Low budget horror can be a unique challenge for directors as it forces everyone behind the camera to find new ways to build horrific worlds.
Not content to rely on the easy method of simply throwing money at the problem, these teams must find new and exciting ways to film and craft their mysterious creations. Such is the case with indie horror film The Furies, currently streaming on Shudder and part of this year’s Toronto After Dark Film Festival.
A fun little film that takes the concept of the final girl and turns it on its head, it’s also filled with visceral gore, strong characters, and a fun premise—The Furies is as bloody as it is fun. Taking time out of his busy schedule, director Tony D’Aquino talked to CGMagazine about the film, how it got started, and what challenges they faced along the way.
CGMagazine: What was the genesis of The Furies?
Tony D’Aquino: It started back in 2015. We have state funding bodies in Australia, and the Canberra Screen XET funding body got together with a local production company and wanted to help to generate the production of low budget genre films in Canberra for the international market. They ran a thing they called an “accelerator pod”, which is basically a script development program and pitching competition. They had international stars, script consultants, and a marketing consultant come in and pitch ideas. Every weekend they would pitch ones that they thought were good candidates to make into films for—obviously—sales. My film idea came out of that in 2016. I wrote the script, and then from there we worked to raise financing and went into production in 2018.
CGMagazine: I want to quickly touch on the number of practical effects that you have used in the film. What was the process involved in bringing these effects to life?
Tony D’Aquino: There actually is a little bit of CGI, but very minimal. Beyond that pretty much everything is practical. Mostly because I love those 70’s and early 80’s horror films and they used practical. There’s something about practical effects I think works for film, I like the imperfection in them. It helps to make them seem more real to me. It’s something you really don’t get with CGI. That imperfect-ness of them helps you suspend your disbelief when you’re watching. I find when CGI is so close to perfection, you actually start looking for mistakes within the effects. I worked with a friend of mine, who is now working on the new Mortal Kombat movie and before this, worked on Preacher for AMC.
He and I have the same love of the slasher and 70’s splatter films. He’s mad about special effects back then—practical effects. It was very difficult because we had a low budget and a very tight shooting schedule. So it was extremely difficult, much more difficult than I thought it would, but it was worth it in the end.
CGMagazine: I want to ask about the concept of film, you have a death game idea that plays with some of the tropes of the genre. Where did that idea come from? Did it come out as you hoped it would?
Tony D’Aquino: The idea came from that slasher, “final girl” trope. I wanted to know what happens if you had a whole bunch of final girls together with the killers and then they had to fight each other to the end. That’s where it comes from, and also from films like The Most Dangerous Game, and even before that gladiator movies—I love gladiator movies. Ultimately Battle Royale and The Hunger Games as well. That’s the basic idea. My concept was Halloween meets Battle Royale, which was my initial one-line pitch for the film and I think it turned out amazing considering the amount of money we had along with the shooting restrictions we faced. I am very happy with the way it turned out. It’s much more frenetic than I imagined it was going to be. We didn’t have time to shoot a lot of interstitial stuff, so the editing is so much more fast-paced than I imagined when I wrote it.
CGMagazine: You have some really unique killer designs in the film. Where did you get those ideas?
Tony D’Aquino: I wanted to pay homage and tribute to traditional slasher killers. Characters like Jason, Freddie, and Leatherface along with movies like Tourist Trap and Motel Hell. In talking about those with Larry, we worked with an artist. We just talked about designs, we tried a whole lot of designs and did some drawings to see what we could come up with. Stuff that would be original but reminiscent of stage fright as well. It was just a process of drawing and talking until we had something we all liked.
CGMagazine: You’ve given the main character Kayla what seems like a handicap early on in the film with epilepsy, but it quickly becomes her ace in the hole. How did you come up with this idea, and did it turn out as originally intended?
Tony D’Aquino: It is a fairly traditional hero’s journey for her, to have a character have a flaw or that she feels is a weakness that she has to overcome, and learn about herself and trust herself. That was there from the start. And the fact that it ties in with the eye implant was very much about her having a weakness that makes her doubt herself and having to really embrace her weakness, and then it becomes kind of her ace in the hole and all that helps her to survive in the end.
CGMagazine: Was it always your intention to make a more women-focused film?
Tony D’Aquino: I do love slasher movies, but they have become problematic. They can be incredibly sexist and misogynistic. This also lead to a lot more unnecessary nudity and the women are often objectified and kind of behave stupidly. I wanted to make sure that in The Furies that all women are named and there is no unnecessary nudity.
They all behave sensibly. No one really does anything wrong or stupid. They’re all right in their own way. There are a lot of bad habits that slasher films developed that I wanted to completely avoid in this film and actually make them the opposite. They all have their own emotional beat that is important and adds to the character.
CGMagazine: Is there anything you want to tell people to take away as they go and watch The Furies for the first time?
Tony D’Aquino: I mostly want people to enjoy the film. I am a huge horror fan, and I made a film I would want to see, so I hope other horror fans enjoy the film and love watching it. Also, a lot of the reviews have said that there was a kind of unintended humour in the film—that humour was completely intended. So don’t be afraid to laugh at the movie because it’s there to be both horrific and funny at the same time.