At 37-years-old, Director/Writer Patrick Rea is already making a name for himself in horror circles around the country. Since graduating from the University of Kansas in December 2002, Patrick has made dozens of short films and collaborated with other directors and writers on even more. He’s starting to get his footing as a feature-film director and took time out of his busy schedule to talk with MediaMikes about his latest film, “Arbor Demon,” which was a part of the Panic Fest lineup in January and premiered on video-on-demand on February 3rd.
Jeremy Werner: Not to steal one of the questions from one of the fine folks that attended Panic Fest, but I loved the answer you gave at it. So I have to ask, where did the inspiration for “Arbor Demon” come from?
Patricka Rea: It was a combination of things. When my wife and I were dating, we went camping one night at Lake Perry, near Lawrence, Kansas. In the early hours of the morning, there was an altercation that occurred between two other campers near our tent. After the fight ensued, one of the campers decided to hop on a rusty four-wheeler, with a deer skull on the front, and drive angrily around the campgrounds, narrowly missing our tent. My wife and I were pretty freaked out, but to cut the tension, I joked that it would be funny if something came out of the woods and attacked them, so we could get a good night’s sleep. That was where the seed of the idea came from. Once Michelle Davidson and I actually started writing the screenplay years later, my wife was pregnant, so the story really shifted to dealing with a woman’s pregnancy, along with being trapped inside a tent.
JW: What was it that Davidson brought and added to the script?
PR: Michelle is a great screenwriter and a terrific partner. Our process is really about going back and forth with ideas and solving problems within the story. She added so many layers to the script and really brought a fantastic female perspective. The movie is primarily a female driven story, and Michelle took that aspect to the next level. She also is a mother of two, and has a lot of experience to draw upon.
JW: I remember hearing that this script, including the name of the movie, has changed over time. What was it that changed and why?
PR: The original title of the film was “Enclosure”. It has played at a number of film festivals with that title and will continue to carry that name overseas. The biggest reason for the change was that distributor wanted the film to be more visible to consumers on Video On Demand. Since the film now starts with an “A”, it will be higher up on the listings.
JW: The creature in the movie, you really don’t get a good look at it until the end. But when you do, you notice all these different look quirks about them. What hand did you have in crafting the creature and what inspiration did you draw from?
PR: Davidson and I worked hard to come up with a fresh take on the monster. I enjoy drawing, so I sketched out ideas for the design. Eventually, we hired Megan Areford (“VHS: Viral,” “Cooties” and “Sharknado”) to handle make-up effects. She took my initial artwork and made some of her own sketches, which were incredible. From there she started working on the actual prosthetics for the creature and we communicated over Skype.
JW: Since the woods and nature plays a role in the movie, was there anything you manipulated in the woods you filmed in?
PR: I would say that we spent a good amount of time just trying to find unique trees and formations in the woods that would enhance the setting and story. But, in terms of actual manipulation, we built a small forest, designed by Production Designer, Leslie Keel (“May,” “Red” and “Welcome to the Jungle”) on a soundstage around the tent. This was to create the illusion that we were still in the woods when shooting all the tent interiors. This also allowed us to control the lighting and sound.
JW: What horror inspirations do you draw from when writing and directing?
PR: The early work of John Carpenter has always been a big influence on me, from the framing of the shots, to the pace and storytelling skills. I’m also inspired by directors like Wes Craven, Sam Raimi and of course Steven Spielberg. At this point in my career, I like to read about the challenges they faced while making their films. It helps me feel better when I have various roadblocks to overcome during the process.
JW: You’ve done a lot of shorts in the past and a handful of full-length movies…which one do you tend to gravitate more towards and enjoy working on?
PR: Well, I prefer doing feature films, but I love making short films. Short form filmmaking allows me to experiment with new equipment, crew and ways of telling a story. There are a lot of films that I don’t think should exist outside a smaller duration, so I tend to gravitate to those types of projects between features. I think I’ll always make short films, if nothing else to keep my storytelling skills sharp. Making a feature can take years, so it’s good to keep putting out shorter work in order stay on everyone’s radar.
JW: Obviously, this is your career. This your passion and love. What’s something outside that horror genre that you’d be interested in experimenting with and what are you working on next?
PR: I’m working on a number of things, including a CBS kids show titled “The Inspectors” which airs on Saturday mornings. Right now, Michelle and I are getting our next horror feature off the ground, that is a fresh spin on the imaginary friend story. As for experimenting, I really want to direct a high-concept sci-fi film. Just waiting for the right project to come along.
“Arbor Demon” is available on demand here.