Tom Beasley hops on to Zoom with the writer and leading man of FrightFest horror-comedy Two Heads Creek, Jordan Waller…
The increasing global intolerance towards immigrants provides the backdrop for a splatter-soaked genre hybrid in the new horror-comedy Two Heads Creek. It’s a film that follows a pair of Brits (Jordan Waller and Kathryn Wilder) brought up by Polish parents as they fly to Australia in search of their birth mother. They trace her to the titular small town, but discover a strange tourist economy that seems to be building ominously towards a very unconventional celebration of Australia Day.
Two Heads Creek recently played as part of the digital FrightFest event and is now heading to digital platforms in the UK. To mark the release, leading man Waller – who also penned the film’s script – hopped on to a video chat with Flickering Myth to talk all about the movie’s discussion of immigration, his experience of on-set gore and severed penises.
I wanted to start by asking whether you’ll be screening this for Priti Patel? It’s the dangers of an Australia-based immigration system, I think.
That’s the interview. We’re done! But no, I think Priti would do well to see this film, wouldn’t she? Bloody hell.
I don’t think they’ll be lining up for screenings in Westminster, but fingers crossed.
No. We could project it, couldn’t we? On to Boris’s arse or something?
Aside from Priti Patel, what was it that inspired you to tell a story about immigration?
The idea first came to me when Brexit Day happened basically. The referendum came through and I saw David Dimbleby, who looked like he’d just sucked the blood of 15 unborn children. He obviously hadn’t slept. The whole thing was just horrific. I remember all these ghastly narratives of nationalism and the farce of Dominic Cummings – this archdeacon of evil, the Grim Reaper – and Steve Bannon. It all just came suddenly. Everything matched up.
I always wanted to write a film about cannibalism because I’m obsessed with The Silence of the Lambs. I know it’s not a particularly niche film, but I just love it and I watched it when I was about 11 years old, which I shouldn’t have done obviously. It made sense, for some reason, to mix those genres together.
I was originally going to set it in Norfolk, which is the home of English inbreeding. But eventually the money came from Australia and they happen to be, fortunately, just as racist as us. So it made sense to set it there as well.
This film is part of a long line of people using horror as a vehicle to make political points. Why do you think horror as a genre is so often parlayed into telling political stories?
Well I wrote this before I saw Get Out, for example, and I think that film strikes a beautiful balance of using the genre in order to explore themes of power dynamics. I can’t really say anything more interesting than the fact that, when you watch horror you have a sort of visceral reaction to it. I don’t think ours is particularly that much of a horror. I think it’s more comedy.
But with horror, in particular, you’re engaged emotionally, you jump and you’re worried and fearing for your life. It hits us at this deep, primal level. Its about life or death. Engaging that primal level in us and then asking cerebral questions on top is a very powerful way of getting a message across. It’s a very strong rhetorical technique.
With mine, which is more comedy than horror – and it’s big comedy, there’s nothing fucking subtle about it – I think laughter has that exact same, primal quality. It’s an uncontrollable expulsion of emotion. A few people on Twitter – and God, have I been watching Twitter since it’s been out at FrightFest – have really liked it, but lots of people have rightfully said that it’s complete shit. I’m more on board with those people. Some people have said that the themes don’t match the tone, and that’s exactly what I was trying to go for. I wanted the audience to think: “Christ, what am I actually laughing at here? I’m laughing at something that is so horrific and so horrendous, but yet I’m still entertained by it”.
That kind of reflects the reality of all of these issues. There’s an awful lot of crap going on, with people being kept in cages in America and other horrific stuff, and we just jolly on as if none of it is happening. I think those are the ways in which comedy, politics and comedy can really raise each other’s games each time. I don’t know if I achieved it, but that was the aim.
I’m keen to ask what it was like for you making this. You conceived it, wrote it and were acting in it but you weren’t behind the camera directing. Were you still trying to wear all the hats or were you happy to let Jesse [O’Brien] do the storytelling?
