Neil Marshall on British horror’s resurgence
Neil Marshall

Director Neil Marshall effectively helped kick-start a resurgence of UK horror movies with the soldiers vs werewolves thriller Dog Soldiers in 2001.

Since then, he’s gone on to make one of the best horror films of the last decade with The Descent in 2005, and cult favourite Doomsday in 2008. More recently, Marshall has been involved with high profile TV shows (Game of Thrones, Hannibal) but has now dipped back into the horror movie sphere with an executive producer’s role on supernatural slasher Dark Signals.

We spoke to Marshall about his role in the British horror scene, career highs and dream projects. Here’s what he had to say.

Resurrecting British horror

Dog Soldiers

Dog Soldiers – kick-starting a revival

The filmmaker notes that there’s been a marked resurgence in the genre on UK shores over the past 15 years.

“Horror in Britain was dead when I started out – I mean, nobody was making horror movies back in 2001, 2002. And then along came me and Danny Boyle and a couple of others, and suddenly it was back on the radar big-time, and it’s kind of continued that way.

“I’ve been out of the country for a couple of years, but I’ve still been keeping up…and it feels like the resurgence is continuing, because there’s an appetite for it. People still love horror movies and Britain makes great horror movies. Simple as that.”

A crowded marketplace

Dark Signal

Dark Signal – standing out from the crowd

Despite the positives for the UK film industry, Marshall believes that the cinematic landscape is a little bit swamped with horror at the moment.

“With the likes of Netflix, there’s so much horror out there. So finding something like Dark Signal that stands out from the crowd is not easy. I’m always looking for the next Descent or something like that to make, but those ideas haven’t necessarily been coming.

“I’ve been moving into different genres lately, but last year I had a great time dipping back in the horror pool with Tales of Halloween and coming back to FrightFest with that was awesome – and it kind of really re-ignited my love of horror and horror audiences and the horror scene.

“So I’m as keen as ever to do another horror film and to maybe do one in the UK would be fantastic. If I could just come up with that one idea…”

Career highs

The Descent

The Descent – incredibly rewarding

As well as directing two of Game Of Thrones’ most thrilling battles (in ‘Blackwater’ and ‘The Watchers On The Wall’), Marshall has served-up a number of well-regarded genre features – with a certain cave-exploring horror and post-apocalyptic action romp (set in a quarantined, future Scotland) now established as fan favourites.

The director says he has fond memories of making both.

“With The Descent everything just fell into place the right way, from the right crew to the right cast to the right composer. So creatively it was incredibly rewarding. And the fact that people responded to it was even more rewarding.

“Personally, I think Doomsday was very rewarding, I had a fantastic experience making it. I’m constantly bumping into more and more people who are like, “Doomsday! Doomsday! Doomsday!” So, you know. It’s a slow burner.”

Inspirational figureheads

John Carpenter lost themes

John Carpenter – the man, the legend

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Marshall is a keen aficionado of B-Movie legend John Carpenter – whose cult classic Escape From New York is joyfully reflected in Doomsday.

“He’s part of the gospel of horror and he’s always been a massive, massive inspiration for me.”

As for others, Marshall points to John Landis (“he’s not necessarily a horror director, but certainly American Werewolf is one of the greatest horror movies of all time”), and Spielberg (“the guy who made me want to make movies in the first place”).

Dream projects

Indiana Jones

“Raiders of the Lost Ark meets Die Hard”

The director has a couple of dream projects that he dreamt up many years ago, but hasn’t yet managed to get off the ground.

“One of them is my Indiana Jones-type movie, in World War II. It’s kind of Where Eagles Dare meets Raiders of the Lost Ark meets Die Hard.

“And I have another one that’s basically like a sequel to the King Arthur legend. This is very much based on Excalibur, but when King Arthur dies at the end, a large proportion of the main characters are still alive. So it’s kind of like, ‘Well, what happens after that?’ It’s this sprawling adventure story.”

Dark Signal

As Executive Producer on Dark Signal, Marshall was keen to dive back into the horror sphere – but was keen not to directly meddle too much.

“I read the script and I gave a few notes. Mostly I just wanted to keep out of [director Edward Evers-Swindell’s] way – as a director myself, I know what a pain in the arse it is to have some exec leaning over your shoulder and telling you what to do!”

Is a mentor role something he’s keen to continue?

“It was kind of a special circumstance. I did it first for my wife on her first feature, Soulmate, which was also filmed in North Wales, by coincidence, and I promised Ed I’d help out with his movie as much as possible.

“But I can’t say that I’m keen to do it a lot. I’ve got my films to make – I want to concentrate on that kind of stuff. Besides, I don’t need the competition!”

Dark Signal is out now on DVD and digital download. 

[Main image: Getty]

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