Interview: Julian Richards from "Shiver"

Photo Credit: Julian Richards
October 21st, 2013

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Director Julian Richards has been working of films since the 80‘s.  His latest horror flick “Shiver" hit shelves on October 8th and is definitely a must see for the Halloween season.  The film stars Danielle Harris, and Casper Van Dien, and John Jarratt. Julian sat down with Movie Room Reviews and talked all about making this film.

Nick Leyland from Movie Room Reviews: It's nice to talk to you Julian.  I just saw your film “Shiver” and was wondering if you could give our audience an idea of what they are going to get into when they watch this film?

Julian Richards: Well, Shiver is a suspense-driven sort of crime thriller that would be, I suppose, similar in tone to “Silence of the Lambs”, or “The Bone Collector”, “Along Comes A Spider”. It's that kind of serial killer film. And it's the story of a shy, young secretary who becomes the victim of a prolific serial killer, but she escapes. She's the only person to actually escape his attack. And as a result, the killer becomes obsessed with her and actually falls in love with her. And becomes intent on kidnaping her and holding her hostage, and ultimately consummating their relationship, I suppose. [chuckle] At the same time, she's given a detective to look after her and she forms a friendship with that detective. So it becomes an unusual, sort of, bizarre love triangle [chuckle] between the cop, the killer and the secretary.


MRR: Well, what do you think... In your opinion, what separates “Shiver” from other serial killer type films?

Julian Richards: I suppose the difference with Shiver is the fact that it's a sort of, very much a character study about loners and outsiders and disaffected people. On the one hand, you've got Franklin Rood, the serial killer, who was bullied as a kid, who is rejected by women, and who has grown up in an odd kind of transgressive kind of way. And ultimately, now he's learned to empower himself through violence towards women.

And on the other hand, you've got Wendy as the secretary that Danielle Harris plays. She's drifting along through her life. She's scared to ask her boss for a wage. She's letting life take her, rather than taking life by the throat. And it's not until she becomes Rood's victim that that changes. And the story really is a rights of passage for her where, through her interaction with Rood, she learns to empower herself.

MRR: Well, the film is based on a novel, Brian Harper's novel, correct?

Julian Richards: That's right, yeah.

MRR: For fans of the book, how will this film compare to the novel?

Julian Richards: Well, the screenplay was a very close adaptation of that novel. There was very, very little difference between the novel and the screenplay. Of course, novels tend to be a lot longer than screenplays, so certain events and scenes had to be cut, but it was otherwise very true to the novel. And I would say that anybody who sees the film will feel like they're watching the book that they've imagined in their mind when they read the Brian Harper novel.

MRR: And I was wondering how challenging that would be to direct because there is a lot of plot points packed into the movie especially at the end. How challenging was that as a director?

Julian Richards: It was particularly challenging because of the very tight schedule that we were working on. We only had 18 days to shoot this film. And normally, when you're on a three-week shoot, the ideal thing is to have it very contained, one location, two characters, whereas “Shiver” is multiple locations, multiple characters, car chases, shoot-outs. So we really did bite off probably a lot more than we could chew given our limited resources. But we did find a way to get through the schedule. That was one of my biggest challenges, was to manage the reality of the project in terms of what we could achieve and what we couldn't.

I know that was probably very difficult for the writer/producer who found it very difficult to let things go. But my approach was that, let's just keep the scenes that are important to tell the story. Anything else is superfluous and we'll put that at the end of the schedule. And if we don't get there, we don't get there. At least, we've still got our story.

MRR: Well, you shot a lot of hard scenes to shoot, how hard would it be to shoot some of these scenes, especially the scenes with the killer and the victims? I mean, actors have to get in such a bizarre state of mind to do these kinds of scenes.

Julian Richards: Yes, yes. And the cast were fantastic. They were all extremely focused. Particularly Danielle Harris, it was a very, very tough job for her to wake up everyday and go through this ordeal. And they made my job a lot easier. Given that tight schedule, they would often get it in one or two takes, so we could move very quickly. But there were certain scenes that did require time, scenes with a lot of emotional investment. I mean, the scene where Franklin Rood takes Danielle to his cabin in the woods and tries to consummate their relationship, and that was a really tough scene, and quite odd really because we filmed that scene in a very tiny room. So the only place for me and the cameraman to lie was on the bed that they were on. [chuckle] So it was very intimate, but at the same time very bizarre, considering what was going on.

MRR: Who do you like directing more, the victim or the killer?

Julian Richards: It's an interesting question. I suppose it depends on the scene that I'm shooting. But for me, it's about the audience is going to be with the victim, I suppose. If the victim escapes then I like to direct the victim. But if the victim dies then I'm gonna be with the killer.

MRR: That's a good way to put it. Well, you've directed several horror movies now. Do you keep learning new techniques to scare people?

Julian Richards: Yeah. I mean, there is the danger that you become like a stuck record and you just do the same thing over and over again. And I'm always looking for new challenges and new ideas and new ways to do things. And with Shiver, it was a different kind of horror film in the sense that it's very much a dramatic story with characters. And the killer is not a shadowy monster hiding under the bed or whatever, he's a character himself. And we get to see him right from the opening scene so there's no mystery there. And the point of view of the story, if you like, was shared between Danielle Harris' character and John Jarratt's character and it sort of has parallel action structure to it that one scene we're with Danielle, the next we're with John Jarratt. That was an unconventional way to tell a story. You usually sort of pick your protagonist and stay with them.

MRR: How important is the Prop Department, especially in a film like this, because you can't just pick up heads in a jar at the local store, you know?


Julian Richards: Yes. Well, the heads were an interesting part of the making of the film, in a way, because there are limited resources, we didn't want to spend $6000 per head, which is what one special effects team quoted us. We just didn't have the money to do that. Whilst at the same time, the producer had found some plastic heads on the Internet and when I looked at them, I just said, you know, they're $15 a head but they look like it. [chuckle] We had to find something that was convincing. And eventually we found a special effects props house in Los Angeles called Dapper Cadaver and we leased the heads from them. And the producer actually carried the heads in his suitcase from Los Angeles to Portland and got them through the check-in desk there. So I did wonder if... [chuckle] what would have happened if they had showed up on the x-ray.


MRR: Well, thank you so much, Julian. The new film “Shiver” is out on VOD. The film's great and I wish you the best of luck with it.

Julian Richards: Great, thank you.