18th Jan2018

Horror-On-Sea 2018 Interview: Michael Melski talks ‘The Child Remains’

by Philip Rogers

The Child Remains is new supernatural thriller from writer and director Michael Melski which has been selected to play at the Horror-on-Sea Film Festival on Saturday 27th January. I got chance to ask Michael a few questions about the influences for the film, why he chose not to incorporate jump scares and his favourite scene in the film.

child-remains-poster

What can we expect from The Child Remains?

More character and story than you typically see in a genre offering. But I’ve heard its very scary as well. We’ve won seven Best Feature prizes at festivals around the world, plus 4 Best Actress wins for Suzanne Clement, so it seems to be striking a chord. Very excited to be at Horror-On-Sea, we’ve hoped to be at this festival since we were in post-production.

The film is inspired by the true story of the infamous ‘Butterbox Babies’. Why did you choose this story to adapt into a horror?

It’s a Nova Scotia story, we have a great deal of untapped creepy folklore here. It seemed to me that Canada is still haunted by the story of the Ideal Maternity Home and that a supernatural treatment would be appropriate. Orphanages and maternity homes in Ireland and Scotland have recently unearthed evidence of the murder/disposal of unwanted infants and these macabre stories were influential as well.

What were your influences with the look and style of the film?

The film’s style is a tribute to the great 70’s vintage atmospheric horror like The Changeling (1980), The Omen (1976), Don’t Look Now (1973) and others. Quite early on in my writing notes, I felt it should be The Shining (1980) meets Rosemary’s Baby (1968) in The Orphanage (2007). The film’s financiers seemed to get the idea! And I think audiences welcome that it’s more of an adult-oriented scary movie but with contemporary twists.

The Child Remains is a psychological horror which builds up the suspense. Did you ever consider incorporating jump scares which seems to be a popular model at the moment?

I think the jump-scare cliché is getting tired and audiences are bored with it. I’m inspired by recent films like Get Out (2017) and The Witch (2015), both more story and suspense driven than by adolescent techniques, be they in vogue or not. Still, there’s a couple of jumps in The Child Remains that seem to get the audience every time.  I think the key to them working is the scare has to be earned by the context of the scene and the film.

Are there any elements in the finished film which were different to how you envisioned them in the original script?

Yes, we were most fortunate to land the amazing Suzanne Clement, Cannes Best Actress winner for Mommy (2014). She’s a phenomenal talent and has earned all the awards she’s won for our film. I didn’t really envision her character with a French accent, but I was able to write it into the script painlessly. It actually helps the story in an important way which I can’t reveal in an interview.

What elements make The Child Remains stand out in the horror genre?

Our characters are very dimensional. They have real inner conflicts and ghosts, which are brought into relief by their experiences in this haunted house. There’s an originality in the ‘true events’ that inspired the film as well, it’s not a story that’s been seen quite like this in horror movie. And there are a couple of big twists toward the end which savvy audience members have said they never saw coming. That’s very tough to do in a horror movie these days and I’m proud of our whole team for pulling it off.

What was your favourite scene in the movie?

Ah, hard question. I’m quite happy with how creepy the midpoint cemetery scene is, which all the off-screen elements we had in play.  It was the first day of shooting and as fate has always had it, I never get an easy scene to start with. We had real rain and a real thunderstorm while we were deep in the woods. Everyone was soaking wet and cold, early December in Nova Scotia is not a time for shooting exteriors. I think poor Suzanne was probably wondering what the hell she’d gotten herself into, it was a long way from the Croisette for sure! But she—and our entire NS crew—were total pros about it and the scene turned out well.

Do you have any other projects which you are working on at the moment?

Yes, many. There are a couple of new horror projects as well as a comedy and some television development in the works. A lot more besides. My next feature may well be a documentary. But we’ll see what gets financed first when I have more time to get back to writing.

What advice would you give to someone looking to direct their first film?

Just go out and do it. With so many films available and access to gear being so inexpensive, it’s like a film school that you don’t need to pay a heap of tuition for. But it starts with story, the script is critical. A distributor in LA told me that there are more movies being made now than at any point in cinema history. But there are the same amount of good movies being made. And that’s where having a great story—skilfully told—can set you apart.

The Child Remains will be playing at the Horror-on-Sea Festival on Saturday 27th January at 5:00pm.
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For more information on the event and to purchase tickets for the Horror-on-Sea please see the website for details: https://www.horror-on-sea.com

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