‘The Torment’ London premiere and Q&A

The Prince Charles Cinema (PCC) is well known for being an aggressively independent cinema, still managing to keep itself alive and kicking in the Westend of London, despite not being an Odeon, Empire, Vue or Cineworld. The building is tucked round the back of Chinatown, just off Leicester Square, and screams independent cinema from the rooftops – the posters are of films that don’t just contain Tom Cruise or Sam Worthington and feature double bills as exciting as Groundhog Day and Caddyshack and as utterly bonkers as Hatchet and E.T.

The PCC is currently showing westerns, horrors, singalongs, every single Star Trek film and is giving out free tickets for a film called Big Tits Zombie… as long as you turn up dressed as a zombie… with big tits. The PCC is fun, brash, shameless and light-hearted. It loves film and celebrates everything about it, happy to host quality double bills of Jurassic Park and Jaws and equally as happy to show the absolutely crudtacular likes of Birdemic. The staff are welcoming and clearly love the PCC dearly, happy to answer questions from idiots who can’t read signs and direct people to the alcohol. People like me.

The PCC doesn’t get funding from the Arts Council, any film bodies or even the National Lottery, but manages to “thrive” through putting on a huge array of films, old and new, and hosting previews, premieres, Q&A sessions and special events for the smaller, more independent films. One such film is The Torment (released as The Possession of Dave O’Reilly in the U.S., fact fans).

Kicking off at 8.30pm prompt, the Downstairs screen at the PCC has comfortable, massive seats and smacks of old school cinema, where the screen isn’t perfectly lined up but no one cares. It’s the ideal setting for The Torment, which is not Hollywood standard gloss, but more shaky-cam, guerilla filming on a personal scale.

After sitting through 87 minutes of darkness, screams, blood, horrible creatures and Giles Alderson wailing at shadows, we’re invited to stay for a Question and Answer session with the Writer / Co-Director Andrew Cull and the films four stars Giles Alderson, Francesca Fowler, Zoe Richards and Nicholas Shaw. They’re all easy-going, funny and open people.

The Torment

Hosted by co-producer Nick Isles, the following is a slightly cut-down transcript of the Q & A session… cut down because some of the people didn’t quite speak into the microphones provided. The result was a recording of their voices saying this “_________” and “________”, which isn’t particularly interesting…

This is how it went.

FRANCESCA FOWLER: I need a loo break, sorry.

Francesca Fowler and Giles Alderson disappear out to the “restrooms” whilst Andrew Cull, Zoe Richards and Nicholas Shaw clamber onto the stage, microphones poised in their hands.

NICK ISLES: What was it like to make a film like that? Was it intense?


Everyone laughs, and we pray her obtuseness is intentional.

NI: How intense?

ZR: The crying scenes were intense. Twelve hours crying is not normal. If you cry in reality you cry for maybe ten minutes, and then you stop, and you laugh and say “oops, I cried”, but with this I had to keep crying. Every take, and then they stop to fix the lights and then re-set, and then you get your hair and make-up done and you have to cry again. Tough.

NI: The shoot was three weeks?

ZR: Yep.

NI: And you’re doing long, twelve hour days?

ZR: They were night shoots, so we didn’t know the time.

NI: What was that like? Filming at night. Dislocating? Tough?

ANDREW CULL: I think it is quite tough to do night shooting. As a whole, when we set out to do the film, we wanted to do something that was pretty intense, that was pretty character driven, so people like Giles had a pretty tough time getting that performance. I think he was absolutely fantastic. I think before this he’d done primarily lighter roles…

Giles Alderson takes this moment to return from the toilet, along with Francesca Fowler (N.B. They didn’t go to the toilet together, before you begin reading into that…) to much applause.

The Torment

NI: So, Giles, how do you prepare for a role like that? What goes into it?

