If you’ve read our reviews of Viral Film UK’s horror shorts, For Her… (2017 – read that review here) and Run (2016 – read that review here), you’ll know that we are big fans of them here at PopHorror. They’re both original and thought-provoking pieces. One half of this filmmaking duo, Daniel Mark Young, was kind enough to take some time to chat with us about his creative endeavors, his work on the shorts, and his upcoming project, Into the Black Abyss: Deathstream, which is crowdfunding now.
PopHorror: I absolutely love your shorts, For Her… and Run. They’re so multilayered. What inspires you to create such unique and interesting stories?
Daniel Mark Young: First of all, thank you for your kind words. When we started making films, we made a very conscious decision to try our best to subvert our audiences expectations, to give them a little of something they were familiar with but then throw them a curveball. A lot of that comes at the writing stage, and our writer on both of those projects had a very clear vision of how we were going to achieve that. We just want our films to be different. It’s tough making genre films and not following trends or recycling ideas. So from the very foundation, it’s about what unique story we can tell and how can we tell it in a way that feels fresh, yet still gives horror fans what they want.
PopHorror: Tell us a bit about your upcoming project, Into the Black Abyss: Deathstream.
Daniel Mark Young: Easily the craziest thing we have done! I came up with an idea for a short film back in 2018 that morphed into a feature film as of January 2019. I wrote the script over the course of 18 months with the help of our usual writer, James [Craigie]. We kept passing the script back and forth and making it more and more fucked up each time. It was definitely a fun experience to write.
There is so much to explain, because it really falls into a handful of different sub-genres of horror. It’s got a bit of everything. I wanted to make a film that was presented as a full live stream, but part way through the broadcast, becomes a home invasion film; that was really the bare bones of it. That then soon turned into our main character being a popular online gamer, the home invasion segment turning into a weird cult, and the whole thing being a messed up ritual.
Then, with each pass of the script, we added layers of subplot involving our protagonist’s past, and we threw a lot of doubt into the audience’s head about if he really was the hero of the film. I think it’s always interesting to play around in that grey area, and before we knew it, the themes of the film changed into something fairly current. It deals with celebrity status, and how fragile it can be. Our main character has been on the top and fallen due to his past, so that plays a huge role in the film, too. Plus, there’s plenty of blood, gore, and tension, which always helps.
PopHorror: Why did you choose to use found footage this time?
Daniel Mark Young: I’ve always loved found footage movies. I’ve got a real soft spot for them. It’s something about the experience, the way they’re presented…. our brains instantly tell us to believe what’s happening on screen. For this project, it made sense.
We had just tried to fund a short werewolf movie but failed, and so our morale was a little shaken. We spent a good portion of 2018 trying to get a handful of short films off the ground unsuccessfully. Unfortunately, funding our ideas always seems to be the biggest hurdle. So, I wanted to shoot something I knew we could do with very little money, using mostly our own equipment and one main actor. It was all derived from necessity. The presentation serves the story we are trying to tell, too. I think that’s very important.
PopHorror: This script is much longer than what you usually work with. What are the differences between creating short shorts compared to novella-sized shorts?
Daniel Mark Young: We’ve always been driven by big ideas, which can prove to be problematic when working on shorts. We always have too much content, too many ideas that won’t always fit into 20-25 pages. So, in some ways, this was easier. It’s our first feature length script, and there is a lot of action on those 72 pages. We are hopefully looking at an 80 minute film when this is all done, so for us, this is a big deal… our first feature.
I think the only issues were making sure we didn’t pad the script out with anything unnecessary and keeping the action going. The first 35 pages are about character building and creating this unbearable tension. From then on, it’s a bit of a bloodbath, but at the same time, the story doesn’t take a backseat to the action. Though it was so much fun writing different ways to kill people.
PopHorror: You’re composing the score for Into the Black Abyss: Deathstream. What inspired you to take that on?
Daniel Mark Young: This was a decision made out of necessity, too. We’ve always worked with a composer, but this project required something very different. Not many found footage movies contain a score, so I wanted to approach it from a sound design aspect, which is usually my department, anyway. I wanted to create something that didn’t feel like a score but reflected the mood of the current scene. Those ideas are tricky to convey. So, I figured, let’s do this myself.
I started researching different genres of music and how they can make you feel a certain way. I listened to a lot of weird stuff… deathdream, for example. It’s an actual genre of music. I wanted to use that mixed with good sound design to really scare the shit out of people. We are also doing some crazy stuff with different frequencies hidden in the sound design. There are a few in the Concept Trailer we put together, and I think it works well. So, we are aiming for something very different to a traditional score. It will be interesting to hear how it all turns out, and if that music works as standalone pieces.
PopHorror: What draws you to horror?
Daniel Mark Young: I’d like to think it’s the same things as most people who love the genre. It’s so incredibly diverse; you can almost tell any story you want to, no matter how wild it is. Horror movies usually have a lot more to say about the times we are living in than other genres do. The genre really isn’t given enough credit for that.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with films. They were my outlet as a child. I remember looking through a book of special effects and how they were done, and for the first time, I realized that there were all these other people that worked behind the camera to make movies, and I think that was the moment I knew I wanted to be behind the camera and do all this cool stuff.
PopHorror: if you could work with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
Daniel Mark Young: Wow! That’s probably a long list, but I’ll give it a go! Tony Todd and Doug Bradley are responsible for many sleepless nights in my youth, so I would love to work with those absolute icons. John Saxon [A Nightmare On Elm Street franchise] would have been amazing to work with. More currently, I think Alex Essoe [read the PopHorror interview with her here], Maika Monroe [Villains 2019 – read the PopHorror review here], and Florence Pugh [Midsommar 2019 – read the PopHorror review here] are doing incredible work. In terms of composers, I’d love to work with Jonathan Snipes [The Nightmare 2015 – read the PopHorror review here], Joseph Bishara, Rocky Gray [read the PopHorror interview with him here] and many more. The list is endless.
PopHorror: Besides Into the Black Abyss: Deathstream, is there anything else that you’re working on?
Daniel Mark Young: There’s always something. Our werewolf movie, Werehouse, is still in the works, and I have ideas for two sequels for Into the Black Abyss: Deathstream. Fingers crossed all that happens at some point.
PopHorror: If you weren’t making films, what would you be doing instead?
Daniel Mark Young: I’m not sure. I’d like to think I’d still be editing or working on something creative, but it would probably be other peoples projects.
PopHorror: What are you really afraid of?
Daniel Mark Young: I think the same stuff as most people… our own mortality. But beyond that, I guess dying alone, or even worse, the idea of dementia and not being able to recognize your loved ones or your own reflection. These are very real fears to me. Sorry, I ended that on a bit of a down note. But yeah, that’s what I fear.
We want to send a huge thank you to Daniel Mark Young for hanging out with us! Be sure to check Into the Black: Deathstream’s IndieGoGo page to find out how you can help, and keep it tuned to PopHorror for all of your horror news, reviews, and interviews!