When crafting an anthology film, one must consider the consequences of placing a segment that throws down the gauntlet to the other segments. In an anthology that comes from a sole director, such as Creepshow or Trick ‘r’ Treat, the sweetest of the segments are usually saved for last, allowing the segments beforehand to serve as an escalating narrative to the horrifying conclusion. However, in anthologies that have multiple directors, the placement can be more sporadic in nature, either coming early like in the first V/H/S with “Amateur Night” or The ABC’s of Death, depending on your personal tastes. But in the case of V/H/S/2, the segment that attacks the audience with such gusto and unrepentant lunacy is placed in the middle of the film, luring in unsuspecting viewers into a sense of comfort before truly revealing it’s savage nature.
Behind this segment, the oft-discussed “Safe Haven”, are two of Asia’s most promising cinematic talents: Gareth Huw Evans, the Wales-born action auteur who has rocked the world of martial arts film with his universally praised The Raid: Redemption and Merantau, and Timo Tjahjanto, the gruesome horror fiend behind Macabre and the “L is for Libido” segment in The ABC’s of Death. Longtime friends and collaborators, V/H/S/2 marks their first shot as co-directors, leaving an impression that not only shapes the film but also changes the perception of the franchise entirely, raising the bar for any director who dares enter V/H/S/3. Evans and Tjahjanto spoke to Diabolique about their show-stealing short, the crafting of their cult and what hard-boiled tales are awaiting in their future as filmmakers…
DIABOLIQUE: Gareth, when we had previously talked to Timo, he had stated that “Safe Haven” was inspired by the Jonestown Compound, but that you had injected the more insane elements into the proceedings. What informed your decision to take the basic cult narrative and transform it into what eventually appears in V/H/S/2?
GARETH EVANS: During my first discussion about it [with Timo], I didn’t know too much about the Jonestown Massacre. But when we were discussing this project, Timo played me an audio recording taken from the day of the mass suicide, and it was the most fucking horrifying thing I’ve ever heard. It must have been horrible to have been witness to that. So we thought, “What would it have been like to be there at that moment and see that by picking the worst possible day to be investigating this cult?” So we started working on the concept for a week with the idea that Timo had came to me with.
We then started to figure out what we could do in the found footage genre that would heighten the fear of that situation. It was from there that we started building up set piece after set piece after set piece. I think the lynchpin, and really what made “Safe Haven” pop for us, was deciding was to not play the segment too straight-faced or ground it in realism. Once we started to inject a supernatural and bring in this fucking demonic element into the story, it helped escalate our film and lets the last 15 minutes become a rollercoaster ride.
TIMO TJAHJANTO: It made the film more fun as well, you know?
DIABOLIQUE: Former V/H/S contributor Ti West is currently working on his own found footage cult film, The Sacrament. Likewise, several filmmakers from Ben Wheatley and Daniel Stamm have also presented their own cinematic outings with cults as of late. What do you think is the reason for cults having captured the independent horror zeitgeist at the moment?
EVANS: I don’t know! [laughs] For me, personally, ever since I was a kid, I was never really afraid of monsters in movies. I was never afraid of ghosts or creatures or anything like that; it just didn’t creep me out so much. What creeps me out the most are people who are absolutely fucking nuts. So what drives the fears inside of me is that there’s someone out there and you have no idea who they’re going to be. That unpredictability of people when they’re fucking crazy is what’s frightening to me. What about you, Tim?
TJAHJANTO: Well, I knew that we wanted to explore the dark side of people when they’re so convinced that what they believe is right that they can’t be persuaded otherwise. It’s the strong conviction of faith that turns into something scary that, for us, was worth exploring. Also, [we wanted to explore] the sense of being a logical person trapped inside all of this insanity. But, obviously, we canceled all of that by going all demonic on that shit. [laughs]
DIABOLIQUE: For a project that had a $40,000 budget, you both made the most out of it by weaving throughout multiple subgenres, keeping the found footage perspective and eventually getting into the shocking ending. Had either of you conceived of any ideas for the project that were outright too insane, difficult or expensive to pull off?
EVANS: $40,000? I thought we were only given $30,000 or something like that.
TJAHJANTO: I thought we were only given $1,000. [laughs]
EVANS: There was actually a moment towards the end of the movie with the car getting hit, and I had this whole concept where we could keep the camera rolling while the car is crashing, so we could show more detail and have more shots of the camera bouncing around in the car. We had it all planned out and then, what we had to do was have the camera roll with the car as it rolled on its side, with the actor in it, but the camera operator didn’t want to do that. So then we decided we were going to put the camera on a trolley so we could just pull it along [as the car rolled].
