Reg Traviss is the director of Psychosis the climactic closing film of the Heritage of Horror season on the Horror Channel playing Friday March 30th.
After our interview with Jonathan Glendening we speak to the man who made Charisma Carpenter crazy about his personal influences, genre blending and more.
LH – How did you get into directing?
Reg Traviss – In the late 90s I used to make short-films and then in 2000 I got my first professional work and started directing Idents for television. I continued making shorts during that time and wrote a feature script, which in 2003 I set-out to make as a movie and have been in movies ever since.
LH – You have directed all sorts of movies from prison drama “Screwed” to World War II epic “Joy Division”, how did you get involved in making the horror “Psychosis”?
Reg Traviss – I’m a big fan of the Hammer and Tales Of The Unexpected sub-genres and just really wanted to make a film that was a homage to those.
LH – Is it true the story is based on an episode called ‘Dreamhouse’ from the 1986 British horror anthology “Screamtime”?
Reg Traviss – Yes, but the film is actually from 1983. Originally each of the three stories that made up the anthology were made as individual 40 minute long B-Movies, for cinema. A year or so later they decided to write and shoot a wraparound story, cut down the individual films to 25 mins, and then they released it on video in 1983 as a complete piece. We bought the Option to remake ‘Dreamhouse’ (although really “Psychosis” became more of an adaptation than a remake) because it was a favorite film of mine and I had always wanted to remake that particular story, since school days.
LH – “Psychosis” is premiering on the Horror Channel as part of their Heritage of Horror Season, what where your major influences, horror or otherwise, when making your movie?
Reg Traviss – Well, it was semi-horror psychological thrillers of the 1970s such as “Straw Dogs”, “Legacy”, and “Expose”, alongside the Hammer House of Horror TV series and the Tales Of The Unexpected TV series, of the early 1980s.
LH – Charisma Carpenter gives an excellent performance as Susan in the lead role. What was it like working with her and how did you get her to commit so fully to such a difficult character?
Reg Traviss – She was truly excellent to work with, extremely dedicated to her work, which made directing her a real pleasure. I think she committed so fully to the character because she understood the character, and somehow must have understood what it is like to be alone in a strange environment, as Susan is. And I believe she also understood our British sub-genre of Hammer and Tales Of The Unexpected….if not by name then certainly by sensibility.
LH – Psychosis is described as an abnormal condition of the mind often involving a loss of contact with reality. How much of what happens to Susan is based on real life psychosis and how much is invented?
Reg Traviss – Quite a lot is based on what we researched, and the aspects that we inherited from the original story I understand to be realistic….but of course the ‘psychosis’ that Susan experiences is actually something different altogether as is revealed in the final twist.
LH – Susan is an outsider living in rural England alongside a host of homegrown characters such as Paul Sculfor, Peck the creepy game keeper, and The Darkness’s Justin Hawkins. Was the character always American and how did Charisma fit in alongside the English cast and crew?
Reg Traviss – No, in the original the character was English, but as I brought new characters to the story and increased the ‘outsider’ element, I decided it would add to Susan’s plight if she were foreign and American felt like the best choice for the eccentric English setting. Charisma fitted-in great with the Cast and Crew, they all really loved her.
LH – The film crosses genres: part thriller, part relationship drama, part slasher and part supernatural shocker. Was that your intention from the start and how did you balance all the elements?
Reg Traviss – I hope I balanced the elements well, but suppose that’s up to the audience. I tried to make all of the different aspects merge into one and other, so that there is no clear distinction and so each ‘sub-genre’ is present – to a lesser or larger extent – throughout the film. So, the opening of the film does feel much more like a ‘slasher’, but there is a ‘relationship’ element in there, whereas the middle of the film is much more ‘supernatural shocker’ with a degree of ‘slasher-like’ bursts. Yes, it was all intended from the start, my Film Treatment for the investors literally read like what I just said. It was bit of ‘genre gamble’ to try and balance it all out within one film, but if you look at some of the 1970s material which was my inspiration, like ‘Straw Dogs’ or the Hammer TV series, you see that it is possible.
LH – I read that the movie was filmed in a real-life haunted mansion. What spooky things went on on-set and did you see any ghosts yourself?
Reg Traviss – No I didn’t see anything and I don’t believe anybody else saw anything, but some of the Crew who were living in a Wing of the house did hear things at night. Somebody had a few knocks at his door, every night without fail around 2.30am. And another member of the crew had a voice speak to them, and when she turned round expecting to see somebody she discovered she was alone in the room.
LH – And finally what’s next for you, any more horror?
Reg Traviss – I’m slated to shoot a Drama next but I really would be keen to make another horror in the future.
Reg Traviss thank you.
Psychosis is part of the Heritage of Horror Season on The Horror Channel is on Sky 319 / Virgin 149 / Freesat 138 Check out www.horrorchannel.co.uk and twitter.com/horror_channel for more info.