Paul Campion Interview
Paul Campion is the Writer / Director / Producer of The Devil’s Rock, a brutal, bloody horror set on the Channel Islands during World War 2. He took some time out from the marketing trail to chat to Gorepress’s Scullion about the film.
Honest, candid and good humoured, Paul gives an interesting insight into the making of The Devil’s Rock and where this mad idea was spawned from.
See below as Paul talks about demons, Nazis, the Weta Workshop, one crazily tight shooting schedule and someone called the “Deep Throat German”…
GOREPRESS: First up, congratulations on The Devil’s Rock – a very taut, bloody, compelling little horror.
PAUL CAMPION: Thank you. Glad you enjoyed it. We set out to make a horror film that would hopefully be entertaining and have a little more depth to it than audiences might be expecting.
GP: Where did the idea for The Devil’s Rock come from?
PC: A trip to Guernsey in 2009 when I found out about the Channel Islands history of witchcraft, the Bad Books, and on the same trip saw one of the German fortifications there (specifically MP3) and thought that would be a great setting for a horror film. I started doing more research and took those elements and combined them with the commando raids on the Channel Islands and the Nazi’s history of the occult to come up with the basic plot.
GP: There is a lot of detail in The Devil’s Rock – from the historical facts to the demonic literature – how accurate is it all?
PC: Apart from the demon it’s all based on a certain amount of historical facts which we tried to weave the story around – the Channel Island’s history of witchcraft, the Bad Books (I found real 250 year old copies in a vault there), the German occupation, the fortification (based on a fortification called MP4 in Guernsey) and gun pit, the fact that the Germans were starving at the end of the war – hence the reason they went looking for food and found the book, the commando distraction raids on the Channel Islands, the interrogation and torture – which was based on Hitler’s Commando Order, which itself was because of a commando raid on the island of Sark in The Channel Islands. Then of course the Nazi’s were doing all kinds of weird things with the occult.
GP: The Devil’s Rock takes a much more sensible approach to “Nazis and the Occult” than most horror films (with the likes of ridiculous splatter-fests Dead Snow and Blood Reich in recent years) – were you tempted to make it funnier, or more extreme?
PC: It was always meant to be on the more serious side, more akin to The Exorcist. I don’t know about more extreme. It was always meant to be entertaining rather than going anywhere nasty.
GP: What do you think the Film Industry’s fascination is with the Nazis?
PC: In the case of fantasy type films like ours, they genuinely dabbling in the occult and were supposedly looking for religious and arcane/occult artefacts, so it’s very easy to cast them as the antagonists.
GP: Were you pleased with the cast you had?
PC: Fantastically! They are all extremely experienced actors and they brought a seriousness and honesty to the roles which was vital to making the film work, and without that it could easily have turned into more of a comedy horror, which was never the intention. On top of that they went through a lot making this film. They only got the shooting script 14 days before we started shooting, and then had to shoot up to 8 pages of script per day which is a huge amount to try and learn and memorise, let alone act. Then on top of that they had to endure the makeup effects and copious amounts of blood which is really sticky nasty stuff.
GP: I noticed one of the dead Nazi’s was Jonathan King, the writer / director of Black Sheep! How come he was involved…?
PC: Jonathan lives in Wellington, and I got to know him through the local film industry there. A lot of the same cast and crew who worked on his films Black Sheep and Under the Mountain also worked on my short Eel Girl and The Devil’s Rock – Matt Sunderland was in Under the Mountain, Nick Blake from Eel Girl was the taxi driver in Black Sheep, Weta Workshop did the makeup effects for both his films and for Eel Girl and Devil’s Rock, Richard Bluck was DoP on Eel Girl and Black Sheep/Under the Mountain, so I thought it would be fun to give Jonathan a small cameo as we had so much in common. The other cameo is Hadyn Green, who co-write my short Night of the Hell Hamsters – he’s the “rifle down the throat’ German – more affectionately known as the “Deep Throat German”.
GP: The blood and gore affects were very good and endlessly disgusting (I did especially like the “rifle down the throat” Nazi!) – who was responsible for that sickening mess, and were you happy with the result?
PC: That would be myself, co-writer Paul Finch and Sean Foot who was the prosthetics supervisor. The intention was always to make it a very bloody film, although if we had more budget there would’ve been more blood and gore. Paul Finch came up with the Deep Throat German and it was also his idea for the various body parts during the ritual at the end. The body parts around the rooms were my idea; there were supposed to be far more, in the script the floor was awash with blood and there were body parts embedded in the walls and ceiling, but again we just couldn’t afford it. There was also a scene where Helena rips a dead body in two, but we ran out of time and didn’t get to film it, which was a shame as Sean Foot built a great prosthetic body for that effect. Sean Foot built all the body parts and handled all the gore on set, so it’s all down to him how gross they look.
GP: Who came up with the design for The Demon? And how long did it take to apply the make-up?
PC: That was my design. I did some concept art, then Weta Workshop did a head cast of our actress Gina Varela then Sean Foot did the sculpture on top of that and really brought it to life. It’s a shame we don’t get to see more of her back, as she’s got two wing stumps and scars in the shape of symbols all over her back – the idea was that she was an angel who’d committed a crime in Heaven was cast out and sent to Hell, where her wings were hacked off and the details of her crime were carved into her back as punishment. The makeup took about 4 or 5 hours to apply. Gina and the makeup artists had to start work at something like 3 or 4am, then it took several hours to remove the makeup at the end of the day, so it was an even longer day for them than everyone else.
GP: This is your first Feature – did the production go smoothly / as you imagined it would?
PC: I would guess it went smoothly in the sense that nothing major went wrong, but the pre-production and production were incredibly stressful and extremely hard work.
GP: What was the hardest part of creating The Devil’s Rock?
PC: Trying to make the story and script work with basically two actors in a single room for 50% of the film, and the very limited schedule, both in pre-production and production. We started working on the film in February 2010 and were shooting in August. Paul Finch had only 7 days to write the first draft of the script, and Paul, myself and later in the production Brett Ihaka worked non-stop on it right into shooting. Then the shooting schedule itself was ridiculous – only 15 days to shoot everything. We shot 8 pages of script per day, including makeup and visual effects. We couldn’t afford any more time and we were racing to get the film into production and shot before The Hobbit started ramping up in Wellington and took most of our crew. We just managed to get the sets built before we lost our construction and paint crew the following day. The only way we got through the shoot was the cast and crew were incredibly professional and worked very hard and very fast.
GP: If you had one piece of advice for any first-time directors out there, what would it be?
PC: Surround yourself with the most experienced cast and crew you can and let them do their jobs.
Finally, what is your favourite horror film of all time?
PC: Can’t pick one. It’s a toss up between Alien, Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, The Thing, American Werewolf in London, Evil Dead 1 & 2 and Blade 2.
GP: Thanks for chatting to Gorepress, Paul.
PC: My pleasure!
The Devil’s Rock will be released in cinemas on the 8th July and is out on DVD on the 11th.