Evangeline Spachis captured writing-producing team Melanie Gourley and Paul Huxley (not against their will…honest!) to chat about their upcoming full-length horror feature, Seepers: A Love Story, an independent Kickstarter project that’s galvanising creatives in Sheffield, Nottingham and beyond…it sounds gross.
Hey Mel and Paul! Tell us about your exciting new horror film project, Seepers: A Love Story!
Mel: Our DOP Dan Lord told me about this dream he had had about people being farmed for their methane and I think he just expected it to maybe, possibly, become a short film. We came up with the basic idea in a chat and the term ‘seepers’. I could be wrong but I think he feels the weight of the film on his shoulders. Haha. Seriously though Dan, it is.
Paul: After having made several short films we decided that it was a good idea to make a feature film. That ended up being a crazy musical horror comedy hybrid called Seepers: A Love Story. It’s a very British kind of film with elements of Bottom and Viz and The League of Gentlemen somehow squeezed into a horror movie. It’s Ken Loach’s Re-Animator (1985)!
In the story we follow two rival ‘seeper’ farms. They kidnap people to extract bio-fuel from them. You see in the movie the world has fallen apart and energy is scarce and people have resorted to extreme measures. It’s a gloriously demented soap-opera with a cast of reprehensible characters who you end up loving despite the terrible things they do. There’s a little bit of everything in Seepers.
Mel: Paul and I decided we needed two rival seeper farms, as people trying to get one over on each other is a great basis for a story. One of the farms is like a battery farm, the other kind of free range. That just happened, it wasn’t intentional.
Who’s on board for production?
Mel: We have so many people behind us, I can’t quite believe it. It feels like a dream sometimes. Most of the cast and crew are giving up their spare time (or booking holidays) to make this happen. It’s wonderful that they believe in us so much – thank god! Our usual team of professionals are working on the thing plus lots of talented friends. Some local musicians wrote actual music for our actual film – I’m still reeling from that. They are amazing.
Paul: Dan the DP shoots fashion by day, and by night makes our film look good. Our beautiful lead actors Jimmi Addison, Ivan Furgala, Darren Maffucci, Gavin Mawditt and Sarah Spencer are doing great things with our insane script.
Mel: I’m still shocked they want to be in it after reading it – it’s gross!
Without giving too much away, what gruesome moment are you particularly excited to put together?
Paul: There’s something in the film that talks that really shouldn’t talk. Mel: I am so excited for this – we are using the same techniques employed by the team behind Audrey II in Little Shop of Horrors (1986) to make this thing move, it’s going to be so gross. My Mum would be so proud of me.
Paul: I guess it would be giving too much away if we said any more. There is a classic exploding person scene that’s going to be a highlight of the film using a mix a practical and CG effects. We’ll try to out-do Scanners (1981).
How’s the Kickstarter going? What type of people have pledged so far?
Mel: Really, really, really nice ones.
Paul: Well £6,000 covers the special practical effects costs. It’s not the budget for the entire film that we’re asking for. I don’t know what the total cost would normally have been because we’re getting a lot of support from the cast and crew who are all graciously giving up a lot of their time to get behind the movie. We’re paying them in hugs and sandwiches. We’re getting a lot of support from the wider horror and film-making community as well. Everyone knows just how hard it is to make a film no matter the budget and I think that’s where a lot of the backers are from. We’d love to reach out to more horror fans who we think would love this film. Personally as a horror nerd myself I’m always on the look out for the next weird thing to watch, and hopefully Seepers will be that next fix for someone.
Mel: Yeah we can’t wait for the next fix so are making our own. We have had well wishes and pledges from people I haven’t caught up with in years, it’s lovely to know people have been following us all this time!
Can you tell us a little about how the co-writing process went?
Paul: We started out with the simple concept of people being held prisoner and having their natural waste being extracted for bio-fuel. It’s a strong start and we built from there. As huge John Waters fans we wanted to have a little Pink Flamingos (1972) in there so we developed a story about two rival factions. From then on it was about adding the kind of scenes we love in movies and hanging it on a stable structure. We realised soon enough that a rom-com framework was a good template. Ultimately it’s nothing like romantic comedy. Each of us would write scenes then hand it to the other person to re-write. Even now we’ll be sending each other messages about ideas of what should be in the film.
Mel: Our respective kids are pals and have been privvy to some pretty messed-up conversations. They are going to be in the film too.
Seepers promises to be disgusting and depraved – why do you think the gory side of horror has endured?
Paul: Cinema is primarily a visual medium and you want to experience things that you simply can’t get in everyday life. It’s also a buffer for the truly grim things that do occur around the world all the time; a cathartic and controllable escape from real-world atrocities.
Mel: For me it’s nostalgia I have from watching messed-up things as a kid. I still love being disgusted. I recently watched Nekromantik films (1987 and 1991) and was super impressed by how ill they made me feel, particularly the sequel. I still think fondly about nearly vomming when watching Bad Taste (1987). I want to do the same for our audience.
