Independent film maker Scott Lyus talks horror in ‘Order of the Ram’

Mother Character Poster 2

We all know being a cinephile comes with tremendous support for independent films and their filmmakers, but unfortunately we all know the inevitable truth that it’s hard to make it in the movie world. Well here at The Film Fetishist we aim to not only cover widely available films, but also write features and reviews for independent films. Independent horror films and horror shorts (they’re bloody awesome) often are grittier and nastier than anything you’ll get on Netflix. Here is the first of many interviews and reviews of indie films, enjoy.

Scott Lyus started making a name for himself when he created In Loving Memory and Jason, both horror films that gained him the recognition he deserved. Afterwards Scott ventured into other genres such as thriller and romance, with his films Paris Without Love and Supernova. Now he has returned to the most exhilarating genre, horror, with his film Order of the Ram that features satanic cults and Mother; who is more terrifying that your mother-in-law.

With creativity showcased throughout Scott’s filmmaking, I wanted to find out what originally inspired his vision to become a filmmaker and how his love of films came about: “My earliest memory of really having a desire to be apart of cinema, was the first time I saw Jurassic Park. At that age I had no idea what filmmaking was and only a slight idea of what a film was. All I knew was that I was watching something I had never seen before, something that took me out of reality and the impression that left on me, gave me this overwhelming desire to want to be apart of it, tell my own stories and make them reality.”

Although Jurassic Park had a big influence on Scott and opened up his love of film, it wasn’t this that influenced his decision to make films: “The first time I knew cinema was where I was meant to be, was after watching Hostel with the audio commentary on, featuring Eli Roth and Quentin Tarantino talking about the film. By this time I was in college and studying filmmaking, had watched hundreds of films, tons of making ofs, but this was the first time I heard professional filmmakers talk about film the way I did. First and foremost I’m a huge geek when it comes to cinema. I love everything about the way a film is put together, so when I heard these guys getting excited about cuts and shot choices, that was incredibly exciting for me. I have always been the outcast, the loser with a million films and no friends, and for the first time here where professional filmmaking’s geeking out the way I did. These were my people, I could tell it meant everything to them, like it did me.”

It is all well and good to know what industry you want to go into, but that doesn’t simply get you there. Scott didn’t magically become a part of the film industry from wanting it – he had to work hard and show what he could do: “To be honest, I still don’t consider myself to be apart of the film industry. For that you need to be a paid filmmaker, with regular work. However I would hope that I’m getting closer to that, and to get to this point has taken a lot of time, blood, sweat and tears.” It was then that Scott started making short films such as Jason -a short horror about the affects of losing a loved one – and Paris Without Love – a short drama about love and lust: “Straight out of college I started making my own short films. Nothing special but stories featuring my friends, family members and what ever I could get my hands on. This was simply to establish my style through experiment with how I wanted to make films, how I wanted to tell stories.”

2013-09-29 11.34.25

It was after a series of shorts that Scott decided to move away from using family and friends, and wanted to make a professional film with like-minded people: “So in 2012, I decided to try and make my first short with a professional cast and crew. The result was a 30 minute film called Supernova, which I’m extremely proud of and one that gained me some attention to help get my second real short made, Order of the Ram. I went into Supernova knowing I wanted to be a filmmaker but not really sure if I was good enough. Its one thing directing your friends and younger brother, but a cast and crew that take it as seriously as you is another. This was my attempt at throwing my hat in the ring, could I direct real actors? Work with a professional crew? And most importantly, could I create a good, well made short under that pressure? I highly doubt I would have given up if Supernova had crashed and burned, but the fact it was a success meant the world to me and really helped cement my desire to write and direct. After that there was no looking back.”

For those of us that love film (and I’m presuming you must if you’re reading this), we all have our favourite directors that may have influenced something in our lives. For me, it will always be Quentin Tarantino, and I was more than pleased to learn that he’s also on Scott’s list of influential directors: “Over the years many directors have influenced me, but for me, the ones that are truly inspiring are the likes of Hitchcock, Spielberg, Kubrick, Leone, Scorsese, Welles, Tarantino, Fincher, Tony Scott, Robert Rodriquez, Rob Zombie, Wes Craven, James Whale, Michael Curtiz.Each are for different reasons also, such as Tony Scott for shooting style, Leone for staging and blocking, Hitchcock for style and tone or Rodriquez for what he achieves on such a tight budget. All are to be admired in my eyes for so many different reasons. As a young filmmaker wanting to learn the techniques of film, there is nothing more inspiring then watching a Leone picture.”

