This week I was fortunate enough to see the independent horror movie Empty Rooms directed by Adam Lamas which got its UK release on 5th August. In the world of indie horror where more often than not a number of directors tend to opt for the lowest common denominator, Empty Rooms proved to be quite the opposite. A thoughtful, well constructed horror film, I caught up with Adam to ask him more.
1) Adam, your second feature ‘Empty Rooms’ received its UK release this week. How does it feel? I can imagine it to be quite surreal for you to be in the US while the vast majority of people in the UK can walk into our equivalent of Walmart and see a dozen copies of your film in the DVD chart!
It’s rather like having a baby, dropping it into a basket, sending it down a large river and saying “Good luck, little guy!”.
2) What is the current situation with distribution in the United States? Are you hopeful of securing something?
We are working with a sales rep. He secured the UK deal. He’s apparently talking to people about distribution in many parts of the globe, including the USA.
3) I thoroughly enjoyed your movie Adam, and as a person who sees and reviews the majority of horror releases, one thing that struck me for a film with a limited budget was that you weren’t afraid to take risks. I thought it was really bold to feature a mother and her autistic son, a move which no doubt required a great deal of research? What inspired you to make such a decision?
There was a treatment of the paranormal in the 1970′s that I was eager to see return. It was a realized sense of mysticism that didn’t ask too much of the audience when it presented itself on screen. Essentially, I set out to make a retro haunted house movie with the understanding that I was going to have very little money to do it. A lot of 70′s horror films tended to focus on a child and I thought working with a kid would be an interesting challenge. I love Charlie Koudsi’s performance in the film. He was mysterious without even having to try.
As I wrote the script, I noticed it was turning into more of a drama about 2 women and a child, which ultimately felt very 70′s to me. As a director I was very interested in trying to capture authentic dramatic performances, so I focused the story more on how a haunted house could ACTUALLY affect a person’s life rather than be formulaic and generate drama with scene chewing scream queens and models getting killed by CGI, fleeing through showers of exploding squibs filled with corn syrup. I’m just not the market for that. I didn’t have money nor the interest to make a sensationalistic horror movie, so I made one that was more internal and drama focused.
BTW – Thank you so much for watching it and thank you even more so for enjoying it.
I LOVE the score. Meredith gave me exactly what I wanted. Towards the latter half of our partnership, Meredith found herself having bit off more than she could chew with her schedule. After having about 50% of the music in place, she just started sending me brilliant scraps of music: atonal improvisations on her violin and theremin, some composed melodies, her choral stuff was the best, and lots of stingers and droning atmospherics. She then said to me “Go to town!”
I took the scraps and drones and layered them in the score and timed them to some of the scares. It was fun having that much freedom and control over the score, while at the same time access to such malleable and “right on the money” material. I feel the score really captures that 70′s atmosphere. I wish the distributor had purchased the dolby digital surround sound mix we made, because it really enhances both the score and the experience.
5) You’ve taken your movie to a number of festivals in the US, and Empty Rooms did particularly well in Michigan at the Thriller Chiller festival winning ‘best feature’ What has the experience of taking your film on the road been like?
Beautiful. I love showing this movie to a crowd of people who have no idea what to expect. The few times I have done it, the film was received very well. I find that non-horror fans gravitate towards the film the most, rather than the genre-obsessed who are expecting key bits of formula which I just completely abandon in favor of gripping drama. All in all “Empty Rooms” is kind of a sensitive movie about women rather than a exploitative tale that treats women as special effects. I think some horror fans really want the latter and I’m just not able to deliver that sort of shit.
6) Which films would you say were your biggest influences when shooting Empty Rooms, and indeed who or what gave you the inspiration to turn your hand to filmmaking?
I was inspired by the pacing, authenticity and subtlety found in movies such as “The Exorcist” (the performances more than the effects) or “Don’t Look Now”. “The Shining” informed elements of the atmosphere as well as the child-centric plot, as did films such as “The Omen” and “Audrey Rose”.
As to what turned my hand to filmmaking, it was something I had been doing since I was 7 years old, having had access to my mother’s video camera on long summer days with nothing to do. Going to the movies provided me with a safe haven as a child during troubling times. I think it was my emotional response to Steven Spielberg’s “Empire of the Sun” that really made me decide to focus my creative energy on filmmaking. I must have been 12 or 13 years old at the time. My mother had taken me to see it and I remember sitting through the credits, fighting tears and then telling my mother that I had to go to the bathroom. I charged into the men’s room, occupied the nearest toilet stall, locked the door, sat down… and just wept. I’m getting teary eyed just recalling it. I discovered in that moment that cinema could be pure catharsis: a tool to help us understand ourselves when everything seems incomprehensible.
7) How would you describe the current condition of the film industry in America for an independent filmmaker compared to say when you shot Cry Havoc back in ’98/’99? Finally, what’s next for you? How long will Empty Rooms be your focus with regard to promotion and distribution, and how much does that restrict you moving on to your next feature? Thanks again Adam.
The availability of the technology has changed everything. Cry Havoc was shot on 16mm film. There was no 24p video back then. Now everybody and their mother is a filmmaker.
As to what’s next, I have a number of things cooking. One company is in development on a big budget remake of “Cry Havoc” which I am to direct, and I have just finished the script to a black dramedy/suspense-thriller entitled “Nerd Rage”. The focus is a 30-something man-child-fan-boy and his temper and that’s all I am going to say about that. You’re gonna love it.
“Empty Rooms” is something I am saying goodbye to. Its done and getting out there and I am very proud of it, especially the performances.
Once again, Dave. Thank you for your support. Its reactions like yours that truly make this worth doing.