I was in a very safe pair of very well-moisturised hands with Jesse. He’s a brilliantly groomed and brilliantly minded director. He really helped me to kind of switch off the writer’s mind, which is all up here, and just become a big kind of baby. All actors are basically just brats, which I get because they’ve got to be because they’re basically just big, playing babies.
He let me do that. I would be there to consult if a scene didn’t make sense, and very often it didn’t. That was useful and we collaborated a lot. But I switched off as soon as we got on set.
And this was presumably a very different acting challenge for you, given the period drama work you’ve done in things like Victoria and Darkest Hour?
There were fewer severed penises in my period drama pieces, for sure. Only slightly fewer though. The period drama stuff is great. It’s good fun and wearing the outfits is fun, but you can’t play around as much because you’ve got a historical reality. Whereas with this, you can just play more and I really loved the contrast of it. I love both to be honest, but this one was a little bit more fun.
I always like to ask people who’ve worked on big, splattery horror projects how much fun it was to film the gore?
Not at all, obviously. It was horrible. Basically, the blood that they use on your face is hypoallergenic and really nice so you don’t get acne and all of that kind of stuff. But the stuff they use on your body is this thick honey and tar and food colouring and poison. In the heat, it would attract all of these enormous Australian bugs, which have all got two mortgages and are just fucking massive. Then you’d have a shower at the end of the day where the blood would just be dripping from you and you’d feel like you had just been mugged. But you know what? It really wasn’t bad. Just sticky.
I often ask directors that question and they always talk about how much fun it is to make it all work. Then there you are, the one who’s actually covered in the blood, like “no”…
I think that’s it. Directors treat actors like cattle! But no, it wasn’t that bad. It’s just a bit uncomfortable – a bit like wearing sunscreen under your t-shirt basically.
Obviously you had your very unique FrightFest screening as part of the virtual festival. What was that experience like?
It was amazing to have such a positive response. I am so pleased that it has found its audience home. It was written for people who love horror and I’m a massive nerd, so this was written for nerds. Do you know what I mean? Those are my people and I think it’s found its audience, so I’m thrilled.
I was just looking at Twitter an awful lot, which is a bad thing to do and I don’t usually do it. I was thrilled that people really got it and that people liked the detail of it and people liked the world that Jesse created and the characters. I was taken aback.
It was a weird experience. I would’ve liked to be in a cinema. I think this would be a good one for the cinema and it would’ve been in the cinema. You can imagine having a couple of beers and really enjoying it but, alas, we live in scary times.
Have people seen it in Australia yet? What was the reaction from that side of the world?
They have seen it and it has been pretty positive actually. I think they get the fact that they are fundamentally two-dimensional racists and they’ve responded in kind. For me, it’s always a surprise when someone likes the film and I’m always thrilled. But I also understand if people don’t like the film. I get that it’s not for everybody. It’s not trying to be smart and it’s not trying to be particularly original even. It is what it is and I really appreciate when people can just appreciate a film for what it is and what it’s trying to do. Given the budget constraints and my experience as a writer, I am just thrilled. If one person likes it, I’m happy.
Now that this is done and heading out into the world, what’s next for you?
So I’ve got one film released this year called Off the Rails. That’s got Judi Dench in it. That is completely different to us.
How many severed penises are in that one?
Well, I think Judi flosses her teeth with severed penises actually. By her own admission.
But yeah, this is totally different. It’s a light comedy-drama about three women who recreate an interrailing trip from their youth after their best friend dies. It’s an uplifting, heartfelt drama. God, it’s different to Two Heads Creek. It couldn’t be further actually. But I’m just trying to be as varied as possible. And apart from that, I’ve got loads of writing projects in the pipeline, so hopefully I’ll be able to tell you more about them soon. At the moment, I’m not quite at liberty to say.
Well, it all sounds exciting. I’m just waiting for news of the Priti Patel screening now.
Well I’m seeing Priti later this afternoon. I’ll send your regards.
Thank you, Jordan Waller!
FrightFest Presents and Signature Entertainment present Two Heads Creek on Digital HD from 7th September.
Tom Beasley is a freelance film journalist and wrestling fan. Follow him on Twitter via @TomJBeasley for movie opinions, wrestling stuff and puns.