Director Jordan Downey took time to speak with Horrornews.net about his new film, “The Head Hunter” starring Christopher Rygh. “The Head Hunter” comes out on April 5th in theaters and On Demand.
Hi Jordan, How are you?
Jordan- I am good. How are you doing?
I am doing well. Thank you. First off THE HEAD HUNTER looks amazing. You directed THE HEAD HUNTER and did an amazing job. You and Kevin Stewart are listed as the writers. Where did this idea manifest for THE HEAD HUNTER?
Jordan- To be honest it started with Kevin and I made a lot of movies together. We just sat down and we were looking to find a story of some sort so that we could go and make another feature. We had been sitting down and pitching ideas. Kevin is from Portugal where we ended up shooting the movie. On summer vacations he would go and visit his grandmother and his grandma lived out in this village where there’s literally only three people that still live there till this day. He had gone back to Portugal to visit family and on break he had seen some photos of this village. It had this old hut and fog in the countryside. It started with us having this location that we thought was so cool. The location was where the main Viking warrior, where his house was. That was the location that we had. We never thought we would want to do a medieval movie because we knew we were going to have limited resources and a smaller budget. Then I remember specifically we were at breakfast and having coffee. We just kind of started talking and came up with the scene in the movie where he burst into the house and he is wounded. We just started throwing out ideas. It started with a scene idea and a location.
What about the costumes? What about the armor, the headpiece is especially. I don’t think I’ve seen anything like this. How did you come up with everything?
Jordan- We had a very small crew. This was made with only a few people so the costume was made by Andre Bravin and he runs a leather-making costume shop in Sweden. We found them through the internet. He had done a lot of leather armor. A lot of the other props were actually made by us. A lot of them surprisingly are repurposed Halloween props and different things that we modified and aged to make it look older. A movie like this as you’ve seen there is not a lot of dialogue and it’s really following one character so the costume is onscreen for the entire movie so it’s got to look right. Once we had this idea to make this medieval monster movie we realized pretty fast that there had been no medieval horror movies ever made. There is “The 13th Warrior,” “Game of Thrones” has a lot of fantasy elements but they’re not really a horror film. Comic books may have touched on this but never really a movie.
What was it like for you directing Christopher because he sort of has a full on Viking vibe. He has that look as if he just walked right out of a Viking battle and he is ready for another battle. What was the process for you directing him and what did you think when you saw him in the costume?
Jordan- The first time seeing him in the costume was incredible. He had to go to Sweden for a costume fitting so we had sort of seen some photos of him in the armor but it wasn’t on camera. That was fantastic and that armor is custom built for him so it really doesn’t work on anybody else. As far as working with him, Chris like you said, he has this very imitating onscreen presence. But there’s also this heartfelt fatherly side to the character as well. But, Chris as a person was just the nicest, easiest to work with person. He never complained and he had to go through a lot. He is out in the cold, he’s wet, in the snow, dealing with puppets and monsters and he was always game for everything. He is easy to work with. Most importantly what he did onscreen was fantastic. I couldn’t have been happier. I was always more interested in the emotional side to the character than just the ax swinging Viking because we’ve seen that before. We wanted to focus on the character and the intimacy of him. We had not met Chris until till he came to the set to shoot. He is Norwegian and this is his first starring role in a feature film. He had been in other movies and commercials. We put a lot of trust in bringing him out to be in it. There was something we saw in him, something in his eyes. As far as directing him, we talked a lot about how I thought that you were really going to come to like this character so we put him through as much pain as possible. We talked about how all of his movements cause him pain. He is not necessarily in his prime anymore. If he is going to get up off the ground it is going to be slow and agonizing. We worked on the emotional scenes at the grave and when to dial back the angry Viking side of things and when to show a little humor with him too.
You notice that in the scene where is sitting in the snow. He looks defeated, tired and his eyes sort of look dead and defeated. You definitely feel for him and see he is tired.
Jordan- Exactly. I am glad you picked up on that. He is tired and in the opening scene. This is a guy who is part bounty hunter and medieval warrior but he is also a father. Imagine his life of constantly having to protect his little girl. He is staying up all night. This character is very broken and has suffered many years.
