The Welsh director speaks to Ian Sandwell about his segment in V/H/S/2 and the eagerly anticipated sequel to The Raid.
For a filmmaker who splashed the screen with blood in The Raid and whose V/H/S/2 segment, Safe Haven, features someone who explodes, Gareth Evans isn’t as one with violence as you’d expect.
“When it comes to real life violence, I get really squeamish, I can’t handle it,” Evans tell ScreenDaily. “Fake stuff, anything goes. I know it’s not real.
“Timo [Tjahjanto, Evans’ co-director on Safe Haven] knows everything about horror but not just in films, in real life too. He’s got a morbid fascination. The amount of times I have to tell him ‘Don’t send me photographs of that crime scene’.”
This morbid fascination proved the duo’s way into Safe Haven segment of sequel V/H/S/2. Safe Haven sees a group of journalists investigate a mass cult suicide group, without realising they’re visiting on the day of reckoning.
Pain and suffering
Having listened to an audio recording of cult leader Jim Jones conducting his last sermon at the Jonestown Massacre, Evans and Tjahjanto set about developing a segment that avoided being “entirely focused on pain and suffering”.
“We tried to turn it into a rollercoaster ride and I hate saying the word, but we had to make it entertaining,” explains Evans.
“It’s not trying to be derogatory to the real life situation of these cults, but we needed to find a way into these cults where we could still tell that story without being dark and nasty.”
The solution? Amp up the audience’s disbelief by including satanic elements, the idea of Hell and a few demons. “Now you have this idea of journalists going into a cult, but what if that whackjob who’s telling you he can open the gates of Hell, actually can?” says Evans.
Playing with the audience
One issue the duo faced was ensuring that the audience knew exactly what was going on, in spite of the found footage aesthetic and a climax where all Hell literally breaks loose.
They achieve it by making the cult compound as much of a “character” as the tower block in Evans’ breakthrough feature, The Raid. The audience get a guided tour of the compound at the start of Safe Haven, meaning Evans and Tjahjanto had free reign to make the climax as “messed up” as they liked.
It also allowed them to play with the audience.
Evans explains: “You know the path, you know the geography and you know what’s behind each door. You can then start to play games with the audience. You remember that nice couple at the beginning? Yeah, we might see them again…”
Despite enjoying making Safe Haven – and not just because it allowed the Welsh director to work with Tjahjanto for the first time – Evans doesn’t think he’ll make a full-length feature of found footage because of its restrictions.
However, he’s supportive of the sub-genre that’s become increasingly used in recent years.
“A lot of people, especially in the horror community, talk about ‘found footage’ and I get it because it comes from a stream of found footage films not being good,” he says.
“In the wrong hands, it’s a cheap, effective way of making a film, but there are inherent challenges in order to make it work. There are elements to it that are really hard to get around if you care about it.”
The Raid 2
Everyone knows what’s next for Evans though - the eagerly anticipated sequel The Raid 2: Berandal. It’s an odd situation for Evans as the script for Berandal was completed before he even started on The Raid.
“We did the choreography for Berandal before The Raid, so technically in terms of the action and the way the aggression builds in The Raid, that came as a result of doing the action for Berandal. At the same time, by doing The Raid, that influenced how we looked back on our old choreography [for Berandal].”
Evans brought a clip of new character Hammer Girl to V/H/S/2’s UK premiere at FrightFest which - even in just two minutes - gave an impression of how much more cinematic the sequel feels.
For Evans, there’s one key difference between the acclaimed original and its sequel.
“Some of the characters, we’ve stretched a little bit more so there’s a comic book element to it,” he reveals. “It’s just little things here and there where we stretch the reality while still applying the laws of physics. When people get hurt, they get hurt - but we started to add a little more colour to it.”
While there is one expected influence in the form of Miike, Evans also drew on a certain filmmaking sibling duo.
“To a certain extent, with the gangster speak, I was influenced by Coen Brothers,” adds Evans. “That stylised way of talking that’s not quite reality but fits in the genre and feels part of that world.
“Fingers crossed all these things will gel well together. We’ll see.”
V/H/S/2 will be released on DVD from Koch Media on Oct 14 and will open at select UK cinemas on Oct 10.