Lawrence Fowler (INTERVIEW)
Lawrence Fowler is the writer and creator of THE JACK IN THE BOX and it's sequel, THE JACK IN THE BOX: AWAKENING is out now on DVD.
First of all, thank you very much for taking the time this morning to talk to myself at BloodGuts UK.
First of all, talk mainly about JACK IN THE BOX: AWAKENING and what comes next. But first of all, I'd just like to say, having just watched AWAKENING, what a fantastic little film it is.
You just manage to capture the great essence of an original horror film and congratulations on that front.
Oh, thanks very much. Thank you. Appreciate that a lot.
Cool. I suppose obviously you are the man behind both the new sequel and the original ones. Do you want to just briefly talk about how THE JACK IN THE BOX came about?
Yeah, sure. We made our first film called CURSE OF THE WITCH'S DOLL. We worked on that sub genre of creepy toys. It's a sub genre we quite enjoyed. And we were looking to continue that line, but bring something a little bit different to it. So we started looking into things like jack-in-the-boxes and the history of what comes with that. And the legends of... it started with a demon trapped in a boot and all these different theories. And it was just an interesting world. And we blended a few of them together, before you know it, you had this legend of the jack-in-the-box, which was the beginning point of what was to come.
You managed to capture really well an essence of mystique and historic legend, but I find it very strange in looking into this... actually come to think of it, I've seen very few jack-in-the-box horror films. Surprisingly you think a jack-in-the-box is prime element for a horror film, but actually... What pointed you in the direction of going into that route?
Well, it was... You're right. I can't think of many. I think there's a... it features in KRAMPUS a little bit.
Yeah, that's the only one I can think of too. But there's something about it. It's the idea of the tension of winding up the wheel and then the eventual jump scare moment of it popping out. I think it lends itself quite well to a scary type genre. But again we were just looking for something fresh. The creepy clown genre, as well, is quite a popular sub genre too. And it just seemed to make sense. Blending this creepy toy with the creepy clown element just seemed a recipe for success. And it's something that we've really enjoyed making.
That element of the creepy toy, you just mentioned... obviously with your previous film, CURSE OF THE WITCH'S DOLL as well, the whole element of a creepy toy is always scary, but what is it that makes you think that that's still... What still brings fear? Especially to the horror audiences... we talk about jack-in-the-box, that clown element of it. What is it that makes clowns still scary?
I think it's... Like I said, going back to CURSE OF THE WITCH'S DOLL. I think what we got wrong on that one was the fact that we went for a scary looking doll, where with the clown doll in the Jack in the Box, we went for more of a creepy frozen, still life look, which I think is more effective. And I think there's something about clowns, the fact that they're human, but not quite human. There's something that resembles humans, but not quite. And I think that applies to dolls too. It's just something off about them, isn't it. There's something reassuring, but not at the same time. It's a weird mix. But it seems to resonate with audiences. And there's quite a few people that have very serious fears of clowns. Again, it's just something naturally that we're drawn to and... Yeah, it works well for films.
Absolutely. I still find it scary on screen. But I'll tell you something, I can't remember the last time I even saw a clown in real life. It's very strange, apart from the realms of... what are we talking... Mr. Tumble now, when I think... Yeah.
Although a version of that is not coming anytime soon. I don't think.
I don't think so. But you never know.
The one thing I absolutely love about THE JACK IN THE BOX: AWAKENING, and I'll say this about most horror films is the art to keep it very real, very fixated on the characters and their emotional feat. But also within that, it's keeping the effects real. I suppose, how much of a challenge is that, to keep everything real and not delve into the realm of CGI? I suppose it's easier and probably on the cheaper side of things do it in CGI, but keeping faithful to really good horror films... which THE JACK IN THE BOX really falls into that realm because of that natural flow between the effects and the character. How easy was that to do?
It was tough because, if you go practical, you're relying on a good effects team, which we do. Geoff Fowler built the box, built the doll and the handle, for example, that turns by itself is completely real, motorized. And in the first Jack film, it was CGI and it didn't quite have the same realistic feeling that we were going for. So it was something we did definitely address with this film.
But yeah, it's not easy because you're relying on a team of people to bring these things together, to work on set when you need it. Which again, when time's ticking, you really need it to work. But with a film like the Jack in the Box, the concept is so outlandish, so crazy, that I think if you can ground the effects in reality, as much as you can, it's a much easier thing for the audience to buy into. And I think if you do rely too heavily on CGI, it's again, another element that the audience needs to buy into. It's not quite as believable. So, wherever we can we go practical. It costs more money. Definitely does. But I think it bears fruit in the final film.
Absolutely. I'd say it plays off in dividends. You mentioned there obviously the effects and the element of the box itself... you were going into Hellraiser territory in terms of having its own unique identifier. You can look at that box and go, "Right..." It should be attributed to the first two films and hopefully what comes next. I suppose the interesting thing that I find with it is that transition between toy and demon. And was that a conscious decision to make that a separation between the toy and the demon that came out following moments after. How did that decision come about?
Well, the initial idea was... at some points I was never a fan of this when we were developing it. But at some points it was going to be like a Chucky doll, where the clown doll would come out and it would come alive essentially and run around. And I could never quite picture it. So we really wanted a clear distinction between the doll and then it disappearing again out of sight. What happened to it? What's going on? And then climbing back out the box.
And I think that transition was just an image I really, really liked. And also using the doll to build tension as well, suggests that Jack is coming soon. It made sense. Anytime you see the doll, you know he's not too far away from climbing out the box for real. So yeah, again, it's also just one of those things we try to be a little bit different. It's not that often you see a doll transition to something more monstrous. So just trying to bring fresh things to a well loved sub genre.
And there's a scene in the sequel where the doll pops up and the eyes just go, and then suddenly Jack pops up. I think that's brilliantly executed.
It's not going to be a big Hollywood film, it's a straight to DVD release in January. However, I'm a complete advocate of this film and I love the horror genre. Primarily because of films like this, that just come literally, like Jack in the box, out as a surprise. That really do keep the horror genre going as opposed to some of the more cliched mainstream films that we do keep seeing.
Thank you very much. I really appreciate that. A lot of people work on this that are really passionate about it and whenever you hear words like that, it makes it worth it. So, thank you.
No problem at all. Without going to spoil the territory, we're talking about a slasher film here and ultimately, as a result, we're going into that... Is there going to be a part three? What happens next in the Jack series?
I think there's a very good chance there'll be a part three. No guarantees. I think it's one of those things that we need to see how it performs. How many people go and see it and purchase it and what the reception is like. But we've certainly got ideas for Jack three, among ideas for other films too. But I can't really say. I think it would be fantastic to see Jack again. I'd love to bring him back out of the box again. Some of the ideas we're thinking of prequels. Some of them are what's the true origin. Although we hinted at it in different parts of this film, in the first film. I think it would be really good to see how the box was created and more of the mythology behind it. But early days, we'll have to see.