THE HEAD HUNTER seems like the filming may have been crazy? Did you face any challenges while shooting?
Jordan- Yeah it was definitely crazy. You really have to sort of isolate it to scenes or shots because everything is difficult. Everything required a costume that had to look right on camera, it required snow in all the elements, a special effect of some sort or a very difficult prop. The most difficult thing to do on a more general scale is just balancing having a small crew. Fixing a prop in the background, getting Chris into the costume or the make-up prosthetic effects myself. A very specific thing that was challenging was shooting in that cave at the end. That was a nightmare. It’s really as small as it looks. You could only fit one person in at a time single file. It was a real cave that was dug into the hillside. We wanted to shoot in the cave because it looked so cool and claustrophobic. It was really crammed, dark and there were spiders and water up to our ankles and knees. The torch was putting off fumes and there was no ventilation. I got sick or some sort of a cold from being in that cold, damp place. The cave was by far the most difficult part of the movie to actually shoot.
That is crazy and intense. It makes the movie good.
Jordan- But it was fun at times and it looked great.
What are you working on next?
Jordan- I’ve been so wrapped up in this. I have scripts with my brother Mike that we have been working on for a while. Right now I am just focused on getting this out there.
Did you always know that you wanted to write and direct? You have done everything from acting to special effects.
Jordan- Yeah, I think… When I was a little kid, I wanted to be a construction worker. When I was young I was always obsessed with movies. My older brother had a huge VHS collection and I was always sneaking in and watching horror movies too. So horror and sci-fi/fantasy had been an obsession since I was very young and sneaking movies behind my parents back. Then I got my hands on a camcorder when I was in middle school and then I started making movies. I think at first I wanted to be an actor because that’s who was on the front cover and that’s who gets all the attention and you don’t really know what the crew positions do. Then I realized I was shy, I was too introverted and to be an actor and to be on-stage. I realized I was more of a behind the camera guy and once I’d realized that I knew I wanted to be a director. I have interest in everything and I’ve done special effects make-up and I’ve done pretty much every job there is. Every single job is fascinating to me, your job is fascinating to me.
I think that makes you a better filmmaker especially when you want to learn about everything. I think if you have the chance you should learn as much as you can. Even if you don’t know about something you can learn the skills. You see everything differently when you are filming a movie. You also see that in your work how everything is different and shot different. Whether it is “Craw Lake” or “Techno Western?”
Jordan – Thank you for saying that. It is hard to repeat yourself. For an audience that is watching, whether it’s a short film like “Techno Western” or “Craw Lake”, or a feature film like “The Head Hunter.” You are experiencing this hour and a half or two hours of your time but for us its two years or six months. It is hard to repeat yourself. I think there is a similarity between all of them but it’s weird to try and say what’s your style or your thing? It’s like I don’t know. It is whatever is in me. It’s a Hodge podge of every movie I’ve ever seen and every book I’ve ever read, every painting. It’s all just kind of meshed together. I think you could say, “ThanksKilling” is the most bizarre but somewhat purposely so or the most different from the other projects that I’ve done. “ThanksKilling 3” was very different from “ThanksKilling” which turned out to not necessarily please a lot of the fans but that was just, because like what you are saying we just didn’t want to do the same thing. It’s hard finding that balance between doing maybe what you know will work or what people are comfortable with but also finding a way to do something new and fresh. That is the hardest thing I think is getting that balance right.
I think you have it figured out. What do you want to say to the fans and the people that will be watching THE HEAD HUNTER?
Jordan- First I just want to say thank you. If you’re watching the movie, that means a lot to us. That excites us. I would also say too, it is not your typical monster movie. Don’t go in expecting Van Helsing style action-adventure and monster slaying. It’s not that. Try and think of this as a different sort of movie. I think and hope that you’ll really enjoy it for what it is. Hopefully to a lot more emotion and sadness. I hope it goes over well and people enjoy it.
I think people will love it. I think you did an amazing job and Christopher took the character to a whole different level.
Jordan- Thank you. I am very appreciative of that. It is great to hear reactions like yours.
Thank you so much Jordan. I hope to talk to you again about the next time. It was an honor. Thank you.
Jordan- Thank you and your welcome. I look forward to chatting again.