Writing for a ‘Horror Movie Review’ website means that, inevitably, you WILL watch an abundance of vomit.
I have seen more sh**ty fright flicks than you may care to imagine. It’s comforting, then, when films like Tony: London Serial Killer fall into your lap.
It’s the kind of movie that critics love to talk about, creatively subtle and ambiguous enough to avoid didacticism but weighty enough to suggest a definite message.
It’s a film with huge scope and raw, unnerving charisma, and all of this from first time director Gerard Johnson. After watching the film -expect the review imminently- I was lucky enough to interview the man himself. Here’s what I found out…
Jonesy the Cat: Tony: London Serial Killer is a refreshingly assured piece of film making, especially considering that it was your first one of feature length. What drove you to make this your first movie and what were the factors that influenced its creation?
Gerard Johnson: Thank you, the themes of Tony are themes I have been working on for some time so although it is my first feature, my short films (including Tony the short) have dealt with similar issues. I’ve been interested in loneliness in big cities especially, how we are never sure of who is around us in the pub or waiting for a bus.
JC: Considering the tone of the film, I am surprised in the way it has been marketed. The DVD cover is almost certainly directed towards a horror audience and while the film may contain elements of the horrific, it certainly isn’t horror. How do you feel about the way it has been presented and also, what is your relation to the marketing as a whole, if any?
GJ: I certainly wouldn’t call it horror either, I’m glad you picked up on that but I’m afraid these days it’s the way of the world if you make a film that involves any kind of genre element the distributors will pick up on the aspect that sells, to get any kind of distribution for such a small film with no stars is hard work so you have to be prepared that it may be will be sold in order to make most impact. I would have marketed differently but I’m not a distributor.
JC: For all of Tony’s monstrous actions he does not feel like a monster. Your careful portrayal of an off balanced individual assures this but also blurs our moral stance in relation to his behaviour. It’s certainly a brave move that pays off. However did you fear controversy in conjunction with this decision?
GJ: Not really as I didn’t set out to make him a nice guy, I showed maybe the reason he does what he does but I was never sure that the audience would take to him as much as they have, especially women funnily enough.
JC: I find that Tony, as the title of the movie suggests, is intrinsically linked with his locale. In the movie, London seems to be presented as a place of unhinged nervousness and drab, miserable aesthetics, which is much like the titular protagonist. Was this an attempt to criticise the spirit or ethos of London life and if so, was this idea a direct result of your own experience of ‘The Big Smoke’?
GJ: The opposite is true, I’m from London and I love the place, you’ve only got to look at the final sequences of the film to see that. London is all things, it can be depressing and claustrophobic and it can be beautiful and uplifting, I hope I show both in Tony.
JC: Tony is constantly quoting from movie characters that see themselves as lone rangers, individuals who commit atrocious acts of violence but feel justified in doing so. Is this the way Tony justifies his own actions or is it the only way that he can look at them without being shocked?
GJ: It’s interesting to me when I think I know why characters do what they do so I’m going to let you and the audience come to that conclusion on your own.
JC: At times the film reminded me of Ralph Ellison’s novel Invisible Man, in so far as it seems to comment on the invisibility of the individual when engulfed in the crowd. For example, Tony’s horrific actions are never revealed to the public and even one of his victims, who escapes death, is lost to the city. In other words, the victims -Tony included- are ignored. Would you say that this is a comment on society as a whole, of apathy and of the city, or is it something else entirely?
GJ: That’s a nice comparison and yes it is very much a comment on society, you picked up on the fact that Tony is a victim, he can’t be justified in what he does but you can at least understand why he does it and the fact that the guy he let go will be lost, Tony knew this otherwise he wouldn’t have let him out.
JC: Obvious and often shallow comparisons have been made between this film and Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer. But the one I find most intriguing and most substantial is your choice of colour palette. Every shot feels drenched in murky smog of brown, green and beige. Much like Henry… it seems to evoke the feeling of a drab reality rather than reality itself. It’s both natural and unnatural. Was this an intentional effect?
GJ: I shot on 16mm, which has a beautiful grain to it anyway, but I was more interested in the look of Kieslowski’s A Short Film About Killing as a marker of how I wanted it to look and I am very pleased with the look of the film.
JC: Are you a fan of horror movies? If so, do you have any particular favourites or ones that you draw specific inspiration from?
GJ: Yes I am a fan of Horror, obviously Henry has always been an inspiration since I saw it at The Scala many years ago, and also The Texas Chainsaw Massacre has been a favourite film since I was a kid.
JC: Lastly, I would be very curious to hear what you are planning to do next? If you are making another feature, will you be following a similar route to Tony or will you be exploring other kinds of stories?
GJ: I am currently working on a feature about a bent cop, A London Bad Lieutenant, which will be heavy on atmosphere and mostly shot at night.
Tony: London Serial Killer is out in cinemas on Fevuary 5th and out on DVD Febuary 8th. I strongly suggest you track it down.