Doors, deities and panda suits
Scottish filmmaker Graham Hughes returns to FrightFest after the well-received Death of a Vlogger from 2019. In this fun and twisted multiverse thriller two documentary filmmakers traverse alternate dimensions, confronting nightmares to uncover the truth behind a graffiti artist’s disappearance who seems to have vanished into thin air. Hughes mixes the ordinary with the bizarre, epic vistas and high concepts downplayed in true form; what the director describes his sophomore feature as: “A Tribute to highly imaginative low-budget films combining found footage with epic sci-fi to create something unique and thrilling”.
What did you all learn as a filmmaking family from Death of a Vlogger — and some of your shorts since — working on Hostile Dimensions?
I love that you refer to us as a filmmaking family. I feel incredibly lucky to have a team of people that I can make films with. It can be a harsh industry, so it’s nice we’ve managed to cut a little slice of it out for ourselves. I’m not sure what the rest of the family learned… well, I know Joma (Ash) still thinks I’m mad for working in film when prose is right there — they’re an author — but I’d say I learned I’m not as talented as I think I am. I think it’s a good lesson to remember every few years. Once I got into the edit, I was really knocked down a peg. This was (by far) the hardest post-production I’ve had on a film, and it really took a lump out of me. I’m proud of the film I’ve made, and the process did nothing but improve the film, but it was good to re-learn some artistic humility.
I may be reading into this, but there were some Peep Show vibes to Hostile Dimensions. How integral was the comedy and was it a conscious decision to help play down the much bigger ideas? I’m thinking of a Hitchhiker’s... approach here?
I watched a handful of Peep Show episodes about six or seven years ago and I couldn’t stomach any more, the cringe was just far too stressful for me! Having not seen it, I’m intrigued by which aspects reminded you of it! Comedy is always something I want in my films, I think because comedy is life. I just can’t imagine ever making a film about humourless people, I don’t think I could be honest like that. In terms of playing down big ideas, that’s absolutely a tool I’m using. In some ways, it anchors the more wacky elements to real life. It’s maybe sometimes hanging a lantern on them as well; like “This is ridiculous…” but the characters think that as well. But I think that’s an honest reaction, particularly a Scottish one. There’s an impulse to downplay the bombastic or surreal.
Why do you think there are suddenly films exploring parallel universes? What does this say about the mindset of 21st-century audiences — a search for what if...? Or does it also play into the more rapid explosion of concepts/ideas we now digest... even the ADHD mindset of certain audiences?
Ooh, this is a good question. I can only speculate, but the search for “what if…?” — that’s definitely one of my big motivations. Politically speaking, to my leanings, it does feel like we’re veering towards a darkest timeline result, and that maybe certain big historical events might have gone a different way, and, if so, what would those worlds look like? Would they be better? Probably not, but it’s a romantic notion. I love the idea that it’s a reaction to the ADHD mindset. That could well be a factor. But then a lot of multiverse films aren’t all that vibrant or invigorating. I have no idea. [laughs]
Who are the directors that really inspire you to produce your own films?
Matt Johnson, Benson & Moorhead, and M. Night Shyamalan. Not necessarily my favourite directors, but I just love their approach to cinema. It’s such a capitalist art form (for good and ill!); it’s so difficult to make anything good without financial backing. In their own ways, these four have circumvented some of these systems.
Hostile Dimensions has its world premiere at FrightFest on Saturday, 26th August. Book your tickets now.