Simon Rumley is a man who knows his horror films. In casual conversation, he will throw out references to “Tale of Two Sisters” and “Don’t Look Now” without skipping a beat. And now horror fans are beginning to know Simon, as his films have been receiving critically acclaim on the film festival circuit — you may have seen or heard about “The Living and the Dead” (2006) or “Red White & Blue” (2010).
On December 8, 2011, I was able to chat with him briefly about his newest film, “Little Deaths” out on DVD in time for Christmas. But first, I had to ask him about legendary director Ken Russell (who has recently passed)… the two appeared together in a German film called “Aristofrogs”. Simon calls it a “weird film”, and also a “protest film” about “losing 50,000 euros” due to a bad investment by the government. (This movie did some festivals itself and does not to my knowledge have a distributor.)
As for Russell, Simon had a “very quick chat with him” on the set. Luckily, he had also met him many years ago Russell’s film “Gothic” (1986) starring Julian Sands came out, and the two took photos together (something, sadly, I will never get the opportunity to do). For Simon, though, one director remains the must-meet master: “I’d love to meet Nicholas Roeg,” he tells me.
But let’s talk about “Little Deaths”, the new anthology with Simon’s segment “Bitch” included. The film has three parts, all pushing sex and violence to the limits. There is rape, there is torture, there is full frontal male nudity (something we do not see nearly often enough). And in “Bitch”, there is emotional abuse. You might think the filming of such things would be tense for the actors, but Simon says “not really”. It was “hard casting the roles”, knowing that just the right people had to be picked that could work under the necessary conditions. “We were very mindful of how it may be a nervous situation for the girl” and had a “closed set”. In the end, “Kate (Braithwaite) was nervous but was impressive”.
The “Bitch” segment has a striking use of blue light, so you might be surprised that Simon “conceived the film in black and white”. He says that when he went to actually shooting, blue “just felt right”, and he felt it was one step beyond black and white. The choice to shoot it that way was “instinctive”.
In an interview before the film was complete, Simon commented that he hoped the film had some level of humanity… so, I had to know if he felt he met his goal. He thinks so (and so do I). “I was trying to make more believable characters,” he says. As much as Simon loves horror, he believes a frustrating thing about the genre is that characters are one-dimensional. In “Bitch”, the film’s characters have “mundane jobs” like most of us do, and “you can understand why (the lead character) does what he does even if you don’t think he should”.
I strongly urge you to check out “Little Deaths” and the other films from Simon Rumley… and soon, you will see his work in the anthology “ABCs of Death”. (I have already seen the segment for letter T, and let me just say this film does NOT hold back.)
A big thanks to Simon Rumley for his time… I really wish we would have had more.