absolutely will now.

Abattoir opens in select cities and will be available On Demand starting Friday, December 9.

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