DRC: I looked online and saw that you were the writer as well as the director. I just wondered if you remembered where that idea for Rites of Spring came from and how it developed from your first idea to actually getting the film made?
Padraig Reynolds: I wrote Rites of Spring and its sequel back to back when I first moved to Los Angeles in about 2002 and friends of mine were doing a horror movie and they wanted to do two movies back to back. Things fell through and the movie didn’t happen but I kept plugging away and giving the scripts out and in 2007 I met up with Eric Thompson who was the head of Maverick Red at the time and he fell in love with the Rites of Spring script. Three years later we finally got to make the movie. All in all it took about seven years to make this from first draft to filming. The first two were already written back to back as one whole movie which is why there are so many open ended questions at the end of Rites 1. But those questions are answered really quickly in Rites 2.
DRC: Right, and Horror thrives on some open endings. Not everything needs to be explained anyway.
DRC: Do you have definite plans to shoot the sequel?
PR: Yes. We were supposed to be in preproduction this summer at some point. It’s called Devil Sent the Rain. We are just waiting on the final funding to come in and then for them to pull the trigger.
DRC: Fantastic. Is it just the two part story then or are you willing to go further?
PR: Well, there’s a three part story. The second one is completely different than the first one and then the third one is more what the first one was. There are people who come back to look for the money and then they find out this whole town is really bad. I don’t want to give too much away, but you can figure it out.
DRC: Right, really bad is good enough. We don’t want to spoil too much.
PR: Exactly. The second one gets going right after the first one ends.
DRC: When you wrote this with your friends were you always slated to be the director or was someone else ever going to direct it?
PR: No, it was always going to be because they came to me and said that they had this amount of money and they wanted to do two films back to back and I was like, “okay, let’s go do it”. I pitched them a couple of ideas and this is the idea they liked best so they wanted to do that one. In the beginning we were going to shoot in Missouri because I’m from Missouri and all my friends own farms there. So I thought that would be easy to go there and shoot. The whole corn field chase was shot in Missouri.
DRC: Can I ask where? We’re actually based in Kansas City.
PR: It was actually shot in Troy Illinois and then in North County Missouri, which is where I grew up. My ex-girlfriend has a farm in Illinois so we went out there and shot all the corn field stuff and all the beauty shots there. Then the rest of the movie is shot in Mississippi.
DRC: Was it filmed there for logistic reasons or did Mississippi have something you needed creatively?
PR: Mississippi is where the producers came from. They wanted to shoot it in Mississippi, but at the time we shot there wasn’t any corn fields so I had to call up a friend and say “Hey, I need to use your corn field for a couple of days.”.
DRC: As a writer/director do you ever see someone else directing a script you wrote or, on the other hand, do you have any interest in directing something you hadn’t written?
PR: Oh yeah, there’s a couple of scripts out there that I would love to direct. There’s a great werewolf script called “Hostage” that I would like to attach myself to. And there’s another great script called the “Watching Hours”, I think it’s over at New Line, that I’d like to attach myself to as well but I don’t see that happening, but in the meantime I’ve written a bunch of other scripts that I’m moving forward with. We’re working on Rites 2, I have this psychological thriller called “Open 24 Hours” that a bunch of people are interested in. And then I have “Starvation Heights”. I adapted that book for a company and they’re looking into making that movie now. Which is good.
DRC: The one thing that a lot of modern horror movies kind of fail on a script level is the cell phone and instant communication technology. You found a pretty realistic and effective way to take cell phones out of the story. Do you have any thoughts on how horror has changed since we’re in the instant communication era and where we can go from there?
PR: Yeah, it’s changed a lot. You just have to be a little more crafty now. I basically placed the movie in 2008 because iPhone’s weren’t out yet. You couldn’t find out people’s locations or anything like that. I wanted to take that technology out a little bit so that when the kidnappers get to the abandoned school yard it’s pretty much old school cell phones. You see how it turns out in the movie when a guy takes them away because he doesn’t want anyone to call the cops. That was all part of the plan on how I could get these cell phones out of these people’s hands.
DRC: I guess that kind of brings up the villain, because even if they had cell phones I think that if the cops had shown up they wouldn’t have been of much help in this.
DRC: And you created this memorable villain andI just wondered how you approached that. Was it the same from the very beginning or did the creature design evolve? Was it always pretty much the same in your mind?