With Order of the Ram, we get to see Scott return to our beloved genre that happens to be horror. After focusing on other genre projects, Scott delved away, but after he describes his love of horror, it’s clear to see why he went back to the gory goosebump filled genre: “Horror has always been, and always be my true love. It’s kind of like films mistress. For the most part filmmakers don’t want to tackle horror, especially those that consider themselves serious filmmakers and the same can be said for festivals and award shows. When was the last time you show a horror nominated for an Oscar or a Bafta?But I guess that’s why I love it so much. It’s the outsider of film, and sometimes, that makes it the most interesting and the hardest to do right.I also grew up watching really old VHS tapes of old Grindhouse horror pictures from the 70’s and 80’s. And this was before it was cool to watch Grindhouse films. I would drag my mum or dad down to this old video store we use to have in town to rent me all that shit. I couldn’t get enough of it.”

When I meet another film fan, the two most interesting questions I ask are: what’s your least favourite film and what’s your favourite? You get to know a lot about a person from just knowing what films they do and don’t like. So, obviously, I asked Scott the same two questions.  “What films do I least like? Now that’s a good question. I watch a lot of films, and I’m normally a good judge of if a film will be bad or not, but I have to admit I do tend to stay away from most mainstream stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge Marvel fan, as I am of most blockbusters, but it’s films that have no story, no character, just shit that’s sold purely on names, or horror that’s sold on blood and gore. I can’t understand why anyone would make a film that has no story, no character development. What’s even more disturbing is these are the films that sell on a mass level. These are the films that hold back originality.”

“I have many favorites but for me, three stand out above all. Casablanca, Frankenstein and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Others off the top of my head would be Once Upon a Time in the West, There Will Be Blood, Martyrs, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, The Devils Rejects, The Shining, The Dark Knight, The Roaring 20’s and Angels with Dirty Faces. I’m sure there are loads I’ve forgot but they are all real inspirations.”

Mother 2

Now we know a little bit about our writer, director and producer, Scott – it’s time we find out a little more about the fantastic Order of the Ram. This film not only contains some of the great horror conventions, but it also has Scott’s stamp all over it, which makes it a little different and unique. I’ve always been fascinated by cult films, especially satanic cults, so I wondered where the idea for OOTR originated from: “The idea for Order was an idea I started working on years ago. I must have completed my first draft of the script 3 or 4 years ago. The inspiration for the piece actually came from a few documentaries I saw about cults and religion. I also really wanted to write an old school horror film. Leave the blood, guts and clichés behind and attempt to write a film with the overall idea creating the fear. My thought was that if you can leave an idea in the audiences mind based on the events within your film, then the fear would be far greater then a two second scare. I was interested in making a picture that made you jump or freaked out with blood and gore, I wanted to go back to basics in a way. Tell a story based within reality. Have that fear come from that thought. I also wanted to explore the idea of religion and what drives people to follow the idea of salvation by any means necessarily.”

Expecting an answer about possibly other films and directors, I asked Scott where he took influence from for OOTR, but his influence came from a place much closer to home: “For the picture, I took influence from a great deal of areas. From horror of the 70’s, to documentaries and stories on cult activity worldwide. However the pictures biggest influence is simply human behaviour, as are all my films. With Supernova I tried to explore the idea of the thin line between order and chaos, and how we define who the good or bad people are. Order of the Ram is a long those same lines. It’s the idea of religion and how that can manipulate and effect our thinking. What drives us to commit unspeakable acts and the effects it has on those who encounter such people.”

The filmmaking process can be one that is quite stressful and difficult, some directors often run into the biggest of divas (how Michael Bay felt whilst filming with Megan Fox), but for Scott he only gave credit to cast, crew and the overall experience: “The experience of making this picture was incredible. I had the amazing fortune of bringing back most of my crew from Supernova. I then added a few new faces, including my amazing cinematographer Sharad Patel. My whole team worked so well together on this picture that I’ve already invited everyone back to work with me again on my next project. You honestly couldn’t ask for a better crew.”

“My cast also needs to take a lot of credit. My lead actress Danni Scott White, who plays Mother, was incredible. She has been receiving rave reviews for her part in the picture and deservedly so. Danni adds a new dimension to the film, playing her part so perfectly. I can honestly say that if it weren’t for her, the film would not be as good as it is. I also need to mention my other lead, May Kaspar. This was May’s first film and considering she took everything I threw at her and put in the performance she did, that’s what every director dreams of.”

