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An Interview with Declan O'Brien

Declan: "It's a lot of pacing, a lot of coffee..and a lot of trips to the therapist!".

Declan O'Brien
Interview conducted by John Townsend
25 January 2013

Declan O'Brien is a writer, director and producer with many films to his credit. He is most famous however for the popular 'Wrong Turn' series of films which he has helmed since the third installment. Also acting as the writer of 'Wrong Turn 4' and 'Wrong Turn 5', which will see its UK DVD release this coming Friday (28 Jan), Declan took a few moments out of his tight schedule to chat with us.

Wrong Turn 3 was very much a character piece and Wrong Turn 4 revolved around teenagers trapped in an asylum. What can we expect from Wrong Turn 5?
Itís basically about this Mountain Man festival that takes place outside of town and when one of the hillbillies gets arrested along with a load of kids by the local Sheriff it kinda becomes a bit like Rio Bravo. The bad guys are trying to get the other bad guy back and so on. I left it ambiguous on purpose though who this hillbilly is, what his relationship is and so on.

So with the Wrong Turn films, as this is now your third involvement, what is it about the characters, their enduring quality if you like, that keeps you coming back to them?
Well, in each one I try and do a different and interesting story so that every one can be watched on itís own, you donít need to watch the entire series to enjoy the film itself. Here you have a new story and introducing this Maynard character, we have someone who talks as opposed to just grunts and laughs. He gives voice to the evil and psychologically tortures everyone through the film. What someone says can actually be more frightening than what happens.

The Maynard character you mention is played by horror icon Doug Bradley (Hellraiser). How was it working with him?
Doug is an absolutely fantastic guy. He was brilliant on set during the long hard days and we worked together to create that character. He brought things to the role such as the last minute idea of when Maynard calls three guys ďPinheadsĒ (laughs)

Declan: "You don't have James Cameron's budget so the best way is old school".

In the past you have referred to the series as almost being a guilty pleasure. Do you see the films and yourself satisfying a particular demand in the current market?
Yeah, obviously there is a demand otherwise I wouldnít be making the films. This is a type of horror film in which I want to give the fans what they want whether itís the over the top kills or subtle humour or even some pretty people dying!

After all the kills that have take place in the series is it difficult to come up with new and inventive ways time after time?
(laughs) yeah it is. Itís a lot of pacing, a lot of coffeeÖand a lot of trips to the therapist!

So of all the kills you've written and directed which would be your favourite?
(laughs) My favourite would be from Wrong Turn 4, the f***ed up fondue scene, where they're cutting pieces off and eating them while he's alive (laughs)

With the large commercial successes of the Saw and Hostel film franchises do you think the audience has a greater expectation and tolerance of what they want to see when it comes to gore on screen now?
Yeah, thereís definitely a higher bar in the last few years for the more outrageous kill you can do. For example there is a scene in this film with a guy buried up to his neck in a football field who then gets run over by a snow blower. It was difficult to shoot but it was something I hadnít seen before so I thought it would be cool.

When watching your films it seems to me that youíre a filmmaker who likes the practical set up of scenes as opposed to CGI where possible. Would that be fair?
Yeah, Iíve made movies before with thousands of CGI shots but with slasher movies I try and stay away from it. Itís not like Avatar, you donít have James Cameronís budget so the best way is old school, practical effects.

Declan: "Stanley Kubrick was a master".

Difficult question but do you have a favourite from the Wrong Turn series?
No I donít think so. Theyíre all different and I donít favour one or the other. I had a fantastic time making them all and I think they all turned out well. Each one is new with different characters and an original new story.

Where does Wrong Turn 5 sit chronologically?
This was kinda of doing a Lucas! Thereís 1, 2 & 3 and then 4 was a prequel and this is also before 1.

Did you set out to explore the origins of the characters or did it just come from a good idea you had?
Mainly from an idea really. I wanted to create a character this time who spoke evil as opposed to just grunting, kinda telling you how he was gonna kill you before actually killing you and that's what Maynard brings. I felt it was about time for that.

This film was shot in Bulgaria where the last was shot in Winnipeg, USA. Was there a specific reason for that or do you just have a fondness for Bulgaria?
Well Iíve shot a lot of films there so I can practically speak the language; I know enough to direct anyway!! (laughs)

As a more general question, which films or directors have influenced you or your style?
Well The Shining was the scariest film ever and Stanley Kubrick was a master.

Would that be your favourite horror film too then?
I would say itís probably my favourite. Who doesnít like Jack with an axe? (laughs)

With a view of the horror genre as a whole do you feel itís in a healthy place at the moment with the amount of big budget remakes around? From a writerís point of view in particular
Thereís a bunch of big budget remakes out there and a bunch that are financed outside the studio such as Paranormal Activity. Every now and then they break through to tap into what people are really hungering for and that's great. I always want to see more original pieces out there.

So what about future projects? More Wrong Turn films?
It all depends on getting a good story idea, whatever it is.

Thank you very much for your time today.
Thank you, bye.

"Thank you ever so much for taking part in this interview.
And we wish you the very best of luck in the future."

'Wrong Turn 5' arrives on DVD here in UK from 28 January.

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