Interview With Zoe Kavanagh, Director of ‘Demon Hunter’

Awhile back, I got to check out the badass horror/action film Demon Hunter (see my review here) from director Zoe Kavanagh. The film was a fun and moody ride, not afraid to show its dark side. Recently, I got the chance to talk with Zoe about Demon Hunter, its potential sequels, and what the future holds. Check out the trailer for her kick ass film then read on for the interview.

PopHorror: What made you want to become a filmmaker?

Zoe Kavanagh: I always wanted to create and tell stories. My imagination is wild and the best way to record the ideas running inside my head is to be a visual artist. Storytelling is very important to me and I guess my first go at it was becoming a filmmaker. When I was very young, my mind was filled with influences from horror and fantasy films. In 2006, I began experimenting by making music videos for bands on the side whilst studying TV & Film in BCFE in Ireland. I had done a lot of rock bands and then, after two colleges courses, I went on to a BA Honors Degree in Film & Television in IADT. My end goal was to go out there and direct my first feature film and make my mark.

PopHorror: What writers and directors influenced you the most?

Zoe Kavanagh: Writers who influenced me over the years were Clive Barker, Alex Garland, John Ajvide Lindqvist, Dan O’Bannon, and James O’Barr. For directors, I would say James Cameron for Aliens and The Terminator, Ridley Scott for Alien, Blade Runner and Legend, and Gasper Noe for his very strong visual style in Irreversible and Enter the Void. Also, Nicolas Wnding Refn for all of his films. The list goes on and on!

PopHorror: What are some of your favorite films?

Zoe Kavanagh: I would say some of my favorite films are The Crow, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Blade Runner, A Nightmare on Elm Street, Highlander, Braveheart, The Fifth Element, The Shining, Aliens and so on!

PopHorror:  You co-wrote Demon Hunter with Tony Flynn. Where did the idea come from and what was the writing process like? How big of an influence was Buffy the Vampire Slayer?

Zoe Kavanagh: The idea came from listening to music and finding my own emotional connection to the character. Buffy had absolutely no influence on this film whatsoever. I had actually seen James Wan’s revenge thriller Death Sentence and the powerful drama in that film and how melancholic the entire atmosphere was with the tragedy inspired me to go and create something. So I was in my room illustrating an image of a girl in an alleyway and I gave her a sword. It was raining and the girl was clearly broken over something so I figured she lost someone dear to her and that would be her motivation to drive her quest. I needed to figure out who and what would be her enemies. She was almost just going to be a regular vigilante until I realized fighting demons would be exciting and can expand and evolve the world and mythology within.

I made a no budget short with the character in 2008 and it wasn’t so good. I went back to the drawing board and came up with a reinvisioned script about a Demon Hunter who quits hunting evil and goes home to kill herself because she’s been deceived her whole life while never actually finding the one responsible for killing her sister. She fails at suicide and tries to live a normal life. Demons begin spreading and killing, but she doesn’t care. She finds a lead about who killed her sister and gets obsessed with tracking down the human killer of her sister and the film basically balances between morality and revenge. It was too epic to make, so I scaled back. I teamed up with writer Tony Flynn and we worked on a prequel script, which evolved into a web series and then back into a feature script. It was called ‘Taryn Barker: Demon Hunter and we went back and forth on it over a long period of time.

PopHorror:  How hard was it finding the perfect actress to play Taryn Barker? How did you find Niamh Hogan?

Zoe Kavanagh: I originally had cast someone else whom I had frequently worked with on projects. We started filming in 2013 and planned to finish in 2014. Leading up to the September shoot in 2014, our lead actress pulled out about one week or so before filming and the film was in a slight bit of jeopardy. I put out a casting call and the responses were insane! So many emails and huge number of people who wanted to audition for the part. If we had the time, we would have gone through them all, but there were just too many applicants. It was down to two people, but Niamh Hogan was perfect for the role. She came into the audition with the scenes fully memorized and also knew martial arts and was able to do her own stunts!

PopHorror: What was the experience like shooting the film?

Zoe Kavanagh: It was a ride for sure. I think one of the great things about a film like this is that there are a lot of locations and it keeps the filming very exciting. One day, you’ll be filming in a forest, then next you’re at a power station. A few days after that. you’re filming in different castles and then you’re tying a rope out the back of a van and driving 100 mph to film a motorbike belting it down the road. It was fun, exciting and certainly one of the best moments of my life. The crew was amazing and everyone just loved being there. I would jump back on it again in a heartbeat if it meant I could do all the craziness all over!

PopHorror: You left Demon Hunter open for a potential sequel. Is this in the cards anytime soon? If not, would you like to do one someday?

Zoe Kavanagh: I would love to do a few more, if there was an audience for it. I’ve recently completed the sequel script, The Demon Hunters, and the third one, The Last Demon Hunter. There is an arc with all three films and the first film is really just an introduction to the characters and the world. There is so much more to explore! I’ve barely scratched the surface.

PopHorror: If you could work with anyone, who would it be?

Zoe Kavanagh: It’s hard to say because I never think about it, I usually just think about the stories in my head, but if I could work with someone, I guess it would be Blumhouse. I’d like Jason Blum to produce one of my horror scripts or get me to direct one of theirs! I’m easy! (laughs)

PopHorror: What other genre would you like to try your hand at?

Zoe Kavanagh: Demon Hunter has the tastings of fantasy, horror and action. These are all genres I’d like to explore more. I’m also a big sci-fi fan, so I certainly will make one someday.

PopHorror: Any upcoming projects?

Zoe Kavanagh: There’s a sequel to Demon Hunter in development, but aside from that, I’m currently location scouting a Celtic warrior fantasy film called The Blade of Hilde and developing a psychological horror film called Inexorable. Hopefully, one of them at least gets made!

About Charlie Cargile

Central Illinois based film journalist. Lover of cinema of all varieties but in love with films with an independent spirit. Elder Emo. Cat Dad. Metalhead.

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