GILES ALDERSON: Um… oh, Jesus. Everything. Mentally, physically. Andy really took us through it. We were given a whole week of rehearsal too. All of us went through a lot, spending an entire week in that house, it really helped us get into it.

NI: What about you, Francesca? You have one of the goriest, most distressing scenes. How did you prepare for that?

FRANCESCA FOWLER: Well, I got pregnant…

We all laugh, and pray she’s not mad or insanely Method. Luckily she’s just got a good sense of humour…

FF: I don’t think you can prepare – I mean, you can prepare mentally – but I always find you have to go with what comes up at the time. I like to keep it fresher that way, so I keep my best performance until I’m doing it, if that makes sense? It’s always challenging when you’re doing a night shoot and you don’t have much time. The pressure’s on and you just have to go for it. I think we had to do [the “pregnant scene”] in two takes, because of costumes.

AC: Yeah.

FF: In two takes, because we only had two costumes that we could get bloody. You just have to do it, really.

NI: How different was that to doing the other things you’ve worked on, like Doctor Who. What’s the difference? Do you prefer this type of intense film?

FF: It’s just very different. It’s always a luxury when you have time, but sometimes if you have too much time you can overdo things. Each job is so individual, so I don’t know what I prefer.

NI: Nick, you have the sort of straight role in The Torment [as Alex], where you’re sucked into the situation. Were you surprised by anything?

NICHOLAS SHAW: Well, like Giles said, we rehearsed it quite intensely the week before – it was also filmed quite chronologically – so we could get into the journey of the people. It was interesting being in the middle of two points of view, and it’s about the loyalties you have with different people in your life and how you respond in certain situations – I don’t think Alex responded to it very well. He gets a bit hysterical, but it’s how you deal with a particular situation.

NI: Andrew, you wrote this.

AC: Yes.

NI: Where did this come from?

AC: I wrote it back in 2003, and at the time it was a reaction to a lot of U.S. horror I’d seen. Basically, I felt we’d lost touch with the characters we see in movies. Most of the time you were basically watching people you wanted to see get a hatchet in the head. In the first five minutes. Because you couldn’t stand them – they didn’t evolve, and you didn’t relate to them in any way. What I wanted to do was create something that was much more character driven and make people feel for the characters in the film and the situations they found themselves in. So that was how I initially set out to write the script. At the time I was living on the ground floor of a Victorian house and that became the setting of the film. I wanted something the audience could relate to – I wanted them to see themselves in the characters, at home, and think “that could happen to me, in my house”, sort of very normal people in a very extreme situation.

At this point the co-producer does the effortlessly dangerous thing of opening the questions up to the general public…

AUDIENCE MEMBER #1: I liked it! I really liked it.

Please note – this was not someone with a question, but someone who just wanted to let everyone know he enjoyed it… immediately. Please note – that person was not me. I’m much more subtle.

AUDIENCE MEMBER #2: In terms of blocking and action, it was so loose at the top of the movie – why was that?

AC: Initially I want you to settle in. Before you got to the action of the piece, about forty minutes in, when the lights go out, I wanted to make you very familiar with the location where it would all happen. You’re plunged into near darkness on some occasions and I wanted you to have a familiarization with the location, even in the dark. What I wanted to do specifically – there were shots early on of Nick, when he’s intending to get the curry ready and we follow him and we’re left just watching a window for a short period of time. Stuff like that. What I wanted to do was suggest something’s going to happen here – get ready – that sort of stuff. Looking into certain areas, and some of those areas are recurrent in the film and do pay off later on. And some of them are mcguffins. That was definitely part of the design of the film.

ZR: One of the films Andy told us to watch was Hidden, a French film, where the camera becomes a character in the film. You start off watching the house, a long shot of the exterior.

AC: That’s an elegant point. Essentially when I wrote it – I write it in a different style to most people – if you read a copy of the script I refer to the camera as “We” sometimes, because I wanted you to feel you’re actually in there. Which is another reason for the P.O.V. stuff – there’s some P.O.V. stuff but not as much as in the other projects that I’ve done – I’d like you to feel that you’re involved. Much more than if you’ve got a static camera, just there, doing a very familiar kind of shooting.

