Behind every great horror flick is the mind of a brilliant director. In the case of “Fractional,” that mind belongs to Malcolm Deegan.

Malcolm Deegan — Writer, director, and producer of the terrifying indie horror flick, “Fractional.” Photo Credit: http://www.fractionalfilm.com

“Fractional” is Malcolm Deegan’s debut indie project, a film he wrote, directed, and produced despite numerous disasters and interruptions. To say this man is devoted to his craft would be a serious understatement. “Fractional,” for those of you who haven’t yet seen it, is an intense and mysterious psych thriller, slow and steady in delivery with a crescendo of horror that culminates in a shocking ending I never saw coming. The storyline follows two men–John Hatchett, a psychiatrist with a questionable at best approach to caring for his patients, and David Crowe, previously a patient of John’s and hell-bent on deconstructing his doctor’s personhood through any horrible means at his disposal. I don’t want to go too far into the synopsis here, as “Fractional” boasts a tricky storyline and any little thing I might say could potentially ruin this film for you. Suffice it to say that the single sentence I’ve given you is both all you need to enjoy the movie and sinfully inadequate as a proper description for “Fractional.” I’m not the only one that found the story in “Fractional” brilliant, either, as the film won best screenplay from the Independent Filmmaker’s Showcase and was an official selection of the 2012 Underground Cinema Film Festival. If you haven’t yet, go check out the “Fractional” website at http://www.fractionalfilm.com.

When I asked Malcolm to sit for an interview with me, I never dreamed he would say yes. But, like all of us, he’s an indie artist. And if there’s one thing about which indie artists are very good, it’s helping out other indie artists. I was surprised and delighted when he said he wanted to work with me. He even put up with a number of delays on my part, with my grandma’s passing in the middle of our project. In short, I have this to say about Malcolm Deegan–he’s an incredibly nice guy. Funny, how frequently the creators of terrifying works are just plain attractive.

I’m a little old-school and tech-challenged, so I didn’t use anything as new-fangled as Skype for our interview. Malcolm put up with my backwardness and many more detestable traits to see our project through to the end. I appreciate him, his art, and his unflagging motivation. I hope that I can emulate some of his ways in my own indie work.

Anyway, enough worshipful praise. I’m so excited to share with you the fruits of our interview. This was my first of such projects and, in retrospect, I wish I had spent more time corresponding with Malcolm. Every answer he gave prompted a followup; and then every follow-up answer made me yet more curious. He was so game about discussing the dark and dirty with me and I enjoyed and appreciated his willingness to “go there.” That being said, I want to warn you, my fellow fans of Under Belly, that Malcolm and I jumped headlong into some pretty intense subject matter. Just understand that art (yes, even horror) holds a deeper purpose than entertainment, a purpose it intends us to explore. I hope you’re all ready to take a stroll through Deegan’s mind. It is, without a doubt, a very intriguing place to visit!

Malcolm Deegan on Evil

Me: Your movie visits one of my favorite themes—the continuum of human evil. If I asked you to define evil, what would you say?

Deegan: In the context of the story of “Fractional” I would say that it would be someone who has no moral compass or compassion and is malevolent, manipulative and schemes to do horrible things because these acts give them a sense of power and above all pleasure. They do all these things and they seemingly have no remorse or conscience.

Me: (follow-up) What about outside of the context of “Fractional?” Or do you think the definition of “evil” relies on its context?

Deegan: I would say outside of the context of “Fractional” evil would follow a similar line. I think in order to explain evil you have to give it some context, by giving a circumstance or a situation an audience can truly identify who or what is Evil. As a storyteller it’s an invaluable tool.

Me: Who is more evil? David the psychopath or John the sociopath? Why?

Deegan: For me I would say David is the more Evil of the two. John shows a kind of loss and regret, a willingness to change even though his motivations may be selfish they are, however, intended to be good. In the end when all is said and done, a vital decision that could go either way, he does decide to do the right thing as a type of redemption so that his actions are no longer purely selfish. To go too far in an explanation would probably ruin viewing the journey of the movie so I’ll let it hang on that…

Malcolm Deegan on Writing “Fractional”

Me: You really blurred the lines between protagonist and antagonist in this film. What was your purpose for doing so? Some critics believe good stories need a clear hero and clear villain in order for an audience to invest in the story. Why do you disagree?

Deegan: My initial reason for writing the story of “Fractional” this way was to create the idea that there is no real true hero or Villain. In reality there’s a blurring of lines sometimes.

