We sat down with director Leigh Dovey to hear about his terrifying Fright Bites short Old Gal, coming soon to All4 on October 22nd just in time for Halloween.
So tell us about where the idea for this short came from? It’s about an old woman who is dismissed by a young woman as a random “crazy old lady”…
Growing old and losing your mind is a common fear, one that makes a lot of younger people avoid the old, or joke about them, particularly if they’re not relatives. I thought it would be fun to make a film about an old gal who’s actually a wolf in sheep’s clothing, so that this time the joke’s on Jane. I’m also a very nostalgic person. I love old films and I thought doing a story like this would be a chance to reference a few of them.
The dialogue is all spoken by Nicola Wren, while Clare Almond has a mainly silent role – how did the casting process unfold?
Fast. But we were lucky, we had great support. Nicola taped for us and was spot on. Our casting agent Aisha suggested Clare after dealing with her for a very different role on another project. I spoke a lot with Clare beforehand about how I wanted Old Gal to be played because it was a difficult role – to try and imbue a character with so much, with so little in the way of lines and time, but she was up for the challenge and totally nailed it.
There’s a nod to the “spider walk” from The Exorcist – are you a fan of classic horror and what are your influences?
Very much so. The spider walk was originally cut from Friedkin’s Exorcist because they weren’t happy with it, but when Blatty got the chance to make Exorcist 3 they had another go, this time using an old woman scampering across the ceiling, and it’s a really creepy moment. So that was a deliberate nod in Old gal. Horror wise, I’m a big fan of Carpenter, Cronenberg and Jacques Tourneur, and most thrillers and horrors from the seventies. Films were so bleak, hard and unforgiving then. In terms of other genres, I love Sam Peckinpah’s work, though it was often laced with a different kind of horror. And Woody Allen too. I find Nicolas Winding Refn’s work challenging, but mesmerizing.
The six Fright Bites shorts will be available on All4 from 22nd October