Interview with St. Agatha director Darren Lynn Bousman
by Bobby Blakey
One of my favorite horror franchises of all time is SAW. With SAW 2-4 director Darren Lynn Boumsan took the helm and I was instantly a fan. Since then he has gone on to direct some great films in the genre including REPO!: The Genetic Opera, Mother’s Day and more. I had the chance to meet him last year at Texas Frightmare Weekend and he could not have been a nicer guy. His latest flick St. Agatha takes him back into the genre in a bit of a different approach and I had the luck to sit down with him and discuss his latest feature.
Bobby: How did you get involved with St. Agatha?
Darren: I was in the middle of working on a project called The Tension Experience. If you have never heard of it you should look it up it’s a crazy insane immersive theater project. If you know anything about David Fincher’s The Game that’s what it is. It is basically a real life mystery that takes place in the real world. You interact with real actors over the course of months trying to solve this mystery. So imagine an escape room but in the confines of a city or state over the course of months and months.
So I was directing this and I got home and opened up my bag and there was a script inside it. Literally one of the producers stuck it in my bag and had asked me a couple of times if I would read it, but I just hate reading scripts. Even if I know them I just hate it. I pulled it out and read a couple of pages of it and just one of things that was in the right place and the right time. I read it and liked it and reached out to talk about it the next day. I said what if we took the majority of our cast from The Tension Experience and just rolled them over to this movie. That is how it all began. We started talking and I think about a month later I was in Atlanta making the film.
Bobby: What are you typically looking for that gets you interested in a script or overall project?
Darren: In something like this it’s about what is the reason people want to see it? What can I do differently to it that not everyone could? Like with Repo: The Genetic Opera, nobody was going to make that movie but me, it was a story I had to tell. Same thing with Mother’s Day. When I read it I had to make that movie. This had some really shocking moments that I could see the audience reacting to and then when I started getting involved with it, it took on a life of its own. The rest was just like and avalanche coming down the mountain and just all clicked.
Bobby: I knew nothing about this film and thought it was another haunting film, but was pleasantly surprised that it was something else entirely. I felt it was more like Agnes of God on crack in such a great way.
Darren: Thank you for that! I wanted to make a movie that you think it is one thing, but becomes something else. Its set up for audiences to believe it could be a haunted house thing or is it demonic, but it is none of those things. It’s much more
dramatic than anything else. That is the surprise that most will take away from it that it is much more of a drama than anything. There are extremely horrific things that take place but I think balancing the dram with this horrific shock and it’s kind of vile, but at the center you have a great story of a con woman going into a convent filled with other con women. That was just an interesting idea to me and the hook that kind of sold me on it.
Bobby: That’s what I loved that it was grounded in the real world of sorts, but also gross with numerous moments of people vomiting etc. Was this something that was always in the script this way or did it just get embellished more as production went on?
Darren: The early draft of the script was actually a lot more vicious. It was a great starting point for me, but it didn’t have what I wanted or my flair. So there was a rewrite to ground it more in reality which is more of what I wanted to do. We wanted to put it to more of a personal story for this girl with the con thing. I really connected with that concept. If you watch the movie again you can see that things are not what they seem from the very beginning.
Bobby: The house/convent is pretty creepy, but you still buy into it as a convent. As things begin to go south the locations seems to get even creepier despite nothing physically changing.
Darren: The house was a lucky find. It was a real working house and it had to work in two different levels. Number one you had to buy it as a convent, but it also had to work as a hustle. The house is falling apart and if you look at the walls there are cracks and holes in the ceiling as well as being completely isolated which was one of the most important aspect to me. How are they getting away with this? So you had to buy it as the convent and we had an amazing production designer named Molly Coffee who really knocked it out of the park. It was really minimalistic and also a very cold environment. We really lucked out with it. It’s a real house in Georgia and was literally falling apart around us.
Bobby: There is a few moments in the film where vomiting seems to be an ongoing thing that occurs. Obviously not the only gross thing, but it does happen more than once. How does something like that come together with the actors while filming?
Darren: Making movies is very mundane. The excitement you see like someone getting their tongue cut out might take a day or two to film for 45 seconds of usable footage. We might shoot it fifty times from twenty different angles and its aguish. Because of that there is none of that fear and intensity on set, but hopefully still comes off on screen. All they are getting is ugh its hot or I’m hungry etc.
Bobby: Was there anything in the script that you were able to embellish in regards to the gore horror stuff?
Darren: I don’t want to spoil the movie, but the sequence at the end of the movie we never thought we were going to do. We figured there was no way in hell they were going to let us do this scene. We kept pushing it off and pushing it off and on the last day of filming we were running out of time. I needed to be on a plane in hours and that scene came up. The sun was setting and we had forty five minutes before we were in pitch dark and the cinematographer asked me if we were really about to do this? I said fuck it, lets it! We shot it in one take and I just love that sequence.
Bobby: I’m so glad you did. When that scene was building on screen and you see her moving in the background I was praying that was what was about to happen! I was cheering for that scene and loved it.
Now the ending is very sudden. Was that something that was by design or something more?
Darren: Yeah it was. I love movies that don’t answer and leave a lot of things to ambiguity. I hate when movies spoon feed me and tell me everything. For something like this I wanted the audience to talk about it afterwards about what might have happened.
Bobby: I watched this movie strictly because of your involvement and loved the film. I really appreciate you taking the time to speak with me today.
Darren: Thanks for saying that man. It was my pleasure.
Check out St. Agatha in Theaters, On Demand, and On Digital now from Uncork’d Entertainment.