Snakebite Horror) Firstly congratulations on such a great film, the people who saw it at Film4 FrightFest this year all seemed to enjoy it. How did the idea for THE CALLER come about?
Sergio Casci)Thanks Mark! Delighted to hear people at FrightFest enjoyed the movie!
THE CALLER was originally a short film called ROSE which I wrote about fourteen years ago for the BBC. The central idea came to me when I was sitting in my tenement flat in Glasgow one wet afternoon and the phone started ringing. The notion suddenly came to me: What if the person on the other end dialled the number years ago..?
The idea struck me as interesting, and was radically improved by the thought which immediately followed it… And what if the person dialing the number turned out to be a psychopath?!
It was one of those ideas which arrive in your brain almost fully-formed, and thereafter the story seemed to write itself. The BBC at the time was looking for half-hour films starring two characters, and that’s what I gave them: essentially it was a one-location story with two protagonists; Mary and Rose.
The short film was beautifully directed by Don Coutts, and the actors – Katy Murphy as Mary and Alison Peebles as Rose (who we never actually see on screen) – were brilliant. But I always thought that the central idea merited a longer treatment, so shortly afterwards I sat down to write a feature version, and that’s how THE CALLER came about.
S.B) When writing the script did you intentionally go for a low gore aspect?
S.C) The only thing I really wanted was to write a movie that was genuinely frightening, and I just don’t find gore all that scary! I wanted audiences to feel that delicious sense of creeping dread which you get with the best horror films, and to do that you have to get inside their heads. I didn’t consciously avoid buckets of blood – it just didn’t seem necessary.
S.B) As you said The Caller is based on a short you did for the BBC called ROSE. How much did you change to the short to get to this finished product?
S.C) ROSE had two characters and, essentially, one location. In order to turn it into a feature film I basically had to fill in a lot of the blanks. For example, in the short film Mary is running away from an abusive relationship, but we don’t learn much about her nasty ex, Steven (though we do see a photograph of him, for which director Don Coutts chose a photo of me looking particularly smart in my work suit!) In the feature version Steven is a major character (played with fabulous menace by the brilliant Ed Quinn) and we get to see what a Grade A swine he really is!
The other major difference was that in the feature version I got to indulge my sick imagination. While in ROSE I could only vaguely hint at some of the awful things someone living in your past could do to you, in THE CALLER I was able to examine all the horrifying implications.
S.B) How did you get into screenwriting?
S.C) I always wanted to write, but as a child the idea of being an actual “writer” seemed impossible. It just wasn’t something real people did. Instead, I went into journalism which, while being a “real” job, still allowed you to write. After a couple of years, though, the urge to tell stories came back. I was lucky enough to meet Don Coutts (the director of ROSE) around that time and he was extremely encouraging. Together we made a few short films which were very well received and eventually collaborated on my first feature, AMERICAN COUSINS, which went on to win around sixteen international film awards. After that I figured I could actually make a go of this writing malarkey and gave up the day job!
S.B) Have you always wanted to write horror?
S.C) Writing horror always seemed the most natural thing in the world to me, primarily because it’s what I like to watch! I enjoy films with compelling characters and strong storylines, and that’s what good horror films supply. The films which make the biggest impression on me are always the ones which inspire that delicious sense of dread I spoke about before – films like Jaws, The Exorcist and The Sixth Sense. It’s a sad fact that many “horror” films are pretty lame – but the ones that are good are so good that I’m happy to wade through the rest to find them.
S.B) Who inspires you in the business?
S.C) I grew up reading Stephen King and I still think he’s the master when it comes to creating a real world with real people – and then screwing their lives up right and proper! I also think M. Night Shyamalan is a genius. His films aren’t always perfect, but there’s such a powerful imagination behind them that they’re always worth watching. I’m also a big fan of TRUE BLOOD, MEDIUM and THE WALKING DEAD. In essence, I like story-tellers who make you believe in and care about their characters before unleashing hell!
S.B) This wouldn’t be a Snakebite interview without asking the next two questions, firstly : FILMS OR NOVELS ?
S.B) and secondly if you had to choose one film and/or book, not including the caller, which would you
S.C) The Exorcist – book and film.
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