Director Alexandre Aja burst onto the genre scene in 2007 with the indie horror hit High Tension, and quickly began making movies in America following up his breakout film, the Wes Craven-produced remake of The Hills Have Eyes. Ever since, Aja has been building a career as a director and a producer, working behind the scenes on projects like P2, Maniac and the upcoming Pyramid. As a director, Aja has stepped behind the camera again for the feature film adaptation of Joe Hill’s novel “Horns” starring Daniel Radcliffe. Nerdist sat down with Aja to discuss turning Hill’s cult favorite into a movie, what attracts him to a project, and what kind of movies he’d like to direct in the future.
Going from a film like High Tension to The Hills Have Eyes to Mirrors then Piranha 3D and now Horns, I think it’s safe to say that it’s not easy to put Aja in a box as a director. What is it that attracts him to a project as a director? He told us, “First and foremost is the idea of not repeating myself. So finding something original. You know, when I was approached for Maniac I was dying to do it. I was like, ‘You know what, I see it!’ I was writing the script and I can do this movie. And then I was, ‘No,’ because High Tension was already Maniac and I don’t want to do it again because I will be repeating myself and so I let my friend Franck Khalfoun direct and I was producing the movie. So one of the things I’m looking for when I approach a movie is, ‘Is this different from everything I did before?’ That’s the first thing.”
Aja continued, “Then it’s always an element in the story. I like characters facing extreme situation(s) and I like the immersion. For me, the immersion is the center of the cinematic experience. You need to create the immersion. You need to create the story telling form that makes the audience forget that they are watching something but living something instead so that’s what I’m looking for in any kinds of stories and that goes into a very wide range of genre. And when I read Joe’s book I really felt so much involved. I felt that I was the character. I was understanding every choice that he was making and I’m not a religious person and I was seeing this as using the Christian mythology to create that allegory about first love and loss and revenge and what got me was this kind of, What if? What if the woman I loved was killed and I was accused? And what if I was waking up with this power – it’s the what if question that always gets me as a filmmaker to make a movie. The question that tell me as an audience member that I would like to sink myself and project myself into a story and think about what I would do if I was in that position.”
While Horns is definitely a story that contains fantastical elements, I wouldn’t go as far as to call it a horror film, although some horrible things do happen. The adaptation of Joe Hill’s book feels more like a drama. Was this because Aja was trying to separate himself from horror? Aja says, no, but he is interested in making all kinds of movies. He revealed, “I love the genre so I’m not trying to escape. That’s the first thing. I don’t look for escape but I’m looking for stories and one of the projects that I’m working on right now that I cannot really talk about but something that I might do this year is definitely a little bit further in the direction of Horns, in the different style. There is some supernatural element but the movie itself is even more like a drama and a suspense thriller so, yeah, I’m not against finding stories and going away from what I know because, again, I’m trying to explore the thing I didn’t do before and there is other direction.”
“I would love to do kids movies,” he contined. “I love kids movies in general, I think they are an amazing audience… You know, I think when you start in the genre you learn so much about story telling because you’re using all of the tool box from the music to the photography, everything goes to making the best story possible and there is a reason why Peter Jackson, Sam Raimi, Spielberg himself, started in the genre. Because you learn so much and I feel that right now I’ve learned a lot and I’m ready to approach other stories that might go to a wider audience but that’s not what I’m looking for. The stories are always the main starting point.”
Horns, starring Daniel Radcliffe, Juno Temple and Max Minghella, directed by Alexandre Aja based on the novel by Joe Hill hits theaters October 31, 2014.