It’s never easy picking apart your own work, especially when it’s something that you’re proud of as a whole – but I picked Scott’s brain and got him to tell me his favourite part of Order of the Ram: “My favourite part? Hmmm… Well as I said before, at heart I’m a real geek when it comes to films, so even though I’m proud of the entire film, if I were to choose, I’m really happy with certain shots. That’s what sticks out for me. I spend a lot of time thinking about staging, blocking and setting up my shots, so when it comes off its awesome. I love the opening shot of Act 3. And during Act 4, which really is Danni’s scene, there are a couple of great shots of her, especially the last shot of the entire picture. That’s the one everyone likes.”

It’s often hard for a director to say what their best accomplishment within their film career has been – but it’s interesting to find out, because us fans often feel differently to the director. Scott believes OOTR is his biggest accomplishment within film, and it’s easy to see why with the likes of Eli Roth backing the film: “Order is without date my greatest achievement to date. While I’m extremely proud of Supernova, and Beautiful War, an experimental film I made before that, both are very unique tastes and not everyone will like them. While the same could be said about Order, it seems the picture has really taken on a life of its own. The attention the film is receiving is incredible. The fact that the horror night I have put together with my co-producer Sonni Carpenter is officially sponsored by Eli Roth’s new horror app, The Crypt, says a hell of a lot for the films reach. I have a lot to thank Sonni for in that respect and the fans of the picture also. So many people have supported the idea from day one and that’s something you can never predict.”

Horror Nights Crypt Presents Poster

After you’ve read my review of Order of the Ram, I’m more than certain you’ll be intrigued and at least watch the trailer, but I asked the man himself why you should watch it: “For me Order is a film to watch if you’re looking for something different. Maybe take a step outside of clichéd horror and try something that hopefully offers a little more. Do I think everyone will love the film? No, of course not. For some there won’t be enough gore, for others it won’t be scary enough and that’s fine, if missing the point slightly. My hope is that I’ve created a picture that has a good story, interesting characters and a thought provoking idea. If all you want is to enjoy a short horror that’s a little different to the normal, I hope we offer that, but if you want something a little deeper, an idea that makes you think, then I really hope we offer you that with Order of the Ram.”

It might be a little too early to ask, but finally I wanted to find out what we can expect from Scott in the future, and whether he’ll be continuing with the horror genre: “Well I don’t want to let to many details out the bag just yet, but my next project will be my debut feature, and yes, it will be a horror film. A zombie film to be exact. Its a zombie film in my style, hopefully something a little different to the zombie picture everyone makes.”

Order of the Ram is showing at Crossroad Pictures Horror Nights, which starts on Friday 15th August at The Cinema museum, London. Not only is OOTR screening, but also some other great independent films and a Q&A with Scott Lyus at the end of the night. Tickets are priced under £10 (cheaper than the cinema)! You can follow Scott on Twitter; Order of the Ram on Twitter; and Order of the Ram on Facebook too!

REVIEW: Order of the Ram 2014

Mary

For me, horror shorts are either brilliant, or just not worth the time – I know they’re short but time is precious, why waste it? But luckily for me, and for you guys (once you get your tickets), Order of the Ram fits into the first category and most definitely not the second.

Order of the Ram opens with our protagonist Mary, played by first timer May Kaspar, who seems like an ordinary young girl at college, although she’s a little distant from her peers. As Mary wanders through some woodland, we are given some beautiful scenic shots that really capture the peacefulness, and create the calm backdrop to which the horror descends upon. The shots are so clear and well constructed that you completely forget that this film is no Hollywood blockbuster with a budget bigger than a millionaires mortgage.

For the sweet and innocent Mary, who thinks she’s just taking pictures of hungry squirrels, she couldn’t be more wrong when she is abruptly plunged into the clutches of a satanic cult, with members who are all too familiar. The music and sound effects in OOTR hit that nerve chilling spot, and when you hear the whispers filter through, you’ll really feel your body shudder.

Danni Scott-White should be very proud of herself, and with the performance given in OOTR as it is spectacular. I’ve seen full feature films with actresses whose acting skills don’t even come close to White’s. Her portrayal of Mother is chilling, disturbing and very realistic – not only this but the look that Mother holds on her face is deliciously wicked, with her soulless eyes that pierce your skin.

Order of the Ram delivers everything you’d want from a haunting horror short – it doesn’t rely on excessive blood and guts, it relies on an intriguing and detailed storyline, with pitch-perfect acting and some really stunning shots. It gives off that same vibe that Kill List and Devil’s Business has – so if you liked them, you’ll certainly love this! If you’re looking for something clever to creep you out, rather than terrify you or gross you out, this is the short you’ve been looking for.

2 Replies to “Independent film maker Scott Lyus talks horror in ‘Order of the Ram’”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s