In recent months, The Asylum has greeted the theatrical debuts of WHEN A STRANGER CALLS and THE HILLS HAVE EYES with the DVD releases WHEN A KILLER CALLS and HILLSIDE CANNIBALS, and in June the company will have a movie called 666: THE CHILD in stores the same day (6/6/06) that Fox unleashes its remake of THE OMEN worldwide. Director Jack Perez, whose credits include the early verite shocker AMERICA’S DEADLIEST HOME VIDEO and the made-for-cable creature feature MONSTER ISLAND, acknowledges to Fango, “They wanted a movie inspired by THE OMEN, and that interested me because I was such a fan of the original as a kid. In fact, probably the first shocking image I ever saw from a film was from that one—and it wasn’t actually from seeing the movie, because I couldn’t get in; I was only 10! It was from the tie-in paperback, which had a photo of David Warner being decapitated, and his head rolling off the sheet of glass. I couldn’t believe a movie had that kind of stuff in it.”
Perez first became involved with Asylum when the company distributed his mystery/comedy THE BIG EMPTY, and when he was offered 666: THE CHILD, “They wanted many of the elements to be familiar; it wasn’t like I had to copy THE OMEN, but it had to have a similar feel to it. So I moved it out of the world of politics and into the mass-media realm. Instead of the father who adopts the evil child being a diplomat, he’s a combat news cameraman, and his wife is a local anchorwoman. They’re childless and have always wanted to adopt, and at the beginning of the picture, both of them are involved in the reporting of an airline disaster where the boy is the only survivor. By pulling some strings, they manage to adopt him.
“The father’s ex-Marine dad comes to live with them and take of the child while they’re both working, and he becomes one of the first victims,” Perez continues. “There is a nanny who is a minion of Satan who comes in to watch over the child and school him, but instead of the older British woman from the original, we have a “hot nanny,” for want of a better term. She attempts to seduce the father as his marriage starts to crumble, and with that I was able to incorporate a film noir element which makes it a little bit different from the first movie. This is a more intimate movie than that film was and than I’m sure the remake will be, and there’s more humor in it too—there’s one particular sequence in a tool shed that is very much inspired by the EVIL DEAD films. But it was most important that the performances and characterizations were there, so that the audience is invested in the story and when the violence occurs, it has more impact.”
Said mayhem involves the sort of imaginative death scenarios that became the hallmark of the OMEN series—and many genre flicks since. “I had to come up with creative kills,” Perez notes. “That was a prerequisite: to invent interesting ways for the child to dispose of people. And it became a challenge, because that seems to be the m.o. of just about every horror film that’s coming out now.” Playing the tiny terror is Boo Boo Stewart, and yes, “That’s his real name, and he was a revelation,” Perez says with no pun apparently intended. “He’s actually the son of the stunt coordinator [Nils Allen Stewart, who’s acted and done stunts in dozens of indie horror and action flicks]; he just worked on Robert Zemeckis’ new BEOWULF movie, and he’s a natural. He’s enormously talented, and his believability is what anchors the movie.”
A name you won’t see attached to 666: THE CHILD on Asylum’s site right now is Perez’s; the directing credit is currently ascribed to “Jake Jackson.” Perez says that his real moniker will be on the final movie, and that “I initially wasn’t sure whether I would put my name on it, because I didn’t know if it was possible to do good work—in my eyes—on the 12-day schedule we had. I decided to hold off on whether to use my real name until principal photography was completed, just because I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out. Asylum gave me the option of shooting on 35mm, which I’ve filmed all my past movies on, but I felt I’d get more bang for my buck if I shot on HD. That’s what enabled me to hone the movie and realize the sequences the way I imagined, because it was so much faster and enabled me to operate [camera on] a number of the shots myself. It was an experiment to see if I could do an effective horror-thriller in 12 days, and I believe it was a successful one.
“What’s so interesting about working with Asylum,” he adds, “is that they’re the most prolific company in this town. They make at least one movie a month, and this month they’re doing three! And because they have guaranteed international distribution, these pictures get made and seen. So while the budgets are low, you know you’re going to get to make the film, rather than languishing in development hell.”