Okay fellow feasters, it’s time to gird your underbellies and get ready to wander through some pretty thick woods with me and Mr. Deegan. During our interview, I asked Malcolm some pointed questions about some definitely squirm-worthy topics and I’m ecstatic to report he never shied away. “Fractional” visited some sober themes and motifs and flaunted a snaky, thought-provoking and brutal story line. In this section of the interview, I asked Malcolm about the content of his film. Together, he and I explored the grittiest and most terrifying concepts that made an appearance on Malcolm Deegan’s screen.

The questions I’m about to share with you were my favorite that Malcolm and I addressed. Never before have I had access to the person responsible for the LSD butterflies banging around in my under belly and the tremors in my fingers. It was an amazing experience to ask Deegan about his process, to test my own theories about director motives and the “Fractional” storyline, and to simply have the chance to say, “Hey man–your movie rocks.”

So, if you will, come with me and brave the dark Mr. Deegan has splashed upon the screen in “Fractional.” And if you didn’t read the first part of this interview (which you can find here: http://wp.me/p3sWgu-76), let this be your only warning about the sensitivity of the subject matter you will find here. This page is rated “R,” kiddies…

Malcolm Deegan on Creating the Darkness

Me: Tell me more about Ivory Pines and Wolfgang Konar. How did you invent them, and why? Is it based on a true story?

Deegan: No Ivory Pines and its creator, Wolfgang Konar, are purely fictional. When I originally wrote the story draft of “Fractional” I explored many different areas; for me as a writer I need to know the world I want to write about inside and out.

Peter O'Toole as "Fractional's" David Crowe, recalling in torment his involuntary incarceration at "Ivory Pines." Photo credit: www.fractionalfilm.com

Peter O’Toole as “Fractional’s” David Crowe, recalling in torment his involuntary incarceration at “Ivory Pines.” Photo credit: http://www.fractionalfilm.com

Ivory pines became a very important component in creating the back story for David Crowe. His mistreatment at this facility would become a catalyst that would change the lives of every character in the story. It needed to feel real and not contrived. So in order to create a real facility, in my mind at least, you need to also invent a real creator of such a facility as well. Which, of course, is where Wolfgang Konar comes into effect. After spending some time doing this you have a massive scope for a story and because of the nature of the budget we had to work with on “Fractional” changing the structure became paramount so whole elements, story strands and focus were streamlined to be more claustrophobic and intimate while still maintaining the idea of the horrors that took place at Ivory Pines.

Me: (follow-up) I kind of enjoyed the vagueness of the Ivory Pines and Konar references within the film. What I know about this element I learned from the “Fractional” website, http://www.fractionalfilm.com/ivory_pines.html. We as the audience understand from the film that Crowe experienced something horrific while incarcerated in this place, but we’re really left to wonder about the details—what awful experiences caused this already unstable man, perhaps once a victim himself, to become a psychopathic murderer? Anyway, my follow-up for this is—had you the budget, would you have filmed some scenes giving Crowe’s Ivory Pines back story?

Deegan: (follow-up) Yes I would have liked to have filmed one or two scenes within the walls of Ivory Pines if only for my own personal reasons, to bring to life a place that I’ve created from scratch and can see so vividly in my minds eye. So maybe in a follow up film I may bring to life both Ivory Pines and it’s creator Wolfgang Konar as the back story is so rich that I could easily do a follow up feature film.

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 in my fiction because I find loss of humanity to be extremely terrifying on an intellectual level. 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: (follow-up) Again, excellent work on this element of the film. You didn’t take it too far, but you made us cringe as we related to John’s experiences.

Me: Sex assault scenes are always heavy. For some viewers, it’s the line between good horror and “torture porn.” I take the position that sexual assault occurs frequently in real life—every two minutes in the U.S.—and therefore the subject every place in our art and every place in horror. Some balk at the idea of using such a sensitive topic as a source of entertainment, but art is not meant only to entertain, but also to educate and inform. I think folks who balk at sexual assault in horror movies do so because they cannot convince themselves that “This atrocity could never happen.” Because it does—every two minutes. I think that sexual assault scenes in horror—when well-written, well-executed, well-placed, and story-relevant—accomplish an important purpose. They make an audience look at something we might otherwise ignore. Having said all that, I must give you props on your sexual assault scene. You treated a sober topic with a delicacy you might not have. You took the time and energy to back light some seriously false stereotypes about rape—that a man cannot be raped by a woman, for one, and that a rape victim’s body won’t physically respond to a sexual assault, for another. If you would, tell me about your process writing and filming this scene. What was your emotional temperature like? Your cast member’s? Did the scene frighten you? Why was it so critical, in your opinion, to the story?

Paula Gahan as “Sweet Harriet,” one of David Crowe’s many instruments of John Hatchett’s torture in “Fractional.” Image credit: http://www.fractionalfilm.com

Deegan: Believe it or not that scene was probably one of the easier scenes that we shot on the entire movie. For such a dark scene and subject it was important that the mood on set was kept light. So we did that and I could not have asked for any more from the cast: Peter, Des and Paula were brilliant. They made the scene powerful. We kept it light in between takes and the actual filming time to a minimum so that everyone was comfortable.

For me the scene escalated the physical torture to a very specific level, a deeply routed level where not only the control of John Hatchetts mind was tested but the control of his body. David Crowe was going to attempt to destroy him mentally and physically but also sexually. [The scene] was there to signify how truly terrible and demented the mind of David Crowe really is.

Did the scene frighten me? Yes, because if we didn’t do it right or handle it in a delicate way it could easily be seen as being there just for the sake of it. In truth, I’d actually thought about replacing the scene before filming with an alternate one so it was very close to never being shot.

Me: (follow-up) I’m glad you kept it. Perhaps I’m a little twisted on this matter, but as a woman with a personal history with the subject, I felt you did an amazing job. Perhaps you didn’t intend this connection, but there was a startling correlation between this torture scene and some of the character back-story, which made the scene not just relevant but insightful. I respect that you didn’t get scared away from exploring the subject in your art. Sexual assault is, in my opinion, one of those subjects society would just as well ignore. Sexual assault is the black and rotting pachyderm corpse in humanity’s living room. But sex assault is so common, I feel we must speak about it and be bold in doing so. There is a meaning to such a crime and it always has to do with power, a relationship I feel you responsibly and accurately explored and depicted in your story. My follow up for this question is—what would you say to someone who says this scene “ruins your film?”

Deegan: (follow-up) I would say maybe that they are looking at the scene from a purely superficial standpoint or maybe that a scene which shows an act like this is an uncomfortable watch for them (something it was designed to be) and that can have a negative effect on their viewpoint. If they do hate the scene itself it’s still only a small portion of the movie overall so to say that it “ruins” the film would be a bit of an overstretch in my opinion.

It’s probably best to stop here, considering the heaviness of the discussion at hand. But join me again on Monday, July 29th for the longest and last section of my Malcolm Deegan interview. In the final posting, get Malcolm’s thoughts on filming and directing, the awards the movie has won, and what it means to finally birth a horror film like “Fractional.” Until then, if you have not already, you should definitely check out Deegan’s film. Watch the free trailer or rent “Fractional” for $3 here: http://www.fractionalfilm.com/trailer.html.

Until Monday, horror fans, fill your Under Bellies with a heaping plate of “Fractional.” You’re sure to be full up from this one.

  1. […] Meet Malcolm Deegan, Father of “Fractional,” Part 2 […]

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