Paul: There’s also an appreciation of the art that goes into the effects. I think audiences get a thrill when they see something unique and well executed. While there’s some amazing CGI in modern films, nothing beats the tactile rip of latex flesh. Gory practical effects work even when they aren’t that good. That’s one thing I’ve noticed revisiting old horror films, where as dodgy CG is instantly outdated.
Which films or filmmakers have inspired you during this time?
Paul: We mentioned John Waters already but there are certainly many more influences. Things like Re-Animator, The Greasy Strangler (2016) maybe even Delicatessen (1991) and weird old British films like Eat the Rich (1987) and The Comic Strip’s films.
Mel: Anything weird, really, that leaves you wondering what the hell you just watched. Films with filthy, outlandish characters I’d love to know in real life.
What’s the first horror film you remember watching?
Mel: I’m pretty sure it was A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) which explains a lot. I was far too young and that is the absolute best way to watch horror films. I used to think the actors were really brave. Ours certainly are.
Paul: It was Cameron’s Closet (1988), an odd German rip-off of among other things, E.T. the Extra Terrestrial (1982), The Goonies (1985), Poltergeist (1982) and It (1990). I watched it again recently and…no bueno.
Mel, it seems female directors working in horror are finally being heard. What attracts you to this genre over others?
Mel: I always found horror quite comforting growing up, which probably sounds a bit weird to non-horror fans. A lot of horror has a nice formula to it, doesn’t it? Or you’ll watch something that complete messes you up, and it can affect you for quite a while afterwards. Makes you think. After watching The Human Centipede (2009) I felt super weird using the bathroom for about a week.
In horror films you have the excitement of being surrounded by cannibals and serial killers without being in any actual danger of being strung up and eaten. If I feel sad or sleepy I put on a film that has killer hillbillies in it and get under a blanket. That’s not normal, is it?
The film contains a lead character who is LGBTQ+ and the cast seems pretty gender balanced too – was this something you purposely ensured?
Paul: When your main inspiration is John Waters you’re never going to have a traditional mindset to casting and writing. While I don’t think there was an outwardly conscious effort to be more diverse – or as diverse as things should be – we weren’t utterly oblivious to it either.
Mel: Yeah it wasn’t a conscious thing, I started off with the character of Phil running everything but decided it would be funnier if he had this power-hungry boss who worked him to within an inch of his life, and he adores his work so puts up with a lot of abuse from her. He’s an idiot. Cat (his boss) is ruthless, highly intelligent and super sarcastic. There was a point when I was writing that I decided she would be gay – it was just part of who she is. When you’re writing stuff, you don’t make things up about a character, you find them out as you go along. The actor (Jimmi) playing Cat shares some of the characteristics – she’s very determined. Very funny. And gay as it happens. She’s a lot nicer than Cat though.
Paul: Truthfully it doesn’t impact the story, but it shouldn’t have to. Horror films have always featured women prominently, sure often as victims, or ‘final girls’, and there’s a huge fanbase there. It would be wrong not to appeal to often neglected part of the audience. Seepers does feature strong women, but that doesn’t mean that they’re gender swapped Ripleys; women in roles written for men. Our women are flawed, arrogant, criminal, amoral as well as loving, bold, obsessive, and heroic. The same could be said of the men too. Well some of them.
Mel: The characters are all despicable and do horrid things to each other but have all fought their own personal battles too, which I hope gives the audience a little bit of empathy for them (but not too much).
The Kickstarter mentions it will have a kick-ass soundtrack too. How did you choose your musical contributors?
Paul: The soundtrack and the bands that feature on it have certainly helped to sculpt the film. Once we had bands like DUCK and The Sleazoids on board the concept of the film changed to something with a more grindhouse vibe.
Mel: I know the bands from never saying no to anything vaguely film/music-related that’s happening in Sheffield. They are lovely and super talented and were stoked when I asked them if they would like to write us something. We couldn’t believe what they came back with. We also have other local contributors who will be scoring some of the film for us.
Paul: One film I think of is Streets of Fire (1984), which is a musical without actually being a musical and that’s what we’re going for here. Many of the songs have been written specifically for Seepers and fit right into the action.
How and when will film fans get to see Seepers: A Love Story?
Paul: We’ve started production on Seepers and filming is underway but there’s still a long way to go. We’re hoping to have the film shot, chopped and scored by late next year. We’ll send the DVDs and digital links out to the Kickstarter backers then get to work on distribution for the general public. Our aim is to get it to festivals and streaming platforms as soon as possible.
Mel: We are pretty swish at keeping the world updated on how Seepers is progressing, you can check out our social media pages for all that. Oh man I cannot wait to hit the festivals.
To make a pledge and help get Seepers: A Love Story made, head to Mel and Paul’s Kickstarter campaign page to find out more about the film and how you can take part!