NI: For the cast, have you done anything like this before?

GA: Yeah, I think a few of us have done that sort of thing before. The P.O.V. stuff was really interesting though – you’re in character looking at the camera – it was difficult. It wasn’t so much for me, the other guys did a lot more than me. It was difficult when I had to do it, so I imagine it was very difficult for them.

The Torment

NI: Andrew and Zoe, you two have worked together before, right?

AC: Ha! Yes. Zoe was Louise Paxton in the internet series – finally the secret’s out!

ZR: I still get hate mail.

AC: Really? Sorry about that. Initially one of the ways we got interest in The Torment was a project called In The Dark, which is a project I shot with Zoe, as a real –

ZR: Well, not real. Some people thought it was real.

AC: A hoax. It was a hoax. It’s still there if you wanna have a look.

AUDIENCE MEMBER #3: Can you tell us more about the true story angle. The “based on true events”. It’s a lot like Balham generally, I guess.

That provides more laughter. Tragically it’s also true…

AC: Yeah, I wouldn’t say it was directly based on true events. But… definitely influenced by some –

ZR: It all happened.

AC: I am a nice person really.

AUDIENCE MEMBER #4: The portrayal is a descent into schizophrenia – how much did that influence you?

AC: What happens to David in the film, I wanted to present a believable descent into madness. We tend to do that rather flippantly in cinema, and that again comes back to adding reality to the film and making people feel able to involve themselves with the characters, so I did research before writing about what happened to David. When you see horror movies, the monsters, ghosts and axemen are all very frightening but not as plausible as insanity. It’s something we see in our everyday lives – not personally – you see it in the news, and very sad cases of things that happens to people, and because it is plausible that’s a very good way to bring an audience into the story, essentially.

AUDIENCE MEMBER #5: There were quite a few laughs during the film. How did you pick where to put comic timing in it – the light relief?

FF: We didn’t realize there was any humour in it!

GA: It’s a Rom-Com!

NS: It was kind of helpful for me in the earlier stuff that there was some of the lighter stuff in the relationship, that I had. It was quite good because I knew it was going to get crazy later on. As Andy said about trying to create an environment where you felt for the characters, and building up a relationship, so later you could be part of that and feel for the characters.

NI: So it wasn’t just intense?

NS: No, it was enjoyable too. I mean, we all got on really well.

NI: But it was scary. Were you scared at times?

GS: [TENTATIVELY] Yes. There were moments – definitely moments. We were in the house, and the house is massive, and they built a set inside it and blocked off some of the walls so we could block off something or put up a door. Because of that there was so much space in that house, where we could go and be on our own for a bit before a scene. There was quite a few moments where we’d all go find a corner on our own and try and scare ourselves silly, but then when you go back into a room and it’s full of crew… then it’s a lot less scary.

ZR: The kids’ room are quite scary. It had been a family house, and I don’t know how many kids lived there – certainly a few – because there’s about three children’s bedrooms in the house that are still decorated with children’s stuff, and mobiles –

AC: They left in a hurry.

ZR: That was weird.

AC: Some kind of horrific event.

NI:Zoe, you actually stayed there, am I right?

ZR: Yeah, yeah. But I wasn’t scared, normally. Apart from the kids’ rooms – I didn’t go in there. [TO ANDREW] Were you scared?

AC: I’m never scared.

ZR: [LAUGHS] Like a true horror writer.

The Torment

AUDIENCE MEMBER #6: What inspired you?

