Tony D’Aquino on Aussie horror sensation ‘The Furies’

Tony D’Aquino’s gripping female-driven horror film “The Furies”, now in cinemas, has been a long time coming – in fact, the Australian filmmaker has essentially been gunning to make such a movie since he was 8-years old.

When does a filmmaker know it’s time to step up from shorts to features – – how did you know the time was-a-now, sir?
Well, it’s been my dream to make a feature film since I was 8 year old and saw King Kong. I’ve tried to get various projects up over the years since film school . I’ve come very close a number of times, but it’s tough in Australia to get any film up, let alone an uncompromising genre project. So, the time has been right for a while, just needed all the pieces to fall into place. And thankfully that happened with The Furies.

What inspired the story? Do I sense a love of ‘80s and ‘80s horror?
I’m a huge horror nerd. And I do love the horror films of the 70s and 80s. I love the raw energy and anarchic qualities of the independent films of that period – which were kicked off by the amazing Night of the Living Dead (1968). My absolute favourite film is Tobe Hooper’s masterpiece – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. So that was a tonal inspiration – the nightmarish quality, the fact that a lot of the film takes place in harsh daylight. The Furies is also my love letter to slasher films. I love that whole sub-genre and wanted to play with the Final Girl trope. What if a group of Final Girls and their Killers were forced to fight each other?

Tony D’Aquino

Did you have to pitch it to a funding body? How did that go down – because, I guess, we don’t do so many films, let alone horror films these days?
A group of inspired people got together and had a dream to make Canberra a hub for low-budget genre filmmaking! They were Andy Marriot (Film Distillery), Monica Penders (Screen Canberra) and Micheal Favelle (Odin’s Eye Entertainment). Screen Canberra put together a script development program called Accelerator POD, during which you pitch ideas to International Sales Agents. They select which concepts they feel will do well internationally. In my case, I pitched the idea to Michael Favelle, who immediately saw its potential. And, once the script was ready to go, there was an amazing group of Canberra investors who helped financed production.
It is hard, and getting harder, to get any film up these days, let alone a hardcore horror film. The Screen Canberra/Film Distillery initiative is an amazing opportunity. It’s open to anyone, not just ACT residents.

Much like the greats – Carpenter, Craven, Raimi – it seems you were determined to do as much in the movie practically, instead of relying on CGI. Was that a tough task at times?
Oh yeah, I love practical effects! To me, when you get them right, they feel more real than CGI. CGI is great for many things, but for this type of film, practical effects are the way to go. I don’t know what it is – they just have a more visceral feel, even the little mistakes make them more realistic. Maybe it’s a subconscious thing – as a viewer, if you know what you’re seeing was done on set, rather than on a computer, you buy into it more? Also, I think practical effects enforce a way of filming that is instantly reminiscent of those 70’s and 80’s films.
Using practical effects isn’t easier, especially on a low-budget film. Luckily I was able to work with my good friend and amazing FX artist, Larry van Duynhoven. He’s as crazy about horror as I am, and it’s a miracle what he and his team were able to do with the budget and time they had.

Skin Crow – and the other masked fiends here – are genius creations. I imagine you toyed with a few different looks for them? How did you settle on their current looks?
I wanted to have masked killers that were original, but at the same time paid homage to past slasher film killers. I worked with Larry and concept artist Seth Justus on the masks. We talked over a number of weeks, Seth drew up around 20 designs and I chose the ones I liked the most.
Horror fans will be able to pick which films inspired which Killer.

Was Canberra excited to have a film shooting there? Supportive community? I don’t imagine they shoot much but political ads there these days?
Canberra was a fantastic location to film in. The fact that where were filming was only about 15 minutes from the middle of city helped enormously. The city and the community are every supportive. The Screen Canberra team are amazing. And we did most of out post-production there as well, at SilverSun. They have a great sound design and mixing team, headed up by Rohan Taylor. And, our incredible composers – Ken Lampl and Kirsten Axelholm – live there.
There is a bit of production in Canberra these days, mostly television. But Canberra is an underused location. The city itself is very interesting, and the proximity to the bush is great. I’d love to film there again.

How exciting has it been to see the extremely positive reaction to the film right around the world?
It’s been an amazing experience having the film screened all around the world. Audiences everywhere have embraced the it, which has so wonderful to see. I’ve been to a few of the festivals, and meeting all the fans is one of the highlights of the whole experience.

Has it started opening doors yet? Had Blumhouse or Platinum Dunes on the phone yet wanting you to direct a remake of “Elm Street” or “Friday the 13th”?
The film has absolutely opened some doors. I’m hard at work on 2 new projects, hopefully announce something early next year!

“The Furies” is in cinemas now.

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