If we follow the strict guidelines for the hero/villain archetype every time we write how can we possibly create any characters that are different? In the reality of Fractional’s story there is definite shades of Grey, nothing is quite black and white. Which creates the notion of unpredictability and that in itself is what will help to drive the piece along with a compelling plot. I think that this trend of the “Antihero” is becoming more and more prevalent especially in TV series in the United States.  Good men will do bad things in the name of good. That lends its own irresistible edge on one side you’re repulsed by what they do but still compelled to watch.

Me:  I loved the ending of this piece. It floored me. And yet, the evidence was there—sublime, but present.  Did you know while you were writing the screenplay that this is how it would end, or did it surprise you, too?

Deegan: Thanks very much! I’m delighted you enjoyed it! I knew when I began writing it that I wanted to have a strong ending but I didn’t exactly know how it would happen at first. In fact the first draft of the screenplay didn’t have this ending at all. The ending as it happens now came much later. For me, I will always know where I want to go with a story but not exactly how I get there in the end and when that “Eureka” moment hits it surprises me as much as anyone else.

I decided [the ending] before we went into production (by script draft 3) but I made a decision not to tell [the actors] until we filmed the scene itself as I felt it would change [their] performance drastically and give away the ending before we had gotten there. Maybe a little sneaky but a certain method behind my madness 🙂

Me: Writers sometimes shy away from exploring the dehumanization inherent to captivity situations. Perhaps they feel it’s too extreme, but I’ve never asked so I’m only speculating. In my own fictional writing, I do not shy away from such details because I find loss of humanity to be extremely terrifying (aren’t all artists kind of control freaks?). Why did you choose to focus on this aspect of your storyline?

Deegan: I think in terms of that element of the story of “Fractional” I wanted the viewer to be  right there with John as this process of slowly dehumanizing him takes place. In a traditional movie setting this might have all taken place in a montage spanning maybe a few minutes but I wanted the Audience to be there witnessing every second so that you feel everything. I wanted to categorically say that this is not for titillation or enjoyment; doing this to another human being is not pretty, its extreme, degrading and inhumane. And on a character note this also informs the viewer truly how far it takes to wear John Hatchett down and how far David Crowe is willing to go to find this “truth”. It also implies to the audience further that David Crowe’s treatment must have been equally harsh in Ivory Pines. So in essence it served a dual purpose.

Me: I found so many details of this story intriguing. For one, in the beginning of the gruesome game they play, David manipulates John into talking without using any actual violence. My reaction to this was to invest in David and become suspicious of John. What was your purpose for this particular stretch of storyline?

John Hatchett, tied to a chair in a remote, empty warehouse, and awaiting the arrival of his captor, David Crowe. Image Credit: www.fractionalfilm.com

John Hatchett, tied to a chair in a remote, empty warehouse, and awaiting the arrival of his captor, David Crowe. Image Credit: http://www.fractionalfilm.com

Deegan: In the very opening of the movie we quickly assume that John is a victim. He’s tied to a chair in a cold warehouse, unconscious. After we see the table full with torture implements it solidifies this fact. I then wanted the audience to perhaps ask the question, even if only for a brief few minutes, that maybe David is the victim and John is perhaps not who we naturally assume he is.  I wanted to create an atmosphere of unpredictability so that the cat and mouse game could begin while maintaining a strange sense of brief calm but underneath it all there is this pervading sense of dread. In reality David is a psychopath but he does have a legitimate reason for doing what he does. This opening exchange sets the stage for what will come later. A gambit of twisted mind games that, perhaps foolishly, John believes he can win.

Me: (follow-up) I think you did an amazing job setting an unpredictable stage. I was torn between these two characters throughout the entire movie. I’m still not sure who I think was my “hero” of the story!

Well, my lovely fellow horror fans, that’s the last of it for tonight, but there is so much more of Malcolm to come! Join me again Friday, July 26 when I’ll publish another third of my lengthy interview with Malcolm Deegan, writer, director, and producer of “Fractional.” On Friday, I’ll share with you Malcolm’s comments on the horrific content of his film, why and how those extreme character and story arcs come together to form the heady and terrifying amalgamation that is “Fractional.” And if you haven’t done so, go watch this film. It’ll be the best $3 you’ve ever spent. You can rent it on the “Fractional” website, http://www.fractionalfilm.com.

Until Friday my fellows. Sweet screams and kisses to your Under Bellies.

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Comments
  1. […] Meet Malcolm Deegan, Father of “Fractional” […]

  2. […] Meet Malcolm Deegan, Father of “Fractional” (morselsformonsters.wordpress.com) […]

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