We designed this concept and gave it to our art department, who I’ve gotta give so much credit to because they worked so fucking hard on “Safe Haven” and gave us such great production value. But the only thing in the whole project that they fucked up on was the trolley for the car. They had these little tiny wheels, and I was like, “This is not going to work. [The car] is too heavy and it’s going to crush it.”
TJAHJANTO: It looked like the wheels they have on suitcases, you know?
EVANS: [Laughs] Yeah, basically! I knew that it wasn’t going to work. So, Timo said, “Have a little bit of blind faith and let’s see if it’ll work. Let’s put it on the trolley and give it a try.” So as soon as we tried it, the wheels just fucking busted. So there was no real way to do it and we were running out of time since the sun was coming down. So maybe that was the one thing we overstretched on, in terms of ambition. Everything else just sort of happened, as you can see there.
TJAHJANTO: I think it was for the better, because, initially, our ending had the car crashing in a very detailed manner, but we didn’t have the time or budget to keep shooting, and it was our last day with this location. Since we couldn’t do what we initially set out to do, we improvised on the spot. So we talked to Fachry [Albar] who plays Adam, and said, “You’re gonna crawl out of the car, and we’re gonna whisper something to you, and you’re going to react in a certain way.” And I think with the pressure of losing time, since we literally only had 20 minutes to shoot before the sun disappeared, and the fact that we had to improvise, it added this sort of beautiful weight of pressure on Fachry, so he was really fucking crying and he was like, “I can’t do this! I can’t do this!” And we had 40 crew members yelling, “No, you can do this!” [laughs] The limitation of budget did sort of work out for the better, I guess.
DIABOLIQUE: After V/H/S/2, you both have a full slate of projects, with Gareth working on his sequel to The Raid, subtitled Berandal, and Timo wrapping up Killers while preparing The Night Comes For Us, which I understand you’ll both be working on.
EVANS: I’m still in production on Berandal at the moment. I’ve still got a little left to shoot, and post-production will probably take me until the end of the year. So we’re looking to release it early next year, maybe, or middle of next year. I’m really excited to release it. It’s going to be an expansion of the universe in the first movie. The action is going to be the same, but the approach and the technique are going to be very different. We’re trying to approach it with a cinematic lens so we’ve abandoned the handheld camerawork from The Raid: Redemption.
TJAHJANTO: I’m done with Killers right now, and I’ve managed to see a preview of the film. Hopefully, Killers will be something that will work as a gradually built-up thriller film as well as work for the horror guys. There’s still a horror element to it. For The Night Comes For Us, as soon as Gareth finishes Berandal, he has a two day break and then he comes aboard to produce and choreograph the project.
The story for that is Joe Taslim, who was in The Raid and Fast & Furious 6, plays a Triad enforcer. Gareth can maybe explain better than me. I’ll probably mess it up a bit. [Laughs]
EVANS: Timo is working on the script, at the moment. He’s got all of these plot points running through his head. But basically, it’s a neo-noir hitman thriller that goes through multiple Asian countries. There’s an alliance between 6 different Triad territories, and they are all sent after Joe after he becomes disenfranchised with his own organization. There’s a lot going on, and there’s a lot more to it, but we’re keeping most of the details under wraps until we’re good and ready. Think of it like a bedtime story but with a lot of martial arts and killing.
V/H/S/2, which features segments from Evans, Tjahjanto, Adam Wingard, Simon Barrett, Gregg Hale, Eduardo Sanchez and Jason Eisener, will be in select theaters from Magnet Releasing tomorrow, July 12th, and is currently available for rental on VOD, iTunes, Amazon and other streaming services. For more from Gareth Evans and Timo Tjahjanto, you can follow them on Twitter: @ghuwevans and @timobros. Evan’s next film, Berandal, is currently in post-production, as is Tjahjanto’s Killers. Macabre, Merantau and The Raid: Redemption are available on DVD/Blu-ray and The ABC’s of Death and Merantau are available on Netflix Instant Streaming. For more from Tjahjanto, Evans and Magnet Releasing, as well as our blow-out coverage for V/H/S/2, keep checking back at DiaboliqueMagazine.com! And don’t forget to pick up Diabolique #17 later this month, which features more exclusive comments on V/H/S/2!
– By Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine, as well as a contributing writer for Diabolique Magazine and Fangoria Magazine. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on several screenplays spanning over different genres and subject matter, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.