The 13th Floor

We Chat With THE DARKNESS Director Greg McLean!

Filmmaker Greg McLean is one of the most interesting voices currently making horror cinema. His eclectic filmography has already given us things like the WOLF CREEK franchise, the underrated killer croc creature feature ROGUE and now he’s setting his sights on the supernatural with THE DARKNESS, now playing in theaters. We recently caught up with the director to get the inside story behind the making of THE DARKNESS, what it’s like to work with a legend like Kevin Bacon and find out if there are anymore cameo appearances in the filmmaker’s future! I’m always curious about the creative process. For THE DARKNESS, was this an idea you’d had for a while that you slowly developed, or something that instead came together rather quickly? What were the origins of this particular project?

Greg McLean: The origins of the project are over a decade old – I have always been fascinated with the supernatural (I had a ghost hunting club as a kid – another story!) and one day a friend of mine related a story of a family down the road who’d had an extreme supernatural encounter. The mundane and utterly ordinary way it was related to me blew my mind and always stuck with me. That notion that very real, ordinary people have and can experience things beyond anyone’s understanding is really fascinating. People just don’t have the tools to handle it or a way to understand to often then just forget it or move on. It’s easier than grappling with the implication of what the supernatural being real might actually mean.

BH: Kevin Bacon is one of my favorite actors. I recently wrote a piece specifically looking at his genre work! I’m sure it’s different from film to film, and depending on the actor, but what was the collaborative process like working with a seasoned pro? I’m just curious what kind of conversations you had about the character of Peter Taylor, or just the themes of the movie in general.

GM: I love Kevin and he stars in some of my seminal movies so it was amazing to have him in the movie. The thing we discussed mainly and focused on was creating a believable character and world for that character to inhabit. It’s at the core of what movie we wanted to make – to make it feel credible and lived in as an environment. On top of that he was just the ultimate professional on set, always had very smart and good creative ideas and was just a really fun person to be around which always makes it more fun. We had a blast actually, love to do more with the man as I’m a big fan.

BH: I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but both writing kids and (from what I’ve heard) working with kids can always be a challenge! Can you talk a bit about what qualities David and Lucy brought to the Taylor kids? In particular, the character of Stephanie is… challenging to put it lightly! Just like a modern teen. I know young teens like her!

GM: Speaking of professionals – these guys – even though they are so young – are already right up there as far as being 100% focused on their craft as actors and just bubbling with natural talent. Lucy did a screen test that was one of those, “holy shit” moments where the truth and honesty of what she was doing just emanated from her performance. She’s such a talented actor and really created something special with this character. She’s fearless also which is great as you really have to be as an actor I think – it’s such a difficult job that I really respect and admire people who can do it.

BH: The film deals with an ancient supernatural entity. Have you yourself ever had any real life supernatural experiences? Or is that just something for the movies?

GM: I have not – despite years of trying to! As I said I’ve had a lifelong fascination with the supernatural — something I just have been drawn to — and know enough about people who have had supernatural encounters for me to believe in it. How can you not when the cornerstone of all human civilization is based up belief in the supernatural? Whether you’re Buddhist, Muslim, Christian or whatever you’re into – the very concept of faith means that you believe in supernatural forces working in the word. Each core story of every religion that shapes our world are all full of tales of dying, what happens after we die, coming back from the dead, this is what the whole thing is about – dealing with the very real and mundane fact that death will visit us all. We have a need to grapple with this in our lifetime – which is why I think horror stories and in particular supernatural ghost stories are always enduring because it’s something we need to engage with as human beings. We had a paranormal consultant on the movie set the whole time – who is actually a psychic / medium – something that’s pretty rare in that he has both skills working at a very high level. There was some quite creepy things happening on set with him around, a few of the crew were pretty spooked out but that’s for another article!

BH: I loved your cameo in Neil Marshall’s segment of TALES OF HALLOWEEN! Is acting something you’d want to do more of, or was that just something you did for the fun of it? You had a spectacular death and you were married to Cerina Vincent in that segment, so it didn’t seem all that bad!

GM: I only did that for Neil because he’s a buddy and I think he’s a brilliant filmmaker so wanted to go along and have some fun. I am the worst fucking actor on earth – I know that – and have no desire to embarrass myself further. However I have done tiny cameos in a few things but that’s as far as it goes. Really for friends only as a way to get to hang out as we’re all so busy these days.

BH: You’ve tackled quite a few “horror” sub-genres so far – the serial killer/slasher story, the creature feature with the underrated ROGUE! Now a supernatural film. Any particular sub-genres you haven’t tackled yet that you’d be excited to delve into for the future?

GM: I feel with The Darkness I’ve really just tipped my toe in the water in this genre, and have so many more interesting supernatural stores I’m passionate about. I’m also deeply fascinated by demonology, exorcism and that world. Really the exploration of faith and evil that seem to collide in that area interests me greatly. My problem is I like so many things; there are so many amazing stories and brilliant creative people I’d love to work with but like everyone, I’m racing the clock for as Shakespeare eloquently said, “We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” I just want to get in as much as I can before it’s time for bed!

THE DARKNESS is now playing in theaters!