Flickering Myth chats with director David Gilbank about the films that inspired Polterheist…
Multi-award winning genre mashup Polterheist has arrived on DVD after sweeping awards at film festivals worldwide. Blending elements of horror, crime and comedy, the film is fresh, funny and stands apart as one of the most original indie films of the year.
In this story, two hapless small time criminals kidnap a psychic medium, forcing her to contact the gangster they murdered to find his buried cash. With fear of reprisal from a psychotic boss, they accidentally unleash a demon hell bent on revenge and land themselves in even more trouble!
To celebrate the release of Polterheist, we hear from co-writer/director David Gilbank on some of his biggest cinematic influences in crafting this innovative tale.
Get Carter (1971)
In this classic British thriller, Michael Caine stars as mob enforcer Jack Carter returning to his Newcastle hometown to uncover the truth behind his brother’s death. In the process, he descends deeper into the criminal underworld to unravel a conspiracy.
David Gilbank says, “I first saw this sometime in the early 1980s. I love gangster movies and hugely enjoy the romanticised, epic scale of films like The Godfather and Goodfellas, but this was the first time I had seen a really gritty, grim gangster film set against a Northern English backdrop. I love the dark, dangerous world director Mike Hodges created and this was very inspiring for what we did many years later in Polterheist.”
The Exorcist (1973)
Controversial from the moment it opened, William Friedkin’s masterpiece tells the story of an innocent girl inhabited by a terrifying entity. As the horror unfolds, we see her mother’s desperate attempts to save her with the help of two priests.
“I was always a big fan of the book by William Peter Blatty and the film is brilliant too. I love the grim, autumnal setting, very eerie, and Friedkin and his composer Jack Nitzsche created a truly creepy atmosphere. Although the horror and special effects are amazing, the film has a great cast and such strong performances, which had a big impact on me. It’s all about the script and casting the right actors. Even in my own work, I consider myself a writer first and a director second. We even had a possessed vomiting scene in Polterheist which is a direct homage to The Exorcist!”
The Wanderers (1979)
Set in 1963 against the urban jungle of New York’s gangland culture, this coming-of-age cult favourite focuses on Italian gang, the Wanderers, and a big upcoming football game in which every gang competes, all set to a classic rock ’n roll soundtrack.
“What I love about The Wanderers is how it took the glamour out of gangsters and focused on these little mafioso kingdoms, each in their own uniform with their own code and rituals. One group wears Hawaiian shirts and that’s why we have a gang in Polterheist dressing the same way, as a tribute.”
In the original that launched the now-famous saga, the crew of spaceship Nostromo answers a distress signal from a desolate planet, only to discover a deadly life form that breeds within human hosts. From there, the crew must fight not only for their own survival, but the survival of all mankind.
“I love all of Ridley Scott’s work. To this day, I think Alien is best film. I was underage when I first saw it at the cinema and it terrified me. It was unlike anything I’d seen, I thought it would be like Star Wars! I love the old, lived-in feel of the ship, not being high tech or glamorous. The characters are brilliant too, with fantastic actors. I distinctly remember thinking Captain Dallas was the hero, which would be the convention, so when Ripley became the heroine it really affected me. In Polterheist, we found that people assumed certain characters would live so we flipped those expectations a little bit.”
Mad Max 2: Road Warrior (1979)
Following the road-side slaughter of his family in the first film, Mel Gibson’s Max roams the post-apocalyptic landscape alone. Reluctantly taking a pit-stop at a desert-set fortress, he is persuaded to help protect the people inside it and their precious fuel from marauding gangs.
“I’m a big fan of George Miller. He made a hugely narrative film with strong action, great acting, great characters and very impressive special effects, all on a pretty low budget. He toyed with conventions and, even after the success of the first film, he honed it down and made the greatest cowboy film ever, in my opinion. The sudden bursts of violence were used very cleverly and these are ideas we tried to utilise in Polterheist and pay homage.”
Apocalypse Now (1979)
One of the most iconic films ever made, Francis Ford Coppola’s epic follows Martin Sheen’s Captain Willard who is chosen for a highly classified and dangerous mission, journeying through war torn Cambodia in search of the mysterious Colonel Kurtz, played by Marlon Brando.
“For me, it’s all about what went into making this and the tenacity of Francis Ford Coppola. I also recommend the documentary Hearts of Darkness to everyone, as it really opened my eyes to what went into making the film. Coppola suffered many struggles, setbacks and nearly lost his mind. Of course, I had nowhere near the same experience making Polterheist, a much, much smaller film, but we had near-death scares, lost locations and sets and had some major struggles filming over a long period of time. During my own battles, I’d think ‘What would Coppola do?’. Making films can be very hard, but you need to power through and do it.”
Tribal Films presents the early DVD edition available now. On General Release from Early 2019. Get it exclusively from: http://www.tribal.film/polterheist/ and find it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.