Horror writer and director Adam Ethan Crow chats with Andrea Beattie about his indie horror feature film Lair
IT wasn’t that long ago that Adam Ethan Crow was working at McDonald’s and doing factory work to pay the bills.
But fast-forward to today, and he’s a horror feature film writer and director, working with actors of the calibre of Alexandra Gilbreath and The Mummy’s Oded Fehr and Corey Johnson – and getting fan emails from Poltergeist writer Michael Grais.
He’s testament to the adage that hard work and perseverance pay off, with hismicro-budget indie horror feature Lair bringing him the recognition he deserves.
Scoring a solid 7.2 on IMDB, Lair follows the story of Dr Steven Caramore (Johnson), a self-proclaimed occult expert who specialises in debunking the supernatural.
When his friend Ben Dollarhyde (Fehr) is accused of murder and blames it on being possessed by an unseen force, Caramore begins to question his own beliefs.
In order to clear his friend’s name, he attempts to draw the supernatural forces from the darkness into the light, and capture its existence on film.
But to do that, he needs some unwitting ‘bait’ – a fractured LGBTQ family headed up by Maria (Aislinn De’Ath), her daughters Joey (Anya Newall) and Lilly (Lara Mount) and her girlfriend, Carly (Alana Wallace).
As the movie slowly evolves from voyeuristic drama into full-blown horror, the family find themselves in a very real battle for survival.
And while Lair isn’t perfect, it’s an impressive first-time writing and directorial feature-length effort … and the perfect movie to watch over the Halloween season.
It’s innovative, brutal and bloody, but like most things that are worth the effort, it didn’t come easy.
Short film director graduates to feature length
CHATTING on the phone from the UK, Crow, already an award-winning short film maker, says Lair had initially been picked up by 20th Century Fox, but the Disney acquisition of the media company killed the project.
“Well, Disney don’t really make scary movies (so) all of a sudden we were back on the street,” Crow explains.
“We got a few nicer storyboards, but (we) were back to square one. But then my partner, (film lawyer and accountant) Shelley (Atkin), (said): ‘Look, we’ve got a couple of quid. Let’s just chuck it in and speak to a few friends and do it ourselves’, and we did.
“That really allowed us to make the film we wanted to make.
“Obviously though, we went from a couple of million quid to 2p and a pickled egg, but we just went out there and did it.”
Collaboration is key to film project success
WITH Crow as writer and director and Atkin as a first-time producer, Crow admits he may have had a few misconceptions about making a full-length film, particularly one on a limited budget.
“I think almost every filmmaker thinks, ‘OK. Well, I’ve done a 20-minute short film. I can definitely do a feature film’,” he laughs.
“Then, of course, when you actually make it and you realise that a short film is maybe three or four days and then you get to chill.
“But with a feature film, we did it in 21 days and there is no chill and every morning you’re up and you start again and again.
“We were so lucky with the people that worked on it though. We ended up working with patriots, not mercenaries.
“The people that were there weren’t there for a pay cheque because the pay cheque wasn’t much, but they were people who genuinely wanted to see it through.”
And those people just happened to be some fairly highly regarded folk: Oscar-nominated prosthetics supervisor Tristan Versluis, who worked on Ex-Machina and Game of Thrones, VFX supervisor George Petcov who contributed to Star Wars; The Last Jedi and The Martian, and stuntwoman and associate producer Natasha Duran who is known for her work in xXx: Return of Xander Cage.
Crow says the production process was incredibly collaborative, with everyone wanting to pitch in and help.
“At the beginning of the movie, ‘A film by’ comes up really slowly, and then it says, ‘A family of filmmakers’ because I genuinely got taught such a lesson in making this … that no-one does this alone.
“You need someone to guide the ship, but everyone comes together to help you; it’s a collaborative process.”
Great movies start with a great story, and a great cast
CROW says the story for Lair was inspired by his love and appreciation of the horror genre.
“I grew up watching horror. I want to make all sorts of films and hopefully I can do that, but I was always a big fan (of the horror genre) … I wanted to make a movie that I wanted to sit down and watch,” he says.
“The first Conjuring film was great and I thought if I could come up with someone who was the opposite of Lorraine and Ed Warren, then that would be cool.
“I wanted to come up with a character you’d probably want to have a beer with, because normally the evil person is just … they’re just evil because they’re evil, and they hide in the corner and they’re all twisted in the shadows.
“I thought by getting Corey involved, who did a short film with me years ago, that he could come along and be kind of witty and fun. The idea was to try and make a villain that wasn’t just a standard villain.”
In addition to some top-notch performances from the seasoned performers (shout out to Aislinn De’ath who is brilliant as Maria), it’s newcomers Newall and Mount, in their film debuts, who really stand out.
Crow ensured he cast the right actors for each role by writing each character as non-gender specific – whoever gave the strongest audition was cast, and the script adapted to accommodate.
“Lara was so good, she’d never acted in anything before and she was a force to be reckoned with. When we were auditioning, she came along and she’d memorised all the lines of the scene she was doing,” Crow says.
“She suddenly stopped – and she was eight at the time – saw her mum and asked her to leave the room because it was putting her off. She was brilliant.
“And Anya, I believe, is going to be a rockstar. She’s so great. It’s the first thing she’s ever been in as well.
“She was humble and excited and just brilliant.”
Release perfectly timed for Halloween audience
LAIR was released on DVD on October 27, in time for Halloween, through StudioCanal.
“When StudioCanal picked us up, that blew me away because, number one, they did Orphan and The Fog, and they picked up Saint Maud, which is also great, and all these other great movies.
“We honestly thought when we did our little movie that it would be picked up by ‘Dave’s Distribution’ or something like that, someone you’d never heard of,” Crow laughs.
“But it didn’t and now Michael Grais, who wrote Poltergeist and produced Sleepwalkers with Stephen King, sent me an email saying that he loved the movie, that he’s a fan, and asked if I would be interested in directing his next movie, which is just insane, right?
“He’s a really cool, laid-back guy. And he was like, ‘Look, let’s have a chat about you directing my next film.’ I was like, ‘OK. I need to pinch myself now.’”
Why do people love horror movies?
COMEDY and horror might be at either ends of the film genre spectrum, but they’re actually pretty similar in our expectations of them, Crow says.
“You feel an immediate emotion, right? If you see something funny in a movie, you laugh. If something jumps at you and you freak, you react. I think people like that. It’s visceral. It reminds you you’re alive. “
That’s why I’m such a huge horror fan. You can watch it creep up. When someone’s walking through the house and you know something’s coming and you look to the person next to you and they’re already pulling their feet off the floor because they’re waiting, they know it’s coming.
“Nothing else does that.”
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