By MICHAEL GINGOLD
Shot during the pandemic under safety regulations and guidelines, the giallo-tinged film is currently in postproduction.
Directed by Jonathan Zaurin from a script by British TV scribe Keith Temple (whose credits include EASTENDERS and DOCTOR WHO), WYVERN HILL was filmed in the British city of Hereford. It stars actress/choreographer Pat Garrett (who has worked with Muppeteers Jim Henson and Frank Oz on movies including LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS), Pete Bird, Ellie Jeffreys, Ben Manning, Mike Coombes, Oliver Robert Russell and Katy Dalton. Zaurin summarizes the plot: “It’s about Beth [Garrett], a mother in her 60s who is showing signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Because of this, she is forced to move into a new home in the country with her daughter Jess [Jeffreys] and son-in-law Connor [Bird]. But because of her condition, she realizes only too late that someone or something has moved in with her.”
The director further tells RUE MORGUE, “The film is a huge mix of influences, though it’s quite funny because it’s not always conscious. Keith doesn’t have a particular history with horror, but I’ve been a huge fan as far back as I can remember, and it was important to me to inject as much of what I love into WYVERN HILL as possible. The result is a weird mix of melodrama, heightened horror, gouts of gore and a very creepy, unsettling atmosphere–and of course, a touch of humor. What’s funny is that I edited an essay about Dario Argento for Arrow Video shortly after shooting WYVERN HILL, and all those influences sort of got revealed to me by that essay. It’s not that I wasn’t aware of them, it’s just that I wasn’t aware to what extent they had leaked into the film, from Argento to Bava–father and son–with a touch of Wes Craven, a lot of John Carpenter and flashes of Tobe Hooper, with a heavy influence from the ’90s music-video scene and their elliptical edits.
“One result of the collaboration of myself and Keith,” he continues, “is an approach to the story that I feel isn’t at all typical for this type of film. At heart, it’s a slasher with hints of giallo, with some characters that audiences will hopefully feel a connection to. They’re just everyday people, with everyday little problems, trying to live their lives, but horror breaks in through no fault of their own. It’s also a proudly Herefordian feature–in fact, I believe it is Hereford’s first indie horror film–that celebrates its region and landscapes, and also its mythology.”
WYVERN HILL was filmed on a budget of just £5,000, and the 25-day shoot was pulled off successfully using safety protocols including masking, social distancing and temperature checks three times a day. “It was the most stressful possible time to shoot anything,” Zaurin says, “and we did it on a budget that doesn’t even cover a Hollywood film’s lunch for a day–but nobody fell sick, so we must have done something right! The trick was to create a bubble, and a family where we would all support each other and work in the same direction. Everybody made the necessary sacrifices, because we all believed in each other and in the film. It’s quite heartwarming, really, especially in a year as rough as 2020, to see a group of people pulling together to create something they believe has value. That’s not to say it was without its problems, but there was unity at every level of the production, from producers to extras.”
Part of that team is executive producer Todd Rodgers, who has previously distributed some of Zaurin’s short films. “We began to cultivate a friendship,” Rodgers says, “and when the opportunity came up to be involved in this project, I jumped at the chance. I believe I’m the only member of this group from the United States. Jonathan is a very talented director with a great cinematic eye.” We’ll keep you posted on when WYVERN HILL will be available for viewing!