PR: In my mind I always wanted to go back to the old school 70’s, early 80’s where it’s a creature but there is man elements in it. We’re gonna find out a lot about why there are man elements in the creature in the second movie. I hinted at it a lot in the first movie, like why does the creature play in that little boy’s room? I hint all around at who this creature actually is and what’s going on. We’ll gfind out his whole big backstory in the second movie. Let’s just say he’s a family member.
DRC: You mentioned 70’s and 80’s horror, I wondered if you had any specific inspirations or something you looked to as research to create this world?
PR: One of the main influences on the movie was The Black Windmill by Don Siegel. It used to be on channel 11 when I was growing up so I saw it a bunch of times and I always thought it was a great kidnapping movie. As a kid I always thought it would be cool if inside that black windmill was a creature or someone who’d take these kidnappers out. That’s sort of how it began when I was kid and it sort of stuck with me all those years. And the other one is Venom from 1981, where the snake gets in the house. I like that one a lot. It’s one of my all time favorite movies.
DRC: Did you revisit those as an adult when you were working on this? Or did you just use that childhood seed of a memory.
PR: Oh no, I re-watched them. I own Venom and Black Wind Mill, so I’ve watched them and thought “this is interesting how they did this and that”. Because we’ve all seen the kidnapping movies played out. And we’ve all seen the girls tied up in a barn movies played out. I thought it would be a nice mix of the two.
DRC: One of the things that made this movie stick out to me, over a lot of other horror movies, was the time you took to set up the visuals. Horror, to me, is a very visual genre and it seems to get neglected a lot by modern horror. Obviously, the visuals were important to you, what was your approach to make sure those visuals came through?
PR: My DP Carl and I had all the great locations and I wanted to use them. I like wide shots, I like establishing shots, showing where we’re at at all times. We shot in fourteen locations in eighteen days, but all of those were within five miles of each other.
DRC: What was your shooting day like? We’re you doing a nine hour, twelve hour day?
PR: Eight hours. Some days we were fast, and some days we were slow. But when I write a script I always think of the location as a character. I do a lot of research online, looking at images online and picking what I wanted to see in the film. But once we did location scouting in Mississippi, the locations we found were far superior than anything found in the script. It was just incredible. I think it makes the film look bigger in budget than we had. The high school was built in the 30’s and it still just sits there. And that barn was one-hundred years old and it was just creepily sitting in the middle of the woods. We barely had anyone dress any of the sets up. We just walked in. Even in the mansion and the little girl’s room; it was already like that. Everything just kind of fell into place.
DRC: Did you have a crazy good location scout or did it just kind of fall in your lap?
PR: I was the location scout.
DRC: So, yes, a very good location scout.
PR: Well, we had the film commission. And when they came what I would do was get in the truck and drive around and look at things. When they would drop me off, I’d get in my car and drive around and look at places. They would show me places and ask me what I thought and then I’d see an abandoned silo and ask “what about that place over there?”. They’d answer “we can get that.”
DRC: You did a really good job casting this. How do you approach casting and then on an acting and dialogue level I wondered how you avoided overly expository dialogue?
PR: Well we used five actors that were local because we had to. Then the rest were from Los Angeles. AJ Bowen, from The Signal and The House of the Devil, I’m a big fan of. My manager sent him the script and he signed on. What I think appealed to AJ about the character Ben is that he’s a good person who gets involved in a bad situation. That was a different role for AJ at the time because he was always cast as the bad guy. I think AJ is one of the best actors working today, he’s funny, scary, and dramatic. Annessa was in The Signal and I just really liked her whole personality. I think she brings so much to the role. She did all her own stunts and she’s just really captivating on camera. As for the dialogue, I kind of write how I see people thinking. Like the scene in the hotel room where Amy and Ben are talking about their problems. They’re not arguing back and forth because they have so much weight on their shoulders already that I think a lot of people internalize it and become somber. I wanted the audience to be able to read it on their faces instead of saying it. I think AJ is just sitting at the desk. You know he’s fucking tortured. He doesn’t want to do this. And she’s buttering up and giving him a kiss. That’s the sort of thing I was looking for.
DRC: Okay, thanks for taking the time to talk with us and we’ll look forward to that sequel.
PR: Thank you so much man, I’m glad you liked the movie.