AC: I love thrillers, I love horror films. I didn’t want to do something that was all “bang bang, in your face” – when I watch a horror film it’s the building sounds, the structural sounds you can hear… When I was writing it I lived in Wandsworth Common, with a really big garden, and in the middle of the night you hear foxes screaming out. Those are the sounds of real life and they’re terrifying at three o’clock in the morning when you’re hammering away at a horror script. I think for me, the sounds of the pipes and the building itself, they slowly move towards gearing the film up – the sound designer is very very important, whenever I’m creating.

NI: How about the fight scenes. How hard was that?

ZR: It hurt.

NI: How long did it take to do?

GS: I donno, a couple of days. The fight coordinator who did the fights with us –

ZR: Is she here tonight?

They pause, looking into the audience for a response. There isn’t one.

GS: Okay, good.

Everyone bursts into laughter.

GS: She really hurt me.

ZR: She really hurt.

GS: She practiced Zoe’s moves on me and she’d hold me down and say “Zoe, this is what you do”, then she’d say to me “Does this hurt?” and I’m “Yes it bloody does! Get off!”. She was fantastic, she really was.

ZR: She was a James Bond stuntwoman, and you’d think they’re going to teach you how to fall over without hurting yourself… in actual fact they actually just say “Now you fall”. And I’d ask “Do I do it with the left foot first or…” and she’s just “No. Just fall. Here’s lots of padding, just fall.” I was bruised.

NI: What are you all doing now?

GS: I’m working on a sci-fi film called Transmission.

NS: I’m off to Liverpool to do a play. It’s called Tis a Pity She’s a Whore. Full of laughs.

FF: I’ve just done a short film called Frequency, which was funded by the old UK Film Council. We’re looking to get funding for the feature film.

ZR: I’m actually recording the voice of the central character in an animation, which my boyfriend is doing the music for, and I have to get up for nine thirty tomorrow morning. And I do the voice… of a little girl…

AC: I’m currently writing a new character-driven horror film.

ZR: Can I be in it?

Andrew Cull sadly doesn’t answer that question… I guess we’ll find out whenever the future arrives.

The Torment is available on DVD 9/8/10

5 Comments on “‘The Torment’ London premiere and Q&A”

  1. [...] Here’s the link to her imdb page. The cast and crew of the new horror film The Torment are interviewed in Gore Press. Zoe Richards is part of the cast and confesses she was Louise Paxton in the videos (this forms [...]

  2. Seeker of the truth says:

    The Torment was filmed in my house. A very happy family house I might add. We had moved out of London and didn’t sell immediately so rented the house out to Andy Cull. It was all planned, we did not move “in a hurry”, nothing “weird” prompted our move, and there was no “horrific event”. Because the house we moved to was considerably smaller we did leave some stuff behind (bits of which turned out to be useful film props) but my chilcren took all their belongings (including mobiles) with them. I know this because I packed all the boxes. I met all the crew and several of the cast (including Zoe) on various occasions and even took my three (yes three, a pretty normal number) children to visit the set. Hate to blow your horror freaks bubble but sort of wanted to set the record straight. Still was very happy to bank the fat cheque for the rental.

    • Sarah B DeMented says:

      No-one mentions you by name, or gives the address though, so what’s wrong with a bit of mystery?! And I kinda resent the horror ‘freak’ tag, mate.

    • Scullion says:

      Congratulations on banking a ‘fat cheque’ for hiring out your evil house of horrors.

      I’m genuinely surprised this house wasn’t actually a site of torture, murder, death and horrific events and was in fact a ‘film’ containing a ‘set’ and something called a ‘crew’. Colour me surprised.

      Thank God “Seeker of the truth” has finally uncovered this conspiracy, burst the bubble of lies and laid out the truth for everyone to see.

      All those horror ‘freaks’ can rest easier tonight! Thank you!!

  3. Seeker of the truth says:

    Oh, and the set catering was located in what had been one of the children’s bedrooms and the editing suite in another so unless Zoe never ate nor watched the rushes (see I’ve got the jargon) she must have gone into the oh so scary childrens’ rooms. Nothing like playing to the audience is there?!

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