Upon receiving screenwriter Bruce Wilkinson’s script for “Beneath the Darkness,” Martin Guigui was immediately interested in directing the horror film.
“I thought it was a unique story with a fun villain and sort of a throwback, reminding me of the psychological thrillers that I grew up watching,” says Guigui, noting that he has always admired Alfred Hitchcock, Roman Polanski and Brian De Palma’s work. “I had not yet tackled this genre and was looking for one that would challenge me. This felt like the right one.”
In “Beneath the Darkness,” which is available today on Blu-ray and DVD at retail stores and rental outlets throughout the Valley, four teenagers discover a terrible secret when they break into the home of a mortician (Dennis Quaid) whose wife died two years earlier. The first step toward getting the movie made was convincing Quaid to come on board – which, as Guigui explains, was easier than you might expect.
“I did not think he would do it but he surprised everybody when he told us that he wanted to play this mortician in a small town who does what he does,” says Guigui, likening the actor’s transformation to that of Kathy Bates in “Misery” and Jack Nicholson in “The Shining.” “It is a testament to tone and creating the illusion for an audience. You put Dennis Quaid in a graveyard with the right music, camera movement and story and his ‘All-American’ smile becomes evil. It is pretty amazing.”
As anyone who has seen him on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” could attest, Quaid is quite adept at improvisation – a skill that Gugui claims the actor used to create his character in “Beneath the Darkness.” Of course, some of his shenanigans, while hilarious, were simply too over the top and did not make the final cut of the film. Such was the case with a scene set in a cemetery.
“Those were very cold nights,” says Gugui, noting that the temperature tended to sit at about 20 degrees. “Everybody was shivering, which kind of worked for the scene, but it was so darn cold that Dennis started doing this Spaghetti Western routine with a gun, spinning it and flipping it up in the air just to keep himself warm. He had the whole cast and crew in stitches.”
Guigui adds that he made every attempt to place himself in the viewer’s shoes while walking the fine line between horror and comedy. Ultimately, he aspired to make a movie that was fun for an audience to watch but did not overstep the boundaries of believability. The director says that he was always open to suggestions from people on his production team.
“[Making this movie] taught me to be extremely meticulous – much more than I ever thought that I could be,” Guigui says. “It taught me precision in the art of filmmaking. It also reminded me of how important it is to be open to all possibilities in life and how important it is to really cherish those that we love.”
“Beneath the Darkness” (R – 96 minutes) is now available on Blu-ray and DVD at retail stores and rental outlets throughout the Valley.