The excellent London Film4 FrightFest is screening of one of the most eagerly anticipated British horror movies of the year tomorrow night (Friday 26th August).
Stormhouse comes from the pen of Jason Arnopp, a man who began his writing career on the pages of UK rock magazine Kerrang!
His early reviews of bands like Cannibal Corpse and Death were essential reading for me and helped to shape my impressionable teenage musical tastes (at least until I heard the Bee Gee’s anyway).
He’s since made a successful transition into writing fiction, and in addition to a TV Drama, Friday the 13th Novel, Audiobooks for Doctor Who, also finds time to offer advice to up and coming journalists.
How did you go from writing for Kerrang! to becoming a movie screenwriter?
It’s taken 10 years to get to where I am now, wherever that is. I was learning the craft all the way and still am. Scriptwriters never stop learning, because every new story is a brand new, scary challenge.
In 2002, I was Deputy Editor on Kerrang! and the Editor’s chair become open. That’s when I realised that, after 14 years on the magazine as a freelancer and staffer, I didn’t have the passion to take that job on. It was a really painful decision at the time, but oh my God, very much the right one.
You have to follow your heart, even if it means earning less money for a long time. I still dabble in the odd bit of journalism, though, for the likes of Doctor Who Magazine and Heat.
Was it hard making the transition from reporting to writing?
It can definitely be a long, hard road to changing people’s perception of you, from ‘journalist’ to ‘scripter’. Or, I imagine, from any one profession to another. You have to actively work at changing that perception and it was only hard in that sense, of making people believe you can do this, and that you’re deadly serious about it.
I’ve been drawing and writing Doctor Who comic strips and stories from the age of six. Journalism was just the first career door which opened up when I hit my teens. I’ve always wanted to tell stories – it’s just that, for the first 14 years of my adult life, they happened to be factual ones, about rock bands.
Have you always been a fan of horror / science fiction?
Absolutely, from the very moment I saw a disembodied stone hand crawling around like a spider in the 1976 Doctor Who story ‘The Hand Of Fear’. I’ve always especially loved the imagery of horror, the sheer adrenalin rush of that genre and the fact that it allows us to safely confront our fears. Through horror, we can vicariously explore our own worst case scenarios, plus worst case scenarios that we never even knew existed.
Can you sum up Stormhouse in a sentence?
It would have to be the five-word sentence which director Dan Turner first casually mentioned to me in a London pub. He’d been doing some obsessive research into the bizarre, unexplained occurrences surrounding military bases in Rendlesham, Suffolk and had emerged with this simple yet enticing idea for a horror film: “The military capture a ghost”. After he said those words, it was all that we could talk about.
Have you seen the finished movie yet?
Oh yes, about 100 times. I also executive produced the film, which for writers generally means we have more creative control and input, rather than getting too stuck into practical things (that job was very capably handled by our amazing producer Dean Fisher). So I’ve been with Stormhouse every step of the way, from Dan’s initial concept, to my script, to the shoot in a genuinely creepy military base in the middle of nowhere, to the edit, everything.
And even though I’ve seen it loads of times, I remain very proud of it. I’m very happy that it’s my first feature film. Dan did a superb job and so did the cast and crew.
Was there anything they had to leave out from the original script?
Not much. The script was written fairly quickly, so that we could shoot the film in that military base in August 2010. We knew roughly what we could afford to do and what we couldn’t, so it’s not as if the script was jam-packed with unrealistic ideas.
That said, we did end up adding plenty more special effects than we’d initially planned for! The only thing I can remember us having to drop during the shoot, was one character’s death. Thankfully, though, it wasn’t a major character: more a cool addition to the film’s body count!
Are there any plans for a sequel?
None right now. As is always the case with these things, the viability of sequels is determined by how well the original is received. It went down pretty well at its world premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, and we hope it will also be well received by hardcore horror fans at the London Film4 FrightFest.
There’s certainly plenty of scope for a sequel, though, and continuing the concept, provided we could find a different and interesting way to broaden it and explore new ground.
What is your fav horror movie?
John Carpenter’s The Thing. Almost three decades later, that film stands as a virtually flawless piece of work, from the script to the performances to Rob Bottin’s special effects. I’ve always loved that concept: not knowing who’s been taken over or possessed. I think it connects with people, because we all have that doubt, of not knowing exactly what’s going on in other people’s heads at any given time.
That’s a really frightening concept to play with, and a touch of that certainly fed into Stormhouse, which has already attracted welcome comparisons to Carpenter’s work.
Are there any directors you would like to work with in the future?
Oh, plenty, but it really depends on who’s the right director for any given story. I certainly love the work of directors like Robert Rodriguez, Alexander Aja, Neil Marshall, Danny Boyle, Marc Evans (check out his seriously unsung film My Little Eye), Brad Anderson (ditto for his superbly scary Session 9) … I could go on for far too long.
What are you working on at the moment?
Many new scripts for film and TV. I’m working my way into television, inch by inch, and nothing can stop me, I tell you. I’m very interested in the comic world and just wrote a short story for a forthcoming zombie anthology graphic novel called Dead Roots.
I also recently put a load of my journalistic experience into my book ‘How To Interview Doctor Who, Ozzy Osbourne And Everyone Else‘, which aims to tell aspiring journos everything I know about interviewing. Oh, and I’ve written both fictional and factual stuff for October’s Brilliant Book Of Doctor Who 2012.
Would you / have you ever considered writing a romantic comedy or something in another genre?
Absolutely! I’d try almost any genre, although I’ve learnt that fiction which really comes from the heart works best. While I’m mainly drawn towards the darker side of things, I like anything with some kind of intensity (which in comedy’s case could be laughter!), great characters or preferably both.
What is the best metal record ever made?
The first record which sprung to mind was Metallica’s 1986 album Master Of Puppets. But I think it probably has to be Slayer’s Reign In Blood, which really is an absolutely perfect half-hour-or-so spurt of sheer gruesome hatred. I also owe Reign In Blood quite a debt as a writer, because when I blast it out it makes me type faster.
For more information on Jason and his work visit