Interview: Lair writer/director Adam Ethan Crow on making his first feature length horror film; “I think fans appreciate when they see something a bit different”

To coincide with the release of his horror film Lair, now available to rent or buy on DVD and digital in time for the spooky season, writer/director Adam Ethan Crow spoke with our own Peter Gray about his love of horror films, attempting something different to please the genre fans, and the rough seas travelled for the film to ultimately be made.

As a horror fan, going into a film and knowing nothing about what will transpire is always something I appreciate, and Lair certainly wasn’t what I was expecting…

It was one of those things where I tried to do something a little bit different.  I don’t know how much you know about the film, but we were originally picked up by Fox.  We were about a week into shooting when we were dropped because Disney don’t do these types of films.  We went from “We’re making a movie for a couple million bucks” to being on the street with our storyboards and no money, patching it together.

When you put something together yourself, from your heart… we just wanted to tell a great story as best as we could.  The biggest shock for us was when we went out for distribution and StudioCanal picked us up.  I had actually heard of them (laughs).  You expect to be picked up by “Mike’s Distribution”, you know what I mean? So it was a real compliment.

Disney’s loss is StudioCanal’s gain then, I think…

Thank you very much brother!

I’ve been fortunate enough to speak to a few different directors over the last few weeks, all within the horror genre, who have really seen their films thrive during these last 18 months.  What was your introduction to the genre?

I was one of those kids that grew up watching stuff like Dawn of the Dead and Zombie Flesheaters.  You just find yourself down a rabbit hole when you gravitate towards what you know.  In my later life I made some short films, and I always wanted to tell a story.  I’d written screenplays for other people, but I’d always wanted to make something for myself.  After a few films that were only 20 minutes long, horror felt like a natural fit (for my feature).  I’m not going to gloss over the fact that with horror movies you don’t need as big a budget either.  You can have less people and limited locations.  For me, I enjoyed the very first Conjuring film, and I thought what type of movie would I want to see?  I wanted to create a villain that was more than just a ghost.  I wanted to create a villain who looks like someone you want to have a beer with (laughs).

I decided to approach it like a genre film but putting my own spin on it.  I enjoy interesting dialogue.  I like it when people seem like they have something fun to say, so I think if I can take a scary movie and put a twist on it, then maybe it’ll be different and interesting…I think we pulled it off.  Who am I to say? Corey (Johnson) is great though! Did you enjoy Corey?

I did.  I was actually going to say I really loved the line of “Christianity has a billion followers” and he responds with “So does Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson”.  That was so brilliant because it’s the type of smart-arse shit that someone would say.  I think it helps ground what is a very heightened story and puts it in the perspective of general audiences who can see themselves in this type of situation.

Thank you so much.  We all have that friend who says the wrong thing (laughs).

And the queer relationship at the centre of the film was something I appreciated to.  As a gay man, I really responded to the fact that these characters were just written as people and not framed in a specific homosexual manner.  Where did the inspiration come from to have those two women at the centre of the film?

Oh man, I’m so glad you picked up on that because so many people just step over it.  I have friends in the community, I was raised by my mum, three sisters and a mad grandmother.  I’ve always been someone who just saw people as people.  When we decided to cast it, we were casting it with (character) names that could be men or women.  There was no gender politics in it.  I won’t name and shame anyone, but when we went to casting agents for the roles, they all asked is it a boy or a girl, and they wouldn’t take our casting because we didn’t have specifics (on gender).  To me, that was just not cool.

My partner and I, she’s a mad Kiwi, we just went out and found the best people for the role, and that just so happened to be an all-female family.  We thought “Why not?”, this is just what happens.  It’s a low budget film, so when we went to film the Pride scene, we went to an LGBTQ casting agency so it was as authentic as it could be.

You’ve made shorts before, but what was it about Lair as a story that made you want to make this as your first feature?

It was really about the horror for me.  I’m a horror fan, and I think horror fans appreciate when they see something a bit different.  Some people just want to watch the gore, some people just want the story.  You look at something like The Exorcist.  The story in that is incredible!  The way it’s put together, the characters…amazing.  But then other times you want to watch something like Hostel, you’ve got all your mates around and you’re drinking and you’re just watching and yelling.  In a way it’s like stand-up comedy.  You either get the joke or you don’t.  And I love that.

Lair is available now to rent and/or buy on DVD and digital.

Peter Gray

Film critic with a penchant for Dwayne Johnson, Jason Momoa, Michelle Pfeiffer and horror movies, harbouring the desire to be a face of entertainment news.

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