The Movie Waffler Interview - DARKNESS REIGNS Director Andrew P. Jones | The Movie Waffler

Interview - DARKNESS REIGNS Director Andrew P. Jones

Darkness Reigns, now on VOD from Wild Eye Releasing, pits the cast and crew of a movie against an evil spirit that haunts their location. We speak to helmer Andrew P.Jones about the unique meta mix of mayhem!


What inspired this rather unique – and very fun - particular story?

Darkness Reigns was partly inspired by the film industry itself and all the things we have to deal with in order to make and distribute movies. And the "what if?" was based on what would happen if a young filmmaker sold his soul to the devil for fame and success but it came in a horrifying way that he didn't see coming.  

The script is definitely filled with little moments and lines that speak to my own experiences, good and bad, with the film industry. Specifically the indie film business. So, it's a little cathartic for me as well. Also, with Darkness Reigns I wanted to create a new genre that I named “continuous footage.” I occasionally find people referring to it as "found footage" and that’s 100% incorrect – there is no found footage. It’s all seen through the unblinking eye of a documentarian’s camera. It’s his footage we're watching. And the challenge, or gimmick, is that these terrible things happen without edits. If you notice, there is also no music during the "documentary" sections, which was a really scary decision to make. I wanted it to feel authentic, and if we are watching a documentarian's continuous footage, there wouldn't be "score" so, I made that bold decision early on. The film is bookended, however, with traditional narrative style scenes. But, I thought it was a film I could make with very little money because the long takes would allow us to shoot faster than normal, or, in fewer days. 

And was it decided from the get go that Casper Van Dien would play himself?

We looked for a celebrity actor who would play himself and have fun doing it. That takes a special kind of actor who can push his own ego aside and just go along for the ride. Casper was perfect for that because he’s such a talented, fun, and incredibly nice human being, which is important on a low budget set where the creature comforts are very limited compared to those you might find on larger productions. 

Did you consider other actors for that part, too?

I like to meet and socialise with my “name” actors before I cast them to see I how it will be working with them, especially since with Darkness we would be in a closed, haunted, old hotel with no air-conditioning, in Missouri, in the middle of August. So, our casting director set up a meeting at a restaurant with Casper and his fiancé Jennifer Wenger, my wife and producing partner Linara Washington, and myself. And, we all really hit it off, like we’d known each other for years. I knew right then that Jennifer, who is well known in the horror genre, was perfect for the role of Rebecca Long, the movie star. And I knew Casper would have a great attitude and sense of humour about playing himself. And in fact, that friendship has continued now nearly two years later and I can't wait to work with them both again. 

How much of the dialogue was improvised? I imagine some of it, to give off that ‘documentary’ feel?

Because of the incredibly long takes, everything had to be well rehearsed and choreographed so, very little if any dialogue is improvised. We just had really amazing actors and in fact, I favoured actors with stage experience because the long takes were like performing a play. If anyone missed a mark or flubbed a line we couldn't just "pick it up." We had to start the take over. And some of these takes were seven, eight, nine minutes long. 

How close to their real personas are everyone in the film, including Capser?

Casper was playing a slightly surrealistic version of himself, or as we joke - an “asshole” version, which he had a lot of fun with. He’s been acting a very long time and has the ability to slip in and out of character with no problem whatsoever. In reality he is a lot of fun on set and helps to keep the environment light and stress-free. 

There’s some great make-up and effects here. I imagine a lot of that was practical?

I started my career in special effects in the '80s and '90s, and I will always have a love and affinity for practical effects over digital. That said, I also have a post production background so, I think we were able to find that wonderful blend of practical and digital that is really effective.   

How did you land Wild Eye Releasing as the distributor?

I reached out to all the top horror genre distributors and actually had quite a few offers. But, Rob at Wild Eye was certainly the most passionate and that goes a long way with me. I could tell that Darkness was not going to be just another can of beans on his shelf, and when you spend years pouring your heart and soul and money into a film, you want someone who is as passionate about it as you are. And I found that with Wild Eye. 

What’s next for you?

I have six films (and three TV shows) in various stages of development. All different genres, from family to historical drama to comedy. One film I'm really excited about is called Harriet Houdini, about a teenage girl who dreams of being a magician, but she's bullied at school and has to overcome her own insecurities. It's near and dear for many reasons, not the least of which is my love of magic and the fact that my family goes back with the Larsen family that started the Magic Castle in Hollywood, so it's a special piece for me that we're trying to get funded right now.